Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

By Shewanda Riley

Chicken spaghetti will always remind me of the late Thelma Wells affectionately known as “Mama T.” I was honored to be a graduate of her Daughters of Zion Leadership mentoring program in the early 2000’s. The year I went through the program she opened up her house and allowed us to have our sessions there. We’d have great discussions, and the sessions always included a meal prepared by her. One day she’d prepared chicken spaghetti which I’d never had. Curious about how she made the delicious meal, I asked her for the recipe.

With a twinkle in her eye and a big smile on her face, she gladly shared the ingredients and the cooking process. As she was describing how she boiled the chicken breast, I remember thinking to myself “Thelma Wells is giving me a recipe!!! I was trying not to “fan-girl” and stood there taking mental notes, but it was amazing getting to know her more personally since I’d respected her from afar for so many years.

An internationally respected author and speaker, Dallas native “Mama T” Thelma Wells died in early October of this year. She was 81 years old, and her life demonstrated how to live rooted in Christ. Being a part of the Daughters of Zion Leadership Mentoring program was a life transforming chance to learn so many good spiritual principles from her. She taught us about leading with grace as well as the importance of developing your own “brand” long before the days of social media “branding.”

In addition to that chicken spaghetti recipe, another one of my favorite memories of Mama T was when she described how the bumble bee became her symbol.  She explained that despite how the bumble bee looks, it still can get its work done.  She often said, “In Christ, You Can ‘BEE’ The Best!” I love using the bumblebee as my symbol of achievement because of how God made it — shallow wings and big body. Yet, it defies the odds and flies anyway.” She’d often remind us that we need to think of ourselves as the bumble bee. We need to trust that God would equip us to do whatever he was calling us to do, even if we didn’t understand it or think we could do it.

As we prepare to celebrate her life at a public memorial at Trinity Church in Cedar Hill on Nov. 5th, I wanted to share this inspiring quote from her.

“The road to glory is difficult with its rocks and boulders, its strain and struggle. Things aren’t always as easy as we would like. Surprises and pitfalls wait for us along the road of life. We’re going to sweat and sway; we’re going to wonder why things are the way they are. But every road has an end; every mountain has its peak. If we can just hold on and keep climbing, knowing that God is aware of how we’re straining, he will bring us up and over the mountains.”

Rest in Peace Mama T!  For more information about her memorial service, visit

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.   You can also listen to her podcast at