There was a holiday in the middle of the week this week, and always, without fail, whenever I hear that word “holiday” I automatically think of “celebration”. Even if I didn’t usually do that, my mind would have gone there this week because for our family, from the end of June through the tenth of July the days are, to quote the title of one of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon volumes, “just packed”. There are four birthdays, (one a major milestone this year), a wedding anniversary, and a once-in-a-lifetime entertainment experience. Out of town family members will be here to celebrate with us, and we shoehorned in a July 4th cookout as well.
Celebration is a challenge for me, though. I wind up getting sidetracked by “what ifs” and sucked into my to-do list, succumbing to the tyranny of the tasks at hand rather than allowing myself space and time to simply “be” and enjoy the moment. And since Bill has been gone all of our holidays and occasions are bittersweet, another reminder of his absence and how much we miss him.
I know, in my head, how important it is (regardless of and sometimes because of my circumstances) to daily cultivate celebration and all the things like joy and gratitude that go along with it. In fact, I regularly said that very thing to the couples whose weddings I performed when I was a pastor.
“…Don't forget to celebrate,” I reminded them. “Celebration isn't just for weddings and babies and birthdays and anniversaries. Celebration is for every day. If you lose celebration - if you lose joy - then life becomes hum-drum and all the things that once held great importance and significance to you can become meaningless and easily ignored or discarded.
“…And just like love, celebrating is something you will have to make a conscious decision to do. Even when there are days when you realize that the only thing you had to celebrate in the last 24 hours or so was the fact that you could drag yourself out of bed that morning under your own power, that is still something to acknowledge and be grateful for. Every day of your life is a miraculous gift from God and it is not to be taken lightly; it is to be shared and honored and celebrated…”
When the Israelites returned from exile and heard Ezra read from the Book of the Law, they were overcome with weeping. Nehemiah reminded them of the importance of celebration.
“…Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength…” Nehemiah 8:10, NIV
I’m working on taking my own advice and trying to make friends with celebration these days. Even if I’m not feeling it, I try, as my friend Jen suggests in her Instagram videos, to find just one small thing to be grateful for. If I have difficulty doing that, seeing the amazing sunrise and sunset photos my friend Cindy posts almost always does the trick.
I’ve enjoyed the celebrations we’ve had this week, and I’m so looking forward to those yet to come. But I think the other thing I need to do is get to know some of my neighbors a bit better and take some lessons from them. When I was walking on Thursday morning, I saw, in the driveway of one of the houses on the west side of the neighborhood, a mariachi band warming up and getting ready to serenade. I don’t know what they were celebrating, but these people certainly know how to do it and I’m sure the occasion – whatever it was – was memorable!
What are you celebrating today? Getting out of bed? A milestone or an awesome once-in-a-lifetime event? A birthday or anniversary? Just a regular day on this side of the flower bed?
And how are you celebrating today? What one small thing will you do to honor the day and what you accomplished? How will you include celebration, joy, and gratitude in your daily round? Will you listen to a mariachi band? Enjoy your favorite beverage? Do something fun? Set aside time for solitude? Spend quality time with family or friends? Read a great book?