“There are all kinds of courage”

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore

As you know, this year has been rough. It didn’t start off that way, and I didn’t anticipate that it would be, and yet…well, here I am. With the new year quickly approaching, I have been reminiscing. While it is, of course, sometimes quite painful, I have begun to see that I have choices. I have a freedom I didn’t see before, and I accept that.

This hardship has given me an opportunity to learn about myself and to accept myself in ways I maybe didn’t before.

My mom insisted I open my presents on Christmas Eve, as we were leaving Christmas Day for Orlando. She told me I had to specifically open a large, rectangular package. As I sat on the floor, drink next to me, and opened this box, I began to realize what she had gotten me and why she wanted me to open it before we left. Lifting the cardboard lid, I pulled out replica Hufflepuff robes. I bounced up and down, hugged her, and cried my thanks. Literally, I think there were tears in my eyes.

Maybe it was wearing the robes and being able to represent my house. Maybe it was using the interactive wand and watching the scenes in shop windows move. It all felt more magical this time.

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I think, though, the reason it felt that way was because I allowed myself to be more…well, myself. I was excited. I was having fun. My mind wasn’t whirring with what ifs or trying to connect dots that don’t make sense. I didn’t feel like I was being judged by anyone, even when my mom and I went to the hotel’s rum bar for drinks and the bartender simply said “You know, I don’t see a lot of Hufflepuffs.” For once, I simply took it as a comment on my t-shirt, without a hidden meaning of a passed judgement.

As the new year fast approaches, I have begun to make my own type of resolutions. The biggest being:

  1. I am going to stop trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense
  2. I am going to be unapologetically me

and

  1. I am going to make plans I want to make

It’s been on my mind for a while—years, actually—but, for some reason, my most recent visit back to Diagon Alley sparked my desire to begin planning a trip to England. I texted a close friend of mine to see if she’d be interested in joining me, and, to my surprise, she said yes. We haven’t even hammered out actual dates, but just the simple idea of getting to plan such an adventure with a friend got me really excited. I don’t think I’ve come down from the high yet.

For me, this is huge. A few months ago, I could barely fathom planning a semester. The key here is planning things I want to plan, things that bring me joy. Yes, I still have to plan for my courses, but this makes it easier somehow.

I still don’t know what will happen this year, but I know it is through God that I am beginning to have some sense of clarity and patience. It is only thanks to God that I have seen I have choices, too, and I can stand by what I believe. It is only through God I have the strength I have.

As it is a holiday weekend, of course there is a Harry Potter marathon on TV. (I swear this particular station plays a Harry Potter marathon for everything.) As I’m still on my “Harry Potter high,” I’m eagerly watching as much as I can.

At the end of Order of the Phoenix, Luna gives us some wisdom: “things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

As I said, I have realized I have choices. So, this coming year, I am choosing to take Luna’s outlook. The alternative is depressing.

I don’t know what this choosing says about me. That I am a true Hufflepuff, “patient, true, and loyal”? That I have more faith than I thought? That I am stronger than I think? It tells me I have more power than I thought I did. It tells me I am growing. And that is a pretty decent way to start a new year, if you ask me.

As Dumbledore tells us: “There are all kinds of courage.”

A Fear of Spiders

A necessary evil of having two (wonderful) kitties is the twice daily cleaning of the litter box.

As I was cleaning the litter box the other day, I came across a huge (uh…to me) spider, and I let out a scream before realizing no one is going to come to destroy the spider for me. I stared at this thing for a solid minute, panicking, trying to think of how to kill it.

In case you can’t tell, I have a huge fear of spiders. I don’t really know why other than that they look really creepy. Or maybe it was the weird story I heard about brown recluse spiders when I was a kid… Either way, I just don’t. Do. Spiders. So when I saw this spider, I just freaked. I instantly started thinking about how long it had been there, had the cats encountered it, had it hurt the cats, was it going to jump on me as I tried to kill it…? (I know, none of those are exactly sane thoughts.)

But it reminded me of how I’ve always begged my husband to kill the spiders. So I did what any writer does–I wrote about it. Specifically, I wrote a poem.

I am by no means over my fear of spiders. I would still rather not encounter them at all. But I’ve realized this is an opportunity to tackle things on my own, including my fears.

Battlefields and Beauty

About two weeks ago, I decided Belle and I needed to explore something new. While I had been (and still am) struggling with reality hitting me hard in the face each morning, I also knew poor Belle could not be expected to continue to just mope around with me–she needs stimulation. In that sense, she is a big motivator for me to get out and do things. Anyway, I took us to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, and I was stunned at what God had for me on this particular outing.

As we walked the Murphey Farm, I was struck by how pretty the scenery was. The right amount of fluffy white clouds interspersed the blue sky, some trees still held on to their yellow and gold fall colors, and the tall grass waved blissfully in the breeze. Although beautiful, all that isn’t what struck me. This farmland once served as a Confederate battleline.

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When this place served it’s time in history, I am sure no one wanted to stop and think about how beautiful the surrounding scenery might be. While I’m not sure of exactly the history this land saw, given the cannons that still stand on the field, I can draw conclusions that it wasn’t pretty.

Yet, here it is today—flat, green, with a seemingly endless open sky.

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(And here you can see Belle fully enjoying the wind and historic grass.)

As I was walking Belle on the trail, something hit me internally: even the darkest of times bring beauty in the end. I feel God chose this moment to remind me that He will turn my pain to beauty in His time.

. . . . . .

I have been playing catchup with my favorite Harry Potter podcast, having fallen behind a bit on listening due to a schedule change, and I came across their episode on beauty. As I was reflecting on how interesting it was I came across this episode as I was preparing to write a blog post on beauty in darkness, one of the hosts said the most perfect thing: ugly things need to happen before things can be considered beautiful.

And I just thought wow. How could this possible be coincidence?

It seems this happens a lot. We feel sickest before we are about to feel better. Something terrible happens that makes us appreciate, even more, something good we have. Battles happen so countries can claim certain rights (I’m thinking here of the American Revolution, or of some of the moral reasons behind the Civil War). More importantly, it is literally always darkest before the sun rises.

. . . . . .

There is a reason darkness comes at the end of the day and the beginning of the next, why God uses colorful rainbows to show His people His promises.

As I struggle through…whatever this is, I have to work to remind myself God can, and does, create beauty from ashes. After all, how are diamonds made? But I’ve realized I am struggling to recall the promises He spoke to me before all this in the midst of my depression. I am struggling to connect with Him because the darkness has been so overwhelming, and, at times, it’s easier to deal with.

I have a better appreciation of what it must have been like to try to deal with me on occasion. Neither my husband nor myself had the words to describe what I was dealing with, but now I do: anxiety, depression, self-worth.

I remember God’s nudge at some point early in the line, but I don’t recall when. I remember the still, small whisper, which I know I ignored, but I don’t recall what it said. What I do remember is I felt like something was about to happen, like we were on the cusp of something, like something new was on the horizon. I remember feeling like this would open up all new doors for us.

So, as December progresses, I am going to brave the battlefield of my mind and heart and work to recall God’s promises. I’ll even start in scripture and work my way to His promises to me. And I will write them down, as proof to myself that He fulfills His promises, as visual evidence He is faithful. Because I need that reminder.

. . . . . .

Have you ever felt something happened that was not mere coincidence?

Do you have a story where it was “darkest before the dawn”? How did things turn out?

What promises has God made to you? Do you remember them all? Do you, too, need a visual reminder, a list, to keep you focused on them?