1. Don’t Turn Family Pets into Easter Decorations

For most God-fearing Christians, Easter is the anniversary of Christ being risen from the grave. A day to celebrate victory from death. The stone rolled away! The tomb was empty!

For me, it’s the anniversary of when our cat ran away.

Claren (originally named “Clara” until we found out that “she” was actually a “he”) was an all-white cat we inherited from a family friend. My father, slain in what I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, thought that his fluffy white fur needed to be spiffed up for the day of resurrection.

Before riding to church, clad in our Sunday best, I was greeted by the image of my joyous Dad running after this cat with a thick, round stick of baby blue jumbo chalk screaming, “EASTER KITTY! EASTER KITTY!” It’s a memory burned deeply in the crevices of my childhood.

Try as we may–through many open cans of tuna and apologies–we never did quite resurrect our relationship with Claren that Easter Sunday. The last I saw of Claren was his hind-haunches zipping away as quickly as possible. Blue as a baby blanket.

2. Keep All of Your Books

“Ugh! What’s in these boxes? They’re so heavy!” I complained to my mom.

She and I were organizing boxes from the attic into the moving truck; getting ready for our move to the new house a few miles up the street. There we were, sweating and hunching our shoulders to fit underneath the beams holding up the house. Among the smell of the old, tangy brass of my mom’s trumpet and my dad’s flute. Both instruments were artifacts from my parents’ high school marching band days.

“They’re probably your father’s books,” Mom said, crouching over to get a better view of the half a dozen heavy boxes.

I lifted the top of the box I was holding, uncovering the lid of several dusty books.

“English majors,” Mom said with a smile and a playful roll of her eyes.

Dad had studied English at the University of Virginia. And though the classics lined our shelves in the living room–along with cooking books and historic accounts of the Revolutionary War–there were still boxes and boxes of the lovely words Dad studied in college stored away.

I pushed the tips of my fingers on each of the books, lifting their spines so I could read the titles of each one. If being an English major meant keeping all of your books, I could totally get on board.

Since graduating with my own English degree, I’ve moved three times, and during each move my family makes the same sort of low-grumbles I made that day, complaining about how heavy the boxes always are–the grumbles that sound like the thuds of the covers of books closing.

Their exasperation was heightened when they discovered I had run out of shelf space for them in my tiny-one bedroom place and had begun storing them in my kitchen cabinets.

3. Just Be Still and Know

“It’s time to ‘hollah’ for your challah!” Dad would say to all of us as he burst through the swinging back door. He does this every late Friday afternoon. It was his end-of-the-workweek tradition to bring home a loaf of fresh challah, a bread braided with dried fruit and nuts, from the local Jewish bakery.

Eating this bread with my dad helped me learn about the traditions of the Jewish faith. Not the faith of my family, but a faith which we–as members of the Church Body, members of the Christian faith–all respected and vaguely admired.

I couldn’t quite explain why, but my heart was woven a little into that challah bread. Its influence like yeast running through my veins, causing my curiosity and respect to rise.