Welcome back to Reader Stories! It’s been awhile. Be sure to scoot on over here to see the newest prompt for the Fall. Writers, readers, friends: I’d love to host your story! I’m looking for a handful of good stories.
Today’s comes from Anna Christenson. I can’t wait to introduce her to you:
Anna spends her days seeking well-chosen words. By day, she teaches English to middle school students. By night, she reads good books and writes everywhere – in journals, on her blog, and across calendar pages. She loves summer days, rocks a lot of polka dots, and is learning to see Jesus in ordinary moments. You can find her on her blog, Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.
It happened the way the best love stories do. It was sudden. It was unlikely. It was life-changing. It happened on an ordinary drive home, on an average evening. I fell in love with the sky.
I am not talking about just any sky. My sky hangs over a gravel road, seven miles from the nearest town and sixty miles from the nearest Target. It is almost in Canada, on the prairies of far northwest Minnesota. That is where I grew up. When I describe it, people raise their eyebrows. They wonder why anyone would choose to live in the boondocks, where soybean fields, long winters, and flatness are our strongest assets. We seem far removed from anything of interest, much less beauty. I used to agree with them. That was before I learned to see. That was before I began to love the sky.
The sky was background noise for years. I noticed it sometimes, tuned it out often. In fifth grade, inspired by Harriet the Spy, I started carrying a journal in my backpack. One entry detailed the sunrise on a winter morning. (The next analyzed my crush’s antics on the playground.) High school geography class passed as I stared out classroom windows, guessing by the clouds if blizzards, and snow days, would come. Spring, and the end of basketball season, was approaching when I left the gym after practice and still saw the sun, seared orange. Summertime walks with my parents raced the sunset, after which the mosquitos were strong enough to carry grown humans away. Our broad, open sky was constant. Occasionally impressive. Mostly just there.
The dark sky surprised me, on the first trip back from college in the city. I had grown accustomed to streetlights striving to be stars and blinds shut against the ever-present suburban glow. The black was unsettling, until I saw the stars. They blinked, a wide sea over tiny floating yard lights. I’d forgotten their presence. They slowed my car, and I gaped out the windows. They lit the way home.
The sky still wins my attention now, when I leave the city behind and turn onto I-29. It stretches, expanding as the land flattens. The highway snakes under it. I drive north distractedly, catching glimpses of clouds and sunsets and constellations. They are like my front porch light and the yellow lab wriggling from his dog house as the car door opens. You have arrived, they say.
During college, I spent my summers lifeguarding. When I worked the late shift, my commute aligned with the sunset. My rearview mirror blazed the whole way home. I got out at stop signs, sometimes, to stare back into it. Cell phone pictures could never frame that panorama of peach and swirling blue, deepening as I drove further into the country, wrapping around the fields. It was wild, beyond me and my ability to capture.
I once drove into the ditch on a night when temperatures dipped below zero. Snow had crusted over the gravel road, and I had been bested by it. My grandpa fired up the tractor to dig me out. The stars flashed while I shivered in my boots. They were diamonds, sharpened by cold, and I was just a dot on a gravel road. A dot among my grandpa and my dad and my brother, who grabbed shovels and hitched chains. A dot whose only role in this rescue was to hold the flashlight. A dot among millions of others. A dot who was known and seen among all the jewel-like stars. That kind of smallness is cliché and striking. No wonder it features in our songs and salvation stories. To think that you are one among millions of stars and humans is startling. To think that you are loved and known among millions of stars and humans is more startling still.
The stars, the sunsets, the sky, they show me the grace of the world. God offers his love to us in his creation. The beauty around us, its ordinary majesty, is his gift to us. Here he shows us himself, and ourselves. We accept his mercies when we choose to see them. We must choose to get out of the car at stop signs, to pause, to pay attention to his glittering presence surrounding us, to fall in love. That is the daily miracle of all grace: it knows we may ignore it, and it offers itself anyway.
The sky was waiting for us to see and wonder since God formed it with a breath. It was waiting when I was small, staring out school bus windows. It waited while I drove gravel roads twice a day, morning and evening. When I stop and see, it shows me myself, and worlds beyond my comprehension. It speaks love. I stand in awe.
I love this one from Anna. It makes me want to take a big breath of sky.
For comment: What allows you to experience the peace of wild things?
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Learn how to slow down, find beauty, and practice sustained attention. I promise it’ll help you find your place.