GIVING BACK

by Yvonne Lehman
My
writing career began over thirty years ago after a difficult experience that
led to my learning about the Billy Graham School of Christian Writing in
Minneapolis, MN. I was “led” into writing, which marked an entirely different
world for me that I had not imagined.
Through
the years I thought my main purpose was writing novels. However, after founding
the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (with the help of the
Billy Graham School Dean who volunteered to be my emcee and get faculty for me—knowing
how inept I was at that time), I was privileged to direct the conference for 25
years. After turning it over to someone else and starting a smaller,
less-demanding Novel Retreat, I realize that God’s mission for my life had been
that conference.
Although
I’ve been successful in having 57 novels and 8 non-fiction books published, my
greatest delight is now looking back and realizing the difference that writers
conferences make in a writers life. I could not have realized the extent of it
over thirty years ago.
Those
realizations prompted me to volunteer some of my Saturday mornings for giving
tours in the Chapel at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville
NC. I wanted to show my appreciation for what Billy Graham and his organizations
and employees have meant to my life and the lives of others.
On June
1, as a volunteer I was invited to attend the dedication of Ruth’s Prayer
Garden, honoring the memory of Ruth Graham and her legacy of prayer. Over 150
people attended, outside the chapel, facing the beautiful garden. Will Graham,
her grandson and Franklin Graham’s son, spoke about the three gardens of the
Bible: Eden, Gethsemane, and the new in Revelation. We sang her favorite song,
“In the Garden.”
This was
printed on the program:
Ruth’s Prayer Garden…
Consists of two tiers. The garden
is planted in large
sweeps of woodland shrubs and
perennials, with large
open areas for ground cover.
Almost every plant in
the garden blooms in one way or
another.
The garden is meant to provide a
place of solitude
and beauty for the purpose of
personal reflection,
prayer and worship.
As you stroll through the garden,
you will see a mix of
perennials and roses, planted in
front of the chapel in
the English style of perennial
gardening. The colors and
textures of the plants contrast
and soften the stone of the
chapel and are intended to be a
small replication of the
great gardens found around
churches in England.
The variety of plants also
reflects the botanical tastes and
interests of the Bell family as
well as the Grahams. Many
of Ruth’s favorite plant species
are included in garden
including daylilies, daisies,
coneflowers and roses.
Being a
part of that occasion, aware of the overwhelming beauty of such a place, all of
God’s creation really, thinking of the lives changes through the ministry of
Billy Graham, and Ruth Graham’s ministry of prayer, I felt honored to be able
to volunteer a few hours. The first time I entered that chapel, gave a tour in
that gorgeous place, feeling the spirit of the Lord in a special way, I knew I
was receiving more than I could ever give.
I can
only thank God for the awesome privilege of being loved by Him. My heart sings
the words of a song we sang that day as I walked through that garden:
When through the woods,
And forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in
the trees,
When I look down, From lofty
mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the
gentle breeze,
Then sings my soul, My Saviour
God, To Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou
art!
Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC