Friday, October 29, 2010

Jake is Speaking At an Orphan Sunday Event

I wanted to invite you all to spread the word about an upcoming event that Jake will be speaking at. Next Sunday, November 7th, come Answer the Cry with us as we unite with many across our nation to wake up the church to God’s heart for the orphan. This is a community adoption awareness event being held in Des Moines and is for anyone who wants to know more about adoption. YOU are invited to attend this free event…..and also please pass this along to anyone you know who may need resources in considering adoption. There will be guest speakers from Iowa Kids Net, Gift of Adoption/materials on financing adoption and Jake will be speaking on orphan care initiative in Ghana. A panel of adoption professionals and adoptive parents will also be available to answer YOUR questions. It’s going to be awesome! I had a beautiful little invite card to upload, but of course I can’t figure out how to get blogger to upload a PDF file….so, you’ll have to settle for plain old text:

For All His Children - Community Adoption Awareness Event
Location: Faith Lutheran Church 10395 University Ave. Clive, Iowa 50325
Date: Orphan Sunday, November 7, 2010
Time: 1:00-3:00pm
Contact: Carla Tripp or 515-221-2231

What’s the ultimate goal of the event? Hearts coming together to share God’s heart. Choices made. Lives altered. Children rescued. And God glorified as His people are again known as defenders of the fatherless. Let's make it the biggest one yet!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tag I'm it; bucket list cross off; san fran giants; & Jesus loves me Jayla style

I’ve been tagged by the Dillinger Family blog and I am supposed to answer some questions - these things are kind of fun. Here we go:

1. What was the last book you read and what did you learn from it?
Well, I am sort of notorious for reading a couple of different books at the same time and never really fully finishing any of them! So, the last book that I can say I actually read completely start to finish was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Definitely my favorite book ever. The book was really a great ‘bubble burst-er’… know we can all get caught up in our own little world, and this book sort of pops your bubble in a ka-pow sort of way! I just loaned my copy to a friend so I can’t type up my favorite excerpt, but one chapter started off like this – “You could die before you finish reading this chapter….”

2. Where in your home do you like to go to relax and unwind?
I have a little nook concocted in our master bedroom closet when I need some quiet (and it has a door that locks out little crazy people - very important for this season of life when you need some peace).

3. If you could relive one day in your life, what date would that be and why?
Man these are good questions! I think I would relive our wedding day!!!!!!!!!!!! All that planning and excitement and then it was over too fast! Plus, I spent too much time talking to all the guests during the reception and not enough time out on the dance floor!

4. What is your favorite movie?
Marley & Me, Hope Floats, Love & Basketball, Save the Last Dance. I can’t ever pick just one.

5. Would you rather lose a friendship because of honesty, or keep a friendship because of a lie?
I dig honesty.

6. How long does it take for you to get ready in the morning (from the time you get up, to the time you walk out the door)?
I could be ready and out the door in as little as 15 minutes if I need to get flying. Otherwise, if I can take my time and actually shower (!) then it can be done within 1 Dora the Explorer episode! :)

7. What is your favorite holiday and why?
CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!! The snow, the music, the food, the warm and coziness, the celebrations, the sights, the LOVE. No other holiday beats any of that.

I will soon get to cross one item off of my bucket list!!!!!!!! Any guesses? I’ll fill you in next week.

When the San Francisco Giants made it to the World Series last week Jake reminded me of a funny story. I have family that live in San Francisco, and a few years ago Jake and I traveled out there for my cousin’s wedding. And while we were there we took in a game…..

I almost don’t even recognize us in this picture because it was before we had any kids! Just me and Jake! Anyways, you see that popcorn in the picture? Well, about 2 minutes before this picture was taken, I had asked Jake if he would go and get me some popcorn. I was FREEZING and couldn’t move for fear that I would turn into an icicle. Being the nice guy that he is, he quickly ran to get me some popcorn during the beginning of the game…..and…… unfortunately, within the first few minutes that he was gone Barry Bonds hit a homerun (and it was during the time when BB was on track to break the record). And it ended up being the only one he hit the entire game. And, now, almost 7 years later, Jake still will not let me live this down! Now that you’ve read this entire story and were probably thinking that it was going to be a better story than it was, well, it’s my turn to tag some of you! So, whoever is reading this and wants to do it, share a picture on your blog that has a ‘story’ behind it – a story that none of us would have ever known just by looking at the picture. :)

And last but not least… is our sweet Jayla singing Jesus Loves Me. :) She has been breaking out into song randomly throughout the day, and I just love it! You have to crank the volume because crazy man #1 (JJ) and #2 (Justice) are having a heated game of NBA Wii while I was recording. I sort of missed the first part of her song, so this video starts out with her singing ‘for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong…’

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Justice's Health, Age & a Lil' Basketball!!!!!!

Let me start with the best news we got all week from Justice’s doctor:

Dear Jake & Janel-
The blood test verifies that Justice has sickle cell trait which means he has only one copy of the abnormal gene. This should not cause any symptoms. He may always have a mild anemia but should not be bothered by this minor defect.

PRAISE GOD!!!!!! It had been our hunch way back when he was said to have sickle cell anemia that something just wasn’t right with that diagnosis. Now to see it on paper that he is only a carrier is absolutely beautiful. Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful.

Now, let’s talk age. Impoverished families in Ghana do not have a way to keep track of age and birthdays, let alone have a copy of a birth certificate on file (or really any bookkeeping records for that matter). So, with Justice’s situation and many other children in his boat, it is left up to the social welfare workers to guess the age of many of the children who are being adopted. When the birth certificate for Justice was typed up they gave him the birthday of August 5th, 2004 which makes him 6 years old currently. Jake and I have a sort of gut feeling that he is more around the age of 8. Now that he is up to speed nutrition-wise and gained some weight and grown in height, we are better able to compare him to his peers. In just being around the kids at Jake’s gym, Justice seems to fit right in with the 2nd and 3rd graders (8 & 9 year olds). It’s almost a perfect fit. In fact, Jake has let Justice start practicing with the 9U boys team to start developing some body awareness and physical coordination. I am posting some pictures and video below of his first practice with the team from Monday night. You cannot even imagine the JOY that filled my heart in getting to watch him out on the court.

Along the lines of age, I had taken Justice to his first-ever dentist appointment last week as well. I wanted to post about an interesting find, in case any other families who have adopted older African children find themselves in the same ‘freak out’ mode that I was in last week! Towards the end of the check-up the dentist noted to me that Justice’s 12 year molars were almost in. This indicated to the dentist that his age was more around the 11 or 12 year old range. As I let that sink in I went into sort of a ‘freak out’ mode for a few hours. Once the initial shock was over, I ended up calling a good friend who had recently adopted from Ethiopia to talk some things through with her. I have a really hard time processing things internally. I have to figure things out verbally (which is why blogging has become such an outlet for me!). And, I know it was God-directed that I would give this friend a call because she shared some interesting information with me. She said that at a recent adoption conference they had specifically noted that this has been coming up a lot with children adopted from Africa…..their permanent teeth are coming in years sooner than a typical American child. It has to do with malnutrition, and early tooth decay of the baby teeth. Sure enough, after she shared this with me I looked this up online and found quite a few studies being done in African countries regarding this exact thing. One study did indicate that in a few of their subjects 12 year molars were in around the age of 9. Studies are also currently being done on the Indian population. In short, American dentists do not regularly see African patients (and surely not our dentist in Ankeny, IA) so they are just comparing them to what is typical in an American child. So my conclusion from all of this was that our gut feeling was likely still accurate…that he is around the age of 8. In case you are wondering how all of that works, when we refinalize the adoption it is possible to petition for an age change. This is something Jake and I are prayerfully considering about what to do, however no decision needs to be made right now. I know that God will provide the perfect wisdom for us regarding Justice’s specific situation!!!!

And, now let’s talk basketball! This was so exciting getting to see him out there!!!!!!!!!!!! Picture quality isn’t great b/c of the gym lighting, but I still have to post these!

Video: Layups

And I snapped this picture right after the coaches explained the 3-man weave......
Justice bites his fingernails when he is nervous and I could tell he wasn’t really sure how to do the drill. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t get a video of his first attempt at the 3-man weave. It would have been cool to see his progress. The first, second, and third try he messed up the drill so the coaches stopped his group and physically walked Justice through the drill. Then, the next time he had the drill figured out, but his coordination/skill is still a little off. Here is a video:

Don’t you just want to jump out there and help him?! I am going to have to start getting used to being a parent in the bleachers now! Normally I just have to chase around rugrats, not pay attention to what is actually happening on the court! It was sort of nerve-racking watching it all…..but oh the JOY of getting to see him run around out there!!!!! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seven Less

Sunday afternoon we had an awesome time with some new friends that we’ve met along our adoption journey. In this picture there are 6 children who are orphans no more. The 7th little one was inside eating with his momma so he didn’t make it in the picture. :) On this afternoon, our families represented 6 countries:

Jon & Hope – Haiti (
Aviella & Joyanna – Liberia
Issac - Ukraine
Justice – Ghana
Abram – U.S.A. (

The 6th country soon to be represented is the Congo as Abram’s siblings will be home soon.

Don’t you love how these numbers start adding up? In fact, Sunday at church our pastor announced that over the next year there could be at least 15 new Congolese children coming that are currently being adopted by families in our church. ROCK ON! The current estimate of approximately 147 million orphans worldwide is daunting. It’s choking. Almost paralyzing. But, to Jesus, each of these precious children matter. Standing in the kitchen on Sunday evening just listening to everyone’s God-stories about their adoptions was breath-taking. All of our adoption stories were completely different….yet we could clearly see the hand of God in each of them. At one point after getting to watch a video made by one of the children’s birthmother’s I had to stand back, take a breath, and praise our awesome God. The awesome God who cares enough about his lost sheep, that he will leave the 99 safe ones, to go after just one who is lost (Luke 15:3-7).

What a picture of adoption. We have an awesome Father who has adopted us into His family by the blood of His son. We were once strangers to God. Blinded and separated from Him by our sin and unrepentant hearts. But because of Jesus we can call ourselves children of God (Galatians 4:4-7). Jesus changed everything for us. And now, as His sons and daughters, God has clearly shown us in His word that He is going to use US for change. Richard Stearns, President of World Vision and author of The Hole In Our Gospel puts it this way….

God chose His followers to be the change – He chose you, and He chose me. We are the ones who will bring the good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and stand up for justice in a fallen world. We are the revolution. We are God’s Plan A….and He doesn’t have a Plan B.

It starts with you. In the end, God simply calls you to be faithful to the things He has given you to do. He doesn’t require you to be a superstar, just faithful and obedient, by praying, loving, serving, giving, forgiving, healing, and caring – doing small things with great love.

As I write these words, I am looking out a window in my house. I see the beauty of God’s creation – lush green trees, blooming flowers, bright blue skies, and snowcapped mountains in the distance. I can hear a dog barking, an airplane flying overhead, and the thrum of cars on the highway nearby. And yet I know that somewhere, perhaps not very far away, there is pain and suffering – someone crying out to God for help. A neighbor has been diagnosed with cancer. A father has lost his job. A family has lost their home. Somewhere else there is a child without a mother, or a parent grieving for a child. There are children without food to eat or water to drink. There are girls and boys exploited by evil people who curse God as they carry out their evil schemes. In yet another place desperate thousands have been driven from their homes by calamity or war. There are lonely people without comfort or hope, with no one to turn to. Sickness and death stalk millions who have no doctors or medicine. Yes, not too far away, and distant too, there are broken people in this broken world. Broken and bruised. I know that. But I also know the power of the gospel – the gospel without a hole – that we are charged to carry…..

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa~

Monday, October 25, 2010

One Less

The United Nations reports that the number of orphans around the world waiting for help is more than 140 million.

There are more than 46 million orphans in Africa.

There are more than 71 million orphans in Asia.

There are more than 10 million orphans in Latin America.

There are more than 120,000 orphans in the United States.

A child dies from malaria, a completely preventable disease, every 30 seconds. 1 in every 20 children in Africa alone will die just from this disease.

Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent due to AIDS.

Every day, almost 16,000 children die of hunger. That’s 12 million every year.

There could be one less.

There could be one less broken heart going to sleep tonight.

There could be one less child dying of a preventable disease.

There could be one less child dying from hunger.

There could be one less child growing up without a family.
There could be one less child fighting for survival each day living on the street.

But for there to be one less, then someone needs to step up.

Did you know that if 8 percent of people who profess to be Christians adopted, there would be no more orphans? Did you know that in the United States alone, if one family out of every 4 churches adopted a child there would be no more orphans in our country? There are 2,000 Bible passages that declare our Father's love for the impoverished and their children and that urge us, YOU AND ME, to defend their cause.

Think of the plight of the orphan somewhere right now out there in the world. It’s not just that she’s lonely. It’s that she has no inheritance, no future. With every passing year, she’s less “cute”, less adoptable. In just a few years, on her eighteenth birthday, she’ll be expelled from the orphanage or from “the system”. What will happen to her then? Maybe she’ll join the military or find some job training. Maybe she’ll stare at a tile on the ceiling above her as her body is violated by a man who’s willing to pay her enough to eat for a day, alone in a back alley or in front of a camera crew of strangers. Maybe she’ll place a revolver in her mouth or tie a rope around her neck, knowing no one will have to deal with her except , once again, the bureaucratic “authorities” who can clean up the mess she leaves behind. Can you feel the force of such desperation?
(excerpt from Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore)

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice in our world when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

(Statistics taken from and and and

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just a Bunch of Pictures

Day at the orchard....

Corn pool....

It's a little dusty in here!

Jumping pillow...

Super slide!

Time to hunt for pumpkins.

Mommy found the perfect one for Jayla!

Justice found his!

And JJ found his!

Hayride with Uncle Eli

Our lil punkin

Justice's 1st haircut....courtesy of Coach Julian

All done and looking good!!!!!!!

JJ is really into football right now!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pep Talk

The other day I saw a t-shirt of a marathon runner that had this quote:

“The miracle is not that I finished, but that I had the courage to start”

As I thought about this quote, I began relating it to stepping out in faith and obeying God. Not too long ago I was convinced that taking that first step of obedience was the hardest part of any journey. Now I would say that ‘hanging in there’ and learning to thrive along the journey is possibly even harder. You’ve heard me mention it before, and it’s boldly obvious from scripture that oftentimes obeying God in certain areas takes much sacrifice on our part. So, what truths can we cling to after we’ve obeyed, and yet find ourselves in a place where our expectations are not being met? What can our encouragement be to finish the race that we’ve entered? Is it possible for us to hold our heads up and rock on in confidence even when we find ourselves in a situation that we didn’t foresee coming? Even when our expectations have literally been kicked, stomped on, and thrown out the window? Even when we encounter a little surprise that causes our innermost being to shout out “I didn’t sign up for this!” I myself often need a pep talk to regain my focus and keep rockin’ on. So this post is that.

I’ve been trucking through the gospel of Luke with a friend and we are now through the chapters of Jesus’ teaching ministry, and up to the part of His crucifixion and resurrection. In the first chapters of each of the gospels we watch and learn as Jesus picks out 12 disciples. These disciples step out in obedience and follow Him, though many have sacrifices to make in this change of lifestyle (for example Levi a.k.a. Matthew leaves behind his job and material fortune as a dishonest tax collector ~Luke 5:27-28). Much of the rest of the gospel of Luke unfolds Jesus ministry as he teaches the crowds and His disciples what it means to follow Him. Then, something unexpected happens. This leader and teacher that the disciples and many in the crowds had put their faith in is arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death as a criminal. Even though Jesus had clearly predicted his death on three different occasions (Luke 9:22, Luke 9:44-45, Luke 9:31-34) the scriptures say that the disciples ‘did not understand what this meant’. In fact, all throughout the gospel of Luke we see that the disciples do not get a full grasp of what Jesus’ mission on earth was. My study guide goes as far to say that ‘the disciples have only grasped the happy part of the message’ meaning they are focusing on the rewards of kingship and Jesus’ promised kingdom, and have completely missed it when Jesus has said that first will come rejection and death. The point is that at the time of Jesus’ arrest, they found themselves in a place they didn’t expect to be. They had obeyed their calling to follow Jesus. And now their leader and Lord was going to be put to death on a cross. And you know what their response was? Mark 14:50 tells it loud and clear: Then everyone deserted him (Jesus) and fled.

I was struck by this. You know why? Because reading that was like a mirror into my own heart. In my own humanness, when things get tough my default is to throw in the towel. Escape the situation. Run the other way. Hide. Ugh. I hate even admitting that I am a quitter, but that is my heart. When things don’t go my way, I want a way out, even if I have to make my own way out. The funny thing is that these types of situations are the exact ones that we need to be in so that our faith will grow and mature. It’s so painful. But we can hope in this: God’s grace. This is what I am learning in my women’s bible study right now. Not only do we receive God’s grace as a gift of salvation at the foot of the cross, but as my study guide says, we are also utterly dependent on God’s grace to LIVE OUT the Christian life. Consider this verse:

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

All sufficiency in all things at all times. I want that.

A few months ago, I was having a really hard time with Sam. I felt that he hadn’t met any of our expectations neither at school or at home, and that he wasn’t becoming a functional member of our family. His grades were bad, his attitude was bad, and my outlook of having him in our family was bad. I was ready to be done. That was my heart. Then something happened. I began to pray that God would teach me to love Sam unconditionally. No matter what sort of obstacle was on the radar next, I prayed that God would develop a love inside of me for Sam that no bad report card, no dirty look, no messy room, no careless attitude, no arguing, no undone chores would break. I started praying for this every day. And I had others pray this for me. And over the past few months God has totally transformed my heart. And I’m not the only one that He transformed. God has used other people that have come into Sam’s life who have pointed him towards a relationship with Jesus. And then, two weekends ago, God’s grace intersected our lives. At a youth retreat with his junior high group from church, Sam made the decision to put His faith in Jesus. And literally one day later I saw some pretty cool ‘evidences’ that confirmed to me that his profession of faith was genuine. This spoke volumes to me because I knew that if Sam hadn’t still been with us, he wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity to be at this retreat and have his life forever changed. And you know what one of the first things Sam said to me after 1 day of living as a follower of Christ? He said, “Being a Christian is really hard,” and he went on to share some reasons why. Smile. Oh how right you are!

And yet, there is encouragement for all of us in God’s grace. My study guide puts it best: God is fully aware that we are incapable of godly living in spite of our best intentions or efforts. His grace is His supernatural supply for all that we lack. He promises to equip and empower us to do whatever He requires of us.

Receiving a referral for a red-headed African to add to our red-headed family in the midst of a frustrating and exhausting adoption journey? God’s grace. Giving birth to a little boy on my birthday after I had suffered the emotional pain of a miscarriage in the pregnancy before his? God’s grace. The resurrected Jesus seeking out the disciples to ease their doubts after they had abandoned and disowned him just days before? God’s grace.

I don’t know how God’s grace will show up in your life. But it has shown up in mine when things were rough. If you’ve obeyed God in something hard, and are finding yourselves in a place that you didn’t expect to be, God’s grace is right there with you. And it is sufficient.

There was given me a thorn in my flesh….three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An African & a 4 Year Old Playing Football

I know you need a laugh today, so here you go!!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Pictures 2010

Well, we finally got our family pictures taken!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!! Our family picture frame above our fireplace has actually been empty since June! Our family had changed so much over the past year that I finally just took the old picture out of there and left the frame empty! I am posting some of my favorites from our session with my friend Stacy. I am however holding back my favorite, Favorite, FAVORITE one of all of us that will be for the Christmas card! I have to keep some sort of surprise coming! Here are a few of the others:

My boys...

Us girls...

My loves.






Embracing the chaos!

And of course we must take a look at the out-takes!!!! These are the ‘real’ and ‘un-cut’ us! :)

JJ picking his nose...

All Justice wants to do is wrestle. Wrestle. Wrestle. Wrestle. Here we are at a timeout in between shots getting some wrestling out!

And trying to get this picture was hilarious. Jayla was bawling and I believe Jake’s patience had run out by this point as you can see (mine ran out about 30 minutes before this point)! But the fam endured the pain and now we should be all set until next year’s family picture session!

Thank you Stacy for photographing our crazy bunch!