How the Hobbit Got Back Again

I have been fortunate enough to have a nice amount of free time recently and have been looking for some good books to fill my quiet evenings, so it seemed appropriate to choose a dependable book I could trust for enjoyment. I was not disappointed by The Hobbit. While reading and relishing, I noticed a theme I had not paid much attention to before. Perhaps circumstances have given me a keener insight into this particular theme.

After going home for Christmas break and then returning to Guadalajara, I again began thinking about the balance of the beauty and wonder of the world contrasted by the pleasure and familiarity of home. Or perhaps they really complement each other after all.

Either way, Bilbo’s character represents this tension well. He does not want an adventure, resents the adventure much of the way, and happily returns from the adventure. Yet he does accept the adventure of his own will and completes his purpose in it admirably, and even goes beyond his duty. His Tookish side leads him to accept the appeal of the adventure and when all is done, he is weary, but not regretful. He has friends among the race of dwarves, has been named elf friend by the Elvenking, and been hosted in plenty by many good and wonderful people of various kinds. He has also suffered much, feared much, and sorrowed much for his trouble.

The alternate title is There and Back Again. The “back again” section of the story takes up only one short chapter and an additional couple of pages, yet it seems quite important that Bilbo came back again. The whole story points to his return as he constantly thinks of his comfortable chair, his sitting room, his tea, etc. “not for the last time.” The part of him that thirsted for adventure has been satisfied, well, for 60 years anyway. He is satisfied with home and indeed “the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party.” Yet the adventure has left a strong mark. He began writing poetry and he would visit elves and be visited by them and other “foreign” people. He also loved to share about his times abroad, though most of his stories were discounted by the skepticism of hobbits.

I love to travel. I love to experience new things and talk with people who have different perspectives and backgrounds. I like to see beautiful and unique things in person and not just through a picture on Pinterest. I am enjoying my overseas experience now and hope I will be able to travel to many more places in my lifetime. However, something about my little city makes my heart happy and contented. I hope that I will also get much more time there and that it will be said of me, she “remained very happy to the end of [her] days, and those were extraordinarily long.”

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The Heath and The Hearth

Disclaimer: The following post is creative writing and does not really have anything to do with my travels in Mexico. It is meant to be an epilogue to a longer story, which I haven’t written yet. Enjoy.

And so they came again to the quiet dusty road and slowly rounded the bend. Angeline breathed in the fresh air and sweet smell of the honeysuckles as they rode, unhurried. She showed no outward sign of excitement or anticipation as the horses came to a stop in front of the little cottage, covered with vines and surrounded with hollyhocks in the full bloom of summer. Hers was an emotion that surpasses excitement. It was the satisfaction of experiencing, after a long parting, that which has brought the most joy. She could not let the moment pass too quickly by rushing up to the door or whirling through the rooms or the garden. She savored the feel of the delicate flowers and the splintering pickets of the gate as she ran her hand along them. She paused her walk up the garden path to focus her full attention on a lark playing with its mate. Finally, she drew out a small, plain key and fitting it to the lock, subconsciously leaned her ear toward the door to listen for the small clack of the latch opening.

While she relished the interior of the house with the same calm pleasure as she had the garden, he hesitated outside. He watched her closely, perhaps wanting to share in her joy, but not comprehending it fully. He eventually looped the horses’ reins over the fence and walked carefully up the path, wiping his boots off before the gate to avoid defiling what was precious to her with soil from far away. He found her in the kitchen humming softly as she took down cups and saucers for tea, holding each one carefully and tenderly. The table was already spread with a white tablecloth and in a few minutes more it was also decked with a vase of flowers. He had picked them carefully from among the flourishing, but slightly unruly garden.

“I am sorry that I do not have cream or proper biscuits, Harold, but there is some dried fruit from last year and the tea itself is quite good.”

“It is very lovely, Angeline, you needn’t trouble yourself,” though he knew she had not really said this as an apology to him, but as a merry reminder that it would not be many days before she had the pleasure of cream and proper biscuits.

After tea, while she scrubbed the dishes with the same merry tune as earlier, he said suddenly, “Angeline, I must be going now.” The singing stopped and the scrubbing slowed.

“So soon?” She said looking out the window at the playing larks again. It was the first note of sadness in her voice.

“Yes, I am afraid so. I have not stopped by any of my regular posts since before we started out late fall and, well, I might be needed somewhere.” He took her arm, “I hope you will see me to the door.” She smiled politely, “I should think I have remembered enough about hospitality to do that, even for a visitor who leaves sooner than desired.” On the doorstep he faced her as if to speak to her, but could not seem to think of what to say. Finally he almost whispered, “May I kiss you? Not…uh, I mean, just right here,” touching her cheek with his fingers. She blushed a little and nodded. He leaned over and gently kissed her and said in her ear, “I shall think of you much on my travels.” As he walked back up the path, she waited a moment on the threshold and then hurried after him and stood right within the gate as he mounted. “And I of you when I sit and take my tea.”

He thought of nothing else to say, though perhaps he hoped that she would ask him to stay. She neither asked him to stay nor offered to go with him, so he slowly turned his mare in the direction of the road. Harold wondered if his way might take him along this very road again. Perhaps, but his path was seldom the same. Maybe that was why he could not really understand her. Maybe this would not be such a bad place to call home; that is, if someone out there asked him about his home. He could describe the cottage and little garden in front. Yes, it would not be bad to claim a place as home so long as he had the road and excitement and adventures. Before the bend, he took one last look, so that he would know how to describe it; the cottage, the sunlight, the bright blossoms, Angeline still quietly waiting at the gate. Then he made the bend.

Angeline stood awhile after he had left; partly hoping he would turn back, partly urging herself to call for him to wait for her. But neither of these things happened. A few tears fell as she turned from the road, but as she again gazed at the cottage, she quickly thought of all of the chores to be done after her absence. She thought of her recipe box and her little library and the fine linen tablecloths stored for special occasions. She thought of the trimming and hedging to be done in the garden and that it was quite time she moved the foxglove to a sunnier spot. She took a deep breath of relief.

And here ends our story of two people who knew what they loved well enough not to give it up.

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I Enjoy Being Human

After twenty weeks of hard work, I got to take a two week break in Virginia. Sigh…It was wonderful. It was a very busy break and a lot of things happened, but I am not complaining in the slightest. I would not have wanted to miss any of the things that occurred. I got to celebrate Christmas with my family as usual, though I felt more like an adult since I asked for small, practical presents which I could fit in my suitcase. My family also got to celebrate New Year’s our traditional way with two other close families hanging out in a cabin in the woods for four days. It was nice to get away from the busyness for a little while and play games with each other and I do believe I am permitted to say that an exceedingly merry time was had by all.

Unfortunately, my break was not all pleasant memories. My dad’s mom passed away on break, which was a sad time for our family, but also a kind of relief because she had been battling Alzheimer’s for so long. I was thankful to be in the states and able to attend her funeral and be there for my grandfather and dad. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, a very dear friend whom I have known since elementary school was married and I was able to stand up with her as a bridesmaid and celebrate her next stage of life with a wonderful man. I also got to visit the preschool children I had worked with last year as well as the Sunday School classes I had taught and these visits were each really sweet, as only visits with children can be.

All of these memories from this past trip, the joyful and the sorrowful, felt needed. I know that I have times when I am intensely focused on academics, or career goals, or in intellectually wrestling with what the Christian walk should look like, but this break was a wonderful time to remember that I really enjoy being a human. Though the human race is fallen, being a human is a wonderful gift from God, reflective of Himself. Christ himself chose to share in it. Being human comes with a wide range of experiences, desires, and emotions. It is amazing to think that God instituted marriage and we can find great joy in it. We can also look forward to the day when the church will be wedded to Him! It is amazing that though death is a part of the curse, it is also a way of releasing the suffering to be in the presence of the Lord. This does not mean that death is easy to deal with or that there will not be pain for loved ones, but there is hope. Friendships can never be exactly duplicated or even sustained at the same level, but that is alright. Each relationship is a gift from God in its own way. We can grieve for past friendships and also keep living and look forward to new ones.

I am so thankful to be living now and I am anticipating what experiences, trials, victories, tears, and joys this coming year brings.

Photo credit to Brianna Barnwell