Monday, July 30, 2012

At the Lake

We just got back from the last tournament of the season for Jake’s high school teams. For this particular tournament a family in the Kingdom Hoops program, The Prewitt’s, have opened up their lake house for the past 2 years for us and the players to stay at; their lake house is near where the tournament is held in Kansas City. This saves our Foundation about $4000 on hotel costs for our scholarship players, and of course gives the added bonus of some fun in the sun and on the water! Last year at Christmas dinner Justice told us that our time at the lake house was his favorite thing that we did all year! No doubt, my kids may be growing fins as we speak – they LOVE the water, and especially have enjoyed getting to experience ‘lake life’! Some pictures of our fun….


Little lakesters...
 








Loved watching Justice's expressions while he was on the tube!  Pure joy!
 
Jayla opted to take it easy on the boat! :)



 
This year the Prewitt’s introduced us to one of their favorite summer activities: Tie dye! JJ was really into it!
 

And here’s how our shirts turned out! Pretty cool!

Heading out on the boat to take the high school boys tubing.




 
Since we got home Jayla has been crying because she “has no one to play with”. She and her bestie Chloe spent every moment together the entire time we were at the lake - they were inseparable! :)
 
It’s been so good for me to see how much Jayla really desires friendships with girls, because I think that will help her with the transition of Jennifer and Florence coming home. I keep reminding her that soon she will have two sisters to play with!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Justice's Monarch Hatching Adventure

Well, Justice’s first monarch hatching journey has finished out! Here’s how it looked…

Day 1
 

Day 3
He had already tripled in size and Justice gave him the name Edward. :)
 

Day 4
The leaf on the left shows how much he ate in one day before Justice gave him the new leaf on the right.
 

Day 7
Now you can see his stripes! The hole in the leaf is just what he had eaten earlier that morning.






 

Day 13 - morning
Somehow quite a few days went by without me taking a picture, but Justice noted that Edward was eating a leaf a day by this time. Then, on this day Justice excitedly announced that Edward had made his way to the top of the netting and attached on. First step in making his cocoon! Apparently he decided the lid was the perfect spot, but it sure made it hard to get his picture!
 

Day 13 – afternoon
While we were at Justice’s basketball tournament Edward made his cocoon, and by the time we got back that afternoon he looked like this:
 
We knew he may be in his cocoon for up to 14 days. Justice and JJ hit the road with Jake for tournaments and I continued to check up on the cocoon at home. Then Jayla and I got ready to meet the boys up in Minnesota for a tournament. In my mind I was weighing whether or not I should bring Edward along in the car in case he hatched. But I was worried that all the jostling in the car would knock his cocoon down off the lid - it really looked like it was only hanging by a string. In the end I decided to leave him at home and hope that he didn’t hatch until we got back since it had only been 9 days since he made his cocoon. One Day 22 I asked Yaw who was still at home to check on him, and he said he was still in his cocoon and his cocoon was still green (it would turn black once he was ready to come out). Then, on Day 23 we got a text from Yaw in the afternoon saying Justice’s butterfly was out! We were so excited but TOTALLY BUMMED that we were going to miss the best part! We told Yaw to set him free and to make sure to take some pictures for us! The only camera Yaw had was the one on his phone, so he did the best he could and sent us a string of pics as he opened up the flap and Edward climbed to the top!

 

And then, in true happy ending fashion, he flew off into the sunset! :)
 
Oh, we are SO going to have to do this again!!!!!!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

With Everything

A few nights ago I was putting Jayla to bed – reading her stories and singing her songs like we always do. As she drifted off to sleep, snuggled up next to me in the quietness, my eyes glanced over to the bunk beds that have now invaded her bedroom. In just a few short months, those beds will hold two little girls, our daughters from Ghana. I began to think about them like I often do, and my mind began imagining little clips of what our life might look like when they are here with us. Lately, each time I do that I have been hit hard with the reality of how much my relationship with Jayla is going to change. My heart has been so heavy. I have been dwelling on the things that I will be giving up (much one-on-one time with Jayla, our close mother-daughter connection, and our sweet little moments that we have – just the two of us). In fact, it really feels like I have been grieving what is going to be lost in my relationship with Jayla. I have also felt like this adoption is going to be taking away from something that is legitimately hers – a closeness with me. I have been scared of how our relationship will change, and that Jayla is going to feel ripped off when they come.

Just two days later, I went to church on my birthday. I knew that God had something to say to me, and since it was my birthday I felt that it was going to be extra fitting and personal – although I didn’t know what that would be. But I soon found out. God was ready to challenge my heart attitude.

Our pastor’s sermon was over Mark 12:13-17 which is titled ‘Religious Leaders Question Jesus About Paying Taxes’. On the outset it doesn’t sound like it relates to my heart attitude. But, the focus of the sermon became verse 17: Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Our pastor urged us to be image bearer’s of Christ, just the way that Caesar’s image was inscripted on his coins and the people had to pay the coins back to him in the form of taxes. In the same way, our lives belong to God. And how, after everything that He has done for us, can we hold back and not go all in for Him?

The conviction for me came when our pastor started talking about a song that we like to sing at our church. The song is entitled ‘With Everything’ and he shared some of the lyrics that we sing as a congregation…I’ve bolded the lines that are our responsibility:

Open our eyes
To see the things that make Your heart cry
To be the church that You would desire
Your light to be seen

Break down our pride
And all the walls we’ve built up inside
Our earthly crowns and all our desires
We lay at Your feet

….

Let hope rise and darkness tremble
In Your holy light
That every eye will see Jesus our God
Great and mighty to be praised

With everything, with everything
We will shout for Your glory
With everything, with everything
We will shout forth Your praise

After he shared those lyrics that we all stand there and sing in our church, he began highlighting how we hold back from fully turning everything over to God. He jumped off the stage and became one with the congregation as he continued his sermon saying things like “Lord I’ll give you anything, but not that extra bedroom in my house. I might need that someday, like if my mother-in-law gets sick and she needs a place to stay. I need to keep that open just in case.” And “Not my car. You see I worked really hard to have a nice car…..” And “Not the food in my pantry. Invite my neighbors over? Nahhhh…that would be uncomfortable…” After he shared each scenario and excuse, he then turned back towards the stage, lifted his hands in the air and then belted out the above lyrics in worship, “WITH EVERYTHING….” Each time he did this my heart was burdened, distraught, and struck to the core by the hypocrisy that he was pointing out. This is how we live. We stand there in church and tell God with our lips that we’ll give Him everything. Then we walk out the church doors and shrink back when the opportunities come to sacrifice our own comfort and desires in order to reach out to this world that so desperately needs to hear of hope, and peace, and salvation. Jesus didn’t live like that. He. Gave. Everything. His very life even. He took upon Himself all of our sin and shame and brokenness, and gave to us what we could not achieve on our own - a relationship with God. And in those moments, I knew exactly what it was that I was holding back from giving over fully to God, despite knowing and believing in my heart that He held nothing back from me, not even His one and only Son.

Feeling the heaviness of the impending sacrifices that are to come in my relationship with Jayla has caused me to shrink back. Basically I had been telling God, “you can have a bedroom in our house for these girls we are adopting, you can take our money to pay for this adoption, BUT please don’t mess with my relationship with Jayla when they come into our family.”

But, God wants everything. Anything less is unauthentic. I cannot go into this adoption and give these girls we are adopting my leftovers, while I strive to maintain the close relationship I have with Jayla and make that my top priority.  By having that mindset I am limiting what God can do in Jayla's life by clutching her to myself and trying to cushion her from learning to live sacrificially.  I have been ruled by fear.  I have not surrendered my hold on her and allowed God full access into her life.  And for me and this situation, there are so many verses in which God urges me to release the grip on what is so-called MINE - even my children - open up my hands and say “it’s yours Lord, with everything….

Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37-39).

With God everything gets flipped. Although my flesh tells me that something is going to be taken away from Jayla once this adoption happens, the Spirit whispers the truth that I am going to be GIVING her so much more. Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it! In this adoption we are going to be pointing Jayla to Jesus, and be demonstrating the love that He gave to us.

I have a favorite blog post from our last adoption when I was going through something similar.  I needed to hear the author’s words deep in my soul again about the effect of adoption on birth children already in the family:

You are NOT taking anything AWAY from your birth children. Instead, what you are doing is imparting to them something eternal: You are expanding their capacity to love. Think about that for a minute before you read anything else. How do you plan to teach your child to love others unconditionally and in total compassion without giving them the opportunity to do so? I'm telling you now, You CAN'T.

My biological children have a greater capacity of love in their hearts than I could ever impart to them by just giving them a safe Christianity, by maintaining their status quo, by simply modeling "godliness" as parents (as if that's the end-all be-all for a Christian family). My kids...all of them...have lived out self-sacrifice and understand (because they live it!) that laying down one's life does not steal anything from us. That is the lie of the devil, who would have us believe that sacrifice is not worth it; that there is nothing for us in return; that God doesn't really mean what He says when He said to His followers that "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [Because] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39).

Do you really believe that? That whoever LOSES his life for Jesus's sake, for Jesus the Orphan's sake, will actually FIND it? Ask yourself honestly. Because you might answer YES prematurely. I have no doubt that you might believe it for yourself, but do you really believe it for your children, too? That if they "lose" their "place" in the family that Jesus will instead impart to them LIFE? REAL life??? [From the author of http://wehaveroom.blogspot.com/]

Yes, Jayla and I are both going to have to learn to ‘lay down our lives’ as we know it for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:17). That is the demonstration of love that we have from Jesus, and if our family claims to follow Him, then we must walk as He did - take up our cross, and die to ourselves. There will be sacrifices. But they are so small in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, and in comparison to the gift we have of eternal LIFE.

There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. It is easy to make a mistake here, “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory." — Elisabeth Elliot

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

JJ's Party Pics

I like to let the kids pick the ‘theme’ for their birthday parties and we have fun going to the party store to grab some fun d├ęcor for the house. Their personalities always shine through in their decisions. :) This year JJ is really into WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] - for those in my generation this used to be called WWF. If you have boys in your house perhaps you’ve been subjected to Monday Night Raw or Friday Night Smackdown like I have. If not, then you’ve surely heard of John Cena or Shamus or C.M. Punk. If you have no idea what I am talking about, well, they are kind of the Hulk Hogan’s of our day. There is even a wrestler on WWE right now from Ghana! His name is Kofi Kingston. And now you know!

 
Of course with a summer birthday you must have some water to play in! Jake found a slip n’ slide that ended up being a ton of fun, and so refreshing!
















 
JJ and his basketball buddy, Luke
 

Jayla with her bestie, Chloe
 

And of course, it wouldn’t be a true party without JJ practicing his dunk technique!

JJ's favorite part

Mommy's favorite part



 
The one thing JJ really wanted was this WWE ring and the WWE figurine guys, and he got it! He has such a good imagination, I LOVE to watch him play and act out these matches.









 

I decided these are like Barbies but for boys! :)
 
Two birthday parties down, one more to go!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Snapshots

Summer. Is. Busy! Goodness, I have sooo much to write about, so many stories, so many thoughts, but have not been managing my time in a way to get ‘er done! The main issue is that the pool has been calling, and we have been answering! Anybody else having that problem? :) This year we opted for a family pool pass and we have been making the most of it, let me tell ya! With these 100+ temps and drought conditions here in Iowa, there is no place more comfortable and refreshing than the pool!

Right now as I write we are actually on the road for July live-period tournaments, and are about to head out to our 2nd annual week at the lake with all of Jake’s high school boy’s teams. We are so looking forward to hanging out with our friends, getting some time on the water, and I hope to attempt to catch up on my kid’s picture albums which are yearS behind now! I’ll be getting back into some regular blogging soon. But, for now, I wanted to play a little catch-up and share a few snapshots from our summer. It has become quite convenient for me to take pictures on my phone, rather than lug around my camera. So, if you are friends with me on Facebook you’ve already seen most of these as uploads, but I wanted to share them on here too. :)

Sullivan Fam Clips of Summer…..

Pool rats we are! I love that Justice can still do this!



 
The pool we go to has a super high-dive – this picture really doesn’t even do the height justice. And that’s our Justice flying through the air. :)







 
The boys have been hitting the road with Jake a lot this summer going to the tournaments. Jayla and I have gotten some great quality time together which has given us a glimpse of what it will be like this fall when both JJ and Justice are at school! It will be so strange! Jayla loves, loves, loves to play outside, and we easily find all sorts of things to do!




 
We like to hit up a lot of parks around town. Last week we went to one of our favs, and all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I spotted a squirrel running around with an all-white tail!







 
Crazy little fella! We had so much fun chasing him around! :)

Jayla is trying out some recreational gymnastics this summer while dance is on break.

 
It has been fun to mix things up a little! She especially likes it that she can try the skills out at home too…she often is practicing her cartwheels, attempting headstands, and loves to do flips on the trampoline.

Jake went into super-fit mode this summer – he’s taken up running, nixed pop out of his diet, and is eating only healthy stuff. So now we no longer do ice cream dates, but frozen yogurt dates!

 
Have you tried this stuff yet? In our area it’s the new trend, which means it’s probably been a trend elsewhere for at least 2 years….it always takes these things a little extra time to get to Iowa. :) I like the cheesecake flavor with strawberries, blueberries, black berries, and raspberries with a lil sprinking of graham cracker crumbles. YUM.

And I just have to share our recent family portrait….according to Jayla that is….

 
That’s me in the upper left, Jayla in the upper right, and Jake with the boys on the bottom. The square thing in the middle is our house. Love little kid artwork! :)