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.

Summer Reading

This week’s post is going to be a little short and sweet — just like our summer has been! After many weeks off due to Covid-19, these last few weeks of “official” summer seem to be going quickly! As usual, we always have bigger plans that never get accomplished… but hey, that’s life, right?! One of the goals was to do more casual reading… which didn’t really happen to the extent that I hoped for, but I thought I would share an update this week anyway! Maybe it will wet my appetite to buckle down for the last few weeks and escape with a good book!

The eldest Mitton is a devote reader and has already devoured the new Hunger Games book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and has others on the go. I am currently finishing A Single Spark (look for my review coming soon!) But now, thanks to Graf-Martin, I have a whackload to explore! Here’s a sneak peak for you:

(Did I mention I have another goal to learn to make better videos? That will be a big process! I am certainly learning in that department! ) What about you, my friends? Have you been devouring literature and setting goals for renewing your minds? Books are a good way to supplement our Bible knowledge, and often seeing or reading about someone else’s perspective helps to enrich our own! In today’s world, I sometimes find it difficult to enrich my mind without contaminating it. There are so many less-than-holy media options these days, it’s hard for one to keep it both entertaining and enriching!

Philippians 4 reminds us to meditate on things that are pure, lovely and praiseworthy! It’s my thought for you this week! It’s a challenging task, for sure. Shall we help each other out? Share your favourite read or video in the comments below or on our socials — we’d love to hear from you!!

Made to Move Mountains

“God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46 (NIV)

I just finished reading Made to Move Mountains by Kristen Welch. She quotes this Bible passage in her book, but in light of the recent events in our world, perspectives have changed everything. This was going to be a simple book review, recommending Welch’s book to you for your small group study — an inspiration to climb your own mountains and encourage one another to follow your dreams. However, the continuing Covid-19 crisis, long term care lockdowns, political turmoil and racial tensions in the US, have overwhelmed me to look at God’s word and the themes in this book with new eyes. Pride month will start today in my neighbourhood. School is closed for the year and I have no work. I feel like I am sitting at the base of my very own mountain.

“Made to Move Mountains” has been provided courtesy of Baker Books, NetGalley and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Welch begins by reminding us that there are two types of mountains we face: some are our dreams, goals, and personal challenges. These are the mountains we choose to climb. The other mountains are our disasters, crises and personal threats that we don’t choose ourselves, but are forced to climb nonetheless. We need Jesus for both. This book is great at balancing between both types of mountains and reminding us of the end goal — the summit. I love how she starts one of her chapters with this Chinese proverb:

“There are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top is always the same.”

In other words, each time we climb a mountain… be it a forced climb, or one we are willing to take, we can rejoice in the final view. The paths to the top may be different each time, and each trail will shape the view and perspective of the top. However, we are changed by our accomplishments and driven forward by our joys along the path. This too, sometimes requires perspective. We all have taken a different journey and can add our thoughts to the road ahead because of our unique experiences. And no one should climb mountains alone. You prepare, you intentionally plan and gather equipment, and you often have a crew behind you or ahead of you cheering you on. My family recently watched Free Solo, National Geographic’s award winning documentary about Alex Honnold’s climb of mount El Capitan without a safety rope! It’s both gut wrenching and brilliant. And although he climbs alone and “unaided”, the film crew, his friends, and ultimately the viewing audience is drawn in to see Alex make it to the top — alive. Kristen Welch does much the same thing in her book by focusing our thoughts on our faith in Christ, our community, and our neighbours. Each of the chapters have a “mountain top moment” for personal reflection and/or a challenge. These would be a great start off point for small group discussion too.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

And so I muse this week, about passion, perspective and climbing mountains. I am prompted by Made to Move Mountains to question: Who is my neighbour and what am I doing to love them as Christ does? I mean to really love them with passion and action? Is my faith really deep enough to trust that God will move the mountains in front of me? Or that He will see me to the top? God made each one of us different. Different colours, different sizes, with different gifts and talents. Each of us are geared towards our own sense of justice and passion. Each of us have faced our own personal mountains and have been shaped by our own climbs. For Kristen Welch, it is The Mercy House and a child with a scary diagnosis. For protesters in the US, it is another senseless death of a black man. Perhaps mine is this little piece of the internet where I can share my thoughts. Or maybe it is being a part of raising the next generation to be more kind and considerate than I am. For beyond these mountains we move today, there will be more mountains. But God loves bad odds. And Psalm 46 reminds us that He is in charge. He is our ever-present help in trouble and has given us the power to move mountains! He will give us the faith to climb to the summit. This book has some great quotes scattered throughout it, so I’ll end with one Welch quotes from Solon on justice and simply let it speak for itself: