Searching for Easter

Easter

Sunday was Easter.

I have lovely memories of Easter as a child. They all include family and candy and going to services that had loads of flowers and a big cross.

When Cortney and I got married we became the people who only went to church once in a while and always on Easter. I loved to sing the hymn “Low in the Grave He Lay” because when I belted out “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!!” I felt my late Grandma Jo in my whole being. I didn’t really connect with the words on a religious level, but it was a spiritual experience and connection with my grandmother. It was the same at Christmas; I loved to sing the hymns she did. Both holidays hold a lot of significance for me because of my Grandmother, but not necessarily because of my faith.

Which is a problem for a Christian since Christmas and Easter are the two most significant days for the Christian Church. They are the bookends of what our faith is about: God sent his Son via immaculate conception to save the world by being crucified on a cross only to rise again three days later. Immaculate Conception and Resurrection from the Dead–the cornerstone beliefs of what makes a Christian a Christian, right?

But there I was on Sunday, sitting all squeezed into the front row (because as usual, The Sluiter family does not count punctuality as their strength–my fault completely) next to a family I didn’t recognize (because it was Easter and everyone comes on Easter), watching some of the people I love most lead worship with joy and excitement for the celebration that Easter is, and I was feeling…nothing.

Regular Sundays are my jam. I feel fed and nourished by the teachings of Jesus and the community that surrounds and loves me and my family. The familiarity of the pattern of worship renews my soul: The Approach, The Greeting, A Worship Hymn, Confession, Prayer, Assurance, The Passing of the Peace, The Children’s Message, Prayer, The Lectionary, The Sermon, Prayer, Communion, Prayer, Offering, Prayer, Announcements, The Sending of the Children to Children in Worship, The Closing Hymn, The Benediction. Our three pastors–all friends who I cherish–deliver their sermons in their own unique voice and help me to see and learn and feel closer to the teaching and love of Jesus.

I believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the love and acceptance he taught. I believe in taking care of each other and being kind and helpful. I believe in sharing what I have with others–especially if they have less. I believe in using my privilege for good and for positive change. I believe in forgiveness, although it’s often hard for me to put into practice.

And I believe Jesus died, because every human dies.

What I struggle with is the Resurrection. I know the Bible says it happened. I know that without the Resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole idea is that Jesus was made human so he could save us. That by dying on the cross, going to hell, coming back to Earth, and then going to heaven, he saved humanity.

Sitting squished between Cortney and Eddie in that sweaty front row, I couldn’t look my dear friend and pastor in the eye as he preached. I just felt heavy. That this world just doesn’t feel saved.

I don’t read the Old Testament literally. It’s Ok if you do; more power to you. Really. I don’t think that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jonah was legit swallowed–and lived in the gut of–a large fish. I read them as allegorical stories. Literature that is meant to teach life lessons and meaning. And I read the New Testament with the idea that the culture it was written in (Greek) and about (Middle East) is very different than our current culture. That not everything is going to align exactly.

Yet as Christians, we are supposed to read the Easter story (and Christmas story) completely literally. THIS STUFF REALLY HAPPENED. Because if it didn’t, what is it all for, right?

So I am wrestling with myself. I want to believe in the Resurrection. I want to believe that because Christ died, we will all live.

Our pastor said Sunday morning that we do not have to fear death. That because of Christ, death loses its power.

I guess that is what my struggle boils down to: I do very much fear death–my own, but also the death of those who I love so deeply. I obsess about it. It’s part of my anxiety disorder. When my intrusive thoughts begin, it always centers on death. I become increasingly agitated and paranoid. I lose sleep. And then I fall into depression.

It always starts with thoughts of death.

Because what if this is it? What if all of this is man-made so we can tell ourselves we are not afraid of death?

I’m ending this post with a picture of Eddie, Charlie, and Alice on Easter morning outside of church. They are still filled with the joy of celebration. It was a special day at church. There were flowers and Alleluias. There was an egg hunt after the services. They wore new clothes (except shoes because I totally forgot they needed shoes). There was excited anticipation for the rest of the day that would be filled with family and candy.

I never want them to be afraid like I am.

Easter

My wonderful friend, The Pastor’s Wife, shared this link with me this week, and I ugly cried when I read it because it was exactly EXACTLY how I felt Sunday morning. If you are also feeling alone with your doubt, I strongly suggest clicking over.

Hippity Hoppity Easter Memories

The minute my crocus poke their heads out of the ground signaling the start of spring, I start thinking about my Grandma.  I have warm memories of my Grandma from every season and holiday, but somehow Christmas and Easter are the most powerful.

When I was very little–probably Eddie’s age–my mom and I would go with my Grandma to our town’s sunrise service on Easter. The more vivid memory, though, is the Easter egg hunt at her house. We didn’t really hunt eggs; Grandma hid candy–lots of candy–throughout her house for me and my brothers and cousins to find. She hid so much, she couldn’t always remember if we had found it all, so inevitably, one of us would find a stale malted egg in the middle of October.

My brothers and I didn’t get elaborate Easter baskets or gifts. We got a boatload of candy from Grandma’s house.

2015-04-05 12.42.26

People seem surprised when I say we don’t do Easter baskets for our kids, but just like when I was a kid, we leave the Easter magic to the grandparents.  My parents get the kids a basket with some candy treats and a few little toys. This year the boys got tennis balls, bubbles, and another small toy (Eddie got a little Lego set and Charlie got some Hot Wheels). Cortney’s mom does the big egg hunt. This year she had 150 eggs in her yard for the kids–six that were able to hunt plus two babies. She also gives each grandchild a small bag with a few dollar store treasures like stickers, balloons, and pinwheels.

2015-04-05 16.23.45

The kids love it.

This year Charlie got an extra Easter gift from Ragtales: a Bo Bunny.

2015-04-01 16.28.18

I have never been big on stuffed animals. Eddie went through a stuffie phase when he was little. He liked to line them all up and watch TV with them. Or make a “parking lot” out of them (to be fair, all lines of things were called “parking lots” to him).

Charlie, on the other hand, adores stuffed animals. Little dude is actually starting to boarder on hoarder status. I try not to encourage it, but I couldn’t say no to Bo Bunny (who Charlie has renamed Bun Bun).

2015-04-01 17.36.59

And I’m glad I didn’t.  I didn’t tell him it was for Easter, but because it came the week of Easter, he said it was for Easter day and he loved it. Aw.

To be fair, Bo Bunny (aka Bun Bun) is super soft. I sort of wanted to tuck it next to my pillow and keep it for myself. The Ragtales line has all sorts of cute animals and dolls and can be found in department stores like Neiman Marcus and FAO Schwartz, but you can win one here! Just enter in the Rafflecopter widget below and one of you may get the gift of Bo Bunny for a little person in your life!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was sent Bo Bunny, but have not been compensated for blogging about it. Opinions are my own and the giveaway is for you from Ragtales. Giveaway open to US shipping addresses only. Ends Monday at midnight (so Sunday night, peeps).

Not in the Grave

2014-04-20 18.20.30

My earliest Easter memory is of sitting in a gym…or outside on a football field of some sort…with my Grandma Jo and my mom at the crack of dawn for the town’s Sunrise Easter Service.

I was too young to remember the location of the service, but I know we went for a few years, just the three of us. Or at least I only remember it being the three of us.

I vividly remember all the flowers and the scent of spring wafting through the gathered believers. I also remember sitting next to my grandma, her soft hand holding mine sometimes, and her wavery grandma voice loudly singing “Christ the Lord has risen today…Alleluia! ”

Her favorite flower was the yellow tulip and each year for the past nine years, Cortney and I have added a yellow tulip to the Easter garden in the front of our own church for the Easter service.

No longer do I get up at dawn and to attend a musical extravaganza of praise and rejoicing, but I do dress my boys in matching sweater vests and close my eyes and feel my grandma’s soft hand on mine while I sing “Because He lives” and with each “Alleluia” I hear her voice echoing through the church.

After the sunrise service, my mom and I would meet my dad and brothers and go to our church for the regular service, and then head to my grandma’s house for an Easter egg hunt with all my cousins. She always had those large, pastel-colored marshmallowy eggs, malted eggs, Reeses eggs, gum eggs, and lots and lots of jelly beans. While we hunted she would still be singing.

I also can remember my mom’s singing on Easter. Like her mother, she loves the holiday.

Easter is the most joyous day on the Christian calendar, and it is the day I remember my grandma and her love of spring, flowers, and her savior. I also think of how much like my grandmother my mom is. She sings with her grandchildren and spoils them with treats and toys for Easter as well (Cort’s mom does the Easter egg hunt for our kids which I am so grateful for. She is making memories our kids will remember forever).

In thirteen years since her death, I have never been to my Grandma Jo’s grave.

I don’t believe she is there.

Like her savior, she arose.

And on days like today, I feel that presence in the songs, the bright sunshine, and the smiles on my boys’ faces.

2014-04-20 11.32.01-2

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly the seal the dead, Jesus my Lord.

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior,
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he rose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

“Up From The Grave”, my favorite Easter hymn.

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

Today I am the featured working mama over at Breadwinning Mama. Come check me out!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...