Sunday, October 21, 2012

She Is Always Seventeen ... Day 17

I am passionate about the number seventeen. No one in all my life has truly understood why, although they have kindly gone along with my "silliness."

No one until a few days ago. And it turns out that because of the last few weeks, 17 holds even more beauty for me.

Remember a little while ago I wrote about my plan to close the TH the day after Thanksgiving? And I mentioned that I had asked God for what I needed most urgently, and that He had provided? I added, "But that part of the story's for another day."

Today's the day.

One of my major struggles is to find and keep competent, self-directed staff. Sure I have Curtis, but he was already carrying far more of a load than he should have to - at 17 (that number again!) he is running the dining room pretty much by himself as I pitch in on the kitchen front. The last straw had pressed an immeasurable weight on my back on September 15 evening when a woman whom I had held a job for all summer, on the assurance that she would be working to support herself through college, decided that she needed every other Sunday off. (The writing was on the wall with that one, I concluded; and sure enough, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving she called and said that work was too much for her with school and that she was quitting ...)

So what I had asked God for on that scary Sunday afternoon when my plans all flipped inside out, leaving me with the raw seams of my life exposed, was for someone to come alongside of me ... someone I could count on for work support but even more for spiritual support.

I left it in God's hands. This is what I said to Him: "Dear God, Dad has often quoted that old saying, 'The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.' It seems that it is Your will I keep this little TH going. Please give me your grace to be able to survive. Please bring someone reliable to come alongside of me in this ..."

I got through Sunday the 16th - not too busy - and Monday the 17th found me sitting in a big pink wing chair by the west window of the TH, working from home for Carswell. One of my friends had said she might be coming by for tea with her daughter on my afternoon break. 

To my delight, she and her pixie of a daughter walked through the side door at the perfect time! We made the all-important decisions of what we were going to eat and drink, and what mugs we were going to use. The little brass kids table was brought out from under the counter and one miniature wicker elephant chair was dragged over with great determination. Ellie, the elephant with hearts in her ears that resides with Fanta in my nephew Matthew's old rocking chair in the entry way, was invited to join the party. Colouring books and crayons were selected. And then Zae's Mom and I settled down for a chat.

One of the things most dear about my friend is that in addition to knowing the value of people, she knows the value of words. She understands the weight a careless word can add to a breaking spirit; and she also lives that beautiful verse found in the book of Proverbs chapter 25 and verse 11: "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."

She speaks softly, often diffidently - choosing her words with as great care as she selects wool for her next knitting project - and yet with confidence.

When she speaks, I listen.

And she was speaking today. 

"Daryl and I have been talking ... wanting to spend more time with the kids ... frees me up on weekends ... don't want to be pushy ... want to offer myself ... come alongside you when you need someone ... reliable ... want to help you as you seek to help others ..."

My ears started to buzz; I actually felt light headed. Had she really said come alongside you and threw in reliable for good measure? I couldn't even look at her directly or think of a follow-up question. I think I actually made some weak comment about her new knitting pattern that has gone viral, bringing her orders from as far away as the other side of the world. 

Finally I mustered up enough courage to throw an oblique question in her general direction, something along the lines of was she serious. "When do you need me to work this weekend?" she replied simply.

I went and got my Daily Light and read her the passage for September 15. "I prayed that someone would come alongside me - and you used those very words! You are the voice and provision of God to me today."

She worked industriously on Saturday, and then on Sunday, the first "every-other-Sunday-off" for the other woman. We never talked about future weekends. She never talked about payment. I gave her her share of the tips and some desserts for her kids and she was more than grateful.

The following Saturday we were packed almost immediately after we opened. She showed up for a coffee to go. "Is there anything I can do for you?" she said, smiling.

I smiled back. "Oh, you can go in the kitchen!" I replied jokingly. She had told me about her plans to have a coffee and tackle her knitting. 

"I just happen to have my apron and some closed-toed shoes in the car ..." she murmured. "I'll be right back."

How can one person slip into a place like she's Cinderella's foot trying on that glass slipper? 

The answer from the realists, of course, is that Cinderella is just a fairytale. 

The answer from the cynics is that if something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

The answer from God is "Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them."

The answer from God was Alicia.

Alicia makes me think of intricately patterned  spider webs. They are so beautiful they always make me pause to look at them twice; but they look incredibly fragile, as if a wind could blow them away. And yet they are tough, the original rope-a-dope rope. They can hold back a multitude of bugs, dust, undesirables. And they can support the full weight of the spider as it continues to weave its magic.

Two words also came to mind when I was thinking about the reprieve that has been given me through her. The first was iridescent; the second was incandescent. I was trying to determine which one summed her up, and it turns out that she's both:

iridescent* - rainbow-coloured.

Synonyms: irised, lustrous, many-coloured, nacreous, opalescent, opaline, pearly, polychromatic, prismatic, rainbowlike, shimmering

incandescent* - glowing.

Synonyms: beaming, brilliant, effulgent, fulgent, intense, lambent, lucent, luminous, phosphorescent, radiant, red-hot, refulgent, shining, white-hot


Alicia has slipped into the rhythm of the TH with the ease of a mother of four children who has learnt and is learning how to cope with whatever curve ball life might throw at her. There is a gentleness that is infusing the kitchen, mingling with the vanilla and nutmeg, the cloves and cinnamon. There's also an unpredictable dash of humour that adds to the zip of the ginger and garlic and masala.

There have been a couple of instances where God has confirmed that He is orchestrating this whole thing. 

The first was when Scott's Parable Place, a bookstore in Red Deer, called me to say that a book I had ordered for my Dad was in. I said I wasn't sure when I would be able to pick it up; they replied that it needed to be before the end of the week. I rapidly reviewed my mental calendar and knew there was no available time to make that trip. I said to them that I'd figure something out by the end of the week and thanked them for holding it till then.

Not half an hour later there was a little tap on the door. You know who. "I'm going to Red Deer - do you need anything?"

And then last Sunday my spirit seemed restless and in need of repair somehow. We opened the doors at 3 pm with only one reservation on the book. By 3:20 every table was full. Curt was rushing about in the way that only Curtis can, getting orders, making pots of tea, humouring everyone so that they felt privileged to wait for him and his attentive service. Taylor was ably keeping up with desserts and dishes. I was working on the evening meal and giving an assist to the desserts when needed. 

By the time it was 4 pm every table in the dining room had been reserved for dinner. I was getting more and more behind, more and more frazzled.

Then Alicia arrived. She sized up the situation at a glance, then looked at me and said, "What can I do?" 

"Pray for me!" I answered, only half in jest.

Remember, words are important to Alicia. She instantly became very still in her body; and in a clear, firm voice, asked God to settle my spirit and bring order and peace.

And He did.

And I saw that the second part of my original request, the part where I wanted someone to come alongside of me spiritually, was also granted.

I enjoy the company of this woman so much, whether we're working or coffeeing together! Of course, you will be relieved to know that we have our share of lighter, less significant moments too: for example, on a Friday evening that I was catering a small rehearsal dinner, I opened a bag of baby potatoes to start getting them ready to roast. In the bottom of the bag was a pink heart-shaped potato. I set it aside and gave it to Alicia the next day to give to her husband as an I-love-you. (Some time earlier she had told me about a little song he had written for her as an I-L-U and I thought that it was goofy and romantic all rolled up into one. Endearing sums it up perfectly.) We laughed and she said she would give him the potato. A little while later she Facebooked me this picture with the caption, "They are sharing the 'new toy'!":

One last thing - we were sitting in the purple chairs one evening last weekend and talking about a number that had come up on something we were calculating - 1752. "I love that number - 17 has been my favourite number since I was about three!" I exclaimed.

She looked at me and her entire face broke out into a big grin. "It's been mine since I was four," she confided.

Of course ...

Alicia, dreamer of dreams, mother of dreamers, wife of a man who wants to make your dreams come true: Thank you for your willingness to adapt your dreams to make someone else's continue. Because of your humility and deep insight, and because you listen - to people, to God - you are blessing so many people who love the TH and call it a home away from home.

I thank God for reminding me that He is listening, that He cares - through you.

(In case you'd like to hear the sweet song Daryl wrote for her, here you are:)


  1. She is amazing! I always admire her gifts that are sometimes so opposite of mine. I am so glad you guys found each other. Thank you for the delightful treat the other day. I wanted to call that evening but knew you would be closing up. I know you did not have to do that...we are honestly always fine waiting:) It's partly why we come order out sometimes. We try to give the time to everyone else. we had our turns and it healed us...but sometimes we can not help but want some of the deliciousness:) We do it in a way that we hope can free up much needed chairs for much needed healing. So even though we did not mind waiting,, it was nice to bestow that free gift of caring. It was thoughtful and yummy. So thank you!
    I am so glad you found the help and God given strength needed to continue in your passions and giftings. I can definitely see how you both compliment each other.
    Have wonderful week

  2. It was a beautiful gift to my heart to see your words about Alicia, you captured her beautifully. She has been a sweet blessing in my life and I am honored to call her friend.Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Your blog about alicia is so incredibly beautiful, as is she. A dear friend of mine since I was 17! I was delighted to hear that she seamlessly eased into work at the Tea House. Alicia is a perfect fit, complimenting you just as she does me. It makes my heart happy to know that she is there. I appreciate both of you so very much.

  4. As Marcel Proust wrote: “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

  5. There is always the moments when your throat catches and there are no words, so humbling that your soul sighs as you just let the tears flow. Dear Karyn, I am thankful you give me wings and air...

  6. that song... is utterly adorable. i love it so very much, almost as much as love you, alicia! you really are a treaure! <3<3<3

  7. I so enjoyed reading this, and listening to Daryl's great song. I'm ever so glad you are able to keep the TH going, and pray for you often. I've sent a couple of notes but don't know if you've gotten them. May God continue to give you grace and graciousness for every day, every person who crosses your path. You are beloved by so many!

  8. I am one of those blessed soul who has been touched by this beautiful woman. I am glad to call her one of my kindred friends. The one picture of Alicia in her apron made me cry. I miss her. I miss having her in my every day.

  9. Thank you for sharing thoughts of a wonderful person!!!

  10. Thank you for this post Karyn. I will come back to read it again and again I'm sure. I am not a number person - not even a little bit, so for you to not only understand Alicia's "number thing", and even have the same favorite number in common is such an amazing thing to me. I'm glad you are in our life.

  11. Thanks Karyn, for this picture of our beautiful friend, Alicia. I am glad to say that I have been on the receiving end of Alicia's smiles, humour, and genuine transparency. Alicia has spoken God into my life and encouraged me in my dreams. I so miss the hugs and the humour; I miss the smiles that light up her eyes and the radiance that flow out of her being. So thanks Karyn, for bringing Alicia and I together in this way: sharing the ongoing story of your walk of faith, that in turn, touches so many lives; touches my life, so richly.


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