After a busy morning of egg hunts and hide-and-seek baskets, our little brood (hubbie, kids, and me) would nab a quick breakfast and get ready for church. The first few years of our young Christian lives we just went to our church like normal, but somewhere along the way we decided to visit different churches for Easter. I guess just because Easter service is a show anyway and we already knew what our own church was doing, so why not explore. It’s been a neat tradition with many interesting experiences.
Our family has always leaned more toward the contemporary type churches with a little tradition mingled in, maybe wading toward the charismatic side but not off the deep end. One year we decided to try the Methodist church downtown, the big brick building with the gorgeous stained glass windows. The congregation, when we arrived, seemed mostly older. I recognized a few of the faces as high society movers and shakers in the community. We chose to sit in the balcony, since there wasn’t such a thing in our church, and marveled at the three-story high pipe organ that the organist played masterfully. I’ll admit I was distracted from the words in the hymnal for watching how much effort it was for her to play that immense thing. Her legs were jumping, her hands were all over the cascading terraces of keys, and she kept pushing and pulling levers while still working away at the melody. She coaxed amazing sound out of that gargantuan brass piped spectacle.
The church itself was so formal and so fancy with tall ceilings and carved walls, the balcony, and a pastor who stood at a podium at one side of the stage and wore a robe and a colored sash. It wasn’t anything like our casual, modern, smaller-budget church.
As incredible as the ambiance was, it wasn’t the most memorable part of our experience that day. That part was coming up. There was a darling family sitting right behind us who had a little girl about our Gracee’s age who had sneaked in some candy. Gracee had too. It kept them both occupied for most of the service. But as soon as the music stopped and it got quiet, and the pastor began his rehearsed and monotone sermon, alas, that’s when Gobstoppers exploded without warning and spilled like a sack of marbles onto the polished wooden floor beneath, making us all jump.
The million little balls rolled for what seemed like an eternity down the floor between everyone’s feet, hollering and screaming as they went, echoing into the rafters with deafening clarity. I wondered what it sounded like to the people in the pews below as it was ringing literally in our ears. With a hundred or more eyes all glaring in our direction, we lowered our eyes down to our Gracee fearing it was her doing, not daring to move our heads or move the expression on our faces at all, and she, with huge wide eyes herself, moved backward in the pew, cupped her left hand over her pointer finger, and pointed with desperate innocence behind us. We smiled in relief but didn’t dare look back that way to add more shame to their humiliation. We all just sat like stones and waited for the commotion to end. It finally did thank goodness and our attention turned once again back to the drone of the pastor’s eulogy.
Note to self: If we should ever come back to this church, never let the kid bring jawbreakers and sit in the balcony. Then again, it might have been God’s sense of humor to liven things up a little. Whew, it was stuffy in there.
Another year we visited the Assembly of God church at the foot of the mountain. The pastor there had invited his Christian motorcycle group to come and give the sermon. As the congregation sat quietly waiting, a man in leathers turned the key on his Harley, parked outside the sanctuary in the lobby, and then drove his super shiny rumbling machine into our midst and up the center aisle, with exhaust fumes trailing in his wake. He parked it sideways at the base of the pastor’s podium, turned off the engine, and began his sermon from the mount of his studded leather seat. The other tatted and muscle-bound members of the group, also decked in their riveted and logoed black leather jackets, hats, and chaps, sat in chairs flanking the preacher on either side. It was AWESOME! His sermon was good too. And looking around, I also noticed that I knew quite a few of the members who went to that church too, and they all came over and greeted us after.
Another year we attended the huge Highland Park service held at the Event’s Center, with its thousands in attendance, which is a lot for this community. It had that mega-church feel, like maybe a church in a big city would have. It was an amazing worship service put on by very talented musicians and extremely gifted singers, and projected like a concert from the stage out to us in the stadium, showcasing the enormous talents of its members. Their pastor preached a beautiful sermon and it was all just a gorgeous display. It was neat to see that I knew quite a few of those people as well… many were coworkers.
And one year we attended a smaller, more intimate church, where the worship and sermon was lively and interactive. The pastor was very engaging and authoritative. At one point in his preaching he wanted us all to raise our hands and worship the Lord in our spirits. We did. It was fairly easy as he was very charismatic and the congregation was all eager. When our collective response didn’t quite seem aggressive enough for his liking, he told us to stand to our feet and worship our Savior with cheers and shouting. He begged us to let go our inhibitions and give Jesus the kind of accolades we would dispense at a sporting event. We did, and it was loud and joyful. When that just still wasn’t quite corresponding to his yearning, he shouted to us to get up on our chairs and reach our arms to the ceiling and give the Lord a shout of glory. We did, we did, we did. And some jumped and bounced. And hallelujah we did! And even though it was just a tad outside of our comfort zone, and we felt a little silly, when in Rome, we did! And it was kind of amazing. And none of us got hurt!
Some Easter’s we’ve come home to a homemade feast and other times we’ve gone out. One year we had Easter dinner at Denny’s. Our waitress asked for our drink orders and then gave each of the girls a plastic Easter egg. She said there were little prizes inside. The girls opened their eggs and each had a slip of paper in it. The waitress took the papers and disappeared returning moments later with Dani’s prize, a nice little Easter basket with a few goodies in it. She was thrilled and began to rummage through it, Gracee looked on in wonder. The waitress disappeared and returned a few seconds later with the news that Gracee had won the grand prize, and then presented her with a huge white stuffed bunny rabbit with long dangling ears and a big blue bow tied around its neck. Gracee was surprised and her dad and I were thrilled for her. As he and I returned to our mugs of hot coffee we caught the look on Dani’s face. She was frozen with one hand still in her tiny basket, jaw dropped, eyes fixated on this giant furry outrage…
Oh dear, I better stop there. Long story short, this was the Easter that went down in the annals of our family history as the Easter of the loathsome big blue bunny. And with that I wish you all a happy Easter filled with special moments that make you smile, beam with precious memories, and love and laughter, and years and years of great traditions. God bless.
EASTER EGG HUNT FOR KIDS: When my kids were little and the few years of their age made a big difference in their abilities, I assigned one or two colors of eggs to each child and they were only allowed to “find” their own colors. This was the only way I figured would make the hunt fair for the younger one, and challenging for the older one. At the end of the egg hunt the kids then went on a scavenger hunt to find their Easter Baskets. This was one of the scripture scavenger hunts I put together for my kids when they were about 4 and 9. Their dad helped them with this because he was usually ready for church and I still needed to be. This gave me time to get dressed and my hair done. Then we got them dressed and our family headed off to worship our risen Lord.
SPECIAL NOTE: Since this blog post was originally written I have come up with another pretty dang fun and awesome, kid-approved (actually, “whole family approved”) all-day Easter activity that I’m pretty excited to share with you. Follow this link to more Easter Fun & Games!
Your kids can use this little “cootie catcher” as a way to share their faith and the Easter story with their friends and classmates:
Our Easter Dinner is usually pretty simple. Who has time to fuss in the kitchen when we’re going to be dolling up for and going to church all morning? I like to have it ready when we get home, so we can enjoy the after dinner egg hunts and games and crafts and whatever.
For my Glazed Ham…
I start with a nice hickory smoked (if you know somebody that does them locally – mmmmm those are the best), spiral sliced ham that only basically needs to be heated because it is already cooked. Just wrap the ham in foil and heat as instructed on the package directions (mine, as you can see, got a little over heated waiting for us to return from church – I would recommend a little lower temperature on that oven if you are doing what I did and are trying to have dinner ready to serve as you walk in the door from church). I whipped up a batch of Jezebel Sauce a day or two before so I would have it to glaze the ham with, and then to plate it I covered mine with whatever fruits I had on hand, fresh or canned. On this day I covered mine with a large can of Fruit Cocktail and some sliced oranges. You could go with peaches, pineapple, pears, plums, cherries, mango, apples, appricots, or whatever!
1 (18 ounce) jar peach preserves
1 (18 ounce) jar orange marmalade
1 (18 ounce) jar apple preserves
1 (18 ounce) jar pineapple preserves
5/8 cup ground dry mustard
1 (4 ounce) jar prepared horseradish
In a bowl thoroughly mix all ingredients. May be stored in sterile containers in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Great as a glaze or served poured over cream cheese and served with wheat thins crackers.
Plate your hot ham, decorate it with the fruit, and pour the glaze over. Return it to the oven to warm the glaze and fruits, approximately 15 minutes. Serve.
I’m rather fond of Martha Stewart’s recipe, although I left the skins on my taters, added some red onion, a sprinkle of pepper, and also some rosemary for garnish after it had baked. And because I had covered mine with foil it didn’t have her lovely golden top on it.
And I’m completely nuts for this cold, crunchy Pea Salad!
This is the dressing. Mix it up in a large bowl.
1/3 cup sour cream
1 T. Mayo
1 T. vinegar
Salt and Pepper
This is the salad:
4 cups. frozen peas
1/2 small red onion, chopped
6 oz. cheddar cheese cut into small cubes
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
Add the salad ingredients to the dressing in the large bowl. Cover with plastic and keep in fridge for 2 to 4 hours before serving.
When ready to serve…
Crumble 8 slices of crispy cooked bacon. Transfer the pea salad to a serving dish and garnish with the bacon, or you can add the bacon to the salad before transferring to your serving dish, whichever you prefer.
And for dessert…
EASY STRAWBERRY NAPOLEONS RECIPE
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
- 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold whole milk
- 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
- 2 cups whipped topping
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400°. Unfold thawed puff pastry on cutting board.
With a sharp knife, cut pastry into nine squares. Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and vanilla; set aside. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for two minutes.
Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. Stir in whipped topping and until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate.
To assemble, split puff pastry squares horizontally for a total of 18 squares. Set aside six tops. Place six of the remaining puff pastry pieces on individual serving plates. Spread about 1/4 cup pudding mixture over each pastry square. Top with a spoonful of strawberries and another piece of puff pastry. Spread remaining pudding mixture over pastry pieces. Top with remaining strawberries and reserved pastry tops.
In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Transfer chocolate to a small, heavy-duty plastic bag. Cut a tiny corner from bag; squeeze chocolate over napoleons. Yield: 6 servings.
© Taste of Home 2012
Visit my Pinterest Easter Feast page for more recipes!
P.S. Got leftover ham?
Here are my two favorite things to do with it…
Ham & Potato Casserole
6 potatoes cut into slices or cubes as you prefer (or a bag of frozen hash browns)
2 cups diced ham leftovers
2 cups shedded cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 stick of butter, melted
2/3 pint carton heavy cream
3 Tbls flour
1 jalapeno, diced
A sprinkle or two of spicy dry rub seasoning (basically just cayenne powder and ground black pepper)
Preheat oven to 350*F. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl and pour out into a large greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove foil, give the dish a good stir, return to oven and bake an additional 1/2 hour uncovered. If it appears to be getting too golden on top, it is probably done. My oven seems to take a little longer than other peoples. This dish is a great way to get rid of several things you might have left in your fridge. 🙂
Deviled Ham (for sandwiches)
These are my husband’s favorite!!!! He will flat out gorge on them for two solid days in a row. So I usually make all the deviled ham into sandwiches, lay them in a casserole dish, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and store it in his “mancave” fridge where he can just help himself until he is sick. LOL! P.S. I rarely measure my ingredients for this (although I did for you this time to make sure it would turn out), but I never have the exact same amount of leftover ham, so I’m going to say we start with 2 cups of ground ham and you can double or half the other ingredients in porportion to what you have, okay?
I grind my leftover ham in a hand-crank grinder (old school), and then to approximately 2 cups of ground ham I add:
1/2 tsp. ground pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/3 cup minced onion (about a quarter of a large onion)
1/3 cup minced celery (about 1 rib of celery)
4 Tbsps sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
Moisten with mayonaise until misture holds together and is slightly creamy. I start with a good heaping serving spoon of Mayo, and then maybe a little more than that.
Mix together by tossing and stirring until everything is mixed well. Cut the crusts off of your favorite white sandwich bread. Spread slices with the deviled ham and cover with another slice of bread. Cut sandwiches into quarters and poke a decorative toothpick through to hold them together. Serve with whatever was leftover on the relish tray (carrot sticks, cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, green and black olives, deviled eggs, spicy pickled okra, spicy pickled jardinière mix, pickled asparagus, dilled green beans, little dill and sweet pickles, etc.), chips, or whatever you have. These go great with cheddar cheese soup. Check out my recipe in my blog post “Soups On.” (<<< click link)