My standard advice to people having marriage issues is this one: Find yourself a good church, get a mentor couple, and ask for help.
When you have a good church community, then you have support when you need it.
So today I want to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at what went on at my house this week, courtesy of my young friend Joanna, who just had a baby. I’ll let Joanna tell the story from her point of view:
Many of you will remember Sheila’s post from last week, where she reflected on Katie’s wedding and spoke about a new mom she knew. I’m the new mom, and she and I decided that we’d share a bit about the goings on in our lives these last weeks.
My husband and I had to work hard to get a baby and we were very excited when we found out we were expecting. Early in my pregnancy we moved across the country, about an hour away from Sheila, for my husband’s job. We love the area, but we don’t have family here. My pregnancy was filled with a variety of complications and I found myself trusting the Lord for both my health and for the health of the sweet baby girl I was carrying. But, again, I felt the Lord’s kindness. Keith made calls for me and helped me navigate the healthcare system. I ended up being seen by a wonderful group of doctors who, despite not being able to get any nearer to a diagnosis than we were at the beginning of my pregnancy, provided me with excellent and compassionate care.
Katie’s wedding was a wonderful family event for us – my parents and sisters drove eight hours to come (one sister flew!), and we were all able to attend together.
It was very special to share the day with them, especially as I had just defended my thesis for my master’s in public health the day before. I felt pleased with what I had accomplished, but entirely overwhelmed at the prospect of heading into my scheduled induction, which was slated to take place the Monday and Tuesday after the wedding.
Note from Sheila: For those of you not noticing the significance of this series of events, let me spell it out clearly. Joanna is Wonder Woman. She defended her thesis February 23; went to a wedding on February 24 in a city an hour away; and then gave birth on February 27.
My labor was quite fast – despite this being my first baby I went from 4 to 10 cm in an hour and a half and barely got the epidural in time.
I was glad that I did, though, as I had some complications after giving birth that required some significant repairs and caused me to lose quite a bit of blood. Our little girl is a precious gift and we are just loving cuddling her and enjoying her sweet newborn days. We were discharged from the hospital the day after our little one was born with a list of reasons to come back to the hospital, just in case of a complication postpartum.
In the midst of all of the craziness of giving birth, finishing graduate school, and adjusting to parenthood, my husband also had a huge stress coming: he was scheduled to take the bar exam (to qualify as a lawyer) two weeks after our little girl was born, on this past Tuesday (3 days ago). The exam was in Toronto, a few hours from where we live. I’d booked a hotel suite so that the three of us could go together but I could spend the night with the baby in a separate area from my husband so he could sleep through the night without being awoken by our little one. I’d planned how we would make meals work while we were away and I was looking forward to debriefing the exam with him on our way home after the test was done.
My bleeding began picking up on Saturday and continued to increase Sunday.
I figured that I’d call the doctor on Monday as we prepared to leave. Their advice was pretty clear: get yourself to the ER. I called Keith to make sure I really needed to go (I did) and we headed to the hospital. After an ultrasound revealed that my body had retained some tissue, my nurse came in and very compassionately told me that this was a moment in which I needed to use my “village” and call people who I could rely upon. Each medical person we talked to was very kind, but they also stressed that I needed medical attention and that my husband needed to go to Toronto without us.
We let Sheila know what was happening and she offered to come to the hospital an hour away to hold the baby while the doctors looked after me. Tammy, her assistant, lives in the same town, so she rushed immediately to the ER so that Josiah could get on the road.
Sheila says: I picked up the phone and called Joanna right after this text. (Notice she didn’t actually ask me to come!) But the problem was that she might need surgery. And she was breastfeeding a newborn. And she had no one to hold the newborn. And she might need a general anaesthetic. And HOW WOULD THAT AFFECT THE BREASTFEEDING? I kind of freaked out. Plus I am absolutely adamant that NO ONE can be alone at a hospital in Canada without an advocate, or you tend to get forgotten. So I called Tammy to have her head down and then I packed my overnight bag, not knowing how long we’d be in Kingston.
I was so grateful to have people to chat with and hold my baby while we waited for the right room to open up at the right hospital.
Finally, that night, I was told that while I could have surgery, it seemed that a medication and follow up the next week would take care of the bleeding. Sheila and I found ourselves heading back to their home at one o’clock in the morning, almost twelve hours after I’d headed to the ER. The bassinet had gone to Toronto with my husband, so Sheila made a bed for my daughter using a drawer. She liked it just fine.
I woke up the next morning to a bowl of blueberries and some water. Sheila’s mom had run out to fill my prescription and I was able to relax and allow my body to do the work it needed to do the next day. My husband came back after taking the bar (he felt it went really well) and we celebrated with cake and ice cream. I came back today (Wednesday) so that I wouldn’t be alone in case anything took a turn.
I’m not writing this story to tell you what wonderful people the Gregoires are – though they are wonderful.
Instead, Sheila and I have spent the last two days musing on the power of community in our lives.
It was community that brought us to this part of Canada and it is community that has sustained us here. We knew that there were people who we could call in a bind who would come and help us. Having someone hold my newborn in another part of the hospital while I sat in the waiting room of the ER, opening their home to us in case another complication arose and I needed to get to a hospital, and so on, have all been sweet reminders of the power of Christian community.
However, community is not consumerism. There must be a give and take.
Of course, we don’t keep score in a competitive sense, but part of being the body of Christ is helping each other. The Thursday before Katie’s wedding, for example, I was in Belleville and I helped set up the church for the wedding. It was actually a lovely way for me to spend the morning before I defended my thesis so that I didn’t worry too much, but it was also a way for me to bless my friends before their big day.
If we expect either to serve and not to be served or to be served and not to serve, we miss the point of being the body.
There is joy in serving and there is joy in being served. Allowing ourselves to love and be loved, know and be known, is the gift of Christian fellowship. My mother and mother-in-law have both been sick over the fact that they aren’t here to help, and yet both have risen up and called Sheila blessed repeatedly as she can do here what they can’t: practically stand in the gap for us.
Sheila says: holding a newborn has not been a huge hardship. 🙂
While I didn’t meet the Gregoires at our local church, we became connected through a ministry we were both involved in that was rooted in each of our churches. Building multi-generational community is, I believe, one of the chief reasons the pastor who wrote Hebrews called believers:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We need spiritual food, to be fed by the word and in corporate worship. But we also need the daily bread of fellowship in community. Increasingly in today’s disconnected world I feel that this is, perhaps, one of the most important reason for being involved in a local congregation instead of relying on podcast church.
Katie’s bridal shower included a bridal shower game where we were instructed to match the movie quote to the romantic comedy. I failed spectacularly at the game, but I was struck by the following quote from the movie “Shall We Dance”:
We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”
My husband is a witness of my life in a way that no one else is and I love him for that. Yet, he is not my only witness.
A woman from our church out west died after a long and horrible battle with cancer the same day our baby girl was born and I was struck by the commingling of life and death. I was also grateful to have been able to witness her life, to have been able to worry about her and pray for her, even after we moved away. Her funeral celebrated her life and her homegoing, and, while terribly sad, was also an opportunity for those who loved her to celebrate the life they had witnessed.
Witnessing each other’s lives requires effort and sometimes it is highly inconvenient. Sometimes it hurts. Yet there is power in witnessing and being witnessed by, as it requires being truly known. May we all do the sacrificial work of loving each other well and, in so doing, being Christ to each other.
So that’s my week! Yesterday Joanna stayed at home and my daughter Rebecca spent the day with her (after driving down from Ottawa) before Rebecca headed north three hours to train another young woman who is going to start working on the blog. So it is a small world.
Katie and David have been thinking about community now that they’re married. With David in the military, he’ll be gone a lot on training and deployments. So they will need a community–especially around Katie. They’re checking out churches, not worrying quite so much on sermons and music as on opportunities to connect with people. Because that’s what really matters!
What do you think? Has community ever come through for you in a very tangible way? Or do you have difficulty finding community? Let’s talk in the comments!