Jesus Take the Wheel!

Update 10/19: 

Jesus Take TOOK the Wheel! 

By now, I’m guessing that the outcome of my Wheel of Fortune adventure is pretty much “old news”.   But, in case you missed it and are wondering, by the grace of God, I was able to solve enough puzzles on the show to get me into the “Bonus Round” where, with just .2 seconds to spare, I figured out that the answer to the final puzzle was “Bale of Hay”.    All in all I won a little over $35,000 in cash AND a trip to Hawaii!  The reality of it all still has not sunk in for me.

But, what I really want you and everyone else to know is how God used Wheel of Fortune to answer my prayers in the coolest of ways.  You see, early on in our marriage, Alton and I were flat broke.  We were trying to start a family on one miniscule income.  During this time, we began the dangerous pattern of using credit cards to make ends meet each month.   By the time we realized the foolishness of this behavior we were already way over our heads in debt.  Several years ago, we attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and began chipping away at the mountain before us; however, we made little progress before a weak economy closed the company where Alton had worked for 20 years.  God provided another job, but we took a big pay cut and lost all of our benefits in the process.  So, the mountain of debt stood firm before us.  Every month our pile of bills reminded us that truly, the “borrower is slave to the lender”. (Proverbs 22:7) 

We prayed and prayed that God would provide a way out; that He would send us some financial relief.  But, secretly, I believed that God was allowing us to suffer the consequences of bad stewardship.  We were both working so hard, taking on extra work whenever possible on top of our full-time jobs just to be able to have enough money for the month.  But, it all felt so futile, we were not getting anywhere.  We knew that as long as we were chained to our “Master” card we were stuck in this cycle.

And then, Wheel of Fortune came to town.  As I look back, I am certain that the fact that my name was drawn from the thousands that came to Virginia to audition for WOF on that weekend in May was no mistake.   The fact that I was one of the few chosen to come back for a second audition was, no doubt, ordained by God.  And, that I made it on the show, came back from what looked like certain defeat and managed to win more than enough money to PAY OFF OUR CREDIT CARD DEBT COMPLETELY was God’s way of providing for Alton and I… a couple of his children who had started to lose hope.  Not only did he move our mountain, but he even gave me the opportunity to live out a life-long dream in the process.  My friends, THIS is the kind of God we serve.  This is our “Abba, Father”.  Thank you, Daddy!

Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

So, I’m honestly a little nervous  about watching the episode for the first time.  Especially since we’ve planned this big viewing party at W-S First.   I was so excited and just not totally connected to reality when we filmed the episode.  I really don’t remember much from the whole experience.  However, the Wheel publicity folks were nice enough to share a few stills of me from the show and this is one of them.  YIKES!  This only adds to my fear that I will be making a TOTAL GOOBER of myself on NATIONAL TELEVISION on Tuesday Night.  

Update:  10/12/11 

I can’t believe we are less than a week away from the airing of my Wheel of Fortune episode!!!  I’m excited and nervous.   Most of all, I am so ready to finally spill the beans!  It’s been really, really hard not blabbing to everyone about what happened on the show.  I’m not good at keeping secrets.  Make sure to tune in to the Wheel this Tuesday, October 18th!  And, if you live in the Triad, you are invited to join us for a Wheel of Fortune viewing party that night from 6-8 PM at Winston-Salem First (formerly First Assembly).  Here’s more info about that event:

 UPDATE!!  9/4/2011

Thursday, September 1st was the “Big Day”. I arrived at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California at around 7:30 AM. After being greeted by the sweetest security guard (who said she would pray for me after she found out I was a contestant on WOF). I proceeded to park the rental car and head to the Wheel of Fortune studios.

I was directed to the contestant waiting area where I and about 18 other contestants who were filming episodes that day spent most of the morning. We had 4 hours to fill before filming began and I thought that we would be bored. Boy, was I WRONG! We actually spent that time filling out paper work and being briefed by the contestant coordinators, producers and legal representatives. We also had our make-up done. They airbrushed us, which was pretty cool! While I was getting my makeup done, Vanna White popped in to the contestant area to say hello. She was very sweet and beautiful, even in her sweats and ball cap!  

We also spent some time practicing spinning the wheel and playing WOF. I was so surprised at how small the Wheel is (I’m estimating it’s about 6′-7′ in diameter)! I jokingly asked where the real Wheel was, because the one in the studio was obviously a replica. The whole studio is so much smaller than what it looks like on TV.  

The other thing we had to do that morning was draw to see which episode we would be on. There were six episodes being filmed that day. I was praying that I would be somewhere in the middle. I didn’t want to go first, but I also didn’t want to be last, because that would mean that my mom, my aunt and I would be there all day long. Thankfully, I drew the number 2! That was perfect! My episode will air on October 18th.

We also had to film our “Hometown Howdies”, short videos for our local affiliates to air promoting our appearances on the Wheel. I wonder if WFMY will air mine? They also took publicity photos to use with the press releases they would send to our local newspapers.

Before long our friends and family members who would be in the studio audience began arriving. We were warned not to look at, talk to or attempt to make any contact at all with our friends in the audience to avoid any potential cheating. It was really tough not to say hello! And, my mom had a really hard time being quiet during the filming of my episode!

Finally, around noon, filming began. And…this is where my blog has to end. Contestants are asked not to publicly reveal the outcome of or details about our episodes until they have aired. All I can say is that you need to tune into WFMY (or whichever station plays Wheel of Fortune in your area) on Tuesday, October 18, to see how I do. I promise, it will be an exciting 30 minutes of television!

—Original Post–
My Wheel of Fortune Adventure

I’ve been a “Wheel Watcher” for most of my life.  I remember tuning in each afternoon when I was a kid, back when people on the show got to choose “fabulous gifts and prizes” from the showcase after each round. The audience “ooohhhed and aaahhhhed” at all of the treasure up for grabs. I used to imagine which items I would buy with the money.  As I got a little older, I realized that not only did I really like to watch the show, I was also pretty good at solving the puzzles.  Most of the time, I was able to solve them before the people on the show could.  

Needless to say, I’ve always dreamed of being a contestant on the “Wheel”.  Over the years, I’ve filled out several online applications to be on the show.  I also signed up to be notified if there would be any “Wheelmobile” events in my area, hoping that I might be able to audition at one of those.  Years went by and I never heard anything.  

However, this spring I received an email saying that the Wheelmobile would be rolling into Roanoke and Danville, Virginia one weekend in May.  I was a bit conflicted about whether or not I would go.  The Roanoke event was on a Saturday and was the only one I could do.  Roanoke is a two hour drive from my home.  When I read about the Wheelmobile events online, I learned that only a handful of the thousands that come out actually have a chance to audition.  I was worried that I would waste a whole Saturday and not even have a chance to try out.  But, I reasoned that if I didn’t go, I was missing out on my only chance to fulfill my dream of being on the show and I would always regret it.   So, on Saturday, May 21st I made the trip to Roanoke.

There were 3 rounds of auditions or “shows” being held that day.  When I got to the civic center, the first round was already underway.  So, I started the line for the second show.  I’m estimating that 750-1000 people lined up for the second audition.  We all filled out a short application and placed it in a bin on our way into the auditorium.  All of those slips of paper were then placed in a hopper and would be selected at random to determine who got to go on stage and audition.

The event itself was really quite fun.  They had a big stage and a replica of the Wheel of Fortune puzzle board.  There was a stand in Pat and Vanna.  They spun the huge hopper of names and drew out 5 names at a time, those would be the lucky few people who got to play the game and audition for the show.   Thankfully, my name was drawn in the third round of play!  I was shocked and so excited!  

My First Audition in Roanoke

After chatting with Marty, the host of the show, I and four other contestants played a Wheel of Fortune  lightening round.  The theme was “Show Biz”.  After just a couple of letters had been revealed, it was my turn to play and I already knew the answer!  I asked if there was a “G”.  There were two.  Then I solved the puzzle…”OPENING NIGHT”!!!
I returned to my seat and watched the final three rounds of play.  Then, the audition was over.  We were told that if we were one of the contestants who got on stage we would be considered for a second audition in Roanoke that would happen in about a month.   If we were chosen we would receive an email within a couple of weeks.  As I drove home that day, I was so excited about the fact that I actually got a chance to audition and then was able to be the one who solved the puzzle.  I realized that if the other two rounds were like the one I attended, then close to 3,000 people came out that day, and only 90 were chosen to go on stage and audition.  I thanked God for allowing me to be one of them.The next two weeks were absolute torture!  With each day that passed without getting that audition notice my hopes of being on the show dwindled. Then, about 3 weeks after the Roanoke event, the email FINALLY came!  I had been selected for the second audition!  On Thursday, June 23rd, I made my second trip to Roanoke.  This time, the auditions were held in a hotel conference room and there were only about 50 people there to audition.  During the first phase of the audition we played multiple WOF lightning rounds.  The producers just randomly called out names from the list, we jumped up and called out a letter.  If it was in the puzzle we could move on, if not, it was someone else’s turn.  Here’s the cool thing.  Mine was the VERY FIRST NAME called that day!   I called out a few letters, they were all there and then I solved the puzzle “A LITTER OF SIAMESE KITTENS”!!   The guy who was running the game said, “OK everyone, Tami just set the standard for everyone else!”  No one, myself included, could believe that I solved it so quickly. After about an hour of lightening round play, we all had to take a written test.  There were about 15 partially solved puzzles and we had to solve as many of them as possible in just five minutes!  I think I solved 11 or 12 of them.  When time was up, the show producers graded all of the tests.  After a short break, the producers came back and said that based on the test scores and our performance in the lightening rounds, some of the group would stay and the rest would leave.  They then read the names of the people who could stay.  That was excruciating!  Thankfully, my name was on the list.  But, it was really sad watching all those people leave!  The 20 or so people that remained were then divided into groups of five and we played WOF as if we were actually on the show.  We even had to pretend to spin the wheel!  I think I solved one or two of the three rounds we played in our “episode”.   After everyone had a chance to play, we were told that if we were going to be chosen as a contestant on the show we would receive a letter within two weeks.

Another two weeks of torture went by, the anticipation was too much!  During that time, I took a mission trip to Guatemala.  My mom and daughter promised to check the mail every day and said they would send me an email if the letter came.  So, every evening when I had the chance I would check my messages to see if the letter had come.  The end of my trip to Guatemala also marked the end of the two-week period when the letter was supposed to come.  So, I flew back home thinking I was not chosen as a contestant.  

My family picked me up at the airport that night and we drove home talking about the trip and what happened while I was gone.  While we were in the driveway and I was getting my suitcases from the car, my son Andrew ran into the house and came back out with something in his hand.  He said, “Oh, by the way Mom, this came in the mail for you today.”  As soon as I saw the Wheel of Fortune logo on the envelope I knew what it was.  I dropped my suitcases and grabbed the letter.  I started jumping up and down and squealing as I read these words, “Congratulations!  You have been selected as a contestant for Wheel of Fortune.”

The letter also said that I would be contacted at some point within the next 18 months with a date to film and I would have two weeks, or less, advance notice!  So, once again, the waiting began.  If the Lord is trying to teach me patience, this has been an excellent way to do it!  

Fortunately, I did not have to wait too long.  On Wednesday, August 17, six weeks after I got the letter and 3 months after the Wheelmobile event, my phone rang and “Sony Pictures Studios” was the name on my caller ID.  I was on the phone with my friend Robyn at the time and I cut her off mid-sentence (sorry, Robyn!).  I said, “Robyn, I HAVE to take this call…gotta go!”.  On the other line was Jackie, a Wheel of Fortune contestant coordinator.  She said they wanted to schedule my filming date and asked if I could come out to L.A. on September 1st.  That was just two weeks away!  My head was spinning and my hands were shaking.  I quickly looked at my calendar and didn’t see any conflicts so I said, “Sure! Sign me up!”  Jackie then gave me all kinds of info, and reassured me that she would be sending me an email and a Fed-ex packet with everything I needed to know.  That’s good, because I don’t remember much of what she said!As soon as the call was over, my family and I talked about my upcoming trip.  I realized after I accepted the date that by going on September 1st, I would be missing one of my son’s football games and our family’s annual camping trip (thankfully, my husband will still take the kids on the trip).  But, the kids seemed to understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they also realize that, if things go well, this could greatly benefit our family financially.   Then, I booked my flight (thankfully, I had enough frequent flier miles to cover it) and my hotel room.  My mom is coming with me, so my next step was to get her booked on the same flight.  This is going to be an expensive adventure!  Even with the frequent flier miles, by the time I pay for the hotel room, food and other expenses, I’m looking at spending close to $1,000 to make this trip.  Fortunately, everyone who appears on the Wheel wins at least $1,000, so even if I don’t win anything else I will hopefully at least break even.,I won’t allow my mind to visit the possibility that I could win a lot of money very often.  I just don’t want to get my hopes up and then be disappointed if I don’t.  However, I have thought a little about what I would do if I won $30,000, which seems to be about the average amount that the highest winner on the show gets each night.  First of all, the government would take about 40% of that right off the top.  So, my take home would be more like $18,000.  That would be enough to pay off most of our outstanding debt and contribute to a couple of causes that are near and dear to me.  That would be just amazing and an answer to some things I have been praying over for many years.I also realize that there are some amazing WOF players, people who are way better than me, who get on the show, but because of bad “luck” on the wheel, go home with almost nothing. So, there is still quite a bit of it that is completely out of my control.    It’s a lot like life, really.  All I can do is be present, do my best and leave the rest up to God!  Jesus, take the Wheel!

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11 thoughts on “Jesus Take the Wheel!

  1. Lisa

    All of this is very exciting! Can't wait to hear all about your big adventure, and hopefully about your big win! I love your final line…Jesus, take the wheel!! Good luck, Tami!

  2. Cindy

    This is so incredibly exciting! I keep telling Weldon, I've never known anyone as famous as Tami-at-the-radio-station" (aka Tami with an i). YAY!!!!

  3. Anonymous

    Wonderful read, and you deserve the chance to show the WOF watchers who you are! Best to you!

  4. Jim Shields

    Tammy, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am soooo happy for you and that you are fulfilling a dream. How great our God is!!!!! I will be praying that your trip will be a safe one and that you have an opportunity to share the love of Christ while competeing….God Bless, Jim Shields

  5. Tami

    Thanks guys for all of the love and support! It means so much! By the way, my episode will most likely air during the 3rd week of October; however, I won't know for sure until the day we film. I will definitely let everyone know just as soon as I do.

  6. Stephenandkatesmom

    You go girl! Good luck today and my God bless you on your adventure! One thing I would like to add….please don’t be like the contestants of late who spend all their earnings on vowels. You are way too smart to use your monies on letters that will help the other contestants!

  7. lexingtonmom

    I recently heard you give the actual date your show will air. When is it again? I want to watch!

  8. Tammy Shepherd Walls

    OH MY STARS, GIRL. You nearly gave me a heart attack!! I was yelling “Bale of hay!!!” at the top of my lungs, lol! Congratulations and God bless…. from Tammy with a Y at 106.9 the Light; Asheville, NC.

  9. Judy Faust

    Saw the show and you were great! Congratulations! Congratulations! When are you going to Hawaii???

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