By Katie Helmreich
I mailed my sister some star-shaped post-it notes this week. A package with a shiny star garland will arrive at her house tomorrow! My brother-in-law is out of town for two weeks and she’s on her own with their four little kids. I can’t lighten her load much long distance, but I wanted to help them get ready to celebrate Star Day!
Have you ever celebrated Star Day? It’s a holiday we made up several years ago. My husband Ben used to travel overseas a lot for work. He’d be gone around 2 weeks at a time, but total time away in a year was sometimes as much as 3 or 4 months.
With a lump in my throat, I’d mark each upcoming trip on the calendar: a doodle of a jet on departure day and a giant star on the day he’d be back. The kids and I visited the calendar often counting down, one day at a time, to Star Day!
I stayed home with Elise and Noah, who were toddlers and preschoolers through most of that phase. Man, those days were long… But even in the midst of it (well, maybe a few days after Star Day), it was easy to see God working for good in our family.
We did projects together at the kitchen table and spent quiet hours at the library and Children’s Museum. We set up elaborate forts and sometimes ate silly things for meals. We discovered that baths have magical attitude-changing power, especially ones with bath paint, foam ice bergs and arctic animals, or glow sticks!
Talking to my mom on the phone became a daily lifeline. I took the kids down to visit my parents a lot more than we normally would have. Sharing a laugh or an eyeroll with another adult was like water to a wilted lettuce. And those late-night conversations with my Dad are precious memories.
To combat particularly bleak days, we made star cookies, star paintings, star garlands, and star Play-Doh ornaments. The kids each had a special Star Day shirt to wear, which we kept on the top of their dresser in anticipation. We papered the living room with star post-it notes. Constellations of hope!
Gradually, I learned to take one day at a time, knowing God was always in it with us. By the grace of God, we did what we could. We rejoiced in blessings, embraced encouragement, and we cried when we needed to.
Sometimes it seemed like we’d never make it to Star Day, but we always did! Star Day celebrations meant star-shaped foods, dancing, and tickle fights, usually around Daddy (who had fallen into a jet-lagged coma on the living room floor).
Some Star Days were shinier than others. Our worst was when we were late meeting Ben’s flight because we’d been stuck at Urgent Care with a case of pink eye and four ear infections between the three of us.
My favorite Star Day was when we dragged Ben from the airport directly to a hot air balloon lighting festival! Every Star Day was a victory of sorts, a testament to God’s mercy and love for us.
Ben changed departments several years back. The calendar has fewer jets on it, and there aren’t as many Star Days. The kids think of them with nostalgia, remembering the time we spent celebrating being together again, feeling complete and connected.
My feelings are more mixed. I remember the gut-wrenching days before Star Day too clearly. But I also remember all the ways The Creator of the Stars held us safely in His hands.
It’s funny: I thought I’d have a bunch of great advice to give my sister after having lived through so many trips myself! But I don’t.
Every family, every stage, every situation, every trip is so different. The only constant is Jesus.
My son made up a song that still gets stuck in my head eight years later: “The daytime is nighttime in China! In China the nighttime is day!”
Isn’t it incredible that the God who flawlessly manages daytime and nighttime, in China and elsewhere, also comes to us?
Questionably balanced meals, running late for school drop off, pink eye, stomach flu, nasty tempers, no-nappers, frizzy hair, dirty floors, even a stomach full of hot resentment… nothing. NOTHING keeps Him away.
I wish I could spare my sister and her family the heartaches and hard knocks that come in those days when Daddy’s not home. But she’s getting through it OK so far! The same God who pulled us through so many times is with her; Jesus is still present with all of God’s dearly loved children.
Celebrate all that the Spirit is doing. See the growth God is granting through the challenges today, and look forward with joy to the blessings that will be unveiled tomorrow. Jesus has promised to return: Star Day is coming!
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.