“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” James 4: 13-14a
Each year my Arizona sister Susie and I have our “sisterly adventure” in her RV. This year was a particularly special occasion, as a family reunion was taking place in Carmel, California.
Susie knows the West far better than this Kentucky girl, and I was anticipating checking things off my bucket list that I hadn’t even thought of putting there, as Susie revisited some of her favorite places. Both of us were looking forward to spending three days with the zany “east-of-the-Mississippi” cousins we knew and loved, as well as many West Coast relatives we had never met before. On the way we practiced singing with harp and guitar for the family talent show.
After the first couple of nights I was getting signs of an impending cold. I was in denial at first. I couldn’t be getting a cold! We were in 100 degree desert, in June, for crying out loud – Who gets a cold in the summer? Is that even legal?
Coming to some hot springs, Susie assured me that a couple days of soaking in hot mineral water, along with all her herbal concoctions would make me all better. However, two days later my voice had completely disappeared. So much for singing in the talent show. Add to that a bad cough and pink eye in both eyes. (That would make a nice first impression.) I kept thinking, This can’t be happening! I texted a couple of praying friends. One responded, “I’m going to pray that you get well FAST.”
I knew enough to text back, “Unless God has a reason for me to show up silent and hideous…” But I couldn’t imagine what that reason might be.
The morning of the reunion we left the hot springs just two hours away from Carmel at about 10:00 A.M., thinking that would give us plenty of time to get settled in before the 5:00 reunion.
WRONG. We had failed to factor in Murphy’s Law. We ended up arriving nearly two hours late. (Thanks, Murph.)
As the family members got in a big circle and said a little about themselves and how they were related, I managed to croak, “I’m Ann, Lewis’s youngest daughter. I’m usually a talker. Tonight I’ll be a listener. I am not singing tomorrow night.” I was mortified.
One cousin and new acquaintance came up to me immediately after the introductions and pointed to my necklace. “I see you’re a believer. I just want you to know I’m praying you feel better real soon.” We sat down, and I enjoyed listening to her testimony.
One of Murphy’s Laws is that the more you need sleep, the harder it is to get. All that night I thought back over the preceding day and every Murphy’s Law minute. I found myself composing a little ditty to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme:
“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of sisters wild and free,/ Who set out in a motor home to join their family tree./ A “desert rat” and a “southern belle” felt good to be alive/ When they left the desert hot springs for a two-hour drive…[ominously sarcastic] A two- hour drive…”
Fifteen verses contained every glitch we had run into, from the construction in the middle of nowhere that delayed us twenty minutes – twice – to the winding, pot-hole filled road through the desert, the detour to a walk-in clinic in another city, only to find the clinic closed until the end of July, the search for another clinic, the two hours spent there, finding the Monterey airport (which, contrary to what our GPS told us, is not on Airport Road!) to rent a car with some very unfamiliar features, realizing the doctor had forgotten to call in one of my prescriptions, and the drive through downtown Monterey rush hour traffic (in a new-fangled car and a 26-foot RV!) looking for another pharmacy.
The next day, figuring songwriting was also a talent of sorts, I wrote out the words and figured out the chords.
At the gathering that night for the talent show, Susie and two of my cousins sang the song while I played the guitar. They sang clearly and with great expression, and the group laughed heartily at all our mishaps that had seemed so terrible the day before. Several people asked for copies of the lyrics that night, including a cousin-in-law whom I had just met the night before, who for years had managed a singer whose name you would recognize. (I would have loved to know about him when I was an aspiring songwriter in the 80’s!)
It occurred to me that the family got much more enjoyment out of the more personal “Ballad of Susie and Ann and the Family Reunion” than they would have from any of the songs we had planned to sing. So I guess the laryngitis had a purpose, besides making me a better listener. I haven’t yet figured out the purpose for the pink-eye, unless it was God’s dealing with my vanity… again.
The next night we were rushing around before the final dinner.
“Come on!” I nagged Susie. “We’re gonna be late again. And I am not writing another song!”
Prayer: Lord, as much as we’d like everything to go our way, we know deep down that that would be pretty boring. Thanks for Your divine “creative writing,” and all the stories we can tell about times when You had a better idea. Help us to keep a divine perspective, so we don’t mar Your plan with bad attitudes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.