The People of The Ville: Neale Bennett

 

Through the first 14 years of my life, I grew up as the daughter of an Air Force navigator, moving frequently and sacrificing time with my father as he served our country. He retired and didn’t wish to fly anymore, but many of the pilots he flew with became commercial airline pilots. Often when I’m flying, I wonder about the men and women who are in the cockpit and the rich history of their lives. One such man is a dear friend of ours and I’m pleased to introduce him as the next honoree in The People of The Ville series.

Neale Bennett was born in Louisville and grew up here until he left for college at LSU and later returned to complete his BA in history from U of L. After finishing school, he joined the Air Force, where he trained to be a pilot. In 1992, he came back to Louisville and has lived here and raised his family since that time. Describing his time in the military, he told me this:

“My eight years on active duty were the best professional years of my life. I served with outstanding people who were very committed to the defense of this great country.”

During his career in the Air Force, he trained to be a pilot and underwent several other types of education, such as POW and water survival training. He flew the F-16 both as an operational flight lead/mission commander/FCF pilot and as an RTU instructor pilot at different bases throughout the west. He left active duty to join the Indiana National Guard, where he continued to fly the “Viper”, otherwise knows as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and Neale describes it as “the hottest, most maneuverable fighter in the world.” The missions were intense, often leaving him exhausted after just a short 1-2 hour flight.

Neale was hired by Delta shortly after leaving the service of our country and has been working for them since that time, except for a brief time as a UPS pilot. In our interview, he described his job as a commercial pilot as being “highly technical” and “highly regulated” and continued to describe it to me like this:

“The responsibility is tremendous considering the number of lives and the value of the equipment for which you are responsible. But you are the first to see the sunrise and the thrill is still there after all these years. The size of the team which is involved in getting every flight off the ground is extraordinary. It is also a very interesting career where you can live wherever you desire as long as you are willing to commute to work. You can live in your base or you can live on a mountaintop in Switzerland if you don’t mind the long commute to work.”

With those parameters on living, he has made his home in both Dallas and Louisville at different times and has flown to most all major cities and many small ones as well. His flying credentials also include all states except Hawaii as well as most all of Western Europe, South America, and Central America. For the past 11 years, he has been a Captain for Delta, getting the coveted left seat in the cockpit.

Neale met his wife, Karen, in 1987 when Karen was visiting a college friend in Las Vegas who was married to a pilot who worked with Neale in the same squadron. Even though Karen wasn’t interested in trying to date a pilot via a long-distance relationship, within a year they were married. Karen is a very interesting person herself and comes from a family with three other sisters. She was a talented flute player and dancer, procuring a scholarship in choreography and performance on the Weber State Dance Team at Weber State College (now a university).

When I asked Neale who the most influential person in his life was he named his own father, W. Neale Bennett III MD. He describes his father as a “good athlete, a great doctor, consummate gentleman”. Neale also says about his father that “he admired and respected talent not position” and his father often said, “there is honor in digging ditches if you give your best effort”. These words stayed with Neale throughout his life and according to Neale, his father was caring and patient and was “a life-long learner”. With those types of credentials, Neale also described his father as “the kind of man that [he] wants to become”. Without hesitation, though, Neale also credits his mother, both sets of grandparents, and an aunt and uncle as other people who influenced and supported him throughout his life. He states that “all these great people instilled in me a desire to succeed and not let them down. They were all well-educated, strong people who were also very kind and generous.” One other influence was his dad’s dad, who was a US Air Service pilot in WWI and although Neale never knew him, his choice of career was greatly affected by his grandfather’s history. In a final twist, Neale states that he is now being influenced by his own two sons saying, “I like what they are doing, how they lead their lives and how they approach their professions.”

Choosing to become a pilot like his grandfather was a process. Originally, Neale thought he would pursue a medical career like his father and uncle but was drawn to planes as a child and through adolescence and eventually acquiesced to his dream of becoming a pilot. Interestingly, not only the strong connection to the medical profession through his own father and uncle but also the strong connection to the military and pilot profession has been continued by his own two sons. His son, Beau, was drawn more to the medical world and his son, Chase, was drawn more to the pilot profession and both are now pursuing those dreams. Both also followed in their father’s and grandfather’s and great grandfather’s footsteps and have joined the military, and more specifically the Air Force. Neale describes their personalities as perfectly designed for what they chose to do and he finds it easy to relate to them both. He states, “I feel happiness that the Lord has blessed them with the opportunity to chase their dreams and that they have the determination to be successful.” Knowing both young men as I do, there is no doubt about that success. Beau is now in residency and Chase is in pilot training and I personally feel better knowing another great doctor is in training and that another great pilot is in the service of our country.

A few other questions I asked Neale:

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Neale answered with two things:

Speaking of his mother’s dad, whom he was very close to through the years, he stated,

“I wish I had written more to my Grandfather. He was a great man and I loved him tremendously. We were close. As he got older and more infirm, he wanted to receive and read letters or postcards from me telling him about my experiences in the Air Force. We talked on the phone a great deal, but he really wanted letters to read. I wish I had written to him more often.”

 

Another small regret Neale has concerns his time at LSU.

“Selfishly, I wish I had continued to play football at LSU past spring ball of my freshman year. It was a rash, emotional decision to give it up, but I found out later that my position (LB) coach was very impressed with my play and potential. While the decision allowed me to follow the dream of flying in the Air Force with few bad injuries, my football story never really had an ending. I would like to know whether I would have played in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night or not.”

 

What do you like most about Louisville?

“The people and the size. I don’t think we will ever move because of the tremendous people we have met over the years. When you know people who have influenced you and your children the way Coach Green has; well, I cannot imagine moving somewhere else just because the mercury stays a little higher in the thermometer. Louisville, as a small city has a great deal to offer without the traffic. And it comes back to the people, you are about one person away from knowing everyone. We went to a UL basketball game recently and I saw four people whom I have not seen in a while and it was like I saw them yesterday. Super people from all walks of life. We are blessed to know them and would not like to see that change.”

 

Tell me something you want us to know about you that we haven’t already discussed.

“Long answers have pretty much covered everything. However, I do want you to know this. I have been extremely blessed to have had an exciting, fulfilling life. Whatever success I have attained in life I can directly attribute to the great influences from the people who came before me, the support and strength of my wife, the inspiration I get from our two very fine sons and the camaraderie of outstanding friends. I firmly believe in the Constitution of the USA. I believe that this country like no other offers the opportunity to succeed if one is willing to dream, work hard and sometimes take a chance. Freedom is not free and the liberty to succeed or fail in the attempt is precious. “Hanta Yo – Clear the Way.” (favorite book).

Neale and his wife and boys are a great addition to our city and I was glad to be able to honor him as the next addition to The People of The Ville. Maybe the next time you fly Delta you will be lucky enough to have him in the front of your plane. If you do, you will be in great hands.

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Spiritual Warfare and the Power of Prayer

 

The first book in the Angels and Demons Series is A Rose for Jonathan. I wanted to re-visit this book today in response to several emails and messages as well as new reviews.

This book is about the spiritual warfare that is going on around us at all times and although a fictional story, the subject matter is very real.

Take some time today to review the following scripture in Ephesians 6:12:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Keep in mind that this is not something new…the Bible is very clear that we are at war. I hope that you will learn to use two very valuable weapons available to you: prayer and scripture.

There have been many books written about angels and demons by such great authors as Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti but also by amazing men of God like the late Billy Graham.

A Rose for Jonathan is written as a novel with a mixture of elements such as humor, family, love, and of course, the more ominous and suspenseful forces that are around us–angels and demons.

Many think we become angels when we die but these are separate beings created by God. Did you know that demons are fallen angels? Did you know that Satan is only a demon?

So much is explained between the covers of this book but in the form of a story. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy this book and the sequel, Quiver, which is now available as well.

My prayer is that these books will bring you closer in your walk with God. I don’t pretend to be a great Bible scholar but I do use the Bible as my source. By reading these books, I pray that you will open your mind and consider the importance of prayer in your life. Visualize the battle that is secretly transpiring around you.

If you are interested in doing a Bible study with either of these books, I will gladly supply some questions the help your group.

For now, click the link below to enter the world that awaits you:

Click Here

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Farmer’s Markets and Blue Jeans

 

 

My family always had a garden. Whether we lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. or in the countryside of Tennessee, my parents had a plot somewhere near where we grew all manner of vegetables and the occasional watermelon vine. We also visited the “pick your own” farms and picked bushels of items like beans or strawberries on a regular basis throughout the different seasons. My mom’s favorite joke for strawberry picking was that the farm really needed to weigh us all before and after we picked because we ate so many as we filled our baskets. I can still remember the warm sunshine on my back and the red juice dripping down to my elbow as I stuffed one ripe berry after another into my mouth. There was nothing better at that moment…except for the car ride home when we would stop at a small gas station and grab a Yoo-hoo to drink.

For weeks during the summer and fall months, our kitchen was filled with glass mason jars as my parents worked to “put up” food either freezing or canning so much that we had two huge chest freezers full and an entire room filled with all kinds of jams, jellies, and vegetables etc. Some of our freezer space was filled with fresh meats we had raised ourselves or were raised and prepared from our land in Tennessee.

Today, small market-type grocery stores are popping up everywhere along with farmer’s markets. Even big chain grocery stores are doing their best to offer more organic or “farm to table” options. That term has become synonymous with healthy and more desirable eating. Restaurants taut it as part of their marketing campaigns as well. This idea of eating fresh foods directly from the fields of a local farm is not new, although the perceptions around it are.

When I was growing up and my family was growing and picking all this fresh food, we were not considered “cool” for doing so. In fact, alongside us were others like us: we were poor or at the very best lower middle class in income. We did these things because we liked the taste but also out of necessity. I grew up on the freshest and most healthy food imaginable and did so because we had to. Today quite the opposite is true. These “farm to table” and organic/farm fresh foods are pricey and they are trendy. It makes me laugh to see people flocking to buy all these items at exorbitant prices when just years ago these were often given as gifts when families had nothing else to give. My husband often talks about people bringing his family corn or tomatoes as a gift. His father was a preacher in a small town and this is how people often thanked them, where today we might send a card or an email. My family gave jars of blackberry jam or similar items at Christmas.

Somewhere we have flipped the perceptions and the trends. I never realized how healthy we ate until we didn’t eat that way anymore.

Another trend that makes me laugh is the blue jean world. When my parents were young, dungarees or blue jeans were only worn by the poor or working class people. They were considered working clothes and were not fashionable at all. As the years rolled forward, blue jeans not only became more commonly worn but the prices soared and now the more torn and ratty they look, the higher the price tag. These things just make me laugh.

I know there have to be other examples.

One thing that I used to tell my kids as they picked their way through the tumultuous times of middle and high school was that what they think is “cool” now will not necessarily be something that they think is “cool” in a few years. I used to tell them to try and remember what they loved or thought was the best thing ever only a few short years ago. Then I would ask them if they still felt the same way and most of the time the answer was “no”.

If times get tough or things seem stacked against you, just hang in there because it will all change soon. Just like those blue jeans and those trendy farmer’s markets.

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Easter 2018

 

 

Easter. Egg hunts, bunnies, new outfits, Easter baskets, chocolate…the list is long.

So many activities are swirling around us all this holiday weekend. During all the festivities that you may attend, I hope you will take some time to quietly reflect on the true meaning behind it all.

I hope you have fun with your family and I hope you enjoy time worshipping and celebrating that He has risen.

He bled, He died, and He rose again. And He did it for you.

#HeIsRisen #LoveLikeNoOther #Easter2018

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Happy Valentine’s Day

 

 

Today is a day to celebrate love.

For many, it is about celebrating romantic love. Others may be sad because they are alone. I promise you, though, you are never alone. He is with you. He promises to be with us always. Whether our lives are full or empty, He is enough…

Deuteronomy 31:6  tells us this:

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

It is a promise…He will be there.

But there is more…

He didn’t stop with just a promise to be with us, he followed it up with the ultimate gift.

John 3:16

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Years ago I attended a church with a fabulous preacher. I was fortunate enough to hear him officiate some weddings along the way. One thing he would say at a wedding went something like this:

“Imagine all the love that your parents have for you…now imagine all the love that your friends and family have for you…now imagine the love that you have for each other…combine all of that and it is only a speck in comparison to the love that your Father has for you.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to sacrifice something. Maybe it was some time that you wanted to spend on yourself and you were interrupted to help a child or do something for someone. Maybe it was giving some money to a friend who was in need. All of us have had these seasons of our lives when we’ve had to sacrifice things. I cannot imagine sacrificing my most valuable possession for someone who had shown very little interest in me, though. Most of my sacrifices were for people whom I love but more importantly, I’ve felt that they loved me in return or needed me in some way. God stepped out and gave His only son even though mankind had rejected him. Think about that today. Think about how deep His love must be to give everything for nothing.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful day celebrating love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The First

I waited to post this until everything had settled into the new year. I hope you enjoy!

The First

The pain increased and ripped through her body, building to an unbearable level, catching her breath. He grabbed her hand and squeezed.

“You can do it.“

The unpleasant aroma in the room was difficult to endure but the pain soon overshadowed the smell as it continued to course through her body and wash over her, leaving her lathered in sweat. In the background, she could hear an animal munching on hay. This is not how she had imagined it would be, although her simple upbringing had taught her not to expect too much. This, however, was unthinkable. A baby born in a barn. Everything seemed so wrong but she knew she was protected and loved. The man beside her cared for her but it was much more than that. As the pain crescendoed and released, she felt a strong relief and she knew everything would be okay. There was a deeper feeling in her heart that this was all an incredible gift that even she couldn’t fully understand.

She pushed one more time and finally, her baby was born. A rush of emotions and endorphins covered her exhaustion and pain as she held him for the first time. Wrapping him in cloth, she held him close and thanked God for this moment.

She pulled the baby boy close and looked into his tiny face. The man beside her hugged her gently and sat down to enjoy the moment. Suddenly, she felt a strange emotion she had not expected—love. Not her love for her new son but his love for her. There was a fierce bond that she knew would never be broken. Before long, she would come to understand even more. Although in her heart she vowed to do anything she could for him, she had no idea that he would do everything for her.

For months, she had been ridiculed and blamed for something that was not her fault. This man had stood beside her through it all even though he should have left, for this was not his son, yet he had remained close and willing to stay with her. Her eyes moved to his face and they both smiled.

All around the world people had dinner and went to bed. There were no Christmas lights or trees. There were no children waking the next morning to mounds of presents. There was only one gift… And He was perfect. This was the First Christmas…

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People of The Ville: Matthew Jones

 

 

Years ago, my husband, Coach Tim Green, was sitting in his office when he heard a knock on his door. Looking up, he saw a small young freshman who had recently completed the opening football competition known as The Night of Champions and had finished in last place. Recognizing the frustration in the young man’s face and suspecting that he had come to say that he was going to quit football, Coach Green patiently waved him into his office and offered him a chair, hoping to convince him to stay. Instead of quitting, though, the freshman had come to see Coach Green to find out what he needed to do to get better, explaining that he was embarrassed by his performance at the recent competition. For the next few minutes, Coach Green outlined the simple but basic plan of the importance of nutrition while also explaining the level of commitment needed for the workouts as well. Flash forward to his senior year, the same young man walked up to Coach Green at the team meal after winning the State Championship game. He had not only improved enough to place in the top four at The Night of Champions that year but he was a starter on this historic 15-0 team. As he approached Coach Green, he held up a coke and smiled,

“Hey coach, you know what this is?”

Coach Green looked up and answered, “A Coke?”

The young man smiled and proudly answered, “It is the first Coke I’ve had since we met that day in your office.”

This is the kind of dedication and commitment that my husband, Coach Green, and I have known from this young man for years and I am so happy to introduce Matt Jones as the next recipient of The People of The Ville.

Matt and his wife Jill are both from Rome, Georgia but didn’t meet until after college. They have a one year old son, Preston, and a small dog named Lucy. Matt describes his family as his “rock” and his wife Jill as an “incredibly supportive coaches wife.” He later went on to say,

“She knows what football means to a community and what it means to me, you cannot be a successful coach without a wife that it is firmly in your corner!”

Matt, or Coach Jones, has been coaching high school football for 17 years now, starting back when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia. He has been the head coach for Kentucky Country Day School here in Louisville for the past 7 years and is now the winningest football coach in school history and was named both the District Coach of the Year and the State Coach of the Year for football this past season. When I asked him who inspired him to coach and teach, he answered,

“The influence that all my coaches had on my life inspired me to be a coach. I started playing as many sports as I could play beginning with football in the 2nd grade and was fortunate to have so many good experiences along the way. I played basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, football, swimming, gymnastics, and others and always seemed to find a good influence in each one. I was a child of divorce, single-parent home, and needed structure, direction, love, and guidance from authority figures. I also realized at a young age that I needed to seek out people that were happy and content and try to do what they were doing as a career, if I could. Fortunately, coaching came natural to me and my coaches were always some of the happiest men I knew.”

He goes on to describe some of these coaches:

“After 1997, my high school coaches were and remain the most influential men in my life. I keep up with almost all of them to this day, nearly 20 years later. They were more than coaches to me, they were Father Figures and men that I could model myself after personally and professionally. Jerry Sharp, Mike Carswell, Tim Green, and Tommy Atha are some of the finest husbands, fathers, and men of character that I have ever known. They influence me to this day and I take a tremendous amount of advice from all of them. Another person that is a great influence in my life is Mitch Jordan. Mitch and I coached together at Darlington from 2004-2007 and I talk to him every day. I value his opinion and guidance as a man, a husband and father, and as a coach.

Influences on Coach Jones were not limited to just coaches, though. He describes his late grandfather, Wade Hoyt Jr. in this way:

“He was the most influential man on my life until he passed away when I was only 15 years old. He was a man of unquestioned character and unconditional love, truly special, a throwback to a different generation. He was an attorney in Rome and always reminded me of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.”

He also gives credit to his mother:

“My mom, Beth Paulson, is the final major influence in my life. She raised me and my 2 sisters as a single parent and her unconditional love, wise advice, and constant shoulder to lean on were, and remain to a certain extent, our rock of stability. She is an incredible person and a winner.”

Sitting down with Coach Jones is always a pleasure. Here are a few other questions I had for him:

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

“I wish that I would’ve had or known more about small college options to play football. When I graduated High School in 1999, it seemed that there were very few small colleges playing football and even fewer out recruiting actively. Today, I have 15-20 smaller schools, looking for less talented or undersized kids that love the game, come through my office each December. Back then, I do not remember seeing any! While I had a great experience in Athens as an undergraduate and even got my start in coaching there, it would have been nice to have played football at the next level, or to have had an option to!”

Currently, my newest writing project is about the 1998 Tiger football team. Can you tell me about what it was like to be on that team?

“The 1998 Darlington Tiger football team was truly special. It was a true team in every sense of the word. Unselfish, led impeccably by our coaches, team chemistry all over the field, and a group that just absolutely loved to play the game of football. Most of us had been together for years as friends and teammates, which added to the experience. A group of young men that achieved something as a group that our individual talents alone could never have. It was a special time and a special place. That magic formula has not, and probably will never, happen again.”

What is your favorite memory of that year?

“My favorite memory from the 1998 season was taking the field at Lincoln Co. for the State Championship game. I still get goose bumps thinking about the crowd, the atmosphere, the stakes, and the overall energy there. Another great memory was arriving at the now-demolished Georgia Dome on our charter bus and walking through the tunnel to the big garage door and having it open to the field of play—I had never even walked on AstroTurf before, much less been at Field Level in a Dome that sat 75,000 people! What an experience, since we were the first game of the day, we had about 45 minutes to just walk around the field, take pictures, and enjoy it.”

You recently won District and State Coach of the Year. Tell us about this past year’s team.

“The 2017 KCD Football team was an outstanding group of talented players that had been looking forward to their Senior season for 5 years and even longer in some cases. We knew that we would be good, and it was a great ride to coach the young men on this year’s team through the season. They were unselfish, passionate about the game, and very talented guys as well. We were led by 13 committed Seniors, a huge number for a Class A Team. Our assistant coaches, Ed Long, Dylan Sims, Arthur Pollard, Cam Sample, Chris Radford, and Tim Green were also a special group—they worked very hard all season and we were always prepared to play. There are no honors and accolades for the coach without excellent, committed football players and parents to work with!”

What do you like most about Louisville?

“Louisville is an awesome place to live. There are so many ‘big city’ advantages to the city, yet it is easy to get around, everything is relatively close, and the people here are so warm and friendly. Jill and I have met many, many people that we call some of our best friends. We live in a great neighborhood that is only 4 miles from KCD and we try to take advantage of the city’s entertainment, dining, and sports options as much as we can. We are learning that Louisville is also a truly great place to raise kids and Preston is going to be lucky to grow up here going to and spending time at Kentucky Kingdom, The Zoo, and so many other cool places just minutes away from home.”

This is the last thing…tell me something you want us to know about you that we haven’t already covered above.

“I just think that young people today should truly want to pay their dues and earn everything that they get. My Dad always said: “If you think there is nothing to do at work, grab a broom and start sweeping.’ I have been fortunate to have had a lot of success by living off this advice. When I started coaching at Cedar Shoals I filmed practices, washed jerseys, weighed players in and out of Summer 2-a-days, dubbed highlight films, and anything else that needed to be done. When you are on the bottom of the totem pole, which we all will be at some point, the best thing to do is to put your head down and learn and work. At Darlington in 2004, I was hired to be a football assistant, do dorm duty, and be a middle school lacrosse coach. I was given a small apartment on campus, meals in the cafeteria, and $4500 per year ($175 every 2 weeks). It did not matter to me, it was about the experience that I could gain and the hard work that I could do. When you are 22 years old, the experience outweighs anything else. I tell that story because I am proud of it and of the experience that I gained. When you earn it, it is more special and you can enjoy it.”

It was a great privilege to get a chance to highlight a hard-working and dedicated man like Coach Matt Jones. My latest book project is scheduled for release in the coming months and highlights him and his teammates from the 1998 team from Rome, Georgia. The character of Coach Jones is indicative of the entire team from that year. Congratulations to Matt Jones for being the latest People of The Ville honoree! He and his family are welcome assets to our community.

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Inversion Hike: Can You Conquer the Valley?

 

Psalm 121: 1-2

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

My husband and I like to hike and we have been on many trails through the years. I’ve heard several people speak about their experiences on a mountaintop or a trail and how this proximity to nature inevitably produces the proverbial “mountaintop experience” of feeling closer to God. In life, these experiences don’t have to physically be on the top of a mountain; but as a hiker, my husband and I often speak of the spiritual experience we have as well as the physical one of conquering a difficult climb.

Recently, we took a trip out west and reversed our hiking experience by hiking down into a canyon. When hiking on a mountain, you typically climb up for a few hours and reach a summit and then pause to enjoy the views and you feel exhilarated that you have conquered the climb. The hike back down is a more relaxing pace, giving you time to reflect on the experience. Canyon hiking is quite the opposite. We started our 17 1/2 mile trek the first day by going down for about 1 1/2 miles and then found ourselves in the valley of the canyon for most of the remainder of the hike that day. Although there were a few areas we had to climb, most of the hike was not too hard and the only danger was the rocky trail, which made looking up at the amazing views of the canyon more difficult. I found this type of hiking so interesting. For years we have worked our way up a mountain and savored the views at the end but this time the views were in the middle of the hike and the most difficult portion of the hike was at the end of the second day 8-mile hike, where we had to climb back out of the canyon when we were already exhausted. I termed it an “inversion hike”, a play on the term inversion, which we sometimes encounter when the clouds are below us as we summit a mountain.

Something occurred to me during that experience in the canyon. When I was walking through the canyon floor and picking my way through the rocky terrain, I couldn’t help but feel the analogy of a “valley experience” of life just like the mountain ridge has always reminded me of the “mountaintop experience”. The feeling of being surrounded by canyon walls on all sides was intimidating as I knew the only way out was to climb back up. That revelation was a powerful reality that proved physically difficult as well. While standing on the canyon floor, we were able to look up and be amazed by God’s creation all around us but we also knew that those canyon walls were tall and our battered bodies would face the most difficult part of the hike when we were the most tired. We finished day two with the 1 1/2 mile ascent and when we reached the top of that canyon wall, as tired as we were, we both felt great that we had conquered the trail. This time, however, we weren’t at the top of a mountain at all, we were just dead even—on level ground. All that work and we were back where we had started. It made me reflect on how I approach a “valley” in my own life. As I thought about the days on that trail, I realized that maybe we don’t always understand how to get out of a valley. Do we depend solely on God to get us out or do we understand that it might take a great deal of effort on our part to climb the side of the wall? My husband and I are in good shape but even so, we had to encourage each other to get out of that canyon the second day and it was a great asset to have each other along the way. It made me reflect on how much my friends and family have meant to me when I needed them…but there were times when I tried to do it all alone and found myself slipping back into the valley over and over again. God wants to be our helper and our guide out of that valley. Although He has the power to do it without any help from us or anyone else, I believe that the climb can be part of our healing and the lessons of dependence on Him and others may be the most valuable part of the experience. As my husband and I reached the crest of the canyon wall we were exhausted and spent but our journey was not over. We still needed to drive back to town…another four hours in the car… another journey was just beginning. This made me realize that our mountains and valleys are just a small part of the overall journey.

This excursion was a good physical analogy for me as I reflected on the “valleys” in my walk through life. The next time I find myself in a valley of some kind, I hope that I will remember the “inversion hike” example and these three things: First, it takes an effort to climb out of a valley. That mile and a half back up the side of that canyon was tough after hiking so much. We were tired and ready to finish but there was no way to get out of there until we got up that trail and we just had to take it one step at a time until we reached the top. God is there for you and will help you but you’ve got to make an effort yourself. Second, it’s much easier to get through a bad time with some encouragement from someone else. If you know someone who’s having a struggle of some kind, a simple word of encouragement might do more for them than you will ever know; but if you’re the one in the valley, remember not to turn away help from someone who is reaching out to you. It’s hard to get out of that valley alone and there’s no reason why you should. Third, even though my husband and I worked incredibly hard to get up the side of that canyon, we ended up on level ground—not one step higher than where we had started…and that was difficult to know that we were just at the start of another journey… it wasn’t over. I think sometimes we expect God to not only deliver us from our valleys with no effort on our part but we also expect Him to deliver us to a place that we feel that we deserve or at least to an ending point where we can rest, but it may only be the beginning of a new direction or journey in our lives.

In reality, we need valleys to understand our dependence on God, our friends, and an understanding that not everything can be a mountain. Even in the depth of that canyon, I saw God all around me in the amazing cliffs that loomed overhead. Valley’s in our life can be deep and require a long climb up and we will need to put in some effort to get there. Along the way we might need some friends to encourage or even help us and we definitely need Him every step of the journey. When we finally find ourselves on flat level ground again, the journey is not over but is just starting in a new direction. Whether you are on top of a mountain, in the lowest of valleys or somewhere in between…He is with you always.

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The People of the Ville: Bill Beam

 

With strong family ties to the area, our latest People of The Ville honoree gives us a look into the past of our great city. Bill Beam, Jr. and his family have a long residence in Louisville with family history dating back to 1798 when his fifth great-grandfather, Captain Peter Fontaine, whose property later became known as Fountain Ferry Park, arrived in Louisville. Bill also explained that this was not the earliest arrival to Kentucky and “many family members lived in Kentucky (primarily in Frankfort, Shelbyville and the Bardstown area) years before the state’s admission to the union in 1792”.

Bill attended Kentucky Country Day and graduated in 1976. He then went to Tulane University, where he graduated with a degree in political science. Bill knew his wife Monette for several years via mutual friends and when they encouraged him to make contact, he did. His first attempt to take her on a date was thwarted, but she accepted his second try and they will soon celebrate their 20th anniversary this New Year’s Eve. Monette is also from the area and works as a real estate agent. They are both avid Louisville Cardinal fans as well as fans of the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Tulane University Green Wave.

I asked Bill about some of his family tree and the response was typical of him in that it was modest yet thorough. The following is the set of questions and the answers that he gave:

 

The Plainview area is connected to your family. Can you share a little about this part of your family?

“In 1832 my fourth great-grandfather Jacob Garr settled in the Louisville area including having a large cabin on a large section in eastern Jefferson County. Garr is buried today in that area known as the Plainview subdivision (off Hurstbourne Blvd) which evolved into a dairy and American Saddlebred farm. My great grandfather (Robert C. Tway Sr) expanded the farm’s boundaries and developed those agricultural businesses while his wife (Estelle Bennett Tway) named the farm. Estelle noted the area was a “plain view”; thus the name “Plainview Farms” was created. My grandfather (William T. Tway, Sr.) sold the property to developers in the 1970s as family members did not care to live in the historic register home of R.C. Tway…thinking Plainview Farms was so far away from Louisville activities…oh my!…times have changed.”

Folks who know you are aware you have many notables in your family tree. Can you name some of your connections?

“You may regret asking that question, but I feel truly blessed to be a direct descendant to so many dignitaries who served as military figures, politicians, government officials, distillers, businessmen and real estate barons. I don’t mean to ignore some of my relatives, but to simplify matters I will list the most notable ones by generation:

Fifth great grandparent
Isaac Shelby: Kentucky’s first and fifth governor, Revolutionary War hero, namesake of Shelby County and Shelbyville

Thomas Todd: United States Supreme Court Justice (appointed by Thomas Jefferson as the first Supreme Court Justice west of the Appalachian Mountains), Chief Justice Kentucky Supreme Court

General Jonathan Clark: Revolutionary War hero, Oldest brother of Louisville Euro-founder George Rogers Clark and William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame

Fourth great grandparent
Colonel Charles S Todd, Sr.: U.S. diplomat, U.S. ambassador to Russia, first Kentucky Colonel, Kentucky’s 10th Secretary of State, Kentucky State Representative)

Jacob Beam: the original master distiller of Beam Whiskey (evolved into Jim Beam Bourbon)

Daniel P Weller: the original master distiller of Weller Whiskey (evolved into W. L. Weller Bourbon)

Jacob Garr: owned several large tracts of land in Jefferson County including what is today known as the Plainview area.

Captain Benjamin John Head: Revolutionary War figure, early ancestor of Middletown where his home housed a general store and law firm which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places

Third great grandparent
Nathaniel Wolfe: notable advocate for Kentucky’s neutrality in American Civil War, nationally renowned criminal defense attorney, namesake of Wolfe County, Kentucky, Kentucky State Representative and Senator

John Baylor Temple: Kentucky’s 6th State Auditor, President Kentucky Military Board during the American Civil War

Richard Alexander Robinson Sr: created the largest drug company in the south, organized several Louisville businesses, Director of Louisville Bridge Company (first bridge connecting Louisville to the north)

Great-grandparent
William H Veeneman, Sr.: Served 19 years Chair and 7 years as CEO of Churchill Downs Racetrack, racehorse owner, President of Frankfort Distillery (Four Roses), Chair Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust

Robert C Tway Sr: Owner of R.C. Coal Company, Kentucky Trailer, Plainview Farms Dairy, two-time World Champion Five-Gaited American Saddlebred “Plainview’s Julia”, built a majestic home listed on the Historic Registry.

Please note I love my parents and grandparents with their notable achievements, but I am sure boredom has already cemented in your brain going back seven generations.”

 

What do you like most about Louisville?

“Louisville is a first-class mid-size city. A few decades ago, I thought the city lacked investment and a sense of pride. Louisville has transformed from being more than just a “family” town as residents enjoy enormous venues (arts, sports, parks, restaurants, special events, urban bourbon trail, unique neighborhoods, universities, museums, concerts). Although Louisville experiences all four seasons; I just wish the cold periods of winter were eliminated from the equation.”

 

Tell us a little about your children.

“I am truly blessed to have both a son and a daughter which allows me to witness and process a vast array of experiences. Both children proudly followed me as graduates of KCD. My son is my namesake and is constantly reminded of how he looks and acts like me. He will survive. My daughter who profusely loves sports likes to quickly introduce herself as my second son. Both are building blocks to their careers and should shortly have paved very navigable roads to their personal and professional success.”

 

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

“I wished I went to law school. I served as an adjudicative hearing officer at one time in my professional career, but a formal law degree would have probably brought some stimulating career experiences.”

 

Who was the most influential person in your life and why?

“Two men brought tremendous influence to my personal character, my grandfather William T. Tway Sr and former Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton. My grandfather provided me with a male form of love, trust, and loyalty. Governor Patton displayed to me the value and significance of hard work and positioning that labor with an ability to fully complete a task.”

As you can tell from his answers, he is smart and witty and incredibly modest about himself. The truth be told, I’m sure his ancestors will be telling their children that they knew him. He and his wife Monette are valuable parts of our community. When asking Bill these questions, I knew he would answer them well and he did. I left one final question for the end when I simply asked for him to tell us something that we haven’t already covered that he would want to say; and he answered like this:

“I hope to always to live by the motto, ‘treat someone like you would want to be treated.’ If I forget to live by those words, kindly kick me in the shin and remind me. It is that important to me.”

I honestly don’t think any kicking will be necessary. Thank you, Bill, for being our next honoree for The People of The Ville!

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Thankful for M&Ms

1Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

Thankful…for so much

Years ago, when my children were small, we used to have a “Thankful Tree”. The idea was not my own but borrowed from somewhere long before the internet was so large and ideas for such things were plentiful. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s simple. I would draw a large tree on paper (I used to get the end rolls from a newspaper office) and then tape the picture on a prominent wall in our home. I used colorful leaves cut from construction paper—enough for all six of us for every day in November. Every day, each of us would take one leaf and write on it something we were thankful for and then tape the leaf to the tree. By the end of the month, the tree would be full and the visual was excellent for the girls to see how much we could be thankful for instead of dwelling on what we didn’t have.

The interesting part of this story is how little we did have at the time. I was staying home and my husband was a teacher and coach. Raising four kids on that small salary was challenging but God was so much bigger. When we first decided to keep me home, we had no idea how it would happen; but as I’ve posted before, He came through in mighty ways. One post years ago I told the story of how I continued to dip into a box of detergent that was essentially empty and yet there was always enough for one more load. At a time when I had to do at least three loads of laundry a day and with no money to buy more detergent at that time, it was a testimony to me how He had my back…even on laundry.

We were not really poor…but we didn’t have any excess. We had a home, cars, clothing, and food so it’s hard to say that we were really destitute; but we were at the very least struggling every month to make ends meet.

I remember one time when we lived in Charleston…I took the girls to watch a basketball game at the school just so they could see their dad, who was then and still is an athletic director and is gone many hours from home. We usually brought snacks from home to go anywhere and never dreamed of using a concession stand (way out of our budget). Occasionally, I would buy one small pack of candy and split it among us all and that was a splurge for us.

We went to the game that one night and something wonderful happened. A sweet and amazing woman from the school asked me if she could buy each of the girls a pack of candy from the concession stand. I was dumbfounded but agreed to let her. It was one of the sweetest gestures anyone had done for us in a long time and the girls were so funny. I sat and watched as their large brown eyes absorbed what was happening with disbelief. They each timidly reached for their candy and stared at the bag as if it would disappear if they looked away. It made me sad and happy all at the same time and it was beautiful to see how much they appreciated every last piece. One of them only ate a few pieces that night and saved her bag of M&M’s to eat over the next week— a few pieces at a time every day.

Even though we had very little, I baked that Christmas and we gave away some simple baked goods to all our neighbors and the girl’s teachers. It wasn’t much, but our girls witnessed our giving out of our small supply.

About two years later something else happened that amazed me. We were working on our Thankful Tree and one of our girls took a leaf and wrote what she was thankful for just like we always did every day. When I collected the leafs to tape on the wall, I noticed her leaf simply said: “M&M’s”. Turning to her, I had to ask what she meant by such a bizarre response. Not that we didn’t like candy or anything, but I wasn’t sure what she meant.

“What do you mean by M&M’s?” I asked.

My daughter, who was now only 6 answered, “I’m thankful for our friend who gave me my own bag of M&Ms.”

As I turned to place the leaf on the tree, I choked back tears and thanked God one more time for all He has provided through the years…even M&M’s.

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