One of the things we made this year for Easter is our Easter chain.

Our kids wrote down 50 things – some playful, others celebratory, and others are service projects – on little strips of colorful paper.  We then made them into a chain.

Our chain now hangs above the door in our kitchen and we get to remove one of the links each morning.  I then “post” that link somewhere visible for everyone to see, so they won’t forget what we are supposed to do that day.  Of course, there are some links that take more planning than others.  If we open one of them, we will then plan it out as a family and get it on the calendar to do.

We are hoping that this is a good tool to keep us in the season of Easter and to remind us to keep on celebrating for an entire 50 days!!

Mothering

 

 

So…Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates has been doing a series on Spiritual Practices this entire summer. It has been fascinating to read (and be challenged by) how others connect with God in their everyday lives. I have resonated with quite a few of the writers and have enjoyed their eloquence as they expressed a practice we share in common. I’ve been reluctant to join the conversation however, partly because of my insecurity of a piece of writing being “good enough” but more often because every time I go to write something…I am interrupted by two fascinating creatures called “my children”.

 

You see, I am often asked what I do, and that is tough to answer. I am a photographer, I have a background in education and tutoring, I am always in the process of working on some artistic project, but when it really, really comes down to it…I am a mom.

 

(Excuse me for a minute…I’ve just been interrupted by a little boy in need of a morning hug!)

 

And it dawned on me this morning that my mothering is a spiritual practice!! Though much of what I do on a daily basis is mundane, tedious and repetitive (and will never get its own reality TV show), everyday those repetitive actions lead me into a deepening of my walk with God.

 

As I watch my children from a distance, I smile at who they are becoming and am amazed at their creativity and abilities. And so I enter into the delight of a Parent Whose eyes sparkle at the very sight of His children.

 

As I feed, clean, touch and hold my children, I surround them with the security of a love that will always take care of them. And so I am reminded that I too have a Love that is very present to take care of my even little everyday needs.

 

(Wait another moment…I need to go make morning conversation and laughter with my pre-teen…a sometimes daunting task!!)

 

As I discipline my children, I do so not to crush them, but to help them grow up into healthy habits of thought and living. And so again, I enter into the work of God as He becomes the Master Gardener who prunes our lives and trains the branches to grow in the direction of His pleasure.

 

As I stop what I am doing when I am interrupted (as I am thousands of times a day), I send a message to my children that they matter, they are listened to, and they are important. Does not God do the same for me? He is never annoyed by my “interruptions”, but rather calls me to come to Him with any care, question or concern I might have.

 

When I ask them questions and have conversation with them…when I do their laundry…when I remind them to pick up after themselves…when I take a lunch to school after it has been left at home…when I help a procrastinating child finish a school project…when I remind them to be nice to each other…when I say no…when I say yes…when I cook food that is good for their bodies…when I go to school performances…when I remind them to take their vitamins…when I comfort tears…when I celebrate victories…when I love their dad…when I tuck them into bed at night…(did I mention all the “when I remind them” phrases??) all these things teach them what it means to live as a family, belonging to one another. And it leads me on a journey with God into His family and as a member of the tribe. As I mother, I am lead into the rhythms of God, the grace of God, and the unstoppable parent-love of God. And as an added bonus, He calls me to co-labor with Him and help continue the rhythms, grace, and love in this world.

 

Now…if you’ll excuse me, there is toast burning in the toaster, kids need to eat breakfast, and we need to get out the door in about 3 minutes!!! Ahh…that all sounds so spiritual doesn’t it??

 

laughter

I love it when my kids laugh together.  Not just a chuckle or a smirk with a sound, but that deep belly laugh – the one that sounds as though delight and enjoyment are bubbling up within and must escape in an effervescent explosion!  Usually when this happens my kids are also like a couple of puppies – running, tumbling, cascading over one another – not knowing that there is anything else to do in the world but play!

Those moments are “Easter moments”.  In fact, I find myself wondering as I read the Scriptures, how much laughter went on during the 50 days between the resurrection and Pentecost.  I know the gospel writers don’t mention it, but I just wonder if the followers of Jesus found themselves giggling about this once dead Messiah or laughing at themselves and all they had misunderstood.  Perhaps the astonishment of it all caused them to laugh out loud as they worshiped God in the Temple.

I’m not sure if any of that happened,  but what I know for sure is that I want to continue to celebrate for the entire 50 days.  I want to live out “alleluias”. I want to laugh out loud at what has happened in the resurrection and I want my children to know the joy of it too – even in little ways.  So the other day we did a little Easter season activity.  It was frivolous, silly, celebratory, full of joy and lots of laughter.

bubbles

I had gone to the store earlier that day and, among other things, bought two containers of bubbles.  That night after dinner (and evening Easter reading) our kids really wanted to go outside and blow them.  On our front lawn they chased each other with bubbles and tried catching the bubbles floating through the air.  Breathlessly, our daughter came charging through the door and asked if they could go on the roof to blow the bubbles.  My husband and I looked at each other…I was about to say “no!” when he said “absolutely”!  (I learned much from him that evening of not curbing Easter joy, but to let it be exuberant.)

bubbles2

So we got out the ladder, climbed up on the roof and let our children blow bubbles from the roof top!  We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, one another and the sound of joy being manifested in laughter.  What a delightful way to experience a bit of Easter!

makeupwithmika095

I have many thoughts, words and images swirling in my head but since it is Sunday I thought I’d go in a different direction.  Sundays are not counted in the days of Lent because, as far as I understand, they are still to be celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus.  For although we are people who are walking in Lent right now – looking at our sin, living in self-examination, opening our hearts to the work of the Spirit – we must never forget that we are really Easter people.  We are people of the resurrection, of joy, of great hope, not defined by our sin but by the freeing work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We are deeply known and a superabundance of love and delight have been poured out upon us. We are a redeemed people living within God’s great plan of redeeming all creation.

This last week I had a glimpse of Easter.  Now I must say it was not some grand, world-changing event.  It was a mother’s glimpse of Easter – seen in the life of my daughter and whispered to me by God.

For years my husband and I worked in youth ministry, and I loved it.  I loved making sure that students felt embraced when they walked in the room, that they had someone to sit with, and they knew someone would remember their name when they came the next time.  I loved picking kids up and going to the mall, going to track meets, and having overnighters.  I loved having conversations about life and God with junior highers and high schoolers – really believing that they could walk with God and be His agents of change in their worlds.   I loved in the Scriptures where Paul says “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” and I tried to live that out with our students.

It was a sad time in my life when God took us out of that realm of influence and began to lead us down new and different adventures.  For the past several years, I have had to wrestle with Him about where I serve in His body.  I had to box up all those times, passions, and memories (and places I felt comfortable and good in) and give the package to God – trusting Him to do with it what He desired.  It was the death of a dream and I had to lay it and leave it with Him.

Then this last week, as I picked up our daughter from youth group, God whispered some Easter words into my heart.  I went to the door of the house where the kids meet and I met her small group leader.  As I did, it was as if God said “Tara, you are meeting yourself”.  (I was slightly confused and thought that was a little strange and perhaps self-centered on my part.)  Then, as we drove home, He poured words into my soul that brought me to tears.  He let me know that He still had the dream that I left with Him many years ago in His hands.  He had not forgotten one single event, activity, deed, dollar, minute, or prayer that had been given to Him through our ministry to the students.  And not only had He not forgotten, He is taking all those things that I thought had died and let me know that He is going to return them…and dump them out on our daughter.

That is my Easter glimpse.  To know the joy of a dream thought dead now poured out on my child.  To see her growing and walking in love for Jesus within a community who wants to deeply know her and love her.  To know that God does not forget those things given to Him in faith and love.  To feel that delight of the Father because He cares enough to tell my mothering heart these things.