We traveled for Thanksgiving, packed our suitcase and our little girl into the car and made the oh-so-very-long drive through the desert to my Grandpa’s house nine hours away. She did well, Katie did, sleeping a good portion of the way, only needing the calming presence of Mom or Dad in the backseat and the singing of hymns (lots and lots and lots of hymns) to be happy during the times she was awake.
She was a content little person, too, through all of the festivities, with the many family members who are strangers to her, in a new environment with a different schedule than usual. Or, I should say, she was a content little person so long as Jonathan or I was holding her. She was friends with everyone from a distance; heaven help the loving aunt or grandparent who tried to pick her up.
She was even content on Saturday morning, when she woke me in the early hours by emptying the contents of her stomach all over the bed, poor girl, and throughout the rest of that day when she was unable to keep anything down. Her dad, having been struck by the same nasty bug the night before, was in another room, miserable, and so it was left to me to clean her up and to care for her. (I must state here that I am so very grateful for my mom, who was on the ready with towels and a helping hand every time the tell-tale coughing sounds began.) She was content to snuggle against me, whimpering just before and just after she threw up, crying only when I cut her nursing sessions short in the hopes that doing so would help the milk stay inside her where it belonged.
And so, I spent most of the Saturday after Thanksgiving with a seven-month old cradled against my chest, towels on the arm of my easy chair, my shirt damp in spots from the times I was too slow to react.
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Knowing myself as I do, knowing how very selfish I am, this next fact astounds me: my only concern throughout that day was for Katie, for her well-being, that she be loved and cuddled and cared for. Each time she threw up, I was upset not that some of it invariably landed on me, but that she was sick. Though I knew my very close proximity to her all but guaranteed I would soon be feeling ill myself, I held her close.Even more incredible, holding her, cleaning up after her, even having damp spots on my clothing, were not chores, were not tasks I performed grudgingly out of some sense of duty. Though I would have preferred to be holding a healthy baby, though the drying stains on my shirt were rather unpleasant and I would have welcomed another way to ease my girl’s suffering, I was glad to do what I could to provide her some comfort, some help.This is pure grace for, as I said, I am so very selfish, and it is not my tendency to take joy in performing ugly tasks for the sake of others, even those who mean the most to me. And yet, on Saturday, I was given this gift: a glimpse pure love with no ulterior motives, no hope of personal gain or recognition, no concern with self.
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As we enter the Advent season, I am struck anew by the wonder of the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, of the God who came to a world that did not recognize Him so that He might save it, and this astounds me: the One who gave up so much, who endured so much more than we can understand, did so willingly. Not grudgingly, not out of duty, but out of love. He came and proclaimed the undying love of God to a world that so desperately needed it. Though He longed for another way, His love for the Father and His love for us led Him first to a manger and then to a cross, a journey He made willingly so that He could provide us with comfort and help.
The little baby boy, the Christ-child whose coming we anticipate every December – He came to earth by choice, because He wanted to be with us. My little glimpse of pure love last week, powerful as it was for me, is nothing compared to that.