It is Saturday, and in a few hours darkness will pull its shadowy blanket up the side of the mountain. Come morning, light will break over these white-hooded peaks in an Easter sunrise. A symbol of the Son who rose, unfettered and glorious, with healing in his wings.
Yesterday, the limbs hung heavy with April snow. But Wednesday, the blossoms were budding big on my mother's pear tree, dotting branches with clusters of white.
The day was warm as we drove to Grandma's. We wore short sleeve shirts (most of us), rolled the windows down, and talked of summer.
With all five home all week and only one outing on the calendar (we did make it to the zoo!), sometimes the walls seemed to creep in and I felt slightly claustrophobic. The constant activity and endless messes were part of having everyone together for hours and hours. (A taste of what summer will be like.) So to get outside, where the grass stretched long and the spaces were wide, eased everyone into a good mood.
After eating lunch on Grandma's patio, we began our Easter Walk. I worried that maybe this year the tradition wouldn't be as exciting, but I was wrong. Familiarity and expectation increased the excitement. Everyone gathered as we read verses aloud. It was an opportunity to hand down truth, pass along phrases our children will remember. And in the cool shade, they listened.
I read the first scripture clue, then turned the kids loose to hunt for treasures. Here's the list of clues (above) or you can go ahead and buy the book (lovely text and illustrations).
My Mother led the girls across the grass for their first find. She knows the harshest bushes, the sharpest thorns and where they grow. So she took Ali there, clippers in hand, to the berberi bushes.
My girls felt the pointed thorns, sharp as needles, as my mom clipped branches for them and explained what it must have felt like for Jesus to have these placed upon his head. They had found their first clue. Something to represent the crown of thorns.
Second clue? Something made of wood to represent the cross. Eliza found my Dad's woodpile and all the kids pulled out kindling, tried to imagine Jesus carrying a piece of wood the length of a tree as he trudged through Jerusalem's crowded streets. Then I told them of the nails, the suffering, the heartlessness of it all. Even now, I have trouble watching movies that depict the crucifixion. It's hard to fathom something so inhumane, so cruel.
I stopped at my Mom's crab apple tree to check the status of her blooms. Same as ours. Only days away from opening. Maybe these bright pink flowers will open on Easter.
Next clue was to find something that would represent the Savior's death. Ali picked up this withered, brown leaf. Sami found one similar. I actually found a dead worm, crusted in the dirt. Great for examining and discussing, but not necessarily picture-worthy.
Fourth clue was to find something black to represent the darkness after Jesus' death in both Jerusalem and America. I told them of the storms, the quaking, the way the earth mourned the loss of its creator. Each of the girls found a piece of charred wood from the fire pit, carried it daintily to me, then dropped it into their sacks.
About this time Spencer fell off the swing and strained his ankle (my best diagnosis after removing his shoes, checking joint range of motion and watching him limp). He's fine now, but the sweet boy didn't want to be left behind, he wanted so much to keep up, despite his whimpering. So I sat him down with a popsicle to wait for us.
As we headed off for our next clue, Spence called out, "But I don't have a brother. I... need a brother!" So Gordon turned around, sat down next to him, and the two shared popsicles together.
That twin bond some days is so evident, so strong. And with all our talk of the Savior, I kept thinking of Spencer's words - of his need to have a brother - someone to stay with him so he wouldn't be left alone. And I felt grateful for our Brother, the one who knows, who stays, and will not leave us.
"I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you" (John 14:18).
This might just be my favorite find of the day. Sami's stone. Which represents, of course, the stone placed in front of the tomb. It is oval and smooth at the edges, yet small. As if to symbolize the smallness of man's efforts to keep the Son of God from rising as he promised. Nothing kept him from his mission. No soldiers, no tetrarchs, no stones.
Step into the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and you will read some of the most marvelous words ever spoken. They are carved onto the wooden door.
"He is not here. For He is risen" (Matthew 28:6).
The girls were anxious for this last clue, asking all along if it was time yet. "Can we pick a flower? Can we pick a flower now?" Finally, we read our last verse and my Mom let the girls pick flowers from anywhere in her garden, a handful if they'd like. To represent new life, and the reality that Jesus lives again. Ali chose the daffodil.
Eliza, a light pink hyacinth.
Sami, a hyacinth too, but fuscia in color.
I picked a bouquet of white anemones.
Tonight we will hang our lanterns, dangle candles from the tree, in anticipation of the Resurrection. Our own version of an Easter Vigil.
We've never done this before, just an idea I had last year. But of all the Christian services I've attended over the years, I've loved the Easter Vigil most. Nearly twenty years ago, I went to St. Ann's in Jerusalem on Easter Eve. Something sparked within me when I took light from a stranger's candle, sang hymns into the night, and remembered that Saturday of wondering and waiting.
Our simple lanterns, tiny flickerings in the dark, will be a symbol of our own patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
Aren't we all waiting, in some way or another, for something?
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We are known to Him. Each of us. And some days that is all I need to remember.
Happy Easter friends,