One Ordinary Easter – A Story (Part Two)

One Ordinary Easter – A Story (Part One)

Continued…(click on above link to read part one)

I couldn’t believe where I was that day. Looking around me, the atmosphere in the building and my own personal headspace felt like two separate places where neither was accessible to the other.

I had spent the week in Colorado to work a wedding in a small town. The beauty was easy to capture. The job had been more of a week’s-long get-away that paid a lot of money. The wedding had been the day before – on a Saturday, so I planned to take off right after with my two assistants, back to New York. Yet, here I was, sitting inside a church building despite my commitment to never step foot in another. I hadn’t even realized what day it was until after the service started – Easter Sunday.

No one from the wedding party even lived there in the small town except for the groom’s grandparents, whom I sat next to on the wooden pew. The only reason I had agreed to attend was because the groom’s grandma reminded me so much of my own grandma and I couldn’t find a way to turn down her invitation. I hadn’t spoken to my grandma in years, and I missed her.

The songs they sang that Easter were more than familiar, I remembered their lyrics from years ago. I could see my twin sister, my mom and dad sitting all in a row on the family pew as we routinely did all those years ago. Emotions ran high; the weight of regret nearly choking me.

The songs’ effect on me had turned from covering me with an unsettling feeling of nostalgia to tears pushing hard on my eyes, but I would not cry. I did not believe what the songs said. I hoped the others standing next to me didn’t notice my internal agony.

When I was in high school I began to wonder what was wrong that I didn’t have the same experience as my family members or that of my friends in youth group. I brushed the doubt aside until I got to college and was confronted not a few times about my faith. At first, I tried to say all the right things to defend my beliefs, but I found I couldn’t answer with conviction. If I ever had any faith at all, whatever was there withered away. That distance I had felt from my Christian family and friends grew into a desperate situation. The ache in my heart wouldn’t allow me to keep pretending.

I attempted to talk with my parents, to talk about the holes in I found in Christianity. I was terrified they wouldn’t be able to convince me I was wrong. I hoped deep down that they could set me straight and I could have faith like the rest of them. The outcome was as I had feared. They were solid, immovable in their faith in God, Jesus, the Bible, but I could not see. To my surprise, they didn’t try too hard to convince me I was wrong. I could see both love and pain in their faces, and that was when I knew I had to leave. I would never be who everyone else wanted me to be.

My twin sister was the only one I called from time to time. I was so angry at God for my crisis of faith, but that frustrated me because I had determined to not believe in Him. My family had their faith, and though they never treated me that way, I was the outsider. The pain was nearly unbearable. I chose a separate life.

But that day years later in small-town Colorado, that ordinary Sunday that happened to be Easter, I found myself in church. If I hadn’t been so freaked out, I could have laughed at the absurdity. I heard the same words I had heard throughout my life, but something happened that morning. It might sound strange, but it felt like my dead soul stirred within my chest. The pastor told us that Jesus willingly died a sinner’s death because of His love for us. He pointed out that Jesus could have called for His own deliverance out of that death sentence, but He went to the cross for the joy set before Him – His love for us. This blew my mind. How could I have understood it any other way? Oh, I fought the weeping that was sure to come from the desire to repent and from the joy I felt. I was blind before, but I could see now! The love of God enveloped me in that little church where I sat next to the lady who reminded me so much of my grandma.

I was hesitant to call my grandma because I was so ashamed that I had walked away from our friendship. My selfishness had hurt her, I knew. But she was the one I thought to tell about what had happened to me. I didn’t get to tell her that day.

Three days after I had been awakened to new life, I made the journey I needed to make. I saw my family for the first time in years. The circumstances were heavy. My mom and dad and sister were the same as I left them. I loved them. How I had missed them. There were a lot of tears. We cried for my return, we cried for Grandma.

Grandma had suffered a stroke on the same day I gave my life to Jesus. I had thought of her so much that day. The thought of never telling her I was sorry, never sharing the best news of my life with her, made me ache with regret. But she awoke against the odds, with her family by her side, myself included. Tears on her face and unable to communicate, no one could miss the joy in her eyes as I stood closest to her.

This morning I have a gift for my grandpa who has lived alone now for almost a year. Grandma regained most of her speech over the course of a year. She was so excited about the project I worked on for her. I will give it to Grandpa who knew how much it meant to Grandma. We will bear our grief together.

I presented him with a book of photography that displayed images I’d collected over the last four years since my life was forever changed. I had wanted to photograph church buildings like the one in Colorado that now meant so much to me. Maybe others knew this, but I soon found that many church buildings are not the stunning old stained-glass windowed structures with pews and a steeple one might imagine. Those types are in my book, and they are beautiful to behold, but I also captured the churches that were in office buildings, strip malls, libraries, schools, parks and homes. I traveled overseas and discovered that some who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus sometimes have to secretly and strategically meet together. Though there are no photographs of these churches, I wrote about them in my book.

I had begun by photographing the church buildings, but I discovered the church was the people, and I was more intrigued with the life of the church. I started visiting the churches I photographed. That’s when the content for my book took a slight turn. I began to ask permission ahead of time to photograph the church (the people) in action. There are images of hands raised in worship, tears streaming down faces with eyes closed in prayer, embraces of greeting and comfort, close-ups of worn Bibles with highlights and notes covering every inch of the pages, groups lined up to feed the homeless communities and showing up to volunteer work days at the homes of their brothers and sisters who need help, potlucks, Easter plays, baby dedications, children running around with big smiles.

The last photograph in the book is of me at around four years old asleep in a church pew with my head resting on my grandma’s lap.

The name of my book is Resurrected Life.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whose You have sent. John 17:3
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it rom Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to take it again. this command I have received from my Father. John 10:17, 18
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. John 11:25






One Ordinary Easter - A Story (Part One)

One Ordinary Easter – A Story (Part One)

Betty sipped her coffee as she sat in the predawn morning on her front porch. She loved to be alone in the mornings as much as she loved visiting with her husband when he typically got out of bed a couple hours after her. This morning was an ordinary morning, aside from the fact that in just a few hours they would be singing along to all the traditional Easter songs she’d memorized in church as a child. Church would be lively as it was most Sundays, and Easter Sundays were the liveliest. She felt an excitement for the celebration of the resurrection of her Lord. There were no butterflies of awe and wonder like she would have liked, but she knew Easter would be lovely.

“I know you like your alone time, but I thought I’d do something out of the ordinary on this fine Easter morning and join you before the sun is up. That okay with you?” Betty’s husband of 53 years knew her well.

“That would be nice. We can watch the sun light up the morning together.” She hid any hint of wishing she had just a few more minutes to herself.

The couple sat in their rocking chairs in comfortable silence. Were they both remembering the Easters of their child rearing days? Betty loved to remember those days they had with their daughters. Twin girls to dress up! Not a single Easter had gone by without the fanfare of the finest Easter outfits. Even in their teen years her daughters had allowed their mom to be involved in picking out the perfect dresses and shoes. When the time came to search for prom dresses, and then wedding dresses, they breezed through as seasoned veterans!

Betty broke the silence with a giggle.

“Thinking about the perms?” Her husband asked with humor.

“Yes! That was the only year they wore Easter hats as teenagers! Jesse wouldn’t even let us talk about it until she and Jeanie were almost thirty!” Betty and her husband laughed so hard they had shush each other to not wake the neighbors.

Margot and Mason, her grandchildren and also twins (a girl and a boy), were the first of the grandkids – Jessie’s two. Then Jeanie and her husband adopted brothers through fostering. Betty thought she knew joy before, but a whole different kind of joy was born in her when she became a grandma – a joy that surprised and overwhelmed her.

Betty put every ounce of herself into loving on those grandkids. She and her husband didn’t miss a single event of their lives. Nothing filled her more than when one of them, now young adults with lives of their own, called her on the phone or stopped in for a surprise visit.

Mason had followed her around everywhere as soon as crawling gave him mobility. Grandma’s boy. The sun rose and set on her as far as she could tell through his eyes. He looked out for her as he got older, always remembering to invite her and his grandpa to his sporting events and offering to help her in the kitchen or with her yard work. She had a box of the drawings and letters he’d given her throughout the years of his life. The letters no longer came, nor did the phone calls or visits.

In church later that morning as she sang, “He’s risen, He’s risen, He’s risen! Ha-lle-lu-jah! Ha-lle-lu-jah!”, Betty pictured Jesus walking out of that tomb and goosebumps tickled her arms. What a mighty God! She reached her hands in the air and rejoiced for the love that compelled Jesus to die for the redemption and salvation that had set her free. She praised God for the power of the Resurrection that defeated sin and death. Jesus is alive! Hope sprung up in her to overflowing.

Their pastor asked if anyone would like to know this Jesus. As he explained repentance and redemption and eternal life, Betty prayed for her grandson.

It had been over three years since she had laid eyes on Mason. Though he called his twin sister every birthday they shared, he hadn’t been close to anyone in the family for years. He was going to be 29 soon. How could that be?

Betty’s son-in-law barbecued for Easter these days. The less formal setting ended up creating a regular young adult gathering each Easter, and the parents and grandparents loved it. Margot had just been engaged to be married, and this year her fiancé’s parents and younger siblings would be joining them as well.

Betty loved how life evolved with each new stage. She had so much more peace now than in her younger years. It took her long enough to learn not to try to foresee the outcome of anything. She took in her surroundings and delighted in the sound of her family laughing and playing in the warmth of the sun.

Margot hadn’t mean to startle her when she looped her arm through her grandma’s. “Grandma, I am so nervous! They’ll all be here soon, and I won’t be able to stand it if they don’t see how amazing you all are. I still haven’t really bonded with Micah’s parents. His sister and brother are still only in high school, but they seem to like me, I think. Do you think we will all still be able to have Easters together after everyone gets married and has kids of their own?”

Her granddaughter’s question was a good one. “Margot, things do change over time. I know it’s hard to let old traditions slide into new ones, but it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Whatever new and special traditions you all make as you begin your own families, you’ll always have these memories. They’re like a treasure that will always be yours.” Just then Mason’s 10-year-old face singing in the Easter musical at church flashed before her. Would he feel the same way about the memories? Ironically, it was the subject matter of this day they celebrated that he was so angry about right before he left without saying goodbye.

Mason had experienced success in his young professional life. His family knew through his short and infrequent conversations with his twin sister that he owned a highly sought after photography business in New York City. He had made it big.

It was his junior year of college when things changed. He had been challenged by a professor to explain how a Father who was an all powerful God could kill His own Son who was innocent. Mason had never heard it put that way before, as he had explained to his mom and dad. It shook him. It had also been suggested to him that maybe he had only believed because that was the way he’d been told to believe. His parents couldn’t give him an answer that would satisfy his angst over this crushing perspective. Angry and disillusioned, he walked away and never looked back.

Pictures. Her daughters were picture takers, both of them. Mason apparently got the gene from his mom and aunt. Maybe one Betty could see some of his work.

She always wished she had taken more pictures of her family in all its stages. Jessie and Jeanie loved candids, but they also could make a group groan with the arrangements for a good few hundred group photos. All they were waiting on today for those dreaded group pictures were the guests of honor to arrive, Margot’s in-laws-to-be.

The dogs started to bark and everyone turned to Margot. Poor girl looked scared to death. She went inside to welcome her guests. Introductions were swift and awkward. Margot cringed and gave her mom a pleading look as she positioned everyone, newly arrived guests and all, for the group photo. The misery was short-lived.

Betty’s two grandsons caught her as her knees buckled. “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus, thank you!”

(click on the link below to read the rest of the story)

One Ordinary Easter – A Story (Part Two)








No Show, Sincerity

Yesterday afternoon my youngest son (almost 20 years old!) took off on a hike in the hills behind our house.  He was gone for five hours – a bit stir crazy like the rest of us.  While telling my husband and I about his adventure and recalling the details of the terrain after he got back, he stopped as a thought obviously captured his attention.  Leaving for a second to retrieve a treasure he’d found, I wondered what he could have come home with.  He stood at our bedroom doorway with a handful of wilted wildflowers, sheepishly laughing and assuring me that they didn’t look like that when he’d picked them.  They were for me!  My almost 20 year old son picked wild flowers and brought them all the way home in his backpack from a five hour hike – for me!


The day before that I had picked a dandelion from our back yard and given it to my middle son, Eli.  I told him he could put it in his hair (haha) like I used to do when my boys picked me dandelions and flowers in their younger years.  My youngest son, Kobe, had asked why they used to do that.  It sounded silly to him to recall being compelled to do so.  I told him that little boys love their moms and that that’s why they wanted to pick flowers for them.  Fast forward a day later and that same 20 year old is now compelled to pick flowers for his mom.  No need to try to explain how deeply into my heart the gesture settled, besides, I don’t know if I could do it justice.

Things like this always make me think about my relationship with God, as His daughter.  When I think of how moved I was by my son’s gift to me in all its imperfect, heartfelt, sincere glory, I wonder how I can please my Father in Heaven the same way.  There was no impressive show in my son’s gift.  There was nobody watching as he stooped low to gather blessings for his mom.  That makes it so much more beautiful.  Nothing store bought could ever have moved me as this did.

“…The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   I Samuel 16:7

Somebody’s Daughter

A young girl wakes to a predawn morning.  Within minutes she’s warming herself by the farmhouse’s fireplace.  Today promises to be an ordinary day, spent for the most part on chores and schoolwork.  If she works diligently she’ll have time to read down by the creek under her favorite old oak tree.  Life is good for her.  At the age of eight, nothing about the simplicity of her life causes her to realize it as extraordinary, but she is grateful for her mom and dad and all of God’s creation, always giving thanks as her parents have taught her.


Contentment leads her life, with curiosity following closely behind.  She loves to imagine what it’s like in Heaven.  Her favorite songs are the old hymns that celebrate the saints’ glorious entry into their celestial home; the powerful lyrics contributing to her imagination.  In all her excitement and wonder about the things of God and Heaven, there’s a question that occupies her thoughts, one she presents to God this day.  Unable to stop thinking about the fate of people who don’t know Jesus, earnestly wanting them to make it to Heaven; she asks Him, “Who will tell them?”

Years and years pass by, and not a single one of them is spent wondering what the answer to her question is.  You see, God answered her that day, at the tender age of eight, right there in the shade of that old tree.  I will send you.  I will be yours and you will be Mine.  You will tell many of my love and lead them to Me.  Someday, when it’s time for you to leave this earth and go to Heaven, you’ll know that you were made for this.


She devotes her entire life to spreading the gospel as a missionary soon after reaching adulthood, and leaves behind her dear mother and father.  God provides for her a different kind of family than what is common to us.  Her family members are the orphans she cares for, the poor she feeds, the sick she prays for and ministers to, and the brothers and sisters in Christ who serve along-side her.  Never does she believe herself to be lacking.  Her vow is remembered and lived.


“Lord, is this the day I’ll go home to be with You?”  Her question is barely a whisper.  Knowing that she is soon Heaven-bound, she is compelled to consider the entirety of her many years on this earth.  The faces of her parents and the many faces of the loved ones of her life’s work run through her memories.  Oh, that she could be back together with them one more time to tell them she loved them.  But she is not alone.  God, her Heavenly Father, who has never left her side for a single moment is there with her now in that hospital room.  Oh, the joy and gratitude for this beautiful life that God has given to her is overwhelming in this space in time.  In a short while she will spend all of eternity worshipping the God of her life.  But first, He has one more assignment – for her to tell those outside her door…

Somebody’s Daughter

Lying alone in her hospital bed
She opens her eyes to an empty room
She’s come to the end of her journey
It’s time to finally rest

Where have the years gone?  She wonders as she
Prepares herself to leave this world behind
A tender tear rolls gently down
Her worn and fragile face

She hears the whispers from outsider her door
They say, “She has no family to leave behind”
“It is so sad for her” they say
“She has no one at all”

She is somebody’s daughter
She was somebody’s little girl
She had a mother and father who brought her into this world
Was she loved all of her days?
Was there anyone on her side?
Did she have dreams like the rest of us and did any of them ever come true?
She’s all alone in her hospital bed
But she’s somebody’s daughter

She prays, “Lord, take my hand as You always have done
Use me once more before I go
Give me the strength for this final task
And let Your glory shine”

Help them to see Your life in me
Help them to see that I am free
Give me the words to help them know
That I’ve never been alone

That I am Somebody’s daughter
I am Somebody’s little girl
I have a heavenly Father who gave me life in this world
I was loved all of my days
He was always by my side
He gave me dreams that He helped to come true, He was my joy in this life
I’m not alone in this hospital bed

I am Somebody’s daughter