The cold rain pelted my hair and dripped down my collar as I pushed my heaping grocery cart. Reaching the mini-van, I sighed with relief, but groaned when I popped the hatch. I’d forgotten about the bikes and coolers I’d left there. No room for my pop-tarts, puppy chow or any of the hundred other items now getting sopped by the rain. Irritated, I piled the bags onto seats and the floor, then sloshed into the driver’s seat. I developed a headache on the drive home, as I heard my unruly passengers – namely melons and cans— jump off seats and mamba across the van.
Matters didn’t improve at home. Trying to find room in my tiny kitchen for all the food I’d bought was like trying to stuff my post-pregnancy body back into my size four wedding dress. Muttering about the kitchen renovation my husband said he would start last year, I carefully stacked small cans of mushrooms and tomato paste onto larger cans of soup and beans. “This is ridiculous. I need more space,” I complained to my dog, Murphy. “There’s no room in the kitchen, no room in my closet, no room in the bathroom...” My big toe throbbed a reminder of the hairspray can that dove from the medicine cabinet that morning.
The doorbell startled me and I remembered that mom was stopping by with her Ukrainian friend she’d met on a mission trip. Mom had been excited about her friend’s visit to America for months. I glanced around the toy-cluttered living room and rolled my eyes. No room for the toys either. Oh well. I rushed to the door, tripping over my homeless vacuum cleaner on the way, and let my guests in.
An older woman with short, blond hair stood beside my mother. Mom was beaming. “This is my friend Nadia.” (She pronounced it “Nah-juh.”) “and this is my daughter, Janet.”
Before I knew it, Nadia had me enfolded in her plump arms. This woman I’d never met squeezed me like I was a long-lost friend. Then she stood back and looked at me, her weathered face crinkled with her smile. “Janet. You are Clare’s daughter. So beautiful! I bring you present.”
She brought me a present? I motioned for them to join me in the living room and hurriedly escorted a herd of Barbies off the couch. Nadia sat and dug through a quilted bag. She extracted a box and handed it to me. “For your home.”
Blushing, I unwrapped the gift. I hadn’t even baked cookies for this visit. I pulled off the paper, revealing a small, framed painting.
“Nadia is an artist,” Mom announced.
“You made this?” I asked, staring at the picture. A tiny field of sunflowers filled the canvas, their orange faces shining in the sun. “Thank you so much.”
“Thank you for having me to your house,” she answered. “You live in castles here in America.”
I laughed impulsively. Some castle. But Nadia’s eyes were sincere. They traveled about the room, wide with wonder. “So much space for a small family,” she exclaimed.
I frowned. Did she really think this was roomy? “Are you enjoying your stay here?”
Her face brightened. “Oh yes, your mother, she take me to church and food store. You have whole aisle of cereals!”
Mom suggested we look at pictures of her last Ukraine trip. Nadia and I sat on either side of her, while she turned the pages.
“The is the orphanage where Nadia works.” The photo showed a room full of young girls. At least twenty metal-framed beds were crammed into the small room. No toys cluttered the floor. Nadia answered my questions. She explained that there are many orphans in Ukraine. People are poor and many abandon their children. The girls at the orphanage have just enough to eat—simple meals of bread, a little meat and lots of cabbage.
Nadia and her husband work hard to make sure the girls are educated and know about Jesus. “They have little, but are happy to know God is their Father. They pray that all Ukrainian children will know Jesus.”
My heart constricted, looking at the joy-filled faces in the picture. They were content, even thankful.
I excused myself to make tea. In the kitchen, I sank to the cracked, linoleum floor and prayed amongst the grocery bags. “Lord, forgive me. I’ve been so ungrateful. I don’t need more space. I don’t need more of anything. Only more of You.”
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