Puzzle pieces falling into place

You know, there is just something to me about the challenge of fitting all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together into a complete picture. Recently, I came to the conclusion that this challenge could be one of the reasons I love to write. Instead of fitting pieces of a picture together, I place words together to come up with a complete, and hopefully meaningful, story.
How many of you are thinking my epiphany came from me recently working a jigsaw puzzle? Sorry, but that wasn’t the case. It came after I interviewed Darren and Kim Jones about how they came to adopt their daughter, Emmaline. The more they told me, the more I realized this story was not a simple one, as I had first envisioned. It wasn’t an easy jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces. Oh no.
This one was the handiwork of The Lord in that He fit the pieces of many lives together into a beautifully crafted masterpiece as only He can do.
Normally, when I start working a puzzle, I begin with the edge pieces that frame the outside border of the picture. I guess you can call them the foundation pieces. For this story, I realized the Christian faith of everybody involved is not only the foundation, but that faith is also woven throughout the picture.
The next layer of pieces for this puzzle actually begins with Kim’s brother and his wife, whom I will refer to as Mr. B and Mrs. B. They were unable to have their own children, so they did what a lot of people do, they had a baby placed into their home. Six months later the baby was taken away from them. Of course, Mrs. B was devastated. She even went as far as to tell her husband that she didn’t want to talk about adoption.
Now, it’s time for a faith puzzle piece. Mr. B had heard about international adoptions and brought it to his wife’s attention. He told her this was a completely different situation, and then he asked her to pray about it. Being a minister’s wife, she couldn’t turn down his request.
That being said, she knew it wasn’t right to ask for a sign, but she had to have something because she couldn’t go through the pain of having another child taken away. So, in her prayers, she asked God to make His answer perfectly plain to her.
The next day, they went to the Macon mall. The first thing they noticed was a public service billboard about immunization. It read: “Give her a shot at the stars.” In the picture was a little Asian girl. It struck such a cord with Mrs. B that she told her husband that was the sign. She immediately started journaling. The first entry was the date she saw the billboard.
Hang on to your hats for this. After they started the adoption process, they received a picture of the little girl they were trying to adopt. First, the little girl was Asian. Second, Mrs. B was amazed when she saw the date of the girl’s birth. She looked into her journal and realized the girl’s birthday was the same exact day that she had seen the billboard. Working as only The Lord can do, He had reinforced His sign to her. I’m talking the exact same day, exact same month, and the exact same year. I don’t know about you, but that gave me goosebumps. Isn’t it awesome when God shows off?
Our next layer of pieces didn’t fall into place as Darren and Kim or anybody else had planned. Or better yet, the pieces they expected were not the ones God intended to use for His masterpiece.
Not only did Mr. and Mrs. B adopt the little Asian girl, but they also adopted two more children from China and one from Guatemala. Knowing that Darren and Kim wanted to adopt as well, they put them in contact with the international adoption agency. You see, Darren and Kim were also unable to have children. When Kim was thirty-two years old, she underwent emergency exploratory surgery, which resulted in her having a complete hysterectomy.
Expecting the same amazing experience, Darren and Kim eagerly started the adoption process with the same agency. They were told up front by the agency that this isn’t something that they could jump in and out of. If they continued on, all money paid in was nonrefundable in that it went toward the adoption expenses. Agreeing with this, Darren and Kim decided to continue on with the adoption process.
For the next few months, they filled out mountains of tedious paperwork, as well as paying in thousands and thousands of nonrefundable dollars. When they were more than halfway through the process, a lady from the adoption agency called and inquired as to why they were wanting to adopt. Kim told the lady about her surgery that had resulted in a complete hysterectomy. The lady informed them they were ineligible to adopt a child from China due to Kim’s surgery. She gave them no explanation as to why. It was a fact they would have to accept. That absolutely blew their minds. There were many couples who adopted due to that reason.
Naturally, they didn’t want to just give up and walk away from the adoption process after their investment of time, money, and hope. So, Darren and Kim asked about adopting from other countries. Just because China prohibited their adoption, it didn’t mean they couldn’t adopt from somewhere else. Any child would be fine with them. This lady replied that China was the leader in this area and other countries the agency worked with would follow China’s actions. When Darren and Kim asked her where that left them, she didn’t have an answer.
They were in a state of shock and didn’t really know what else to ask or where to turn since they had been relying on, as well as paying for, the agency’s expertise. While they both were now devastated, it was especially hard on Kim. She couldn’t give Darren a child because of her surgery and now she couldn’t give him a child through adoption. She was so deeply heartbroken that she cried herself to sleep every night.
They kept all of their paperwork after the phone call for the next two and a half years. At that point, Kim asked Darren to get rid of it. She was done. Six months later, the owner of the international adoption agency contacted them. This lady informed them they needed to send a letter to the agency stating that Darren and Kim had decided not to adopt a baby so their case could be closed.
Darren proceeded to tell the owner what the other lady had related to them about being ineligible. The owner answered that no one would have told them that. This was another shock to them, for they knew what they both had heard. Apparently, the lady who told them they were ineligible didn’t know what she was talking about. That meant Kim had suffered the last three years for no real reason. Kim told Darren she needed to talk to the owner by herself, and she did just that.
When Kim spoke to the lady, she was stern and straightforward. She told the owner now that she knew it wasn’t her fault they couldn’t adopt, she would finally be able to lay her head down that night and sleep for the first time in three years. By the way, she did just that. No crying that night. Or any other night.
This was not the only communication between them. The agency phoned a few more times and sent several emails. Each time the owner demanded the letter. Darren had had enough. Not only was she unsympathetic to their plight, but she also refused to apologize for the pain they had needlessly suffered. Next, Darren called Kim’s brother, Mr. B., who was now on the adoption agency’s board. Immediately, Mr. B contacted the owner, and she told him the same as she had told Darren and Kim. Again, she demanded the letter. During this call, he learned she was in the process of selling the adoption agency. Every open case was going to cost her money since the company purchasing it would be obligated to finish their cases.
If everything had worked out, they would have already adopted a three-year-old girl, but at that point in time, they had not gotten to the point to even get a referral for a match-up with a child. That is when a picture is sent to the waiting parents. Unfortunately, they never received a picture.
Kim wanted to try again to adopt a child. Darren refused. He didn’t want her to go through another painful ordeal. Plus, he said he was old. He was forty-one when they started the adoption process and forty-five when everything fell through. Nevertheless, Kim was persistent. She would wait for a while and ask him again about trying to adopt. He always answered, “No.” That is, until one time when he answered, “Not unless God hits me over the head with a two by four!”
Have you ever seen a puzzle piece in the shape of a two by four? If not, you will, soon as you continue reading.
Kim’s mother, Mrs. French, was a social worker. In mid-September, she received a call from a previous client, who I will refer to as Ms. Z. She asked Mrs. French for a ride to the doctor since she was unable to drive herself. Mrs. French asked why she needed to go to the doctor. Ms. Z replied that she had an appointment for an abortion. Now, this was not her first pregnancy. She did have a baby boy. Her parents helped to take care of him since she was unable to by herself. The next year both of her parents passed away. Ms. Z tried to take care of her son, but she couldn’t do it. So the state took him away, and he was adopted by a family. In Ms. Z’s mind, she didn’t have another option.
Ms. French immediately told her that she couldn’t take Ms. Z to the appointment since she didn’t believe in abortion. She was a Christian and saw it as murder. Then she went on tell Ms. Z there were other options. Ms. Z asked what she was talking about. Mrs. French answered that her daughter and son-in-law would love to have children, but they couldn’t. The only way they could was through adoption. She told Ms. Z somebody would love to give her baby a good home. A couple of weeks later, Ms. Z called Mrs. French back and told her she didn’t abort her baby and she would love for her daughter and son-in-law to adopt her baby girl. This happened in late September.
Mrs. French immediately let Kim know. While Kim was excited, she sat on the information for a couple of weeks because she was afraid of saying anything to Darren. At church one Wednesday night, she told two of her friends about her mother’s phone call and asked them to pray hard since she wasn’t sure how Darren would take her mentioning adoption again. She hoped and prayed he would be open-minded about it. During that conversation, Tia, one of the friends, said if Darren agreed, she had the name of an adoption attorney.
Finally, Kim told Darren the whole story of Ms. Z and how she wanted them to adopt her baby girl. His first response was, “No!” He didn’t want to put Kim through the pain she had suffered the first time they tried to adopt. Instead of pleading her case, Kim asked Darren to pray on it. He agreed and told her he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and he would give her an answer when he could give her an answer.
Five days later, Darren told Kim this situation with Ms. Z was his two by four. He knew this was a situation where the birth mother wouldn’t seek to take the child back. Plus, the birth father probably wouldn’t either. He told Kim if the adoption went through and there’s the three of them, then they would have a wonderful family. If it didn’t and it was just the two of them, then they have a wonderful family. This was it. He didn’t want to be asked about adoption ever again.
Kim agreed. Next, they looked into their financials. Not only had they spent a lot of their savings on the ill-fated international adoption, they hadn’t saved back for another adoption attempt. They realized they had no choice but for Kim to continue working full time after they received the baby girl, but at the same time, Darren didn’t want her to go into daycare. At that point, they weren’t really sure what to do, so they mentioned this dilemma to some of their friends in Sunday School.
This is where Kim’s friend Tia comes back into the story. She offered to keep their baby for them. Recently, she had left a full-time position at a local bank. They were downsizing and her job was eliminated. Instead of going back to a teller position, she decided to take the severance package and go back to school to be a nurse.
Kim and Darren didn’t initially respond to Tia’s offer, so she continued offering to watch the baby for them. They thought she was just being nice. Plus, they knew she had started back to school and had a lot to deal with. One day Tia told them, “You all keep asking for help and I’m telling you I will keep her. Is there something wrong with me? Is there some reason you all don’t her to be with me?” After that, Darren and Kim agreed.
Are you seeing the puzzles pieces fall into place? Maybe they are. Or maybe God is about to toss in a few pieces from right field that nobody saw coming. Including me.
Soon after they had agreed, Tia called Darren and Kim and invited them over for supper because she needed to tell them something. After that, they would have to decide if they still wanted her to keep their baby. Naturally, Darren and Kim were worried that she was going to back out. Why else would Tia need to talk to them?
Tia began her story by telling them the attorney she recommended to Kim had helped her when she gave her baby up for adoption. When she was in high school, her mother asked her why she was sleeping all the time. Was there something going on and could Tia be pregnant? She answered that she wasn’t. Still unconvinced, her mother asked if Tia was 100% sure. Then she went on to ask if she had been doing something she shouldn’t be doing. Tia admitted she had, but at that point she would be seven and a half months along. Nothing about her had changed since she was still wearing her same clothes.
Still undeterred, Tia’s mother showed up at her part-time job and asked Tia to go the bathroom with her. Tia agreed. There, her mother handed her a pregnancy test. Tia intentionally botched the test, causing it to be inconclusive.
After work, Tia walked through the front door to see her mother holding another pregnancy test. Tia looked at the test and immediately became very sick. She threw up so much that she burst the blood vessels in both of her eyes.
She told her mother, “I don’t want Dad to know.”
To which her mother replied, “He already knows.” That sent Tia into another bout of sickness.
After she finished being sick, Tia asked her mother, “What am I going to do?”
“What do you want to do?”
Tia honestly answered, “I can’t do it. I want to go to college to be a nurse. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to the baby.”
“The first thing we need to do is get you to a doctor,” her mother answered. They did, and when he performed an ultrasound, it confirmed that Tia was indeed seven and a half months along.
Her mother worked for an attorney who handled divorces. He agreed to represent Tia and suggested an attorney who worked with adoptions. We will refer to her as Ms. D. She told Tia that she had options and asked, again, what she wanted to do. Tia told her the same as she had told her mother. Plus, there was the fact that she and the father were not together. Most of all, it wouldn’t be fair to the baby, so she decided to put it up for adoption. The attorney had Tia go through counseling and speak to a therapist. Next, Tia looked through the profiles of families who were hoping to adopt. Finally, she picked a family.
Soon, she was seeing her doctor because of her elevated blood pressure. Her high stress level and the lack of prenatal care had taken a toll on her. At this point, it had only been a month since she had discovered that she was pregnant. She literally only had a few weeks to process everything. On top of that, nobody at her high school knew she was having a baby, and she wanted to keep it that way. She constantly feared going into labor at school or having her water break there.
Tia went to her doctor appointment on a Wednesday. He told her that her blood pressure was too high and it was too risky. He induced her, but she couldn’t have the child naturally. So the doctor had to perform an emergency C-section. Early Thursday morning on March 14, her baby son was born. She only missed that Thursday and Friday from school. Fortunately, the next week was spring break. When school started back, she went to school and told her friends that she had missed that Thursday and Friday because she wasn’t feeling well. Her doctor told her if anybody asked about her C-section scar to tell them she had an emergency surgery for a ruptured ovarian cyst.
But, while she was still in the hospital, the baby was in the room with her. At one point, her parents had left. That’s when the nurse came to take the baby. Tia asked her why, and she responded there were people there to see him. It was the family who was adopting him. That would have left Tia in the room all by herself. She told the nurse to wait. Concerned about her emotional well-being, the doctor released her the next morning, which was a Friday. Before she left, she met with the adopting family in the chapel area. Her parents spoke to them as well. She did receive a few letters from her son’s new family.
Over the years, only Tia and her parents knew about her baby. Even her grandparents were unaware of it. When she was dating her future husband, she didn’t tell him until they were getting serious. So, Darren and Kim were the only other people to hear this story. Her own son and daughter didn’t even know yet.
Darren said the funny thing for him and Kim was how Tia thought her story would turn them against her. Instead, he and Kim immediately saw God’s hand in all of this. To them, this was the completed circle of life. They didn’t even have to talk about it. As they stepped out of Tia’s front door that evening, they knew she was to watch their child, and that was the way it was supposed to be.
When we first began placing in the pieces of this puzzle, did you envision it as having a square shape? This puzzle is in the shape of a circle. Read on, and we will see how The Lord made it a complete circle (a complete one.)
Darren and Kim started the adoption process from scratch. First, they retained Ms. Z, an attorney in Georgia. That is where she lived. Next, they retained Ms. D as their attorney here in Knoxville. Ironically, before they went to Tia’s home, Darren had contacted a lawyer that he knew he could trust and got the name of an adoption attorney. Yes, it was the same Ms. D. They went through Bethany Christian Services to obtain the adoption approval. As Kim said, the lawyer from Bethany hit the ground running.
At this point, it was early October. The Bethany attorney warned them it was going to be tight since Ms. Z’s due date was January 11, but they could do it. If Ms. Z were to have the baby early and they were close to the adoption being finalized, he could have them named as an emergency foster family. That way they would be able to take the baby home. They had all the tools they needed to make it happen. He reassured them he was there to facilitate the process and not to throw up roadblocks. Also, he didn’t want them to worry about him trying to disqualify them.
He put Darren and Kim through the gambit. They were fingerprinted, went through background checks, and they had complete physicals. Their financial records were thoroughly examined. He gave them paperwork and advised them they needed a fast turnaround time. Darren and Kim took their paperwork to their jobs and they stayed up till two a.m. The next day, they gave the paperwork back to the attorney.
Sometime around Christmas, they received a call that Ms. Z was in the hospital and in labor. Darren and Kim told their places of work they had to leave for Georgia. By the time they had reached Chattanooga, they received word it was a false alarm. A couple of days later she had another false alarm. The doctor told her if she didn’t have it by the first, he would induce her. On December 28th, they received a call from the Bethany lawyer. He asked if they wanted good news. Of course, Darren and Kim did. He said that he submitted everything to his boss yesterday. She had reviewed it the night prior and today she signed off on the last approval she had to do. They were completely green-lighted, and all they needed was a baby. Ms. Z gave birth to Emmaline on January 1, 2013. She weighed in at eight pounds and nine ounces.
Do you see Emmaline as the last piece and center of the puzzle? Actually, she’s not. The last three pieces of the puzzle are: sacrifice, love, and healing. While they are three separate concepts, they are also intertwined with each other.
Like any new parents, Darren and Kim’s world was the never the same after they brought Emmaline home. Now they were a complete family of three. Instead of stress and heartache, they now had a home full of a new kind of love. The Lord had indeed blessed them.
As Emmaline grew, they noticed some things about her. For example, she had some of Ms. Z’s mannerisms and yet, she had not been around her. They knew that because Kim had talked to Ms. Z on the phone a few times prior to Emmaline’s birth. Also, Darren and Kim met up with her face to face on the Thanksgiving prior to Emmaline’s birth. To be honest, some of that was to be expected, but what really surprised them was how much she was also like them. Kim said she doesn’t like for her feet to be covered up while she sleeps. Emmaline is the same. Also, she has their love of music and chocolate.
Kim began to talk about her late father. He became ill after their failed adoption attempt and passed away. Ms. Z wasn’t in the picture at this point. Obviously, this was a painful and emotional time for Darren and Kim. Before he passed, Kim said her father told her he was praying about their adoption. She believes when he entered Heaven, he personally asked the Lord to help them adopt a child.
As for Tia, keeping Emmaline was a Godsend in so many ways. Of course, that was a blessing to Darren and Kim, but it was also an even bigger blessing to Tia and her family. Even though she had told Darren and Kim her story, she still had not found a way to tell her children, but that was about to change.
Tia had always wondered how an adopted child could become such a part of the parents. How they could really love a child so much that they didn’t give birth to. By keeping Emmaline, she could not only see the love Darren and Kim had for their daughter, but also Tia and her family grew to love Emmaline as well. I think Darren expressed it best. He said all Tia knew about adoption was how hard it was to give up her son, but now she was realizing how great adoption could be. Since Tia had now experienced both sides of the adoption process, she could now explain everything to her younger son and daughter.
As Darren and Kim previously stated, this adoption story is indeed a complete circle. They and Tia have all been healed through their love of Emmaline. You see, true selfless love is often expressed through sacrifice, which brings about healing.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)
Our adoption puzzle is now complete. Obviously, it is an exquisite picture that only the Lord could create. Think about it. How many times have you dropped a jigsaw puzzle and every piece fell into place by itself?
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (KJV)
Brooke Cox is an author, speaker, and storyteller. She was a 2016 Selah Awards Finalist for her debut novel. Her children’s book, Dinosaur Eggs, is now available. It is based on Ephesians 6: The Armor of God. Her novel Until the Moon Rises: A Conniving Cousin Mystery is also available. Also, she has two books out in her storytelling series: Saucy Southern Stories. The Amazon links for her books may be found on her website: brookecoxstories.com. Please feel free to contact her. She would love to hear from you.



Something to look forward to: Dr. Carter’s look at the past and future

In March of 2020 the world came to a halt for many as the COVID-19 pandemic took us away from school, church, social events and many other activities.
With school closures and virtual learning in way, teachers adjusted, students began to learn mathematics from their kitchen tables and parents had to find a way to work while also helping their children in a new way.
Now, almost two years later, the community is still trying to figure out how to live and learn with this pandemic.

Local Scholarship Opportunity

It’s officially scholarship season; well, if it ever isn’t time to apply for educational assistance!? Union County Farm Bureau has opened the application period for up to two $1,500 scholarship awards this year. If you are a member of the Farm Bureau, do continue reading, this is a wonderful opportunity.

Widespread Pain Linked To Heightened Dementia And Stroke Risk

Widespread pain is linked to a heightened risk of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, finds research published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine. This association is independent of potentially influential factors, such as age, general health, and lifestyle, the findings indicate.

Holy Smoke

Have you ever felt lost in your own home? I did back when I was teenager and it was scary.
Way back in the 1970s, my parents added a larger living room onto our house with a basement underneath it. And in that basement, they put in a woodstove. Let me tell you, it kept the living room nice and warm all winter.

Rub It In, Rub It In

My sister Icy Madelene (aka Pat) McMurray is famous in our family for her belief in the restorative and healing properties of Vicks VapoRub. She has told me that this marvelous ointment can treat/cure anything.
Because of this, I was most interested in a Facebook post concerning the uses for Vicks VapoRub. I did a quick Google search on Vicks VapoRub and will relate below from memory some of the interesting things I discovered. You can do a Google search for more detailed information, but the Facebook post listed the following uses:

Seeking Director of Missions

The Northern and Midland Baptist Associations are prayerfully seeking a man of high moral character who is fully committed to the Lord and to Christian ministry to serve as a bi-vocational or semi-retired Director of Missions. He must be a mature, stable Christian who is able to relate well to other people. This person needs to have a thorough knowledge of Southern Baptist church life and be grounded in Southern Baptist doctrine and polity. His primary role is to assist the churches of our Associations in fulfilling the Great Commission Jesus has given to His church.

Bill Dance betting his favorite lure on this one

As people drive through Union County, they find a common theme.
Whether it be in Big Ridge as they drive through the state park, or as they move toward Hickory Star and sit on the swings watching boats come in from a long day of basking in the sun or throwing bait into the water.

UCBPA lends support to Christmas Parade

Float with house decorated for Christmas in a parade

Tammie Hill of Realty Executives Associates and her Candyland float took the award for Best Commercial Float by a UCBPA Member.

In order to show support for the Union County Christmas Parade, Union County Business & Professional Association decided to encourage its members to participate.
Several of the UCBPA members decorated floats or vehicles including Five Star Waste, Home Town Pest Control, Tammie Hill Realty Executive Associates, UT Extension Union County, Maynardville Mayor Ty Blakely, Union County Government and Maynardville Drug & Express Care.

New manager brings a bright future to Farm Bureau

For over 100 years now, Farm Bureau has shone a light on rural America by giving farmers and ranchers a voice.
Throughout those 100 years, the Farm Bureau Federation has undergone numerous changes along the way.
Now, Union County is undergoing one of those changes, the transition of agency management as Paul Smith retires from his position.

BOE names architect for middle school, fieldhouse named for Coach Kerr

The Union County Board of Education approved Lewis Group of Knoxville as architects for the proposed middle school in its December meeting.
Carrie Cooke, Purchasing Agent for the Union County Finance Office, chaired the nine-member committee. After several meetings over more than two months, the committee interviewed the highest qualified from the eleven firms who were interested in the project. Those firms made presentations and were ranked by the committee.

Winter wonders outdoors, First Hike at Big Ridge

Winter hiking is wonderful. The air is crisp and clean. The forest is still.
With the air so clear it makes for some amazing sunrises and sunsets. So much is missed by those who only hike in the warmer months.
Hiking around the lake in the winter months will produce lifetime memories of wildlife, God-made ice sculptures and scenery.
Many other outdoor hobbies lend their own rewards for being out in the winter months—like bird watching, fishing, kayaking and viewing the night sky.
I have caught some of my largest fish during the coldest times.

What kind of friend are you?

James 2:23 KJV
[23] And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
I can’t read James 2:23 without the simple lyrics of “I Am a Friend of God, by Israel Houghton and Michael Gungor, playing in my mind. It’s the kind of lyric that can get stuck on replay in your mind for hours. Which in this case is probably not a bad thing, especially if we associate it with the scriptures the lyrics are based upon.


You Can Make it if You Try

Dalton Dintleman, Halls McDonald's manager, and his family.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born July 1, 1899, to a religious and gospel music family in Vila Rica, Georgia. At the age of 17 he moved to Chicago and attended the College of Composition and Arranging. This set him on his life’s course as a gospel singer and songwriter.
During his life, Thomas wrote 3,000 songs with 1,000 being gospel songs. Two songs you may remember are his 1932 song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and in 1937 he wrote “Peace in the Valley.”

People With Back Pain Miss Far Fewer Workdays When They Receive Recommended Treatments

Medical guidelines help doctors understand the best way to treat health conditions. Surprisingly, many doctors do not adhere to them, and this is a problem, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Utah, studying health and MD guidelines. People with lower back pain injury miss 11 more days of work in a year when they only receive treatments for lower back pain that are not recommended by medical guidelines compared to people treated according to guidelines. The findings were published in PLOS ONE. Among the nearly 60,000 people whose medical claims were analyzed:

Local Tree Farm Reaches 25-year Mark

Roark Tree Farm in Claiborne County has been recognized by The American Forest Foundation for being an established Tree Farm for 25 years. A certified Tree Farm manages forests for multiple use benefits such as wood production and wildlife habitat in a sustainable manner. Steve Roark, who owns Roark Tree Farm with his wife Rhonda, has managed a number of projects over the decades.

Let Your Swine Shine

Abigail Foust and the Union County judge after the county show.

As the young showmen drive their hogs around the show ring they all intently look at the judge and make every turn smoothly and at the perfect time.
Every showman has their own way of doing things, but each one makes an impression on the judge. The crowd sets on the edge of their seats wondering who will be chosen as the grade champion showman.

Body Mass Index, Age Can Affect Your Risk For Neck Pain

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, neck pain is ranked as the fourth leading cause of global disability. One of the main reasons for neck pain has been attributed to lifestyle, particularly when people spend long durations of time with their necks bent forward. however, a systematic, quantitative study has been lacking on how personal factors, such as sex, weight, age and work-related habits can affect neck strength and endurance.

The Forgotten Christmas Card

“I don’t want to and I won’t go to Grandma’s house this year! She’s old and I never liked her or Grandpa anyway. They always treat me like a child!” Fourteen year old Maisie stomped her foot as she stormed out of the kitchen. Her mother’s gaze followed as her daughter made her way up the stairs to her bedroom, clomping her foot as hard as possible on every step as she went; more like a child than a teenager.

Rewind Momma

My mother was so excited when she came into my house carrying a small bag. As for me, I soon regretted it.
You see, she had just bought a box set of Christmas movies for Sara. VHS tapes. Yep, this was a few years ago. Anyway, at this time, Sara was a toddler and mom wanted her to enjoy all of the old TV shows we had enjoyed over the years. One of these movies was, “Frosty the Snowman.”

Big Macs and Birth Control

I was talking recently to a lady. In the course of our conversation, she told me that she has two children, one a post high school graduate, the other an early elementary student. I remarked that there was a lot of years between her two children’s ages. She told me that she lost a lot of weight before conceiving her second child. We determined then and there that Big Macs were a good form of birth control.

Old Christmas

You can learn a lot from talking with elders. In a conversation about Christmas with my mother some years ago I learned that the Christmas of her childhood had an extra bit of celebration. Her father Sillus Day would always hold back some candy from Christmas in a big, locked chest and would give it out on January 6, a day he called “Old Christmas”.


UT Launches Farm-to-Table Beef Program

Cuts of beef from the UT Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center are now being prepared and served as part of a new farm-to-table program on the UT Knoxville campus. Image by M. Patterson, courtesy Aramark, which operates UT Dining Services.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – High-quality, locally sourced ‘UT Beef’ is now being served on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus.

Produced at UT’s Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Greeneville, and being prepared and served through an agreement with UT Dining Services managed by Aramark, the farm-to-table effort supports sustainable agricultural production by utilizing locally grown beef as a reliable food source while maximizing supply chain resiliency.

Big Ridge FCE

Back Row - Connie Wilder, Gloria Holcomb, Glenda Cooke, Carol Pratt, Shirley Grabko, Leslie Sharpe
Bottom row - UT Extension Agent Alyshia Victoria, Brenda Osborne, Sharon Hansard, Linda Effler, Margie Collins, Lyndora Lindsay, Sherry Jones, Kaye Whaley, Ashley Mike UT Extension Administrative Assistant.

The Big Ridge Family Community Education Club celebrated with a festive lunch on Dec. 16th at St.Teresa’s Catholic Church. After a short business meeting and donations made to a local Food Bank and a needy family, the group exchanged small gifts. A game of Secret / Dirty Santa was played and enjoyed by everyone. Lunch consisted of lots of delicious Finger Foods.

Panicked Papas

There’s nothing like a good last-minute adventure, especially one on Christmas Eve. This happened to me many years when my daughter Sara was still small.
It started on December 23rd when we went to a cousin’s house for an early Christmas gathering. I so enjoyed being with my family and watching Sara open her gifts. That is until she opened the one with a doll.

Back Pain Shows Association With Increased Mortality Risk In Women Part II

New research from Boston Medical Center identifies elevated mortality risk for women with back pain when compared to women without back pain.

The research cites chiropractic care among the treatments that are effective and safe for managing back pain.

Beautiful Clichés

It is rarely that anything seems to surprise me. I suppose that is common as one grows older, but occasionally I am reminded that there might be a few surprises yet to come.
I went to the credit union to pay my car payment earlier in the week. I walked in just barely before the lobby closed. I walked up to the only available teller, a friendly young lady who grew prettier in my estimation throughout our brief encounter.

Old Christmas Superstitions

Christmas has been well entrenched in our culture for centuries, with most of our traditions coming over from Europe with the early settlers. It’s not surprising that superstitions about Christmas worked their way into the holiday. Here are a few that have hung around


Smashed Spiced Sweet Potatoes

I like sweet potatoes about any way you can fix them. In fact, I buy a 20 pound box of sweet potatoes every fall from a man who brings them up from the Carolinas and parks in front of Janet’s Hair Salon in beautiful downtown Maynardville. It takes me all year to finish that box. I am always looking for new ways to fix them. I come up with this recipe the other day. It is a variation of a rutabaga recipe I tried. They are spicy but not like a pumpkin pie. Try them and see what you think.

UCHS welcomes new head coach Steve Smith

"Friday nights lights" is a phrase used quite often by many community members and fans as they talk about the excitement around their hometown football games.
Whether the team has a winning or losing streak for the year, there is a nostalgia surrounding Friday night lights.
High school students celebrate the event with face paint and cow bells, while the football players prepare themselves by wearing their jerseys to school that day.

String up your Christmas lights

Do you love decorating for the holidays? Do you love driving around to see Christmas lights? We have a fun contest for everyone who likes Christmas lights.
UT Extension Union County will host its annual Light Up Union County Contest in 2021 to get our town decorated for the holiday season. Whether your skill is closer to the Charlie Brown tree or Clark Griswold, we want to see your lights.

Reed elected BOE chair pro tem

Periodic absences for various reasons continue to cause the Union County Board of Education to barely have a quorum.
At the November school board meeting, Chairman David Coppock and Vice Chairman Marty Gibbs were absent along with Brad Griffey from Luttrell. Dr. Jimmy Carter, Director of Union County Schools, chaired the workshop and oversaw the election of Andrew Reed, who represents District 6 (Paulette), as the Chairman Pro Tem to preside at the November meeting.

Aaron Russell and Shannon DeWitt are Man and Woman of 2021

Aaron Russell with 2021 Man of the Year award, Shannon DeWitt accepts 2021 Woman of the Year from Martin Shafer.

Aaron Russell and Shannon DeWitt are Man and Woman of 2021
Union County Business & Professional Association named Aaron Russell and Shannon DeWitt as Man and Woman of 2021 at its Annual Banquet on November 19, at Hubbs Grove Fellowship Hall.
Aaron Russell, publisher of Historic Union County News, was praised by Robbie Corum, the 2020 Man of the Year, for Aaron's “out of the box thinking.” With this “tackle the unknown attitude,” Aaron has given Union County its first online newspaper, as well as a printed monthly edition.

4-H welcomes new agent in UC

Olivia Howard, Union County 4-H Agent

Last month, Olivia Howard joined the UT Extension Office here in Union County as the full-time 4-H agent. Olivia was born in Kansas, lived in Michigan and moved to the Knoxville area when she was in 4th grade where her love for agriculture started.
This led her to pursue a degree in Animal Science at the University of Tennessee. Olivia’s experience in Extension started when she completed an internship with the Knox County Extension Office in summer of 2020 where she worked in agriculture and natural resources.

Back Pain Shows Association With Increased Mortality Risk In Women Part I

New research from Boston medical Center identifies elevated mortality risk for women with back pain when compared to women without back pain. Back pain was not associated with mortality among men, indicating long-term consequences of back pain may differ by sex. The overall findings suggest that mild back pain (pain that does not keep a person from exercising or doing daily activities) is unlikely to impact the length of one’s life, but risk of mortality was increased among adults with more severe back pain.

UCCC puts presents 'Under the Tree'

woman shaking hands with Santa

Santa, aka Martin Shafer, greets Nancy White, one of the many volunteers who participated in the toy distribution for Union County Children's Charities on December 4.

Over 300 children will have presents under the tree this Christmas thanks to the dedicated volunteers of Union County Children's Charities.
Gina B. Gilbert, Tammie George, Brooke Simpson and Pam Tolbert serve as the leaders of the 501(c)3 nonprofit to organize the effort while Carol Pratt, Janet Holloway and friends shop and assemble the bags.
At least eight area churches gave away socks, toiletries, laundry detergent, books and paper products. Another church supplied hams, and the Family Resource Center contributed gift cards from a grant for teenage siblings.

4-H and community service

Sharps Chapel Elementary 4-H students

By Beth Bergeron
Once again, 4 H members in each elementary school are collecting pop top tabs for their community service project and the first full jug has been turned in. All tabs will be donated to our local Ronald McDonald House for recycling.
In the process of collecting these tabs, the students learn the importance of recycling, and are encourage to recycle the entire aluminum can.

Union County FCE celebrates Thanksgiving

By Alyshia Victoria
Union County FCE members gathered on November 18 to celebrate thanks for one another and for our community. Family & Community Education (FCE) clubs are located across the state, and we have a great group here in Union County.
The goal of FCE clubs is to strengthen the home and community by improving the quality of life of individuals and families through continuing education, leadership development and community service.

Friends of Sharps Chapel concerned about factory farm

By Mary Johnson
Sharps Chapel residents have been meeting at the Sharps Chapel Senior Center once a month to share the latest news, research and concerns regarding the new Mexican-owned Sanfer SPF egg production factory farm. The facility will eventually house 72,000 chickens in eight concrete block buildings on the historic Sharp family farm on Sharps Chapel Road.

Not a 'fowl' ball

By Jeff Brantley
I represent the 5th District of Union County (Sharps Chapel and Speedwell side). A controversy has arisen about the location of a chicken/pharmaceutical farm in Sharps Chapel. Some are complaining about property values, odor, contamination, etc. Most of the resistance comes from lake lot property owners who are approximately a mile away from the proposed business.

Get involved in Union County FCE Family & Community Club

Pictured left to right: Gloria Holcomb, Pauline White, Linda Effler, Glenda Cooke, Margie Collins, Sharon Hansard, Leslie Sharpe, Carol Pratt, Sherry Jones, Brenda Osborne.

By Alyshia Victoria
Have you heard of FCE clubs? Perhaps you have heard of the homemaker’s club.
Family & Community Education clubs (FCE), formerly known as the homemaker’s group, have been around for a long time. While 4-H clubs have been a way of building community and skills among youth throughout Tennessee history, FCE clubs have been doing the same for adults. The goal of FCE clubs is to strengthen the home and community by improving the quality of life of individuals and families through continuing education, leadership development and community service.


Ina R. (Ogle) Lane

Ina R. (Ogle) Lane-age 82 of Luttrell, born June 21, 1939 in Sevier County passed away Thursday, January 13, 2022 at her home. Ina entered into her eternal celebration that she had the assurance of from her teenage years. She was a member of Union Chapel Baptist Church, Maynardville and was a loving grandmother, mother, sister and friend who always put the needs of others before her own.

Geraldine (Richards) Bailey

Geraldine (Richards) Bailey-age 79 of Maynardville passed away Wednesday morning, January 12, 2022 at North Knoxville Medical Center. She was a member of Macedonia Baptist Church. Preceded in death by mother, Nora Bell Richards; brothers, Benny Richards and Steve Richards; son, Roger Lynn Treece; daughter, Patricia Ann Treece.

Joyce Turner

Joyce Vandergriff Turner - age 67 of Maynardville, passed away peacefully in her sleep on January 10, 2022. She is preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Martha Vandergriff and Della Mae Oaks. Joyce is survived by son, Charles Gentry and daughter-in-law Natasha; daughter, LeeAnn Turner Large and son-in-law Eric; grandson, Dakota Gentry; granddaughters, Evelyn Gentry, Destiny and Emma Large; and siblings, Michael Vandergriff, Kyle Vandergriff, Tony Vandergriff and Patsy Mallicoat. A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Anna Kitts

Anna Leora “Lee” Graves Pollard Kitts went home to her Heavenly Father January 10, 2022 at the age of 89. She had a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ her Lord. Anna adored her children and all of her siblings. She enjoyed showing kindness to others by sending bouquets of flowers to her shut-in friends. She loved her plants, music and a good road trip. Anna was also an excellent seamstress, working for many years at Hall Brown and John H. Daniels.

Clyde L. Monroe

Clyde L. Monroe-age 93 of Maynardville passed away Saturday, January 8, 2022 at Willow Ridge Center. He was a member of First Baptist Church of Maynardville; a graduate of Horace Maynard High School, class of 1945 and a U. S. Army Veteran 1950-1951. Preceded in death by parents, Raymond and Bonnie (Palmer) Monroe; siblings, Gareth P. Monroe, Mary Jo Meyer, Willa Sue Cox, Eugene D. Monroe.

Johnie Marie McCurry

Johnie Marie McCurry - age 80 of Corryton, went to her heavenly home January 8, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. peacefully surrounded by her loved ones. Johnie Marie was born February 7, 1941 in Luttrell. Her love and humor were adored by everyone who knew her. Johnie was a mother, sister, mamaw, friend and devoted care giver to many. She was one of the founding members of Fellowship Christian Church where she spent her Sundays serving her savior.

Dusty Sexton

Joshua Dustin (Dusty) Sexton, age 34, of Maynardville passed away Saturday, January 8, 2022. He was born on October 14, 1987. Dusty is preceded in death by his mother, Janice Sexton and grandparents. Dusty is survived by his father, Jerry Sexton and step-mom, Brenda Sexton; his children, Aubree and Konnor Sexton; his siblings, Toni (Tim) Brown, Chris (Kayla) Sexton, Gina (John) Hale, Jennifer (Jeremy) Brake and his nieces and nephews.

Rev. Glen E. Beeler

Rev. Glen E. Beeler went home to be with his heavenly Father on Friday December 31st . More than anything Glen loved Christ fiercely and reflected his love for Christ through the way he adored his family, served his community through pastoring, and encouraged others to get to know his risen Savior.

Barbara Sue (Wyrick) Rutherford

Barbara Sue (Wyrick) Rutherford-age 71 of Maynardville, born October 25, 1950 passed away Thursday morning, December 30, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center. She was a member of New Friendship Baptist Church. Preceded in death by son, Russell Luke Tolliver; daughter, Rebecca Pierce; parents, Calday and Francis Wyrick; brothers, Fred Wyrick, O. G. Wyrick, Theodore Wyrick; sisters, Carolyn Kitts, Othella (Sally) Corum, Pearl Atkins, Hester Atkins.

Nellie Wynn

Nellie Wynn – 48 of Maynardville, passed away December 26, 2021 with family by her side. She was born March 27, 1973 to Willis and Mildred Wynn. Your life touched so many others and will be remembered forever more, to leave the world a better place than it had been before.

Peggy Bates

Peggy Lou Sharp Bates was born July 13, 1936 and passed away December 22, 2021 due to pancreatic cancer at the age of 85. She was a member of Cedar Ford Baptist Church in Luttrell. Peggy was a 1954 graduate of Horace Maynard High School, cheerleader for four years and captain her senior year, and a member of the school paper staff.

Mamie Jo Collins

Mamie Jo “Wood” Collins – age 91 of Maynardville, passed away on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, with her sister by her side. She was a member of Alder Springs Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by her husband Robert Collins; son, Michael Collins; and parents Fonzie and Vileto Wood. Mamie is survived by her sisters Wanda Vandergriff of Maynardville and Clara Ramsey of Kentucky, several nieces, and nephews.

James Henry Owens

James Henry Owens-age 64 of Sharps Chapel went home to be with the Lord Tuesday evening, December 21, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center. He was a member of Oak Grove Primitive Baptist Church. Preceded in death by mother, Panzie Sherritze; brother, Robert Owens; grandson, Alton McKeen.

Jennifer Rena (Hickman) Shepherd

Some people only walk this earth for a short time. Their departure reminds us that God knows when he is ready to take his children and turn their trials and tribulations in for Angel wings. Our loved ones are now our protectors, watching over us from above.
Jennifer Rena (Hickman) Shepherd, age 45, of Luttrell, went home to Jesus to gain her angel wings on December 18th, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center.

James David Edwards

James David Edwards-age 64 of Sharps Chapel, born January 11, 1957 passed away Friday, December 17, 2021 at Claiborne Medical Center. He retired from Chrysler Corporation in Kokomo, Indiana. He was a very loving husband and father. He loved everyone he met and never met a stranger. David was saved at Lily Grove Baptist Church at a very early age. Preceded in death by parents, J. R. and Nadine (Johnson) Edwards; brother, Douglas Alvin Edwards; sister-in-law, Sharon Moyers Edwards; aunt, Jo Ann (Edwards) Bailey; grandparents, Roy and Ruth (Shoffner) Edwards; Ed and Ocie Johnson.

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