When I was little, I loved looking for Easter calves. After church Easter morning we’d walk out into the pasture searching for newborns. Back then, I believed Easter calves came from God. Forget the Easter Bunny and hunting for eggs, finding Easter calves always thrilled me.
Not every year brought an Easter calf. Yet other years, two or even three babies graced the morning on wet, wobbly legs or curled in tight little fetal positions on the dew-covered grass. The curled up ones were my favorite. Sometimes a little girl could pet these babies if she approached very quietly with the mama at the barn.
As I grew up, I lost interest in Easter calves. Teenage girls seek out boys, not sleepy newborn bovines. By the time I hit 18, I fell head over heels for a beautiful, long-haired boy I met on a blind date. The beautiful long-haired boy wasn’t my date, but when he walked into the room in a black leather jacket with rips in his jeans long before rips were fashionable, his beauty ripped my heart out. I practically handed him my heart right then dripping with blood and love. I know. So dramatic. But after meeting this beautiful long-haired boy, Easter calves meant nothing to me. After a few months of dating, this boy and I spent spring break with friends in Santa Cruz. The sand was hot. The ocean cold. I wore a lot of slippery sunscreen because of my freckles. In the arms of my first lover, Easter came and went without the thought of an Easter calf.
How life would change the following year. Several months before the next Easter, my boyfriend broke up with me. And fooled around with other girls. Absolutely crushed, I moved to Reno, Nevada all by myself. At 19 years old, I got an apartment and a job and cried most nights. As Easter approached, I longed for home. When the restaurant I worked for hired me, I’d requested Easter off. “No guarantees with holidays,” my new boss said coldly. He wasn’t a nice guy.
Two days before Easter, a snowstorm was brewing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. My tiny Toyota Celica with its sunroof was not the car to conquer the pass, even if I got off work by some miracle.
“Please, God,” I prayed. “Let me make it home for Easter.” I believed in God in those days, but I had no personal relationship with Jesus.
When the snowflakes landed in my hair on Good Friday as I walked to work, I prayed, “It seems impossible now, but please God, let me make it home for Easter.”
Sure enough, on top of the snow, I was scheduled to work Easter Sunday. Nobody was about to trade with me. I didn’t even ask. “Please God, I’m so homesick. Take me home for Easter,” I prayed that Good Friday.
On Saturday morning, back at work with snow blanketing the sidewalks, again I prayed, “I don’t see how this is possible, but I want to go home. I need to see an Easter calf.”
It had been ages since I thought of Easter calves. Now I couldn’t get them out of my mind. In California spring had sprung, but where I lived in Reno winter still held the land captive. I closed my eyes and pictured green pastures, daffodils and tulips blooming in my mom’s flower beds, my parents’ lovely two-story ranch house with its sprawling front porch and white porch swing beckoning me home.
“If you can drive in the snow, head home after your shift today,” my boss said as he passed me in the bakery shop. I was stacking warm cookies on the shelf doing my best not to break into tears over being stuck in Reno for Easter. “Please don’t tease me today. I’m really homesick,” I told my boss. I thought he was kidding about Easter. We were short-staffed on Sunday. I couldn’t imagine him letting me miss work.
My boss smiled, his eyes compassionate for a change. “I’m not teasing. Go home. I’m tired of looking at your sad, little face. Just be back for the night shift on Monday. Happy Easter, you’re a hard worker, you’ve earned it, Paula.”
I bounded over and hugged him. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, now get back to work young lady.”
“Please, Lord, stop the snow,” I prayed after that. “Please, God, you know I can’t get over the pass in this snow.”
Several hours later, one of the late afternoon shift employees strolled in. “The snow’s melting so fast,” she said. “I can’t believe it. You should see the sun shining out there.”
“Thank you, God! Thank you!” I sang to myself the rest of my shift.
The following morning I attended our little Catholic Church with my mom in California. Upon returning home, I asked my dad to walk out into the pasture with me to look for Easter calves. My parents own a ranch in the Sutter Buttes. Sometimes you have to hike through the hills to find the cows.
“Oh, please, God, grant me an Easter calf this year,” I prayed as we wandered through lush, green grass and wildflowers. Bright orange poppies and small, orange fiddleneck. Perfect yellow pansies. Dainty blue dicks and wild purple carnations smaller than thimbles. I grew up making bouquets out of these wildflowers. How happy I was to be home! When we finally found the cows, not one, but two newborn calves greeted us.
Tears filled my eyes. Maybe this meant my beautiful, long-haired boyfriend would come home. That we would get back together and get married. I hadn’t heard from him since he’d broken up with me and joined the Army. I missed him so much that Easter.
Looking back over thirty years later, I realize those two Easter calves were indeed a promise from God. Not only would my boyfriend come back to me, we’d marry, and a dozen years later become born again Christians. My husband’s spiritual awakening happened Easter week. In a way, we are Easter calves.
If you long to be born again, John 3:7-15, or just renewed by the God who makes all things new, Revelation 21:5, know that I’m praying for you. Scott’s and my road to redemption was a broken one. Perhaps yours is too. Through it all, I see how Jesus led us so sweetly and patiently into a relationship with Him. There is so much beauty in belonging to the Lord. I’m praying you make it home for Easter, my friend.