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FIRST-PERSON: Looking through a different lens

ATLANTA (BP)–They weren’t typical Easter suits. As a matter of fact, other than the bright yellow and floral design, they could hardly be called suits in any sense of the word, except they were indeed bathing suits, destined for my almost-grown children’s collection of beachwear.

The irony struck me as I shopped for goodies to place in the kids’ makeshift baskets on the eve before Easter Sunday. I paused long enough to feel some small pangs of guilt for having planned our entire spring break trip without any thought of its intersection with Easter. Stoically I acted as if I had remembered it all along and had planned some glorious, reverent undertaking for the next morning. In reality, I hadn’t thought much past loading up the car and heading to the shore.

That in itself proved almost to be our undoing. After loading our daughter’s three college-sized suitcases into the trunk of our Buick, it was easy to see that the rest of the family would have to pack very conservatively and use the smallest duffels and totes available. Even then, the bag with 100-plus papers I needed to grade and my husband’s laptop computer would have to ride up front along with smaller backpacks and assorted food items.

Watching my husband bounce the car to fit the colorful beach towels in the trunk, I held my breath and casually glanced to the side of the garage. There they were. The few, the proud — my husband’s golf clubs that were to make this trip bearable for even the most non-beach types.

It took me 21 years to plan what I had considered the family dream trip — with limited means, of course. I thought I had planned everything out carefully, renting a condo right on the beach and near golf courses, making sure my 19-year old son took off work to be with us and arranging for our 20-year old daughter to ride out with us and then fly back to school when her spring break ended.

I suppose my stomach began to ache when I realized I forgot about all the luggage. I didn’t think about it being Easter weekend. I didn’t anticipate everyone being so tired after a long week at work. And I certainly didn’t plan on not having any ideas for Easter morning.

Covering my hand with his, my husband finally broke the cloudy atmosphere that developed in the car on the way to South Carolina. Beginning our six-hour trip with humor, he seemed content to just let our time together unfold. That’s when I realized that I was the one with the expectations, when everyone else was taking it a step at a time.

Days later, on the beach, I began to see things a little more clearly. Trying to focus while taking a picture of a seagull, I followed him down shore until he was hopping in and out of the surf. Snapping along happily with an SLR camera for a time, I finally switched to a digital camera with a variety of views. What a difference it made!

All of a sudden, what had been an ordinary picture of a seagull scrambling in the waves became a work of art, with a seagull strolling and contemplating its own reflection in the surf. The sight made my hands tremble and brought me almost to tears, but is one I will hold forever in the scrapbook of my mind.

How like us. In the crisp breeze of the day, I thought of how exciting it is to get a different perspective by looking through another lens or holding the camera vertically instead of horizontally.

How I needed the lesson for myself. Instead of dwelling on the what-ifs, like our trip represented to me, I could, instead, be grateful for the fact that in looking at our trip in a different light, I could see that all of us, our family, is resilient in ways I had not thought of.

There was my husband, who didn’t bat an eye about not getting to take his golf clubs — even though we were in the land of golf courses. My daughter, who had spent her spring break cleaning house, but was grateful for a few days together at the beach. My son, who had given up almost a week of work to spend time with his “aging” parents on the north side of the beach, which was almost bereft of college-age kids.

Most of all, though, I needed a fresh touch from God who reminded me that Easter is all about hope. It’s about great renewal and coming to life. It’s about rebirth and regeneration. Suits aside and chocolate bunnies notwithstanding, my perspective is renewed as I contemplate this spring through a different sort of lens.
Hannigan is a national correspondent for Baptist Press and a high school English and journalism teacher in the Atlanta area.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan