Jami Carey's Story" />

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When this idea of “sharing story” was brought to me a few years ago, I thought it was bizarre. Why would anyone want to write their story out? What in the world does that even look like? Why would anyone ever want to hear my story? Do I even have a story? So many insecurities began flying through my mind. I reluctantly went with it. I said YES to something that made me insanely uncomfortable, and through the process of being vulnerable, I became free. Through sharing my story and experiencing what it truly felt like to take off my mask and just be real, I found my tribe and learned what it meant to walk with Jesus.

I have always considered myself a Christian, because I accepted Christ at a young age. But it kind of just stopped there. I grew up in El Paso, with a wonderful yet slightly dysfunctional, fairly small family. My parents are both believers, but we definitely did not go to church. I bounced in and out with friends now and then, and I did go to youth groups and Young Life in high school. I can remember taking an interest in knowing God from a young age, but I never really cultivated that. I even left El Paso after high school to attend TCU in Fort Worth, because I was attracted to the “Christian” aspect of that school. Truly, I had no idea what that even meant. I quickly fell into the college ways, and most certainly did not seek God during that time. I look back on that journey now, and I know the only reasonable explanation for my frequent, completely out-of-nowhere encounters with God, is that He was in fact, seeking me.  

Still clueless, I carried on in my “I got this” ways and ended up settling down with the man of my dreams at 20. We spent our 20s in a complete blur, having as much fun as we possibly could. God was not in the picture. Next thing I knew, I found myself in my early 30s, with a baby and a toddler, an amazing husband, and an absolutely abundant amount of things to be grateful for. But something was missing. I was lonely. Let me just say that my husband is probably one of the most incredible human beings on this planet. He is the ying to my yang. He truly completes me. But he has a very dangerous job that keeps me worried and stressed, and at the time, he was working nights. For anyone that has ever lived through shift work, you know how hard that can be on a family. Not to mention, first responders work most holidays, too. We weren’t going to church, the rest of our family is all hundreds of miles away, and I literally had no one but him. 

So, when God presented the opportunity of joining a MOPS group to me, I hesitantly said yes. (I had no idea then, that this was in fact, “a God thing." In fact I didn't even know that “a God thing” was even a thing.) I feel very uncomfortable around people I don’t know, and I hate small talk. But for me at the time - it sounded like a great way to enjoy a cup of coffee WITHOUT MY KIDS!!!! Little did I know that God would catapult me into a 4 year journey that would completely change my life and my faith forever.

I joined MOPS in August 2015, having no clue what it would do for me that first year, and how desperately I would need it. I was ready to start taking this relationship with Jesus thing seriously, and MOPS was certainly the way to do that. I got some mommy time, met new people, made some friends, all with a little bit of Jesus sprinkled in. It was perfect. 
Fast forward 7 months to February 2016. A suspicious and very painful lump in my left cheek was diagnosed as a schwannoma tumor on a nerve in my face. It needed to be removed because it was growing and excruciatingly painful; although rare, it could be cancerous. Let’s recap: I was 31, lived millions of miles from any family, had a 15 month old and a 4 year old at home, had no support system, and could have cancer. Awesome. And to make matters worse, they did not know which nerve the tumor was on. It could be on the sensory (trigeminal) nerve, or it could be on the motor (facial) nerve. If on the sensory nerve, I would only lose feeling in my face. If on the motor nerve, I would be paralyzed, forever. So I literally had a 50/50 chance of permanent facial paralysis going into surgery, in addition to the possibility of cancer. Talk about bringing you to your knees. I was quite literally in the most desperate need of Jesus I had ever been. My MOPS table provided comfort in a way they will probably never understand. They prayed for me, over me, with me. To say this was uncomfortable is a serious understatement. I wasn’t doing much praying before this point - in fact, I’m not even sure I was praying at all. But to have people pray out loud for me... that definitely was NOT a thing. Looking back, I do not know what I would have done without them, though. THAT, was indeed “a God thing”. Had this happened to me even 1 year earlier, I’m not sure how I would have handled it. It would have broke me.
I went into surgery on April 26th, 2016. That day was the day I knew God was real. I had always known this, but on that day, I FELT Him. That day, almost 4 years ago, Jesus wrapped His arms around me, and met me right where I was at. He calmed my nerves about surgery in a way I did not think possible, and he held my hand through the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. I woke up from surgery to find out the tumor was not cancerous, and it had been on my trigeminal nerve, which meant I was not paralyzed. It was, in my mind, a miracle. So there I was, ALL IN. He had me. I was His. 
My faith changed that day, but my heart also changed that day, too. I realized what it meant to have community. Fellowship. To have a tribe. I felt the love of friends, acquaintances, and people I barely knew as they prayed for me. Friends brought meals to my doorstep. People I hadn’t heard from in years reached out to me to check on me. It was my first time truly experiencing the love of Jesus Christ through others. The first time I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. It was that day that the walls around me started to fall.

It’s easy to end up in a place of solitude, wrapped up in your own mind telling yourself that you're just supposed to somehow figure it all out. To not want to ask for help. To not want to accept help. To not let people in. I’ve had a lot of good friends throughout the years. Most of which I held at arms' length, because surface level just feels so much better. Safer. I also made most of my friends by counting how many tequila shots we could take together instead of how much scripture we could share with one another. My foundation was rocky at best. Now while I do still love me some tequila, I have realized how much more meaningful friendships can be when you take your party hat off, and get real. I’ve learned what it’s like to really do life with one another. The icky, hard parts of life and the wonderful, joyous parts of life. In doing so, I learned what it is like to walk with Jesus. These women pull me up when I’m feeling down. They keep me in God’s word through regular Bible study meetings, and they hold me accountable. Because you know what, that’s what God intended for each and every one of us. To have a support system. To live in community with one another. REAL, breaking bread, praying for each other, community. 

My story didn’t stop 4 years ago when I found Jesus, REALLY found Jesus. It started. I have been doing life with these women since then, and they have shown me a whole new way to live and a whole new love for Jesus that I didn’t even know existed. So on March 25, 2018, 2 years after my surgery, my life changed again. Two of my MOPS girls and I were baptized by two of our MOPS girls. Talk about coming full circle! Making that public declaration of my newfound love for Jesus was one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made. I was suddenly less alone than I had ever been. I was surrounded by so much love. Love that the traditional avenues we think of when we think of love, like husband and children, just could not provide. A void I didn’t even know I had was filled. 

It’s been incredible to see what God can do. It’s like I’m looking through a completely new lens. But it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies since. During a routine MRI, my neurologist found what was assumed at the time to be “another” mass. Aka - another tumor. In the same place. Now, many many doctor appointments and MRIs later, we know that it is in fact part of the original tumor that was just left behind. It continues to be excruciatingly painful at times, and I suffer greatly from regular migraines. This has been the walk my tribe has been on with me. And they have been there every step of the way. 

Through lots and lots of tears and prayers, I have finally decided to have the tumor removed again, once and for all. On February 6, 2020, I will once again be on my knees praying for a miracle. Praying that this is the last surgery I have to have. Praying that I do not end up paralyzed. Praying that I don’t have lasting nerve damage. Praying that my migraines GO AWAY. But this time, I have an army of prayer warriors behind me. And this time, I won’t shyly and insecurely ask Facebook for prayers out of sheer desperation. I will boldly ask. I boldly and confidently ask each and every one of you reading this to say a prayer. Because I know now, first hand, just how powerful that is. And I KNOW that I will be OK, because God’s got this. 

Last week, my community of amazing Godly women came together for me in Cyndi Beasley’s living room, and it was a night I will never forget. Some have been with me since the beginning, some I’ve only come to know this last year. But we all have one thing in common - our love for the Lord. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever experienced. They prayed for me, and read words of encouragement and scripture over me. I sat there in complete awe of what God has done in my life these last few years. It’s an unfortunate thing that I am going through, but God brought extraordinary people into my life, and did extraordinary work through them. I am going into my surgery on Thursday with so much confidence. So much peace. Because I know, God’s got this.  

But I want you to know if you are sitting there reading this, and you feel like I felt 4+ years ago, just a girl trying to survive another day of motherhood. Just a mom doing your best to get by on your own. I can now tell you with absolute certainty, it’s not supposed to be that way. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to let the isolating walls of motherhood come down. It's ok to admit you can’t do it all - because you can’t. If you don’t have a tribe, find one. If you don’t know how to do that, reach out to someone about it. Pray about it. Pray some more about it. If your tribe isn’t lifting you up, straightening your crown, find a new one. If you do have a tribe but you are distant at best, because let’s be honest, life. is. busy. MAKE time for them. Love them hard, and let them love you back. But most importantly, press into God during the process. I promise He will bring the right people into your life if you are open to it. And when He does - watch out - because that is a fierce, unstoppable force to be reckoned with. 

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42