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....