**If you just started reading, go here to read about why I'm writing.**
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." (Psalm 39:7)
While pregnant with both my babies, I observed the "no soft cheese" recommendation. Basically, anything unpasteurized can present a risk to the growing babes, and for me, it's just not worth the risk for the reward. With my son, this never really bothered me. With my daughter? I couldn't wait to treat my taste buds to some delicious fromage! I had the pleasure of being pregnant simultaneously with one of my dear friends whose due date fell about three and a half weeks after mine. Once my daughter was born and the whirlwind of craziness consumed us, she felt all alone out there in her human-growing, non-cheese-eating world while I drove an hour away every day and rode the roller coaster of illness.
One of those days, when my daughter was about ten days old, my friend checked in with me to see if we could grab lunch. She suggested Panera which has the most delicious salad... one topped with gorgonzola. Oh, sweet, tangy gorgonzola! I reminded her that if we were to go there for lunch, she would have to watch me eat that delicious treat without having some herself (as she was still about four weeks away from having her own sweet daughter). Sometimes, when life is dark and difficult, you have to find humor where you can. So I responded to her message and said, "My baby might be in the NICU, but at least I can eat CHEEEEEESE!!!! (please don't ever tell her I said that. lol)" She responded with, "LOL Count EVERY blessing!" I said, "We celebrate ALL the victories, even when it's just that I didn't sock the annoying nurse in the nose. lol"
Thus was born our motto. "Celebrate every victory!" If the insensitivity of the humor puts you off, please know that I would have sworn off soft cheeses (and Seinfeld and coffee and use of my kidneys) if it meant my daughter could be healthy. What I found in that moment was a way to survive the hard days by looking for the good, by finding the victory. My daughter might not be gaining weight, but she sure did have an amazing nurse. My eyes might be burning from the late nights pumping, but I made it to the hospital with no traffic hold ups. My daughter might have been holed up in a hospital room for her first 4th of July, but we sure had an incredible view of the fireworks from her room. There were times when I was gun shy to get excited about a new development, and my same sweet friend would remind me to celebrate those victories, knowing they might be followed up by more victories or more losses. There were times when things seemed so bleak and dim, and at just the moment I felt I was starting to lose hope, I would get a text or a message or hear a song or notice a bird singing or witness a beautiful moment between two people. I know that God was bringing my eyes to see those moments, filling up my well of joy and hope when I needed it most.
"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1)" This phrase appears in the Bible over and over and over (no fewer than ten times in just a quick search), and there is a reason for that: It is necessary! It's not a suggestion or recommendation for a happier life. Every time, it is in the same form: command. "Do this." Hey, you, GIVE THANKS. To whom? The Lord. Why? He is good! He is loving! He always has been and always will be.
God is good, all the time. God is good when platelets are low and nurses are annoying and someone turned the heat up to 80 in the hospital room. (I promise, we'll get to "God and suffering"... We're working up to it.) God is good when weight gain is up and the weather is beautiful and the Panera employee remembers to add the cheese. And God means for us to see that. God means for us not only to see the good but to declare it, to shout it out, to celebrate it. "As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40)" The people cry out to the Lord and are criticized for it. Jesus' response? You can silence the people if you want, but that will not end the praise and thanksgiving due God. The earth itself will cry out to say, "Look! See! What a great God and look at all His wonderful works!"
Life is very hard. The more you live it, the more you see how dirty it is, how broken and strange and painful. If I asked you to think of ten terrible things that happen in the world every day, I bet you could list them for me in less than a minute. To think of it can bring a great weight and heaviness to your heart. And in no way do I mean to downplay loss and pain and hardship. It is real and it hurts. BUT -- in every loss, there is gain. In every trial, there is victory. In every darkness, there is light. "In him [the Word, Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)" Did you catch that? God doesn't say, "There will be no darkness." God says, "Yes, there is darkness, but there is also a light." Is this light your soul or your positivity or your work ethic or your rose-colored glasses? No. This light is the one true Son of God. This light is Jesus.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)" We celebrate every victory because they all point to the great God who has blessed us richly. Every victory is a testimony to the power and love of God, that Father of lights, who shines in the darkness and who is worthy of our praise.