When I was a little girl among many sisters, our favorite babysitter was the teenage boy down the street, Jimmy Christensen. We would clamber onto the top bunk, screaming, as Jimmy growled and made faces and waved his arms menacingly. We responded by throwing pillows. On cue, usually when one of us started crying of fright, he toppled melodramatically into the hot lava, making it safe for us to climb down to the dresser and jump onto the bed below.
Only when one of the braver sisters crawled beside him and touched his nose would he come back to life. We grabbed our pillows and resumed shrieking, scampering up to the top bunk for safety and chance to go at it again. Jimmy also drank milk straight from the bottle, a daring feat which earned our admiration and awe.
In spite of the fact that we were all in love with him, Jimmy married the beautiful Carole and left us — to become James Christensen, the notable “Professor of the Imagination” and famous fantasy artist. I have many of his prints in my home, including my favorite: “Benediction,” with its Latin inscription “Beatus est Pisciculus,” meaning “Blessed is the little fish.” In Jimmy’s words, “Floating fish symbolize the magic all around us and they are blessed little things themselves, to bring this magic into our lives… The fish is a symbol I frequently use and this painting was meant as my ‘thank-you’ for a lot of the magic in my life.”
I also have a number of James Christensen’s art-and-essay books, which I treasure. These books contain color plates as well as beautiful pen-and-ink drawings, one of which I have copied and enlarged into a framed picture, of a sandal-shod angel wearing a star-spangled blouse and striped peplum. She has bouffant hair streaming behind her, to go with the butterfly wings that carry her along, unconcernedly, floating above everything. She is carefully writing in a booklet with a slender ink pen. Alongside the booklet are the words, “Will There Be Day Planners in Heaven?”
At the time, this struck me as quite funny. I well remember the prestigious Franklin-Covey day planners, since Stephen Covey, famous for his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” was one of my professors at BYU. But I could never afford a Franklin Day Planner until I didn’t actually need one anymore. All we had were complimentary wall calendars from Farmers’ Supply Coop, which I have kept over the years because they contain a record of my day-to-day life, our family’s history.
I first hung the Angel-with-Day-Planner framed print on the wall when the five children were all at home, on the farm, far from town and before any of them had a driver’s license. These times were breathless and mind-numbingly busy, but the memories are sunny and full of love and laughter. I thought at the time that it would never end, but looking back, it all went by in a rush.
I admit that were it not for my current cell phone calendar, I would never remember a blame thing. It is a blessing to have reminders of where I promised to be and when. But my schedule is not so over planned as it was those years ago. I have chunks of time I can devote to the needs of the moment. This allows me to let go and accept life as it comes, following God’s guiding spirit with peace of mind.
Rather than day planners in heaven, it is more likely that God’s guiding spirit will inform us of where we are needed and when. No sound of an alarm or screens lit up with lists of things to do, just heavenly inspiration.
Psalms 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
James Christensen died of cancer in January 2017. Thank you for the magic you brought us, Jimmy. I hope your delightful angels and blessed little fishes were up there to greet you.