As the old year spits and sputters to an end and the new one waits in the wings, straining with enthusiasm to burst forth with fresh hope, I see things differently than I have in past years when I wrote this New Year’s column.
This year there will be no bold plans or grand resolutions. For finally, I understand that the future is not ours to boldly claim or predict. It is ours simply to cherish as we hold fleeting moments in our hands, one heartbeat at a time.
This epiphany first appeared to me several years ago when Mama died so suddenly. There she had stood in the foyer of my house, healthy and laughing, then crumbling to the floor and passing into life everlasting. It was no more than 20 seconds between life’s laughter and death’s silence. That night, my friend, Karen Peck, returned with me to the house from the emergency room. We walked into the kitchen where Karen looked sadly at the table laden heavily with party food and a big, cheerful, uncut cake to celebrate Dixie Dew’s birthday. Her blue eyes brimmed with tears and she whispered, “Let me help you put all this away.”
I stood at the island and looked over at the plans, which I had spent days putting together. “What audacity,” I replied, shaking my head. “I thought I was in charge of the plans, but God has shown me differently today.”
There is a scripture in the Bible that reprimands us not to boast of what we will do tomorrow, but rather to say, “If the Lord is willing.” I grew up, hearing Daddy say that often, “Lord willin’, I’ll be there.” It was only after Mama died, that the power of those words started to sink in. I began to use them. A year later, I returned a call to a Los Angeles television producer who had asked to talk to me about a project he was writing. Ironically, I was in Los Angeles with Karen for the Grammy awards. My closing words in the voicemail I left him were, “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”
I cringed. I sounded like a country girl from the backwoods of Georgia. Which I am, but I do have the capability, on occasion, of sounding more dignified. I hung up the phone and thought, “Why did I say that? And, if I were going to say ‘Good Lord willin’, why did that I add that part about the creek? What a bumpkin.”
Although I was much less informed then than I am now about how many Hollywood folks feel about God, Jesus and religion, I had a pretty strong intuition that you didn’t mention such to a Hollywood someone you had never met. It was even possible that I offended him. Had I “planned” my message, I would never, have said it.
Thank goodness I didn’t plan because when that producer, John Tinker, heard that message, it was fresh water to a thirsty man. He knows the Bible as well as any preacher I’ve ever met, so when he heard those words, he knew they were spoken by a woman of faith. That’s how God put into motion His plan right then and there on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Only He could bring together two like-minded people from such different worlds.
This past year, unexpected twists and turns have reminded me again: Do not boast of plans. With that in mind, I will not be boasting that my husband will learn to master a check register or that I’ll lose the same five pounds that comes and goes.
Instead, I will cherish each day. I will open my hands to receive both the blessings and the tribulations that come this way. And I will remind myself that, without question, the blessings always outweigh the tribulations.
Good Lord willin’.