I lay on my sleeping bag next to my brother, my sister just across the room, already asleep, and listened.
It was past my bedtime, but the walls were thin, the old wooden floors creaky, and sleeping while others were awake was never something I was good at anyway.
I could hear his muffled arguing, new and foreign since my last Christmas visit. I didn't know this new version of my grandfather. His mind was going, his body weakening, yet still she persevered.
"Now, Hogan, it's time to get into bed."
"No, Jewel, no. I don't want to go to bed."
And again she would coax. And again.
The bed in the next room creaked as she finally succeeded, and quiet at last descended.
"Jewel, do you know how much I love you? I love you so much, Jewel, so much," he whispered into the darkness, and my throat closed, tears filling my eyes. He hasn't forgotten that at least.
She continued to care for him until she could no longer lift his shriveled 6'4" frame. She continued to speak tenderly to him, even after his mind was gone completely and he no longer knew even her, his love. She was my first glimpse of sacrifice, of extravagant love, my grandmother.
This week, eight years ago, we watched as my father slipped into eternity. He had struggled long and we had prayed hard, but in the end God chose to take him, and we chose to keep believing in His goodness, even as we said goodbye.
She had nursed him faithfully, her nights full of constant waking to turn him and rearrange pillows. Her days full of feedings and medicines and trying to remember to eat something and meetings with hospice workers and phone calls to insurance companies. For two years her life was ordered by his needs. Because of her he was able to stay at home until the very end, the night God finally took His son home.
She went out rarely during those days, choosing instead to stay by his side, knowing there were few of those moments left to be had. She loved him extravagantly, my mother.
These last few months have been quiet ones for me. Morning sickness has ruled my life. I have not gone out much, not visited or "ministered" or loved many in what I would call an extravagant way. It's been slow, it's been normal, but it's been an incredible time of feeling God's extravagant love for me.
In fact, it's been overwhelming. Times of worship bring me to tears, and I find myself speechless during our morning prayer, even my silent conversations filling my eyes and heart to overflowing.
I feel unworthy to have witnessed so much extravagant love in one lifetime. So many examples to follow, so much that's been lavished on me. Tomorrow is Christmas and again I am left feeling overwhelmed by this love. This love that caused a Father to give His Son to us, for us, just so that we might fully understand the extravagance of His great love for us.
"What a precious Savior we follow, who leads us gently by the hand through the valleys and over the mountains.
Who never gives us more than we can handle, yet knows that our capacity far exceeds what we've grown to believe we can endure.
Whose extravagant love demands the same in return, for how can we look into His eyes and not give Him all we are?
Who is desperate for us to know Him, so much so that He will allow pain in order that we might know His strong arms carrying us through it, His gentle hands binding up our wounds, His eyes, filled with compassion as He looks on our broken state.
What a beautiful, extravagant love."