My dad, me, my mom, and my brother Chris

What Easter Means To Me

Apr 3, 2015

She sent me this picture yesterday. My mom, God bless her. She pulled it from a folder of old photos labeled “1970 – 1975.”

I smiled when I saw it. Then, tears.

It was taken Easter Sunday, either 1974 or 1975. My mom and dad, little brother and me. Back when mom made her own dresses and dad sported wide ties and killer polyester pants.

Have mercy.

My memories of Easter, like that one, are no longer crisp and clear. They’ve faded with time, just as the photographs have. But a few things I remember like it was yesterday.

Sitting at the dark brown, laminate kitchen table, the smell of vinegar burning my nose while I dipped hardboiled eggs into large coffee mugs.

How the pink and green dye would stain my fingers, and how I’d wipe them clean underneath the table top when my mama wasn’t looking.

Searching frantically for Easter eggs in the backyard of our Arizona home, and trying to collect far more than my snotty little brother.

Posing for family pictures on the lawn after Sunday morning Easter services at church. Dressed in our finest. Smiling. And holding hands.

Once again, Easter is two days away. As I look at the little girl in the picture, I can’t help but think of how much life has changed in the many Easters since the photo was taken. How much I have changed. Gone is the innocent glee on that little girl’s face. I see her hand, enveloped by her daddy’s. It never occurred to her that someday he’d be gone.

Easter 2015 won’t be the same as all the others. In part because one of us is now missing. In part because these past twelve months have changed me. 

Easter means far more than it did before. It’s no longer about egg hunts and baskets filled with candy, although I’m sure we’ll have plenty of both. It’s not about sitting through well-produced church services or a big Sunday afternoon meal, although we’ll certainly experience each, with great satisfaction.

They say it is the hard things of life that make us appreciate the beauty of it. It is the losses and tears that force us to dig deep to uncover the meaning behind it all. Perhaps that is why, today, this is what Easter means to me: 

Easter means I have a friend who understands long, lonely nights filled with questions. It’s the most sacred part of the Easter story for me. A thirty-three year old Jesus grieving in a dark Garden of Gethsemane. Facing an impending, horrific death with tears. He was desperate for friends to stay close, to help him stay strong. But they couldn’t even stay awake. His was a long night of lonely prayers and tough questions. Oh, how I understand! For all my similar, sleepless nights, I’m reassured I am not alone. He keeps watch with me, as only One who understands can. And He will not fall asleep.

Easter means I have a co-sufferer who knows the agony of physical pain. I can’t describe to you the physical suffering I’ve experienced in these past five months. Far more than I could’ve imagined. At times, I thought it would kill me. Other times, I wished it would. At the same time, I considered the incredible suffering around the world, much of which dwarfs my own. I know this, wrestle with it. My heart can hardly bear it. Easter takes me, crawling, needy to the One who endured a physical suffering so heinous, so inhumane, by choice. Even more profound? He did it for you, for me, so those who suffer would know we’re not alone. When my pain is at its worse, I crawl up to the cross. And He meets me there.

Easter means I have a Savior who faced death so I would no longer need to fear it. It is not an easy thing to face your own mortality. Forty-three year old mamas shouldn’t have to think about death. When fear creeps up on me, tempting me to panic about whether or not I’ll be around to see my children graduate, get married and have children of their own, I remember the One who left heaven for one reason: to kick death in the teeth, once and for all. Yes, death is reality, and every one of us will face it. But Easter means He went first. And Easter means He beat it. Death is no longer the end—it’s just the beginning. No fear, only life. He lives! And my daddy? The one holding my hand in the picture? He lives, too. And I will see him again.

Easter means I have a Father who will never leave, who will hold my hand through whatever may come. Behind every twist and turn in the Easter story, behind the long night in the garden, the horrible trial and death conviction, behind  the walk up the Via Dolorosa and the climb up Golgotha to the nails and the cross, sits one powerful and profound word:


This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.  —John 3:16-17 (MSG)

I don’t know what you believe, and maybe Easter means nothing more to you than backyard scavenger hunts and chocolate-covered eggs. That is certainly your choice and I respect it, completely. Everything in me hopes you have the sweetest of celebrations.

But for me, after facing, enduring and overcoming some of life’s ugliest experiences, Easter means something far more real and urgent and beautiful than ever before.

I need more than fluffy bunnies and chocolate-dipped eggs (although a serving of the latter will certainly be welcome).

I need a Savior. One who lived and died and overcame, so I could overcome, too.

Happy Easter, my friends. Whatever Easter means for you, may you find your story wrapped up in the very best Story of all.


  1. Benjamin E. Vogel

    Thank you for a well written piece of wisdom. I am half way through your new book. Thank you for your autographed copy. It, too, is well written and uplifting. Thank you for sharing your story and being transparent. May God continue to restore your health. Ben

  2. Bruce Cross

    Your memories are oh so familiar to me (especially since we did the like with our precious grandchildren yesterday). However, your need for our Savior is also very real and simply is THE point of it all. May you enjoy the RESURRECTION POWER He offers you!

  3. Jessica Sabillon

    I think its the perfect way to describe Easter. He will hold our hands and never leave us. He is there to pick is up, wipe out tears and wrap His arms around us. Thank you for pouring out your life, the faith and fears that you went through. I just finished your book and cannot stop reflecting on it. I have learned so much from your journey.

  4. Lois Detloff

    What a beautiful start for my Saturday morning the day before Easter. I was reading “The Case for Easter” by Lee Strobel and then Marv said your name while looking at our email. I immediately went to my email. Only God can put everything in its rightful place. Thank you for sharing your heart and putting the perfect spin on the meaning of Easter. You bless my heart! Have the most glorious Easter with your family because He lives!

  5. Pat Layton

    Michele, this post ROCKED my heart! It is so beautifully written. I could almost hear your voice sharing it! You prompted my own asking of that question, “What does Easter mean to Me?”
    I shared on my blog post.
    I hope others will be inspired to do the say through your words. It is a very good question to take time to think out on this special weekend.
    My love and hugs to you my friend!
    Happy Easter!!

  6. Bill

    I agree with everything you said and I am blessed to have a friend like you. Also, I will have my second stent procedure on Tue. So please remember me in your prayers. I know prayer works.amen

  7. Jana Botkin

    Michele, I am almost finished with “Undone”. You write so very well that I can feel with you through all the really tough situations you have faced. I’ve been praying for you and checking your blog for an update on your health.

    I lost a dear friend this week, and we decided that she got an invitation to an Easter party that she couldn’t turn down. It certainly changes one’s view of Christ’s resurrection when someone you love is with Him . . . takes the abstract out of eternity with Jesus and puts in the reality of heaven as a place where people we love are actually living, right now.

  8. Wayne Stiles

    Very nice, Michele. So true, isn’t it? The resurrection gives us a reason to press on, to accepts the painful parts of God’s inexplicable plan—knowing that it all will be worth it when we see Him in that first moment.

    We continue to lift you up and to rejoice at your example of faithfulness in struggle.

    God bless you, sister—


  9. Shannon Wallace

    Michelle. it made me smile to see this picture of your family. I know your parents from Central Christian Church, and also your brother and sister in law too. Your parents would get myself and my two sons checked in each Sunday. They became beloved to us. I just wanted to drop by and say hi, and let you know that the Lord has put you on my heart over the past couple of weeks, and when He does, I pray. Pray for healing. Pray that you will be covered in His care and peace and made whole again. Much love from across the ocean…Shannon Wallace

  10. Elizabeth Burns

    Michelle, this is the most beautiful meditation on the meaning of Easter I have ever read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, struggles, questions, faith, wisdom and joy with us. May God continue to comfort and heal you. With Admiration and Affection, Beth

  11. Nancy

    Oh my, thank you for this. These are the thoughts I had and the feelings I felt last week, but had no words to express. Thank you for doing it so beautifully.

  12. Laura

    Dearest Michele,

    I’ve lost touch with you except through LinkedIn. First and foremost, your Easter post touched me profoundly and I’m saddened for you in the loss of you beloved father. I can’t imagine as my own father is my rock, first man I ever loved and who loved me. Secondly, it sounds like you’ve had/are having some major health challenges. Please know that I am praying for you and your family. May God keep you in his infinite mercy and give you peace and healing. I would welcome the opportunity to reconnect, even if it’s to sit and pray together, catch up, support and comfort you in any way possible. You are such a lovely person and if there is anything I can do it would really be my privilege.

  13. Karen

    Thank you! I identify with some of your feelings. My only daughter died in infancy, and five years later my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Six months to live turned into 3.5 years of survival for him, and a grace period for me to say goodbyes and I love yous. I had a love/hate relationship with God some days, yet I’ve never had a more constant and supportive companion as I continue with God. Thank you for telling your messy, honest, loving story!! It was a pleasure to read. P.S. i work with an old friend of yours, Gayle Taylor Rose.

  14. Karen

    Thank you! I identify with some of your feelings. My only daughter died in infancy, and five years later my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Six months to live turned into 3.5 years of survival for him, and a grace period for me to say goodbyes and I love yous. I had a love/hate relationship with God some days, yet I’ve never had a more constant and supportive companion as I continue with God. Thank you for telling your messy, honest, loving story!! It was a pleasure to read.

  15. Maxine W Garrett

    I loved the way you presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will be getting your book Unbroken?

  16. Consuelo

    Woh I your articles, saved to bookmarks!



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