This has been the best Easter on record for me.
There is no doubt this is due to the fact that we focused on Jesus Christ as a family.
The Family Proclamation says that "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ."
I have had a lot of interesting experiences this weekend, as I have tried to "keep Easter holy." I'd like to share a few of them with you, that perhaps it will strengthen your testimony and inspire you to create a holy celebration in your own special way for your families again next Easter.
Preparing to Welcome the Lord into Our Home: On Thursday night, after my kids and husband had gone to bed, I decided to stay up and give my house a thorough cleaning in preparation for Easter Weekend. We weren't expecting any special visitors, but my kids had been sick all week, and my house was grimy. I ended up cleaning from 11pm to 1:30am. It was quiet in the house, and I was enjoying having this time to ponder things. The more that I cleaned, the more that I thought about Christ. I started cleaning not only to make a nice place for my family and I to enjoy, but a house that would be clean and welcoming to the Lord. Thus cleaning my house in preparation for Easter became the "palm" that I was willing to offer up unto the Lord. I liked the thought of welcoming Christ into our home this weekend, and I think that we did just that.
Fasting from the World's Distractions: To further create a special environment for our family this weekend, I unplugged the TV and removed it from it's hallowed location in the living room. I wanted to tune out commercials and noise, and spend time reading about and celebrating the life of Christ instead of filling our time on Good Friday with worldly pursuits. This became another palm that I gladly gave in pursuit to come to know Christ better this Easter weekend.
Feasting on His words: On Good Friday, I was pretty tired from staying up late cleaning, but I had just enough energy to read some Easter books with the kids, and have a quiet day contemplating the Atonement. I finished reading the Book of Mormon, for my Book of Mormon Challenge (I hope that some of you did as well!). As I finished I had two thoughts: 1) I don't want to die like Shiz and 2) Everything points back to Jesus Christ...everything in nature and the very rise and fall of civilizations is about one thing, whether or not we are willing to worship the true and living God and accept his son, Jesus Christ. Everything else is ancillary to this central truth.
Pondering My Personal Relationship with Christ: I also spent some time on Friday, recording some of my most sacred experiences with the Spirit in my Small Plates journal. That was really nice and reminded me of some things I have come to know about Jesus Christ first-hand.
Keeping Traditions in Check: Saturday, or Secular Saturday, as we call it at our house, the Easter Bunny paid us a visit. The kids found their baskets and hunted for eggs, and scarfed down some candy. The entire Easter Bunny experience lasted about 15 minutes and was over and done with. Anyway, it struck me later in the day on Saturday that about 99% of our Easter celebrations were about Christ, while 1% revolved around the bunny/candy aspect. I was pleased to find that we didn't have to outlaw the Easter Bunny for our children to understand what is truly important about the holiday and what we value as a family. This was a very rewarding thing to discover.
Doing Something Special With Our Time: After breakfast, we hopped in the car and drove to a neighboring town so I could run in a 10K race. I had decided three months ago to train for this race, but lost motivation about half-way through my training. Regardless of this fact, my husband would not let me back out of the race. I had tried every angle this week to wriggle my way out of my commitment. But no go. I found it interesting on Friday, as I was reading one of the children's Easter books, that it noted that Jesus prayed not once, but twice that the Father would "let this cup pass". It dawned on me in that moment: That he really was human (at least in part). He really knew what it meant to feel weakness, to dread a task, to fear the future. This brought me so much joy. I now knew that Jesus KNOWS and understands when we pray to have a trial or difficult experience removed from us. He doesn't look down on us and say "you weakling, why can't you be stronger!?" He gets it. He gets me, because he really has been there. That's all I needed to know to trust him more. And I do trust him.
My kids are sad in the picture above, because they didn't want me to run either! But I ran the race, at my own pace, and it felt good. I wanted to continue to keep the weekend holy in my own chosen way, even though I had chosen to run this race, so I listened to my Easter Mix on my ipod and a talk by President Packer, while I ran. The race was run on the oldest Rail-to-Trail venue in the US, through some beautiful old woods that ran over a creek. There was a lot of rain the night before, so the trail was very muddy, which also made for some good pondering as I was mostly alone with my thoughts during the race. My husband and kids came to cheer me on. It meant a lot to see their bright, smiling faces at the 5K mark.
Leading My Children to The Cross: After lunch and a quick shower, we set out again to attend the annual Easter service at the Paxinos Cross. Three years ago, I wrote a story about this cross and the people who erected. On Good Friday 1961, a group of boy scouts dragged boards up this hill and put up a cross for all to see. It is visible for miles around. The troop has been taking care of it ever since. I had been up the mountain once while writing the story, but this was our first time attending the worship service. It was excellent. There was some extra dedications to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the cross.
It was really cool to take in the breath-taking view, sing the songs of praise with fellow Christians, and honor the tradition and the people who had contributed to this landmark and symbol of faith. But the best part for me was our trek up the mountain to get to the site of the cross. We drove most of the way up, but at a certain point, we had to park our car and hike up the rest of the way. We could have taken a shuttle, but my husband opted to walk. We didn't realize that it was over a mile climb over fairly rugged and muddy terrain to reach the summit. This is not an impossible task for two healthy adults, but for two healthy adults with a 5, 3, and 2-year-old in tow, lugging blankets and such, it became quite an ambitious mission.
Scarlett and I quickly fell behind, while Guy and Steve, with Autumn in his arms, sped ahead. Scarlett insisted that I hold her hand the whole time. She went as fast as her little legs could walk, and I found that I had to hold her hand very firmly to keep her from falling. Our fellow hikers paid Scarlett many encouraging compliments to keep her moving up the trail. Two women behind me remarked on the significance of the signs that pointed our way "to the Cross", and our hike suddenly became something of a pilgrimage.
Now, in our church, we do not use the cross as a common symbol of our faith. Growing up, I actually had an aversion to it, because I knew that this was a symbol of Christ's death, and I was taught to celebrate the fact that he overcame death and the fact that he lives and leads our church, and not to focus on "worshiping" a cross. Semantics. As an adult, I can now appreciate the cross more, as I can see how beloved it is to other Christians. So the idea that I was taking my daughter, by the hand, and leading her to the cross became very touching, because this is what I try to do every day of my life as a Mother. Bringing them to Christ is pretty much the whole point of everything that I do.
It was a beautiful walk up the mountain amongst the tall, old trees. Watching the trail of people making their way up the path at various speeds made me think of the scene Christ's followers might have seen as they followed Him up with the cross. It also caused me to reflect on the fact that we are all on our own personal journeys to come to the cross and to come to know our Savior. Some move faster than others. Some must pass through much pain to arrive at their desired destination. Others generously help with encouraging words or by removing stumbling blocks or by bending back thorny branches. Eventually, albeit at our own paces, we all made it up the mountain to be together at the cross.
Just as it took great perseverance to reach the ultimate peak of this mountain, it takes dedication and endurance to move our children and their young testimonies each day to a higher elevation in their journey toward the cross or toward coming to know their Savior personally. I hope that my children will always remember that climb, because I sure will.
Testimony Egg Hunt: And finally, today, we had our second annual Testimony Egg Hunt! We solicited family members for a brief testimony a week in advance. We placed the testimonies inside plastic eggs and hid them for the children to find after church. Then we read each testimony as the kids munched on the few bits of jelly beans that were included in the eggs.
So, in addition to all of the crafting/object lessons that we did all month, that was our Easter. It's probably the biggest Easter we will ever have, because our family is at a time in our lives when we are fairly autonomous. None of my children are in school (besides preschool), none of us are involved in sports. We have a lot of time to be together and have a lot of say over how we spend that time. I hope that in the future, we will continue to dedicate a lot of time to making these kinds of special memories together.
I have recorded these memories in my journal, because I wanted to remember what it was about this Easter that made it so special so I can refer back to this in years ahead.
I am sure that each of you have special memories from this Easter, and I hope that you will record it somewhere to reference in future years.