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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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

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