Worthy of Praise

I look into his smiling stone cold eyes and ask, “Momma, who is this?”

“I don’t know honey,” my mom replies hastily as she pushes me past the statue that’s captured my seven year old attention. “We’re not Catholics, so I really don’t know what to tell you.”

While her reply seemed a little edgy, it’s her demeanor that’s catching me off guard. She’s dragging me down the walk like she has a desire to get away from that statue just as fast as she can before I can ask the next questions that are dripping off my lips.

I don’t get it. Why the rush? We’re on vacation in the town that is my birthplace, the view along the river is beautiful, the smells from the nearby cafes are delightful and the sunshine bouncing off the water is invigorating. It makes me happy just to breathe the air. And up till now, Mom was happy. What did I say to make her mood change so quickly?

She continues her mission to lug me down the sidewalk. Twisting my head around, I catch the statue's eyes following me as I disappear from his sight. Sighing, I look back at Mom’s face disappointedly. The questions are still there, but they languish in the air.

Why this city is named after the statue?


Why do they keep him by the river?


Why do these questions seem to make you so upset?

I think a lot about the statue by the river after I get home. I swear to myself that I will find out what I can about him on my own. I will NOT forget to do so!

That lasted all of maybe five minutes.

Hey, give me a break! I’m seven after all.

************

But even when little girls forget to ask poignant questions or search out answers, God Himself does not forget. Sometimes He answers them right away. Other times, He veils the answer so that when the answer does come, the impact of that answer is deeper than one could have previously imagined.

Yes, I had forgotten about the statue of San Antonio greeting the patrons and strollers of the Riverwalk, but God had not forgotten my questions. He would answer them.

In His own way.

*****************

“Don’t you think that God wants you to have children, Holly?” my friend Rhonda gently asks, gazing at me with cornflower-blue eyes. “I think that He does, for look at the scripture that’s right here on your wedding invitations.” She picks up my wedding book, thumbs through till she finds the announcement and reads, “and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)”

Rhonda puts the book in her lap and looks at me intently. “Why would God press that scripture on your sister in law’s heart to give to Brent and you?” She leans forward excitedly. “I believe that even now, God is telling you that you are meant to have children!”

I squirm in my seat. How do I respond to that? Can I even hang onto this thread of hope? Oh God, I wish I could! But five miscarriages and six babies in heaven later, it seems impossible. I mean, maybe God meant for us to just be spiritual parents to other people’s children. Maybe in His calling my husband to be a pastor, maybe He’s called both of us to just be a spiritual guide and advocate for the children who come across our path. Surely, that’s it.

I want to respond to her. I see her as she gazes at me intently. But the past and grief has now made me mute. I lower my eyes.

Rhonda gets up from her chair and sits beside me. “Holly,” she murmurs, “I know how badly you want this. I’m not trying to hurt you with my words. I just believe that God really does want to fill your arms and your home with children. I just believe it and I believe this word,” (pointing to the invitation), “given to you all those years ago, are still meant to encourage you today.

She slides my wedding book on my lap. I finger the page she has laid out for me with longing. “Do you think it’s really possible?” I whisper in wonder.

“With God, anything is possible,” Rhonda sweetly laughs. “Just probably not in the way you think. I know this is very forward of me, but have you thought of adoption?”

Her words seer me like fire. Hastily I drop the wedding book on the coffee table and startle myself with the thud it makes. “I...uh...I mean, we...uh..Brent and I...have talked some”, I stammer. “He’s really for the idea, but I’m scared. I think all these miscarriages are a sign we’re not meant to be parents.”

Somehow, this does not put Rhonda off. She just leans in closer. Hasn’t the woman ever heard of personal space?

“I know you are scared, Holly. But I encourage you to bring this to the Father and ask Him what He thinks about this for the two of you. Do not let fear keep you from moving forward. Because you’ll miss out on some big blessings, whatever they are.”

“I’ll think about it,” I start to reply, but a knock on the door interrupts our tête-à-tête. My husband comes in with his cousin, ready to take Rhonda back home. As I hug her goodbye, I whisper in her ear that I promise to think about all she said.

*****************

Nine months after that conversation, I am holding my son for the first time in my arms. Oh what a journey I’ve been on to be here in this moment with him! From praying with my husband for confirmation about which adoption agency to pursue, to being chosen by an expectant mother, to having a failed placement and going through the grieving of that process, to being chosen again and this time...on Valentines Day...to be holding him for the very first time.

Our adoption agency holds an adoption placement ceremony where the birth family and foster family join with the adoptive family in celebrating the life of this child. It was so incredible and so wonderful to meet Anthony’s birth mom and oldest brother and the foster family who cared for our precious Anthony. I can’t even begin to describe that day, the joy, the sadness, the tears, and the hugs.

As we talked with each other, I asked Anthony’s birthmother - why she chose his name. With tears slipping down her cheeks she choked out, "My grandmother said to pray to St. Anthony when you lose things."

I told her that her Anthony would never be lost to her. After experiencing so much loss in my life, I cannot imagine another having so much pain and loss in as well.

I told her that when we looked up his name in a couple of baby-books, his meant "Priceless" and "Worthy of Praise". Such an awesome name, how could we ever change it? I have heard Mothers say that when they looked down at their child and looked into his or her eyes, they knew just what to name their child. From the first moment I saw Anthony, I knew there could be no other name for him. His eyes, which are the window of the soul, just spoke it.

I looked down at this peaceful baby in my lap and felt overwhelmed by Anthony’s love and trust for me. And then I looked at his birthmother. The tears and pain in her eyes will haunt me forever. This Valentine’s present was a gift to her son - a sacrificial gift that transcends tawdry candy and roses. I thought I understood what Valentine’s Day was all about. I didn’t. Not until that moment. It is a day to remember unconditional, unwavering love that is worth dying for - just like St. Valentine himself did many centuries ago.

*****************
Many weeks later, I was researching on the internet to see if I could find out information on St. Anthony of Padua. I figured that if Anthony’s birth mom had named him after the Saint, then I should find out all that I could about him. He is an amazing man, and I loved researching about his passion to preach the love of Christ to others. But in my search, something stopped me cold in my tracks. On a webpage I stared at a picture of a friendly face. One that seemed to reach out to my hazy past and held my gaze with his eyes.


I looked at the picture and read, " San Antonio, Texas, is the site of this modern statue of St. Anthony. The child, with arms spread like a cross, stands on the Bible, reverently held by this great preacher of the Word of God." Why St. Anthony Holds the Child Jesus.

It was the same statue that I had stared at as a child on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. That's when it hit me. San Antonio is the Spanish name for "St. Anthony". The town I was born in and my son's name are both namesakes of St. Anthony!  And then I heard these words in my heart:

"You may not have gotten to know my servant, but I’d like for you to love and know better your own St. Anthony. Teach him about Me. Teach him about his family. Raise him up to be a Man of God, kind and full of grace like my servant, but his own man."

And I wept.

The journey continues…

And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. Jeremiah 32:39 (NASB)

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Feel free to comment, and God bless you! ~ Holly

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