There was a stretch of days last month where I couldn't sleep.
I would lay awake in the quiet hours, just thinking about all the ways there wasn't enough time. It seemed impossible to do and be everything that was in my heart. I craved something and didn't even know what it was.
I asked God to simplify my life - make it more meaningful and less crowded. I believed he could prune things away and let fruitful things grow. I posted this:
I’m believing in Life Organic, where I can be who I am and do what I love without guilt or regret, because I'm doing what God loves at the same time. I'm believing in all the opportunities that God promises are there - if I’m just there too. I'm believing in a way of life that is daily dying to itself and it's agenda so that it can naturally encompass every good and perfect thing instead.
And then I waited. (That's the biblical formula, right? Thou shalt pray about it, blog about it, then wait around and see what changes.)
I just kept living life and doing my best, hoping that God would work out the details.
Everything in it's season, I reminded myself constantly. Enjoy this season of beautiful weather in Seattle, this season of relationship with my daughter, these long afternoons in the yard.
One of the few things that felt right and real and good was me and Annika in straw hats and bare shoulders, filling bowls with blackberries in the neighbor's yard.
And here's where this post starts to make sense.
We have permission to be in our neighbor's backyard because she doesn't live there anymore. She lives in a nursing home down the road and her house is up for sale. We chat amiably with the relative that manages the home, collect her mail and eat her blackberries. But that's about it.
Until one day, it struck my mind that we could visit her. Take her blackberries. Or something.
It struck my mind and then it struck my heart and then suddenly I knew it was a matter of obedience. I asked permission to visit and they said yes and so that's what we've been doing.
Long story short, we've been visiting Miss C for a month now.
The first time was a disaster. She was ill and in the "hospital" part of the nursing home. She was hooked up to things and I crouched beside her bed in the dark room, Annika hiding behind me and refusing to speak. A roommate moaned in the bed just a few feet away. Conversation was sparse and illogical, even though I was somehow comforted by her unexpected British accent. She didn't want the blackberries. I stayed for five minutes and gave the berries to a nurse on my way out.
I was glad to leave, but I felt strangely right about being there.
We returned the next week. I had decided not to waste anymore blackberries but felt odd going empty-handed. I clipped roses from the yard and dropped them in a mason jar for a gift. All women like flowers, right? But when we got there, her room was empty and her name card had been pulled from beside the door.
Of course, I immediately assumed she was dead and felt tears coming up when I asked a nurse where she was. (It wasn't Fried Green Tomatoes or anything, but I haven't dealt with death much.)
But Miss C had recovered and was just back home in her assisted-living apartment. (So I guess that actually is kind of like Fried Green Tomatoes.)
When we knocked on her door, she was sitting up with brushed hair and bright blue eyes. She placed the flowers on the little table beside her chair. There was another empty chair, but in it was a pillow for her cat. She gestured to it with a wave of her thin hand and said, "You probably don't want to sit in the cat's place."
I considered suggesting we move the cat pillow, but decided against it. Another conversation spent crouched on the ground, but this one was fascinating. She showed me the picture of her handsome husband in uniform, and another of her holding a basket of eggs in 1937, and another of her licking an ice cream cone on the Avenue de Champs Elysees (because the instructor at her girl's school had deemed it improper!).
We talked of wars and books. She likes good stories but doesn't like Narnia because it's "so damn Freudian."
Annika was completely bored and finally pulled out the pocket dictionary that she had insisted we bring along and began flipping pages - I felt a twinge of embarrassment. I had so hoped she would engage with Miss C. and not disappear into a book, least of all a dictionary. ..."Sorry, lady, I'd rather read a dictionary than talk to you." Seems a bit insulting, even for a four year old.
But Miss C. noticed and said plainly, "yes, I do love dictionaries." She pointed to her bookshelves and I realized that every book in the room was a dang dictionary! New ones in English, old ones in Latin. Lots and lots of dictionaries. It felt like some sort of sign. Things were aligning.
Maybe the randomness of my life's details could get in a groove of synchronicity, after all.
I asked her if there was anything she needed, she said an electric kettle might be nice. I stopped at Goodwill on the way home and found a perfect one.
I asked that God would continue to work out details.
We arrived the next week with a freshly-scrubbed electric kettle and fibbed a bit by saying, "It was just laying around!" (Technically true. For a week, it had been just laying around, waiting to be delivered to her.) But I had arrived during their social hour, so we didn't stay long - but quickly connected in passing with a younger-older woman that gave Annika some of her popcorn and mentioned that she had no grandchildren of her own. Miss P. lives just across the hall from Miss C. We promised to say hello next time we visited.
I dropped the kettle off in Miss C.'s room, our wilted flowers still sitting on the table.
And then yesterday we made our weekly trip to the library. I had been avoiding novels because sometimes I do, just for balance, but eventually I long for a good story like it's an overdue meal. I took a friend's suggestion and checked out "If I Live to be 100" because we share taste in books and she said it was good for a laugh. It wasn't until last night that I realized what had actually gone down.
In the author's introduction she talks about her interviews with 20 centenarians (people who have lived to 100) and how she had to learn to be a patient listener:
Suddenly you begin to hear not only what people are saying, but what they are trying to say, and you sense the whole truth about them.
Without knowing it, for my own enjoyment, I had basically checked out an instruction book about how to listen well to old folks. How to talk about the good stuff, how to draw the stories out of them.
The connection struck my mind, and then struck my heart and I laughed.
Things aligning, still.
So today we showed up with a fresh handful of roses and wildflowers but Miss C. wasn't in her room. I dumped the 2-week old flowers, still sitting on that little table, and replaced them with the new blooms, and we hunted her down at the Scrabble table.
The staff there assumes we are closely related, so they make a big deal about making sure we have a good visit. They emptied chairs and pulled her close to me and for 45 minutes we chatted comfortably. She makes me laugh. And she watches Downtown Abbey. Even though, "that Maggie Smith character says aristocracy will always make compromises for financial reasons and it's simply not true."
As promised, we stopped by Miss P.'s room on our way out. She invited us in to her small apartment space and it was surprisingly cozy inside. Like a small home with shelves stacked to the ceiling full of books and pictures of Jesus and music playing and a pet chihuahua named Carmella sleeping on the couch. She asked that we visit again and said of course, and on the way out I noticed her sewing machine in the corner.
Could it be?
Could it be that one more desire of my heart (..."I want to learn to use my grandmother's sewing machine"...) that I didn't know how to fit rightly into my days might actually weave it's way into my life through this? Through just showing up in the one small way that God asked me to?
All I know to do is stick with my trusty formula...
Pray about it. Blog about it. And then wait as God works out the details.