He is Risen: Our Lent and Easter

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Happy Easter, dear blog readers. I hope yours was a day of celebrating our risen Lord with your family.

Ours was, in a word, tiring. It was also joyous, but it wore us out.

I attended the community Holy Week worship services in my town, taking pictures from each event and publishing them in the paper. Events like these are ones that serve two purposes for me: I get to cover a great event and I get a little bit of Jesus during the work week. We also attended the Good Friday service at our church, sunrise service at another church and regular Easter service at our own church, so I logged eight church services last week (should have been nine, but we skipped Maundy Thursday).

The children enjoyed a grand total of FIVE Easter egg hunts and colored eggs at the childcare program they attend, so I didn’t feel any pressure to color eggs at home. If we’re being honest here – and we are – after a decade of Easter egg hunts for kids, I’m over it. I don’t get excited about it, especially because they usually end with each of my children hoarding candy, cheap baskets and dozens of plastic (or hardboiled!) eggs for weeks. #nothankyou

Forgive me if this is self-righteous, but I think I prefer the religious customs of Easter to the secular customs. We don’t cut out secular customs by any means, because we’re very much secular people, it’s a combination of my poor children having a cheap/poor mother and a mother who wants them to know why we’re having ham and hunting eggs.

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We belong to the Episcopal Church and we celebrate the penitential season of Lent, the period of seven weeks leading up to Christ’s resurrection. We traditionally celebrate Shrove Tuesday with a pancake supper at church. Incidentally, that was also the day we began the process of looking at and purchasing the house.

Every year we try to come together as a family and study various things, but I have to get honest again and say that I’m disappointed in the slim pickins when it comes to Lent materials for children. (There are a lot of Pinterest boards now dedicated to Lent ideas for children, though.)

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We ended up using the Bedbugs Bible Gang book on Lent (if I could find the link again, I’d share it) and the printable Lenten calendar from Catholic Icing. Because the focus of Lent is on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we wrote in prayer journals (mini composition books), chose a bad habit from which to fast and cut meat from our diets on Fridays and gave compliments to one another to represent alms (we were having problems with cutting one another down and not building one another up).

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We started with clear vases from Walmart – maybe $3 each? – and two packs of glittery letter stickers ($1 each) to label our vases with our names. From there, we used scrap paper to write a compliment or encouraging message to one another. The premise was that we’d do this each night during Lent and then we’d open them on Easter Sunday with our baskets. Well … Mama forgot! I remembered the vases a little before bedtime, but they took too long in the shower, so we opened them on Easter Monday. Close enough, right?

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The contents of each person’s vase varied, and the children were not always nice in their messages to one another, but they tried. They were mostly positive. Mine (above) were mostly “I love you, mommy!” but there were a few random things: Jaiden liked my red earrings, Jenna liked the ceramic bunnies I bought from Goodwill (that the dogs ended up gnawing on), Jaylen said I was exciting. You can click the photo to enlarge and read my messages.

It was a fun project and we’ll likely continue it, as well as the prayer journals, all year. (Funny sidenote: one night both Jaylen and Jenna prayed for snow and “no school” when we had flurries in the forecast; unfortunately for them, their prayers were not answered.)

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On Easter morning they awoke – at 6:45 a.m. – YAWN! – to stuffed puppies with bunny ears, a water bottle, large egg containing either temporary tattoos or stickers, a small-ish chocolate bunny, bunny Pez dispensers and twistable colored pencils. Their Easter bunny tries to be practical and skimpy with the candy.

As I’ve already mentioned, we went to sunrise service at my friend’s church and stayed for breakfast, kid crafts and an egg hunt. Then it was time for our church service. (By this time we were already ready for naps.)

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Last week I was asked to “provide” a couple of acolytes for our Easter service (we don’t often use acolytes because most of our youth are still too young) and I voluntold Jaiden. She was very resistant at first, but loved it and asked to do it again!

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We usually sit in the next-to-last row, which we’ve done since we joined the church in ’06, but we sat in the front row this week so we could be closer to Jaiden. I was amazed by how well Jaylen and Jenna followed the service, though in true Jenna form she threw a fit during the sermon and nearly knocked the Paschal candle over (le sigh).

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I big puffy pink heart the way our church looks on Easter (and at Christmas). So beautiful! It was built in 1858. (A few more gratuitous shots and we’ll call ‘er done, okay?)

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This is during the Eucharist. We also reaffirmed our baptismal vows this day (as well as on Epiphany this year). A friend of mine is turned off by the ritualistic nature of some churches, but I love our customs and I love that we take communion every single week.

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Isn’t she so pretty? #iloveit

After our church service, we had an Easter egg hunt for the children, lunch and our traditional Easter picture of the children on the back stoop, then it was time to head home for more food, our family and yet another egg hunt.

The backyard was very muddy, a combination of two days of rain and not having sod down yet after the in-ground pool was put in, so we hunted for eggs out front. And because the front yard was also muddy, my mom had them search for eggs barefoot and we put them to work washing feet afterward. We spent a little more time lounging around, then we all (minus my dad) went to the new house to look around. There’s a zip line and a trampoline, so the backyard was quite the hit between my kids, brothers and niece and nephews. Then they joked on my fixer-upper of a house, because that’s how they roll.

And I was in bed by 8:45. I was that worn out.

I do want to share one of the things I took away from last week’s Holy Week services, an excerpt from a sermon by The Rev. Dr. Scott Sealy of First Presbyterian Church: “When we follow Him, it’s not ‘What would Jesus do?’, it’s ‘Thank God for what He’s done.'” Ponder that.

Happy Easter, friends! I hope you take notice of the beauty that is in every sunrise and in every sunset, the joy and life that the warmer weather brings and the promise of a Heavenly home by His death on the cross.