In reflecting on my year, I wrote down four main things that I felt I had learned:
- What you bring into a space matters (I read the quote “I bring my own weather to the picnic” recently and I.am.obsessed.)
- Hard doesn’t mean wrong (do what scares you)
- Ask for what you need (we are all a little needy and that’s okay)
- Celebration is a necessity
I know the year taught me even more than that, but it has been fun to explore and expand on these the last month. And, this last one is probably my favorite. My RA team from last year knows exactly where this is going. God gave me the word celebration as part of my vision for my team and our area this past year. I would say it will possibly be the thing that sticks with all of us more than anything else.
Celebration can be really easy; when everything is going right and exactly how we want the natural response is to celebrate. We are kind of obsessed with recognizing those things in our lives: birthdays, engagements, pregnancies, gender reveals, and so on (did it even really happen if we didn’t post a picture?!).
But what about in the midst of the hard stuff? Or even just the day to day, normal, mundane stuff? We are still invited to celebrate. Even in the hard, it is still an important response.
So as a team this past year we made it a practice. We asked, “What are you celebrating right now?” and then essentially screamed our faces off in celebration for each other. Choosing to celebrate the good happening for others can be difficult, especially when things are hard for us.
It is sanctifying to choose to believe that good in someone else’s life isn’t threatening to you. I for sure am still struggling to do that for some of my friends.
One of my favorite song lyrics of all time is from Amanda Cook’s song “Heroes.” She sings, “You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment.” I don’t think there is a better picture of celebration than that. We have to choose to dance, to scream, to laugh, to celebrate, even, especially, in the face of hardships and difficulty.
Do not get me wrong, there is room and time for grief and processing the hard. But I think choosing to celebrate is maybe part of the process. It is healing. Choosing to celebrate is saying I believe in God’s goodness apart from my circumstances. I choose JOY regardless of what life tells me to feel. I believe that people are good, that love exists, and there is enough hope to go around. Celebration helps us recognize that good in life is not a limited resource. IN FACT – I believe the more that we practice this, the more of it exists.
One of my highlights of this year was throwing a giant “birthday” party with my RAs for all of our Residence Life teams. We wanted to share our love for celebration and so we invited them to a birthday party and told them to wear what they would have worn to a birthday party as a child. (Think overalls, jerseys, pajamas, etc.) We had games, snacks, cake, and stations to practice celebration in specific ways. They wrote encouraging notes to each other, listed what they were thankful for, and shared what they each were celebrating in their lives that week. We ended our time with communion because what Jesus did for us on the cross deserves to be celebrated. It is the greatest gift we have ever been, and will ever be, offered.
I came out of this year really hoping one thing: that I would be a person known for celebration. That people would feel celebrated by me, that they would walk away from being with me believing that who they are as a person is enough. That I would help them know that they are loved and celebrated exactly as they are and that life is a beautiful and fun adventure.
I have realized a very specific but real pet peeve of mine since working at a college: gloom and doom commencement speakers. Stay with me here. You have the chance to speak to hundreds of students who just completed several years of hard work and have earned a degree. They are dressed to the nines and have full hearts ready to enter into the “real” world. And what do most people choose to say to them? Life is hard, this world is against you, be prepared. It is going to be a fight and you’re going to be discouraged.
Are you kidding me? This is incredibly frustrating to me because there is just no better time than that to tell people this world is full of beautiful opportunities, life is a miracle and a gift, and you get to choose how you will steward that. Do it well! And also, enjoy it! If we cannot choose celebration on graduation day, how the heck will we ever choose it on any other day?
I want to be the kind of person that recognizes the gifts all around us in life, who dances upon disappointment, who is not weighed down or defeated by the challenges and bad days.
I truly believe there is always something to celebrate, and always JOY to be found. And that celebration, in this life and the next, is an absolute necessity.