Years ago, after we had just had Brayden, the Whites (Travis and Stephanie) became quite the consistent fixture in our life. They would frequently visit us - and while Travis would spend a lot of the time bantering with John, Stephanie would invariably end up taking care of Brayden. She would willingly (and seemingly happily) do the yucky stuff - change his diaper, clean up his burb-mess (he was a messy "throw-up" burper), etc. etc. As the years went on, this same pattern continued and expanded to include Mikayla - as well as Traig, Natalia, and Ellison.
Travis stepped in as well. On nights when we were "so ready for an adult break", he'd willingly enter the fray of the boys and engage them in physical activity or a video game.
To say we felt a bit of a guilt about their enthusiasm for being there for our kids when we weren't as always excited to be at the end of the week is a bit of an understatement. But, not enough to stop them in their acts of service....just enough to continually offer the "Ah, Steph (Travis), you don't need to do that...I can get it". But, we knew, that offer would be rejected and we'd blissfully be able to continue the tv viewing, book reading, or computer surfing we were otherwise engaged in.
What puzzled me at the time was their motivation. I knew it was based in love, but it was hard to fully grasp given they weren't actually related to our kids. First and foremost, they were motivated by the love for our children - a love that was frequently rewarded by special acts of reciprocation by our kids or clever phrases and funny things the kids said that they alone seem to remember (unmuddled by the fog of parenting). But, not always. Dirty diapers have little reward - much less breaking up sibling/cousin arguments, or witnessing the rising selfishness that overcome both of my children (the dominant sin John and I both struggle with, passed on in genetic and environment legacy). Irregardless, there's not a thing they wouldn't do for our kids - even if, Heaven forbid, that meant taking them in as their own (in the event Michael, Michele, John, and I all died together).
The second motivation, I have to recognize, was their love for us. They have stepped in with fresh energy when we were worn out - offering the gift of attention to our kids when we have lost steam. They knew this enormity of this love language to us, and offered it with abundance.
So, just now, as I went in to the bedroom to take a nap, I ended up dropping the idea and dramatically stomping in to reclaim my computer so I could type out my revelation before I lost the words. Because, just now, as I thought through the events of last night, our visit with the Whites and Michele and I practically coming to blows over who got to hold the very fussy Whitley or change her diaper, or feed her her bottle - I "got it". I know that LOVE....I grasp that motivation.
I LOVE Whitley. I am not immune to the fact that she can be a fussy one from the hours of 6-10:00 in the evening (she fights sleep, doesn't want to miss out on the party...oh dear, just like Brayden!). I realize she likes to be held - a lot - and this could make my usual Christmas overload of activity a little hard to juggle. I know she is going to someday (all too soon) develop habits that will be acts of real will and not just the absolute innocence she possesses right now. But, I love her. Not a feeling, but an action - surpassing my usual self-centered tendencies with an insane pull (and exhibited by last night, demonstrating itself in the same way with Michele). The "First Corinthians 13" kind of love - the EXACT same kind of love the Whites have given with such an overwhelming abundance to all five of our kids.
When I tell folks that my life roll is soon going to change as I become the caretaker for Whitley Monday through Friday while Trav and Steph are at work - I am most often met with a "What?!", "Really?!", "Are you sure about this?!". It's a hard concept to grasp I guess, but the actual decision to do so has never been a question for me. It sprang to my heart and mind as soon as Steph and Trav walked through our door last Christmas night with their announcement of pregnancy and concern on how on earth they were going to make it work. Just like the story of Esther in the Bible, it truly was a "For such a time as this" life-decision. One that John whole-heartedly, without-reservation, agreed with.
Throughout the pregnancy my heart fell in love with the idea of Whitley, and while I fielded questions of doubt about having a baby again in my daily life, I had no doubt God would work it all out. It's what HE planned out. However, what I didn't truly anticipate is this enormity of love I have for her, what the hint of a smile on her face, or the reaching of her little fingers to clutch my hair or hand, can do to my soul.
I realize this is a whole different ballgame than I have for my own
kids. Love defined differently, as it should be. But, it is exactly
the same love Travis and Stephanie have been exhibiting towards our
children for over 13 years. And, now, THANK GOD, they get to experience
that same kind of love we've had for own kids too - as parents of their
own daughter. It's indescribable - all of it, but I'm starting to get