No pun intended, but it’s a delight to welcome Nicole Zasowski, author of What If It’s Wonderful?, to share here today. I underlined so. much. of her book and think it’ll be an encouragement to you, too, if hope or joy feel a little risky. What If It’s Wonderful? doesn’t tie a tidy bow on pain or disappointment—instead, it gently offers a lens to look through that both acknowledges hurt and courageously cultivates joy in the middle of it all. The following excerpt is a reminder to each of us: celebrate anyway.
I looked down at Annie, resting on my chest and snoring louder than I knew a newborn baby could. All my kids have been particularly loud sleepers as infants, which I consider a grace—a constant assurance that they are here, snuggled in my praising arms. Otherwise, I might not believe it.
My gaze shifted to the sand and my throat tightened as I asked my husband Jimmy, “Remember that day on the beach last summer when I told you that I was pregnant with Annie?”
Jimmy nodded, remembering that day well.
“I almost wrote a question mark,” I whispered.
Just a year prior, we took a family walk on the beach. Just before leaving the house, I was stunned to discover that I was indeed pregnant. We knew that we wanted to have more children if possible, but our history of chronic miscarriages made this news a surprise. I kept the joy to myself as we made our way to the beach. I felt excited. But having endured several losses before the blessing of each of our boys, it was difficult to trust the possibility over the pattern. Still, I hoped.
Unable to contain the news, I let Jimmy and James wander down the beach. As they gingerly lifted rocks and awkwardly stepped around tide pools, looking for hermit crabs and sea glass, I quickly scrawled our boys’ initials in the sand with my pointer finger and a #3 underneath them for Jimmy to see when they meandered back in my direction:
After I finished writing, I paused, debating if I should put a ? after the #3. Part of me felt foolish in celebrating this good but early news. I was tempted to practice disappointment and rehearse our grief instead of celebrating the gift I held in that moment.
Sometimes it feels safer to protect ourselves from joy than to love something that might break. But I just couldn’t put a ? next to any of my children, whether I would meet them on this side of heaven or the other. I didn’t have permission to grieve this one yet.
Jimmy smiled, his gaze landing on Annie. “Well, it looks like God gave us an exclamation point.”
I’m learning to write more exclamation points in my life. I’m finding the courage to celebrate. There are times when it feels natural—an automatic response. Other times, it feels uncomfortable. But in my experience, to practice celebration, you don’t need it to come naturally. You start where you are and know that your first attempt and probably your first several attempts will be quite poor and may feel awkward.
Celebrate that you had the courage to try a new thing. You gave the goal everything you had. You pushed through the doubt to pursue the dream. Celebrate the people God has put in your path. And don’t wait until their birthday to let them know. Toast to good news—a promotion, an anniversary, a graduation, a new apartment, being proclaimed “cancer-free,” being matched with a child in the arduous but beautiful adoption process. Celebrate the gift of waking up to a new day, chock-full of fresh starts and second and third helpings of grace.
These celebrations might look like an elegant party. Or, they may look like roasting marshmallows in the front yard and giving your neighbors an open invitation every Saturday night. Maybe celebration looks like affirming a friend without waiting for an occasion to do so. Or, perhaps celebrating looks like receiving compliments you’ve been taught you should reject. Maybe embracing joy simply looks like allowing yourself to feel proud. Maybe it means pausing, taking a mental picture of the apple sticker that’s been stuck to your pants for three hours and the play-dough crushed into the floor boards and whispering “thank you” to God—savoring the moments we might be tempted to wish away.
Sometimes, celebration comes in a package that looks different than we expected. Often, celebration will look like less, a no, or the end of something good that is no longer right. Maybe it’s saying no to an opportunity that seems impressive but is incongruent with your needs and values in this season. Or, it might mean choosing to treat yourself with more patience instead of pressuring yourself to perform. These celebrations might go unseen and won’t earn you awards. But these are significant celebrations too.
The world needs our stories of celebration. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death”. Your testimony will include God’s movement in your waiting, His redemption in the parts of your life you had written off as ruined, and the grace that you found when you lost the thing you thought you wanted.
But there is also powerful testimony in your victory. As Christians on mission in our world, in our culture, in our communities and in our homes, we are fighting from victory—Christ’s victory. Let us not be timid in sharing the testimony of Christ’s triumph and delight in our wins with joy together. Let’s allow our celebration to speak to the God who has given us a permanent reason to do so.
Perhaps you too have allowed fear to govern too many of your years. That fear has made you comfortable in the dark and hypervigilant in the light. Right now, you might be tempted to ask yourself questions like, What if I’m foolish to hope? What if I embrace celebration only to have the joy ripped from my hands?
But this is the truth I want to press into your palms: you—just as you are in this moment—are celebrated. And you are a celebrator. You’ve been given an invitation to release your fears, choose joy, and find the courage to celebrate. And now, looking bravely toward the future, the question I invite you to ask yourself is, What if it’s wonderful?
This article is partially excerpted from What If It’s Wonderful?: Release Your Fears, Choose Joy, and Find the Courage to Celebrate. There are only a dozen or so books whose TITLE impacted me before I turned to page one—and stayed with me long after the final page. But this? This is one of the few.
And then I read it (multiple times) and marked up so many pages. (See: below) I hope the small excerpt encourages you right where you are, especially if choosing joy or hope feels particularly risky right now, and I’d love to invite you to our next All The Things author call with Nicole if you’d like to hear more.
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Our call with Nicole is this Thursday, but if you’re seeing this after the fact, you can access the replay within the private All The Things portion of the site. Click here to learn more!