I have finally mustered up the strength to sit down and read your book. It’s been a little less than an hour and I’m already on page 55 with eager tears rolling down my face. I took a moment after French Braids to really remember my time with you here in this life. When your friend described how you adopted her at camp in that excerpt, it brought me back to when you did the same for me.
I first met you when I was 15 or 16. I can’t remember. But you came and sat down by yourself at my lunch table and talked to my friends and I. Honestly Jenna, I thought you must’ve been crazy at first. To sit down with a wolf pack of teenage girls and remain so open and energetic. I would soon find out that it was just His light shining through you. I met you and your light again in the parking lot of Tates Creek High School. You were standing there after school greeting students with warm smiles and light-hearted conversation. I’ll always admire you in those moments. So vulnerable, yet so unafraid. So driven by your faith.
The night I actually began to gain an understanding of who you were and what your mission might be was after my very first Young Life meeting. I can’t ever remember feeling that type of pure joy at that age like I did that night. I was hooked. I became an avid Young Life member and looked forward to attending meetings every week. It was through these events that I got to know you and was able to see that you were one of the Lord’s most faithful servants. Just helping to spread His love in sometimes forsaken places.
As the school year continued, my faith began to grow right along with our friendship. I was one of ‘Jenna’s girls’ and wore the title proudly. You would pick me up in your blue car and take me to meetings each week. We would laugh talking about the time you stole the grass from your favorite boy bands mothers' yard and put it in a plastic bag to keep forever. You would tell me “I’ll teach you how to drive stick shift one day”. You loved your stick shift gears! For a young girl constantly battling a sea of emotions, boy drama, and gossip girls, these little moments helped me see that there was actual joy to be had and substantial life beyond high school. Mostly, it were these little moments that supplied me with the strength to get through the next week. What a blessing that was to have.
That following summer it was finally time for us to head off to my first ever Young Life camp. I was of course in your cabin and looking forward to having ‘the best week of my life!’. And yes- it was exactly that and more.
One day at camp we were asked to have one-on-one time with our leaders and pray about something on our hearts. We snuck away to the main dinner cabin and sat facing each other on the front porch. At the time, my father had been struggling with alcoholism and I decided I wanted to pray about it. I remember this moment so vividly. I suppose because it was an extreme turning point in my faith. You held your hands on my shoulders and we put our heads down and we prayed and cried together. We asked Jesus to mend my heart and to be with my father in his battle. It was in this moment that I felt a true connection with the Lord. Like he was actually listening to us. I wiped the tears away from my eyes and looked up at you and felt instantly refreshed. As if the Lord had emptied out my used ink cartridge and replaced it with another. I left camp with a renewed faith and a restored love for Jesus. The most miraculous part was, I returned home to find an apologetic and healing father who had made the decision to stop drinking while I was away. I’m not sure if I ever told you that part. But I should have.
Jenna, I truly believe that without your endearing faith and caring heart- none of these valuable experiences would have been possible. You helped instill in me the most important part of our being, a part I had been missing for quite sometime. A relationship with God. I could never thank you enough for the impression you made in my life, and sometimes I get sad that I never really got to tell you that.
So. Thank you for supplying me with a solid and faithful foundation in God. Thank you for listening to me when I was lost and felt like nothing could ever be okay again. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for caring about me when I felt like others didn’t. Thank you for still loving me even after I went off to college and we lost touch. Thank you for being so wonderful and positive. Thank you for helping to mend the brokenness and fear inside of me. Thank you for being my example.
I also thank Jesus a lot for placing you in my life. I know you all are up there singing and dancing together. Being totally awesome. I think about you often and no matter how much time passes I will always carry your memory, your grace, and your unconditional love for Jesus in my heart.
Thank you for adopting me Jenna.
Rest easy in His Glory, sweet friend.
With All My Love,
– Mikayla C.