Life should be full of balloons. The helium ones that float and the ones we blow up that can be batted around.

Balloons are reminders that there is something worth celebrating. Someone deserving of attention and affirmation. An opportunity to honor another.

Birthdays are obvious times of such festivities. Many, including myself, cringe at the thought of being the center of attention.

That never means the effort to show enjoyment and appreciation isn’t valued. I love a good party.

My friend Nif just had a landmark birthday. She and her family recently moved here to Orlando from Colorado, for a job and to be close to some family members.

The transition hasn’t been easy. She’s a widow with six children, and her transition has been multiplied by each of her kid’s needs and changes. She’s one of the most hospitable people I know, opening her home to groups, inviting folks over, and always being willing to host.

Several of us wanted to throw a surprise party for her. To let her know how much we value her and her friendship, that we’re glad she moved here, and that she has impacted our lives for the better.

Though I have rarely seen a surprise party be a true surprise, this one was. Friends waiting on my porch, screaming “Happy Birthday!”, and “We love you!” were delightfully overwhelming for our birthday girl.

A highlight for all of us was the opportunity to write down words of affirmation that would encourage Nif. Small cards with honest sentiments filled her soul. Words she could save and be reminded that she is someone special.

In a world where it’s so easy to complain about what’s wrong and point out negative things about folks that don’t agree with us, it’s incredible how much positive affirmation can lift our spirits and refresh our own perspectives.

Kindness carries a lot of power.

Jesus treated everyone with kindness. He focused on people, celebrating individuals with His attention and encouragement. He taught us that loving others was more powerful than hate, that our enemies need our forgiveness and not our anger and resentment.

People flocked to Him because He gave of Himself to others. He loved well and taught us that it was the most important thing we could do for another–love everyone.

He was ridiculed for His compassion and His willingness to spend time with all who came to Him, even the misfits the religious leaders believed were below them. Jesus saw value in everyone and wanted them to know how much He loved and cared for them.

It doesn’t get any more celebratory than that.

This season has been one where celebrations of all kinds have been curtailed. Achievements we’d hope to honor have been revamped to include social distancing and fewer people. Knowing it’s necessary doesn’t make it easier.

We all need to be celebrated, seen, and known. Now more than ever we need to be reminded that we matter.

Jesus celebrates each of us with love and forgiveness, a kindness we can’t earn, but which He gives freely.

It’s better than a whole bunch of balloons.

And you don’t have to wait to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 

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