Monthly Archives: February 2018

My Friend Billy Graham

How could I be so brash as to claim Billy Graham was my friend? I never talked to him, even on the phone. I never received a personal note or letter. I never shared a cup of coffee or glass of water with him. I never shook his hand.

Yet I confidently do claim he was my friend. He was America’s pastor and he had the God-given talent of reaching by television, radio, movies, and the written word into our very homes, sharing the love of God in a personal and compelling way. The man who took the message of Christ’s grace all over the world was never rude or arrogant or unkind, just straightforward and real, as much so to us in our living rooms as to the millions in huge arenas.

I miss him from this planet. But I rejoice with him for being reunited with his Ruth, his friends George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and for seeing Jesus face to face. And I can’t imagine his joy as he meets some of the millions who are in heaven because of his messages.

I was eight years old when I first listened to Billy Graham on his radio show “The Hour of Decision.” The year was 1950. My father only listened to a few shows but that was one of them. I guess I knew it wasn’t something a kid of my age should volunteer to listen to so I took it all in from a tiny attic room right over Daddy’s study. I was fascinated by the way Billy Graham talked so fast yet so clearly. I also liked to hear him say “God bless you real good” at the end of the program.

Not long after his show was aired, Billy Graham held a tent revival in Atlanta. Because of rare circumstances, my mother and I accompanied my big brother John to one night of that crusade. I had already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus and knew that I was a redeemed child of God. Maybe that’s why that night was so very special. I remember the smell of the thick sawdust on the floor and how thrilled I was to see Billy Graham, even if he was so far away he was only about an inch high.

As a teenager in the 1950s I was stirred by the occasional messages I heard on television as Billy Graham spoke to phenomenal crowds. We acquired a book about Graham which had black and white pictures of him and his family. I started praying for them. Ruth Graham’s writing was an inspiration to me. I wanted to write like that myself.

Early in my marriage to Charles Graham (no kin to Billy!) he was asked to be chairman of the committee preparing for and presenting a BGEA movie, “Time To Run,” in our small town. That very rich experience gave both of us opportunities we couldn’t have imagined. I was a counselor following the movie for several showings. I counseled a sweet twelve year old girl who gave her life to Jesus. In the years of following up her commitment with visits, a backyard Bible club, and prayer with her family, we built a friendship I cherished. She died of some rare disorder when her son was still quite young.

My church in Cairo, about 1990, provided a bus for a large group of us to go hear Billy Graham at the civic center in Tallahassee. He was no longer the young preacher speaking so fast trying to get all his words in. His hair was white, he leaned on a stool, his words were more measured than before. But there was the same passion, the same zeal, unsquelched after all those years. And the power of God Almighty was present that night as crowds responded to his call for commitment.

I have read several of Billy Graham’s books and gained spiritual strength from each one, “Angels,” “Just As I Am,” and others. But the little paperback “It’s My Turn” by Ruth has given me recently the sweetest peek into the Grahams’ home life. I’ve been reading it in small segments to my Magnolia Place devotional group. Ruth kept the home fires burning, literally, while Billy was away for sometimes weeks at a time. But she sometimes traveled with him. She tells of once when she was counseling at the London Crusade in 1954. She sat down beside an attractive young woman and asked if she could help her. The lady said wistfully, “I just wonder what it would be like to wake up and find yourself married to that man!” Ruth answered her, “You’ve asked the right person. I’ve been doing it for the past eleven years.” Ruth followed up that funny story with her statement of surety that if she could have picked from all the men in the world, she would still have chosen Billy. She said she would rather see a little bit of him than a whole lot of any other man.

But back to Billy’s books. I have his very last book. I’ve read several that he thought might be his last one. But this really is: “Where I Am.” I’ve peeped into it just enough to know from, Franklin’s foreword, that Billy based his title on John 14:3 which is words of Jesus saying, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Where I Am. Billy told his son Franklin with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–that’s where I am.

Worldwide Pictures, an arm of BGEA, has done videos of classic crusades by Billy Graham. I just watched one including clips of the London 1954 crusade. Consistently, throughout that crusade, and all his ministry, we could hear Billy preaching “the Bible says,” and emphasizing that the awesome actions, the swelling crowds of converts, was because of God and only Him. And even now as I hold my iPad in my lap and watch the young Billy preaching so passionately, a message comes up on the screen telling the viewer how to find help, how to know he/she is going to heaven. Billy’s gone to heaven, but his ministry is still going on here!

Someone has said that perhaps Billy’s death will bring on a greater revival than ever happened in his life. I think that would take the participation of all God’s people, all of us who claim to be Billy’s friends and, more importantly, friends of his master, Jesus.

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Trout Lilies


Trout lilies typically bloom mid to late February.


It was a beautiful day for walking amongst the trout lilies, one of those sunny, not quite hot days in mid-February that make us so happy to get outside. Neither Charles nor I had demanding appointments and we started out eagerly to explore the trails of Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve, the greatest expanse of trout lilies in the world, right here in Cairo, Georgia. Some years we totally miss the show and maybe they were past their peek this week, but we agreed we could hardly have absorbed any more beauty. I thought about my brother John who would have been so happy to know we were walking in the woods on his birthday.

Walking in the trout lilies we also found many other interests: spotted trilliums, a rare variant four-leaved trillium, an orchid that will bloom in early June, beech drops, blue stemmed and needle palmettos, at least on Florida maple tree, lots of hardwoods, some elderberry bushes, muscadine vines, ferns, two creeks, some other visitors fun to talk to, and well-serviced paths with excellent markers.

The trout lilies literally cover acres of forest floor with their golden blooms. Individually, they aren’t showy flowers. They’re so low it’s hard to photograph them without lying down. But all together as they sweep between avenues of tall trees, they make a spectacular show. As we followed the meandering trails exclaiming over each new discovery we talked about our friends Cecil and Sue Hinson. Cecil’s forestry business was able to donate these some 140 acres for preserving the lilies and other beauties. And Sue spent happy hours photographing flowers and all. I enjoyed looking at some with her not long before her untimely death. They were some of our favorite people and we miss them so much. But tramping the trails makes them seem close.

The deep burgundy trilliums are actually more dramatic as individual blossoms. I so enjoyed finding them blooming beside rotting logs, a hornbeam tree, or snugged up against a gnarled oak tree. We first became acquainted with the spotted trillium 350 miles north of here on Black Rock Mountain, then were surprised to find them here the next year. They bloom here about three weeks before they do on the mountain.


The beautiful burgundy trillium also blooms in the mountains.


We were intrigued by the little crane fly and green fly orchid plants. We wouldn’t have known they were there had it not been for the wonderful markers. The marker announces there will be orchid blooms in early June so maybe we can go back then. Right now the plant seems an odd combination of low leaves with purple undersides and funny dried stalks.

We found blue stemmed and needle palmettos. The needle palmettos have pointed fronds but I saw no sign of blue stems on plants identified as such. Maybe the blue is right at the soil line or appears at a different season. I remember how taken I was by the palmettos of any name on my first trip to South Georgia. I carried a frond back with me to my dorm room at UGA and pinned it on the window curtain. Of course, I was far more “taken” by the South Georgia boy I’d been to visit named Charles Graham!


Palmettos–needle, blue stem and others–are abundant in South Georgia.


Even without the wonderful flowers, the walk would have been delightful. There are many hardwoods in the comparatively young forest. We found white oaks, live oaks, and some hornbeam trees. The hornbeam belongs to the birch family but I thought the leaves looked like those of a beech tree. The trunk is naked like a crepe myrtle. There were also maples, sweetgums, and beeches. And under the beeches were some very interesting little growths called beech drops. They are completely sustained by nutrients from beech tree roots, according to the marker.

We came alongside two creeks, one deep enough for a shallow swim in places. The sun was shining through the slow moving current showing a ripply sandy bottom.

Folks we met on the trails were from Thomasville, Tallahassee, and places beyond, They were all, including several young children, enjoying the spring day at this unusual preserve so nicely protected and sustained.

Thank the Lord for the foresight of all those who had a part in making this preserve possible, our friends the Hinsons and many, many others. Thanks also to the Eagle Scouts for a very nice sign at the entrance off Wolf Creek Road.

I urge you to discover the sights at the Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve between Cairo and Whighan. Look them up on the web!

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Valentines, Both Bitter and Sweet

IMG_20180214_112846343We only really want the sweet ones. But life happens on Valentine’s Day and it isn’t always sweet.

Take February 14, 2000.

Our phone rang at 6:00 that morning, someone calling to tell me that my dear friend’s son had been critically injured, his wife and baby killed, when their mobile home took a direct hit by a deadly tornado. I hurried over to the hospital to hug my friend. She was so strong, like an oak tree with deep roots. We her friends were crying for her but she refused to be overcome. She had worked her entire career with FEMA and, though under such stress with her own family and the many friends who also had suffered loss, she took time to brag on the quick, decisive work of the rescue teams. I was so touched, too, by her smile as she said, “No hospital in the whole USA could have responded any better than Grady General has.”

My friend’s son lived, having to undergo several surgeries. His wife and baby were buried in the same casket. He, like his mother, is a strong Christian. He is active in his church. He and his second wife have adopted two wonderful children. Whereas some might be stuck asking the question “why?”, he has moved on.

Valentine’s Day, 2004, was a wonderful day, the day my brother Orman married my friend Reggie. Separated by most of the state of Georgia, Orman and Reggie met because God planned it that way. There was no other way they would have found each other. They met as senior citizens, he at 79, she several years younger. Each had lost their first mate and each had prayed that if God saw fit He would send another spouse.. Each had traveled a lot, he as a missionary, she as a military wife. Each was excited about leading Bible studies and in more traveling. Only months after they met, on a beautiful Valentine’s Day, many of us from both ends of the state met to celebrate with them at their wedding in Albany.

After the wedding, several members of my family from North Georgia, as well as Reggie’s sister Sally and her husband Wes, gathered at our house. We had dinner together, sang around the piano, had a wonderful time celebrating this second love for Orman and Reggie who, of course, were by then gone on their honeymoon. We were all so jubilant. How could anyone be sad that night?

Yet that day, too, had a very sorrowful end.

The phone rang, interrupting our joy. One of our dear church friends, very close to those in our intimate circle that night, was struck by a car while crossing the street in a dense fog. Her death sobered us all and reminded us that joy and sorrow are never very far apart.

There was the joyful Valentine’s week in 2007 when our third grandson Thomas Hamilton Graham was born. Such excitement there was as we welcomed him. Will and Christi had a family suite at the hospital where little William, three years old, could be with his parents and his new brother. Grandparents and uncles crowded in, too, on that February day to celebrate Thomas. Now he’s in the 5th grade, excels in sports, is a great student, considers being a scientist someday, and is a top notch Monopoly player. He has a keen sense of humor, too, never misses a chance to crack a joke or pose a riddle. His birthday is February 15.

One of the funny Valentine outings I remember was the year Charles and I decided to have a night out in Thomasville. I said I wanted to get out of Cairo so we could have one whole conversation uninterrupted by clients asking questions about their pets. Charles didn’t really understand my request because he loves to talk any old time with his clients. But he went along. We both thought he was off that night but as the evening developed, one emergency after another came in, either by phone or at the back door. The evening was far spent when we slid into a booth at Shoney’s. We’d barely picked up our menus when someone spoke from across the aisle, “Doc, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” Turns out, we were surrounded by sweet, interesting Grady County folks who were delighted to have the vet’s ear for their latest questions.

In the winter of 2012 I was having chemo treatments for breast cancer. Charles faithfully took me for my infusions, waiting patiently with me for long hours, entertaining the nurses with funny stories. If the timing was right we would go for a snack at my favorite deli after chemo, giving a touch of party to the day. Day after day, he did many things to make that time easier, coming home at odd times to check on me, sending me flowers, cheering me on when my hair all fell out. But the most astonishing thing he did was to take me for a private meeting with Ralph Bishop one Saturday in February. He wanted Ralph to fit me with new wedding rings since I could no longer wear the treasured ones he’d given me when we married. When I look at my diamond now, so lively with rich sparkles of rainbow colors, I’m reminded of that dark time made bright and wonderful by his love.

Our church traditionally has a Valentine’s Banquet, a fundraiser for youth summer camps. Youth waiters serve tables, plates of delicious smoked pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with a roll and then, of course, red velvet cake for dessert. After dinner the fun begins. Many cooks donate cakes, pies and other goodies to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Everyone is conscious of the cause and they become quite ferocious even in trying to make the bids go as high as possible. It’s hilarious to watch family members scrambling to outbid each other on peanut brittle, thirteen-layer chocolate cakes, dreamy coconut ones, and all the rest. Amanda is baking a couple of cakes this time so this is going to be interesting.

Valentine’s days–bitter and sweet. But one thing is always true. God’s love is sure and eternal. Whatever happens, He will be there for you.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

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Camellias in My Backyard

IMG_0136Remember–it’s heart month! Let me know in a comment if you find the word “heart” in my blog!

Ever since moving to South Georgia in 1968, I have been in love with camellias, the delicate pink Perfections and all the rest. I’ve never learned the many, many names of camellias in our beautiful Red Hills region. I was a clumsy Garden Club member who couldn’t follow directions for arranging flowers, so very soon expelled myself from the club. My interest was in describing the beauties. My favorite arrangements involved floating blossoms in a bowl or simply plopping three to five long stemmed ones in a pitcher. Of course I greatly admired those who could take flowers and accompanying greenery and make those gorgeous centerpieces.

I used to chat often with Madge Clark when we’d meet on a morning walk. She was several years my senior and had much shorter legs but she always out-walked me. She loved my walking companion, my jubilant Irish setter named Sam. And she really loved to talk about my camellias. She knew my yard because she’d been friends with the former owner, Cleo Strickland. One day she stopped by my yard just to visit the sixty or so camellias Cleo had grafted and toyed with. I well remember how humiliated I felt that day. Because that was the day Madge realized how little I knew about the camellias. She was shocked that I didn’t know their names. It was as if I had so many children and didn’t even know how to call them.

I tried after that to learn their names, the saucer size dark pinks with veins of blue, the ruffled magenta blossoms, the bright red ones with yellow stamen, the gorgeous white blooms that, when turned upside down, looked like little brides, and the delicate pale pinks who seemed so happy they could have danced right off the branches. And there were the red and pink ones I called candy stripers, and the shrub Cleo had grafted so it had three different kinds of blooms.

To this day, though, the only camellia whose name I’m sure of is Pink Perfection, the one whose blooms look like tight carnations.


This pink perfection has suffered from cold weather and common camellia enemies. But look at those buds! There’s hope!


But there are some things I know about camellias. The foliage can become yucky if the trees are not fertilized regularly and sprayed from time to time for insects and fungus. Wymond Folsom knows what the shrubs need to keep them healthy so he sprays them once a year, and Charles keeps them fertilized. Still, we don’t have the prettiest foliage always. Someone said it is almost impossible for amateur growers to avoid having some white stuff on camellia leaves but we like the leaves to be glossy and green as much as possible.


Camellias like cool weather. For us, they begin blooming in December and bloom into March. If a freeze comes, blossoms will be nipped and turn brown but new blooms will quickly take their place. In fact, already the very generous camellia by our driveway is not only loaded with blossoms but underneath is a carpet made of those which have already fallen. Recently, when Charli and Kaison were here, I found them busily collecting those discarded blossoms in a basket.

On February 14, most years, the bushes are flourishing with lovely blossoms easy to share.

That’s another thing. Camellias were created to be shared. My friend Jan and her daughter Alea for some years would come by to pick camellias to share at an assisted living place where her mother lived. Sometimes she would even bring her mother who sat and watched the goats while the others picked flowers. Who doesn’t feel their spirits lifted when they see the fresh wonderful blooms of various colors? When I take a tray of blooms to my Magnolia Place friends they make a party out of carefully choosing the very blossom they want.

We don’t have as many camellias as we used to, since we moved. But still, on Valentine’s week I hope to have a wonderful display to choose from. And this is where my heart is–in sharing them, in person or by photo, sharing flowers of pink and white and deep red with perhaps a few drops of dew clinging to some satiny petals.

Yes, Camellias are winter shrubs. They are already in bloom when the cherry begins her show and the Japanese Magnolia puts forth buds. All together they silently proclaim the beginning of spring, the season of resurrection. Even when the groundhog has just predicted six more weeks of winter.


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Hide and Seek

It’s February. Look for the word “heart” in each of my February blogs. When you see the word “heart” send me a comment and I will send you a valentine response.

It can be fun to hunt for things–like hunting Easter eggs, words in a word find puzzle, a very interesting sea shell, the very garment you’re seeking when you’re shopping, cucumbers under lush vines, the perfect view of mountains on a road trip, that very color yarn you want for knitting a sweater…..

Remember how much fun it was to play Hide and Seek? Or maybe you don’t have to rely on memory. You may still be playing! There’s hardly any game more appealing to all ages than some form of Hide and Seek. From “peek-a-boo” to some form of medieval mystery night hunting, everyone is interested in a good hunt. Even if we’re not agile enough to participate.

There’s the urge to find treasure, too, something very unusual or precious.

Charles and I were digging in a lily bed behind our pre-Civil War house years ago when Charles’ shovel clicked on something hard. We were trying to move the whole bed of lilies somewhere else in preparation for planting prickly hollies there. Our hope was that our beloved Irish setter would not prefer to smash the hollies as he had the lilies. But now what was this hard surface we’d come upon? It was wide enough to be a sizable chest.

I was sure it was a treasure chest buried over a century before. We dug with greater and greater zeal until we uncovered a large rusty saw blade with a trap box underneath. We think it was an old grease trap for the kitchen covered with what was available, a worn out circular saw blade. After getting over my disappointment that it wasn’t a box of silver or gold, I agreed with Charles that it really was a pretty interesting discovery. When we moved, we brought it with us and anchored it behind our mailbox, an indicator that we have an affection for historical objects.


My North Georgia childhood home place had been occupied by Native American Indians. My older siblings found numerous chiseled arrowheads. By the time I came along there weren’t many left. But I still have the two or three I personally found. There was always the possibility of finding one more because things like that get buried and then, as weather and foot traffic change the lay of the land, they work to the surface. Like the railroad peg our grandson found near an old railroad that hasn’t existed in 75 years.

But there’s a not-so-fun side to hunting too. Ever lost anything?

Some things, like a favorite earring or a certain blouse, you look for relentlessly, though you do know you’ll be okay without it. Other objects may be so necessary, their loss throws you into a panic. Loss of your wallet, your car keys, a certain document you need for filing your income tax return will make your pulse race as you hunt in all the obvious places and then where “I know I didn’t put it.” And when you find the missing item you really can identify with that woman Jesus talked about who, when she found her lost coin, called on her neighbors to rejoice with her.

The loss that causes the most dread and fear is the loss of a child. His mother and I lost Charles D when he was three years old. For a horrible thirty minutes in a big mall we didn’t know where he was. I can easily remember my fear as, after seeking all the safer places he could have hidden, I left the department store and walked down the mall. When I spied him coming towards me, a tiny figure in the distance, I burst into tears of thanksgiving.

Whether for fun, or to take care of our own, we are seekers. God has planted an urge to seek in our hearts. Whether curious or thirsty, we are seekers.

The wonderful thing is, God promises we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart.

I have gotten so lost trying to find an address that I just had to give up. (That was before GPS).

But those who wait on the Lord will always be rewarded.

Because, you see, He is hunting for you too!

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13


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