From my front porch, down the stairs, to the mailbox on the curb.
A few feet…that’s all it was.
However, that short distance is where the Lord met me every day.
It was October of 2011, and I had just spent a week at the hospital with my husband. After several trips to the ER, he was diagnosed with encephalitis. At 9 months pregnant, I was trying to keep myself calm as not to induce labor.
At home, I had a 7-year-old, a 5 1/2-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old, and a mother who was temporarily visiting. My husband’s week-long orientation trip to NY for his new job had turned into a nightmare. It was a call from New York on a Monday, multiple visits to the ER Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a transfer to a large city hospital by Thursday. Exhausting.
I spent 7 days at the hospital watching my husband plugged into every machine. I watched him have multiple seizures. So many different specialists, so many different diagnoses addressed. So many different medications to remember. I took copious notes to discuss with his family, and I spent every waking moment at his side.
When he was finally discharged, the real work began. He was not coming home the “daddy” that the kiddos knew. Trying to explain to the kiddos that daddy was “sick” was hard as they wanted a timeline of when he would get better. I watched the fear in their eyes as he had seizures. Not only was I his nurse, but I was also trying to lessen the fear in my children.
Two weeks later, we were at the hospital again, this time delivering baby Bria (while dispensing seizure meds to my husband). This recovery wouldn’t be like the rest. Daddy wouldn’t be able to dote on the other kiddos while I cared for myself and the new baby. My mom stayed to help out with the other kiddos for a few weeks. We would have to work through what recovery would look like for both my husband and me.
Every moment that I spent at my house, I was under a microscope. I couldn’t cry. I was trying so hard to create a loving and secure environment in my home while I knew my husband’s physical deterioration was obvious. I needed to make my children feel safe. I needed their little minds free from fear and uncertainty. They looked to me to provide a stable home environment amongst so much uncertainty.
I was barely hanging on. I needed time to process all these feelings. I needed a sacred space that I could unravel. I couldn’t cry in my bedroom because of my husband. I needed my husband to know that I could handle anything his illness brought on. He needed me to be strong as he managed his own care and recovery.
Sleep was non-existent with a newborn. My homeschooling day became more about pajamas and cuddling on the couch with workbooks. We were all in survival mode.
One day, I placed the infant in her Pack ‘n Play and told my oldest that I was going out to get the mail. “I will be right back,” I said. Watching a show, no one moved. As I got to the second step, I broke down into tears. The world was going on regardless of my pain and the struggle in my home. I grabbed the mail, wiped my tears, and walked back into my home.
For the first time, I felt relief.
I came to value that precious time during my morning. When the morning seemed difficult, I would just encourage myself to hold on until I got the mail.
Every day I would walk out to the mailbox and let the tears fall. With each step down my stairs, I would pray, “Give me the grace, Lord.” Some days I would just cry. I would replay conversations with my kiddos or scary episodes that my husband had that day. I would wonder if this was my new life…caring for my husband, our four kids, and a newborn. I would thank the Lord for all the work that He was doing to help our family.
On one particularly hard day, I remember holding on to the mailbox and just crying. “Lord, I feel so alone. No one understands how hard this is.” As I reached into the mailbox, I flipped through the mail and looked down at a handwritten card. There were actually several of them. As I opened them one by one, tears of joy and gratitude replaced those lonely tears. One of my dearest friends had reached out to the other ladies in our Catholic community from college and suggested that everyone look for ways to help our family. That day, I opened several letters with gift cards.
Some days I spent more time pleading for grace; other days my gratitude was stronger. I thanked Him for His faithfulness to us. I knew He was faithful. He had been my whole life.
I was not alone. Each card spoke to my heart, with such beautiful words of love and comfort. I might not have understood “why” my family was going through this trial, but I understood “how” we were going to get through. God was showing me that He was faithful. He would continue to guide me and provide me with the comfort I needed. Over the next few weeks, my walk to the mailbox became a beautiful space not only to cry but to laugh. I delighted in the joy of those friendships. Friendships that were willing to walk through this rough time with me.
God meets us in the messiness of our lives. He doesn’t wait until we have everything together. He comes into the storm, and sometimes He calms the storm. But sometimes, He sits with His child and calms the child.
He meets us where we need Him.
Even in the distance from the porch to the mailbox.