On June 5th, 2016 I was blessed with one of the biggest honors of my life. I wish I'd written about it when the emotion was still fresh but I was so terrified that someone would still my joy. I kept it to myself and only shared with my closest friends. Hadley and I baptized Lydia that day and there is nothing more edifying than standing with one of your babies as you baptize another one together. The only thing that makes it any better, is sharing it with the people you love the most and the people who accept it and celebrate it with you.
I grew up with a lot of rules, my church was very legalistic and there were rules around everything. There were even more rules if you were a woman. I've said before that I'm glad I grew up the way I did because it helped me learn healthy boundaries and it helped me develop the relationship I have with Christ today. I am also glad that I've studied and learned who I am in Christ.
One night, Keith and I were downstairs watching a movie when Lydia came in and said, "I think I want to be baptized." Regretfully, I was tired, and I told her that we'd talk about it the next morning. I wish I'd pursued it better, but sometimes we win at parenting and sometimes Jesus takes the wheel. She went upstairs and I asked Keith what he thought about it, was she ready, was she too young, did she understand enough? That's when Lydia came happily bouncing down the stairs and proclaimed, "I accepted Jesus into my heart! I told him that I love him and I want him to be with me forever."
Well...that happened! Some days we teach our children, but every day we learn from them! This was no exception! She didn't need my approval, she has a direct line to God Himself!
We talked it over it, she was happy, we were proud, we prayed about it, we soaked the moments in! It was a gleeful night for all of us. We started talking about when and where and who she wanted to do it. No real decisions were made and no one was in a rush, we were just enjoying the moment.
A few days later, Keith was traveling and Lydia brought up her baptism again, with just me. She said "Mom, I want you to do it!"
My brain began screaming, "STOP! YOU CAN NOT DO THIS!" and my anxiety was through the roof! I quickly replied, "Or, dad could do it."
I will never forget those sensitive blue eyes looking right into my soul and asking, "do you not want to baptize me mom?"
Oh, my heart! "Of course I want to baptize you sweetie," I said quickly.
There was more conversation as the panic ran through my mind but the calm and confidence remained on my face. Eventually we wrapped up and all of the kids went to bed, because all good conversations happen at bedtime in our house.
I took my panic and grabbed my phone and began texting my friend Mark. Mark is a great christian man who loves the Lord and he loves his people. Mark and I also share the same upbringing. He knows his Bible and he knows where I come from and why I have so many weird hangups in my journey. I sent Mark questions as rapid fire as I could text them...
~is it sinful for me to baptize her?
~can I do this?
~will me doing it somehow tarnish the validity?
~what if the church won't allow it?
~will I somehow be responsible for taking us both to hell if I do this?
Mark walked me through both my rational and irrational questions. He said, "even in our sect of Christians, I think its acceptable for a mom to baptize her daughter."
Lydia settled on a date, we set it up at church and she began inviting everyone she's ever met and I had plenty of time to crawl around in my own head. I had time to play out every scenario, from someone telling my daughter that her baptism didn't count because I did it, to me falling in the baptistery and drowning us all! There is a lot of crazy in here and I had two months to sort through it!
Over the next few months I threw some insanity Mark's way and he talked me down every time. I kept Mark & Keith on their toes with my emotional outbursts and worst case scenarios. I even pulled my preacher into my crazy when I told him I was scared I'd drop Lydia in the water. He and one of our friends showed me how to baptize someone and practiced it with me. Coming from my background, having the minister not only allow me to baptize my daughter but supporting and encouraging it was spectacular. There aren't words for how much that moment meant to me, and to everyone from my background who felt it with me. I've shared that with so many people because it seemed like a small thing to him, but it was huge to anyone coming from where I come from.
June 5th rolled around and I was so excited and nervous. I'm not sure which emotion was stronger. Our church family was so supportive. Our ministry team all encouraged us, prayed for us and with us, and everyone shared in our joy with us. It was an exciting and emotional day. Lydia had friends from school, friends from our former church home in Indiana, friends from Kentucky, and anyone else she could invite.
At 9:15am, Sunday morning, Lydia, Hadley, and I walked into the baptistery together. The emotions were overwhelming, the support was phenomenal, and the love was everywhere. I have no doubt that these are the moments God wants to see from us and He was in the midst of it all.
That moment of freedom that Lydia felt after baptism and the moment I felt lifting her up couldn't have been that different. I washed away 36 years of religious chains in the water that day. As I lifted my youngest daughter up from the water, a new christian, I stood there free from a weight on my soul that I've carried my entire life. I felt the presence of every strong Christian woman that I've known that morning. All of the women before me who never had the chance to experience what I felt that day were in my heart. I wore Grandma Ruth's "everyday" watch that morning so she could be there, in that moment, with me. I don't really believe that our family members are in heaven looking down on us, but in that moment, I think she may have been.
I have so much more to say about this and I am incredibly thankful that Mark has harassed me to write about that day and now that I've started, there may be an entire series of religious and spiritual transformation that began for me the night Lydia said, "do you not want to baptize me mom?'