Monday, August 31, 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:

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

As we begin this new season there will be so many lessons to be learned. Not just lessons on the basketball court, but lessons that will stay with your child for a lifetime. Your sons and daughters will learn how to shoot the basketball, will increase their basketball IQ’s, will go back to their communities and probably become the best players in their schools; but the most important skills this upcoming season will not be the ones that translate into success on the basketball court. Rather it will be the skills that will help them become successful off the basketball court because of the guidance you provide them.

LESSONS FROM MY DAD-
Lesson One:
As I was getting involved in athletics as a 9 year old I quickly found out that I did not like to lose, I did not like to strike out, I did not like to miss a shot, and I did not like when a teammate screwed up. For the most part I did not like when things did not go my way. I suffered from something called lack of self-control. This was something I struggled with while growing up especially as I began to play at a higher level. It all came to a fold one day when I was 12 years old and completely lost my composure in a traveling basketball game against a team in Minnesota called the Osseo Orioles. We lost the game by 30 and I was sure that night my life was going to end. Not because we lost the game, but because my Dad was the coach and I had to get into the car and ride all the way home with him. I thought I might be better off hitchhiking home but I never had time to even make that an option. Let’s just say the ride home was not real fun or exciting; especially as my brother sat in the back of the minivan being highly entertained by the speech I was being given with my life dangling in the balance. I went to bed with large tears in my eyes and I was sure I was never going to be a good basketball player. The next morning when I woke up and headed down for breakfast I found a poem by Rudyard Kipling called “If” sitting on my spot at the table. My Dad had highlighted the first sentence of the poem which started this way; “If you can keep your head when all others about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you will be a man my son.” I had this poem on my bedroom door for the next 7 years until I graduated high school. Of course I still had a few more long rides home over those next 7 years, but that simple lesson has helped to carry me over these past couple of months as the split with the All Iowa Attack occurred and things were being done and said that did not always seem fair.

Lesson Two: I was 17 years old and it was my final year of AAU Basketball. I had decided to stop playing with Minnesota Select where I was clearly the best top player, and went to play for Howard Pulley where I was just one of the guys amongst the best players in the state of Minnesota. It was April 1999 and we had just arrived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the Nike Boo Williams Invitational. Our team flight landed at 1pm in the afternoon on that Friday and we were scheduled to play The Family out of Detroit at 9pm that night. The Family had players like Ricky Paulding and Arthur Johnson who played at Missouri, Maurice Seawright who played basketball and football at Michigan and the list goes on and on. That night we showed up at the gym and I had all the butterflies that occur when you are in a new situation. As we finished warming up and came to the huddle the coach announced the starting line-up and for the first time in my career I was not in the starting line-up. As the game went on I was substituted in about 6-7 minutes into the game and played about 6 minutes in the first half and then only about 5 minutes in the second half. We lost by 7 and I finished with just 9 points.

As we arrived back at the Best Western in Virginia Beach I immediately went into the bathroom with my cell phone and I can still remember laying on that cold green tile floor. As I dialed the phone home my Dad picked up and could tell something was wrong. I told him the story and he said the following, “You can’t change the coach’s decisions, but you can be ready for your opportunity and when your opportunity comes you can’t give him any other choice but to play you.” The next night we were playing Boo Williams which featured Jason Williams who went on to become an All-American at Duke. Jibrahn Ike who was the shooting guard starting ahead of me got into early foul trouble that game and I had my opportunity. That night I finished with 37 points and we lost in overtime at the buzzer as Williams hit a shot from half court to win the game. However, that was the last game that summer I did not start!

When I arrived at Iowa State for my Freshman year there was a Sophomore named Brandon Hawkins who was ahead of me on the depth chart. As the season began he was named the starter ahead of me and again I found myself in that same position as I was just in a year and half earlier. However, this time I could hear my Dad’s words over and over in my head.

Well, my opportunity came about one two months into the season when Brandon Hawkins decided to transfer and his starting spot was now open for competition. My opportunity was there again and as it was before I started every game for the rest of my Cyclone career.

Now as Kingdom Hoops kicks off its inaugural season another opportunity is available and the question still remains like my Dad said many years ago 'Will I be ready to make the most of it?'

LESSON FROM MY MOM-
"HOW CAN YOU EVER MISS A FREE THROW? NO ONE IS EVEN GUARDING YOU." :) I shot 89.6 percent for my Cyclone career because the 10.4 percent of the free throws I missed I could hear my mom in the midst of Hilton Magic yelling “MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS!”

The lessons are numerous that can be learned through a game such as basketball. Even though the lessons will not always be easy it is important to know as parents the lessons you will teach your child throughout the season will stay on their hearts and minds always as it has with me!

Jake Sullivan

Friday, August 28, 2009

Heart Smiles

Since becoming a mom a few years ago, I've noticed that I get choked up and teary-eyed so easily over little, yet sweet things. Call me sentimental, call me emotional, call me hormonal, call me a softy. Who knows exactly what it is, but I catch my heart smiling....


When I see a pile of little boy and little girl shoes next to the back door.

When I get to create the long-awaited pig tail!



When JJ says "You want to come play with me, Mom?"



When the other day JJ stared at Jayla and I on the couch after naps....then he announced that he wanted to take our picture. He smiled a big smile, ran and got the camera out of the drawer and asked me to help him turn it on. "Say CHEEZ, Mommy and Bah!"


When I see this proud smile....


When Jake playfully wrestles with me and Jayla cries out and 'yells' at Jake in my defense.



When JJ plays dress up in Jake's clothes.


And, when I get to witness completely unplanned, spur of the moment brotherly squeeze hugs.

Ahhhhh, definite heart smile!!!!!



!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Set Your Course

Ephesians 5:15-17, PH
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the evils of these days. Don't be vague but grasp firmly what you know to be the will of the Lord.

As followers of God, we should walk through our life with a clear purpose. We should think through the person we want to be, think about where we are in life and where we are headed, and pray about it. We are to live with direction, vision, and focus, not losing sight of the bigger picture. Linda Dillow quotes in her book Calm My Anxious Heart that if we haven't chosen what we are living for, then we are living by default, acting out the scripts handed to us by family, other people's agendas, and the pressure of circumstances.

A few years ago in a bible study I was asked to think through a purpose statement for my life that defined what I believed and what I wanted to embody. It could be in the form of a prayer, centered around verses, or simple, clear thoughts of purpose. I wrote out my life purpose statement back in 2005 and I still keep it in the back of my Bible and think about it often.

Here are some cool samples from parts of life purpose statements that I have read that were written by others:

'I want to live faithfully, believing God for what I cannot see. I want to believe that God can do in my children's lives what I cannot do.'

'I want to influence generations.'

'Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. Resolved , never to do anything I should despise or think meanly of in another.'

'I want to pursue contentment, wisdom, and godliness.'

Here is an excerpt of my own life purpose statement that I wrote:

I want to be a lover of people. I want to know what self-sacrificial love feels and looks like. I want to invest my time and energy into others lives so that they might feel the love of God. I want to stretch myself and my time thin, for the sake of the gospel. I want to love unbelievers, new believers, and old believers.

It was a changing experience for me to think through my life and my purpose, and what character traits I wanted to embody someday. When I took the time to think it out and write it down I realized what was important to me. After doing this I felt like I should have no room for regrets in my life, because I was thinking ahead of time what I wanted to do and be. I wouldn't have to look back someday and kick myself for the opportunities I missed. It gave me a vision, something to strive for and pray about. None of this is to say that I can in any way 'work' my way into God's favor by doing this or that. But to say that after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I knew that God had a specific purpose for my life....He has me here on earth for a reason. And, thinking through it should be important. Looking back on this part of my purpose statement I can see many circumstances that God has given me to put my words into practice. The challenge now becomes for me to choose to do it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

It's baaaa-cccckkkk! Jake's Kingdom Hoops program swings back into gear next week, so his weekly newsletter has once again started up. I will be posting Jake's ever-so-popular 'thought for the week' each Monday (this week is a little different as it came out mid-week). Jake's tftw and program announcements get sent out each week to all the parents of the players in his Kingdom Hoops program. Here it is for this week:

Be very careful, then, how you live, not as the unwise but as the wise; making the most of every opportunity. -Ephesians 5: 15-16-

As we head into a new year it always excites me because each new year brings new opportunities, and new opportunities bring new goals, and new goals bring new accomplishments.

We have experienced a lot of change over this past month, but the one thing I can always take great comfort in is knowing that God usually allows change in order for his greater purpose to be accomplished. As we have talked as a staff over these past couple of weeks we have agreed that we will direct Kingdom Hoops in God’s way, and if we stay focused on this simple principle things will work out for the best. We are confident that God will create a platform for Kingdom Hoops to be known not just as a great basketball program, but a program with players, parents, and coaches that strive for excellence because that is God’s way. As a program we will recognize our talents and use them to create a platform in which God can use to impact lives that will go way beyond the basketball court.

Throughout life we all seek out new opportunities. We wait with patience for these opportunities to show their face and when they do we either choose to jump towards them with an unconditional faith ,or we choose to doubt if this opportunity is for real and miss it as it goes by. When we take hold of an opportunity we can be sure that the path will not always be an easy one. The path will be filled with ups and downs, obstacles and mountains to climb, but in the end it will be easy to see that the opportunities that show up in our path are usually opportunities God has created - if we will only take that first step of faith.

Give more than you are asked and you will receive more than you can dream,

Jake Sullivan

-I also wanted to note that Jake's new website is up and running! Visit www.kingdomhoops.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lotsa Pictures




We're still swimmin!








Jayla & Jerzey (apparently they were hungry).


Hey mom, no, I didn't see who threw the crayons on the floor.


Splash pad stud.


You got a problem with my rolls?


Someone is very proud of his completed puzzles.


Jayla says, "What's that?"


Sometimes it's fun to holler!


Daddy & JJ wait in line for the big slide at Cyclone Fan-fest.



A long climb up....


And a quick ride down!


Jayla was NOT happy that she could not jump in the inflatables!


So, she decided to cut in line to meet Cy....again, and again, and again she tried.


Daddy explains to Jayla that she has to wait in line to meet Cy.

After Jayla's numerous attempts to get her hands on Cy, we finally decided to wait in the very, very, very loooooonnnnggg line to get our photo with him. Of course, about 25 minutes after waiting when we were only about 5 people away, Cy decided to take a break and left the facility. Or so we thought. We got fed up and left, only to find Cy out in the parking lot.


Of course, Jayla was 'all done' by this time and gave Cy a piece of her mind. Wondering where JJ is? He's hiding behind the car. He was afraid of Cy and wouldn't go near him.


At my mom's house the other day JJ picked a fresh garden tomato and ate it like an apple! Thatta boy! We have an ongoing joke in our family because Jake hates tomatoes and it grosses him out that we just slice 'em and eat 'em. Poor city boy Jake won't even try a REAL tomato.






And now, for the finale, you just have to watch this video (turn up the sound):


video

Monday, August 24, 2009

Night Under the African Stars Gala

The Night Under the African Stars Gala was held this past weekend! Earlier this summer Jake and I were referred by our social worker for our adoption to become involved with this event and to help with the planning. Specifically our job was to secure auction items for the gala. The purpose of the gala was to act as a fundraiser to help raise money for the Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage in Benin City, Nigeria. I've done a few earlier posts about the COH Orphanage, its Iowa connection, and the efforts of the founders to expand the orphanage which would allow many more waiting, orphaned children to live there. Jake and I learned so much in helping to plan this gala. It was a blessing and inspiration to see how the founders are putting forth so much effort to make their orphanage a success.

Set up for the event began on Friday....








To create the stars, an architectural lighting guy offered his services and projected the stars on the ceiling through cut out stensils and special lights. They turned out perfect.


Set up is finished and looking beautiful...let the night begin!


Jake and I were both assigned jobs for the evening of the gala. Jake's job was to pick up the volunteer ISU students from campus and transport them to the gala. The student volunteers were all from different countries throughout Africa and were asked to wear their traditonal African attire. Nana Yaw helped as well. Here is Jake explaining to them what their jobs would be for the night.

By the way, Jake is wearing his African shirt that Esi (Nana Yaw's mom) gave him. :) The main job of Jake and the ISU students was to serve the food and drinks to all the guests. Jake enjoyed getting back into the fast-paced groove of restaurant work like he did in the old college days.

Jake was the go-to guy between the cooks and the servers.

Nana Yaw serves up some food.

At the beginning of the night my job was to SMILE and check in the guests as they arrived.
:)
My next job came after the silent auction. Us check-er-in-ers moved into auction check-out mode and got everything set up for the guests who won the item bids to pay up. It was pretty nifty how it all worked....there was a system to call in credit card payments over the phone and it went smoothly. We had some GREAT auction items for the event! A few of them were: one week stay in ocean view suite in Maui, Hawaii, 10 week Farrell's extreme body shaping course, hot air balloon ride, hire a handy man for a day, wine tour for 10, massage/manicure/facial/haircut package at a salon, tennis lessons, U of Iowa & UNI football tickets, etc. etc. There were also lots of items direct from Nigeria and Ghana like artwork, jewelry and clothing.

Other than the silent auction there was also a live auction and amongst other things, many guests made monetary donations to support a child in the orphange for one year (which takes $720...this covers food, clothing, and education).
Numerous musical acts peformed throughout the evening...
Jannay Towne and Dan Winters from News Channel 13 were the m.c.'s for the evening...

I snapped a picture of the founders of the orphanage, Eric & Emily Idehen. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about these two. They are so approachable, loving, and passionate about their cause. You can just see it in their eyes when you talk to them. They are willing to answer any and every question about the orphanage.

We had a fun night!

Eric & Emily have created a google video of the orphanage and their cause. To see it and learn more about the Cornerstone of Hope Orphange, click on the following link:

Friday, August 21, 2009

3 Cool Things

Cool thing #1: We got in touch with the family that we saw at the airport last weekend! Once I found out that our social worker had also worked this family's case (which was crazy how that happened in itself) I asked our social worker to send them our email address. And, they emailed back that same day! Jake was so excited because he actually had been kicking himself that he didn't try and get their contact info at the airport....of course he had basketball on his mind and wanted the oldest boy they had adopted to come and play in his program. :) After getting in touch with them Jake wasted no time and invited them to meet us at the gym yesterday to get a tour, and talk adoptions and talk basketball! It turns out Christopher (the oldest) LOVES soccer, but they think once he sees the social aspect of Jake's program and realizes how he can meet new friends then he will like bball too. It was funny because Christopher took a few shots with the basketball and then tossed it on the ground and used it as a soccer ball, doing a bunch of soccer footwork with it for the rest of the time. :)

Anyways, we chatted at the gym for over an hour while the kids ran around. I had so many questions for them! To condense a 30 minute adoption story into a few sentences, they had started their adoption in Zambia. Through this program they had picked out children 3 different times and each time the adoption fell through. Yes, it fell through 3 times! Eventually they ended their time with the Zambia program and were led to adopt from Haiti. They said they had their paperwork turned in and done for the 2 youngest children in 2007. And it took over 2 years until they were able to bring them home. They were able to visit the children 4 different times in Haiti as the paperwork and legal process worked itself through. Eventually they also heard the story of Christopher and God put it on their heart to adopt him too. This is the abbreviated version of all of it, but it was amazing to hear all the little God-stories within the details of them waiting for the process to complete. Talk about perseverance.

My favorite part of our time with them yesterday was watching how they were able to communicate with the children, although the children did not speak English. They had such a connection with these children already, and they said much of that was due to being able to visit them so many times over the past couple of years. It's going to be so much fun getting to know this family as time goes on. I guess you never know just who you will run into at the airport!!!!


Okay, cool thing #2: A lap top has been found for Pastor Gideon! A fellow blogger read about the need on my post, then posted it on her blog, and within a few hours we had someone ready to donate! The best part is that there is a family headed to Ghana this weekend to finish their adoption, so they will be able to take the lap top with them and pass it on to Pastor Gideon. God answered this specific prayer, and I LOVE IT!

Cool thing #3 is this HUGE rainbow that appeared over our house last night after the rain:


It was so big that I had to take two pictures of it to see it end to end.


Need I say more?!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Challenge

A few semesters ago while studying the book of Proverbs in my women's bible study group, our teacher set forth a challenge to us. The challenge was to be a mom whose children could one day say: "My mother never spoke a harsh word to me."

Over the past 1 1/2 years since this challenge was posed it has always stuck with me - I think because it is such a struggle for me to carry it out. When I first heard the challenge I was quite taken aback. I thought, how can I discipline my children without taking up a forceful tone, and showing them through my voice that I am upset with them? In fact, I thought, if I don't raise my voice, how will they know I am angry with what they have done? But, I soon learned that the challenge wasn't to imply that I should avoid rebuking my children. God demands me to discipline "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). The challenge was to show me the importance of monitoring the manner in which I rebuke. It wasn't implying that I should be a push over. God demands me to teach and instruct as a mother "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). The challenge was to remind me that as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend, I have the power in my words and in my tone to either kill and destroy, or to lift up and encourage. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18). Speaking angry words and yelling are weapons that leave victims with sad, sullen, guilty, and ashamed faces. And harsh words are often remembered long after the offense or situation, sometimes even years later. Over the past year I've been learning that there is a way to instruct, discipline, and guide my children with a controlled tone that still gets the point across. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

I love this challenge, because it is still just that, a challenge. I haven't quite got a full grasp on it yet. But, in general I was thankful to learn the wisdom in these Proverbs early on in my parenting, so that I can work at it and ask God to help me to put it into action. If I hadn't ever read these Proverbs, I don't think I would have understood the seriousness of my words. If you struggle with this too, take a trip through the Proverbs and it will give you some great food for thought. There are 31 Proverbs, so you can just read one a day for a month and you will be through it.

I'll end with this amazing and bold note on this subject written by H. Clay Trumbull. This is included in the book "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman:

Scolding is, in fact, never in order, in dealing with a child, or any other duty in life. To "scold" is to assail or revile with boisterous speech.....Scolding is always an expression of a bad spirit and of a loss of temper...

If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent is tempted to speak rapidly, or to multiply words without stopping to weigh them, or to show an excited state of feeling, the parent's first duty is to gain entire self-control. Until that control is secured, there is no use of the parent's trying to attempt any measure of child training. The loss of self-control is for the time being an utter loss of the power for the control of others.....

If, indeed, scolding has any good effect at all, that effect is on the scolder, and not the scolded. Scolding is the outburst of strong feeling that struggles for the mastery under the pressure of some outside provacation. It never benefits the one against whom it is directed, nor yet those who are its outside observers, however, it may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it. If, therefore, scolding is an unavoidable necessity on the part of any parent, let that parent at once shut himself, or herself, up, all alone, in a room where the scolding can be indulged in without harming anyone. But let it be remembered that, as an element in child training, scolding is never, never in order.

Pretty challenging, huh? It caught my attention!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2 answers, strike out text, dead-head, adoption update, college major, bridezillas, background, prize, and first day of school.

A few fellow bloggers have recently done randomness blog posts in which they chat through any and every random thing they have floating through their brain. Today I feel like getting my randomness out. Here we go:

I haven't told you yet that I found 2 answers to my previously posted questions:

1) My step-dad told me that the reason they put flags on top of cranes at construction sites is so that they can see the way that the wind is blowing. That way the crane operator can account for the wind when moving the crane around so he doesn't bust something up. Not sure of the significance of why the flags are always American flags, but maybe they just want to show their USA spirit.
2) The kitchen bouquet browning and seasoning sauce is in the aisle with the gravy packets (next to the potatoes) at Hy-Vee.

My mom told me how to cross out words in my posts. Just adds in a little more pizazz! I like it love it! Don't you love the people in your life who are technologically alert and updated. Jake and I know nothing about technology and we usually don't modernize ourselves with updated gadgets until someone else shows us how. We still use printed off yahoo maps for driving directions, I still listen to the radio via my armband walkman when I run, and I still don't know how to work my ipod which I received as a gift 3 years ago. If I gave myself more time I could think of many more examples.

Have you ever heard of the gardening term 'dead-head'? I didn't know what this term meant until both my mom and Jake's mom said it - and they even said it within the same week's time. Dead-head means to pluck the dead flower blooms off the stem so that the new ones can grow. You need to especially do this with marigolds otherwise the new ones won't grow in when the other ones sluff off. In my 27 years of life I had never heard this term before this summer.

We received an adoption update yesterday from our social worker (we last left off thinking Pastor Gideon would be heading to an orphange last Saturday to enlist children and find out if the youngest child there was a boy). Here is the update:

I spoke w/Pastor Gideon earlier and he indicated he was unable to make it to the town for the update. He is going to work very hard over the next couple days to locate a number to contact 'the house' I assume this is the orphanage or director's home..I couldn't quite understand over the phone. He said he very much hopes the child is a boy so you will continue to put your faith in him to do God's work--it was very sweet. However, it doesn't justify the massive delays. as I mentioned he is taking the program over and I am trying my best to help make this happen. It's funny the only two things he desperately needs is a laptop to communicate with me and a motorcycle to get to the small towns/villages and help the orphans. (He doesn't have a car).

After I got done giggling about picturing a pastor in his traditional robe on a motorcyle, bible in tow, I came to the realization that it is going to take nothing short of a miracle for us to complete this adoption. There are so many barriers right now...it just seems like there is no end in sight. But, I am not giving up. Anyone have a spare laptop or motorcycle they could part with?

With all this event planning that Jake and I have been helping with this summer I started wishing that I would have majored in something else in college. I graduated with an exercise sport science degree - and don't get me wrong it is a great degree - but I wish I would have majored in graphic design. I don't know how to draw, or how to sketch or anything like that, but I would have liked to have learned how to create formal invitations, event programs, etc. I am sure with the right software I could have figured it out, and it would SO come in handy. I can't imagine all that I could have learned if I would have studied it for 4 years! I did figure out how to make address labels one day. That is about as far as I have come.

Another job I would love to have is to be one of the attendants at bridal boutiques that help brides-to-be find THE dress. I realized this the other day when I went with my friend to look at bridesmaid dresses. Yes, I could handle the bride-zillas, yes I could find the perfect veil for that dress, and the perfect earrings for that one, and oh, check out this hair clip with these earrings. Yes, yes, yes.

By the way, is the text in my posts too hard to read on this black background? I've been wondering that since I switched it.

Still reading? Oh good, you get a prize. The prize is a little humorous story to keep you chuckling today: The other day I mentioned to JJ what a good eater he had been lately. I said, "Pretty soon if you keep eating like that you are going to grow big and tall like Daddy." JJ nodded and said quite seriously, "Yep pretty soon I'll be big like Daddy. And pretty soon I'll turn black like Yaw." He said it so sincerely and so seriously that I knew without a doubt he really thought this would happen at some point. I said, "Oh, you actually have to be born that way...you don't just change colors." He said, "Oh." And went on munching his crackers.

And for the last random bit of information, today was Nana Yaw's first day of school in the United States! He and Jake were out the door at 7:10am.

Today was one of those days that I wish I knew how to quickly put the date & time on my camera for this picture. I don't know how to do it right off hand, so I would have had to take a look at the manual, and by then these two would not have waited any longer for their first day of school picture. Oh well.


Signing off from left field,


-Janel-

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jean from Lebanon

So, Saturday at the airport we finally tracked down Jean, who was actually one of the first passengers off the plane, but we did not think it was him. Jake joked with him that he looked so much older than 18, and Jean said it was because he didn’t have a chance to shave on the plane. :) Here is a picture of them right outside the airport:


When we meet people for the first time that are going to be staying in our home, I always get a little nervous and uneasy at the start. It is just completely out of my comfort zone to have someone stay in our house that we don't know, not to mention who is from a different country. As usual, God quickly calmed my fears on the car ride home from the airport as Jake and Jean chatted about everything under the sun! To start, Jake quite frankly brought up the subject of terrorists from the Middle East, and talked with Jean about the fear that sets in when Americans see Arabs, especially in the airport. Jean was very understanding and said, ‘it’s just a fact, and completely understandable’. He said because of the 9-1-1 attack it has made it next to impossible for anyone to get a visa out of Lebanon. Then he said, “That is why I don’t call my visa a student visa. I instead call it a God visa, because God made the way for me.” My first impression of Jean was that he was a very genuine, kind, and intelligent person.

Jean told us how is mother was so worried and so sad that he was leaving that she cried about it all the time. But, she also was so happy for him to get this opportunity. He told us that his family really wants him to study medicine while he is here in the U.S. He shared that his sister has her MBA in microbiology, and she works in Lebanon only making about $300 per month. He said it is so difficult in Lebanon because there are just no good opportunities for work, even if you have a great education. He shared that his mother taught French in the schools there for many years, and now she has worked herself up to director of a school. Jean’s mother wanted all of her children to have French names, and they do. Jean’s 1st language is Arabic, 2nd language is French, and 3rd is English. Even though English is his 3rd language he spoke extremely well. He didn’t know a few of our slang phrases and terms like ‘doesn’t that just blow your mind’…very blank stare when I said that to him mid-sentence. There are also a few synonyms/word interchanges that he wasn’t sure of like town/city and a few others.

Jean stayed with us Saturday through Sunday morning, and then Jake took him to his host family’s house in Pella which is where he will stay throughout the year. The Vermeer Corporation out of Pella, Iowa is the company who will be sponsoring Jean's schooling at Pella Christian. We are hoping to have Jean over a few times a month to keep up with him and take him to some ISU games. Now for some more pictures:

Jean brought us some gifts of food from Lebanon - bread, green olives, pastries, and a mixture of nuts:
Check out how big this bread is! It almost is like a huge tortilla:

The bread is so good….very flavorful….and the pastries just melt in your mouth.
The first thing Jean wanted to do when he got to our house was get in touch with his Mom to tell her that he had made it! So, he grabbed the computer, pulled up MSN instant messenger and was connected to his home in Lebanon within seconds. He also figured out that I have a web cam on my lap top - which I had absolutely NO IDEA! So, we were able to see his family through the camera, and they were able to see us! The first thing his family wanted was to see Jake on the camera, and when they did they blew him tons of kisses and smiled and laughed and cried. It was so sweet. Jean wanted his family to see JJ and Jayla, so here he is showing them Jayla on the camera.


We also took Jean to the Kingdom Hoops facility to show him around. He will practice and play with Jake's Kingdom Hoops program this year.


Yaw went to Clear Lake with some of his friends this last weekend, so he didn't get to meet Jean until Sunday morning. Sunday morning they had LOTS to talk about....and talk they did. They had lots of questions for each other.
As I sat and watched these two have conversation over Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, it was a reminder to me that God has and will continually call me out of comfort zone in my walk with him in this life. When I look at these two international students sitting at our table in Huxley, IA I am almost in shock. I would have never dreamed it a year ago. I am surprised at how God has guided Jake to have a heart for all different nations of people. None of this is from our doing….but yet God has set forth the steps for both Yaw and Jean to come here to the U.S. and to get an education. God has given Jake the platform of basketball as the connection point for communication with all sorts of countries. And, in just opening our home and our minds and letting go of stereotypes, I have discovered the blessings of learning about other cultures, and ways of life. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been quite the experience, and a huge blessing!