This I Believe: Rachel Blair-Paladino (2024)

Good morning. My name is Rachel Blair-Paladino and my pronouns are she/her. 

When Rev. Jack asked me to share my This I Believe, my instinct was to say no. Unlike my husband Jordan, who has spoken in front of you all several times, public speaking does not come easy to me. 

But the timing of Jack’s request was impeccable. 

This year Jordan and I will celebrate 10 years of partnership. They have been the best years of my life. Somehow each year is better than the last. We are incredibly lucky to have found a love like ours. 

Jordan and I have always known that we wanted a family. We love kids and can see ourselves with children. But life hardly goes as planned. 

Though you can’t see them, I am a person with disabilities. At twenty-two I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that has reshaped our life plans. When I was twenty-eight, and we were ready to start a family, my health declined again, and I was diagnosed with two more autoimmune diseases. 

To our dismay, our doctors advised us not to try for children until my health was in remission. They also shared that my autoimmune diseases would make a pregnancy complicated, calling it “high risk”. 

I’m am incredibly lucky to have a great team of doctors and health insurance that covers my expenses. I know this is part of my privilege. After about a year of treatments, my doctors deemed me in remission and gave us the okay to start trying for a family. We were elated. 

But again, life has its own plans. Very quickly we realized that something wasn’t right. After more doctor’s appointments and tests, they gave me a diagnoses and shared that I will always struggle with infertility. They told us that we needed to see a fertility doctor. 

Last December, on a Tuesday afternoon, we met with a specialist who told us that we’d need IVF to conceive a child. Three days later, two days before Christmas, I found out that I was pregnant. Despite the odds, we conceived naturally and I’m happy to share that we’re expecting our first child this August. 

I share all of this for two reasons: 

Reason one: I wholeheartedly believe that miracles happen. 

They come in all shapes and sizes, from a long awaited COVID vaccine, a birth of a child, a strained relationship reunited, and even a shooting star. I have no idea if miracles come from a higher power, and I don’t care. I believe we should look for miracles, because when they happen, it’s amazing. 

Reason Two: Jack’s timing was impeccable. 

There is nothing quite as terrifying as becoming a parent. Jordan and I ask ourselves daily, how are we going to afford this? Will they be healthy? How will our dog react to not being an only child? And most terrifying – what kind of parents will we be and what do we hope to pass on to them? 

I thought a lot about those questions while writing this. The following are a few beliefs my husband and I hope to model as parents, and values we know this community will help us navigate and build upon. 

I believe that finding God or spirituality is a lifelong journey worth taking.  

I grew up a Christian mutt – with influence from Southern Baptist, Catholic and Lutheran roots. My earliest memories of God come from Sunday school. After a lesson on the flood where the wicked perished and Noah and the animals stayed afloat in the arc, I started having nightmares about God. I distinctly remember these dreams where God would come, bring the rain, and I would desperately try to save my family from perishing in the water. I was six when this started. 

As a young child I feared God, and I think that may have been the exact purpose of my early religious education. 

After my parents got divorced, my mother stopped taking my brother and I to church. Instead, she would teach us Sunday school from home, reading us Bible verses that focused on love, generosity and kindness. After every lesson she’d ask us what we thought it meant, and what truths we could pull from the sacred texts. 

She made it clear that she wanted us to find our own meaning and that she would not enforce her own beliefs on us. Religion was something for us to explore, not to be indoctrinated in. 

My vision of God has changed countless times, especially when I met my husband. He was the first Jewish person I had ever talked to, and his faith was eye-opening to me. Who knew that some folks don’t believe in hell?   

Jordan taught me that in Judaism, practitioners are encouraged to ask tough questions about their faith. “Stump the rabbi” is a popular game among Jewish folks, where congregants try their hardest to find a philosophical or theological question that even the rabbi can’t answer.  

I deeply appreciate my mother’s curious approach to faith and Judaism’s endorsement of asking tough questions.

Being curious and asking questions is what lead me to my faith, and has given me a deep and rewarding connection to God. And that connection will change – it’s a lifelong journey. How wonderful is it that we get to curate our faith, nourishing it with curiosity and questions? We hope to pass on this practice to our own child. 

I believe that gratitude is not only a way to connect with God, but is key to happiness in life. 

Early in the pandemic, my husband and I started praying before dinner. We rotate who prays, and our prayers vary from short and sweet to mournful acknowledgements of what’s happening in the world. While each night is different, there is a common theme in our prayers: gratitude. 

Through our dinner prayers, I have been reminded of the things I often take for granted: my husband’s cooking, being able to fill a table of eight with friends, and the sunshine coming in through our dining room window. 

I try to practice gratitude everyday through prayer and noticing the world around me. It’s through this practice that I’m able to find sparklets, or scraps of everyday life that give me connection to God. And this gives me joy. 

Sparklets come in many shapes and sizes. Things like the smell of pine sap, the wrinkles around a loved one’s smile, a thought-provoking line in a good book. If we notice the sparklets, we can find meaning in them, and ultimately be grateful to have witnessed them that day. 

I believe that gratitude can make you humble, and it helps you understand when you have enough in a world that’s constantly telling you to have more. It may also be the most sustainable way to find joy, too. We hope to pass along the practice of gratitude to our child. 

Finally, I believe it’s our great task to love each other. 

There are many things I hope to model for my child. In that list are things like kindness, generosity, tolerance, connection, community. That’s a big list, and it’s a daunting task. 

But when I think about those values, it’s fair to say that love is at the center of them. It’s love that drives them. 

For me, Love and God are interchangeable. Acting with love is to be connected to God. And there are so many ways we can act with love – from the way we vote, donating our time and money, fighting white supremacy and capitalistic culture, and by practicing compassion with ourselves and others. 

There are many injustices in this world. Racism, oppression, poverty, war, homelessness, a woman’s right to healthcare. It’s overwhelming. 

But perhaps love is the answer. It is the most precious thing we have to offer, and I believe it’s our great task to draw the circle wider so that each and every one of us is truly loved. Imagine what that would be like, if everyone treated each other and our earth with love? 

I want to thank this community for the love and connection you have shared with Jordan and I. In two short years this church has come to feel like a part of our home. It has challenged us and helped us grow spiritually. This is the community we want to raise our child in, and we feel so lucky to be a part of it. Thank you.