If you’re just now reading for the first time, you can catch up in a little more detail on how over two years of trying for a baby has led to the discovery I’m not God, but that’s not a bad thing after all. Now, for the serious business of celebration…
I know a seventy year-old man who celebrates every time he throws a paper towel into the trash and doesn’t miss the waste can. I don’t mean an inward pat on the back, but an actual, outward fist pump. My husband, Trent, and I learned of his little ritual over dinner, and my first reaction was of course, how odd! I think he read my puzzled smile because he looked at me with twinkling eyes and said, “Honey, you’ve gotta learn how to celebrate everything.” I couldn’t help but wonder, as an incredibly successful business man, happily married for over forty years and with beautiful grandbabies to tout, what is this man doing celebrating paper towels?
You might be wondering too—-wondering what all of this has to do with me and fertility challenges and the frustrations that go along with it. I’ll get there. Apparently I write my blogs the same way I “disagree” with my husband. Two thousand words later, I finally get to the point. Bless his heart, and the hearts of all readers.
In the following weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about celebration. Was it the secret to this man’s seventy years young? And what did he mean when he told me I had to learn how to celebrate? I thought celebration was an event, an occurrence, and something that happened to me. I thought it was a circumstance. But a learned skill? That’s not how I’ve ever seen it. And quite frankly, at the time he told me to learn how to celebrate, I was nearly two years into wishing for a baby and not feeling in a particularly celebratory season of my life.
Despite it not totally making sense in my head, I decided I wanted to go forward with a celebration experimentation. I told myself for ten days I wasn’t allowed to complain, criticize, self-deprecate or sulk. Furthermore, I was going to celebrate anything and everything. A broken but bearable conversation in French? You betcha! Not having to use the GPS to navigate my neighborhood’s one way streets? A win!
It was two days in, and guess what I found out? Not only was I really bad at celebrating, I was terrible at seeing the bright side of trying for a baby. All of my thoughts and words were bathed in negativity and frosted with frustration. So I made a mental list of the pluses of waiting for a baby. I had to dig, but once I did, I found more than enough blessings in disguise.
And then I resolved to this: learning how to celebrate everything. I’ve come to realize celebration is a created response to our world as opposed to an event our surroundings serve on a platter. We choose celebration. We must learn how to do it. And here’s what it means for me in this season of life, but probably all seasons as well: First, God. Then, me. Then everyone else.
I told you before how I was frustrated with God. Celebrating Him didn’t seem logical. But it is, and not only that, it is necessary. I must celebrate a God who is writing my story differently than I ever thought it would be. Ultimately, He’s the author of my life and my future children’s lives, and although some of his gifts are yet to come, He’s given me plenty to celebrate right now. I don’t want to bring a baby into the word thinking it will be the end-all to my woes. I would be foolish to think a baby as the answer to bitterness. I want to bring a baby into this world celebrating the God who knit him/her together as well as the world around us. So I’ve changed my conversations with God. I’ve gotten rid of the pity and I’m going more for party, looking for anything and everything He’s gifted me to celebrate. Warm sun, a kind stranger, peace in the midst of disappointment, and that occasional good hair day. Every good and perfect gift is from God, and I’m a fool if I think a baby is His only present to be celebrated. Celebration is the secret to the softening of my soul as opposed to it’s hardening during the trying time of fertility struggles.
This is definitely my most difficult. The inability to have a child, to do something that in so many ways embodies the essence of being a woman, can have a terrible backlash on self-concept. Brokenness and shame have been two of my biggest battles. Aside from that, there is the fact that we, as a culture, are generally much better at picking women apart based on outer facade than honoring and embracing the inner fabric of who we really are. To celebrate self is all too often associated with conceit, when it is truly anything but. Celebrating the uniqueness in which we were crafted is the only way to construct the self-esteem required to live a selfless life, to truly celebrate others. I fight perfectionism and negative self-talk. You probably do too. When I look in the mirror, it’s a choice to see beauty over brokenness. It is a choice to see a marvelous work over simply a mother in want. It means choosing wholeness over pick-apart perfectionism. It means knowing that even though I want a baby, I’ll celebrate that I’m already enough without one. It is a choice to celebrate.
Finally, everyone else.
I don’t put this as an afterthought or as the last bullet I almost forgot. I put this after God and self because I truly believe that if we can’t make peace with God’s gift and celebrate ourselves, then we’re fighting city hall if we think we can actually be capable of celebrating others. And celebrating others is imperative in living a whole and full life, especially in seasons of want, like mine right now. It was one of the first times I opened up to anyone other than my husband over this whole struggle with fertility and all the emotions that come along. I thought it was incredibly strange and bordering insensitive when the first words out of this dear mentor’s mouth were, “You have to be able to celebrate, and I mean truly celebrate, the blessings in others’ lives that you want for your own.” Little did I know, they’d go on to now keep my heart from being bruised every time I see a buggy and keep my eyes from tears every time I see an infant. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with women who struggle with fertility and feel a pang of sadness at the sight of a stranger’s pregnant belly. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it at times either. But there’s a big difference between peaceful yearning and pitiful envy. I have learned with much effort that celebrating the very thing I want is the only thing that keeps my heart from callousness. We have a great, big, abundant God, and if I think someone else’s baby threatens the ability to have my own, than the ability to have a baby is quite possibly the least of my problems. Celebrating the desires of my heart as they’re manifested in others’ lives has been, quite possibly, the most anti-natural multiplier of joy during a season when any form of joy is welcomed more than ever.
So it looks like the seventy year-old celebrator had more to speak into my life than paper towels and fist pumps. He was right on more than one account. Celebration is a learned skill. And It is one that I—-that we—- must learn. Life’s natural peaks can be few and far between. So won’t you do something with me today? Regardless of how you’re feeling and how badly you want a precious baby, a better prognosis, or a promotion, make a decision. Plan your own party.
Start your own celebration.