Being in a life group in general has been such a blessing to me. I love the studies that we do and the conversation it stimulates regarding my spiritual health and how that relates to my marriage, the way I parent, how “other” focused I am and in general, what I am doing daily to live my life for Christ. But on a deeper level still, it’s about the relationships that have been built and deepened. These people are my “family.”
We used to never travel on spring break (Steve said he would never fight all of the traffic)…until, that is, Brian Webb asked us a several years ago to take the plunge and go away with his family for the week. Surprisingly, Steve said yes and so began an annual trek that both families look forward to. God’s hand was in this from the beginning too as early on, Brian and Kelli’s daughter, Katie (who has special needs) didn’t travel well when just the four of them would take a trip. However, our daughter Rachel really connected with her and Katie responded very well when Rachel was around. It made vacation so much more fun for them and stirred in my daughter a love for working with special needs kids, something she does now almost weekly at our church and may pursue as a career. She might never have discovered the gift she has for working with these kids had it not been for Brian asking us to join them and that never would have happened without our life group.
Two years ago, one of our life group members and good friends, Jason Ferguson, learned he has multiple myeloma. At that time, I had never experienced something like this with someone as personally close to me as Jason and his wife, Brenda. This vibrant, active, nobody-like-him and everybody loves him guy went from being an active husband and father to 4 boys and an award-winning referee to being confined to a wheelchair due to so many broken bones and the risk of suffering more in his body. I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the call. Nausea consumed me, followed by tears and I fell to my knees crying out for this family we had grown so close to. Tears fill my eyes as I type this message and the pain I was consumed with then is still palpable. I can’t even imagine how it must have been for Jason and Brenda. Lots of phone calls and prayers followed. We watched as Jason endured the horrid effects of chemo, as Brenda found a strength thru God she never would have found on her own to suddenly be thrust into the role of sole breadwinner, nurse and Mom all rolled into one. We watched the boys step up to the plate in a big way as they helped with all of the household chores typically done by Jason. But even in this tragedy, God’s hand was everywhere, not just in the strength we saw in Brenda, but in the smile that Jason still managed to conjure up even in his pain and the way his face still lit up with God’s love in the midst of it all. He and Brenda never wavered in their faith. We leaned on each other…cried endless tears, supported each other in every way possible and laughed about how even in this, Jason was still Jason…and if you know him at all, you know what I mean. During this time, we were more than a life group… we were a life-support group because we all felt we were just hanging by a thread and thankfully for us, the thread that is God is of the strongest kind.
Life is a journey. These ladies are the ones that I share everything with…the good, the bad and the ugly and I do not fear being judged, only loved. These guys are good friends and hold each other accountable. As families, we study together, pray together, camp together (when the guys can talk us into it) and socialize together. Together, we do this thing called life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.