Another Day in Kenya: Introduction
It’s so interesting in life how God leads us, sometimes it seems to me, in an almost cyclical path. Or perhaps “spiraling” is a better descriptor: to new insight into Who He is, and who we are. In 2012, I left my job as Director of Orphan Care with Hope’s Promise, a position I deeply believed in and loved. But the prior decade held a whirlwind of adoptions, world travel, and health struggles of family members, culminating in the death of my father and grandfather within two months and a gathering storm cloud of my child’s intensifying illness. In a way, I think it all caught up with me, and I felt the Lord calling me out to another place, a more deserted, contemplative place.
For the last four-plus years, I’ve culled that intense decade of many treasures, hard-won through sorrow and pain. 2012 felt sort of like arriving home after a very long trip with an over-stuffed suitcase that dominated a room, making escape impossible until it was attended to. It demanded my attention. One by one, in no particular order, I unpacked for four-plus years.
This blog is perhaps the best testimony of that winding journey through art, memories, photographs, daily life. I’ve written, painted and published as the ideas surface. But lately I feel a compulsion, maybe even a calling, to put some order to it all.
This new direction coincides with an invitation from a friend to collaborate on a creative project. He is launching a video story-telling company, and I have a few stories in my bones. As I organize photos, video footage, and memories, I find myself asking, “Did I really live through all that?”
I definitely intend to continue publishing posts as I always have, as stated on my “About page“: “I usually post once or twice a week with original writing, photography, and art on topics including spiritual journey, international travel, family and adoption, and artistic process.” But I’m also launching something new today, an on-line book, I guess you could call it. I will categorize them all together under the title “Another Day in Kenya” so they can be easily found amidst other posts. This series will chronicle a journey of waking up to birds chirping, children singing, vehicles honking: to the unique sounds of “another day in Kenya.”
It begins here:
Another Day in Kenya: Chapter 1
Irreparable Rending of My Heart
For as long as I can remember, as a child exploring the wild-lands of Black Forest, east of Colorado Springs, I dreamed of spending a day in Africa. Interwoven with mornings spent swaying in the tops of pine trees and afternoons riding my bike over rutted dirt roads, I imagined the sweeping savannas and tangled jungles of a place half-a-world away. Books stoked my imagination. The librarian of our tiny country church, a retired missionary, stocked the shelves with biographies of people in faraway places. In my little heart, I whispered from the prairies under that wide open Colorado sky, “Send me anywhere, God, and especially to Africa.”
I didn’t know anyone who actually set foot in Africa until high school. Then, as I navigated back into my native culture after living in Australia for a year-and-a-half, I bonded with another cross-culturally confused student. Julie grew up living in the Masai huts of Kenya, the daughter of missionary parents who moved back to the US around the same time I returned. She talked about adopting babies from Kenya some day, inspired by witnessing so many children in African orphanages. My parents adopted my youngest brother when I was 13 years-old, so adoption was woven deep into the fabric of my own definition of family.
From the beginning of our marriage, David and I agreed we were both interested in adopting someday. God gave us two beautiful biological boys, Jacob and Justin, born three years apart; and at a time we least expected, as we cradled our several-month-old second-born son, the journey began with an email from Julie.
Julie and her husband were ready to adopt from Kenya. Her mother moved back to Nairobi and volunteered regularly at a Mother Teresa Home for Abandoned Children. Julie forwarded a message about the babies who were available for adoption so I could help her process. I read about “Baby Josephat.” His temperament sounded so much like my own precious newborn, described as “easy-going and happy,” but with one stark contrast – Josephat was abandoned, and he knew no family to call his own.
That night I sat on the couch next to David and wept inconsolably for about an hour. It was an unbearable, irreparable rending of my heart. After that, I began to pray obsessively for a family to adopt Josephat; and somewhere along the way, I began to pray we could adopt him.
Soon after that first email, Julie forwarded photos of the babies. I knew immediately which one was Josephat, without even reading the captions. It was as if I always knew him.
One mysterious evening, I attended a prayer service. Josephat weighed heavily in my heart. Our prayer group referenced a verse in 1 Chronicles 16, but my eyes wandered to the opposite page of my Bible. I read 1 Chronicles 17:13-14, “I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.” And I knew as surely as I’ve ever known anything that this promise originally given by God to King David about his son, Solomon, was issued anew to Josephat. I thought to myself, If we adopt Josephat, we should re-name him “Solomon.”
My husband knew nothing of my internal process.
One day, all the inner workings of my thoughts and prayers reached the point of combustion. I called David at work and told him he should sit down because I had a crazy idea.
“What if we adopt Josephat and raise him and Justin as twins?!”
“You’re right, you are crazy!” he replied. “We’ll talk about it when I get home.”
As I set down the phone, a random thought zipped through my mind: I wondered if perhaps there was a clue in the meaning of the name “Josephat” as to whether or not God was truly calling us to adopt him. I dug up my baby name book. When I read the meaning, I knew God was at work: “The Lord has added to me another son.”
Dave likes to joke that the Mother Teresa sisters name all the baby boys “Josephat” as a marketing scheme for adoption. Nevertheless, God worked in his heart as well, and soon we embarked on a flurry of paperwork to bring Josephat home.
We considered names for our soon-to-be-son.We wanted to claim him with a new name. I remembered the promise given to Solomon, but because our two biological sons were named with “J” names (Jacob and Justin), we didn’t want Josephat to feel left out. The name “Jedd” settled perfectly. It means “beloved of God,” the identity we most long for him to embody.
During the process of fulfilling national and international requirements with our adoption agency, Hope’s Promise, I visited a bookstore. I found a name book and checked the entry for “Jedd” to see if it held any new insight into this name we chose. The book referenced 2 Samuel 12:25, a story I didn’t remember. God sends the prophet Nathan to King David to tell him the Lord wishes to give his infant son, Solomon, a special new name, “Jedidiah,” which means, “beloved of God.”
And so began the journey towards our son, and towards our first day in Kenya.