Israel has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks, it seems. He now is able to communicate that he understands a lot more than we would think. This is especially true of spiritual matters, which he seems to grasp intuitively at least as much as he does from anything we say. So it seems that starting our family rituals around the holidays may actually stick somewhere in his memory at this point and we have enjoyed involving him in different aspects of our celebration of Resurrection Sunday.
On Friday, we had a couple of new friends over to share in a Seder-ish meal with us. (The Seder is the traditional Jewish passover dinner, which is what Jesus and His disciples would have been sharing together on the night he was betrayed, Maundy Thursday. We were a day late in preparing it this year, but better late than never.) I had been telling Israel that we were preparing for a very special meal. We talked about it as we shopped in the grocery store and while he waited to eat while Pat and I cooked in the kitchen. I didn't go into very much detail with him, as I'm not sure what he would and would not get about Jesus "dying" and "living again," but when we sat down to eat, Israel bowed his head and announced, "Pray...Amen!" (I'll confess here that we do not always make a habit of praying before meals, but Israel obviously knew it was important to do so at this one.) George, one of our guests, said that was certainly blessing enough.
We enjoyed having two men -- George and Montez -- over for dinner. Pat has been getting to know George through some joint ventures our churches are taking and he has been a guest at our church a few times now. Montez just recently decided to live his life for Jesus and it is pretty cool have him go from being just a familiar face walking the street to someone sitting in a service one Sunday to a brother sitting at our dinner table. If you've been reading our blog for some time, you will recall an entry I made stressing out over trying to get to know our black neighbors. (As a side note, we have since gone out for Mexican food together at their invitation and it wasn't a big deal.) Now, perhaps some of the stress was taken away by not having to decide what to make for dinner, as the Seder comes with a prescribed menu, but I told Pat afterwards that I was much less aware of the fact that these friends are black than I was the fact that they are our family. Our churches had a joint Good Friday service after dinner where their praise team and our gospel choir sang and parents of both congregations tried to keep children occupied for what ended up being a 2-1/2 hour service. I told Pat afterward that I was surprised by how little I thought about being around black people for the evening and how much I truly felt that I was just with family -- extended family, perhaps -- but family. I hope to write more about our relationship with this church later (and have hoped to write about it for some time...). We'll see.
We had communion at the end of the service and at that point, it was past Israel's bedtime and he was so over it that I was happy to tell him that "juice and crackers" (two of his favorite things) were coming, regardless of any spiritual ramifications. I let him share my small cup of grape juice and eat some of my bread. I thought, "Well, I should at least tell him what it's about in some form. " So after he had a few VERY SMALL sips, I said something like, "This is to remember that Jesus died for us. ...Um...that Jesus did a very hard thing for us," to which Israel replied, "Men-nah!" (That's "Amen," for those of you not familiar with his language.)
We spent a good deal of time outdoors Saturday, as we gathered rocks to begin landscaping our back yard (note the outline for our garden in the video below) while Israel watched the ducks. (He kept saying "sit! ...wah-yee..." and was amazed that they could "sit" on the "water.") Saturday evening and into the wee hours of Sunday morning were devoted to making easter bread. This is a tradition that comes to us from Pat's mom and we look forward to it each year. This year, Israel helped color the raw easter eggs (for a few minutes, but it's a start...) and Pat and I stayed up waiting for the lemony dough to rise THREE TIMES before baking it. It's such a beautiful, fun treat to have for breakfast easter morning! Israel loved it, and kept saying, "Egg! Egg!" while he waited to eat it.
We came home and were greeted by our neighbor, Steve (one of Israel and Sophie's favorite humans) and his friend, who presented us with easter presents for the kids, including a basket for Israel, which we used to collect the eggs he found in the back yard after his nap. Israel completely understands how to hunt for easter eggs, and particularly enjoys the concept of "hiding" at this age. He loved the treats he found inside; Pat had thoughtfully selected dried fruit and Ritz cracker bites, which were an instant success.