Sunday, February 28, 2010

On To State!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just had to post some pictures of last night’s game! Yaw and Des Moines Christian beat West Marshall 60-44 in the sub-state finals and now they get to compete for the state title of boys 2A basketball! It was so exciting!



Post-game thanks to God.

Presentation of state qualifier banner!

One happy guy!

Jake congratulates Coach Stubbs. Notice Yaw in the background talking.....that is his date for prom....Bianca!
If you want to come see Yaw or Des Moines Christian play for the state title at Wells Fargo Arena, here is the info:

Monday Mar 8th @ 6:35 pm - DM Christian #1 seed (26-0) vs Carroll Kuemper #8 seed (15-11)

Other 2A State Tournament brackets:

Monday Mar 8th @ 8:15 pm Western Christian #4 seed (22-3) vs Wapsie Valley (Fairbank) #5 seed (20-5)

Tuesday Mar 9th @ 12:05 pm IKM-Manning #2 seed (24-0) vs Turkey Valley, Jackson Junction #7 seed (19-6)

Tuesday Mar 9th @ 1:45 pm Solon #3 seed (23-2) vs Mid-Prairie Wellman #6 seed (19-5)

Semi-Finals
Thursday Mar 11th - Winners of Monday’s games play at 2 pm
Thursday Mar 11th - Winners of Tuesday’s games play at 3:45 pm

Championship Game for 1st place
Winners of semi final games play at 8:05 pm Friday Mar 12th

Consolation Game for 3rd place
Losers of semi final games play at 11:45 am Friday Mar 12th

http://www.iahsaa.org/basketball/2010%20Tournament/2010_2A_State_Basketball_Brackets.pdf

Hope to see you there….wearing BLUE & WHITE! :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Turn Compassion Into Action

I’ve had almost 2 months now to reflect on our trip to Ghana, and it is now that I have been able to realize many ways in which I have been changed from our experience. Now that we are home the memories from our trip continue to swirl around in my head, and yet, I have found that my feelings and thoughts from the trip are becoming more clear and organized. I am starting to be able to verbalize ways that I feel changed. I’ll share one way with you today.

Since we’ve been back from our trip, I’ve been asked this question a lot - Hasn’t your trip just made you so thankful for even the little things we have here? We are so blessed with what we have.

And, another comment is like it. I saw this exact comment in response to the Haiti earthquake tragedy:

In light of everything going on in the world, I am so thankful today for my family, friends, and home.

I’ve noticed a change in my response to these sorts of comments since coming back from Ghana. I now believe that if these statements end right here, then all they are showing is consideration for self. Go back through those statements and notice the common thread - all the I’s, My’s, We’s – just the general focus of what these statements entail is….SELF! Yes, God tells us to be thankful, don’t get me wrong. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says that our attitude should continually be joyful, prayerful, and thankful in all circumstances. Thankfulness is good. However, when our thankfulness comes in the wake of someone else’s hardship, or tragedy, or trial, it is then that I believe God is tugging at our heart strings. And, I don’t think the end result that he is looking for is thankfulness. Consider this verse:

1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTIONS and in truth.

This is our wake up call to do something! If we feel God tugging on our heart about a certain situation/person/people group then this verse tells us that we must have COMPASSION (pity) for the person/people involved and that our next response needs to be ACTION, ACTION, ACTION! Have you ever prayed that God would use you to touch the lives of others in a powerful way? Pray it. I dare you. He will give you the opportunities. And, your opportunities might not look the same as mine. You might not adopt an orphan from Africa. But, maybe orphans are on your heart and you could consider sponsoring a child. I am talking about a monthly or yearly donation to a reputable organization that will provide food, clothes and an education to a child in need. Here are just two organizations that I know of that are doing AMAZING things through child sponsorship:

The Raining Season (Sierra Leone, West Africa):
http://www.therainingseason.org/The_Raining_Season/Sponsorship.html
This sponsorship program is unbelievable! You can choose from different amounts/types of sponsorships that will best suit your personal financial plan. For $40/month you can sponsor food/nutrition for a child; $40/month would also cover an educational sponsorship; a medical sponsorship is $30/month for a child; and a clothing/personal sanitary items sponsorship is just $20 a month. The website link above goes into great depth about each of these sponsorships, and the reasons why child sponsorships for orphans and those in severely impoverished families are so DESPERATELY needed. Click here and look into the eyes of these children awaiting sponsorship: http://www.therainingseason.org/The_Raining_Season/Children.html With a commitment of monthly support you will also receive the opportunity to build a relationship with the child you sponsor. You will be sent letters, photos, school and medical updates, and personal artwork from the child you sponsor. Not only that, but The Raining Season will soon have wireless internet access which they will use to have regular Skype visits (video conferencing) between each child and his/her sponsor. Really, can you beat that?

Here is one more child sponsorship program that I know of-

Amazima Ministries International (Uganda, East Africa):
http://amazima.org/waystohelp.html
For $300 a year you can sponsor a child and give him/her an education, a uniform, two hot meals per day, school supplies, and any minor medical care. You will be sent a picture and letter from the child you are sponsoring.

Amazima also has a handful of other projects going that are making a huge impact. You can read about them here: http://amazima.org/projects.html How amazing is it that you can donate 15 cents and provide a healthy meal to a child, or $2.10 will provide a week’s worth of meals, and only $15 provides 100 meals!!!!! To see this ministry in action visit this blog: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

Alright people, I hear some of you out there saying, what about here in the U.S.? Let’s help our own country too! Okay, let’s do it. I talk about Africa so much because it is constantly on my heart, and it truly takes SUCH LITTLE AMOUNTS OF MONEY to make such HUGE IMPACTS there. But, maybe God is tugging at you to do something here in the U.S. Can I give you some ideas?

How about becoming a big brother or big sister in your local boys and girls club, or taking part in a mentoring program. There are NUMEROUS kids all around us who desperately need good role models. Imagine growing up without a mom or without a dad. This is the reality of many children in our schools and neighborhoods. They need direction, guidance, and someone to just take an interest in them and care about them. Becoming a mentor or role model for one of these children can create a long-standing impact on their life. Maybe your opportunity for this is right down the street in your neighborhood. Check out: www.mentoriowa.org

Consider becoming a licensed foster care family for a child that has experienced abuse, abandonment, or neglect: http://www.iowakidsnet.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.theprocess

Did you know there are over 100,000 children in the U.S. waiting for adoption and a permanent home? Here is just one of the many adoption agencies aiding in domestic adoption: http://www.bethany.org/A55798/bethanyWWW.nsf/0/5588CA5EFD85C57C852574A4006E92F5

For domestic infant adoptions go here: http://www.bethany.org/A55798/bethanyWWW.nsf/0/54C135013A9102E885256CE600590922

There is also an URGENT need for adoptive families for African American infants within this agency in particular: http://www.adoptionassociates.net/news/families_urgently_needed_for_africanamerican_infant_adoption_program/

Other than adoption, here are some more ideas-

Maybe you are good at making conversation with people. Get in touch with your local Meals on Wheels program (often coordinated through hospitals) and deliver meals around to the elderly in your town. Don’t just drop off the meal. Take 5 minutes each day and get to know the people on your route. Maybe you could even make visits to some of them during your after-work hours. I actually was just talking with someone last week who had taken a visit to the house of an elderly friend. Once there, he found out that this elderly man was desperately trying to make ends meet (he had been disabled for quite some time and was out of work) and so he decided that one way he could do this would be to keep his thermostat set at 50 degrees to save on heating. He was wearing about 6 layers of clothes just to keep warm in his own house. The man who was visiting him decided that this was an opportunity God had given him to help this man financially. And, it all stemmed from a simple visit.

Maybe you know how to cook a good meal. You should invite over that new family in your son’s first grade class that just moved to town. Or your elderly neighbor who just lost her husband. Or you could cook a meal and take it to the lady down the street that just had surgery. I also just heard of a mom in town who has discovered the desperate need of families in our local schools who cannot put together meals during school breaks. Many struggling families rely heavily on the free breakfasts and lunches offered to their children through special programs at school. But, when school is not in session, they do not have the means to put together 3 meals a day. This mom packs up boxes of nutritious meals, and works with the school lunch lady to get the meals dispersed to the families in need before spring break, Christmas break, and summertime.

Maybe missionary work is more your style. Has God blessed you with the skill of knowing how to do construction? Sign-up for your church’s mission trip to help build homes in the Phillipines, or for a Haiti relief trip. (My church is planning to take a group to Haiti to help in relief efforts over spring break. Email me or leave me a note in the comments section if you want more information.) Do you know how to sew? Do you know how many lives you can change in Africa if you know how to sew? Save up for 6 months and buy yourself a plane ticket to any impoverished country in Africa and take a week and go around and teach women how to sew. I am serious. If you teach an African woman how to sew she will be able to provide for herself and for her family.

Maybe none of these things seem appealing to you. If that’s the case, then just start serving someone, at some capacity, and watch for open doors that may lead to other open doors that may just lead you to the exact place that you are supposed to be. And please hear me LOUD and CLEAR: Some of these things may seem small gestures, or some might seem not as important as others. But once you start obeying God’s command in these small ways, it will become much easier to obey when God gives you ‘bigger things’.

You also need to expect that you will at some point be completely thrown out of your comfort zone. That is a good thing. Do you think Simon Peter was comfortable leaving everything (his job, income, life as a fisherman) behind to go and follow Jesus and become a ‘fisher of men’? (Luke 5:1-11) Do you think he even knew what this new ‘occupation’ as a disciple entailed? You can expect that if you decide to take up your cross and follow Jesus as He asks you to (Mark 8:34), that you probably won’t be able to sit comfortably in a little bubble. Carrying a cross is difficult work.

God has given each of us unique gifts and talents that are to be used. I know you’ve heard that one before. So, if we know we have been given these, then we’ve got to be praying that HE would show us how to use them, and where. If we are praying about this, when the opportunity comes we will not miss it. Yes, be thankful that it’s not your 3 year old who died while waiting in line to get medical attention at a Haiti make-shift hospital, be thankful that your nice cozy house doesn’t lay in ruins, be thankful that you don’t live in a shack in the dust of Africa that wouldn’t even be fit be fit for a dog in America, be thankful that it wasn’t your family member’s body being thrown into a mass grave, be thankful that you have food to eat and clothes to wear. But don’t stop there. Do something. God is pulling on your heart strings for a reason. He’s pushing you beyond your thoughts. He’s pushing you into action. Into obedience of His commands that are blatantly clear. I just read back through this post and noted that I used the word DESPERATE over 4 times because that is the word that kept coming to my mind. And, that pretty much sums this post up. We live in a world that has DESPERATE needs. If we call ourselves Christ-followers, then as the verse above says, we cannot merely love those in need with just our words. It takes action.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Video: Miss Independent, Diego, & Yaw

(Video player looks black, but if you click on the play button it will start)

video

Deciphering:

“Uh oh……mumbo jumbo…..ni-night…ni-night……mumbo-jumbo…….uh-oh…..uh-oh, oops Diego……..(Mommy says: Jayla do you need some help?)........No. No...(Mommy says: Okay)...Okay….mumbo jumbo….Hi…..Hi Diego….hat……I see…..laughing….(Mommy says: Who do you see? Who do you see?)……Yaw……(Mommy says: Yaw in there? Is he in the kitchen?)……mumbo jumbo….. (Mommy says: Jayla, can mommy help you?)….No….(Mommy says: Okay)…Okay…..more laughing…..Yaw……(Mommy says: There’s Yaw)……more laughing.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What would you think.....

if you saw this?


Don't worry, it's just this.....Jayla's baby doll!

But, I recently realized how bad this looks when I carry Jayla’s baby in my purse! In the past week a few people have mistaken her for a real baby! Last Wednesday night we were packing up our stuff at church and I started stuffing Jayla’s doll into my purse, trying to twist her legs down so that no parts were sticking out. I happened to look up and in the aisle behind us two kids were staring at me with their jaws dropped open, in horror, as they watched what they thought was me stuffing a real baby into my purse!

A few other times recently we’ve been at a restaurant and I’ve had Jayla’s baby in my purse on the floor, and I’ve caught a bunch of onlookers doing double and triple-takes trying to figure out if the baby was real!

Then last Sunday I was at church, and from afar one of the workers thought that I was holding a real baby, and she said she was trying to figure out if I had just had a baby and if she had somehow missed my pregnancy!

So, I think this is my sign that I either need to get a smaller purse so I won’t be tempted to stuff the baby doll in there, or Jayla needs to get a new baby doll that is a little less real looking!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fast Buddies








Some night I'll have to get some pictures of these two at the gym....they have a quite a bond already!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Updated Samuel Pictures!

Got these two awesome pictures of Samuel yesterday! He is pictured here with his foster mother, and the other lil guy that is being adopted by a family with our adoption agency. Samuel is looking so good!

It’s so hard to just sit here and wait until the rest of these papers are processed…..especially since he is officially ours in Ghana. I JUST CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER! But, I will. :)

Also found out a few more tidbits about Samuel over the past couple of weeks. On Samuel's baptismal certificate his birthday was listed as August 5th, 2004.....which means he is actually only 5 years old!!!! He is VERY tall compared to his other peers, so I think that is why he looks so old in the pictures. When we met him I felt like his age was accurate. We also found out that Samuel’s father is in fact deceased, and he also had albinism.

And, I wanted to let you know that our adoption agency is now accepting new families to adopt within the Ghana program. Any pioneers out there? Let me assure you that this program is not for the faint of heart! However, I do feel much more optimistic with this program now that our agency has paired up with CompAfriCare Foundation (http://www.compafricare.org/) to process the adoptions in Ghana. Kofi, who works on behalf of our agency and CompAfriCare Foundation in Ghana, has been wonderful to work with. He is very knowledgable about the process, not to mention he just plain gets things done on a speedy time frame. I couldn’t believe it when I looked back in our adoption journal the other day and realized that we received Samuel’s referral just on October 29th! That was less than 4 months ago!!!! WOW! Completely different time frame than how our adoption journey began. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think our adoption journey has been very ‘typical’ as far as international adoptions go, but not for sure. Hopefully our experience has aided our agency in getting some of the ‘kinks out’ with this new program. That was one of the goals afterall. If you feel so led, check out the details of the Ghana program at: http://www.aboutachild.org/Ghana.php I am certain that God has many other families picked out to adopt from Ghana. Please pray and ask God if it could be you!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Samuel Update :)

Update yesterday from Kofi:

"I have applied for the birth certificate together with the passport for Samuel and both shall be ready in two weeks time. I will mail the original documents to you as soon as I get the birth certificate. I am using express application for these documents."

The original documents are the ones that we are waiting on in order to file our last and final form with the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) – the I-600 form. I mentioned before that there is a choice in which we could fly to Ghana and file the I-600 at the Embassy in Ghana instead of here in the United States. This option is supposed to be quicker….instead of 2-3 month processing time, it is supposed to take only 2-4 weeks if we were to ‘fly and file’. However, we would have to plan on staying in Ghana for those potential 2-4 weeks until things were processed, or make plans to come back after filing, and then fly back in a few weeks once everything was processed. We ended up deciding against this option, since we would have to fly back here in the mean time, and then go back again. Now I am seeing how awesome it would have been to have been able to file our I-600 on our trip to Ghana back in January. But, of course at that point we still had to go through our court date, which was why we couldn’t file it then. Anyways, I was just talking with my friends who just brought their sweet little baby home from Ethiopia. With the Ethiopia adoption process, you do fly to Ethiopia and file the I-600 there at the Embassy. But, processing time only takes a day or two. So, filing the I-600 is part of the one and only trip that you take to your child’s country to bring them home. Kinda neat how that works out. This would be my future hope for Ghana adoptions…..that they would be able to knock down the processing time of the I-600 to only a few days in Ghana. These friends that just brought their baby home from Ethiopia are the ones that I had emailed the very first week that adoption was put on our heart. I had emailed them a really long email about it all to ask them to pray for us, and in their response back they said that they too had just started in on their own international adoption! It was crazy! We have had a unique connection throughout our adoption journeys since we have been there with each other from the start. You can check out my friends’ blog at: http://nicoladoption.blogspot.com/

Samuel has been staying in foster care in Ghana. This is a requirement of the USCIS for Samuel to have ‘true orphan status’ since his mother is still living. For this status, he cannot be under the care of his mother….foster care or orphanage care is required. Samuel is staying with a foster care family in Ghana, along with a little 2 year old boy who is also in the process of being adopted by a family using our adoption agency.

Also wanted to share verses from this Psalm that a friend sent me yesterday:

Psalm 68: 4-6

Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds —
his name is the LORD—
and rejoice before him.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More On Sam

So, Sam started school at Ballard East a few weeks ago in Mrs. O’s 5th grade class. And, Jake and I were quickly launched into sharpening up our lost and dusty homework skills. We’ve already set up a system. For math and history/social studies, Sam can go to Jake. For spelling and reading/grammar, it’s all me. I think science will be double duty. My first prayer for Sam was that he would make some good friends at school. And, his first week, on the second day of school he was asked to meet some kids at the fitness center in our town to play some hoops afterschool. Later that night we attended our church’s kids ministry which involves age appropriate teaching time over scripture, as well as a drama that acts out what is learned in the classes, and family worship time with dancers/singers/etc (it’s AWESOME!). Well, a bunch of kids in Sam’s class were there, and they were all about showing him around and engaging him in everything. It was so cool. Then, later that week Sam was invited to a classmate’s birthday party over the weekend! And, just last night he was invited to another classmates birthday party that isn't until the end of March! Talk about early notice! Man, what is it with kids these days? They are actually nice and welcoming to new students! :)

I’ve caught myself smiling at some of the things that Sam has said. The first night he was with us JJ and Jayla basically swarmed him the entire night, dragging out toy after toy, fighting for his attention, wanting to sit right next to him on the couch, etc. After the first few hours we were in JJ’s room putting away Sam’s clothes and Sam looked at me as he held Jayla and said, “I always wanted a little brother or sister. Now I have both!” It was so sweet. I also heard him say to Jake, “Do you think I’ll be able to dunk when I am in the 9th grade?” And, to me on day 3 he said, “I have a question, should I call you Mom or Janel?” :) He also said to me one morning, "Do you need any help cleaning? I like to clean."

JJ and Jayla have adjusted perfectly to having Sam around, in fact, they won’t leave him alone! He does such a good job of playing with them and getting them anything they need. When we are out running errands or going somewhere he likes to get Jayla out of her car seat and carry her in. And, you better believe that she just loves it. Poor Yaw. Jayla has officially dumped him for Sam. She used to get so excited when Yaw would get home, but now she is all about Sam and follows him around everywhere. Sam is starting to get his big brother role down perfectly. He says things to JJ like ‘don’t pick on your sister’ and ‘don’t say poopy at the table’. The other night JJ spilled a huge plate of taco dip and a tub of grapes when he was mountain climbing into the fridge for something. Sam immediately jumped up from the table and started helping JJ clean it all up.

You may be wondering if life has turned crazy now with another child, but those of you who know me will be able to attest to the fact that God has created me to be a scheduler, planner, routine-maker, whatever you want to call it. Yes, I am one of those people who does the laundry the same day every week, gets groceries on the same day every week, cleans on the same day every week, has dinner on the table at the same time every night, etc. etc. And I love it. And, my kids thrive on a routine. That’s just how we roll. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can take it to a bit of an extreme, and be a little too rigid with our daily routines. I am learning that it’s good to keep everyone on track, but that I also need to be flexible when needed. This is where Jake completely balances me out because he is very not-scheduled. He does things when they need to be done, but he doesn’t plan things out like I do. However, a few months ago I did notice that he has started writing out his daily to do list at the beginning of each week just like me, so I’m starting to rub off on him. Anyways, Sam has really just fallen right into the routine that our family is in day-to-day. It’s easy to catch on because it’s pretty much the same routine every week. So far, not too much has changed in our daily routine since Sam is at school all day. Jake picks him up after school most days and then they head to the gym for practice. I am still cooking about the same amount of food as before….just no leftovers now. I am getting a few more snack type items at the store now for Sam. His food requests on our first grocery trip were ritz crackers with spray cheese, grapes, pears, apples, apple juice, pizza rolls, and chocolate pudding. Typical 5th grade boy appetite I think. Too bad Jake got a hold of Sam’s spray cheese and ate almost the whole can during one sitting. Jake claimed that he used to eat spray cheese all through out highschool but had since forgotten about it! I am sure Sam will be reminding Jake of a lot of things like that!

We also are getting a lot of use out of our Nintendo Wii now! Jake’s parents gave this to us for Christmas, and boy has it come in handy! Wii Sports is the way we tend to wind down at night…..playing a few very competitive games of bowling. The Wii is really the only 5th grader friendly ‘toy’ that we have. Sam is pretty happy to just play the Wii, play with JJ and Jayla, or watch sitcoms on Nickelodeon when he has some down time if we aren’t going anywhere.
Here are a few pictures!

Homework!

Bringing in the history buff.


JJ loves to watch Sam play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Wii.

Fast buddies!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Introducing Another Samuel

I love never knowing what God is going to bring up next. Like a few weeks ago when I sat down to write out a post that had been on my mind called Turning Compassion Into Action. I haven’t posted it yet, but had started chipping away at writing it. In one part I was talking about opportunities that God gives us to turn our compassionate feelings into action. And, I had written a few sentences about how those opportunities might not just be over in far off countries. They might be right outside our front door, in our neighborhood, local communities, work place, etc.

Little did I know that in a few days God was going to give me the opportunity to test out my post, and practice my own preach.

Introducing, Samuel AKA Sam…..
Sam is from Des Moines, and a few weeks ago Jake and I became the guardians for Sam. We have not adopted Sam, nor do we have surety of how long he will be able to stay with us. We have every intention that our home will become a permanent situation for him, and we have been praying for this earnestly. Sam has been with us for the past few weeks.

I totally did not see this one coming, but you know what? I am starting to love it. To God, nothing is random, or unpredictable, or happening by chance. He’s got everything already planned out perfectly. This shoots adrenaline into my veins. Each day is exciting. Who knows what could come up next? In our relationship with Him, there is never a dull moment. I love it that He gives us opportunities to live out our commitment to Him. I love it that our family is becoming multi-cultural and multi-colorful by the day! I love it that God is teaching me that love not only lives in the boundaries of flesh and blood but that it can also extend outside those boundaries, to fully embrace those we call family but who share no genes with us. I love that my flesh and blood children are getting a picture of God’s love for us….that we are all adopted as His sons and daughters into His family, though we didn’t deserve it. I love learning new ways to love.

God is giving us a lot. And, there is nothing special about us. We don’t have our ‘stuff’ together more than anyone else down the street. We are not even close. We are still learning and changing and being molded. But, this is what I have learned. When God asks you to do something, your answer is either yes or no. If you wait to say yes until you 'feel' ready or until you 'have it all together’ or until the time seems just right, or until life gets a little less crazier or until you feel like your parenting skills are a little more honed up, or until you have a little more money in your account or until the situation looks a little more like what you had planned for your life or until, until, until…..then there will always be something that you are waiting for. There will always be something in your mind that can make life a little more ready for a change like this. ‘Let’s wait until we finish the basement.’ ‘Let’s wait until our kids our older.’ ‘Let’s wait until next year and see if you get that new job.’ Let’s wait until ______. Just fill in the blank.

The cool thing is that you don’t have to be a spectacular person to say yes. God has long been in the business of using ordinary people to carry out His work. Just take a trip through the Bible. It is evident. Who knew that a repentant prostitute would get to be in the lineage of Christ? Or that a Moabite woman would have an entire book in the Bible written about her? Or that a persecutor of Christians would end up becoming the man who Jesus chose to help advance His church and write numerous books found in our Bible? Or that a simple carpenter would get the honor of being Jesus’ earthly father. Do you think that Mary 'felt ready' to be the mother to Jesus, the King and Savior of the world? Do you think she had planned on that? Although she was unusure of the circumstances surrounding this future birth (Luke 1:34) she said YES to God (Luke 1:38). There are so many examples of this in scripture. 7 years ago, Jake and I were both living for ourselves, far from a life that would seek to follow after the one true God. But, from the day that we believed in the name of God’s one and only son, and trusted him to be our Savior, God has been transforming us from the inside out as we take steps of obedience. God is making good on his promise to us that we have new lives in Christ. The old has gone. The new has come. The changes in our lives have come only by the power of God.

The arrival of Sam has also really opened my eyes to the awesome ministry that God has begun to set up for Jake and I over the past few years. And, that ministry is to help youth. I can see how God prepared Jake for this ever since high school. It’s like God has been equipping Jake year after year, and now the opportunities are coming like a flood.

God’s word says: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48) I will not be taking my job of a mother to (what will soon be) 4 kids (plus 1 pretty self-sufficient teenager) lightly. I understand fully the weight of this. But, I also understand fully the weight of this scripture: Matthew 25:34 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. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' These verses make it pretty blatantly clear that God is going to give us opportunities to live this out. Do we really need more motivation to help those in need than just the simple idea of obeying God when these opportunities arise? At church a few Sundays ago our pastor told us that before we even open up God’s word, we should already say ‘yes’. Our attitude before we even read one single verse should be ‘Yes, Lord. I’ll do it. Whatever call I get from you today, I will answer it.’

YES, LORD! They are beautiful words, aren’t they?!?!

Well, now there is only one thing missing…..and that is our other Samuel. My heart just aches to have him here with us, to have him be involved in all of this excitement. And, if you are wondering, yes, I think it is crazy that we now have two Samuels! From now on I will consistently refer to new Samuel as ‘Sam’, and our Africa Samuel will continue to be known as Samuel. Got it? :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Balling Times Day

Yesterday JJ woke up from his afternoon nap and said, “Happy Balling Times, Mommy”. It took me about 5 minutes of repeating his words slowly and him saying them over and over, louder and louder, and more and more frustrated until I finally figured out that he was trying to say, “Happy Valentines, Mommy!” You would think that I would have put two and two together, but it was quite a random time of the day for him to all of a sudden wish me Happy Valentines Day.

So, the story goes that I had planned all week to do some sort of Valentines Day themed craft, but we just didn’t get it done. (Bad Mommy). And, there we were, 3:30pm in the afternoon on Valentines Day, with no cute hearts cut out of construction paper, no cute Valentine cards to take over to friends or mail to grandmas, and no ingredients to make any adorable heart shaped cookies. And there I was, watching my cute JJ with the biggest heart in all of Valentine world, wishing me the sweetest Valentine wish, and feeling guilty that we hadn’t done anything Valentine-ish. Right then and there, I almost drove to the store to pick up ingredients to make cookies, but then I remembered……I had ingredients to make rice krispie bars. I also remembered that somewhere in my lazy susan cupboard I had last year’s unopened Valentines sprinkles and unopened Valentines cookie cutters from when I actually bought the Valentines Day craft supplies, but failed to have us actually complete the Valentines Day craft. I put two and two together, and decided we would make Valentine krispies. And, my idea worked. (I am sure this has been done before, but we've never done it!)


The attention spans only lasted about 10 minutes, but we got the job done! Now, getting a picture of these two crazy cats with their finished creation was a different story. Really, do they ever sit still?


Ever?


This was the best I could do.

Word to the wise: if my cookie cutters would have been a little larger, our Valentine krispies would have turned out PERFECTO! But, we made do with the little cutters, and they were nice lil bite size treats. Maybe next time I will plan ahead a little bit!

Happy Belated Balling Times Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Talk and Walk

When you are a blogger you do a lot of talking.

Talk-y, Talk-y, Talk-y.

But, what about your Walk-y, Walk-y, Walk-y?

Does your walk match up to your talk? THAT is the question.

God points this out in His word. Consider these verses:

James 2:14-19 (NIV)
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Don’t get it? Try it on for size in this translation:

James 2:14-19 (The Message)
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Faith in Christ is the beginning of a new life. Your thoughts begin to change. Then your actions should follow suit. James would argue that if your faith doesn’t produce a change in your thought process and a change in the conduct of your life, then it is incomplete faith. When you put your faith in Christ, it should produce fruit in your life. Faith is not just an agreement with a set of Christian teachings. James reminds us that even demons know who Jesus is on an intellectual level. But, they don’t obey him.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).

No, you cannot earn your way to heaven through good works. No you cannot ever impress God with enough good acts that he will open wide the gates and say “Come on in!” Jesus opened wide his arms for you as he died on the cross and he said “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent Me has eternal life” (John 5:24). That is salvation. Now, the question becomes how we will live our life in light of our salvation? How have we been changed by this unearned, undeserved gift of eternal life that He has poured out on us? Will we just talk the talk? Or will we walk the walk?

Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

The way you live your life is the evidence of what you believe.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waiting

Sometimes I think that I should have this whole waiting thing figured out by now since I’ve gotten so much practice. But I don’t. I often want to whine and complain about waiting! Why all the waiting? Why, why, why?

A few weeks ago I read two different excerpts on waiting, both in the same week. These excerpts regained my focus….at least until the next time when I let things get out of perspective and need another good quote or thought about waiting to get me back in line. Thought I would share these excerpts with you today, in case you are waiting on something too. :)

The Power of a Praying Woman
by Stormie Omartian

I believe that we are denied certain things for a time because God wants us to fervently pray and intercede for them. That’s because He wants to do something great in response to our prayers, something that can only be birthed in prayer. Do you remember how Hannah prayed long and fervently for a child (1 Samuel 1:1-28)? When God finally answered her prayer, it wasn’t just any child who was born. Samuel was one of the world’s greatest prophets and most influential judges in Israel’s history. If she had not prayed so fervently, that might not have happened. There may be things that won’t happen in your life unless you are praying that long and fervently too.

If you start being consumed by the details of life, and it feels as if your future won’t ever be any different than it is at this moment, please know the truth is quite the opposite. It’s at these very times, when you feel as though you’re not getting anywhere, or you’re missing the future God has for you, that God is actually preparing you for your future. And when the time is right, He has been known to do a very quick work. While it’s good to set goals, don’t look so far ahead that you become overwhelmed. Look to the Lord instead. Remember that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them” (Psalm 145:18-19)

If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat
by John Ortberg

Waiting may be the single hardest thing we are called to do. So it is frustrating when we turn to the Bible and find that God himself, who is all powerful and all-wise, keeps saying to his people, Wait. “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him… Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land.”

The ability to wait well is a test of maturity.

Paul says that while we are waiting for God to set everything right, we suffer. But suffering produces endurance; endurance, character; and character, hope. God is producing these qualities in us as we wait. Waiting is not just something we have to do to pass the time before getting what we want. It is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.

Waiting on the Lord is a confident, disciplined, expectant, active, and sometimes painful clinging to God. Waiting on the Lord is a continual, daily decision to say, “I will trust you, and I will obey you. Even though the circumstances of my life are not turning out the way I want them to, and may never turn out the way I would choose, I am betting everything on you. I have no plan B.”


Waiting is the hardest work of hope.
-Lewis Smedes-

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Court Documents Coming In!

On Monday, we received the formal adoption document stating that we are now officially the parents of Samuel! It was SO exciting to read through this and the other documents to see it all with our own eyes! Among other things, the document reads:

In the Superior Court of Judiacature
In The High Court of Justice
Accra, Ghana

Inter-Country Adoption-Order

It is herein certified that under and by virtue of the Children’s Act of 1998 (Act 560) and the relevant regulations made thereunder, the child Samuel Agyei be adopted by the said Jacob William Sullivan and Janel Christine Sullivan as their lawful child for all purposes whatsoever legal and equitable.

Name of child after adoption: Samuel Agyei Sullivan (!!!!!!!!)

Can I get a Wah-hooooooooo?!?!?! Come on, let me hear you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am just praising God for this today!

So, we still have one more document that we are waiting on, and that is Samuel’s new birth certificate that will reflect his new last name of Sullivan. :) I just love how that sounds….Samuel Sullivan. Normal processing time to receive this document from Ghana is 2-3 months. But, there is a faster option available in which we can pay extra to have the document expedited which would get it to us in a few days. We are looking into going that route.

After we receive Samuel’s new birth certificate we then can file our last and final document that we need approval on before travel. That document is titled the I-600 form: Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. This form is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form will classify Samuel as our immediate relative and allow him to enter the United States (I just got goosebumps when I typed that!). We have already been approved by USCIS in that we are able to ‘furnish proper care to an orphan’ and this approval came by way of the I-600A form that we filed with USCIS at the beginning of our adoption journey. That form basically got us advanced approval and it also let USCIS know that we were planning on adopting, although a child hadn’t been identified for us at that time. Once we file this last form, it basically is notifying USCIS that we now have a child identified for our adoption and that we have all the proper court documents from his country regarding the adoption. Got it? For awhile I was getting so confused with these two forms, but now I think I have it all straightened out.

Processing time to receive I-600 approval is 2-3 months. So, my hopeful target of traveling to bring Samuel home in April is still in sight….just barely….but it is still there! We will see what the Lord has planned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

JJ and Jayla Update

Time for a JJ and Jayla update!

JJ is now officially 3 ½! His new thing is that when we are driving somewhere he likes to know how many miles are left. When I tell him how many miles he usually says something like ‘that’s not too bad.’ He also has become very interested in numbers. He’s started to realize that there are numbers everywhere, like on the pages of his books, on the player’s uniforms, and on the clock in the kitchen. Sometimes he will watch the clock and announce the new time each minute. :)

JJ is also really into a coloring phase now. He likes to take his coloring books to the basketball games, and often times in the mornings his first choice of what to play is to do some coloring. Recently Jake told JJ to try and color inside of the lines and to take more time coloring his pictures. Usually JJ scribbles really fast with one color of crayon, and colors about 10 pictures in 5 minutes. But, this new idea of using different colored crayons and staying in the lines has really caught JJ’s interest! He loves to show off his pictures when he is done by hanging them on his bedroom door.

JJ still likes to pretend play that we are going to a hotel. Except now, he’s added in the scenario of going to ‘his game’. He got a coach’s board for Christmas, so when we are pretending that we are at his game he gets all dressed up in his uniform and then tells me that I am his coach. I have to draw up plays for him, and then he executes them on his little tikes hoop. After his game then we have to ‘clap it up’ and bring it into the center and yell ‘TEAM!’

I’ve caught a few cute things that JJ has said lately. The other day we had just parked the car and were getting ready to get out. Jayla had been crying for about 5 minutes before we had parked because she didn’t want to be in her carseat anymore. After we parked I went to get JJ out of his car seat first. As Jayla cried, JJ turned to her and said, “Don’t worry. We won’t forget you. We won’t leave you in the car.” Jayla responded with even louder cries and then JJ said, “Oh, you’re all right, Bobby, BE TOUGH!” Hmmmmm, I wonder if he’s heard that line from Daddy before? On a different morning a few weeks ago, JJ and I were talking through what we had planned for the day. And, he said, “So, after my nap we will go to the gym. That will be good to get out of the house and get some energy out.” Yes, he’s definitely heard his mommy say that many times this winter! It just sounded so cute coming from him!

Now onto Jayla who will be 21 months old in a little over a week. Let’s see, like I posted last week, Jayla has really gotten into our cats lately. She often will forgo playing with JJ and I in the living room to go and search out where the cats are. Our orange cat likes to hang out in our master bathroom on the ledge next to the whirlpool tub. Jayla has figured out how to climb into the tub, and then she stands in there and plays with the kitty. She also likes to drag books and other toys into the tub and sit in it and play (with no water in it). Before she figured out how to climb in there she would tell me that she wanted to go for ‘a ride’ and then she would point to the tub. So cute! She really likes to sit in things. She is kind of obsessed with chairs, or any sort of corner/place where she can be enclosed. She is often found hiding behind our curtains, and behind the clothes hanging in our closet.

She also loves, loves, loves it when JJ chases her. Sometimes she will take something that he is playing with, just so that he will chase her down the hallway. She screams and giggles the entire time as she runs away! I’ve noticed that since our trip to Ghana, JJ and Jayla have gotten much closer. If I am getting dinner ready, or putting away laundry, etc. they actually play together now, which they didn’t do before. They love to play with these little ‘puppy purses’ that Jayla got for Christmas (she got two of them so it worked out well!) They will wander around the house and pretend that they are going to the store. Jayla will come up to me and say, “Bye Bye!” And then she will wave and say, “See you soon” (which actually just sounds like a mish-mash of words and then a really long high pitched sooooooon). It’s funny because she copies the exact phrases and pitch that I use when I talk.

Jayla loves trying on everyones shoes that are parked in our locker area, and she also loves hats of any form. She cannot resist the offer of a popsicle, sucker, or popcorn. And, she still loves playing with her babies (now she's added changing their diaper and having them go 'ni-night'). One of her favorite things is also to jump on the bed, on the couch, or even just on the plain old floor!

Here are LOTS of pictures:

Getting groceries.



Busy, busy.


Someday JJ is not going to like this picture, but it's true....sometimes Jayla and I make him play with the babies with us! :)


Still loves Elmo!


Just beautiful...especially with the yogurt stain all over her shirt. :)


Jayla likes to eat sitting up on her knees now.


Playing JJ's new favorite....Candyland!




Here's the coach!


Look out, he likes to blow that whistle!


The coach doubles as a player too.


UN-tamed 'do after naptime.


Tamed 'do. Much better!


Daddy's helpers.


My loves.


I LOVE this picture! :)


Trying to figure out how to get to those Doritos!


Daddy and JJ at a highschool game (on Tuesday and Friday nights we make the rounds to watch Yaw play, as well as some of Daddy's other players).


And this is what happens when Daddy tries to take a picture of Mommy and Jayla!


Not to worry, Grandma Lori got a good picture of us.


And Mommy got a good picture of Jayla and Grandma!


All of us after one of Yaw's games.