Jeff came home. We settled him into a recliner in the living room. It was more comfortable for his hip joint than a bed. He was incredibly weak at first, walking with a walker, tiring easily. Over time, he gained appetite and strength again, and with a regular regimen of antibiotics through his PICC line, he began to improve.
We began to get cards in the mail. One of the very first letters we received was from a dear friend of ours who had been widowed. She wrote words that we needed to hear, words that we would cling to in days to come: Jesus told me to tell you this: He loves you. He cares for you." That card was the first, but the message was repeated many times over.
"God loves you. God told us to send this to you. God cares for you." What amazing and beautiful words to us through difficult times. We read the cards to the children. We let them look through them, let them see how God was taking care of them - in spite of their parents' fears and skepticism. At times we truly stood and in the midst of pain and fevers and doctors' visits - beheld the goodness of the Lord. He did not remove the pain nor the tough times - but He let us know that He was with us. That was the most important thing.
We had been worried about finances. God began to provide for those, too. He must have been nudging some hearts, because people that we didn't even know began to show up, sending gifts in cards, helping us through a horrible time. God's people came through, and it was just enough. There was not excess, we did not head to Disneyworld, we did not waste it, we still had huge medical bills, we still lived simply and carefully - but there was enough to get by day to day.
Our larger city homeschooling groups brought food: Canned goods, noodles, paper towels, shampoo. Our small, local community of homeschooling friends gave so generously to us. They brought us meals for a month, I think. Online friends - some of you (!) gave to help us through. My brother's church in Georgia undertook to pay a large portion of the surgeon's bill.
Our home was paid for. (Remember? We bought this place for $16,000? I was so discouraged at the time at this old house - yet another old home that needed remodeling - but can you imagine how thankful we were that we owned our home free and clear and would not lose it through illness and inability to work?) Our vehicles were paid for. Jeff did not receive a paycheck for three months, and there was no short term disability available. The Lord provided enough to cover our insurance payments, which Jeff's workplace did not cover while he was unemployed.
I get soggy-eyed as I stroll back through time, remembering.
God carried us. He carried us through his people. It is so easy to get discouraged about the state of the church, but we have experienced the very best of God's network of believers. There was such love, and unity, and coordination - without any human coordinator. It was God at work.
Our mission commitments were paid by a friend. That meant that the missionaries who rely on us for support did not have to do without while we were down and out. Anonymous donors paid for our children to go on stateside mission trips.
We were never left alone - not even for one minute. That does not mean it was not hard. That does not mean that we did not stare at death and disease, nor that I did not worry myself silly-sick, because I did. There was still a very long road ahead.
But our God?
He delivered us. He walked with us, and carried us. Sometimes we get to really see that, to feel it. Other times, He carries us, and we don't realize it until much, much later, when we can breathe again.
This is just part of our story, of course. Many Believers have different stories, with different endings. Not everything turns out well in this life. Everyone of us will eventually face difficult times, times which will either strengthen us or threaten to destroy us. For a time, I was not certain of what our outcome would be - strength, or destruction. Every story, though, has the same theme woven throughout - as Christians we can find hope again in the God who carries us, in the God who turns what was meant for evil to good, and in the only God who longs to bring healing and restoration to our human situations.
Coming up: a second infection and hospitalization