My cousins Joseph, Cathy, and Ann grew up on a farm in South Georgia. It was the same farm that my mother and her sister and brother grew up on. It was the same farm we visited as children when we went to see my mother’s side of the family on Thanksgiving and Christmas. This farm is no longer a legal part of our family; however, the memories of our time spent fishing in the lakes, hiding in the tobacco barns, and teasing the hogs will be a part of my life forever.
My Aunt Janice died last December 26 and we traveled down to Lakeland United Methodist Church to join with family and friends to celebrate her life. My Aunt Janice and Uncle Pete raised their children, my three cousins, on that farm and most of the stories told that day came from those days.
The story that has stayed with me all year, and the one I think of as we enter a new year, 2016, is one that my cousin Joseph told as he delivered his mother’s eulogy. He told of how she would come into their bedrooms early on Saturday morning carrying a cup of cold water. She would dip her fingers into the water and flick the water on his face until he would wake up. She would then say, “What are your plans? What are your plans for the day?” Joseph said that his first thoughts were always something like “Well, after I get rid of you, I plan to go back to sleep.” She would continue to flick water on his face until he responded with some reasonable plan for the day.
Joseph told those gathered for his mother’s funeral that as a teenage boy he hated that Saturday morning ritual. All of his friends got to sleep as long as they wanted to. He, on the other hand, had to get up with some kind of a plan for the day. As he recalled this memory, Joseph confessed that as an adult he realized this obnoxious Saturday morning ritual had instilled in him a sense of motivation and direction that to this day enables him to live intentionally.
While even the best of plans can change in a moment’s notice, not having any plans for our lives is dangerous. It can lead to aimless wandering, futility and, ultimately, despair. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that even God has a plan for God’s children: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God’s plan for us is to love us, to care for us, and to give us one day after another in which we can live intentionally.
As my Aunt Janice might ask, “As you enter 2016, what are your plans?”
Wishing each and everyone a Happy New Year!