What’s different about Easter this year?

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This year, Easter feels very different.

When I was a little girl, it was about fancy dresses and how much a of twirl they could spin. It was about The Bunny, coloring eggs and photographs my mom used to make us take in front of the best flowering bush in our yard.

It was about Jesus in a white robe, an empty tomb and angels on a flannel board.

It was about going to church, beautiful old-school corsages for Mom and Grandma, a huge ham dinner and the adults napping in the afternoon. I remember being bored out of my mind having to play “quietly” by myself so my mom (a hard-working, single parent) could take a much needed rest at our grandparents’ home.

Fast forward and I’m a young, married adult. Easter was still about a new dress, going to church, a huge ham dinner and a lazy afternoon basking in the fullness of the meal.

Over the next six years our three children were born and Easter reverted back to childhood traditions of colored eggs, Easter baskets, The Bunny, the huge ham dinner, a fancy dress with a twirly skirt for our baby girl and matching outfits for our boys.

It was the only day, apart from Christmas, that we could convince our oldest son to wear formal clothes.

Easter was about photographs taken in the prettiest spot in our yard, new recipes to try out for the big meal, and of course a backyard egg hunt.

We added more traditions to an already full plate: Resurrection Eggs, several picture books about the real meaning of Easter, making Resurrection cookies, and letting the kids have a ball decorating an Easter cake, which varied every year from an empty tomb to a head bust of The Bunny, Jello eggs, watching Passion of the Christ as a family and attending the Tenebrae service at our church on Good Friday.

As a mom, I confess, Easter became a scrap-booking event.

I was more caught up in the hoopla, bells and whistles of Easter than why we were really celebrating it.

One year, it happened…the worst thing EVER! It rained! The yard was too wet for photos and egg hunts. The house was dark from looming, full clouds. I remember thinking, “No! It can’t rain on Easter. You know, the empty tomb on a glorious morning. What about the pastel dresses and flowers posed for pictures? Easter is ruined.”

Wow.

I get it. As a mom who loves squeezing out every possible moment of holiday fun, I was devastated that so many plans had to change and I. Couldn’t. Control. It.

This year, however, the advent of Easter has been radically different for me. Why? We still can’t wait for our family to come visit. We still plan to color eggs and have an egg hunt and enjoy a huge ham dinner. New yearly devotionals will be discovered in baskets for our teens.

Today, my girl and me will go buy her an Easter dress, even as an older teenager.

So what’s different?

The work God has done in my heart.

A heart that has lived through the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the past year. A heart that has been both tenderly held and drop-kicked to the ground. Love has been both celebrated and tested. Hope has shown up and has hid in the shadows. Joy has met us in the most unexpected places, but seemed nowhere to be found when I was searching desperately for it.

This past year, my faith has been put in a blender and what has poured out is one single thing that makes this Easter different than any other Easter I’ve lived –

Grace.

Grace has been the underdog that wins the battle for me.

Grace advocated for lost causes.

Grace believed in the impossible.

Grace strengthened the weak.

Grace fought for the voiceless.

Grace tended to wounds no one else can see.

Grace spoke sweet dreams over a restless body.

Grace talked a weary soul off the ledge.

Grace cared enough to speak the truth…in love.

Grace buffered my heart in the decisions and circumstances I didn’t want.

Grace held my hand in the decisions and circumstances that I wanted, but couldn’t have.

Grace has been the only thing to make sense in times when nothing else did.

Grace. Beautiful. Eternal. Grace.

When I have literally fought for loved ones to the gates of hell and back. When I have mourned and wept over loss. When I have felt like dying to myself in Christ was going to kill me. When I couldn’t come up with one stinkin’ reason to get out of bed. When I’ve been pummeled by anxiety over situations out of my control. When I’ve been so furious I could spit nails…

Grace reminded me the nails have already been used – on the cross.

Jesus, grace personified, willingly took everything life could throw at me, and everything I could throw back, and diffused the bomb of my ticking heart. He replaced all the ash of this past year with mercy and hope and love that this world cannot take away.

I continually stay in an attitude of awe at the daily miracles He is doing to redeem this life. He is making a way in the wilderness one step at a time. He is providing streams in the desert one drop at a time.

I am grateful.

Grace has become my oxygen, my sustenance, my hope for the future and my reality for the day.

I am also happy to let Costco help cook Easter dinner and to put down the camera and enjoy the thrill of the day that came by way of grace because of Jesus.

These days I burst into spontaneous tears of joy because of grace and the Creator of it. I say to myself, “EEK! I’m becoming more like my mom who cried so easily and my mother-in-law who still does.” But, smiling through the tears, I get it.

When a heart truly, fully understands the need for grace, and accepts this free gift wholly into itself, the overflow of tears are of gratitude and thankfulness and joy. Unspeakable joy.

This Easter, Kristi has put down the plans. Let go of the expectations. And disbarred the bar that must be reached and exceeded over last Easter.

Instead, I’m lifting up hands to He who has the whole world in His hands – the beautiful and the ugly and every single moment in between.

Only when we really know that it is by grace we live, move and have our being can we really live. Only when we begin to accept how deep and wide Christ’s love for us is can we embrace it.

This Easter, join me in a new tradition – grace. Receive it and give it. Enjoy the beauty of it and behold the power of it.

It’s a free gift with purchase – our salvation purchased with the payment of Jesus’ own blood.

Pretty eggs, baskets full of surprises, and delectable side dishes all sound good, but they don’t make or break Easter. Rain or shine, warm or cold, celebrating Easter is celebrating Jesus, God’s grace, and forgiveness that comes through salvation.

More than the momentary delight of matching outfits, finding the last egg, or colorful jelly beans, love, joy, peace, and grace are the sweetest gifts we get to experience on Easter and every day of the year.

God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. ~ 2 Timothy 1:9-10

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Traditions

If your home looks like mine, colorful fall leaves have found their way to every room of the house, my one annual, frivolous expense, a yummy smelling pumpkin spice candle is more than half-way used up by now, and the hall closet has been ransacked by kids hurrying to find a jacket to take to school on unexpectedly chilly mornings.  I love it!

With Thanksgiving next week, I am scouring Pinterest and my familiar cookbooks to decide what to make for “the dinner.”  We share this holiday with extended family, and it’s just so fun to have everyone bring their family’s favorite dishes to share.

One dish that represents our clan is pie.  No, I’m not a great pie maker.  I’m not sure I’m even a good pie maker, but the story behind this pie is what has made it a family tradition.

Several years ago, I was in the kitchen, with the other women folk in the family, and we were cooking up a storm.  Every burner was hot, the oven was roasting, and every last inch of counter space filled was with cutting boards, knives, vegetables – you name it.  I was totally in my element.

In the background, the Macy’s Day Parade played with my husband and kids narrating every float so I could run into the family room to see our favorites.  The sun was bright, the air crisp, and Thanksgiving smells filled every room.

While I was busy chopping, dicing and slicing, my firstborn, barely double-digits, walked into the kitchen.  He came over to me and said, Can we bake something?

Um, huh? I thought as the menu was set and every minute leading up to the glutton-fest was allocated for demanding recipes already in progress.

A bit confused, I asked him, Like what, Honey?

I was thinking pie.

Pie? I asked.  I don’t really know how to make a good pie.

I’m sure we can find a recipe, or just make one up, he insisted.

Hmm.  I’m not sure we even have the ingredients and the grocery store is closed now, I answered while stirring pots and checking oven thermometers and whisking and blending and chopping.

I love to cook with my kids.  But, now?  It had to be right now?  I was obviously a little busy at the moment.

How about an apple pie? he suggested.

Welll, um, I began.  At that moment, my mommy’s eyes caught his gorgeous hazel eyes and I saw the sincerity in his request.  He wasn’t asking to make more food to eat.  He was asking to be a part of what I was doing.  He wanted time with me.  He wanted to do something special with me on Thanksgiving.

I gazed at his tenderness and saw just how young he still was, and the longer I looked at him, the more I realized my children won’t be little forever.

I put my cutting knife down, rested my hands on his shoulders, and said, You bet.  Let’s bake an apple pie!

He got so excited, but I didn’t know where to begin.  Putting everything on simmer, I abandoned my cooking projects for time with my son.

We combed through The Joy of Cooking cookbook and found a basic pie crust recipe.  Everything we made had to be scratch because stores were closed.  I am so glad they were, because otherwise I never would have know what an awesome pastry crust maker my son is!  He kneads that dough until you can almost see your reflection!  I am way too impatient to stand there and work it, but he loves it.

We found 2 apples, but a decent pie really needs at least 4, so we found out in our quest.  Thinking hard for something else we could add, I remembered my mother-in-law made a grape pie once that was really good!  I never would have thought of using grapes in a cooked pie, but it was delicious.

My son foraged through the refrigerator and sure enough we had exactly 2 cups of grapes. Perfect.

We assembled the apple & grape pie, and with a little leftover pastry dough we cut out a single turkey shape using a cookie cutter and placed it on top of the crust.

The Great Turkey Pie was born!

Not only was it delicious, but we had the time of our lives making it together.

Holidays can quickly become a nightmare when the stress of expectations steals our joy and the true meaning of the season is buried under futile projects (many of them self-imposed).  For that Thanksgiving, and every one since, I am truly thankful I have children who want to be with me, do fun things together, and aren’t afraid to ask and not assume Mom is too busy.

I never want to be too busy for my kids – especially on the holidays.

Every year when my son and I make this special pie together, it is time I so look forward to, because he’s getting older.  I want to make life promise me that he and I will always make this pie together, perhaps even with his children helping us one day, but life won’t make that promise.

What I do have is this Thanksgiving, Lord willing.  Whatever else is swirling around on the holidays, The Great Turkey Pie is my reminder to love, cherish and enjoy my family right now.  Here’s the irony – I have no idea what all of the other food I made was now!  All that hard work with no memory now whatsoever!  The perfect turkey or impressive side dishes, cute homemade place cards or a magazine-worthy table setting doesn’t come near to equating making memories with my family.

Yeah, I’d love to have a table and trimmings that look like something out of Pottery Barn or Sur La Table.  But, I’ll take committing to fewer bells and whistles in order to have more of myself to give my family.

More than a gourmet meal, my son wanted to spend time with me.  Me!  A regular wife and mom who constantly questions whether she’s getting this parenting thing right.  His desire for my attention told me how much he loved me, and stopping my agenda to be with him told him the same.  Fun times now.  Cherished memories tomorrow.  I am blessed.  I am thankful.