This picture was taken almost 28 years ago on Easter Sunday. It was the most beautiful day. The sun was shining, and the birds were chirping. I can even remember folding my lace-trimmed socks down over my white patent leather shoes. It is one of my new favorite pictures of our family - for so many reasons. The first reason being my mom's hair! I was too young back then to actually realize how big it was (and I think it got bigger as time went on), but this picture definitely proves that big hair in the 80's was a very REAL thing. (Side note: James' suspenders and saddle shoes are also quite amazing).

The second reason I love this picture is because Amanda is in it. She was actually born in the town where this picture was taken. The news of my mom's pregnancy with Amanda was such a complete shock, and yet Amanda was (and continues to be) THE perfect addition to our family. From the moment she was born, we NEVER stopped talking about how incomplete our family would have been without her - and the reality that she is gone is a glaring reminder of just how incomplete our family is without her presence. It definitely makes me so thankful for Easters like this one - for sunny mornings and chirping birds, for white lace socks and saddle shoes, for smiling faces and family pictures, for Amanda Grace.

The third reason I love this picture is because it was taken in front of the church where I first heard about Jesus. I will never forget hearing my pastor speak an Easter message on Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. For the very first time in my life, I heard the INCREDIBLE life-changing story of what Jesus did for ME. I didn't understand it all completely at that time, but even at a young age, I was able to grasp the magnitude of what Jesus did for me: He came to this earth. He DIED for my sin. He was buried and three days later ROSE again. And He conquered DEATH, so that I could have a relationship with HIM and receive the free and precious gift of eternal life. I was FORGIVEN. I was SAVED from death and promised life eternal with Jesus in heaven.

The Easter story means so much more to me today than it ever has before. I'm no less thankful for what Jesus did for me, but I have a fresh and renewed perspective of what Jesus came to this earth to accomplish. For the first time in my life, I understand the painful sting of death. For the first time in my life, I understand that we aren't promised tomorrow. For the first time in my life, I am overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus DEFEATED death and has prepared a home for us in heaven. Amanda lived her entire life for Jesus. She knew her true need of a Savior. At a young age, she asked Jesus to forgive her, to save her, and she has been living for Him passionately ever since. As I write this, my heart is pounding out of my chest as I think about Amanda being at the feet of Jesus THIS EASTER - getting to thank Him face-to-face for the gift of her salvation. What a powerful reminder of what Easter is all about. ____________________

The Ground Began to Shake. The Stone was Rolled Away. His PERFECT LOVE Could Not Be Overcome. Now Death Where is Your Sting? Our RESURRECTED KING Has Rendered you DEFEATED.

FOREVER He is Glorified. FOREVER He is Lifted High. FOREVER He is RISEN. HE Is Alive, HE IS ALIVE.

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