It’s about 4:30 am and St. Petersburg is still quiet with sleep. For some reason I find myself unable to join her people this morning. No matter, I think that like so many others in the past few days, this quiet, unexpected moment is something to be treasured. The sky is light, the air from my open window is cool and I can be alone with my thoughts. It’s good.
Friday night was Arina’s Birthday and so to celebrate, we took her on a canal boat tour. Honestly, it was probably one of my favorite things I’ve done since being in St. Petersburg. The air was warm, the sights were beautiful, and I was surrounded by the people that have shared in and supported me through the ups and downs of this adventure. As we floated down the canals I had an overwhelming sense of peace and satisfaction, and a longing to somehow freeze those moments of seeming perfection.
Yesterday morning I went on a five mile run that Joel had suggested. I had attempted this run before but my terrible sense of direction always got the best of me. But yesterday I was successful. I ran across beautiful bridges, above sparkling blue waters, and past spectacular landmarks like Peter and Paul fortress and the Hermitage, all the while feeling a forgotten sense of joy well up inside of me. As I ran, I thought about how only a few months ago, the sky was gray, the air was cold and the flowing water beside me was frozen solid. I thought about periods in the past nine months when my heart mirrored the season and remained cold, dark, and hardened towards its purpose in Russia and the blessings surrounding me…even amidst hardships. Perhaps I feel some regret over days I wasted here in Russia. I wish that instead of grasping for whatever brought me comfort, I would have embraced the unknown with greater boldness, knowing that it would soon be over. I wish that I had loved others with greater selflessness. I wish that on days when life seemed dark, cold, and gray, I would have done a better job at seeking out the Light. And yet as I ran, God reminded me of a beautiful truth…a truth that brought about a sense of freedom. He reminded me that He has the power to work through me, in spite of me. That, my friends, is incredibly reassuring news.
And so I've been having these moments lately-on a boat, running through my foreign home, sitting on a windowsill- that have almost taken my breath away with their beauty. They are moments I wish I could freeze so I could hold onto them forever. They are moments when life just feels...perfect. I am not so naive as to think life will remain in a state of perfection. Maybe just the opposite in fact. And I think that is what has made these moments so incredibly special. For when I think back on my time in Russia, I will probably remember the hard days. I will certainly remember the cold days. I will remember the days when my soul felt tired and confused and restless. But I will also remember the friendships, the beauty, and the moments of perfection that caused me to stop and ponder the goodness and faithfulness of my God.
From my seat on this windowsill, I think I can see things pretty clearly. Darkness and light, greetings and departings, trials and triumphs, restlessness and roots...these are the things life is made of. And what a beautiful life it is.