My husband never liked meatloaf. Well, that’s what he always said, anyway.
After my husband Greg finished up grad school at the University of Arizona, we moved across the country to Florida. And within a matter of months, we had a new home, a new parish, new jobs (Greg as an engineer and me as a stay-at-home mom), and baby # 2 on the way. That sounds exciting, right?
And completely terrifying.
There I was, 26 years old. In a new city where I knew no one. Spending all my time hanging out with a toddler when I was used to teaching an entire class of 4th graders. I was lonely.
One Sunday after Mass, I was looking through the bulletin of our new parish and I saw an announcement about an upcoming St. Anne’s Circle meeting. “Are you a mom of kids age 5 and under?” the announcement asked. “Come and join us at our next meeting! Food and fellowship with other moms available! And don’t forget to sign up with our Moms’ Meals coordinator if you are expecting!”
That was it! That’s what I was looking for! I was a mom with about a kid and a half under age 5! And food? Yep. I liked that. Fellowship? Yep. Definitely needed some of that. So the following Tuesday night at 7:00 sharp, I put on my extrovert pants and walked in to a meeting with a group of women that would change my life.
At that first meeting, I was invited to join a playgroup (nominally for my 2 year-old son, of course, but we all know playgroups are as much for the moms as they are for the kids!). And, since I was expecting, I was put on the list to receive Moms’ Meals.
This group knew the meaning of the term “works of mercy.” Whenever one of the members of the Circle had a baby (which, let’s be honest, happened all the time) or surgery, or really, any difficult circumstances at all, she and her family were provided with meals. Three dinners a week for three weeks would show up at your door, made by other young moms who were just as busy and just as strapped for cash as you were.
Nine times out of ten, though, it wasn’t just dinner that we newborn mamas would receive.
When my second son was born, I experienced with postpartum depression for the first time. These women, many of whom had become my dear friends and lifelines in the months leading up to my son’s birth, brought dinners, yes. But they also helped bring me back to myself. Many times, they brought breakfast items for the next day, too. Or, they’d stay and help fold laundry if they had the time, or do the dishes they saw piled up in the sink. Quite often, they’d just sit and talk with me as their little one played with my older son down the hall.
With nothing but a thank you for their efforts, time and time again, the women of St. Anne’s Circle stepped up for each other. In part, because it was the right thing to do, of course. But also, let’s be honest, because we all knew that when it was our turn to have the next baby, our friends would be there for us, too.
Time passed and I cooked my share of meals. Meals for a mom in my playgroup who had her 4th child in 5 years. Dinner for a family of 10 when Mom had to go back to the hospital with postpartum hypertension after the birth of baby number 8. Meals for a family when Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her mid-30s. Dinners when new babies made it safely into the world and dinners when families were left grieving children they’d never meet this side of Heaven.
And soon enough, it was my turn to sign up to receive meals again! This time, our daughter was on her way.
When that little blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty joined our family, I was so very grateful not to live under the fog of PPD again. I did, however, have two very rambunctious little boys who kept me hopping.
I remember one delivery of Moms’ Meals in particular. My friend Diana, herself a mother of 6, came bearing a dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and eclair cake. She took one look at me after she had placed all of the food in the fridge, grabbed my fussy baby out of my arms, and said, “Go. I’ve got her. I’ve got the boys. You go take a shower and relax. Take your time, mama. We’ll be just fine.”
And so I did!
And while I was in the shower, blessedly alone for the first time in what truly seemed like forever, I cried out my thanks to God. Thanks for hot water and soap and good-smelling shampoo. Thanks for friends that could see past my “I’m fine!”s and my “Oh, no, I don’t need anything”s. And thanks for a dinner that I didn’t have to cook (even if it was meatloaf and, oh boy, would Greg even eat it?).
Later that evening as we ate Diana’s meatloaf – which Greg loved, by the way, and is the recipe I still make to this day! – I shared my thanks with my husband and our sons. I told them how lucky I felt to have joined such a wonderful group of ladies who truly lived out their faith. Sure, we had fun when we all got together. But we never lost sight of the fact that our purpose was to follow Jesus through doing works of mercy. Feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, tending the sick…it was all just part of what we did!
And late that same night, as I stood in the glow of the open refrigerator light eating leftover eclair cake after a middle of the night nursing session, I thanked God all over again for Diana, for all my wonderful and caring friends, and for the fact that I could, for the first time in our 12 year long marriage, make meatloaf. Because, as it turned out, Greg did like it after all.
Beth Williby is a wife of 20 years to her college sweetheart and the mom of 4 kids, ages 8 to 18. She is a singer and writer for her own blog, A Welcome Grace, and is a regular contributor to the Blessed is She blog. Having grown up in the Midwest, Beth now calls Northeast Florida home. You can also find her on Instagram at @bethwilliby.