From left, Cohen and Titus wish you a Happy New Year.
[Photo provided]

Our Christmas and New Year’s Day can best be summed up with the words of Robert Burns in his poem, “To a Mouse”: “The best-laid plans of Mice and Men go oft awry.” I think the mice made out better than we did.

Our family had planned to gather on Christmas Eve, enjoy a meal, open presents and have our family photo taken. We seldom have all of our family in one room at the same time, but Erin, my daughter-in-love, had orchestrated this wonderful gift for me. I bought a new shirt for the occasion, and the rest of the family was going to be dressed to match. Maybe 20 years down the road, someone might look at our picture and say, “What was this family thinking?” This is what people say about most of my pictures more than 10 years old. But it was a gift I was excited to receive.

A few days before this event, the flu hit our family: fevers in the 100s, noses brighter red than Rudolph’s, coughing and hacking everywhere. If we had taken our family picture, it would have made a good ad for a cold and flu remedy. Titus and Cohen, along with their dad, did come over for a little while to get their presents. But for the greater part of the holidays, my family has been sick—except for me.

I was so looking forward to Titus being out of school, thinking he and I could go on a couple of adventures. He just got a new backpack with a hydration bag and hose so he can sip water as we hike. And Cohen got his first hiking backpack, too. I had thought up so many plans, but none of them came to be. Instead, I have been sitting in the house taking care of my sick wife, looking out a window and dreaming.

But something has come out of this change of plans. I started thinking of things I wanted to accomplish in my life before I enter that eternal Christmas. I came up with two things I wanted to accomplish this year that I have never done before.

The first is that I want to write an illustrated children’s storybook for my grandsons. I have written a number of books, but writing a children’s one is intimidating. My critics will be 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, and they are some of the most demanding readers on the planet. I have already begun to formulate the storyline here in the silence and an occasional wheezing sound from my sleeping wife as she tries to breathe through her clogged nostrils.

The second thing I want to accomplish in 2019 is to create a family cookbook with our readers. Every church has that one person who is famous for homemade pies, breads or meat loaves. These cooks are a rare and dying breed, and I want to collect their recipes before they take their secrets to the grave.

What a great gift they can pass on to the younger generation! And sprinkled between the recipes will be stories of humor and hope. By next Christmas, we could have our very own readers’ cookbook.

There is only one restriction; no, make that two. None of the recipes can contain broccoli. And we can’t allow Methodists to submit recipes. Everyone knows Methodists are better at dancing, and Baptists are better at cooking.

I hope everyone in my family gets well soon. If I think up another project, I might not have time to finish it.

This morning, my wife and 39-year-old son have been texting. He informed her that his temperature was 102, and she texted him back to ask if she could do anything for him. Now, my wife is lying on the couch with Kleenex piled up around her like Mount Kilimanjaro. She really shouldn’t be doing anything for anyone. But you know mothers. They will drag their sick body up and out of bed to take care of their kids.

Caleb texted back, “Mom, I need some orange juice and a comic book.” We had to laugh. Whenever he was sick as a child, she brought some orange juice and a new comic book to his bed. Even though he is husband to Adrian, father of Titus the Honorable and Cohen the Goodhearted and pastor of Catoosa, First, when you are sick, there is nothing like the comfort of your mother.
I am not anyone’s mother, but every good pastor has the heart of one. The words the apostle John wrote in his letter express my desire for you: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).

Happy New Year!