Hurricane Florence put a damper in our Joy Baby’s birthday plans. A minor thing I know in light of the devastation she reeked on my home state of North Carolina and our neighbors in South Carolina.
Who knew the Saturday we scheduled her second birthday would be the day everyone around here was hunkering down expecting the worst from a massive storm unlike the state has ever seen. Amazingly we were spared as Hurricane Florence skirted around us, dishing out just the outer edges of her wind and rain. While it felt like mercy, we sat and watched the news with heavy hearts for all those losing so much that day. And of course, Lily Joy’s birthday party didn’t happen that Saturday.
We rescheduled it to the following Saturday. As I geared up for the party, in the aftermath of one devastating news reports after another, I wondering, “Why am I even doing this? Maybe I should just cancel it altogether.”
You see we were already celebrating Lily Joy’s birthday 2 weeks after her actual birthday if it had happened on the weekend Flo decided to hit land. Pushing it back another week meant we would be celebrating her birthday almost a month after she turned 2. Her birthday was beginning to feel like a distant memory, and I felt a little silly to be honest, pushing through with it. It felt like a frivolous thing in light of what others were now struggling with so close to home.
But my Lily Joy kept talking about “my paw-tea.” For weeks she had been asking about it. Wondering when it was happening. And she kept asking. So we confirmed the change of date and carried on with the plan to party, to celebrate our Joy Baby.
As I prepared the day before the party to do all my decorating and cake making that day, I sat with Jesus that morning, telling him how silly I felt doing all this celebrating at this point, 3 weeks after her birthday, 1 week after one of the most devastating hurricane in North Carolina history. And to be honest, I could think of a million other things pressing on me to do to that day.
You know what he said to my heart that morning?
Janise, “Lily Joy is worth celebrating. And you are too, my dear one. Life, every life, is worth celebrating.”
And then God brought to mind a verse from Zephaniah 3:17, one of my favorite verses in Scripture…
Our God is a God who celebrates! Our God invented delight and joy and celebration!
From the festivals and feasts he commanded his people to enjoy throughout the seasons of the year (Leviticus 23), to David making a fool of himself by dancing in celebration behind the ark of the covenant (2 Sam 6:14, 21), to Jesus making sure that wine didn’t run out at a wedding so people could keep partying (John 2:1-11), to the Father who celebrates the return of his long lost son with a party (Luke 16:11-32), to the God who will one day be host to the biggest feast of all times (Isaiah 25:6, Luke 14:12-24, Rev 19:6-9) … our God is a God who likes to party!
Did you know God does a happy dance over you!? When our God looks at you dear friend, he swells with delight, he breaks out in the biggest grin, he gets so happy he can barely contain himself as he sings loud with joy over you… at least that’s how I interpret Zephaniah 3:17. Our God delights in you. He celebrates you and your life.
Not only does he celebrate us, but our God encourages us to look for and notice the joys and delights in our lives and he invites us to celebrate them.
Celebration is a way we set our hearts on joy. Celebration is a way we respond in thanksgiving to the good gifts around us. Celebration is a way we partake in the very nature of our God.
Despite our circumstances or our feelings in the moment, there is goodness around us. Celebration is a way that we choose to recognize the goodness in our midst even in the hard. Celebration does not depend on perfect circumstances or even happy feelings. In fact, the choice to celebrate may be a defiant stance in the face of the hard, a declaration that despite what we are facing in our lives, there is good in it and God is there and present.
You know what happened to me in the midst of preparing to celebrate my Joy Baby’s birthday, as I made her cake and hung banners and printed and displayed pictures of the first 2 years of her life? You know what happened? I become overwhelmed with the goodness of the unexpected gift she has been in my life. I felt a surge of joy and thanksgiving that God gave us this precious child, a child that would not have been a part of my plan if it had been up to me. I felt like doing the happy dance over her.
And did we celebrate her! With capes and cake and candles and singing, we celebrated delightful, wonderfully made her.
Our Lily Joy keeps talking about her “paw-tea.” Even today she asked about her party. I said, “We already had your party Lily Joy. Your party is over.”
Her response: “More paw-tea”
I think my Lily Joy has the right idea. More party. More celebrating in life. More looking around and seeing the goodness and taking a moment to delight in and give thanks for it all.
Friends, let’s party!
Ways to engage in the Discipline of Celebration:
- Who in your life brings you joy? Is there a way you can celebrate them this week… a note, an invitation to coffee, some flowers on their doorstep?
- For what are you thankful for right now? Is there a way to engage in celebration over it? A Fall party in celebration of cooler weather? Having a spur of the moment dance party with your kids? Enjoying the sweet gifts of ice cream or a walk outside as you thank God for the goodness of his creation.
- And don’t forget to consider how God loves and delights in you. Read Zephaniah 3:17. Then be still and listen for the ways that God celebrates you!