"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From Hurricane to Baptism: A Planner in an Unplannable World


Since we moved to New Jersey, I've gotten lots of compliments from people about how relaxed and easy-going I am with my parenting, the state of the house, etc. Friends who know me well, especially college and graduate-school friends, might find this a little funny. The truth is, I tend to lean in the direction of being both a planner and a perfectionist. So my house may not be perfect, but this does actually bother me. I think I have gotten more relaxed about this stuff recently, but that's mostly because I don't really have a choice, what with four children, six years and under.

One of the great challenges of pregnancy is not being able to "plan" the birth date, and I think this lack of control is in fact what drives many people to elective inductions and elective C-sections. As a planner, I sympathize with wanting to KNOW when the baby's coming. We were caught off guard by Robert's early delivery. I had planned on having a couple of more weeks to wash his clothes, buy diapers, etc. And I had channeled most of my nesting energy toward writing my dissertation. 

The month of October was really a whirlwind of activities for our family. As the month ended we got news of  Hurricane Sandy on the way. As a planner, I definitely appreciate weather forecasts, especially when something major like a hurricane is on the way. But even with this knowledge, it's hard to know what the devastation is going to be or how to prepare. For example, I don't think anyone anticipated the gas shortage that became Jersey's latest crisis associated with the hurricane.

Anyway, Jeff and I are not ones to delay baptism. We started talking dates for the baptism probably back in August. We weren't sure if Robert would come more towards the beginning or the middle of October (or even the end!). We wanted to avoid having to send out baptism invites before Robert was born (that's what we ended up doing with Patrick, who was born a mere two weeks before his baptism). November 4th seemed like a safe date. Robert would surely be born by then, and my parents could probably stay until the baptism - an added bonus.

Then we got the forecast for the hurricane. It was really a feeling of impending doom and very strange trying to live life normally in the days leading up to it. The general atmosphere of panic doesn't help matters. Consider that on the Friday prior to the hurricane, we went to Costco at 8:00 p.m., hoping to avoid the crowds that would no doubt be shopping Saturday and Sunday before the hurricane came on Monday. We misjudged that one... Costco's parking lot was completely full, and they were out of both bottled water and flashlights. 

I went to confession on Saturday, not because I was anticipating an early death due to an act of nature, but just because I usually go on Saturdays. Afterwards, I asked Fr. Jim if we'd still have the baptism if the church had no power. He reassured me we'd have power by then, etc.
As it turned out, we didn't have power by then. Well, I should say that the church had electricity (in fact, I'm not sure the church lost it for more than a few hours). And at our house, we got power back on the Friday before the Saturday baptism. It came on at 10:00 a.m., and I went crazy trying to catch up on laundry, vaccuuming, and so on. But then at 5:00 p.m. it flickered and went out again. No one was happy to be in the dark again, but I was proud of myself for calling out a quotation from Job: "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away!" And Jeff answered from a different room, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" 

I hoped it was just some minor tweak by the power company, and we'd have electricity in the next hour or so. I was still hoping that when we woke up on Saturday morning. But it soon became clear that we were going to be hosting a party for about 50 people in a house that had no electricity. At least the reception was during the day; we could count on natural lighting. This, however, was definitely NOT what I had planned. I like to have things under my control in my own house; I like to put a personal touch on hosting. With many stores closed and no way to turn on my oven, I had a hard time getting paper plates and I couldn't bake or cook anything for the party. Thank goodness for Robert's very kind, generous and helpful godparents who made sure we had paper goods and plenty of food.

I was reflecting during all this how the natural limits imposed by the hurricane really helped me to focus on the supernatural. Sitting in the dark all evening, I had lots of time to think about how what really mattered was not having an awesome party, but just getting my son baptized. It's nice to have coordinating paper plates and napkins and delicious home-baked goods, but it's no prerequisite for the indelible mark of the Holy Spirit on the soul of a child.

So while I can say that the party was more of a "Plan B" party than a "Plan A" party, I can also say that the baptism itself was exactly what we planned. Robert entered the Church, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


The reception was fine. We even got our power back... during the party! It was a little baptism gift from God, I think.

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