Archive of ‘god’ category

My letter of resignation from the church

Editor’s note: On Sunday, June 30 I announced that I will be resigning from my role as youth leader at Crossroads of Faith UMC as a result of my health issues. I will be moving in with my mom and sister who live near Rockford. Below is the letter I read to the congregation. 

I never felt like I chose to be a youth leader here. From the second I interviewed for the position, I knew I was called to serve in the role.

I interviewed in front of what seemed like 45 people on the staff parish committee in the farmhouse, which was about 94 degrees that day because it lacked air conditioning. It was all pretty much a blur except that I remember looking down to the end of the table, past all the members of the committee, and seeing the most reassuring smile I had ever seen in my life. It was Pastor Wes. And his eyes let me know that everything would be all right.

That night, after I left here, I barely slept. I had never felt such a strong call from the holy spirit in my life and I knew in my heart that I would get the job, even before Wes called to offer it to me the next day.

And so, when I got here, I stayed.

I stayed even when I saw a mouse. I stayed even though the church met in a tent and the youth group met in a barn. And I stayed even though the work was sometimes grueling and exhausting and difficult.

And I loved every single second of it.

I loved it when somehow, by a miracle of God, 12 kids went on the very first mission trip to Oklahoma. I loved it when 18 went the next year to Denver. I loved it when they all got back and ran up on the church stage and shared their excitement with the rest of the congregation.

I loved it when the youth pulled me aside and trusted me enough to share their deepest secrets and heaviest burdens. I loved it when they would text me after night group and tell me that the lesson was exactly what they needed to learn that night. And I really, really loved it when we’d all sing together, with our arms crossed over each other’s shoulders, standing as if to say, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

As many of you know I have been pretty sick since February. Feb. 3 to be exact. I remember because it was the Super Bowl. And I woke up that day with some pain on my right side. Then, the next day I went to the emergency room. Since then I’ve seen four different specialists, I’ve gone to an average of two doctors appointments a week and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m now taking 19 pills a day.

My current diagnosis is intercostal neuralgia, which I assume is latin for my it feels like there’s a butcher knife in my right ribs — all the time. Unfortunately, all the doctors at all the hospitals I’ve sought treatment at have yet to figure what is causing this horrible pain.

I cannot tell you that either.

What I can tell is what it has done to my life.

In five short months, it has chipped away at every single aspect of it. It has literally made it difficult for me to do my own dishes, or wash my own clothes. Some days, the pain is so horrible that I literally do not get out of bed at all.

I feel like I went from 100 miles an hour to 3 miles an hour in one second and the shift has been incredibly jarring.

Sadly, this pain has also taken away my ability to lead the youth at this church. It started with small things. At first, I was skipping first service or missing leadership meetings. But now, I’m at a point where I can barely get through the morning group and I will no longer be able to do the evening group.

And so, it with more sadness than I can possibly express, that I am announcing my resignation from the role of youth leader at this church.

Things have lined up for me to go live with my mom and sister in Rockford and I will be moving out of my apartment in August. My last Sunday with the church will be August 11.

I am still planning to go on the mission trip to Alabama. We will be taking an extra adult, so that I will be able to rest during the day and then simply be with the youth in the evening. I know that it will be hard for me to go on that trip, but I want to go and I refuse to let this pain take that away from me.

I  truly hope everyone knows that I did not make this decision lightly and that I did not go down without a fight. But I have realized that I am truly too sick to continue in my role and that I need to take some time to be with family now and hopefully work on getting better.

Personally, I would appreciate your prayers for healing. But more than that, I would appreciate it if you could please, please pray for the youth during this transition time. Change isn’t easy, no matter how old you are, and I know that the next few months will be difficult for them. I love the kids here more than I thought was possible and I am truly sorry I have to leave.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to allow me to serve here for the last three years.

Love and prayers,

Crystal

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Trying to find my way through the darkness

It still feels like there’s a butcher knife in my right side.

I know, I know. I talk about it all the damn time.

But when you feel like you have a stab wound every second of every minute of every hour, you tend to bring it up in conversation.

You also tend to use words like “damn” more often. Actually, I’ve found myself swearing with abandon these days. It’s a habit I picked up during my time in newsrooms, and then was sort of forced to drop when I started leading young souls on Sunday mornings. However, when you’re at a level nine pain most of every day, swear words just seem more appropriate. At least for me.

You can tell yourself you’d choose more poetic words in my situation, and maybe you would, but I seriously doubt it.

I’m keeping it relatively clean on here because I think there’s some clause against swearing in my advertising contract. I’m hoping damn doesn’t count. On the scale of swear words, it’s pretty low on the totem pole.

I know there are a lot of people who believe that swear words are just a cop out. That true writers don’t need to depend on them. But I’ve never been against them, personally. Rather, it’s my opinion, as a writer, that it’s best not to limit your tool box. After all, swears are a string of letters just like any other words.

And my life has been in a state of swear words lately.

If there was ever a time to drop the F bomb, it’s when you’re trying to explain to someone how you woke up one sunny day in early February with a little bit of pain on your right side, and then the next day you were in the emergency room and since then everything you ever thought you believed about the world and your life and God has been tested.

Sometimes, only Hell will do, when you’re trying to tell someone the state you find yourself in most nights as you lie there on your back, praying you’ll just get it over with and die already, because there is no reason that anyone, anywhere should have to live in this kind of pain on a daily basis.

And sometimes, the only phrase that I, personally, can think to drop when I’m so angry at my maker that I want to slit my wrists, rhymes with Son of Witch.

Don’t worry. My pastor tells me God has big shoulders. He can handle it if I’m mad at Him.

I’m still on an insane amount of pills. I’m still in so much pain some days that I can barely will myself to get off the couch to go to the bathroom. And I still don’t know what the Hell is causing this.

I am seeing a pain psychiatrist though. She’s helping me with my depressive state. Personally, I like it best when she just lets me vent without getting annoyed that I’m talking about the fact that I hurt like Hell. Again. And crying like a water fountain the entire time.

But I’m also working on some other stuff with her. Like last week, she asked me to start keeping a gratitude journal. I’m supposed to write down three things a day that I’m thankful for. They can be anything. Like, I could write that I’m thankful for sunshine, cable TV and Taco Bell. Any three things at all in the world. I just have to write them down.

It doesn’t seem like it should be a hard assignment, but for someone who’s drifting deeper and deeper in the depths of the darkness, it can excruciating. In fact, I resisted this assignment so much that I put it off for three days with the lame excuse that I wanted to wait until I could go out and buy a new journal and start this thankful list thing right.

Before the pain started, I used to pray to God every night, and part of my pattern was to tell Him things I was thankful for from that day. But as things have just gotten worse and worse and I have felt only silence from Him, more and more nights have gone between prayers, and I’ve been thankful for less and less.

Finally though, last Saturday, I was at Walmart, and there was beautiful little journal with lovely pink flowers on a pale green background and I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer.

And so, I started the stupid list.

Five days in, well, I kind of like it. I kind of think it’s helping. It’s kind of become something I look forward to each day. When I write something down on it, like, “Conversation with my brother Steve,” or “Hanging out with my boyfriend Eric,” it somehow helps me appreciate it that much more the next day.

And when I have things, even small things like “air conditioning” or “sleeping late”, to appreciate, well then, I can start to see a little bit of the light again. It’s kind of bright, but it’s pretty glorious.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:5

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God and pain and stuff.

I’m pretty sure that eventually one of three things will happen:

1. I will be cured and life will go back to “normal” and everyone will be happy and rainbows will appear magically and then puppies will fall from the sky and as we all walk past chocolate rivers.

2.  I will wake up one day and really grasp that this stabbing pain in my right ribs is part of my life now. That it is has become a part of my soul and has been stitched into my story and that I need to learn to live with it, and I will change accordingly.

3. I will kill myself and finally be pain free for an entire day.

More and more it’s looking like number two is going to going to win out here. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I still consider three more often than you’d probably feel comfortable hearing me confess.

As for number one. Well. I guess it could happen. The same way winning the lottery could happen. Or me marrying Prince Harry could happen. But it’s not looking so great.

Ya, ya, ya, God and stuff. He can do anything. I have to tell you though, he hasn’t exactly be waving the magical miracle wand for me lately these days.

I mean sure, if you’re on the outside looking in, all healthy and whatnot, and you might be all like, “Well at least you finally have some pills that help you get through the day.” Or, “At least you have a great job that’s been super flexible and willing to work with you through all this.” Or even, “Thank God you have health insurance.”

And don’t worry, I am glad that I have those things. But I’d also love it if I could, you know, walk through a Walmart without it killing the rest of my day because I’m in too much pain to do anything else. Or, you know, if I was say, “blessed” enough to be able to go into the office everyday. Heck, wouldn’t it be cool if I could just get out of bed in the morning feeling refreshed, instead of having to reach over and grab six pills and then lie there and wait an hour before I felt decent enough to get in the shower? That’d be pretty sweet.

So ya, I’m not in the greatest thankful place right now.

I’m  not even in the greatest God place right now.

I don’t understand this. I don’t understand why this is happening to me, and my faith is being tested.

I can see it sort of starting to disappear like Michael J. Fox’s family in those old photos from Back to the Future I. Parts of it are still clear, but there are other areas that are really hazy.

I’ve been praying to Him so much, but all I seem to get is dead silence on the other side.

Just. Nothingness.

I’ll be laying there in bed at 3 a.m., in agonizing pain, wishing I were dead. And I cry out to Him with everything I have inside of me. I cry out to Him to give me peace. I cry out to Him to send me help. I cry out to Him just to see if I’m all alone.

And. Nothing.

Nothing happens. The pain just gets worse. Peace never fills my heart. And all I hear is silence.

I pray for procedures to work. And they don’t. I pray for people to have some sort of understanding of what I’m going through. And they don’t. I pray for the doctors to have some wisdom. And they don’t.

I pray and I pray and I pray.

And I cannot see God in this.

What really makes me upset these days is when something, anything good happens and people are like, “Oh, that was God!”

Really? Then, where is God in this? Where is the “Oh, that was God!” in my pain? Why hasn’t He fixed me? Why am I having to endure this horrible stabbing pain? And really, why does any human being have to endure long-term pain?

I am starting to see that the number two scenario I mentioned above is the most likely outcome for me. That this is going to be my life for at least a little while. But I have no idea how to reconcile God with that situation.

Maybe He will use this for good. Maybe I need to go through this to understand something else later. Or maybe something amazing will come from this.

I cannot see any of that right now though. And from this angle, it all looks really dark.

I thought my faith was strong, but it is so much weaker than I even knew.

“I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
— Job 3:26

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