Today, my oldest girl was baptized.
Today was one of the most special and important days of her life and I wanted to treat it as such.
I hope with everything inside of me that she remembers all the tiniest details. I hope that she remembers the people that surrounded and supported her, the way that she felt, the things that were discussed after her decision to be, but before the actual act of baptism. I hope that she remembers many years from now why this decision was so important for her because ultimately, that is the only thing that matters.
This decision. For her.
I was born into a Catholic family. Therefore, traditionally, I was baptized into the church as a baby. I remember being around Nora's age when I first felt the nudge of God and a deep interest in learning more about Him.
But I also vividly remember feeling that even though it was an incredible gift that my parents gave to me; one of the most special and sacred things you can do for your child, it was a decision that was made for me. I remember feeling as though I had unlocked this deep secret inside of myself that was intimate and personal and wanting so desperately to tell or somehow show the world what I had found!
It is no secret that even at a young age, I knew that when I became a mom, I wanted to do things differently.
When I was first pregnant with Nora, her dad and I would pray over my growing belly out loud together. We would pray that she would be a reflection of her name, meaning 'light.' That she would shine brightly in a world that is sometimes very dark. We prayed that she would know His voice and recognize it, even when things were distracting or difficult. We prayed that she would be strong in faith and seek after Him. We prayed that she would come to know Him in a personal and private way, and that she would have an intimate relationship with Him. We prayed and we worshipped and we had faith that God would see that through in our first child.
As she has grown, I have continued praying those same things. My prayers have changed slightly as time has gone on and I, myself, have learned more about the true God.
I prayed that she would be set apart. That she would cling to the Father who is everywhere and not to the indoctrination of a specific religion or church. I have prayed that she would know the truth when she hears it and flee from anything otherwise. I have prayed that her spirit would be meek and gentle yet relentless in her pursuit of Jesus.
Always, only Jesus.
And I prayed that when she felt ready, she would come to me with the decision to follow Him and that whatever that meant or looked like, I would accept it and support it.
When I was younger and I studied the Bible, I always felt intrigued by the two thieves who were hanging on either side of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion. One thief was ridiculing and mocking Jesus. But on the other side, an unnamed thief saw that Jesus was the true God and literally defended Him as such. Jesus looked at him and promised the thief that he would be in Paradise that day. In this story, we aren't told that the thief was or was not baptized and it never mattered to me; which is the point.
He had faith in Jesus and that was key. I have always believed that was enough.
Last night as Matt came to speak with Nora about the decision of baptism, he told her about Peter. Peter told thousands of people to "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and in doing so, they would be saved."
Matt went on to ask Nora if she trusted in God's grace and we all explained to her what that means. Sitting on her bed, looking into her eyes and teaching her THIS way of believing; the right way-it meant everything to me.
It took me many years, many untruths, many heartbreaks, a long and deep personal spiritual journey but...sitting with my little girl last night and telling her what I know now? I know that I walked through all of those things for that exact moment. To be at this place in my own mind, spirit, and heart so that I could lead her in the way she really should go.
Not in the ways that I once did. Not in the ways that some of the churches do. Not in the way of the world, or of friends, or even of our closest loved ones.
The way she should go is the way Jesus leads her.
And that's the only way.
When Mabel was alive and things were at their worst, I still never felt an urgency to have her be baptized before her death. I never had a fear that if she were not baptized she wouldn't spend eternity with Jesus because quite frankly, that's just not what I believe.
Also, I have learned that fear is actually the exact opposite of grace.
However, baptism is incredibly important to some of the most important in my life. Their beliefs are slightly different than mine, but because I respect them so deeply and because they love us all so much, I wanted them to feel the assurance that may bring them peace upon our sweet girl's death.
So the night before Mabel died, as she laid in my arms, Matt walked into her bedroom holding holy water that my dad brought inside and sprinkled her with it, blessing her in the name of Jesus. I watched him as his hands shook. I listened intently as his voice trembled. My baby breathed shallowly but I looked at her with each splash of water and I felt this incredible sense of fearlessness.
I would have never allowed water to get on Mabel's face or drip toward her mouth for fear of her choking and here I was watching it cover her entirely.
There was total peace.
But Nora did not enter the room to watch Mabel's baptism that night.
It was a choice that Nora made, and though it was difficult, just as I vowed to do when she was first growing inside of me, I allowed her to make it. It was not something that she wanted to see, or it was her way of protecting her own heart. Either way, I let her lead her own soul that night and though I will always try to guide her in the direction that I think is best, ultimately the choices that Nora makes are between her and God.
So when my girl came to me many months ago and asked to be baptized I felt completely in awe.
I had put my trust in God that He would lead her by His spirit to this place in her life, and at 9 years old, it is evident that He truly has led her here.
Because He really is faithful. And good.
She asked very specifically to be baptized at the cemetery where her sister is buried; sacred ground for her heart. And in my mind I could think of no better way for her to feel connected to Heaven than to be baptized in the exact same way her sister was just 6 months ago. I am positive that in looking back, Nora will remember these moments as a unifying of their hearts. A moment in time where the barrier between the seen and unseen is nonexistent...
This year Jesus showed up in our lives to deliver a very sick baby sister from suffering into eternity. And rather than see that as a punishment, or a tragedy, or too painful to muster through-
Nora saw it just as it was....
God being good. God being faithful. God moving. God never changing. God always loving. God circling, encompassing, sometimes chasing, always pursuing.
The details of our spiritual journey flow deep and wide.
Today was just one more detail that feels so enormous, so boisterous, so full-that the words just somehow fall short. How can I sufficiently explain the wonder of this God? How can I make you see?
But I'm learning, I don't really have to use my words to do so. Our life paints a beautiful portrait for the world to see. Just living shows Jesus.
I have never felt more proud of you or more honored to be your mommy. You truly are 'light.'
In fact, Aunt Rachel reminded me of just how intricately our lives have aligned when she thought back to the day your sister went to Heaven and how Matt spoke that day about salt and light. He talked about Mabel being like salt, enhancing everything and making it better. She sure did! But the rest of that verse in the Bible talks about being a light in the world. It talks about letting your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds, your good heart and glorify God.
Together-you sweet sisters make up a beautiful duo, one that I know has not only made Jesus glad but that has and will continue to change the lives of everyone you encounter.
The decision you made today is one of action. It tells the world that you choose to follow Jesus. This decision does not mean that you will not mess up, or fall short, or do things that you shouldn't do in your life. But it does mean that you believe in the grace that covers those things and will carry you through. In this way I hope with all of my heart that you feel a freedom that I didn't feel for a very long time. I hope that in that freedom you would explore grace, mercy and truth with a heart that is compassionate, and open but centered around our loving God.
I love you with everything, baby!