Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Found it in Joshua

Yesterday my mom blogged about bibles, which you can read here:

In her post she mentioned the Life Application bible, which has all the usual scripture, but at the bottom of each page it breaks apart certain verses and gives ways they can be applied in your life. The applications also dig deep into the verse and give good explanations of how to understand what you are reading, and even reference other verses found in different areas of the bible that would give insight into the particular verse you are trying to understand. For our wedding gift, my mom gave both Jake and I our first Life Application bibles (NIV) and it is my preferred bible to read, especially when I am in a bible study, which I am now. A few weeks ago I started into my 4th semester of a women’s bible study through church, and currently we are trucking through Joshua.

The point of this post, is to tell you about an ‘ah-hah’ moment that I had yesterday when reading through my bible application notes dealing with a particular verse in Joshua chapter 11. Here is the verse:

Joshua 11:15 As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

Now, as my mom pointed out in her post, sometimes when taking part in a bible study, the teacher doesn’t necessarily like you to rely on your application notes already printed in the Life App bible - because it takes away from the process of learning and making connections/meaning out of scripture on your own. My teacher has asked us to try to gain insight into the verses first on our own with the study book that we use (The New Inductive Study Series by Kay Arthur), and then if we want to we can look down at our bible application notes afterwards and see what we missed coming up with. Well, I am certainly glad that I did this yesterday because I had completely missed something very applicable to my life in this verse.

Here is what the application notes said about Joshua 11:15 –

Joshua carefully obeyed all the instructions given by God. This theme of obedience is repeated frequently in the book of Joshua, partly because obedience is one aspect of life the individual believer can control. We can’t always control our understanding because we may not have all the facts. We can’t control what other people do or how they treat us. However, we can control our choice to obey God. Whatever new challenges we may face, the Bible contains relevant instructions that we can choose to ignore or choose to follow.

I italicized the parts that really struck me, and if those words don’t directly apply to our adoption process then I don’t know what does. In fact, a week or so ago I mentioned that I felt like in our adoption journey that 95% was completely out of my control….then I went on to change that to 99%. But, for some reason I kept holding onto that 1% of control for some reason. At the time that I wrote that post I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that 1% of control was that I had, but I knew it was there because I felt it. And, now I have the answer. My obedience. I hadn’t thought about it that way before until yesterday when I read those app notes.

As I went on to finish out chapter 11 in Joshua I came across another really cool application that relates to our adoption. The application note was for Joshua 11:18: Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. And the application said:

The conquest of much of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read about it in one sitting), but it actually took 7 years. We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin. But our journey with God is a life-long process, and the changes and victories may take time. It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly. When we are close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress. But when we look back we can see that God never stopped working.

If you are in a similar situation, I hope these application notes encourage you the way they did me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Physics, Coffee and a Tried & True Friend

Today I want to tell you about my friend Steph. Well, actually we started off as strangers in my junior year of college. Flashback to my first day of Physics 106 lab in which I, well, sort of threw myself up to her study table - in tears - because I had no idea how to even attempt the first day’s assignment. (I mean seriously, I need to speak with whoever thought to combine math & science!) I noticed that she – Steph – had been helping some of the other students and literally the first thing that went through my mind was ‘she is my only hope!’ Thankfully, she was super nice and not annoyed with my unlearned physics brain. She quickly invited me in while she explained interia, the Law of Newton, and what exactly happens mathematically when an apple falls from a tree. :)

I think by about our 3rd Physics lab together we got to talking and she said she had seen me at church, and she asked me if I wanted to be in her bible study that she led on campus. Well, little did Steph know at the time that I was usually hungover at church, half asleep, and hardly paying attention. But, “Sure,” I said, I was up for coming to the bible study – I mean why not? I had a bible.

So I went. And about 30 minutes into it, I was super uncomfortable. As I was listening to this group of girls talk through verses in Phillipians I felt a sense of unrest. I realized that there was much more to these words than I had ever known. There was certainly a lot more meaning coming out of these girls’ mouths’ than I had ever looked into. And, I couldn’t add in one piece of thought, comment, or opinion because I had no idea what these words meant that they were reading through. I stayed the entire bible study that night, just listening to these girls talk, almost in awe of the way they internalized these verses and made entire conversations off one sentence in the bible. After this first group bible study I think Steph sensed my confusion, unrest, and mind full of questions …because the next day she offered to start meeting up with me once per week, one-on-one. She said we could go through a book and talk about it. So, we started meeting up at a coffee shop once a week. And you might think the story ends there, and that we became instant friends. But, oh, not so fast. Poor Steph had quite the challenge in befriending me. You see, once we started digging into the bible together I started feeling conviction in my heart. Conviction that the way I was living did not match up to what I was reading. These were not good feelings and what I now know is that I was coming face to face with my own sins and I didn’t like it.

So, I would often skip our coffee sessions, sometimes just not showing up. Steph would leave me voicemails and I wouldn’t call her back. When I did show up to our coffee times, I would sometimes argue with her and find myself in tears. But, Steph never gave up on me. She kept calling, kept writing me encouraging notes, and yes, kept helping me with physics. And, little by little we studied God’s word together. It wasn’t easy. I dreaded the feelings that would come up, but I could tell Steph loved God, and that she lived it out. I knew from the smile on her face that she was fulfilled and happy and hopeful, and I wanted that. Looking back now I realize that Steph was what my church calls a ‘spiritual mentor’. And, there was something about the way Steph mentored me that stands out in my mind. And, that is that she always pointed me to God’s word, the bible, and she let the word do the conviction in me. There was no watering down the bible, and for a new reader like me, some of it was tough to swallow. But, Steph always pointed me toward the bible, letting it move in my heart, and then from there she helped me to understand what I was reading. From Steph I learned that there is a way to speak truth with confidence that says there is no middle ground. You either believe this or you don’t, you either live this or you don’t . You can’t be wishy washy and stand somewhere in the middle. When I was confronted with God’s word I felt the heaviness of this choice on my heart, but I never felt judged or brainwashed by Steph, and I am thankful for that. Looking back I see that God used Steph as part of the path that led me to Him. God opened my eyes and pointed me to the hope of a Savior. And, Steph was a seed along that path. I am thankful for her boldness, and for her love. It’s a hard balance but she got it right. I’ve told Steph before how much she means to me, but it’s worth saying again with this post. So, the story ends happily in that we became friends! On my wedding day Steph prayed over me up on stage, and even then I don’t think I realized how symbolic that was for my life…..because, I am sure that she had faithfully prayed for me many times before that, and I didn’t even know it.

I just want to encourage any of you other spiritual mentors out there to not give up. Even when you get stood up, even when your phone calls aren’t returned, even when you feel like you are getting no where. God can do amazing things through you. Don’t give up!

Steph and I taken at her wedding a few years ago. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each week I will be sending out Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his Kingdom Hoops program.

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

No fear of failure: the ability to take a risk and keep the focus and attention on our call and obedience!

It might just be me but I feel as though September has flown by. Maybe it is because there are so many things happening and so many great God stories to be told. I feel so blessed to be where we are at today. Each day that I arrive at the gym I am excited to get on the court to work with the outstanding group of young boys and girls that we have in the Kingdom Hoops program. As we head into this new season I want to really hit one point home with all of the athletes we are coaching and that is: Do not be afraid to fail. We have said it a lot the last few weeks as you have probably heard us harping on the kids to push themselves to the point they are uncomfortable or can challenge themselves, and if they fail to know that it is all right.

Nothing great can ever be accomplished without failure. When I look back over my basketball career I can remember every time I failed and how much I improved because of those failures. I even found Christ through the failures of my junior and senior season in college. We were in Scandavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) with the Big 12 All-Star team and I was in the best shape of my life and playing the best basketball of my career; when all of a sudden I felt a pop in my ankle. To make a long story short I was never able to successfully jump off my right foot again and managed to lose every road game for two consecutive seasons with most of the reason being because of my poor play on the road and my inability to get lift on my jump shot because of what flying did to my ankle.

It was the first time in my life that no matter how hard I worked it seemed as though I always failed. I would walk into Hickory Park and answer hundreds of questions of why do I play so well in Hilton and why do I royally stink on the road. I would shrug my shoulders and tell everyone I wish I knew. It was amazing how God used those failures in my life to call me to himself. It allowed me to change my focus, understand what was important and ultimately it led me to Kingdom Hoops. Failure can be viewed in two ways; one it can be viewed as something you can overcome with hard work and other times failure is just being used to mature oneself - and many times those periods of maturity are going to be used for a greater purpose.

What concerns me with young people today is how much the fear of failure holds them back. It is ok to have the fear of failure as long as it drives you to reach new goals as it has done many times for me. However, when the fear of failure holds them back from accomplishing great things or trying new things, it concerns me greatly. I look at failure as God’s way of teaching us, maturing us, and many times the single thing that he uses to open new doors for us. If we never dream big, trust in God, and just TRY, who knows what great things we will miss out on!!

The fear of failure will always be there but what do we do in the face of the fear? I remember when this journey began at Kingdom Hoops and all of the apprehension that I had going into this journey. What if it did not succeed? What if it was just too much? What if it was the wrong decision? Was I ready to make this long term commitment? God are you sure this is something you want me to do? As I was wrestling with all of these decisions in November I felt God throw me back to late October 1994.

It was a cold October evening and my Dad had ran to the Blockbuster Video and brought home the movie titled Pistol Pete: The Story of Pistol Pete Maravich. My Dad and I headed downstairs and took comfort in our own little areas of the basement. This night my Dad even let me use the special quilt that usually was never allowed to be touched by anyone other than my Dad.

The movie was the story of Pete Maravich and the entire story was about him growing up until the 8th grade and gave the whole story of his 8th grade season when he made the Varsity team. It showed how hard he worked, how much time he dedicated to the game of basketball, and things he experienced while trying to reach his goals. I can still remember getting chills while watching the movie as I just knew that is who I wanted to be like.

Following the movie I put on a couple of sweatshirts and sweatpants and headed to the driveway to practice. It was about 6pm and my Mom had just finished cooking dinner and hollered outside for me to get in and get washed up for dinner. As I quickly snuck in 50 more shots my Dad opened the door and strongly encouraged me to get my butt inside for dinner and I quickly obliged.

As I finished washing my hands and scurried to the table I had an important announcement to make to my whole family. I looked at my Mom, Dad, & brother Nick and said, "I am going to start on the Varsity team as an 8th grader and I am going to be all-conference as an 8th grader." My brother laughed hysterically and as he was laughing my Dad offered me a bet. He said, "If you make the varsity team and become All-Conference as an 8th grader you can get your ear pierced." (I had wanted to get my ear pierced for quite some time) For my Dad to say something like that was quite crazy because my Dad was a military guy. Our house ran on military time, our hair was cut military style and piercings were not happening as long as my Dad was alive - despite me asking him every day for two years. So, with my brother's laughter, and my Dad’s sincere sense of doubt and hanging bet, fear struck me.

What if I can’t do it? What if the dream is just too big? Was I really willing to give up many joys of being 13 years old to spend all those countless hours in the gym to make it happen? What if I failed and never reached my goals?

Well, let's just say in the Spring of 1996 I got my ear pierced and new goals were ready to be set and new bets were ready to be made.

I am including a great article on fear from Alan Stein (one of the head Nike skills trainers among other things):

Failure Is A Good Thing!
by Alan Stein:

I know the story is way over told and very cliché; but nevertheless it epitomizes the purpose of this blog. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in team sports history (not just basketball), was cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore. He has stated in countless interviews how he used that “failure” as the spark that ignited his tenacious pursuit of excellence, and eventually dominance, on the basketball court. MJ will have gone from being cut from his varsity team to reaching the pinnacle of success; when he will be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame next week.

I truly believe the key to being successful, in any endeavor (but especially sports), is how you view failure and how you view mistakes. Most people view failure as a negative. They are so petrified by failure it becomes an immovable roadblock, and in my opinion, prevents them from attaining success. Others view failure as an integral part of the developmental process and look at mistakes as the speed bumps on the road to success. I most certainly fall into the latter group. Failure, if handled appropriately, is a key ingredient to being successful. Ask any successful person and they will confirm. Failure can teach you lessons you never would have learned otherwise (“School of Hard Knocks”), it can humble you and allow you to keep a healthy perspective, and it can be used to fuel your motivation for future success like in Michael Jordan’s case.

What’s really so bad about failure?

The main reason folks fear failure is because of the feeling of rejection they associate with it. People are so worried about getting rejected they avoid it at all costs. Do you realize how successful you could be if you were immune to feeling rejected? Byron Katie once said “you can have anything you want in life if you are willing to ask 1,000 people for it.” Anything. Think about that for second. There is a lot of truth to that statement. Ask 1,000 people? Most folks will quit after just one or two “no’s.”

I see the same fear with players all of the time. What about working on a new move? You think if you practiced that move for thousands of reps you would master it? Of course you would! Who cares if the first hundred times you did it you lost the ball, traveled, or couldn’t perform it at game speed?! If you keep working on it will eventually become a part of your offensive arsenal. One of the moves taught at every Nike Skills Academy this past summer was the Euro-step; which Tony Parker has made famous in the NBA. It is a deadly move for guards to use around the basket to elude a defender. Even the best high school and college players in the country had difficulty mastering the Euro-step; but those that did were the ones who stuck with it, rep after rep, and didn’t mind “failing” the first dozen or so times they tried it.

Jack Canfield, the creator of the Chicken Soup for The Soul series, was turned down by over 30 publishers before landing a book deal. That means over 30 people told him NO! That means he “failed” 30 times. Yet he persisted and believed in himself. Since then he has sold millions of books, inspired millions of readers, and made hundreds of millions of dollars. He is living proof of Byron Katie’s quote.

The irony is, in most cases, the person who gets the most “yes’s” in life is also the one who gets the most “no’s.” That means the folks with the most success, usually have had the most “failures” as well! One of my favorite motivational speakers is Steve Chandler, who said “if you never fail, you aren’t challenging yourself. You aren’t pushing your limits.” Amen to that.

That makes me think of one of my favorite quotes (sorry, not sure who originally said this):

“Your greatest fear should not be aiming too high and missing; but aiming too low and achieving.”

Here is another way to view this, courtesy of Mr. Chandler. Picture this; I give you a coin. I tell you I will give you $100 for every time you flip it and it lands on heads. You have 10 minutes to flip it as many times as you want! That’s it; those are the rules. What would you do? Would you tentatively sit there… scared to flip the coin in case it landed on tails? Of course not! You would flip that sucker as many times as you could… because you know the more times you flip it the more chances you have for it to land on heads (and get paid!)! You could care less if it landed on tails! Imagine having that same fervor for everything you try to achieve in life. I have tried hard to adopt that mantra in my life this past year and it has paid off in countless ways.

When strength training, when you take a set to the point at which you can’t perform another quality repetition, you have reached what is called Momentary Muscular Failure… which is a good thing! Picture a bench press for the ease of the visual. When your chest and shoulders and triceps are so exhausted you can’t budge the bar off your chest and you need to a spotter to re-rack the weight… you have just “failed.” The good news is consistently and systematically reaching MMF is an extremely productive way to increase strength. While there are certainly exceptions, I have most of my players take most of their sets to the point of momentary muscular failure every workout. In other words, I not only encourage it, but I demand my players “fail” several times each workout! And you know what? Over time they become bigger, stronger, and more powerful.

Players ask me all of the time what they can do to “get better.” Certainly an individualized prescription of skill work and player development is almost always necessary. But I can always offer one sure fire way to guarantee improvement: play with players older, bigger, stronger, and better than you are! You will get knocked around, you will get the ball stolen from you, you will get your shot blocked, and will (probably) even get dunked on… but most importantly you will get better!

For every picture perfect game winning shot Michael Jordan hit; there were countless other times he missed. Countless other times he could have won the game but didn’t. But he never let the fear of missing prevent him from taking the shot. He never let failure get in the way of success.

And neither should you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Off to the Dance!

Tonight was the homecoming dance for Des Moines Christian, so we got to snap some pictures of Nana Yaw and his date before they left.

Nana Yaw's date's name was Katie. Katie's mom got to do the honors and try to get the boutineer on. The mom's always get to do this job!

The shoes!

Nana Yaw & Katie.
Katie is a volleyball player for Des Moines Christian and Yaw says she is about 6'1"
They were the PERFECT date for eachother!

The girls

The boys

The good looking group!

Have fun Yaw!

Friday, September 25, 2009


Our house was TP'd last night for Ballard homecoming...






The clean up is going to take hours.....






It might even take us ALL day.....







Just see for yourself the amount of work we have ahead of us....








Hee Hee!!!!!!!!!! Oh the advantages of living on a newly formed lot with NO full grown trees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
However, seeing that we got TP'd did bring back LOTS of memories! This is such a FUN time of year!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Come As You Are

What’s weighing you down today?

What heavy load are you carrying?

What chains from the past are haunting you?

Are you ready to let God take it? God can do it. He will lift your sadness, heal your iniquities, bring forgiveness where needed, instill hope in the most hopeless of situations. God can move mountains. God created the heavens and the earth and breathed in you the breath of life. God created you and sustains your every breath from this moment………to this one. God sent his Son for you. It was a gift. In Jesus you can have life, and life abundantly. Want to find the meaning of life? Lose it. Lose your life and you will find it. It’s not magic. It’s real. Jesus promises - For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25). It’s true. I feel it inside. This isn’t religion. This is a personal God who since the day you were born has been revealing himself to you. Lay your burdens down at his feet…ask him to carry your load. To bring refreshment in your life. The chains of yesterday - the guilt, the unfulfillment, the failures – they can be released…..because the debt has already been paid. On the cross. When Jesus died. For you. Jesus said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17). Come as you are. To the cross. That is where it starts. Sin atoned for. For you and for me. This is where you can finally lay your burdens down. This is where you find new life. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have I told you lately?

I love YOU!

I love YOU!

And, I love YOU!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

JJ's Hotel

If you've been a Team Sullivan blog follower since this spring/summer, you will know that during March through July each year we travel like crazy with the teams in Jake's basketball program. We go all around the Midwest, occasionally venturing out to the East side of the U.S. cheering on Jake's teams, watching him coach, spending days in hotels, going out to eat for every meal, and living out of suitcases! Well, just recently we've found out just how much JJ misses these traveling trips. So much so, that with that little imagination of his, he has decided to re-create the traveling days....

"Dad, you want to go to the hotel?" JJ pleaded with a smile a few Saturdays ago.

"Huh?" Jake took his eyes off his beloved college football game marathon to see a sweet little boy waiting to play. "Uh, sure," he said, not really knowing what this was all about (oh, but I did, and I grinned as I watched it all unfold)

"Better get packed up," JJ hollered as he headed downstairs. "It's getting dark out. Gonna be late." A few minutes later we hear JJ huffing and puffing as he struggles to bring our two biggest suitcases up from the basement. "Help Daddy!" he yells.

Jake looks at me and smiles. Oh, just wait, I think.

The next 10 minutes are spent 'packing up'. (side note, I have since limited JJ's pretend packing to 3 shirts from everyone's closets, b/c it can get a little excessive!). Not only does JJ pack up the clothes, but also the swimsuits, some of Jake's folders, oh, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a basketball, and anything else that comes to mind to throw in there.

Then, they are out the door to load up the car and head to the hotel.
Looks like everyone is having fun on the drive!

After about 5 minutes of driving and blasting the music JJ announces "We're here!".

They get out of the car and walk to the hotel.
Isn't Jake a trooper?

Don't worry, Jayla is bringin up the rear!

Oh, they made it to the hotel - THE ELECTRICAL BOX (!!!!!!!!!!)
"Key please."

Time to unpack.

Oh yes, this boy goes all out with his pretend play. And, he really, seriously came up with this entire thing all on his own. Jake said the other day that when they played 'hotel' the cooler was the swimming pool and all of a sudden JJ stripped down out there in the open to put his swimming trunks on. Then he jumped in the cooler! Oh, if I could have only gotten a picture of THAT!

JJ has also been asking Jake EVERY SINGLE DAY when they are going to go and pick up the 'red one' and the 'white one'......he is talking about the 16 passenger vans that we sometimes take on the trips. Well, we won't be renting vans again until spring, and I think we will have to answer this question every day until then! Luckily we have a few tournaments coming up in November, so JJ won't have to wait too much longer to get back into the hotel groove. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each week I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his Kingdom Hoops program. Here it is for this week:

2 Timothy 1:6-7 I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Article From ESPN’s Pat Forde: Appreciate The Tim Tebow Experience

Back in July, in a ballroom in a Birmingham, Ala., hotel during Southeastern Conference media days, a reporter asked Tim Tebow the following question:

"I don't mean to sound cynical, but between winning the national championship and winning the Heisman, saving the world in the Philippines and all, did you ever, like, sneak a cigarette when you were in high school? Do you ever do anything wrong? Do you feel like everything off the field is sort of on cruise control for you?"

My immediate reaction: Lord help us. Sporting America has become too jaded to appreciate Tim Tebow. We've been Marion Jonesed and Mark McGwired and Barry Bondsed into suspecting there must be a dark side to the Florida quarterback, who does so many things right on and off the football field. We roll our eyes at his "saving the world in the Philippines," when how many among us have bothered to go across town to help the poor, much less across the globe the way Tebow has? We've been conditioned not to trust a virtuous athlete when he's right in front of us.
Tebow's reaction was better. His response, in part:

"You know, everybody, they can look and say how easy it is. But it's definitely not that easy. The difference is 'cause not many people want to wake up at 5, go through workouts, go speak to young kids, go back, eat lunch, go to class, go to tutoring, go speak at a prison at night, come back. I mean, more people would do those things; they just don't want to sacrifice.

"You know, there's a lot of leaders out there. But, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good ones. So that's always been my dream and my goal, is to be someone like Danny Wuerffel was to me, to be someone that a parent can say, 'Hey, this kid did it the right way.' That's always been my dream and my goal more so than winning a trophy or winning a championship.

"So if it's cynical or whatnot, that's fine. If people don't believe it, that's fine. There's always going to be naysayers, people that are going to say it's fake. But that's fine because you can't control everybody. But I can control what I do, my attitude, how I approach the situation. So how I approach the situation is I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good because that's gonna mean so much more when it's all said and done than just playing football and winning championships."

That's a lot of wisdom and perspective from a 21-year-old football hero. Even though he represents everything we say we want our athletes to be, he understands a segment of society instead will be probing for flaws and looking for proof that public persona is a sham. Sometimes good people make us uncomfortable with ourselves.

It truly would be a shame to submit to cynicism and not fully appreciate the gift of Tebow -- the way he plays football with an unquenchable passion, and the way he approaches life with even greater ardor. If you think he hits linebackers hard on fourth-and-1, that's nothing compared to the way he tackles his higher calling to spread the word. In this one instance, what looks too good to be true really is true.

There are plenty of athletes who talk the pious talk. Plenty of athletes who write scripture on their eye black the way Tebow does or thank God after victories. But how many have walked the walk like Tebow -- walked it into the prisons, into the slums of the Philippines, into the hearts of people in need of a role model? How many, at age 21, have done as much work on behalf of those less fortunate?

"There are people in the public arena who are playing games -- and I'm not talking about football games," said Tebow's father, Bob. "He's not playing games. There's a lot of phony people in the world. He genuinely cares about people. You have to care about people to go to the hospital and visit the sick on your own."

Tebow has quarterbacked Florida to its second BCS National Championship Game in his three years at the school. He nearly won the Heisman for a second straight season. If the Gators beat Oklahoma on Thursday and he comes back for his senior year, he has a chance to become the most decorated college football player of all time.

Yet none of those are the most important statistics or milestones in Tebow's life. These are: 11 prison visits to preach Christianity to inmates; annual trips to the country of his birth, the Philippines, to assist his father's missionary work there; and seven rubber wrist bands on his arms.

Two commemorate injured or deceased former teammates. Two are for little girls afflicted by cancer. One says, "Praystrong," a twist on the Lance Armstrong bracelet slogan. Another, "TPS," which stands for Time, Place, Substance, distributed by a Florida coach. And one says, "Semper Fi," which means "always faithful" and is the motto of the Marine Corps, among other things.

If Tebow wore all the bracelets he receives from fans and well-wishers, they'd cover both forearms to the elbows. If he answered every call to speak, every request for his presence, every plea for his help, he'd have to quit football and probably school, too. For an admitted pleaser like Tebow, it's a challenge to see how far he can stretch himself without snapping.

"I don't think anybody is cut out to handle all this," said his older brother Peter. "But he handles it."

Said Tebow: "It can be tough to say no, especially knowing it can be a very positive thing you're asked to do. But you can't do everything."

It only seems like Tebow can do everything. In fact, Superman in shoulder pads cannot stomach a roller coaster because of motion sickness. He struggles to carry a tune -- although he doesn't mind singing, most often country and Sinatra ("Send in the Clowns" is a strange-but-true favorite). And he tells bad jokes, according to his teammates.

"I try to laugh," offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey said. "But they're not that funny."

What Tebow does exceedingly well is compete and lead -- he follows the heart he wears on his sleeve. Most of us are lucky to know what we want to do by the time we get to college; Tebow found his twin passions -- pigskin and preaching -- about the time he entered grade school.

He was 9 years old when the devoutly Christian Wuerffel led Florida to the 1996 national title, becoming Tebow's role model. He was 15 years old when he stood up and preached in front of 10,000 high school students. After that, he became a Florida high school folk hero and the nation's No. 1 recruit for his work on the gridiron.

The Tebow who became a superstar is not treated as such in the family home outside Jacksonville, Fla. His bedroom was given away over Christmas break to big sister Katie, who came home from missionary work in Bangladesh with her husband and infant daughter. And in the family pickup games, it was bloodthirsty business as usual -- with a few consolations to his need to remain healthy.

In the Christmas Eve football game, for example, they made "Timmy," as the youngest of five kids is known, the all-time quarterback. That did not sit well with Timmy himself, but it kept him out of harm's way.

And it provided Bob his moment of parental glory. After beating Peter for a touchdown pass from Tim, he promptly quit the game -- retiring with bragging rights.

On Christmas Day, the boys played basketball but established a no-fly zone near the basket -- nobody could drive inside of 5 feet.

"Because then it just becomes football," Tim said, Taking it to the rack turns the Tebow boys into 1980s Detroit Pistons Nasty Boys. And hard fouls resulting in rolled ankles or stitches would not exactly tickle Urban Meyer at this point in the season.

"It gets a little physical around our house," Peter said. "We get a little competitive. No matter what we're doing, everyone wants to win."

And that is Tim Tebow's greatest gift on the football field. Not his size, strength, speed and throwing arm. Not his ability to read a defense. It's the insatiable competitive instinct that sometimes transforms him into a man possessed.

There have been times, watching film, when Tebow has thought, "Gosh, I did not realize I was that intense."

He'll bring that intensity to a boil Thursday night in Dolphin Stadium against Oklahoma, in search of a national title. Success would leave him with no more mountains to climb collegiately, but with several more doubters to win over in the National Football League, where they're not sold on his pro potential at quarterback.

"We're not going to let him play linebacker in the NFL," Bob Tebow said in a shot at analysts who think his son should play another position at the next level.

The reassuring thing about Tim Tebow is this: Even if his goal of playing in the NFL is unrealized, it will not define his adult life. There are so many other lives to touch.

"I'll be OK" without the NFL, Tebow said. "Would I be upset? Yeah, absolutely. That's my goal. But it's not going to be like my life is over. There's so many other things that I want to do."

After answering that cynical question this past July in Birmingham, Tebow was thanked by the SEC moderator for his time. Tebow responded, "Thank you. Appreciate it."

Appreciate it, indeed. Appreciate the Tim Tebow experience, Sporting America.

Don't hate. Appreciate.

Have a great week,

Jake Sullivan

Friday, September 18, 2009

Adoption Update

Alright, lots, lots, lots to share on the adoption front. We received an update from our case worker yesterday. Here is a quick excerpt from the beginning of the update that gets to the point:

I spoke with Pastor Gideon this morning and He explained to me that the boys' mother only wants financial support to take care of her boys, rather than placing them for adoption. I'm not sure if this was her understanding all along or if she simply changed her mind when reality hit...

I am SO at peace with this. This actually seemed more like an answer to prayer than anything. I had been praying for this mother from the minute we decided to pursue her boys in adoption....just praying hard that she would make the right decision, whatever that may be. I am feeling so relieved for her and I just have an amazing contentment inside of me right now that these boys were not the ones God has in mind for us.

So, what's next? Well, Jake and I are in firm agreement that we need to just stick to adopting a 'true orphan' who's parents are NOT in the picture....i.e. a child in an orphanage setting or in some sort of living situation in which their parents are not involved. We had previously decided this right after the Solomon situation, but ended up straying from that conviction when we were sent the photos and info of these two boys. It just didn't seem right to look them in the eyes and say no because they were living with their mother. In the end, God worked it out. You might remember that we had word of a 4 year old in an orphanage a few hours outside of Accra. But, we did not know the gender of the child. Here is an update on that:

Pastor Gideon indicated he was given the phone number for the orphanage where the (young) child we discussed earlier resides. When he phoned it didn't go through. He is contacting the Dept of Social Welfare once again to check to see if there is an updated phone number. Pastor Gideon reassured me 'he is on the ground in behalf of this adoption", meaning he is trying to locate the orphanage or other legitimate orphans for you.

So, it seems smart to wait it out, and see if this 4 year old is a boy. My only big question, is that if this 4 year old ends up being a boy, I just wonder how on earth we will be able to get paperwork done for him....since transportation is such an issue. The welfare offices are in Accra, but this child is living quite a distance from there. I just can't quite wrap my mind around how all of that is going to work.

Later on yesterday, we received another update from our case worker with another option. When we worked with the Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage gala this summer, we met a lady that I will call Mrs. B who was also helping with the gala. She's originally from Ghana, but lives in Des Moines now. However, her mother and sister still live in Ghana and they take in orphans from the villages and off the streets to provide for their basic needs and education. Mrs. B's family is ready to start helping our case worker coordinate adoptions as they see this as a great way to help these children have a better opportunity. So, this is very exciting because Mrs. B's family lives in a completely different area of Ghana than we have been concentrating in. They have transportation, and boy do they have connections. This was very positive news, and the point is that Mrs. B's family is now also going to be working on our behalf to seek out a boy in the 2-5 yr age range, who's parents are not in the picture. So, P Gideon, is doing what he can, but at least now we have someone else working on our behalf too. Hearing about Mrs. B's family was such a positive way to end the day yesterday.

I really hope that our adoption journey hasn't turned anyone away from adopting. It's definitely had its twists and turns, and to be honest, I really have been questioning if I should have been sharing all the crazy details on this blog or not. Since we are in a pilot program for Ghana it seems safe to say that I am not sure how typical our adoption experience is.....I can only imagine that some go a little smoother and are not quite as soap-opera-ish as ours has been. You just never know what is coming next!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Jake!

Since it is Jake's birthday today, I thought I would do a little post to share my favorite qualities about him. :)

1) Great Dad (obvious one, right?)
When I met Jake back in our college days, the first thing I ever thought about him was that some day he was going to make a great Dad! Whenever he was around little kids he always acted like they were so special, and he could most times guess their age and find questions to ask them whether they were in 3rd grade or 9th grade. One memory that always stands out is when Jake used to help run the ISU bball camps. At one of the camps this little boy named Danny fell in love with Jake and followed him around everywhere. He signed up for all the camps that Jake was at, wore Jake's #0 jersey everyday and imitated everything that Jake did. I wish I had a way to post some of the cute pictures I have of Danny following Jake around. After a few days of all of this, Jake eventually took Danny under his wing and let him sit or stand right next to him as he demonstrated drills, led stretching, and everything else. As the years went on Danny always waited in the crowd after Jake's games to give him a high five and tell him good game. And, every summer he would sign up to be in Jake's camps. And, he was ALWAYS wearing Jake's #0 jersey. Everytime I saw Jake interacting with this little boy I couldn't help but imagine the future and Jake someday being able to do all this with a son of his own. Six years after we met this little boy, I became pregnant with JJ. Since little Danny wasn't so little anymore, his mom found me at a football game one day. She said she had something that she wanted to give me....and I watched as she dug into her purse and pulled out that little, old, worn, faded #0 jersey that her son faithfully wore for 4 years. She said that she wanted us to have it so that our son could wear it someday. Yes, tears. Lots of tears. This was one of the most memorable gifts that anyone had ever given to us. She said Jake had been such an inspiration and great role model for her son, that it was a joy for her to pass that on to us. And now, my initial predictions about Jake being a wonderful Dad, have come true!
(Click on picture to enlarge)

2) Hard worker

I might as well stick with the college theme for a bit longer. Jake will be the first to tell you that for him to achieve his goal of locking down a Division I basketball scholarship, it had nothing to do with him being athletic. In fact, he will tell you that he was NOT a great athlete at all. But, instead, he will say that it had everything to do with hard work. This guy was what you call a gym rat in basketball lingo. He practiced and practiced and practiced. The way you might study for a big test, is how he practiced to perfect his shooting and dribbling and passing and footwork.....and there was no other option because basketball did not come easy....he had to perfect his skills and study the game to get himself to the level that he wanted to be at. This meant logging in long hours before and after practice and on weekends and on holiday breaks and during the summer. Always creating new workouts, always challenging his body in a new way, always studying other players and watching how they moved or trying to get ideas of how he could better lead his team. Today I can see how this type of work ethic has transferred over into his job. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a job that they LOVE and are completely fulfilled by. But, Jake does. He has a passion for teaching kids, and coaching, and being competitive on the court. He logs in so many hours in his job, but it is worth every minute; he comes home every night excited to tell me the details from practice, or how God is working in the lives of one of his players, or the next exciting rennovation for the facility. He's worked for every inch of his success in all aspects of his life and he is such a great example to me.

3) Gives me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone.
I am sure you know by now that Jake is always thinking of new projects for our family to take part in. I love how when Jake gets a vision or an idea, no matter how big, he has the confidence to try it out. His confidence is so contagious. He asks God for help and guidance, rolls up his sleeves, and jumps in. I love how he leads our family this way, by example. He is not one to sit around and talk about things. He just does it. This is so encouraging to me, especially because I think and analyze and pick apart everything. We perfectly balance each other out in this area. Jake practically lives outside of his comfort zone, always excited to take risks, always prepared to live on faith alone if it comes down to it. He pushes me to go beyond the typical and to think outside of the box.....and this is not an easy feat to go up against little-old-Type-A-personality-me. :)

4) Ice cream lover.
Which is why, for the 5th year in a row, he has asked for a DQ ice cream cake for his birthday cake. :)

Happy Happy Happy Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


One thing that I've discovered in this adoption process is that I have no control in about 95% of it. Maybe even 99%. This causes me to worry. I sit here in my little house in Huxley, Iowa and worry about everything going on millions of miles away in Ghana, Africa. ‘What if’ scenarios are the easiest types of worries that get into my head. What if the child we adopt comes and messes up our family? What if our child has a health condition that was overlooked by the doctors during the medical exam? What if the child hates us? What if JJ hates us for adopting? What if another referral falls through? Of course, these worries get added to the pile of worries that are already in my mind from just being a parent in general. What if JJ gets bullied when he goes to school? What if one of my children gets a severe sickness? What if my family gets hurt in a car accident? What if I lose communication with my kids when they are teenagers? (yes, my worries go that far ahead!)

Linda Dillow says this about worry: Worry has more to do with perspective than with circumstances. In similar situations, one woman can be anxious and another peaceful. A woman worries when she perceives a threat or a danger. I use the word perceive because the danger can be real or imagined. When my child is standing in the middle of the street, and a car is coming, the danger is real; thus anxiety is a good thing, a warning system that will help me save my child from harm. If I worry that my child might take drugs, that my daughter might get pregnant, that my husband might be unfaithful, that I might get breast cancer, that we might be unable to pay our bills next month, the danger is imagined. Certainly we are to pray, plan, and prepare for tomorrow, but we are not to worry about what might happen. God commands us to ‘stop perpetually worrying about even one thing’ (Matthew 6:25-34) We commit sin when we worry. We do not trust God when we worry. Life is full of potential problems and pain. But we have a choice. We can worry or we can trust the Trustworthy One. We can’t do both. God is already in my tomorrows and in your tomorrows. That’s why we can trust them to Him and give Him the heavy load of all that might happen. We can leave the burden on His strong shoulders. He is much more able to carry it than we are. If we aren’t worried about tomorrow, we can concentrate on trusting God for today.

I am learning to release my worries to God through prayer. Sometimes I have to pray about the same worry a few times a day. I'll get rid of it, and then it sneaks back in so I pray about it again. I think there is something to be said about praying about a worry the exact moment it enters your brain. Otherwise, if you let yourself dwell on it, you can think up an entire scenario that gives you a queasy stomach. This quote makes me laugh:

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened.

It is so true!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

those pants; living breathing tomato; starts tonight; little girls and trucks and little boys and babies; crickets; mom's night out; rolls

(Time to get out some randomness)

Did your kids ever become attached to a certain piece of clothing? Well, this is all new to me. JJ recently has found a certain piece of clothing that is his favorite.......
BRIGHT ORANGE & BROWN pajama pants! The minute we get home from going somewhere, the first thing he does is change into these pants. We are used to JJ getting fixated on certain things like his blue blankey, the same old song that must be played each time we are in the car, starbursts at the gym, toaster scramblers every morning for breakfast, and Dora the Explorer every morning from 8-8:30, but I cannot get used to seeing him wear these pants every waking hour - and sleeping hour!

Remember when your mom used to say, 'if you eat one more (insert something) you are going to turn into one!' Well, I am about to turn into a fresh garden tomato, JJ is a macaroni & cheese noodle, Jayla is starting to look more and more like a cheez-it, and I swear I woke up next to a 44 oz diet pepsi this morning. What are you about to turn into?

My favorite tv show starts back up again tonight:

I studied Exercise Sport Science in college and I must say, I am a wanna-be Jillian! That girl knows her stuff! My favorite part about the show is that the trainers emphasize the emotional connection we have with food. One of the first things the trainers do other than execute work-outs and revamp eating habits, is to somewhat become psychologists. By about show 4 the trainers have gotten to the bottom of almost every contestant's emotional reasons as to why they are in the physical shape that they are in. This show does such a good job of showing the correlations between our feelings, emotions, life experiences and our physical bodies. You know where you will find me on Tuesday nights at 7pm!

Have I mentioned that kids are funny? Like Jayla who loves to play with JJ's monster truck....

And JJ who likes to play with his 'baby'...

He feeds baby, dresses baby, and puts baby down for naps! I love 3 year olds.

Crickets drive me crazy. The chirping, the hopping, the creepy whiskers or eyebrows or whatever those things are. Last week there was a cricket in our entertainment center and I could not find it anywhere. First I heard the chirping over here, then over there, then in the front, then in the back. Finally I got so annoyed that I unloaded the entire entertainment center and stuck our big fat cat in it so he could find it. Kudos to Vegas. He did his job and the cricket was found and squished. I could do without crickets.

The other night at my dearly treasured - much anticipated - what will I wear - who is coming - pick us up in the mini-van - blast the Jon Mayer - margaritas and lettuce wraps - vaccination talking - did you hear what my kid did chattin - picture takin - Daddy is babysitting - MOM'S NIGHT OUT, we played a fun game. The game was to go around the table and share something that everyone else might not know about us. I thought of 2 things: 1) I was salutatorian of my graduating class (okay, okay it was only a class of 49 but I bet you didn't know that about me!) and 2) I've dissected a human cadaver. I know you didn't know that! Dare to play?

You've waited this long for the end of my randomness, and now it is here! My mom sent me the below pictures the other day....that is me as a toddler on the left, and Miss Jayla on the right.
Now you know where Jayla has gotten her rolls from!

Monday, September 14, 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 Kingdom Hoops program. Here it is for this week:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Yesterday I told many of our young players that the quickest way to gain confidence in any area of life is to come to the realization that one can overcome their failures and/or shortcomings. Once an individual has been pushed out of their comfort zone to a point of failure and then is allowed to overcome that failure through hard work and perseverance a sense of self-confidence will develop both on the basketball court and as leaders. I wanted to share a book excerpt that illustrates this point:

Excerpt: Coaching Your Kids To Be Leaders
By: Pat Willams, GM of the Orlando Magic

The essence of leadership is confidence. When a leader exudes boldness and confidence, the confidence of the entire team or organization soars. So our job as parents is to raise confident children. We must raise them to believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds on.

Mike Gannaway, chairman and CEO of Pillowtex, Inc. agreed: “Self-confidence is the first critical area of leadership. Confidence is contagious. If a leader is confident, it lifts the spirits and abilities of the entire organization or team. I’m grateful my parents first gave me the room to gain confidence in myself. The confidence I learned in the home became a foundation that other mentors in my life- my teachers, my first employer- could build on. Adults should encourage young people to gain confidence in themselves and to value the skills they have to do certain things well.”

Many times, we parents think we are being involved when we are actually being intrusive – and our intrusiveness gets in the way of building our kids’ confidence. Larry McCarthy, associate professor at the Stillman School of Business Management at Seton Hall University, said, “Parents can build confidence in young people by giving them responsibility – then letting them rise or fall on their own. Too many times I have seen parents get involved in their children’s activities to a point where they are not really needed or wanted. They are smothering and stifling their kids. Go away, Mom and Dad! Kids learn confidence by doing it themselves. I was born in Cork, Ireland, and I came from a culture and an era where parents allowed the volunteer scoutmaster to run the Boy Scouts; they allowed the volunteer coaches to run the basketball club or the rugby team. I am amazed by the involvement of American parents in everything their kids do. While it’s good that parents take an interest in their kids’ activities, I actually find it quite appalling and off-putting to have so many parents around everything their kids do, often intruding and taking over and preventing kids from developing their own skills and self-confidence. One of the best things parents can do to build their children’s confidence is to cut the apron strings and let kids sink or swim on their own."

Most kids have a great deal of inertia. In physics, inertia is defined as “the tendency of an object to remain at rest.” Objects – whether bricks or young people – tend to remain pretty much as they are unless an outside force acts on them. Our job as parents is to be the outside force that overcomes our kids’ inertia.

No great deeds were ever achieved inside a comfort zone. So as parents, we need to prod, encourage, nag, and shove our kids out of their comfort zones. We have to help them overcome their inertia so that they will gain the confidence and the spirit of adventure that all true leaders have.

Something to think about,
Jake Sullivan

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Answers to Adoption Questions

Since Jake posted his Thought for the Week from Tuesday, I’ve had a handful of people share that they too were wondering about those questions that Jake’s Dad had asked us. So, I thought it was time to do another Adoption FAQ’s post. Here are some new adoption related questions that Jake or I have been asked lately, along with my answers:

What happens if you adopt these two young boys from Africa and they resent you for removing them from their country?

Because the two boys that we are adopting are older in age, this IS most likely going to happen. For a quick reality check, I always think back to when our pastor and his wife adopted their two sons from Ethiopia. One of the first things that happened during their first meeting was that the eldest of the two (who was around 5 years of age) spit at them and screamed in his own language that he did not want a white mommy and a white daddy. Sometime later once they arrived back in Iowa with the boys, the eldest child woke up in the middle of the night one night having a night terror. He ran into the kitchen in an extreme panic. As his new dad (our pastor) tried to calm him down he screamed in his newly learned English, “I NO LIKE YOU!” And he screamed it over. And over. And over. What I am saying from these examples, is that we don’t just think this is going to happen, we expect it to. I would be surprised if it doesn’t. Not only will we be removing these children from their mother, their only caretaker and constant in their lives, but we are removing them completely from their culture, traditions, country, and language. We must be empathetic and sensitive to this from the beginning. Which, that is the great thing about adoption training books…because from chapter 1 these types of realities are shared. In our training we learned that adopted children go through a period of grieving for their losses (of caretakers, country, family, friends, and familiarity). Just as you or I would grieve the loss of a loved one who has passed away, adoptive children also grieve all that they have lost. And, we all grieve in different ways and in different time tables. This is also why adoption training books devote more than one chapter to bonding and attachment. These sections give purposeful strategies for creating connection with your adoptive children once they are home. This is a serious topic within adoption and should not be overlooked. Eventually I believe that our children will understand the ‘big picture’ of why they were removed from their country, but this will certainly take some time, possibly even years.

What happens if you adopt these two young boys and it ruins what you have right now for your family?

To be brutally honest, this is one of my biggest fears. With adoption there are no guarantees, and this could potentially happen. But, the way I see it, I have two options of what I can do with this fear. My first option would be to let this fear paralyze me to the point where it becomes a cop-out or an excuse to take no action. I could sit peacefully in a bubble of safe Christianity, not live out my faith, and not be obedient to God’s clear call for our family to adopt. It sure would be nice and cozy in my comfort zone. Or option 2: I could choose to give this fear to God, and trust that he has led us to adopt, and he will see us through. If you look back through all my adoption posts, you will see that option 2 is not easy. It’s a constant struggle, a constant learning process, a constant refinement of my character and imperfections. Lots of times this journey has been discouraging, sad, and most definitely the most unpredictable thing I have ever been a part of in my life. But, it’s all part of the process, and it’s all part of choosing option 2. A friend said the other day that choosing adoption is not for the faint of heart. I feel this way too. But, I would rather choose option 2, than sit around with option 1 and wonder what God could have done with my life had I only had enough faith to jump in. I’ve shared the following poem before, but I want to share it again. This poem gets me pumped up, and is always a good kick in the rear whenever I think I should have stuck with option 1:

Common Cold of the Soul
By: Gregg Levoy

To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed
Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed
Until weeks become months
And months turn into years,
And one day you're looking back on a life of
Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered
Lives you never touched,
And you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,
And forgotten dreams,
And you realize there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself-
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling,
You never got out of the boat!

Do you think everyone is supposed to adopt?

No. But, God tells his followers this:

-Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

-There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

-If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)

The way you live out these verses might look different in your life than in mine. Maybe you donate fees for an orphan in China to have life-saving surgery, maybe you serve at your local homeless shelter, maybe you are a foster care family, maybe you are a mentor for a child who has no role models, maybe at Christmas time you forgo presents for a year and instead use the money to purchase a goat for a family living in a hut in Asia. I don’t know what God is calling you to do. I don’t know what God has put on your heart. I just know what he has put on mine. If you feel that God has been leading you to consider adoption, pray that God would make it clear. I believe He will.

If you are reading this and have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below. I would be glad to take a stab at answering them in a future post. Also, I previously did one of these FAQ posts with different questions a loooooonnnngggggg time ago! (To read those questions and my answers, click here: )

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adoption Update

From our case worker last Friday:

I spoke with Pastor Gideon this morning. He has been ill this week but will see the boys' mother at church on Sunday. Once it is confirmed she is moving forward, they will plan to visit the Dept of Social Welfare to begin the paperwork. I will phone him Monday to see how the discussion went on Sunday.

From our case worker on Tuesday:

I spoke with P Gideon this morning. He had the opportunity to speak with the boys' mother on Sunday and she does wish to move forward. He also noted he will see her today and will deliver the letter you wrote. He is working to arrange the appointment with the proper authorities at the Dept of Social Welfare.

This all sounds very positive. However, until the meeting with the Dir of Social Welfare has spoken with the mother I would like us to remain somewhat reserved, i.e. 'guard your hearts'--just a bit.

So, that's where we are at. If you think of it, please pray for the mother of these two boys.....that she would have peace with her decision, and that God would give her the strength to move forward if this is the right decision for her family. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

ISU Game & MN Trip

Alright, I need to do a little catching up from the big weekend break!
Last week we went to the first ISU game of the season. It was perfect weather, and you better believe we got all dressed up to show off our team spirit....
Seriously, could my little Cyclones get any cuter?
I must admit that I have dreamed for 9 years now about someday dressing up my little girl in an ISU cheerleading outfit. When I used to go to the games in college I always thought these little outfits were so cute.....
And, cute she was! Grass stains and all! :) Okay, I have to divulge Part 1 of our family secret now.........JJ LOVES football!!!! Whenever you ask him his favorite sport, or what he wants to play when he grows up, he always answers football. He was so very excited for this game, all day week long. Doesn't this smile just say it all?!

Jayla's dream came true when she got to have a bag of popcorn all to herself.
We had a great time at the game!
Next up was our annual Labor Day weekend trip to Minnesota to visit Grandpa & Grandma Sullivan!

We also got to see Uncle Nick, Aunt Crystal, and cousin Dakota.

We made our usual trip to the MN state fair.

Checking out the chickens with Uncle Nick and Grandma.

Jayla mooed and barked at the ducks, goats, and roosters! All JJ talked about all morning long was finding a tractor to sit on. We had no idea where he came up with thinking this, but luckily we did find some tractor-ish vehicles on display!

We also got to meet up with the lovely Backyardigans.

And, throughout the afternoon Jayla shared her opinions about being in the stroller.

It's a good thing Nana Yaw was there to give her some attention and hold her hand.
Isn't that the sweetest picture ever?!?!?! She kept reaching her little arm out of the stroller to get him to hold her hand.

In fact, all weekend Jayla became very fond of Nana Yaw! Whenever he was sitting with us she would climb all over him like a jungle gym, and then stop every once in awhile to snuggle...

On the last day of our time in Minnesota we took a shopping trip to the Mall of America! We finally had our chance to make Daddy ride all the dizzy rides with JJ!

Usually Grandma or Mommy have to be the ones getting sick at the amusement park! Grandpa & Grandma Sullivan LOVE to shop, and they bought us lots of cool stuff. Now, Part 2 of our family secret. Lately, when we ask JJ what team he wants to play football for, he says....the Hawkeyes (said in an EXTREME whisper!). Yes, I know some of my Hawkeye blogging friends are grinning ear to ear right now. We have a hunch that JJ learned about the Hawkeyes from hanging out with Coach Clark this summer....because the rest of us surely do NOT mention the black & gold. Well, Grandpa Sullivan thought this was all quite funny, and when JJ picked out a Hawkeye key chain at one of the stores, Grandpa couldn't wait to buy it for him!
I would like to add that Mommy & Daddy were not in the store with JJ when he picked this out!!!!!!!!! Yes, we've got some work to do on our Little Cyclone. Especially since ISU plays Iowa this weekend! I think that key chain might magically get lost sometime this week. :)
GOOOOOOO CYCLONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And, thanks G & G Sullivan for a great trip!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each week I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents in his Kingdom Hoops program. Here it is for this week:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote:
'The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.' Faith is a seed of infinite potential. Faith holds all possibilities within it. Yet, what does faith mean in our modern age of reason? Faith seems not quite natural to the modern mind. Mind is rational while faith is irrational. Mind is logical; faith illogical. In our modern culture, we have become more dedicated to doubt than to unbridled possibility. We are more committed to the calculations of the rational mind, than to the holistic wisdom of spirit. We have zeroed in on a partial reality, without taking into account the larger picture right in front of us waiting to be discovered.

This past weekend my family made our annual trip to Minnesota to spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa Sullivan and of course to see Uncle Nick. It was a weekend of great fun!! On Friday we hung out as a family catching up on everything you just can’t catch up on via email or over the phone. On Saturday we had our annual labor day trip to the Minnesota State Fair, and Sunday brought a journey to the Mall of America with great anticipation of Grandma and Grandpa Sullivan spoiling us all - even at the age of 27 years old. :)

As we finished shopping on Sunday afternoon and piled back into the car to head back to the house for dinner I began preparing myself for the questions my Dad would have for me when we got home. You might be wondering just what these 'questions' are all about. Well, every visit home my Dad - who has worked in Law Enforcement for over 30 years, has been the Police Chief in Oakdale, Minnesota for the past 22 years, and has a PHD in Business Law - challenges me with questions surrounding my career, family, and any of the other crazy things I may be up to. Ever since I was a young boy I never followed the beat to the same drummer as everyone else and my Dad realized this very early on. So, while I would be making life altering decisions that quite often seemed out of this world it was accompanied by a couple hundred questions to make sure I was thinking through everything clearly.

Some of you may be thinking my Dad is crazy.....and you are right! But I love this part of my trip home more than any other part as it forces me to be able to clearly communicate my vision and sharpens my focus on the details. Most of the time when I am released from the stand I am left pondering many valuable points of view and it allows me to be more successful when I return back to my real life in Iowa.

I am always well prepared for these question and answer sessions. Over the years I have come to understand what my Dad is going to ask and thus have a great response waiting on the tip of my tongue. I also understand that no matter what my answer is he is going to play on the opposite team and ask even harder questions that I may not have thought through.
So, I figured as we all headed out to the deck waiting on the pizza to arrive Sunday evening that I would be able to answer all of his questions with clarity because there was no stone unturned in my eyes.

However, this night things were a little different. Of course I had great answers with questions regarding Kingdom Hoops on a general business side, I had all the answers about 'why Africa?', and had every detail in precise order. That was until my Dad asked me the following questions: What happens if A, B, and C don’t all happen for Kingdom Hoops - how will you feed your family? What happens if you adopt these two young boys from Africa and they resent you for removing them from their country? What happens if you adopt these two young boys and it ruins what you have right now for your family? Why would people trust you with their money in Africa when people before you have not been able to accomplish what you are setting out to accomplish? What if because of corruption in the country that you make this happen and then the government just comes and takes it? What if it all fails?

Pretty good questions huh? He always makes me think through things! However, this time none of those questions could be answered with any logical answer. The only answer was I able to formulate was that in those situations I had to rely on my faith in God. I knew without a doubt that God had led me down these new paths and I was sure His purpose would be fulfilled. What was crazy about this answer was that to my Dad, who is a great thinker, this response may not be a logical answer or something to risk everything upon.

Usually after I give my answers during our Q & A sessions I get a look back from my Dad like I am slightly out of my mind. But this time whenever I gave the faith response my Dad would simply move on to the next question. As the pizza arrived and we went on to other conversations I wondered how I could explain the answers to his questions with more insight and evidence and prove that his suggested scenarios would not happen. Or was the faith answer my best option? Then I began to ponder 'what really is faith? What does it really mean? How do you know if you have faith? Is faith a good enough answer? Does real faith mean that I should never doubt? What do others think when they hear the word faith?!

So, I did what all small minds would do and I went to my favorite search engine Google and typed in capital letters WHAT IS FAITH?

The first item that caught my attention was an article that cited the following verse:

James 2: 18-19 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

I guess faith is certainly not what we say but what we do. Do we see the impossible and reach for it? Or does our doubt smother the things we could do if only we had a certain belief that God's hand was on our lives?

Does this mean we will understand everything? No, we will never understand everything. Faith means trusting in God even though we do not always understand and acting upon that trust in order to accomplish His purpose for our lives.

As I was making the three hour drive home I was again pondering my discussion with my Dad. As I thought through my answers and whether or not they made sense to him I started to think about those 7 or 8 times when I said, 'I don’t know, but I have faith that God has led me in this direction'.

But, then I began to think about all those times I doubted. All those days of doubt prior to the first official tryout for Kingdom Hoops. Who would come? Why did the split between myself and Dickson have to occur? Am I sure this was the right thing to do? Are we really able to accomplish these goals we have in Africa? Can my wife and I really afford the adoption? When is the adoption process that we have been in for over a year going to come to an end? Why, Why, When, When, Doubt, Doubt, Doubt!So, I went back to my good friend Google and typed in Doubt + Faith. To my astonishment Matthew 28 popped up on my many options to click on.

Matthew 28: 16-17 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

If we look at that passage just real quick the disciples were standing on top of a mountain with Jesus after the resurrection and yet they doubted. So, does doubt change the sincerity of our faith? Absolutely not as even in the presence of Jesus the disciples doubted, but what separates the sincerity of our faith is whether we allow doubt to defeat our faith. Doubt is natural as we are all human just like the disciples, but it is when we can look past that doubt and see just what is possible through the faith we have been given.

Faith is not an intelligence contest. The faith that saves does not come from philosophical arguments that answer every doubt. Faith comes from God. If we rely on having answers to every question, we are not relying on God.

“So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.... We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7)

As we walk through this life, we trust in our great, caring Shepherd to lead us safely. At times the path may wind through green pastures and beside still waters. At other times it may traverse the valley of the shadow of death. No matter the path we are taken on, we can have great comfort in the faith that God has given those whose hearts have been ready and eyes are open to see the impossible....and reach for it.

Jake Sullivan

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Adventures of a City Boy

How many tools does it take to save a mouse from the window well?

When you were raised in the city, it takes at least this many:

Daddy had a few tricks up his sleeve to save the mouse.

Like the sand toy container and sand rake method.

And the snow shovel method.

But, it was hard to complete a mouse saving mission when every time the mouse scurried around Daddy did a little dance and missed the mouse. JJ thought the mouse saving mission might end poorly.

I mean, look what happened to the last guy!

And again I many tools does it take to save a mouse from the window well?
Well, for a mommy it takes a sandcastle shovel, and a sandcastle bucket.

And it takes a mommy 2 seconds to scoop up the mouse and get him in the bucket.

Yes, this job is not for the faint of heart.

Jayla was proud of her mommy's catch.

JJ opted out of taking a peek. And, Daddy got to do the fun part, and released the mouse in our neighbors field.
Sorry neighbor, we couldn't bring ourselves to bop him on the head....he's all yours! :)