Valley Floors.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"I believe every heartache and hardship, and the profound loneliness such things bring, has a back door. They allow us entry into a communion with Christ we don't usually experience in our days of ease and song. Most of us have had our deepest encounters with Christ not on mountaintops, but in valley floors." - Mark Buchanan

The beauty of the valley floor. It is unlike any other place in the world. If you lay down on the valley floor and look up, you see the whole of the mountains that surround you. It is hard (it is a long way to the top of that mountain). It is brutal (it is painful as you lay down on the floor of the valley wondering when you will escape to the tops of the mountains). It is exactly what I need. It strips me of all that I want and shows me what I desperately need.

I am laying down on the valley floors, looking up towards the peaks of the mountains, yet I have come to love and know the purpose of the valley floor. It is cultivating in me a drive and a desire to know Jesus even deeper. To rid my soul of the things that I do not need, making clear the things that I desperately need. To not only know and understand scripture, but to have a passionate desire to simply sit with God's Word and meditate on what He is showing me in the precious word to me. He wrote me a love letter and I am failing to see it as such. A letter written to me... written to you.


LESSONS FROM THE VALLEY FLOOR
(this is only a small part of my long list)

1. Restored Passion. Maybe my passion was never really there in the same way that it is now. I know that it has never been this way before. It is what this lengthy blessing of living in Ethiopia has given to me. It as if I have been completely unaware of what I have been missing. This passion and desire  to sit with God's word, meditate on what He is showing me. In the darkest places of this journey I have viewed scripture with an entirely new passion and desire. This time of the "valley floor" has set a course for a unique condition that nurtures things that are hope for and the assurance of things unseen.

2. I am not enough. I am not enough and that is the way that it is supposed to be. I have had so many conversations with friends assuring them that they are enough, but I have been wrong. The truth is, we are not enough. We need Jesus. We need Him to completeHe is our enough. If we are enough, we have no need for Jesus. He gives us far more then we can handle so that we have a chance to turn to him and fully embrace him. HE ALONE guides and directs us to who he wants us to be. I am not enough, but Jesus is enough. "But we are not enough. We are not God. We don't have all the answers, all the wisdom, all the strength, all the energy. We are finite, sinful beings. And that is okay." (Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen) It is not simply enough for me to acknowledge that I am not enough, I have truly been challenged let go of that feeling that I have something to prove to people. It has been one of the hardest lessons I have learned through these last 6 weeks.

3. Silence is hard. I cry out. Scream. Pray. Silence. God seems completely indifferent to my hurting. He stays silent. He leaves things the same. Unchanged. Difficult. Frustrating. This silence has strengthened my faith instead of tearing it to pieces. I often feel beaten and discouraged, but it is strengthening who God has been molding me to be through this process. Faith is built in the silence, created in my soul a faith that wants to know and understand Jesus. "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 This is the heart of silence and waiting. It is the molding of clay that God does in our hearts and souls. God's promises in scripture are true. They will be fulfilled, even when I cannot feel him move in my current situation. I will not lose heart in the silence. God is fighting. God is moving. I am assured of this as I continually read Exodus 14.

4. A vision in progress. Standing on the mountain top near the end of a valley in Ethiopia I was struck with the fact that I was on emotionally/spiritually on the floor of that valley. Looking up. With only the dreams and hopes that my heart and mind can muster up. So in my crazy mind, I imagine that this valley is where I lay, looking up at the mountain tops, the clouds, and allowing my mind to dream. I am a dreamer. With crazy big ideas that often scare my husband to death. I have the heart of a wanderer. I would love to live in a foreign country, learn a new language and tell people about Jesus. I am not sure how this plays out. It's my vision in progress. God is definitely doing something deep in my heart as I sit here in Addis with more time on my hands then I will likely every have every again.

5. I found my project. I was told that I needed a project while I waited to get my exit paperwork in order to leave Ethiopia. There is an immense amount of wisdom in keeping busy when waiting and having a project to keep you busy. I found a project. A "project" I should have figured out a long time ago. I have desperately thrown myself into reading and studying scripture. Why am I constantly trying to keep myself occupied with things that are trivial? Why do I fill my time with great things that distract me from Jesus? Just WHY? Of course those fun projects I do at home are amazing, but they rob me of my time that I could be spending knowing more about Jesus. In these dark moments on the floor of the valley, I know that I need to have my "project" be knowing more of Jesus. I have spend time in Colossians, Philippians, and various Psalms as I have processed having gratitude and joy at all times no matter the circumstances that God has placed before me. It has reminded me that I need to fill my time with more of Jesus and less of the things that distract me from Jesus. The thing I continue to process is how to keep this my "project" when I got home. How do I remained consumed with Jesus?

So here is my question for you, the thing I would love for you to process, what is God showing you that you are missing? I am reminded that I have missed so much. Focused on the wrong things.

Are you on the valley floor looking up? That is the greatest place to be. It is the place where we desperately recognize that we need Jesus. In the waiting we see God molding us, growing us in the darkness, shaping us in the waiting, and reminding us of our great need for a HIM ALONE.

Debre Libanos, Ethiopia
Near the Portuguese Bridge


Watching Planes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Each night, from the window of my hotel room, I watch planes.

Planes coming in from the south.
Planes taking off into the north.

For the past 4+ weeks I have dreamt that the incoming planes were coming to pick me up to take me home, that the departing planes were the ones carrying me off to the comfort of my own home, with my precious people.

Tonight, I watch those planes come in and depart.
The same as the last 30 nights.
As if they do not realize that I continue to watch them through the windows of my room.
Tonight is different.
Tonight those planes took my sanity.
Tonight one of those flights took my person.

They leave without me on it once again.
They do not even realize that I am longing to be on them.
Departing.
Heading home.
Completing my family.

They do not realize what is waiting for me on the other side of the world. At some point this entire journey will make sense. It will draw to a close, I will have learned lessons far greater then I could have ever imagined or thought possible. I will have experienced a different life that will change me deeply. Drawing me closer to my Jesus. Showing me once again that God fights for me. That I simply need utter dependence of my Savior in one of the most unreal way.

Those planes will continue to come and go.
One day.
Hopefully very soon.
I will be on that plane to begin my journey home.
I will never be the same.
I will be forever different.
Changed.

Tired.Hurt.Fearful.Exhausted.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

WARNING: This may be hard to read. It's my raw, hitting rock bottom place. The place where all my exhaustion, anger, frustration has come to a pinnacle. Can you even fathom what rock bottom looks like when you are stuck in a third world country with your child stuck? Can you comprehend the hurt? Fear? Anger?

At this point I am Tired. Hurting. Fearful. Exhausted.
Life is hard for everyone at one point in time or another. These last 6 months have been my hardest points... let alone the last 4 weeks.


here in Addis.

Tired of
... living in a hotel with a two year old.
... not having an easy place for him to run around.
... not being able to cook my own food.
... not having clean laundry.
... of walking three flights of stairs to get to my room.
... having not having a BIG SALAD at lunch & just green food in general.
... trying to stay positive.
... extremely hot or extremely cold showers.
... not feeling connected.
... not having my people.
... not being able to just watch a movie.
... sleeping without my pillow.
... having bad internet.
... crying.
... hurting.

Hurting because
... it feels like God is not hearing me.
... it feels like God is not listening.
... it feels like God does not care.
... I am so far from my other four babies (8,369 miles to be exact).
... I am spending Mother's Day away from my kiddos.
... I am missing my kids last days of school. Missing these sweet moments of their lives.
... I may not make it home for Ty's birthday in July. I promised him I would never miss another birthday of his and I am not sure I will fulfill that promise.
... some of my children back home are worried I am never coming home.
... I feel lost.
... I feel desperate.
... I feel alone amongst some amazing people.
... I am fearful.

Fearful since
... I don't know when I am going to be getting back to the states.
... I am not sure I will be even taking this sweet little boy home with me when all is said and done. Yes, we are his legal parents, but that does not seem to matter in this moment with the Ethiopian government. They are not adhering to our court decree.
... my husband does not have an income in about 16 days (remember we are supposed to move to Minneapolis to plant a church and we have not been able to fundraise because we did not receive our final fundraising paperwork approval until we were already on our way to Ethiopia & have had no way to sign everything) and I am stuck here trying to figure out how to make ends meet back home.
... there is nothing that we can do about the suspension.
... it feels like I have done something wrong and am being punished.
... it feels as if I am not getting something right.
... this may not even be the bottom. I could fall even further.
... I am exhausted.

Exhausted because
... nothing is falling into place.
... I am stuck in Ethiopia.

This what I am feeling here in Ethiopia. Tired. Hurting. Fearful. Exhausted. I want nothing more except to understand what God is directing us through in these moments and to move past these times. I do not need people to tell me that God has a plan and a purpose. As a matter of fact, there are only a few families that I know that have gone through what we are in right now... those are the only people that can tell me that in this moment because they lived it (I have thought of each of you so much through this process and it has kept me going when I want to lose it completely). 

Hitting rock bottom is awful. BUT what if these isn't the bottom... what if there is more? Tired. Hurting. Fearful. Exhausted. If you have been in my situation, you get it. If you have never been in my situation, there is no way you can possibly understand my feelings and fears. This weekend is difficult. As we walk towards another week where I was told that things do not look good. It is heartbreaking.

I miss my kids back home.
I miss simply being together.
I miss the comfort that I have known in the past.
I miss my life.


If You Can Hear Me.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Addis is full of sounds. At any given moment throughout the day noises can be heard. The chanting from the Christian-Orthodox church up the hill. The honking of horns, both close and distant beeps of drivers communicating and navigating through the streets. The rushing of trucks and cars on the streets below. Voices from nearby homes that are full of life. The beeping of sales as street children vie for the attention of each pedestrian in hopes that someone will buy their goods. The barking of dogs that runs endlessly through the night. The old men sitting outside our hotel chatting. Kids walking through the streets. Animals being rushed to their slaughter.

A myriad of sounds that are so completely intriguing and foreign to me, yet I seem to be focusing on the same voice that does the most harm to my soul. You cannot do this. You will not make it. You are not enough.

You cannot do this. I cannot do this apart from Jesus.
You will not make it. I do not have to make it on my own.
You are not enough. I do not have to be enough because Jesus is enough.

That voice that tells me I am unable to be enough makes it sound like as if not being enough is a negative concept, but in reality it is true. I cannot do this apart from Jesus. He is the rock in which I must stand on in order to not completely fall apart, but that voice is often so hard to distinguish. There is a song by Ben Rector and the line in it says, "Because the devil is walking in my soul and all I really want to know is You can hear me, You can hear me. Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus, Telling me I'm not enough." Oh how I understand that line the more I stay in Ethiopia. 

Yelling at myself...

Are you listening?
Truly and honestly listening?
Are you able to perceive the voice of God that has breathed life brilliantly into each segment of weariness that you experience? 

No... I am not always listening, not truly listening. I miss who God is and what he is doing right before my eyes. Here is the brilliant thing about being stuck in a 3rd world country with very little to do and very little to distract you from hearing what Jesus wants of you. 

It's hard to miss it.

I am able to sit.
Listen.
Hear.
In a way I have not experienced in my life.

I am have been too busy moving and doing. Becoming distracted from the BEAUTY that the God of the universe is trying to show me. This has changed me. Missing the voice of God, yet capturing it again, has changed me. Ethiopia has changed me. 

My confession. I am not enough, I cannot do this, I will not make it... and that is okay. Simply because I do not have to be enough. My Jesus is doing this. He is moving and working and will make things fall graciously into place. He will shout from a mountain top as to the things he will accomplish in this time. I desperately do not want to miss it.

I stood at the top of a mountain recently where our new friend shared that just on the other side of the mountain was the healing waters of the Christian Orthodox Church. We stood there, learning the history of Ethiopia from a 25 year old guy who was passionate about his country and his faith. The Horn of Africa is a botanical garden that will take your breath away. The sounds of Addis off in the distance that I have to strain to hear. I stood there wanting to yell from the top of my lungs in the silence of the gardens. In that moment, I shifted my perspective. I heard Jesus speak to my soul. He told me to turn to this young man beside me and ask them what they think about Jesus. Today however, I missed a simple word from God. To give this young girl my food. BUT JESUS spoke to Todd, he leaned over and handed her his food. Conviction washed over me. How could I have missed that chance. How could I have allowed Satan to distract me when a young girl who I walk by everyday was in need? 

Do not be like me. 
Do not allow yourself to be so distracted that you cannot hear Jesus.
Do not allow yourself to get caught up in life in such a way that you are not allowing yourself to hear what God is calling you to do.

Ask yourself...

Are you listening?
Truly and honestly listening?
Are you able to perceive the voice of God that has breathed life brilliantly into each segment of weariness that you experience? 





Decisions.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Some decisions are hard.
Some come easily.
Others are terrifying.
At times heartbreaking.

Our most recent decision was all four combined into one entangled emotion. As many of you know we have spent that few weeks in Ethiopia. Our trip and path to Ethiopia was not like any other we had seen from adoptive families. We had 24 hours notice to board a plane and make our way over to Addis Ababa. As we began our layover in Dubai, we were met with the hard information that Federal MOWA had closed, however there was not a whole lot of certainty as to whether or not it would affect our case because we simply needed a vital records letter, not an actual Federal MOWA letter. We tried to stay positive, trusting that God was getting us into Ethiopia in record speed, we were hopefully He would not allow us to get caught up in the mess that was about to transpire here in the adoption realm of Ethiopia.

Court came quickly. We took custody of our son because at the time there was still an issuing of vital record letters and our agency was told that ours would be issued. That night, after we had our first meal with our little guy, we learned that we would not receive a letter that would allow us to leave the country with our son. Having already taken custody, we realized that we were in it for the long haul. We have begged God to allow our letter to be issued, but it does not appear as if we are going to be given that letter, so the decision has been made. That hard, easy, terrifying, and heartbreaking decision. Todd will be returning to the states to care for the rest of our crew and I will remain in Ethiopia to fight to bring home a son who is legally ours by both Ethiopian and American law. We sat before a judge almost 2 weeks ago and promised to take care of Mulubrihan. Promised to treat him like our own. Promised not to leave him.

So here I sit.
Tired.
Emotional.
Hurting.    

I will be completely honest, I do not know how to move forward from this point, other then one day at at a time. Yes. I know that God is writing our story. That God's timing is perfect. That there is a purpose and a plan, but in this moment I feel blinded. Trust me when I say that I know that God is writing a beautiful story, one far greater then I could ever imagine, but in this moment it is hard for my heart to see. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around. It is hard thinking that I will likely be here for at least another month. This will be my outlet, my time to share what God is doing in these tough moments. Those sacred moments that reveal how God continues to challenge and change my heart, soul, strength and mind.

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