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,
Oh Crystal. I cried for you reading this one. I am angry at all of the medical professionals and the “system” for you and I’m hopeful that something will just eventually give so you can have your life back. Regardless of anything and even though none of us really want the lesson, your story is a reminder that everything can change in a minute. Sometimes we all need that reminder. Hang in there.
Thank you both.
I’ve been a reader of yours for a long time, and I’ve never even lived in the same part of the world as you. Though I’m not sure how I found you exactly, I’m glad I did because I liked your writing, your passion and your humor. (In fact, I’ve been reading you since your vegan days, weight loss and your excitement over the 2008 elections. Quite a while, and I’m sure I’ve read every post you’ve written).
This is all to say that although I’m some random woman living in Lebanon, I actually grew to care about and admire you through your posts. I can’t express the sadness I feel that this is happening to you. You’re a young altruistic woman who only seemed to embrace life with open hands, and who was thankful for the ups and dealt with the downs with humor and hope.
If this is some kind of test for you, please know that I’m rooting for you all the way. I’ll pray for you and send good vibes. Don’t give up, because you are worth something in this world, and you’ll truly make a difference. You already have, I’m sure, because of your youth leader stint alone. (And if this is coming from a complete stranger you’ve never met, then let alone how those around you must feel for you).
I’ll always keep reading. Keep letting everyone know that you’re fighting. I don’t know how to help except to offer you my unconditional support.
Stay strong, chin up Crystal. You’re something special. Know that.
I’m sorry your life is taking this turn. You put so much passion into everything you do, you deserve to get more of that passion back. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.
Thank you so, so much for the comment you left on my blog.
It sounds cliche, but I really did cry when I read it. And I cannot tell you how much it meant to me.
These last few months have been incredibly trying, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve wanted to give up more than once. Heck more than 20 times.
To get a comment like that from you, it just, it gives me hope. And I’ve thought of it often over the last few days, when the pain is bad. “Chin up” has become my new go-to saying. And to think that someone out there is “rooting for me”, well, it just means more to me than I can express in this email.
I’m so thankful that you have taken the time to read so many of my ramblings over the years. And that you took the time to write that comment.
You have spread some light in this world.
Love and prayers,
Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me.