The road from courage and hope, to utter despair, and then finally to exhilaration stretched through wild lands in 2005. With the daughter we longed to adopt buried in a third-world orphanage and silence from the Kenyan lawyer who should be inviting us to come and claim her, I could no longer bear the separation. I flew to Kenya in January 2005, ready to fight tooth-and-nails to bring her home. I could not possibly guess just how bitter the war would wage.
I set off with courage and resolve, and I felt God’s love flowing through me as never before. With my daughter safely in my care on our third day in-country, I cherished the opportunity to share the hope of Christ with a man dying of AIDS, networked with friends in the US to provide an income-producing sewing machine for an impoverished friend, coordinated cash to save the life of a sick baby in a slum, helped to find a home for an AIDS orphan.
But as every prayer for my daughter’s adoption process ended in bitter disappointment, days stretched into months; and the pain of separation from my husband and 7-year-old son, who remained in the US for work and school, overwhelmed me. I despaired that I would ever take my daughter home, and fear of losing her crushed my soul. I fell head over heels into a pit of loneliness and depression.
I felt that the evil coming against me swelled into a monster much larger than my own situation. It somehow felt like retaliation for embodying God’s passion for orphans in general. I personally and intensely felt the agony of evil’s intentions to steal, lie, and destroy, particularly defenseless orphans so dear to the Father’s heart.
At my lowest point, too weary and broken even for tears, I penned these prayers in my journal:
June 28, 2005
I am brought low – discouraged, furious, bitter, depressed. I just want to give up. Is there any hope for me? Worn out, exhausted, bruised and beaten. Fragile and un-comforted. I want your promises to be true in my life, but I lack the strength to even claim them. I am imprisoned by forces so insidious and unknown that I don’t know how to even begin to fight them. I am left vulnerable to their attack. My spirit faints, and my soul weeps. No recourse is left for me. My persecutors are too strong for me. I feel hopeless and abandoned. I cry out to you, but still I find myself overpowered.
Please just send me home now. I can’t endure much more. It’s too much for me Jesus! Surely you are breaking my heart. I don’t know if I can recover. Just when I think it’s as bad as it can get, it gets worse. I lose faith and hope that anything can go right. It just feels like every step will go wrong until at last I give up.
June 30, 2005
Let me not be overcome, Gentle Savior. Though my strength fails, please carry me. I find myself helpless and alone, absolutely dependent on your promises that you will never leave me or forsake me, even when my soul becomes small and ugly and joy retreats somewhere inside my dark shell. Somewhere down there, I hope there is still a glimmer of light. My soul is weary, shrunken, bruised and wounded. I can’t see what you are doing, can’t see your hand. Night has descended. I am enveloped, crying out for hope. Hoping for hope. When all around me is night, I cry out to you to rescue me. My feet slip and slide. Depression clings so closely. I just want to survive this moment, and maybe the next.
July 2, 2005
Evil is so evil. I want to see something good win! How long, oh God?! How long will this world suffer until you come to make it all right? It is just so horrible. It buries me alive. I want to know if there is any hope, or if I am just waiting to die to escape this place.
And then, when I could not take another step, miraculous provision unfolded. My daughter, two sons, and I were basically homeless. At first we stayed at a student hostel since we expected to be in Kenya no more than 6-8 weeks. As the months stretched on, I didn’t know where else to go. Finally, the student hostel needed the space we occupied. A new friend in Kenya advocated for us to live in the home of a missionary during their one-month US furlough. After sharing a small space with strangers and rats for months, I set our bags down in a beautiful, airy, private home that was all ours to inhabit. Grace flooded my soul like a gentle breeze.
July 4, 2005
Slowly I begin to heal and I feel your tenderness all around me in the colors of this room, the green and bright flowers, the quite gentleness of hanging laundry, the privacy and solitude – a quiet, deserted place for rest and renewal. You saw the desperation of my soul and you made a way where there was no way. My soul finds rest in you, in the beauty you have made, in the song of wind and birds. And I can only thank you from the depths of my tired heart.
In the days when evil threatened to overwhelm me, I cried out to you. You heard and spoke into the darkness, “Enough!” I almost lost the last spark of light in my soul. You saw my desperation and shielded that tiny flicker, nursing it back, gently breathing on it that it might not go out. I cried out to you in my helplessness and I know you heard me. By your strength alone, the light will grow and flourish.
At long last, the next month after writing these words, in August 2005, 7 ½ months after I left the US, I carried Lily onto American soil, immediately embraced by all my loved ones who so faithfully prayed us home. And not only that, but because of the long delays, relationships forged with dearly loved Kenyan friends birthed a vision to provide a home for more orphans at Sanctuary of Hope.
Rooted in the light of God’s promises and persevering Presence, my soul survived that long, dark night; and by the grace of God, the last dying embers swelled once more to a mighty flame.
7 thoughts on “Rooted in Light”
Powerful and beautiful writing, Colleen. I am always so heartened by my visits here. The powerful takeaway for me here is the way your anguish and desperation transformed in time to a story of beauty and triumph. It’s not magic, is it… It’s patience. It’s attending to the faith within us each day. It’s falling down perhaps, losing the plot, losing our way, and then… being offered flowers…
ahhh,,,, such beautiful imagery, Michael. You are a painter of words, and I love the surprising images that you see and describe so vividly. This is exactly what it feels like. Dry desert stretches and suddenly, there… offered flowers. Thank you for always reading with your heart.
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What an incredible story. Very touching, Colleen. From despair to triumph. Indeed a spiritual travel. And I love the your water colour painting that illustrates that travel.
Thank you for your compassionate comment Otto. Even more so, for being an artist of compassion. It breathes through everything you do.
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Thank you for sharing your story and your journal entries with us Colleen. I have never thought of keeping a journal which is a communication with God. I love the idea and how wonderful it must be to go back after so many years and see how faithful and loving and tender-hearted God can be.
So much of my journals are drivel that no one would understand but me (thankfully!) but every now and then when I go back and read, I discover gems. Truths, whispered to me before I knew they were true.