New Format

I am beginning a new format for this blog. I think with the division in this country I think we all could use some beauty and encouragement. I go on regular lunch time hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) as it is minutes from where I work. I am simply going to be posting images of these hikes and display the beauty that God has created. I encourage anyone to look around them and see this beauty in their lives. It always helps to ground me and hopefully it will do the same for you.

It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new

Tomorrow President Barack Obama will step down and a new President Trump will take office. This process has been occurring since the birth of this nation. The peaceful transition of power is one thing that makes America so great. Another thing is free speech and the freedom to peacefully assemble. With this highly contentious and close election emotions are raw. One only has to look at the news to see this. Regardless of who you voted for, rather you are happy with the choice of the next President or not you do have the right to voice that opinion. That right extends to everyone and I pray that all recognize and respect this. I also pray that they realize that these rights are for peaceful demonstrations, and this right does not allow anyone to prevent through violence another from partaking in their rights. I pray that no matter what tomorrow or the future brings it is peaceful.

I am not naive however. If my tine in law enforcement showed me anything it was the bad side of society and the human condition. That is where grace, forgiveness, repentance, and peace takes over, show grace, forgiveness, and peace in all things. Admittedly I do not always do these things. I know there will be at sometime, somewhere a non-peaceful interaction. It is inevitable, I only pray that overall things are peaceful.

Tomorrow marks the ending of one era and the beginning of another. Regardless if this new era is prosperous and peaceful, or impoverishes and tumultuous I rest in the knowledge that Christ is on His throne. It is not my place to judge anyone for their views or actions, Lord knows I have enough of my own sins to worry about. Regardless of whatever the future holds practice peace and forgiveness.

A year of peace and well placed trust

So it is finally 2017…2016 was a pretty crappy year here in my house as it was for many I know. In all actuality, even though we all say stuff to the contrary, we know that the new year is really just another day in the long line of days that is our life. Life has its ups and downs and sometimes those days are mostly good and we have a good year and sometimes it is the opposite. Perseverance is the key…perseverance and trusting that whatever comes God is on His throne and all things will work out to His glory.

We went back to the mountains for Christmas this year and while I was there I snapped the picture above one foggy morning. It is what remains of an old train trestle bridge spanning the South Holston River. It has always struck me: these small trees have persevered through severe weather only rooted into the crevasses of the stones. How they came to be planted there is anyone’s guess but they have held on for decades in those rocks.

The interesting thing about trees is that their strength comes from their growth rings; the tighter the rings, the stronger the tree.  Rings are only close together in the years the tree has to overcome great stresses and thus grows very little; otherwise the tree can grow easily and the rings will be farther apart. The more stress, the stronger the tree and the more likely it will survive whatever comes its way.

It is easy to get caught us in the woes of this world, be it personal or global. I myself have problems not getting caught up in it myself. It is easy, especially in the bad years like 2016, to become downcast and sit in defeat, despair, and hopelessness. I for one have stayed there for far too long. Becoming this way leaves me catatonic in fear as life swirls around me. Life never stops regardless of our personal circumstances. This leads me to complete exhaustion and a complete lack of planning and prone to make major mistakes, and that perpetuates the cycle and lack to margin.

I have this icon of Saint Thomas that I keep in my wallet. I am unsure exactly of how it came to find its way there but I keep it there as a reminder that doubt and fear are normal but easy. It is easier to believe that nothing is going to change and have an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality. It is harder to take things on faith. The doubt and fear come from a place of mistrust, or at least, misplaced trust. I fear that XYZ will happen because I am misplacing my trust into myself and others and not placing that trust in the right place-with God.

Regardless if a child has a resurgence of illness or another financial disaster plagues this home, God is on His throne and all will be to His glory. It is laughable that I move my trust from the unfailing God to myself, a sinner and mistake prone human. It is laughable, but oh so easy to do. It is easier to misplace our trust into ourselves and others, that we can see and feel, and not place it where it belongs with God; because that requires that we trust the unknown.

Trials are of two kinds. Either affliction will test our souls as gold is tried in a furnace, and make trial of us through patience, or the very prosperity of our lives will oftentimes, for many, be itself an occasion of trial and temptation. For it is equally difficult to keep the soul upright and undefeated in the midst of afflictions, as to keep oneself from insolence and pride in prosperity.”
~St. Basil the Great

This year I have no resolution…no word of the year. There is no guarantee of tomorrow…or for the next breath, for that matter. Instead of living in fear I choose to trust in God. I choose to work toward my goals every day and no longer look at them as pipe dreams that will happen ‘whenever I get the time and money’ or ‘one day when I retire’. Most of all, I choose live in the world as the creation of God that I am…because to borrow a phrase from the musical Hamilton, “Dying is easy, son. Living is harder”.

The Appalachian: A Novel

The Appalachian: A Novel

It is safe to say that I have been an avid non-reader most my life. According to my mother I loved to read when I was young. That all changed while I was in Elementary, Middle, and High School. I have a feeling it was the forced reading of books that I had no interest in and at a pace that I could not keep up with. The irony is that the more you read the better you get and this absence of reading really hit me hard in that area. This only really became an issue in college, somehow I was able to skirt through high school with cliff notes and class notes.

Things are different now that I am almost 34. Though much busier that I was back then I have begun to read for fun again. Admittedly not much; but as time allows. I really have my Beloved to thank for that. Without her encouragement I would have not even tried. It amazes me how God works things out like that. There are so many things that I would have not experienced without her encouragement. I can easily see how I would be half the person I am today without her in my life.

I’ve read a few books since my reading reboot (Walden by Thoreau, Modern Homesteading by Mr. & Mrs. Wranglerstar, and Coming Home by Hari Kaur Berzins) but I just finished my first novel. I have never been a huge fiction fan but while looking through the Amazon Kindle Prime Lending Library I came across a book by Kirk Ward Robinson called The Appalachian. Its title alone was enough to peak my interest, for obvious reasons, and I figured it’s “free” so if I didn’t like it I was out nothing but time.

I have to say I was surprised with this one for sure. I walked into it having read the synopsis of an old (128 years old to be exact) Tennessean looking back on his past and the ills of society…or at least that is how I understood the synopsis…and found a heart wrenching journey through a man’s life. While completely fiction it is easy imagine it as truth. Kirk Ward Robinson does an amazing job of describing the places and people throughout. It is clear he did his homework on the places and times in the book, most if not all are actual places…many I have seen with my own eyes.

The last of the baby boomers Carlton is the youngest sibling in his family and lives through some of the most tumultuous and exciting times in the history of the United States. His life is filled with great highs and extreme lows and you are transported through that life with him. Well told in great details it is easy to imagine yourself with Carlton as these events unfold. Most of this book is spent looking back through the 1960’s to our present day with only the last few chapters looking into what is to us the future. The futurescape presented is easily believable and just as equally alarming.

I’m not much into spoilers so I won’t say much more about it’s content but I would greatly recommend it. However be prepared to go on a rollercoaster of emotions as you follow along the life’s story of Carlton Jeffries. I would say this is definitely a book for High School and up ages. Many themes discussed are adult in nature but all tasteful and not overpowering to the storyline. At 748 pages it took me 17 ish hours to read this book, but then again I am a slow reader after all, but it is easy to get sucked into. Consider yourself warned 🙂

Counting Costs


“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~ Luke 14:28-30

It has been a while since I have written here. Many things have come and gone…good and bad. In the end nothing much has really changed though. I still have my same job (didn’t get the promotion), Elliana and Josiah are still just as sick, and the doctors still have no certain diagnosis for Elliana. Everything else has come and gone…except my shingles those have come and decided to stay a month or two. It is interesting however to note that for one reason or another I have changed greatly. I’m not sure when it happened but I stopped caring so much, or at least not caring enough to act on every issue. Not in a bad way mind you but in a boundary setting way. I’ve learned to let things be where they are and not try and fix everyone’s issue.

At work this has meant letting things go until the person whose job it is to fix it deals with it instead of jumping in and getting it done because I know how. At home it has meant putting aside external factors and being a bit more lax on the chores to do in order to be more present and engaged. In all of this I have begun to care less and less about what people think of me because of it.

Thing is I grew up in a small mountain town where things move slowly and have for centuries. People take the time to slow down and enjoy the day to day and to help one another. This is a major juxtaposition to where I am living now. Here people, for the most part, are in a constant state of hurry and multi-tasking as they do it. I see it every day, people driving fast and erratic while texting or talking to one another while texting someone else. It is enough to drive you crazy but it is also easy to fall into that trap.

I am ashamed to say I fell into it myself. The cultural push to hurry and get as much done as possible and to be constantly connected to work/social media got a hold of me. I felt as if I was required to respond to those work emails on the weekend or answer that Facebook question/comment right away. I felt that pressure and I know that my boss helped encourage that mindset, she has been known to say ‘You are an exempt employee and I can work you however and whenever I want’. This added unnecessary stress to our already stressful lives.

For some reason I’ve snapped out of it, can’t point to any one thing that made me change my mindset but I have. Truth of the matter is no one will die or even be injured if some computer at the my work isn’t working. There is so many stressors in our life right now that we can’t control (ie.medical and financial) but I don’t need to add anymore stress to the mix. Most likely this added stress was the cause, or at least a contributing factor, in my shingles. Maybe so maybe not but I do know the more stressed I get the more it hurts and the least it has hurt me was when I was on vacation hiking in the mountains with my family.

This is of course the curse of technology. The internet, computers, and smart phones have given us great opportunities and advancements but they come at a cost…as do all things. We as humans, and I am a huge offender, have an issue with counting the cost of or actions before acting. I think this is a human trait and we have done it since creation (hello Adam and Eve) but I do wonder if it is more of an issue in this modern era. It seems that all our modern “conveniences” have given us an avenue to distraction and force us to make rushed and rash decisions.

Luke 4:28-30 sticks out in my mind when I think of this. There Jesus is speaking of the cost of discipleship but he gives the example of a man wishing to build a tower. He say who would not first count the cost and make sure you could finish it so you would not be ridiculed. This is also the verse that I point out when a new building project at a church begins. Sadly all too many times those churches have not made sure and come up short or had to borrow so much it put them in a financial hardships.

I am trying to change that in me at least. To do that however I must slow down and think things through. It is hard to examine a situation thoroughly if you are moving at 100MPH. The world will not end if I take the couple minutes to think. Of course also pivotal to this is to be rested. Making decisions while exhausted has never worked out for me and I dare say most people are the same. Of course this might explain some of my bad decisions. It is also important to note that it is vital that you accept and own your mistakes and work to learn from them. Look for the cause of the mistake not for an excuse for it…often times they are polar opposites of one another. One helps you to accept and heal the other breeds contempt and anger.

The fact of the matter is life is fragile and precious. Treat it with care and enjoy in all it has to offer…good and bad. My grandfather used to say ‘everything (happens) for a reason’ and that is true…even if we don’t know or understand that reason at the time. It is in that process of change from bad to good that I see God in the day to day. He does turn all things to good…we just have to pay attention. To pay attention you must slow down.

Appalachian American

I will start this post off by warning that this post will be in no way politically correct. I don’t think I could make this politically correct if I tried. So consider yourself forewarned.

I have been away from my home land for 3 years now. In those 3 years I have gone back for a visit 4 times, usually for less than a week at a time. I left my home town in the Tennessee Mountains with a population of just over 26,000 to a coastal city with a population of just over 300,000. The move was not a huge culture shock for me as I have traveled extensively all over the world and had spent a large part of my college summers in this area. It was not till I moved out of Appalachia that I began to realize the extent of prejudice against people like me. This was the biggest culture shock to me.

I first came up against this stereotyping at my job. The sheer amount of off color jokes and comments about my home was disturbing. I will pause here and say that this is racist behavior, the dictionary definition of race is “a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics” and racism is defined as “racial prejudice or discrimination”, just because it happens to be socially acceptable does not change this fact. As time as gone on I still come up against these issues and I am convinced that had my boss not graduated from the University of Tennessee I would have not gotten an offer.

Remarks like you have “you have all your teeth” and “you are wearing shoes” were common when people found out where I was from. I have had my knowledge and education (Bachelors degree with 12 years experience) of my field (IT) questioned and belittled. Even with all of this I refuse to hide where I am from or hide my accent. I do peacefully correct the person when this happens and have mentioned my frustration to my superiors. When I did I was told to deal with it and it was not against any rule for me to be treated as such, however I know had the tables been turned and I had insulted them in the same manner, I would be fired on the spot.

Yea I got angry, pissed off honestly, and I “dealt with it”. I distanced myself from those persons and built up some internal walls. I also began to ask myself why this was the way it is. I have always tried to be forgiving and see things from others perspective as well as educate…it is the way I was raised…ironic isn’t it. The more I thought about it the more I began to realize the horrific stereotypes that have come to define what Appalachia means to those from the outside. We are seen as dumb, backwards, fearful of outsiders, lacking in hygiene, lazy, and many more. This is NOT Appalachia and I am really tired of seeing the region and its people marginalized and exploited. Appalachia is full of people who have had to work hard just to scrape by a living and have been exploited along the way.

Many have come into Appalachia and stripped it of its resources and taken all the profit with them as they left. First the timber companies came and stripped away the old growth forests and left poverty and poor soil in their wake. The land was left barren and the floods came and with them more destruction and death.

When the coal mines came in they brought jobs but they also imported exploitation and corruption. They forced the miners to not take a paycheck and instead get a “script” that was only good at the mine company store. A store where the miners routinely had to go into debt just to live, due to the inflated prices. When the miners began to attempt to unionize the coal companies then hired groups of armed men to kill union sympathizers and instill fear in miners.  Even though eventually the unions prevailed the coal companies still exploit Appalachia through unsustainable mountain top removal mining that poison the water and the land and completely remove a mountain from the landscape for the sake of profit. Let me make it clear I am not against mining or even coal but it must be mined in a sustainable and ecologically responsible way, and be used efficiently and without great waste.

Many make jokes about how dumb people are in Appalachia. While it is true that there is a need for better education in the region, people there are far from dumb. As a group of people who have had to make do with what they have many intelligent inventions have come from the region. It was in Tennessee that one of the major sites of the Manhattan Project (where the atomic bomb was developed). Many major manufacturing and chemical companies still call Appalachia home. As the technological revolution has developed major tech companies like Google have moved into Appalachia and have created data centers and server farms.

As far as the stereotype that Appalachians are fearful of outsiders- I have not personally seen this. I have seen people treat outsiders with skepticism and not trust them… but not be fearful of them, and all the while treating them kindly. I’ve never seen the out and out violence that is stereotypical. However, with the history of exploitation coupled with the stereotypes who can blame someone for being skeptical.

I’ve always known the stereotypes and have struggled in times past to educate as to their fallacy… especially while over seas… but after moving away full time the  issue became more apparent. I began to wonder what was fueling this train of thought. It was then that  I noticed the proliferation in mass entertainment that props up the stereotypes. Now I know that may sound odd in a way but in my defense we had purposely chosen not to have cable television, and instead watch Netflix and Amazon Prime, for years and during that time avoided the commercials and network TV. As I began looking into this I was surprised to find that the exploitation on the “hillbilly” stereotype in TV was nothing new.

I found movies and TV shows all the way back into the 40’s that exploited the stereotype for some laughs. During this time it was not uncommon to see racial stereotyping used for comedy. As time went on the old films with black faced actors fell into history never to be released again (as they should have been) but remastered versions of Ma and Pa Kettle, and others, are still being produced today because it is still socially acceptable to make fun of Appalachians. 

Fast forward to today and you have shows like Outsider on WGN. When I first saw that trailer I was speechless as to how insanely racist it was. It seems like the writers and producers pulled out a checklist of stereotypes and began checking off a list one by one. Lawless…check…Dirty…check…outsider-phobia…check…small family tree…check…language…check…and the list goes on. As a side note I might add that the accents are horrific, it is easy to tell that none of the main actors are from Appalachia (in fact at least 3 aren’t even born in the USA). Just a visit to the website of this show with its “Speak our language” quiz and “Knives N’ Shine” knife throwing/moonshine drinking game is enough to be revolting. I ask you in all honesty if there was a website for a major TV network that had a “Spanglish” or  “Ebonics” quiz would they be boycotted and vilified? I won’t even get started on Deliverance. 

So what is Appalachia really then? It is more than it’s beautiful vistas and windy roads. It is a place with people…kind, hardworking, and honest people who help each other out. A place where people still stop on the side of the road to let a funeral pass. A place where doors are still held open for others. A place where if you are stranded on the road somewhere someone will stop and help.If being a kind, hardworking, honest, and God fearing Appalachian makes me backwards in the eyes of mass society then so be it. I am proud to call myself an Appalachian and would not have it any other way.