My freshmen year at A&M, Priscilla and I would drive to church together since her car was still at her home in El Paso. She’d met some Korean exchange students that were in the Corps and struck up conversation after realizing they were South Koreans (she’s half Korean). They all got lunch together and by the end of the meal, the Koreans straight-up asked Priscilla if she was a Christian and if they could come to an American church with her. She texted me asking if I’d drive them all and of course I would never turn that down. Me and my mom car (Pearl the Ford Explorer) literally live for opportunities like this. Turns out they were here for two more weeks so Priscilla and I took it upon ourselves to give them the most local Texan experience we could possibly cram into such a short time. We took them to Harry’s to learn how to two-step & pretzel, Catalina Hatters to get a genuine cowboy hat (they only wanted the best), JCody’s for BBQ, and lastly, we took them out to my house in Caldwell so they could get out of College Station to see the country and animals. They ate every second up while we learned so much about their culture from them.
I will never forget what happened that night. We’d gotten to my house right as the sun had just set behind the tank and the stars were coming out. Mom was cooking steak, Dad was handing the Koreans Lone Star beers, and I was starting a fire in the pit. Sherri, one of the girls, looked up and noticed how bright the stars were and was absolutely blown away. The rest of them joined her, even tried pulling their phones out to take pictures of the night sky. They had never seen stars like this before because in South Korea, it is so compact, urban, and polluted that stars were barely visible from where they all lived. I was absolutely astonished that they had no idea what they’d been missing out on.
Screenshot of Sherri’s Instagram post after she’d left. *Note: I had to hit the translate button so it’s a little mistranslated but close enough*
One of the reasons I was so shocked was because I’d always been a sucker for star-gazing. Not because it’s romantic or that I’m intrigued by universe science but because that is my all-time favorite alone time I can get. Taking a blanket outside, turning all the lights off, having the dogs attack my face with kisses for 2 minutes, then watch for shooting stars while listening to frogs and crickets down by the tank. It’s quite honestly when I feel God’s presence the most.
During the summer between 6th and 7th grade, I’d gone to Sky Ranch, a Christian youth Camp in Van, TX. Sami, my sister, and I had gone to their rodeo camp so we took our horses and spent a week practicing barrels, digging into the Word, and enjoying the outdoors. When our week ended, I’d gotten close with my counselor, loved the camp, and was just an emotional teenager. As we were loading up, Honey my horse, waited until she was in the trailer to poop. Dad wanted me to clean it out right then so I tried to scrape around her legs with the poop scoop. She moved, stepped on some of the teeth which then obviously broke them and of course Dad was watching the whole time. He got onto me and being the sensitive person I was, I took it way too personal, started crying and couldn’t stop. The three-hour trip home was a rough one and it only got worse because my whole family decided that today would be the day they all acted moody and difficult as well.
We got home in the evening, unloaded horses, and I went up to the barn where I could get some space and time to pity myself (I think I was just emotional, that’s around the time I was entering girlhood, if you know what I’m sayin’). I laid down on our concrete slab in front of the entrance of the barn and just stared at the stars. Fresh on the Jesus-high from camp, I got the idea to just talk to God out loud and vent about my frustrations of my 12-year-old life and hard-headed family. It finally got to the point where I just said,
“God, if you’re really there looking out over me, show me a shooting star.”
Before I could finish pronouncing the “ar” in star, one of the biggest shooting stars I’ve seen to this day sailed across the sky, leaving a dimming trail behind it.
There is this feeling I get whenever I can feel God’s presence. It’s a very giddy feeling, mixed with joy, excitement, peace, and love all at the same time. Weights are lifted and it feels like I’m floating. I can remember specific times I’ve had it. For example, sometimes during a powerful time of worship. Or my freshmen year in the middle of Kleburg, I asked God, “What have you taught me this semester?” The feeling of his presence hit me so hard and so fast, I couldn’t stop smiling as I whipped out my laptop and ended up writing a 10-page document. The shooting star was the first time I’d had this feeling of God’s presence and it changed me.
It doesn’t happen often that God reveals himself in such a visible manner. I’m not ashamed to admit that I asked for another shooting star right after the first one and it didn’t happen. But I didn’t care. He just happened to know that’s what adolescent Caleigh needed during a time of desperation. He reveals himself in many ways and it’s hard to know how or what his voice is saying sometimes. But, needless to say, I’ve had a love for the Stars (shooting stars more specifically) since then.
The summer between my freshmen and sophomore year at A&M was a good one. In August, me and a couple of friends took a trip to Big Bend National Park. I’d never been that far west and pictures of the park looked amazing. When we got there, it was prettier than the pictures. We set up a tent, hiked (and got caught in a thunderstorm), cooked over a little propane fire, showered in dry shampoo, and my favorite part, star gazed. We’d stack our coolers on top of the bear-proof box and carefully climb on the rock roof of the canopy. Since it was a rock roof, we’d take all our sleeping bags, unzip them to their maximum size, layer them on top of each other, and lay shoulder to shoulder for maximum comfort (well, as comfortable as we could get for literally laying on rocks). We’d stay there until the moon rose over the little mountains around 1AM every night.
I’d never seen stars, constellations, shooting stars, the Milky Way, and satellites as clear as I did at Big Bend. Since it’s literally in the middle of a desert, there’s no electricity, no open fires allowed and no lights within a hundred-mile radius to fuzz up the sky. Priscilla, being the factual person she is, informed us that it takes 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the night sky so we never looked at our phones (we never had service anyways) and we could see even better. I saw more shooting stars that night than I have any other time I’ve stargazed combined. Lying under the sky made me feel like a speck of dust compared to the enormity of our small window to the universe. While all my friends talked, I quietly thought about how inferior we are compared to God. If he can do all of this and still have time to have a relationship with me, wow.
Next time you look at the stars, think about how small we are compared to this planet, galaxy, and universe. Think about how complicated our planet, our bodies, and each one of our living cells are. God is so much bigger than anything we could ever imagine but he cared for us so much that he created everything so perfectly so life could be possible on this huge rock (not to mention, he made life after death possible. Shout-out to Jesus). None of this is just a coincidence. Even better, you are not a coincidence. I 10/10 recommend that everyone go somewhere with no phone service and get in touch with God through his creation. It’s pretty sweet.
At this point, you’re probably thinking:
“Why did she even bring up the Korean exchange student story to just talk about her obsession with looking at stars….”
Actually, you probably weren’t thinking that at all but the point is I went off on a tangent. The second reason I was astounded by their lack-of-night-sky experience was I don’t want what happened to the South Koreans to happen to me. I’m talking about how I could be missing out on something so amazing like seeing stars for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for what I have here, no doubt. However, the worst part was they really didn’t even know they were missing out. How scary is that?! There is so much we could be missing, so many creations God gave us and we wouldn’t even realize it if we didn’t go out and look for them.
I mean, if God gave us this earth to enjoy, we need to, right? There are so many other creations I want to experience. The Korean Exchange students were such a blessing to me because I didn’t have to leave the country to experience a different culture and I loved it (Korean food is now my favorite kind of food). God created some great people and places so catch me on the other side of the world whenever I have enough money to be homeless for a while.