By Maddie Lipe
Tucked on a side street just off of Main Street in Blowing Rock, is a small plot of land that was destined to be a sacred place for the community.
What started out as a putt putt course and was once a little flower shop, is now a piece of land that has moved people, spiritually and emotionally.
Take Heart owner Sheri Furman said she was always drawn to the small piece of land on Sunset Drive and prayed over it for years before it became what it is today, the beginning of a prayer garden, named “Garden Sanctuary.”
The Garden Sanctuary’s story begins with Furman’s shop that was home to a beloved prayer tree which held the prayers and wishes of those who came and went by the shop on Main Street.
The tree was well known to many locals and visitors alike, but one day gave the tree a whole new meaning.
“God restores more than you lose,” store employee Kathy Schlecht says to customers when she tells the story of the prayer tree.
June 26, 2019 is a day that Furman and so many other people who have visited or live in Blowing Rock will remember for a lifetime.
That was the day that Bless Your Heart, now renamed Take Heart, burned to the ground due to an electrical fire, leaving the prayers on the tree untouched by the flames.
At the time of the fire, there were 14,000 prayers on the tree and when people heard the news, the prayers multiplied, reaching 42,000 before the town of Blocking Rock required Furman to take the prayers down a year later.
The prayer tree was a Blowing Rock staple to many residents and visitors.
Furman said losing the prayer tree was worse than losing her shop and after the rebuilding of her shop three years later, many still ask about the tree.
Now, Furman as well as Schlecht and manager Maggie Furman can tell those who ask that the prayers from the tree are restored in the walls and foundation of the new shop, but it doesn’t end there.
Furman plans to take the leftover prayers from the fire and put them in a time capsule to place in the Garden Sanctuary.
Schlecht said when she tells customers about the Garden Sanctuary, it’s emotional for many people.
“Some of the customers visit Blowing Rock every year, and they have a long history with the store and Sheri,” Schlecht said. “They have put prayers on the tree through the years, and they never forget that.”
“It means a lot to them that they are remembered,” Schlecht said.
Furman said she always felt connected to the land on Sunset Drive, but at the time she didn’t know who owned the land so she kept praying over it.
The woman who owned the land reached out to Furman to let her know she was selling it because she knew how attached Furman was to the property, but at the time Furman was in the process of rebuilding her shop and didn’t have the funds.
The woman offered the land again to Furman and with the help of a mother and daughter who are long-time supporters of Furman’s shop she was able to make a down payment.
The mother and daughter were both moved by Furman’s love for the property and knew there would be something special there in the future. Their faith called them to donate, and they prayed with Furman over the land.
When Furman sat down with a close friend of hers and told her about the garden, the friend asked “what garden?” And Furman responded, “the one on Sunset.”
Furman said the words took her friend’s breath away because of the love her husband, someone who loved the town of Blowing Rock deeply and found it to be his home, had for the exact garden.
Furman’s friend donated money so that Furman could buy the garden in full as she wanted to honor her husband and his desire to create a space for all to gather and find sanctuary.
Furman said she knew something special was going to be there even before she bought the land for the garden.
“It was at that moment that I knew the prayer tree grew into a garden,” Furman said.
Furman knew she wanted to open the gates of the garden up and give it back to the community as well as honor people’s loved ones.
Furman told the story of a young girl who was devastated by the loss of the prayer tree after she had to take it down.
One day Furman found the girl weeping beside what used to be the prayer tree with thousands of prayers, including her own, and Furman made a promise to give the girl a small garden, not yet knowing she would get to own the property on Sunset.
When Furman first got the keys to the gates of the garden she described an intense feeling holding her back from entering. That same day she received a text from the young girl, saying that she was in Blowing Rock and wanted to visit.
Furman took the young girl to the garden to show her that she had kept her promise and the girl was the first to enter. Furman followed shortly after and felt the intense feeling she had felt before subsiding.
“I wasn’t ever meant to be the first to enter the garden,” Furman said.
Furman said she wants people to feel comfort and hope again, and she hopes that the Garden Sanctuary will be a safe place for all who enter.
The small red building that used to be a flower shop will be a chapel for those who need it.
When one enters the garden, they will see a fountain and memorial stepping stones that honor people’s loved ones, who also loved the town of Blowing Rock. People will also be able to get memorial stepping stones made for their own loved ones.
Fuman plans to also have a cutting garden in the Garden Sanctuary where people can come and cut a vase full of flowers to deliver to someone they know who may be struggling.
So far Furman said the help of the community has been vital to the revitalization of the garden. The land surveyor and the Blowing Rock Baptist Church Youth Group donated their time and effort to the project.
Fuman welcomes anyone who wants to help with the Garden Sanctuary. One woman brought in bulbs so that her flowers could be planted in the garden.
“We would love anyone who wants to be a part of this to be a part of this,” Furman said.
“We don’t see it as ours, we see it as something very sacred to share,” Furman said.
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