After seeing the arbor my husband built, covered in silk flowers that I snagged from the local thrift store, our neighbors asked if we were hosting a wedding that weekend. Shocked, but undeterred, I answered enthusiastically, “Nope, it’s just our daughter’s third birthday!”
Nothing felt more normal than turning our backyard into an English garden fit for the Queen in order to celebrate our daughter and her favorite book, Mrs. Fanny’s Hats. At the party, every child got their own Kentucky Derby-worthy headpiece, and we even had my mother-in-law come dressed as Mrs. Fanny.
Until seeing it from another person’s perspective, my interpretation of a toddler’s birthday didn’t seem over the top. So I had to ask myself, “Why was it so important for every event to feel like the opening night of a Broadway play?”
I came to realize that, in the words of Shelby Latcherie from Steel Magnolias, “I would rather have thirty minutes of something wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”
Reconciled to the fact that “the-bigger-the-bash-the-better” mentality might just be how God made me, I also discovered that biblically, there is a great precedent for “making much ado” about a person or event of significance.
In fact, there are seven feasts that the Lord laid out specifically for His children.
Passover — Leviticus 23:4-8
Unleavened Bread — Leviticus 23:6
First Fruits — Leviticus 23:10
Feast of Weeks or Pentecost — Leviticus 23:16
Feast of Trumpets — Leviticus 23:24
Day of Atonement — Leviticus 16, 23:26-32
Feast of Tabernacles or Booths — Leviticus 23:34
The Lord knew the Israelites would get sidetracked and forget to stop and revere all that He faithfully did for them. These festivals incited days of rejoicing, as well as marking significant moments of remembrance.
In both the Old and New Testament, there’s evidence of observances commemorating the “something wonderfuls” God ordained.
“’Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.” – Exodus 5:1 NIV
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house… Luke 5:29 NIV
On this mountain, the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples… Isaiah 25:6 NIV
Let’s also not forget that Jesus’ first reported flexing of miracle muscle appeared at a wedding. You can’t get much more celebratory than that.
But, you don’t have to be Jesus or even Shelby to incorporate more jubilee in your family’s life.
What does cultivating a life of celebration require?
1. Appearing goofy to the outside world.
In 2016, the word the Lord gave me for the year was DANCE because I had forgotten how to dance like King David with full abandon before the Lord. We naturally threw a costume dance party to celebrate. Not exactly a common sight for folks in their forties, but a needed release in my life.
2. Taking things one step further.
The year my daughters discovered Pocahontas, we studied Native American history, camped at a local campground and served traditional Indigenous food to their guests. Honoring a historical culture proved to be eye-opening and great fun.
3. Being vulnerable.
Our birthday traditions include guests sharing what they love about the person being celebrated. Then, the recipient of all the praise has to share what they love about themselves. At first, one friend found it difficult to say something good about herself. Four years later, she now confidently lists her greatest attributes and what the Lord has done through her that year.
A life of celebration is not about glorifying human beings, but rather acknowledging ~ with a bit of fanfare ~ the gloriously beautiful lives we’ve been given by our Creator.
Celebrating with you,
Denise C. McDowell