An Angel Named Thelma

By Jan Richardson

An Angel Named Thelma © Jan L. Richardson

As I shared recently on my blog over at Sanctuary of Women, my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas is, happily, in the process of going through a new printing. Unhappily, owing to massive problems with the printer, this Advent-and-Christmas book won’t arrive until sometime in January.

Talk about Advent waiting . . .

Amidst the anticipation, it seems fitting to share a few pieces from Night Visions while we’re still actually in Advent. And, at this point in the season, I think we could do with a visit from Thelma, an angel who makes her appearance among the pages of this book. Here are the reflection and blessing that accompany her. May she offer you some inspiration and spunky company in these days.

An Angel Named Thelma

She hangs on my wall: a heat-painted bronze angel, hands clasped in prayer as she hovers over a crescent moon. The day I moved here, I placed her at the doorway to the family room, the action my unspoken house blessing. She watches the threshold.

When I found her in Atlanta and brought her to my home there, I showed her to some friends who’d stopped in. “She needs a home,” I said. “Thelma!” Sandra immediately offered, then instantly regretted it. “No,” I said. “That’s perfect!” Thelma. I thought of the Thelmas I had known (both of them). Thelmas were solid, immovable, stalwart, a little wild. They could tell stories to raise the hair on the back of your neck. They weren’t afraid of aging; the years rooted them, grounded them, widened their vision as well as their girth. They could spit.

An angel named Thelma is not your average angel. She most definitely is not among the current rage of angels depicted as ephemeral, fragile, benign beings who look like they wouldn’t hurt a flea. She hangs out with the sorts of angels we find in the Bible. Hardly benign, these angels were messengers of harsh news and bearers of surprising invitations. They might come with comfort, but they always came with a cost.

An angel named Thelma is what I need in this season: an uppity angel at my shoulder. Someone who can breathe fire. Who will remind me that being nice won’t sustain me through the labor. Who will cry out with me in the birth pangs. Who will dispatch the dragon who waits to devour what is struggling to be born.



who wait with us
who labor with us
who cry out with us


who know our limits
who push us beyond them
who see us through


who call us to our strengths
who tend us in our weakness
who dress each ragged wound


who laugh in the face of convention
who weep for our own pain
who bid us come and live.

[Reflection and prayer from Night Visions © Jan L. Richardson.]

4 Responses to “An Angel Named Thelma”

  1. C. Robin Janning Says:

    Your Angel Named Thelma reminds me, in Spirit, of my beloved Aunt Dorothy. What a joy to meet Thelma and be reminded of my Doro. Thank you for a beautiful prayer.

  2. David Herbert Says:

    I like Thelma – and love the prayer, especially those who see us through our limits.

  3. Thelma Says:

    A woman for whom I did spiritual direction sent this to me recently. She said it made her think of me. I thank you and I thank her for this. Both of you really touch me.

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