This past week was one of change for me– finishing up the previous chapter in Durham and moving to the next chapter in my new home in Apex–just 22 miles and one county away. Things went very well with my son, Ross and a friend loading the moving truck, my appliances arriving on time and ‘un-dinged’ –which the delivery guys said wasn’t the case more than half the time. I made numerous trips with my car packed to the limit and thousands of steps loading and unloading. I was exhausted and my hands ached from clutching so many boxes, yet I was pleased that I’d seen the process through.
When I cleaned out my apartment, I found myself going through memories of the past two-plus years. I’d seen it as a transitional place–and it was, helping me to move forward in my life after divorce. When I turned in my keys on Friday and walked out the leasing office at 3:30, I let out a held breath–relieved that I would no longer be going between two places. Mentally, I’d moved on and had even said to myself, “It’s time to go home,” envisioning my townhouse with no lingering image of returning to my apartment.
It does feel like a fresh start, like the “New Beginning” phase of the Bridges Model of Change that I’ve often mentioned in my posts. For a while, I’d thought that new start would continue in my apartment because the housing market seemed out of reach over the last couple of years. I’d looked at townhouses and been shut out, probably by investors who paid cash in excess of the asking price. I stopped believing I would be able to find a place to buy.
But at the end of September, when I returned from my trip to Scotland and Ireland, I was surprised that a townhouse came on the market that was actually in my price range. I was recovering from travel fatigue and from a positive COVID diagnosis when I re-entered the country. Because I had the energy for nothing more than lying around and looking at email, I opened one from a realtor, the kind I’d been ignoring for months. I expected nothing except to be disappointed by an unreachable market. But that wasn’t the case that day; when I least expected it, the house appeared.
My first Christmas decoration in my townhouse is in my kitchen window. I’d made one of those impulse purchases of a little troll at Target. I had no idea what I was going to do with him (but I guess it could be a her) but something about the whimsical character, and the gray and green fabric, appealed to me. I stuck the troll on the window sill for the time being.
Days later, when I was unpacking my boxes of kitchen items, I found the wooden decoration that had been above my cabinets at the apartment, and in my last house. It was a birthday gift from my cousin, Lisa that I’d received after my separation. The foldout was covered in springtime birds and flowers–fitting since my birthday is in late March. In bold black lettering it said, “Believe All Things Are Possible” and was her way of encouraging me.
I held it in my hands and considered all that had happened since I’d received her gift.
“I stopped believing,” I thought, remembering how I’d given up on finding a townhouse, bitterness seeping in when I thought of the house I’d lost on Sunningdale Way–the one we lived in before the divorce.
I placed the wooden fold-out next to the troll and added cedar sprigs I’d gathered before I left the apartment. The smell of fresh cedar was Christmas–the reminder from childhood of our tree decorated in the multicolored lights and icicles.
Looking at the troll, it dawned on me that his or her eyes are covered by the hat. That reminded me of a Bible verse from Hebrews 11:1 that I learned years ago and always comes to me in the King James Version (KJV):
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
I’d lost my hope of finding a house. There are other areas of my new life where I’ve also wavered in believing all things are possible. My eyes has been covered by doubt. Sometimes, we allow ourselves to remain in darkness and not see the hope, the light, that is in our midst. In our weakness, we walk in that darkness. I’ve certainly felt that in my life, especially over the past few years.
Yesterday, I looked back at my Christmas posts and saw evidence of how far God has brought me– especially when I couldn’t see or feel the warmth of His light.
The first year, I struggled with what to do about a Christmas tree. In that post, Not a Usual Christmas I realized how much having a tree had been part of my tradition with my former husband and how we prepared our home for the holidays. But some of me had to look at it more objectively that year– the costs versus benefits of a tree, the first time I’d ever thought of it in those terms. Some of that was a positive thing because it made me look more closely at what really matters–and that ultimately, having a tree and doing the same, habitual thing wouldn’t make or break my holiday; and it didn’t. I focused more on others’ trees and colorful lights in my neighborhood. The following two years, I was keeping my grandsons in my apartment two days a week and opted for a small table top, ‘Charlie Brown type tree’ that brought delight to a child and was easy for me to manage.
Older Grandson, Baker 2 y.o. December 2020
This year, knowing I would be decorating my new house, I wanted to return to having a tree. It’s a pre-lit artificial one that my son, Brooks is going to help me put up this week. I know now that having a tree is not required to have a special holiday. But I do feel more hopeful, like the tree is a symbol of moving on with my life.
One of my favorite Christmas songs, “Oh Holy Night” has a line I love, “A Thrill of Hope the Weary World Rejoices.” It does feel like your heart quickens when you see that glimpse of hope– in whatever area of your life where it’s been missing. In every life, there are things that weigh each person down; some of these things are visible and some are invisible to others. By the time you get to this point in the year, there’s a lot that could make you feel weary–either from the cumulative stressors of 2022 or the Hallmark-Christmas-Expectations that snow down on you in December.
My prayer for you, and for myself, is that we’ll find the Hope that we need, that God’s strength will be felt in our weakness. May we be an encouragement to others who just need a spark of light to help find their way in the darkness and a warm comfort that feels like home.
Blessings on you,