When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go. –Alexandra Stoddard
Never, EVER, did I think I would be writing about a midwest BBQ chain and Easter Sunday. Yet, here I am. This goes to show two things…first, that the cliché holds true (again): Never say never. And second. that convenient, tasty, family style BBQ is perfectly acceptable as a go-to meal for ANY holiday or celebration (and in our family’s case, especially religious ones!)
For the past six years we have “dined” at Famous Dave’s on Easter Sunday. Okay, I know it’s not fine dining. Yes, I am aware that they are a paper napkin establishment (gasp!) And I understand that French fries are not typical Easter dinner fare. (Glad we got all that out of the way 🙂 ) Still, I think Famous Dave’s is just as good a place as any to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a Spencer family tradition that’s often met with puzzling looks, stammering comments and even a little pity. But that’s okay. We like Famous Dave’s and we especially like the reason we ended up there in the first place (insert sappy background music here….)
In 2009, my husband was called to lead what I will politely label a “broken” church. You see the pastor had decided to leave our denomination and he additionally took the congregation with him. For whatever reasons, all that was left were about a dozen people, loads of tech equipment and a lot of questions. This clearly would not be easy. And, did I mention this was Steve’s first senior pastor appointment? Despite the best efforts of many, the prayers of many more and the sheer broken-heartedness of the situation, a decision was made to close down the church. All of this took place in a matter of weeks. It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. So here’s the worst part…the last worship celebration for this now defunct church would be on Easter Sunday. (I can hardly type these words!) CLOSING A CHURCH ON EASTER. (There really should be a law against such a thing!) I could barely stomach the idea. I thought of the church members who stayed behind. Those who wanted to restructure and carry on. And all those who put their heart and soul into trying to make this church a healthy, functioning place of worship. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Much work went into that final worship celebration. First, there was the cleaning. Since worship would be held in the church’s youth building, couches had to be moved, chairs brought in and EVERYTHING had to be wiped down. The sound system was reconfigured, light bulbs were replaced and a small room was readied to serve as a nursery. A sweet woman who had hoped for a different outcome for her church set aside her sorrow and assembled Easter baskets for any children who would arrive on Sunday morning. With just a few musicians, songs were selected to praise a newly risen King. My husband crafted a sermon of hope and promise…in the midst of all of the responsibilities of closing a church. It was a sad and rainy morning. I felt like God was weeping right along with us.
But if you know how the Easter story ends…then you know that there are no limits to what our Great Creator can do! As worship came to a close, the sun and the SON broke through! The rain moved out and although we closed the doors on that final worship celebration, what we didn’t know was that God was already opening another. It was almost three o’clock in the afternoon when we left the church parking lot that day. Our children, ages 7 and 4 at the time, were tired and hungry. In the midst of all that was going on we neglected to make lunch plans…and that’s how we ended up at Famous Dave’s.
The restaurant was practically empty. The lunch crowd was gone, the wait staff looked spent and here walks in this family of four…dressed in now wrinkled Easter wear, tired and clearly saddened. We crawled into what would be called our Easter booth…to be honest, while we always sat in a booth on these occasions it wasn’t the same booth every time–and that was okay. Steve ordered ribs, I ordered the baked potato with chili and the kiddos put in their request for chicken strips and fries. Then we waited. Not just for food, but for everything. We honestly didn’t know where we would land…although we knew it would be another church, most likely in another town. And yet somehow, in that little booth our spirits lifted. The children made us laugh and we counted our blessings. We were together and life was in fact GOOD! There was safety and warmth in those comfy, red seats. The little kids’ menus reminded us that at Famous Dave’s we’re all P.I.G.s…Pretty Important Guests! I liked the thought of that and when the meal arrived, we prayed. The food tasted extra delicious that day, too–satisfying in a way that I cannot explain. An afternoon at Famous Dave’s was just what we needed.
Obviously, we kept going back. Steve was appointed to a new church in a nearby suburb and our Easter lunch plans practically wrote themselves. After a busy Holy Week and all its activities, we found a sanctuary at the east side’s Famous Dave’s restaurant. The pig-themed decorations, the fishing signs and decals, and those red colored booths–we loved it all! I have several photos of our kids in their cute, little Easter outfits posing with their Daddy for our annual Easter pic. Good times. Blessed times. Necessary times…but as you can guess, “the times they are a-changing” (thanks, Bob Dylan.) Famous Dave’s closed this past fall…and the Spencer family DID NOT find out about it until January 😦
Holy Week has arrived again and the question on everyone’s mind is “where are we going to eat Easter lunch?” I don’t have any answers. I have tried to coordinate just how long it will take us to drive to the nearest Famous Dave’s (too long unfortunately.) I’ve looked into dining at other BBQ establishments. I’ve tried to sell myself on the idea of having Mexican food on Easter (it’s not working.) I’ve even thought about preparing and cooking a meal myself (and if you know me, then you know this is a desperate thought!) The reality is we’ve lost our Easter booth, but we certainly haven’t lost Easter and all its promises. So tonight as I type this, I still have no clue what we will be doing for lunch. Somehow, though, I’ve gone past worry and fret to a place of “wait and see.” Not a flippant, inactive state, but rather an active, hopeful resolve. My husband and kids are not with me in this place. They want answers and our P.I.G. status back! But please, don’t feel bad for us…because I so clearly remember a gray, downcast day not so long ago when the sun and the SON came out. It’s Easter, everyone, and we KNOW how the story ends. I’m not sure if the booths will be red, but I know that wherever we end up we’ll be fed (in more ways than one)…and it WILL certainly be good!
Praying that the Holy Spirit moves you to worship this Easter Sunday and that you experience the hope and renewal that Christ Jesus offers to us each and every day. Amen.