Stranded, a Story.

This is a longer story than usual, but one I wanted to write down for the records…

A couple years ago my family got to experience the strange and horrible feeling of being being stranded in a strange place with nowhere to go. 

We had an old 15 passenger van which was, admittedly, near the end of its life. We thought we had figured out the ONE magical part that needed to be fixed in order to keep the van running. Alas.. we were wrong. After spending a month in Maine with my inlaws, we were traveling back to Tennessee with a trailer towing behind us, holding all our bikes and camping gear and canoes. We had our dog with us as well. 

Somewhere in Massachusetts, on the turnpike, our van gave it’s last breath and died. We were very close to a rest area and were able to coast into the rest area parking lot. I spent the next eight hours trying to keep 9 children happy (this was before Noah came along). Andy worked on the van doing everything he knew to try. Evening was coming and we realized the van wasn’t going to get fixed. We needed to go somewhere. Unfortunately, transportation was a real issue. A tow truck would not transport a family of eleven. Taxis would not transport a family of eleven, we would have to split our group up. At that point in time, our oldest child was only fourteen. There was no way we were going to send a taxi load of our children off by themselves when we didn’t even really know where we were. I got on my phone and looked at the map, found the next town on the turnpike and then started looking up hotels. I found a motel that was offering cheap rooms. Since we had our dog with us, we had already decided that my husband would get a tow truck and go with the van and our dog and just sleep in the van, and our oldest son elected to stay with him. So, it was me and eight children who needed a room. I called the motel and explained the situation and asked if it was possible for me to get one room for me and my children since I was the only adult and I didn’t want to put my little kids in a room by themselves. The lady on the phone said, yes, of course. I got the address of the motel. Now we just had to figure out how to get there.

Andy came over just then and said he thought he had a ride for us. Apparently two police officers had pulled in to the rest area. They were driving a prison transport van which was empty. My husband approached them and explained our situation and asked if they could help us with a ride. They were surprised at the request, but talked it over and said, yes, they could do this for us. So, we grabbed a couple bags of clothes and diapers and I put the baby in my carrier and got into the back of a prison transport van with my children. Lots of nervous laughter. I exchanged a panicked look with my husband. All we had to keep us connected now were our phones. I had no idea where I was and he wasn’t sure what town the tow truck was going to take our van. We trusted that somehow we would reconnect the next day. 

By the time we got to the motel it was dark. My kids were tired and traumatized and I was being brisk and efficient, trying to exude an air of confidence as I ushered all my kids into the foyer to check in. In the foyer there was a large statue of Buddha with incense burning. My kids had lots of questions about that and I was stressed, trying to keep them quiet, hoping they wouldn’t inadvertently ask an offensive question. I spoke to the lady at the desk and told her I was the woman who had just called her. 

She looked at my group and said, 

Two rooms. You have to get two rooms. 

I gave up arguing and said, Fine, do you have two rooms that are right next to each other? 

Yes, of course. 

I pulled out my bank card and gave it to her. She ran it and then came back to me. 

Your card has been denied. 

WHAT??

I knew that I had a large chunk of money in my bank. I pulled up my banking app, just to verify. Yep. There is definitely money in this account. I asked her to run it again. 

Your card has been denied. 

Ok. Regroup. I walked over to the side and called my husband. I quickly explained what was going on. Ok. He said, here, right down my card number, have them use my card. 

I did so and gave the new card number to the lady who was starting to look suspicious. 

This card has been denied. 

WHAT!!!!!!!!

The lady then said, there is an atm machine across the street in the little strip mall. Go take out cash. 

I counted up the cash I was traveling with. I was ten dollars short of being able to pay for the rooms in cash. I gathered up the kids who were now in a full-blown panic. Keep it together. Keep it together. Lord help. 

I was carrying  the baby and we put the next youngest in the little umbrella stroller we had brought. My oldest picked up the next youngest child and then the other older daughters helped the other boys walk, as they were all falling asleep on their feet. By now it was close to eleven pm. We crossed a little road and approached the bank. I tried the atm machine. My card was denied. Apparently something had triggered a security lock-down on my card. (Personally, I think it was the motel, it was a rather shady establishment.)It was the weekend and late at night so I couldn’t contact my bank. I pulled all the kids in a huddle and had them sit down on the sidewalk in front of the bank. The bank was well-lit, I was pretty sure there would be security cameras around as there was a 24hr atm machine. It seemed like the safest place to stay for the moment.

 I called my husband again. Explaining in an even voice the situation,  but I know that the fear I was feeling was coming through loud and clear to him. He said he was still waiting on the tow truck to come. I told him exactly where I was and he said he would just have the tow truck bring the van to where I was. We would sleep in the van in the parking lot. At least we would be all together. I sighed a big breath of relief. It was very scary to be doing all this without him. 

I sat down with the kids and tried to quiet them and reassure them. One of my little boys started crying. I held him and rocked him, continuing my silent prayer that hadn’t stopped since our van first broke down. 

Just then a fancy little car pulled up in front of the bank. A well-dressed, middle-aged man hopped out of his car and walked towards the atm machine. I tried to look like it was very normal for a woman to be sitting on the sidewalk with eight children in the middle of the night. He glanced my way and kind of winced and then kept walking. He used the atm machine and then walked over to us. Here, he said, and thrust four dollars into my hands, and then quickly got in his car and drove off. 

Now, I must admit, I wasn’t feeling very thankful for this bit of charity. 

Four dollars. Really?? How is this supposed to help??? 

The kids were very curious as to why a stranger had given us some money. I tried to explain that he obviously thought we needed help and so he tried to help.

How is four dollars supposed to help us mom? Umm. I’m not sure. I guess it’s the thought that counts?

Then my phone rang. It was my mother-in-law. We had been on the phone off and on with them, keeping them updated to our situation. I explained how my bank card was not working at all and she told me she would like me to try her credit card. She gave me the number and I said I would let her know if it worked. I called my husband and gave him a quick update and then me and my older daughters gathered up the sleeping children again and we made our way back to the motel. 

I patiently explained to the suspicious lady at the desk that my mother-in-law had offered to pay for the rooms and I had her credit card number. This time it worked and the lady begrudgingly showed us to our two rooms. The two rooms were not next to each other. They were several rooms apart. I smiled politely, thanked her, and waited till she had walked back to her office, and then ushered all my children into one room. No way was I splitting us up. 

The kids were so exhausted it only took minutes for them to fall asleep, spread over the two beds and on the floor. I sat there and waited till they were all resting and then called my husband again. I told him where we were. He said that the tow truck was towing them to the same town and according the maps, it was only about two miles away. He said that when he got the van settled at the auto repair shop, he and our son would leave the dog in the car and walk to the motel so we could be together. Big sigh of relief. 

I decided to jump into the shower before I went to bed. I entered the bathroom and immediately started hearing screaming from the next room over. There were some large crashes and more yelling. Something thumped into the wall of the bathroom. I continued my day-long prayer. Lord, whatever this altercation is about, please don’t let them start shooting off guns. 

I sat up another hour until finally I heard a quiet knock. I walked over to the door and removed the chairs I had stacked up in front of it (since it was a super-flimsy door without a proper security lock) and let my husband and son in. They were exhausted. They had just walked about two miles and it was now closer to 2am. I handed him the key to the other room since this room was literally overflowing with children. We hugged briefly, clinging to each other, then they went to the other room to sleep. I laid down, feeling peace now that our family was all in one place, and went to sleep. 

The next day my husband left early to go back to the garage to check on our dog and figure some things out. I got the kids up and dressed. We walked back over to the strip mall where I had noticed a small grocery store. I bought some food for the day and we walked back to the motel to eat. The room had a tv but it only got one channel. The room we were staying in was playing JAWS the movie. Not exactly what I wanted to entertain my children. The kids got the bright idea to check the other motel room we had paid for, maybe that tv was showing something different? It was! A western. Fun.

A little later my husband showed up. He and my son were both on bikes towing bike trailers. In one bike trailer was our dog and then the other bike trailer was just full of bikes and bike helmets. Well. This is an interesting solution. My husband and I and five of our children rode bikes while the other five rode in the bike trailers and the dog ran alongside us. The motel owner and his wife came out into the parking lot to see the spectacle. They seemed surprised to see that my story of a broken down car was actually true. 

To make a very long story shorter…We finally ended up riding our bikes to a Jellystone Campground (great place!). The mechanics from the garage were willing to tow our trailer to the campground and so we had all of our camping gear and were able to set up camp. The van was declared unfixable and we spent a week trying to figure out how to get home. Finally my inlaws decided to buy us a van and drove it down from Maine for us. (A super blessing we can’t begin to express our thankfulness for.)

It was a crazy time. My kids were amazing. I was determined to keep our attitudes positive and made it a requirement that everyone list off things they were thankful for every time the mood started getting sourl. The kids managed to relax a little and enjoy the time at the campground. We called some friends from our church and they got on the phone and helped with paying for the campground and even arranged for a nearby church to bring us a hot cooked meal. God provided for us in miraculous ways. 

I can’t imagine going through life without God. His peace is what carried me through that time. 

 

Just a Thought

My eight year old daughter was sitting next to me on the couch today. I noticed that she was wearing an old watch on her arm. It was silver and obviously too big for her. 

 

Me: Where did you get that? 

Nomi: What? 

Me: The watch, where did you get that watch? 

Nomi: (continues to play with a toy, doesn’t look up) Miss Linda.

Me: Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Yeah.

Me: (wracking my mind, trying to place this name…a teacher at school? Someone at church? A neighbor?) Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Miss Linda! 

Me: Who’s Miss Linda! 

Nomi: IT’S MISS LINDA!!!

 

You would think that at this point in time I would realize that this method of interrogation was not working and I should try a different approach. But, no.

 

Me: WHO’S MISS LINDA?!?!?!?!?!

Nomi: Mom, it’s Miss Linda. 

 

I stared at her in frustration. Then it clicked. My husband had taken two of his little daughters with him when he did a quick Saturday side job to put up a ceiling fan for Miss Linda, a retired woman he has done work for in the past. It was a chance for him to have some daddy-daughter time and a chance for Miss Linda to spoil some little girls. 

 

Ok. Mystery solved. 

 

Then one of my sons walked in the room, spotted the watch with his laser eyes, and quickly went into attack mode..

 

Judah: Where did you get that???

Nomi: Miss Linda.

Judah: Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: It’s Miss Linda! 

 

I inwardly groaned as I knew I was now going to hear this whole conversation again. But as I watched my daughter I noticed a certain spark in her eye, a smug set to her mouth. She was having fun with this. 

 

What is it about kids loving to create conflict? 

 

MOM! SHE TOUCHED ME!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

DID NOT!

dsDID TOO!

 

And on and on and on. 

 

I remember being exactly the same. It wasn’t until I was an older teenager that I started realizing that I didn’t have to react every time my brother pushed my buttons. And I didn’t have to push his buttons every time the opportunity presented itself. I presumed that it’s just part of growing up; learning how to live at peace with people, no longer delighting in sparking conflict. 

 

Enter FaceBook Stage Right. 

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting on FaceBook. I love seeing who just got engaged. Adorable baby photos. Who just got a new job. I love reading interesting articles that people post. Beautiful photos of far-off places. FaceBook can be a lot of fun. 

 

Then you have those posts that say, “If you don’t agree with my position, then you are STUPID!” And then someone comments: OH YEAH! WELL, YOU’RE STUPID!

AM NOT!
ARE TOO!
AM NOT!
ARE TOO!

 

Apparently the need to stir up arguments and be difficult Doesn’t go away when you grow up. 

 

I am not saying there isn’t a place for expressing ideas that differ from others. And I think there is definitely a time to say, I disagree with you, and this is why…I guess what always baffles me is why we can’t have differing opinions or even heated discussions without remaining respectful of each other. It is possible to believe strongly in something, have a desire to share that belief with others, and still not be rude or disrespectful to the people who believe differently than you. In fact, if you remain respectful, you will probably have a much better chance at sharing your beliefs with others. 

 

Just a thought. 

 

Questions on the Nature of Peace

I just read a blog post on Peace Hacks. Here is the link: Peace Hacks The article was about the nature of peace. Is peace simply the absence of war? Are we truly at peace if we know that injustice is happening where we live? Can we truly be at peace if we make ourselves fully aware of how many people are actually starving to death, right now, while we sit here reading stuff on the internet?  

The idea is, are we at peace, or are we simply choosing to ignore the problems around us so that we can feel comfortable.

This has made me think about Peace, and about burying my head in the sand. First of all, I’m going to go ahead and give my definition of peace. For me, peace is knowing that I am right with God. My sins are forgiven, He loves me, I look forward to an eternity with Him. That is the true source of my peace. When my world seems to be unraveling, that is what I cling to.

But what about peace in my world? Right now I do not feel like the world is at peace. The news shows a very rigid divide between political parties. It feels very much like people are choosing sides and drawing lines in the sand, preparing for battle. I am horrified as I watch people make moral decisions that defy logic. I am truly frightened when I see laws being passed that erode my parental rights. I am completely boggled as I look at the upcoming presidential election. I’m not even going to go there right now.

I look around and think, maybe we should move. Surely there is another country that isn’t as crazy as mine. But, if you read the news, you quickly learn that every single country in the world has got some pretty serious flaws.

And then there is all the suffering going on. Religious persecution is a very real thing, happening all over the world. Poverty at a level where people are starving to death, this is happening right now. Human trafficking is everywhere. Prejudice, injustice, foster kids in need of care, domestic violence, homelessness. All these things are happening right here, in my city. And I sit in my house, occupied with the very tame jobs of washing dishes, cooking meals, entertaining children.

What is my responsibility as a human being, as a Christian?

I find that when I read the news regularly, stay up-to-date with all the horrors that are happening,  I start feeling very anxious, afraid. Unsettled. Overwhelmed. I don’t like feeling that way. And so I withdraw. I stop reading the news. I stop engaging. I want my peace back, and so I turn my back on the world’s problems, ignore them.

Is that right though? Throughout history, time and time again, change has occurred when a person, a group of people, say, That is enough. This is wrong. We must stop this. Isn’t it our responsibility to be one of those people?

But there has to be a balance. I am a wife and a mother. I have a job to create a peaceful atmosphere where my children can live in a calm, safe environment while they are developing mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s hard to create that environment when we are focusing continually on all the bad things in the world.

Let me try to sum up the problem here. I am actually looking at two kinds of peace. Peace with God, and peace in my city/region/state/country/world. How do I address the lack of peace in the world without letting it disrupt my spiritual peace, and my own little haven of peace that I’ve created in my home?

I do not want to be someone who turns a blind eye, ignores the problem, pretends it isn’t there. Nor do I want to live a life of worry and fear and stress as I get overwhelmed, feeling like I, alone, can do nothing to change what’s happening around me.

I was hoping that as I wrote this, I would come up with some conclusions. I think instead I have just defined the problem really well for myself. But, that in itself, is progress. I guess I will have to write a Part 2 for this piece when I get some insight.

 

Kid Tune Torture

It’s a rainy summer day here in East Tennessee. All of my teenagers are off living their lives somewhere else today. I am home with six of my children plus three bonus children. And amazingly, everyone is getting along and playing nicely. I made all the kids work and clean up the house so we’d have a peaceful environment. It’s not immaculate, but it’s tidy and welcoming. The older boys are in a bedroom playing legos. The older girls are cleaning the girls’ bedroom and making a game out of it. The three youngest are sitting at the dining room table playing playdoh. Talking quietly and cheerfully to themselves. I have been playing my piano for the last half hour. Schubert’s Serenade, some Preludes by Chopin, a Waltz by Brahms. I’ve been skimming through my piano collections, finding the simple, peaceful, pensive pieces. My piano is right next to two large windows and the falling rain has accompanied my music. Ah. So peaceful.

I retire to my chair in the corner of the room, my own little private space. And then. Then, my brain resumes it’s torment. “I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodoo,doo doo doo….I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodooo.doo.doo.doo…” You might be wondering what on earth that is all about. There is some kind of spoof song about the Iron Man that my son showed me once on YouTube several years ago. That song has taken up residence in my brain and it won’t leave me alone. I only know a couple words of the song, but my brain helpfully fills in all the rest with toodoo toodoo toodoos. This song won’t leave me alone. I try to replace it with other songs. But, I have children, and there is a whole repertoire of annoying songs ready to take its place.

The other day I realized that I had been singing the Alphabet Song all day long, under my breath. With great feeling and emotion. Kind of like a sad ballad. I stopped. What are you doing??? I asked my subconscious. My subconscious refused to answer, and instead continued it’s sad wailing, “Q, R, S, T, U, V…” and then, with great feeling, “W, X, Y and Z…”

AAAAACCKK!!!

New song. I need a new song in my head. Then I hear the piano in the background. Two of the girls in my house have learned the same arrangement of a song from the Disney movie MOANA. I, of course, do not know all the words to this song, and so my head does another rendition of, “Too do dooo, to do doo, to do doo, doo, doo, DOOO, doo, And now I Know, how far it goes…too doo doo, too, doo doo, doo doo, DOOO doo, and now I know, how far it GOES!” (now the key change…) and on and on that song goes in my head. Just a short part of it, cause that’s all the girls play.

If it’s not Moana, Iron Man or the Alphabet song, it might be the little song from the tv show, Sarah and Duck, in which a narrators’ voice says, over and over and over again…”Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…quack.” (By the way, on Youtube, somebody was nice enough to post a video where they had looped this song. You can sit for nine hours and listen to a narrator say “Sarah and Duck.” Apparently, I’m not the only one who is bothered by this song.)

It would be nice to have a Praise Song, or a Bible Memory Song, or a beautiful hymn running through my head all day. Occasionally, I’m fortunate, and I do have something like that repeating through my thoughts throughout the day. “Amazing grace, how sweet the song, that saved a wretch like me…” And then, out of nowhere…I AM THE IRON MAN!!

Good grief.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 24 Half a Diet

Hey Everyone, How’s your week gone? Mine has been better. Life has settled a little bit more into a pattern, it doesn’t feel as chaotic, peace seems to be settling again after a crazy month.  Last week I shared that my diet had gone on hold. Well, here’s some good news. I’ve been diligently weighing myself, just waiting for those numbers to start creeping back up. And they haven’t. I’ve lost 25 pounds and I’m holding steady at my current weight. This is actually a pretty big deal to me. In the past, I have done different diet plans, but as soon as I fell off the wagon my weight would immediately start to climb upwards again. I don’t want to push my luck. I’m trying to figure out how to jump back into the pool. Get back into the game.

It’s summer. The season of cookouts and popsicles and ice cream and barbecues. I have decided that I’m going to try out a more simple version of my diet for a couple weeks and see how it goes. See if I can start losing weight again. I know that right now I do not have what it takes to go completely vegan and grain free. So, I’m going to try half the diet, and just go grain-free for a while. I’m not even going to try and limit sugar. (Because actually, my go-to is sugar plus grain. Sugar on it’s own is not nearly as appealing to me.)

You might wonder why I’ve picked grain. So, I’ve gone off my diet and I’ve been paying attention to my body as I have eaten the “forbidden” foods. Meat really doesn’t seem to do much to me. Dairy, well, I don’t think my body likes dairy a whole lot, but I am not in the habit of eating dairy. I don’t buy blocks of cheese. I might put some shredded cheese on a Mexican dinner occasionally, but I don’t pour it on. I don’t like Milk so I stay away from that. I’ve lost my taste for yogurt, don’t really like it anymore. So, I probably should completely abstain from dairy, but I figure the occasional sprinkle of cheese and an occasional ice cream treat are doable. Grain is what really does a number one me. It spikes my blood sugar, it makes my stomach feel yucky. I generally have a feeling of ick after I eat a bunch of refined grain. Especially wheat. So, I’m going to keep it simple for now as my life is still a bit nuts and I’m finding summer eating to be difficult, and I’m just going to cut out the grain. See what happens. Though I don’t like watching a scale closely, I think I’m going to watch it for awhile just to see if any visible results happen. I’ll keep you posted.

I guess my philosophy right now is, do what you can. Even a forward movement of inches is better than a complete stand still. Ideally I’d love to be taking leaps and bounds forward in my weight loss journey, but if a slow crawl is all I can handle, at least it’s something.

Goals: cut out grain. Continue to try and make my mental health a priority. Have fun with my kids.

Have a good week, see you all next time!

 

My Brain is Too Small

I’ve had a couple thoughts this week that have merged into one idea. This week I picked up one of George MacDonalds’ novels. Old-fashioned. Sometimes a bit heavy-handed with the moralizing. But a lot of wisdom packed into a little book. I’m about half-way through, still not sure if I want to commit to reading the whole book as it’s not my typical style that I enjoy. It moves slowly. But, I also find it to be soothing. I am confident that I am not going to run into any themes that go against my conscience, and I am certain that I’m going to run into ideas that make me pause and think and ponder. The insights into humanity are deep and cut right to the heart of the matter.

There is a scene in the book that stayed with me. A young boy is talking to his tutor about God, trying to understand the omniscience of God and being frustrated because he can’t wrap his mind around the idea. His tutor laughs and says he is trying to understand something that is so big it won’t fit in his brain. It’s like trying to fit 20 horses into a stable that only fits 10. This made me stop. It seems very counter-culture to me. Nowadays we like to assure our children that they can Do Anything. Be Anything. Achieve Anything. We don’t like to put any limits on our abilities. If you want to pursue that challenge, then Pursue it! I’m Confident in you! You can do Anything!! And then here in the book there is a tutor laughing at his pupil for trying to comprehend a large idea, saying his brain is not big enough to take it all in, and he should just leave it as a mystery. Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of that.

Then this morning I sat and continued my Bible reading in the book of Revelation. There’s nothing like the book of Revelation to make you feel like your brain isn’t big enough to take in everything there is to know about God. I have read the book of Revelation several times over the years. I always get stuck. So many questions. What’s that? What does that mean? What’s going on? Why are they talking about that and then suddenly talking about this?? I’ve listened to different teachings and sermons on the book over the years and I can say that I have a couple good conclusions. God is in control. God wins in the end. God is Holy beyond my comprehension. Beyond that, everything is a little gray and fuzzy. And it occurred to me this morning, perhaps my brain is not really big enough to understand all of this fully. We’re talking about the nature of God and heaven and things in the spiritual realm. I live here on earth. My dealings are with people and the things of this world. While I am certainly supposed to grow in my knowledge of God and spiritual things, I think there is a limit to how far I can go in my understanding. How can I truly understand how heaven works until I go there? The Bible certainly drops many hints, but God never seems to think it’s important to try and spell out all the details carefully for us.

I find it a bit freeing to not have to understand everything. It’s kind of like laying down a heavy burden that I was never meant to carry. I am not saying that we should stop pursuing knowledge. I plan to continue to read Revelation and research and ask questions and understand as much of it as is possible, but it’s nice to know there are limits. Mystery is a Thing and faith makes that ok. I have faith that what the Bible says is true. I have faith that God is good. I have faith that He is in control. I will try to learn and understand everything I can, and the things I can’t understand, I can be at peace knowing that God’s got that too.

 

 

So, What’s the Big Deal About Today?

Good Morning Internet World! Here it is Easter Morning and as I sit here in my home, writing on my computer, I wonder how everyone’s morning is going, and what this day means to you. When I first started this blog I was pretty purposeful in my thoughts that this wasn’t going to be a “Christian Blog”. What I mean by that, was that I did not want to write out little sermonettes and discuss bible verses every day. Neither did I want it to be an “Advice Blog” where I could spell out how I do things and encourage you to copy all my neat tricks for living. I just wanted to write about my life and the stories I have to tell. As it turns out, since I spend my life trying to make Jesus the most important thing, he kind of crops up in my blogs. Pretty regularly. And I have ended up dispensing some advice here and there. It’s just happened, the inevitable result of writing about my life. Today though, I am just going to be blatant Christian. I want to share with you all why today is so important to me.

Today is Easter. The day we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead. What is that all about? Well, he was God, in the flesh. He came down to earth and lived the perfect, sinless life, because I couldn’t. And then, even though he was perfect, he was killed: whipped and then nailed to a cross, dying a torturous death. Why? Well, the punishment for sin is death. All of us have sinned. We all deserve to die for our sins. There was nothing we could do to change that. So Jesus came and changed it for us. He died in our place. Took all of our sins on himself and paid the price for us. Now, if we repent of our sins, believe in Jesus, ask his forgiveness, he does forgive us and he “Makes us white as snow..” He declares us innocent, clean, forgiven. And he promises that he will be with us and never leave us. And when our earthly body dies, we will go and be with him for all eternity. Easter is the day we celebrate that I can now approach God and have a relationship with him, all the barriers have been removed.

So, what does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer alone. I have someone that I speak to all day long. Sometimes it reverent, “Lord, thank you for the beautiful sunshine!” Sometimes, not so much, “LORD! Help me! I am so tired!! I can’t deal with this messy house!!” Sometimes it’s just commenting on daily life, “Wow Lord, I cannot believe that driver just cut me off like that!!! Please help me to not start swearing!!” And often, it’s just the word, “help”. For me, it’s an all-day running commentary on my life. And I know he’s listening. And he answers. Not so much an audible voice, though I have heard his voice a couple times, but more like a redirection of my thoughts. I’m grumbling about what a lousy day I’m having, and suddenly I remember the bible verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!” Or I find myself harboring a bunch of anger towards someone and the verse pops in my head, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It’s a conversation of sorts…with someone who never goes away, always listens, and knows all your thoughts. Can’t really get more intimate than that.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I have peace. When I do things wrong, I don’t have to walk around feeling guilty. I can ask for God’s forgiveness and then I can count on him to give me the strength to ask forgiveness from the person I wronged. And if things continue to remain tense, I can have peace knowing that he will be with me and give me wisdom to know how to proceed. The underlying guilt that I used to carry around with me is no longer there. I am forgiven.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer afraid. What is the worst thing that can happen to me? Death? Well, if I die I know that I will be with Jesus…forever. Doesn’t sound too bad. When I am tempted to be afraid for my children, God reminds me that he loves my children more than I do. Their lives are in his hands. They might not get the fairy tale life that I envision for them, they may go through horrible things in their lives, I may even, Heaven Forbid, bury one of my children (Lord, may it not be so). But, I don’t have to live in fear of these things happening. In the end, I have no power to save my children or protect them, and God never promised us a pain-free, trouble-free life. But, he promises to never leave us, to take bad things and turn them into good. I can trust him.   

What does Easter mean to me?

It means my life gets a bit uncomfortable at times. God’s number one priority for me is not for me to be happy. His number one priority is that I learn how to be like him. And sometimes learning that is a bit painful. Awkward. Esther, I want you to love your neighbor as yourself. Esther, I want you to forgive those who hurt you. Esther, I want you to help those in need. Esther, I want you stop putting your selfish desires above the needs of your family. Esther, I want you to trust me with this problem instead of worrying about it. Yeah. It’s not all fun and games. This weekend, I had an old friend reach out to me for help. My very first thought was, No way. I can’t help you with this. It’s too much. It’s going to really inconvenience me. My husband and I prayed about it. The next day, I still wanted to say No, sorry, can’t help, but God very gently pointed out to me that all my reasons for saying No were selfish and rather petty. And so I found myself saying yes. I can help you. But here’s the thing. All this nudging to change, do things differently than I want to, in the end it’s slowly shaping me into the person that I have always wanted to be. I have no power in myself to turn Esther from a selfish, self-absorbed person into a selfless person who always puts others first and is always ready to forgive, ready to lend a helping hand. It’s a change that only comes from listening daily to the quiet nudges from God as he slowly chips away at all the rough edges of my character.

What does Easter mean to me?

Everything. It means everything. And this is why I tell my children, this is the biggest holiday of the entire year! Easter! The day that enabled me to pass from condemned sinner to beloved daughter of God. Oh yes, Easter means everything to me.