Easter Sunday!

Sunday is here...my ugly space between the cross and the empty tomb has forever been changed because Jesus rose from the dead. If Friday happened, but Sunday never came, there would be no hope and no newness of life.

But praise be to God...Sunday came! Jesus rose from the grave! Now there is hope for the prodigal and hope for the pharisee. Because Jesus, in all His perfection, died and rose again, our space between the cross and the empty tomb can be redeemed. We are all sin stricken to our core- lost in our own "goodness," or lost in our own rebelliousness. We all need Jesus, and Jesus is the only one who can redeem us and make us His. No amount of goodness (the pharisee) will ever be enough, and no amount of "cleaning up our act" (the prodigal) will ever be good enough. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, except through Me" (John 14:7). 

Is your space between the cross and empty tomb despairing? Mine is. Do you want freedom from its binding chains and hopeless future? Jesus is the answer...the death, burial, and resurrection is the answer. 

My old self was despairing and hopeless. It was one in which the snares of perfectionism and self-generated goodness had me in chains. It was the self that rejected Jesus as Savior by trying to avoid sin and grow in practical holiness out of my own strength and pride. But praise be to God! 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
Wow. What a verse. Such blessing. Such freedom. Such scandalous love... that Jesus would love a messed up, lost, and wayward person like myself. That He would die an excruciating death to free me from my filthy goodness and give me His perfect goodness.

You see, because Jesus has forgiven my sin, because Jesus is my King, I no longer have to live in that empty space between the cross and the tomb. I don't need to be perfect. Jesus already is. I don't have to live a perfect life. Because I am "in Christ" (forgiven, saved, a Christian), I am holy. Because of the cross, I was gifted Jesus' holiness and perfection. I no longer have to use my own goodness to gain love, access, or approval from God the Father. This is called the Gospel and it's the most freeing thing that has ever happened, and will ever happen in my life. The Gospel is present because of Easter Sunday. Mercy trumps the law. The Gospel isn't for good people so they can work harder to become even more good. Perfection is impossible and Jesus doesn't even want me striving to be perfect because He already is!

My space between the cross and the empty tomb was despairing. It was hopeless. But now, because of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I walk in a new life... a life where Jesus' perfection and goodness is wholly mine. My prideful pursuit of being my own savior, lost in my own righteousness and my own desire to be good, was left at the foot of the cross. How bout you? Do you live in that space? That dark, empty, and lonely space, that ultimately will end in your death? Do you still live in that space, before grace arrived? There is hope. There is freedom...


Between the Cross and the Empty Tomb

As a friend wrote on her status today..."Spend some time today trying to live in that space between the cross and the empty tomb. After hope has left. Before grace has come." This really struck a cord with me. That space, that emptiness, that hopeless pit between the cross and the tomb is where millions live today. If Jesus didn't rescue me, I'd be camped there, in that hopeless space...in all my own righteousness and in my own desire to be good. I'd be in a place where failure was constant and inevitable, where perfection was always just out of reach, where my wholeness was always just one more good deed away. But praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have been rescued! 
(Photo by Ann Voskamp)

Friday, my space between the cross and the empty tomb, is an ugly one. My space is a prison, in which I am a slave to my own self-generated goodness that is simply never enough. My space has me trapped in a sea of self-righteousness renewed by self-effort and resolutions, even thought the outcome is always the same- imperfect and incomplete. My space between the cross and the empty tomb is a hell-like prison. It's filled with slavery to my own goodness and my own efforts. It's a place where I live in pride and function under the false identity that I have to perform in order to get the Father to love me, to embrace me, to accept me. 

You see, every single one of us would've been yelling, "Hosanna!!!" as Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem, and every single one of us would've been yelling, "Crucifiy Him!" just days later. It's just a matter of which kind of person you were that killed the Son of God. We often think those calling out "Crucify Him!!!" were those "sinners." You know, those really terrible people who were the law-breakers, the rule-haters, the obviously outward evil people who did things worthy of jail time and death. The people who didn't "get" that Jesus was God. But guess what, all the "do-gooders" (a.k.a. equally awful sinners) were standing right alongside the law-breaking "sinners" yelling "Crucify Him!" just as loud. 
And do you know who I would've been? I would've been the "do-gooder." I would've been among the crowd of the Pharisees, one of the ones lost in their own righteousness and their own desire to be good. Why would I have been shaking my fist to kill God's Son? Because he threatened to obliterate my desire to feel like a "good" person, and if this Jesus was who He said he was, my goodness is not my own, the glory is not mine, it's God's, and that would be infuriating enough to kill someone. I would've yelled "Crucify Him!" because my desire to be my own savior and to be perfect would now be forever satisfied in the goodness of this God-Man Jesus. Is that good news? Absolutely! If Jesus has rescued the Pharisee from himself and made him whole and perfect IN JESUS, then it's incredible news!!! But if Jesus hasn't rescued the Pharisee, or if the Pharisee continues to go back and live in that ugly space between the cross and the empty tomb, it's not good news, it's infuriating news. It's infuriating b/c the Gospel is not good news to those who pride themselves in their hard work. They don't understand that mercy trumps the law, and they don't understand that the Gospel isn't for "good" people who just want to be "gooder." The Gospel is for sinners- the prodigal sinners and the pharisaical sinners. Both are equally as wicked as the other, though outwardly they appear to be very different. Both live as hell-stricken prisoners, waiting on the day when their chains are bound for eternity to the desires of their hearts in hell- the desire to rebel (the prodigal), and the desire to be good (the pharisee).
(Photo by Ann Voskamp)

But guess what...it doesn't end there...it doesn't have to end there, because Sunday is coming...

What does your space between the cross and the empty tomb look like? If you don't know what it looks like, if you don't know what you've been rescued from, you may find yourself celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday as if you wouldn't have been one of the ones yelling "Crucify Him!" and you will miss the opportunity to taste and see that the Lord is good.


A Holy Thursday Birthday

(Easter advent tree of Holy Week events) 

Today was Holy Thursday...a day in which we remember The Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It is a celebration of the new covenant- a celebration of the fact that because of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, we can have forgiveness of sins, once and for all, and direct access to God the Father, through Jesus. 

"When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we remember God’s work of redemption in the past, we proclaim his grace in the present, and we look forward to Jesus’ return in the future. It’s a joyful, thankful, hopeful celebration as we reflect on God’s grace to us through Jesus." (Justin Holcomb)

And on this Holy Thursday, we also celebrated our daughter's birthday! Evie turned 2 years old today! 
I can't believe these two pictures are the same kid! I thought for sure with my coloring, her dark hair and dark eyes would stay. Blondish hair?!?! What on earth! :) Haha. The left picture was taken the morning after she was born, and the right picture was taken this morning, on her 2nd birthday. Although she was sick with a cough, fever, and a puffy face, I managed to squeeze a smile out of her. 

I simply cannot believe she is already two. No more baby days...and really, that makes me kind of sad. We are officially celebrating with her 2nd birthday party this Saturday, so today we just enjoyed remembering her birth and celebrating all she has become in her teeny tiny, but very mighty, self. ;) Unfortunately, this little lady woke up pretty sick today. Mommy and Evie snuggled on the couch for a great majority of the day, and I even had the joy of rocking her to sleep again (which almost never happens now with her feisty, independent self). So here are a few snapshots of her official "2nd birthday." (Birthday party pics to come after Saturday!)

Sickie girl with her blankie. These blankies are her prized posessions! She puts them right up to her nose and mouth and is instantly comforted. Too funny. 
I loved every minute of rocking her to sleep at naptime. I was stroking her hair and she reached up and started stroking mine. Guess what Evie will be doing to her baby dolls next? I guarantee she starts to play with their hair! 
Everything is better when Daddy is home. She didn't want to leave his shoulder. He's her favorite. :) 
And, he brought her 2 red roses for her birthday. So sweet. 
The highlight of this birthday girl's day? A vapor rub bath! 
After a rough night the evening before, and barely a good nap, this lady fell asleep in my arms at 6:08pm while I read her a story. I don't think that has ever happened before. Then she woke up screaming as soon as I put her in her bed. Oh boy. I fear we have a long night ahead of us as she has woken up on and off all evening. 

But it's okay...I'll just soak up some more snuggles and kiss this precious face. 
We love you Evangeline Rae. You are insanely loved and cherished. 


Who is King?

Holy Week has begun and we eagerly anticipate celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus this coming weekend. The more I grow in my walk with Jesus, the more paramount this holiday becomes. Everything in my life, absolutely everything, rides on the scandalous truth about this extraordinary love that brought salvation to mankind...that Jesus came to save sinners and make them right with God. That through Jesus we are saints, heirs of His kingdom, and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
We are very aware of the fact that our children (4 years, and just about 2 years) are not Christians yet. We diligently pray that Jesus draws them to Himself and that they become Christians at a young age.
Things like the Easter holiday are paramount to our faith and we so desperately want our children to see how great Jesus is and taste the goodness of the Gospel.

We've been talking a lot with Mekonen about who his king is. Will he try to be his own king, by doing what he wants to do, and by serving himself, or will Jesus be his King? They are two very different ways to live and we are trying to teach him that he cannot live both ways. Either Jesus is your king, or you think you are your own king.

We are trying to help him to understand that being a Christian is not just about a Savior it's also about a King. In our attempts to explain salvation and Christianity to our children, we often only present them with half of the Gospel... that Jesus is our Savior- he saves us from sin, death, and an eternity in hell without Him. But we so often forgot the other half of the Gospel... that Jesus is our King too. And what does a King do? He rules, he reigns, he is worshipped, he is to be followed and served. And this dear friends, is how it is with Jesus! We must constantly put the entire Gospel in front of our kids....that being a Christian is about a Savior AND a King. That you aren't just saved FROM something- from sin- You are saved TO something- to a life of worship and service to the King of our hearts.

The kids painting the cross decorations for our Easter tree table.
Their finished products!
And this is Easter...
Jesus as Savior and Jesus as King! He died to save us. He was raised to be our King.

So who is your King?

  • Are you your own king? Do you see Jesus as a mere celebrity, an important historical figure, another "event" to be enjoyed, or something to take part in when it's convenient? Is Jesus only part of your story when he best suits your needs and when he best fits in with the plan you have for your life? 
  • Is Jesus your King? This King is the only thing that will never fade. He will stand for all eternity as the center point of all who have ever lived. It has nothing to do with Jesus being King so we can treat him like a lucky rabbit's foot, thinking we will somehow have an easier life. Instead, we surrender to Jesus, knowing it makes life more difficult, but we surrender because He's the only hope. He's the only thing that will stand through eternity, the only hope for sin and death, and being made right with God. 
It's worth losing our fame as our own king, to get Jesus' fame by making Him King. 


Unexpected Encouragement

I'm unpacking boxes in the quiet of my living room today and came across a note I gave to Jon almost 10 years ago. The Lord knew I needed to come across this letter today. Thankful for God's love and care for us, for his personal involvement in our lives that cause him to show up in unexpected and encouraging ways.

February 14, 2004
Dear Heavenly Father,
Each day, since the day you brought Jon to me in this way, I have not stopped praying for him, and will continue to. I ask Lord God, that you fill him with the knowledge of your will. Not merely the possession of facts, but rather, the Biblical knowledge and wisdom that will spur him on to godly living. Give him spiritual wisdom and a deep understanding of the plans that you have for him. Remind him daily that nothing is greater than serving you and being exactly where you want him to be.

Please provide him with the wisdom to know your will and to make decisions accordingly. I pray these things Lord, in order that Jon may live a life worthy of You, and that he may please you in every way. Help him to see that his obedience pleases you. Use your Holy Spirit to bring your strength into his life so that he may have endurance; endurance to bear fruit in every good work that you have called him to. Grant him the desire to seek you each day in his life so that he may be strengthened with all power, according to your glorious might. 

In all these things, I pray that he may have the endurance to continue running the race you have for him, and that he may be patient for your leading. Remind him each day of the joy that you alone can bring. I pray that he may be joyful always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances, good and bad, because this is your will for him in Christ Jesus. Place deeply in his heart the truth that you have qualified him to share in your inheritance; that because of your Son, he now partakes in your holiness, your truth, your love, your glory, your life.

I ask that you hep him to rest confidently in the fact that he has been rescued from the dominion of darkness, and that he is no longer under the power of sin and evil. Help him to focus on the truth that instead, he has been brought into your kingdom, under the benevolent rule of your Son. Continue to show Jon that because of this, he has been made free and has been given everything he needs to say no to the ungodly and yes to righteousness. Please grant him your mercy and grace where he fails, wrap your arms of love around him, and remind him that he has been redeemed, that he has been delivered and set free to live a life he never thought possible. Remind him Lord God to battle from victory, not for victory...for he has already won! 

I ask Lord that you grant him all these things and more. That you give him strength as he places his hope in you, that he may soar on wings like eagles, that he may run and not grow weary, that he may walk, and not be faint. To these things I pray, to the honor and praise of your Glory.
                                                                    Colossians 1:9-14
                                                                 1 Thessalonians 5:16
                                                                         Isaiah 40:31


Celebrating Holy Week/Easter as a Family

Wow. Have I really not written since January 10th? That breaks my heart in a way as this blog is the record keeper of our family. But life has certainly gotten in the way and the blog has taken a back seat. Hopefully, I will be better from here on out! (Fingers crossed). 

I was chatting with a friend this morning about Easter plans and we were discussing the often great difficulty of balancing cultural activities with what's really important when it comes to holidays. For us, this is ever-changing as each year brings about new family challenges and children with different and more developed personalities. For that reason, I imagine the cultural activities we include every year among Christmas and Easter will vary depending on our season of life and where our kids are, etc. 

Here's our plan for Easter and Holy Week this year. 

We make an Easter tree to use with a set of the Resurrection Eggs for our Holy Week Advent. I revamped some of the Resurrection Eggs content to fit our devotions as they were too detailed for the ages of my kids. I also really wanted to incorporate three of our favorite children's story Bibles for our readings instead of what comes with the Resurrection Eggs. 
Our Easter tree last year. 

Resurrection Eggs. You can make your own, or buy them online or at most Christian bookstores. I found it easier to buy as the little trinkets might be hard to find. Our awesome friend Aunt Megan Flinn bought these for Mekonen and Evie.

Our 3 Favorite Children's Story Bibles

The Gospel Story Bible
You can actually preview the entire book here. So if you don't own the book you can pull it up, color pictures and everything, and read from there. 

Holy Week
(Family Devotions Tip: When we do family devotions, we do them during dinnertime. In our current stage of life, we find this to be the easiest time to have us all together and our very young children have their hands occupied by eating and aren't squirming around too much! It also works well for us right now as our two kids go to bed at different times. I wrote about wanting to do this tradition here, several months before Mekonen came home).

Each day has a reading from a story Bible, an Easter egg to open with a trinket that goes along with the story, and a picture ornament that goes along with the story. Both the trinket and picture will be hung on the Easter tree, much like our Jesse Tree from Christmas that hung ornaments from the Bible stories leading up to the birth of Jesus.

Day 1- The Triumphant Entry (Sunday, March 24th)
  •  Read The Gospel Story Bible pg. 216-217
  •  Egg- dark blue- little donkey hang on Easter tree
  • Picture of triumphant entry- hang on Easter tree

Day 2- Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Monday, March 25th)
  • Read The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 288-305
  • Egg- light pink- coins, hang coin picture on Easter tree
  • Picture of Jesus cleansing the temple- hang on Easter tree

Day 3- Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet (Tuesday, March 26th)
  • Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 286-288 (or The Gospel Story Bible pg. 220-221)
  • Egg- green- cloth, hang on Easter tree
  • Picture of Jesus washing the apostles feet- hang on Easter tree

Day 4- The Last Supper (Wednesday, March 27th)
  • Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 290-292 (or The Gospel Story Bible pg. 222-225)
  • Egg- light purple- wine cup, hang on Easter tree
  • Picture of the Last Supper- hang on Easter tree

Day 5- The Garden of Gethsemane (Thursday, March 28th)
  • Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 294-301 (or The Gospel Story Bible pg. 226-229, or The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 359-363))
  • Egg- orange- praying hands, hang on Easter tree
  • Picture of the Garden of Gethsemane- hang on Easter tree

Day 6- The Crucifixion of Jesus (Friday, March 29th)
  •  Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 302-306 (or The Gospel Story Bible pg. 230-233, or The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 364-373)
  • Egg- yellow- cross, hang on Easter tree
  • Picture of the crucifixion- hang on Easter tree

Day 7- The Burial of Jesus and Darkness Covers the Land (Saturday, March 30th)
  • Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 308 and The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 376-380
  • Egg- pink- stone, hang picture of a stone on Easter tree
  • Picture of the burial of Jesus- hang on Easter tree

Day 8- The Resurrection (Sunday, March 31st)
  • Read The Jesus Storybook Bible pg. 310-317 or shorter The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 385-395 (or The Gospel Story Bible pg. 235-237)
  • Egg- white- empty! Nothing to hang on the Easter tree (or you can make a smiley face ornament to hang for Joy that Jesus has risen)
  • Picture of the risen Jesus- hang on Easter tree
  • Easter Night story time- Read The Big Picture Story Bible pg. 398-411. Great overview of why Jesus came, why He had to die, and the Promises of Scripture. 

 I We also do a special Easter breakfast here at home with just our family. Not sure on the exact Easter breakfast menu yet, but definitely including something sugary and sweet that the kids don't get on a normal day!
 Here are some craft activities I posted last year, but with half of our house still in boxes, I'm not so sure we will get to them this year! But we'll see! 
  • Resurrection Play set made out of toilet paper rolls. We did this last year and had fun with them. Maybe this year Mekonen will be more into coloring them. He stopped after a few minutes and I had to finish the rest! You can print them in black and white and have your kids color them, or print them in color. 

  • Praise Palmpaint or color and make a praise palm, praising God for Who He is (specific character traits of God) and specific things He has done in the life of our family. We will write these on the palm leaf.
  • The Last Supper craft made out of an egg carton. Can be used when doing the family devotional reading on the Last Supper. 
  • Play-dough Easter mountain
  •  Easter story with jelly beans. I just bought the book My Easter Basket by Mary Manz Simon. Here's the activity to do along with it. 
  • Paper plate tomb craft
  • Marble Painitng. "By His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

As always, I'd love to hear what you do to celebrate Easter! If you have any other fun Easter activities, crafts, games, or traditions, please post them!