Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reflections on Easter Sunday in Vancouver, WA

Good evening and Happy Easter to all!

I hope that you had a pleasant day however you chose to spend it!  I realize that not all Aspierations visitors celebrate Easter and for those that don't, I hope you had a lovely day as well.

When I was growing up, Easter didn't have a particularly religious impact in my life. Our family was spiritual in our own way and believed in God but we didn't attend church unless one of my Grandmas was in town and since they usually came near Christmas, that meant that I didn't spend Easters at church.

I contemplated that today.  This is our fourth year in a row that we have attended a church Easter service.  The first and second were with Journey Community Church in Camas and the third and fourth have been with LifePoint Church in Vancouver.  So the first time that we went to church in Washington was in 2008 and that was on Easter Sunday, March 23rd.  

We moved from California in summer of 2007.  From time to time John and I both talked about finding a church to attend here locally.  John was raised in the Catholic faith and although we had gotten married in the Catholic church in California in July of 1992, we were not regular church-goers. I wasn't sure if being Catholic was the right fit for me and although I believed in God and Jesus and considered myself a Christian, I wanted to learn about different denominations and find a church that was not what I perceived as exclusive or particularly judgmental.  I was looking for a neighborhood church that accepted us for who we were and where I felt I could belong. 

We received a postcard in the mail from Journey in March of 2008 and it had a welcoming picture of an Easter bunny with eggs and invited us to visit their church for an Easter service where there would also be an egg hunt for the kids.  I realize (especially after seeing how packed it was today) that there are many people out there that mainly attend church on Easter Sunday and around Christmas and I thought that going the first time to a new church when we were still relatively new to Washington would be a nice idea for the family and perhaps a way we might begin to meet other people. (Okay... I was idealistic on the last part for myself but I wanted my husband and kids to make connections.)

So we went... and the service was being held in a middle school.  Living in California, my idea of going to church meant going to a physical "church" that looked on the outside like a church and on the inside like a church. (Think Catholic...)  Up here in Washington, I am amazed at how many churches start out by meeting in schools and you know what?  My view of what church should look like changed that day and I do believe in a more positive light.  I actually kind of liked meeting in a middle school when we were at Journey.  It wasn't really intimidating and yet I felt God's presence and was touched by the music more there then I had been in a very long time.

Eventually our family transitioned to LifePoint Church because it was closer to our home and turned out to be a bit of a better fit for our boys as far as kids' programs went but I will never forget the people at Journey and the first time that John and I were in the back singing "Amazing Grace" with tears in our eyes the Sunday after Ryan was diagnosed with autism.  This was only a few months after our first visit there and I am SO thankful that we had a church to go as we began our family journey learning and living with autism and soon a diagnosis of Asperger's for Justin and about a year later, my own self-realization and acceptance of my own place on the autism spectrum.

Interestingly enough, our first visit to LifePoint was as the result of them hosting this HUGE (25,000 eggs) Easter egg hunt in 2009.  Ryan was a little under 3 years old and we attended an autism support group meeting at his future preschool.  While there, we received a flyer and it told of this egg-hunt at LifePoint for ages 2 and up where they had a special area for kids with autism and other special needs to hunt.  It also mentioned there were inflatables and well... even back then, Ryan LOVED to bounce!

Bouncing on his big boy bed!

We didn't switch to LifePoint at that time but when Journey was in the process of making a transition to move out of the middle school to a new location, John and I decided in late August 2010 to see if LifePoint might be a possible fit for us. We did really like Journey and loved their music, however their new location was a bit farther away and we were concerned about the size of their new rooms for their youth program and whether there would be people still available who could watch both Ryan and Justin.

I share all this because it seems that Easter eggs, even though they are not the "reason for the season" so to speak, helped guide us to places where our family would end up embracing and strengthening our faith.  As the kids would do their hunts among the company of others in the community, we were on our own family hunt to find the right place where we could celebrate, worship and learn more about the teachings of God and Jesus Christ.

It is an ongoing adventure as is our journey with Autism and Aspergers.  I find the names of the two churches we have been to (Journey and LifePoint) so fitting considering our personal family situation.

Yesterday when we went out to do two egg hunts with the boys (see yesterday's lighter and picture rich blog "Easter Egg Hunting we will go, Easter Egg Hunting we will go"), the day was bright, sunny and warm, one of the first we had in this area for awhile.  Today on Easter Sunday it was a bit rainy and gloomy in the sky and yet for me... it was a day filled with hope and promise.

John tells his own version of the Krejcha family Easter on his blog tonight and it has a lighter tone so I invite you to visit "Hoppy Easter To All" to read his take on the day and to share lots of family pictures hunting for baskets and all that good stuff.

As for me, I was very proud of myself at church.  It was PACKED and I anticipated that. Although I'm not big on milling around in a big crowd, I gave myself a pep talk in advance to be prepared. We got there early and got the boys into their respective Sunday school areas and went to sit up in the first row of the balcony.  I like the view from overhead and I don't have to worry about people right in front of me. I can sing to my heart's content and stretch out my legs a bit if I need to.

There is a part of every service after a couple songs of worship where the music pastor asks everyone to stand up and greet a few people around you.  Admittedly, this is not my favorite part of church because it always feels a bit forced and not genuine.  I respect and understand social niceties but being told to say hi to people just seems a bit strange.  I like saying hi and smiling at people on my own because it's my choice... so I told myself in advance that this would be my choice and I would make eye contact, smile, shake hands and wish each person around me a Happy Easter in a genuine and warm loving way.  Since I figured most of the people around me were not regular attenders, if I made any social mishaps, so be it. I would try and it would be real.  

It actually felt pretty amazing and you know... as I made eye contact and smiled, many of the people seemed a bit more awkward than I did... and I got that because I had felt that feeling many times before. I'll tell you another secret too.  I'm pretty sure I was sitting very close to another Aspie traveler as his mannerisms just shouted out to me. (I sensed the quirkiness in all its wonderful glory.) I made extra sure to look into his eyes and smile and make sure my handshake was as genuine and real as possible. 

It felt good...

I thought of something else too.  I recently did a blog Easter Egg hunts in the Vancouver, Washington area and the feedback is that it got a lot of local viewing.  I'd like to think that it was possible that as a result of that blog posting, there were families that found their way to LifePoint & McKenzie stadium on Saturday to participate in an egg hunt that showed generosity, love and kindness of volunteers.  

In that group, I'd also like to think there may have been a family somewhat like mine a couple years ago... maybe new to the area... 
or new to attending church... 
or going through a life transition... 
or finding out they had a child diagnosed with autism... 

and perhaps, God used me and my writing as a vessel to help provide the map for someone to find out more about Him in church today on Easter Sunday.

Wouldn't that be wonderful... a way of paying forward our positive egg hunt experiences that turned into so much more spiritually for our family.

I want to make a positive impact with this blog and with Aspierations.  I have begun to understand more in the past couple of weeks how to make that happen and I look forward to sharing more about that with you in the future.

For tonight... I'm looking at the clock and told John I'd be done blogging at 11:30 p.m. and here it is 11:47 (sorry!!!) so I'd better bid you adieu and wish you a wonderful week ahead!  Sorry... no time to edit so if I goofed, I'll have to come back and edit in the future. :-)

I'll post some Easter pictures in my blog tomorrow but here is one with the boys that I did like.

HAPPY EASTER from our family to yours!!!

With love, hope and faith....
Let us shine our lights together!


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