Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Day!

Unexpected snow day today - whooop whooop!
 With no school on the horizon Chef Justice appeared and offered to whip up his traditional Ghanaian omelets for his sisters this morning...they licked their plates clean!

 And for the rest of the day, we've been having fun doing whatever we please!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's Not Blind Faith

[Romans 10:17]
You aren’t going to just wake up some day and have faith in God. Think of it like this: you wouldn’t have decided to marry your husband or wife after one date. It would be foolish to give your heart to someone that you barely know. Before you can fully trust someone with your heart, you want to have a good idea of their character and who they are. Can they be trusted? Well, you won’t know until you spend time with them and get to know them. It is the same way with God. Faith comes by spending time with God and getting to know Him – His character, His plan of salvation, His love. God wants us to come to know Him, so He has made it quite simple to do so. Everything He ever wanted to tell you about Himself is in the Bible. To get to know Him, you have to read it. At first, you might not understand everything you read – which is why it is important to find a church that teaches through the Bible and holds high not the rituals of faith, but a relationship with God – getting to your heart. As you continue to wholeheartedly try and find out about God, the more and more and more He will reveal to you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

If I had to guess my kids' future careers today...





I would guess that Justice is going to be a teacher or instructor of some sort. Perhaps he will be a teacher in the school system . Maybe he’ll be a coach of a sport. Or become a pastor and teach God’s word. In whatever way, shape, or form, I have noticed that Justice comes alive when he gets to teach someone how to do something. It energizes him to put in the effort to help someone - and in the examples above, he took the initiative to do so with no prompting from anyone.  When the 'lesson' comes full circle and the person he is helping finally ‘gets it’ he is just as excited as they are. Justice has also been wired to be a patient old soul. He doesn’t get flustered or agitated by his ‘pupils’ when they don’t catch on right away. He doesn’t yell. He doesn’t roll his eyes. He doesn’t hurry them along. He’s an encourager, and knows how to feed the confidence of others. He takes cues regarding different personalities. For example, he knows that what will work to teach JJ ~ a perfectionist ~ will not necessarily be what works to teach Jayla ~ the light-hearted yet sensitive one.





Time will tell if this is just a fascination with the texture of ‘white people hair’ or something more. Whatever the case, I most definitely could see Jennifer becoming a hair stylist! Jennifer is constantly commenting on her hair, Jayla’s hair, Jasara’s hair and my hair. “Oooooh mommy, I love Jayla’s hair!” That’s what I hear after I slick Jayla’s hair back into a ponytail for dance class. “My hair is coming and my face is changing!” That’s what she says after I pick out her hair in the morning and she takes note of her hair growth. She’s always constantly asking Jayla and I, “Can I do your head?” She loves to brush our hair, put in clips, and section it off into twists. She loves to wash Jayla and Jasara’s hair in the bathtub if they’ll let her. When we change things up a bit and I curl my hair or straighten out Jayla’s hair she is quite captured by the process and gets pretty zoned in. I cannot imagine how excited she is going to be when I get to put a style into her hair for the first time. I knew that I was feeling all that pressure to get my braiding and extension adding technique down for something! I can’t wait until we get to start and she sees the endless options and designs with her hair type as well!


“Mommy, when you was little did you always know that you wanted to be a Mommy when you grew up?”

“Do white people grow up to be white mommies?”

“And brown people grow up to be brown mommies?”

“Mommy, where will you be when I am a mom?”

Jayla is in definite “mommy mode” right now! She’s always loved to tote her baby dolls around, but lately I have noticed her literally STUDYING the role of being a mom. All day long I seriously feel like I am at a job interview and she is taking notes on my every word, action, and duty! She’s been asking me all sorts of questions about being a mom like the ones I listed above and others: how do I decide which behaviors lead to disciplinary measures and which don’t?, do I like cooking?, do I like folding laundry?, etc. She has even been referring to her grandma (my mom) as “your mom” when she comes up in our conversations – this is something new where I feel like she wants to label all moms as moms! Since it is just me, Jayla, and Jasara at home now during the day, Jayla is practically memorizing my every move with Jasara and then imitates it all in pretend play later on. She’s got the mom-tone down. She’s tender and sweet when she's in play mode with her brothers and sisters, yet she’ll correct offenses and rehearse the family rules when one of them gets out of line. In addition to all this, when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she says ‘a mommy’. She doesn’t even hesitate. Whew! This lil gal is going to keep me humble and on my toes that’s for sure! What I see when I look at Jayla is a future as a caretaker. Jayla has been wired to be sensitive to the physical needs, hurts, and emotions of others. This wiring could most definitely take the form of a full-time mom, or even a nurse. [I would not be the least bit surprised if it also lead her down the path of caring for animals.] I can’t wait until she gets to go to Ghana with us for the first time. I wonder how her future experiences there might ignite her caretaker heart and maybe spark her interest in becoming a foster mother at orphanages some day.



Oh JJ. A future in sports is just in your blood. No doubt about it. :)  Yes, I could picture JJ playing at a high level in basketball or football someday. But what has me even more dumbfounded than his perfect shooting form, or his jab-step-pump-fake, is his knowledge of the game (NBA, NFL, NCAA hoops and football). JJ will spout off random stats about players, or will be able to tell you what play or defense or offense would work best for a particular game situation. He sounds like a 30 year old guy who could be sitting at the ESPN desk going round and round with the top sports analysts. “Bill Walker is a free agent. He was hurt all last year and nobody has resigned him.” That’s just one sentence that I wrote down yesterday out of his random, running log of sports conversations around the house. Who in the world is Bill Walker? Well, thanks to JJ I now know he used to play for the Knicks. JJ knows players and coaches and teams like he knows his ABC’s. He can guess what play the coach is going to call while watching a game, or get into a deep conversation with Jake that includes so much basketball lingo that I feel like they are speaking a different language. The other night we had to giggle because JJ informed Jake that Jake’s former college coach had a game on channel 613 at 8pm. We never would’ve known if it weren’t for JJ. Helping JJ’s cause is technology at his fingertips where he can look up scores and games and the top sports news on the iphone whenever his little heart desires. So JJ, I do believe your athletic skills and sportsminded brain will take you far. I imagine we will be seeing you on Sportscenter someday….either on the court, on the field, behind the telecaster booth, or all of the above!


It’s a leeeeeetle to early for me to guess what Jasara might be up to someday. But, I can tell you this: she’s bound to be in charge. You don’t get a name that means “boldness” for nothin.


I thank You for the gifts and talents You have placed in our children. I pray that You would develop them in our children and use them for Your glory. Make their gifts and talents apparent to Jake and I and to our children themselves. Show us specifically if there is any special nurturing, training, learning experience, or opportunity we should provide for them. May their gifts and talents be developed in Your way and Your time.
Your word says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them" (Romans 12:6). As our children recognize the talents and abilities You've given them, I pray that no feelings of inadequacy, fear, or uncertainty will keep them from using them according to Your will. May they hear the call You have on their life so that they don't spend a lifetime trying to figure out what it is or miss it altogether. Let their talents never be wasted, watered down by mediocrity, or used to glorify anything or anyone other than You, Lord.
I pray that You would reveal to our children what their life work is to be and help them to excel in it. Bless the work of their hands, and may they be able to earn a good living doing the work they love and do best.
Your word says that, "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men" (Proverbs 18:16) May whatever my children do find favor with others and be well received and respected. But most of all, I pray the gifts and talents You placed in them be released to find their fullest expression in glorifying You.
(prayer from Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sharin' the Love

This was so sweet, I just have to share it!  Watch Jasara's reaction from last night when she saw that my Grandma and Mom had arrived to babysit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Justice Hoopin'

Although Justice is adamant that he is going to play FOOTBALL in college and someday make it to the NFL, he’s actually turning out to be quite the basketball player as well! His team has improved so much from last year! I would say that just this year Justice has really started to enjoy competing and craves upcoming games. He shows a lot of fire and intensity when he steps on the court and is visibly upset and bothered when his team loses. He’s really starting to ‘catch on’ to the thrilling, challenging, and life applicable world of athletics!





Justice has started attempting and making a lot more 3 pointers this year, but probably his best skill is driving past defenders down the middle of the paint and going in for a lay up.


He averages about 8 points a game, and most of those come from drive-in layups, free throws, and grabbing rebounds for the lay in.

Of course every team has its rivalry and for Justice’s team the championship games of many tournaments often boil down to them and All Iowa Attack who also has a superb 4th grade team. This last weekend Justice’s team was able to capture the 4th grade AAU State Championship with the final match coming down to them and Attack. It was a heated battle, but Justice and his team prevailed and it was SOOOOO EXCITING when they sealed the victory!!!!




Monday, February 11, 2013

The Name Daddy...

…is a gift

a high honor….

a title not to be taken lightly

a child’s first impression of a protector, provider, encourager, and affirmer of identity and self-worth.
The name Daddy….is a valuable entrustment.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Email From a Reader

Some time ago I received the below email from a blog reader. With her consent, I am sharing pieces of our dialogue in the hopes that through it, someone else who may be going through something similar can be encouraged. Life is messy. This story is messy. But messiness often affords the Lord the opportunity of glorifying Himself and acquaints us with His mercy, His power, and His character in ways that we’ve never known before…

Hi Janel,

I don't usually send emails to strangers, but I have known for at least the past month that I needed to send you an email….

….so you understand I'm not some crazy person (well, not completely crazy) I'm a 39 year old mom to two boys ages 9 and 10. Without going into details this has been the hardest emotional year of my life. I would define myself as healing right now, but I have had some dark moments. In the midst of this I found your blog. It has been so joyful for me to see you adopt two more children into your home. As the daughter of an interracial couple I love the fact you have created an interracial family….I love seeing your two daughters adjusting to life in their new family, and my heart is literally filled with joy that these girls have the blessing of being part of your family and in our country...

…as you can probably guess, this year has also called me to trying to figure out my own spirituality. I was raised catholic, but haven't been practicing in the last two years. I have known throughout this year that I NEEDED to find a way to get closer to God, and that my children also needed to know His love. That said - I was scared. Scared to find another church. Scared that the only reason I was trying to find him was because I was in emotional turmoil. It feels almost dishonest – “Hey God, I'm here now, but only because I am a hot mess.”

My point (yes, I really do have one) is that the other thing you have done for me is shown me, through your faith, that this is something that is okay for me to do. To work on this aspect of my life - no matter what the catalyst is, because I NEED it.

So, thank you. I will continue to read your blog, and know that your story has impacted someone you probably never intended for it to impact. I wish you and your family well.

‘Diana’ (named changed for privacy)


Hi Diana!

After reading your email the Lord put it on my heart to send you this little daily devotional, ‘Jesus Calling’. The author writes as if Jesus were speaking to you face to face. The imagery and conversational style speak to my heart in a piercing way that literally seems to lift the burdens off my shoulders. This book has taught me how to practically rely on the Lord, and has completely changed the way I think about trials, hardships, and outcomes. I love to read each day’s segment and then look up the verses that the author wrote off of which she puts at the bottom of each page. These writings have given me such a fresh perspective on how I understand scripture. I hope this book is a blessing to you, and that it speaks to you with just the right words, at just the right time. God is known to do that! :)

I also wanted to share some truths with you about a part of your email. You had mentioned this: ….scared that the only reason I was trying to find Him was because I was in emotional turmoil. It feels almost dishonest - Hey God, I'm here now, but only because I am a hot mess.

Oh please let me tell you that this is THE MOST HONEST position that your heart can be in! In your brokenness the devil is trying to smother you in guilt and shame over your past decisions, failures, broken roads, or whatever the case may be. You need to hear the truth found in James 4:6-10 ~

6God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

A couple of things. First, the key to ‘get closer to God’ is to humble yourself before Him. And from the sound of your note, that is the exact place you are in right now! It feels ugly and painful and raw, but rejoice that you’ve come to this place!!!! You are admitting to God that you can’t do this on your own! That each time you’ve tried to go your own way, you’ve failed and made a hot mess of things. Humbling yourself before the Lord means recognizing that you need His power, His guidance, His favor in your life. That by your independent, prideful effort you come up short and empty. God cannot work in a prideful heart that stiff-arms Him. Rather the brokenness and dark, questioning moments that you have had are the stomping grounds where God’s work begins. The devil also knows this, which is why he is whispering to you to fight it and making you feel like a liar. Really he is the liar and the deceiver (John 8:44). Which is why it is so important to guard your mind and your heart with truth – God’s word – the Bible. Commit yourself to reading, studying, and understanding scripture. This is your defense against Satan, and it is also your offense in coming near to God. One aspect of this is finding a church – one that teaches straight out of the Bible – to help you to glean understanding from scripture. You need to hear, receive, and renew your mind with God’s truth. This will change the way you think, and eventually it will change the way you live. It all starts with learning the hope of God’s promises, finding out about His character, and receiving daily reminders not to put your trust or hope or faith in the things of this world or the people of this world. You will find that once you do this whole-heartedly AKA ‘all in’, the Lord will reward you by giving you additional information about Himself (Hebrews 11:6). It’s just the coolest thing, and it’s how your relationship with Him will mature.

I always found verse 9 interesting. Why would God tell us to grieve, mourn, cry, and be gloomy? I’ve come to learn that in these verses He’s speaking to those who have hit bottom. Those who have thrown up their hands in defeat and are facing surrender. God is saying to grieve over the ugliness of our sin. The way we lived without Him, the choices we made without Him when we aligned ourselves with the world and its value system (read James 4:4). Our sinful past should sicken us to the point that we are so sorry for the mess we’ve made. We want to change. We are ready to change. Ready to submit/surrender to God and to do things His way.

And to speak on purifying our hearts (verse 8), some notes I have explain it this way: ‘In the process of refining metals, the raw metal is heated with fire until it melts. The impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are then skimmed off, leaving the pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying.’ Well, it’s the same way with our hearts – spiritually speaking. God has to expose and root out all the ugly (impurities = deliberate sin) to make way for Him to work in our hearts. Often He does ‘give us over’ to our sin and empty choices because He knows that when we go our own way, we will eventually see that it doesn’t work out so well. This is some of the emotional turmoil that you are feeling and have felt. All the junk is rising to the surface, and you find yourself, well, in a hot melted mess! From here, it is our choice as to whether we will turn to God (repent) or not. You are so choosing the right path!

With all this, I am trying to say that scripture shows that you are really in the perfect place to begin a whole-hearted pursuit of the Lord. You’ve clearly already come to that conclusion, but I just wanted to encourage you that you don’t have to clean up your act before coming near to God. You don’t have to comb your hair and straighten up your dress in order to receive His love. He’d rather you come to him a mess, and allow Him to do the work of setting you on your feet, and giving you a firm place to stand. It’s so hard to fathom – that His love is UNCONDITIONAL. No matter what we do, or what we’ve done, He lavishes us with His love and forgiveness. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. It’s so unheard of. We’ve never known a love like this. But then, God goes further. He imparts to us Jesus’ clean record. Jesus’ blood speaks on our behalf. “Once God’s enemy, now His beloved child.” All our junk and records of sin…..gone… a precious moment on the cross. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). And in that same precious moment on the cross, the WORK of salvation is done. Finished. Nothing further is needed from us except a humble, receptive, open heart, ready to embrace this undeserved GRACE. One hand stretched out on the cross to the other….that is our definition of love. A love that we’ve never known, but so need. Who would not want to live, pursue, and commune with a loving Father who has done this all for us? Your heart is ready to know God – no more going through the motions! You go girl!


It was a few months until I heard from Diana again, and her next email blew me away. God had begun to reveal His love for her, in very intimate, personal, and timely ways. To understand the depth of this next dialogue, you will need to know this detail about Diana’s situation: After 43 years of marriage, her father had been found to be having an extra-marital affair on her mother. Diana’s family was completely blindsided by this hidden affair. She had since been walking through layers of hurt, grief, and that ugly feeling of being deceived. But just wait and see how God spoke His love into her life! More excerpts from Diana…


…words cannot convey the evil that has come into my family. My father is no longer the moral, loving, and Christian man that I have always known him to be. He no longer goes to church. He lies without remorse. He has treated my mother, and his children, as though we were disposable.

On my part, I couldn’t physically work for my father after all of this came out. I hung in until April, 2012 when my husband looked at me one day and said no amount of money is worth the pain this is causing you, and we will just have to find a way to get through this financially without you working for your father. I was always SO CLOSE to my dad, talked and worked with him daily, and suddenly I was without a father. Throughout it all I have struggled, as you know, with my faith. I have struggled with still being a good mother to my children while my entire world has crumbled down. The hardest part of all of this, by far, is that this has DEVASTATED my mother. The toughest woman I have ever known, the woman who has always put her children and grandchildren ahead of herself, was completely wiped out by this. She is in so much pain that it makes me sick…

….the night before I got your gift I was lying in bed and heard the words “Psalm 68”. Um, okay, I think to myself. Not one to have actually studied the Bible before, I didn’t have a clue what was in Psalm 68. But I heard the words and figured I’d look at it in the morning. Which I did. And became breathless when I read: “A father of the fatherless”. An hour later I got my mail, and received “Jesus Calling” from you. This was on a Monday. That Saturday we left for a cruise in the Caribbean. After all the pain and suffering we had all endured as a family, my mom decided to take the family on the cruise. I had started using the daily devotionals in Jesus Calling the night that I received the book, but the timing of this vacation could not have worked out better.

Each night I would sit out on the balcony and read the devotional. The second night, as I was praying with God and focusing on how I could repair my relationship with Him, I could hear the following:

“I am right here with you. I’ve been here the entire time. I haven’t left or forsaken you, and I won’t ever. My love for you is everlasting.”

As I sit here typing my hands are shaking at the remembrance of that moment. I began to cry. I could feel His love. I could feel calm. I felt loved and cared for. After months of feeling abandoned by my biological father, months of feeling like I had to be the one to keep it together, to be strong for my Mom, my sisters, my brother and my children, I felt like I could just be weak. Be weak, yet cradled in love. It was a beautiful moment for me. This feeling has continued ever since. Each night I would sit on the balcony, in such a place of physical stillness and warmth, with the Caribbean air – not too hot, nor cool, with minimal noise, just the light of the stars reflecting off of the waves, and I would read that days devotional and pray. I continued to hear Him – "I’ve been here the whole time. I am here for you now." Over and over, each night. 

This knowledge that I was loved changed everything for me. When I look back on that week, it was one of healing. My frame of reference had changed. I just felt calm. I loved every moment of being with my siblings, whom I don’t get to see as a group nearly often enough. I loved being with my boys and my husband. I loved watching my mom jetski, and go ziplining, and just LIVING again. We were away from all the distractions, all the hate and anger and hurt and we just enjoyed ourselves to an extent I wouldn’t have thought possible given the turmoil of the past year. For me though, this ability to just let go stemmed from the knowledge of His love. Of knowing that He hadn’t abandoned me. That He welcomed me into His loving arms.

After the trip my brother sent me an email. He told me that he knew I had taken a lot of the emotional burden of caring for Mom during the year, but that he was so happy to see me being silly and laughing like I had before all of this. Since returning home I won’t say that every day is perfect, and that I don’t still have “down” moments, but I have to say they are so quickly resolved because I know I am loved by Him. I have been able to change my perspective on my father. Instead of being angry with him, I feel badly for him and pray for him daily. Rather than focusing on all the hurt he has caused, I think about how lost he is, and I ask God to help him find his way back to Him. While the loss of our relationship will always sadden me, it no longer hurts me as it did before. I have literally given it to God. I cannot control my dad’s actions. I cannot control his mistakes. All I can do is pray for him, and continue to allow God to help me heal. In doing so I am a better wife, mother, sister, and daughter. This new knowledge has permeated its way into other areas of my life. There were aspects of being a CPA that I liked, but I never had any great passion for my job. I have always been jealous of people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, when I never had any real career passion. The only thing I knew I wanted was to be a Mom. I cannot tell you how much this has bothered me throughout my life.

Now, because of what’s happened, I found myself able to walk away from being a CPA (I always had a lot of pressure from my father to pursue that field). An opportunity to work on financial planning came to me last month. Suddenly it was the perfect marriage of what I liked about being a CPA (working with clients, getting to know them) and actually being able to help them financially. I thought to myself ‘now why didn’t I think of this earlier’. God’s response: if you had discovered that career path earlier you never would have stayed home with your children and fulfilled your real passion with them. If I’d presented you with a career you were passionate about when they were 2 and 3, who would have mothered them? I didn’t want to give you that temptation. They are ready now, and you are ready now.

I think back to the man I was engaged to in my early 20’s who cheated on me. I realize that all of that pain and suffering has allowed me to be empathetic to my mother in her situation (although obviously hers is far, far worse). I look at every “negative” experience now in my life and can generally see now why I had to endure it. In other words, I trust in Him. I know that everything I am enduring will somehow, somewhere, benefit either myself or allow me to help someone else. I know that He isn’t going to leave me no matter what. I know that when I am in pain I need to hand my troubles to Him.

Clearly this is going to be a process for me for the rest of my life. I am trying a new church that will hopefully allow me to continue to develop and grow my relationship with Him. I am working on developing my children’s relationship with Jesus.  Your gift helped me start on the journey. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for taking the time to listen to Him when he asked you to send me “Jesus Calling”.

Dianna :)


WOW, eh?! I’ll end this post with this thought: What a living, breathing example Diana’s situation is of Romans 8:28 ~ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

My Bible ‘life application notes’ explain: God works in “all things” – not just isolated incidents – for our good. This does not mean that all that happens to us is good. Evil is prevalent in our fallen world, but God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good. Note that God is not working to make us happy, but to fulfill His purpose. Note also that this promise is not for everybody. It can be claimed only by those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Those who are “called” are those the Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ. Such people have a new perspective, a new mind-set on life. They trust in God, not life’s treasures; they look for their security in heaven, not on earth; they learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with them.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Birthday in Da House!

Happy 6th birthday to our light-hearted, sweet and gentle-spirited, hair-styler-in-the-making, ruffle skirt wearing, sparkle loving, chicken eating, giggle-box, “Mommy, see me!”, “Daddy, can I play with your phone?”, “I can’t wait until Jesus comes and takes us to heaven!”, “Oh, I LOVE to dance!”, matching game professional, natural nurturer, content to run and play-play-play, banana every morning, social, easy friend maker, Pinkalicious readin’, Dora watchin’, fun-lovin’ sister, song-singin’, genuine, friendly, glam girl ~ Jennifer Christine Sullivan!!! You were hand-picked by God for our family – out of millions of little girls in Ghana – the more and more we get to know you, the more God’s Sovereignty in bringing you to us shines through. We love you sweetheart!!!!!!!