Hi Colleen, how does your business help the community?
We are not alone. I keep stumbling on this theme wherever I go in the world (and strangely, especially among the most downtrodden) – God’s relentless pursuit of each one of us. I’ve never felt more strongly that I am not alone, that God is nearer than the air I breathe, than when caring for and advocating for orphans. Across the globe, they peer from the shadows of deconstructed realities, vulnerable to disease, abuse, neglect, death… From the rice fields of Vietnam, laboring under a relentless sun. From the slums of Kenya, neglected and starving . From the mountains of Nepal, sold into slavery. From the countryside of Zimbabwe, oppressed by the whims of a corrupt dictator. From the inner cities of the USA, snatched for human trafficking. And from countless other hidden cracks: 153 million orphans. The littlest voices among us… forgotten and powerless. Except by God. If you and I listen, we can become His hands and feet to convince them they are not alone. I paint and write about “orphan issues,” whether actual children I’ve met through adopting two kids from Kenya, traveling around the world, or talking to orphaned hearts on journeys toward healing. When I sell my art I hope my work draws others toward greater awareness and confidence that God is near. Also, I donate 20% of my profits to Hope’s Promise, a Colorado based non-profit that places international orphans in families in their own countries. I’m currently working toward publishing of my first fiction manuscript with my agent, Cynthia Ruchti of Books and Such Literary Agency. A portion of any profits generated will benefit Hope’s Promise. I wrote about themes of orphan care in Kenya and spiritual healing of the main character to expose readers to orphan issues and to convince readers through the power of story that we are not alone.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
“Art is the language of the soul.” With these words, one of my lifelong friends exhorted me as I wrestled for years with an insatiable need to express myself in creative writing and painting. For decades I tried to suppress this language, feeling it could not urgently or adequately address the evils I witnessed in the world. It felt too slow and clumsy to reverse urgent emergencies such as poverty or abandonment. But it was a language that swelled within my being and refused to be silenced. Aristotle said, “A soul never thinks without a picture.” My own soul craved color, texture, pattern and images, whether painted or described in words; and no matter how fast I trotted around the world or how passionately I tried to speak in other ways, it was a soul-whisper that would not be denied. At times when I surrendered to my native “tongue,” images hounded me fast and furious. Somehow this truth, expressed by Jody Thomae in her book “God’s Creative Gift: Unleashing the Artist in You,” pursued my heart like a siren song, “Symbolic and artistic expression and movement allow us to see the unseen, to somehow break through the boundary between earth and heaven and see God…” (page 98). I longed to see God, especially in the dark corners of suffering I stumbled upon in the world. In 2002, I volunteered for three weeks in A Nairobi Mother Teresa Home for Abandoned Children. Just one year prior, my husband and I claimed our precious son from one of its cribs and fell head over heels in love. Returning to the orphanage, hearing the echo of unanswered babies’ cries in the same under-staffed ward that was his home for the first year of his life, witnessing children sick and suffering as he once was when he nearly lost his life to tuberculosis, undid me. I returned home, overwhelmed with experiential insight into the trauma of the babies I left behind. As I held my son close, I simply could not integrate my experience half a world away with our seemingly safe and plentiful American life. And yet gazing into his luminous brown eyes, I could never forget. A couple months after my return, news from a friend in Nairobi plunged me into deeper internal turmoil. She reported that measles had swept through the baby ward, killing some of the healthiest babies. Grief overflowed into creating art; representations emerged on paper of seven babies leaving this world for another. After I finished the piece, I learned from my friend the number of babies who had died: seven. In the perspective of eternity, they were snatched away from an abandoned existence on this earth to unimaginable love. But as I reflect on this work of art that so unexpectedly appeared as an accurate memorial, I wonder if God simply wanted me to know that He also weeps over the cruelty of their short, unjust experience here. This strange and prophetic process of creating both frightens and fills me with wonder. I still don’t fully understand completely why God calls me to paint and write. But in the creating, I see. And I hope and pray those who view and read my work also see.
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I’m currently offering a free downloadable pdf to print your own cards created with my painting, Indigo Iris (2), with all sign-ups to my author/artist newsletter: Author/artist newsletter