The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

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Brittany & Brett

It was love at first sight or at least it was love when they finally met! Brett Hawkins and Brittany Wheeler had lived less than a mile from each other for five years before meeting while working together briefly in the last few months of college. It may of taken time to actually be introduced, but they have made up for every minute of it since that moment. Officially becoming a couple on March 8, 2018 while visiting Asheville, NC, getting engaged on December 26, 2018 atop Anakeesta in Gatlinburg and married on March 9, 2019 in the bride’s hometown and place they first met, Johnson City.Brett followed the traditional rites of passage by asking his soon to be bride’s family blessing on the union. The engagement ring is perfected and centered by a diamond from the wedding ring of the bride’s grandmother. The wedding planning was seamless and fully designed by the bride, Brittany and her mother. A beautiful day with family and friends, each detail carefully aligned with their personalities, joining the families of Wes and Kim Wheeler with Tony and Elaine Hawkins. A day of love, union and beauty in an unmatched setting of elegance.Taking place at The Gallery, the gorgeous chandeliers and large fireplace are focal points of this exceptional venue, along with hardwood floors, exposed brick and windows overlooking downtown Johnson City with spectacular sunset views. Candles and rose pedals filled the space, a special touch of the couple for the enjoyment of all and captured in timeless photography by JOPHOTO. Followed by a fun-filled honeymoon to Disney World and Clearwater, Florida, the couple now resides in Knoxville. Congratulations Brett and Brittany.

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Smoky Mountain Lights

The Lampyridae are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged soft-bodied beetles, commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey.Did you know that Tennessee is one of the only places in the world that is home to a rare type of firefly? They light up together, completely in sync with each other. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. Once fireflies reach the age for which they can fly around and light up, they only live for about 21 days. That means the phenomenon that happens in Tennessee is only viewable for about three weeks per year.The largest population of these synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere is right here, close to home at Elkmont Campground. Every year, in late May and early June, the Elkmont fireflies (sometimes also referenced to as Sugarlands Visitor Center fireflies) light up the sky. Located eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Elkmont Campground is the largest and busiest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an elevation of 2,150 feet, the area enjoys a moderate climate, characterized by mild winters and hot, humid summers.For the last few years the National Park Service has used a lottery system to allow only 1,800 cars to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center during the 8-day event (225 per day). The lottery works like this: You apply on their page during the three-day application period, choosing two possible dates that you would like to attend. About a week later you will receive notice whether your application was accepted or not. If you were accepted you will pay a $20 reservation fee. On the day you are scheduled for, you will show your ID and your parking pass at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Then you will board a trolley for Elkmont Campground.If you are not fortunate enough to score parking passes for the main event at Elkmont, don’t be discouraged. Consider visiting within three days either side of the event when passes are not required. The synchronous fireflies can also be found at the backend of Cades Cove (near the Abrams Falls trailhead) or at Cataloochee Valley. It also appears in recent years that the famous fireflies are showing up in surrounding locations, so as the time approaches stay in touch with your local media outlets or the internet to learn about other locations.Most of us have memories of running around outside on summer nights to watch and catch the fireflies lighting up around us. The synchronous fireflies event is a memory of a lifetime. If you want to experienced it make plans this year to light up your life.

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Place of Good Abode the History of Memphis

Native Americans were drawn to the bluffs overlooking the river of what is known as Memphis, building their settlements on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff which protected them from flooding by the mighty river that also provided easy transportation.It was Hernando DeSoto that arrived in 1541 with his army to explore the lower half of the river, setting up camp near the site of Memphis, claiming the land for Spain. That land would change ownership many times over the next 200 years, claimed by France, England and Spain, before the United States of America got involved.In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the Union, and the Chickasaw Indians sold the land to the U.S. government more than 20 years later. It was during that time that future president Andrew Jackson, John Overton and James Winchester decided to join the government to incorporate the town. They further named the place Memphis, a “place of good abode.”Memphis became the largest inland cotton market in the world, but the city’s location and its reliance on slave labor would prove to be a volatile mix in the near future. The Battle of Memphis, a 90-minute fight resulted in the Confederate flag flying over the city being replaced with a United States flag. The Union Army would establish the area as a hospital post which proved beneficial, helping the city rebound after the war.During the yellow fever epidemic of 1873 it all changed as people passed in catastrophic numbers. The epidemic returned years later to nearly wipe out the entire population. Those who were healthy enough to travel, fled the city. Memphis was bankrupt and forced to surrender its charter. Around 1879 when Memphis was just a state taxing district, a wealthy businessman named Robert Church, Sr. began buying up land, primarily on Beale Street. He built Church Park which is still named in his honor on Beale Street.Time passed and the city welcomed the 20th Century, hoping to leave the negatives of previous century behind. It had been plagued with disease, crime and poverty. Anything you needed that might be illegal continued to be available, mostly on Beale Street. But it was also the home to many music clubs that enticed cotton field workers to enjoy good times on the weekends. It would be their “chantings” that would become “blues,” a priceless American musical art form.Another interesting invention that came out of Memphis was the modern supermarket. Local businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first self service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly. It was a huge success, with stores opening across the county, making him a millionaire. He spent the money by building a 22-room, pink marble mansion which along with his company and money would be forfeited when he lost it all. The City of Memphis is the current owner. The mansion dubbed the “Pink Palace” is a museum, planetarium and theater.Then like the bang of the yellow fever, the Depression surged into town. Just like the rest of the country there was no avoiding the disastrous effects of the time. The cotton market and industrious companies of the city would bring relief as America entered World War II. The gift was appreciated and reciprocated as Memphis would inspire the most famous aircraft of the war- Memphis Belle, the first B-17 bomber.In the last months of 1942, American morale needed a boost and the editor of a Memphis paper learned that one of the airplanes doing battle in Europe was named for a local woman, Margaret Polk, by her pilot sweetheart, Robert Morgan. From then on news about the Memphis Belle’s victories appeared regularly. As one of the first airplanes to complete

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Happy Birthday McMinn County

Birthdays happen every year. Usually we look forward to them and eagerly await aday to celebrate ourselves or someone we care for. Certain birthday celebrations carry special weight, the day you become 10! You have two digits to describe how old youare, small detail but still meaningful. 13 in some cultures means you’re adult enoughto be held to a higher standard for your actions. Debatable on the value of that one but at least there’s still cake. A 16th birthday can have special privileges added – driving yourself to a friends house is now possible. At 18 and you’re an adult in every legal way and you have the ability to do almost anything you want, the world is a challenge waiting for you to seize upon. Turning 21 has meaning for some while others celebrate 29 – for the third time. Hitting the mid-century 5-0 mark can cause you to think a bit more about your past and what you have accomplished. Somewhere in your 60’s you look forward to celebrate retirement and if you are fortunate enough to have three digits to describeyour age, people you don’t even know will celebrate with you. Well, maybe you do know hem you just can’t remember…at least there’s still cake. McMinn County is turning 200 this year and we have much to celebrate. Not just having lasted as a de ned land location somewhere in eastern Tennessee but as a place who’s in uence has affected much more than is contained in the lines drawn on a map. Take some time to celebrate and re ect on the triumphs birthed from here that have affected quite literally the world. The county is named after Joseph McMinn who served in the revolutionary war and as the 4th governor of Tennessee. No small tasks to begin with. The actions from this community continued to take shape and form ideas that stretched beyond the county line. Many positive actions and some not so glowing events ll in our past. The Native American removal left a signi cant mark in our history we still try to understand to this day. After a civil war and rebuilding a nation this area was known as a hotbed for volunteers in both global wars. Every single person was valuable in those ghts. The letters to those troops fueled their spirits amid con ict but it was just one letter from home in this county that changed someone’s mind and allowed women the right to vote in this country. A battle in the streets here changed how those votes were handled and the resolutions formed from that skirmish still in uences voting standards throughout the United States to this day. Civil rights changes did play out here but this area is not known for the violent clashes so many other location had. Instead we are not know for them – which I think speaks better of us. People who lived through some of these pivotal moments in McMinn’s history still walk our streets today, and if you haven’t talked to them you should. Their understanding and perspective will help guide you through the next pivotal moments McMinn residents and this region will face. In the meantime – celebrate this counties 200th birthday and celebrate what we have done as a community! And, you should even take some time to re ect on those missteps in our path from 1819 that led us to where we are today. Whatever day today happens to be when you’re reading this there is probably a bicentennial celebration somewhere in McMinn county getting ready to happen or happening. You should go out and enjoy it. And there will most likely be cake.

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Calhoun

The Calhoun area was settled by John Walker (c. 1770-1834), a part-Cherokee grandson of Nancy Ward and a prominent gure in the formation of McMinn County. Walker operated a ferry along the Hiwassee River and helped contract the Cherokee Turnpike Company in 1806, which maintained the road between Knoxville and Georgia. In 1819, Walker helped negotiate the Calhoun Treaty, in which the Cherokee ceded the remaining lands between the Little Tennessee River and the Hiwassee River, including what is now McMinn County. McMinn County was organized at Walker’s house that same year. The oldest town in McMinn is also its newest city with a name equally founded in history. Calhoun was named after John Caldwell Calhoun (c. 1782 – 1850), an American statesman who served as the seventh vice president of the United States. The county is named after Joseph McMinn, governor of Tennessee from 1815 to 1821, who spent the last years of his life in Calhoun, and is buried in the Shiloh Presbyterian Cemetery. In 1954, the pulp and paper giant Bowater (now Resolute Forest Products) established a plant in Calhoun that soon grew to become one of the largest newsprint mills in North America. Themill, which dominates the western half of Calhoun, produces 750,000 metric tons of newsprint and specialty paper per year. In December of 1973, the segment of Interstate 75 near Calhoun, Tennessee, was opened to traf c. Following this date, multiple vehicle accidents occurred due to visibility problems experienced in foggy conditions. The culmination of these events occurred on December 11, 1990 when dense fog contributed to a series of chain-reaction collisions involving 99 vehicles with 42 injuries and 12 fatalities. In 1993, a fog detection and warning system was implemented along the Interstate section. This system includes a three-mile fog detection area spanning north and south of the Hiwassee River and an eight- mile warning zone on each approach to the fog prone area. In 2006, a project was initiated to upgrade the original systemto current technology. Driver safety issues due to visibility problems have improved signi cantly since the system has been in place, with only one fog-contributed accident being recorded in 2001. The main street of Calhoun has recently been designated by the National Historic Trails Service as an “Original Route” of the Trails of Tears. During the 1828 Cherokee Removal, several thousand North Carolina Cherokees were forcibly removed from their lands. This route led through Calhoun, down present day Main Street, to the ferry crossing at the Hiwassee River. Calhoun is a city deeply grounded in the history of America with notable markers and places of great historical value throughout the area. Situated along the banks of the Hiwassee River, which ows from the Appalachian Mountains and empties into the Chickamauga Lake impoundment of the Tennessee River. Visit Discover Calhoun to learn more and check out McMinn Life Summer Issue featuring the River Town Festival.

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From House to Home

All of us have moved from house to house but not many of us has moved a house. The year is 2000, a new millennium. Our house movers are regular people; one a school teacher at Ingleside Elementary in Athens, her husband working at Crescent Hosiery Mill in Niota. A large two story house was sitting on the property adjacent to the mill near Highway 11. The land would be needed for expansion but not the house. The president of Crescent, Bill Burn, asked Steven Burce to try and find someone who would move this beauty that was built in 1908 by David Marshall Garrison. After several months Steven only had people interested in gutting and tearing down the old home. This thought upset him so he decided that maybe he could move it. Janet, his wife, was not on board, she was enjoying her empty nest now that both children were in college and she was not looking for a big project.A chance visit by Janet to the house where (Steven just happened to have the key in his pocket), after a quick tour Janet changed her mind. It was love at first sight. Thus began the two year process. First job was cleaning out the house. The second story had been turned into an apartment and the new walls were demolished. The downstairs front foyer had years of paint on the beautiful pine woodwork this had to be stripped. They laughed that after starting this process that it appeared new paint had been applied each year. Janet’s sister came to help strip the layers of paint and said she would bring a pot of beans, two hours into the work she drily told Janet that “this is a more than a one pot of beans project.”With the house cleaned out they were ready to look for a mover. Fortunately Highway 72 in Sweetwater was expanding the right of way and houses along the route had to be moved. Steve approached one of the movers and had him come and look to see if the house could be moved. He was given a green light so next was finding property for her new home. Power lines, turns in the road, road grades, the police department, the utility company as well as fiber optic cable were all considerations. Every afternoon the Burce’s would drive around the Niota area looking for property that could work. Finally, they decided on 10 acres close by, but after having the earth grader prepare the site it was determined that at least 17 additional acres were needed. Moving day was finally here. Locals set up lawn chairs to watch the progress. What excitement when the attic was cut off and safely set by crane on the ground. Next the roof had to be sawed off. This was a critical moment as the roof could explode when lifted from the living space. Steven had been working on reinforcing the saw mill run oak framing which was so hard that it was impossible to drive a nail, so only screws could be used. They were successful. With the upper floors gone the house was now the required 25 ft. above ground level. The roof and the attic were moved separately on flatbed trucks. A pit had been dug at the new site and footers poured. The house is 3500 sq ft. and 70 ft. by 40 ft. lengths of steel were used to support the grand lady as she crawled forward to her new home. When she arrived at Cedar Pond the crane lowered her over the footers and she was jacked up so that the foundation work could begin. After 600 blocks were laid she was slowly lowered barely sighing when she felt the solid stones under her weight. Later the Burce’s walked through the house looking for cracks and problems they opened a closet door and found that a half-gallon jar of water that had been forgotten it was still sitting safely on a self after the house being lifted and moved over a mile.This was not the end of the story only the halfway mark. This old friend was to be restored, so now work began on insulation, wiring, plumbing and repaired trimwork. The home features, a Butler’s pantry, a maid’s bedroom above the kitchen and 9 ft. pocket doors into the formal living room. The brick chimney made the move but was deemed unstable. Janet tore down the bricks and threw them into the courtyard. Today they frame the house as pavers for the walkways and patios.The walls are plaster so care had to be taken to restore and prevent cracks. Wallpaper returned to the entryway. Fortunately the staircase had never been painted and the pine hardwood floors were easily refinished after the carpet was pulled away. The Burces’ had a plan to start in the attic and work their way down. Instead of living in their new home they would return to their Englewood house which had hot water and sleep in a clean bed at night. They waited until the house was fully restored before doing the final move. This process took 2 years but the reward is evident.

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Apple Pie Contest

Everybody loves the all American Apple Pie! Last fall 2017 Etowah added a new feature to their annual Fall Festival, an Apple Pie Baking Contest. Pies came in from McMinn & several surrounding counties. All ages of bakers entries from high school students to grandmothers. The judges were Tennessee State Representative John Fogerty, McMinn County Mayor, John Gentry & Polk County Chamber President Adriane Lambert. The pies were judged on presentation, taste and texture. It was so much fun and received by everyone so successfully that the Festival will have the contest again this year.

Get out your cookbooks, pie tins & aprons! Brush up on your favorite recipe because it is almost time to bake more pies! The 2018 Etowah Chamber Fall Arts & Crafts Festival (Oct 6 & 7) is featuring its second Apple Pie Baking Contest. Bring your homemade apple pie to the Etowah L&N Depot Saturday morning, October 6th between 8:00 & 9:30am. Judging starts at 10:00am. 1st prize $100, 2nd prize $75 & 3rd prize $25.

The 2017 Apple Pie winners were:

1st Place was Englewood’s own Frances Power featuring her “Paper Bag Apple Pie.” Frances is known in her community for her good southern cookin’. She is retired from her Postmaster’s job in Niota. She is most proud of her family, church & local fundraising. Frances is a member of the Englewood 1st Church of God. She also headed the restoration of the Niota Depot and sits on the Board of the Tennessee Overhill.

2nd Place winner was Denise Graff of Madisonville. Since moving from Florida in 2009 and retiring from Hiwassee College two years ago, Denise has become a leader in the community. Besides being an avid baker, Denise is an officer of Keep Monroe County Beautiful, a Diplomat of the Monroe County Chamber & she volunteers for the Tennessee Overhill & Hiwassee Rail Adventure.

3nd Place winner was Sandra Tullock Etowah.

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Bohemian Wedding

In today’s world, many people turn to music, Broadway or Hollywood movies to find a touching love story that they can invest their hearts and minds into and watch grow from beginning into forever. Fortunately for Will and McKenzie, they need not travel far to experience their own story that would begin as young children and advance into a lifelong commitment that they would make to one another.

Will Thompson and McKenzie Irons first met when they were eight years old as competitors for the Athens Dolphins Summer Swim League. They would compete for many years afterwards and would remain distance acquaintances as they passed through elementary and middle school. When both entered into high school, McKenzie remained active with her studies and area swim team, the Sea Dragons, while Will focused also on his studies and on other sports. Although not sharing one single, high school class together throughout their time at McMinn County High School, Will always found McKenzie interesting and wanted the chance to know her better. It wasn’t until their Senior year that Will took a leap of faith and rejoined the swimming world with the intention of hopefully catching McKenzie’s eye. Both were highly dedicated athletes and spent the majority of their free time in the pool practicing or competing in biweekly swim meets. It was during this season that McKenzie recognized her mutual feelings for Will. The two became inseparable from that moment on.

Graduation day came and passed and the pair prepared to go separate directions for school. McKenzie was to attend her first year at Cleveland State Community College, and Will was to begin his first year at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to pursue a career in engineering. The two felt passionately enough that with hard work and dedication, their relationship would remain strong despite the long distance. After she completed her first year at Cleveland State, McKenzie realized that she too bled orange and white and would join Will in Knoxville to pursue a degree in marketing for her remaining three years of schooling. Year two was down and change was in motion. The pair received amazing news that Will had received an opportunity to intern at Nissan in Nashville, TN. Although excited for this honor, Will and McKenzie realized that long distance would now not only be a thing of their past but also their present. The remained focused and began to put plans into motion on how their relationship would work while living in two difference cities. During his time in Nashville, Will would travel every weekend to Knoxville to visit McKenzie. It was in these moments that they realized that they both were in it for the long haul.

The two remained diligent. McKenzie graduated UT Knoxville and returned back to Athens to begin her career. Will returned to UT for his final year or school. The couple remained semi-long distance but this time, McKenzie had a ring on her finger which made it all worthwhile. On May 19, 2018, with friend, family, and the Holy Spirit surrounding them, Will and McKenzie became officially inseparable once again. Every part of their day was filled with laughter, smiles, warmth, love, and Jesus. The two wed at Central Baptist Church by the pastor and grandfather of McKenzie, Mike Bernard. A reception was to follow at the Bernard Residence in Riceville, TN. On display under a big white tent stood a gorgeous cake that was designed by Will and McKenzie who were inspired by a doughnut the two shared at a bakery in Knoxville. The mother of the bride, Melodye Irons, hand-made and decorated the cake herself. The bride wore an eloquent flower crown that was designed and created by her dad, Gary Irons. In the corner of the tent, a vintage photo bus stood so guests could create and cherish the memories made. The room was filled with joy and fun as guests enjoyed dancing and a shrimp broil that was prepared by church friends. It was truly a day to remember.

Now that the excitement has settled, the two live a quaint live in Niota, Tennessee. McKenzie is a local photographer for the Athens and Knoxville areas and Will is an engineer for Titan Implements in Decatur, Tennessee. The two are so incredibly excited for their God’s plan for their life and are ready to take on all of life’s adventures.

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The Story of the Barn at Faith Farms

The story of the Barn at Faith Farms is one of vision, flexibility, creativity, faith, and hard work. Above all else, it is a story of love.It began with a “love at first sight” moment for James Lowry. He was a new employee at Ag-Central when he spotted a beautiful young woman also working there. Right then and there the usually level-headed James, told a co-worker, “one day I will marry that girl.” And, a few years down the road, he did marry Marissa Shamblin. James owned 22 acres of land adjacent to his parents, Mike and Tammie Lowry, in Niota. It is a beautiful pastoral setting bordered by a creek with a huge rambling old Osage Orange Tree dominating a grassy field. There was no doubt in the couple’s minds that this is where they would live, and that it would be a unique and meaningful experience to be married in their future home. The plan was to build a shell of a barn for the wedding, and turn it into a home with a lot of rustic open space and a view of the creek.The Lowry/Shamblin wedding occurred according to plan in the shell of a barn built large enough to accommodate very large parties. It was after the wedding that the plan abruptly changed course. When the couple arrived home from a short honeymoon, they were bombarded with requests from people who had attended their wedding and would dearly love to have their special day in such a magical setting.Says James, “We believed that the Lord had put this in our path, and with hard work and faith, it would all fall into place.” The Lowrys moved to a small house in town, and finished the barn – and their home adjacent to it. James and Marissa did much of the work themselves. Growing up, James’ Papaw, Jim, and his dad, Mike, taught him how to build. “I look back and remember all the good times we had working together. In fact, Faith Farms is the name of Papaw’s farm near Kingsport.”While they worked on their construction bookings kept coming in. The Barn they built is both breathtaking and inviting with its natural wood ceilings, whitewashed barn wood walls, big framing timbers, and open floor plan. The décor is the result of Marissa’s taste and creativity. It is a cross between elegant antiques and rustic countryfurniture resulting in an atmosphere that is at once enchanting and cozy. James and Marissa personally work every event and have learned from each one. Their “hands-on” approach has given them great insight into what it takes to make each event a blessing. To this end, Faith Farms continues to grow. The first addition was a cozy and comfortable rustic home complete with kitchen, full baths, and separate dressing rooms for the bridal party and groomsmen. The “Guest Nest,” as Marissa calls it, also accommodates overnight stays on the eve and day of the wedding.A large deck in back of the barn was added to accommodate overflow of people and allow outdoor space for dancing and visiting. Currently, James and Marissa are creating a covered “courtyard area” out from the deck featuring a 105 foot long stacked stonefireplace. The couple often works well into the night after working all day to accomplish their dreams.The Lowrys plan to progress and grow through the years, “Lord willing, or however He sees fit.” On the horizon they plan to build a separate cabin for groomsmen including a pool table, TV, and kitchenette; and a gift shop built to look like a country church with a steeple. The shop will add yet another option for a wedding site in addition to the Barn, The Osage Orange Tree, and Creekside. They also plan to landscape the entire acreage with different garden focal points, pebble walkways, and a centrally located fountain.The Barn at Faith Farms has already grown beyond James and Marissa’s wildest imaginations. Says James, “If I didn’t have Marissa, I wouldn’t want all this. It’s too much without having someone to share it with.” He went on to say, “life is about progression– it’s leaving a legacy.” The couple then revealed that they are expecting their first child. It will take quite a large family to keep up with the Lowry’s “work in progress,” which may eventually need to change its name to “The Village at Faith Farms” to reflect all there is to offer.For further information on The Barn at Faith Farms, visit: thebarnatfaithfarms on Facebook.

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