I’m Not Yours to Keep

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I wrote this poem for all Mommies. Hope you enjoy and I hope it reaches and touches the right people.



I am not yours to keep, Mama.

I’m only yours on loan;

To give your body and your heart,

To give a safe and happy home.



Hand-picked like flowers from a field,

He placed a halo on your hair,

For you were meant to be my angel,

To be the steward of my care.



Created with the parts of you,

You love, or try to hide,

He saw the beauty of it all

And mixed it all inside.



I may have been made out of love;

Or your dignity, he stole;

But the instant I was in your womb,

I had value and a soul.



Maybe you smiled as I entered the world;

Maybe I never got the chance.

Maybe I was still as you held me

In your tear-stained, trembling hands.



Maybe I was an easy child,

Or maybe I was not;

Perhaps I was blessed with healthiness,

Or maybe, sick a lot.



Regardless of my conditions;

If it made you smile or made you weep,

There’s one thing you need to know, Mama;

I was never yours to keep.



He loved us both with such abundance,

That He chose a place and time,

To introduce us to each other;

To call me yours and call you mine.



Maybe the purpose of your love

Was to teach me something great;

Your legacy to be left in me,

When you meet Jesus at the gates.



Or maybe I was but a season,

My life a novel on a shelf;

And with me you learned to love someone

More than you loved yourself.



No matter what you sacrificed,

No matter what’s at stake;

To let me live, or let me die,

That’s not your choice to make.



The purpose of it all, Mama,

Lies not with you or me;

Our hearts and lives entwined by grace,

For all eternity.



I may be called your baby here,

But I belong to Him above;

You’ll hold account for time spent

With He who gave you me to love.



I hope at the end when at His feet,

Your halo will proclaim,

“Look not just here, but on her heart,

You’ll see the child’s name.”


Fur-baby, New baby and Family.

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The first picture I ever saw of Lucy.

You came to us as a helpless, roly-poly ball of fur.

Someone had left you in a ditch on the side of the road. You weighed just a pound; hadn’t even reached the age of being weaned yet. A kind person spotted you and took you to a lady who rescued strays like you. That nice lady heard through an acquaintance that I was looking for a puppy, and once you were old enough, you were brought from New Jersey to Florida to become mine.

You came to us only months into our marriage, which made us a perfect fit, because you were also getting a new beginning. You were such a fragile, dainty, beautiful little puppy (and still are), and we wondered how anyone could have just abandoned you; how anyone could have set you down, knowing it was a death sentence for a dog as tiny as you.


One of Lucy’s first pictures with us.

We bonded over you, fawning over how you couldn’t sleep unless you were nuzzled up with one of us. You followed me around wherever I went in our small, one-bedroom apartment, your little toy body tumbling over your clumsy legs. We laughed at the way you growled at your squeaky toys, rolling over and kicking them with your back feet. You hated being alone in your crate at night, and it wasn’t long before we decided it was okay to let you sleep on our bed with us. It calmed you, and though you loved both of us, you became especially attached to me. If I slept in, you stayed by my side under the covers, and if I got up early for work, you’d get up, too, keeping me company on lonely mornings. You were the first to teach us mutual responsibility for a being who was fully dependent on us.

We moved across the country for new opportunities, and even when we had to move in with relatives, you came with us, because you were a part of our family.

You were so loving and intelligent, eager to meet new people (and new dogs). Old ladies at the park wanted a chance to pet you and gush over you and your permanent puppy-like appearance. Little kids would stop their parents and ask for permission to pet you on the sidewalk. We were proud of how sweet and darling you were, telling them your story and how blessed we were to be the owners to such an amiable little dog. You were my baby—my fur-baby—spoiled and treated like the princess of a lapdog that you were.


Lucy 🙂


One of my many monthly pregnancy photos, where Lucy was always a guest star 🙂

When I got pregnant, we read all the books and heard all the warnings that everything was about to change; not just for us, but for you, too. With either strong-willed optimism or ignorant naïveté, I didn’t see how things would change all that much for you. You’d been my only baby for years. I couldn’t fathom that anyone, even my own child, could make me love you less. My heart was going to be big enough for the both of you.

But before the baby was even born, you began to act differently. Maybe you sensed the imminent change that lay ahead. You became nervous, yapping at every unusual and familiar sound. You became possessive of me, barking and charging at anyone who came near me. You began to panic when we left you alone, making messes while we were gone. It was frustrating, but we did what we could to bear with you, knowing these kinds of things were to be expected. We read about and implemented all the suggestions, preparing you for the day a new little person would be entering our home. You responded well, and despite the new quirks you were developing, we knew you were still a good-hearted little dog.

You were curious about her when we brought her home, your triangle ears against your head as you eagerly touched her with your cold, wet nose. We waited for any signs of aggression or jealousy, but you just wagged your tail, happily sharing the space in my lap with the new peculiar creature in my arms.


Lucy meeting our daughter for the first time.


If only life as new parents with an old dog were that easy.

The first few months of learning to be a mom was hard for me. I was tired—constantly. I spent my days trying to master the natural way to feed my baby, bawling in the floor while she slept because I was failing at it. I spent my nights trying to get her used to sleeping in a bassinet, frustrated that she kept waking up within minutes of me laying her down, debating whether it was worth even trying to sleep when I was just going to have to be up in an hour to feed her. Lack of sleep, lack of confidence in my capabilities, feeling overstretched in all of my roles—new and old—caused my patience to be thin.


Our sweet Lucy-Goosey.

So it’s not fair to say that you changed. Because the truth is, I changed, too.

The way you used to run to the door, greeting Daddy with joyous barks stopped being cute. We scolded you, afraid it would wake or scare the baby.

The way you used to nestle into my lap was no longer convenient, and I would push you away, getting up to care for the baby or simply because I just needed a moment to myself.

The way you used to follow me around was no longer endearing; you were just in the way, and I was either stepping on you and hurting you, or stumbling over you with an infant in my arms.

Your accidents on the floor were no longer just unfortunate. Spending the day in baby diapers and spit up made cleaning up your messes just one extra, unnecessary step in my soiled day.

I remember the first time the thought entered my mind, but I stifled it, thinking it was merely borne out of frustration. But the further into parenthood we explored, and the more you kept up your new, exasperating habits, I couldn’t deny it any longer. I remember holding you, your soft fur soaking up my tears as I began to wonder if giving you a new home would be best for both of us. Maybe I wasn’t paying you enough attention anymore. Maybe my heart wasn’t big enough after all, because every day, I was realizing my daughter was filling most of it. You still had a place, but it was different.

I felt so ashamed. I cried many times over the following months whenever I acknowledged this thought I never dreamed I’d have. Somedays, after working a full shift and coming home to my other full-time job as a mother, it would have been easier to come home without a mess to clean; it would have been easier not to worry about you jumping on the couch and walking over the baby; with my husband (or as he is called now, ‘Daddy’), and I working varying shifts, it would have been easier not to worry about your high-pitched barking waking one or all of us at any hour of the day; it would have been easier not to worry about people coming over and warning them not to touch you since you usually tinkled from the excitement. Somedays, it was just too much.

And yet, in spite of my perspective sometimes being clouded by feeling overwhelmed, in spite of the way I stopped viewing you as my baby and now just as the dog, in spite of the way I wondered if I should give up on you, giving up on me never crossed your mind.

Every time I pushed you away, you’d watch me from a distance, waiting for a better moment to try again. You’d crawl into my lap or curl up at my side again later, as if I wouldn’t notice. No matter where I went or what I was doing, you were happy to sit and wait as long as it meant you could be in the same room with me.

On the days I feel like I haven’t had a minute to myself—or the five minutes they say I’m supposed to spend with you to keep you from getting jealous of the baby—you approach me with no other expectation other than my company. All you expect from me is a lap to curl up in and a couple strokes on the head. There are days when I fail God, when I fail my husband, when I fail my daughter…

There are even days when I fail you…

But just like them, you still show me unconditional love. You still love me, even on the days I don’t deserve it.

No, you aren’t the perfect dog.

But I’m not perfect, either. In fact, these days, I feel like a hopeless, anxious mess more than anything else.

I guess that’s what makes the two of us a perfect pair. I guess it’s also proof that I need you as much as you need me. There are days I look forward to—no, need—an eager cuddle from my understanding, patient dog. There are days I need to cry but don’t want to talk about why, and you’re okay with that. There are days that I’m glad you bark at everything, because despite your itty-bitty size, it makes me feel safe.

I don’t want to be like the person who left you on the side of the road as a defenseless little puppy. I got to be your second chance. You became a part of our newly formed family, and being a part of a family means having people who don’t give up on you.

So we won’t give up on each other. We will forgive the day’s mistakes and be grateful for moments of quiet companionship that only a master and his or her dog understands.

Thank you for being my sweet Lucy.


Lucy waiting while surrounded by a bunch of baby toys…as she usually is, these days. 🙂


A recent picture of Lucy and our little girl.

Music Is My Muse

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I think I already wrote another blog post similar to this, but at the request of a friend, I felt compelled to write about it again.

If I drew a pie chart of where I draw inspiration from for my writing, at least 50% of that chart would be “Music”. On one of the many “writers” pages I follow on Facebook, one asked, “What is a must-have for you when you’re writing?” You’d think most of us would have responded with:

A pen!


My computer!

My journal!

Instead, most responded with “A quiet place by a bay window overlooking a meadow as the sun rises and birds sing in the distance” or “Coffee!” I answered with, “My iPod.” Seriously. I don’t go anywhere without it. Music is with me wherever I go—in a car ride to visit family two hours away, or making a trip to the gas station 2 minutes away. Something to play music on is as necessary to me while showering as soap is. If there is ever a quiet moment, I’m either putting my headphones in or blasting it while I do mom-stuff around the house.

girl with headphones

I mean, haven’t you ever just listened to a song and thought, “Man, this is EPIC!”? It may be a song that is totally unrelatable to you, but there’s just something about it that makes you keep it on repeat. It makes you feel something, even if you don’t know exactly what that “something” is. For me, the moment this occurs, I start asking myself, “Why is this epic? Who is this about? Why do they feel this way?” Snippets of what look like scenes from a movie never made flash through my mind, and suddenly I can see and feel all the things that this unknown character does, all because of a song. And then, I  WRITE about it, because I want to share what I just experienced with other people.

Writing to me is more than just putting characters and their stories on paper (…or my computer screen, I suppose, would be more accurate). Music isn’t just about filling the silence; it’s an experience. The lyrics, the tone of the music, the passion in the singer’s voice or in the instruments sets scenes up in my head. I listened to Joshua Bell play the violin for “o mio babbino caro” and it set up not just a scene in my novel, A Captive Heart, but that song created a connection between my two main characters that endures throughout the entire series. While listening to Sia’s “My Love” when I was in the middle of writing the sequel to A Captive Heart, all of a sudden, I began to see the heroine of my novel in a room full of mirrors where she…well, I won’t ruin it for anyone since that book hasn’t even been released yet, but I knew it was a scene that had to be worked into my book. It ended up becoming one of my favorite moments in the series.

Sometimes, it’s not even a scene that music inspires for me. “Beautiful, Beautiful” by Francesca Battistelli helped me understand and better develop my character, Sophia, in my series, Sophia’s War. Just the same, “Let Me Go” by 3 Doors Down helped me develop Adrian in the same series. (I could go on and on giving examples of where songs have assisted me in character development, but I fear it might give away some facets of my characters I’m not willing to reveal outside the series…I like to surprise you guys, you know!)

And other times, songs blanket an entire book or series with its overall essence. For instance, I can’t listen to “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns or “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons without seeing the entire Sophia’s War series play out in my head as if I were watching a music video. Same thing for “Love Story” by Taylor Swift—all I see when I hear that song is Cassie and Friedrich’s lives from A Captive Heart playing out in my mind.

I may not be on my computer or jotting down notes on a note pad every second of every day, but I, like most writers, am always writing, especially when I have a playlist going. Also, when a song has enraptured me (one can usually tell this after I’ve had it on repeat for the past five hours), it’s dangerous to interrupt my thought process. I am prone to get angry like a gorilla being taunted by some kid making faces on the other side of the observation glass…amiright?

I think it’s pretty awesome that artists can inspire one another, despite the different way we choose to express ourselves. For instance, go on YouTube and you will find many unknown artists who have written songs inspired by a character or book. Ask any writer what songs influence their writing, and if they are like me, they will most likely begin to gush about what song reminds them of a character or story they wrote. [*WARNING: I will not be held responsible if you approach an author with this question and ultimately find yourself unable to get another word in edgewise.*]

What about you? Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, etc., do you find inspiration in music? If not, what do you find inspiration in? I’d be delighted to know! Sound off below! I always respond 🙂


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Confessions of an Imperfect Person


ADD is one of those conditions that is akin to the reject of all mental disorders. I say that affectionately, as I have suffered from it for the entirety of my life. I can function, but often I feel like I’m living in my own sitcom (you know, the way characters jump from one unrelated funny joke or scenario to the next). I used to resent that ADD was a part of me, and though it took a few years, I finally embraced the quirks and airheadedness that often accompanies the chaos in my brain.

I didn’t get diagnosed until I had almost reached adulthood, but looking back on my childhood now, I had all the indications. Relationally and in my day-to-day life, my ADD didn’t show itself except in my forgetfulness and the fact that I was easily distracted. Where it affected me most was in school. I was a well-behaved kid, which seemed like a contradiction to the fact that my grades were often average or very poor. I had teachers call me lazy, as well as my parents. I began to think that was who I was, part of my identity—I was lazy—which didn’t make sense to me, because when something genuinely interested me, I worked very hard at learning everything I could and would focus 100% on that one thing.

Purchased from iStockphoto


I hate taking medication. I hate the idea of being dependent on a little pill for anything. I will suffer through headaches and the curse of woman-dom without ibuprofen and feel like Xena the Warrior Princess at the end: “Rah!!! I endured PMS without a single painkiller! Fear me!” When it was suggested that I take medication for my ADD, I resisted. I had operated fine for 19 years. If I did indeed have the disorder, I wasn’t going to use it as an excuse; I wasn’t going to use medication as a crutch. At my mom’s insistence, though, I agreed to give Adderall a chance. At the time, while I was in college, I remember calling her in tears because I had studied hard for three tests and failed one of them and almost failed the other two. It felt like no matter how hard I studied, I couldn’t retain information. I missed things in class because by the time I processed enough to write down what the professor said, he or she was already talking about something else. When I started taking Adderall, I remembered thinking, “Hmm…I don’t feel any different. I bet this isn’t even working.” I didn’t notice a difference physically, so I thought the experiment had failed.

Until one day, I realized I had been taking 4 pages of notes instead of my customary 2 lines. In every class. My test grades jumped from Ds and Cs to As. By the end of the semester, I finally felt my grades reflected my efforts. I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore, and I was grateful that I’d given Adderall a chance. I finally felt normal, wondering if I was finally experiencing the world the way everyone else did.



And that was what made me hesitant again. I am not perfect, but I’ve always endeavored to be a good person—to do what was right, to seek forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong. I have always been a dreamer, and whether I’m ever successful or not, I’ve always wanted to inspire others to pursue their own dreams. I don’t believe you are ever too old; I don’t believe you’ve made too many mistakes or that you don’t have what it takes. I don’t let what people think about me change me (does what others think about me bother me sometimes? Yes, of course. But I don’t let it change my personality or traits). I have always been accepting of myself and most of my flaws and have always trusted that God would use me whether I was a lump of coal or a diamond. Taking the Adderall changed me. It made me more observant and alert; it made me more pensive and more particular about the thoughts I chose to verbalize. None of those are bad things at all, and I don’t regret the benefits I reaped…but I chose not to take the medication on weekends. I also chose to live without it once I left college. Talkative or not, forgetful or not, ADD or not, all those things were still a part of me. They were the quirks, the habits that made people say, “That’s Stephanie,” whether it was out of frustration or amusement.

I haven’t taken Adderall in eight years. Somedays, I laugh and enjoy making other people laugh at my articulated unbridled thoughts. Other days, I feel like my head is filled with white noise and I need to be left alone to keep from getting overwhelmed. I’ve found that music helps me a lot, with Classical helping me the most on my worst days. As an author, ADD aids my imagination in leaps and bounds, while at the same time, it hinders me by keeping me fighting constant distractions. Some days, whether by ADD or writer’s block, I can only manage to write a sentence or two. Other days, I can write pages. Either way, I never count it as a loss or time wasted. As long as I have put my best foot forward, that one sentence is a success.

I intend to take Adderall once I start school again. Though I embrace who I am without it, I can’t ignore who I am with it, either. I do need the extra help sometimes and I’m not ashamed of that anymore.

What I hoped to accomplish by sharing this part of my life with you is to:

A) Be careful and conscientious of your words. I was labelled as “lazy”. Parts of me very well may be, but laziness is an action. It is not mine or anyone else’s identity. If I’d chosen to embrace that word as a part of who I was, I might not have ever discovered the truth. I might have used it as a justification for why I did poorly in school instead of being encouraged that there was a way to fix it.

B) Don’t dismiss health conditions you may not physically see. I have been told by a few people that I do not have ADD—that ADD is a fake term used by doctors to force medication on people. I am not easily offended, but that offends me. I can’t count the tears that I’ve shed in the past over the frustration that sometimes, I just cannot focus. Though you may not be able to experience my brain and its peculiar ways firsthand, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem—it just means I’ve adapted in spite of it.

C) The people who can empathize with me are cheering after point B, but here’s another unwanted truth: Don’t let yourself use any disorder or condition as an excuse. Having ADD does not make me more or less exceptional than the next person. I still had to study hard, I still have to hold down jobs and treat people kindly whether they understand my daily struggles or not. I also do not use it as an excuse from myself to myself; when it comes to my writing, I have made a vow to write at least one sentence a day. It sounds easy, but there are days it absolutely is not. Small steps are still progress, and I have to remind myself of that everyday. I can choose to look at my ADD as a curse, or I can take pleasure in the fact that small victories for most people are huge victories to me!

And D) Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” My struggles have made me unique, and as long as I remain in Him, God will use this to bring glory to Himself. I am not defective; I am different, but God still expects the same thing out of me that He does everyone else—to turn to Him instead of being ashamed of my weaknesses. As the lyrics in a song I wrote years ago says: “The clarity my imperfections undo, were made to shine as reflections of You.”

istock friends


You are loved and you are not alone in the struggle. Don’t be ashamed of what makes you you. Don’t be ashamed of getting help if you need it, like I was. Get convicted, though, if you let it stop you from living, if you let it stop you from trying, if you let it stop you from being who you were made to be—an imperfect person made to bring Him glory.

Moses had a stuttering problem, but God chose him to be the one to confront Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt. You and I have no excuse, either.


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From Lonely Little Girl to Loved Happy Woman


I have been dreaming of my future husband since I was a little girl. I don’t mean I let white pillow-cases cascade down the back of my head, pretending it was a veil. I didn’t even imagine I was in a wedding gown when I dressed in a flowing Belle costume for Halloween in second grade. I mean, I was literally dreaming of the man who would be mine from the moment I comprehended the concept of marriage.

Couple holding hands

Purchased from iStockphoto

I often tell my friends that I was meant to be a wife. I have been devoted to my husband since before I even knew who he was. As with most of you, my teen years had been volatile and confusing. I grew up as an only child in a broken family which wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life. My parents love me, and even as a child, I knew they’d do just about anything for me (…except work things out). But because of the circumstances, because of the bad blood between my parents, I often found myself being pulled in opposite directions. Looking back, though most of my relatives meant well, I would hear things about both of my parents that would harm my perceptions of them both. As a child, it would cause me to take sides. Once I matured, I began to get fed up and frustrated, asking both sides of my family to keep my parents’ history to themselves. (Did they? Do they? Not always. Even now with me being a 26-year-old woman, it’s a work in progress).

But up until that point, I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt alone. I felt sad. As most of us do, I had daddy issues as well as “mom-is-going-to-drive-me-crazy” issues. To God’s credit alone, I found myself seeking solace in His arms and in His word, especially during these unstable years as a child, adolescent and teen. I couldn’t tell my mom things about my dad without risking fueling the hate—same with my dad. I had no siblings who could commiserate. I was put in the middle, trying to love two people I was also being told to resent.

I dreamed of easier days. I clung to the hope that someday, it wouldn’t be like that anymore. I dreamed about finding a love I could only seem to find in God—unconditional and without having to keep my guard up all the time.

Jesus has always been enough for me, but that didn’t stop me from hoping I could find a great man someday. Sometimes, I look back on my behavior as a teen and cringe because of how mentally and emotionally stunted I seemed to be. I had been granted a wisdom that had me looking 5-10 years ahead, but in the moment, I was immature. Sometimes, back then, Jesus was the only hope I had.


Purchased from iStockphoto

I prayed every night, often in tears for God to be preparing me, just as He was preparing my future husband, for the day our paths were to cross. I took the heartbreak of boyfriends who were not meant to be in stride, asking God to let it hurt if it only meant that someday, I’d find someone who would endeavor to see and understand my heart. On the really bad days, I would ponder on the possibility that I wasn’t meant to be with anyone. Maybe I was supposed to be single for the rest of my life. I felt like that whale they discovered who sings in a much higher frequency than the rest of her species. She is forced to swim alone, unnoticed and unheard by her kind, never crossing their migration path because she cannot hear them and they cannot hear her. http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/worlds-loneliest-whale-sings-at-the-wrong-frequency.html

But even as a teen, I accepted it, knowing that being alone might have been something God called me to be. Things were hard then, but I knew I must have been learning something; someday, I’d be able to be treated as an adult by my parents instead of their Stretch-Armstrong child. Someday, I’d have the strength to voice my opinions to my parents and others without being made to feel guilty. Someday, it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

Someday, I’d find my soulmate.

I caught glimpses of him sometimes. Sometimes, I’d feel him in my dreams. One time, the vision of a smile entered my mind, and I knew it was his. Whenever my heart was broken, I’d shed my tears while thinking of my future husband: “These are for you, because you’re going to be worth it.”

College wasn’t much easier for me. I had basically started a new life, though my problems with my parents still hung over me like a dark storm cloud. It was a time of growth for me—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally. My faith was allowed to flourish and one day while walking across the college campus I paused, the knowledge striking me that I was going to meet my future husband there.

“Really, God? Is he really that close?” I thought. “Well, where is he? Point him out to me!”

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. I thought maybe I’d imagined it; that I wanted to find him so badly that I’d let myself believe I was near him. I went ice skating just before Christmas with a huge group from college, all of whom I did not know. It was such an idyllic setting; I felt like the heroine in a romance novel, and I remember looking up at the sky, thinking, “I wish he was here, holding my hand. Oh well. At least we’re looking up at the same sky somewhere.”

There were a few things I’d asked God to give me in my future husband, knowing I could get all of them, some of them or none of them at all, but I asked anyway. I wanted him to love God. I wanted him to come out of nowhere. I thought about my future husband so much that I feared I’d see him coming, then over-analyze it, believing I was only telling myself something I wanted to hear. I wanted to share music with him; at the time, it was my passion, my outlet for all the pain and confusion of growing up. I wanted him to be able to know my heart; to seek to understand who I was, what my passions were and empathize with my sorrows.

I wanted him to be my new start; to be someone who would stand by me and offer either a crying shoulder or a strong defense in battles I felt I’d been fighting all alone.

The first time I saw Adam was in my Old Testament class. For some reason, the moment sticks out in my mind even now, though it would be a long time before I knew who he was to me. He came into class in a sky-blue colored shirt, carrying his books at his side. I watched him walk up the aisle, noting his blue eyes and blond hair, thinking, “He’s kind of cute…” before turning back to the conversation I was in, forgetting the moment before class had even ended.

A few weeks, maybe months later, I was hitting a ball against a wall in a racquetball court (definitely not playing racquetball, as I am sports-handicapped—I liked the way the rooms were small and echoed so I usually went there to sing). A guy (Adam) who had been playing volleyball with his friends had walked over while my back was turned, opening the door. What he said next is up for debate, because I don’t remember exactly, but we have established that it was either regarding my singing or because he wanted to show me how to play racquetball since I was doing it all wrong. When I asked Adam about this and what he remembered, he said, “I don’t remember what I said, but I know I came up with one of those two things. I just wanted a reason to talk to you.”

I was writing songs a lot during that period of my life, but lamented the fact that, though I could sing, I couldn’t play any instruments. My life with Adam started when he volunteered his piano skills to accompany my songs. We got together on a daily basis to play and sing together, which transformed our friendship into something more.

Two weeks after we started dating, I was rummaging through my desk for a pen when I heard God say, “This is it for you, Steph.”

I don’t want you to get the impression that Adam and I got married, grasped hands and skipped off into the sunset. (In fact, when I look back on the week of our wedding, it’s like looking back on a bloody battle scene from 300. I desperately wanted the white dress and to involve family and friends while we made a covenant with God, but sometimes, I wonder why we didn’t just elope…) We have our ups and downs; external and internal factors may put a strain on our relationship at times, and sometimes we make decisions that make life harder on us than it has to be. I naively expected life to be an easy, smooth road upon finding my Prince Charming, but it’s not always been. God gave me reinforced strength in my husband, but He has broken both of us many times over the years, in different ways and for different reasons.

We have had to accept that we are not soulmates; there’s no such thing. We were both created as individuals to bring glory to God; we just happened to get married, too. We have both had to accept that we cannot save each other, but that we can be one another’s confidante and best friend. We have had to accept that in my weak moments, he has to be strong, and vice versa. We have had to ask for forgiveness for hurts rendered on the heart of the person we promised utmost devotion to, as well as have the strength to forgive when asked.

Waiting for a man who is committed to me and believes in me has changed my life. Knowing there’s someone in my corner who will support and defend me has made me less afraid of being myself. I have had a lot of hurt and bitterness to work through from my past, and I’m so grateful and to have a loving, patient husband who has been present in my struggles and held my hand as we overcame them together. I have come to understand that dedicated, constant love is not defined by how perfectly smooth life seems to be going. It’s saying, “I love you” when your heart hurts. It’s hearing “I will never give up on you” in the dark, turbulent days of marriage. No matter how hopeful and optimistic you are on your wedding day, I will tell you right now that those ugly days will happen.

I have no example of a good, Christian marriage in my life—in my parents or anyone else. (EDIT: I have no example of a Christian marriage that has stood the test of time). I’m not saying that out of hard feelings. I get it. Life happens; people are unforgiving, whatever their reasons are, and people make bad life choices that seem unforgivable. None of that changes how I feel about the family that I love.

If I lived by statistics, the future wouldn’t look bright for us. But God has been faithful to me since my prayers for this man I am now bound to began as a child. He kept my heart resilient. He kept me from making mistakes with boys I would most likely regret today. He gave me all the things I asked for in my future husband and then some.

He was writing our story long before we even knew it had started. Years later, Adam was reading a journal I’d begun for my future husband. In one entry, I talked about that night at the skating rink, gazing up at the sky and wishing he was there.

“Wait,” Adam had said. “Is this for real?”

“Yeah,” I answered, blasé.

He stared at me a moment. “I was there. I was there the same night you were at the same rink. You went with your friends, I went with mine.”

No matter what the future holds, no matter what obstacles we are certain to face, I know that God was smiling at us both that night and that He continues to smile at us today. If our marriage ever fails, it will not be because God’s hand wasn’t in it. It will be because we let ourselves get in the way; it will be because we began to care more about our selves than one another. It will be because we have become unforgiving. It will be because God is no longer the love of both of our lives.

If you are single, I would highly recommend starting a journal and writing down every little thing. Who knows? You might someday find out like I did that it wasn’t such a “little” thing after all. Pray for your future husband NOW. Pray for your future marriage. Pray for your future children, even. Pray that God keeps your heart focused on Him. Pray that He will someday give you a companion, a lover, and a best friend all in one, all to serve the purpose of glorifying Him. Don’t be afraid to pray for all the things you want in your future husband, but keep your heart open to the fact that there are things you may want or need that you don’t even realize yet.

I have plenty of friends who have already endured the pain of divorce. I am someone who has experienced the effects of someone else’s divorce, and have watched friends and relatives endure the same. No matter the reason, no matter what’s already been done, we serve a forgiving God; a God of hope and new beginnings. Jesus gives us all a clean slate, whether it’s to transform a broken or even dissolved marriage, or to find a new beginning with someone else. Only you and God understand your circumstances, but I would encourage you not to give up hope either way.

Our God is faithful. Trust Him with this area of your life and you won’t be disappointed.

“26”, a Parody of Taylor Swift’s “22”.

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Just for fun! I love Taylor and I love to laugh, so here is a pretty good mix for both! Enjoy!



It feels like a perfect night to go to bed early,

But the baby’s still up so, uh uh. Uh uh.

It feels like a perfect night to fold some laundry, but I’ve,

Dried the same load three times, uh uh. Uh uh.


We’re married, overworked and dreaming at the same time.

It’s pitiful and laughable,

Oh yeah.

Roll over, tell him it’s his turn to feed the baby

This time.

Uh oh!

I don’t know about you,

But I’m feeling 26.

This grown up thing is seriously,

Nothing like a chick flick.

I got mom-hair and bills,

And dirty diapers in the mix.

Everything will be alright if

We ever make it past



It seems like one of those nights,

We might get some alone time,

But the baby’s screaming, so, uh uh. Uh uh.

It seems like one of those nights,

Where I’m gonna need coffee, if I make it to morning,

Will you stop screaming?


We’re married, overworked and crying in the best way,

It’s pitiful and laughable,

Oh, yeah.

I’m gonna eat some chocolate and no I won’t share.

Ok, fine.

Uh oh!

I don’t know about you,

But I’m feeling 26.

This grown up thing is seriously,

Nothing like a chick flick.

I got mom-hair and bills,

And dirty diapers in the mix.

Everything will be alright if

We ever make it past



It feels like one of those nights,

I need some ice cream.

It feels like one of those nights.

We won’t be sleeping.

It feels like one of those nights.

Honey, I’ve got bad news,

I think it’s doo-doo

Pretty sure it’s doo-doo.


Ooh-ooh, yeah, hey!

I don’t know about you,

But I’m feeling 26.

This grown up thing is seriously,

Nothing like a chick flick.

I got mom-hair and bills,

And dirty diapers in the mix.

Everything will be alright if

We ever make it past



It feels like one of those nights,

I need some ice cream.

It feels like one of those nights.

We won’t be sleeping.

It feels like one of those nights.

Honey, I’ve got bad news,

I think it’s doo-doo

Pretty sure it’s doo-doo.

Why Harry Potter is Allowed in Our Christian Household


Harry Potter’s famous scar.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited to write this article.

I am part of the generation that grew up alongside Harry Potter. I began the series when a teacher in my seventh-grade class read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for us during the reading hour after lunch. My interest was immediately piqued. I watched The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets a year and a half later, the only two films that were already available for purchase at Wal-Mart at the time. Upon finishing the Chamber of Secrets, I craved more, reading every book that had been published in the series up to that point, eagerly checking every so often to see when the next movie and book would be out.

I remember shedding my first tears over the death of a fictional character as I read The Goblet of Fire. I remember being in college, staying up until midnight just to get the movie of the same title when it was released. My mother gave me Order of the Phoenix as a Christmas gift, and I began reading it immediately, not finishing until the following morning. The Half-Blood Prince was the first book I purchased at a midnight release, and I went to the theater with my husband when the movie came out on our honeymoon. I was visiting my dad for the summer as a teenager when The Deathly Hallows (book) was released, and he, at my incessant requests, waited in line for over an hour just to make sure I got a copy that night. I finished it just as the sun began to rise the next morning. I still remember sitting on the bed smiling to myself and staring at the cover, in awe of the epic conclusion. I went back and read the last three chapters right away because once did not feel like enough. I was there for the midnight film premieres of the Deathly Hallows parts one and two. I rewatched the entire series in the couple days preparing for the birth of my daughter, and took the first book with me to the hospital, both of which were to help distract me and settle my nerves.

photo-2 2

Harry Potter’s glasses.

I was fortunate, because though I grew up in a Christian family, I was still allowed to follow a series that most Christian families and churches prohibit. I can tell you from a sincere heart that I will forever be grateful for this: not only did the Harry Potter series leave lessons that resonate with me even to this day, but it taught me to love reading. Perhaps even more importantly, it made me want to be a writer. I am almost certain that if it weren’t for the masterful storytelling and, not just reading wonderfully developed characters, but experiencing them as if they were my very own friends, I would not have been influenced to strive for the same for my own readers.

There are really only two things I cannot wait to talk to my daughter (and any future children) about: Jesus and Harry Potter.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying here that Harry Potter is the same as Jesus. One is the Son of God, and the other is a fictional character thought up by J.K. Rowling. Though we talk about Jesus and I read my daughter Harry Potter (here and there), she’s not old enough to really comprehend or communicate regarding either yet. It excites me to think about my daughter asking questions someday about Jesus, hopefully welcoming Him into her heart, and watching what He does with her life. It also excites me to think that she may experience the same magic through books that I did with the Harry Potter series.

I always wonder if some of my anti-Potter Christian friends find my affection for Harry hypocritical, as if it is some exception I have made that is in defiance of God—as if the Harry Potter series is somehow equivalent to Game of Thrones (another article for another time). Well, I’d LOVE to tell you why it’s not.

I have witnessed the resistance, fear even, of certain fictional subject matter in churches over the years. I remember watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with my mom when it came out. I’d never heard of it before—had no idea it was an epic literary achievement. I researched it (to find out when the subsequent films in the series were coming out) and discovered it was written by a Christian man. Upon reading this, the idea of resisting the power of the one ring as a representation of sin made sense to me, as did the clear line between good and evil. The elves pray, and in my opinion, Aragorn has always symbolized a real man—what a godly man is supposed to be. (Once again, another article for another time). You can imagine my surprise, my dissent, even, upon hearing a pastor in the church I was attending at the time slam Lord of the Rings. I sat in disbelief, listening as he said he didn’t have time for those “boogers” (the orcs), that it was Satanic, and that instead of watching a film with demon-like creatures for entertainment value, we should be reading our bibles.

Well, I could write an entire essay on why I disagree (and probably will someday), but really, I just sat there in embarrassment. This was coming from a guy who obviously had never watched the movie, read the books, or even researched it for that matter. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t read our bibles, by the way (of course we should). I’m arguing against the flawed opinions and misunderstanding of fictional characters.

So what does this mean for Harry?

The biggest argument against Harry Potter in Christian circles is its use of “witchcraft”. I put that word in quotation marks because it is my personal opinion that what the bible condemns is completely different from the magic in the Harry Potter series.

The reason being is actually very simple and quite plain once you think about it. The source of Harry’s powers, along with his friends’ and every other magical character in the series, does not come from outside of themselves. It comes from what is already within them. They do not drink virgin’s blood for strength. Demons are not summoned (or even mentioned) and spells are not cast for the sole purpose of revenge. They do not worship Satan or draw their powers from him. They are wizards, just like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. I think the confusion comes in since the term “witch” is used in the Harry Potter series. Think about this: if Rowling had used “wizard” as a broader term to envelop all, she might have redefined the whole meaning and genre of what it is to be a wizard (the way some vampire-loving authors who shall remain nameless have redefined what a vampire is). “Wizard” is generally a word used to describe a male with magical powers, so what is the opposite? Or rather, a term that describes a female with magical powers? The only one that comes to mind is “witch”. So instead of Rowling creating a completely foreign label for “females with magical powers” that might have left some of us confused or even rolling our eyes, she used a word that already existed.


A Firebolt broomstick.

Honestly, (and I think any Potterhead would agree), the magic isn’t even why we love Harry and his friends. The wizarding and witchcraft comes secondary when it comes to what has resonated with us as children and into adulthood. It’s something that touched us on a much more relatable level, and inspired us to acknowledge our flaws while embracing the heroic qualities inside ourselves that we love so much about Harry and his friends:



(“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc. 4:12)

Harry, the arrogant, headstrong boy with unshakable courage. Ron, the youngest boy in a large, poor family with fierce loyalty. Hermione, the bushy-haired, rabbit-toothed girl with the brightest mind of her age. Neville, the boy with poor wizarding skills and a devastating family history with a strong moral compass. Luna, the girl that is relentlessly teased with the ability to see the good in everyone. Ginny, the youngest and only girl in her family, with strength and wisdom beyond her years.

Though the series focuses primarily on the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione, they are still a part of a larger group of friends. What binds them together is not a web of interdependent relationships, but the fact that they accept one another for who they are, inadequacies and all. As a result, with every book and movie, we see them flourish, little by little, until the end, where we see them do great things when faced with insurmountable odds in spite of their shortcomings. Harry’s friends are the only ones who stand by him unapologetically while he’s telling truths no one wants to hear; they hold him accountable when he tries to take people and situations on alone. We see Ron overcome his deep-seated insecurities and become a hero in his own right. Hermione makes tough decisions at her own cost to protect her parents and to help Harry defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all. We see Neville—a meek, fearful boy—become a protector and a warrior, drawing his wand and a sword in battles he knows he cannot win because he believes in what is good. What Rowling has done here is something incredible. It’s not about Harry; as a reader or viewer, we realize he is the only one who can stop Lord Voldemort, yes, but his friends are not mere sub-characters to support him. We care for them, and we identify with them. What Harry and his friends have taught us is that everyone has a part to play, and it’s important.

A Distinct Line Between Good and Evil:

(“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21; “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Tim. 1:7).

Any literary aficionado will tell you that writing a character or novel where good and bad is in black and white does not make for unforgettable literature. What makes literature a classic is where morals are lost in a murky gray and we find ourselves making exceptions for characters’ bad decisions because of who they are or what they’ve been through. Not with Rowling. With the Harry Potter series, there is good, and there is evil. An oft-repeated point communicated to Harry by the wise Professor Dumbledore is, it is not where you come from or what your abilities are that define who you are, it is your choices that define who you are. (“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”) You are responsible for how you treat others, and if your decisions are for good or for evil. This series is filled with instances of the main character making difficult choices because they are right, even when he’s being ostracized, slandered and mocked. That speaks volumes, and as Christians, is something our children can definitely identify with someday.

I’m not going to elaborate on this, as I do not want to give anything away, but I am going to at least plant a seed of curiosity and thoughtfulness here. Despite being a Christian, I am guilty of something when I read stories such as this: perhaps this is a result of vicariousness, but when the hero encounters someone he knows has no good inside him—someone without mercy—I think, “Kill him. Just get it over with and kill him so no one else will get hurt.” That is a “greater good” mentality. After reading the Harry Potter series, I immediately realized…

Not once do Harry or his friends use a deadly curse on someone who is unquestionably evil. Once, in a moment of weakness where he loses someone he loves, Harry uses what Rowling calls an “Unforgivable curse” on Bellatrix (Voldemort’s right-hand woman). It is a torture curse that is virtually ineffective, though, and Voldemort sadistically explains to Harry that he has “to mean it.” There is a battle segment at the end of the series where perhaps killing curses are implied, but we as the reader or viewer do not see them. Many of our heroes in this series have perfect reasons to hate Voldemort’s followers, or Death-Eaters, because of the damage and loss they precipitated when Voldemort was in power the first time. So yes, some of them wrestle with wanting revenge. But they never follow through with it. When it comes down to it, they use spells to shield themselves or disarm their opponents, protecting themselves or their friends.

The Harry Potter fangirls vs. The Twilight fangirls:

(“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Prov. 31:30; “A gracious woman gets honor…” Prov. 11:16; “…when we acknowledge God’s supreme role in our life and set our mind on Him, He enables us to be women of hope.” –Elizabeth George)

Harry Potter vs. Twilight. Okay, I won’t go there. But let’s look on a much smaller scale, such as the standards of the women in these two series. As good parents, this is a very unnerving time for us regarding our daughters. We live in a time where our little girls are being exposed to sexualization at an alarmingly young age. We live in a time where Bella Swan is more appealing than say, Anne of Green Gables. We live in a time where a relationship and dependency on a boy is sought over self-discovery and an identity in Christ. Well, let me assure you: there are examples to be made out of the women in Harry Potter.

Hermione Granger is very unlike the beautiful and elegant Emma Watson in the movies. Physical beauty is not a description of Hermione in the series. She has bushy, wild hair and buck teeth that Draco Malfoy exaggerates with a spell in order to humiliate her. Funnily enough, while I read the books, never once did I pity Hermione for her lack of physical beauty; quite the opposite. To me, it added to her charm. On more than one occasion, we hear Hermione described as “the brightest witch of her age.” She is smart, she is disciplined, and she is independent. Her knowledge is what gets Harry and Ron out of a lot of tight spots, or helps them further their quest to defeat Lord Voldemort. Do you hear me? What makes her exceptional (and what everyone notices) is not her physical beauty, but her brain. This is literally a series where the reader or viewer is more captivated by a female hero’s brain than her beauty! To me, that is quite an accomplishment.

But let’s take a look at some of the other women of Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley, one of my personal favorites. She is Ron’s little sister, the youngest in a family full of boys. It is evident throughout the series, however, that she knows how to hold her own. She is mentally strong, athletic, and a powerful witch. Most boys are intimidated by her. Luna Lovegood is considered airheaded and whimsical—sometimes crazy—but the beauty of her character is that she sees the good in everyone. There are times where Ron and Hermione don’t understand Harry’s pain, but Luna does. Luna commiserates, and she feels compassion for both the mistreated and the misunderstood. Mrs. Weasley—the mother of seven children—is an awesome representation of a mother. Not only has she built a splendid, beautiful home for her family, but her children respect her and she is a woman to be reckoned with. Though the Weasleys may have had little financially, they are overabundant in love and family, and Mrs. Weasley warmly accepts Harry as if he is one of her own.


(Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13)

In the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”


(“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9; “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8; “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6; “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psa. 103:13; “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10)

In the least corniest way possible, Rowling has made Love itself the most powerful magic in Harry’s world. There is power in love, and it isn’t even clearly understood how powerful love is until perhaps the very last book. One of the things about Harry Potter that makes me emotional (and many of my Potterhead friends) is the aspect of a parent’s love. Harry’s father’s infamous arrogance becomes trivial when we understand he gave his life trying to protect his wife and son from Lord Voldemort. The wizarding world as a whole mourned the loss of such a gentle spirit that was Harry’s mother, when she literally stood between Harry and the most evil wizard of all time in an attempt that took her life. Our boy Harry has been dealt a miserable hand in life, and despite the abuse he suffered by his aunt and uncle, despite feeling alone, hunted and unexceptional for most of his life, the love of his parents for him is undeniable even to himself. It’s what makes him feel worth. One of the most poignant scenes in the entire series happens toward the end, where Harry faces the ghosts of his parents and guardians. He realizes he has never been alone; that they have always been with him. It is their love that gives him what he needs to fulfill his destiny.


The Harry Potter series is not a tale about “The Boy Who Lived.” It is about the uncompromising loyalty of friendship. It is about the strength and leadership of trusted mentors. It’s about the love of a mother and father who sacrificed their lives to save their child…

It is about always choosing what is right over what is easy.

I’m not going to sit here and bash those of you who have chosen to exclude Harry from your children’s childhood. To each his own. What I hope to accomplish with this article is to shed light on why there may be some misunderstandings as to what Harry Potter is and what it teaches. If you took out the offending word “witch” and perhaps even the magic and left the lessons within the series, there would be no offense to be found for most Christians.

I would like to add here that Rowling does not shy away from death. The series starts off lighthearted but gets more foreboding and serious as it progresses. You know your child’s mental and emotional maturity better than anyone. Perhaps they do not yet have the capacity to handle the concept of death. If you’re even on the fence just a little, however, I would suggest watching it yourself first and making your own assessment.

If you’re afraid your child may be influenced by the use of magic, imagine what your child is going to discover upon finding a particularly nice looking stick outside. (First of all, kudos on making your child play outside, and bravo to him for having an imagination!) Imagine him or her waving it around, shouting spells like, “Expelliarmus! Expecto Patronum! Obliviate! Alohamora!” Do you know what they’re going to discover? That the type of fantastical magic exclusively in Harry’s world is fictional. They can’t actually wave a wand and expect light to shoot out and locks to open or a shimmering dog patronus to prance around them.

Still not good enough? You’re afraid it might influence them to seek out the Satan-worshipping witchcraft of this world? Then let me suggest something that seems to be a little radical this day in age:

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. The essence of Harry Potter is not the magic. It is the good. It is about doing the right thing even when it’s not easy. It’s about speaking truth even when no one believes you. It is about being loyal to your friends. It’s about forgiving your friends and asking them to forgive you. It’s about being one of the good guys.

What I look forward to is talking to my daughter about everything, especially Jesus. Jesus is noticeable in everything, as is His absence. There are many, many, many qualities exemplified in the Harry Potter series that are encouraged and required of Christ-followers, and I can’t wait to point them out to her.

And you know what magic we all have in us that Harry has? Goodness. Love. Honor. Loyalty. Courage. Sacrifice. Those ARE real. That is the kind of power your child will discover is in our world and in Harry’s.


The symbol for the Deathly Hallows.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from both the books and the movies:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

“Me? Books and cleverness. There are more important things: friendship and bravery.”

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

“You think the dead we loved truly ever leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly in times of great trouble?”

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort…”

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

“It is my belief…that the truth is generally more preferable to lies.”

“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” snarled Voldemort.

“You are quite wrong,” said Dumbledore, speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

“If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!”

“You don’t understand—there are things worth dying for!”

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

“We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.”

“It is not how you are alike. It is how you are not.”

“You’re the weak one…and you’ll never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

“Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”

“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!”

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

“You’ll stay with me?”

“Until the very end,” said James.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise they wear it well.”

“I’m going to keep going until I succeed—or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”

“You think I’m a fool?” demanded Harry.

“No, I think you’re like James,” said Lupin, “who would have regarded it as the height of dishonor to mistrust his friends.”

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

“People die everyday. Friends, family…they didn’t die in vain. But YOU will. Cause you’re wrong! [His] heart did beat for us! For all of us! It’s not over!”

What are your favorite quotes? What do you love about Harry Potter?