As I sit here deep in thought about this blessed Holiday, my mind wanders back to the absolute best Easter weekend of my life. No, it wasn’t Easter egg hunting at my aunt and uncle’s place in the mountains in central Washington. It wasn’t even the first Easter with my first baby, not quite a year old. In fact, it was at a lake – camping.
Before you give up on reading this and write me off as a lost cause, give me a chance to explain. Yes, I’m a Bible-believing Christian, born again and washed in the blood of Christ. But that time of my life was more than a little rough. My faith had been deeply shaken. Not my faith in God, that was the only thing that kept me on my feet. My faith in humanity was simply shot. It’s a long story and not part of my best Easter, so I’ll move on. The fact is, I wasn’t planning to spend the day in a church. I was hoping for a little bit closer commune with the Lord.
So, my beloved second husband and love of my life and I packed up the kids and the gear and we headed to Stillhouse Hollow Lake outside of Killeen, Texas. As we were packing and making the journey, we discussed our trip with the kids. We were in a time machine headed back about two thousand years.
Instantly one of the kids wondered if that meant they didn’t have to go to school anymore. Another became worried about no more cartoons on TV. When that part was settled and we were back in the time machine. We were transformed into a Hebrew family who’d been way up in the mountains for the past few years, tending the flocks and raising small children, but now that the children were big enough to travel, we decided to make the journey into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. While John and I set up camp, I set the kids on a mission: Go into town and see what is going on. Find out the news since we’ve been away for so long.
I really didn’t have an idea how this was going to turn out, but I did have faith that something good would happen.
When camp was pretty much set up, John went to fill a five-gallon container with water. My four-year-old son went with him. When they returned, my son told me he saw a man carrying a container of water, and someone came up to him and asked to borrow a donkey. The man said that the Lord needed it to ride.
To this day, I don’t know if my son remembered that part of the Easter story by himself, or if John helped him remember. After that, the magic really happened.
My darling children, ages 4, 6, and 9, who were, in fact, raised in church, took off, chattering up a storm. After a while they came skipping back all excited and promptly told me that someone had just ridden into the city on a donkey and everyone was laying branches and flowers on the road for him and that everyone was singing and happy.
I asked them, “Who was the man on the donkey?”
They told me, “Jesus. It was Jesus riding the donkey.” Then they recounted the stories that Jesus told in the temple and that Jesus wanted the children to come close. Of course we discussed these wondrous things, and then, to keep from choking up, I sent them back out to find out more.
It was truly a fun day, totally driven by my children.
The day ended and we tucked in for the night, but before morning a freak thunderstorm crashed the party. Wind, lightning, torrential rain, and yes, the tents both blew over – flat in the flooding water! We jumped in the truck and left the poor dog shivering under the concrete picnic table. A steaming cup of hot chocolate from a convenience store made things a little better. The kids both wanted to continue the camping trip, and were scared out of their minds to go back all at the same time.
The storm ended as quickly as it started and the sun shone brighter than ever. We headed back to the park to try and dry out our gear. The clothes were all muddy, so we had to wash them out in the ‘Jordan River’. Plenty of more stories came out of that activity. That was Good Friday.
John and I started gathering up a massive stack of firewood and visited with a few other campers. I invited everyone to come to a bon fire on Saturday night for a visit and to share the Easter Story, maybe also share a few testimonies. I didn’t think anyone would show up, but the invite went out. The kids spent the day playing in the ‘Jordan River’ and telling Bible stories – to me.
Saturday, we decorated about four dozen eggs (after boiling them on the open fire pit in my best soup pot). We talked about the first Passover and what the whole season meant to us as Christians. The kids often worried about people who lived before Christ. How could they believe and be saved if Jesus hadn’t been born yet? But that day, they finally got it. The Passover celebration showed their belief that God would one day send his Son to atone for sin.
That evening John fired up the bon fire. My mom drove out to the lake to participate. But the big surprise was when people started drifting in from all over the campground, some with lawn chairs, some with blankets, to sit around the fire and listen. I wasn’t sure I could speak in front of all those strangers without fainting.
The words flowed from the point of view of one of the women who were there at the last supper, crucifixion, and also the Resurrection. I don’t remember most of the words, and I don’t really remember feeling nervous with all those faces shining in the light of the bon fire. The story ended at the empty tomb, when Jesus appeared to Mary. The last words I remember was, “I must go and tell the others! Jesus has risen from the dead.”
It was quiet for a while. I think I asked if anyone wished to share what was on their hearts. A couple of people gave a testimony and a man stood to say a prayer.
Early the next morning, John and I got up and hid the Easter eggs. I’m sure the kids were already awake, but they were polite and stayed in their tent until we’d finished. We went back to our tent and my oldest daughter rushed out of her tent crying out, “Mommy, mommy! They’ve taken our eggs and we know not where they’ve laid them.”
No, I didn’t spend that Easter in church. I walked a whole lot closer to God.