I have a soft spot for teenagers. I always have—even before I was one, I found them captivating. The young person with a carefree attitude and the easy laugh, that so often masquerades a tender heart overburdened with a truckload of pain, can draw me into their world to the point that I can even lose sight of my own age. I was so drawn to teenagers, as their own species, that it was partly what drew me to my husband when we first met. He was in Bible College, preparing to become a Youth Pastor, and when we would spend time together it was often in the setting of serving within our church's Youth Department. Marrying him would mean that teenagers, and all that accompanied them, would be a large part of our lives. It meant that serving the Lord would not only encompass the stress that comes with being a Pastor's wife, but also the release of first time decisions, baptisms, summer camp and slumber parties. And so it was. For most of our marriage we were involved with teenagers and college age people.The number of times we have had our home decorated in toilet paper is unknown, as is the number of giggles I've heard as I accompanied a group of teens to do the deed to someone else.
So, basically, it is safe to say, between the teenagers who have been a part of our ministries and the teenagers who have lived under our roof—the adolescent years have been a constant in my life since I was…well, a teenager.
Recently, a group of women at the church I attend, had a prayer gathering to pray for a teenage girl in our church. Her name is Adrianna and she is incredibly sick. She is an innocent beauty who is shriveling before our eyes. She has systemic sceleroderma and her prognosis is not good if she doesn’t get the cord-blood-stem-cell transplant treatment she needs soon. Her condition has been growing worse so rapidly that it is hard not to be fearful for her and for her family. She has had a feeding tube since October, which makes me wonder--how many times have I enjoyed Chipotle, or a cup of coffee, since October? My food intake becomes about so much more than nourishment, and I take even the simple act of eating for granted. She is currently in Washington state at Seattle Children’s Hospital waiting to undergo what may be her last hope for a cure. She will be the first minor to undergo this type of treatment. If this works, she will, hopefully, begin to get well. If this doesn’t work, she will most likely die.
She is 14 years old. She is old enough to understand how sick she is and old enough to know that this is not fair. And even knowing that this is not fair--she loves Jesus. She loves her church and her Pastor. She looks to her parents for answers and asks her Mother questions that her Mother struggles to answer. She loves her two little sisters, dancing, and McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. She has fluffy pink slippers and before she got sick she had waist length chocolate brown hair.
When the women at the church met to pray for her, I felt humbled to be a part of the gathering. I only just recently met Adrianna's Mother, Scarlett, through another woman in the church that I also just recently met.. I don’t know Adrianna well enough that they should consider me worthy of her time, and yet, I was allowed to sit with her and pray for her. This teenager who is so obviously surrounded by angels was sitting near me, letting me hold her hand.
And, about her hand. It was so thin and frail. Holding it, I had to remind myself to be gentle.
The day we prayed was a Wednesday and we met just before the lunch hour. As I was sitting on the floor looking up at her big brown eyes, I was overtaken by a very strong thought:
“This is not where she wants to be”
I don't mean that she did not want to be prayed for, because she did. She wanted very much for the power of the Holy Spirit to wash over her and ease her fears. But, given a choice, this isn't where she would choose to be. The more I thought about it, the more it weighed on me, like a brick. As I said, I don't know her well, but I do know teenage girls, and I know that, most likely, her desires are not to be at the church in the middle of the week with a group of grown women. She would probably choose to be at school; to be watching the clock and waiting for the bell to ring, so that she could meet her friends in their predetermined lunch time spot. She shouldn’t be worrying about needle pricks and bone marrow. She should be less encumbered--spending her time text messaging her BFF and giggling when "that boy" from Algebra looks her way. I left the building feeling slightly irritated that things were not the way I want them to be.
I continued through my day, which included going to my 16-year-old son’s swim meet, where I would volunteer to help time the races. Upon arriving at the pool, I stood at the end of a swim lane, with a stopwatch in my hand, and I prepared to do my best to help with the races. As the first whistle blew and I clicked my stopwatch, I looked at the body of the young girl diving into the water. Her skin was brown, like Adrianna’s, but her muscles were strong. I turned and looked at the girls on the relay team that would be climbing on the block to dive in soon. They were obviously Freshmen. The swimmers were all about 14 or 15 years old. As I watched them gathering their long chocolate brown hair into ponytail holders, I became a little overwhelmed with emotion. I hid my burden behind my sunglasses, my shield for privacy, and continued to time the swimmers. The girls each took their turns and at the end of the race, as the final racer reached her hands toward the wall—I starred at her hands. They were so plump and perfect, strong enough to pull her out of the pool—not fragile and weak.
Looking at her strong hands made me angry at Adrianna's illness. Quite frankly, the swimmer's healthy hands made me angry at God. I know that He is sovereign, and I respect that His plans are always good. But, being that I am incomplete in my human state—I am not able to see it from here. My brain is not wrapping around the "why" of her illness. Even being a Mother who has lost a child, I feel inept in the words I want to use to encourage Adrianna's Mother. I know, however, that I am not the only one who doesn’t understand. I know that many people, who are stronger in their faith than I, do not understand the "why". And, for reasons that I cannot explain, knowing that they also struggle helps me for some reason. Maybe it is because when no one has answers to something this vital, it forces me to leave it in the strongest hands of all. Never weak or frail, always powerful. I leave my fears for Adrianna in the ever gentle hands of God.
I have never written a blog like this before. I have people who I love fiercely and deeply, who have struggled with intense loss and suffering, and I haven’t been able to write about them because I am not sure that I have the right to tell their story. But, I wanted to share about Adrianna because I want to appeal to those of you who don’t know her. As a blogger, this is the first time that I am going to ask you for something. I need your help. Adrianna needs your help. She is struggling with loneliness and moments of depression and she needs to be lifted up in prayer and in words. I want to give you some links so that you may follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and help how it best fits you. And, I want to ask you to be willing to do something that may feel a little uncomfortable. Nowadays, people are so afraid of awkwardness that it stops them from doing the will of God.
ENCOURAGEMENT = Adrianna is stuck in a hospital bed in Seattle. She is away from her sisters and her Daddy. Send her a message through her Facebook. Even if you are not friends with someone—you can send a message and share some good news! Send her a verse, send her a link to a worship song on youtube or send her a picture of puppies! Who doesn't love puppies!? CLICK HERE TO LINK FOR A MESSAGE TO ADRIANNA.
FINANCIAL = Adrianna’s Dad is working two jobs to support two households while he and Adrianna’s two sisters live in California and Adrianna’s Mother stays up in Seattle. They need help to pay for medical bills and so many of the other financial hardships that are rocking their world right now. They are working with an organization that helps families facing these types of catastrophic illnesses. The Non-profit organization is called Faith's Hope. CLICK HERE TO MAKE A FINANCIAL DONATION TO HELP ADRIANNA.
LOVE the MOMMA. Her Mother is writing a blog to let people follow her journey and to know how to pray. Read her blog and leaver her a comment. As a blogger, I can tell you, there are days when I wonder if anyone reads a word I've written and I consider never sharing again. Then, I will receive the most beautiful comment that serves as an encouragement that I am not alone. As a Mother who faced grief, there are days when I've felt like everyone in the world was too busy for my tears and they really wished I would tell a joke instead. CLICK HERE TO LOVE ON ADRIANNA'S MOMMA.