Our Easter Garden

I don't know if it's the warm weather outside or what, but Easter seemed to sneak up on me this year.  Just last week, I realized it was only a short time away and I started thinking about how I could do something to celebrate Easter with the kids, without it being all about bunnies and chocolate.  For the record, I'm not anti-bunnies or chocolate, I just want to make sure that we make it crystal clear from the beginning about why Easter is so special and who it's really all about.  I realized that I don't have any Easter decorations and that's mostly because it bugs me every year that I can't find anything that I like, that has something to do with the Lord.  But I remembered a post from Ann about an Easter grace garden she made with her kids and then I saw a friend post a similar thing on facebook, so I decided I could handle that!  Any excuse to work with flowers and plants and I'm in. 
This is the finished product, kind of a collaboration of several things I found. 
It sits on our kitchen table and it is the topic of conversation at every meal.  I am learning a big lesson in this, I can't believe the way it's changed our meal time already.  Just having the visual of the cross and the empty tomb before us, has helped all of us think about the Lord throughout our day.
I picked up that Easter book at our Church bookstore on Sunday and in addition to our favorite Children's Bible, it's been something we've opened and read through over and over already.  We are AMAZED at what Ava has retained so far.  Obviously we don't believe that she understands the events of Holy Week or what they mean, but as we've read these books and answered her questions (yes, she has them and even that makes us marvel at the Lord) it's been so very sweet.  She can tell us what's happening as we walk through the pages of the story and right now, that's what the Lord calls us to.  To teach our children His Word and to impress it on their hearts, all throughout the day. 
I also pulled this little plaque over to the table, because even though we want to teach them the story, we want to also prompt one another to remember to thank the Lord for what He did, for all that Holy Week means to us.  Yes, we are seeing the fruit in Ava, but truthfully, it's been so very good for us too. 
So to make this Easter garden, I started with a cute pot and some old dirt from a previous pot.  As I worked through the soil, breaking up hard spots and watering it to refresh it and bring life again, I thought about how appropriate that picture is of our hearts each year.  There is something so powerful about the reflection and rememberence of Easter that grips me.  Knowing and believing that He truly does make all things new and that through Jesus' complete work on the cross and in the grave, death has been destroyed and hope just can't leave your heart the same. 
 I chose some plants that I liked, mostly because of the different sizes, textures, colors, etc., as well as an old clay pot to be our tomb and some rocks for a path to the tomb.
We took the kids outside and I started to assemble everything.  I loved the mixture of the various plants.  I think my pot is probably 10" in diameter, but you could definitely go bigger.  It's tough to find something that's wide AND shallow, but I finally just settled on something that I liked for my kitchen and wasn't terribly expensive. 
These were my treasure hunters.  I sent them on a hunt for rocks, a stone to put in front of the tomb and some sticks for the cross.
 They did a great job, even though they didn't totally understand what they were looking for :) Daddy helped them catch the vision and they were excited to bring me back some treasures.
This was our finished product, for the next few days anyway.  The tomb is empty, but full of rocks and if I didn't think it would scare Ava, I'd put some fake spiders in there too :) On Friday, we'll roll the big stone in front of the grave and talk about the cross and why Jesus died for our sins.  We've been talking all week about the fact that he died for our sins, but that he did it because he loved us and he wanted to make a way for us to get back to God.  We won't focus too much on the death, it's certainly not something they can understand or handle, but we do want to reinforce that truth.  On Sunday morning, we'll roll that stone away to reveal an empty tomb, void of rocks and sin and death, and I think I'll add some floral blooms in there to signify how He makes all things new.  I'm thinking Ava will love that part! 
 Most of this is totally over Carter's head and that's ok.  Even if he just hears us talk about Jesus and sees us pray, that's great!  He loves to chime in with an "Amen!" when we're done, which is music to our ears.  I'm sure next year he'll retain a little bit more, but I love the thought of making this a tradition with them.
Ava is able to digest more than we thought.  She loves to tell us that she sees the cross and the tomb when she comes to the table for every meal.  Then she points out that the tomb is empty, which leads us to ask her why is it empty?  It's precious to hear her talk through what she remembers.  Tonight she blew us away as she opened up her little prayer with, "Thank you for our food, Thank you that Jesus died on the cross, Thank you that he went in the tomb, Thank you that it's empty and God loves us. We love you Jesus, Amen."  Honestly, I thought Trav and I would not be able to look up without some major tears falling on our plates.  I mean, from the mouths of babes, right??  She also asked us where God is and if He is in Ava's house?  She asked if Jesus had a doggy and what kind of fishies did He have?  Sweet, sweet, sweet.  We know she doesn't understand all of this, but she's starting to remember it and these are the planks from which a foundation of faith is built.  And while we've read her stories for years, prayed with her since she was a baby and we take her to Church a lot, this Easter Garden has sparked the most tender conversations from her and has been a GREAT visual to keep before us. 
I'm sharing this with you, not to pat myself on the back or make you think I've got all kinds of spiritual wisdom when it comes to raising kids.  I don't, I'm learning what the Lord calls me to do for my family, and struggling to put that into practice.  I just know that seeing someone do something similar sparked my creativity and we have reaped the benefits this week. 

I haven't always been intentional with this Holy week, but I'm trying not to let it slip by this year without remembering the road to the cross and doing my best to teach our kids about what that means and why it matters.  I am praying that this week will be one of great meaning and faith building for you too.  The entire gift of salvation rests on Jesus' sacrifical death on the cross and His victory over death forever.  Without the cross, we stand condemned.  Without the grave, we have no hope.  Without Christ, we have no Savior.  And without believing in each piece of the puzzle, we have an incomplete faith, which stands in opposition to the truth of God's Word.

So from the view of my little Easter garden, we remember that He is everything and He pursues us with a fierce love, from the youngest of babes til we're old and gray.  He is no respector of persons and came to offer salvation to any and all who would believe, to the praise of His great name.  Thank you for the cross, Jesus, and for the empty tomb!! 

Matthew 28:6
"He is not here, He has risen, just as He said..."

Psalm 8:2
"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..."

What about you?  Do you have any traditions or special things you do with your family to commemorate Easter?  I'd love to hear your ideas! 

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