When Easter Doesn’t Feel All That Holy

easter

Two weeks before Easter, Grandma generously surprises us with a bag of dresses, all butterflies and flutter flowers in aqua and blue. The girls try them on the next morning and refuse to take them off, dancing like fairies to Stevie Wonder while the rain mixes with snow outside our farmhouse windows.

Later I sit down with my bible during the twins’ afternoon nap and think, Easter. I should read about Easter. I end up somewhere in Matthew 5 instead, reading through the beatitudes and trying not to yawn.

A week before Easter, I go through the drawers and bins, hunting for tights and sweaters and shoes. (Yes, that’s Midwestern snow in the background, thank you very much.) Nothing works. The sweaters are stained. The eldest has a bin full of neon tennies and worn out boots. The tights all say 6-9 months.

Somehow, our preparation for Easter keeps running that track. Clothes. Shoes. A nap instead of contemplation. Suitcases. Car repairs. All things irrelevant to the story of a man on a cross, a body gone missing, an angel in a garden.  

We pack the van and drive six hours across Minnesota and down into South Dakota to the farm where I grew up. We are immediately welcomed by family, activity, food. The next morning, the girls follow Grandpa across the yard, bounding like eager puppies. They relive my childhood of feeding livestock, petting cats, begging for tractor rides.

feeding cows

I stand by the kitchen window, coffee in hand, witnessing this ordinary, extraordinary grace.

But later, the girls are tired and owlish, and we abandon the idea of going to an evening Good Friday service. My brothers and their families come over instead, and we eat dinner out of a giant skillet, talk, laugh, wrestle children into pajamas.

There’s celebration in this. I know there is. We extend grace to one another when the table never gets set and we eat chips out of the bag. Fellowship is washing the dishes together, snapping towels, telling stories.

It’s not the usual, contemplative celebration of the body and the bread, and maybe that’s okay.

The hard part is this: the holiness of Easter is not where I used to find it, sitting quiet in the pew of a small country church, and I don’t know how to feel it here, lying on the living room floor with a shrieking toddler jumping on my legs and the TV droning in the background.

***

I’ve always craved the holy bits and pieces of things. You know, the proverbial moments when the music swells, the lights dim, and sacred swirls around, unmistakable. The candles at dinner. That split second when everyone is laughing all at the same time and the sun is setting and the world glows in hazy, golden twilight. Moments when everything comes together, holy, unmistakably divine.

You too? Good. Welcome to the fold.

Here’s the problem. I’m also a parent. And as a parent, I find that holiness is not in the vocabulary of my very young children. Quiet times are interrupted by fights over a toy. Church gets skipped when the girls don’t sleep well, or refuse to stay with anyone but mama. Early mornings are cut short; books I’m reading go lost under the couch.

Too often, the moment I’m craving slips by, an unacknowledged guest at the wedding.

I can’t help but think that something’s wrong here.  Maybe you’ve felt it too. Maybe you’ve nursed your way through countless different services instead of listening to the message. Maybe you were relegated to the kids’ table after your toddler spilled her third glass of milk. Maybe you skipped church for months at a time because of traveling soccer. Or maybe church was never part of your vocabulary to begin with, but you still feel this draw, this quiet calling out.

The reality I’m learning, and relearning, is this: we can’t always rely on a church, or a moment, to hand us our portion of desired holiness on a silver platter.

What if having “unchurchy” moments forces us to create our own definition, a definition that says it is not the when, the where, or the artifice of stained glass that allows us to contemplate and celebrate the mystery and miracle of our faith?

What if our new definition gives us the freedom to do it when we can? Where we can? With whomever we can?

What if, instead of manufactured moments, we sought connection with God himself?

***

This is how I ended up celebrating Jesus’ resurrection by myself the Monday after Easter, while the laundry thumped around in the dryer. I finally had a second to breathe. My eldest was in preschool, and the twins were napping. So I dug around in the fridge and pulled out some naan (the closest thing I could find to unleavened bread besides teddy grahams) and filled a little cordial glass with juice.

I leaned on the counter, and I read the story of the Last Supper. This, my body, broken. This, my blood, spilled out. I took makeshift communion. I prayed. I looked out the window at the brown of spring struggling to unfold in the northern climes of Minnesota and breathed a simple, heart-felt thank you that had nothing to do with eggs and candy and hair bows and coordinating shoes.

It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t choreographed or particularly inspired.

But it was space in the ordinary to recognize the sacred. It was searching out God himself, laying my simple gratitude at his nail-scarred feet.

Midday, barefoot, holy.

 

Friends, do you have ideas for drawing yourself, and/or your kids into unconventional celebrations of holy moments? Leave me a note in the comments. I’d love to hear how you balance the two!

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Take Care, Make Care – Part 2: Amber’s thoughts

Take CareHey Everyone! I’m really excited to share this week’s Make Care Take Care guest post from Amber Kuiper over at Mommy’s Me Time. Amber has a great way of encouraging and making me feel really stoked about being a mama (not always an easy task on rough days.) And she’s not just saying it – as mom to a toddler, twins who just turned one, and a baby due in September, she’s in the glorious thick of motherhood – and she’s living and loving it. Here are her thoughts on prioritizing self-care.

Hello Fellow Passengers readers! I’m so excited to have the chance to chat with you today. When Rachel and I randomly met in the bathroom at a mom’s night out a few months ago, I’m pretty sure it was fate. After a few sentences, we learned that we both had a toddler and twin babies at home. Our friendship was a match made in heaven.

One of the things we talked about that night was how wonderful it was to be out of the house BY OURSELVES. We didn’t have to think about high chairs or messy fingers or having to rush home to get them to bed on time. We simply had the night to relax without wearing our mom hats. We could just be us.

I have to admit though, sometimes it can be easy to forget who I really am. I stay at home with my kids who are all two and under, so most of my conversations are about toy airplanes, pooping on the potty and peek-a-boo! My days are spent singing nursery rhymes, pretending I’m Lightning McQueen, and changing endless dirty diapers. When I actually have the opportunity to have an adult conversation it can feel really awkward, unless I’m talking about my kids.

As moms, we give and give and give to our families. We love our kids so much that we’re willing to do whatever it takes for them to be happy and content. When they need us in the middle of the night, we’re there. When they wake up early in the morning, we scoop them up in our arms and cuddle. When they’re hungry, we make sure to fill up their little tummies. From the little things to the big things, we do it all. We provide for their every need. We oftentimes don’t even think about how much of ourselves we’re pouring out because we simply view it as doing what needs to be done.

At some point though, I think we’ve all felt empty. But instead of acknowledging that we need to be filled up, it can be easy to beat ourselves up and feel inadequate. We feel overwhelmed, defeated, and alone. We look around and everyone else seems to be painting a picture of their perfect little lives. We wonder why our life doesn’t feel like that.

The truth is, none of us have a perfect life, and none of us can do it all. We weren’t designed to! Perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned since becoming a mom is how important it is to humble myself and ask for help. It isn’t easy, because for some reason we think we should be able to do it on our own. But that just isn’t realistic or healthy.

We all need breaks. We need time away from our kids to reflect on who we are. We need to remember what we loved doing before kids, what fills us up and makes us have more love to give to our families.

I love this metaphor:

If you’ve been on an airplane, you likely remember hearing this phrase from the flight crew before take-off.

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions…Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat…If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”

Mommas, we need to be breathing if we want our kids to be breathing. We shouldn’t be grasping for air. When we’re filled up, we’re able to be the best moms we can be and love on them like crazy.

We need to stop making excuses as to why we don’t deserve or need “me time.”

Here are some things that helped me to prioritize self-care. I hope they can be of some help to you, too! You matter, and you deserve to be taken care of.

5 Steps To Prioritizing Self Care

1. Make a list of things that fill you up. Maybe it’s reading, or exercising, or sleeping, or blogging. Maybe it’s something totally different. Whatever it is, you need to pinpoint it.

2. Communicate to your husband, family, or friends that you need a break. And don’t feel ashamed when you do. Ask them to help you make it a priority. They want what’s best for you, but unless you tell them how you’re really doing, they won’t be able to know what you need. Schedule a time for them to watch the kids. Ideally, make it a reoccurring appointment for as often as you think you’ll need it!

3. Follow through. Unless there’s a life threatening emergency, do not postpone your “me time.” You NEED it!

4. Don’t micromanage while you’re gone. Trust your husband to take care of the kids. Or your friend, or your babysitter. Don’t check in a million times. I promise, the kids will be just fine. I know it’s hard to give up control, but it’ll be good for your soul.

5. Don’t return until you are in a better place. Give yourself the time you need. Don’t rush it. When you walk through the doors and pick up your sweethearts, you’ll look at them with new eyes and a new perspective!

IMG_0984 I’m Amber, a 28 year old stay-at-home mom to three sweet kids. I have a two-year-old son, one-year-old twin girls, and we’re expecting Baby #4 in September! God’s grace is the only thing that gets us through each crazy day!
I’m passionate about encouraging moms to prioritize self-care and take time to fill ourselves up by pursuing Christ. When we’re full, we can love on our families like crazy and be the moms we’ve always wanted to be!

Amber blogs at www.mommysmetime.com