Resurrection Sunday is such a special day for us here on our mountain. Years ago, we celebrated this special day with huge baskets of candy and goodies, but about 12 years ago or so–the same year we stopped lying to our children about Santa at Christmas–we also stopped the Easter bunny madness. We simplified it greatly by giving each child just one candy item at his or her place on Easter morning. The big girls like a package of peeps, and this year Little Princess and the boys each got a small chocolate rabbit.
We stopped doing the basket thing because it was distracting all of us from the real reason for this special day. Jesus rose from the dead! Everything in the gospel and in our faith hinges on this truth. A sinless man, God’s own son, born of a virgin, took my sin to the cross and the third day after his death and hasty burial, he rose. He defeated my sin, and He defeated death. That is so much more exciting to celebrate than a mythical bunny who leaves candy and toys!
We do make a big deal most years by making the girls new dresses. This year we just couldn’t afford the material to do so, and while I really missed that special tradition, the Lord gave me such a special sense of His blessing and presence today.
Really, this story has been unfolding ever since the Handy Man lost his job almost two years ago. I was talking to a dear friend this afternoon about how funny it is that over the past two years, and especially over the past year, the Lord has been showing me just how much I need his grace. He has done it in my emotional healing, and He is doing it on an on-going basis in our finances. Honestly, since the unemployment ran out in January, our bills cannot all be paid on paper. And yet, somehow, each month the bills have been paid. I cannot explain it except to say that the Lord keeps sending provision. Each week a new challenge comes up, and like a faithless blind child, I run to my Heavenly Father crying, “There isn’t enough! How can we pay this? Where ARE you?” And then He answers by sending provision and I feel full of faith until five days later when another something comes up and I cannot see the way and it feels impossible.
It was fitting that our pastor this morning was preaching that with Jesus the Impossible is Possible! (Acts 3) Out of death comes eternal life. Our God is so much bigger than we could imagine. Perhaps our lack of faith is best seen in what we fail to ask. I am not sure what we should be asking for. We have been asking for a job–at this point, any job. Is that not the right thing to ask?
Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, the Handy Man, Dee and Star Child all stayed home from church. I took Gladys Mae, Little Princess, Lil’ Adventurer and Curious George to church in the van as we cannot comfortably get three car seats in the back seat of the Toyota. The Handy Man had just replaced the plugs and wires in the van, so when it started skipping on the way to church, I figured something was wrong in a connection somewhere. After church, the van wouldn’t start. There I was 45 miles from home with a dead vehicle and no money. I called our insurance company, and they said they could provide towing service up to 13 miles. I called The Handy Man and he and Dee got into both the Toyotas to come get us. But I still had to figure out how to pay for the remaining 27 miles to get our van to our mechanic.
By this time, several of the men in our church were gathered around our van. One of them was using the socket set The Handy Man keeps in the van to get the doghouse off the top of the engine (it is the cover that is over the part of the engine that is accessible from inside the front of the van between the two front seats.) We were all thinking it had to be a connection problem or maybe something wrong with the ignition system. Still, though, I had to get the van towed, and I had no money. I called my brother. As soon as he answered the phone, I started to cry. He soothed me and told me that we could take care of whatever the problem was….and I asked him if I could borrow the money to pay for the towing above the 13 miles. He responded by giving me his credit card number. I have a wonderful brother.
Meanwhile, one of the men in our church had gone to get some lunch for my kids. They were delighted with hamburgers and fries! A few others were just waiting with us. Finally the tow truck arrived, and one of the men disappeared. He said he would return. When he came back, he handed me $100. He told me that God had given him so much grace and he wanted to share grace with us, and that the money was just a token of the grace that God had given him. I cried again and hugged him and thanked him.
The story does not end there, nor does it even begin there. You see, the week before, when I had been home sick in bed (very, very sick) The Handy Man had come home with a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart from someone in our church. I was overcome by that.
Our mechanic fixed our van–a new fuel pump–at a cost of $488. He is an honest and fair man, and I told him up front that we did not have the money. I was able, thanks to the generous gift of that young man at church, to pay our mechanic $100. I was stressed about the remaining $388, though. Our budget doesn’t add up on paper as it is. I had no idea how we were going to get that debt paid. Our mechanic, for the record, said he wasn’t concerned about it and to take as much time as we needed.
And then this morning, we got to church. Two sweet ladies have been sharing eggs from their backyard flocks with us. Another friend of mine (let’s call her P) who has also been going through a very difficult time financially was standing there as a second friend (call her J) came up with eggs for us. I turned and asked P if she wanted to share in my egg bounty, and she said yes. I went to hand her one of the bags, but J stopped, shuffled the eggs in the bag she was holding, and said that those eggs were specifically for me, but that P could have the ones she was pulling out. I thought nothing of it until I got home.
As we were walking out of church, our pastor stopped me and handed me a folded envelope. He said it was a gift from someone that wanted to remain anonymous. I opened it as I walked to the car. It was a $100 bill. I was again overcome. The impossible $488 van repair had already been reduced to $388. Now, it was going to be down to $288. I had $50 in tips from the weekend, which I was planning to pay the mechanic, so my bill was going to be down to $238.
And then I got home. I opened the first set of eggs….and inside was another gift card. (Hooray! I can buy toilet paper for my family!! I never thought that would be such an exciting thing for me!) And in the eggs from J, there was a check. My impossible $488 van repair is now down to a very reasonable $188. It might take me a month or two, but it will be paid. God has provided. It has been completely by grace. I am humbled and reassured and safe in the arms of my Abba….who loves us and keeps sending me messages that He has not forsaken us. The challenges are going to keep coming–he said we would have trouble in this world!–but He also promised to meet our needs and to be with us each step of the way.
The thing about grace is that it cannot be repaid. Grace is a gift. You can be a recipient of it, and you can give it, but you cannot pay for it and you cannot expect anything in return for it–or it is not grace. Jesus was the ultimate expression of God’s grace to us, because while we were yet sinners, He died for the ungodly. He died for me. He died for you. And He rose again, defeating death for us, too.
This morning, before the events at church, as I moved about my kitchen before the rest of my family arose, the picture outside my window was grey. A night of rain had left the valley around our mountain shrouded in grey mist. The sky above us was grey. And then I saw it. The sun, golden, rising through the trees to the east, breaking through the grey. And I heard my Father whisper to my heart in the silence of my kitchen, “The SON has risen!” Oh, yes, my Jesus has risen! Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, a promise of life that will never end. Grace.
I am so grateful to be a recipient of grace. I need it. Every hour I need it. I need Jesus. Every hour I need Jesus. Because the truth is that on my own, I am faithless, faltering, doubting and fearful. But with Him, I am witness and recipient of the miracle that makes the impossible possible.
Some pictures from our Easter weekend:
Making Rice-Crispy Egg shaped treats Saturday morning….
Dee at Grandma’s party
What I was making when the sun came up:
I hope you had a joyous Easter. I hope you are a recipient of the same extravagant grace that we have been….and that you, too, celebrated today that the SON AROSE!