Life as a former youth leader.

It’s been three days since my last Sunday as youth leader at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church.

I find myself spending all my free time staring at group photos of the youth, and watching this year’s mission trip video. 

I woke up this morning to a long wall post from one of my favorite girls, Shelby.

“I think for the first time since Sunday it’s really sinking in that a big part of my life is changing and it hurts,” she wrote.

It does hurt.

It sucks actually.

As many of you know, I had to resign because of my health issues.

My current diagnosis is intercostal neuralgia, and I’m always careful to say “current diagnosis” because I’ve had five diagnoses since I’ve been sick and I feel like it can change at any second.

In short, I wake up everyday feeling like I’m being stabbed in my right side with a butcher knife. And I walk around feeling like someone just broke all my ribs with a baseball bat. I’m also doped up on Hydrocodone all day, everyday.

And holding down that part-time job at the church and my full-time job as managing editor of Candy Industry magazine was just too much for me.

Being sick means I feel almost a morbid sense of peace about knowing I don’t have the weight of the youth leader job on my shoulders any longer.

I know that getting out of bed to get to church on Sunday morning felt like getting up after being hit by a car some weeks. And I know that the stress of running that group was chipping away at every drop of strength I had inside of me.

But I love those kids. So much.

And I feel as though I’m walking away from a part of my identity.

I kept telling the kids that, “I’m not dying.” That they could still call me, text me, Facebook me.

But I know that over time, the communication will fade. That the phone calls will get further and further between. And that I’ll be lucky if I even see one of them ever again.

I’m old enough to know that the end of things really is the end of things sometimes. And this is the end of my time as youth leader at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church.

A few months ago, when I first breathed into the air that I was even considering leaving, my spiritual mentor Lynn was trying to counsel me through the decision. And as she sat next to me on the couch, she looked into my eyes and said, “If you do leave, you can walk away knowing you did a fantastic job.”

I keep going back to that. Hoping with all my heart it’s true. That she wasn’t just saying it. That I did all I could while I was there.

But even that doesn’t make the change any easier.

And of course, Shelby put it best,

“I almost feel like it’s a book. Like I was on this one amazing chapter that was so good. Then, I turned the page, and it’s a new chapter and I’m scared because I HAVE to, in a way, start ‘reading’ or living this chapter and I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is the last three years of my life, having you a part of them — with your kindness and helpfulness and the way you were so understanding — was amazing. Everything that you did for us was something that a 100 thank-you’s couldn’t tell you how thankful I am.”

Right back at ya girl. Right. Back. At ya.


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