Via Dolceís kitchen was quiet after dinnerís hectic rush. Most of the crew were gone for the evening. Off the kitchen, the owner/chef sat in her office, contemplating her new found success in the restored rail house district of downtown Chicago. Her Italian restaurant had been a dream come true, one she had been nurturing since childhood.
Sarah Middleton finished the bookkeeping for the evening. The quiet voices of the cleaning crew were barely audible through her office walls. Swish-swish of mops and clank-clank of stainless steel were like balms for her soul. Man, am I glad I donít have to clean, too. Sarah smiled.
Planning menus, ordering groceries, personnel issues, management. Sometimes, the day-to-day tasks were daunting to Sarah, but somehow she had managed. Managed nicely, if I donít say so myself.
Sarah got up and walked to the open window in her office. A frigid breeze stung her face. Pungent scents seeped in from the alleyway. Her nose crinkled in displeasure and she hastily cranked the casement window shut.
Looking back to her desk, a huge stack of mail in her in-box stared back. Overshadowing the routine bills and obnoxious catalogs was an oversized manila envelope that piqued her attention. Pulling it out, she noted an unfamiliar script and her curiosity grew as she read the return address from her hometown. The name, however, did not register in her memory.
Drawing a letter opener through the yellow envelope, she reached in to a collection of pages and a weathered cardboard sign that read: ďSarahís Kitchen.Ē Her fingers caressed the faded colors on the handwritten sign. The pages revealed a lengthy letter and newspaper clippings.
Dear Ms. Middleton,
I hope this note finds you well. My name is Klara Woodhouse.
Iím writing at the request of my father, Mr. John Simpson who recently lost his eyesight. He still speaks fondly of you and your sister who attended his kindergarten Sunday School class some 25 years ago.
As a young adult many years ago, I can remember my parents speaking of you and your love of Sunday School. They said you spent most of your Sunday mornings in the little room off the main classroom that you insisted transforming into ďSarahís Kitchen.Ē
With her own kids grown and gone, I know my mom relished her times with you concocting imaginary meals. Iíve never been able to give my parents grandchildren, so their Sunday School class became even more special to them as they touched so many children. Thank you for being a precious part of their lives.
That brings me to the true purpose of my letter. As you can see from the attached obituary, my mother has recently passed on. Dad insisted I write you to share hometown clippings of your successful restaurant, and tell you how much you are loved in Odessa. You may remember this handmade sign my mother made for your kitchen here at First Baptist. Dad wanted you to have it. I know itís his sentimentality, but heís hoping youíll hang it in your restaurant as a remembrance of my mother and your home church.
Sarah caught her breath. She laid the letter down and picked up the worn sign. She closed her eyes, reliving the sights and smells of the church basement classroom. She remembered a high window that allowed sunshine to warm and brighten the little room. She saw her pink apron and the miniature wooden appliances. She had forgotten how wonderful Sunday School and church had made her feel. Its peace, its security, its comfort. Its undeniable sense of fulfillment.
Chicago was a world away from where she grew up in the cornfields of Iowa with overall-clad farmers, pick-up trucks, and quilting bees.
Yet, somewhere, from deep in her soul, came a cry. A cry for the lost. A cry of incompleteness. A cry for home. Shame. Regret. It all came flooding back. She hadnít been in a church for years. Hadnít thought of God or Jesus since Odessa.
Grudgingly, Sarah went back to the letter, wondering how she would handle the tidal wave of emotions that besieged her heart. Words from long ago echoed in her head: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. (Phil 4:7, 9 NASB)
Peace? Was it truly possible?
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