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One of the perks of having parents who live in the country (or as I so affectionately refer to it, the middle of nowhere) is that it provides an atmosphere of total quiet in the midst of life’s noise. Coming home for vacation is often a much-needed escape, especially for someone like me who tends to run full speed ahead without knowing how or when to stop and breathe. Not to mention, it has the most beautiful nighttime view of the stars I have ever seen. I tell people this all the time when I’m describing my childhood home to them, but I wish a photograph or short summary could do it justice. The total dark of the Tennessee wilderness on a clear night lends a view of the sky that is breathtaking, humbling and just absolutely remarkable.

My late drive home tonight had me thinking about how disjointed I am feeling these last several months. Life right now reminds me of a newly opened puzzle box, probably with about a million pieces that are supposed to fit together into some glorious grand finale, except that I haven’t a clue how to arrange them in that order. I am in the midst of one of life’s most unsettled, lonely and confusing seasons, and that is the honest truth, no matter how often photo evidence and cheery exchanges may favor the contrary. It’s challenging and worth every moment, and I am immensely grateful, but I’m also working hard to acknowledge that it’s okay to say, “Yep, this period of life is tough.” Closing the door on 2016 will truthfully feel like a breath of fresh air.

Back to the stars, though–I pulled into the drive tonight and was instantly struck by the vastness of the sky and the reminder of how small I am in the grand scheme of the world. Every single star is one spot in the midst of trillions, yet it holds complete ownership of its particular brightness and space. And stars, just like puzzle pieces, are each one tiny facet of a bigger picture, one that is impossible to see if we focus too much on every tiny detail. Just noticing one star would be nothing spectacular; it is seeing the entire sky that brings the magic into perspective.

I’m also sitting here thinking about how humans named constellations because they picked out a cohesive image or design from an otherwise random cluster of stars. We took groups of things with seemingly no particular correlation and deemed them united and awe-inspiring: the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion’s Belt. Doesn’t life often happen this way too? Our path toward progress looks less like the forward trajectory of an arrow and more like a splatter of stars strewn with no rhyme or reason across the sky. Taken piece by piece, it doesn’t make sense. Only when you step back and view the thing in its entirety does it create a continuing story.

What I’m working to remind myself is this: there is peace in mulling over the unfinished puzzle wondering if it will ever come together or not. There is also value in saying, “This is scary and uncomfortable and exhausting.” But it’s important not to get too hung up on the individual pieces without being able to see the bigger picture. It’s there, and it’s coming, and if it’s anything like what I know of the stars, I can certainly hope that it’s worth these little moments of chaos.

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