Mugginess that engulfed most of the country was breathing hard through my senses that day. With every step, it threatened to rain gloom on my outlook for the day. A promise of joy and laughter, sharing and playing was on the horizon but it was disappearing behind the clouds.
The stifling air seemed determined to choke off my delight. Then the doorbell rang and in a moment the ray of sunshine and joy standing on our porch sent the dark clouds spinning away. There stood our goddaughter, overnight bag in hand, with a smile as bright as the clear blue skies. She hugged us big and warm. Once again, our minds recounted how her name fit her perfectly. Natalie JOY. The name given her at birth. Certainly, the Lord must have whispered this name into my best friend’s ear when she held her daughter in her arms for the first time. For the Lord spreads JOY wherever Natalie goes.
After she dropped her bag in the guest room, we chatted over lunch. Stories about her teaching in Russia. Stories of children all speaking different languages. Apartment buildings rising 24 floors into the skies of Moscow. Grocery shopping at Mom and Pop stores with no American products. Learning not to ask her hostess what she was serving.
There was one more story, but she had to return to her room to complete the tale.When she returned, she cradled a traditional wooden Russian doll.
“Nina, I have a gift for you,” she said.
But it was more than one doll. Twisting open one wooden figure revealed another smaller one tucked inside, and that doll revealed another nested within it. The Matryoshka doll, as they are called, display the peasant history of the country with the biggest draped in a native folk-art style dress. The sizes decrease until the final one appears–the baby just wrapped in plain cloth.
These little wooden dolls–joy multiplied that would remind me of my goddaughter when she returns to Russia.
As we visited, the summer storm began rolling across the sky, and I could feel my feelings rev up with each clap of thunder. I knew the temperatures would drop enough to be outside and the mugginess would be washed away. So I whipped up a project for Natalie and myself.
With shovels in hand, we headed out to the front porch which is covered by a two-story gazebo-like entrance. Protection from the storm but a way to enjoy it. Flowers in tall pots left unattended and dried from the scorching desert sun beckoned us to bring beauty and joy to our front door. With water, shovels, and a gigantic black trash bag, we were like kids making mud pies in the dirt.
Soon the rain was driving in slants across the scenery and plunking in puddles next to us. We breathed in the rain-refreshed air and let the cool wind dance through our hair. We hung up our shovels to plant flowers another day and retreated to the family room.
The guys had equipped the room with charged 3-D glasses, moved our chairs into movie-theater position, popped in the 3D version of “A Christmas Carol,” and handed us the remotes–with instructions. Then they escaped.
My brief visit with Natalie ended as all girl-time should with a shopping trip and lots of giggles the following day. We found three pairs of shoes for the joyful one. We lingered at Bath N Body until Natalie found a sweet scent that would bring the feel of summertime ocean breezes to Russia in the midst of the bitter winter.
As I pull up the sheets at the end of day, I cuddle with thoughts of rain from the summer monsoon, stories of Russia, and the joy that one young woman can bring to my life.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1NIV