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“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Easter means many things to many people. For most mom’s, Easter is filled with chocolate eggs, stuffed bunnies and colorful baskets stocked with treasures for the little ones. We all get gussied up in our pretty dresses and suits and head to church with antsy children biting at the bit to get home to do the annual Easter egg hunt. And that’s all wonderful family stuff…I get it! I still create the magic of the Easter Bunny each year and my children are all grown!
But bunnies aside, I thought I’d dedicate this Tuesday’s blog to what I believe this “holiday” is about… the remembrance of Jesus, his undying love for us and what this truly means to each one of us as it’s applied, not just to Easter and Palm Sunday, but to our everyday lives as well.
I will be the first one to admit, I am not a biblical scholar. Shamefully, I have never read the bible in it’s entirety. I am not the preachy type ordinarily…I am more of a quiet, spiritual believer who keeps to herself.
But I do have deep thoughts about spirituality and I thought this week would be an excellent time to come out of my shell and share a few.
When I was eight years old, I started writing in a diary my mother bought for me. It was small but thick. A shiny, red book that had it’s very own lock and key. Cool. I wrote in that little book every night before I went to bed. But I didn’t address my thoughts, Dear Diary… Instead, I wrote to God.
From a very early age, I have felt His presence in my life. Like a constant companion, a confidant, a best friend. I have never feared God. Ever. He has been a father figure to me my whole life…and the light in my darkest days.
When I think about the suffering, the sacrifice, the eternal love of our Heavenly Father, most especially during the Easter celebrations and the inspirational symbolism this creates for mankind… it sparks within me how incredibly similar the life of Jesus can be to our own lives.
As a child, I prayed to God as though He were a loving parent watching over me. I wasn’t instructed to formally pray by outside forces, instead it was inherently natural for me to talk to Him about my day. Good and bad, I shared every last detail. The A I made on my spelling test, the boy that I liked who sat behind me in science class, the girl that told me I was ugly in front of everyone at lunch. He knew it all. And I felt close to Him. I made time for Him. And I instinctively knew He was listening to me. I felt Him smile with pride when I did well, felt His disappointment when I made bad choices and there were times I could swear I felt his arms around me when I cried myself to sleep. My very first BFF.
As I grew into a teenager, my love for Him grew even stronger. I was private about our relationship…would people laugh at me if they knew my best friend was God? Was it cool for popular girls to be this spiritual? I suppose in many ways, I took the path of Peter didn’t I? Denying Him with my silence all those years?
But life sailed on and then one day, out of the cold blue, hard times hit. Overnight it seemed, my life went from happy-go-lucky, to witnessing things that I can never unsee…
For my particular story, a devastating bone cancer diagnosis for my beautiful, vivacious sister triggered the chapter of The Great Sadness that lasted many years and which would spawn many victims. It came like quick sand for us all, was mercilessly precise and enveloped me into a world I didn’t recognize anymore. There were many night I asked Him, “God, is this Hell?” We all want answers, we beg, we plead, we want to know why?
However, curiously, I never once asked “Why?” Blow after blow came… and still, somehow, I got back up and moved on to the next step. I’m still mystified that I never thought to ask, I just never did. And neither did my sister. Maybe it was because our trust in Him was so great that it was bigger than the battle within the slow ticking of The Great Sadness. Maybe throughout all of our years together, He had been meticulously building something special and strong inside of me to help prepare for this life-changing chapter of my life?
Instead of being angry with Him, I felt Him carrying me when certain issues became too painful to bear. He alone put the words in my mouth that needed to be said. He gave me the endurance to help where I was needed and to make hard decisions that needed to be made. I made some mistakes along the way, for sure, but I give all credit to Him for anything good I was able to do during the pages written during The Great Sadness. When I was kind, it was because He taught me to be kind. When I made sacrifices, it was because He had shown me great sacrifice by example, for the ones you love. When I was brave, it was because He was holding me up. When I was weak, I was remembering when Jesus also had been weak and weary, as He too asked, “Why has thou forsaken me?”
Somehow, I knew that just as Jesus bled on the cross and sacrificed all during the original Great Sadness, that there would be beauty for ashes one day for me too. That these years of heartbreak, loss, shattered dreams that seemed like endless moments on a clock would one day branch out and manifest into something beyond my imagination.
I had faith in Him and He never left my side. I felt Him always. And He has since blessed me beyond anything I could have asked for.
My sister once told me she saw a beautiful lady who had come to her right after her diagnosis. The lady told her she would experience a great miracle. She told Cindy she would be back. For the next five years, we lived at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, treatment after treatment, always a smile on her face, fighting for her precious life. Cindy and I believed with all of our hearts, that the miracle the lady spoke of would be her cure. When her final days came and hope had long since passed…the lady did in fact, come back. Was she an angel? The Holy Mother? I will never know. But I witnessed the whole miraculous exchange. I watched as Cindy went from semi-comatose to sitting straight up in her bed, looking to the heavens and saying, “It’s you… I knew you’d come back.” I watched her as they spoke, Cindy shaking her head in agreement saying over and over, “I understand, I understand.” She smiled so big and laid back down peacefully. Cindy passed away three days later.
It took me a while to understand that the Lady had promised her a miracle… it just wasn’t a miracle meant for here.
To this day, there is no doubt in my mind that the lady kept her promise to Cindy… I know in my heart that after all of her courageous fighting, she did received her beauty for ashes…
We all have a colorful story to tell, don’t we? Each bearing all the twists and turns of a great novel. But I wear my life scars with pride. I am the survivor of certain chapters and the recipient of many blessings in others that have made me into who I am today. Such is the ebb and flow of life for us all, I suppose.
But here’s the correlation I’m trying to make with the rippling currents of our everyday lives and the story of Jesus that I feel is most important to remember this Easter season…
Jesus doesn’t ask anything of us that he wasn’t willing to endure himself. He doesn’t promise everything will turn out the way we want it to. But He made Himself the example to follow, a road map if you will, to help us maneuver through the hard parts.
Jesus was a good man, a kind man, a giving man. He loved strongly and sacrificed graciously. He taught us its okay to be weak, to ask for help. He instills in us the power to be strong, to endure. He showed us that we will suffer moments of loss, betrayal, disappointments and heartbreak. But with each moment of Great Sadness… He is carrying us. Just as He was not alone on the cross during his darkest hour, we too are not alone. And perhaps most importantly, He empowers us with the illustration that just as he arose from the dead, we too will have beauty for ashes… Blessings beyond comprehension for our tears.
So this Easter season, eat the chocolate bunnies, enjoy your families and the egg hunts with every fiber of your being! Laugh with your children! Enjoy the color of spring and the newness in the air. Go to church and reflect in the joyous message that He Is Risen and that there are blessings all around you. And then, force yourself to find the time to be still…and remind yourself that you have a friend, a father, waiting for you in the quietness of everyday.
He loves you unconditionally. He sacrificed all for you. He’s proud of you when your courageous. He forgives you when you’re not. He nurtures you when you’re weak. He empowers you when you don’t think you can.
This season should remind us that there is resurrection on the other side of The Great Sadness. Not just His. But ours as well.
And He carries you…always, in the palm of His hand.
Happy Easter! May God bless you and your families, always & forever.
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.