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Easter: When You Feel Broken Behind Your Smiles

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I just finished reading an encouraging post by Jacque Watkins about heartbreak at Easter. Jacque’s words met me here in this mess yet again. When I thought I was the only one hurting, the only one feeling broken – I was reminded that not every smiling face is what it seems.

behind the smiles 1

To see our “Resurrection Day” pictures, you would think our Easter was like everyone else’s: celebrating the Risen Savior and the gift of the resurrection, the pinnacle of our faith as Christians and the reason we have hope – all amidst balmy spring weather, fresh flowers, and pastel colors.

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In reality, by the time I got done snapping the few photos I took, I wished I hadn’t bothered.

Somewhere around 6:45 A.M., Ezra knocked on our door and scared the living daylights out of my husband, who jumped out of bed yelling in panic. The day just went downhill from there.

broken easter

Anxiety was high all the way around. Everyone was tense and everyone’s nerves were rubbing everyone the wrong way.

Ezra was less than cooperative and Russ was annoyed and I felt naive for even trying to attempt something so normal like…say…family photos on a holiday.

broken easter

When we finally made it to church, ten minutes late, we were all on edge.

And then there was a screaming baby in the nursery.

Russell’s fists were clenched and he was frozen and he was about to lose it. I grabbed his hand and rushed toward the door and took him to the auditorium with me where he could sit alone in the pews while our choir practiced the Easter program.

Once the program was over, I was drained. Depleted. I’m sure the sermon was fabulous, but we were both struggling to stay awake. And in the moments when I wasn’t, I couldn’t focus because I was angry.

On the way home I scrolled through a Facebook news feed of happy families, Easter egg hunts, and post after post praising God and the Risen Savior and I just felt nothing…nothing, that is, except the guilt and anger toward myself that I didn’t feel anything.

All I could think about was how much I wish our life could be like thatnormal. Where a family enjoys a holiday because it’s not riddled with anxiety, fighting, and exhaustion. Where I could freely worship and feel praise within my heart for the God that I know I love…instead of being too tired and frustrated to feel anything but apathy toward the most important holiday on the calendar.

I was really thankful that we didn’t have church in the evening because it gave us time to rest and relax…we went to the park, which turned stressful when Ezra was less than cooperative and Russ didn’t understand why. It ended when Ezra threw mulch at me.

On the way home from the park, I buried myself in a game of Spider Solitaire on my phone because I was just over it…over this day. Angry. Ashamed at myself and my anger and my apathy and just wishing that things weren’t this way.

I went to bed frustrated and was so glad to let sleep overtake me.

Today has been better. Much better. Busy and exhausting but in the best ways. We enjoyed family time at the zoo and other fun stuff and I ended the day feeling like I can live this life another day.

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Acceptance of our “normal” even though it might not look like the “normal” of others.

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So when I read these words, tears welled up within my eyes and I knew they were written for me.

These words encouraged me in my Easter brokenness. And I want you to be encouraged too. Because, I think for as many people as might be shocked by my ugly honesty, I’m guessing there might be just as many people who needed to hear that they aren’t alone in brokenness and heartbreak and struggle to worship.

Dear one who feels broken at Easter:

“Wherever you find yourself this day after your resurrection celebration, may you know there is no wrecking you can’t survive.

No brokenness He can’t repair.

No sorrow in which He doesn’t join you.

And so very much miracle-working rebuilding ahead as you abide in Him.”

Behind the smiles: on wanting to be "normal" and having a broken Easter - encouragement for special needs parents or those struggling with anxiety

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27 Comments

  • Rachel Rogel

    I had a tough Easter too. Blogged about it, but I’m still trying to dig my way out of a terrible mood. I think it can be especially hard to be struggling at times that are supposed to be extra shiny and happy. Glad you had a better day today!

  • bunkie68

    My “normal” may be different than yours, but it also isn’t the “normal” of so many happy Facebook feed photos. My older son wasn’t here for Easter, he was with his dad. That’s hard. I wish it wasn’t so. I didn’t have a picture of my whole smiling family, dressed in their Easter best (and even if we were all here, the odds of me ever getting a photo of everyone smiling at once are slim to none!). My younger son (just turned 5) came to “big church” with me while my husband sang in the choir, and I spent a lot of the service worrying that people were giving us the stink eye every time he wiggled or laid on the floor looking for something he’d dropped, rather than worshiping God and praising Him for the reason we were there. It’s hard to come away from a service like that with praise in your heart and on your lips. Thank you for sharing. It’s good to know that neither of us are alone in our messes, whatever they may look like.

  • LeeAnn Taylor (@leeanngtaylor)

    Your honesty is refreshing and shares a glimpse into the “normal” that is most everyone’s lives…they just don’t put it out there like you’re willing to do. Rest assured that your transparency is encouraging others and that through the struggle there is growth and beauty and redemption.

  • Alexandra

    We had a rather…dysfunctional Easter as well. Combining sick kids (which meant no pretty Easter outfit pics on FB or church service) and stressful situations going on, it wasn’t picture perfect either. Thanks for sharing this.

  • beckydaye

    I read this after commenting on a picture of my kids and their cousins in a hot tub. My daughter was smiling, but behind the scenes? Well, we had a SCENE! Which resulted in her early departure from the hot tub. So, I understand!!!
    I don’t like that you have to go through this. At all. But this was written so beautifully, so honestly. And you are so right- there are so many who can relate and this message is an important and powerful one. So thankful that today was a good one! I’ve been praying for you and I think the world of you.
    And that last picture of your family- just beautiful! So, you are not naive and that picture WILL be treasured in years to come when the anxiety and frustrations are but a distant memory. That is my prayer!

    • Aprille

      Aww thank you so much Becky. I was so happy with how the pictures turned out once I got them on my computer. I know the boys where just annoyed but I love seeing our family grow and smile in spite of the struggle. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    Sigh. This was my day too. Different reasons. Not entirely blown out but issues that need mending and only the Great Mender of the huge Chasm can mend…it’s why He came. As Beth Moore puts it, “Jesus came for the ugly life.”. Yours, mine, ours. Amen. He’s still risen…yes? Yes! Love you girl.

  • Meg Melnik

    Aprille,
    You are not alone! My daughter yelled at screamed at me during our extended family’s Easter dinner. Why did she yell and scream? My elbow had bumped into her. My mother, who was trying to smooth the frustration away, laughed and said “Oh Hope, you’re okay.” This only resulted in more screaming and anger. Hope has autism and is overly sensitive to touch. And so, we try not to brush lightly up against her skin, because this light brush is what she says “makes me feel like ants are crawling on me”. Yet, on this day the table was tightly packed with people and brushing up against one another was hard to avoid. Everyone in my family knows that Hope has these difficulties. And they all try to be understanding when she is overwhelmed. But, sometimes I wonder if they too wish that she was “normal”.

    I certainly understand your anger and frustration at “not being normal”. My brother’s wife and his two children were also at this Easter dinner. My brother’s children sat beautifully, ate all their vegetables, participated in polite conversation and definitely did not yell and scream. Oh how I wished my daughter could be just as “normal” as these other kids. Thank you so very much for your honesty. I hope you’re able to enjoy a quiet moment or two today. God bless, Meg

    • Aprille

      Meg, I really loved hearing from your perspective of the mother of a girl with autism. It’s different circumstances but definitely relatable! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    So thankful that our Jesus not only died and rose for us, but lived like us through frustrations and being misunderstood and rejected by the people He came to save, the very people who should have recognised Himand welcomed Him called Him a fraud, hated and wanted Him dead. He suffered all that so He could understand our weaknesses and frustrations and then died and rose again to give us the the strength we need to clain His victory. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Can I be an ” extra” Rubies prayer partner for you?

    • Aprille

      Thank you so much for these words. I think I needed them more today than I did on Sunday. I tend to forget that Jesus was and is probably the most misunderstood person of all time.

      And yes on being an extra partner for me…although, your name didn’t come through, so who is this? 🙂

  • Stacey Daze

    Sweet girl. Those days certainly to exist in our life, and personally I have given up on whatever normal is. I wonder if it really exists or if we all just try to pretend. But then maybe there are a few who really do hit that point. I feel guilty in the daily wavering, much less the Easter wavering. I may have just made that word up. Or used it incorrectly. I hope you know what I meant. Thank you for sharing your brave honesty!

    • Aprille

      Ah yes…the wavering. Love that.

      Normal is just setting on the washer and dryer I think. I know other people’s lives are not always what they seem, but sometimes in the moment, it’s hard to forget and feel like you are the only one struggling.

  • Katie {Wonderfully Made}

    “I think for as many people as might be shocked by my ugly honesty, I’m guessing there might be just as many people who needed to hear that they aren’t alone in brokenness and heartbreak and struggle to worship.” I fall into the latter category and want to thank you for being honest! Our family has been unable to attend church for the past 6 months because it is so upsetting for our son. Your words encourage me and all of us who, in spite of our best efforts, are struggling to worship in the midst of challenges beyond our control.

  • Carolyn Astfalk

    I know so well not feeling how you’re *supposed* to feel. That’s me so much of the time, especially in church when we’ve struggled (and argued) to get there close to on-time then spend 90% of the time distracted by the kids’ behavior.

    I like to think that God understands and appreciates our efforts. After all, it’s easy to be happy and pious when everything is perfect and running smoothly. When our prayer is an act of will instead of feeling, how much more it’s worth!

    Easter blessings! Thank you for linking up your Easter post!

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