on cold tangerines, sparklin', & the art of celebration

Cold Tangerines started uncovering my buried, unknown thoughts. Not the fruit, but the book. It's been collecting dust on our coffee table since late August. I've picked it up, put it down, picked it up again; I've been reading slowly, savoring the mundane stories that Niequist, a self-proclaimed celebrator, breathed to life. She's awakened the celebrator in me, or rather she's shown me I've been being molded into one all along.

Before the grand changing of the leaves this year, my roommate, Taylor, bounded in from a weekend spent at home, handfuls of clothes and groceries in tow. Her mom had given her some fall treats for us to enjoy- two bottles of sparkling cider. So it began.

Erin, my roommate who (much like myself) is rarely outwardly excited, uttered one of the most passionate sentences I've ever heard her say: "I FREAKING LOVE SPARKLING". Taylor and I laughed at her and with her; we also agreed.

Sparkling grape juice, or sparklin', as we'd coined it became a staple in our refrigerator. Each of us probably bought a bottle or two a week. Sparkaholics, we'd call ourselves. I'd pour three equal glasses and distribute. We'd tell the days' tales: assignments and weird professors' quotes, odd and wonderful encounters, regrets of online shopping for the second time that week or for not having the long overdue tough conversation, excitement over a sale at Ingles or which album's been on repeat; a practical pie chart of how/where we spent our time. Sometimes we'd wring our hearts out while a well-crafted playlist served as white noise, letting frustrations of relational ministry and the pain over betrayals and losses leave our lips; occasionally we'd sip and watch rom coms and laugh too loud and fall asleep before the ending, ignoring the probably more important studying to be done. (I write in past tense, but don't worry, this still happens.)

An unexpected habit had formed: nighttime sparklin'. I never thought much of it, just that New Year's could happen every day if we let it. And it made me feel quite sophisticated for a 19 year old.

A few weeks into our tradition, I was with friends, joking about how much Welch's I'd had recently. Anna remarked that everyday in our apartment was a holiday. It reminded me holidays are for celebrating, so sparklin' must be too.

Drinking grape juice with my roommates had become a catalyst for celebration of the ordinary, of the everyday. Celebration's not reserved for holidays-- neither is sparkling grape juice. We'd become natural celebrators without even noticing: celebrating the close of seemingly endless days and exams and Young Life clubs; togetherness and the sharing of embarrassing stories and lessons learned; the conflicts resolved and darkness and fears; the mornings if we added orange juice to the mix; the moment to moment stumbles, jogs, and sprints, both with forgetfulness and remembrance of following in Jesus' footsteps.

Our door started opening for more to gather. A New Year's Eve novelty was bringing people together on normal, routine-filled week nights. Celebration became a frequent visitor, the kind you put the welcome mat out for. Celebration smeared glue on the stubborn corners, tied the frayed strings into sailors knots.

Celebration never failed to knock, loudly, deliberately, ready. Some nights we'd skip towards the door, and other nights loud volume and sparse interaction left the lock in place, knob untouched. Sometimes we forgot the importance of togetherness, of the sweet remnants of sparkling grape. I think the regular nights were the best ones, when celebration would slip in behind one of us, trailed by a magnetic pull, forcing headphones out of ears, play to become pause, and textbooks to close, making room for shared life.

I can't seem to remember the last time our fridge lacked at least one bottle on the top shelf, but we don't drink sparklin' every night anymore; not because we've grown tired of celebration, but because maybe we don't need the drink anymore. It gave us a friendly and forceful push into the art of celebration until we got the hang of it. The mornings, noons, and nights are still celebrated. So are the successes, despairs, the completion of days, lack of sleep, the Lord's provision.

To Welch's, thank you for inducing togetherness, intertwining lives.

To Shauna Niequist, thank you for making sure [my] stories keep being told, noticed, and celebrated.