Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Kitchen Table

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride.”

Ecclesiastes 7:8

That verse has long spoken to me when I’m faced with a difficult new challenge.  It helps me to remember that when things change it means a disruption to the routine, a shift of the normal, a restructuring of paradigms.  Eventually, if you wait it out, things will get better.  Give it time.

However, it also means there is an end to things.  Good things end, too. They shift away in the passing moments.  Nothing gold can stay.

I face these two truths as I sit in my Moscow kitchen.  I can hear the laughter over coffee or dinner.  I feel again the frustrations and sorrow sorted out over this table.  I pray again for the answers to questions raised by expectant friends looking for understanding.  If these walls could talk, the stories they would tell! 

This kitchen has been mine for less than a year and yet it became home to many.  “Something smells good in here!”  “Thanks for cooking, again!”  “Is that banana bread?  MMmmmmmm!”
We shared a slice of life here, my Moscow family and I.  Sheri and I prayed and talked and sought ideas over breakfast here.  Jeanie explained to me her project across this table and recited her speech before class, just one more time.  Skype even brought Kellie to this table.  We laughed and commiserated thanks to modern technology.  Shalom and I sorted out students and parents, looking for the best ways to help them move forward.  Mari and I talked about food and families and Ave Leigh and relationships and life.  And Stas.  With Stas there were lessons in language and culture and literature and politics and dreams growing from ideas.  Ava took some of her first steps here, her first bites of real food, her first teeth were bragged about here.  Kolya and I made pizza and banana bread sorting out daily life while Zhenya arrived in time for tea and conversation. 
Birthdays and Christmas and Easter and every day life were celebrated here.  Sunday School planning and student summaries written.  In this room.  In this space we shared.  We lived.  Beneath its African curtain, beside its orange rag rug, next to the coffee cart, hands resting on the glass table top.  We lived together here.

There is the other room, too, where we taught Bible studies, watched movies, talked about life and love.  But, like any good Polish home, life centered around the kitchen table.  Words and thoughts swirl around the air, hovering above the table. 

I can’t help but compare it to the first kitchen, the first year, when everything was new and much more difficult.   The table was too big, the chairs were only stools with no back.  The food was strange and difficult to prepare on a stove that I hadn’t yet figured out.  There were some memories there, too, but it wasn’t home.  The second year brought new things in the same cramped space.  An improvement, for sure, but still it was shared space that felt borrowed.  Somehow it was intrusive to the other roommate when guests were invited in.  It was nicer, but it wasn’t home.

This kitchen considering reflects on the whole experience of Moscow for me.  I see the same comparisons in time.  Getting used to the harshness of this country was like walking through winter’s slush.  It must be done to get out of the cold, but the act of it was so tiresome.  Everything was new and so different.  How things are done here is in stark contrast to American expectations. 

And now?  Three years later?  I feel at last like I am home here.  I understand most of the things happening around me.  The language is not a strange sound, but a song to me.  The expat family has grown in my heart until I can hardly bear to leave them. 

Why change then?  Why leave?  Why not just stay and do the things I have learned to do well?

Life has taught me that it is constantly changing for me.  I am not one of those people who will be at a job for 30 years and living in the same home for 40 years and buying my groceries at the same store for 20 years.  It just simply isn’t me.  I’m not sure why.  Where did I find this wanderlust?  It’s not that I think the grass is always greener somewhere else.  It’s not that I crossly desire to leave something behind.

I feel like life is meant to be lived.  I need to live while I’m alive.  I don’t know how many days I get to spend here on this planet, but I want to spend them well.  I want to exercise my super power of loving deeply and seeing the best in people.  I want to see who else there is to know and love and what else there is to do and learn in the next place.  I want to follow the leading of God to do whatever He gives me to do.

That’s the real crux of it.  I know that I owe my life to God.  I ought to be dead.  I ought to be bogged down beneath the consequences of bad choices.  I ought to be struggling with the generational problems of my family. 

But, comma – conjunction, God.  Change of perspective.  Change of life.  Change of view.

But, God, saw some good in me that He could use to bring something good to one place or another.  Because of that I will continue to go where He leads.  I will do my best to share His grace with whoever He sets at my kitchen table, wherever that table is.

I am really not leaving anyone behind.  I take them each with me, buried deeply in my heart.  Their smiles and hopes and genuine love I take with me.  I leave behind my admiration of them, my prayers for them, my trust in God to guide them. 

Today I will fly to London.  Tomorrow to Chicago.  The next chapter will begin. 

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