Straight from a Celebrating Heart
By Lisa Elliott
This past couple of months my family has been in celebration mode. My husband turned sixty in April. A milestone, to be certain! A month later, I followed suit. In the middle of that, we also celebrated my husband’s fortieth year since his call to pastoral ministry. I’ve had the privilege of sharing in all forty years of that, thirty-seven as his wife. Added up, it’s a collaborative full century of life and ministry. And that’s worth celebrating! Most of it is recorded in my newest book A Ministry Survival Guide: Straight from the Heart. However, seeing as we’re still alive and we’re still in ministry, it’s important to stop and celebrate the process.
To commence the celebrations, each of our children took their turns taking us out for a meal to celebrate our birthdays in their own ways. They also arranged a family reunion with my side of the family. Not only was it the first time in almost five years that I’ve had all of my children and grandchildren together, but it was also the first time my aging mom was together with all of us, including her own three children and spouses in well over seven years. In fact, it was the first time she’d ever been with all four of her great-grandchildren, who all live out of province. To say that it was a special time would be an understatement. There were a lot of missed moments worthy of redeeming. It was a moment in time to be seized and celebrated on every level and in every way. So that’s what we did!
We all saw it for the gift that it was. So, we seized the moment and squeezed every ounce of goodness we could. We hugged, we laughed, we cried, we ate, we played, we swam, we remembered, and we celebrated.
The next day, as part of our gift, our three children and their spouses arranged for us to have our first entire family photo shoot since before our son, Ben, died fourteen years ago. There are no words to describe the gift it was. They even brought a picture of him to include. I was thankful I found the ability to smile through the tears brimming in my heart throughout the experience.
The Bible is full of celebrations where joy and pain co-exist including festivals, victories, and times of remembrance. Nehemiah records a weeklong celebration after the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. “Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them” (Neh. 8:12, NIV). “The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great” (Neh. 8:17, NIV). “Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly” (Neh. 8:18, NIV). “At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres” (Neh. 12:27, NIV). In the book of Esther, Esther led the charge in celebrating the deliverance of the Jews after a plan for their annihilation, calling it the Feast of Purim. Luke 15 tells of a father celebrating the return of his prodigal. And of course, there is the Feast of the Lamb awaiting those who love the Lord when we all get to heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!
Each day is a gift to treasure as it will never be repeated. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Therefore, we need to celebrate today. Here’s how:
- Live in the moment. Choose to celebrate every moment as it comes; the good, the bad, and the in between. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10, NIV).
- Rejoice in ‘what is.’ Be thankful for what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4, NIV)
- Prepare for the unexpected. Life happens, no matter how hard we work to prevent or preserve it. We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands (Prov. 16:1, TLB).
- Keep your expectations realistic. When we live in the reality of life as it unfolds, rather than setting our hopes upon unpredictable circumstances. It protects us from regretting what could have been or resenting what we feel should have been. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:34, NIV).
- Reflect on God's faithfulness in the past. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lam. 3:23, NIV).
- Believe in God’s best for the future. “For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11, NIV).
- Seize the moment. Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect circumstances, waiting for a “someday” “sometime” that may never come. In the words of Mark Twain, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do (Prov. 6:4, NLT).
There’s a saying I’ve treasured in my heart since the death of my son, “Enjoy the little things in life. One day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” I’ve learned, especially since then, that life is too short to miss out on today. Therefore, live life as fully as possible in the gift of every moment you’re given, no matter what that moment may hold. Why wait until it’s too late? Take time today to celebrate—remembering God’s faithfulness, rejoicing in His goodness, and being thankful for His daily blessings, counting them day by day, moment by moment, and one by one.
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.