May 27th, 2012

Two lone miles of power-walking, hard-walking
Scents of warm, heavy spring humidity…multi-flora rose…honeysuckle…

The scene is burning itself onto my memory
Nearly running now
Push harder, faster

Twinkles of fireflies light the darkness about me
But only one vision fills my eyes
The scene
It drives me on

In the back yard, gazing
What do I see?
What scene?

A cozy house, full of light and comfort
Expansive, protective, peopled with compassion
Not small, the house of protection
The compassion
The comfort

A far reach away on the horizon
Such a far reach away
The smell does not touch me where I wait


The swampy place, edges receding into the distant haze
Muck, stink
Sweltering heat
Shivering cold

Children are there.

Children are there?

Pounding on, sweat trickling
Standing still

Children sitting at the edge
Feet dabbling
Splashes on their damp, stained clothing
Waiting, empty, exposed, unclean
Years have left them stiff
Not cuddly

Further out, the eyes strain to see through
Haze, a dull haze


Caked with the dried mud of empty days
Empty years
Empty hearts

Some nearly submerged

In weakness

Years of need bury deeper
Human children?
Still human, smeared with the aching mud of unprotection?


The need
Their need
Is great
In mud
In need

It catches my glance

Motion, drama

The light-filled home
Its door swings open wide
A baby
The surprise she carries is
Unwelcome to her parents
No, no, no
No surprises

Sent out
Down the back steps
No more fragrance of mother
Warmth, welcome, womb
No welcome

Wait here in this safe and sterile place
No mud is here
No dirt
No speck of dust
Is here
In the clean back yard
Wait here, clean baby
Lovely baby
Cuddly baby

Wait here?


A cry is raised
A mother?  Warmth?  Welcome?
A sudden rush of feet
Compassion rising
Two days of uprising

Mothers!  Dozens of mothers!

Warm mothers
Welcoming mothers
Ready mothers
No little compassion
No small hearts

So many mothers
Ready mothers
O mothers, see the children!
O see, the great need!

The great need!

The drowning in mud, the years of empty, clinging mud
The drowning ones

“We cannot meet your need.”
“Our resources are not great.”
“We cannot walk that far, cannot smell that swamp, cannot wash that encrusted mud.”
“Our comfort, our protection, our compassion, our house
Our warmth
Is not big enough for us and you both
Not big enough
To reach the hazy muddy drowning empty stinking exposed hidden children
Like you
Not big enough for the years of unlovely muddy horror.”

All the mothers run
The fifty mothers run
With open arms
To the one clean baby
The cuddly baby
The lovely baby
Safe by the back door.

Back into the house
The safe and protected place
Where a lovely, clean baby will be bathed, spoiled, fed, bathed again
The cleanest will be bathed
The cleanest will be bathed

“We do not have the resources.”
And stretch the feet along the sofa
Bowl of ice cream in hand
Leisure time
Shopping bags with labels
Favorite authors, favorite cozy socks, favorite flavors of ice cream
Ice cream and maybe a homemade cookie
Our favorite
Fabric softener
Fresh flowers
Clean, fragrant
No little compassion
No little comfort
No little speck of dust

We do not have the resources to bathe the muddiest

We need it for ourselves
Baths for the cleanest
Food for the full
Comfort for the comfortable
Not for the neediest
None for the neediest

My feet pound

My heart pounds, burns

I stand outside the lighted house
I stand for the muddiest ones
I stand, I run
In broken pain for the muddiest ones
Broken for the most broken

Sweating, throbbing, on, on, on

I am driven



“Two girls cleared dishes from the extended table, feeling the surface with their hands.  Counting with their fingers.  They were blind.

Skinny sticks of children ran in and out.  Who would want such skeletons?  Orphan Keeper’s Assistant thought.  Three children were playing a game on the floor, one with crutches, one not moving.  What kind of hole is this?  Who wants outcasts?  Yuch!

…out loud [Orphan Keeper’s Assistant] said, ‘Whose children are these?  They can’t all belong to you!’

Mercie smiled again, the wrinkles creasing upward.  ‘They are mine,’ she said, looking the young woman straight in the eye.  ‘They’re all mine.  We have no orphans in Great Park…these children belong here.’

The Orphan Keeper’s Assistant spoke first.  ‘By the Orphan Keeper.  By scars and mars.  By pain and sadness.  Ills and madness.  By Orphan Keeper.  Orphan Keeper.  You do not belong to Mercie–or anyone else.’

Mercie lifted her face from her hands, never taking her eyes from her opponent’s face.  She threw her arms wide as though she would enclose the whole room.  ‘Things are not what they seem!’  she cried.  ‘Things are not what they seem! . . . In Great Park we know this to be true.'”

~David and Karen Mains, from Tales of the Kingdom


“…bring to your house the poor who are cast out…”



Share it!

24 Responses to “Driven”

  1. Desi says:

    I am re-reading this over and over again. I have to think of something I can do.

    My heart pounds, burns
    I stand outside the lighted house
    I stand for the muddiest ones
    I stand, I run
    In broken pain for the muddiest ones
    Broken for the most broken
    Sweating, throbbing, on, on, on
    I am driven

  2. Susanna says:

    In our house, we have ice cream, music, fresh flowers, cozy socks, favorite authors, favorite movies, leisure time, and fabric softener. And candles.

    And more.

    What burns inside me is not that we shouldn’t have these things, or that we should feel guilty about having them.  We enjoy all these gifts of God with gusto, and rightly so.  

    Simply put, we have them.

    In the expansive and comfortable house of our culture, there are resources enough and to spare for all the muddy castaways.

  3. sabrina says:

    Susanna, did you write the poem? Excellent. Very powerful.

  4. sabrina says:

    I had a chance to re-read and click on the links. I had a chance to read about the baby and the 50 families.

    We can rejoice and be happy for the baby and for the families willing to show up and to be part of the solution. God can use that willingness and expand it to help meet the needs.

  5. Tammy says:

    I love that you used an excerpt from Kingdom Tales!  We studied this book in our homeschool this year and it really touched my kids – and me!  I am praying and just chomping at the bit for God to take our willingness and say “Go!”  My ache to go and bring a child (or two) is painfully huge.  Still we are waiting and praying for our opportunity to go and make a difference for as many as God will allow us to bring home.  Thank you so much for advocating and always keeping these precious ones in front of people.

  6. Marci says:


    Is this a dream you had? It’s extremely poignant. I know you are praying for hearts to be willing to answer God’s call to practice “pure religion.” Keep praying. I am. 

  7. Leigh says:

    There is no one way to help. No one way to love. There are many, many ways… and while the need may be greater in some places than they are in others, we can not fault the people that help those with “lesser” need. Need is need, is it not?
    While I can understand your frustration, I feel from reading this that a certain amount of anger is being directed at other people whose only apparent perceived infraction has been helping those with “lesser” need. Am I reading this wrong? I may be?
    I think it is a beautiful and wonderful thing to raise awareness of those in the greatest need. Those who are aware of the location of the children in the greatest need certainly do a huge amount of good by spreading the word to make others aware. …I’m just not sure what “good” is being done by pointing out publicly that another person has chosen to champion “lesser” need? There must be something I am missing here, because I am quite certain from reading your blog for some time that you are not the “Holier than thou” type. Please – what did I miss here that has left me so confused?

  8. Grace says:

    Susanna, thank you for speaking the truth. This is a brave post. I pray people will hear your heart as they read it. I would encourage those who recognize a spirit of condemnation here to go back and read this post one more time. Instead of judgment, I pray you hear a message of challenge and possibility.  

    Love you, Susanna. You have become one of my life’s greatest teachers.  

  9. Leigh says:

    >”Instead of judgment, I pray you hear a message of challenge and possibility.” 
    Then why not write a personal note to that person or those people and help open their eyes to the plight of the orphans who so desperately need us? Why put in a link to another person’s blog? Yes – I see the outpouring of concern for a baby who is safe in a US hospital… I get that. But has there not been an outpouring of love and concern for the orphans in EE? Of course – not enough people have stepped forward to save these children, but is it not more helpful to rally together to continually raise awareness than to point out the weaknesses of those who rallied for a child in the US?
    In writing my response, I attempted to make it quite clear that I felt I was missing something. Yes – I read it in a certain way, and I can not apologize for perceiving the following the way I did. I don’t think I will be the only one. I must respectfully counter that the following words bow down under the weight of a certain amount of judgement:
    The drowning in mud, the years of empty, clinging mud
    The drowning ones
    “We cannot meet your need.”
    “Our resources are not great.”
    “We cannot walk that far, cannot smell that swamp, cannot wash that encrusted mud.”
    “Our comfort, our protection, our compassion, our house
    Our warmth
    Is not big enough for us and you both
    Not big enough
    To reach the hazy muddy drowning empty stinking exposed hidden children
    Like you
    Not big enough for the years of unlovely muddy horror.”
    All the mothers run
    The fifty mothers run
    With open arms
    To the one clean baby
    Susanna – I am not faulting you for this feeling… not at all. I do, however, feel it may be less appropriate to link to the people you are taking about. To me it reads like: “Please follow this link to see who shied away from the EE orphans in favor of the US baby.” What is the ultimate motive of directing people to this blog – to those that responded to the blog?
    Unfortunately from a psychological stance, pointing out the human failings and weaknesses of others has historically not resulted in an outpouring of love and good will towards those people, has it? No – it hasn’t. While I know you speak from the heart, Susanna, I am simply asking you to rethink linking to others for the purpose of pointing fingers at them. I am sorry for being so blunt… but I’m not one to say something behind a person’s back and I hope you can respect and/or forgive me for that.

  10. Holly F. says:

    Susanna, very poignant. 

    I do not know the story behind the issue above.  From what I’m gathering, a child in the US is having much more success finding a family than the children overseas.   When people ask me why adopt overseas, I tell them that a child in the US will not starve to death waiting in an orphanage.  They will not have scurvy, osteoperosis, and be size of baby when they are a pre-teen.  While abuse and neglect happens here, DHS usually steps in and the child is rescued.  

    The cost of adopting domestically is cheaper however, so I’m not sure parents are choosing domestic children simply because they are fearful of the “muddy” children….it may be all they think they can afford.  Or they may not know the plight of children internationally.  Either way, I admit to judging those that take the easy way out, if in fact that is what they are doing, but in reality,  if no one adopted domestically, those children would be healthy in foster care but still not with a permanent family.

    Please do not forget to do an entry on spouses not willing to adopt (I recall you mentioning it once before.)  There are days that my guilt is unbearable because we have the means and space to  adopt.  I have the heart but he doesn’t not.  I become angry with him some days because I don’t understand how he doesn’t feel the calling the same way I do.

  11. Sharon Robbins says:

    Simply linking to another’s blog is not a condemnation.  It is, apparently, a fact that a baby needing a family had 50 of them step forward within 2 days.  One of them, hopefully, will be THE family for this baby in need.  This baby is no less worthy of a family than any other simply because it’s living in safety and no one who’s read this blog could ever accuse Susanna of believing that.  If I’m reading this  correctly, if I understand it from beginning to end, it is not a condemnation of individual decisions.  But if it stings it could be because, whether we like to see it in ourselves or not, it is far easier to love the lovely.  It is far easier to hear God call us to rescue those who are most like us.  And, if we step out and aren’t “chosen” it’s far easier to wipe our brow, say “phew” and go back to our old life.  As the song says “Break our hearts for what breaks yours”.  God’s heart is broken equally for orphans everywhere.  He would like ours to be also.

  12. Leigh says:

    Sharon – Perhaps you are right that simply linking to another person’s blog is not a condemnation. It just seemed to read that way to me… which is why I asked for clarification in my first comment :) Because I am also human and have human weaknesses, I totally understand that there will be times I don’t understand the intent of something written. I came forward because, while I don’t know the other blogger or any of those who responded to that blog, I cringe when I see links used in a less-than-positive light. While I will leave Susanna’s intent to her own words, I can only share how those words translated through my eyes.
    No – the only sting I felt was for the other blogger who I felt had been targeted – though now I think that you are correct and that it was not meant in that way by Susanna. If I were able, I’d adopt as many of the most needy children out of B and other EE countries as I possibly could! :o)

  13. Lily says:

    Who is the ‘least’ of us ? Is it fair to call a ‘normal’ child living in poverty in a third world country so ? Whose only disability is lack of opportunity and basic necessities though they have the love of a family ? How about a special needs child who is born into a family in a developed country, surrounded by love, who will be helped to them the best they can be ? Who deserves our compassion ? Tough questions. No easy answer. But need is need, be it little or big and the more people respond the better it will be.

  14. Susanna says:

    Leigh, of course I don’t fault you for asking for clarification. The words I wrote are words of pain from a broken heart, not words of anger. Anger? How could there be anger that a precious little one with Ds has so many families ready to adopt her? I was overjoyed to see the call go out, and would have advocated for her had she not been snatched up so fast. (I would have been surprised if many hadn’t responded quickly.) For me, that doesn’t take the terrible pain out of the contrast with the children in desperate, even life-threatening need who sit on RR for years without one inquiry.

    And on the level of justice, it doesn’t make sense. We can agree that all children have needs, and that all needs are not equal; some are much greater than others. And it is a fact that the children with the greatest needs are least likely to be chosen for adoption. Justice would say that the child with the most urgent needs should be helped most quickly and not put at the bottom of the agenda. Please hear me. I am not saying that there isn’t enough help to go all around, and that we should ONLY help the children in greatest need! There ARE enough resources (spoken by a child of the King of the universe, who has experienced His outpouring first-hand), the children are listed and available to be adopted, and what is lacking is willing hearts.

    In very simplistic terms (please bear with me, as I know this analogy has obvious flaws), picture our children playing up in our woods when they were mauled by a bear. One was badly injured and the rest received cuts and bruises. What would we think if the ambulance team ran for the scratched-up children and after a passing glance at the badly injured child, left him to die? Wouldn’t something in us cry out at witnessing this scenario? That crying out is what you hear when you read this post, a crying out for the lives of the badly mauled children. I understand very well all the reasons why the children who are badly mauled are so often left to wait for years and even die, although the resources are there to help them.

    Our family prays every day that God would raise up more parents who are both qualified and willing. We also pray for specific families who we know are very willing, and would qualify except for some obstacle or other. Our hopes for the children are pinned on Him.

    Does this help? I truly hope this helps to clarify rather than muddify…

  15. Leigh says:

    Susanna – absolutely!
    Yes, it is so hard to watch, helpless as so many of these orphans waste away. It is heart-wrenching… heart breaking! Life is not fair, and that part really hurts. I feel the same way when I hear about some movie star (or the like) throwing a $2 million wedding. I’ve said it so many times that my family rolls their eyes now when I say “Do you know how many children could be saved with that kind of money? And they spent $40,000 on a CAKE alone??” It’s not fair. It’s just not, but that’s the way it was designed, I suppose.
    Thank you *very* much for clarifying your words for me! I was clearly quite confused… the poem is truly amazing… yet I didn’t read all your thoughts as they were intended. Thank you for being patient with me.

  16. Jane says:

    This all gave me a lot to think about and reflect on and for that I am thankful…

  17. Susanna says:

    Holly, the posts are coming slowly these non-pumping, lovely summery days, but that one IS coming, Lord willing. I want to encourage you to keep plugging away at the opportunities God gives you to help, even though you don’t qualify to adopt right now. Guess what? Our family doesn’t qualify to adopt right now, either. No guilt unless you yourself are stubbornly saying no to an opportunity God HAS given you. Hugs, my friend.

  18. Susanna says:

    Marci, not a dream, just what I saw in my mind’s eye while out walking Sat. PM. THANK YOU, friend, for praying.

  19. sabrina says:

    Susanna, your analogy of the injuries is good. As I was thinking about it, a similar analogy came to my mind.

    Suppose there is a group of children with an infection. The longer they have the infection without treatment, the more permanent damage they are left with. If there are far too few medical workers, how do they triage such a situation? If they treat someone newly infected, they prevent permanent damage and suffering. If they treat someone infected the longest, they help prevent further damage and alleviate suffering that has been long endured.

    If there are too few workers to help everyone simultaneously, they can’t  go wrong in who they help because all they can do from that point is prevent damage and alleviate suffering for whomever they are able to help.

    To take the analogy further, suppose many of the workers come with little knowledge, training, or confidence. Although they lack many things, they show up, willing to jump in and help. They want to learn as they go. Many take the “easy” cases to start with.
    The few workers that are willing to take the more challenging cases, are thankful for the workers willing to take the “easy” cases because that prevents those children from becoming the more challenging cases. And everyone is thankful for the workers who show up to help raise awareness and money, and for the workers who work to discover ways to prevent the infection, and for those who pray over the whole situation.
    I just wanted to share that. Our family is praying for more workers too, and for certain countries to make it possible for people to help.  I understand how heart-breaking it is. 

  20. Susanna says:

    Sabrina, I hear what you are saying, and you know I have great respect for you. I want to reiterate that we fully understand–believe me–very fully understand ALL the reasonable arguments, and we absolutely believe in the absolute sovereignty and goodness of the true and living God, even in the midst of great pain that we don’t understand. We rejoice when we hear of more people who want to help in any way at all! We rejoice when we hear of a child with mild special needs being adopted; of course we do! We are all working on the same side! We simply don’t believe there are too few resources or too few people to be workers, just too few who are willing to be workers. This doesn’t in any way make the existing helpers less valuable! In fact, it could be argued that it makes them more rare and valuable!

    There just don’t seem to be words to communicate what I so want to communicate. It seems to be far easier to convey the raw emotions of rejoicing than the raw emotions of agony without being misunderstood. There are times when words aren’t enough. (That is such a cliche I cringe to write it.)

    If a friend of yours had a set of chubby twins at full term at the same time that several of your children were killed in a vehicle accident, that would produce very intense and complicated emotions that many people would not be able to relate to because they had never experienced it themselves.

    Those of us with open eyes and hearts who have been there, and have looked into the hopeless faces of badly neglected children, and held a helpless baby-sized bag of bones who should be a sturdy and strong and trusting and working and playing and learning pre-teen or teenager, we cannot help but have our definition of reasonable changed forever. And then we struggle because no words are enough to convey a reality that must be experienced to be fully known. All that’s coming to mind as a comparison is labor and delivery. How many words did I read about the experience before I went through it myself, and none of the words made me KNOW what labor and birth felt like?

    The same struggle is evident to me in Shelley Bedford’s words after she met Anthony and Adeye’s little Hasya. Remember? It is simply no good trying to explain to her why her emotions are unreasonable, and how she should look at it instead. But when we who have been there come back to everyone who hasn’t been there, all we have is photos and words, and sometimes we are limited to just words. And we look at the paltry photos and words and we know that the true reality is not going to fully get through. But we are compelled to try, because we know that God may take those paltry words and use them to bring other children home.

    Does this make sense at all?

  21. sabrina says:

    It does make sense. You have had an experience entirely different from anything I’ve ever experienced, and I know that I don’t understand the reality and the emotion that goes along with what you and others have seen and smelled and touched. Your poem was powerful. It was expression of your feelings and your experience. I understand about being limited by words. Keep sharing. God has and will continue to use your words to make a difference. Love you, dear sister.

  22. Dale says:

     I would like to share a couple thoughts.  I am a Grandpa, which means I’m kind of old, not necessarily smart, but with a little experience to draw from. 
    What I have noticed is that I don’t change very quickly, especially if I am wrong about something.  How many times have you had a “discussion” with someone and they have said, “oh my, I was wrong, thank you for correcting me”.   Not too often.  I am usually quite slow at changing, and often I don’t even know it is happening.  But I thank God that He doesn’t give up, and He uses many avenues to change my heart.  He just keeps plucking away.  So I would encourage you Susanna, to keep writing, even though the words may seem inadequate, it is something you CAN do.  I happen to think there is an awakening happening.  (Maybe because it is happening to me right now, but I think not).  It seems to me that my children’s generation has been awakened and they are now awakening my generation and their grandparents generation to the needs of the poor, the needy, the orphan’s amongst us.  I want to thank you for that.  But my point is that it doesn’t happen overnight.  I want to encourage you to keep writing, to keep advocating.  You do not know how God may use it along with what others do, to eventually change hearts.
    One of your posts affected me deeply.  In November 2011 – Free, Safe, Loved.  An amazing picture of how God wishes to lavish His love on us but we fight to get back to our pitiful and pathetic self medicating.  Along with other things that were going on in my life at the time, it effected a huge step to open my heart.  I believe God uses each one of us to help chip away at the walls others have put up.  We never know really how He uses our feeble efforts, but I believe he does.
    Also, I am not crazy about poetry that is …..not clear and direct.  However, some people love it, so I think it is fine, but I am grateful for your further explanation. 
    Good stories are awesome.  They can move us.  Your story of Katie Bird moved me.  Thank you for that and thank ALL of you in your generation, moms AND dads who have stepped up to the plate and took God’s instructions seriously.  There has been much done, but there is much left to do.  Many hearts yet to change. 

  23. Galit says:

    This really gets to the heart of the matter.  How do we triage the world’s needs?  Since we can’t do everything, where do we start?  With the most doable task or with the greatest need?
    You inspired me to comment on this from a Jewish perspective here.

  24. Katie says:

    This was thought provoking and convicting.  Thanks for sharing it. 

RSS feed for comments on this post. And trackBack URL.

Leave a Reply