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Monday, September 29, 2014

.God Writes THE BEST Stories.

I wasn't going to write, because I have already been gushing all over facebook all day long. I am obnoxious like that. But I couldn't stay away from here either. The place where so much of this story has tumbled out of my heart. The space where I shared my hopes, dreams, and prayers with you all. I feel like shouting to the world this story, and what God did. This morning in a little courtroom in NY state, with some of the people who love us best, our family made history, and God did what we were told over and over and over could never happen. He did what we had been told for three years was impossible. He did what has never been done before in the United States. He pulled out all of the stops, and showed His power in a way that will leave me breathless for the rest of my life. Today Habi became our legal, official son through the miracle (and it truly was that) of adoption.

There are so many details that we have hidden away to protect our Habi. While what we have shared of this story is miraculous enough, all of the other little details added in, the huge hurdles that God had to break down to get us to this point, the number of doors He had to crash open that had been tightly shut, it is all more than I can even comprehend. I know that for the past three years we have stood inside of a move of God, and it was HUGE, supernatural, and mind-boggling. As I sit here in the quiet, my mind flipping through all of the events that have taken place to get here, it doesn't seem real. Everything that had to happen was so perfectly timed out and orchestrated by a loving, creative, Author. There is no way that we could have scripted this. I told Jim that it feels as if we are in a movie. And it does, because this just does not happen in real life. BUT it did happen!

The most powerful lesson that I have learned in all of this, and what I hope people see when they hear of this is that God writes the best stories. Shortly before we decided to adopt from Ethiopia, God began to work in our hearts and lives in a brand new way. A more real way, but a way in which I had to intentionally surrender the pen to Him, and allow Him to write my story. It wasn't easy for me to give up the sense of control that comforted me. None of it has been easy - not one paragraph, one page, one chapter. I haven't always done it right. I have faltered along the way, and I have questioned the story so many times. Sometimes I have not appreciated His plot line, and I have thought that I could have written it better. But God in His mercy allowed me just enough strength to not yank the pen back, and God kept scratching out this story over my life. While I do believe that if I had held on to the pen, my story would have been easier, I also know that it would not have been nearly as beautiful. I would have under-written my story. The beauty needed to be sharpened by the pain that can only come with surrender. He is strong in our weakness, and that is why I believe he chose my family for this story, because we are weak and ordinary.

Today is a huge 'ta da' life-changing moment in our story. A chapter closed with a big reveal - a movie-style ending. But what you need to know is that there has been a lot of middle to this story, and that today is not the whole story. What I want you to know is that God wants to write your story, too. Perhaps you have not yet handed Him the pen, and I want to encourage you to give it a try. Or perhaps you have, but you are inside the middle, and it is hard and lonely and painful, and it feels like it must be the end. But friend, it's not the end. He is still writing your story. He hasn't left you and closed the manuscript. The pen is still hovered over you, and He is still writing. The hard times, the moments when God is silent, the painful pages that seem to suck the life from you, they all have a purpose in your story. Don't read my ending of this chapter of my story and be discouraged thinking that God only writes stories like this for some people. The story God has for you is unique and beautiful and YOURS. Sometimes God is just writing further into the story than you have read. Be patient, wait with hope and expectation, because God writes the best stories. Trust the Author of your story. What He is writing is better than you can ever imagine.

Today this chapter in my story came to a beautiful close, but tomorrow a new chapter looms before me blank and white and ready for His pen. I am ready for the story to continue.

Here we are just after the judge declared the adoption to be final. This is our son Habtamu (his given name in Ethiopia which means "rich") Theo (which comes from the Greek word theophany which means "in the image of God" - my name Tiffany is also from this same Greek word) Byron (a family name that has been passed down through generations - all of our sons have this name).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

.A Moment.

I am sitting here pecking out letters that race across my screen, and I know I should be packing instead. Because in just 17 (almost 16 now) days our family boards a plane and embarks on a new journey in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia serving street children. I am giddy about that and about all that God is inviting us into, but this moment, right now, I am even more giddy about the absolute miracle that is about to unfold tomorrow.

It was January 20, 2011, when I first laid eyes on him, and in the 1,335 days and 32,044 hours between that moment and tomorrow I have not stopped dreaming of and fighting for this very day.  It was a moment. Just one minuscule, unnoticeable to passers-by, moment, and my life and its path were forever changed. I have said it all here a thousand times a thousand different ways, but the story doesn't get old. How could it? Out of the almost 8 billion people that live in this world, out of all the millions of street boys - a woman born into luxury and comfort and a boy born into squalor and pain, an ocean apart, collided in what could only have been a God-ordained moment. And it really was only that - a moment. A few words exchanged, a few tears, a beaded bracelet and some granola bars. But that was all it took for our hearts to become entwined.

I have repeated it so many times, and it sounds crazy - even still - but I knew the moment our eyes held each others that God was up to something. I knew this child was destined to be my son, and I his mama. There were so many other boys that day. I had been tugged on, hugged, and begged from, but in that moment, I only had eyes for one.  I knew he was mine when his grubby, little hand thrust the beaded bracelet through our van window, because my heart could not contain the moment. I could not fathom another breath without knowing that this child was safe and secure, wanted and loved. Every single day since then, I have expended myself to be sure that he knows this with every fiber of his being. In that van that day, a new part of me was born, a fighter, a part of me that I did not know I possessed. Even then courage took root, and I turned to our friend, Job, and asked what was the likely hood of me adopting a street boy - that boy. He smiled at me, amused at my ignorance and naivety, and said "Oh, Tiffany, that is impossible."  And when I typically would have just backed-down, as was my nature, a fighter emerged. I nodded, and prayed, and dreamed big, and I ignored the impossible.

I ignored the impossible because I have a God who specializes in the impossible. If ever I doubt this, all I have to do is look back over these past three years and remember the way that God has smashed through the impossibles and obliterated the no's. God taught me how to stand up and to fight for justice in this journey, but the truth is that He didn't need me to do anything. He could have done this without me. All of the glory is His. The only thing I did was step into His invitation, and even in that I am pretty certain He dragged me in.

The day I met Habi.

Tomorrow, a miracle happens. Tomorrow, what so many people told us was impossible happens. Tomorrow that moment - the one that took place on the dusty street of Addis, comes full-circle. Tomorrow, what we were told would never happen is happening, our family stands before a judge, and my sweet, precious boy, the one that is so connected to my heart in a way that could only be supernatural, becomes my legal SON. 

Our God still preforms miracles, He is the exact same God that made the sun stand still for Joshua, and He still moves mountains to do the impossible. Tomorrow He is moving that mountain for us. This has not been an easy journey, for anyone involved. It has not been without tears and fear and heart-ache, but every single step along the way has been worth it. I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

In just a moment that boy will become mine.

[If you are new here, and don't know this story, click here.]

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

.So You're Moving to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia? {links to help with preparation}. Part 1

We have been preparing for our move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a year now. It's hard to believe that it has been a year already! When it comes to planning and making lists and charts and preparation, I am type A, all-the-way. (Strangely that does not carry over into all areas of my life.) Being such, as soon as I knew we were moving our family of six over to a third world country to live, I began scouring the internet for advice on moving  and life in Ethiopia in order to start planning. I kept thinking that I wished I could find a place that had everything I was looking for compiled on one website or blog. Now, I know that not very many of my loyal readers are planning to move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but I am compiling this blog post for the random reader, who is moving there that might find me via google. Here are the very best of the best links to help you navigate and prepare for your move (this is part 1 of 2):

Go to guide for Everything:

The absolutely BEST resource that I have found is this "Welcome to Addis Guide" published by the International Community School's PTA in Addis. It is AMAZING!! If you don't feel like clicking on any other link, then this one would be pretty sufficient for your preparation. It is full of great recommendations, tips, immunizations needed before travel, and the reality of life in Addis, hospital and physician information, the best grocery stores, leisure activities, taxi services and tons of phone numbers for each etc. It is just massive (at over 100 pages) and so full of valuable information. This is from their table of contents: general information, before you arrive, getting settled, getting around, health/medical concerns, medical practitioners/facilities, Addis with children, shopping in Addis, services in Addis, leisure in Addis, inconveniences, exploring Addis and beyond. This is such a gold mine for me, that I have talked my husband into getting it printed and bound, so that we can have it at our fingertips in country!

5 tips to organize for an international move
Moving Checklist


Health items to pack for Ethiopia
CDC's Healthy Travel Packing List

General Packing Lists
Peace Corps Packing List for Ethiopia

A packing list and general information about moving your family to Addis. (I love this blog! I believe the woman's husband works in the US embassy. She has great tips and beautiful photos.)
Our Yuppie Life - Moving to Addis Ababa

Practical tips for packing
Packing Tips for Moving Overseas (find this by scrolling down to the bottom of the post)

Infographic for packing
How to pack your luggage right (the second infographic on the site)

How to fold shirts military style
Efficient Packing

Preparing your family for the move:

8 ways to help toddlers and young children cope with change and moving overseas

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

.The In-Between.

I have seen the topic all over social media lately and in book stores. The topic about saying yes to God. It's beautiful what God is rising up inside of His Church, in this generation. The invitation to say yes to what He is doing in the world is exciting, and I believe that He has big plans for us - for this generation and the generations to follow us. The creativity and the uniqueness of His personal invitations are limitless, and it leaves me breathless. But lately every time I see another blog post, or facebook status, or cute instagram quote pop up that talks about saying yes to God, I cringe and my heart hurts, because I am inside of the yes, and it hasn't felt very cute being here. Saying yes to God cannot be reduced down to the next cute, fad thing. It just can't. Everyone that says yes to God knows this. There is a realness and rawness that comes with the yes that is both exhilarating and excruciating.

I am beginning to discover that there is often a gaping hole between saying yes to God and the fulfillment of that yes. That gaping hole is dark and deep. Right now my family is inside of that gaping hole. We are in the in-between; no longer are we living off the high of the yes, and we have yet to see the yes fulfilled. We are just hanging precariously in the middle. I wish that I could say that since last summer, when we finally surrendered our yes to God to move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -when we stepped out in faith and accepted His invitation to partner with God by serving street kids - that our life has been rainbows and butterflies. But it has been anything but that. It has been hard, ugly grueling; we have fough tooth and nail to fulfill the yes. It has become a sloppy mess of intentional daily obedience. There is very little glamour inside of the gap where daily scratching out obedience becomes your battle cry. It's continuing to say yes, by putting one heavy, aching foot in front of the other and burrowing deeper into the gaping hole of the in-between.

Being completely transparent with you, I have cried buckets of tears, eaten my way through too many chocolate bars, questioned our sanity, doubted our call, and been more fearful than brave in every single step of this process. The in-between is hard. Some moments when I look at what is before us, and what is left to be done in order to fulfill this yes, I am more scared than anything else. It is inside these shaky moments, where my heart is panicked and terrified, that my soul knows that this yes has been and always will be God-ordained. Because the Tiffany that I know so well, would never ever set out to do something so big on her own. We know that this is where God works and moves. Sometimes He asks us to do hard things, to claw for that daily obedience after the initial yes, with no reality of that yes manifesting itself.

Sometimes He makes us wait inside the gap, and sometimes the wait is long.

The scariest part of the journey comes after the yes. Sure the journey begins when one courageously surrenders that yes and takes the leap of faith. Absolutely that is hard and scary, but to be suspended in the gap after the yes is frightening. It's a painful place to be to be caught between your yes and the dream of that yes becoming a reality. It is in this chasm that the enemy slips in, and we must guard our hearts. But it is also inside this chasm of the unfulfilled yes, that I think God intentionally backs us into, in order that we might see that there is no way for our yes to be fulfilled except from Him. Our desperation is just a way to set the stage for God to finish what He started in miraculous ways that only He can.

That's where I am right now - where my family is - inside the chasm between the yes and the fulfillment of that yes -we are waiting - wandering aimlessly in the dessert desperate for that Promise Land. But while we wait, I have to believe that God is working behind the scenes - in our hearts and on the details of the yes. We are in some kind of supernatural holding pattern. Somedays I am okay with that, and I am intentional about enjoying the here and now and building the Kingdom from here. Other days I am discouraged and confused and fearful and doubtful, and both kinds of days are okay. God can handle my questions and concerns and loves me through them. I am learning that every yes, every dream, has difficulties, and during this time where we wait, God is preparing us. I now believe that a year ago, our hearts weren't ready for the unknown reality of what lies ahead in Africa. Today, a year later, I believe that although we are not there yet, we are much more prepared for our future life. It is in this delay that our faith has been tested and we have grown. We have had to learn how to better respond to pressure, to stress, the unexpected, and disappointments, and how to continue striving for that daily obedience to our Jesus. All things that we will need in order to survive in Ethiopia.Things that I now believe we had to go through this past year, here, before we move there.

We are not alone in this waiting period. There are so many examples of Biblical precedent to where we find ourselves.The Egyptians always come to mind. When we say yes to God, there is no easy guarantee, there is a promise that we will never be alone and that God's way will always be best, but most likely it will not be easy. Saying yes, puts the reigns firmly in God's hands. I've surrendered control and yielded to Him. My yes offers everything back to Him - even this moment right here between the yes and the fulfillment of that yes - the in-between - He has it all. He's here now, in the in-between, and wants to do more with this than I could ever imagine. I trust that - even when it is hard.

A recent family photo - thanks to my sweet friend, T!
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