Deuteronomy 6:5-9

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Let me just say, I love this time of the year!

I've always loved this time of the year. There was a season in my adult life where I dreaded portions of this season, however we're figuring those things out. As a little girl my mother made sure that Christmas was "Perfect." We always had a "Perfect tree," with "Perfect decorations," hung in the "Perfect places." There was Christmas music, freshly baked cookies, and the anticipation of Santa. Each year on Christmas Eve, or near there, we'd drive around with my aunt and cousins to look at lights on the houses. My dad and uncle always stayed home. It didn't take us long to figure out they were taking the hidden gifts out and putting them together for us.

Most of all I loved the warm and cozy feeling I received each December.

Martie and I wrestled for years how to celebrate, what to tell our children, gifts or no gifts... I still believe this has to be a family conviction and decision. *No judgement zone* We don't do Santa. We're too selfish and love getting all the credit for what we buy. Just kidding, kind of. We don't do Santa because we don't want to lie to our children. We're afraid that if we make this person up and play along, then they might question our honesty about Jesus. Don't worry, our kids will not tell your kids the truth. They think they're cool and privileged because they have information that others don't have. We also have that one child who still refuses to believe us and swears to us that Santa's real. Again, we do NOT judge those who eagerly anticipate the coming of the weird, fictional, round guy that likes little children to sit on his lap. I also really love the pictures of the elves in your house causing all sorts of mischief. I'm just too boring for that. It would also ruin my reputation as the "Fun killer."

There are some things that we've incorporated into our family and I hope our children will have fond memories of. We decorate a Christmas tree. I have several favorite ornaments, that no one is allowed to touch. That dead thing that sits in my living room for a few weeks still has the potential for being an idol.

We also have a Jesse tree. This is a small Christmas tree that sits in our foyer. Each night we read Ann Voscamp's Jesse Tree Journey and place an ornament on the tree. Each scripture points to the coming of our Lord and at the end there is a portion called, "Unwrapping more of His love in the world." There are great ideas that give you easy and practical ways to show love to others, serve others, ask for forgiveness...

We also light advent candles and read Jotham's Journey, A storybook for Advent. There are three books in this series, but it begins with Jotham. You only read one book a year. The other two are Tabitha's Travels and Bartholomew's Passage. After reading, reflecting, and praying we put the children to bed by candlelight. They LOVE this part of the night. We always tuck them in and pray with them, but something about bringing a candle just adds a new level of excitement.

Lights! We love to look at Christmas lights. The crazier, tackier, the better! I so appreciate the people that put hours and hours into making your house look festive. I'm so boring that I haven't given into the pressure of colored lights. So, my children love all your bright, colorful, and flashy lights. We usually travel to Meadow lights. They also have a wonderful Old Country Store with all kinds of candy favorites.
 We drive by the Parkwood home multiple times a week. My children have lovingly named this the "Gingerbread house."
We bake, and bake, and bake. The kids love to take treats to the neighbors and the "Gingerbread house." I still use my mom's old recipes and haven't really found any new favorites. Although, I'm always looking. 

This year we created a bucket list. I was surprised that most of the things on that list involved people. My family loves being with people. One of the things I've been focusing on this year was being more intentional with relationships. This list has only helped me with my struggles. Martie and I want to go out more with other couples, our kids want to have play dates, and we want to serve those around us. So we've already enjoyed a couple date nights, the kids have had sleepovers, and play dates, and we even went on a field trip! (Watch out now, my kids are getting socialized) We made Christmas ornaments, had cookies, and enjoyed cider and hot chocolate. There's still plans to decorate gingerbread houses, have a family movie night, and bake a cake for Jesus. 



I'd love to hear what your family does, but whatever that is, I pray you make time to reflect on the coming of our Lord. Without this season we would still be waiting. He is our hope this year, He is our salvation, He is our joy!

Psalm 61:1-4 "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

God is gracious!

This weekend is one of so many emotions.

So much good, so much sad.

God is gracious.

Last year, Thursday, June 13, 2013, I was sitting in Essentials training, in Cary. Martie was at Jason's Deli, meeting with a pastor. Taylor was at home with the children. It was around 2:00 and I got the text.."Martie needs to get here, it's not going to be long..."

Rainey, one of Martie's best friends, had been battling cancer for almost one year. He was then at the hospice center in Durham. A week earlier, we celebrated Rainey and his life. The hospice center was nice enough to let his church family and friends come and have an amazing time of worship. It was an evening that I'll never forget.

But now that day, Thursday, June 13 Rainey was in his final hours on this earth. Our heart literally broke. I called Martie, and he immediately left his meeting. After being in the car for about 2 minutes, he received a call. It was Deidre, our social worker. She had already told us about the girls and we had agreed to get them on Friday for the weekend. She wanted to know if she could bring them early, like in 2 hours. Because his mind was in a billion places, he stuttered, mumbled, said a few ums and ahs, and then said, "Of course!"

Martie calls me, I panic, and then I call home. I left my training in Cary and raced home. On the way, my mind was all over the place. My husbands heart was breaking, Rainey's other friends and family members hearts were breaking, and we were about to meet two girls that could possibly become our daughters!

My good friend Stephanie beat me to my house and played a game with the children. Everytime they cleaned something, they got a little plastic duck. It worked people! My house was spotless in about an hour! I started dinner and the wait began.

Because it was Thursday night, my dad, step mom, and step sister were all coming over for dinner. I debated whether or not to cancel but I couldn't decide. So, I didn't. We had our regurally scheduled "Wright night." It was pouring raining that night. The wind was horrific. My mind went from Martie to the girls. I paced and panicked for what seemed forever.

Martie finally got home, and before the girls arrived. They were running late. God's providence. Martie and I talked for a minute or so, and on went his game face. Somehow through all his pain, he was able that night to totally mask it all and press on.

The girls finally got here. They were grinning from ear to ear. Taylor showed them around the house as we got some instructions from Deidre. We ate dinner and then had smoothies for dessert. Everyone left and we started to tuck the children in bed. Dasiyer (Aaliyah) and Shyana (Naomi) shared a room that first night. Tabitha also slept with them. It was so nice tucking the girls in and praying with them.

Then it was quite. For the next several hours, my husband, the strong one, just broke. I hated that night. I hated seeing him hurt. I hated the fact that Rainey was dying. I hated knowing Laura, his wife, was hurting. I hated the pain, the sickness, the sadness...

Rainey passed that next day, Friday June 14th.

That also happened to be Father's Day weekend. My brother and his family surprised my dad with a visit from New Mexico. We had a big celebration at my mom's house because we were certain it would be my granddaddy's last Father's Day.

Because of God's providence, that weekend my girls got to meet my brother and his family. They also got to meet my grandaddy. That weekend was a whirlwind of emotions.

But God...

He is so good, He is so faithful, only He can truly comfort, only He can pick us up...

Wasn't it so cool and so like God to take a very sad and horrible weekend and bless us with 2 beautiful smiles to help us smile? Wasn't it like God to plan for my brother to be there the same weekend the girls were coming for a visit? Wasn't it like God to have my grandaddy meet and spend time with the girls before he passed?

Last year, Martie and I had to say, "See you later," to two very important people, my grandaddy and Rainey. Last year, God also gifted us with two very important people to love on for the rest of their lives.

God is so so gracious! To Him alone be the glory!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Mangum family

Merry Christmas!                                                                                                                                                  
We hope this letter finds you full of joy as we look forward to the coming of our Lord. 2013 is quickly coming to an end. This year has been full of many emotions for the Mangum family. We welcomed a new nephew to the family, lost a friend due to cancer, adopted our girls, and lost our grandfather. Through all of this, our God has remained faithful.

The most exciting news, our adoption has been finalized! Aaliyah and Naomi have been decreed by the courts, “Adopted for Life.” This has been an amazing process and God’s presence has been constant. The girls have been issued new birth certificates, which only add to that sense of permanency. We are reminded of the scriptures and the entire reason for Christ’s coming. To adopt us into the family of God. Our sin, which once separated us from God, has been washed away. We’ve been bought by the precious blood of our Savior. Just the same, our girls are now in our family. They have been rescued from a life that was not ideal for a child. By God’s grace, they will grow up to know Him and have an opportunity to follow Him.

Martie is still pastoring Parkwood Baptist Church. This is our eighth year.  Life at PBC has had its challenges, but we are hopeful God will build His Church. Martie started back hunting, but has not had any success. Most of all he enjoys the time alone with God & His creation, but desperately would like to bring home a deer to his eager children. Every time he returns home the children run to the door or windows to see if he has a deer.

Heather stays home with the children each day teaching them about the Lord and the world He has made. Along with the normal chores of daily life, Heather also directs our homeschool community. Classical Conversations has been a blessing to our family for 7 years now.  Heather is desperately missing our garden and has talked about cutting several trees down so we could have another one.

Taylor turned 16 this November and is in the 10th grade. She is excelling in school and loves attending her Challenge II class each week. Thankfully, she is motivated and self-driven. She swims with a swim team weekly, and most recently started serving as a prosecuting attorney with Teen Court in Durham. Taylor has grown into a beautiful and responsible young lady. We praise God for her love and relationship with Him. She is also an excellent big sister. Each sibling loves taking turns riding in her car, helping her in the kitchen, and camping out on the floor in her bedroom.

Aaliyah is 10 and in the 5th grade. She is a bright and loving young lady. She loves to care for her younger siblings, play games with the others, and help Taylor cook. She and Taylor also like to sing and dance while cleaning the kitchen. We are learning lots about Aaliyah. She has a condition called, Marfan syndrome. Thankfully, with medicine and a watchful lifestyle she’ll be okay.  Marfan is the reason she is tall, needs glasses, and has an enlarged aorta. She can’t participate in competitive sports. However, this sweet and full of energy girl hasn’t let anything stop her. She swims weekly with Blue Dophins Aquatics. She also loves going to her Foundations and Essentials class weekly at Classical Conversations. She is zipping through her academics and is proving to be self-motivated also. She’s probably most excited about learning to write in cursive this year.

Ethan will be turning 9 on December 28th and is in the 3rd grade. Ethan is a natural leader. He will be the one organizing the games and letting everyone know their place. He loves playing spy, reading history, and aggravating his sisters. He likes things organized and always has a plan. During school he wants to get his notebook and books and get his work done. He understands the quicker you get your work finished, you can move on to more fun things. He loves camouflage and wears it almost daily. He also loves to pick out Seth’s outfits each morning.

Naomi is 7 and in the 2nd grade. She has a huge smile that lights up her whole face. She loves fashion, hair, and anything girly. Tabitha and Naomi share a room and are truly inseparable. Recently they traded beds and closet space. Naomi has made huge progress with her school work. Excitedly she now exclaims, “I can read!” We’re starting to slow down a bit as we’re seeing some areas she needs to keep working. Naomi’s giggle is contagious. Heather takes all the kids, except Taylor, to watch Naomi practice gymnastics each week. We are pretty sure she likes the attention.

Andrew is 7 and in the 2nd grade. He is basically Martie’s little clone. This boy loves to be outside admiring God’s creation, chasing squirrels, climbing trees… He is completely content playing by himself and is easy to get along with. School is a bit more challenging for all the above reasons. Heather has taken him outside to do work some, but then he gets distracted. We are thankful to be able to keep him home and encourage him through his studies. Although his nickname is Bam Bam, he is super gentle. Each morning he has to have cuddle time.

Tabitha is 5 and in kindergarten. Smart, silly, girly, giggly, and mature! Tabitha has always been very driven when it comes to academics. She can also hang with her older siblings in any fun creative game. She is learning to read, add, and subtract. Most often she is working alongside of Andrew and Naomi. Tabitha is self-proclaimed, “Taylor’s girl,” although there’s an ongoing battle to steal her away. Tabitha loves attending ballet each Wednesday with Ms. Jessica. She’s often been caught twirling around the house in her own little world.

Carissa is 3 and participating wherever she can in school. Carissa is Andrew’s sidekick and has been given the nickname, Pebbles. She likes to try and call the shots, which is why she still is not potty trained. She is also very content playing in her room with dolls and other toys right by herself.

Seth will be 2 on January 5th. This boy is into everything! He has to be the most loved on baby, ever. By Tabitha and Carissa you might hear him called, “Sethy.” He pretty much sticks close to Heather throughout the day. You might find him, rummaging through the kitchen cabinets, grabbing books off the book shelf, or playing with many toys. Because of Carissa, he now loves Dora the Explorer.  He is also being potty trained, and surprisingly excited about it! His favorite songs are, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Bringing Home My Baby Bumblebee, Ten little Indians, and Jesus Loves Me.

During this season we are focusing on the “Good news of great joy which is for all people” as declared by the angel to be the Savior who was born and is both Lord and Christ. We hope that you too will spend time reflecting on Jesus who came to “Save His people from their sins.” He is our life and hope. We are looking back on 2013 and giving thanks to Him for all He has done while looking forward knowing He is still at work completing the good work He started in each of our hearts.

May God fill you all with Grace and Peace,
The Mangum Family

(Martie, Heather, Taylor, Aaliyah, Ethan, Naomi, Andrew, Tabitha, Carissa, and Seth)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Taylor's sweet 16 party!

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Taylor's sweet 16 birthday. It was a fun night filled with food, games, music, pictures at the "photo booth," and cake. Below are just some of the many many pictures that I haven't even attempted to go through and edit yet. We had her party at Hotel Indigo in RTP. It was a wonderful experience.
The candy bar!

Photo Booth props

Photo Booth Backdrop

Her theme was vintage. I did coke and root beer in the bottles and I fancied up some water bottles . 

Gift table

The BEAUTIFUL cake. 

Cake table

The amazing birthday girl. 

The other kids had quite the time too. 

My sister aka Pinterest partner

Taylor and Alley painted this bow. It was the signing board for all her friends.

Some of her friends

Aaliyah and Rachel

Me and my cousin Alisha getting in on the fun!
Taylor and a friend that she's had since elementry school.

Musical chairs! Yes, you can get a bunch of teenagers together and play a "friendly" game of musical chairs. 

More of her friends
So thankful to everyone who helped out with the planning, decorating, and cleaning up. For now I am
DONE with party planning and Pinterest. It's a good thing you're only 16 once!