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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jesus' death brings New Life

I had an experience with God this week that I will share with you later, but it made me realize that I can never remember not being in love with spring.
I grew up Catholic, and in our home, preparing for Easter was a big deal and signaled the beginning of it for me. In the weeks before, Mother would take my sisters and me to the fabric store where we would sit at high tables and look through pattern books for our Easter dresses. We would pick out fabric and Mom would buy us matching purses and hats. Around the dinner table, we talked about Jesus’ death on the cross, about lent, and what sacrifice each of us thought we could make.
As it drew closer, Mother would begin the dress fittings. She would slip the pinned fabric patterns over our heads carefully and make small adjustments. I can still picture her behind the sewing machine feeding the fabric right up to the foot of the needle where she would remove the pin at just the right moment and place it between her lips. I can still see her tight-lipped smile and her mouthful of pins as she noticed me watching.
The week before was marked by Palm Sunday. I can remember quiet moments as a little girl brushing the 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 of that week, we would get our ashes and Mother would put the finishing touches of lace and rickrack on her three daughters dresses. On Good Friday, the “Stations of the Cross,” were acted out before us 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 our Savior, and spring’s new life, happen simultaneously. It is a deliberate sign from our heavenly Father 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 sins 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 had thought that the two berry bushes I had planted last summer for Jude, (my precious grandson loves blackberries) 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 then thought how ridicules I must look and how stupid is was to be that happy about some garden plants.
It was then that God spoke to my heart. He reminded 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.