… So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11: 13 NLT
After our three and a half years in Tucson, another geographic move directed my story at the beginning of my fourth grade school year. Being so far from family had been difficult especially for my mom, so my parents packed up our family and moved back to New Jersey.
I remember the week-long trip on Route 66 in our green Plymouth sedan, now with 5 kids in tow – 3 girls and 2 boys. It had been a “fruitful time” in Arizona for our growing family. After a few months of staying with my paternal grandmother in inner city Newark, my parents bought a three bedroom house a few blocks from St. Matthew’s church and school out in the “suburbs.” (A few years later, we made a move to a new home right next to the church and school.)
So it was Edison, New Jersey where all eight of us Renners lived during my growing up years: mother, father, and six kids. [And then, much to the surprise of all of us, when I was nineteen years old, we became nine with my baby brother, Paul.]* Edison was a typical, growing suburban town in the 1950s and 1960s. Those were the days of Davy Crockett, Father Knows Best, Lawrence Welk, and the Mickey Mouse Club (and my idol Annette Funicello).
During those early growing up years in Edison, “The Boss of the Mob” and “The Brains of the Mob” was how my mom referred to me. Why? I was her firstborn, and I gave her a run for her money (according to my godmother/aunt). I was strong willed, determined, and self-absorbed. My gentle, timid little Mommy had her work cut out for her!
As a child, I remember reading the usual Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. But more than those, believe it or not, I absolutely loved reading Lives of the Saints, especially the martyrs who suffered and died for Christ. I had the romantic notion that it would be a wonderful thing to be a martyr for Christ. You wouldn’t be surprised then to know that my ambition in my growing up years was to be a nun and a teacher, never a princess or a bride (except a “bride of Christ” as nuns were called).
My “Mommy” continued to be my hero. My dad wasn’t an easy man to live with as the years went by, though I know he was hardworking and loved us as best he could. But it was my mom who held our family together and pointed us to God. My mother’s nurturing was significantly used by the Lord to start me on the path to him.
Like all children in my Catholic school, at twelve years of age, I began preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation. This was a very important time for me. I remember really desiring to receive the Holy Spirit. So I took it very seriously and counted on the fact that the Holy Spirit really did come to live within my spirit.
So I studied my catechism, memorized my doctrinal answers, and prepared to answer the bishop if he asked me a question about “the faith.” He never did ask me a question during the ceremony (I was disappointed!), but the main thing was that my heart was all there! I really wanted to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, I would read Jesus’ beautiful words:
You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Luke 11:11-13 NLT
I knew that I had become a Catholic at my baptism as an infant (because of the choice of my parents). But this time, I believe I became a Christian because of my own heart choice. And when the Holy Spirit comes, the entire Trinity comes (after all, you can’t “chop up” the Trinity”!). I already knew that Jesus had died to pay for my sins. Now I wanted the Holy Spirit to come in and take over. I joyfully received Him, the Giver of Eternal Life. So as I’ve looked back over my spiritual journey of understanding and desire, I sense that this very well may have been the moment of my salvation from sin through our Lord Jesus Christ and my life unto God.
The interesting thing is my mom’s favorite verse that she used to quote periodically in my growing up days under her tutelage was 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 9:
…eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.
It wasn’t till years later that I learned the entire passage:
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 ESV
And life for me has been a journey, learning and understanding little by little those things that have been freely given to me by God.
Knowing the Holy Spirit and moving with His movements continues to draw me. I love the scriptural pictures for the Spirit and His actions in our human life…wind, fire, tongues, water, dove. These images were very prominent in my liturgical church upbringing.
However, a picture that has come to help me understand His ways of leading in my life and how to move with His movements is the metaphor of the dance.
I remember my dad teaching us to dance the “fox trot.” The ballroom dances were nothing to that WWII generation of men. So as middle school girls, my sisters and I were whisked around the “ballroom” (a.k.a. our living room) with strength, yet grace and gentleness, by our dad.
Since I married someone without a natural sense of rhythm (though John is gifted in many other ways), frequent dancing hasn’t been a part of my adult life (except for short spurts of “dance parties” with baby grandsons in recent years). We did take lessons in preparation for our son’s wedding, but I ended up taking the lead more often than not. And the few times I danced at family parties with my brother Conrad (himself a strong dancer), it usually started out as a tug of war till I surrendered to his lead.
I can’t help but think of my life in Christ by His Spirit as a dance. I have the Perfect Dance Partner. He has a strong hold on me and knows the way the dance goes and He knows the steps. I often try to lead and get Him to go my way. But when I yield to Him moment by moment, day by day, we dance together as I let Him take me where He is going, whisking me along in the way of His Spirit! Oh what skill beyond my skill. What love beyond my love. What words beyond my words. What fullness beyond my fullness.
What about you, my dear friend? Are you experiencing the life of Christ in and through you as you by His Spirit? Have you relinquished your will to His Almighty Self. Or do you continue to struggle to take the lead. There is no reason to not experience the rest that is your birthright as a child of God.
O Holy Spirit, Giver of life, the One by whom we become God’s children, thank you. I have sensed Your presence and your movement in my life over the years. What a privilege to be Your vessel, a daughter in Your family. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
* For more about my family and siblings: We Are Family
Before starting your own remembering stones, be sure to read the introduction to this series: Remembering Stones: Reflecting on a Life Being Lived. This will help you with perspective.
What about you, dear reader? What is your first “remembering stone”? Was there a significant person, place, truth that impacted you in your early years? What was the next “stepping stone/remembering stone”? This doesn’t have to be set in concrete. You may likely change around your order and even delete/add as you go along. Just jot down your “now thoughts.”
And jot down even the hard things that happened in your life. You can then process them with the Lord. Watch how He takes those struggles and trials, as time goes on, and “filters” them into the truths about Himself and about your life that you can build upon.
Just start writing or journaling your thoughts — no need to write it up formally. I had started out with “Topics” and descriptions long before I started writing it up formally.
Happy and reminiscing, recording, and writing!
And a shameless plug: The with-ness of our God ( Kirkus Review)