John was home from school that day, so Joe finished the joke for him. "The cheetah crossed the finish line first, but the lion hollered, 'You're a cheata!' to which the lion replied, 'You're a-lyin'!' "
I was still giggling when Joe told me where he heard the joke. But my giggles were quickly replaced by a teary feeling and a little catch in my throat, when he said that this was one of the jokes our young friend, Hannah, was telling the emergency room staff when she was being evaluated the other night. And that sums up Hannah. When her world is crashing down around her, she is thinking about others, and inserting a little joy in their lives. Apparently, when another young girl came in after having been injured in a car accident, Hannah entertained her in like manner.
Hannah is a twelve year old friend who is not exactly a member of any of our churches, but it feels like she is. Her mom, Allie, grew up in the Nazareth congregation, and because of all the close family ties in our area, even though Allie and her immediate family are members of a church in Thief River Falls, we see them often, and we have become as close to this family as to other families in our churches.
In many ways, Hannah is a typical middle-class American kid. She likes Hollister clothes, plays cello in the local school orchestra (I think that's the correct big stringed thing), and has played hockey every winter since she was little. But Hannah had been blessed with one of the biggest hearts I've seen in a person her age.
One example of her selflessness is her work at The Valley Home in Thief River Falls. She volunteers at this nursing home almost daily during the summer; and spends some evenings and Saturdays there during the school year. Her sparkling personality and kind demeanor are a joy and comfort to the residents there. A few years ago, when she was probably only nine or ten, she orchestrated a fund drive to get a Wii system for the residents at Valley Home.
But Hannah is going through a traumatic time right now. She has been experiencing seizures of unexplained origins for the last three weeks or so. These seizures have been increasing in frequency and intensity. Monday afternoon the seizures became severe enough that Hannah was once again taken to the hospital in TRF, and then later rushed again to Fargo for care.
By the time Joe got the second call Monday, near midnight, the medical practitioners were not sure they'd be able to stabilize Hannah to get her through the night. Her seizures at that point, according to the scans they were running, were coming almost constantly, with several layers of seizure on top of each other.
We praise God that He allowed the doctors to get Hannah through that night. She was flown to the Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester on Tuesday. It sounds as though she is gradually improving with the care she is getting. But it is a scary time for her and her family, as they wait for God's timing in allowing the doctors to figure out the mystery of the source of and solution to her seizures.
Hannah's immediate situation is not the first bump in the road along which God has asked Hannah and her family to walk in recent years. Only a few years ago, Hannah lost her Uncle Ryan, still a young man, in a tragic car accident.
And just a little over a year ago, Hannah's mom, Allie, had a stroke at the young age of 34. Allie has been so valiant at all levels of her recovery. It's been a time of physical, emotional, and spiritual challenge and healing. God surely has worked in Allie's life through that hardship; she has documented her journey on her blog, A Stroke of Hope. Allie still struggles some days with confusion, fatigue, and a residual lack of motor control.
Yet somehow, God in His wisdom is asking this family to go through still more. They must once again wait on His timing, and trust His will.
To all of you, Hannah, Allie, Aaron, Nolan; Cheryl and Rodney, Aric and Lucas; Joni and Ricky, Kelly and Emily and Matthew; and all of yours; we love you all and pray God's comfort and peace as you walk this path.
There are so many good and applicable Bible passages I could insert, but I'm going to include here my favorite, from way back when I was in high school and we sang a choral rendition of these verses in choir. During my high school and young adult years, the following words seemed to speak to the emotional earthquakes and roarings with which adolescence is fraught.
Hannah, you, and all of your family, are going through a very tangible and horrific kind of earthquake and roaring. But I think the words very picturesquely capture what you must be going through. Remember that God is your refuge and strength, even amidst such mind- and heart-shattering times. Even when the metaphorical waters roar and mountains shake, He is with you, carrying you through it all.
Psalm 46:1-3God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
Readers can check on Hannah at her Caring Bridge sight.