Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being Baptized

(I do realize that, in an ideal world, this invitation would have gone up on the blog before the actual baptism... but I abandoned the idea of an ideal world long ago. I felt happy to just get a handful printed out and delivered to a few neighbors and teachers!)

I have two very short memories from my own baptism day... in one of them I am sitting on the front bench in the chapel, dressed in my clean, white jumpsuit, trying to keep still next to several other kids dressed the same... ... ... And in the next memory, I'm standing in the girls' bathroom with my mom. My hair has been towel-dried, my wet jumpsuit replaced with my beautiful baptism dress. My mom knelt down just in front of me and locked my eyes in hers. "I'm so proud of you," she said. She held up a necklace... a golden heart swung from a tiny gold chain. The words I Am a Child of God wrapped around my very own birthstone and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I was so excited when it was time for my little sister to be baptized. In my all-knowing 10 year old wisdom, I repeatedly told her how special it was. It's so fun was my catch phrase. I sat as close to the font as I could while my dad immersed her in the water, and as she came up I whispered, "Well?! Wasn't that fun?!" She looked at me and wrinkled her dripping eyebrows. "That was boring," she whispered back.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Two years later I went to the temple with my Young Women's group for the first time to perform baptisms for the dead. As I walked down into the warm water, I felt my jumpsuit stick to my legs and remembered that that had happened at my own baptism. As I was immersed into the waters of baptism for the second time in my life, I couldn't help but think, I wish I could do this for myself again. I felt I could do a better job at keeping the commandments now that I was four years older and I wanted a fresh slate to try again. In my all-knowing 12 year old wisdom, I felt sure that 12-years was a much better age of accountability than was 8.

. . . . . . . . . . .

It's been 17 years since I went to the temple that first time ... and I have my own 8 year old. Now, through my mothering eyes and in my far-from-all-knowing 29 year old wisdom, I see how perfect that 8-year old mark is... at least for McKenzie. She has been taught since birth about the reality of God. Up to now, she has believed all we say because she hasn't yet been introduced to real doubt. If I say God is real, then He is. If I believe in Santa, so does she. When I say it's going to rain today, she prepares for rain.

But things are changing. I notice her pausing to think about the things I say. Analyzing them in her own mind to see if they make sense in her growing understanding of reality. One day during the Christmas season this year she asked,

"Mom, will I always believe in God?"

I could only answer, "Well, I hope so, but only you can answer that for yourself. I do."

How wise to catch her at this time of changing. Young enough to still have an overwhelmingly strong desire to please her parents (of course she will want to be baptized), yet old enough in her own reality to feel like she's fully in charge of a large decision in her life.

. . . . . . . . . . .

I wrapped the towel around McKenzie's shivering body as she came out of the font. I kissed her wet head and told her how much I loved her. Together we worked to get her into her beautiful baptism dress and as she was shivering into it, I asked her how she felt. She could only reply, "I'm!" I was curious to know if she felt any warm feelings from the Holy Ghost but I didn't press the issue any further. It was clear that the only word she was thinking was 'freezing'. Later that night I asked her how she felt as she received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Her answer, "I was really itchy the whole time and kept thinking hurry up prayer! I need to scratch!"

I don't know what she'll remember from this day. Boring? Maybe. Freezing? Probably. Itchy? Possible. Nothing? Perhaps. She is only 8, after all. 21 years later, I don't recall what I thought as I stepped down into the warm water with my dad. I don't remember how I felt as I was immersed in the water. I don't have any memories of being confirmed and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost... if I felt the Spirit warmly testifying of truth at any point, I certainly didn't recognize it. But, those details don't matter. The details that matter are that the baptism was performed, and that the Holy Ghost was given. I'm sure the Lord wasn't planning on many intensely spiritual experiences to accompany those sweet, pure 8-year-olds. From the ages of 8-18 I could probably count on one hand the number of times I consciously felt the Spirit... but in the last 10 years he has truly become my constant companion. Leading, prompting, comforting, enlightening... how excited I am for McKenzie to grow and develop in this way. But lets focus on recognizing him, first.

. . . . . . . . . . .

My sweet McKenzie, you have such a strong desire to do what is right. You think hard and seriously when we ask you questions about the gospel, and your heart is tender in all the right places. I worry sometimes about what curve balls the world will throw at you and fully realize that your 8-year-old baptism surely doesn't signify your conversion... not at all. But I can't think of a better way to start this new, independent and exploratory phase of your life. Your baptism opened up that first locked gate on the path back to your Heavenly Father, placed your feet squarely in the middle of that path, and gave you a gentle nudge to Start. Walking. The Holy Ghost was given to you to help you along your way... and oh, McKenzie, he will help you if you ask. Conversion will come later, if you desire (and I hope you desire), but now you're old enough to support your own weight and put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully the beginning of the path is still heavily protected for you. Dad and I are committed to serve as bumpers for as long as we can while you learn to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. And, eventually, I hope you'll want to keep going on your own.

We love you, Kenz. And we're proud of you. We're proud of your sweetness, of your helpfulness, and of your desire to do what is good and right. May you always keep that as we start this new journey together...



  1. We are so, so happy for her! I have never been able to write about my kids' baptisms, because I couldn't figure out how to put into words what you just said so beautifully. And I love the thought of acting as a bumper in the bowling alley of life:).

  2. Beautiful post, as always.

    Hooray for McKenz! I can't believe she is 8. Does having a baptized child make you feel really old, because I swear, when I was little only REALLY old people had kids old enough to get baptized.

    Her itchy comment made me laugh out loud. :)

  3. She did tell me that she can't wait to do more baptisms when she is 12. Oh, and that going under the water was soooooo fun. She is such a sweet kid.

  4. Beautiful Kenzie! We are so excited for you! Congrats on your baptism. We love and miss you!

  5. I miss being her primary teacher so much! What a sweet girl she is!

  6. What a sweet, sweet moment you captured in that last picture. Way to go, McKenzie! "That was boring." is my new favorite.

  7. I LOVE that last picture . . . Such an exciting day, and time, so happy for Kenze.

  8. I LOVE that last picture. I may have to steal that idea. I've been trying to decide how to capture the moment without taking a picture of the actual event.

    I can totally picture my daughters being like you and Michelle. Makes me laugh.

    I love you thoughts. When did our girls get so old?

  9. Your words are beautiful and perfectly articulate such a sacred and exciting experience for a little girl. She is so lucky to have you as her "bumper".... Congrats to the Momma and McKenzie!

    Gave me quite the chuckle of her freezing and itching. Those are such precious and pure thoughts. She'll appreciate you recording them when she is older. The other experiences and feelings will come with time - repeatedly thoughout her life :)

  10. I'm so glad we are blog friends. You leave me nice comments about my witty writing, That seems like such a nice compliment when you are always writing such beautiful things yourself.