‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Monday, October 11, 2010

God Speaking, and the Flower Lady of Sovietskaya Street

God speaks to me in close, conversational tones here. He is not silent. Want to get to know God? Leave all the comforts of home behind, leave family and friends, leave your dogs and cats whose soft breathing comforts you at night, leave traffic and television, leave town gossip and late night conversations with your best friend. Leave. Leap off that cliff. God will catch you.

I am learning so many beautiful lessons here that each day now feels more like an unwrapped present the universe has left on my doorstep rather than the bitter pill I thought it was a month ago. Too many spiritual gifts to count -- the gift of patience, the gift of gratitude for small things, the gift of trusting God implicitly, the gift of unknowing, the gift of humility, the gift of time. How could I not have seen this great gift? Shame on me.

The days move like pebbles on the bottom of a river here - slowly and with purpose. People look at you. The edges of leaves are easy to make out on the wet pavement. Even your breath is visible. You see things here. I am already grieving the inevitable loss of this when we go home. It is so hard to cultivate presence in America. For me, anyway.

Today Nastia and I wandered the city streets for hours, taking everything in and revelling in it. We watched the elderly people carving their slow way across the busy streets. We watched the homeless dogs meander through traffic like delicate embroidery needles - crafting the perfect route so as not to get in anyone's way. We watched the legless boy in the wheelchair laugh as his brother did wheelies down the sidewalk, careful not to spill his brother. Weeks ago these things made me cry. Today they made my heart leap in gratitude.

Who am I to judge what is suffering? I know my own. But why did I think there was no joy inherent in these things? Just because this country wears a different face than I am used to. Just because there is hunger and ribs showing and dark puddles of water laced with coal dust ....what makes me the judge of its meaning, its beauty?

Today I saw the beauty in the grime and gray. Today I saw the holiness in the face of the old and bent man huddling against the building to keep warm. Today God humbled me and spoke to me of the beauty I had closed my eyes to.

At the end of our walk, Nastia and I stepped into a tiny flower stand (the size of a small closet) to buy roses for her birthday. Before we even entered, I had the sense of something holy in there. We entered in off the noisy street and I felt like I had entered a church. The woman selling the flowers was so full of love that her scent overpowered the scent of the roses crowded around her.

As we chose flowers, she questioned us about our life, and the whole long bitter story of two sisters came tumbling out of Nastia's mouth. The adoption, the separation, the reunion. She shared it all. 

The woman stared at me with a look of great wonder, and then burst into tears. She reached over the counter and hugged me tight and kissed my face over and over and over.

'God bless you, God bless you...your heart is like God's! God bless you for bringing these sisters together....' she said, weeping, and she handed us a  perfect pink rose for Anya.

As we left her tiny shop with red roses for Nastia and the single pink rose for Anya, our new friend Ludmilla watched us go and held a tattered grey kerchief up to her eyes. 'God sees!' she called after us, 'He sees...'

My cup overflows....


  1. What a memorable day! Happy 18 and many more!!

  2. What an incredible story! I continue to be in awe of your adventure. Happy Birthday Nastia!

  3. I love finding joy in the darkness. It doesn't come easily, but it is there! Happy Birthday, Nastia!! And yes, God does see.

  4. And now *I* am crying! What a clearly God-provided experience!

  5. Happy Birthday Nastia! I was going to comment on the other post too....I'm so so excited for you about the adoption of Daniel! I mean I felt in my heart too that you just had to do it. Does that sound funny? I think you are right, a new start in a new town, Russia or America will be the best for your family. Tver was a nice spot between Moscow and St. Pete. I heard St. Pete is the Paris of East. I can't wait to see the pictures. I'm so glad things are becoming clearer and clearer for you. Your are empowering!

  6. And you expressed the beauty of it all so wonderfully in your writing.

    I am erasing my long reply and putting it into my own blog.

  7. Based on being Bi-lingual, you could find a job at a hotel. If you are in a bigger city you can also pursue your theatre interests on the side. I think St. Petersburg is more cultured than Moscow. I know both cities are very expensive. I'm still holding out that you come back to the US. With the support system from family and friends and medical and education access, that makes the most sense.

  8. Keri,

    So happy for you, and proud of you and your accomplishments. You're amazing! Your adventures will make a terrific book someday.

    Anya is beautiful, and Daniel is a doll! Happy Birthday Nastia! My DD's birthday is also today, she turns 11. She's from the Karelia Republic, not far from Finland. I would have liked to visit Finland but we didn't get the chance, so I'll be reading your blog very intently to find out what it's like.

    Keep on keepin' on with what God has called you to do.

  9. Happy Birthday Nastia! What a beautiful story!

  10. Ah, tears running down now. Every time you post the story just gets better and better. Thank you so much for sharing each step of the journey with us! I firmly believe that joy and suffering go hand in hand, and we cannot fully experience one without the other. But that does not mean I don't still forget that bit of head-knowledge in the day to day gripes of mommyhood. To my shame. A little tiny bit of me is jealous of your freedom to suffer fully, if you know what I mean--and then experience the accompanying joy and beauty fully. But even in my own little sheltered life, I need to practice taking the little annoyances and frustrations of marriage and mommyhood and dwelling fully in them, with Christ. Not fighting the moments in which I can dwell in Grace, not giving in to the selfish temptations of speaking crossly back to my kids, or allowing myself to indulge in saying "I'm done being a parent for today!" when I am tired of unpleasant (or, let's face it, inconvenient) behavior. But truly setting aside myself at those "hard" moments and instead looking for God in them, and trying to follow God's lead in them. . . .

    I love how your writing forces me to reflect on the things that really matter, Keri.

  11. What a beautiful story! After what sounded like week after week of angry people yelling at you, this beautiful woman comes along. This truly made my day. Bless you all.

  12. I'm speechless... :)

  13. Happy Birthday Nastia!!!

  14. Thank you for sharing with us all that you see. Happy Birthday Nastia!

  15. Beautiful post Keri!

  16. You have lifted me up, Keri! What a beautiful day & a perfect birthday gift for Nastia for both of you to see the beauty your daily lives in Russia.

    And I am thrilled to read about your plans to adopt Daniel. Good for you! Wrap that cutie-pie up in your loving arms, Keri!

    It's not a life for everyone, but you have the heart of a lioness! Thank you for sharing your adventures!!!

  17. A fellow blogger provided a link to your blog and I am ever so grateful. Reading your story makes me feel God in ways I haven't for some time. Thank you for that. You are on a precious journey and I am priviledged to follow along and learn from your unique wisdom and closeness to God's spirit. I will try to catch up on your other posts. I also have a blog called The Simple Life and you are welcome any time.
    http://odielangley.blogspot.com and email is odie@qualityofficeequipmentinc.com
    Hope you have the most wonderful week.

  18. I don't know you, but a friend gave me the link to this post...I spent this summer in Russia and experienced the exact emotions and realizations you wrote here. God bless you for your obedience to Him. Praying blessings on you and your work. Continue to shine His light in that beautiful but often dark part of the world! You are not alone in your work there!

  19. Anonymous9:51 PM

    Wow - what a great post. I'm not sure what to say. Just wow.

  20. Happy birthday Nastia from the Murray's! God reveals himself in ways we can never predict. Going on faith is like using His eyes to see the world ... and what is seen is so revealing. We have seen this in Siberia, India, and now China.

  21. As I read through the first part of your post, I felt an undeniable call from God to respond with specific words.

    Then, imagine the goosebumps I got when I continued to read and saw the message from your new friend, Ludmilla. Her words are the exact words God was whispering in my ear for you.

    These are they: "God bless you."

  22. Keri,
    Sending love and prayers, and asking everyone I know to do the same.




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