In the weeks following my mother's death, the task of going through her personal effects began. My dad was too devastated to deal with it, so the job fell primarily to my brother, sister, and me. We looked through her clothes, costume jewelry (she had very little that could be considered valuable), books, and other things. I found her 1986 calendar, a beautifully bound book with lots of space for writing. She had already written in family birthdays and a few upcoming appointments. Clearly, she expected to have many events on those pages in the months ahead. On Saturday, January 25th, she had noted a bridal shower for a girl who lived at the Children's Home there in Troy. She set out the ingredients for cookies she was going to bake for the shower on her kitchen counter. And that's as far as she got. A blinding headache led to unconsciousness, to an ambulance ride to the E.R., to a diagnosis of a brain aneurysm, and by Monday evening, January 27th, she breathed her last breath.
That calendar book is one of my most poignant keepsakes. It contains her handwriting, and it reinforces one of the most important lessons my mother taught me. Life is short. Momma thought all of 1986 stretched before her. Instead, she only made it as far as the morning of the 25th day. She believed in squeezing all of the juice (and joy) out of every day, because she had seen her own mother die suddenly (a heart attack at the dinner table) and a beloved aunt was killed instantly in an auto crash. Momma loved to anticipate times with friends and family. She liked trips, lunch dates, club meetings, and the like, but she knew she wasn't promised tomorrow. She was prepared spiritually for death, having professed Christ as her Savior at a young age. She remained conscious that Saturday morning just long enough to tell my dad how much she loved him, then she slipped away.
I am a card-carrying planner. I love anticipating fun times. Often, the anticipation is as good as the actual event. I enjoy looking at my calendar and seeing it fill up again, like it often was BEFORE the pandemic. I got truly depressed during 2020 when month after month of calendar pages were completely blank. Maybe the occasions I have written in for the remainder of 2021 will actually take place.
But, if I've learned anything from my momma's calendar, it is that we do not know what the next hour will bring. It might be something overwhelmingly, breathtakingly good. It could be something life-changingly tragic. It does us no good to live fearing the bad OR expecting things to magically change for the better. Isn't it best to find joy in every day?
Recently, I saw the performance of a 30-year-old woman on "America's Got Talent." She performed a song she had written herself called "It's OK." That woman, as it turns out, has cancer and has been given a 2% survival prognosis. 2%. Yet, she sang her "It's OK" song in one of the most authentic, clear voices I've heard in a long time. When asked how she could do that, she said, "You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy."
Watch the clip here if you have a few minutes.
As we all know, the Bible has a lot to say about making plans. Here are a few verses:
Proverbs 19:21 -- "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."
James 4:13-15 -- "Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
Jeremiah 29:11 -- "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
And there are many more verses that speak about the value of being joyful:
Proverbs 17:22 -- "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Psalm 118:24 -- "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 32:11 -- "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!"
Proverbs 10:28a -- "The hope of the righteous brings joy"
So, I guess my thoughts for today are -- 1) Let's make our plans and look forward to happy times, but at the same time, let's be sure we are spiritually prepared for whatever God has in store for us. 2) In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, let's determine to find, feel, and reflect the joy of the Lord.