By Crystal Hurd
The funny and wonderful thing about gratitude is that you often find yourself being grateful for the strangest and most obscure things. This year has been no exception.
In February, Aaron and I were in a car accident during the snow storms. We were thankful to be okay, but Aaron’s car was completely demolished. We found out a few weeks later that it was totaled (around the time that a poetry collection was turned down for publication – winter stinks!).
Let me interrupt myself to say that I absolutely detest winter. My doctor recommends that I move to a tropical climate to avoid the sinus infections I endure every October and March. I hate boots and sweaters and scarves. I can’t stand the crunch of snow under my boots. I hate when I can see my wisps of breath in the air. The whole transition drives my sinuses crazy, but this post is about gratitude so I guess I should be thankful for it. Moving on…
So this February I remember standing in the back lot of a local car dealership circling this mangled car which helped save my life, but feeling so down about having ultimately lost the car and having had a poetry collection rejected and having all of this stupid snow semi-melted but yet speckling against the asphalt. Such a shortage of gratitude here I am aware, but God is so good at making beauty from ashes, and as He would soon show me, all of this was a prelude to joys I could not have fathomed later.
There is a great poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley called “Ode to the West Wind.” In it, Shelley discusses how the West Wind ushers in the winds of autumn, which invites the winter and kills all of the vegetation. However, it also brings in the spring, returning to the Earth the promise of life and bloom that we have pined for during the winter months.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!
And so we waited and the check arrived for the totaled car. We paid off a credit card, then wondered what to do with the rest. One night, while Aaron was online, he stumbled across an auction site for local properties while perusing social media. He tilted the phone towards me, “Look at this house. It was a foreclosure and the auction is at $20,000!” The current house we lived in was small, around 950 square feet, and we had discussed moving but we didn’t have the funds for a down payment on a new one. Plus, we wanted an affordable payment, being public school teachers. But I won’t lie to you, we were both smitten with the house. We both knew that $20,000 was absurdly low, and that the auction would eventually increase, but we strongly considered throwing our hat in the ring. I called the realtor associated with the auction and we toured the house. With the finished basement, the house was around 2700 square feet and exactly what I wanted in a home (I’m sure the phrase “dream house” escaped my lips a few times). It needed a little bit of work (I have talked about this in earlier blogs on All 9), but we ended up winning the auction for a very affordable price. The down payment we needed to purchase the house after the auction ended was precisely what we had left over from the insurance after the accident. God is surely in the business of taking our mess and making something worthy of awe and reverence. It was beyond mere coincidence; it was absolutely providential.
And those rejected poems? I took the best of them and decided to apply to M.F.A. programs. I wanted to expand the role of the written word in my work and life. I applied to two specific programs that appealed to my goals and was accepted into both! I decided to go with the University of Texas at El Paso because they had a highly-rated online M.F.A. which would allow me to continue working while I pursued my degree. This past April, while we were preparing to sign on the new house and the flowers were blooming in the post-winter thaw, I received an email informing me that I was one of six applicants nationwide that had been accepted into the program. The program director told me that I had been selected on the strength of my application and my “potential for publication” based upon the poems I had submitted. These were the same poems which had ironically been, months prior, rejected for publication along with others. I now realize that that collection was not a good fit together and am currently working on a collection with a more cohesive theme.
So this year, I am grateful for so many things – for my wonderful family and friends, for a job that pays me to teach reading and writing all day, for health, for an awesome church in which to worship, for a country where I have freedoms – but most importantly, I am grateful for a Savior who transforms our winters into springs (I feel a Narnia reference would be good here). God has taught me to be thankful in the valleys, on those cold winter afternoons where you are faced with the stark realities of change or rejection. Remember though, winter is only for a season. For surely the “azure sister of the Spring” will return with her warmth and welcoming and like Demeter we will come alive again. This winter, I will try my best to find aspects of winter to appreciate.
But unlike last time, when we experience that freak snow storm, the Hurds will make sure to keep both cars securely in the garage!
Dr. Crystal Hurd is a writer, reader, public school educator, and adjunct professor. She is happily married with three beautiful Terriers (adopted from local shelters). She is a certified book nerd who loves to read and research works involving faith, literature, art, and leadership. You can visit her webpage www.crystalhurd.com , friend her on Facebook, (Crystal Sullivan Hurd) and follow her on Twitter: @DoctorHurd and @hurdofficial.