In order to fully process this, I feel the need to write out the complete story. It's an amazing journey that couldn't have happened if there weren't some larger force at work. I believe that to be a person, in Jesus Christ, but please, read on and understand that even if you don't believe, this can't be coincidence.
In 2002, I started working for Cramer Painting. I was working there while going to school full time, and it was a pretty cool gig because I didn't have to do nights and weekends and the other stereotypical college student job.
In 2005, a young woman named Beth started working at Cramer. She was engaged, and she got married the same month that Aaron and I got engaged. At some point, I can't remember exactly when, she decided to run the LA Marathon with some girlfriends of hers to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society in the name of her friend's daughter, Laiken Kenwood. At the time, I think she was in remission, but still not 100% healthy. Sometimes Beth would forward emails from Stacey (Laiken's mom) asking for prayer. There was a point where something clicked on in me that I needed to pray for this girl specifically. And there are so many situations like this that as people, we just have to say no to or else we'll run ourselves into the ground trying to pray for every sick person and every need. But with Laiken, I actually felt called to pray for her. So I did.
Shortly before Beth ran the marathon, Laiken was admitted into the hospital and she was there for a couple weeks. I prayed, and was really dying to go to the hospital and pray for her, but that would have been pretty awkward considering I didn't know her or Stacey at all.
So Beth ran the marathon, Laiken went home from the hospital, life went on.
Until one night when I was on my way to my very last class at Cal Poly Pomona. Where I had actually managed to start building a friendship with my lovely friend Liz. I actually called or texted her to ask if she was coming to class that night because I knew she had been sick, and as it turned out, she actually had walking pneumonia. I was halfway to Cal Poly from Montclair, and class started in 20 minutes, but I decided a detour was in order. I went to Target to pick up some get-well supplies, the usual: soup, a movie, some decongestant. I couldn't quite settle on the perfect vessel for my little care package. I tried various bowls and bucket-type devices, none of which seemed suited for the fabulous friend. I wandered three times around Target. It was not my "usual" Target and I was getting very frustrated because I actually enjoyed this class. And I wanted our classmates to sign the get well card!
Then, right in front of my face, was the basket. I picked it up and actually wondered how I had passed it up. I even remembered looking at the exact aisle and everything else on it, but somehow I was blinded to this basket.
Satisfied with my find, I hurried to the register so I could pay and get to Cal Poly to park and book it to my class. At the point that I was actually paying for my purchase, it was 5:59pm. Class started at 6:00pm. "Thank God for a cool professor who would certainly find my cause worthy," was pretty much the only thought going through my head.
Until I looked at the register next to mine. Where there stood two ladies, one, on her cell phone, typical Mom looking flushed and ready to get home. Standing not too far away, a beautiful young girl with bloodshot eyes, a bandana, and a medical mask.
My stomach went into knots. It seemed like hours until this woman finally got off of her phone call and finished her transaction.
"Excuse me, but, is her name Laiken?" I gestured to the frail-looking girl.
Stacey's eyes went all quizzical on me, and she said, "yes..."
At that point, it was all I could do to hold back Niagra falls - here standing in front of me is a girl who I have prayed more fervently for than anyone else in my whole life and God has given me a divine appointment to meet her face to face. I explained to Stacey that I was supposed to be in class at that very moment, but that God had been putting her and Laiken both on my heart and he arranged a quick meeting to remind her that they are loved. Stacey welled-up a little bit and just hugged me tight and said thank you.
Upon delivery of the get well basket, it was revealed that Liz loves baskets more than just about anything else under the sun, so God was an expert in holding me hostage in Target for more reasons than one.
That story in and of itself would be something to be thankful for, an awesome time of God revealing that His plans are much more important and rewarding than our plans.
But it gets better.
I wanted the gift of healing so badly I could taste it. I wanted it so that, if I only ever laid hands on Laiken and prayed for her, she would be healed. I sought it. I went to a church that was a little more liberal with spiritual gifts and asked some friends of mine to pray for me. I shared with them that there was this girl and I wanted her to be healed and I just wanted to pray for her. They prayed for me, and I felt that something had happened.
I went to the Christian bookstore and bought myself some oil so that I could do just what the Bible says and anoint her with oil and ask for healing.
Then she went back into the hospital. And things went from bad to worse. By this point, I had gotten onto Stacey's mass email list, so I was aware of what was going on. I emailed her, asking if I could come pray for Laiken. But she didn't respond fast enough (as in, she didn't respond in 20 minutes). I was chomping at the bit to go pray for this girl, and she was just right there at Loma Linda hospital. I got her last name from Beth, and then I called the hospital on my way home from work.
I blurted out as much as I could trying not to sound like a crazy person, and made sure she remembered that fateful night at Target. She did. I asked if I could come pray for Laiken, letting her know that I didn't expect to come into the ICU, but she said that I could, that she would love for me to pray for her.
So I did. I went to the hospital several times over the next few weeks, sometimes praying over her, sometimes just sitting and quietly singing worship songs over her, and always trying to encourage Stacey and her then boyfriend, Jim.
Miraculously, Laiken got better. The last time I went to see her, I took a friend with me, and we sat and played Uno with her. It was seriously one of the best nights of my life. Laiken was conscious, with no tubes attached, happy, and more importantly, almost healthy. She continued to improve, and went home eventually. Her hair grew back, Jim and Stacey got married, if I'm not mistaken, I believe Jim got to believe in God more than he had before.
To be continued...