A TIME OF sadness and confusion for Rhonda Gayhart has recently turned into rejoicing and a new sense of purpose.
Six years ago, soon after Gayhart and her family moved here from Wisconsin, the Westminster resident began to write inspirational poetry. After much persuasion and support from family and friends, she agreed to publish them in a piece titled "Once Upon a Rainbow."
"I feel it was a gift from God," Gayhart said of her motivation. "I was feeling very depressed, and this poetry just started flowing. I'd never written anything before."
The 112-page self-published book, which includes nostalgic drawings of her hometown in Wisconsin, was released last December, Gayhart said.
Not only have friends and family enjoyed the book, but strangers have called and e-mailed her to express their appreciation for her poems about friends, family and her relationship to God.
"It has gotten a tremendous reaction," Gayhart said, adding that she's heard from people she hasn't seen in almost 30 years.
Gayhart said the book also helped strengthen her faith. After about eight months of calling all around the country to find a printer she could afford, Gayhart said she put the issue into God's hands.
"I just knew it should be shared," she said. "I just prayed real hard about it, and two days later, a printer from Gaithersburg called with the perfect price."
The book has sold about 200 copies and is available at local bookstores.
Gayhart said her husband, Thomas, and their three children are proud of her accomplishment. "It really has been a blessing."
Take a comedic trip around the cosmos and learn a little something at the Westminster Astronomical Society's next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bear Branch Nature Center in Westminster.
Bill Wellington, a Roanoke, Va., performer who works to popularize astronomical concepts, will be presenting his Radio WOOF program.
"He's like that `Star Hustler' guy," said society member Curtis Roelle, referring to Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Planetarium. Horkheimer is host of the PBS television show "Star Gazer."
Wellington and Horkheimer both do "comedy sketches that are also filled with facts and information," Roelle said. "It ends up being fun and educational."
The first 50 children at the event will receive a door prize, and all attendants will earn a chance to win a meteorite.
"They'll get a chance to have an actual piece of rock from space," said Roelle, who organized the society in 1984.
Society meetings are usually free and open to the public, Roelle said. However, the group is charging $2 per person at Wednesday's meeting to cover Wellington's costs. Children younger than 6 will be admitted to the performance free.
Information: 410-242-2517 or 410-635-3377.
The bells are ringing
Four local bell choirs will be among those practicing and performing at the Young Ringers Handbell Conference Saturday at Cranberry Station Elementary School in Westminster.
Nine groups from Maryland, Virginia and Delaware are expected to attend the daylong event, which will begin with practice sessions at 10 a.m. A free concert will be presented to the public at 4 p.m.
"A donation basket will be available if people want to donate," said Debbie Henning, financial director of the Westminster Ringers, which organized the event.
The bell choir, which has sponsored the youth conference since 1996, is composed of adults who have auditioned for one of the 14 spaces in the group.
"One of our goals is to sponsor educational events to make people aware of the art of handbell ringing," Henning said.
The group also sponsors a festival for adult handbell choirs each fall and is planning workshops for directors this summer and another conference for ringers next September.
Westminster Ringers performances include secular and religious music, Henning said.
"We perform all types of compositions for handbells," she said.
Saturday's event will include performances by groups from Carrolltown Elementary, Robert L. Moton Elementary, Westminster Church of the Brethren and Westminster United Methodist Church.
Amy L. Miller's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.