Two schools have blessed me with the privilege of coaching their girls’ volleyball teams, and I have Facebook to thank for reconnecting me with some of them recently. It seems God brought them back to my heart and mind “for such a time as this” in order to allow me yet another privilege: to pray for them in their current struggles.
While searching through old photos for another post, I fell upon this photo of my Greenbrier Christian Academy Gators. Another cleaning burst a few weeks later proffered a photo of my other team, the Commonwealth Christian School Eagles.
To me, these girls are still sixteen, cracking jokes and sharing clothes in the locker room, and singing songs on the bus to and from games. Their images will never age, yet life has changed them. They have indeed aged, some in their late thirties and others already in their early forties, and life has sobered and changed them just as it did me.
Several months before either photo emerged, I received notice through the GCA Alumni page that one of my girls had recently been diagnosed with cancer. My former students paraded past the feed with encouragement and promise of prayers for their precious classmate, Jan. Current students in my online classes faithfully prayed for Jan and asked for updates on her progress; I’m so thankful to report the disease has taken a turn from its aggressive path, and Jan is now in remission (to be clear, I am no medical professional, so there may be a more proper way to describe her status, but I know she is doing better).
A few weeks after I heard of Jan’s illness, my Heather, from the CCS Eagles had her second precious baby, and while in the hospital, I believe the story goes that she had routine blood work before a C-section that revealed she had Leukemia. So soon after the birth of her precious boy, she had to be torn from him and treated. Hers is also in remission, but before that declaration, friends, classmates, and team members surrounded her in prayer, expressing their commitment to lift her up before the Father. Again my online students asked for updates and faithfully prayed for Heather.
One little cutie–and I call her that because of her optimistic smile and the sparkle in her eye–could never have aged in my mind, and frankly, to see her current photos, I’m not sure she actually did. Mimi kept us all laughing and made it impossible for a coach to give her too much grief for long. While her health has remained stable, she has had perhaps an even more difficult road than having cancer herself as she had to stand by and watch her daughter suffer a brain tumor. That trauma is ongoing now as her Maddy just had surgery last week. I cannot imagine sitting in that waiting room with either of my daughters undergoing such a serious procedure.
I shared the Gator photo on FB and asked them to tag each other. As I watched their banter, I was reminded of the joy the brought me all those years ago. I coached these gals during a particularly trying time in my life. Todd was about to be sent overseas during the first Gulf War and the Provide Comfort campaign that followed. We were expecting our first child, and he had to be out to sea for short deployments in preparation, and each time he left port, we weren’t actually sure how long he’d be gone. I remember dropping him at the ship at least three times thinking he would be gone for six months only to have him call that night for me to come get him because plans had changed. Pregnancy hormones coupled with such uncertainty wreaked havoc with my psychology, but these girls constantly encouraged me. At one point, my doctor had told me the baby had not made it, a fourth miscarriage would follow…
Heaven’s prayer warriors are found in the elderly and young students. My students and players prayed for us and supported me in Todd’s absence. On a particularly rough night, my volleyball team arrived at my door to encourage and comfort me. I’ll never forget that. God spared us this tragedy, and our Cassie came screaming into this world about 2/3 of the way through the deployment he finally fulfilled.
I remember their kindness toward me, but one gal in particular blessed me in her comments below the photo when she shared how lonely she had been during that year and how that team, and even my vulnerability during this difficult time, had been exactly what she needed to feel welcomed and cared for. In the midst of all the need I had in my life, God used that very need to bless someone else.
Every girl has her own story, whether I know it or not. Some have suffered medical issues, while others have lost dear loved ones or suffered relationship losses. Those giggly teens, frozen in time for my passing years, have become women from whom I now learn. Somehow they have become my teachers and my coaches, as I watch them persevere and thrive even in the midst of their heartbreaks.
Soon enough, if it hasn’t already happened, they will see their young students, patients, clients, and children’s playmates grow into men and women of wisdom, from whom they can take life lessons, and I suspect it will amaze them as much as it has me.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.