Monday, January 31, 2011

Vigil for a Friend

O God,
Who had merely to
to bring entire worlds to life,
                     words of life
           to my friend

He may be now beyond
But he is not yet beyond
                                    Your                                  reach.

The thief on the cross next to your Son
had only to
                                        "remember me"
to bring him into Your presence

Please keep vigil
               at the bedside of my friend

And if he is able in this ebbing day
only to
                                        "remember me"

If he is able in this sudden darkness
only to
                                        but one finger
                                                              toward                 You
Oh God,
Please won't You grasp it
          and, leading him through
                  the valley of the shadow,

            won't You speak
the life-giving words again:

"This day you shall be
      with Me

O God,
Who is near to the

Do not leave
                   my broken friend

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Paul!

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them".
- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delights in his way."
- Psalm 37:23

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not Just, and Not Only

A couple of Sundays ago Dad cast his kindly eyes over the congregation and asked if there was anyone between the ages of 16 and 18. A couple of hands went up. "Please would you stand up for us?" he requested.

One young man got nervously, tentatively, to his feet.

"Look at this boy. This is our Jeremiah," Dad proclaimed.

And from there Dad began to talk about the Old Testament prophet who is revered for his wisdom, for his ability to deliver bad news and exhort his people to live within the bonds of captivity. Jeremiah not only had the unenviable task of delivering the dreadful tidings that Jerusalem and Judah would indeed be taken captive, but he also had to bear the wrath of the people as they tried to silence him.

  • His own brothers betrayed and attacked him.
  • A fellow priest beat him and put him in stocks for all to see and scorn at the gate near the Temple.
  • He was imprisoned by the king, a weak man who seemed genuinely fond of Jeremiah but was unable to stand up to the nobles the king's brother had placed in positions of power.
  • He was thrown into an unused cistern that had no water but was dank and muddy so that he sank into the sludge. They probably hoped he would just starve to death down there; but he was rescued by a foreigner. 
  • It goes without saying that he had death threats.

And he was called by God when he was around 16 to 18 years old! In addition to all that he went through above, God told this teenager that he shouldn't plan on getting married either.

When God first met with Jeremiah and called him to be a prophet, this is what He told Jeremiah, and this is what God would say to us when we question ourselves and wonder what the point of our life is:

I know you. Before your mother was pregnant, actually. You're not just a face in the crowd. You're not just a number.

I. Know. You.

I formed you. You know those things you're good at, those things you love to do? They're deliberately inherent in your DNA. Those things are going to help you accomplish what I want for you in your life.

I called you. And if I called you, what you're called to do is significant. If you go where I've sent you, you can bet that you're in the best place possible for you at this time. 

I set you apart. I've chosen you, and I am singling you out to accomplish what I have for you to do. I'm setting you apart not only from those things that are obviously profane, that are flagrantly wrong; I'm setting you apart from even the ordinary, the mundane. You are far from ordinary. You are here for a purpose. You are a gift to the world.

And as Dad spoke he told us of something he found out only about two weeks before his mother passed from this world into the next. Dad was born extremely premature, so premature that skin had not really formed on him - he had something akin to scales covering his body. The nurses wrapped him in cotton wool to protect him as well as keep him warm. When his mother asked to see her baby, the nurses told her it would be better for her if she didn't see him. She insisted, however, and finally they brought this tiny, sickly baby to his mother. She held him and loved him.

And she prayed. She prayed, "Oh God, if You will save my boy, I want him to serve you." Dad was set apart from that day. But she never told him, never put that kind of pressure on him. He just was. God knew. And she knew. And Dad went to India in 1959.

Poor little Jeremiah's response was, "But I can't speak; I'm just a kid!"

And God replied, "Don't say 'I'm just a kid.' You'll be able to go where I send you and say what I want you to say. Don't be afraid of people, because I am with you to deliver you."

The thing is, Dad went on, that when God calls you to do something, He gives you the resources to get the thing done.

He promises His sovereign presence to be with you all the time. He doesn't employ a surrogate. He Himself is with us.  

He provides for you. He will equip you with the talents and dreams and provisions you need to do what you are called to do. Never think anything you do is too small. Never think you are too small. Think about a glass of water - so small, so everyday, so insignificant. A glass of water, says Jesus in the New Testament, is not so small as to be overlooked. You yourself will be blessed by giving one of God's children a glass of water! A word of compassion to ease someone's day is not so small. The lunch of the little boy who went to hear Jesus speak ... not small at all!

Think of the thief on the cross, who gasped out in his last moments, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And that tiny prayer changed the course of his destiny.

In light of this, Dad concluded, if we are where we should be, we are not too small and not too insignificant.

Don't say "I'm just a housewife." Say "I'm a Housewife!"
Don't say "I'm only a teacher." Say "I'm a Teacher!"
Don't think of yourself as only a secretary or just the receptionist.
You're not just a cashier or only a construction worker.
You don't just work in the oil fields; you are not just a farmer.
"Just a student" is not good enough.

If you're where you are supposed to be, this work is as sacred, as important, as being a minister or a missionary.

And even if-and-when we get disheartened - as Jeremiah did - we are not alone. God is with us in our smallest task. "Don't be afraid," He would say to us, as He did to that teenager so many thousands of years ago. "I am with you. The work you are doing is of vital importance to me. YOU are a gift to the people with whom you come in contact. You are special."

So even on the hardest days, on the days when I question why I'm doing what I'm doing, I can echo the words Charles Wesley is reported to have said on his deathbed, "Best of all, God is with us."

I'm not just a tea bag. I'm the Tea Bag. And I'm where I belong.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nilgiris Passes Inspection!

The Health Inspector - a lovely woman named Emily - popped by today and gave the TH the all clear!

Now if she could just tell me whether the tea-drinking protocol lessons pass muster ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Short Back and Sides

One of the truly memorable moments of Dad's and my trip to India occurred on our second-last day, when Dad decided to go down to Johnson Market and visit his old barber.

Johnson Market was where we would shop for the majority of our groceries in Bangalore. Everything was almost as I had last seen it ten years ago ... almost as I had left it 30 years ago.

When the barber saw my Dad standing in the doorway of the tiny, two-partitioned room that was his shop, he left his customer in the chair and came out to shake hands vigourously. He was beaming and told Dad to wait for a few minutes and he would take him next. There was no one else on the waiting bench; but I had the feeling that even if there had been, it would not have mattered at all ...

The other man was whisked out in record time, a puff of talc on his face and neck, a touch of strongly scented pomade spritzed over the top of his already glossy black hair.

And the little man came out after his client, bowing and shaking Dad's hand all over again.

Old friends, these two; but first the serious business of what to do with Dad's head, which clearly had not benefitted from a straight razor in far too long. There was a little tut-tutting, some commentary on Dad's diminishing follicular capacity; an almost-clean towel was thrown around his shoulders; and the barber got to work.

Scissors darted around Dad's head like fireflies looking for somewhere to land. Every now and then one of the men would make a comment or ask a question of the other, but they were clearly both focused on The Job At Hand.

Then came the all-important lathering of the face - no warm towels and moisturizing shaving cream here! - and the straight razor appeared, a weapon of death when wielded in the wrong hands.

No talking at all during this procedure ... just the barber's gentle hands, in stark contrast to the blade's sinister mien, moving over my Dad's face.

Dad's eyes were closed. The barber's face was sombre. The sound of blade scraping skin was ominous. I could hardly bear the tension.

The reassuring din of the market place pulsed just outside the door. Crazy music was blaring from the tea shop opposite. Lorry and mo-ped engines duelled for supremacy of the road. Horns tapped out a staccato rhythm. Men called to each other. Dogs barked and chickens in their steel cages crowed, waiting for the ultimate betrayal.
And finally he scraped away on Dad's neck and it was all over. Both men relaxed. The barber asked Dad if he wanted his eyebrows trimmed; Dad said no.

It was all over but the spritzing, that is. The barber raised his bottle and Dad said no. They both laughed. The barber got him right in the face.

Dad asked him how much for the cut and the barber shyly said, "No, Sir ... don't know, Sir." Dad paid him what he would have paid for a cut in Canada.

The barber looked at the bills in disbelief and then shook his hand fervently; he told us the rent of his place was so high that sometimes it was very hard to afford to stay at Johnson market. "God will provide," Dad said.

Dad started to rise out of the chair and as he did the barber said to me, "Your Mummy is coming also?"

He caught me off guard. "My Mummy ..." I faltered. "My Mummy is dying in 2007."

His face registered shock. He looked to Dad for confirmation. "Aiiiiiieeeyoh," he breathed in sorrow when he saw what was written on Dad's face. "Very sorry, Sir," he said, taking Dad's hand.

"She is in Heaven with God," Dad replied. "The most important thing is that you know God and trust in Him to save you and remove the punishment of sin from you."

"Yes, sir," the barber said earnestly. They chatted for a few more minutes and then once again shook hands.

I said goodbye to him and shook his hand. Then Dad said goodbye to him.

And then the most extraordinary thing happened: without warning the little man burst into tears and threw his arms around Dad. Shaking, he wept - because of Mum, because of his plight, because of Dad's caring for him ... only he and God knew for sure why he was so suddenly overcome.

Dad wrapped his arms around him and gently spoke to him until he was able to compose himself. He dried his eyes and whispered, "Thank you, Sir. Goodbye, Sir."

I've thought often about the little barber this past year. Who knows what burdens he has to bear, what deep sadness he carries?

God knows.

And so as we left that day - and in this year that has followed - I committed our friend to the lovingkindness of the One who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. I prayed that he would find peace.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who Was That Masked Man?

This morning just before heading out to church I decided I had better sweep the verandah, step and wheelchair ramp. I layered on my black cape over my Sunday-appropriate purple wool jacket, wearily grabbing the broom again (the one with the rubber-handled grip which is supposed to make it "so much easier" to sweep, according to the Costco check-out child. "How?" I asked him. He said, "Like ... it's not just a wood handle!" Ah.) and made my way outside.

Suddenly, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a big pick-up truck and a man full of cheer.

He was bundled from head to toe, only his twinkling eyes and his flashing smile visible. Oh, and some big pack on his back.

"Out the way!" he called, and fired up his weaponry.

I scuttled back into the tea house and this person - far more welcome on a crispy, frosty Sunday morning than St Nick himself - went to work, blowing all the snow from the steps, the ramp, and even the base of the building.

I was late and so I grabbed my purse, exited the building cautiously and jumped into Deb's car, thanking him profusely. He waved and grinned and kept right at it.

I have no idea who he was; but if you know this masked man, blue and yellow jacket, twinkly eyes and mischievous smile, tell him the Tea Bag thanks him from the bottom of her frozen heart ...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Deborah Joy's First Annual New Year's Day Progressive Indian Feast

In the face of continuous cold weather and snow, in the teeth of this physical malaise that doesn't want to leave me, I thought I would let you have a glimpse of how my wonderful New Year's day went!


Dad's breakfast!

Dad frying dosa
I arrived for breakfast punctually, Indian standard time, so about 10:15. The party was already in full swing: idlis, masala dosas, sambar, both coconut and peanut chutneys, and juice and coffee. Our big guys, Luke, Craig and Matt, had to leave right after breakfast for a paintball expedition birthday celebration with their friends. But it was wonderful to see them, albeit briefly, and to marvel at what capable, charming, intelligent, entertaining, sweet young men they have grown to be.  

Breakfast tali
The rest of us loitered about the kitchen island long after we couldn't eat another thing, absorbing the tantalizing smells that were beginning to waft from the stove as Deb started getting lunch ready.

Finally she shooed us away and we played the card game "Apples to Apples" - what a hoot! More people arrived. I managed to make myself useful by making chai.

Fortunately Bronwyn and Paul had brought appetizers - pakoras and samosas - so we managed to tide ourselves over with them until lunch ...

Bronwyn and Paul also brought two most appropriately dressed boys with them; so the aunties of course had to torture them by seizing on a photo op, which they endured stalwartly, graciously, resignedly, as they always do. Have I ever mentioned here how amazing those two are? It is a privilege to watch them grow and to come into their own as each year scurries by.

Lassis with lunch ...
 Then at about 1 o'clock we were once again gathered back at the island for the buffet: basmati rice, chicken curry, pork vindaloo, brinjal bartha, dal, parathas, chutneys and Dad's own raita. We had demanded when planning this day that BA concoct her drink specialty for lunch - sweet lassis, from her own secret recipe - and they were some of the best she has ever whipped up.
Kir ...

Cath brought Indian sweets for dessert - gulab jamun, jalebi, laddu - and with the chai they rounded out the best Indian buffet I have ever eaten.

We managed to make it to the living room where we collapsed into armchairs and sofas, chatting desultorily, dozing when necessary, just being together.
At tea time we enjoyed sev and kir - far better kir than you could ever hope to find in any restaurant in North America! Deb has been working on this recipe and to my mind she perfected it this New Year's day. It's the creamiest, most delicately flavoured rice pudding which after your first taste makes you wish you hadn't been eating all day so that you could really do justice to this confection. 
Deb's shirt -
not true!

Needless to say, there were not that many people clamouring for dinner; but for those who were still slightly peckish, Deb made dosas.

It was a wonderful day. Only 349 days until we can do it all again!

Thanks, Deborah Joy Ironside. I know how much effort and love you put into planning and creating each dish. By honouring us, you honour her. You are the glue that holds us all together and we love you up to the sky!

She would have relished every moment of this day ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

What a weekend! Snow spattering up against the TH doors and windows ... drifts settling down for a few minutes, only to be whirled to their next destination ... the wind howling and the sun - except for about 30 minutes - being strangely absent.

And lots of stir-crazy people in the TH, where it was warm and fragrant and the fire danced in the grate and the music was mellow. An ideal setting for sipping from china cups and exchanging confidences with a trusted friend. 

So many of the people who came in this weekend told me how much they love this place. Thank you; thank you for getting it. I love it too.

From the purple chairs, looking out

From the outside, looking in

Detail of the winter scene
on the mantelpiece

Snow globes on the bookcase


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Four Thousand Words

This was the view from Deb's house as I was leaving this evening:


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chloe of My Heart

For almost a year now I have wanted to introduce you to Chloe, my brother Edwin's daughter.

Ed is the son of Jacob and Meera Chelli, and his family and mine pretty much grew up together. We were in and out of each other's houses all through our vacations. We went on long bicycle rides together, went swimming and camping. We ate at each others' homes and played endless games from dawn to dusk.

Often Ed would call me Karyn Akka (big sister).

So one of the absolute highlights of my trip to India this past March with Dad was meeting Ed's girls - his lovely wife, Sarah, and their daughters Chloe, Leah and Julia.

For some reason Chloe and I connected almost immediately. Maybe it's because we're both eldest daughters. Maybe it was that we both are interested in cooking and hospitality. Maybe it was that we recognized in each other both the privilege and the deprivation of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK), someone who is born in one country but has roots in another country, or someone whose citizenship is from one country but who has spent a substantial amount of her life in another country.

The privileges of being a TCK are many: you get to travel to places and countries most kids dream of going to when they are in their late teens and twenties. Your world view is far broader and hopefully more informed and balanced than your contemporaries who have lived in just one country. You often receive a very good education. You are probably mature for your age and can avail yourself of more privileges and opportunities than you would if you just lived back 'home'. Some things can be much more affordable - music lessons, sports, clubs, travel, cultural events.

And the deprivation can be summed up in one question: Where exactly is home? TCKs are never sure. I've talked with a number of them, and I've had a few work with me at the TH, and the following thoughts reflect some of their experience as well as my own:  

Your passport says one thing, but you are more familiar with the land in which your parents work. However, you don't really blend in with your local contemporaries - you feel like this is your home, but you look different; you are labelled 'foreigner' and as such are occasionally conscious of an almost imperceptible divide from your friends. You spend a lot of time with visiting adults because that is how you can support your parents' work and be a help to them.

Coming back to the country which should be 'home' because that's what your passport says creates its own set of problems: your accent and turn of phrase might be different and you are slightly anxious that you might use a word that is inappropriate with the current speech and language patterns, or whether your clothes are in sync with the style of the moment.

You want to be a good testimony because, apart from the fact that you simply want to be a good testimony, so much of your parents' support and the perceived effectiveness of their ministry can potentially be riding on how people who support them and their work perceive you.

You may look like everyone else but you know at your core that you don't really fit in because most of the kids you are around don't have a clue as to how you live 'over there'. Because you've spent so much time interacting politely with adults you might be precocious and because you're more comfortable with adults you feel safer hanging out with them. The kids your age treat you like an exotic curiosity at first, and then they go on with their lives knowing that you'll be gone again soon anyway.

It can be hard to make and sustain deep friendships too when you go from pillar to post. Social media certainly helps a lot in this respect these days; but it's no substitute for being able to go to a friend's house and watch a show together or do homework together or talk about the cute boy in class (Chloe! You're not doing that yet, I hope!).

You always feel a little apart, a little out of the circle despite the moments when you find yourself in the spotlight. You sometimes feel like you are watching your own life like it's a play, and you're hoping desperately that you get the next line right.

One of the hardest things is that you might have to be separated from your parents for big chunks of time. You try to develop a wall around your heart; but even later on in your life you might find you suffer from separation anxiety.

On the other hand, maybe none of this is why Chloe and I 'clicked'. Chloe's situation is somewhat different to what mine was because Ed is from India and Sarah is from America, and she goes back to America each year. What I do know is that the day I spent with her and Leah was one of the most fun of this trip. We went on a little shopping and eating adventure. Here are some of the pictures:

In the rickshaw at the start of
Chloe, Leah and Karyn's excellent shopping adventure

First stop - the bangle shop!

Outside Banday Brothers -
one of Mum's favourite shops

The brothers remembered Mum
with great fondness

The other Brother

Sam and Shalu's lamp in
the bay window of the TH

It was particularly poignant for me to go to Banday Brothers - we had shopped here so often with Mum. They said they had not heard the news of her death and we spent a few moments reminiscing about her. "She was a very laughing lady - always happy," one of them remembered. I wanted to purchase a lamp - Sam and Salome Cherian had given me money to get one so that I would remember them when I was in the TH. The Brothers sent a lackey to who knows where to find one. And, sure enough, he came back with the perfect brass lamp, tinted as if they had known what the TH looked like! Without my even asking they dropped the price considerably, "for your honoured mother," they said.

After hitting a few other stores we were starving. The girls wanted to take me to their favourite restaurant, a Chinese one in Noble House, not too far from where we were.

Two pretty hungry girls ...

An amazing array of food was
placed in front of us ...
leftovers for the girls at home!

The owner said goodbye to us like 
it was his own family leaving!

I got to spend a few more moments with Chloe, making a chocolate pie and discussing other recipes. And since I have returned to Canada we have corresponded by email.

The last note she wrote me included the following:

My Dearest Aunty Karyn,

Hi, I just thought i would send you an email since I haven't done it in quite some time. Here's a sweet chorus we learned in church:

Lord, I offer my life to you
everything I've been through,
use it for Your glory.
Lord I offer my days to you,
lifting my praise to you,
as a pleasing sacrifice.
Lord I offer you my life.
Things in the past,
Things yet unseen,
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true,
all of my hopes
All of my plans,
My heart and my hands are lifted to you.
Lord I offer my life to you
Everything I've been through
Use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to you
Lifting my praise to you
As a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer you my life.

This song means a lot to me. It shows me that once I offer my life to God everything's in His hand so it'll be alright. Really the hard part is the offering our lives as a sacrifice. For me that's a continuous process. But I'm really glad to do it for the one who made the biggest sacrifice: GOD. I mean it must have been so hard to offer up His only Child. Abraham was going to, but he didn't have too. It's the same thing with Jesus. For His Father He sacrificed His life. It makes you think about how much we really owe all of our lives to God. These are my thoughts about this song, and I hope you also become blessed through it.

When I read that I knew that my Chloe will be able to find her feet, no matter which soil they land on, because she has a sure foundation.

The last day I was there we took this picture - all three girls, Sarah and I wearing bangles I had purchased on that memorable shopping day for us to remember each other, for us to remember we have a tie that is stronger than distance or time.

My little Chloe - one day I'll get you to the TH, which is an intersection for me of all the cultures I hold dear: India, the British influence, America, South Africa, Canada; it's a venue for hospitality, a classroom for training and sharing knowledge, and a place for reflection. It's a solace and a sanctuary.

But before that day comes, I'm looking forward to seeing you again this March!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium

"It's my favourite movie," he said.

"My sock monkey is in it," he said.

"I can't believe you haven't seen it," he said.

"Would you like to come over on Monday? It's the last day of our holidays. We could watch it," he said.

And so late yesterday afternoon I drove into northwest Calgary where I was greeted with candles, a perfectly set table that nudged me toward the kitchen from which mouthwatering aromas emanated, my ears tickled by the elusive jazz playing on the stereo and punctuated by the muted exclamations coming from the direction of the computer that was broadcasting the Ashes cricket match between England and Australia.

And I was greeted by Socks, the aforementioned monkey, who sat by me at dinner but refused to give away any of the plot of the movie, plead though I might.

So after a magnificent dinner (I will not say more except for I got the recipes - you Sunday evening diners will thank me for this!) and a quick inventory and demonstration of the delights of the Christmas haul, we all curled into cozy chairs and couches, took an initial bite of a mysterious, unusual, utterly delightful cheesecake (yes - I promise!) and started the movie.

What followed was ninety minutes of toys and magical delight and heartwarming kindness and music and whimsy and "just" turning into "of course I believe."

And through it all wove an unbreakable, four-threaded cord of love.

It started with Mr Magorium's love for his Emporium, which was his vehicle for spreading joy and hope and love to all the children who came in but especially to Mahoney, the piano protegee who had started working in the store in her teens but who in adulthood had somehow lost her music and her sparkle and her way; Mahoney, who in turn loved Eric, the super-intelligent but friendless child of a thousand hats who hung out there every day and even acted as a little employee when he sensed the Emporium needed some helping out; Eric who, when told by his mother to make a friend, reached out to Henry "the Mutant" accountant who worked all the time and never smiled and always prefaced his denials of the possibility of wonder by "just" - "just a store," he said; Henry who in the end drew the ends of that cord together in a magnificent bow by believing - in Mahoney, in Eric, in Mr Magorium and the Emporium.

And when it seemed everything was going along rollickingly and splendidly, Mr Magorium announced that he was going to be leaving. Many, many years earlier he had found a pair of shoes that he loved, and so he had bought enough pairs to last him a lifetime. And now, at the age of 243, he was on his last pair of shoes. He had one day left. And he was leaving the Emporium to Mahoney.

As he bade farewell to his wonderful Emporium - the place that was magical because of him - with the words, "Goodbye, love," and the sweetest smile, which rested crookedly on his face as his paper airplane fluttered uncertainly around the room extinguishing the light, the colour, the life, I found myself choking back unexpected sobs.

And in that dim room I suddenly found Socks the sock monkey pressed against my shoulder, with his arms being wrapped around my neck. I hugged that little monkey for dear life, crying because the movie was so perfect, crying because Sock's owner so perfectly demonstrated the principle that seemed to speak to me the clearest of all in the story: for the magic of love to exist and grow, it has to be believed in and passed on and accepted.

Dear Oliver - in the words of Mr Magorium, "Your life is an occasion."

And you are rising to it already.

Thank you. I love you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Perfect Way

Promises for 2011

I was thinking about resolutions for the new year.

And that led me to evaluate past resolutions. I thought about how I have made them only to forget them by January 13th.  

I thought of the matters that seemed so important at the time; and how, by the end of the year, none of them amounted to anything.

I thought of the years I was so paralyzed by inertia, by fear, by sadness, by the conviction that nothing I could do would change the situation.

This year I couldn't even think of anything I should be considering as resolutions (be more tidy? resolved that several times over the years - lasted until January 2 each time; take a course? - neither the time nor the money; tackle Bach's Goldberg Variations? - a possibility but oh the scales it will take me to get my hands disciplined to be even marginally competent ...). I started to feel the familiar sense of pressure to set some expectations for myself, to be less impulsive, to have a plan. I started to retreat in despair.

I read a friend's musings on resolutions - she, too, was stymied, feeling hemmed in and without options. After reading her distress, I wanted to exhort her to breathe.

Just ... breathe.

And a word came to me, a whisper from a nontraditional source of theology, the funny, moving, profoundly spiritual little book Mister God, This Is Anna.


The word for breath. For wind. The word for Spirit.

I looked it up, and this word is used in the following ways in the New American Standard version of the Bible:

air (2), anger (1), blast (2), breath (31), breathless* (1), cool (1), courage (1), despondency* (1), exposed (1), grief* (1), heart (1), inspired (1), mind (3), motives (1), points (1), quick-tempered* (1), side (4), sides (2), Spirit (76), spirit (127), spirits (3), strength (1), temper (2), thoughts* (1), trustworthy* (1), wind (98), winds (7), windy (2), wrath (1).

So many facets to this gem of a word! And how many of them describe what I have felt at one time or another in the past year!

Which gave me pause. If I couldn't see my way clear on December 31, 2010, to make resolutions for 2011, maybe I should look back down the road of last year for a few minutes to see how I was protected, guided, nurtured, calmed, motivated, encompassed - how much I was cared for.

"Hitherto [thus far] has the Lord helped us" (I Samuel 7:12) was what came to my mind.

I had abandoned absolutely every one of my resolutions last year - and yet God got me through the year. Despite myself, He did not fail me ever.

And I was able to breathe, able to start making some resolutions in the certain hope that even though I might fail (might?!), God will remain faithful.

New Year's eve was spent in the TH with most of my family and with a few friends. As is our family's tradition, right after midnight we each draw a promise from a selection that Dad has typed up on ribbons and has carefully and lovingly arranged on a treasured platter.

The promise I drew for 2011 was this: "As for God, his way is perfect; and maketh my way perfect."

Hitherto is only a step on this way. And I can rest in the hope that just as surely as my resolutions will falter in January, He will be as consistent in March of this year as He was in December of last year. In September His way will remain perfect for me despite everything I have not managed to live up to; and my promise for the whole year is that He will make my way perfect if I resolve to do nothing else this year but trust Him.