Dotty Stephenson was like a mother to me. She was my 5th grade Sunday School teacher at the local Baptist church where my family attended church. Dotty was always dressed very stylishly and was adorned with color-coordinated, fashionably overstated jewelry common in that era. She was a beautiful woman with a love for God's Word and infectious laughter! She was a godly woman whom I respected and could talk to. It was in an evening service, at the age of ten, that I heard the gospel presented and I responded by asking Jesus into my heart to be my Savior. When I told Mrs. Stephenson the following Sunday what I had done--she was beyond exhilarated! She told me to open my Bible and write in the very front of it: "I was saved, January 17, 1965!" From that day, until this one, I have never doubted my salvation. (If you're trying to figure out how old I am, you can skip your calculation--I'm 60!)
Our family moved out of the area when I entered the 9th grade which ended my connection with Dotty and her family. Somehow her son John reconnected with me when I was a senior in high school and he drove over to our house which was about 40 miles away. He wanted to show me the brand new car he'd purchased himself--a blue corvette! We went out to get a coke and take a spin in his new "wheels"- and that was the last time I heard from him.
Fast forward eighteen years! I was giving my testimony at a large church in Riverside, CA just down the street from that little Baptist church where I gave my heart to Jesus. I shared about my life in the church and my life at home. Although we were a "Christian" family and my step-dad was on the board of the building project at our church, he was destroying the foundations at home. I shared how he sexually abused both my sister and me and how it was not dealt with at all in our family growing up. I shared the story of how God initiated my recovery process when I was 27, in the early years of marriage. God invited me to walk with Him through a healing process which included addressing the issues with my parents and ultimately extending forgiveness.
At the end of my testimony, a woman ran up to the front and enveloped me in her arms, and said, "Oh honey, I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I wish I had known. I'm so so sorry that this happened to you!" It was Dotty. God reunited us after a 22 year separation. She attended the women's event that day, not knowing it was the little brown haired, big-eyed, ten-year old that sat in her Sunday School room week after week hungering for someone to love her. Since I used my married name, she had no idea until I was speaking, that it was me.
From that time until the day she stepped into eternity on December 23, 2014, Dotty and I were inseparable. For the next 30 plus years, she interceeded for me, my family, and my ministry. She prayed for every book I wrote and every speaking engagement that I shared with her. When I needed godly wisdom and truth, I called Dotty. She was a no-nonsense woman with a prophetic voice and she loved God more than any person I knew. She exuded His love and grace.
And now, she's gone. She has entered into the joy of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But, there's a little girl, who misses her "spiritual mother", friend, prayer warrior, mentor, and encourager. There's also a grown woman who is grateful for all the years she was blessed with someone so dear. Thank you Lord, for my precious Dotty. Sometimes I wonder what I will do without her. I shed a few tears and then remind myself how my precious friend is in the Presence of the One she loved so much, and I rejoice!