17 Stoplights: 17 Times to Pause

Seventeen stoplights currently separate me from my daughter. She’s not laying in her Rock n’ Play at the foot of our bed like we planned. She’s 17 stoplights from our home. In a hospital room. A room we’ve made our own, but it still is just that — a hospital.


On a good day it’s a 13 minute drive… most days it’s more like 20. No matter how fast I can make it, it still always feels like an eternity. Someone is always driving too slow, and I get cut off more times than I ever have in my life (of course I’m not cutting anyone off during these drives…). On weekdays, if I leave before 8am, I deal with commuter traffic. After 9am, it’s the elderly. I’ve learned the shortest drive times are before 7am or on Sunday evenings.


The Route

I pass or go near seven schools, two other hospitals, 4-5 construction zones, 6 churches, 3 gas stations, and one coffee shop that is impossible to get to. Much of the drive is single lane. And that’s the part of the drive where I can feel myself losing sanity. When there is one car in front of me going under the speed limit. I can feel my blood boil — You, sir, are keeping me from my daughter! And yes, I’m being dramatic.


On a couple rare occasions, I’ve hit greens the whole way! Those days make me feel like I’m on cloud 9. Surely God needs me to be with my little girl! But there have been plenty more times when I’ve hit red all 17 times. Every one of them. Like seriously biker, you needed to stop all this traffic so you could cross right now?! Those days make me want to scream.


The Old Insanity

When I want to know how my daughter is doing, instead of peeking into her room, I have to call her nurse. In the beginning, I felt so bad about calling, so I just wouldn’t. Those nurses are working and I’m just bothering them. They reassured me daily I could call whenever. I’m grateful I got over the fear of being “annoying” to them and could finally feel comfortable calling. It’s made the drive slightly better because most of the time, I know what I’m walking into before I get there. And honestly, it feels much better to being annoying than the anxiety I had going on!


I don’t want this to come of “complainy”. Instead what I’m trying to share is the internal battle I constantly have going on during these commutes, before, during and after. For many years I was proud of the progress I’d made in life. The growth I could see in the way I reacted to things around me. Surely I was done growing and could just enjoy being a mature adult from here on out! But then that old part of me that creeps up during times of chaos, crisis and/or uncertainty. The lie it tells me is that I’m not in control and I should be. And so I am drawn back to my old habits, if I buy the lie.

When the “old me” comes out on the drives, I’m weaving in and out of traffic, speeding way too much, getting angry at drivers. It’s happened on too many of those drives. And I hate the mood it puts me in. By the time I get to the hospital, I’m in a frenzy. The strange thing is, while it’s happening, I can’t make it stop. It’s the way I operated most of my life so it still feels comfortable. That’s what scares me the most!


God Speaks

What I have noticed is how God is working, or trying to work, in me on my way to see my little girl each day. Over the past 110+ days, I’ve seen how much better my drive, and my days go when I’m relatively calm and patient in traffic. The main difference between those days is when I invite God in before I even pull into traffic.


I’ve listened to exclusively christian radio for the past 5 years and the days I tune in and focus on the words coming through the speaker, I find that I magically arrive at the hospital, not concerned with how long it took me to get there. Many days the words have me in tears before I’m half way there. And I’d like to think on those days, I was a kind driver and didn’t irritate anyone else on the road (while I know I don’t have that power, on my “bad days”, I’m sure I’m not the best road companion).


Ready to Listen

One thing is certain, when I get in my car, take a deep breath and get on my way, I am able to hear what He has for me on that drive. When I forget to take that deep breath, that’s when Old Jessi takes over. It’s been a while since I’ve been living this “new life” and I like it. A lot. So this journey has been more unsettling than I’d like to admit. I’m grateful though, for yet another lesson. No matter how far I’ve come, I have to be on my toes because my default mode can come back in an instant.


Even though this season of our lives has been a challenge, I choose to look at the positives and see how God is helping me to grow during this time. Patience has never been a strong suit for me… and this experience is magnifying that. But what it’s also doing is giving me plenty of opportunities to practice. So each day, I know I can take the opportunity and work on continuing to grow and seeking God through this, or I can rush. Either way, I’m going to have to go through 17 stoplights before I reach my destination. And I get to decide how I feel during each one. I’ve showed up in her room frantic enough. It’s time to show up calm and ready to meet her needs.


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