Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Even When It Hurts {Praise Song} : Hillsong United

take this fainted heart
take these tainted hands
wash me in Your love
come like grace again

even when my strength is lost
I'll praise You
even when I have no song
I'll praise You
even when it's hard to find the words
louder then I'll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise

take this mountain weight
take these ocean tears
hold me through the trial
come like hope again

even when the fight seems lost
I'll praise You
even when it hurts like hell
I'll praise You
even when it makes no sense to sing
louder then I'll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise

and my heart burns only for You
You are all You are all I want
and my soul waits only for You
and I will sing till the morning has come

Lord  my heart burns only for You
You are all You are all I want
and my soul waits only for You
and I will sing till the miracle comes

I will only sing Your praise

even when the morning comes
I'll praise You
even when the fight is won
I'll praise You
even when my time on earth is done
louder then I'll sing your praise

I will only sing Your praise

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Arizona Experience {2015}

Thanks to everyone who prayed for us while were in Arizona this summer.  It was an amazing trip for our group and for the Navajos we visited.  Below is what our family shared with our church about our time there.  You can listen to the entire Arizona Experience here {07/12/15}:
Bill - 00:00, 08:47, 21:14, 47:43, 1:01:52
Espy - 08:02
Gianna - 20:14
Grace - 52:17
Otis - 58:32

Good morning.
My name is Espy Manning, and I’m 11 years old. 
I have been on this trip for 3 years. 
I first would like to thank you for your love and support. 
My favorite part of Arizona had to be the VBS.
Even when I had to switch to K5-1st, it was still amazing.
Now I think that if I didn’t switch, I wouldn’t have met those wonderful kids in that class.
What I did not like was when I saw the kids being rude, and that brings me to what I learned.
I learned a lot about patience. 
I had to be patient with my sister.
I had to be patient with the kids.
But more importantly, I had to patient with God.
Now that I’m home, I think God wants me to do exactly what I did there:
Love Everyone.

My name is Gianna Manning, and I’m 9 years old.
This is my first year going to Arizona. 
I learned that Navajo kids and adults don’t have everyting that we have
so it’s nice to treat them with respect and kindness.
My favorite part of the trip was VBS and playing with the kids.
Thank you for all your help and prayers.

Good morning, church - my name is Grace, but I'm actually going to be sharing some thoughts from Regan Mosely.  We're so thankful that she was able to go on this trip with us even after her recent move to Louisiana.  So, from Regan:

"I've been going on this trip since I was 12 years old, and this was by far the hardest year. I had no idea what I was expecting to learn this time. I feel like God really showed me how selfish I am, and how amazing he can be. Dropping kids off at a different house every night bc they couldn't go home to their parents was heartbreaking and eye opening. I have been so focused on myself lately, and feeling like my world has fallen apart when really I have it so good. I think I have such a hard life, and then I see children going through things so much worse. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends, and I have a God who is always there for me. I want the Navajos to know this God too, and every year that I go I feel like they are a little more open. Thank you so much for your prayers & support. I could not have gone on this trip without your help."

Good morning, church.  My name is Grace Manning, and this is my 4th year going to Arizona.  I was fortunate enough to go on the short Christmas trip this past December, and the last summer trip I was a part of was in 2004.  I firmly believe that God wanted me to go on this trip.  He answered lots of prayers.  The finances were generously given for the four of us to go.  Someone graciously assumed my work responsibilities.  Loving friends & family took care of our Isabella & Evangeline while we were away.  He provided a way for me to attend my cousin Joel’s memorial service in Atlanta & Otis’s sister Belinda kindly picked me up in Phoenix late Friday night and drove me three hours to the Reservation that same evening.  He also gave me the physical & emotional stamina to be “almost normal” for the duration of the trip.  He is good.

Currently, we are going through a rough patch in life.  Our close friends have had to deal with some major life changes, broken relationships, and unexpected loss.  Our family has been processing the deaths of two special people whom we love very much.  Bill has shared with you how he has been dealing with depression.  In light of these things, my heart has been broken and my faith has been worn.

However, being on the Reservation reminded me of the Truths that I have known in my mind but have had a hard time believing fully with my heart…
*God made us.  God knows us.  God loves us.  God forgives us, and God is with us. 
*He made each one of us here.  He made each one of our Navajo friends.  He made us exactly how he wanted us to be: no mistakes, no accidents.
*God knows everything about us: the good, the bad, and the ugly…
*and, He loves us.  He loves me.  He loves Bill.  He loves our girls.  He loves our family & our friends.  He loves the beautiful Navajos that we love so very much.  He loves them much more than we ever could.  He’s loved us all from before the beginning & His love is indestructible.
*God forgives us over and over and over again.
*And, He is always with us.  When life is good, He is with us.  Where there is loss - where there is darkness - where there is heartache, He is with us.  On the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, He is with us all. 

So despite my selfishness & self-focus, He is still God.  Still true.  Still my rock & the only thing I can count on.

Now I ask all of you to continue to pray for our Navajo friends: that they would know God & know these truths, that relationships would continue to deepen & that friendships would continue to grow.  Please pray for our group – that we would remember what it’s like to love fully & freely, to not be selfish & distracted, to continue despite our mistakes & our failures, to keep God’s love & purpose as our focus.

Thanks again to God & to you, church, for allowing me to be a part of this experience.  Your children are amazing.  They are capable young people who stepped up when necessary and were willing to help out whenever we asked (or asked again).  They are hilarious & ridiculously fun to be around.  I’m thankful for the example your children are for me & the example they set for mine.  We’ve known some of them for many, many years, and it’s really been a privilege to watch them grow.  They truly personified Jesus’s love during this trip: through piggyback rides, Gatorade sips, shared meals, water balloon fights, endless hugs, and on & on.
I’m proud to call this group our family.
Thanks again for your love & support - we certainly could not have done it without your encouragement & your prayers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Happiness in a Cup

At times - life is not pretty, fun, or easy.  Pain, brokenness, and loss have been flowing in our lives for quite some time now.  Our family & friends have been walking through some hard things lately, and it's wearing on all of us. We are sad, heartbroken, and confused.  While the heaviness seems to be almost stifling - there are glimpses of hope to which we cling.

Weary souls make for lonely moments - but I'm thankful for the amazing people who surround us, love us, and encourage us during these times. Coffee is a plus. Thank you to our sweet, sweet community - here & all over the world. Your love, thoughts, and prayers mean more than you know...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Follow Me

When I was a little girl, I never dreamed that I'd be a mom of four girls myself.  Life at most times is crazy and sometimes chaotic.  I lose it more often than I'd like even though I'm extremely happy and thankful for my husband and our children.

I kind of have this warped perception of time in that it moves in supersonic speed.  For example, even though it is only June 1st - I feel like summer is already over.  What a weirdo.  This also works in reverse.  Our oldest daughter is ten years old, and I sincerely feel like it was just last week that I was pregnant with her.  It certainly feels like she was born just the other day.  What in the world?

Because of this strange thing I've got going on, I try to live in the moment - not in the moment of the crazy sense of time that exists only in my head.

Our greatest hope for our girls is that they love Jesus and love others.  Over the past two weeks - Bill, Espy, and I have been talking about what it means to be baptized & what an awesome, amazing, important, life-changing, heart-giving decision it is.  After lots of talks and prayers -
Bill baptized Espy this morning.
It was beautiful.

We know that following Him won't make our girls the norm, but it will make them powerful.
We know that loving Him doesn't make life easier, but it will make their lives fuller.
We know that living for Him won't make sin unavoidable,
but it will help them experience relentless Love & Grace -
that they can in turn extend to others.

I'm so excited to walk along this journey with our Esperanza Charisse -
the highs, the lows, and all the in-betweens.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
{Galatians 2:20}

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
{John 10:10}
Espy's Baptism // 06.01.14

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hope Spoken

Photo by: Emily Anderson
Over a year ago, I heard about this conference on one of my favorite blogs.
I was immediately drawn in after reading this:

Hope Spoken is a women's conference where we all can come to know Jesus more, and make Him known in our lives. Our conference will be filled with stories. Stories of Christ in each of our lives, and how we can use these stories for His glory. This is a weekend to rest and feel His love, to lay burdens and hurts down and feel His grace. We want to let women know that they are enough, to encourage women to use their passions, their words, and their creativity for the Lord. We, above all else, want to glorify Jesus' name and share the hope we have in Him.

Photo by: Meghan Newsom

I wanted to attend, and I was so excited when my friends Christen & Cindy agreed to go with me.  The last time the three of us went on a trip together was in 2002
so it had been just a little while.

Aside from the stress of getting into an airport
(does anyone else get hot & suddenly suffer from a slight tummyache
when their bags go through security, and you have no shoes on?)
and the awkward dance of getting our own personal selves & our carry-ons from one terminal to another and onto the plane itself, I would consider our travels from Virginia to Texas a success.

Christen's Uncle Mike was gracious enough to pick us up at the airport and escort us to
lunch & to the hotel where the conference was held.
{Thank you, Uncle Mike!}

Danielle & Casey & Emily
Photo by: Meghan Newsom
Our Hope Spoken hosts were amazing!  From the decor to the worship to the treats to the small group leaders to the market to the schedule to the speakers - Casey, Danielle, and Emily did a phenomenal job.  I'm so thankful for their heart and vision for our time in Dallas.  I'm even more thankful for their passion and love for Jesus.  Their commitment to His plan for our few days together was evident throughout the entire weekend.
Honestly, I thought that four days away from my responsibilities at home and at work would be an escape from the anger that I have with God right now because of circumstances that I think are unfair.  My mind knows:
that He is in control
that His plan is beyond my understanding
that He loves each of His children very, very much
However, when life plays out unexpectedly - all those things are harder for my heart to embrace.

Just an aside:
Can we just remember and celebrate that we did not have to cook one meal, do one load of laundry, or brew one cup of coffee during the entire conference?  Also, treats were always on hand.

They truly took the best care of us.
Photo by: Meghan Newsom

There is so much more to share.

For now - know that because all of the women {our speakers, our small group
leader (the amazing Leslie Padgett), every lovely girl in my group}
were so transparent, honest, and thoughtful with each of their stories - I came away
from this weekend changed by each one.  They brought to the table something that God wanted me to hear and experience at this very time in my life, and I will always be thankful for that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Maileen's Journey - April 2

Thanks to all of you for continuing to pray for my amazing cousin, Maileen.  I know I often call her amazing, but she truly is.  She's been sharing her story since the beginning, and I have been changed watching her strength, honesty, and love.  Although it has been unimaginably hard for Peter, Maileen, and their children - they have continued to show their faith and trust in God which has been hard for me to wrap my brain around.  They have always been such an example to me, and they continue to be as we love them from afar.

January 28
...and I just got back from the capital city with the MRI and part of the abdomen results from Friday...God is Good and still very much on our side no matter the results. The tumor in the frontal left lobe is 19.4 mm to 26 mm. The spot operated on in August is now 52 mm x19.9 mmb in the menengies. I have some growth on the bottom of my left lung. I have a tumor now on my right breast right in the middle I am calculating at 30 mm or so diameter. I will have it checked for sure this week. We are praying for the following:
---Approval for insurance at a decent price, Praise God and activates by Feb 1st.---Raise funds to do all of this and learn ways and do things we can do to raise decent adoption payment and raise support plans.---Have a place to stay for up to 6-12 months within Augusta GA so we can learn the disciplines of how to prepare food and near a really good school for Marissa that can help her well. (Jan 28th.)---Both children have permission to go with us during treatments and have great people able to invest in Marissa's hearing issues to help her hear better and communicate better. She is struggling in Spanish. And must sharpen her understanding and use of the sounds. (And that the Spanish Teacher understands to write her Spanish update letter so we can get it to the local government within the next couple days.)---Each of our cells heal from this disease and any other illnesses completely and help others heal too and the finances and materials to do all that.---That we can also be invested in well to serve our Saviour well to glorify His name and invest in others, too. Lord willing be able to start a place that helps others learn how to help thier bodies and church heal.---Please also pray for Peter...he is taking on tons of single parent chores with a 6 year old that doesn't speak well yet and a 8 month old that is just learning to crawl and a wife that cannot help much if at all...thanks. We appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement.

On February 4th, Peter summarized it best with

On this World Cancer Day, I am celebrating my dear wife, Maileen, who has battled fervently for 3 years. I love you my Precious Baby. We can do this!!

February 16
Well, in English, she's my better half. In Spanish, she's the other half of my orange. So I guess I just left the better half of my orange in Augusta, Georgia. I love you, Maileen.

February 17
3 countries, 4 flights, 3 airlines, 5 airports, 4 times through security, 1 long day and 1 tired Dad who is happy to be with his kids again

February 27
I have the kids' permission to travel from the Honduran courts. Tomorrow we will go get their Honduran passports. One step closer.

March 1

We did it, Mommy! We love you!

March 13
The visa appointment for the kids has been moved up to tomorrow at 8am!!! Please pray for a favorable outcome.

March 14
Having a celebratory donut. We got the visas! We're coming to see you on Thursday, Maileen.

March 20
We have arrived (in Georgia)! Thank you all for your prayers.

March 25
Maileen had an MRI this morning. The tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain has grown considerably. Per doctor's orders I'm taking her to the emergency room right now. Thanks for your prayers.

March 26
Maileen update: She is doing better. I.V. steroids are helping reduce the swelling on her brain. Please pray for wisdom. Within the next 24 hourse we have to decide whether or not she should have surgery for the tumors. Thank you all for your continued prayers and encouragement.

March 27
Maileen will undergo surgery Friday morning at 7:30 EDT. They will remove the tumor from her frontal lobe. I am grateful for all your prayers and humbled by the number of people who are praying.

March 28
Maileen's surgery went well. Thank you for your prayers. She has recovered consciousness and was glad that she recognized Marissa and me. I had asked the surgeon to install a software upgrade so that I would appear more handsome to her. It's too early to tell if it worked.

March 30
Maileen is healing. She was just moved from the ICU into a regular room. Thank you for your prayers.

April 1
Maileen is slowly improving. She was discharged from the hospital yesterday. We are glad to have her home, although we are still adjusting to taking care of her. Thank you, again, for all your prayers.

Peter & Maileen are grateful and humbled by your love and thoughtfulness.
I am grateful and humbled by your love and thoughtfulness.
Thank you always for your kind words and your prayers.
We appreciate you so much.

Back to Maileen's Journey

Friday, November 1, 2013

Good In The Chaos

The house is a mess.
The laundry is piling up.
I should probably clean these glass doors that have more than a smudge or two on them.

Our bedroom: atrocious.
The floors need a good cleaning.
Switching out the girls' seasonal clothes has been going on longer than I'd like to admit.

As the girls are getting older, they're getting involved more with friends, school, and activities.  Bill has been busy with different aspects of work.  I oftentimes feel torn between what I need to and what I want to do.

Those of you who know me personally know how much I love my husband.  It's kind of ridiculous.  Yet this same man that I love completely is the same man who can drive me the most crazy.  That's fun.  I would say that this season of our lives have been the hardest (even more difficult than having a newborn!) - just even in these last couple of months.  

It's a struggle at the moment to find the time to communicate and spend time with each other.  When we're both running on empty, our patience is less than stellar for each other and our girls.  At the same time, amazing things are happening with friends and family - and God is working.  Bill and I are in a fantastic place to see life stories change, and we're excited to be along for the ride.

Instead of focusing on all the things that I should or could be doing,
today I will be thankful.

Life cannot be taken too seriously when your favorite dresses like this:

And despite the everyday struggles, there are these fantastic little people that forgive their mother's imperfections time and time again:
Despite all of the pull my hair out moments, there is happiness.
In the midst of the daily chaos, there is good.
Through the bickering, there is laughter.
I am thankful for the Love that carries me day in and day out.