A Beautiful Mess

05/12/2017 .
Clayton Heilman  .  Storyteller

“Life can feel hopeless when it’s not going well,” Andrea said. Instability crept into her life in the middle of her second pregnancy. Her husband, Riley, was in the middle of starting his own business. The loss of a steady paycheck caused financial difficulties placing intense strain on their marriage. Andrea wasn’t sure what to do or how to get through this difficult time.

Andrea thought she had a strong faith. She had grown up in a supportive Christian family but the friendships with other young people in her hometown felt unhealthy and crippling. She moved to California at 19 hoping to press reset on life. Andrea thought it would give her a fresh start in life, a fresh start with God. And there had to be more in California, than whatever Nebraska had to offer.

Andrea met her husband, Riley, while living in Orange Country and they were married soon after. Before long, Andrea was pregnant with their first child.

At the time, Andrea wasn’t consistently attending a church. When her first son was born, Andrea wanted to raise him in a healthy Christian community. Her parents had always been a positive example and her mom encouraged her to find a Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) group nearby. Andrea learned that Saddleback Church had a group meeting during the week and decided to join the other moms.

When she got to know the other moms well, they became close friends. When the MOPS group changed into the Raising Moms program, many of the moms transitioned together into the Treasured Moms group for mothers with school-age children.

As Andrea sat in Saddleback’s weekend services she felt challenged to be more involved with the other moms. She recalled listening to Pastor Rick encourage everyone to join a small group. “I kind of shrugged it off,” she said. “I knew I should be in one but didn’t take the time to find a group.”

Someone in Treasured Moms brought up the idea of starting a small group. Andrea realized they could easily meet regularly as a small group—and get their husbands involved. “When I first thought about starting my own small group I was a little scared—I didn’t feel ready for that,” Andrea said. “The first few meetings even felt a little awkward.”

Beginning the new group was a little stressful for Andrea, but once the husbands got to know each other, everything started to click.

“There were two families that took turns opening up their home for the group. That alleviated some of the stress and pressure of hosting other families every week. Having all the kids together was a little crazy, but it was a beautiful mess when everything began working together.”

When Andrea and her husband found themselves in a tight financial situation, they moved in with Riley’s family to keep their living expenses low The stress took its toll on their marriage—Andrea felt like she was losing hope.

At this low point, Andrea was sustained by the love the other women in her small group had for her. It helped her stay focused on God, and trust him even though their financial situation and marriage seemed beyond repair.

“We had money randomly show up from people wanting to help us out—always right when we needed it. Everyone would be so encouraging and pray for me. It really helped sustain me through the hard times. Having that support changed my life, it changed my marriage.”

At a time when the future seemed uncertain for the young family, having caring people nearby to offer support, encouragement, and prayer was a lifeline that helped Andrea and Riley make it through.

“One of the other moms in my group had gone through similar difficulties,” Andrea said. “She checked on me every single day to make sure I was doing ok. She was so sincere and helpful, she knew exactly how I felt and could help me walk through every day, no matter how difficult it seemed.”

“It was easy to get frustrated and angry with little ones when I was so stressed out,” Andrea confessed. “Like a lot of moms, I struggle with patience. It’s not easy when my husband was working long hours. I felt lonely and frustrated trying my hardest to raise these kids. It was too easy to fall apart in those difficult times.”

As Andrea received encouragement from the other moms she realized God was there, with her during every one of those challenges. She felt her only two options were to focus on God or go off the deep end. Fortunately, she had community helping her to make the healthier choice for her and her family.

Andrea saw the other moms’ lives changed through the small group as well. Another mom from the group, Holly, was able to connect with Jesus for the first time and get plugged into Saddleback Church. Holly was one of the quieter, more reserved members in the group. After the group had met a few weeks, she told everyone in the group she had just accepted Jesus into her life and wanted everyone to join her at church the following weekend to watch her get baptized. Holly wrote out a letter to every member of the group, thanking them for being a positive influence on her life. “The whole small group joined Holly in celebrating her baptism that Sunday; it was so cool to see her faith flourish,” Andrea said. It was encouraging for Andrea to see everyone working together building this community of faith. Everyone was focused on encouraging one another to get closer to God—they wouldn’t let anyone slip away.

“Having those relationships with other women kept my relationship with God strong and helped me become a better mom and wife. Without Jesus, I know I wouldn’t be able to lead my family and be a good example to my kids. Now, if I get to the point where I feel my patience is gone, I realize that I’ve forgotten that God is with me. It’s a wakeup call to recenter my trust in him again.”

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