Stars and Space

One night at an observatory meant one impressive telescope, a sore neck from craning to look at the heavens, many words I didn’t understand, precious glimpses of the reality beyond view of the naked eye, and a lesson on our solar system that blew me away.

Did you know that there are stars that are a few hundred times the size of our sun? I didn’t. Forget twinkle, twinkle little star. More like burn, burn, gigantic ball of fire.

Take that fact about how big some of the stars are and remember that our sun is much larger than earth (where we feel dwarfed when we simply go to a big mountain) and your mind is ready to blow. We can’t conceive of the size of the known universe and certainly can’t imagine what exists that we don’t yet know about.

The theoretical lesson at the observatory ended and we marched outside to bend over the telescope. We sat in a circle around the machine, awaiting our turn to peek behind the curtain of the naked eye into the heavens.

Saturn’s rings are real — I saw them. The moon is riddled with craters. And, even under the telescope, there are groups of flaming stars that look like someone spilled salt.

Space has always scared me. The black, gravity-less unknown. It can feel like we are on a planet of life travelling through an abyss of scary nothingness.

But what do I know about it from looking up from little ol’ earth into the world of celestial bodies, gaseous planets, and ginormous stars that burn and soar?

We know nothing in the scheme of things and we don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe space is pulsing with life itself and we are living a shadow of it here on earth. What do we know?

This world is magical and glorious and if there is even more glory and fullness of life beyond what we see, what must it be like?

In C.S. Lewis’ novel “Out of the Silent Planet,” the main character finds himself hurtling from earth to another planet.

He comments on his fear of space: “Some moments of cold fear he had; but each time they were shorter and more quickly swallowed up in a sense of awe which made his personal fate seem wholly insignificant. He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite.”

He goes on to talk about the majesty of traveling through space:

“He wondered how he could ever have thought of planets, even of the Earth, as islands of life and reality floating in a deadly void. Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him, he saw the planets—the “earths” he called them in his thought—as mere holes or gaps in the living heaven—excluded and rejected wastes of heavy matter and murky air, formed not by addition to, but by subtraction from, the surrounding brightness. And yet, he thought, beyond the solar system the brightness ends. Is that the real void, the real death? Unless . . . he groped for the idea . . . unless visible light is also a hole or gap, a mere diminution of something else. Something that is to bright unchanging heaven as heaven is to the dark, heavy earths.”

Doesn’t this imagining of space stoke your imagination?

The reality we see on earth is not the only reality. There is much we cannot see and are incapable of knowing. And I think it’s good to let my mind run wild with the possibilities of the majesty and glory and beauty and brimming life that is beyond what we see with our eyes.

The insignificance I feel before a great mountain is nothing compared to my insignificance (and even fear) before the galaxies. Yet the Being that oversees the celestial bodies was stuffed into the skin of a man —dignifying humanity, coming near, closing the gap, and bringing life. Our existence on this small planet might be minuscule but it is not overlooked, unwanted, or unimportant.

Esta bien no estar bien

Llorar en el aeropuerto. Me ha pasado varias veces y no lo recomiendo. Nadie quiere ser esa persona llorando por el terminal, pero si te pasa a ti, hay que aceptarlo.
Hace un par de años, estaba llorando en el aeropuerto justo antes de subir al avión – gotas grandes y no pararon. El chico escaneó mi tarjeta de embarque, me miró y me dijo, “Esta bien no estar bien.”

Empecé a llorar más porque en ese momento no estuve bien y no tenía la energía para ponerme una sonrisa y decir, “Estoy bien.” Respiré y cabeceé con una sonrisa de agradecimiento. No había necesidad de presentarme como una persona perfecta con la vida arreglada para subir al avión. Está bien llorar por el terminal. Está bien no estar bien.

Da algo de libertad cuando alguien te da permiso no estar bien. Un día una conocida me pidió disculpas por ser un Eeyore y no un Tigger ese día. Dijo que estaba desanimada por varios motivos. Le dije, “No me pidas disculpas. Está bien no estar bien.” Me miró y lo reiteró, como si nunca hubiera estado segura de la idea: “Si que esta bien no estar bien, verdad?”

Después me preguntó si la podía usar la frase en su próxima obra de arte. Quizás me haga famosa. O debería ser famoso ese chico que trabaja con la aerolínea, que no me conoció, pero no se encogió al ver mis lágrimas.

¿Por qué te abates, oh alma mía, y te turbas dentro de mí? Espera en Dios; porque aún he de alabarle, Salvación mía y Dios mío.” (Salmos 42:5) Dios puede con mis tristezas y quiere que esté con él, esté como esté. No tengo que arreglarme antes de acercarme a él. Pero tampoco me quedo así, compadeciéndome. Hablo con mi propia alma, dando importancia a lo difícil que estoy viviendo, pero también diciéndome que hay que esperar, hay que cantar, hay que alegrarme en Dios.

“Oye, Rebecca, escúchame, que te tengo que hablar. Te voy a recordar de algunas cosas, alma mía.” Allí está la diferencia. Se puede tener dolor, y reconocerlo, pero aun así tener una paz profundo que solo Dios me da y una alegría que no cambia con las circunstancias de la vida.

Estés donde estés hoy, pases lo que pases, acuérdate que está bien no estar bien. No hay que fingir. Déjate pasar por el duelo. Rodéate con la gente que te va a abrazar sin palabras y después, en el debido tiempo, va a ayudarte a sanar, a aprender del duelo, y a seguir adelante. Y después da a alguien en tu vida el permiso no estar bien contigo si realmente no está bien. Compartamos las alegría de la vida juntos y también las cargas y tristezas.

learn a language, they say

“Learn a foreign language,” they say. “It’ll be great,” they say.

What they don’t tell you is that it’s all well and cool until your foreign language becomes a bully and starts doing a number on your native tongue. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll question your sanity and your intelligence when you start forgetting words in your native language. Or that in acquiring a new language you’ll feel like you’re un-acquiring the only language you actually know (knew?) how to speak with 100% fluency.

Can’t put together a coherent sentence thanks to the lio of languages in your head? You’re not alone. There are at least two of us. And then there are the other super-humans who have mastered another language (or multiple!!) and somehow still manage to speak well.

But not to worry, learning a language really is worth the pena and if all else fails, there are always gestures.

Wanderlust versus relationship 

It still baffles me that sometimes we don’t know what we think or what we really feel until our mouths open. What comes out of us in pressure or hardship is worth paying attention to. The unrehearsed words that we speak are equally as telling.

Recently someone was asking about my life in Spain and asked if I would move around a lot within Spain. My immediate response was “No, I’m not really doing this for adventure.” I’d never spoken that sentence before, never thought through that idea, but there it was and it is true.

In many ways living in Spain is exciting, but what draws me there is not wanderlust or a thirst for adventure. I am grateful I have this opportunity in this season, feel it is where I’m meant to be right now, and I enjoy my life there. But “moving all around Spain” is not my goal. I desire depth with people always, wherever I am and wherever I end up, and wanderlust and adventure-living don’t really pave the way for depth of relationship.

Dale Partridge says that “the desire to be gone as a way of living, is often no more than a dangerous addiction to “new”. To the beginning. To the start. In other words, the easy part. You see, real relational fruit requires the presence of the farmer. It requires more than planting seeds. It requires frequent watering, fertilizing, and pruning. People who live in a lifestyle of leaving, can’t build deep roots with many. They can’t disciple or mentor or walk in deep waters with others. Presence and availability are the currency of a vibrant life. Go on vacation. Explore the world. But don’t be gone when your crop needs watering.”

No matter where I am, may commitment, steadfastness, depth with people, and listening to the call of Jesus characterize my days.