About a year ago, I wrote about serendipities, little signs that God loves us. I've been more in tune to those ever since I started reading One Thousand Gifts, which I finished yesterday in the library parking lot before turning it in nine days late (because there was a request on it which meant I couldn't recheck).
Anyway, this weekend has been chock-full of serendipities, and my gratitude journal is getting fuller. (I've started writing them down each evening now instead of just keeping a mental list.) Here are three--no, four--of the things God did to let me know He's crazy about me....
Estella and the Little Artist
It started on Friday afternoon, when Allyson and I visited Jackee at the nursing home. On our previous visit we'd met a woman named Estella, who loves cardinals. I'd planned to look her up, but there was no one at the nurses' station and she wasn't sitting in the lobby where we'd seen her the first time. Just as I turned to look for someone to ask, I spotted Estella literally right at my elbow.
I smiled in delight, mainly because I couldn't believe I recognized her after such a brief meeting over two weeks ago. I'm usually pretty bad with both names and faces. "You're Estella, aren't you?" I asked.
She smiled blankly. "Yes, I am."
"Well, we were just looking for you. We met you a couple of weeks ago, and we were hoping to visit with you again. And here you are."
Although it seemed she had forgotten us, we were soon chatting like old friends. She and Allyson particularly enjoyed exchanging observations about birds.
We left with a promise of a cardinal drawing from Allyson, and on our way out we met two more ladies: Diane and Shirley. Allyson soon determined their favorite animals, elephants and weinie dogs; now she had two more commissions for her artwork.
Wie Heissen Sie?
The next serendipity came on Saturday afternoon, when we took Allyson to her first major league hockey game. Bill had received one free ticket from his amateur hockey league, and was able to procure two more so we could come along. That part's not the serendipity. Actually, I wasn't really in the mood to go sit in the cold arena because I was in the middle of a terrible allergy attack. But I knew it was important to them, so I made myself go. I never expected to enjoy myself.
We got great seats, about 15 rows up from center ice:
We had scarcely settled into our seats when the man next to me asked us what to do with the accordion-pleated cardboard signs laid across his seat.
"It's a noise maker," Bill explained.
"A noisemaker?" he repeated in a heavy accent that sounded German. "I have not seen this before."
I showed him how to fold it on the creases, and Bill demonstrated how to bang it against his leg to make a loud clapping sound. And then he apologized in advance for Allyson and her two companions Leia and Aeris (daughters of his best friend and teammate Troy). "I'm sure they will be using these nonstop throughout the game," he said.
"Oh, I don't mind," he said, slapping his noisemaker tentatively and then more agressively. "It's exciting, no?" He then explained that whenever he travels around the U.S. on business for his company in Germany, he loves to go to hockey games.
Ah, I knew he was German! I thought.
It took me half a period to tell him that I had taken a total of five years of German in high school and college. "I don't remember much at all," I admitted ruefully. "You're only the second or third German I've met in my adult life. I should have taken Spanish instead."
I took a deep breath and asked "Wie heissen Sie?" (Literally, "how are you called?")
He grinned. "Ich heisse Hartmud (sp?)."
"Hart-mann?" I repeated.
"Nein, Hartmud. It's a good old German name."
"Oh," I said. "Ich heisse Sarah."
"Sehr gut (Very good), Sarah," he said.
I blushed. "Danke." I told him that I understood a bit, but speaking? Not good. (Ich verstehe ein bisschen, aber ich spreche... nicht gut.)
At that point, Bill elbowed me and asked if I was trying to speak German to the poor man. A lot more German words were flooding my mind then, but I figured he was here to watch hockey, not listen to very bad German.
Sitting next to this avid hockey fan from Germany gave me a whole new perspective on the game. He was ecstatic about every save and every goal, on either side. He talked endlessly to anyone who would listen, and even to some people who didn't seem to be listening. He asked all sorts of hockey trivia questions, like didn't this player win the Stanley cup in 2009, and wasn't that player injured last week in New York? I finally had to admit that I knew even less about hockey than I did about German, but that didn't seem to bother him.
When he asked how many seats the arena held, Bill looked it up in a magazine we'd gotten for free with our platinum seats. "Eighteen-thousand, five hundred," he said.
A chill coursed through me. Out of 18,500 seats, what were the odds that a ridiculously friendly German man would have the seat next to mine? God, you arranged that, didn't you? I thought.
At that moment, I looked up and saw Aeris and Leia cheering on the big screen. "Hey, those are our girls!" I sputtered. And then the camera panned to Allyson... and Bill. Allyson's eyebrows rose in shock, and her smile was about as big as this one that I captured a minute later:
Everything about that game was really great. It was a close game for the first two periods, with lots of shots on goal, but a score of 1 to 1. "Those goalies are great, no?" Hartmud asked, and I had to agree.
In the third period, the Stars scored three more goals, and we were all hoarse from shouting.
During worship service this morning, I happened to think of the last time I sat with Laura at church, almost a year ago. I missed her so much, and wanted her worshipping beside me. Just then, one of my very favorite worship songs came on: "Worthy is the lamb who was slain; holy, holy is he." I recognized it by about the third bar, but when Ana started singing, the words were unfamiliar... because she was singing in Spanish! It was so beautiful that tears sprang to my eyes. It reminded me of the time my friend Maria and I visited Laura, and Maria played Spanish worship music for her. For a moment, I was kneeling on the floor of Laura's bedroom again, letting the music wash over me and singing along in my spirit.
In the eight years we've gone to our church, they've never sung in Spanish. I'm sure they did it today because this was the day of the first Spanish service, which followed ours. But the fact that that Spanish song started just as I was aching with the memory of Laura? Another serendipity.
And the last serendipity of the weekend was these beautiful flannel hankies that my friend Gentle made for me:
You might be thinking, "Those hankies were from Gentle, not God." To that, I would reply, "Gentle is the serendipity." I could say the same for my friends Marie and Lori, whom I had the pleasure to spend time with this weekend.
Yes, God is good. Sehr gut, nein?