May 2022 – THE GLORY OF SPRING

The three  months of Spring are March, April and May. In spring the days grow warmer, longer, and the flowers bloom. Many animals that have hibernated come out and dormant plants begin to grow again. The grass greens and the leaves bud and burst out in soft yellow green and fresh rich color after the dormant winter. Animals have babies, birds hatch out of their eggs and baby birds learn to sing with their parents, all rejoicing in this glorious time of year. Spring is the season of refreshing, rebirth, and rejuvenation. A lovely quote says: “Spring adds new life and new beauty to all that is.”

I know spring comes at different times in different parts of America and at various times around the world. But here in Tennessee, spring begins in March, with the days beginning to warm into the sixties and even seventies, along with occasional cold spurts. In March, East Tennessee still might have an occasional reminder of winter—a week of icy days or an unexpected snow. By April and May the cold spells begin to diminish and don’t last long. The old Timers gave these Appalachian cold spells specific names, mostly coinciding with trees, shrubs, and flowers in bloom at the time: (1) Redbud Winter in early April; (2) Dogwood Winter in late April, (3) Locust Winter in early May; (4) Blackberry Winter in mid-May; and (5) Britches Winter in late May.

Many cultures celebrate the return of spring—often with events and festivals or with gatherings at parks or outdoor settings. Daffodils, the March birth flower, begin to pop out all over the East Tennessee valleys and yards as spring arrives. Daffodil shows and events celebrate spring coming to the area and the daffodils planted along much of the Pellissippi Parkway in Knoxville begin to bloom out. Maria de la Luz Compere spearheaded the planting of at least 1.7 million daffodil bulbs along the Pellissippi Parkway, leaving everyone a beautiful legacy to enjoy. Wordsworth wrote: “if one daffodil is worth a thousand pleasures, then one is too few.” This could well be the motto of many around Knoxville, where I live, because the yards, gardens, and roadsides are thick with daffodils of all colors and types as March comes to our area of the world. Daffodils are not the only flowers to bloom in March, even if the most prolific. Other early flowers begin to pop out in the yards and beds, like snowdrops, crocus, and then the blooming shrubs and trees—like yellow forsythia, white flowering pear trees, and the gorgeous magenta pink tulip trees with their cup-shaped blossoms.

In April more flowers begin to appear … and in Knoxville this is the month when the Dogwood Arts Festival begins. This annual festival has been going on in Knoxville since the 1950s when several Knoxville communities, with a lot of dogwood and redbud trees, created “Dogwood Trails” to showcase their neighborhoods. Driving along the blazed trails, you could enjoy all the trees, daffodils, tulips, and other blooming flowers and shrubs. Over time, getting into the spirit of the event, people all over Knoxville began to plant even more dogwoods, redbuds, and blooming trees. In 1970, the Dogwood Arts Festival started, and the entire month of April is now spotted with art-related and cultural events. One of the original dogwood trails winds through my old South Knoxville neighborhood where I grew up and several others are located close to the West Knoxville neighborhood where I live now—especially the Sequoyah Hills trail that opened in 1955.  One of my other favorite April flowering trees on this trail, in addition to the dogwoods, are the Kwanzan cherry trees with their pink, fluffy, double blooms.

I think April is the richest time for flowers. So many varieties begin to pop out in this month. Every day when I take my walks around the neighborhood I see more shrubs, trees, and flowers in bloom and I love watching the trees grow greener and more lush every day.  Tulips, creeping phlox, iris, candytuft, and even some early pansies begin showing off in April and, in the Smoky Mountains and rural woods and fields, the wildflowers begin to appear, bringing tourists flocking to our mountains with their cameras, eager to see the trillium, wild violets, bloodroot, lady’s slippers, and other beauties.

The month of May brings even more spring flowers and more spring events. I remember May Day celebrations at school when I was a girl, with the May pole and various outdoor contests and events. To me the end of April and early May are always “Azalea Time, ” too, and the azaleas have been glorious this year. No freezes came in Knoxville to nip their early buds and I don’t think I have ever seen the azalea more beautiful—and in so many different colors …  pinks, white, reds, salmon, lilac, and magenta. More  outdoor yard work begins in May, too, as many people around East Tennessee start putting in their gardens and planting more flowers to enjoy, feeling safe,  at last,  from the chance of freezes and more cold snaps.

I worry that we’ve become too much a sedentary world … not getting out to see the beauty of springtime and nature, no longer walking the trails in local parks, or even around the neighborhoods where we live to see all the flowers, to stop and study them, sniff their perfume, enjoy their beauty. Before May is over—and spring is past—get out to enjoy the beauty of this time of year. There is a rich sense of hope that touches you in the spring, a sense that more is possible.  L.M. Montgomery wrote: “Nothing seems impossible in spring.” And whenever we see flowers coming back after a harsh cold winter it breeds hope in us, too. If you’ll let it, spring will make your heart sing with new hope and vision. I love Robert Orben’s words: “Spring is God’s way of saying, One more time!” … Blessings to you.

See you in June…

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act

April 2022 – ABOUT OUR NEW DEVOTIONAL BOOK

My husband J.L. and I have a daily devotional guide publishing this month called A JOURNEY OF WORDS. You might ask what exactly is a day-to-day devotional and why does anyone need one?

In general, a daily devotional is a Christian religious publication that provides a specific spiritual reading for each calendar day. Reading a daily devotional, along with time in the Bible and in prayer, is one way to give love and honor to God.  It’s also a way of remembering to give God a priority in your life every day. It is hard for faith to stay strong or grow without spending quality time with God. The Bible teaches: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth…to be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” [II Tmothy 2:15, 21].

We can rarely grow in knowledge in any subject area without study. A strong knowledgeable faith doesn’t simply fall on us or happen without effort. It comes by giving disciplined, committed time and study to increase in wisdom, understanding, and expertise—just like growing in knowledge in any other subject area. When you spend quality time with God you’ll not only gain more spiritual wisdom and understanding, you’ll grow into a closer, deeper place of faith. Studying to grow in God always has big rewards and blessings. Even the best of church services only offers a small window of time once a week for spiritual growth. And just as one meal a week won’t sustain us physically, one spiritual meal a week won’t either. Spending time with God every day is a needed discipline, good to cultivate, that helps you learn to lean to God to direct your life and path versus learning to your own understanding and the world’s voice and persuasion {Prov 3:5-6]. Joyce Meyer wrote: “If you make time with God your first priority, everything else will fall into place.”

In a spiritual sense, the word “devotion” in itself refers to the deep love and commitment we give to God in our lives, in time, study, and prayers.  If you’re devoted to someone you don’t simply care about them in a part-time, lackadaisical way, you care about them in a full-time, loving, committed way. As an extra plus, when you’re fully committed and devoted to God, He in return is totally devoted to you. Charles Stanley wrote: “God takes full responsibility for the life wholly devoted to Him.” It’s comforting to realize devotion to God is always lovingly returned. That isn’t true of many things and people we give our love and commitment to.

A daily devotional isn’t essential in order to grow in faith, but it can be a help, along with time in church,  prayer, and Bible study.  Spending time with God benefits every aspect of your life, draws you closer to the Lord, refreshes your soul, gives you guidance for your life, and restores your peace, health, clarity and joy—always a win-win situation. A sweet quote by Elizabeth George says: “The more time you spend with God, the more you will resemble Him.” We do become more and more like those we associate with, for the good or for the bad. “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”  [Epictetus] We can be assured that spending quality time with God will always call forth our best.

Our devotional guide, A JOURNEY OF WORDS, is built around the concept that a single word is powerful and when meditated on, can open doors for good and needed change. Many Christians choose a “Word for the Year” to inspire positive growth and thought all year long, but we decided it would be positive—and fun—to have an inspirational word to think about for every day of the year.  Each of our daily devotions starts with a “word for the day” and a quote for the day using the day’s word, followed by a devotional teaching linked to that word, and closing with a short prayer and a scripture containing the word again. J.L. and I alternated writing the devotions throughout the book, one day by J.L., one day by myself … and we hope our daily guidebook will help to enrich your faith and impact you for blessing and good.

To close, here is one of the devotionals I wrote that you will find in the book—for April 1st, the publication day for this and my other two spring novels. If you would like an autographed copy of this book, go to our website under Contacts at: “Order Autographed Copies” and you will find two ways you can get this new devotional – and any of our other books – shipped directly to your home. The link is: https://linstepp.com/order-autographed-books/

Have a wonderful April … and a blessed Easter season, … Lin

APRIL 1 – The Word for the Day is “Shower” 

Quote for the Day:

“God made us for one reason: so He could have fellowship with us. It wasn’t that He was lonely or needed us but He made us so He could shower His love upon us.” -Billy Graham

All of us, at one time or another in our lives, have been caught out in a shower. Generally, when this happens we hustle to get in out of the rain. Yet it is often joyous to watch a shower out the window, especially a needed one. It seems as though the branches of the trees seem to reach up to welcome the rain and one can almost hear the grass sigh as it is soaked deeply with the rich, needed rain.

Showers of blessing fall in our lives, in big and small ways, not just occasionally but every day. Sometimes we are mindfully grateful of them and stop to thank God and give Him praise. Other times we run on along our way, almost seeming to take God’s rich blessings for granted. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one returned to thank Him [Luke 17:11-18]. Although we get busy and often forget, we know we should thank God daily for His blessings. He is so good to us. The Word reminds us that ‘a faithful man abounds with blessings’ [Proverbs 28:20]. Every day we should always be grateful to God for His love and goodness.

I love the concept in the Bible that ‘God will cause the showers to come down in season on us and that there will be showers of blessing’ [Ezekiel 34:26]. As the rain showers come to bless the earth, God’s showers of blessing and love come to enrich and bless us. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever” [1 Chronicles 16:34].

Prayer:
With thankful hearts we offer gratitude today for the showers of blessings that come to us from God our Father.

Scripture of the Day:
“I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.” – [Ezekiel 34:26]

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

March 2022 – PLACES INSPIRE STORIES

Readers often ask me where I get the ideas for my books. In looking back at over twenty published novels now I think my main answer would be that “places inspire my stories.”  It is often while traveling around East Tennessee, hiking in the Smokies, or visiting the beach in South Carolina when ideas for books slip into my heart and mind. Suddenly in those moments I can see book characters walking around in my thoughts, the concept of a new story drifting to life.

Often odd or humorous things I see morph into a new story idea or past memories of loved places wind their way into my books.  For example, we often took our son to a mountain camp to work as a counselor, and the memories of that Smoky Mountain camp inspired Buckeye Knob Camp that found its way into my first book THE FOSTER GIRLS and into several novels later.  On a trip to the mountains one day, two boarded-up country stores made me sad, with their forlorn, dilapidated appearance, and they inspired, in part, the storyline for my book HAPPY VALLEY, where a character camping at Abrams Creek Campground gets the idea to build and open a store in the valley.

Many times, when visiting in a place that charms and deeply appeals to me, I find myself wishing I could bring others to visit there, too – seeing the same beauty and all the interesting things I see.

On a visit with my husband to Dandridge, Tennessee, a small town on Douglas Lake not far from the Cosby side of the mountains, I found my mind returning often to that little city, steeped in history, and one day a storyline set in Dandridge popped into my mind. I laughed when I first thought of the idea that became EIGHT AT THE LAKE, publishing on April 1st, because the story also answered an ongoing reader request. Over and over readers said to me, “Write another book with a lot of children in it like your book FOR SIX GOOD REASONS, Lin.” Of course I usually answered that many of my books have children in them. But fans would reply, “But not with a lot of kids like in FOR SIX GOOD REASONS.” They were right in that observation. In that novel Alice Graham, a social worker, finds herself trying to place six children who lost their parents in a fatal car crash. Having known their parents well and being unable to find anyone to take all six children, Alice ends up taking them in herself.

Perhaps this ongoing request fired the idea for the eight children, in EIGHT AT THE LAKE, being raised by Ford McDaniel. Ford is a local veterinarian in Dandridge and part-owner with his father of Sycamore Lake Resort. Quite frankly, Ford has many days himself, when he wonders how in the world he ended up with eight kids to raise.  My other major character in this book, Samantha King, grew up in Dandridge at a lovely old Bed & Breakfast belonging to her Aunt Dixie. She and Ford McDaniel have nothing in common. Samantha is a well-known storm chaser and meteorologist with a national weather channel in Atlanta. She travels constantly across the U.S. covering storms, her world an exciting one compared to Ford’s life in a small, quiet town in rural Tennessee.  The only reason Samantha is in Dandridge at all is to recover from an accident, and she is already champing at the bit to get back to work as the story begins.

You’ll find a synopsis of the book on the front page of my website at: www.linstepp.com, but an unmentioned aspect in that synopsis is that this happy, fun-filled story will take you visiting in downtown Dandridge, Tennessee, and to many charming places that really exist around the Douglas Lake and Great Smoky Mountains area nearby. A reviewer once wrote: “Lin Stepp’s books take me to a new place in the mountains in every book” and that’s always what I try to do with every new story.

In 2019, I also took readers to our favorite spot at the South Carolina coast to Edisto Island. We have been vacationing at Edisto Beach as a family since the 1980s, and for several years I’d been saving materials and scribbling down ideas for Edisto stories even before I approached my editor about writing a book series set there.

Whenever I go to Edisto, A small island halfway between Charleston and Beaufort, I always return so refreshed. The sounds of the waves and gulls, the feel of the warm sunshine, the quiet of the island bring me such peace. And one day—walking up the beach—I imagined that island setting doing the very same for Claire Avery, a young widow who had lost her husband, and for her two small daughters, Mary Helen and Suki.  All my mountain books are stand-alone novels, but for this book I knew right away I wanted to also write follow-up stories about Claire’s daughters, too. It was a joy and pleasure to write all three books in my Edisto Trilogy and readers loved them. So it was easy to embrace the idea later for a new beach series as it floated into my mind one day while walking along a quiet stretch of beach at Botany Bay—and looking toward the Deveaux Bank and the North Edisto River.

Old maps call the small island at Edisto’s north end, Botany Bay Island, and it took only a small jump of my imagination to imagine a lighthouse and inn sitting there.  The entire island had been separated from the mainland of Edisto in Hurricane Gracie and now could only be accessed by boat—a perfect spot for my story idea of four sisters growing up at a lighthouse.  Since the name Botany Bay is now so associated with the Botany Bay Wildlife Preserve, I decided to call the island Watch Island in my book, using one of its old names from the past, and I decided to name my fictitious lighthouse after the Deveaux Bank bird sanctuary nearby and after the equally fictitious Deveaux family, who had been keepers at the lighthouse since its earliest days. Not living as close to Edisto as I do to the Smoky Mountains, I gathered more research online, bought history books about the Lowcountry and Edisto, and made extra visits to South Carolina to work on developing the concept for the four books that will be in this new series.

I think readers will love these new coastal books and will enjoy coming to visit the Deveaux Inn and Lighthouse in the first book titled LIGHT THE WAY.  It is Burke’s story, the oldest of the Lighthouse sisters. Her heart has always called her to stay on the island, which has belonged to the Deveaux family for six generations, and she has always helped to run the inn and keep the light. You can read the synopsis of LIGHT THE WAY on the front page of my author’s website at: www.linstepp.

I hope you’ll enjoy taking a trip to the South Carolina coast in the first book in the Lighthouse Sisters series LIGHT THE WAY and also in visiting the mountains and Dandridge in EIGHT AT THE LAKE.   “Where are you taking me next year?” one of my readers asked recently. The answer is to Cherokee, North Carolina, in a rich new Mountain Home story titled SEEKING AYITA – and also back to the beach again for the second of the Lighthouse Sisters books titled LIGHTEN MY HEART.

Happy Spring … See you in April … And don’t forget to read my March newsletter, too, at: https://linstepp.com/media-2/

 

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

February 2022 – THE MONTH OF LOVE

We often think of February as “the month of love” because Valentine’s Day always falls in the middle of the month on the 14th. People swap cards, candy, flowers, and gifts—and the stores are filled with Valentine displays. But where did these traditions come from?

Most sources suggest that Valentine’s Day originated as a feast day to honor Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest and early Christian martyr. Pope Gelasius first originated the Feast of Saint Valentine to remember the date of the priest’s death and to honor the good works and miracles performed in his life. On a romantic note, Valentine secretly married young couples when the emperor in his lifetime prohibited young marriage, believing unmarried soldiers fought better. Another legend says Saint Valentine wrote the first valentine greeting to the daughter of his jailor before his execution, signed “Your Valentine.”

Europeans, and especially the British, began to pick up on the concept of Valentine’s Day sending love notes and soon, also, candies to their sweethearts, probably as early as the 1400s-1500s. However,  the day didn’t become popularly celebrated until the 17th century.  By the 1900s, ready-made cards began to replace love notes and letters with new advances in printing and mailing. Cupid became associated with Valentine’s Day on early holiday cards. The Roman God Cupid, or Eros in Greek mythology—the God of Love—supposedly played mischief among humans by shooting his golden arrows to incite love in his victims. Many early Valentine’s cards showed the child caricature version of Cupid shooting out his love arrows, like on this old Victorian Valentine card.

In America, we started exchanging Valentine cards in the early 1700s and 1800s, and today approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent or given out every year. The stores in America are already full of Valentine cards and gift displays. And in the schools, children swap Valentine’s Day cards and often create homemade cards in the classroom.  In addition to all the general cards for the Valentine holiday, there are a huge assortment of individualized cards geared to “my wife,” “my husband,” “my sweetheart,” “my friend,” “my son,” “my daughter,” and more. Cards are available for nearly everyone on a person’s family and friends list. I even saw a card “from your dog,” and some cards even play love songs.

Specialty candies fill the store racks for Valentine’s gifts, too. There are boxes of chocolate candies packed in pretty heart-shaped boxes and many specialty candies are shaped like hearts. Conversation hearts or candy hearts with little messages on them, like “sweet talk,” “hug me” and “love u,” began back in the mid 1800s when a Boston pharmacist invented a machine to make it easier to mass-produce lozenges. The pharmacist then shifted his focus from medicinal lozenges to candy, founding what would become the New England Confectionery Company or Necco. From this beginning messages on hearts evolved and the new colorful “conversation hearts” became a great success from the 1900s to today, with Necco becoming the leading manufacturer of the hearts. Today some hearts even say “text me.”

Of all the flowers sent out at Valentine’s, roses are the most popular.  One study in 2021 found that people spent $2 billion dollars on Valentine flowers—the most on roses.  Sources suggest the tradition of giving roses at Valentine’s Day began in the 1700s with Lady Mary Montagu, a British Ambassador’s wife, who wrote home to friends from Turkey—excited over learning the “meanings of flowers.” Roses quickly became linked with romantic love, especially the red rose standing for “love and passion.”

With February and Valentine’s Day associated with love, the question comes up: “What is love?” Definitions usually say it’s ‘an intense feeling of deep, constant romantic affection’ and ‘an affection linked with strong physical attraction, passion, and devotion.’  Of course, there are aspects of love in friendships, family, and in other personal ties—but it is “romantic love” that is celebrated most at Valentine’s Day. Multiple studies have looked at what attracts couples to each other, causing them to have a romantic or love attachment. Much of the “biology of love” can be explained by chemistry. That romantic attraction or “zing” arises from hormones, stemming from the brain, not from the heart as we often believe. These hormones kick up lust, attraction, and a desire for attachment—that feeling of “falling in love”—which can hit you hard with an assortment of hormones rushing into play.

Several other factors contribute to the likelihood of a couple developing a bonding love relationship—like proximity, people living near each other or interacting often, along with physical attractiveness and the “matching phenomenon.” The latter is the tendency for people to be drawn to and to choose partners who are good matches in attractiveness and in other similar traits like intelligence, age, income, or education. Like the old saying “birds of a feather flock together,” and research has shown that couples are more likely to pair up with others who share similar looks, attitudes, interests, beliefs, and values. People also tend to be most attracted and comfortable with others similar to themselves, somewhat disputing the “opposites attract” theory.  The entire psychological subject of how attractions form is fascinating to read about. Basically, though, we all seek to be liked and loved.

Once a relationship forms, it tends to have certain common elements: aspects of passionate and emotional love, intimacy and liking, the enjoyment for each other’s company, and affectionate companionate love, along with trust, understanding, and caring.  An interesting phenomenon occurs as couples spend extensive time together.  Atoms interchange between them and the atoms recognize, and are drawn to each other again, when the loved partner comes into proximity. Love is truly a science and a mystery and like the old song ‘a many splendored thing.’

Many sweet and beautiful theories abound about love—and hundreds of songs have been written about the joy and wonder of falling in love and about the hurt and heartache of love gone wrong. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote we tend to ‘love another, not only for who and what they are, but for who we are and become when we are with them.’

Happy Valentine’s Day this month…. I hope the sweetness of love has touched and enriched your life.

See you again in March … Lin

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

January 2022 – NEW YEAR INSPIRATIONS

As a new year begins, I decided what we all needed more than another set of tired Resolutions is some positive Inspiration. The last two years have been difficult in our country.  America is experiencing problems and unrest, as is much of the rest of the world. Each of us, individually, is feeling our own unique set of pressures, too.  So I decided for my January blog to offer ten inspirational messages to lift your heart and spirit. Hopefully, these will give you new hope, new goals, and new wisdom to help you live this coming 2022 year with more joy and purpose.

  1. CHANGE IS NEEDED FOR CHANGE TO HAPPEN

A quote by Max Dupress says: “We cannot become what we want by remaining where we are.” Even when times are difficult, we need to move on, to live, to improve, to chase our dreams. For many of us we have let the events of the past two years immobilize us more than we should have, stagnate us beyond any imposed restrictions. We’ve used the difficulties of the times to stop in place. Well, now it is time to move on. To step out. Whatever has been in your story for the last two years doesn’t have to stay in your story for the year to come. As C. S. Lewis wisely wrote: “You can never be too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” There is always something meaningful you can do. You get to choose how to fill up the pages of the year to come. Stop waiting. Today is the day to go for it. Where you are a year from now is a reflection of the choices you choose to make right now.

  1. ONLY YOU CAN CREATE THE LIFE YOU WANT

I suppose one of our greatest faults as human beings is wishing someone else would do it all for us—make us rich, do our work, plan our lives, love us without expecting much love in return, and make life easy and sweet for us. But life seldom works out that way, and even when it does, that route creates an emotionally crippled individual. In truth, if you’re searching for that one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror. You are meant to find your own way and forge your own destiny. You are absolutely capable of creating the life you want and dream of. So stop sitting in front of the TV just watching everyone else’s life. Get up and make a life of your own. Make your own dreams happen. Within you is so much latent potential that you’ve never tapped into. Know that you are the artist of your own life. Don’t hand the paintbrush to anyone else.

  1. STOP LETTING FEAR, DOUBT, AND WORRY ROB YOUR POTENTIAL

Three of the greatest inhibitors to reaching our dreams and potential are the insidious little enemies of fear, doubt, and worry. When our minds are inspired with a wonderful idea, a new dream or goal, those nasty little critters come creeping into our mind—often before the day is over—saying: “What if you fail?… Who do you think you are to try that?” We’ve all heard their voices. They slip into our minds, rain on our parade before the parade even begins. They come from within and from without, from our friends, family, and coworkers, who see only the surface of us, the norm they’re used to seeing, and not the potential lying within. If you’re waiting for the world to inspire you and cheer you on, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time. Frankly, you need to believe in yourself. You need to make your way and follow your own dream. You might be limiting yourself, thinking “What if I fail?” … But, oh, my, what if you fly.

  1. STEP OUT AND DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

We spend so much time making excuses for why we’re not doing more of what makes us happy. We belittle our talents and abilities. We compare ourselves negatively with others. We point out our shortcomings and weaknesses and not our strengths. We bemoan that we don’t have enough money or enough time. We say we’re too busy when we could carve out a little time for happy pleasures or pursuing our goals and dreams more if we would.  We let ourselves be limited by what others think and say. What is the point in that? In general, whenever anyone strikes out to pursue anything new, they are always criticized for it. But here’s the thing, the happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. You can, too, this year, if you decide to.

  1. THE FUTURE IS CREATED BY WHAT WE DO TODAY

Often we spend entirely too much time rehearsing to ourselves the mistakes and lost opportunities of yesterday or dreaming about a utopian tomorrow that may never happen. Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.” Everything worthwhile happens little by little, step by step, in our todays. Our “todays” are the only days we can control and we all have the same twenty-four hours each day. We either use them wisely and well or we waste them. It’s our choice each day. This year, in order to follow your dreams and goals more, you may have to give up some things you do now to make time for things you want to see more of in your life. You may have to discipline your time and discipline your life. No one starts off being excellent and successful. Your future “You” is created day by day. Either you control your “todays” or they control you.

  1. A POSITIVE MIND IS A NECESSITY FOR HAPPINESS AND SUCCESS

We read and hear so much today about having positive thoughts and a positive mindset, but if you listen to most people talk day to day and read their posts on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, you will hear more negative, complaining, and critical words than positive ones. Much of it is unconscious habit, based on how we were raised, who we spend our time with, and our own mindset we’ve settled into. Truthfully, we all have to train our unruly minds and thoughts to be what they should be. We have to purposely train our minds to focus on the positive and good and to speak it. What if whatever you spoke came following after you every day? What would that be? It’s wise to think about and it’s wise to monitor our words more. When you begin to channel your thoughts and words to be more positive, your life will begin to change to the positive. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.

  1. HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE, NOT A RESULT

Nothing in this life will make you happy until you choose to be happy. Happiness won’t come to you; it comes from you.  Material wealth won’t make you happy, although it can make life easier. But we all know miserable people with more money than they know what to do with. People won’t make you happy either, although having loving friends and family in our lives is a blessing if we appreciate it.  But many have that and constantly grumble and complain. You can look around at your life and be grateful for all the good that you have or always find fault. The happiest people are grateful people, kind people, people interested in contributing to the happiness of others. Happy people are busy working and focusing on what they have in life, the opportunities and blessings in it, rather than focusing on what they don’t have. They are happy and grateful for what they do have while working for what they want. They’re the people happily enjoying a hike or picnic in the park nearby rather than complaining that they can’t travel to lavish faraway places.

  1. EACH PERSON HAS TO FIND THEIR OWN PATH

You are the only person like you in the whole world. Your fingerprints are distinctly your own, your looks, your personality, the way you spend your days. Although others can offer you good advice and counsel, only you can change your life. Your path is your own in life. No one else can walk it but you, and no one can tell you your unique destiny but you. We all know that our opportunities in life are influenced by many factors—many of these within our control, others not. We walk the trail and path of our own life, like it or not … we can skip, hop, run, or bike—but it’s still our path. There are many rewards for living life well and hindrances for poor choices. We all experience problems along life’s way, but if you read the stories of happy, successful people, so did they. Our personal job is to try to seek and find our destiny and calling and to walk it every day with all our best. Be willing and eager to seek and work for that this year.

  1. IN THE END, WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS WHAT GOD THINKS

It is my belief that the greatest happiness, joy, life satisfaction, and pleasures come in a life sold out to God. As a believer that God created the heavens and the earth and all of us in it for His purpose and pleasure … the obvious conclusion to that belief is that my best purpose, my best life plan, my best life answers, my best way to walk and live every day is found in Him. That is the secret to my greatest joy in life, to my best contentment. I see myself as an Ambassador of God in the world, working for Him in all I do, trying to please Him in all my ways, and hopefully representing Him well with my time and my life—which belong to Him first. When you walk close to God, you tend to bloom more where you’re planted and are happier in your days. This, too, is something you can personally seek and grow in every day if you would.

In closing, I hope this coming year is a blessed and happy one for you. I hope you find more clearly what your purpose is in life, that you find more ways to bless and give to others, that you discover more ways to be happy and fulfilled in your day-to-day life. Like Fred Rogers’ quote below, you do make a difference in this world. You are more important than you can know. You leave something of yourself everywhere you go, with everyone you meet and interact with, and in everything you do. Work this year to make that legacy a good one that will live on after you. Live life with joy in your heart and love in your soul.

Note: If you’re not following my monthly blog, you should! Enter your email at the FOLLOW link and you’ll get an email notification each time a new blog is posted each month. … See my January Newsletter, too, at: https://linstepp.com/media-2/

And have a blessed new year …

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

December 2021 – CHRISTMAS AROUND TOWN

Many of us hold special memories about Christmas in our homes and the traditions we cherish … but I also hold many special memories of traditions and events held around my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Every fall, my mood begins to swing toward thoughts of Christmas when J.L. and I visit fall festivals and Christmas-themed shows where we begin to see Christmas decorations, handmade ornaments, gift ideas … and run into Santa!!! I usually buy my Christmas cards in the fall and do my holiday shopping then, too, but my real mood swing toward Christmas doesn’t begin until after Thanksgiving is over.

The real kick-off for me for the Christmas holidays comes right after Thanksgiving with the Fantasy of Trees held in Knoxville every year. It’s a premier event to benefit the Children’s Hospital and it offers over three hundred beautifully decorated trees, shops for children, elaborate gingerbread houses, and holiday wreaths and door designs. In a darkened room, ablaze with colorful Christmas lights and music, it’s hard not to “catch” the holiday spirit at the Fantasy of Trees and to want to run home and put up your own Christmas tree!

In the week after the Fantasy of Trees, downtown lights begin to appear around town, the big Christmas tree is lit in Krutch Park, and the annual Santa Claus Parade is held downtown, usually on the first Friday evening in December. Today, many elaborate parades are held all over America and televised, but when I was a girl this parade was looked forward to with great excitement and anticipation every year. Our family always sat to watch the parade on the high wall behind the post office building where my dad worked. It was such a thrill to hear and see the bands coming down the street, to see the decorated floats, and to wave at Santa Claus at the end of the parade. When my brother was in high school, he marched in his high school band in the Christmas parade and later strutted down the street ahead of his band as the school’s drum major. I, too, got my taste of being in the parade, marching in a sequined outfit with Claudette’s majorettes one year.

No holiday period is complete in our area now without driving into nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to see the outdoor light displays and to spend the evening at Dollywood theme park. The park’s buildings, trees, and entire acreage become a magic showcase of Christmas lights and decorations, with over five million holiday lights sparkling on every corner. The Christmas theme and colors of the lights change every year, as do the holiday shows, always making visiting Dollywood a beloved holiday tradition. The annual event is called “Smoky Mountain Christmas.” The holiday shows, carolers, Christmas parade, and other performances are always a delight and if you stay late in the evening, there are colorful fireworks, too. Dollywood is a joy year-round but at Christmas it is especially beautiful.

Another treat during the holidays is going to some of the wonderful Christmas shows and performances around the city of Knoxville. Some shows carry a high price ticket, like the Nutcracker ballet, Clayton Holiday Concert, and other special events, but we’ve enjoyed many of the equally beautiful free shows as a part of our holiday tradition for years. Special favorites of ours have always been the Living Christmas tree choral show performed at several local churches around town and the holiday concerts we can catch at area churches. We especially enjoy Christmas at West Park on Middlebrook and the Christmas Carol Show at the Catholic cathedral on Northshore Drive. Always on our list, too is the Nativity Pageant, a free drama presenting the story of Jesus birth in story and song put on at the Knoxville Coliseum. This beautiful event is now in its 53rd year and brings the Christmas story to life with glorious music, realistically portrayed Biblical characters, even donkeys and sheep, and closing with all standing to sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the end.

Another favorite part of the holidays is visiting the West Town Mall and its large department stores to see the beautifully decorated trees and holiday decorations throughout the mall. In times past, the mall used to be much more lavishly decorated than today but it is still fun to wander through the large indoor mall and stores to see all the lights and tree decorations. Often the florists around town decorate for visitors, too, and there used to be several we especially loved to visit. When I was a girl, the downtown Rich’s department store  extravagantly decorated inside and outside, and inside its tunnel leading under the street to the parking garage. The store also held a free choral concert outside which my family always attended, too.

Finally, no holiday period is complete without driving around town to see all the homes and yards lit up for Christmas. Word usually gets out as to which neighborhoods decorate with the most eye-catching displays every year and it’s a treat to drive through these neighborhood streets to spot the special lights and decorations the home owners have worked hard to create. The parks decorate, too, like Chilhowee park’s Christmas in Chilhowee in East Knoxville and Light the Park at Farragut’s Founders Park. Many parks also offer drive-through hours to enjoy the light displays, like the Festival of Lights at the Cove at Concord Park in West Knoxville.

This holiday, find and enjoy all the free and joyous pleasures around your own home town, just as we do. I’m sure you’ve discovered and created many traditions wherever you live that have become a special and cherished part of your Christmas season, as well as the traditions you enjoy in your own home.

Thank you to all of you for loving us and loving our books. We hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season … and a wonderful new year to come.

See you in 2022!

Lin

P.S. Are you following my blog? If not you should. Enter your email at the Follow link and you’ll get an email notification every time a new monthly blog is posted.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.