Have I told you this story? Stop me if you've heard it. But its one of my favorites to tell, and I've been asked to speak at a Womens Conference in January (click here for more) and I feel like this might be part of what I talk about...so I'm going to practice it on you. Ready? Hold on to your seat.
When I was a Senior at the University of Washington, I asked my dad if I could work part-time for him over the summer in order to save up some money. I was also in transition with roommates, so I asked dad if I could move in with him for a few months. Hes a good dad, so he said yes.
I was in church one Sunday, and Pastor Brad was telling our congregation that we were getting ready to expand our church and build more room. Building For Life is what the project was called, and each of us were asked to pray about what God would have us contribute towards the project. I remember feeling a pang in my heart - I knew I wanted to help - but how? I didn't have any extra money, I was barely hanging on as it was. "Jesus," I prayed in the pew, "I want to help. I don't know how. Please show me how."
A few weeks later, I was sitting at the receptionist desk at my dads business, working on an excel sheet. A co-worker popped by my desk and mentioned something about the television show "Wheel Of Fortune" being in town, taping some special Seattle episodes. She told me they were doing College Week and that I should audition. "You'd be great," she said. And then she walked away with her fax.
I logged on to Wheel Of Fortunes website and took a look. I entered my name and email and clicked submit. Then I went back to my excel sheet.
A few days later, an email came. I'd been selected to audition....along with about 300 other super-eager-college-hopefuls. We all gathered in a hotel conference room downtown. My dad (remember I told you he was great?) gave me the afternoon off to go call out a few letters and spin a pretend wheel. I mean, how exactly does one audition to play a game show? I will tell you how! It was so funny. The first thing they did was pass out paper with the game "Hangman." We seriously sat in a room with a #2 pencil and tried to fill in blanks with letters. It reminded me of the SAT's.
If you passed that round, you got to go to another room. There is where you stood up when your name was called and belted out a letter, any letter at all, at the top of your lungs. I chose the letter R. I yelled it loud, smiled, and sat down. That was it. I am not making this up.
I'm glad I picked R. I think that was the clincher. I feel sorry for the people who picked L or T. They got sent packing.
The Wheel people called me back the next day - I'd made the cut. I would be one of the 15 people who would be spinning the Wheel - for real. I would be meeting (hold your breath) - Pat and Vanna.
To me, this whole thing was just too funny. The producers said I needed to get a college sweatshirt and wear it for the show. I didn't have one, so I drove to my school's book store and complained about paying $60.00 for a UW sweatshirt.
Flash-forward to the day of the taping. We were at the Convention Center downtown, and I was super excited. They kept all of us contestants in the back room, unable to talk to anyone, for fear of cheating or breaking some game-show rule or something. I don't know how cheating could happen, but whatever. The point is, I found myself behind the set, and in one fraction of a second, it hit me. I was here because of God.
God whispered to my heart - "Sarah, you prayed that I would do something through you for your church's building project? Well, hello! Do you think it's any accident that you're here?"
OH! I got it now! "Jesus," I prayed with a huge grin. "Whatever I win today is YOURS!"
That took away all my nerves. I knew I was on a special mission, and nothing was going to stop me. I was gonna spin that wheel with all I had - and call out my letters with gusto.
That day, I came in second place according to the score boards, but in my heart, I knew it was much more. My cash and prizes were over 11,500 dollars. Now, taxes took pretty much half of that, but I didn't care. Just wait until Pastor Brad got a load of this!
The next Sunday, I slipped a note to Pastor Brad after the service. I laughed out loud when my cell phone rang that afternoon. "Now let me get this straight," he began with a smile. "Is this for real?"
I told Pastor Brad the story, and he encouraged me to share it with the congregation the next Sunday. I began to write out what I was going to say.
**May I pause for a moment, and let you know that this begins the best part of the story? This is God about to do exceedingly and abundantly more than all I could ever ask or think.**
When I started to write my words, the words of the story I'd tell the church, I found myself getting nervous to speak in front of a large group of people. So I needed to practice on someone....someone safe....someone like Dad.
It was perfect since I was living with him at the time.
But before I go on, I need to let you know that my dad was not really the church-going type. He had been when he was younger, back when he was in high school and college he went all the time. But for the past decade at least, he and I hadn't talked about our faith much together, nor had we been in church together. I had a Bible engraved with his name and gave it to him for that previous Fathers Day, but I had doubted it had been opened. I didn't want to push him, I wanted to respect him, so I didn't know how he would take the words I was about to read to him regarding Wheel Of Fortune and my plans for the money. What would he say?
I read my speech anyway.
And what did he say? Nothing, at first. Because his eyes were filled with tears.
"Sarah," said my dad.
"I am rededicating my life to the Lord."
It was that moment that I knew - I knew - I knew that was why all of this had happened. It was why I was in church that one Sunday. It's why I felt a pang in my heart - wanting to help raise money for our church. It was why I was on that game show. It was why I was asked to speak. It was why. He was why.
It started out that I just wanted to help bring in money for our church to bring in more people. Little did I know, the first person would be my dad.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:4-7