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Jen’s Story

Community: Reminding Us That Jesus Matters

I have a messy faith background. Religion, from a very young age, was sort of a divisive force. Some of the religious beliefs and practices in my extended family caused conflict that eventually isolated loved ones. Growing up, we were “Chreasters”—we’d come to church for Christmas and Easter. Then I went to a Catholic college far from home and didn’t know anyone, so I joined a pre-orientation retreat just to make friends. It happened to be run by the campus ministry. That started my faith journey.

I still felt really insecure about my knowledge of the Bible, what faith was supposed to look like, and what a relationship with Jesus was supposed to be, but it was such a good church home. Every sermon felt related to where I was in life—young, in college, excited, and uncertain. Then I moved and started attending a new Catholic church, and it felt like whiplash; it didn’t look anything like the faith I’d been experiencing. Sadly, I felt super disengaged, and I didn’t attend anymore.

In 2013 I moved back to Minnesota, and my parents invited me to attend CPC with them. That’s when my faith really started to flourish. We would attend together and then go get brunch. It was wonderful and really awesome when Paul (then boyfriend, now husband) started joining us, too. Sunday was for God, but then it was back to work on Monday.

In the next few years, life started to become hyper-focused on my work. It was during this time that I felt my life was becoming more and more self-centered. I’d hear prayers about Jesus being the center of our lives and a firm foundation, and I was like, I’m pretty sure I’m making my relationships and identity at work the foundation of my life. There’s gotta be something I can get connected to here where Jesus can be more than just for Sunday. As a next step, I ended up in Pastor James Madsen’s class on Tuesday nights. I was so nervous. I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I didn’t even have a Bible to bring—I had like a Catholic youth Bible—and I felt so self-conscious bringing that. So I quickly downloaded the Bible app on my phone, and of course I get to the class, and no one is on their phone! But the class was great. It really made me start to feel like life wasn’t just all about me.

A transformative moment was when James told a story about asking someone to pray for him that he might love Jesus more or better. I loved his request. I’d never even thought of that! What would it mean to love Jesus better? To love Him more? To give Him more of my heart? It opened my heart to Jesus in a new way, in a way I didn’t know was possible, a space that I didn’t know was there.

Then Pastor Melissa Schaser married us and was really good at staying connected to us, which was vital, because marriage isn’t without unexpected turns—you think things are going one way and then all of a sudden it goes another. Life has been really bumpy. In our first year, I was overworked and found a new job, then we moved, and then we were pregnant, and then I had a severe form of morning sickness that left me feeling isolated and broken.

I remember during my pregnancy, I was full of questions of what it would be like to be a mom and how to deal with all the anxiety I felt. Sue—who I usually sit next to in Bible class—reminded me that fear and anxiety is normal, and to think about how much I already loved my growing baby and to imagine how much God loves us. He’s going to be with us regardless of the good and bad. Her words brought comfort that felt so different than what I’d get from my non-Christian community. It’s a beautiful thing to be reminded that God promises to be faithful to us and to be with us. Our child is going to have heartbreak and beautiful experiences, but he’ll never be alone. Where we’ll fail him, because we’re human, God will be perfect. He will take our imperfections and make us whole.

Easton was born, and within six weeks, we had to put our dog down, I got pneumonia, I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they gave me and I couldn’t nurse Easton anymore, and then I was back to work. It was supposed to be joyful, yet it was just such a dark time. Our CPC community reminded us of our foundation during this turbulence, helping us anchor our lives on something bigger than ourselves. That’s what saved us in those tougher times.

I’m still working on How do I love Jesus more and better? It’s a good thing James still has a seat for me in class! I do think I have more capacity to love Jesus now—putting my faith and trust in Him, especially through the ups and the downs. Bob Goff writes, “Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He’d bring meaning to it.” The past few years have been total chaos, but it’s Pastor James and Melissa, our loving parents, and our CPC family that have helped us understand the meaning in the mess. Being surrounded by a community of Christ-followers means we have people who will pick us up when we aren’t doing so well and continue to carry us toward Jesus. And I’ve learned that community, at its most meaningful, reminds us of what matters: having a relationship with Jesus.