This year Easter was filled with family. Great Grandma Bonnie, Great Grandpa Jerry, Aunt Lynda, and Uncle Jim were in town and made it feel like we were celebrating back in Minnesota with the big groups of extended relatives that I was used to growing up.
The weather was perfect so we spent most of our time on the shady porch visiting. Unfortunately though, the weekend was also filled with sickness for most of us Schultes. Levi brought the house down with a cold which turned into an ear infection for all the boys (other than Mark), and a sinus infection for me.
None of my kids take sickness quietly. I realized something was wrong when I brought Evy and Levi to Target and Levi ended up on the floor, in total tantrum mode, screaming at his loudest decibel level. I'm not saying that wouldn't happen normally, but he seemed really run down so I called the doc who, after seeing his ears, said they looked pretty rough. Poor guy. (and poor Target shoppers!) Carter and Beckett's ears were red too, so we got all the boys on antibiotics and looked forward to healthier days ahead.
Thankfully our relatives weren't scared off by all the snot and whining. They hugged, kissed (cautiously), and played with our little people, totally winning them over. I'm almost positive they went away unscathed too, which is a miracle, and makes me think they might just be saying that so I don't feel bad. (Thanks guys).
After church, we spent most of Easter Sunday in our backyard. Some of us relaxed while some worked. We don't always put our house guests on projects, but our neighbors had a bunch of extra mulch and we took advantage of the extra helping hands to haul it over.
Here's Uncle Jim and Evy doing their best impression of American Gothic.
And here are the relaxers of the bunch....
Haha, I should mention that everyone above helped tremendously with the kids. They deserved whatever relaxation they could get. Lynda and Jim were superstars with the older two. They played trucks, dolls and read books in our playroom, plus they held the babies until their arms couldn't take it anymore. So did my grandma and grandpa who were even bigger superstars with Evy because they brought her a pink and poofy Easter dress that she didn't take off all weekend.
The family also chipped in and helped make food for the occasion. My grandma Bonnie makes a mean deviled egg so we all requested a batch and the kids decorated some of the extras. You'll see below, there's one for each Schulte sibling. Levi went a little crazy with the eyeballs...it makes me think his egg person was hatched around a nuclear power plant or something.
We did the traditional Easter baskets...
And Mark found this wonderful book of 5-minute Bible stories for the kids at Walgreens.
Whoops...I mean the Easter Bunny found it. Mark ran into him at the store and recommended it.
We can't say enough good things about our church, Ekklesia in Raleigh, where our kids are running around in the picture above. Easter was another example of why we love it so much. Our pastors planned a short service and then they put together a brunch potluck for the whole congregation. It was wonderful not having to think about what to cook after church. But even more than the food, I loved celebrating the resurrection with this larger group of people, both friends and family.
In preparation for this Easter, our church observed the 40 days of lent. We aren't Catholic but our pastors encouraged us to view this time as a way to renew our faith and practice a sort of spiritual discipline. They gave us a small booklet that reflected their sermons about the Lord's prayer. The most powerful lesson for me was a week where they asked us to read through one of the stories from Jesus' time on earth and think of ourselves within the narrative. What role would I take? Who might I be in this scene?
Most of the time I decided I would be a spectator, not one of the key players in the story. I'd be caught up in my own life, deciding which Netflix series to watch next, and living in either the future or the past without being able to see the miracle in front of me. I know I have an excuse these days. Life is wild with so many little people to care for, but I also know that I ignore many opportunities to see the blessing in all of it. I am a witness to four miracles that I gave birth to, along with a million other miracles that happen throughout every minute of the day. When I truly take a moment to look away from my phone or the to-do list that continually populates in my mind, I meditate on this truth and find a peace that only comes from this state of gratefulness.
It happens rarely. Before I had faith in my life, I assumed anyone that had faith had that feeling all the time. I also assumed if I didn't have that feeling all the time, my faith wasn't real. Thank the Lord for places like our church where we can be honest about our lack of faith, our doubts and our questions. A place where we don't have to stick to a script in order to belong. I've had a lot of Easters in my past where I went to church feeling like a misfit. Now I feel like I'm in a church full of misfits and it's where I've felt more peace than ever before.
It's also a place that loves on everyone, no exclusions. This lent season we practiced that inclusive love by raising funds for people in the community surrounding the high school where our church meets. We were encouraged to give something up that we normally spend money on, and then put those funds in the jar pictured below. At the end of lent they collected all the money from the jars and put it toward school supplies for families in need.
I decided, without consulting anyone else in the family, that we were going to give up desserts. The sugar intake was getting out of control in this household and my kids were starting to ask for something sweet even after breakfast (which was often something like french toast topped with syrup and powdered sugar!). As you can imagine, my proposal didn't go over so well with the fam and we broke our fast more than a few times. But it served as another opportunity for communal suffering, which we believe makes us stronger. And we definitely made up for that lack of sugar on Sundays (feast day!). Donuts never tasted so good after six days of sacrifice. I honestly thought I'd continue not eating desserts after lent ended, but then I remembered the container of salted caramel ice cream in our freezer and quickly forgot about that idea.
Evy had fun writing out her "lent I.O.U.s" after meals with the amount of money she would have spent on her chosen dessert. Again, I mean "fun" in that sacrificial, suffering sort of way. After a couple weeks of fasting, Evy gave me a dejected look and said "I don't like lent." And then I felt like I was going to ruin religion for her forever, so I gave her a heaping pile of strawberry ice cream.
Sometimes I find parenting and teaching about faith difficult. I don't feel qualified most of the time because my path has not always been straight, but I do want to start my kiddos on a solid foundation. I want them to know they are loved deeply and that life is much more than anything this world offers through success, money, or attention.
I pray they find their own path. I also pray that our dinner table feels a lot like our current church, where family discussions are open and full of grace, with unconditional, Christ-like love guiding our words instead of fear.
Here are some pictures of the boys engaged in a deep theological discussion of their own (hopefully a loving one but who knows). And some pictures of Grandpa Jack and Great Grandma Bonnie holding the twins.
It was a wonderful Easter season of celebrating new life in more ways than one. We hope you had a happy Easter as well.