The week before Christmas I baked sweet breads for all the neighbors on our street. We moved into the neighborhood last summer, right before our baby was born, and our amazing neighbors showered us with food, gifts, cards, and offers to help after Baby Rett arrived. We really wanted to bring them Christmas treats this year to celebrate the season but also to say “thank you” for their many kindnesses to the street “newbies.”
As I wrapped the breads and wrote tags for the packages, I ran out of generic “Merry Christmas” notes, and (in an endless story of my behind-ness this year) our family’s picture-cards had not been picked up from the printer yet (it’s the last day of Christmas and I’m STILL writing those dang cards slowly…lol).
On top of my desk sat a pile of Christmas cards we had received from a Catholic missionary organization that we donate to. They had sent the cards free in the mail. These particular cards were dripping with Jesus Gospel words. They spoke truth freely about the meaning of Christmas and the reason the feast is so important. On the back of the card was the name and logo of the Catholic missionary organization.
I picked up the card rather apprehensively. I still needed to attach a note to one last neighbor’s Christmas bread, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to include a note so blatantly Catholic.
You see, I didn’t know if these particular neighbors were Christians, Jews, Buddhists or Agnostics. I had no idea if God or religion had any place in their lives. My family and I had enjoyed many conversations with these neighbors, and anything close to religion had never ever ever come up.
I didn’t want to offend them. I didn’t want to alienate my family from them and the neighborhood. This is the Bible Belt, after all, and we live in Billy Graham’s home town.
But because I was low on time and I wanted to get the task done, I wrote that Jesus card with Catholic words and all and sent the bread over to the neighbor’s house.
That was a Friday evening.
The next morning shortly after breakfast, my neighbor called and asked if she and her daughter could come over to play for a little while. Minutes later, our kids played on our backyard swings and she and I sat down on the back staircase. The first words out of her mouth startled me:
“Steph I’m a Catholic. I married a Baptist and I haven’t been inside a Catholic Church since.”
Her next words almost made me fall down the back stairs.
“I’ve fallen from grace. I’m living in sin. And it really bothers me.”
She then began to tell me her story – that after giving birth to her daughter, she really wanted to start attending the Catholic Church again, but she didn’t know where to go or who to talk to. She confessed to browsing the websites of local Catholic Churches to see what they were like.
She told me her daughter was not baptized, but that she really wanted her little one to receive the sacraments. Apparently my neighbor did not have a single Catholic friend or any relatives that were still practicing Catholics.
“I want her baptized but I don’t know anyone who could be her godparents!” my neighbor bemoaned.
Y’all. On a Saturday morning in late December I sat on my back step and volunteered to be the godmother for a little girl I hardly knew. I couldn’t believe this conversation was happening, but I was so grateful my neighbor had shared her heart. I promised her I’d help her contact a Catholic Church and a priest who could counsel her on how to baptize her little girl. And if she truly couldn’t find godparents, that I would gladly be the one.
The only explanation my Hubs and I can think of for this startling backyard conversation is the Jesus-dripping Christmas card we had delivered the night before.
Friends, I am a woman of very
small minuscule faith. I’m ashamed of the lack of courage I often have. The lack of boldness in speaking Gospel words. Or even writing them.
But the lesson I learned this Christmas is that the Manger Baby takes even our greatest weaknesses, our greatest fears, our awkwardness, our shyness, our ineptness, our behind-in-the-to-do-lists-ness, and He uses it for His glory.
My New Year’s resolution for 2014: to pray for a spirit of boldness in speaking and writing and living truth, even when I feel shy or afraid.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith…” – Romans 1:16
…And since today is the Twelfth and final day of the Christmas season, my family and I wish all y’all a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, holy New Year. :o)