Friday, April 30, 2010

Facing Death with Hope

I am completely switching gears from yesterday to my post today, but I just really wanted to share this blog with you:

I have been following this blog for only 2 weeks now and it is incredible. This blog was started by a 47 year old wife and Mom who just last week lost a very short battle with cancer (6 1/2 months). The blog is being continued by her husband, and I am begging you to read his posts. This family has a strong faith in Jesus, and their blog is an honest look at what it is like to have a family member face death as a believer in Jesus. When you know you will be in heaven with Jesus when you die, you have a completely different perspective on death than those who do not have this hope. This perspective continues to shine through on every single one of this husband’s post. I have been so challenged in my faith by this family. They just have such an awesome testimony, and they are allowing others to read in on their grieving process and all the while still giving God glory for Lane Ann’s life and also giving Him glory in her death. I am sharing an excerpt of one of the husband’s posts below, but I hope you click on the blog link above and read all of the other ones as well. I do not know this family, but the husband is the brother of a different blog (adoption) that I have been following for over a year. This excerpt is just one of the heart-wrenching, honest, and truth-filled posts that this husband has written. I know you will be heart-broken and yet filled with hope as you take in his words. This excerpt was written a few days before his wife passed away….

Final Stages - an honest description of death

Last night Lane Ann slipped into a coma. Since one's hearing is the last to go, Jessie read aloud to her mom the multiple posts on Lane Ann's facebook wall. I read the many cards to her that have come in the last few days. She was at peace and we waited expectantly as she slept. Surely this would be the time God would send His angels to come and get her. I drifted into a kind of dreamy half-sleep prepared to wake up at the slightest hint that They had arrived. But They did not come. As my exhausted spirit floated between consciousness and exhausted bliss my mind played through the scenes of the last six and one half months.

The echoing voices of our many doctors disturbed my relaxed slumber as seconds turned into days - "I'm afraid you have colon cancer and it is in your liver as well. I'm so sorry." "You'll need surgery immediately." "More tumors than I can count." "I'm afraid it is stage four. Treatable but not curable." "It is impossible for medical science to cure this type of cancer." "I've never seen cancer spread this quickly." "This last chemo treatment didn't work. Your tumors are growing again." "You have weeks to months left to live."

Other memories flooded my sluggish thoughts - "Tim, am I going to die?" "Lane Ann, if God doesn't heal you, yes, sweetheart you're going to die." (Those were the hardest words I have ever spoken.) "What do we do now?" "We trust God and we live. We plant a garden and grow flowers and eat shrimp in Florida. We finish decorating the house and we love one another like there is no tomorrow."

We both decided to focus intently on God's desire for healing her body. As time passed, it became clear God was going to heal her alright, but not this side of eternity. The night passed and she actually awoke for a brief moment and rolled her head to the side to kiss my cheek. Then, as quickly as she awoke, she went back to sleep.

Ever since that tender moment she has been experiencing what is called "terminal restlessness." This is a state where the illness causes restless behavior like reaching into the air, rolling around, and trying to get out of bed. Lane Ann's blood pressure is low and the oxygen needed to flow to the brain is not getting there causing her to talk senselessly as her eyes roll back into her head. Additionally, her liver is not metabolizing properly and apparently causing considerable pain. I was not prepared for this stage of death. It has absolutely rocked my emotional world. How could this happen to my beautiful, dignified, intelligent friend? It is ripping my guts out. I know this too will pass but not near quick enough for me. Our wonderful Hospice nurse is working overtime to get the proper medications to ease Lane Ann's suffering.

Even though this has been an emotionally grueling day, we can still feel the prayers of you guys. Yesterday, Grant and I (I am so proud of him) made arrangements with the funeral home and also purchased the needed cemetery plots. I never thought I would be buying cemetery plots at age 47. As morbid as it sounds, we could sense God's direction leading us ever closer to our moment of celebration. We Will NOT be mourning the dead but celebrating the living.

I hope that reading this excerpt causes you to take some time to read his other posts - and if you do - make sure to read this one from start to finish

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adventures in Potty Training - Part II - My Preferred Method

Warning: Before reading this, please note that I will be using mommy potty terminology like ‘pee’ and ‘poop’. If you don’t mind then read on! :)

Okay, so here are the signs of potty training readiness that I went by to ensure that JJ and now Jayla were ready for the potty training adventure. These are from the book On Becoming Toddler Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam:

Primary signs of readiness emerge when your toddler:
-Stays dry for 2 or more hours at a time
-Has regular bowel movements
-Wakes up from his/her naps dry
-Stops an activity while urinating or messing in his/her diaper
-Stands a certain way and holds on to his/her diaper as he/she eliminates
-Is interested in “big girl/big boy” underwear
-Wants to imitate parents or older siblings using the toilet
-Is able to understand and follow simple directions

Secondary signs of readiness emerge when your toddler:
-Can sit and play quietly for about 5 minutes
-Can put toys and other possessions where they belong on his/her own
-Can dress and undress himself/herself
-Has a name for urine and bowel movements

According to these signs, I determined JJ’s readiness at 2 years and 3 months, and I was right on. Jayla will be 2 years old next month. The book does note that all of these signs do not necessarily need to be there in order to begin the adventure, but the more signs your child is exhibiting, the better and easier it will be for you to teach them.

Now, for the details on my ‘Jen deBruin potty training method’. Well, for starters, Jen is my good friend and is a fellow mom. Her oldest is 7 months older than JJ, so she has been my perfect go-to person for advice since she is experiencing all the ‘big things’ right before me. Luckily I’ve been able to watch her go through all the munchkin transitions first, and then borrow her ideas of what did and didn’t work with her son, and try them on JJ. She’s given me thoughts and ideas for everything from labor and delivery options to infant feeding/sleeping routines to transitioning to table foods and a ‘big kid bed’ to discipline to potty training. Not that I haven’t done my own research and read books on my own, I have done that too, but Jen is always there to give me the practical side of things 7 months ahead of the time when I will need to start with JJ. It’s been great. And, here was her main advice to me regarding potty training….SKIP THE PULL-UPS!!!!!!!!!!!! So, that is the theme of this method. And now, here are the details that I have taken from her and I have also used a few more ideas from that book listed above:

Start on a date when you can have the calendar cleared for a few days. Plan on staying home for at least 2 days so that you can really focus in and get it done without other interruptions, errands to run, reasons to leave the house, etc. The night before the start date prep your munchkin on the upcoming adventure. The main goal is to get them excited!!!! Show them the potty seat or chair, the big boy/big girl underwear (which is what you will be using instead of pull-ups) and then explain to them what will take place tomorrow. Make it simple and explain everything in the bathroom so you can point to the potty. I’ve said something like this, “Tomorrow you are going to start using the potty. When you wake up in the morning you are going to wear underwear. And, mommy is going to have you sit on the potty a lot tomorrow so that you can learn how to pee and poop in the potty. Remember how sometimes in the bathtub you stand up and toot? Well, that is what you will do in the potty. You will sit on the potty and push out your pee and poop. After you sit on the potty and pee or poop in the potty you will get to have a _____”. For JJ the reward was m & m’s, for Jayla it is a sticker for pee and a popsicle for poop. Then make sure you set the reward somewhere near the potty (if possible). That’s all for the prep night. (If you think your child needs more than a day’s notice about what is going to go on, you could also try doing a countdown to the big day about a week out. …explaining everything a little at a time each day, trying to get them really excited for the big start day.) One side note is that we decided to use a potty seat that goes right over the big potty because of all our traveling on the weekends. I needed them to be able to go to the bathroom in a public restroom right away, so I just trained them on the big potty so that they weren’t afraid of it and were used to it for traveling.

On start day, I would recommend starting everything after breakfast. Give the basket of diapers a send off, and then put the big kid underwear on and explain everything again. Then, depending on how much they drink, have them sit on the potty about every 20-30 minutes and ask them to ‘go’. When I did this with JJ when he was training, he at first would not pee during the designated potty trips, but shortly after he would pee his pants. However, this was a huge learning advantage of not wearing pull-ups (and the whole point of this method) because having just underwear on the pee would completely soak him and get all over his pants and the floor. It would run down his leg and make a huge splat sound as it hit the floor (now you know why you want to clear the calendar and make sure you will be at home when this happens!). As much as it was a mess to clean up, it was great because he would completely freak out and I could use that moment to remind him that the pee needs to go in the potty. I kept saying “The next time you feel like you have to pee, tell mommy or run to the potty”. This pattern of having them sit on the potty about every 20-30 minutes continues on, and eventually, they will have a successful trip when they go in the potty and you can take the opportunity to act like a crazy, excited person. Cheering, dancing, running around, high fives, lots of smiles, – or whatever flips their switch – but most of all, making it a big deal that they get their reward. The hope is that after they taste their success (and feel the uncomfortable mess of their failures) that something will click and they will make the connection of when they need to get to the potty. For JJ, this took until evening time on Day 1. We’d had a few successful trips but numerous accidents, but by evening time he started telling me when he had to go by saying “Oh pee” and holding himself. It’s taken Jayla until Day 2 to tell me when she has to go. She bends over and says “Mommy, go potty!” Once they started doing this, I gave them the freedom of telling me when they needed to go. I did away with the designated potty trips every 20-30 minutes because they were staying dry in between the times of when they said they had to go. With Jayla I’ve found that she just doesn’t have to pee as much as JJ did. I was taking her about every 30 minutes on Day 1 and she would sit there for 10 minutes and not go. Then about 15 minutes after the potty trip she would have an accident, so it showed me that I was taking her too soon and making her sit there and get frustrated (and she would get really mad!). On Day 2 when she started telling me that she had to go it was perfect b/c she really liked that feeling of independence and me not making her sit on the potty (I could tell b/c her attitude was completely different when she initiated the trip instead of me). However, if it had been almost an hour since the last trip I would keep a really close watch on her, and remind her, and sometimes initiate a potty trip especially if she’d had a cup of milk over the past hour. When they start telling you that they have to go, it is important to praise them for staying dry in between the potty trips as well as praising them for telling you that they have to go, and of course encouraging them with the rewards once they do go. Yesterday was Day 3 with Jayla, and she had NO pee accidents. YAY!

As for the pooping part this is definitely a little harder. When JJ was in diapers and had to do his business, he would run and hide to a certain place and poop. So, when training him, the key was catching him in his hiding place right before he was about to go, and then plopping him on the potty and asking him to poop there. With JJ it took one time of doing this and he went poop in the potty every time thereafter. He was just too easy. Jayla on the other hand has been a different story (and she did the hiding thing too when she was in diapers). So far, she is very afraid to poop in the potty. She just refuses. Days 1 & 2 she refused to poop at all and got really constipated. Day 3 she went in her pants 2 times….the first was right when she woke up, the second was when I was taking a shower. So, both times I wasn’t there to catch her mid-poop and put her on the potty. I am hoping that once I am able to do that she will get on board, but time will tell.

As for naptime and nighttime I limit fluid intake to nothing at least 45 minutes to an hour prior, and I continued to have them stay in their big boy/big girl underwear for sleep time (and right before sleep time take a potty trip). Both JJ and Jayla stayed dry through naps from Day 1 so no problems there. For nighttime with JJ on Day 1 he woke up wet in the morning. Day 2 before bedtime I limited his liquids even earlier….about an hour and a half out, and he stayed dry all night, and most nights thereafter. With Jayla I’ve been putting her to bed around 8:45pm and then checking her around 11:30pm. The past 3 nights she’s been dry when I’ve checked at 11:30pm, but then she wakes up wet at 7am. So, I’ve been having to wash the sheets every morning (she has a waterproof mattress cover). If this continues, I may resort to a nighttime training pant. I really want to avoid that if possible, but I also realize that her bladder might not yet be mature enough to store urine for the extended nighttime period like JJ's was.

So, that’s the scoop. This was a little longer than I wanted it to be all written out, but I’m not one for omitting details. Here’s a quick recap:

1) Make sure you see multiple signs of readiness before starting

2) Specify a start day. Prep up until start day (explain underwear, sitting on potty, reward, etc.)

3) For start day, skip the pull-ups. Have them wear underwear so that they feel wetness and so they will feel uncomfortable if they go in their pants (some of my friends have also had their kids go bare- bottom so that they could really tell when they went and have quicker reaction time to get them to the potty). Be mentally prepared to be cleaning up pee and poop for a few hours.

4) Have them sit on potty every 20-30 minutes to start. You can also have them drink lots of liquids so they will need to pee a lot and have many opportunities to use the potty.

5) Have a reward in visible sight next to the potty.

6) Use lots of praise, encouragement and excitement when they have a successful trip to the potty; but also let them know that it is not okay when they pee/poop their time it needs to go into the potty.

7) Reward for successes, and maintain an encouraging attitude through the failures. They will take their cues from your attitude, so try to stay encouraging, even as you are cleaning pee off the floor. :)

Again, I know this method is not for every family….and it’s certainly not the most cleanly option. It’s just what has worked for us, and just wanted to share it in case it floats your boat!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adventures in Potty Training - Part I

Potty training is an adventure. And, I wonder sometimes if all the potty training advice in the world would be better left at that. But instead we have all sorts of books and theories and methods and training dolls and training pants and pull-ups and potty chairs and millions of ideas to pick and choose from. It can get kind of crazy. And, the craziness has begun at our house with my second potty training subject….Miss Jayla. My first thought this week when I laid out all the ‘tools’ for our adventure was: How do they do it in Africa? They surely don’t have all this junk to help them, and yet they get it done. So, I asked Yaw. And, he didn’t know. Bummer. Guess I can’t do it the African way. So, armed with 2 packs of princess undies, an elmo potty chair insert, and animal stickers, we were ready to dive in. And, when I posted that our potty training adventure had begun as my status on facebook, I had a demand for more information on what I called the ‘Jen deBruin method’ which is my method of choice. So, as promised, I will soon be posting the run down of how we did it with JJ a few years ago, and how we are now going about it with Jayla….although I am certain that this method is not for everyone - it’s just what has worked for us. I am hoping to post it tomorrow, but may need more time to write it out. Until then, I’ll be busy teaching my princess that all princesses go pee and poop in the potty. Think she’s taking me seriously?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jake's Thought for the Week (is back!)

Well, I am sure you’ve noticed by now that Jake did not keep up with the blogging world, and has abandoned his blog. I don’t blame him….he’s a busy guy and blogging is a lot of work. So, I decided to start posting his ‘thought for the week’ on our family blog again. I know many of you Kingdom Hoops Team Sullivan readers already get the TFTW in your inbox, but this will give a chance for the others to get in on it too. And, I’ve really been missing having the TFTW recorded on here, because someday when I get around to it, I am going to print my blog as a book for a keepsake, and it will be nice to have all of our thoughts in order by date, all in one place. B/c we’ve been traveling to tournaments on the weekends, it seems like it will be better to post it on Tuesdays, because he normally gets it emailed out with the announcements on Monday evenings. Sound good? Welcome back Jakey. Here it is for this week:

There are days I ask myself what is greatness? Is greatness defined by how many wins you record as a team? Is it defined by trophies that surround a facility? Is it defined by fully reaching ones potential? Over and over in my mind each week I try to define greatness within the Kingdom Hoops program. Many times this past 18 months I have tried to find a definition to measure greatness amongst our program and for our athletes. As my definition constantly has changed I have always been brought to the basic foundation for greatness in the Kingdom Hoops program and it is this: Are we maximizing the platform God has given us? Are we doing everything in our ability to increase what we have been given?

I believe this definition fully defines greatness within the Kingdom Hoops program. But I often struggle with the basic concept of what exactly it means. I know for me I too often wrap this loose definition around success on the basketball court. Did we win or did we lose? Of course I caught myself doing it again this weekend. The Kingdom Hoops 17s had just lost a heartbreaker in the first round of the championship bracket as Team Impact hit a three as the buzzer sounded and knocked us out of the tournament.

After the game I was frustrated and disappointed and was going over a million different things we could have done to put the team in a place to win that game. As I was pouting I headed over to court 4 in the Fieldhouse USA facility to watch our 17U red team play in the opening round of the bronze bracket. As I arrived my mood did not get much better as I watched the red team fall behind 23-12 to All Dream Sports out of Houston. With four minutes left in the first half I was becoming more frustrated with our lack of enthusiasm in the game and now my pouting became more like sulking in my personal pity.

Then God reminded me, like he so often does, of what defines greatness for us as an organization. The bleachers across from the team bench began to fill up. It was not filling up with your normal spectators such as parents and other family members. It soon began to fill up with Kingdom Hoops players. As we fell behind 23-12 it all began. After a spirited time out down 11 points I heard some boys’ begin cheering, stomping, clapping, hooting, and hollering. As halftime approached we cut their lead to four and the players in the stands continued to get more excited as the game went on. What was most amazing to me was that the players who were leading the ruckus in the stands were the 17U boys who had just gotten beat. Kingdom Hoops Red went on to win the game 50-34 and I saw 30+ boys as excited for the red team as if they had won themselves.

Sometimes in the craziest of times God has a way of reminding us what is important. To us, God’s greatness within the Kingdom Hoops program will be measured every day by situations like this. It will be measured by the impact we get to have on the young lives in our program each and every day. And, even more importantly, it will be measured by the lasting impact our players will leave on each others’ lives.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yaw's Prom Pictures

Here are the before-prom pictures! I recruited my mom for the picture-taking since she does such a good job....and she did not disappoint! JJ, Sam, and Jake were in Texas all weekend for a tournament so they missed out on all the fun, but us girls had a great time documenting the excitement! Here ya go:

Bianca & Yaw

Meanwhile, within these first 5 minutes Jayla had made herself at home with these couches (she started crawling & jumping ALL OVER them like she does at home and I was finding it a little hard to explain to her that she couldn't do that here!)


Love this one!

The beautiful girls.

The handsome guys.

Me & Yawzer

We tried and tried to talk Jayla into taking a picture with Yaw, but she was NOT having him all dressed up. She just wasn't quite sure what to think about him in that tux! But, she did cooperate when Bianca wanted a picture. :)

Then, it was time to run while the group headed to their limo!

Even the wind can't mess with these curls!

One last group picture before they went off to dinner.

Have fun guys!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yaw Update

Well, Yaw has quite the full schedule these days! For starters, he’s trying out a new sport now. Once basketball was over he was trying to decide between going out for track or soccer, and he ended up deciding on track. At first he was planning on just doing the long jump and the high jump (at least that’s what he was planning on), but for some reason I knew that the track coach wasn’t going to go for that! At the meets he is now running the open 100, open 200, 4x100 and sometimes the 4x200….and he actually is not doing the long jump or the high jump! This is so funny to me! I knew once the track coach saw him run that there was no way he was only going to have him in field events! His best placing so far is first place in the open 200 at the last meet they had earlier this week.

Other events coming up for Yaw are:

-Tonight=PROM! Yes, they have the dance on a Friday night! I’ll post pictures either this weekend or on Monday.

-May 16th: graduation party at our house (thank you Mom & Grandma for helping me plan it since I have absolutely no clue about how to coordinate something like this!)

-May 21st: Last day of school for seniors

-May 22nd thru 24th: Senior trip to St. Louis, MO

-May 29th: Graduation ceremony

The biggest question I am sure everyone is wondering is what Yaw will do after graduation! Well, he is planning on continuing to study in the United States by going off to college. Right now he has 3 solid options on the radar.

Option 1:

North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, ND (a Division I college). Can you say brrrrrrrrrrrr?!?!?! This is by far the coldest weather option! Yaw has been accepted into NDSU as a ‘preferred walk-on’ for the men’s basketball team, and has applied for their international scholarships (academic) which would greatly aid in covering school costs.

Option 2:
Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, CO (10 miles from downtown Denver; a Division II college). This is by far the most scenic option! This University sits right on the edge of the Rocky Mountains! The men’s basketball program has shown some interest in Yaw, and currently we are trying to plan a college visit for him on one of the next few weekends so he can go and meet the coaches and see the campus. International student (academic) scholarships are available.

Option 3:
Northwestern College in Orange City, IA (an NAIA college). This is by far the closest to ‘home’ option. :) The men’s basketball team has shown interest in Yaw, and Yaw was able to meet with their coach last week here in Ames. He will also be taking a college visit there in the next few weeks. International student (academic) scholarships are again available to aid with the cost.

So, those are the options that we have been praying about for Yaw. As long as he is studying, he can stay here in the U.S. on his student visa. We know that God has got his path all planned out, and so we will look to Him for guidance and pray that He will lead Yaw to the right decision!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Conversations With JJ

JJ: “Mommy, can you make shells and cheese for lunch?”

Me: “Sure!”

JJ: “Yay! Make them good, okay? Remember last time when you went to get your hair done and Daddy made shells and cheese? He didn’t make them good. They were yucky. So, make good ones, okay?”

Out of the blue:

JJ: “Why were you born on my birthday?”

Me: “Actually, you were born on my birthday.”

JJ: “Why? Why wasn’t Bobby born on your birthday?”

Me: “I don’t know. That’s the way God planned it.”

JJ: “Oh.” Long pause to think, and then, “For my birthday when I turn 4 I want some new socks, a c.d. player and some new football pajamas. When is my birthday?”

Me: “July 22nd.”

JJ: “When is your birthday?”

Me: “July 22nd.”

More thinking and then that was the end of the conversation. You can tell he is still trying to figure out how and why we have the same birthday! It just doesn’t make sense in his world yet!!! :)

While in the car, picking up Sam from school:

JJ: “Mommy, when do I get to go to school?”

Me: “When you are 6.”

JJ: “What else do I get to do when I am 6? Drive?”

Me: “No, you have to be 14 to drive.”

JJ: “Okay, when I am 14 I am going to drive a van.” Pause, thinking, big smile, and then he said “A big black van.”

Think the chicks will dig it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A New Strategy

When Jayla was a baby I used to have to strategically plan to paint her toenails while she was napping in her infant chair. I had to be very, very quiet, and very, very precise so as not to wake her or brush her ticklish feet which would cause her foot to twitch.

But, nowadays I have a different strategy....

Yes, plop her in the chair and give her a popsicle and she is good to go for at least 5 minutes. Then, if I need to stretch out the drying time I can just get her some books and she will sit and flip through them while she holds her feet perfectly still. She’s kind of like a pro now! And she actually gets excited when I tell her we are going to paint her toes. Once we are all finished she says “Pretty toes, Mommy!”. And, when we are out and about and she sees other little girls with their toes painted she notices right away and points at their toes and says the same thing! Love it!!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And the New Addition to the Sullivan Landscape is.....

A basketball hoop for the driveway!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You knew it was coming didn’t you????!!!! Yes, this was what my hints were leading up to (congratulations Heidi – you had the closest guess – it’s not a Goal Setter, but I’ll make you the winner!). Jake has been dreaming and scheming and believing this would happen for over two years….and now it is here! I have heard story after story after story from Jake and his parents about the endless hours that Jake spent in his driveway shooting hoops when he was growing up. Everything from his mom warming his gloves in the oven before he would go out and shoot in the winter, to the many times that his Dad beat him one-on-one that would end with Jake so mad that he would cry. I am so excited for our family to begin making these memories with our own hoop now. We were gone all weekend for a tournament when they finished up the installation, so JJ and Sam had to wait until yesterday to break it in. JJ wanted to shoot all day long! About every two hours we all went out so that he could shoot with it lowered down to 8 feet. Once Sam got home from school he was out shooting all afternoon and then again after dinner. It’s going to be used a lot!!!!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Master Weaver

On Thursday mornings I attend a women’s bible study that dives into the Bible to find wisdom, guidance, and application from God’s word. Currently we are going through 1 & 2 Samuel which is quite appropriate for this time in my life, don’t you think?! Our group is filled with about 15 women, from all different walks of life. All of us are moms, most between the ages of 25-40. This semester God brought Grace to our group. Grace is in her 70’s and is quite inspiring to us young-ins. :) I love it when Grace shares little diamonds of truth that she has uncovered in the Word. She almost always starts by saying, “Something interesting to think about is….” and then she will share something she has uncovered. I love it that the Bible is applicable to all ages, all walks of life, all people, every race, every nation, everyone! Yesterday Grace was sharing something and then she referred to the following poem. I hadn’t ever heard of this poem, so I googled it and found it easily. Just wanted to share it today because it really engraved a neat picture in my mind.

The Plan of the Master Weaver

Our lives are but fine weavings
That God and we prepare,
Each life becomes a fabric planned
And fashioned in His care.

We may not always see just how
The weavings intertwine,
But we must trust the Master's hand
And follow His design,
For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side,
While we must look from underneath
And trust in Him to guide...

Sometimes a strand of sorrow
Is added to His plan,
And though it's difficult for us,
We still must understand
That it's He who fills the shuttle,
It's He who knows what's best,
So we must weave in patience
And leave to Him the rest...

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why ---
The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

-Author Unknown-

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Creation Testifies

John 11:25-26 (The Message)
"You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Insights For Life

Our adoption journey has given me many great insights for life. The most recent insight is that I should not expect life to be an easy ride. I know this is not a major revelation to anyone, but somewhere along the line with certain situations I tend to think that I deserve my efforts to be trouble-free. Going into our adoption I very much expected to fill out some forms, get a child referral from an orphanage, accept, and in about a year’s time be able to bring our child home. Our journey has been pretty far from that. And this is also life. Life ain’t easy. There are bumps in the road, mountains to climb, and situations and circumstances that come our way which are completely beyond our capacity to handle or understand. And some people have to endure more in a year’s time than others have to endure their entire life. This leads me to this question that I recently heard, “Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?” Before I read my Bible, I wondered this too. But no pain and no suffering is what God has told us to expect in heaven where There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). Yes, this is what we can look forward to when we enter eternity with God . But the Bible shares story after story after story of people who suffered in extreme circumstances during their life. Sometimes the suffering was to produce faith, test faith, or refine faith. Sometimes disaster struck as punishment for sin. Sometimes trials came that produced maturity and wisdom in the one experiencing it. Sometimes the trials came so that the response could become a testimony to others. Some were even persecuted because of their faith, put in prison, and sentenced to death because of it. Jesus sums all of this up in John 16:33 when he says In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. And knowing that makes knowing and believing this all the more important: The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:9-10).

There is nothing easy about my friends who yearn and pray for a child to be born in their womb and then suffer months and years of grief at the loss of their dream to have a child of their own.

There is nothing easy about going through a tragic car accident and becoming paralyzed from the neck down as a high school aged ISU fan named Jordan encountered a few years ago. His one request was to meet Jake and so we visited him hospital bedside weeks after the tragedy. There is nothing easy about having nurses shift your body around for you so that you don’t get bed sores because you cannot move even one muscle on your own. There is nothing easy about losing your Dad in the accident and wondering why it was you who lived only to be confined to an electronic wheel chair for the rest of your days.

There is nothing easy about my girlfriends who have already had to endure the loss of their mothers due to cancer. Their children will never meet their Grandma.

There is nothing easy about being persecuted by fellow colleagues as an astronomy professor at ISU because you stood up for your beliefs that God made the heavens and the earth. And there is nothing easy about being denied tenure and having to find a different job because of it.

There is nothing easy about suffering from a mental illness that keeps you trapped inside your mind for years and years with no way out and no one who can understand.

And there was nothing easy about this…

And yet, when I hear Jesus say to me Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27) I still somehow seem to lose my perspective. I must remember that carrying a cross is difficult work. And sometimes the future looks bleak. But there is a better day coming. Just as I envision the joy that will be ours when this adoption journey finally brings home our sweet Samuel, God also tells me that something better is just ahead.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adoption Update

Well, we are again facing another unwanted interruption in our adoption process. This one seems minor compared to all the other things that have happened, but it is still going to tack on more time nonetheless. On April 8 the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana changed the processing procedure of their international adoptions. Here is an excerpt of the full page notice we received late last week:

The U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana wishes to advise adoptive parents of procedural changes that may increase the processing time for some adoption cases. Adoptive parents should be aware that an I-604 (Determination on Child for Adoption, sometimes referred to as “orphan investigation”) must be completed in connection with every I-600 application. Depending on the circumstances of the case, this investigation may take up to several weeks or even months to complete. Therefore, adoptive parents should not plan to travel to Ghana until they have confirmed with the U.S. Embassy that their visa interview appointment has been confirmed.

Prospective adoptive parents and adoption service providers are reminded that a consular officer is required, by law, to complete a Form I-604 (determination of orphan status) before issuing a visa in all IR-3 and IR-4 adoption cases. In some cases this may require only a conversation with the birth parent, but in others it may require a full field investigation possibly lasting several weeks. Since verifying the parent-child relationships in Ghana is difficult, we also expect that in some cases where the child was relinquished by the birth parent, DNA testing will be recommended in order to establish a blood relationship between the adopted child and claimed birth parent (s).

Of course something like this would happen right when we are at the very end! It’s hard to believe that they need to do yet another investigation into orphan status when this has already been done numerous other times throughout our process. I kind of just feel like S C R E A M I N G!!!!!!!!!!! But, I think if there is a positive in this, it is that Samuel’s mother is easily accessible should they need to interview her (again) as stated above. Sometimes as in the case of a child being relinquished by the birth parent to an orphanage, it is hard to locate the birth parent, but this will not be the case for us, thankfully. So, here I go again filling out another form. My excitement of what I thought was just getting to wait until we got our I-600 approval in the mail has been completely crushed. Now we will also be awaiting this approval. I am again reminded to keep my perspective in that I am not putting my hope in people to get this adoption done. My hope is in God. And I can trust that He has the timing of this all worked out, even when I don’t understand. Please pray for our adoption…that both our I-600 and now this I-604 would be processed efficiently and that we would not experience any unnecessary delays while they are being processed.

Yesterday as JJ rode his bike alongside of me while we walked to the park we talked about how Samuel will soon be able to come to the park with us and ride JJ’s other bike (the scary bike as JJ put it). Then JJ said, “I can’t wait until my brother Samuel comes. And you can’t wait until he comes, and Daddy can’t wait until he comes. And Yaw will have fun with Samuel too. And Esi too. Everyone, everyone, everyone can’t wait until Samuel comes.” Pretty sure I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Hang on sweet Samuel. I hope someone is telling you that we are coming back for you. We haven’t forgotten you. We think about you every day and we pray for you every day. God-willing, we are coming soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our Weekend In Pictures

Well, this past weekend was the only weekend on the calendar that we have free until the end of May, so I thought I would share our fun with you in pictures!

On Friday we took a visit to Grandma's house out in the good ol’ country! This busy mommy always gets a nice little break when we go to Grandma’s!

Yes, the sun and the fresh air was just what I needed! The country is also good for hollerin….

But sometimes Mommy makes you smile nice for the picture.

Grandma introduced JJ and Jayla to baseball gloves and how to play catch!

But of course a day isn't complete without some hoops!

Saturday it was time to get to work with the first mowing of the year.

And the grill master fired 'er up for the first time of the year and cooked us a great lunch!

We also took a trip to Wal-mart on Saturday and as we passed through the toy aisle JJ noticed a little bike that was down from the rack on the floor. To our surprise he ran up to it, hopped on, and started pedaling down the aisle!!!!!!!!!!!! You might remember that last year we got JJ a bike for his birthday but he refused to ride it because he was so scared…..the one we got him was a little too big. But this one seemed to fit just right so we ended up walking out of Wal-mart with a purchase that was not on our shopping list. It will actually work out great though because we will give Samuel the bike that we had intended JJ to ride which is currently collecting dust in our garage! After nap time JJ gave his bike a whirl and he kept saying “I love this bike!” over and over!

Good job, JJ!!!!!!!!!!!!! I actually might be the most excited about this bike because it means that I can teach JJ to ride alongside of me when I go for a run around town. Last year I had to run while pushing a double stroller (NOT FUN) and this year I’ve had to strategically plan my runs for when JJ is with Jake so I only have to push a single stroller! But, I would love JJ to be able to go with me on the runs, and once he gets the hang of pedaling and steering at the same time I’ll take him (don’t worry Great-Grandma, he does have a helmet)!

Mommy and Daddy also got to go on a date night on Saturday night! Yes Mommy got all fancied up and Daddy put on his best sweat suit and we headed into the city for a little shopping and some P.F. Changs!

On Sunday we took it easy and played outside most of the day. JJ LOVES this $2 ball that we got at Wal-mart which actually was on the shopping list!

Daddy showed him how to throw it up against the house and then catch it, so he did that over and over and over!

Jayla was content to sit and play with her baby outside. :)

And that was our weekend! Sam was with his Mom this weekend so he had lots of fun too but we sure missed his smiling face!

Oh, and here is hint #2 as to what is coming to the Sullivan household….

The rest will be installed later this week! I am sure you will have it figured out by then!

P.S. Has anyone else noticed that I am constantly referring to myself in the 3rd person as Mommy and Jake as Daddy? How does that come to happen? Weird.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Any Guesses?

Any guesses as to what these markings are for?
Something very exciting is coming to the Sullivan household. The hint is: Call before you dig.

I should be able to show you next week if the rain continues to hold off for a few days!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don't Blink

Has anyone seen my babies? They were just here a minute ago…..