Jesus Shows Up in the Strangest Spaces

Tracy Stengel
3 min readAug 25, 2021
Photo courtesy of the author.

I was raised Catholic and was a really good one in the beginning, when I was too young to commit a serious sin. When I turned ten, I was convinced I would become a nun, picturing myself as a badass martyr like Joan of Arc or a modest girl like Saint Therese, “The Little Flower.”

Then, I discovered boys and realized none of that was going to happen.

I rolled with it, but my grandma didn’t take it so well. She had eleven children and was banking on getting a priest or a nun out of one of them.

No dice.

But surely one of her fifty-eight grandchildren could fulfill her dream, right? And I had been the prime candidate, ya know, until I hit puberty.

Grandma loved the outdoors. Nature was her friend. If she was in the water, woods, or fields, she was in her element. She approached me one evening with stars in her eyes. “Your mother told me you were interested in astronomy. Grab a blanket and I will show you Orion, the Big and Little Dipper, and the Milky Way.”

“Okay,” I said, always dutiful to the matriarch of our family. I couldn’t tell her I wasn’t into astronomy, but astrology. I never missed my monthly horoscope in Seventeen Magazine.

But to Grandma, astrology equaled Paganism. I wasn’t a Pagan, but I was happy I was born Aquarius. The water sign. I loved to swim. I’d grown up on a lake and was usually barefoot with sand stuck between my toes and strands of seaweed dangling from my hair.

That night, it was all about the glittering patterns in the sky. I’ll admit, I basked in her attention.

I didn’t mention my affection for the movie E.T.

Instead, I tried to ask intelligent questions and listened to her answers. She was a font of information.

But then, I sighed and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to soar around up there? See the other planets?” After a pause I said, “I would love to go to outer space when I die.”

Her relaxed mood changed like Michigan weather. She sat up straight and said in a matter-of-fact voice, “You are going to Heaven when you die! There’s no cavorting around the universe!”

I cringed.

Tracy Stengel

Writer and freelance fiction editor. Find me curled up w/ a blanket of metaphors or at You can buy me ☕️ at