Monday, December 31, 2012

Hoopin' at 'The Well'

JJ’s team got to play in a tournament this past weekend at the big sports stadium in Des Moines called Wells Fargo Arena AKA ‘The Well’. Iowa doesn’t have an NBA team, but if we did, it would be somewhat equivalent to getting to play in a famous arena like that! ‘The Well’ is also where our high school state basketball tournaments are held. This was a special opportunity that spelled out
T-H-E   B-I-G   T-I-M-E
for these lil’ boogers!

JJ smiles pretty much the entire time he plays! 

The wing man waits patiently for a pass....

Got one!  The lefty cruises in the lane for a jump shot!

JJ's lively cheering section!  Better get used to it Sullivan's....I believe bleacher butt is in our future!

JJ defending his friend Darius....while smiling.

Every once in awhile JJ gets to be the point guard!

How did this fashion statement get past the mom-radar?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

The gospel is offensive because it points out sin. How, Lord, will we know that we need you if our need is not exposed? So, when I stand for You, I will not be surprised when they hate me. When they are offended by the testimony of light shining on the darkest parts of their hearts. I will keep in mind that the world hated you first. If I belonged to the world it would love me as its own. But I do not belong to the world. You have chosen me out of the world. Jesus, I am Yours. I will never stop freaking out about what You have done for me. I did not get pulled out of the darkness into Your marvelous light to be quiet about it. So let them persecute me. Let them falsely say all kinds of evil against me. Let them throw me out on account of Your Name. I will rejoice and be glad. For when I am insulted in Your Name, I am blessed to be counted worthy of participating in your sufferings. You who were stricken, despised and rejected by men. Hated without reason. A man of sorrows, well-acquainted with sufferings. When I bear Your Name, so too will be my portion. And for it, I will praise God that His Spirit of glory rests on Me, that His testimony is on my lips and in my heart.

I am tempted towards holding unforgiveness in my heart.  I must take battle with the roots of bitterness that desire to entangle me in thoughts of satisfaction that they get what they deserve - what they've wanted all along - a life without You.  An eternity of that is their future unless You intervene.  But You, Oh Lord, are patient. You are not slow in keeping your promise, rather you give second chances. You want none to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. You cause the sun to rise on the evil and the good. You send rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Give me a heart like Yours. Give me righteous anger. And give me compassion for the lost and perishing, for once was I. Flood my heart with Your goodness so that grace and mercy overflow and extend to even my enemies. For they know not what they do.

God, because you are my refuge, I can dare to be bold. It is the godless who are on shaky ground. I will proclaim Your Name, with the full knowledge that doing so will bring division. I will not suppose that You have come to bring peace that glosses over the truth for the sake of superficial harmony. The line will be drawn between those who choose to follow you and those who don’t. There is no neutrality, for he who is not with You is against you, and he who does not gather with You scatters. You have sent me out like a sheep among wolves. I will not be afraid of them. I will acknowledge You before men because I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. If anyone will not welcome me or listen to my words, I will shake the dust off my feet when I leave. For if I say, ‘I will not mention You or speak any more in Your Name,’ Your word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Pictures

Some serious snowy fun!
Cutest thing you've ever seen or what?!?!

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but this hill (located in Ames, IA) is SO steep!  Jake guessed they were going about 25 mph on the way down! 


Rough ride - Justice lost his hat!

Poor Jasara!  Check out her first ever ride on the sled.... 

She came out without even a scratch and was just fine except she decided that her first sledding ride would be her last!  She hitched a ride up the hill with Justice and was content to sit and watch from the top the rest of the time!

Jayla hitched a ride too! :)

Our house sits at an angle and all the snow blows in this huge drift right across our front yard.  It is the perfect recipe for a snow fort!


Putting the finishing touches on Jesus' birthday cake!

Loved hearing the following conversation in our house on the afternoon of Cmas Eve...

Jayla: “I can’t wait to open presents!”

Jennifer: “I can’t wait until Jesus comes!” (She thought Jesus was coming over to our house that night! :) 

JJ: “Hey, do you guys know that Christmas isn’t about presents? It’s about Jesus’ birthday. He died on the cross for our sins and that is the gift he gave us.”

Christmas Eve cuties!!!!!

Celebrating hope, peace, new life, and freedom in Christ our Savior!

A little Wii dance party at Great-gram's!

Jasara likes to snuggle with my grandma - her great-gram.  I think she reminds Jasara of the cozy, comfy African ladies. :)

"As you celebrate the wonder of My birth in Bethlehem, celebrate also your rebirth into eternal life.  This everlasting gift was the sole purpose of My entering your sin-stained world.  Receive my gift with awe and humility.  Take time to explore the vast dimensions of My Love.  Allow thankfulness to flow freely from your heart in response to My glorious gift.  Let My peace rule in your heart, and be thankful."
~Jesus Calling~


Monday, December 24, 2012

When Hope Came Down

What kind of King would leave his throne
in heaven to make this earth his home?
While men seek fame and great renown,
in lowliness our King comes down.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Why would God allow something like this to happen?"

That is the question that seems to float around social media whenever our nation faces such horrific tragedy that it seems, in all our right minds, could have been prevented. The recent Sandy Hook shooting. 9/11. The shooting in Aurora, CO earlier this year. The local kidnapping and murders of two Iowa cousins. And if we zoom out to include the global headlines, the unbearable reads stack a mile high. Syria and South Sudan just to name a few. And on and on it goes.

Oh how Satan howls in accomplishment when he gets our hearts to question God….to doubt His goodness… wonder where God was in the midst of such horrendous, heartless, dark acts. Satan was there in the garden with Eve, thousands of years ago, doing the same exact thing. Twisting God’s word ever so subtly, until the doubt was planted in Eve’s mind (Genesis 3:1-6). In the wake of this Sandy Hook tragedy the devil so enjoys it when we ask, “Why didn’t God reach out and stop this? He could have stopped it! Why didn’t He? If God is good, and loving, and all-seeing, and all-knowing, then why did He allow this to happen?”

The answer that has been laid on my heart is this: Because God does not reach in and program our will. We are not His robots, His puppets, that are programmed to say, “I will obey you, Lord,” and do only what we are told. God designed us, created us, with our own free will. We each have the ability to choose whether we will serve the Lord or whether we will serve evil.

The book Stranger on the Road to Emmaus explains the reasoning behind God giving us a free will:

Having the ability to choose is what gives the word obey meaning and depth. Choice makes a relationship genuine. When a son is obedient to his dad, he honors his dad. So it is between man and God. Man was created with a will so that, by the obedient choices he made, he would honor the Lord. The Bible says that when man fits into God’s plan for him, he finds the greatest happiness, fulfillment and reality.

But, there is a flip side. We can choose to say “no” to God’s plan for us and intensifying this choice of free will, is the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This Sandy Hook tragedy is a glimpse of the intensity of this spiritual battle going on each day for our souls. Sandy Hook is the outward evidence of a man who’s own free will chose to serve and obey evil. We say this is too much. Not the lives of innocent children. This has gone too far. And God would agree. We are grieved. And God is grieved. We are angered. And God is angered. Yet, He’s seen this before. A people who have turned their backs on Him and chosen to go their own way. Genesis 6:5-7. Romans 1:18-32. And it’s going to get worse. Much, much worse. As our fallen world - destroyed by sin - keeps on spinning, and as people choose to say no to seeking God, to say no to choosing righteousness, to say no to passing on the truths of the Bible to their children and their children’s children, then generations are going to be raised up who do not think it worthwhile to know the Lord or obey Him. And it’s going to get ugly, people. Real ugly.

But evil does not win. “Why didn’t God reach out and stop this?” Be assured, the day is coming when He will.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

And this everlasting destruction is not only for Satan’s instruments and followers. It is for Satan, his demons, and his workers themselves.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:


And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh…

…and the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 19:11-21, 20:10)

In just a few days we will be celebrating the first time Jesus came, as a baby, in peace. He lived to die ~ bringing us mercy and forgiveness as He sacrificed His life for ours, making payment for our sins on the cross. For those of us angered by the evil in our world, we can cry out for the day when Jesus will come again. As a warrior, who will slay evil for eternity.

Until then, may evil acts like the Sandy Hook shootings drive us to our knees in acknowledgement that something has gone wrong in our world. People readily choose sin and wickedness over righteousness and goodness. We are in dire need of a Savior. May this brokenness in our world bring to the surface our deep down longing for heaven. As we yearn for things to be made right, for injustices to be swallowed up, for a place where bad things never happen, may we take confidence in Jesus’ word that, yes indeed, a better day is coming. “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me… (Revelation 22:12)” And as we hurt deeply for these families who will not get to wrap their arms around their little loved ones this Christmas, may we hold tightly to the truth that God can take even the worst happenings, and work it together for good (Romans 8:28).


Friday, December 14, 2012


My arms are full. My lap is full. But my heart is fullest. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Joy Is....

Shrieks of laughter down the hallway

Helpers in the kitchen

A little girl who begs me to get to wash my sink full of dirty dishes….and she did them well!

JJ reading to me every night before bed

Watching sisterhood unfold



Getting to see JJ’s team secure the win that gave them the league championship! WAY TO GO BULLDOGS!

Getting my hair done constantly…I secretly love this….it is soooooo relaxing!

Watching our girls experience snow for the first time!




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Annual Baking Day!

Each year around Christmas we do a baking day with my Mom and Grandma and whip up all sorts of goodies! This is pretty much the only time of year that my hands see any sort of baking as I usually take short cuts and buy pre-made cookie dough or items from the bakery. I do, however, come from a long line of bakers, so it feels special to have my children learn the ropes from the more experienced ones. I also couldn’t wait for our Ghana girls to get in on the action this year and experience the joy of having fun family traditions. Here are some snapshots of our day!

The kids love to have the job of dropping in the m&m’s! Jennifer with my Grandma, now her Great-Grandma!
Justice and JJ were a team...Justice dolloped...

....and JJ dropped.
A little while later….lookin’ good ladies...

Almost there boys!
Peanut butter cookies – these are the ones that you put a Brach’s chocolate star on top – MY FAVORITE cookies! Yummo! Jasara loves, loves, loves to keep busy with items in her hands – she has been this way since we met her in Ghana. She enjoyed the job of covering the dough balls in sugar!
Of course, the kids’ favorite is getting to do the cut out cookies. We usually start these in the middle of the day once we are all warmed up and in game mode!


Jayla's tray of creations!

The sprinkle queens!
My cut-out cookie pictures of JJ were taken on my phone and won't upload for some reason, but he enjoys this part too!  Every year he makes a giant candy cane cutout. :) 

At one point we were all busy doing something and all of a sudden we looked over and Jasara had climbed up in the chair, grabbed a hunk of dough, the rolling pin, and a cookie cutter and was ready to make a cookie all by herself! She started trying to roll out the dough as she had been observing my mom doing, so my Mom gave her a quick lesson!
Like this, gramma?


Jasara worked with her dough for a looooooong time – probably at least 25 minutes straight. After she got it just how she wanted it, on came the sprinkles for the finishing touch!

Jasara's African cookie!