Set the Stars Alight

Art made from old pocket watch parts

I recently discovered an artist who makes tiny sculptures out of the tiny moving parts of ancient clocks. (Check out my Pinterest boards for more pictures). Fascinating. So many miniscule workings all blended together, each with their own purpose, yet fully connected to the whole. Much like that of the crew of a tall ship, each proud of their position, allowing for individual roles to work with the other so there is always smooth sailing as they say. Or the great, vast universe. We, mere humans, can only see a tiny glimpse of the stars. And we imagine their roles in something much, much bigger. I tell my kindergarteners that different groups of people tell different stories about the “pictures in the stars”. It’s our attempt to make sense of the world. The Big Dipper. The Great Bear. The Twins. Can you picture the constellations?

So why do I bring up these subjects? They are each uniquely a part of Amanda Dykes’ novel, “Set the Stars Alight”, a delightful book that I just finished reading this past week. Technically, it’s classified as “a romance”… but it is subtle enough to be tolerable (ya’ll know how much I love sappy romances….not!) True, it’s a boy meets girl story, but their relationship is based on friendship, respect, and the ultimate quest for knowledge… not how cute the other looks. I found the novel started a bit slow, but as the story moves between its contemporary setting in modern England, and the early nineteenth century, the twists and turns beautifully align by the end of the book in a unique blending of belonging and hope.

The tale begins with Lucy, the watchmaker’s daughter. Her fascination with the legendary lost ship, The Jubilee, and it’s unlikely crew, sends her searching for answers. Her grown up adventure has her reconnected (and not by accident) to Dashel Green, the little lost neighbour who adopts himself into the watchmaker’s family. Drawn in by the watchmaker’s fable-stories, Dash grows up exploring the stars in search of unknown mysteries. Together they eventually find that hope and sacrifice (and a little love) end up healing many a wound.

The novel jumps between Lucy and Dashel’s story to the story of Frederick Handford, the son of an admiral who ends up in a series of his own adventures, leading us to follow his tales of good, bad and ugly. He learns kindness and sacrifice through hardship and tragedy. I tried to discover if the Jubilee and Handford were based on a true legend, but I didn’t find any information, so I assume they were figments of Dykes’ imagination, but please correct me if I am wrong…English history is not my forte.

Yet, I found by the end of my read, I had discovered more than just some romance with some history thrown in. Dykes blends her own version of Hope and Light into her story. She describes it in her author’s note:

“….this world can be a dark place. I don’t need to expound. We all know it. We see it every day. We feel the heaviness of it descend when we turn on the news. But there is something else in this world, too. And it is light. Hope. Truth. Wonder.”

Amanda Dykes about “Set the Stars Alight”
What do You see in the stars?? (Photo by Adrian Lang on Pexels.com)

Like I tell my students, there is something bigger in the stars, or in the tiny workings of microscopic creatures, there is a story to tell of a Designer who created all the interconnections.

” ‘We keep the stories.’ He said we pass them on — it is our duty…and our honour. In a world as dark as this, people forget how to see the light, so we need to remind them by telling the truth. Paying attention… setting the stars alight.”

Lucy, said of her watchmaker father’s stories, in “Set the Stars Alight”, pg. 332-333

So true. So true. Especially in this 2020 year where Corona has set our entire world on end. How much more do we need to see that every good and perfect gift is from above? Oh friends, whether you are interested in this book or not, I wish you its story of hope, sacrifice and a little love thrown in. Be Blessed.

Singled Out

Have you ever been singled out? Perhaps your name was picked from a whole collection of names to win some fabulous prize. Perhaps you were called upon to give the answer. Or perhaps your phone number was randomly selected to take part in the wonderful “air duct cleaning promotional sale” going on in your neighbourhood right now, if you would just give the square footage of your home…

I had the privilege of being singled out last week in a way that made me smile. I was scheduled to do a workshop in a school not too far from my house. It was a bit rainy outside, but was pleasantly greeted and welcomed into a neat and tidy classroom full of whimsical decorations and clean, open spaces. On the whiteboard was a daily calendar, weather charts and other routines… and there I was, clearly labelled as the object of the day! Hand drawn in red marker, the teacher had pencilled me in as someone special! And even though she had never met me before, her preconceived ideas of “scientist” even had me wearing glasses! (Which is true, in my case). It made me gush a bit.

Here I was, singled out as someone special. Something to look forward to. Someone worthy enough to be pegged into the daily calendar. An event that will be talked about the following day, and perhaps in a month’s review. Talk about big expectations to fill. Which got me thinking… how do we get singled out? And how do we single out others?

That’s Me! Penciled in on Oct. 24th!

Of course, we love to be singled out for positive things: promotions, special gifts, pats on the back. We are thrilled when someone remembers our birthday and brings gifts and lavishes us with goodies. We appreciate acknowledgements of jobs well done, and ribbons of next level accomplishments. Sometimes those things are well deserved — recognition of hard work, dedication and fruitful service. Hmmn… maybe mothers should get the gifts on your birthday. Afterall, what did you actually do on that day? (But that’s a whole other discussion…)

The Bible reminds us how unique we are. Psalms tell us that each of us are uniquely handcrafted by our Maker. Every fine detail of our being specifically designed for His purpose and pleasure. That alone should make us smile. But it goes beyond our physical. Our jobs as Jesus followers are to be examples to a fallen world. We are the lights in someone else’s darkness. We are singled out to be the only one to do that job, in that moment, for that person. Scary thought, isn’t it?

And so I muse, am I doing it ? Am I fulfilling my pencilled in mark on someone else’s daily calendar? Am I living up to the expectations someone else has of me? Am I doing my best to be the person God wants me to be? Obviously, we, as flawed humans, often fail in our attempts to be God’s ultimate example. We are not called to be perfect. We are called to be honest. To strive for our best, and to be open when we struggle. To rely on His timing, and trust in His providence. And allow Him to shape and mold us along the journey.

October is pastor appreciation month in our neck of the woods. It’s good for us to single out our shepherds and remind them of jobs well done. But we are all part of the herd. Yes, our Lord knows each of us by name, and we hear His voice. But we are part of a bigger picture, intricately melded together, along with all of our flaws and imperfections, to interlock into this vast puzzle that God, in His magnificent wisdom, is fitting together to create a masterpiece!