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 Easter eggs, finding Easter calves in the pasture always thrilled me.
Not every year brought an Easter calf. Yet other years, two, or even three babies graced the morning, wobbling on wet, shaky legs or curled in tight little fetal positions on the dew-damp grass. The curled up ones were my favorite. Sometimes a little girl could pet these sleeping babies if she approached very slowly with the mama at the barn.
As I grew up, I eventually lost interest in the Easter calves. Teenage girls seek out boys, not slippery newborn bovines. By the time I turned 18, I’d fallen madly in love with Scott. Calves in the pasture meant nothing to me. Scott and I spent spring break with our friends in Santa Cruz. In the arms of my boyfriend, Easter came and went without the thought of an Easter calf.
How life would change the following year. That winter, Scott broke up with me. 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,” said my new boss.
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 get home for Easter. I believed in God in those days, but had no personal relationship with Jesus yet.
When the snowflakes fell on Good Friday and landed in my hair 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 so hard 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 Nevada winter held the land captive. I closed my eyes and pictured green pastures, daffodils and tulips blooming in my mom’s planters, my parents’ lovely two-story home on a hill with its wooden front porch and white porch swing.
“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.”
I bounded over and hugged him. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, now get back to work young lady.” The hug shocked my boss.
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 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. I was on the road, driving through dark mountains that night.
The following morning in California I attended our small Catholic Church with my mom. Upon returning home after mass, I asked my dad to walk out into the pasture with to look for Easter calves with me. 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 the lush green grass and wildflowers. When we finally found the cows, not one, but two newborn calves greeted us.
Tears filled my eyes. Maybe this meant Scott would come home, too. That we would get back together and get married. I hadn’t heard from him since he’d broken up with me. I missed him so much that Easter.
Looking back, I realize those two Easter calves were indeed a promise from God. Not only would Scott come home, and we’d marry, but a decade later, we’d both be born again. Scott’s spiritual awakening happened Easter week.
In a way we are Easter calves.
If you long to be an Easter calf, I’m praying for you. My road to redemption was a broken one. Perhaps yours is too. Through it all, I see how Jesus led me so sweetly and patiently into a relationship with my heavenly Father.
No matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve wandered, God is waiting for you to come home this Easter.
And for those of you who follow my blog, remember how I asked you to pray last Easter for two Easter calves for my daughter, Lacy? Well, here they are…
These pictures were taken some long ago autumn, actually half a dozen years apart, over twenty years ago, because the little blond boy is six years older than our tiny Tinkerbell. But God had a plan even then for Jake and Lacy. Because this is what God does. He plans for us. The Bible says, “I will make a helpmate for the man.” Apparently God made Lacy out of the same Jack-o-lantern bucket Jake came from.
Last Easter, Lacy was heartbroken and I was wearing out my knees for her. Pleading with God to help her. This Easter, she is happily engaged, and will marry come June. What a difference a year makes. Isn’t this what we say? But is it really the year that makes the difference?
Or has God made the difference because we prayed?
I’ll leave this question with you.
Happy Easter my friends.