The laundry hangs dead still on the line just outside the window screen.
It’s a good thing that a breeze isn’t the mark of success here. The air sits heavy, dry and hot like it would in a confection oven, and though there’s no wind, moisture evaporates so fast you can almost hear it leaving.
Southeast Asia’s evenings are a natural tumble dryer.
And I curl up in a chair, right in the heart of it.
Perspiration beads on my face as I sit beside Mu, tearing cabbage much more slowly than she does. “Clare was probably much better at this than me,” I say.
Her dark eyes laugh, but the laughter doesn’t make it to her mouth. “You’re doing great,” she says instead, grinning.
We smile, but we have a common hurt. We miss our friend.
We carry on in silence, ripping leaf after leaf, until a bird squawks through the screen, a bird that sounds even closer than the laundry.
I jump. “Your birds are really interesting here,” I say.
What I mean is … your birds are a little bit crazy here.
That morning, I had lain in bed with my eyes open, listening to the cacophony of jungle sounds outside the window, including one bird that sounded like a screaming toddler. Every time its voice raked against my window, I shot up from the sheets.
“Did you hear them this morning when you were in bed?” Mu asks.
“At 4 a.m.?”
Oh, no. Not that early. I tell her as much.
“Oh, good,” she says.
Apparently the neighbor has a rooster that likes to wake everyone up at 4. And apparently that same neighbor also likes to feed rice to the entire country’s population of crows in her driveway every morning.
No wonder I’d felt like I’d woken up in a bird sanctuary.
Even if the neighbor wasn’t the birds’ main breakfast supplier, I still couldn’t blame them for flocking here every day. The former owner of the house where we sat ripping cabbage used to keep the upstairs windows open, letting the birds have the whole second floor to themselves to do as they pleased. When she moved out, they got kicked out.
They still peck on the windows. Every day. They haven’t forgotten their posh former home.
Interesting for sure.
Sitting there in the thick, hot silence of the kitchen, Mu and I can hear them loud and clear from where they sit in the trees, some near, some far, all singing a language to each other that neither of us can understand.
“Sometimes it really sounds like they’re communicating with each other,” Mu says.
She looks out the screen over the sink, absently washing the cabbage in a small plastic bowl.
“You know, one of the things about Clare that I loved the most was the way she communicated with God. It changed the way I communicate with God, too. I saw she could really hear Him.”
It was like Clare and God spoke their own language, she said. They heard and understood each other.
When Clare first met Jesus, she was right here in Burma. And she was overwhelmed by Him and His love. She found it — it found her — in the silence, the simplicity here.
She begged Him to speak to her. She was hungrier for Him than anything else. He spoke. And she listened. And she poured out her heart to Him like a close friend, a friend she could talk to naturally, a friend who meant more to her than anything and anyone else.
That stuck with Mu.
She started to pray the way Clare did. And in the thick, hot silence that sits around Mu’s heart and the house where she’s preparing dinner, God speaks.
And she curls up right in the center of it and sits down.
Because, just like with Burmese laundry, just like with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, wind isn’t always the measure of success. God’s voice often isn’t in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire.
Plenty is getting said in the silence.
So that’s where we go. The silent spots in our lives. We find them. We wrap our faces like Elijah did, expecting God’s presence and glory, and we go there. We make silent places in the midst of chaos, if we have to. We make silent places in our hearts.
And there He finds us. And remakes us.
And we find we can communicate.