The Power of Ordinary Celebrations
"This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)
Funny the way some childhood memories are etched in pinpoint clarity against the Impressionist background of our years. There’s one memory whose significance I never question; its setting was a blustery Sunday evening in the midst of a very dreary March. I know exactly why it remains so deeply etched in my thoughts, for in a dark, windy moment, I (Sarah) glimpsed the power of ordinary celebration — workaday beauty — to invade and redeem a moment of possible despair.
To set the scene: a small, brick house in Texas, my mom wrapped in a sweater at the open front door, waving to my dad as his car, headlights eerie in the light rain, pulled away from us into the night. My three younger siblings pressed against her, waving too. I stood slightly behind, reserved in my new on-the-cusp-of-adulthood self-consciousness, quiet because of the dread that unexpectedly filled my heart.
I was just old enough to perceive this was a difficult moment for my mom. On this, the fourth Sunday of its kind, she was waving goodbye to my dad as he left again for five days of work at a distance too far to cover each evening. We wouldn’t see him again until Friday.
The keeping, feeding and entertaining of four children was in her lone hands — as was the housework, the driving to lessons, the making of meals. Beyond this was the fact of my baby sister’s nocturnal asthma and the newly diagnosed health condition that caused Mom to become intensely dizzy at the most inopportune of moments.
I was freshly aware of the fact that life can be very hard, not in dramatic ways, but in small, daily realities. The ripening of adulthood had stolen the blessed innocence that is the gift of childhood. I was aware of myself as confronting something, responsible for grappling with it in a way I never had been before. I had no idea what to do.
From behind, I surveyed my mother’s shoulders, saw the momentary sag as my sister asked to be carried with sweet, clutching little hands. I couldn’t see Mom’s face, but I waited, sure that when she turned I would behold a set of tired eyes or a resigned face that would mean a hushed evening, an early bedtime and maybe a strained week to come.
I heard the sigh as my mother firmly closed the front door. She turned. "I think we need a party tonight. Cookies, burgers and a movie. We can pile on my bed and have an indoor picnic."
I think I smiled, but I was too startled for it to be much more than a wondering half-smile at first. My mom certainly smiled, patting each of my brothers on the head. The boys cheered. Three-year-old Joy clapped her little hands. And the moment of farewell — that wistful, slightly frightening moment of watching my dad depart — was transformed by one sentence into a moment of possibility.
As everyone moved toward the kitchen, my mom put her hand on my arm. "It’s going to be a good week, Sarah. Don’t worry. Would you make the cookies?"
The rest of the evening passed in what can only be described as merriment. There was plenty of sibling squabbling and jostling for the prized seat next to my mom. But there were also our favorite cheeseburgers, fresh oatmeal crispies and lemonade in the gem-toned plastic sippy cups whose battered presence was constant throughout my childhood. There was an old Haley Mills movie and a raucous amount of shouted laughter with a bedtime a little too late after an evening enjoyed to the hilt.
And there was a next morning — still rainy, still gray, still March at its worst, but all of us with filled hearts from the celebration the night before.
In looking back at that memory, it remains with me because that moment profoundly shaped the way I encounter the difficult ordinary of life in a fallen world.
Nearly 20 years later, I am deeply aware of the gift my mother gave me when the face she turned to a moment of real despair was one of hope.
In her choice that night, she modeled what it means to look at life in a fallen world, every day, and meet it with a creative joy born of the Holy Spirit.
Sweet Father, help me see in each day the possibility of bringing Your joy into every moment that Your presence can be reflected daily through my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 4:11b, " … I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (NASB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What choices do you make to bring joy into the challenging moments of your life?
What heart attitude gets in the way of choosing to celebrate life in your home?