May 6, 2016

by Renee Peggs

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life. Psalm 27:4a

Jay and Elizabeth Tipton, and their daughter Abigail, will soon move into the Habitat for Humanity house which University of Notre Dame athletics personnel began building last fall in Mishawaka. Every division of the athletics department and each of the 26 Division I teams was represented throughout the year by volunteers who worked at the build site. The house was blessed in an April 24 ceremony by members of the athletics department staff, Rev. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., Habitat staff and volunteers, the Tipton family and many of their friends. Plans already are underway for the third collaboration between Habitat and Notre Dame athletics, which will begin later this fall.

Dear Abigail,

At four months old, you won’t remember this day–but it was spectacular and sure to have a big impact on you for many years to come.

Today, you and Mommy and Daddy received the gift of a house! And not just a house; not just any house; your very own home. A house is important, but a home is something really special. Home is about belonging – it’s where you’re safe, you’re comfortable, you’re known and loved and always welcomed back. Home is sacred ground.

People build houses. People can buy and sell and give each other houses. But God gives us a home.

Way back at the beginning of everything, God made a home for plants and animals and people: our earth! In one story about the creation of this home, God told people they would have dominion over the plants and animals and the land where everything grows and lives. This word, dominion, derives part of its meaning from the ancient word for home. What God meant was that people needed to care for what had been entrusted to them, to treat the plants and animals and land with respect and gentleness and honor.

Home is about responsibility. When you decide you want something really special or really valuable, like a home, you’re expected to be responsible about taking care of it when you get it.

Your mother and father have proven they can be trusted and responsible with something as significant as a home. They spent many hours learning everything they needed to know about houses, even learning how to build a house and helping other families build houses!

Mommy and Daddy have lots of people helping them, too. Hundreds of pairs of hands worked to build this house so you can have a home. Some of those hands belonged to athletes at Notre Dame, some to Notre Dame coaches, some to administrators or athletics staff, many to other people who, like your parents, are involved with an organization/ministry called Habitat for Humanity. Thousands of people around the whole world train their hands and dedicate their time to working for and with families just like yours, so everyone can have a safe, efficient, affordable home.

You’re in good hands, Abigail. Hands that are strong and true, hands that will teach you and guide you in the ways of wisdom and grace, hands that will pick spiritual fruit for your nourishment until you are old enough to take on the faith that is being handed down to you.

Home is about humility. You have to admit sometimes that you can’t do everything on your own, so ask for help and work hard to do whatever is required. Not all people grow up to be responsible. You are fortunate that you have excellent examples of responsibility and humility in your parents!

Home is also about sharing. God created our earth-home as a place where all plants and animals and people would always have enough, as long as people would choose to share. Abundance and blessings come from sharing!

Many centuries ago, a man named Elijah visited a town and asked a woman for the hospitality of her home. She did not refuse him, but she explained that she had only enough for a final meal to feed herself and her son before they would succumb to starvation. Because the woman was willing to share even this meager amount, God blessed what oil she had to bring light to her home and the flour that she used to feed her household “for many days to come” (I Kings 17:15).

Your parents invited dozens of people to your home today, Abigail, and offered them the grace of warm hospitality. Some of these people were family members and good friends; others were complete strangers. (There were lots of pictures taken, and you’ll be able to look at those someday and remember these special moments.)

As a symbol of home, its gifts and implications, your grandmother made a very special presentation to your mom and dad among all those people. One at a time, in the same way Jesus took everyday table items and made them sacraments, Grandma Annette pulled ordinary items from a basket and made them holy. Her words were full of blessing: “Salt – that life may always have flavor; bread – that this house may never know hunger; and wine (or, sparkling grape juice!) – that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

Home is about people. The people who celebrated with you today all joined in prayer around and through your home. We said a special prayer in your room: “Lord, may this room be one where Abigail knows your presence and love. Guide her as she considers who you would have her be. May she always know that you have a plan for her life and may she find her identity in you. When times are uncertain, may this home serve as a solid foundation for her and a tangible reminder of your provision. Amen.”

We care for one another, Abigail, have “dominion” with one another, help each other out, because God has made us such that we cannot survive alone. Each of us is dependent on other people. God helps us express gratitude by meeting the needs of others.

Grow and flourish, sweet baby girl, surrounded by the gifts of home.

With much hope and many blessings,

Your friends from Notre Dame Athletics