| 19 January 2010
Learn about Joy in her own words . . .
A few years ago, Joy created a blog and posted this "biography". We felt that reading about Joy's life, in her own words, could help others understand what she is like as a person and get to know her better. Joy is funny, creative, full of life, full of love. Joy's faith in God is a tremendous part of who she is. It is that faith that has gotten her through some of the most difficult periods of her life. Joy trusts in God and despite what has happened, she does not doubt that all of this has happened for a reason, that perhaps only God understands. And while Joy is certainly afraid for what the future holds, she has her faith, her family, and the friends who have stood by her through all of this. She is grateful for everyone's support.
The Early Years
1959 -- I was born in Woodside, Queens, NY and lived in the same house my father lived in as a boy. A mostly Irish, Catholic neighborhood, our house was a single dwelling, with a fenced-in back yard and the biggest tree on the block. The tree was so big that is was impossible to grow grass in the shade it provided. My very practical parents, therefore, cemented half the yard so we could ride bikes, bounce balls, do chalk art, etc. – all within the safe confines of our fenced in back yard.We were the happening house on the block. Kids loved to play in our concrete back yard. We could kick a ball around and never have to chase it into the street and we had a great tree to climb.
For a very short time, the tree had a swing my older brother made. It came down when my younger brother, a toddler at the time, crossed my path on a forward swing. His little collar bone was no match for my hard-toed, Maryjane shoes. I have 2 brothers (the oldest and the youngest) and 2 sisters (one older and one younger than I). We are all 2 years apart in age. Being the middle of 3 girls who were in the middle of two boys makes me a middle of the middle child. My father, Danny O’Shea (he looks like a leprechaun), was excommunicated from the Catholic Church when he married my Protestant mother. However, the Priest was a frequent visitor in our home. My dad, a printer, produced the weekly bulletin, newsletters, and, most importantly, the raffle tickets for the parish that kicked him out. We were very active at St. Jacobus Lutheran Church, Woodside, NY.
1968 – Culture Shock!!!
Not so much for me, but for my parents. In a HUGE leap of faith, they uprooted the family and moved to Amish Country, Paradise, Lancaster County, PA. Their decision was fueled by some of the things happening in the New York public schools – racial conflict, bussing, teachers’ strikes, and mainstreaming (remember, this was 1968 – knowing the new school would include wheelchair ramps was scary stuff back then). So, we gave up the “big” backyard with the best tree on the block and the concrete playground and traded it in for a 21 room mansion with 2 balconies and a bell tower, situated on 2 acres of land, with a creek running behind the house. My siblings and I lost most of our New York accents and acclimated to the environment. My parents took a while to settle in as the neighbors were not very warm nor welcoming. I think they thought the Martians had landed.1977 – Graduated from Pequea Valley High School. Class size – 105. Eight of my classmates went into full time ministry work. Four are ordained. We have a lottery to see who gets to offer grace at class reunions. When I was a senior, we had silly surveys each week… Least likely to work for a church: Joy O’Shea! God does work in mysterious ways.
1980 While a music major at Millersville University, I accepted my first church music position as Director of Children’s Choirs at St. John Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA.
1981 – Surprising turn of events: I took a job as a nurses aide at the county nursing home because it paid better than other entry level jobs. I needed tuition money. It shocked me, my friends and family to find I loved nursing work. I couldn’t wait to go to nursing school.
1982 – Finished college for music as a voice performance and pedagogy major. Went on to nursing school for a practical nursing diploma. While in school, I served as a volunteer choir director for my home congregation, St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Strasburg, PA
1983 – I became a staff nurse at Lancaster Osteopathic Hospital (now Heart of Lancaster Hospital). I worked in a variety of departments and in various capacities over the next 17 years. Most of my work involved caring for post-operative and pediatric patients and working in the anesthesia department.
1983-88 – These were my young, single, and living in my own apartment years. Working the 3-11 shift at the hospital prevented me from pursuing musical activities. I eventually switched to night shift so I could direct church choirs, and join the Lancaster Opera Company and Actor’s Company of PA.
1985 – I began my service as Director of Music at St. Stephen’s UCC in New Holland, PA.
1987 – While directing in New Holland, the local high school asked me to fill in as music director for one of their vocal ensembles. The previous director was terminated for some reason. The vocal ensemble shared a Spring concert with the jazz ensemble. The guest soloist with the jazz ensemble was an old college friend, Ron Woomer. We went out after the concert with mutual friends and started dating a short time later.
1988 – Ron and I were engaged on Valentines Day. We were married on Dec. 3, 1988 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New Holland. I was still directing at St. Stephen UCC, just next door. However, the St. Stephen sanctuary was closed for a major overhaul and renovations. My home church, St. Michael Lutheran in Strasburg, was too small to accommodate all the musicians participating in the service. So, the Rev.s Herb Lohr (St. Michael) and Lee Lawhead (St. Stephen) married us at Holy Trinity.
Married Life & Young Motherhood
1989 – The stork visited six months into our marriage. Ron and I were touring Greece when I suspected I was pregnant. On the trip, they served lamb at nearly every meal and it nauseated me horribly. To this day, I can’t eat lamb.
1990 – James Robert Woomer was born on Ash Wednesday, February 28, 1990. Pr. Lawhead announced to the congregation that evening, “while we are here observing Ash Wednesday, our music director is celebrating labor day.” Make that “labor days!” It started at about 2 a.m. on Tuesday and ended with a c-section at about 8 p.m. Wednesday night. My vision of motherhood was a little unrealistic. I pictured my perfect little baby, nestled into an infant carrier, happily going everywhere and allowing me to do all the things I liked to do. Reality can be harsh – especially when it includes colic. The only pictures I have of Jimmy the first 8 months of his life are of his tonsils. At about this time, the hospital offered a weekend package for nurses to work two twelve hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday and get paid a higher rate and receive benefits. I took the offer so I could be home more. This meant giving up my church work.
1992 – I really missed directing church choirs, so I accepted a position as Sr. Choir Director at Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church in Southern Lancaster County. I served there for 3 years, growing the music program from a 12 voice choir to 33 voices and initiating a Music and Arts series. It was a great experience for the most part. Presbyterianism and Southern Lancaster County were a little foreign to me, but the congregation and the music program was growing and people were excited about the ministry happening there.
1995 – I accepted a position as Director of Music at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Lancaster. It was a bigger position, involving more liturgy planning and more choirs. It was also only 5 minutes from our house. I left Chestnut Level with a heavy heart, but felt a tug to return to my Lutheran roots.
1995 – This was also a big year in other ways. Ron and I bought a bigger house in hopes of expanding the family. A month after we moved, I learned I was pregnant again. This time, it was a girl – Rebecca Shea Woomer, born Friday, October 6, 1995 at 7:45 a.m. No one ever accused me of being a slow learner. This time, the delivery was a scheduled C-section!1996 – I returned to the hospital to work full time after taking a 3-month family leave. While on leave, I took on more responsibilities at Holy Spirit. Program development and coordinating congregational events seemed to come naturally to me. When Rebecca was about 9 months old, the church offered me a full time position as Director of Music and Church Program. This was a wonderful opportunity – to be able to work mostly from a home office and to do something I loved doing. I maintained float pool status at the hospital, working shifts whenever I wanted and as time would allow. I had the best of both worlds.
2000 – Problems on the home front as Ron and I grew farther and farther apart. He resented my time at the church and our children’s involvement. He would say, “I married a nurse, not the church lady.” Admittedly, my heart changed as I grew deeper in my faith and the study of God’s Word. It wasn’t something I did on purpose, it just evolved. Ron’s resentment of the church grew to the point that he routinely bashed it and called people of faith, “crazy,” because “you can’t prove it.” The fact that I grew up in the church and Ron didn’t (although he was baptized as an infant) was foundational in our differences. I think as a parent, you return to the seed planted in you as a child, nurture it, and plant another seed in your children. A seed was planted in Ron at his baptism. I pray that someday it will take root.2002 – Separation from Ron. It was a tough, scary time, even though it was my decision. We went to counseling and reconciled after about 6 months. I didn’t think Ron understood how his attacking the church was attacking the very core of me. But he was trying.2004 – I enrolled in the Youth & Family Ministry Certification School at Gettysburg Seminary. I received my certification in February, 2005.
2006 – Ron was miserable and essentially leading a separate life. He met a woman through his band and the day after we returned from a family cruise, the week I found out my mom had breast cancer, and 2 weeks before Holy Week, Ron told me he wanted a divorce. He left in March and our divorce was finalized on Rebecca’s birthday, October 6.
2007 – In some ways, single parenting is a lot easier. For one thing, it’s easier to provide a loving, welcoming environment without a dysfunctional marriage. The kids have their moments and need to work through some stuff, but I think they like it better this way. We still live in the same house. I promised Jimmy we’d stay there until he graduates next year. Financially, it’s a little more challenging, but we do o.k. I still work as a nurse 1-2 nights a week, providing care for children on ventilators in their homes. Most of the time, the child just needs to be monitored, so I am able to take my lap-top computer and work on church communications and publications through the night.