Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
I have always loved nature but usually I've enjoyed it from my seat in the car or from my picture window. If anyone had suggested, 20 years ago, that I should go camping or, for heaven sakes, take a "hike" I would have rolled my eyes and gone shopping. All that has changed. I am a self proclaimed National Park "junkie"(this year it was Yosemite) I just can't get enough.
Last week I took a local hike up a STEEP and rocky mountain trail that took me above the tree line. At the top was a lake completely secluded... and so the name "Cecret Lake" I had no idea that at 66 I could do that. Don't get me wrong... it was hard and I ache from top to toe, but I walked slowly, took breaks, drank lots of water and applied the old adage... "one foot in front of the other"
The thing that truly amazes me about nature is the transformation it creates in us as people. We get friendly. One would never think, in an urban setting, to speak to so many strangers, but nature somehow brings out the best in us. There were people all over my mountain, doing the same thing I was doing and almost without fail every person I crossed paths with at least said "hello." Those coming down the trail would shout out words of encouragement... "You're almost there" or "The view is worth the climb" We laughed, we joked, we even exchanged one liners like... "don't look up, just live in the moment." John Muir was right, nature is healing to body and soul.
I have heard this expression all my life but not until I sat in on a 4th grade science class last year, did I understand its origin. A "blue moon" is a phenomenon that occurs every few years when there are two full moons in one month. It happened just a few days ago... July 31st and won't come again until 2018.
Love the stories that helped create our language! HAPPY SUNDAY
I have obsessed over the entire spectrum of "brown" for about eight years, never giving grey much thought. Then, in a daring moment, I painted my mudroom a robust deep "stormy weather" and was completely surprised by how much I loved it. My house has become a monochromatic array of grey
What I truly love is how wonderfully color plays against this backdrop... the deep hues of orange and umber, the crisp of red and more recently the combination of grey and soft turquoise.
There is a blog that I look at quite often. I'm sure many of you are aware of "Dear Lillie" I love the way she uses grey as her neutral and then adds color. Its so easy on the eyes!
I took a quick trip to New York City just before Christmas. It was magical, but as luck would have it we landed in a nor'easter.
We couldn't let the weather stop us so we set out in torrential rain with winds about 40 mph. At one point the wind was so strong that my favorite cashmere scarf blew right off of my neck and sailed down the street. I thought I was prepared with my long Canada Goose Coat, a shearling hat and my warmest Uggs.... NOT!
My body was warm but my hat got drenched along with my boots. It turns out Uggs weren't the best choice for the rain. Everywhere I looked I noticed the New Yorkers were wearing "rain boots" and a little light went on in my head. How did I miss a good pair of "wellies" I course corrected the moment I got home. Who knew there were such possibilities.
My first purchase was a mid-calf pair of black Hunter boots. I love the look but I don't like where they hit on my leg. Thank heavens they have become more comfortable with each wearing! I think a lot depends on the size and shape of your calves :(
What I really fell in love with was the short boots. Found this darling red plaid pair on Amazon and... couldn't resist a second pair with polka dots.
I have always loved the rain but now it has become... fashionable!
GLADYS KNIGHT'S spiritual journey began when she was two years old... Have a wonderful Sunday!
“We had an old banged up piano in the hall,” she recalls. “I remember even that far back having our own family home evening, if you will. My mom and dad used to play the piano and sing and tell Bible stories. As I grew, I started wanting more and more of that. Christ really became that person that I longed for. I wanted to be good for Him.”
That little girl from Georgia would have to wait decades before finding the fulness of the gospel, but that didn’t stop her from letting her light shine and sharing her talents in the meantime.Gladys began singing at age four, and at just seven years old had her first taste of fame when she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour TV show contest in 1952. The next year, she, her sister Brenda, her brother Merald, and cousins Eleanor and William Guest formed a musical group called the Pips—named after her cousin, James “Pip” Woods.
The Train to Fame
Brenda and Eleanor were eventually replaced with cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George, and the group went on their first national tour when Gladys was 11 years old. In 1966, Gladys Knight & the Pips signed with Motown Records, where despite Gladys’s powerful voice and the Pips’ smooth vocals and impressive dance moves, they were still considered a second-class act. They soon exceeded expectations, however, with the release of several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Friendship Train,” and “I Don’t Want to Do Wrong.”
The act signed with Buddah Records in 1973 and achieved a new level of success with the R&B chart topper and Grammy-winning “Midnight Train to Georgia,” as well as “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”
Though Gladys achieved fame at a young age, she didn’t fall victim to the vices that often come with it. “We took the Spirit with us,” she says. “We stood out from everybody else. I didn’t do drugs, and I didn’t drink. Everyone began to expect me to be different.”
But there were times when the expectations became too much, and she didn’t want to perform anymore. “I wanted to be like the rest of the teens,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to sing. But I realized that my voice is my gift from God, and I have an obligation to use it. God chose me for this, and I needed to stop fighting it.”
So she continues to share her music to this day. The Pips retired in 1988, and Gladys has enjoyed a successful solo career ever since.
Seeking the Lord
Gladys’s faith in God has been a driving force throughout her life, and her thirst for light and knowledge, along with the example of her children, helped prepare her to accept the gospel.
“I raised my children to seek the Lord. We had been searching for the best of the Lord, the most of the Lord,” she recalls. “My son Jimmy and his wife were the first to join the Church, after his best friend shared his testimony. Then my daughter, Kenya, joined the Church. I watched their lives grow, and to see how my grandchildren were being raised and what they knew really impressed me.”
At her daughter’s invitation, Gladys began attending Relief Society. “After a while, Kenya told me, ‘Mom, it’s time for you to talk to the missionaries.’” And so she did.
“When the missionaries came to my house, we had the most beautiful prayer,” Gladys recalls. “I loved the fact that when they came in they did not try to sell me on the Church—they just told me about the gospel. My mom, who I consider to be the most spiritual woman I’ve ever met, wasn’t a member, but she said, ‘You go.’ Those were basically her last words.”
Gladys joined the Church in 1997 and was baptized by her son Jimmy. “I feel so blessed because my son held the priesthood and was able to baptize me,” she says. “It is such a precious thing to me. I was overjoyed.”
Years after divorcing, Gladys married longtime friend William McDowell in 2001, and he joined the Church the following year. “He is such an awesome man,” she says. “He has a sense of the Lord like no one else who has ever been in my life. He gets it.”
Race and Religion
Since becoming a Latter-day Saint, Gladys has boldly shared her beliefs despite being met with some surprise and skepticism from the black community.
“It didn’t affect my career,” she says of her baptism. “People pretty much expect me to walk my own road, and I’ve never regretted it once. But some people questioned why I joined this church, considering its history with blacks.”
She explains, “I lived through segregation. I love my brothers and sisters of color and respect all we have been through, but we have to stop judging what others look like. The more you get into the gospel, the more you can get rid of that.” She adds, “Now it’s time for people of color to come to His church. It’s just our time.”
However, being a black Southern convert had its challenges, especially when it came to Church culture. “We were the only African American people in our ward for years,” Gladys says. “The culture has been so European for so long, the music reflects it, the way Mormons react to things is very reserved. African Americans need fire in our bones—music that puts us on our feet or on our knees. To transform to the European way is one of the greatest obstacles to coming to this church.” But, she says, “I feel like I am in the right place and I’m loving it.”
Testimony Through Music
Gladys’s desire to add “a little something” to Church music eventually inspired her to create an all-volunteer, multicultural LDS choir that would bring a new level of energy and cultural awareness to traditional hymns.
The choir, called the Saints Unified Voices, is comprised of more than 100 people and has a two-fold purpose. First, they aim to spread the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ by providing an opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise enter an LDS meetinghouse to feel the Spirit. Second, they desire to help members of the Church embrace the cultural diversity of people worldwide coming into the Lord’s kingdom. “Never in a million years did I ever dream that I would be the director of a choir like this—one that showcases the energy, the fire, and the heart of the music of our culture,” she says.
The idea to create a choir first came to Gladys when she was invited to speak at the 2002 Women’s Conference at BYU. She wanted to include music in her presentation, so she organized a small ensemble of young women to sing with her. Soon Gladys was asked to organize a choir for a stake missionary fireside. She agreed, and the Saints Unified Voices was born.
“I held auditions, I prayed about it, and the answer I got was, ‘Take them all,’” she recalls.
But teaching a volunteer choir to perform wasn’t as easy as Gladys hoped it would be. “Most of these wonderful people had never sung gospel music before,” she says. To help Gladys raise the performance level of the choir, she turned to some of her show’s professional crewmembers at the Flamingo Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, where she was performing on a regular basis. They happily agreed, even though they were not members of the Church.
After each of Gladys’s shows at the Flamingo, she worked with her trusted musicians to create gospel-type arrangements of hymns for the choir to perform. Traditional favorites such as “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and “Because I Have Been Given Much” were transformed into the kind of toe-tapping, soul-stirring numbers Gladys had been longing for.
“I choose all of the choir’s songs for their basic messages,” she says. “I fell in love with ‘I’m a Child of God’ when I sang it at my granddaughter’s baptism long before I joined the Church. I heard the message in it even then. And adding African influence to ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints’ was my way of honoring the wonderful pioneers of Africa.”
Gladys Knight & the Saints Unified Voices performed at their first fireside at the Las Vegas Green Valley stake center on Sunday, August 11, 2002—the five-year anniversary of Gladys’s baptism. Since that first fireside, the choir has been in high demand. Though they remain a volunteer choir, they travel all over the world to share the gospel message in an energetic, soulful way. Gladys Knight & the Saints Unified Voices have even released two albums. Their first, One Voice, won a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album.
“After we won the Grammy, I had the opportunity to present it to President Hinckley. I wanted it to go straight to Church headquarters because I didn’t want my choir members getting big-headed,” Gladys laughs.
Soon after winning the Grammy, the choir released a Christmas album titled A Christmas Celebration,and Gladys hopes to record another album with the choir in the future.
“The choir members are here because of their testimonies and their desires to serve the Lord,” she says. “They’re not perfect, but they’ve got the vision and understanding of our calling as a missionary effort, and they are dedicated to the work.” She adds, “Our congregations are filled with a growing diversity of people from different races and cultures. I look forward to the day when we embrace their music without feeling uncomfortable.”
Continuing Her Mission
In addition to her continued work with the Saints Unified Voices, Gladys recently completed a new solo album titled Where My Heart Belongs,which is a heartfelt mix of gospel and inspirational songs. “This is my testimony,” she says of the album. “I wanted to remind people of Christ and what He’s done for us. We need to be reminded all the time of His grace, His mercy, His love, and the way back home.”
So how long will Gladys continue to share her testimony through music? “The Lord will tell me when to sit down—I strongly believe that. I’ll feel it and sense it in my soul.”
Until then, Gladys continues to share her talents and testimony with the world. “I pray every time I go on stage—not to be famous, not to get a standing ovation, but for people to see my light and to know that I am a child of God,” she says. “They may not know what moves them in that concert, but I would like to say it’s a little bit of the Spirit. I know this gift from God is a platform from which I am to share His gospel.”
She adds, “I’m just using what the Lord gave me. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m striving to be what He wants me to be.”
Susan Branch, delightful artist and "gentle" woman lives in a Eutopia of her own making... a montage sprinkled with a little Beatrix Potter and Tasha Tudor. I fell in love with her work in the early 90's and later when she began to share photographs of her house on Nantucket, I became mesmerized.
Although her home was plummeted by the recent storm she made it look and sound like an adventure not to be missed. Here are a few pictures from her blog.