October 16, 2014

My Long Awaited Treasure

This memoir is more for me than anyone else. I want to remember the pain. I want to be able to relive the uncertainty. I never want to forget what my life was like before I had babies.

When we got married that hot summer day in 2006, we had a 5 year plan. Adam was 22 and I was 23, we had so much time! We wanted to see the world. We wanted to get to know each other perfectly, we wanted some time to be "us" before adding to our clan. We did all of that and more! We white water rafted in the Jamaican rain forest. We traveled the world; seeing private beaches, smoking volcanoes, poverty, castles, ruins, earthquake victims and sunken treasure. We traveled over 2,000 miles across the USA to plant ourselves in a new home. We worked side by side for years preaching the Gospel and loving teenagers. We worked hard, we lived like tourists, we made the most of our time together.

After a few years (less than 5) of married life, we got the fever. You know, the baby fever. We had a set month that we decided to get off birth control and start our next adventure. Then we waited. A month, 6 months, a year seemed to fly by and no Sullivan baby. I found myself getting anxious. I started working out more, eating healthier and eliminating extra stress. It seemed like the more stress I tried to eliminate, the more worried I became. Uncertainty overpowered me. It became like the shackle that never let me drift too far away. After 2 years, I knew something was wrong. I talked to my Dr and he gave me a couple referrals within Endocrinology, but my insurance didn't cover "Infertility". Oh, that word. It gave me shivers. It filled me with so much fear and so many questions. So I kept waiting and kept praying.

Another year flew by. No baby for me. I found myself discouraged, frustrated, fearful and jealous. Not a good combination. So many days I knelt before God asking Him for direction. God was always faithful to give me peace in my distress. I wanted answers, but I settled for peace.

One night, on a road trip from Austin, TX to San Diego, CA, Adam and I were finishing our trip in silence. We were in the mountains and I was looking out the window at the clear, beautiful stars. In a moment of haste, I quietly prayed, "God, if your plan is to give us a family of our own one day, let me see a shooting star." I immediately regretted testing God like that and scolded myself, but as I looked out my car window, I saw something amazing! Not one, but 2 shooting stars! God promised me right then and there, that He had a plan and it included the desires of my heart.

We changed jobs and insurances and I was finally able to get some infertility help. After a surgery (and 3 1/2 years of trying), I finally got a diagnosis. I had Endometriosis. After looking at my case, my Dr said I had a 6-10% chance of ever conceiving on my own. The odds were stacked. My mind reeled with the options. The Dr  said my best bet was In-Vitro and even then I only had a 60% chance of it working. On top of that, In-Vitro was very expensive and she said I needed to hurry up because of my age. What?! All of this made my head hurt. I took it to God. I remember sitting in the front row of church one Sunday and asking God if now was the time. I simply asked, "Should I move forward with infertility treatments of some kind, or should I wait?" Immediately I heard Him say, "It's not MY time." I was shocked. I don't know why, but it wasn't what I expected to hear and more than that, it wasn't what I wanted to hear. If not now, when? I was almost 30 and had been playing the waiting game for years. It was an emotional couple of weeks, but I remembered the stars and I waited.

In fact I decided to move on. If now wasn't the time, God would surely let me know when it was. New and exciting things were happening in our lives, so I jumped into them with all my energy. 6, 7, 8 months passed.

One morning in May it all changed. I hadn't been feeling quite right for a few days, but I thought it had to do with the shady Mexican place our church staff ate at. Begrudgingly, I picked up a pregnancy test. I had taken dozens of negative tests over the previous 4 1/2 years, no reason to hope. They always let me down. But this day was different. I took the test and waited once again. But this time…a plus sign. A plus sign. I looked at the directions again to ensure that a plus was indeed positive. I couldn't believe my eyes. All of those years of waiting seemed to wash over me like an ocean wave. God's promise was real and was appearing right before my eyes in the form of a plus sign on a tiny stick that I just peed on. It was like the angels were singing the Hallelujah chorus all around me while I stood in the bathroom by myself at 5am with literal silence surrounding me.

In the coming months, I fell in love with a fuzzy black and white image on an ultrasound screen that never seemed to stop moving. On January 26th, my dream became a reality as Amos Luke was born. My sunshine, my precious, the gift I wrote to Santa for, my snuggle buddy and the greatest adventure of my life. My God is good.

I guess the rest is history. I'm laying here in my bed as I write, listening to the hum of the baby monitor as my husband snores and my 8-month old sleeps soundly. I'm writing this primarily for me. I want to remember my journey clearly and never take my family for granted. However, I know how many women are out there living in the uncertainty and grief that I once did. Mourning for the children they don't have. I hope my story can inspire others, It inspires me everyday. (Hebrews 11:1) "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."


1 Samuel 1:27,"I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and He has granted my request."

February 15, 2012

The Power of Unanswered Prayer

"Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get."
Forrest Gump

Last Saturday my family experienced a traumatic situation. My cousin, July, and her husband left their 3 kids with his parents for the day. Soon after they left, the grandparents realized they didn't see the youngest child, one-year-old Eastyn, and they found her at the bottom of their swimming pool. After pulling her out and calling 911, she was unresponsive for an hour and a half. News from the Doctor was quite grim. There were so many uncertainties. Would she live? Would there be permanent damage? Would she ever return to the same sweet Eastyn? At the very least, she would be in ICU on a respirator for a week. Family prayed, friends prayed, even strangers prayed for Eastyn and today, after only 5 days, not only is she out of ICU, she is home! A true miracle! God has received all the glory as the Doctors and Nurses scratch their heads, glad she is ok.

Also today, I called my mom as I headed back to work after my lunch break and I could tell that something was not right. My mom's close friend, Steve, was remodeling my grandparents bathroom this afternoon, when he suffered from a heart attack. Steve didn't make it.

What just happened? Steve was relatively young. Could God not help Steve? Is He a God who is distant, never personal? No, I just saw Him miraculously touch Eastyn. Then, why not Steve, too??

"In the end, unanswered prayer brings me face to face with the mystery that silenced Paul: the profound difference between my perspective and God’s." —Philip Yancey 

I don't know why Eastyn was saved and Steve died, but I know the character of my loving Father. I know that God's timing is perfect and His perspective is clear. Eastyn's mercy does not make me question, but instead brings me peace. God could have miraclously stepped in and started Steve's heart this afternoon, but He didn't because He knows something that I don't. I trust God's love, His hand, and His silence.

Thank you, God, for being worthy of my trust.

September 14, 2011

Remember The Blackout of 2011? Good Times.

Last Thursday at 3:20pm all of our power went out. I immediatly noticed how quiet it was in my home. Soon the neighborhood was buzzing with reports that the electricity had gone out in all of San Diego County, Imperial County, parts of Arizona, New Mexico, old Mexico down to Ensenada, Orange County, and parts of Riverside County. This was a HUGE power outage. 5 million people were without power in one instant! The things I observed post-blackout were so interesting! First of all, I grew up having periodic blackouts because of Thunderstorms, so this wasn't completely foreign to me, however, 1. Things have changed a lot since I was a teenager. 2. There are never thunderstorms out here, so power outages are highly infrequent.
It was hilarious to see people responding. It was 100 degrees outside, so people were just outside sitting in their cars to get air conditioning. The radio station asked people to call in if they knew gas stations that were open - not much luck on gas stations,but you know who was open? Casinos. They had enough generator power to have gas, food, ice, A/C and gambling. Hilarious. Adam and I had to run to the church around 7pm and what we saw was incredible. Families taking walks down Alpine Blvd together. Neighborhoods gathering outside visiting. Large groups of people BBQing together. It was awesome! And I love reading what several teenager wrote on their FB walls about how their night went. 15yr old Ashley said, " if the power didnt go out i wouldnt have met the ppl i met..so bam..it was a good time." A 14 yr old girl named Alyssa said, " i never knew the people who lived next door until the power went out. we all played yahtzee. :)". I read so many posts about family time and great memories shared.  At our home we had some of our students over for a candlelit game of Monopoly. It was a blast!
Since then, everyone I know has talked about the blackout with fondness. Electricity is no doubt a wonderful thing, but in one night people all over SoCal realized what was really important - the people in our lives. No TV, lights, video games, few had internet, computer battery was limited, restaraunts, microwaves, electric stoves, the list could go on. Work was let out early, school was called off. Some entire apartment complexes had get togethers. Neighborhoods chatted together and families played in the dark. Most people went to bed early and got a good solid night's rest. It was a little Wall-e ish. It's funny how one mistake at a power plant in AZ could cause so many people to rethink what is important in their life!

September 8, 2011

Goodbye, Alpine

I should really be packing right now, but instead I'm listening to Pandora, enjoying some coffee and writing. I guess this could be considered packing. Packing up emotions, some memories, unpacking parts of myself that will always be left here in Alpine. In a couple of weeks, Adam and I will be moving away from Alpine. Often people call it "starting a new chapter", but are you ever really this sad about ending a chapter in a book? I don't know. Either way, we are closing up our time in Alpine with lots of hugs and tears. We've accepted a Youth/College Pastor position at another church in the SoCal District. There's plenty of excitement that comes with beginning something new, but right now I'm savoring in the memories of the past few years that we've spent at Bethel and the relationships we've built here.
 I will never forget the long drive from Dallas to San Diego. We were so excited and had no idea what to expect from Southern California or from Youth Ministry. 3 and 1/2 years later, we couldn't have asked for a better Youth Group or Church to get us started in Youth Ministry. I've decided to make a list of things I will miss/special memories I've created. In no particular order:
  • I will miss living in the mountains. I live in a truly beautiful place. Huge boulders, Palms and Pines living harmoniously. After 3 years, I still note what a beautiful drive from Walmart to my home. I can count on 2 hands the number of thunderstorms we've had since I've lived here, but when it does thunder, the sound of it echoing off the mountains is magical.

  • I'll miss the quiet small town feel of Alpine.
  • Panda Machi. I don't care what anyone says about Panda vs Ahi Sushi, I still think Panda Machi has the best sushi in Alpine. Maybe in SoCal. Maybe on Earth. When I visit Alpine in the future, I will be dining at Panda!
  • I will miss our students. Our kids. Past and present. I thank God that He has honored us by giving us the last few years with them. We've met some incredible teenagers and I love them. We've shed tears over death and divorce. We've walked through addictions, depression, impurities, and life in general. And they will always be our first youth group. The trial and error crowd. ;) (If anyone is wondering why this isn't further up on the list, I can assure you that I wasn't shedding tears over leaving Panda Machi.)
  • A couple months ago, I was at a graduation and I had the privalege of holding the baby of one of our former students during the ceremony. It allowed me to get a glimpse into the future of my ministry. I'm still young, but to hold the next generation of those we've begun a ministry to was very special. Thanks for that moment, Marielle.
  • Tapatios. Tapatios, you changed my mind about Mexican Cuisine. Marty, when you visit me, you better bring me a shrimp burrito! PS - My first shrimp burrito from Tapatios was brought to our door by Josh, Mary, and Judah our first week in Alpine! I've been loving them ever since.

  • My dear friends, I will miss you. I've made some great friends here. Stephanie and Marty ministered with us the entire time we were here. There isn't much as awesome as sharing a passion for ministry with someone for a long time. They weren't only fellow ministers, they're close friends. My partner in crime, Renee. Joe and Damara, who else would come over and kill zombies with us? I'll tell you, no one. (Except maybe 15 yr olds) There are really too many friends to name, but I could go on and on. I will miss you all.

  • Pamela. God sent you out here to us. Having you so close warded off homesickness more than you know. And your sweet family brings me immense joy.
  • Yogurt Mill.
  • Dr. Friday and Marti - How will I ever find Chiropractors like them? Marti sent me a recipe in the mail for Eggplant Parmesan the other day, just because she thought I would like it! They are good people.
  • I will miss beating Taylor up at every camp.
  • Our time in Haiti with our Youth was immeasurable. I loved every second of it.
  • I will miss outreaches to Alpine. Parades, Flower hand outs and Halloween Festivals. Bethel loves the community of Alpine, and I love that about Bethel!
  • I'll miss the eccentric elderly people at our church. They were one of my favorite parts of the week!
I could write so much more. I've been very blessed!
Here is a video we made a couple of months ago in memory of our time as Pastors of The Chozen Student Ministry:

April 25, 2011

Widows & Orphans {Haiti 2011 Part 2}

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27
-The Good Book         
Widows - Alone in this world, but highly favored by the King
During our very first day of ministry in Haiti, we walked around the streets ministering and inviting people to an Easter revival service. Part of our group ran into a widow named Annalise. She was very old and lived in a house that was partially torn down by the earthquake. She told them her story of how she slept on the street for the first few months after the quake. She had a self sustaining business before the earthquake, cooking fresh meals everyday and selling them to folks on the street, but now, she lacks the money to get started again. As they spoke to her, she told them about some cysts she had on her abdomen. They were noticibly large and painful so the crew gathered around her and prayed.
Then they went on with their walk.
That night as we gathered to talk about our day, Aaron (one of our students) and Sophia (our AIM Project Leader) both shared a burden to return to pray for her again. So the next morning as we headed to a tent city, we stopped by her home to pray with her. We talked to her for a few moments, and then we shared our burden to pray. As Sophia placed her hand on Annalise's abdomen, an astonished look came over Sophia's face...the cysts were completely gone! Sophia ran her hand all over this woman's stomach area and the cysts that she felt so clearly just one day earlier had completely vanished! It was a true miracle! Annalise smiled and said, "God has been working on me!" We made several other visits to Annalise as the week went on and at the end of the week, Sophia went and bought a large amount of rice, beans, and oil. Enough for her to begin her business again. God used us once again to care for those he loves. What an honor.

Orphans - Children of the Most High
On Wednesday afternoon, we spent the afternoon ministering at an orphanage. We acted out a Bible story, we sang songs with them, and played organized games. And then things got personal. This orphanage was the home to 20 girls. There used to be 60, but there former orphanage was completely destroyed by the earthquake. (Obviously, this earthquake affected everyone in this city) The place they were living in now, wasn't very safe either. We asked the girls to give us a tour of their home and the director of the orphanage took us from room to room. It was devastating. The girls slept in 3 rooms, but only 2 rooms had beds, the other one had only a stack of pillows in the corner. Their play area outside was stacked with rubble and half fallen walls.
After our tour, we went outside and sat together playing games and talking through our gracious interpretors. One little girl, Nunez, walked hand in hand with me through our tour and when I sat down, she crawled right into my lap. We sat quietly for a long time as I stroked her back. Soon, I looked down and she was asleep on my chest. It was one of the sweetest and most humbling moments of my life. I didn't have the power to take sweet Nunez out of her situation. I couldn't rescue her. But I could be the hands and the touch of Jesus for a short moment in her life.
The orphanage director told us a story about Nunez. He said that after her mother died, her father felt incapable of taking care of her. He planned to kill her, but he told an friend and the friend begged him to take her to a pastor. He decided that he would let his friend have her, and the friend delivered her safely to the pastor/orphanage director. Her life was saved.
All of the girls:
Some living conditions:

Part of our team plans to go back to the orphanage to help rebuild. We were also fortunate enough to leave several sleeping mats, sleeping bags, water bottles, towels and pillows at the orphange for the children. They should all have something to sleep on now! Thank you Chaffees for making that possible.

So Far Away, So Close to Home {Haiti 2011 Part 1}

"On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering In a thin dress, with little hope of a decent meal.
I became angry and said to God: 'why did you permit this? Why dont you do something about it?'
For awhile God said nothing. That night he replied, quite suddenly: 'i certainly did something about it.
I made you.'" -unknown author
I returned from Haiti a few days ago, it was Adam and my's 2nd trip to the country. We went last year, only months after the 7.2 earthquake rattled the devestated country and as we left there, we felt compelled to return. So we did. And this time, we took 5 of our students and 2 of our youth leaders along for an amazing ride. During our week in Haiti, we went to 2 church services, we put on a VBS, we worked at an orphanage, we climbed 2 mountains to pray over Pastors homes, we worked in a tent city, we helped build a temorary shelter for a family, and we ministered on the streets of Carrefour - all for the glory of God..
Rebuilding their City
Adam and I were amazed at the progress of Port-Au-Prince and Carrefour. The people of Haiti have been working very hard to clean up the rubble that ran rampant last April, and rebuild their homes and business'. They have a long road ahead of them, there is still a lot of destruction and too many people still live in tent cities, but there is hope.
One day when we were walking through a community in Carrefour, we stopped near a home where a few people knew partial English. They invited us into their "broken" home and my heart was moved as we saw the cracks in the walls and the rubble at our feet.
They had been living in a tent in their courtyard for a year + 4 months, but that same day a temporary shelter had been delivered to them from a ministry in the USA. Praise the Lord! A couple of our students asked if they could stay and help build - how could we say no to that?! So 3 students and I stayed to help them build, while the rest of the team went on to a tent city to minister. It was a wonderful few hours with the family, a true appointment from Heaven. The following are a few photos from the build:

And the final product:

That day, we were as blessed by them as they were by us. And they sent us home with some delicious Mangos.

November 22, 2010

Still Thankful

Mmm, Christmas is in the air! My coffe has a cinnamon creamer. My Christmas tree is up, my home is decorated with shiny tinsel. The nativity scene my grandmother got me is on the end table. Pandora Radio is singing "O Holy Night". It's November 22nd.

Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. I would have 2, sometimes 3, Thanksgiving feasts in one day. The holiday was filled with food, family, and football...The big 3. As I've grown up, however, I've moved far from my family and this holiday season is a busy one in my current occupation. It's become nearly impossible to go home for Thanksgiving. Because of that, I may be a bit bitter about this holiday. My first Thanksgiving in California, I cried the whole time I cooked my Green Bean Casserole. I'm much less homesick in general around this time of year, but I can't help feeling like Thanksgiving just isn't what it used to be for me.

However, just because I'm not SUPER into Thanksgivng, don't think I'm not thankful...I'm thankful for Christmas! Jk, I'm genuinely thankful for a million things. In fact as thankfulness goes, I'm at the top of the class. I'm prepped and ready for a fun-filled Thanksgiving dinner with my favorite Canadian friends on Thursday.

This is not a pity-party. Oh, it's certaintly not. It's actually the opposite of that - I've found a whole new appreciation for Christmas. On top of celebrating the precious birth of my Saviour, enjoying the unity of the giving season, and Starbucks holiday drinks, this year, Christmas means family! I'm going home in a couple weeks and after Christmas, my in-laws are coming here to visit us.  Spending Christmas and the New Year with my family is the best Christmas gift I can recieve.

And so, some may scoff at my premature Christmas spirit, but with every Starbucks Caramel Apple Cider, I inch closer to my new favorite holiday. Everytime I hear Bing Crosby sing The Christmas Song, I get giddy with excitement. And with as much uncertainty as our lives hold, I love the certainty that in 32 days, 12 hours, 1 minutes and 27 seconds, Christmas will be here. I'm thankful, for all of this.