Shooting Stars at the Trailhead (On Loss, Grief, and Mysteries)
Did you know that stars speak?
In fact, before He put them into space and set them on their course, He went ahead of them and planned each one to speak at different times.
Psalm 19 is not just nice sounding words. It’s real life truth.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Stars speak a language. Just ask Rick Larson.
Stars also sing a song. Just ask Louie Giglio.
But God doesn’t just create stars that speak and sing in far off places, He’s a God that designed when each shooting star would streak the sky and where we’d be when we saw them. And He planned that out before time even began. And He knew the questions in our hearts as we look up to the sky. And He planned the perfect timing of those stars to speak back to us in answers from Him. (I’m not talking about astrology, friend. I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit!)
Stars can lead the way. They did in ancient times, and (contrary to popular opinion), God never quit His job. He still speaks today, (even through stars).
Yes, the stars speak, and it’s been proven scientifically and musically, but today I’m going to go back to David’s psalm and share how they speak poetically.
From the beginning, shooting stars have mapped out the big love Dan and I shared.
My husband Dan and I loved the truths and the mysteries of “Indescribable” so much that the Chris Tomlin song was in our wedding.
Our first dance at our wedding was, “Thanks to the Keeper of the Stars.” A country song I somehow never heard before Dan sang it to me.
For our 8-year anniversary, I made Dan a collage of mountains and shooting stars and a silhouette of him and I dancing.
For the funeral planning, I unburied a copy of our wedding program. (Well, you know me, so it was more like a wedding booklet.) In the front, Dan wrote a special note about a song he’d planned on being our wedding years before he ever even met me. And in the back, I wrote the story of the stars:
Thanks to the Keeper of the Stars!
Every time my heart got broken, when I finally handed the hope of that relationship over to God, I looked up into the sky, and He sent me a shooting star!
Freshman year, I cried driving home from the hill country on Loop 2222… A star! And it whispered, ‘It’s going to be okay. I have better for you.’
Junior year, I cried driving home from the foothills on Highway 119… Another star! And it whispered, ‘It’s gonna be okay. I have better for you.’
After graduating, I cried driving home on Woodmen Road… Another broken-heart star shot through the sky. “It’s gonna be okay. I have much better for you.’ But this star was joined by a second star like no other I had ever seen before! It spiraled down in the night making several loops as it fell, brilliant and bright. (I’ve studied stars and that was not like a normal shooting star. It wasn’t a firework and it wasn’t a comet! Is this for real?!?) This second star did not whisper, rather, it proclaimed, “Your beloved is coming soon!” God pressed it deeply in my heart. My longing for a beloved intensified. To prepare my heart for loving him, I sought to know my beauty in the Lord. We also began praying for a dance partner. Needless to say, the Lord was more than faithful to His promises in the stars. A few months later, Dan arrived.
Early in our dating, I kept looking into the stars when I would drive home. Waiting for confirmation about my relationship with Dan. One night, I had a horrible fever while visiting him at his home. He played a “Calming Harp” cd for me, brought me Ginger Ale and crackers, and held my hair back from the toilet bowl. This was the romantic moment Dan was moved to tears over me and told me he thinks he’s falling in love with me. I felt the same way. Right after he said he was falling in love with me, we both recognized the song playing on the cd… Pachelbel’s Canon in D. We both started crying. We knew right then that the Lord delighted in us. We also knew that someday, we would be with you all today as I walk down the aisle to that very song.
As sick as I was that night, I managed to drive home. When I finally arrived, I parked my car, got out, and looked over to a corner of the sky that I never paid much attention to. Nestled between trees and small sliver of the mountains, I saw it! I saw my shooting star! And I just cried. God had brought me home to Dan.
That may seem like a solid ending to the story, but I must go on. Months later, at the old bandstand, Dan kneeled down and asked me to marry him. That night we went up to the mountains at Farish (a place where we first began to fall for each other, the place we first held hands.) It was frigid November, but the sky was clear. I spent the evening looking up with great anticipation. I was sure a star would come. After some time, I began to worry that I might miss it. I finally handed it over—God, this night, those stars, they are yours. They are in your hands.
Dan and I sat close that night to keep warm, tucking in the bonfire coals. We reveled in our long-awaited love and admired my ring when I felt the nudge to look up—I’m sure by now you can guess what I saw in that moment. It was my moment with the Lord, confirmation of His great delight. And I praised Him for the gift of my dear sweet Dan, who introduced me to this song: ‘The Keeper of the Stars.’
When Dan deployed, I had a conversation with the Lord. Asking specific questions about the unknown, the longing and the heartache. In perfect timing, God sent specific answers through a series of three shooting stars that night. (I honestly can’t remember the exact questions today, but someday, when I stumble on that powerful journal entry, I will fill you in.) I was thinking earlier this summer how those were the last shooting stars I’d seen in several years.
When Dan was supposed to be coming home for dinner, when his spaghetti and meatballs grew cold, when we still hadn’t heard anything… my dad and I knew we needed to head to the trailhead. It was an hour and a half away. Dan’s trained me to not be anxious or fearful over him, so we waited until about 7pm. But he said he’d be home for dinner. We should’ve heard from him by around 3 or 4pm. We called the county to let them know he was overdue. When we arrived at the trailhead and found his car still there, we camped out for the night. It was me and dad. The mosquitoes at the trailhead were voracious. It’s hard to describe how thick they were. We killed over 50 mosquitoes that snuck into the car each time we opened the door to talk to go to the restroom or to talk to anyone who was about to summit the mountain at 1am, 3:30am, 4:30am, 5:30am and so on. Between these hours and the mosquitoes, I sat in the passenger seat staring out the window into the night. Imagining where he might be and how he might be feeling. I rotated between crying, singing worship songs, and saying a prayer.
At one point, I finally looked upward and I lifted a sacrifice of praise, whispering, “Lord, I lift your name on high.” Bam! Shooting star. Right after, I could hear in my mind a whisper of something Dan taught me, and so I repeated the whisper, “No shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.” Bam! Shooting star. There was a third shooting star but there’s so much in my mind and heart, I can’t remember what that one whispered. Nonetheless, these two phrases punctuated by predestined shooting stars carried me through the those trying days were he was missing and the days after where I kept interceding and asking for a miracle… instead I was given signs and wonders.
Two of those signs and wonders were in the heavenlies. Planned for that very instant. Holy and divinely ordered punctuation marks in the sky.
1.) “Lord, I lift your name on high.”
I’ve kept praising God in this storm. I’ve continued to worship Him. And in some strange economy of mercy, me praising God is precisely what has kept me (and is still keeping me) from crumbling. He is worthy. He is trustworthy. And I praise Him. And somehow, as I do, He calms the storm, silences the liar, and hides me under his wing. Friend, he is worthy of your praise. Always. In every season and every change. So I sing, “I lift my eyes up to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from you, Lord. You are my only hope. You are my only prayer.” And I sing again, “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to you my precious Savior, I surrender all.”
2.) “No shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.”
Every time the accuser comes around and tries to slip in condemnation, that shooting star shuts him up. “No shoulda done this better. No coulda done that differently. No wish I woulda said this instead…” Especially in the case of a fatal accident like this, the heart wants to go back and redo things. And the accuser jumps on that opportunity to hit you while you’re down. But the very second I begin to hear a thought (whether it’s my own mind or the voice of condemnation), I remember that star and I hear Dan’s voice. “No shoulda-coulda-woulda’s.” It brings me back to the place of trusting. Wishing this or that was handled otherwise isn’t going to change the situation. It’s just the spirit of control trying to masquerade as light. The spirit of control trying to say I could have changed this outcome. But that’s not fair to the heart and those voices do not speak out of Love. So I sing again, “I surrender all. I surrender all.” And what’s more, Holy Spirit sings over me and “my fears are drown in perfect love.“ He sings over me, “I hear you whisper underneath your breath. I hear your SOS, your SOS.”
That same Holy Spirit is singing over you today. And He’s ordering your steps as beautifully as He orders the stars that shine constant and the shooting ones that shine here brilliantly yet briefly. The shooting stars in your life that only last a breath but took your breath away. Like my beloved.
Like the beloved you’ve lost as well.
After those stars in the sky, my heart anchored to hope of his return. And in the pain and tears of the unknown, I sat there, looking up and tried to sing these words. I imagined Dan bunkered down somewhere for the night, looking up with wonder at the same shooting stars. Maybe even remembering our wedding day too. Maybe singing this very same song on his lips too:
“It was no accident, my finding you.
Someone had a hand in it
Long before we ever knew
Now I just can’t believe you’re in my life
Heaven’s smiling down on my
as I look at you tonight…
I tip my hat to the Keeper of the Stars
He sure knew what He was doing
when He joined these two hearts
I hold everything
When I hold you in my arms
I’ve got all I’ll ever need
Thanks to the Keeper of the Stars…”