I experienced something this week that made me realize I can never remember not being in love with spring.
I grew up Catholic, so in our home preparing for Easter was a big deal and signaled the beginning of Spring for me. In the weeks before, Mother would take my sisters and I to the fabric store. We would sit at high tables and look through McCalls, Simplicity, and Butterick pattern books for dresses. We'd choose fabric then watch the ladies roll it off the bolts and just it just so. When we walked out, the bags were full of rickrack, buttons, thread, zippers and ribbon. And I knew on Easter morning, we'd have matching hats and purses to go with our new dresses.
Around the table at dinnertime, we would learn about Lent, hear the story of Jesus dying on the cross, and talk about what sacrifice each of us thought we could make.
As it drew closer, Mother would begin the dress fittings. She'd slip the pinned fabric patterns over our heads carefully and make small adjustments. I can still see her behind the sewing machine feeding the fabric right up to the foot of the needle where she would then pull the pin at just the right moment and place it between her lips. I can see her tight-lipped smile and her mouthful of pins as she noticed me watching.
The week before was marked by Palm Sunday. I remember quiet moments as a little girl brushing soft fronds of the palm against my face, and picture Jesus riding the donkey into the town as people threw them at his feet. On Ash Wednesday the Priest would use his thumb and make a cross on our forehead from ashes, and at night, Mom would be up late sewing lace and buttons on her three daughters dresses. On Good Friday, the night Jesus died, we watched the “Stations of the Cross,” acted out in an extra long Mass.
Even as a very little girl, my spirit sensed the seriousness of all of this. Beyond the pretty dresses, Easter baskets, and egg hunts, something much deeper, much more powerful was alive and at work in and around me and I knew it. I can remember waiting for the daffodils and tulips to pop out from the dirt, and running outside in the weeks before Easter eager to report to anyone who would listen that they finally opened their faces. My heart would flutter at the sound of the first chirping birds, and the sight of the first Monarch butterfly.
One Easter, when I was about eight, I had a Sunday school assignment. I sat at the kitchen table for a long time struggling. I just couldn’t get my idea onto the fabric. After awhile, my Mother came and sat beside me. My assignment was to portray what Easter meant to me on the piece of white linen. I told Mom what I was thinking and feeling, but didn’t know how to convey it on the material.
I remember Mom’s smile, her suggestion, and knowing happily, that it was perfect. It was exactly what I’d wanted to say. And when it was finished, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She helped me paint in the Monarch’s wings, and she helped me shape the tulips and daffodils just right. When dad got home from work, he attached a wooden stick under the top corner of the fabric and tied a string onto the rod so I could hang it on the wall. “Alleluia, Alleluia.” It said, “He has Risen.”
What I knew even then, is that it is not a coincidence that the Resurrection of Jesus, and the new life of Spring happen simultaneously. It is a deliberate sign from God about who his son is, and what he did for us. Christ’s resurrection immediately follows the Passover and the Feast of First Fruits. As Jesus took all our sin to the cross that day to save us, his gift to us was our new life. Our eternal life. And it is that gift of His Grace that we celebrate in the glory of every new spring bud and butterfly.
So earlier this week I found myself in my garden in tears. I was sure that the two berry bushes I had planted the last summer for Jude, (my precious grandson) had frozen and died. I prepared for the worst as I began my first day of spring garden clean up. My tears, however, came from the joy in finding new growth on both the bushes. As I stood there, so in love with Spring and praising God that Jude’s little bushes survived their first winter, I realized how ridicules I must look and how dumb is was to be that happy about berry bushes.
But it was then that God spoke to my heart by reminding me that I have understood the significance of Spring and been in love with the glory of His creation all of my life. “And that, my precious daughter,” He said, “Is why I gave you this garden.”
So I encourage all of you to look around and see what I see. The significance of Jesus gift of Grace is blooming all around us. See it and be Blessed. Happy Easter.