Thursday, April 30, 2009


After a long winter’s hibernation, comes refreshment for the soul…
Freshly painted toenails

My first stab at planting petunias.

Finishing the planting at half past 10pm on a cold, rainy night. This is what happens when you try to plant petunias when you have 2 kids following you around who do not want to plant petunias.

Now, just a lil daydream about summertime’s past….

Some sunshine please?

Ah, now I am there. Officially done hibernating.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's Like a Bridge

Imagine yourself on a bridge. You are on one side, and God is on the other. Imagine this bridge as your life.

As you travel through life on your bridge you realize something has gone terribly wrong…the center of the bridge is gone. There is an empty gap…you see the gap there on the bridge and you feel it in your heart. You long to be able to cross through the gap and reach God. You see others who have made it across their own bridge gap…somehow. You see them communing with God, full of joy. You see they have a hope inside of them that is certain of their inheritance of eternal life. They try to tell you how they made it across the gap in their bridge, however you don’t understand what they are saying. You feel choked and entangled with many things that bring even more confusion and fog onto your bridge. You aren’t sure what to do as the emptiness inside grows…an emptiness that you can only describe as some sort of uncertainty in your life. Sometimes the emptiness is loud and pronounced, and sometimes you hide it with other things…but you always feel it there. You look down over the edge of your broken bridge and see death awaiting you. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death

You look to the other side of the bridge where God is and see life being lived to its fullest. You decide that you will try to build your own bridge to God, one that suits you well. You try this many times, in many different ways, and with many different things. But each time, your bridge falls short. Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

Then one day you hear of a construction worker who fixes broken bridges like yours… decide to let him work on the gap in your bridge, even though you feel it might be beyond repair. When you meet this construction worker, you feel like hiding. You are worried that he will come across your messes from before when you tried to build your own bridges. You worry that he can see that the gap in your bridge relates to the emptiness you hold inside. But, something tells you that you can trust this man to build your bridge, so you let him begin his work. Days pass as the man works. Then, some time later you find out some dreadful news…the construction worker has died while repairing your bridge. You cannot believe it. How could this be? All of his work….for nothing. But then, something tells you to lift your eyes. You look up…and you see your bridge…complete…the gap is no longer there. Could it be? You look across your bridge and see something amazing….the construction worker…he is alive, and seated at the right hand of God. He motions to you and yells something but you can’t quite hear him. You take a few shaky steps, wondering if the bridge will hold. And then his voice becomes so clear. He says, “It is finished!” Yes, the bridge is finished you say to yourself. But you don’t understand. It seems as though this construction worker died just for you…just to complete the bridge. The worker yells again, “God designed it this way from the beginning. This was the only way. I had to die so that the bridge could be finished.” 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

You are not sure that you understand, but you know it is true because you see it with your own eyes and you have begun to feel a peace inside of you where the emptiness once was. You look to the construction worker again and you see that he is motioning to you. He yells, “Come, follow me.” You are scared but you take a few more steps. You see that the bridge is sturdy, and you make your way towards God. You arrive at the other side of the bridge and you finally realize that this is where you were always meant to be. God looks much different up close…so different than how he looked from the other side of the bridge. Something in your heart has changed and you want to try and please God and you are excited to have a relationship with him. On this side of the bridge you are able to get a glimpse of heaven, and God tells you that since you let the construction worker repair your bridge, you can now be sure that you will be in heaven when you die; you will receive eternal life. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Your life continues and there are still hard days, and there are still challenges. But, you now face struggles with a peace inside. A peace that reminds you every day that you no longer have to look over the edge of a broken bridge and fear death. You become so thankful to that construction worker, who layed down his life, so that you could have a relationship with God. He whose name is Jesus, and offers this gift to us all. Hebrews 2: 14-16 Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

This is not a fictional story. It is a true story that is my own. And, it too can be yours, if you will accept Jesus’ wonderful gift, and his invitation to bridge the gap.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time for Favos

Yes, it’s that time again….time to share some of my new favorites! The Barker Beauties were busy compiling their own ‘favorites’ posts, so they were not around to show off my picks. However, the show must go on!

First up, is the Memorex OptiFix pro which is a DVD/cd repair and cleaner kit.

Now, if you have a 2 year old in your house, this kit is a lifesaver. From the beginning, we regretfully did not teach sweet JJ how to properly handle DVD’s….of course we taught him how to put them in the DVD player, but not how to hold them to avoid scratching them and leaving dirty paw prints on the readable side. A few weeks ago it had gotten to the point where every single one of his movies was skipping or freezing when we tried to play them. So, I went in search of something to clean them, and came home with this. My mom was over the other day, and she sat and put each one of JJ’s movies into this little contraption – 2 minutes of cleaning, 2 minutes of repairing….yes, she sat there switching the movies in and out for over an hour (he has A LOT of movies). They came out squeaky clean, and they all played without even the slightest skip. And, to think I almost threw some of them out! Don’t chuck ‘em, get Memorex!

Alright all you Sam’s Club fans out there….have you tried their ready made chicken salad?

Perfect for a quick lunch, or when unexpected company drops by and they are hungry! It’s ready to go, just slap it on some bread and you have a fresh and filling sandwich. This will be great to add to your grocery list for summertime. (P.S. normally I would not eat something out of a container that has a picture of an actual chicken on it because I don't like to be reminded of the animal I am about to take a bite of, but this is not exactly what the container looks is more modern looking with no chicken mug!)

Now we come to JJ’s music class!

This is our first semester of Kindermusik and it is already making my favorites list. The instructor has different classes for specific age ranges, so each class is tailored to be a good fit developmentally. The great part about Kindermusik is that she incorporates so many different skills into the classes….she has us stretch our imaginations to find different things we can make with a scarf, she has us use our listening skills to hear a bumble bee flying and landing on a flower, she helps us develop motor skills by learning different ways to move like creeping, skipping, rolling, flying, etc., and she gives us lots of opportunities to have time to bond and sing together. The class is not performance based at all…you will never hear the instructor say ‘good job’…instead she says, ‘thank you for playing today’ or ‘I am glad you came up to try this today’. It is encouraging for all of the children to try things because they are fun, and to not be concerned with whether or not they did it exactly right. Check it out at

And to end, how could I possibly not share my favorite blog story! Go to Jen & Jason’s Journey on my side bar or This is a couple from our church who we recently met. I have been following their adoption story since last year, and just this past weekend they got to travel to Texas to bring home their sweet little baby boy. They were part of an open adoption, and if you don’t know what that is, just read through her posts. Wow, Jen does such an unbelievable job of expressing her emotions/fears/joys/everything on their blog. She is just plain real. Her posts are always awesome, but each one from last week was just exceptional. You can feel the excitement by reading her words. If you have time this week, sit down and read back through her week of posts…just make sure you’ve got some Kleenex on hand!

And now, what are some of your new favorites?!?!?!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Proverbs 2: 1-6
My son if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for a hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

As we traveled 11 hours to Nashville, Tennessee this weekend just four days after traveling 9 hours to Little Rock, Arkansas I wondered why all of these players and coaches and parents do this weekend after weekend. I certainly did not have a great answer other than all of the kids have high goals and big dreams of winning state championships and playing college basketball.

As we now head home I soon realized that those are small reasons for why we all do this weekend after weekend. The ultimate joy in life is that God has given all of us the ability to learn each day. He allows us to fail in order for us to discover what he has planned for us. God allows true greatness to be discovered not by what we do when we succeed but what we do when we fail. Do we learn from those moments? Do we seek the wisdom and understanding that will allow us to learn from our failures, or do we turn away from learning and stumble again the next day? After this weekend, I believe the desire to learn and grow with the talents each of these young individuals have been given is the reason for all of this.

This weekend I coached a young man who stumbled and failed over and over as he started with the Attack program and after four years of a few highs and many lows it all began to come together this weekend. I saw a young man who for the past four years had wanted no part of contact, take the ball down the middle of the lane get knocked to the floor and knocked out of the game to only come back the next morning ready to play again with an absolute fearlessness.

I saw another young man, who I know had pondered quitting just a few weeks back, play significant minutes during the tournament and ultimately allowed us to change the momentum early in the semifinal game.

I saw seven 17U boys give up everything for one another to compete at the highest level and fall just short in the semifinals to a great team from Memphis. This was just one week after coming apart as a team in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I saw guys who had played on the B team for three or four years making big plays on the top team to win games this past weekend. I saw individuals from different backgrounds put aside all of their differences in order to learn together and grow together.

God has blessed all of us with unique talents. He has blessed all of us with unique circumstances. He has blessed all of us with positions in life where we can learn and grow. God has designed for all of us to have a great impact for his kingdom simply by how we learn and grow each day and how we handle those times when it seems hopeless. If we seek wisdom from the times we fail then there is no telling how our talents will be used on the basketball court and most importantly how they will be used for God’s greater purpose.

Go Attack,
Jake Sullivan

Friday, April 24, 2009

Parenting With No Regrets

By Robert Rogers, inspirational speaker and author of Into the Deep

“Daddy, can we build a birdhouse today?” my 7-year-old daughter, Makenah, asked me early one Saturday morning as I was knee-deep in a “honey-do” project list.

“Well,…” I hesitated. With a house and four children under 8, I had discovered that my project list never ended. I had tucked away the birdhouse instructions for weeks, after promising Makenah we would build it someday.

I paused a moment and took to heart my wife’s daily mantra: “Let’s make a memory.” Then without further hesitation, I decided that “someday” had just arrived.

“OK, Makenah. Let’s build that birdhouse.”

We spent the afternoon measuring, cutting and piecing together spare cedar planks in the garage. Makenah colored arrows, directing the birds to the food. As we worked, our talk drifted to home schooling.

After finishing first grade at the local school, Makenah had asked us to home school her. My wife and I had carefully selected a curriculum and started setting up the classroom in the basement for autumn.

I was curious. “Makenah, why do you want to be home-schooled?”

Her response astounded me. “I just like you guys. I like being home with our family.”

Amid the hustle and bustle of our birdhouse project, time stood still. We had just experienced a moment I’ll always treasure. Had I not set aside my agenda and taken several hours of my time to build that simple birdhouse, we never would have uncovered that wonderful moment.

Seven weeks later, memories such as this one were all I had left of my family. As we drove home from a relative’s wedding one stormy evening, our minivan was caught in a flash flood. The rushing torrent swept me out the driver’s side window, and about a half-mile from the highway. I somehow managed to pull myself up the south bank of the flooded creek.

I was the only survivor. My wife of nearly 12 years and all four of our children went home to heaven.

This can’t be happening, I kept saying to myself. Not to me. Not to my beautiful family.

As my grief gushed forth and reporters clamored for a slice of the story, my “life of no regrets” came into the spotlight. I had no regrets because I had cherished my family while they were still alive, devoting generous amounts of time to them each day.

As parents, we all have the best intentions of spending plenty of time with our families. But amid our hectic lives, we notch out 15 minutes of “quality” time because we believe that’s all we can squeeze in. We hope to create an unforgettable, treasured moment with our child before moving on to the next task at hand.

But the reality is, we can’t plan the treasured moments we long for any more than we can plan for a miracle or a Christmas morning snowfall. We all know how fleeting those moments can be – when you are walking down the trail and see a shooting star together; when you are fishing and your child shares his heart; when you are eating at the kitchen table and everyone bursts into laughter.

For these treasured moments to emerge, it takes sizeable chunks of time to foster them. It takes deliberate choices in everyday life: eating meals, walking around the block, going to the store, repairing the house or fixing the car together. These everyday settings naturally give way to remarkable moments.

In the daily details of family life, filled with seemingly mundane events, we can choose to generously share our time with our children and capture those cherished moments.

The kitchen table is a wonderful starting place. Ours had seen so much life: spills, bills, birthdays, holidays, turkeys, cookies, cakes, pizza, ice cream. A kitchen table is a simple object yet such a powerful tool for bonding a family. The mealtime experience can create memories that endure a lifetime.

Taking children on errands and to work also creates precious opportunities. It builds a rapport that paves the way for free-flowing conversation. I took my kids on business trips regularly, and because I did, we savored many priceless moments together.

Despite the perpetual pain of missing my family, I have peace because I cherished them while I could. I built that birdhouse with Makenah – seven weeks before it was too late. We spent quantity time with our children; I have no regrets.

Today, start living a life of no regrets with your family. Make a memory. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Here We Go Again

This afternoon we are jumping on a big ol' charter bus and heading out to a tournament in Nashville, Tennessee!

JJ's gonna play with his friends...

Jayla's gonna unload the toy pack over and over and over....

and she'll be the main attraction for all the players' lil sisters...

JJ's will draw up some plays....

and Daddy will do some coaching....

we'll go from game, to Game, to GAME...

We will eat,

sleep, and dream bAsKeTbAlL!

all while enjoying the best part...some family bonding!
Nashville, here we come!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adoption Update

I had an exciting email in my inbox this morning from our social worker who has been helping us with the adoption. She just returned from her own trip to Ghana (you can read about it on her blog: ) and she had this to say:

I wanted to share with you that during my stay in Ghana I became aware of many children available for adoption. The Director of Social Welfare in Ho explained to me an orphanage had to be shut down and many children relocated leaving some w/out homes. Many of true orphan status. Pastor Gideon will soon be working w/the Social Welfare Dept on getting photos and bios of these children and will send to us.

Once you accept a referral, you will not be required to travel to meet the child-but you can choose to do so if you wish. Pastor Sam can represent you through the Courts, and the entire process for that matter-with the only exception of filing the I600 after Court. You will be required to travel only once to pick up the child and bring him home.

I hope to have more information soon on a prospective adoptive child for your family.

My heart jumped when I read this, and I sit here this morning excited again for what is in store for our family. If you think of us over the next few days or weeks would you please pray for us regarding the adoption. Pray that God would continue to lead us to the exact little boy that he has in mind for us, and for a child that would be a perfect fit for our family. Pray for continual acceptance of the situation with Solomon, and for us to have fresh minds and hearts to move on to allowing a new child to come into our hearts. Pray that once we do receive referrals, that God would make it clear who we should 'choose'. And, thank you for all your prayers and support that you have already poured onto us.

We look forward to the next chapter in our journey, which I think has just begun!

For the Lord is watching his children, listening to their prayers 1 Peter 3:12

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All Done

Nana Yaw's room is finished! Now he can make it his own!

Have you ever thought to pray through your child's room? I hadn't thought of it until I read the book The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. In this book, the author explains that when her son was eleven he all of a sudden started having nightmares for apparently no reason. She and her husband prayed night after night that the nightmares would end. One morning she was praying alone about it and this time she asked God to show her exactly what was causing the nightmares. She felt strongly led to go into her son's room. She prayed again "Lord, if there is anything in this room that shouldn't be here, show me." She then felt prompted to go to his stash of computer games. The first game she picked up was one her son had borrowed from a friend at church. The outside of the box looked totally was just a boy's action-adventure game. But, when she opened up the box and pulled out the small instruction booklet she found the worst kind of satanic material in it. They removed the game, talked with their son about it, and prayed over his room again. The proof that they had done the right thing came quickly...their son's nightmares stopped immediately-just as suddenly as they had began.

Here is her prayer for you to pray through in your own child's room:

I invite your Holy Spirit to dwell in this room, which belongs to (name of child). You are Lord over heaven and earth, and I proclaim that You are Lord over this room as well. Flood it with Your light and life. Crowd out any darkness which seeks to impose itself here, and let no spirits of fear, depression, anger, doubt, anxiety, rebelliousness, or hatred (name anything you've seen manifested in your child's behavior) find any place here. I pray that nothing will come into this room that is not brought by You, Lord. If there is anything here that shouldn't be, show me so it can be taken out.

Put your complete protection over this room so that evil cannot enter here by any means. Fill this room with Your love, peace, and joy. I pray that my child will say, as David did, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes" (Psalm 101:2-3). I pray that You, Lord, will make this room a holy place, sanctified for Your glory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

This is coming out a little late today...

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to the parents of the players in his All-Iowa Attack program.



My Dad often added the following statement to this prayer – The ability to recognize what you need to change and how to change it. As we coach the boys and girls in the Attack program each week we push them to their limits. We challenge them to do more and to give more. However, no matter how hard we push them or how much we challenge them, the ultimate improvement comes from within. It comes from a recognition of what needs to be changed and then a plan on how to change it.

Often times the greatest challenge in athletics is the ability to handle the highs and lows that come with competition and expectations. Growing up I continually struggled with how to handle these moments as I still do today. It seems like there is never a middle ground in competing. You are either extremely high believing you could defeat the world or extremely low wondering if you will ever be successful again.

So, when I was in the 5th grade my Dad gave me a little card that I still have to this day that had the Serenity Prayer on it. Below is an excerpt of some of the struggles I had as a basketball player and the mistakes I made. Please share this thought of the week with your son or daughter because as much as I challenge the athletes in our organization I want them to know that I often struggled with the same things. In order that I improved each year I needed to recognize where I fell short and how I was going to get better the next time.

5thGrade: (My First ever AAU Basketball Tournament):
Our first game that year was against Maple Grove at the Concordia College Pre-Thanksgiving Tournament. During my 3rd and 4th grade basketball playing days I played in a league that did not allow pressing or zone defense. So, to my shock the Maple Grove team pressed us everywhere and would trap once we crossed half court. Every time I crossed half court I would pick my dribble up get trapped and turn over the ball. Also, at this point in my life I had some serious self-control issues (and still do from time to time) and proceeded to yell at my Dad who was coaching me and my teammates. My Dad proceeded to bench me the whole fourth quarter and let me tell you that was a long ride home. That was the same weekend my Dad gave me the Serenity Prayer.

7th Grade: (Apple Valley AAU Basketball Tournament):
At this point in my career I was beginning to figure out the game of basketball, but had some self control issues when the ball would not go in the hoop!!!! In the 7th grade I would either have 40 points or my Dad would end up benching me and there was never really an in between with me. Usually the outcome was decided within the first three shots I took. If I made them I was probably going to have 40 or more points as my 7th grade AAU season. I had 5 games where I scored over 60 and one in which I had 72. But if those shots failed to go in there was a good chance I would end up on the bench for my attitude.

Well, back to the Apple Valley Tournament. We were playing Eagan at 8am in the first round of the tournament. I was not the greatest 8am basketball player and even had greater self control issues that early in the morning. Well, in the first quarter of the game I had missed all my shots but one and as the quarter came to an end I got called for an offensive foul and decided to spike the ball into the ground which also got me a “T”. This was not a good idea with my Dad as coach and he made me sit at the end of the bench for the remainder of the game with my Mom who was keeping the score book.

Again, this was not another fun morning as we discussed my self control issues over some pancakes at Perkins. But, that morning I still remember my Dad asking me what could I control each day? I did like so many teenagers and did not answer, so he provided me the answer. He told me I could control how hard I worked, how much I was willing to practice, and how badly I was willing to pay attention to details and that everything else was out of my control. He said that if I did the above things then most days the ball would bounce my way. On the days it did not I could look myself in the mirror and know I did everything in my power to be successful.

11th Grade (Following High School Basketball Season):
While I was in 8th grade the University of Minnesota began to recruit me and I was regularly in attendance at their games during my 8th,9th, 10th and 11th grade year. Prior to the start of my 11th grade year they had given me and my high school coach the impression that they were going to offer me at the end of the high school basketball season. I was very excited as I had dreamed of being a Gopher and of playing for Coach Haskins at the University of Minnesota. To this day I can still recite the entire fight song which my wife enjoys hearing each time the Gophers are on TV.

Following my 11th grade year they informed me they were no longer going to recruit me and that I was not big enough or athletic enough to play at that level. I was devastated as I felt like all my hard work over the years was completely worthless. That evening as I was as low as I had ever been and my Dad said the following, “There is no reason to be upset. You cannot control what other people think and you can’t control how big you are or how athletic you are and if you need someone to blame you should blame your mother for that.” (My mom is 5’1 and the only time she ever played basketball was after a few margaritas).

Sophomore Year in College: We had just graduated six seniors and the team was now mine. I was named Captain as a Sophomore, and was ready to lead Iowa State back to the NCAA Tournament or so I thought. Jamal Tinsley had just graduated and Coach Eustachy had told me he was going to make me the starting Point Guard and I was so excited because I knew if I wanted to play in the NBA I was going to have to be a point guard.

That year our recruiting class included three post players and a point guard from Michigan named Ricky Morgan. As soon as Ricky got on campus I was prepared to kick his butt everyday to make sure he in no way would ever take my point guard spot. As with any new freshman coming to college this is not overly hard to do as the freshman already feel uncomfortable as the level of play is at such a drastically different level.

As the year went on Ricky never received any extended minutes except for a few games here or there and we managed to finish the year 12-19 and lost 11 of the 19 games by five points or less. For any of you who may wonder why a team usually loses a close game; it is often because of the point guard play in the final 5 minutes of the game.

Following the season, Ricky transferred to UNLV and went on to have a great career. After the season I thought back on the mistakes I made that season and I could hear my Dad saying the following, "The most important thing is to recognize what you need to change and how to change it." So, I moved back to the two position and realized a true leader leads a team so each player can maximize their potential in order for the team to maximize its potential.

In order to be successful it is important that we understand what we can change, what we can’t change, and most importantly to understand the difference between the two.

Go Attack!

The Name Game

I've been tagged in the Name Game! This will give me something to do until Jake's Thought for the Week gets finished! Here's what you do....take the ABC's of Life and make your name:

Accept differences Be kind Count your blessings Dream Express thanks Forgive Give freely Harm no one Imagine more Jettison anger Keep confidences Love truly Master something Nurture hope Open your mind Pack lightly Quell rumors Reciprocate Seek wisdom Touch hearts Understand Value truth Win graciously Xeriscape Yearn for peace Zealously support a worthy cause.

Here I am:

Jettison anger

Accept differences

Nurture hope

Express thanks

Love truly

I think I can work on all these things! What does your name say?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yes, No

Yes, we drove to Arkansas last night for another tournament.

No, I ain't sick of watching games yet.

Yes, Jayla is lookin cute in her clothes from Grandpa & Grandma Sullivan.

No, I haven't the slightest idea where she could possibly have gotten her sassy-ness from.

Yes, JJ is starting to come out of his shell.

No, he will never get rid of his blankey.

Yes, we now have 4 generations of sweety girls.

No, the boys don't feel left out.

Yes, Nana Yaw is a regular customer at Julian's barber shop.

No, he never dreamed he would be living in Iowa and holding a princess!

Yes, I stole this yes, no game off of someone else's blog.
No, I am not ashamed.

Yes, I played this game just to post these recent pictures.
No, I don't mind if you wanna play this game too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A New Chapter

A neat thing happened last week when I grudgingly decided to update my adoption journal that I have been keeping throughout the past few months of our journey. When we decided to adopt I began keeping track of everything in a little notebook in which I cut and pasted emails, blog posts, pictures, updates, Ghana country facts, and anything and everything that related to the adoption. When we identified Solomon as the child we would adopt, the journal became notes and personal thoughts written specifically to him, just as I wrote to JJ and Jayla in their journals that I kept while I was pregnant. Since we found out that Solomon’s family was keeping him, I could not bring myself to even want to write in the journal. But, after a few weeks went by I felt like I needed to update it and I also wanted to let my mind and heart write out some things so that I could try and move on. I opened up the journal and taped down a few emails about the ‘unexpected news’ and also printed off and taped down my blog post about it. Then I began to write a few things….and then the neatest thing happened. I realized that I had come to an inserted page break in the journal….you know, one of those thick pieces with a tab on the side that is intended to separate different subjects in a notebook... When I realized I had come to this exact point in my journal at this exact point in our journey it was almost like I could breathe….in my mind I thought, ‘okay, look at all that you have recorded in this journal, and….look at all those empty pages ahead. Now, pause, take a breath, and flip the page into a new chapter in this amazing journey.’ Maybe I am trying to make something too significant out of something as insignificant as a tabbed piece of paper, but, let me tell you, it felt good to take a deep breath, and envision flipping that page into whatever will be next. I am not saying that God won’t close the door on this completely…He surely might, and if He does, then, we will listen. But, these past few days I have undoubtedly felt little glimmers of my excitement about adoption rising up again. I felt it when I saw the chapter break in my journal. I felt it last night at church when they shared an update on the Zambian orphans at our church’s Hope Children’s Center in Africa. I felt it last night when I got home and Jake said that he had googled orphans available for adoption in Ghana for an hour at the office. And, I felt it with tears in my eyes as I stared at the sweet faces of little boys and girls Jake found on Google….faces of children left without parents in a country that I have never been to, living in poverty that I have never seen, and facing everyday struggles that I have never faced. Yes, I felt it….that excitement is rising again….excitement to see where God leads this all, excitement of wondering who our 3rd child is to be, and excitement of the unknown.

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's A Choice Not a Feeling

Bitterness seeps into the basement of our lives like run-off from a broken sewer pipe. Every form of ugliness begins to float to the surface of those murky waters: Prejudice and profanity, suspicion and hate, cruelty and cynicism. There is no torment like the inner torment of bitterness, which is the by-product of an unforgiving spirit. It refuses to be soothed, it refuses to be healed, it refuses to forget. There is no prison more damaging than the bars of bitterness that will not let the battle end.

Despite its evils, bitterness holds many of us captive. Forgiveness is the only escape route out of this prison. For the Christian, forgiveness is not an option. Jesus commanded us to forgive; He modeled forgiveness for us. Failure to forgive not only wounds our Savior but it destroys us. A lack of forgiveness causes the bitterness plant to take root in our hearts. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Peter asked the Lord: “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” In essence Jesus was saying “Keep on forgiving; forgive as many times as it takes.”

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. Forgiveness breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. While dying on the cross, Jesus said, “Forgive them” – the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, his disciples who had fled in darkness, even you and me who have denied him so many times – “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Author Phillip Yancey called forgiveness an “unnatural act”. He’s right. It does feel unnatural. However, forgiveness is not a feeling but a secret choice of the heart.

Romans 12:9-10, 14, 18 says: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Excerpt from Calm My Anxious Heart
By: Linda Dillow

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Good One

I love movies but I don't watch them at home much because I can't sit still that long....I always have lists running through my mind of things that I should be doing instead of sitting and watching a movie. Well, the other night one of the coaches sent this movie home with Jake saying that I needed to watch it. One evening last week there was nothing on tv so I decided to pop the movie in while I cleaned up the kitchen, took out the trash, picked up toys and made Jake dinner. Well, about 1/4 of the way through the movie I was forced to actually sit down and watch it because it was SO GOOD! I thought it was going to be just another one of those movies about a dog, and it partially was, but there were lots of other good themes in it too. Hope you can squeeze in some time to watch it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's 'Thought for the Week' which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his All-Iowa Attack program.

The past couple of weeks we have been going through a five part section from John Ortberg’s book 'When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box'. What each section has discussed has been designed to challenge all of us to follow God’s path and what he is calling us to do for His Kingdom. In order to follow His plan we must understand that we will be met by fear and want to turn in the opposite direction. However, when we understand the fact that fear will play a part in fully accomplishing God’s will it will be so much easier to Roll the Dice and completely rely on God to accomplish His purpose.


Roll The Dice:“Here is the irrefutable truth about games that my grandmother would try to teach me as she risked everything for Boardwalk while I tried to hang on to my little cache: When you start the game, you never know what the outcome will be. If you play the game, you may lose. But if you never play the game, you definitely will never win. And if you play the game, you have to roll the dice.”

PART 3 - REASSURANCE:Another striking aspect of the various Biblical stories: even though people almost always have an initial response of resistance, God never reacts by saying, “Oh, I can see where this would be pretty scary. Okay, never mind. I’ll get somebody else.”

God knows people get scared, so he makes them a promise. God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” He said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” No one had ever called Gideon a mighty warrior before.

Do these kinds of promises mean nothing bad will happen? To the contrary! But a person can’t just sit there. The promise is that nothing can separate you from the love of God. You may suffer. You may hurt. You may die. Eventually we’re all gonna die anyway. Christian Journalist Greg Levoy has said that Jesus promised those who would follow him only three things: that they would be absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble. The problem is that most of us figure that two of three ain’t bad.

PART 4 - DECISION:What really matters when God calls you to do something is not whether or not you feel inadequate. Of course you will; you are inadequate. So am I. That’s why God promises to go with us. What matters is your decision. Only people who say yes to challenge, demand, and risk are ever fully alive.

We went on a white-water rafting trip on the Squamish River in British Columbia. We got around one corner known as “Devil’s Elbow,” and the guide said that the reason part of the river rated level 4 (levels 5 or 6 uninsurable) is because eight people had drowned there recently. That woke us up. We steered into a little pool, and there was a ledge fifteen or twenty feet high. She said that anyone who wanted to could climb up and jump off. She said you haven’t really had an experience of the river until you have had an experience in the river.

What you couldn’t see from the water was a swarm of about twenty bees up on the ledge, so you didn’t want to stay there a long time. And the Squamish River is glacial runoff. All this water had been ice or snow twenty-four hours earlier. They told us it ran at about thirty-eight degrees. Johnny and I stood there for a brief moment – a swarm of bees to the right of us, a twenty-foot drop into frigid water in front of us. I felt very alive… when Johnny pushed me over the edge of the cliff. What ledge is God asking you to jump off of right now? God makes the call; we roll the dice; we make the move.

Go Attack!
Jake Sullivan

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
Matthew 28:6
John 20
The Empty Tomb

1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Finest Hour

Jesus' Finest Hour—His Last
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

It began Thursday night in the Jewish month of Nisan [April] about a.d. 30. One of Jesus' disciples, Judas Iscariot, planned to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. The deadly signal: a kiss. In the garden of Gethsemane just outside Jerusalem , Jesus knew exactly what was coming, and he was praying. His heart was almost unable to support the weight: “ My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). Then the mob appeared with swords and clubs. Judas kissed Jesus, and the mob seized him. The disciples of Jesus fled and left him alone.

The Passion of Jesus Before the Jewish Council

Jesus was taken to the Jewish Council, which was ready to put him on trial in the middle of the night. The decisive charge was blasphemy:

The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:61-64)

“Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you? . . . And the guards received him with blows” (Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65).

Meanwhile in the courtyard nearby, his disciple Peter who had said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31), denied him three times: “I do not know the man!” (Matthew 26:72). When Jesus looked at him across the court, Peter went out and wept bitterly.

The Passion of Jesus Before Pilate and Herod

Then they delivered Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate, early Friday morning. After interrogation, Pilate sent him to King Herod, who happened to be in town at that time and hoped to see Jesus do a miracle. Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt, put a royal robe on him in mockery, and sent him back to Pilate.

According to a strange custom, Pilate offered to release a prisoner and gave the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, a notorious terrorist “who had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7). The crowd chose Barabbas and cried out for Jesus to be crucified. They made him out to be an imperial threat who claimed to be a king. “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12). Pilate was cornered. Shall he kill an innocent man, or risk the appearance of sedition?

Pilate made his decision. He washed his hands, in a futile attempt to remove his guilt, then freed Barabbas, and handed Jesus over to the soldiers. “I am innocent of this man's blood” he said (Matthew 27:24). What happened in the next several hours is beyond description or depiction. The mere facts do not tell the whole story. But they are crucial.

Jesus was scourged. The word cannot carry the reality of the torture.

Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip (flagrum or flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. . . . For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied. . . . The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (licitors) or by one who alternated positions. . . . It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law. [1]

After the scourging, the entire battalion of soldiers gathered around this faint and bleeding man, put a scarlet robe on him, pressed the weight of a scarlet robe onto his torn shoulders, set a reed in his right hand, knelt down before him, and mocked him, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They struck him with their hands. They spit on him. They wove a crown out of thorns—probably not the kind of thorns you see on rose bushes, but the longer kind that are more like needles. Then they not only put the crown on his head, but hit him over the head—to drive the thorns into his skull (Mark 15:17-19).

The Passion of Jesus on the Cross

They led him away to the hill called Golgotha (Latin: Calvary) outside the city and nailed him to a cross. Martin Hengel has written the authoritative historical study of crucifixion in the ancient world. He cites Lucius Seneca, in the middle of the first century, who wrote about the variety of crucifixions: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet.” [2] Hengel quotes another ancient source (Pseudo-Manetho) about the method of crucifixion: “Punished with limbs outstretched, they see the stake as their fate; they are fastened and nailed to it in the most bitter torment, evil food for bird of prey and grim pickings for dogs” [3]In sum, Hengel says, “ It was an utterly offensive affair, ‘obscene' in the original sense of the word.” [4] And among Jews, divine curse was added to human scandal, because the Jewish law, the Torah, said, “A hanged man [on a tree] is cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

“It was the third hour when they crucified him” (Mark 15:25 ). That means 9am. Pilate had ordered a sign over his head: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19 ). Passersby ridiculed him, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). The soldiers mocked him. The chief priests with the scribes and elders added their scorn, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42). And even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled him.

Jesus drank the cup of suffering unmixed, and refused any pain-deadening anesthetic. “They offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27:34). About noon, near the end, he cried out, “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” (Matthew 27:46). Amazingly these seemingly hopeless words are the exact words of the beginning of Psalm 22 in the Old Testament, which then resolves into a Psalm of great hope. The poet, who seems to begin with despair, finally exults in God and says, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (verse 22). The early church did not miss the connection between Jesus' agonizing words and the final hope of this psalm. They applied these very words of triumph to Christ after his resurrection (Hebrews 2:12). Yes, there was a kind of God-forsakenness on the cross, but the abandonment was not final.

After three hours on the cross, Jesus died. His disciples saw the awesome, world-changing moment from different angles, and summed it up in different ways. Matthew said, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50). John wrote, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 ). Luke, who was not there, and may have gotten his information from Jesus' mother, wrote, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46 ).

To make sure he was dead, a Roman soldier “pierced his side with a spear” (John 19:34). He was taken down from the cross by his family and friends, and buried in a borrowed, cave-like tomb. Pilate gave orders for the tomb to be sealed and guarded. A great stone was rolled over the mouth of the tomb and guards were stationed. There the body lay until early Sunday morning.

[1] William D. Edwards, et. al., “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” The Journal of the American Medical Association 255 ( 21 March 1986 ), 1457-1458.
[2] Dialogue 6, De consolatione ad Marciam , 20.3, cited by Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 25.
[3] Hengel, Crucifixion, 9.
[4] Ibid., 22.

Video excerpt from 'Jesus' film

Thursday, April 9, 2009

JJ & Jayla Update

Wow, JJ has changed so much in just one month! He has started using connecting words when talking like ‘bring’, ‘and’, ‘to’, ‘in’, etc. to form sentences! It is quite a different world now listening to him jabber on and on. He also says ‘me’, ‘you’, and the ever popular phrase, ‘No, I don’t want to!’ All this talking makes for some interesting conversations in our house. JJ can now recount memories, or re-tell what he did during his day, during Sunday school, at music class, and on and on. His personality is easy to see now, and he can tell us ‘I don’t like’ and ‘You funny’ and ‘Wow, Mom!’ according to different things that he has opinions on. He also says ‘Dad, know what?’ and then he will tell him something. It is so cute! This is by far my most favorite stage with him yet! You also may have noticed JJ holding a cabbage patch doll in some recent pictures. Well, a few weeks ago my mom got out all of my old dolls, cradles, and blankets that I used to play with when I was little. She was actually sorting through these things for Jayla, but JJ found them all and the last time we were at her house he played with the dolls the entire time. He fed them, burped them, laid them down for naps, and yes, even took them potty (including sound effects). Well, I was a little worried to tell Jake about JJ’s new found ‘Daddy day care’ but I knew Jake would come across the pictures at some point….so I told him. He said, “Don’t worry. When my mom used to run her day care I played house with all the dolls and cradles too.” Whew! That made me feel better! Other than JJ’s day care business, he also likes to sit and ‘read’ books (he flips through the pages and says what he sees in the pictures) and ‘work’ on the computer just like Daddy does.

Jayla’s newest thing is that she can now point to things. If she sees something that sparks her interest she will point at it and then turn and look at me as if to say, “Do you see that?’ She also really notices people’s gestures/actions/emotions/sounds and will imitate them. For example, if she is watching people talk and one of them laughs she will start laughing too. It is so cute and she does it every time…almost like she doesn’t want to be left out of the joke or something. Also, this last weekend when we were at the tournament there was this game that was getting really intense. I was holding her while watching the game and I started cheering and yelling for the team really loud. All of a sudden she started kicking her feet and throwing her fists around and screaming in these high pitched bursts…..she would break out into it every time she heard me cheer, almost like she was trying to imitate what I was doing. Jayla also surprised us with saying ‘uh-oh’ the other day! She had dropped one of her toys on the floor and I said ‘uh-oh’ and to my surprise she looked up at me and said it right back! Now almost every time she drops a toy she will say it. Jayla’s two front-top teeth have poked their way through this month as well. The older Jayla gets the more and more she has started to resemble JJ, and the redder, and redder her hair gets! In fact everyone that stops me while we are out and about says, ‘Oh, you have two red-heads!’ Who would have thunk it?

Enjoy the pictures!

It's nap time...can you tell?

Gym rats.

Would you believe he slept for 2.5 hours like this?

Miss Jayla is 10 months old now!

Listening to the coach.

Playing babies with Grandpa Tim.
JJ can now 'fold' his own laundry....he made this lovely semi-circle design all by himself.

Ashton tries to steal a kiss!

Ashton, JJ, and Caeden eat some lunch after some hard playing.

JJ & Nyla jumping on the couch....weird, that never happens.
Daddy is a good snuggler.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nana Yaw Update

Well, this weekend Nana Yaw played in his first tournament with All Iowa Attack! It was so exciting to watch him play. The neatest thing was that for his very first game, the gym they played in had this HUGE American flag hanging on the wall… was really low to the ground, and I got a glimpse of him waiting to come into the game, kneeled on the ground by the scorer’s table with the flag in the backdrop. It was such a neat moment! Before the tournament Jake gave Nana Yaw the choice as to whether he would rather play with the 17U A team or 17U B team….Nana Yaw chose the B team because Jake said ‘He’s very smart and he knew he would get more playing time!’ Nana Yaw’s basketball talent is still very raw, but he is so athletic that he makes up for not having been coached well before he came here. Jake is training him one-on-one everyday, and they keep bringing up that the goal is July (July is the ‘live period’ when the college coaches start coming to these tournaments). Nana Yaw is really having to adjust to a much different style of play than what he was used to in Ghana. He says the game here is much more complicated and detailed. Jake said that he is a really fast learner though, and he only has to show him something once, and he can do it. The main things they are working on with Nana Yaw right now are fixing his shot and footwork.

Enough about basketball, let’s talk food! This is what I have been the most crazed with since Nana Yaw has started staying with us. I am bound and determined to be able to make him some of his meals from back home, but also want him to love American food too. Every night after dinner either Jake or I ask him if he liked what I made. Almost every time he says ‘It was good.’ I think he would say this if he liked it or not. Well, the other night I made my first ever batch of fried chicken. I waited and waited until he was done eating, and then finally I asked ‘How did I do with my first fried chicken attempt?’ He said, ‘It was perfect.’ Not good, but perfect!!!! So, I am starting to get the hang of it. (I won’t mention that I tried to make his mom’s tomato beef sauce and jollof rice last week and had the whole house smokin’ because I accidently charcoaled the onions! We even had to open up the windows because our eyes were burning! And, it certainly did not turn out as good as when Esi made it….I’ll have to keep trying at the expense of everyone’s appetite.)

Nana Yaw is also starting to really get Jake’s humor! Jake is always joking around with everyone, and Nana Yaw is no different. When Nana Yaw came here a few weeks ago he was very serious, quiet, and reserved. But each week that goes by he is starting to relax more and more and laughs at our jokes! He doesn’t talk much, but listens to everyone else’s conversations, and every once in awhile when someone asks him a question he will talk for awhile. The other day I asked him if he was homesick at all and he said ‘no, everything here is really good.’ He also told me that he has been away from home before because in Ghana their highschool is boarding school. So, you move out of home and into the dorms and live with other students. He said that you have to do everything for yourself there, like laundry, cleaning, a little cooking, etc. Another interesting fact Nana Yaw told me about Ghana is that they don’t really eat dessert there (man are they missing out!). Monday night I made this german chocolate cake with whipped topping, caramel and health bits o brickle….we made Nana Yaw try a piece and he ate the whole thing. About 15 minutes later he went after another piece. Then, the next morning he ate 2 more pieces for BREAKFAST! The Sullivan’s are starting to rub off on him!

Here are some pictures from this weekend. The lighting in the gym was not the best for picture taking, but hopefully I can get some better ones for him in the future! Nana Yaw is #4.