As the summer comes to a close and the question of “what did you learn this summer,” is ever present in conversation, I have spent some time trying to wrap my head around the lessons God has taught me. While I process all the people and experiences that have helped me grow this summer, one idea that encapsulated a lot of what I have learned is how to recognize joy and celebrate well in community.
A great illustration of this is my recent half birthday, which started as a funny joke among the group but turned into something that has taught me a great deal about joy and celebration. As a group we had calculated our half birthdays together one evening after celebrating a few birthdays and anniversaries earlier in the summer. My half birthday fell during the duration of the beach project and to my surprise, after much joking and laughter, the group banded together to surprise me in celebrating my half birthday. This elaborate affair included a funny card, a cheesy balloon and even a half birthday cake. It was a proper celebration! I was absolutely blown away and blessed by the genuine celebration of this hilarious date.
I share this story not to make sure that now everyone knows and will celebrate my half birthday (August 6th) but to share what was a very helpful demonstration of the simplicity and joy found in celebration, even celebration of the ordinary. I felt so loved, seen, and appreciated to be celebrated even under the funny circumstance.
In many different ways, Covid has made the past year challenging and celebration has been something that has led to a lot of grief. There has been great loss and sadness over how different celebrations have traditionally looked. From weddings, to births, and even funerals, we’ve had to adjust our expectations as each celebration has been affected by Covid restrictions.
Yet I feel that this summer we have celebrated well, small though our community was. Celebration has been important to us because it helps us hold each other's successes (such as acceptances to schools and graduations) as well as express gratitude and appreciation for one another while growing deeper together.
At the beginning of this summer, John 15 prayed over me and beautifully described my hopes for the summer: abiding in God and learning how to be pruned in order to bear more fruit. As a group, we have lamented and held each other’s grief, but we’ve also experienced and held each other’s joy through intentional celebration. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” To abide in God, we must hold both joy and lament.
With this knowledge, we end our time together by intentionally celebrating the joy we’ve experienced.