Occasionally, I come to the time I write this blog, and find myself staring at a blank page. It’s been like that this week. We’ve been in a season of loss, but as you may have seen on my social media, we lost a spiritual giant in our lives a few days ago, Rev. Grady Wigley. We feel a little deflated, so I’ve prayed for God’s help to write what he would have me write. I decided to pull out files from the year I first met Grady and review them.
Grady’s service yesterday was on Pentecost Sunday. I first met him on Pentecost Sunday exactly forty years ago (I don’t feel nearly as old as that sounds). I was at a pivotal point in my life, coming out of a dark place just having fully surrendered my life to the Lord less than a year before.
As you saw on social media, because of a connection to my then pastor and his wife whom Grady had married, after learning I was moving, my pastor recommended I attend Grady’s church and contacted him to let him know I was coming. Only God knows the full extent of how that one suggestion changed my whole life. My first piece of mail at my new apartment was from Grady inviting me to church.
In a bulletin I've saved from that church visit, I see that on that long ago morning, Grady preached on Acts 2:17, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." That scripture is all about the extraordinary ways God would communicate with his people. We see that played out in the scriptures with God often moving through dreams and visions. For many years now, dreams have been one of the ways God speaks to me, bringing healing, consolation, and guidance.
Also, in the church bulletin, there’s a notice about a Focus on the Family class for parents. I would later write for a Focus on the Family parenting magazine for several years. At that point I only kept journals, being a writer had only ever been a dream.
Also in my files, I found an Upper Room Magazine from that time and flipped through the pages. I read the devotion I would have read on that first Pentecost Sunday in my new home and can’t believe it was written by Dr. Tommy Tyson. Oh, my. Tommy Tyson, an evangelist who would also later become a spiritual mentor as we would have opportunity to get to know him in a personal way. He was also connected to many others who have become mentors both personally and through their writing including Dr. Mark Rutland, Francis MacNutt, and Madeleine L’Engle.
And of course, one of my highest honors is that I would be privileged to have my own devotions appear in the pages of the Upper Room Magazine.
I see in just that initial Sunday in the new chapter of my life, that God was giving me clues to my future. I catalog everything. I guess I’ve always been writing a book. But these details help me understand that if we pay attention, we will often see God’s powerful work. He’s in the dots that seem random at first but connect in an intricate way to form wondrous patterns in our lives.
One of the most interesting notes in that first bulletin is the list of ushers that would serve. As I read the list, I am amazed to discover on that Sunday, Jerry Varnado was one of them.
My first recollection of Jerry is from several months later when he gave his testimony on laity Sunday—this lawyer who had an amazing encounter with God after tragedies in his life. It would be a year before we had our first date and now, we are married more than thirty. It’s possible Jerry welcomed me that first Sunday, shook my hand and told me he was glad I was there, perhaps handing me a bulletin or an offering plate. God smiled knowing what was in store.
I had so much anxiety about moving to a place where I didn’t really know anyone. I listed questions in my journal on the day before my move, “What if I get fired?” “Where will I go, then?” but my biggest concern was “What if I let God down?” I know now that we can’t really let God down. We let ourselves down. God’s not on a roller coaster like the people we know. He’s always the same and his love for us never changes. But I go on to respond to these doubts. “Then I remember, today, He gives me strength. I must abide in Him and die to my wants, knowing that always I’ll be His and He’ll be mine. I love Him, so.”
Forty years later, I still love Jesus so, and give Him thanks for the amazing life He has given me. Yes, we have faced hard times of every variety but for all these years He has been faithful and as I write with tears streaming down my face, I am so incredibly grateful. Where we are today is in large part due to our spiritual father, Grady, who was there at the beginning and whom God use to lay a foundation at that crucial time in my life and in Jerry’s life. He showed us what the love of the Father looks like.
None of us knew it was in preparation for a lifetime in ministry. But of course, God did.
First I had no words for today, and then there were way too many in this rambling post like a dam breaking because of my new discoveries and rediscoveries of that first day in what would be my new home. I've gone from a heart deflated to a heart overflowing. Friends, if you’re facing an unknown, know He’s already there, preparing a way, connecting the dots, just as He did for me.
He's all in the dazzling details.