Inspiration sparks in the most unlikely places: I get the next twist in my novel’s plot line while the water warms up in the shower. The title for a poem emerges from the scattered thoughts parading through my mind as I wait in the drop-off line at my sons’ school. Today, the little life lesson pricked my spirit while my husband and I were doing laundry.
“Hey, honey, did you pull the sweaters out before putting that load in the dryer?” I asked my hubby.
“Yep. Except for the one with the heart on it – but then, just about everything you own has a heart on it now.” He chuckles and continues loading the washer.
Continuing into the house, I take a minute to let his words sink in. Which sweater? Which heart? And, as always, one thought leads to the next (in a fairly disorganized train) until I am pondering the reason for all of the hearts in my wardrobe.
Really, I have always liked hearts as a part of my fashion and jewelry collection. The heart has symbolized love and special relationships for me. As a teen, my parents bought me a beautiful gold ring containing a light-blue heart-shaped stone as the centerpiece. I’ve treasured it for years, but now I also own sweaters, earrings, wall art, and even a handmade afghan that feature this simple image. The fascination with all things “heartified” intensified about three years ago, when I discovered a group of like-minded viewers of the Hallmark show When Calls the Heart. Calling themselves Hearties, it took me a while to apply the term to myself. Now, after just under three years interacting with these fans of the show, I truly count myself among them – but that still does not explain the depth of my connection with the heart-shape, and the reason I gravitate to it.
Among this group of varied individuals, I found something I think many – if not all – of us search our entire lives without truly finding: a kindred spirit. As Anne Shirley explained in L. M. Montgomery’s novel, we are all really looking for “A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my innermost soul.” While not every person I’ve encountered within this group has been a kindred spirit, each interaction has brought me closer to the friendships I now have. With these friends, I share faith, family, fears, failures. Whether in person or through virtual chats, we hold hands through the challenges and celebrate the triumphs. Without fear of judgement or gossip, we hold each other accountable for our actions, and we encourage each other as we pursue our dreams. We pray for each other continually – and these prayers make a difference every day.
As I watched the Christmas Day premiere of When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing, I curled up with my Hearties blanket (a gift from one of my kindred spirits) and my two boys. After Abigail looked at Elizabeth and reminded her that, while she is strong, they are “stronger together,” My nine-year-old little man turned to me and said, “Mom, that’s a great quote. I really like that.” Even my son realizes that we all need an Abigail in our lives.
While I fell in love with When Calls the Heart because of the romance between Jack and Elizabeth, it is the friendship between Elizabeth and Abigail that keeps me watching, keeps me returning for each episode, each season. Forever engraved in my memory is a scene from the very first episode of Season 1. Elizabeth has arrived empty-handed to this little mining town. Before she can even begin her first day as the new teacher, she burns down the teacherage and has to stay in Abigail’s home. Waking early, Elizabeth dresses in borrowed clothes and waits to thank Abigail for her help.
“You must think me silly and incompetent, “ she apologizes.
“No. I know how hard it is to come to a new town and find your footing.” Abigail replies with complete understanding and not a morsel of judgement.
Through the past five seasons, that same regard has continued, deepening into a bond of friendship that surpasses words. In this year’s Christmas premiere, Abigail observes Elizabeth sitting alone on a wooden bench outside a storefront. Softly caressing her very-pregnant stomach, Elizabeth seems unaware of anyone passing by her. Without more than a couple of words, Abigail sees through Elizabeth’s facade of peace to the core of her spirit. Drawing her out of herself, Abigail discovers just how fearful and bereft Elizabeth is feeling. Without so much as a hint, Abigail gathers a few friends and blesses Elizabeth with a beautiful act of service: materials and manpower to complete the as-yet-untouched baby’s room.
How many of us have a friend like that? A friend who would drop everything to listen to our hearts and console us? A friend who would, in the midst of planning a Christmas celebration for an entire town, gather those closest and embark on another project just to ease someone’s burden? From the conversations I’ve had with other women, I’ve discovered that each of us has an Abigail-shaped hole that needs filled. This is the connection we make as Hearties. For many who enjoyed Tuesday’s movie, we’ve found just the right friend to fill that space: a kindred spirit in another Heartie who shares more than just an affinity for idyllic romances in a frontier town. We have found a friendship that almost defies reason – one that fits so well it must be ordained by Providence.
So it is that these little hearts, the ones that adorn my sweaters and dangle from my ears, mean so much more now than they did when I was 15. Each time I find a “heartified” treasure, I smile, and I think about those kindred spirits who have waltzed into my life at just the right moment, the ones who know the real me and see me as God intends. Every heart that I own reminds me that we are all strong, but when we are with those who know our innermost souls, we are stronger together. And I know that I have my own precious Abigails wherever I go.