EASTER…As a believer in Christ this time of year is a BIG DEAL! It’s the reason we have hope, it’s the basis for our entire faith belief. But as per usual it’s been commercialized, just the same as Christmas. In many ways I struggle with the idea of condemning the secular celebration as it seems that people are grasping for hope and this is the best way they know how to find it. Are they looking in the wrong place? ABSOLUTELY, but their motives stem from a sense of desire to bring sense to their life, bolster the value of family, live in community AND the need to just have fun.

In my daily life I try to find that balance with my kids! Instill in them the respect for the sacredness of Easter…the understanding that we have so much more to celebrate than easter egg hunts and chocolate…even more than fellowship with our friends and family. I know I don’t always do a great job at it and this year it’s my desire to do it differently. To help them understand just how important it is, even more so than Christmas. This year I have coordinated an Easter program at Church…not something we usually do but wanted to try. Things have come together so incredibly well that I can only give credit where it’s due. God! I have felt nothing but affirmation in my desire to see Him be glorified this season. This week has been the epitome of seeing God’s hand bring things together.

First, although we have yet to seen the completed product, our program has come together with amazing ease. The kids are memorizing like crazy, the music has been learned and when we’ve been practising the kids have been belting out the words like pros. Costumes arrived on my doorstep this morning and THEY ARE PHENOMENAL! The little animals will look so sweet and I was reminded in the creation of these beauties that working with people in their gifting is incredibly rewarding both for them and for me.

Second, we are participating in a passover meal on Sunday! I am so excited for James and I and our children to experience this amazing Jewish tradition that was a Holy part of Jesus’ last days on earth. I love that we can embrace aspects of Jesus life in a new way even as mature believers.

Third, Good Friday…our church has a great tradition of breakfast in the morning and then an Artwalk. This year the theme is “From the Cradle to the Grave”…members of the congregation enter pieces of art and they are placed in a way that people can walk through and reflect on the life of Christ and the meaning of Easter. We have been eager to keep the children involved in this as well and this year I was really struggling with something that would be meaningful to them and nice to display. I thought at first that they could do a mural and work together, all ages putting a beautiful piece of work together. However, two weeks ago a faithful children’s worker came to me with 100 FREE wooden eggs. They were perfect in shape and size and an idea started to percolate. What if we had the children paint these eggs with something meaningful to them about the life of Christ. It would be an excellent way for them to experience turning something secular into something sacred. Then I began to wonder how we could make the entire process of creating these eggs something sacred and this, my friends, is why I love my Heavenly Father so much….!! I prayed that He would inspire me with an idea of something that could bring the two together in a meaningful way for the children.

At first it started with putting together a small Easter Egg hunt for the kids. Giving them a bit of fun and joy in the season…then I began to think on how we could incorporate scripture and I realized, “what if we put a small goody bag together for each child with a scripture and the wooden egg”. It would give them an idea for painting, help them put together Easter with their faith and a little bit of chocolate never hurt anyone. But I still felt there needed to be more. Just doing an Easter egg hunt still felt a little “unspiritual”. I realize that not every child will catch the amazing inspiration that I have felt and perhaps God means it only for me but I feel that He gave these ideas to me in order to pass them on to the children under my care.

Anyway, so as I pondered it more I realized that in so many ways the secular tradition of Easter Egg Hunting can be transformed to take on a much deeper meaning. First, the act of “looking” or “searching” is so biblical. In many ways, as humans we “search” in the wrong places. As a child, I remember playing the game hot and cold. We’d search for an object and another would tell us whether we were “hot” or “cold”. An Easter Egg Hunt can be like that…if you look in the wrong places you will never find the Egg/chocolate. Much like faith…before one comes to Christ we can search in so many wrong places and even as a believer we can lose site of our goal and start moving into the “cold” area (further away from our Creator). Second, when we do finally find the “treasure” of chocolate, it’s a gift. Someone who loved us bought it, hid it and once we find it we can literally just partake of the “gift”. Salvation is exactly the same…sometimes it takes us a bit to discover it but when we finally do it’s simply a matter of accepting it and partaking in the joy it brings.

One of the many things my mother passed on to me was a love of learning! I have not always understood her intense desire to pursue a greater degree of formal education but to be perfectly honest the desire to gain a deeper amount of knowledge is something I CAN completely understand. I have completed a university degree and although I do not have a deep yearning to go back to school for a masters or doctorate or anything of that nature, I do thoroughly enjoy the classroom setting and the interaction that leads to an “a-ha” moment. Over the last few months I’ve considered the fact that one day soon I will have to return to school in order to finish my formal education to become a teacher but in the meantime I need to find ways to occupy my more “intellectual” side that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

My thoughts were to combine that desire to learn, become better at the job I am doing now and a better parent into one effort. So on a quiet afternoon last week I headed to House of James, our local Christian bookstore, and began searching through their non-fiction section on parenting. I was looking for a particular book my good friend, Heather, suggested but came across a book entitled, “‘Parenting is your Highest Calling’ and 8 other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt” by Leslie Leyland Fields. The title immediately caught my attention and my first reaction really was more along the lines of what the heck is a book like this doing in House of James…of course parenting is one of the highest callings! But the rest of the title intrigued me and got me wondering what incites this author might have regarding parenting.

The first chapter of the book is “Parenting doesn’t have to be this hard”! She talks about how we so often feel like failures, particularly moms, because parenting seems so difficult and the assumption that if it feels difficult we must be doing it wrong. The first challenge that is stewing in my brain right now is this, “pretending that parenting is easy diminishes the value of family. As truth seekers and truth speakers, we need to be honest about the cost of parenting…Yet not many of us have examined our own parenting assumptions and expectations, holding them up to the unsparing light of the Scriptures.” I thought about that for a day or two, pondering what exactly we have done as Christian parents and I know my personal response affirms her point. I have discussed, vented, prayed, and every other possible action aside from examining them next to scripture. I have held to the cultural notion that parenting should be easy IF I am doing it right.

The second challenge is even more revolutionary in my mind. I’ve always just assumed that God is a happy, loving, sacrificial parent figure and to that degree of joy, love and happiness is what I must aspire. However, Fields challenges that notion through scriptural reference…”we seldom see God as a happy, blithe parent. We see instead God hungering for more…God reveals himself as a hurting and tender Father who longs for a deeper relationship with his children…We see God allowing his heart to be broken again and again by our failures.” At first I thought really how is that possible for a perfect God to encompass those ideas. Then I began reading the passages she was using as evidence…Exodus 4:22, Malachi 1:6, Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 65:2. I could identify with the words of truth spoken there. How many times have I already wondered, and will wonder in years to come, where is the honor I would love to see my children afford me and felt like I have held out loving arms to “obstinate” children. A perfect God has felt those things with the people He has created and still feels that in the moments I do not follow His will for my life.

I am eager to continue reading this book and find the truths God will teach me through this but I also want to be a truth seeker and speaker and recognize that this job I have for now is NOT easy. In reality it’s very difficult and comes with many sorrows, tears, anger and frustration but isn’t the truth in this particular chapter that light is always so much more comforting and appreciated when it comes at the end of dark tunnel. My comfort lies in the fact that THE LIGHT has and continues to experience my journey but illuminates the path before me so perhaps I might learn from His example.

“How do I raise wonderful children who have avoided many of the world’s temptations?” I ask myself this questions daily, knowing full well that my children never have been and never will be perfect. However, I would like to have children who are grounded, a delight to be around, role-models for their generation and those to come, truthful, godly, etc., the list could go on forever really! Most importantly I want my children to know that in a world of hurt, confusion, drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, and frustration they have a place to belong. How often do we hear kids talking about wanting to find acceptance and a place to belong and all too often finding it in places that lead to darkness, despair and depression.

Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a little of that despair myself. How can James and I possibly raise all four of our children to be wonderful, amazing people both in our eyes and God’s? This morning as I sat in on a great lesson with a very wise woman I was given a fresh perspective and lifted from some of that discouragement.

We began evaluating from a less “spiritual” perspective what the basic needs of a person are. In my undergraduate years we studied a little of these types of things. The basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing have to be met first. Then safety and security, third was belonging, and so on and so forth. One of the last human needs is love (not THE last but close to it). As a parent I’ve always tried to tell and show my children how much I love them not always grasping that the “need” for love is actually quite small in comparison to some of the more basic needs that I may have been neglecting. But as I gave this concept more thought I clearly remembered my own childhood. I never once questioned that my parents loved me despite the fact that I didn’t hear it from them daily but more importantly I ALWAYS knew that at the end of the day I BELONGED to them, in their home, in the shelter of their protection. No matter what I did or did not do I would not be forced outside of that protection.

As our “teacher” shared with us in more detail the types of people she deals with in her own profession she challenged us that the best thing we could do for our children was to help them understand that they are OURS! As a believer we cling to the truth that we belong to God and he lives in us. We are a family in Christ and nothing we say or do can get us in or out of that family. It’s a gift, freely given and a place to remain without condemnation! In Romans we find evidence of this desire as Paul writes in Romans 1:5-6 “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to BELONG to Jesus Christ.” The chosen people were the Jews but how much more meaningful would it have been to the Gentiles knowing that this gift of belonging was free to them as well!

I decided to put these ideas to the test and as I scooped my darling three year old daughter up I whispered in her ear that she was MY beautiful, child and she would always be mine! I was rewarded with the biggest grin and sweetest giggle as I buckled her into her seat. Then I turned and buckled my very affectionate five year old into his seat and whispered similar words into his ear. I was not disappointed by his response either. Both proved the point that they knew they were loved but more than anything they felt treasured and protected by my affirmation that they BELONGED to me.

In a world that offers little in the way of true belonging and real love I realized that in order to help my children become the people I know God wants them to be I must first provide for them a safe home where they can be themselves and know they are always, ALWAYS welcome and treasured. THE place where THEY belong and then train them up in the way they should go so they will not depart from it.

These precious gifts do, in fact, BELONG to me and always will!