Amanda: When I think of who I was when we first started coming to CBC I remember I was a mom to two little girls two years old and under. I felt such immense pressure to look like we had it all together. I had grown up in church and I knew my part to play and wanted to play it well. I also remember how incredibly lonely I was. Stephen was at work Monday through Friday, and I usually worked either Friday or Saturday night, so our involvement was slow and took time. But by getting involved with small groups, bible studies, Sunday morning classes and Re-engage we found our community.
Stephen: When my family and I came to CBC in 2010, We wanted a change but I’m not sure we knew what we were looking for. Amanda and I had both grown up around the church, so we knew who Jesus was and that we needed him. But we also felt that it was safer to cover up any mistake than to let some else see your weakness. We even struggled to be honest and communicate our hurts and failures with each other. We expected God to be glorified by how good we could be or seem and not by how faithful he is in our weakness. After several years of soaking up teaching on grace it became easier to let down our guards. Through that vulnerability, we found that we did not have to be perfect to find acceptance, but that many of our hurts and struggles would really only be resolved thru community and relationship. Working to lower our fig leaves, we have seen God resolve our sins and heal our hurts through our small group and help us communicate with each other better thru the re-engage ministry. We have seen how God uses others in our lives to help us as we learned to live in community.
Amanda: This community of believers has come to mean so much to us and I’m so thankful God put us in a place where we do life together. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together, go camping, family game nights, bible studies. I am no longer lonely. I no longer worry about acting the part because I know God shows up best when we don’t have it all together. He takes our messes, our ashes of what we thought life should look like and makes them into something beautiful.
I’m also no longer a mom of just two kids. We have 5 beautiful children ages 10 and under. When our 4th child, Benjamin, was born in June of 2014. Our community showed us just what they were made of. Roughly eight hours after delivery, in the midst of his first bath and meeting his siblings Benjamin started struggling to breath. I sent the kids home with Stephen and tried what I could to get him to relax hoping and praying it wouldn’t turn into a big deal. Night shift had just arrived and were making their rounds when my co-worker Laura came in to check on me she took one look at him then looked at me and we both knew this was going to be a big deal. She called the NICU who promptly took him to be admitted. I tried to be the good patient and wait till I got the call to come and see him, but I could only wait till Stephen returned to the hospital. Sitting in the NICU just watching them place lines and draw labs when every ounce of my body wanted to just pick him up and hold him was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. For 48 hours we had no clue what was wrong with our sweet little boy. His blood gasses were all over the place, X-rays showed significant pneumonia, he remained on the C-pap machine helping him breath and remained in his bed as we weren’t allowed to hold him. All the time Stephen was going back and forth between the hospital and the house taking care of our oldest three kids. Not wanting to be alone I sent out a text to a handful of women from church who quickly responded and came to sit with me in the hospital. Taking turns and coming in shifts so I wouldn’t have to sit there alone. Alternating between praying, words of comfort, and amusing stories from their week. They took care of me. They met me in the scary unknown and said, “We’re here, you don’t have to do this alone”. When the 48-hour blood cultures came back we finally knew what his body was fighting and knew there’d be roughly another 8days in the NICU and he’d be able to come home. Unfortunately, two days before his expected discharge I was willing to admit that I was getting sick. I could no longer ignore the growing pain in my abdomen and my fever. The same bacteria that had been attacking Benjamin was now attacking me.
Stephen: During that time and several weeks that followed we struggled just to get through each day. But we were so thankful that God had blessed us with a loving community of family and friends who brought us many meals, checked up on us with calls and texts, and even babysat Amanda and the kids – before Amanda was well enough to watch the kids on her own – so I could go to work after my vacation time ran out. We have learned the value giving up our pride and living in weakness before God and others. As we have learned to admit our hurts and mistakes, God is returning vulnerability with community.