I tried several times since Saturday to write about Jill’s baptism. Each time I have gotten stuck and have focused too much on silly details. Today I am writing with a prayer in my heart that what I write here will help someone else in a similar situation.
For weeks prior to Jill’s baptism I rode a roller coaster of emotions – joy, happiness, grief, despair, fear, sorrow, peace, calm, anxiety. I wanted the day to come, but I dreaded it at the same time. I was excited that Jill would be baptized, but I feared the people who would be there who were unaware of our situation. I was upset that some family members wouldn’t be there, but understanding as well – they all live out of state. I was grateful for those who would be there. I was afraid, totally afraid of telling Jill that John would not be baptizing her.
Jill is wonderful. She’s like a little gypsy – endlessly creative, mind of her own, determined, constantly dancing and singing, extremely stubborn.
So stubborn that I was afraid she would refuse to be baptized.
I prayed. I prayed for eight months that her heart would be softened. I prayed that she would accept the fact that she would not be baptized by John. I prayed that John and I would know how to tell her. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
We put off telling her until 3 weeks before her baptism.
One night she came downstairs after the other kids were in bed and John and I talked to her. John told her that all of our kids would be baptized differently. He explained that Jack was baptized and confirmed by him, Jude would possibly be baptized by Jack and confirmed by John. But Jill was very special. So special that she would be able to be baptized and confirmed by her grandpas. He went on to tell her that not very many kids were able to be baptized AND confirmed by their grandpas. He told her that she could decide which grandpa would baptize her and which would confirm her.
As he was talking to her I held my breath. As soon as he finished, Jill’s face lit up. She smiled and immediately said, “I want Papa to baptize me and Grandpa to confirm me.” There was never any question after that. My prayers were answered. First hurdle down.
The next hurdle was figuring out who to invite. All of my siblings have moved out of state. Only my parents are here. John has one sibling living here, but she doesn’t know. His parents were flying in to help with the baptism. Friends…What to do about friends. We fretted over it. How do you invite your friends to come to the baptism, invite them to be in the circle, and then say, “Oh, by the way, I won’t be in the circle.”? Our answer came when Jill walked in to my room and said, “Mom, are you inviting friends? Because I don’t want any of your friends, or Dad’s at my baptism. Just family and some of my friends.” Another prayer answered.
We took Jill to the grounds of a nearby temple so I could take her baptism pictures the Sunday before her baptism. It was so beautiful and peaceful that night. Jill posed and set up pictures like a pro. She was excited and happy, twirling and dancing with her Book of Mormon. I loved every minute of it.
By Thursday I was exhausted. Too much thinking and worrying about what others would think. Too much worrying about details that didn’t really matter. My mom called to ask what she could bring. I told her, hurried off the phone and sobbed. I was overwhelmed, indecisive (please don’t make me think about the food to serve – just bring something!), surrounded by my messy house, and fearful. I prayed and made a list – a very long list – of everything that needed to be done on Friday. I didn’t see any possible way that I would even get halfway through it.
Friday morning I woke up, prayed, showered and took the kids to school. From that point until I went to bed late Friday night, Heavenly Father guided me through every aspect of my day. He showed me what to do next. By the time I went to bed that night, there were a handful of things left. Things that would need to wait until Saturday morning anyway, like frosting the cake.
I felt loved. I felt known. I felt cared for. I felt calm. I felt peace.
Final hurdle. Saturday morning arrived. We made it to the church on time (miracle) and I took my place on the stand. I was giving the talk on baptism at the stake baptism. I looked at the row that held my family. I made the mistake of making eye contact with my parents, John’s mom, and John. I was a mess. I could barely keep my tears in. I wanted to sob right then and there. I was sad John wouldn’t be baptizing Jill, but I was so incredibly grateful that our Dad’s were there to help us. I was pretty sure that I was going to blubber through the short talk, and said a silent prayer right before I stood up. I immediately felt a cool sensation surge through my body. As I stood at the pulpit, the Spirit whispered to me to talk to the children, all eight of them, sitting on the front row. My eyes never left that front row. I knew, that as long as my eyes did not leave their bright faces, I would make it through my talk without being a mess. I made it. With God’s help, I made it.
When it was Jill’s turn to get baptized, our small group walked over to the font. Jill was nervous, “Is the water warm? How long will I be under? Will I go all the way to the bottom?” As she walked into the font and her Papa reached for her, I knew that nothing else mattered that day. She came out of the water beaming. As I helped her get dressed, I just looked at her. Her shining eyes, happy smile, bright countenance. She was now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We walked into another room where our family and friends had gathered for the confirmation. Our numbers were small; both sets of parents, John’s sister and her family, Jill’s primary teacher and the Primary President, our Bishop, and one of Jill’s friends with her mom and siblings. I know that people wondered when John stayed sitting as Jill’s Grandpa, Papa, Uncle, and Bishop placed their hands on her head so she could receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the feeling that came over me as my dad started the confirmation. I felt like love was going to burst out of the room. I felt the presence of loved ones who have passed on in the room with us. Loved ones who have been my guardian angels through this. I felt God’s love. His perfect love. I felt the love of the people in the room with us. It was beautiful, peaceful, and full.
We gathered at our home afterwards and spent a wonderful afternoon with our loved ones. Nothing was awkward. There were no sideways glances. My fears, that had taken a hold of me earlier in the week, had not come true. What did come true that day was an abundance of love. An increase in faith. Another step closer to another baptism, in the future, of my husband, who will once again become a member of the Church. Just as Jill was made clean on Saturday, I know that John will be made clean as well. “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)”