Have you ever encountered a person whom you did not invite into your life and yet they somehow managed to sashay, twirl and dance their way in?
This was Wendie.
I met her by accident one Sunday morning five years ago when I rushed back into the church sanctuary for who knows why. Our pastor pulled me aside and introduced me to this woman sitting in a chair with an oxygen tank. “I want you to meet Wendie,” he said. She lightly grabbed me by the face and pulled me close.
I had only been at the church for a month and a half, but already I was getting used to people doing this to me. Face grabbing, butt smacking, shirt tag tucking….it all seemed to come with the job.
She held me close to her and looked straight into my eyes like she was seeing far off into the future and she said, “Oh, honey. You are a real firecracker. He has big things for you.” I kinda liked her immediately because anybody who can call out my rowdy spirit and be perfectly fine with it in our first meeting is A-OK in my book. Plus, she seemed to hold hidden keys to the future and that totally intrigued me.
Wendie shared that she had been praying for me for about 7 months. When my husband and I were being considered for the position (that we had just started at this new church) our pastor shared with her our names as well as the names of the other two candidates. She told me that when she looked at the paper it was like God immediately marked our names with a highlighter and told her we were the people who were to come. She told us that she never shared this with the pastor but instead did what he asked and committed us to prayer. I don’t know if there is anything more humbling in life than to learn that you are prayed for and truly loved by somebody who doesn’t even know you.
In a lot of ways I was the opposite of Wendie. I was new. I was new to the town. I was new to being a pastor. I was a new wife. I was new to life as a grown-up. I hadn’t yet learned how to reach out to people I did not know. I hadn’t learned how to walk difficult roads with people. I was introverted – though most people assumed I was an extrovert due to my position at the church. I preferred quiet times inside my house than engaging with those outside. I was new to navigating all of this new.
Wendie didn’t care. It may have been the next week or the week after that she ended up in the hospital. She called me. “I need you to come and visit me,” she spelled out, “Please come today.” So I went. She would call me and tell me, “I need you to pray for me,” so I would pray. This would happen repeatedly. However, when I would show up to the hospital or when I would pick up her phone call (after I prayed) she would begin pastoring me.
One specific afternoon, from her hospital bed, she looked directly at me and said, “You are having conflict with —-. You need to get your act together. Work it out.” I stared at her speechless. How did she know? (She was one of those people who was so close to God that it would kinda freak you out to be around. It always made me wonder what was God going to tell her next about me.)
This was Wendie. She poured into my life repeatedly and basically told me to take notes.
She passed away not long after our first meeting. In fact, I think I had only known her for five or six weeks… Next month it will be five years. From time to time memories of Wendie pass through my mind and I think about her profound ability to make such a great impact in such a short period of time. Words here will never do it justice, but I have to write it because she is somebody I never want to forget. I am so thankful for the life she lived and the love she shared.