Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 2 of Trip: Arrive in Ghana

Today we arrive in Ghana at 7:30am Ghana time! Mark will meet us at the airport, as well as Nana Yaw’s mom, Esi. We will check into our hotel (check it out at http://airsidehotel-ghana.com/home.html) and then spend the day meeting Mark’s teams/players. These are the players who will be switching over to Kingdom Hoops Ghana, and Jake will be handing out uniforms. They have a game scheduled for us to watch. We will also meet the next host student coming over from Ghana, who’s name also happens to be Samuel. He will be staying with a family in Des Moines.

We will also be meeting with the Ghana Basketball Association today to talk through ways to grow the sport in Ghana.

This evening we will be attending church with Mark for a special New Year’s Eve service called a ‘crossover’ service that celebrates crossing over into a New Year.

Please pray for God's comfort as we will surely be missing our kids terribly by now. Pray that we can stay focused on the trip despite this. Pray that JJ and Jayla are getting along well with Grandma and having lots of fun!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To Africa We Go!

Well, when you read this Jake and I will already be on the first flight of our 18 hour travel trip to Ghana today! I ended up figuring out how to schedule posts, so I decided to schedule my posts over the next week with each day’s itinerary on each particular day. That way you won’t have to read one long post all today. Thanks for your prayers……….see you soon!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 30th
Travel Day: 7am flight from Des Moines to Minneapolis, 10am flight from Minneapolis to New York, 4pm flight from New York to Accra, Ghana. We will arrive in Ghana at 7:30am (Ghana time) on Thursday, Dec 31st.

Please pray for safe travel, that we are able to catch our connecting flights, and that our luggage arrives with us in Ghana.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All Packed Up!

Well, tomorrow is the BIG DAY! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! My tummy has been in knots for the past few days! I’ve been busy unpacking from our Christmas travels, doing laundry, and then yesterday I started packing up for the trip! So, I wanted to share with you what the final decision was on the goodie bags for the celebration at Samuel’s village….after I posted about it a bunch of people ended up donating some really great things for the bags! Here is the rundown:

Toy cars for the boys: donated by The Gardner Family
Coloring books and crayons for the girls: donated by The Seay Family
Beanie babies for all: donated by The DeBruin Family
Granola bars for all: donated by The Jorgensen Family
Balloons for all: donated by Janel’s parents
Mini beach balls for all: donated by Jake’s parents
Peanut butter cracker sandwiches for all
Suckers and starbursts for all

Thanks to everyone who donated!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so excited to hand the bags out! I did decide to wait to put the goodie bags together until we get to Ghana. That way in case I am picked to have my luggage checked I won’t have to take everything out of each bag!

We also had some other AWESOME donations for Kofi and the CompAfriCare Foundation (http://www.compafricare.org/). Our case worker’s brother donated 60 cans of infant formula! WOW! With all the other things we are taking, we can only bring about 30 of the cans, but the rest will be shipped via CompAfriCare’s U.S. headquarters in Ohio.

And, Jake’s 5th grade boys team put together a donation box at the gym and gathered needed items for the children being cared for by CompAfriCare. They had an AWESOME turnout! Here is a picture of some of the collection:


Hmmmm….I might need to take that Hawkeye shirt out of there! Just joking! :) The 5th grade boys team collected a TON of shoes, first aid supplies, formula, diapers, wipes, pedialyte, etc. Good job boys! We will be able to take a handful of these items in our luggage, and the rest will be shipped.

And, last but not least, here is what we are bringing for Samuel and his mother:


For Samuel some clothes, a spiderman racer car, and his welcome book. And for his mom, some rice, canned beans and potatoes, a can opener, and her letter. I checked with Yaw to make sure these items were appropriate for Samuel’s mother, and he gave me the go ahead.
Let’s see, what else?

Dramamine (check!)
Bug spray (check!)
Ipod with newly downloaded songs (check!)
Lots of books for the plane ride (check!)
Deck of cards (check check!)
Pretzels and club crackers (check!)
Detoxed from caffeine (check!)
Emotional readiness to leave sweet red-heads for 8 days (NO!) :( Oh man, that keeps sneaking in there. Well, the time has come whether I am ready or not. I know they will have fun with Grandma but I am going to miss them so much! (sob, sob)

You’ll get one more post out of me tomorrow with our itinerary and some prayer points for each day. And then I will be taking a break from posting while we are on the trip since I am not sure how the internet connection will be. I’ll be journaling each day and can’t wait to post the entries (and LOTS of PICTURES) when we get back home!

Adios Amigos!

P.S. If you have time today you HAVE to check out this post on a blog that I read...her posts are always good, especially this one from today: http://joiningthejourney.blogspot.com/2009/12/did-you-know.html

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Pictures!

Our tradition....
Let the unwrapping begin!

JJ got a new Diego & Dora play set!

And Jayla got her first basketball!

Next up was Christmas Eve. Someone was very excited to get to Grandma's to open more presents!

And someone was looking beautiful in her Christmas dress!
Christmas Eve was spent with Janel's family.

JJ got a giant boots the monkey!

And Jayla got a giant Elmo! Perfect!

Oh look, a giant coloring book!

Chillin on the couch after a fun night.

Christmas Day it was off to Minnesota to celebrate with Jake's family. No the bad weather didn't stop us!
Here are the Sullivan GIRLS!

JJ got a NERF gun....Daddy was VERY excited!
Grandma Sullivan helped JJ learn how to load it.

Then JJ got to shoot it.

They did this over, and over, and over as you can tell!

JJ also got a new coaches board for the tournaments so he doesn't have to steal Daddy's anymore!

And Miss Jayla got her own princess dress up trunk (which JJ also loved!)

Everytime Jayla opened up a gift, the first thing she would do was run over to Yaw and show him. She just adores him!

I can't believe it's already all over. It always goes so fast!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Only the Beginning

At Christmas time we remember the beginning…..

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)

But, do you know the end of the story?

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

HE IS COMING AGAIN. Are you waiting expectantly for him?

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:27,30-31)

This will be a glorious and dreadful day, all in one. For He will separate us into two groups: Believers on one side and unbelievers on the other.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:31-34)

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

So, how do we know if we are a sheep or a goat?

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (John 3:35-36)

Believe or reject. Sheep or goat.

God has given us the greatest gift of all at Christmas time.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The question is, what will we do with this gift? God gives each of us a choice. Believe….or….Reject. Look into the meaning of this gift and the choice that comes along with it. Please, don’t stop at the beginning, with a baby in a manager. Find out the rest of the story, and make a decision. Because, he is coming again.

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obedience

I seem to have the adoption on the forefront of my mind this week. In preparing for our trip I just can’t stop going back over the last year of being in this journey….and thinking back to how we got to where we are now. The other day I was thinking about last fall when I was sitting in church as a video clip on our church’s Zambian orphanage was put up on the big screen. As Jake and I sat there watching that video it was then that I felt about a 15 second surreal experience of God very clearly speaking His plans for our family to adopt into my heart. It may seem kind of ‘out there’ to some in reading that I felt God ‘speaking to my heart’, but through the Holy Spirit that lives inside of me, I can feel it when God is pointing something out to me. It’s hard to explain, but easy to feel. It’s clear, loud, and unmistakable. But, even when his voice is perfectly clear, the way I felt it was that day in church, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to obey. In fact, after those moments in church I began doubting that what I experienced was real, and questions and doubts about this proposed adoption flooded into my mind…..when? how will we afford it? this isn’t how I had intended to form my family….how do I get past my fears? how do I get past my vision of what I thought my family would look like? how do I get past my inhibitions? questions? worries? I was consumed with these thoughts and I could not stop doubting what had happened. But then, over the course of the next few days, God gently grabbed my attention in very specific and personal ways that brought up adoption….and each time something happened I thought maybe it’s just a coincidence, but then things kept happening….and my heart kept softening and softening towards the idea. By Day 3 of all this, it even got to the point that when I looked up at our family picture on the fireplace I was sick to my stomach, because I knew there was a little boy that was missing. And, I knew he didn’t look like us. I knew our family was not complete. It wasn’t a gut feeling. It was a feeling that God put into my heart that was undeniable by this point.

I wanted to share one of the things that helped soften my heart to God’s plan for us to adopt. This is an excerpt from a book that I was reading at the time that this all happened. I just happened to be at this exact point when I picked the book up to read for my devotional time the day after that church service. This was one of the things that God used to tell me that I wouldn’t have all the answers, but that I/we needed to obey:

George Mueller was a man of faith. As the founder of numerous orphanages in nineteenth-century England, he depended entirely on God for food and supplies for the orphans under his care. He never asked for a dime in donations but rather, through faith, prayed about every need. God richly blessed Mueller’s life of faith, and the orphans never went without. Concerning anxiety, Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of faith is the end of anxiety.”

What would our lives look like if they were characterized by less worry and more faith? If we moved forward in faith instead of worrying about how to make something happen ourselves? Just think about the impact our lives would have if we were to prayerfully live a life of faith day by day. We may never be famous or have an opportunity to influence thousands of people, but if we each walk in faith right where God has placed us, together we can make a positive difference in this world.

Faith is stepping forward as God directs, even when we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s doing something bigger than ourselves- so big that we are dependent on God and not on our strength and ability. When we step out in faith, God gets the glory, because whatever is accomplished is done by his Spirit at work through us. (The Power of a Positive Woman by Karol Ladd)

The author then went on to give examples from the Bible of ordinary characters who God used to accomplish great things as they simply stepped out in faith to obey what God had asked them to do. Obviously these words of wisdom were exactly what I needed to hear to encourage me to move forward in opening my heart to adoption.

To end….I came across this saying regarding obeying God on a blog that I read, and I love it:

OBEDIENCE TRUMPS WORST CASE SCENARIO

:)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lost for Words with All to Say

Samuel’s mother did sign the adoption papers, and in fact Kofi sent us a scanned copy of the document the next day (Saturday)! This guy knows how to get things done! It was exciting, yet sad. I am torn between those two feelings. I am happy for Samuel and so sad for his mother all at the same time. I truly understand how the word bittersweet feels now. My thoughts turned to her this weekend time and time again. As I thought about her I kept thinking that her decision is so brave and unselfish. And, I wanted to tell her that, which is why this weekend I sat down to write the letter to her that I’ve somewhat been procrastinating because I didn’t want to go through the emotions of writing it. I think this is also a reason why I so wanted God to give us a ‘true’ orphan with no parents in the picture….because I didn’t want to feel the emotions I am feeling now about watching a parent give up their child. This is the one thing that makes adoptions from Ghana so unique. I’ve talked about it before, but there are very few orphanages in Ghana, and the ones up and running are looked down upon by the citizens. So, children available for adoption are often still living with their parents…as Samuel currently is (as far as U.S. legalities go, Samuel must be put into a foster care situation from now on, but up until this point he’s been with his mother). In other African countries a mother or father is able to take their child/children to an orphanage, where they will likely be taken in and at least have their basic needs met. Without this sort of set up in Ghana, parents who can’t provide for their children are faced with this reality every day…practically watching their children starve, and yet knowing that there is nothing they can do about it. I can’t even imagine what this feels like as a parent….it’s been hard enough just watching it from the outside looking in.

As I sat to write Samuel’s mother the letter I thought what words on the face of this earth could even be comforting or thankful or descriptive enough to explain to her that her decision is so unbelievably awesome? I don’t know. What do I tell the person who is trusting the life of her child to us? My mind almost can’t even formulate it. In the past year I’ve learned through blogging that I do love to write. And maybe sometimes I write too much and not so concisely….but this time, as I began her letter, I sat and sat and sat staring at a blank page, through my tears. So unsure of where to even begin.

But, you know what? There is a happy ending to this story. Happy because as far as I am concerned, this is an OPEN adoption. Even though no one has officially named it that, I realized this weekend that it will be just that. For those of you who don’t know adoption lingo, an open adoption means that there is communication between the adoptive family and birth family. Even visits together every so often. Some agencies write up a legal agreement outlining details of how this relationship will look. This is contrary to a closed adoption in which there is no obligation or legal agreement that the adoptive family must be in contact with the birthparent(s). In just the few short months that we’ve developed a relationship with Kofi, I am certain that if I write up updates regarding Samuel, or send over pictures, I know he will care enough to get them to Samuel’s mother (who's name is Jennifer by the way). I also know that with Jake’s projects in Ghana, we will most likely be making at least 1 trip a year to Ghana, and so these trips would be a great time for Samuel to visit his mother, if she and he are up for it. Through our adoption training I’ve read some accounts of adoptive children who in fact do not want to re-visit their country/birthparents for quite some time. For them it was emotionally unimaginable to think about going back to the conditions they were just barely surviving in. However, I’ve talked with one other family who has adopted (domestically) and has this sort of open relationship with the birthparents of their children, and the re-connecting visits have gone well, although they are very emotional.

I am not really sure how to picture the day that we meet both of them. I have no idea what it will be like. Knowing myself I’ll probably just cry the entire time. I am excited to meet them…can you imagine what that will be like?!?!?! God has a plan for Samuel’s life. I hope to at least be able to reassure Samuel’s mother of that….but, I am sure she already knows.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Prayer Request

Just found out this morning that Kofi will be taking Samuel's mother into Accra (the capital of Ghana) today for her to sign the paper work that will take away her parenting rights. Please pray for her today....I do not yet know her name. Please pray that God would give her peace with her decision and that He would comfort her during this emotional time. This verse comes to mind: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

This is the part about adoption that just tears me apart. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes. A friend posted this adoption poem on her blog earlier this week about birthmothers and adoptive mothers, and I LOVED it and feel that it is appropriate to share today:

Once there were two women who never knew each other

One you do not remember, the other you call Mother

Two different lives shaped to make you one

One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it

The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it

One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name

One gave you a talent, the other gave you aim

One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears

One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried you tears

One made an adoption plan, that was all that she could do

The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.

Now, which of these two women, Are you the product of?

Both, my darling, Both, Just two different types of love.

~Unknown~

Our 2009 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas to our friends and family close and far! We are excited to update you on all that is happening in the Sullivan household – although this year I have quite the challenge to condense it onto one piece of paper! Well, let’s get to it...

I’ll start with an update on JJ and Jayla. JJ is now 3 ½ (!) years old and he is a talking machine. He is very, very observant which brings a lot of questions, constant commentaries, and trips down his 3 ½ year old memory lane (yes, this kid remembers everything). One of JJ’s most favorite things right now is going to the tournament trips with Jake’s teams on the weekends. He loves packing his suitcase, he delights in the anticipation of the car ride to whichever destination we are headed to for the weekend, and he absolutely cannot wait until we get to the hotel. For JJ, being at the hotel means getting to do lots of swimming with Dad and lots of exploring of the hallways and hotel rooms. Can you imagine the fun in this for a 3 ½ year old? It’s like a crazy adventure to him every weekend. On weekends when we don’t travel JJ often plays pretend hotel trips at home. His suitcase is always packed and sits at the end of his bed, ready to go on an adventure – whether real or imagined. Who knew the couch could become a car, and some beach towels a swimming pool? Imagination is never lacking here at our house! Jake has also taught JJ to dribble this year, and of course this proud momma has taken video after video after video of him sporting his new skill. JJ also has started to really like to play UNO, matching card games, and Old Maid. As he puts it, “Somebody’s gonna win, and somebody’s gonna lose.” The man speaks truth!

And now, on to Miss Jayla…oh, where do I begin? Maybe with her smile that lights up a room so bright it could put a Christmas tree to shame. Or maybe I could tell you about her sassy independence that is so opposite of her brother in every way that it boggles our minds! Yes, it has been quite interesting just how completely different our two kids’ personalities are. This of course, leads to a few fights over toys, and who can sit on mommy’s lap, and who gets to flip the book pages, and who gets to click the mouse on the computer game, and who can get into the bath first, and who gets the _______ (just insert something in the blank and I guarantee they’ve fought about it) :) But, it’s all part of being siblings (or so I am told) and I am sure it is God’s way of teaching Jake and I some patience and to think a little deeper than to just say “who had the toy first?” Raising children, it seems, grows and refines the parents’ character at about the same rate as it does the kids. Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, Jayla is now 19 months old and she loves playing with her baby dolls, chasing our cats around, and she is slightly obsessed with Elmo. In fact, whenever she is told she gets to watch an Elmo movie she jumps into the air (both feet off the ground) and puts one fist up into the air at the same time while also squealing with delight. She’s quite the Elmo fan. She also gets the award for ‘quickest at learning little sister role’ as she already knows exactly what to do to push JJ’s buttons and send him into an all-out emotional uproar. If you need some entertainment bring a lawn chair and come over….you’re bound to see quite a show! Of course my little jokes are all in fun and we love, love, love having a little boy and a little girl who are different in every way, but oh-so-loveable!

Oh boy, I am definitely not going to get this onto 1 page of paper!

Next up, let’s talk adoption. So, it’s been over 1 year now since we started in on the adoption process with the country of Ghana, Africa. We had often heard that adopting could be quite the roller coaster, and our journey thus far could certainly attest to that. But, we’ve also seen God grow our faith throughout this journey in such detailed and touching ways that it would be silly to say we would change one thing even if we could. I personally, have never seen God work in ways like he has done within our adoption journey. There are things that have happened that are so undeniably from His hands that I cannot help but just stand in awe of all that He has done. This clarity has been confirmation to us to continue trusting His guidance in our adoption, and walk where He leads us. At this point He has led us to a 6 year old boy named Samuel who we are currently pursuing for our adoption. We ask for your prayers, especially during the days of December 30th through January 6th as we will be traveling to Ghana, Africa to meet Samuel and to also work on some other things which I will explain below. During this trip we will not be able to bring Samuel home yet, but we will be attending court dates to get things moving with the adoption process. Please pray that God would continue to guide us through the rest of this adoption journey, and that He would prepare our family for Samuel to come join us. Please pray for Samuel’s preparation as well. :)

Through the adoption, God has also stirred up our hearts for the country of Ghana, Africa. Jake took his first trip to Ghana back in February of this year. After his trip he came home with a full mind and a full heart to help this impoverished country whose residents live on less than $1 a day and who often times are going 2-3 days in between meals (and not the size of meal you or I would think of). Of course, Jake has been able to use his platform of basketball to get things rolling, and draw attention onto what he is calling Project:Ghana. Specifically this is Jake’s vision to build a school, orphanage, and basketball facility in Ghana. Jake did tons of research all summer long of how this academy of sorts would look, and in October he began laying out specific details of the facility and started getting in touch with those who could help to make it happen. Jake was blessed to find a ‘go to’ man in Ghana named Mark, and we will be meeting up with him on our trip at the end of the month to secure the land that will be purchased for the facility. Other things planned for our trip are to meet with the educational administration branch of the Ghanaian government, meet with the Ghana Basketball Association to create a plan on how to grow the sport, and Jake will also be putting on a national coaches clinic at the Sports Institute in Ghana. It is sure to be an exciting trip!

Also, you may have noticed an unfamiliar face in our family picture this year….this is Nana Yaw, our student that we are hosting from Ghana. Jake was able to start up a hosting program this year as well (yes, he’s got A LOT going on!). Jake met Nana Yaw on his first trip to Ghana in February, and because of Yaw’s story Jake was inspired to start a study program through his 501c3 non-profit organization (Kingdom Hoops Foundation). Within a few months Yaw had a student visa and has been living with us since the end of March. It has been an unmatched experience to have Yaw with us. He is kind, well-mannered, so appreciative, great with our kids, and has been a huge blessing to our family (did I mention he even does his own laundry?). Yaw is a keeper, although we won’t be able to keep him much longer as he will be off to college next fall!

Now, you can consider yourself caught up on our lives. To stay caught up, tune into our family blog at http://team-sullivan.blogspot.com/

To catch up with Jake’s basketball program visit http://www.kingdomhoops.com/

These 2 pages of our life are nothing compared to the greatness of knowing our Savior, Jesus. He, who came into this world over 2000 Decembers ago, not for the perfect ones, not for the righteous ones, but for you and for me who need him most. In him alone we find ourselves in a salvation unearned and free. In him alone we receive access to God. In him alone we can find new life here on earth, a second chance. A life filled with an everlasting peace, an unmistakable joy, and eternal hope. This is the promise for those who would believe in the name of God’s one and only Son - Jesus.

Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry CHRISTmas!

-Jake, Janel, JJ, Jayla, & Nana Yaw-

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shooting Lessons With Daddy

First, you've got to get your hands set.

Elbow in!

Launch it!

P.S. Remember not to get distracted by the defense.

Oh, not to worry, the defense got distracted by the boys.

Video: He can almost get it to the hoop!

video

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts About Luke 5:4-9

I came across this section in Luke the other day:

Luke 5:4-9

When he (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…

I’ve read this before, but this time around Peter’s (Simon’s) response struck me like never before. His response is a clear example of how we might often feel when standing in the presence of our Almighty God. It is in His presence that our sin seems so apparent, more than we’ve ever felt. Like Peter, our tendency might be that we want to run and hide thinking: Don’t look at me, Lord. You won’t like what you see.

But, God’s word tells us that this sort of humbleness is precisely what He desires. Recognizing our sin is the exact place that God wants us. Feeling our short-comings, failures, past or present ‘mess-ups’ is the first step in recognizing that we desperately need a Savior. Jesus reassures us of this later on in chapter 5 of Luke. Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31) It’s a beautiful thing to know that we need not ‘clean up’ our lives before coming to God. He wants us just as we are. Broken. Humble. With an attitude that is prepared for Him to help us ‘clean up’, and recognizing that He is the only one who can help. Despite our ‘junk’, through faith in Jesus we all have access to God. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men... (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

In John 10:10 Jesus tells us: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. In order to embrace this new life, we must let down our grasp for control. This becomes the next step after recognizing our sin. Surrendering. One time I heard someone say that Jesus is only a crutch for the weak people who can’t figure things out on their own. Among other things, this person has not let go of his need for control. We must admit that we can’t do this on our own. Accepting Jesus as our Savior is what God desires. And yet, it is more than just acknowledging it. It is leaving our past behind and committing our future to Him. A few sentences later after the verses above from Luke, Jesus asks Simon Peter to follow him and become one of his disciples. Jesus asks you and I the same question. Will you follow him? Peter did.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Samuel Thoughts

Last week we had our homestudy update appointment and I learned a few interesting things. As we began our appointment with our case worker we got to talking about Samuel’s living situation. Samuel’s father is not in the picture, and his mother is his sole care-taker. I thought back to the email update we had received from Kofi, the part about his mother being ‘out to the farm’ when Kofi came to visit. I asked our case worker about this and she shared that on her own trip to Ghana, when she would enter into the villages she would always be greeted first by groups of children. There never seemed to be many adults around, except for a few ‘elders’. She also noted that she hardly ever saw men in the villages, and the women would come around some time later. She said that in the villages the children often fend for themselves throughout the days as the mothers work. And, I knew from before, that the men/fathers often leave town for days at a time to find work....and some of them never come back. So, it’s not like the mothers really have a choice…this is survival to them. It seems like such a hard life. I am very interested to get to have a peek into village life on our trip. Jake was sheltered from this on his first trip, and he never did get to visit any villages when we was in Ghana last time….he stayed mostly in and around Accra, the capital.

We all also agreed that Samuel looks older than 6. :) Our consensus was that he looks about 8, but we’ll get a better idea of that once we meet him. It’s so hard to tell from the picture. With this our conversation turned to school. Our case worker mentioned that some families who adopt older children choose to homeschool their child until they are somewhat caught up with their age level. Another thing we need to consider is that Samuel is probably not going to know much English (English is the official language of Ghana, but you are only able to learn it in school – and in Ghana there is no free education, so poor families cannot afford to have their children in school). This will obviously intensify the difficulty in him learning, and it does seem silly to stick him in a classroom next fall if he doesn’t even know the language. It is on my heart to teach Samuel at home until he is ‘caught up’ or at least knows some basic things and has a good grasp on the English language. But, of course, thinking through all of this brings out my own insecurities making me feel so unqualified to teach a child of his age school stuff! But, God will grow me through this, and I will learn how to do it. I imagine it will take about a year or more to lay down a good foundation of ABC’s, 123’s, shapes, colors, reading and some basic math. And, our adoption training materials propose that it will take a child of Samuel’s age about 1 year to get a beginners grasp on the English language. If you are out there and you homeschool, PLEASE share recommendations for curriculum that I could order online. This is the one I am doing with JJ right now:

It’s a pre-school curriculum (Little Hands to Heaven – a program for ages 2-5), and it has been pretty good. I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but he seems to like it and is learning.

Also, I forgot to mention in my post about Samuel last week that on this first trip to Ghana we will only be able to meet Samuel….not bring him home. We still have to wait and go through court dates, paperwork processing, etc. to make the adoption legal. Our case worker did tell us some exciting news though, and that is if Kofi can get enough things processed for us throughout the next few weeks, it is a possibility that we would be able to file our I-600 form in Ghana. This would be HUGE and would save us about 3 months time in waiting, because otherwise we would have to file it here in the U.S. and go in line behind everyone else who is already ahead of us. Our case worker mentioned that it would be a miracle if we could file the I-600 in Ghana because of all the things that must be in order before that, but she said Kofi knows what he is doing and is very efficient so it is a possibility. Please pray that it would happen!

Kofi also met with Pastor Gideon early last week and Pastor Gideon was able to hand over the funds we had sent over earlier from our adoption of Solomon. After the adoption of Solomon fell through we had Pastor Sam/Gideon keep our funds until they identified another child for us. Since that never happened, we had been trying to decide how exactly to get the funds either wired back or somehow returned. Every cent ended up being there and accounted for, which was a huge blessing. Our adoption agency was going to cover any losses anyhow because of the frustrations with that whole situation, but thankfully all the money was there. Kofi in turn has been able to use those funds to pay for Samuel to get back into school, and also to buy him some nutritional supplements and vitamins to help with his malnutrition. It has been a very positive experience working with Kofi. He literally is in constant communication with our case worker, and email turn around time is within 1 day!

All in all we are anywhere between 4-6 months away from traveling to bring Samuel home….barring any major disasters. :) I’ve learned with international adoption you just can’t really be sure of anything. The only thing I can be sure of is that God has a plan, and He will work it out in His time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Game Night Results!

First a little pizza for some fuel!


Next up, time to practice!

JJ and Jayla ran around the floor just like they were at any old gym. Neither of them have any idea that most 3 year olds and 1 1/2 year olds don't ever get to step foot on this floor!


Later on, it was a FULL house!

JJ & Jayla were more interested in keeping their eyes on Cy and Herkey (the mascots) than the game. :)
Then came time for Daddy's debut! I caught the first shooting time on video....and during this one he made 9 out of 10 shots! If you turn it up loud enough you might get to hear the guy in the stands yelling obscenities at Jake. Oh yes, when you're good at something there are always haters. Just fuels the determination as Jake always says (in fact, when this happened to him in college it even spurred an idea for a tatoo that he got!). :)

video

After this one, he got to shoot 2 more times. The second time he made 3 out of 5 shots, and the 3rd time he made 4 out of 5 shots! They ended up changing the rules, and he only got to shoot 20 shots, but they were all from the top of the key so that was good! They also decreased the money amounts that each shot was worth. All in all he made 16 out of 20 shots and earned $1075! Good job, Daddy! They wrote a check to the guy in the stands that was picked, and he was this cute 70-year-old guy that Jake said kept thanking him and thanking him. :) This amount will also be donated to a charity of Jake's choice, and will also be matched and put into the ISU scholarship foundation.

A few more pictures...
Daddy chats with the refs (doesn't this look familiar?!)


Leaving through the old tunnel....this is the way we always left after the games, only then we didn't have two little munchkins with us! :)

What a FUN night! Did I mention that the CYCLONES WON?!?!?!

:)

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Pressure

Do you remember this?

Or this?

Well, if you don’t, tonight if you are headed to the ISU vs Iowa basketball game you will get to catch a glimpse of Jake’s sharp shooting skills (or what is left of them!) Jake was asked last week to do a charity $ for shots deal at Hilton Colisseum tonight. He will be shooting throughout the game during time-outs and half-time. Hy-Vee is sponsoring it, and here is what Jake has to do:

He will shoot 25 three pointers….5 balls at 5 different spots.

The first 4 balls at each spot will get Jake $100 for each shot made. The 5th ball at each spot is considered the money ball, and he would get $250 each time he makes the 5th shot.

Now, get this….The total amount of money Jake ‘earns’ with his shooting will go to the charity of Jake’s choice plus they are picking out a random person from the stands who will win the amount Jake earns with his shooting, plus Hy-Vee is matching the amount Jake earns and will donate that amount to the ISU scholarship foundation. Got it?

NO PRESSURE, right?

:)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maybe You Don't Know....

the meaning behind the candy cane........
It had to be special to be a gift for the King of Kings, thought the humble candy maker from Indiana. Not just any piece of candy would do. It had to be hard candy because the church is built on solid rock and God's promises are a firm foundation. It would be formed in the shape of the Good Shepherd's staff. A "J" that would also stand for the precious name of Jesus. But it had to say more. White stripes would symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ. Three small red stripes would represent the scourging Jesus suffered on His way to the cross. One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood of Jesus shed as payment for our sins. It would be a gift of love that would tell His story - the greatest story ever told.

Now you know!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adoption Update: Pictures Posted! Trip Info!

From Kofi earlier week:

Dear Carla (our case worker),

I just returned from a trip to visit Samuel’s family. I was able to meet with Samuel but the mother was out to the farm. Samuel has not been attending school due to financial difficulties from the mother. I took Samuel back to school today and paid the little outstanding. He is doing very well as you can find the attached photo.

Court proceedings may start this week on Samuel’s adoption. The attorney is ready to file the adoption.

All the kids including Samuel and family are expecting a New Year celebration of some coco- cola drinks and biscuits when the Sullivan's arrive at the village, and of course some used shoes and used clothes. They are really waiting to celebrate the New Year in a grand style with cokes, drinks and sweets. We can buy all these if it will be a burden to bring all those, hopefully not cost more than $20 US for the party.

I will keep you updated.

Regards,
Kofi

And here is the recent picture of Samuel in his school clothes (his teachers are seated to the right):
He looks SO tall! And, so much older than 6! Maybe he is? Who knows?

Here is one of the first pictures we had of Samuel…he is pictured here with Kofi:

Not sure if you can see his orange hair in these pictures since they loaded small, but when you see the originals you can really see the orangey-ness. :) And I Love It!

So, as you read above, we are planning on meeting Samuel in his village on our trip. We just worked it all out this week and it sounds like our meeting day will be January 3rd. I am SO EXCITED, and absolutely thrilled that we will get to see his village and his way of life. I need help brainstorming some things to bring along for the children of the village. For Samuel we are bringing a remote control car, a new outfit, new shoes, and his welcome book. But, I also wanted to have some things for the other kids from the village that will be at the party. We are bringing them Kingdom Hoops t-shirts, and I was thinking about also bringing some suckers, and then maybe toy cars and/or bouncy balls. But, I need something for the girls that they could play with. Or, a better idea of what I should bring for the boys. It needs to be small enough to fit in our suitcase, and something that I can purchase a lot of. I think we are taking one suitcase that will hold extra things like this. Please share your ideas!

This was such an uplifting update! YAY!

By the way- have I mentioned that the name Samuel means “God Heard”? Praising God for all this excitement this week!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Annual Baking Day

Each year during December my mom, Grandma, and I get together for our annual day of baking cookies and candy! We look forward to it each year, and we have done this since I have been a little girl. It's been exciting for me to introduce JJ and Jayla into our tradition. We are stirring up goodies and baking cookies, all the while creating fun memories each year that we carry on the tradition.

Annual Baking Day 2006
Mommy & JJ (5 months old)

Annual Baking Day 2008
Mommy and JJ (2 1/2 years old)

and Jayla (7 months old in 2008)

Annual Baking Day 2009
JJ (3 1/2)

He can do it all by himself now!

But this year he had some competition for the sprinkles.

Mommy, JJ, Jayla, and my Grandma making peanut butter star cookies.

JJ was an awesome helper this year with everything that we made. He dipped the peanut butter balls in sugar, put the m & m's on the almond bark dipped pretzels, pressed the dough into the pecan tassie muffin tin, and put lots of sprinkles on lots of cookies!

And, he discovered the best part of baking day.......

:)