There’s this thing that happens when I’m introduced to another woman who has adopted. We can know little to nothing about one another and yet share a glance that says “oh, you’ve had a taste of where I’ve been.” That’s likely true of anyone who has walked through pain, themselves, or with their children — that knowing glance. Jennifer Ebenhack and I have this in common: a hunger to find Him as we hold the hands of our children in a walk towards restoration and fingernails that have gotten a little bit dirty clawing our way there. I’ve invited her to write, here, today. Her words strike a deep vein. Read on, ready to be stirred.
I can’t keep living like this. I’m being eaten alive, Lord! I threw myself to the bed and sobbed. Resentment toward Jarod, each member of my household, and every missionary who ever enjoyed a family trip back to the States flowed like poison from my mind to my heart and through every cell of my body. I wanted to destroy something or someone—to exact revenge on Joseph for ruining our adoptions, to rebel against God for allowing all of this, to do something drastic enough to prove to everyone around me that I needed help.
My tears turned to silent cries: I’m afraid I’ll do something horrible, God! I’m terrified. I’m exhausted. I’m desperate! Don’t you see? There’s no way out! But even as my adrenaline pumped, my mind jumped ahead of my tantrum: What good would it do? I was only heading deeper into the darkness, and I’d already spiraled so far into the abyss of self-pity that I didn’t recognize myself. I knew the antidote to darkness was light. But apart from an adoption miracle—which I’d long ago given up on—how could anything change?
Utterly depleted, I reached for my One Year Bible. Just this once, God, could you show me something I’ve never seen before?
My hope rose just a little as I flipped pages to find the reading of the day, but my expectations were soon let down.
That’s it? How are verses about sheep and oil going to help me today, Lord?
I read on, expecting nothing.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
I scoffed, and a few tears ran down my cheek.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.”
Lie down? If only!
“He restores my soul.”
And here I stopped.
“He restores my soul.”
I was living in a spiritual desert that rivaled the Sahara. Those four words may as well have been an invitation into the turquoise waters of Tahiti.
Are you serious, God? You can do that? This from a woman who’d been studying Scripture since childhood.
I drank in the words one more time: “He restores my soul.”
And suddenly the truth became real, piercing through all my cynicism. I was placing impossible burdens on everyone around me. It was no wonder they failed to deliver. My husband, friends, and family were powerless to perform the duties of my Savior—my Shepherd. Life was disappointing. Circumstances were impossible. My loved ones let me down regularly. But I was never supposed to place my hope in them. I finally saw that.
Okay, Jesus. Be my Shepherd. Please, restore my soul! I turned a wet face up to the ceiling. Help me! I am such a mess!
I was still on my bed, in a hot, cluttered room, but I had been spiritually plunged into the still, clear waters of restoration. God was listening.
I devoured the following verses.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Of course. He will help me—after all, His holy name is at stake.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Like never before, I knew what it was to fear evil, and oh how ready I was for His comfort. I also knew what it was to prepare a table; the process of making three meals a day from scratch, setting the table, cutting and cooling the kids’ food, and dishing out seconds and thirds before I’d had my first bite had frustrated me regularly. The beauty of Jesus serving me so tenderly humbled me. He wanted to feed me. He wanted to anoint my wounds with oil. He offered to keep my cup so full, filling it after every sip, that it would overflow. I didn’t have to run on empty; I didn’t have to live with a dry cup.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I’d spent the past months convinced darkness and despair would follow me all the days of my life. But here was restoration for my soul.
There was a knock at the door. Someone needed me for something urgent, as always. Drying my face with tissues, I opened the door. The needs remained. Mommy was in demand. I was still stuck. Nothing had changed.
Yet everything had changed.
Jennifer’s eight eventful years in Haiti produced a gift of brokenness through which she has discovered the depths of God’s healing grace. She passes that grace on to others through her blog, life coaching, her recently released memoir, In a Sun-Scorched Land: A memoir of adoption, faith, and the moving of Haiti’s mountains, and her ebook Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear.
Jennifer, her husband Jarod, and their five children currently reside in South Florida. Jennifer blogs regularly for The Better Mom, Club 31 Women, Faithgirlz, and JenniferEbenhack.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.