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Amelia Baptism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments

The Gift of Baptism

I was raised by a mother who understood love best in giving and receiving gifts.  Each treasure was meticulously chosen, prepared, and, at the perfect time, presented as a satin ribbon-crowned objet d’art.  She did this to demonstrate to that person that they were prized above any sacrifice it took to bring the gift to them.  Indeed, to receive a gift from my mother was a special thing, and I still remember the radiant look on her face as she waited for me to unwrap that which she had given so generously.  To her, giving a gift meant you had thought about that person and what would really make them happy.  She was just as joyful in receiving, exclaiming how lovely and thoughtful the giver was after carefully unwrapping their gift so as not to tear the paper even the slightest bit.

Now that I am grown and a mother myself, I appreciate my mother’s generosity even more.  I take every opportunity to bless my children with gifts, not because they have earned them, but because I love them and it makes me happy to see them smile.  I want to share every good and wonderful thing with my little ones.  If human parents in their fallen state derive such pleasure from giving to their children, how much more does our Heavenly Father delight in the gifts He offers to us?

Recently, I received a beautiful gift in God’s perfect timing – a son.  My fourth child was born at home on a quiet Saturday afternoon after an intense two-and-a-half hour labor.  He was immediately welcomed by three awestruck siblings who rejoiced over the arrival of their new playmate.  This little man was showered with gifts from the beginning – he had his own bed, his own blankets and toys, and his own clothes neatly hung and folded in the room he would share with his brother.  Every person in the family had sacrificed and contributed in preparing a place for him.  I had endured the discomforts of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth in order to give this child the best birth possible and the most peaceful start in life.  All of this we did because we loved him.  It was our gift to him.  For two blissful hours, we all basked in the joy of this new life, this blessed gift from God.

And then, he got sick.

He was not breathing right.  As we rushed to the hospital, the midwife in the back seat holding oxygen to my baby’s face, I did the only three things I could think of: I prayed for God to heal my son, I asked my friends to storm Heaven on his behalf, and I called a priest. If you are a person of faith, you will understand why I did the first two, but perhaps not the third, unless, of course, you are Catholic. My son was ill, and as his mother, I wanted him to have everything that is good.  I wanted him to have the best, and the best that I could give was a share in the promise of eternal life with God.

When God established the covenant with Abraham, He created a family.  For two thousand years, circumcision served as the sign of their familial bond.  The promises given to faithful Abraham were extended to his children.  So it was in the early Church, which took Jesus at His word and “let the little children come”  and did not hinder them.  It was understood that the Kingdom belonged to them as well as to adults, not because of their faith, but because of their parents’ faith.  Entire households were baptized based on the faith of one member. My husband and I are Christians.  We know this because we know we were baptized.  Our parents stood up for us and vowed to reject Satan and all his works and empty promises.  To be a Christian means to have faith in Christ, to believe His promises.  Jesus’ promises are not empty, but full of life.  He is the one who baptizes through the minister of baptism.  Baptism is not about what we do for Christ, but what He does for us.  It is His gift to us, given freely.  It cannot be earned, only accepted.  I accepted it for my child.

I have friends and even family who do not understand my pain in those hours I waited for my child to be baptized.  Yes, the hospital staff had to make sure he was “stable” and I wanted that, but I was desperate for my son to receive the Holy Spirit.  I could not rest until he was claimed for Christ and given our family name.  Just as earthly fathers bestow their names upon their children, so Our Heavenly Father gives us His name as we are claimed for Him.  Once the water was poured over his head, grace poured into his soul, and the Name spoken over him, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” God gave me another lovely gift: peace.  My child was in God’s hands and I would praise Him no matter the outcome.

My son survived.  We brought him home almost one week from the day he joined our family and God’s family, the Church.  The graces he received at his baptism flowed not only into him, but into his parents and godparents, turning all of our hearts even more toward Our Heavenly Father.  God really is a loving Father.  He delights in the gifts He gives us.  What a beautiful gift we have in His Church and in the Sacraments, those “outward signs of inward grace.”  A sign points beyond itself, and so do the sacraments point beyond us, beyond this life to the next.  They help us not only to glimpse Heaven, but to have a piece of it here on Earth.  My mother taught me how to receive a gift joyfully. I will teach my children to accept God’s gifts in the same manner: with happy hearts.

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Emily Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage NFP and contraceptives Prayer Respect Life Vocations

Bats in the belfry…

So, last time I posted it was the jackhammers.  I know you’re dying for an update – so I have to say it is getting a little better.

There are still random clashes of construction noises here at work, but overall there is a return to sanity.

Well, sanity is an interesting concept.  Personally, I’m more drawn to the insane side of life – mostly because my life tends to naturally gravitate there anyway – so why fight the inevitable.  This week’s insanity started off pretty darn amazing…and to continue with my “word of the day” theme I’ll elaborate.

Today’s word of the day…bats.

Normally, I’m not too squeamish about the flying rats.  They eat mosquitoes and bugs and fertilize the ground.  They flutter around right at dusk in the skies above the natural spring and river behind our house.  They’ve even got a huge presence at my Alma mater… The University of Florida has a well-known “Bat House” on campus.

But 10:45pm on Labor Day?… flying around your HOUSE!?!  Yeah, no – that’s an entirely different story.  FREAK OUT!

Okay – so our story goes WAY back, and I won’t bore you with all the details (because it may include some amazingly distracting stories about our insane neighbor who talks to his weeds and wears tighty-whitey underwear on his head), but our house is not very well built.   Our master bathroom has been gutted for over 10 years (never have the money to really dive into that project), our walls have signs of leaks and water intrusion, and the exterior siding has a desperate need of being replaced.  Living in Florida has plenty of perks, but the environment can certainly take its toll on a poorly-built home, not to mention the housing-boom-then-crash has left us with little options available for taking out home equity lines to get the work done… so we muddle through and try to fix the most important things as they come along.

So, along came the spider, who sat down beside her… which inspired my wonderful husband to want to seal up the gaping holes in the exterior siding of the house as a temporary fix to keep out the spiders until we have the funds to fully replace all the siding and seal everything up.   GREAT motive…BAD results.   He sprayed this sealing foam stuff up in the cracks – mostly with the intention of trying to keep critters OUT of the house, and not really considering what we could be trapping INSIDE the walls.
Four hours later, we found out exactly what we should have been considering.  Kids are all upstairs in bed, snuggled up and getting a restful night’s sleep before school the next day. Husband and I are discussing news and bills on the computer when this black thing flies downstairs and through the room.  HOLY CRAP – A BAT!  The next 45 minutes are spent running around looking like idiots (because we’re cool, calm, and collected like that) with nets and towels trying to find the intruder, searching in every nook and cranny, inside closets and behind dressers…no luck.  Then we decide to research online about bats in the house – which was worse than we thought.  Apparently it’s NOT a good idea to sleep in a house with bats – you can get bitten while you sleep and not know it because the bite marks are so small… and with the chance of (deadly) rabies – it’s not worth the risk. So, we load up the car at 11:45 at night and drive to my mother-in-law’s to sleep.  We stay at her house for the next several nights – driving home early in the mornings to shower and get off to work and school.

One of these early mornings I came back to the house at 5:30, alone, to get my shower before my husband woke up the kids and brought them home.  I walk upstairs and find… THE BAT… hangin’ out on a door frame in our hallway.  So here I am, alone, 7 months pregnant, at 5:30 in the morning.  I knew no one (ahem – husband!) would ever believe me if I caught it, so I ran downstairs, grabbed a net and my cell phone (to record the capture on video).  In the 2 minute video my emotions ran from  bravery, to psychotic babble, and finally ending on screaming terror as I capture the beast (it had to be the size of a butterfly – utterly terrifying!).  In my unstable mental state my only thought was to release it outside.  In retrospect, I really regret that decision.  I should have killed it and had it tested for rabies.
Throughout the week, the thought that our kids could have been exposed to rabies that first night (while they were sleeping upstairs and the bat flew down the first time we saw it) was plaguing our minds.  I was so scared about an unnecessary (and very expensive) vaccine, my husband couldn’t handle the slightest possibility of a disease that was non-treatable (certain death).

Suddenly we have to reevaluate what’s important…and try not to panic…and trust that things will work out.  Financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually…trust seems a little daunting right now.  We prayed, and argued, and debated…over time being guided by the advice of several doctors and websites that it would be a wise choice to go ahead with the vaccine.  So our Friday night was spent in the ER for 4.5 hours (x3 ER co-pays!)…  but we knew this was the right decision – our children were too precious for the slightest risk.

See, being a Catholic means we have put some SERIOUS trust in God the Almighty… and it can be REALLY REALLY hard to put that kind of trust outside of our control.
We have the ability to CONTROL everything in our lives these days – our appearance, our education, our finances, even our ability to reproduce!  But God wants us to ponder and evaluate every single one of these Free Will choices we make in our lives.   God asks us to trust Him and His creation.  His creation is GOOD and it is filled with MERCY!

Take birth control, for instance… Why do we crazy Catholics reject contraception when the entire world sees it as a wonderful solution?  Because it’s a blatant denial of the amazing GIFT of being co-creators of other souls with the Almighty!   Wow, pretty heavy stuff when you really ponder it.

But, God also knows  it can be hard to sacrifice your body for the sake of another soul (personal experience and all)!  In fact, He understands so well that He designed this really groovy feature into us humans – periodic fertility that you can observe, track, and use within your own Free Will (Natural Family Planning).  You don’t have to use it – (in fact, if you’re cool with trusting Him entirely, that’s awesome!) – but He SYMPATHIZES.  You’re dealing with a whole lot of pain and suffering in this world, and it’s HARD.   Still – His natural order allows for Free Will… but when we choose to CONTROL every single aspect of our lives without His input, we are blocking God from participating in our lives!  NFP requires a lot of trust and prayer… and constant evaluation of our motives.

If you’d like to learn more about the practical application of NFP, contact your local diocese.   There are many methods – some of which may work better than others for your unique situation, so be open to lots of ideas and options. Natural Family Planning is also a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with infertility and desiring a child.  It’s not always a quick-fix-all, but NFP does open up some options and answer some questions, without diving deeper into more controversial infertility treatments.  Like two sides of the same coin (trying to conceive or avoiding conception) – either way we are called to prayerfully accept God’s creation – no matter how heavy that cross may seem.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that NFP is a quick-fix to covering the sin of contraception!… Remember, it’s not meant to be used with mindset of “control”.  For some, it can be quite challenging.  But, if we continue to approach our fertility as a GIFT from God, and PRAYERFULLY reflect on why it may be necessary at times, then we are fully able to receive this beautiful gift of mercy.

For now, I have a lot to trust God about.  While I really wish this darn bat situation was something I could dive in and control without it impacting my life, I know that life will go on.  We may end up poorer, emotionally spent, physically exhausted, and a little insane (don’t you dare call me “batty”!) in the end… but that’s what FAITH is all about.