Lessons from an Obedient Father

Today’s post is actually an email that a friend of our family sent as a newsletter about what God is doing in his life. I asked him if it was ok if I could share it with you on our blog. With a quick reply of yes, I hope you are challenged, that you would identify with his fear and that you would pray for all that God is doing in the lives of so many because this normal guy said “yes” to God’s plan for him and his family. Send Jake some love by checking out www.acts2collective.org and seeing if there are ways you can practically help this vision God has brought to fruition.

I have heard the command of Jesus reverberating through the martyrs’ voices, “Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Me.”  – Anne Graham Lotz
This morning as I was heading to the airport I received the following text from someone I love greatly.  “I will be praying for you Jake.  Please be careful…. I don’t think like you but I do know it is what you feel you have to do; so I will pray you make the difference you want!  Love you sweetheart!”
My mother like so many others view these journeys to Africa as my desire to make a difference.  She witnesses the passion that flows through my bones while I am in the United States.  She sees the stories in the news and reads the various emails and blog posts I make.  She reads my Facebook and Twitter.  She scrolls through the pictures I post on Instagram.  It looks like I think differently from others.  It looks like sorrow, fear, or pain does not bother me.  It looks like I long to make a difference in this world and because of that I think differently from others.  This could not be farther from the truth.
My thoughts are like everyone else’s.  I would rather stay home.  I would rather spend these two weeks with my six children.  I would rather stand in the comfort of my own gym in Des Moines than stand under the scorching heat of the Saharan sun.  No one besides my wife and children will see the tears that streamed down my face while curled up in a ball last night on my bed.  No one will understand how my body begins to physically feel ill when I ponder what is in store over these next two weeks.   As I quickly hug my family good bye in the airport I can’t even look back in order to not completely lose all self control.   No one sees the awkwardness of the security guard at the Des Moines Airport as he pats me down with streams of water flowing from my eyes.  My mind realizes that as I ride up that escalator to meet this security guard that there are no guarantees that I will return from the land the Lord has called me.  I fear the loneliness and I tremble at the unknown.
The reality of my life is that I do think just like everyone else.  I have the same real fears.  I want to run from what God is asking me to do.  I don’t want to leave my family, I don’t want to leave the joys of a hot shower and 24 hour electricity.  I don’t want to leave the calls of “DADDY” from my little guy.  I don’t want to leave the non-stop college football conversations with JJ.  I don’t want to miss Justice’s last Ballard football game of the year.  I don’t want to miss two weeks of hugs from my daughters.  I don’t want to leave the security of having my wife next to me each night as I crawl into bed.
The only difference in me is the Power of Christ that lives in me.  The only difference is His Word that I hang tightly to during these moments.  The only difference is a desire to live a life of obedience to a Father who lived in obedience for me.  I recognize that Jesus pleaded with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to take the burden of the cross from Him but in the same breath says, “Father, let your will be done not mine.”  I see the fight for obedience that Jesus had for my life on that cross and cannot understand how I am not responsible for that same obedience.  Chances are I will never have nails driven through my hands or feet.  I will certainly never experience the weight of “ALL” sin on my shoulders.  I will probably never be beaten with thorns dug in to the side of my head.  I simply have to “Go” when God says to “Go”.   I have to be obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
I think like everyone else as I don’t want to flee comfort.  The only difference is that I understand one day that I will stand before this great God where everyone before me has fallen face down trembling in His presence.  In that moment I will have to give an account for my obedience.  Just as an earthly son I was responsible for my obedience or lack of obedience with my earthly Mother and Father I now have a responsibility to my heavenly Father to follow in absolute obedience because of the heavy price He paid for me on that cross.
I have heard the command of Jesus reverberating through the martyrs’ voices, “Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Me.”  – Anne Graham Lotz
In Christ,
Jake Sullivan
Jake and his lovely wife Janel reside in the Midwest with their six (and soon 7!) children loving and following Jesus each day.

Guest Blogger: Jenna Wykle “Called Me Higher”

I heard this song for the first time last year on Pandora.  I ran over to my phone, hit the thumbs up and Googled the artist…All Sons and Daughters.  I played this song on repeat probably 15 times that day.  I fell in love with this song.  The title is “Called Me Higher”.  This is sort of the theme song for my season of life.  Here’s the lyrics:

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all your goodness
Hope to feel your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel you
Hope to feel something againAnd I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls downBut you have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you lead me Lord
Where you lead me
Where you lead me LordAnd I will be Yours
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me
I have known Jesus since I was 7 years old.  I’m now 30.  God is calling me higher and deeper and I pray He will until the day I die.  I believe He’s calling all Christians to a higher and deeper relationship with Him.  Don’t hear me wrong, there is not a new truth I need to be taught a part from the Bible and there is not a new answer that needs to be found.  I’ve known this truth and this mystery since I was seven.  The truth is Jesus and the answer is the gospel.  The higher and the deeper that he’s calling me to is actually living out what my lips have been professing since I was a young child.  This calling isn’t actually a new one.  I’m just willing to listen and obey now.  And because we serve a very patient God, He is holding my hand and welcoming my obedience with no judgment of the numerous times I have told Him no.  This change in my life actually started about 10 years ago but only in the last few years have I seen, felt and believe that a life of saying yes to God is the only life worth living.
I often look at other Christians in my life and wonder if they wrestle with the same things that I do.  I say I believe in Jesus and I say I believe what the Bible says, so why don’t I live it out?   The higher and the deeper is calling me to do just that, live it out.  It’s not enough for me to just go to church on Sunday and be involved in women’s Bible studies and fill my calendar with ‘good’ things.  If I don’t ever put those times of equipping into practice, what good are they?
We have a choice. I have a choice.  As the song says, I could just stay right where I’m at waiting, hoping, longing to feel something again.  I could just hold on to the person I am today and never want to change and be stubborn and set in my ways…prideful…self absorbed…self seeking…I could stay safe.  I could never let my walls down…too afraid of the pain I might feel in having to say good-bye to a foster child never once thinking about the pain I’m relieving in their life by giving them a bed and some food and the feeling of being loved.  I could let the fear of people’s opinions drive me to say no to God and wonder if I’ll lose friendships or even our family because my life doesn’t look like theirs.  I could.  I have.  I could be like King Nebeuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 and be “at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.”
OR…I could allow God to work in me and change me from the inside.  I could allow His Spirit to move in my heart.  I could learn to obey that still small voice.  I could stop pushing that feeling away that I get inside of me when He gently shows me to step out in faith and trust.  I could actually live out the belief that this world and all that’s in it will fade away and I’m living for an eternal reward.  I could actually love people enough to care about their salvation.  I could actually fear God more than man.  After all, I say I believe this.This is the deeper and higher that I am in right now.  Obedience.
It doesn’t matter what, where, why, how God is asking you to do something.  The truth is the God of the universe created you and desires an authentic and personal relationship with YOU.  He wants to take you deeper and higher not because you are so amazing but because He is so amazing.  It’s hard for me to put into words what happens when you start living out truth.  You find purpose, you find joy, you find hope, you find fulfillment, you find satisfaction.  All the things this world tells you that you’ll find in yourself, money, cars, houses, friendships, relationships, possessions, that strangely enough leave you extremely empty.  Is this a coincidence?  No!  We are created in His image (Gen. 1:27) and we are created by Him and for Him!  Colossians 1:16, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorites — all things have been created through Him and for Him.”  And later in the verse it says, “so that He might come to have first place in everything.
In the book “You and Me Forever“, Lisa Chan describes it this way:  “I can testify that the mission is far more appealing than the safety of the status quo.  Yes, sometimes I am tempted to pursue an “ordinary” life.  There are moments when I just want to be selfish and not think so hard about what God wants.  But it’s too late.  Once you have experienced true life, there’s no going back!
David urged us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), and that’s what has happened for me.
I have tasted what it’s like to live a life that is more and more surrendered to Him.  I have tasted and seen His love for others, and when He gives you that same love in your heart, it feels shallow and unfulfilling to go back to your old way of doing things.  I have a taste in my mouth for steps of faith that draw you so near to Him you don’t want to ever go back, even if He would let you.”  THIS is what I’ve experienced.  Yes, my salvation has been secure since I was seven but I’ve tasted and seen the fulfillment of a live lived in surrender and all I want is more. The things of the world will never satisfy and if you’re reading this and have lots of ‘things of the world’, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.  People will fail, circumstances will change, life gets messy but God alone is the constant.  God alone is worth living my life for.  And if you’re like me and have known Jesus since you were little, I urge you to allow Him to do a deeper work in your life.  I urge you to surrender ALL of yourself to Him and stop being a casual Christian who is of no use in His Kingdom.  Here’s the song…
Jenna is a friend of ours. She is a follower of Christ. A Titus two woman. A wife. A work at home momma. They have three biological children, are foster parents and have adopted once before a few years back. They have recently decided to adopt three brothers from Africa. God has taken their family on a crazy and beautiful journey that only He can author. We love them and we are privileged to call them friends.

Dreaming of what to do “In Summer . . . ?”

Yes, in your best OLAF voice . . . all together now “In Summer . . . .!!!!”

Well, its summer. And are you ready? Really ready?ID-100156929

The days can pass quickly if we aren’t prepared and purposeful. This is a great opportunity to make the most of your days with kiddos at home and great weather to enjoy.

My friends at The Village Church have put together a Summer Fun Activity Book. It gives AWESOME ideas of things to do with your kids and ways to point them to Jesus through the days ahead. They have a downloadable version for anyone and everyone to access.

So, download, read and enjoy!

The Village Church (Flower Mound, TX) Summer Fun Activity Book

Establishing routine in your infant’s day-General ideas & tips (post 3 of 3)

If you decide to tackle the routine idea in order to bring some “new normal” to your days, here are a couple of things you should do before you start:

You and your spouse need to make a commitment to do this for at least 4 weeks before you give up.
Get a small notebook dedicated to writing down the day (believe me there were many days I forgot what time they slept, what time it was, or what day it was!)
Have a good friend you can call on that can be encouraging to you to help you stick with your commitment.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your baby will experience growth spurts. Typically you will see increased eating and number of times they want to feed increase around these times:

Typical Growth Spurt Periods: Although growth spurts can happen anytime during the first year, your baby will most likely have his initial spurt between one and three weeks; and another between six and eight weeks. After that, you can expect more at three months, six months, and nine months. The good news: A baby’s growth spurts usually last only a couple days, so your baby (and your life) should get back to normal soon. (whattoexpect.com)

For me, my babes mostly wanted to nurse more often during their growth spurts. So when the time frame of their age was around one of these typical growth spurt times I would simply nurse more often, if they gave me those cues or if they woke up earlier etc., to accommodate for that. So this may mean they will eat closer to 2-2.5 hours for a day or two. (See the flexibility here?) This is yet another good reason to write things down as well as knowing how old your babe is in order to be even more flexible with feeding during growth spurts.

Benefits of feeding baby on a flexible routine:

One huge benefit to regular feeding times is this will boost your milk supply. If nursing, your body is on a supply and demand type of system. God in His infinite wisdom designed it this way. The amount your baby eats is the amount your body will produce in order to meet his or her needs. If you go long periods of time without nursing your body may think “Oh no need to make that much today, so I will slow down in production.” If you keep to a regular routine, your body will know what the baby needs. Remember, I am not a medical doctor nor am I lactation consultant. This is simple supply and demand logic and experience that I am speaking from.

A few other benefits:

1. I noticed less crying from my babe. Giving small amounts of nourishment on a consistent time table decreases their need to cry to let you know they are needing to eat. Think about it. When your stomach growls you know you need food now! It is the same for tiny babes. When that hunger cue goes from tummy to brain they need food NOW! And they let you know! So think logically: its better to get good amounts on a regular increment of time rather that wait for babe to scream…and often screaming is an “its too late” signal!

2. Less overeating. When babe is starving he or she will do anything they can to get milk as fast as they can. If babe is NOT eating at irregular intervals of time there will be more overeating due to the brain thinking it is going to starve. We’ve all done it as adults. Skip a meal here and there and we overeat the next. It’s no different for babes. You can google that research.

3. Predictability. Any parent will testify to “the fog.” You know those very hazy, not really coherent first couple of months after having a baby? You think you will never be “normal” again. Well, you won’t return to your “old” normal again but its a “new normal” that you now have as a parent. Having predictability and a little more sense of control over feeding and sleeping will help you gain your sense of self back as a person. Babies do not have the ability to know what’s logical. They certainly have needs and they will let you know by crying, and your job as mom is to respond to those needs. But when food and sleep (basic needs every baby has) are being given to them at regular intervals, the baby begins to understand that you, the parent, are trustworthy and things can tend to be less chaotic.

4. A routine can help you know when something else besides hunger is wrong. If I just fed my babe 30 minutes ago and he is crying, and I know that he’s not in a growth spurt, I can go down the general list of some other need that must be met: dirty/wet diaper, burping, too hot/cold, needs some cuddles etc. I have had many parents share with me how grateful they were for this knowledge because usually when their babe cried it usually tipped them off that they were teething or about to get sick!

5. Establishing a routine in your babe’s life will help you establish your authority over your children as their parents. This is more of a biblical principle that YOU, the parent,  are in charge, not this tiny human that does not have the Holy Spirit or logical thinking.

We would love your comments and experiences about routine. If you have any questions feel free to make a comment and we will get back to you as soon as we can!Thank you for returning to our blog this week!


Establishing routine in your infant’s day-Principles of Routine (post 2 of 3)

I would like to share with you some principles that I have learned about implementing routine in your infant’s day. I have gathered these principles mostly from books I have read, my own experience as a mom, and my interactions with other moms. I am not a medical doctor nor have any special professional training. But one thing I know . . . routine can help you survive when you think you are at your wits’ end.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Consistency is key!
If you are not consistent with anything you want to train and establish, then there is really no point in even beginning to try and implement it. With any new habit you need to be determined and always have the big picture in mind.  In this case when deciding on implementing a “routine,” especially with small babes who sometimes can have an agenda all their own!

When you have a newborn you have to remember, for 9 months they were cradled tight in momma’s womb most likely being rocked most of the day by movement. They enter the world expecting that same general cadence – sleeping during the day and what seems like being awake most of the night.  Someone has to help them get that cadence turned around – for the good of the parents and baby.

During the first 3 to 4 months: I am on a pretty flexible routine as far as timing but I always kept an order of wake baby, feed baby, awake time if any (depending on age) , allow babe to sleep then start over again at next feeding time.
I always fed babe when they showed hunger cues no matter what time that was: crying, fist to mouth, rooting etc. and was well aware of growth spurt times. But one big difference was, during momma’s wake-time hours, I never allowed the babes to sleep longer than 2.5 to 3 hours without a feeding.
I would wake my baby up, during my daytime/evening hours, to feed them if they had NOT woken up on their own by the next feeding.

Did I say WAKE them?
YOU need to wake them in order for this flipping of day and night to happen.
I know, I know . . . waking a sleeping babe is frowned upon and argued against. However, for all four of my children (and the countless numbers of new parents who followed this feeding philosophy), this specific parent-led action, has been helpful for parents to organize their babe’s days and nights. As well as allow parents to reclaim what their new normal will be without being a slave to this new family member.

I nursed all of my children; however, these principles can be used for bottle fed infants as well.

I am going to give you an example of an average day for one of my own at 1 month old.
(I kept a journal – nerdy, huh?)
Journal notes:
L, R – indicates which side baby fed from
“Held up” – this is a digestion trick, holding them upright helps keep babies from getting too gassy, and gives good face time if they are awake too.

5:15a baby woke fed-L, ate 5 min, held up 40 min., fell back to sleep

7:45 I woke, fed-R, ate 7 min, held up 35 min., fell back to sleep

8:40 baby woke, I rocked back to sleep, we slept together in chair

10:45 I woke, fed-L, ate 7 min, held up 30 min., awake for 15 min., fell asleep in car seat

12:15p baby woke, burped him, rocked back to sleep, whimpered on/off slept

1:30 I woke, fed-R, ate 8 min, held up 45 min., fell right back to sleep, laid down@2:30 in crib slept

4 baby woke, fed-L, ate 8 min, held up 30 min., awake, rocked back to sleep

5:00 baby woke, held him in front pack, fell asleep

6:30 I woke, fed-R, ate 5 min., held up 30 min., awake 20 min., fell back to sleep laid in crib

8:15 baby woke, fed-L, ate 5 min., held up 45 min., asleep, laid in crib @915 asleep

10:30 I woke, fed-R, ate 6 min., held up 35 min., laid in crib @11:20 asleep

3a baby woke, fed-L, ate 7 min., held up 45 min., laid in crib @4 asleep

5:30a baby woke, fed-R, ate 6 min., slept in rocker w/him

8:30 I woke, fed-L, ate 7 min., held up 30 min., fell back to sleep, laid in crib @925

So on, so on…

Each of my days, during the first 3 to 4 months of my babe’s lives, did NOT look exactly the same. What stayed consistent was the order of their day.

We fed, we were awake or fell asleep, then fed again. This cadence was what I did over and over again throughout my awake hours. During what would be my sleeptime hours I allowed my babe to wake me on their own when they needed to be fed. Or another option would be to set your alarm to wake you at a four hour mark to wake them to feed in the middle of the night. I would actually suggest this if:
you and babe are still figuring out nursing,
you have a lazy nursing babe,
or if you breasts are uncomfortably full and you need to nurse.

There was never a time during the my awake hours when I allowed babe to sleep longer than 3 hours. Now during the early evening (5ishpm to 8ish pm) babes like to “cluster-feed” or “gear-up”, so to speak, for the night. They want that nourishment to sleep a long stretch. This will happen especially if you have trained them to flip their day/night.  So eating every two hours during this early evening time frame is not unusual for babes.

Now, as you saw, during the bedtime hours I did not wake babe up at all. I allowed him to wake me. Believe me your baby will not go hungry! They will wake you by making noises, sucking, lip smacking and whimpers at first, which if left too long will eventually lead to louder crying.

Read on tomorrow for more tips as you begin to think about routine in your infant’s day.