I will admit that it is strange to be alone during Advent. It was 2006 when my mother and father moved into my home in Texas and enriched my life with their love, their wisdom, and their consummate search for God’s will in their lives. Advent with them became a true season of reflection on the wonder of Christ’s birth, for Mom and Dad loved to read the passages of promise and to sing the hymns and carols of the season. It was in Texas that I first began my own tradition of putting tiny Christmas trees into every room of the house so that the little lights would remind us of the Light of World who was coming. It is a tradition I have continued ever since and I am so thankful that most of those tiny trees, tiny lights, and tiny little ornaments come from Asia and are easy to find here.
I haven’t done much singing this Advent because I have been ill. On 28 November, I developed a deep chest cough and the inability to breathe freely. As my symptoms worsened, I sought the counsel of a doctor at McCormick Hospital in Chiang Mai. She diagnosed me as having acute bronchitis with bronchial spasms and gave me steroids, an inhaler for acute symptoms, and a mucolytic. Long story short, I did not get better quickly and was briefly hospitalized so that they could attack the problem with injections and nebulizer treatments. There was fear of possible complication of pneumonia, so antibiotics were added to the mix, but that was never confirmed. I am recovering now – able to breathe freely and sleep through the night – and I hope to be back at work on Monday for the first time in two weeks. One of the things I have been able to do in this final week of recovery is put up a few Christmas decorations.
My son, Julian, will be spending the Christmas holiday with me here. He is off in Japan at the moment, assisting some folks on Okinawa Island with a ‘Start-Up Weekend’ for prospective entrepreneurs. An iPhone application developer and trainer, he is my techno-geek and always checks out how I am using technology at home and at work. Then, based upon what he knows of me and my interests, he suggests alternative ways of accomplishing my objectives through the use of new or different technologies. One of things he recently suggested was for me to sign up for a virtual private network (VPN). While Internet access is easy to acquire and use here, there are some downsides to having a IP address in another country. Tunnel Bear technology allows me to have a VPN in the USA, which then allows me to access websites, stores, and applications that are not typically available here. One example is Netflix. With my Tunnel Bear VPN, I can have a US-based Netflix account and stream movies into my home. What a simple solution that was to my desire to be able to relax and watch a movie in my home! I have been paying for cable services only to feel that those dollars were wasted, for most of what is on cable here is of no interest to me. I have now cancelled my cable account, which more than pays for both Tunnel Bear and Netflix. I am looking forward to seeing all those traditional Christmas movies (Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, A Christmas Carol, and so on) this Christmas.
There is one other holiday tradition that I was able to do despite my illness: making my Christmas sipping cider. Oh, it is nothing fancy – just apple juice, some cinnamon, and cloves – but it is a warm drink that I enjoy sipping at Christmastime. I also enjoy sharing it with friends. This year, I managed to find some apple juice in glass bottles and that was perfect. While the apple juice, cinnamon and cloves were simmering on the stove, I soaked the labels off of the bottles and created my own labels on my laptop. So, today, when I go to church, I can take a few bottles along to share with friends for the Christmas season. I also found a very expensive carton of egg nog that my son and I will share on Christmas day. It is not much in the way of seasonal celebration, but it is enough to remind me of Christmases past, to share with friends during the Christmas season this year, and look with anticipation toward Christmases to come. May you find peace and joy in this Advent season!