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This morning my son woke me up by standing quietly in our bedroom doorway whispering "The Easter Bunny came! The Easter Bunny came!" I told him to bring his basket up to me and we would look inside to see what he got. I watched him skip downstairs and reappear with a basket filled with gifts.
Easter is an important day around our house. We don't view it as just a holiday, but as the most important event the world has ever known. I do some of the traditional holiday things; Easter baskets and dying eggs. I don't think a little chocolate ever hurt, well, anything. But we make sure that none of those things overshadow what Easter is really about...
Jesus did what he said he would do and rose again! He lives! And that means everything.
This year inside my son's Easter basket were two very important gifts; his first Bible (he is reading now and not even in Kindergarten brag brag) and a beautifully illustrated Bible story book called The Jesus Story. It puts the stories of the Bible, old testament and new, into words that children can understand while showing them how Jesus is woven throughout them all.
You should have seen my son's face! He lit up when he saw his Bible, name on it in silver and everything, and said "My own Bible? So I can learn more about God? I love it. Its my very own Bible." Yes, at times he sounds as if he was scripted, but that is the kind of kid he is. He has never hidden a single one of his thoughts or feelings from us. And I like him that way. I am working hard as a parent to preserve that tender, expressive, and honest part of him.
When he saw the Jesus story book he wanted me to read it immediately. We went straight to the Easter story and read from the Crucifixion to Pentecost. I could feel Dustin breathing in my ear laying as close to me as humanly possible asking me to read more each time I got to the end of one of the little stories. If he had his way we would have read the entire book.
I feel that way with God sometimes. I look at the story of my life straining to see Jesus woven throughout. Sometimes I do see Him, and, sadly, sometimes I don't. Not that He wasn't there, but I missed Him somehow. At times I have been so blind. I have desperately latched on to my Heavenly Father, breathing in His ear to reveal to me more of my story, most importantly, how my story ends.
Since my girls died I have struggled with living out my story without knowing how it ends. My faith has been weary. I want to know how all these pieces, the broken and shattered parts of my heart, will ever be put back together again to create the ultimate good ending that suffering and trials are supposed to produce. All the good things seem lacking in comparison to twhat it has cost me.
As I write this two empty Easter baskets sit next to each other on the table. I made them myself. I painted them and wrapped them in silk ribbon. They are quite beautiful. I couldn't figure out what to put in them this year. I love to remember my girls but it also hurts to fill up Christmas stockings and Easter baskets with things they will never get only to un-fill them later and cry over all that death has stolen from me. I left them empty this time, but it didn't lessen the tears.
Empty isn't always bad though. Empty Easter baskets remind me of Jesus' empty tomb. Without the emptiness of the grave I would have no hope, no power, no life, no joy, and no comfort. Nor would my sweet babies. Easter mean their grave is also empty. Their souls have been taken to heaven by Jesus, who died and rose again on this day to save us, all of us, from death.
My girls are not with me today, but I have the hope of the Resurrection to comfort me. I will see them again. My pain is not over yet. The transformation God has begun in me is not finished. My questions will remain as will the empty seats at my table and the empty places in my heart. My girls will never come back to me. Yet I will be patient and faithful because, although I don't know all the pages of my story yet, I do know how it ends. My girls cannot come to me, but one day I will go to them.
And Easter is what makes that possible.
When my days are up I will be reunited with my Savior. I will finally see him face to face and if I can utter any words in His presence I hope they will be thank you...Thank you for Easter.
Then I will turn around and my girls will be there.
Happy Easter! May the emptiness of Jesus' tomb fill you with hope! HE IS RISEN!