This past weekend we attended our future son-in-law's graduation as he marked the successful completion of college. The clouds balanced precariously on the edge of releasing the anticipated rain, but the ceremony (mostly) ended before the showers started. The festivities continued at a local inn as we joined the immediate family for a celebratory dinner.  Joyful smiles were a dime a dozen, and none brighter than those of the grad himself.

I don't think I celebrate as often as I should. This probably comes from being an idea person; my head in the clouds connecting the dots makes it all too easy to miss what's on the ground in front of me.  Quite a few years ago, however, my daughter Kara taught me a lovely lesson. At the time she was teaching herself to play the piano, and after completing a song to her satisfaction, she would sit at the keyboard and clap. I loved to watch as she took a moment to acknowledge her achievements and celebrate herself! When I remember to follow in her footsteps it not only puts a smile on my face, but somewhere deep inside, my soul purrs.

Celebrating oneself is the theme of this poem by Lucille Clifton, brought to my attention by the same daughter while in college. Reading this poem again, I am struck by several things. First, there is the invitation to the community to celebrate with the author. To do so requires knowing when it is appropriate to celebrate, seeing the larger picture, noticing a beginning and an end - what was at one point an idea and has now become a reality. It also shows a vulnerability to community; will they agree that something noteworthy has taken place? Will they validate the result of the efforts?

The poem also underscores the ability in each of us to chart our own course. While it is important to find mentors and be open to the wisdom of others, only our own selves know the path they should be on. I've found myself in conversations with friends (or in my own mind) coming back to this idea that as we live in love, we have all that we need. It is not as if we consciously know all that we need to know for the situations we face, but we have access to what is necessary to live life well. Praying for openness, pausing to reflect, looking around us, these open the doorway for the Spirit of God to direct us. This is what the apostle John talks about in his first epistle. When we are connected to God, connected to love, then we have access to the wisdom that comes from God and have no need for a teacher. (1 John 2:27)

I imagine that Lucille Clifton, in "making up" her life was doing so in concert with the  loving Spirit that undergirds our world. That even without a model, standing on a bridge between heaven and earth, she could hear the melody of her life sung by her creator. And when that love that desires to shape and protect us, forms us into who we were meant to be, there is good reason to celebrate.

won't you celebrate with me

by Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.