The picture on the left was taken on my birthday two years ago and the picture on the right was taken this past February on my 31st Birthday. I am pretty sure 29-years-old was the lowest point of my life. If you would have asked me just yesterday what the worst year of my life was, I would have said the 27th year (but that is a whole other story); however, looking at this picture, the proof is in the pudding – 29 was rough.
I struggle to even remember that “Jory.” The human brain has an amazing way of blocking out the bad times. But for the sake of those who are right now hurting as I was, I must force myself to see past my still brightly colored scar. It is difficult to even recall how I woke up looking like this, but then I remember that I was sick. I was very sick and very sad.
About 7 months prior to the first photo, I had lost my full-time teaching job, as the school I was working at did not have enough students to rehire me. Furthermore, I was completely dependent on long-acting morphine as I suffered with chronic migraines every single day.
I spent a good 6 months laying on the couch, jobless and lifeless, every single day with an ice-pack on my head. I was states away from my family and closest friends and Luke found himself working full-time and being my full-time caretaker. I am not exaggerating; I barely moved.
I have a secondary condition to migraines called Medication Overuse Migraine (or Rebound Headaches). Basically, almost daily use of pain medication of any kind will always backfire and turn into more migraines. It is a terrible sickness to manage as the the very thing that is meant to help actually makes everything much worse.
The only answer is to endure severe detox, stay away from all pain medications for a time, and allow the brain to heal. When one is on heavy narcotics, as I was for years, the healing process takes years. In fact, my brain is still healing.
These long-acting, daily narcotics are not as fun as they may sound. At first they make everything better, but it does not take long before one’s mood starts spiraling downward. I soon found myself lying flat on the ground, chemically dependent on a medication that was making my already chronic migraines worse.
I took the medication exactly as prescribed by the pain clinic, but the human brain does not care if you take as prescribed. It will still get hooked and need the chemical to function normally. The problem was that I was no longer functioning normally, as my secondary condition kicked in – I was in an endless vicious cycle of severe pain with very little hope.
From being sick everyday and my brain being all doped-out, a third condition hit me like a ton of bricks – depression. I isolated myself from the few friends I did have, stopped going to church for the most part, never did anything active, and lost interest in almost everything. I found comfort in food and narcotics made me crave constant sugar and carbs.
I found myself in the saddest part of my life story thus far. Things had been pretty scary a few years prior to that (which is a book in itself), but never this depressing. I truly felt as if Jesus had left me to fend for myself. I no longer believed in miracles. I still believed in God, but I no longer trusted Him as a good Father.
My faith was shattered and my heart was broken. The longer I stayed down, the worse it got. My motivation to find another job was zero. I had exhausted most avenues teaching in the local private schools. Hiring was down, as more qualified teachers were accepting low-paying jobs in the private schools I was accustomed to getting employment at.
You see, I don’t have a teaching licence. I went to school to be a minister, but because I was born a girl, many doors were closed to me (it did not matter that I was more qualified than most of my male peers). I fell into teaching at private Christian schools because they offered me a home when the Church did not.
I never wanted to be a children’s pastor, even though I have always been great with children. I never felt called into children’s ministry, but it seemed that this was the only leadership position in the church that was offered to females. It seems like a paid women’s pastor is only considered if the church has the finances to first support a lead pastor, associate pastor, children’s pastor, youth pastor, secretary and usually many more pastoral positions that are given to males.
This has never made sense to me. I would think a women’s pastor should be among the first to get hired since at least half the church (maybe more) is made up of females – Just seems like simple logic to me. Regardless, I was a woman without a place, without a purpose, and without hope. My body, mind, and soul were truly broken.
I sensed a strong calling from God to be a minister since I was 13-years-old, but I did not know how to go about it in a system that denies females leadership. People who don’t feel called to full-time ministry often wonder what the fuss is all about; who cares if men want to lead.
But, I can tell you from personal experience that there is extreme inequality in the Christian Church that is so well hidden that it is very hard to see unless you decide to care. Yet, the Lord is so faithful to His daughters who He calls; but often He tests our faithfulness by asking us to do the very thing we have tried to escape.
My dear husband tried just about everything to motivate me to take control of my life again. I am as stubborn as they come and often must hit rock bottom before I will move an inch. Luke, in all his sweetness, began to search for jobs for me. He found a job at a small church in Virginia Beach that was searching for a Children’s Minister.
By this point I was so broken and desperate that I agreed to let him apply for the job for me. Yes, you read that right; Luke applied for the job for me. I was paralyzed with insecurity and pain; the thought of me formulating a cover letter and resume is almost comical. Plus, there was no part of me that wanted to be a Children’s Pastor.
Perhaps I wanted what I deemed to be a more important role or at least something I was more passionate about. Working with kids is about the hardest job in the church and after doing it for two years I now realize that it is perhaps the most critical role in the church. It is strange to me that this role is often put on the back burner or given the lowest paying salary.
I started hearing stats that changed my perspective, such as the belief that people establish their core value system by the time they are 7-years-old. Being with those kids week after week slowly but surly lifted me out of my fog. I no longer had time to be miserable. I was leading a team of 40 volunteers and a ministry of over 60 kids.
Let’s be honest here, the reason that females are even offered the position of children’s pastor is because most men called to ministry want nothing to do with other people’s kids. My team was made up of mostly females and a few male gems. Most children’s pastors or directors are females. During that time, God awakened my heart to His heart for children, women, and the broken ones of society.
Our church attracted strays. We were evangelists. We were an open door to the sick, needy, and miserable. My team of volunteers were made up of jokers, smokers, and midnight tokers and I would not have it any other way. You know why? Because they showed up for my kids and my team. Even if they were half hungover from the night before, they showed up.
It was a bit like the blind leading the blind, as I worked out my chronic health issues, anger towards God, and unbelief; but it worked. I was a stray too. I was sick too. I was broken too. In fact, my first month on the job, I ran into a big problem and I thought for sure my “children’s pastor days” were over.
Stay tuned for part 2…
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