I grew up in Nebraska, a state 400 miles south of there. We had plenty of snow in the winter, but Nebraska is a flat state, so we had few hills. As kids, we did often play "King of the Hill" at recess, but that meant claiming the top of the mound of snow that the plows had amassed at the far corner of the parking lot. Those were the winter "hills" of my youth.
That Sunday, long ago, newly-wed, not yet parents, not much older than the youth group we were leading, eager for a new adventure, we arrived at the church. Several of the kids had brought toboggans, long sleds, wooden in those years, with a curved front that helped the riders glide through the snow. A toboggan often held multiple riders, 3-4 generally on the ones they brought. I had never ridden on one before. No one that I knew in flat Nebraska ever owned such a thing.
Hearing that, Paul and the kids insisted on giving me the honor of riding in the front, since that was the most exhilarating place to experience the full effect of the race down the hill. The snow on the hill glistened, pristine for the first run of the day. I can still remember my excitement as three burly youths ran behind the sled starting us on our way. Paul was behind me, a comfortable and warm bulwark against the cold and the bumps.
There are unwritten rules for getting the most out of careening down a hill on fluffy snow on a toboggan. Number one of which is, "Never open your mouth, no matter how much you want to scream with delight at the rush." Halfway down the hill my mouth and nose were completely packed with snow. If you have ever had the breath knocked out of you, you can get the idea of what it feels like to have the breath locked into you. Totally panicked, unable to give any indication to my merry co-sliders, I held on tightly to Paul's arms wondering if I would pass out and fall helplessly into the snow. Mercifully, the hill leveled and the ride was finally over. Paul, realizing my dilemma, helped dig a little of the now melting snow out of my mouth, and I could breathe again.
Rather than sympathy, my ordeal was met with merriment. Alas, it seems it was a rite of passage. Most everyone had a story to tell of their first ride, usually in the place of "honor", at the front of the toboggan, and, no, they had not forgotten to tell me the rules.
"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4
Today I thank God for air.