Being away from home at important times of the year, especially celebrations like Christmas and Easter, can be hard. This Easter was bitter-sweet for us. We were overjoyed to have Son #1 join us during his break from University, but also sad to miss the usual family get-togethers, and of course, the four-day weekend (no Bank Holiday Monday here).
Perhaps the biggest irony for us was that, despite my husband working for one of the largest confectionery companies on the planet, we never went overboard on chocolate eggs back in the UK. Maybe it was because chocolate was always so readily available, it never seemed to be much of a treat. Only now, when our beloved brand is less readily available, did we long for the huge foil-wrapped favourites. So, for the first time ever, we had no Easter eggs to enjoy. (Luckily Son#1 had brought a care package from the UK with him, so what we lacked in eggs, we made up for in Ribena and KitKats!)
Easter in America has all the usual trappings - parades, egg-hunts and the Easter Bunny. In typical American style, houses are decorated and parties are thrown. So we were keen to see what this weekend had in store for us.
Back in the UK, Easter for us was a time of reflection and celebration. As Christians, we loved to mark the most holy time in the Christian Calendar with a range of different events - over the years we have taken part in intimate candle-lit Maundy Thursday suppers to commemorate the Last Supper, walks of Witness on Good Friday where we paraded through our local village carrying an enormous cross, and of course, the joyous celebration of Easter Day, when often, as part of the worship group, we got the chance to belt out both modern and traditional favourites to mark the greatest day in history.
This year, we got to belt out those songs as part of a congregation of thousands. The church was so packed it ran four services that were ticketed (free of charge, just to manage numbers). The message was simple - God so loved the world, he gave His only son. We'd heard it a thousand times, but it was good to hear that message again, unpacked in a new way - the same, but different.
One thing we knew we'd miss was the usual roast turkey or lamb dinner - a re-run of Christmas, that we usually enjoyed with our extended family. Luckily, wonderful new friends 'scooped us up' and we had a delicious meal with Carol and Paul who introduced us to a much-loved family Easter game they had played each year with their now grown-up children. We were a little freaked out at first when we realised we had to re-tell the Easter story using a selection of random objects to depict its different elements - was this a test? I could see Sons #1 and #2 mentally running through their database of childhood Bible stories from the Ark to the Ascension in panic. But it soon became clear that the more bizarre and tenuous the links were to the story - the better. Apparently it is possible to link a turtle to the Resurrection - who knew? Home-baked bread, decorating hand-blown eggs and sharing our stories made for a truly wonderful first Easter in America.
Another special moment of the day was seeing a Facebook message from our 'home' church. Knowing that we were being remembered in their thoughts and prayers, as they are in ours, was so comforting.
So whilst we may not have had any eggs this year, we did have new friends and new traditions alongside gentle reminders of where it all began.
Newness is a running theme for us right now, so much so, that we've decided to renew our commitment to Christ next Sunday... to read more about that go to: faith in words.