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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Years!

Each year I contemplate New Years Resolutions. The best I've found were written by Jonathan Edwards in 1723

I love goals. I happen to love lists. My lists love lists. It just fits so nicely with my ESFJ personality. The problem is, I tend to put more on myself (and others) than what's reality. I add "weights" to my life." 

For a while I've felt so heavy. Like each day was just harder and harder. I realized that I was looking more and more forward to bedtime than I was rising in the morning. In my journal I wrote, "My run has gotten heavy. It's like I'm running with weights. More things, more responsibilities, more lists... I feel like I'm carrying about 500 lbs. right now, and my race has stopped." 

I was sitting in Starbucks the other day, and read from Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

I realized that there was a separation between weights and sin. Both can entangle. But weights could be good things, sin is definitely not. I started wrestling with the text, and ended up listening to two of John Piper's sermons on the text

Then I made a list. (laugh now) Actually I made two lists. I made a list of "Weights" in my life and sins that cling closely to me. What I noticed is the things that I labeled "Weights" could be summarized as "Life," or the race itself. Is it possible that my race/life could be a weight that prohibited me from running well? 

Yes! I'm trying to do so many good great things, things that glorify God and bring Him honor, but I'm trying to do them in my own strength! I've realized over and over again that I am not as strong as I like to think I am.  Truth is, I'm weak. The reality is, I can do NOTHING, on my own or in my own strength. That's why my race has come to a screeching halt.

Weights are not bad, actually they make you stronger. As a Christian, I'm not supposed to carry those weights. It is my job to lay down, grab onto Jesus by the cloak, weep at His knees, trust in His steps, and FOLLOW! He leads, He carries, I obey. 

1 Timothy 6:11-12 "But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you mad the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

Scriptures like that have the potential to weigh me down more. I see commands I want to obey. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 sound like great New Year's Resolutions if you ask me.  BUT, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to please God on my own. I can not obey His scriptures and commands perfectly. Only He was able to come to this earth and live perfectly, die perfectly, and lead perfectly. 

The story that I most relate to in the Bible is the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was "distracted" or "busy about so many things." Mary, "Sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching." Jesus' reply to Martha when she grumbled to Him was profound. Honestly, it was painful. 

Luke 10:41-42 "Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things, but ONE thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

This year I resolve to run hard with my eyes on Jesus and sit at His feet and listen to His Words. 

The rest will be carried for me. He will get the glory. The victory is His. The joy is mine!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!                                                                                                              December 14, 2014

2014, where did you go? These days we find ourselves wanting to hit the pause button on life. 

We enjoyed a family vacation in late July through early August. The first part of the trip was spent in New York with our good friends the Wesleys. In addition to the wonderful Indian cuisine consumed, we played at a local park, celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, worshipped with the brothers and sisters at the Wesley’s church, and enjoyed a full day at Niagara Falls! We left New York and drove to Pennsylvania for the remainder of the trip. There, we stayed with our faithful friends, the Trunicks. The Trunick family has 5 boys and 1 girl. Our children have grown up together. It was a full house, with lots of fun, laughter, and food! We celebrated Andrew’s 8th birthday while in PA, the adults had a date night, and we enjoyed a small group bible study with the believers of their church.  Before we left NY and PA we sat with the Wesleys and the Trunicks, read scripture, and prayed together. We are so blessed by these two families and their friendship to us.

August 8th we threw an adoption celebration at the church. August 9th marks the one year anniversary of when the girls moved in. It was a fabulous time. We invited families from our Classical Conversation’s community, from church, foster families, DSS workers… There was plenty of hotdogs, cake, chips, snow cones… We also gave a short overview of our story.

The family started pioneering and visiting a farm this year. Each Friday we’d meet Mr. Green, the farmer and guide, and some other families at different trails. The children have put together “Survival kits” for these adventures. Martie’s created a way for us to carry enough water for the family. We’ve really enjoyed learning more about farm life and hiking/pioneering from Mr. Green.  He is a wealth of knowledge and a blessing to us.
Martie and Heather were asked by DSS to appear on WRAL for a three minute spotlight on adoption in November. This was a neat opportunity to share our experience and tell of the grace of God. We followed up the interview by scheduling an Adoption and Foster Care Event at the church.

We’re excited to share that the church will be re-launching in 2015! We’ve been at Parkwood for 10 years now. There have been many ups and downs. God has been so gracious throughout the years. He has kept us, led us, and now brought us to this point in ministry. A few years back we voted on the new bylaws and constitution. We’ve appointed one additional elder and a couple deacons. Martie has been talking with a contractor and we anticipate many renovations. The new name of the church will be 4D Church. The D’s, which will encompass our mission, are delight, display, declare, disciple. We are praying that others will join us in this new adventure.

Martie has enjoyed hunting again this year. He’s taken the boys with him a couple of times. He still hasn’t killed anything. He enjoys the quiet time to be alone and still in God’s creation. Each Monday Martie has been teaching the 8th graders at our Classical Conversation’s group. He’s loves the opportunity to pour into those kids. Each Sunday he continues to preach the Word, and we’ve been walking through the book of Ephesians for a while now. On Wednesday’s we meet with our small group and walk through the scripture Martie preached and incorporate the 4D’s. This has been a rich opportunity to grow deeper in our understanding.

Heather continues to stay home with the children. This is our 10th year home schooling. We’ve now experienced elementary, middle, and high school. Heather is still directing the Foundations and Essentials programs at CC. This last summer she also organized a couple practicums and led some tutors through Foundation’s training. She’s really been passionate about getting us all healthier. We changed our diets back in February and she and Martie started working out at the YMCA in March. She enjoys going to the gym about 3-4 times a week. There are also days she’ll run/walk with friends. In October she completed her first 5K.

Taylor is 17 and in the 11th grade. She started working at Chick fil A this year, and has done really well. Each Thursday she continues to serve as a prosecuting attorney in Durham County’s Teen Court. This has been a wonderful opportunity for her, as she looks forward to attending law school one day. She attends Classical Conversation’s Challenge III program each Tuesday. She’s been with the same group of friends for the last several years. Taylor continues to amaze us with her artistic abilities. She can teach herself how to do just about anything. We’re now having the conversations about colleges, and trying to narrow down some options. She’s already taken the SAT’s and ACT’s once. We’re thankful for the youth group at King’s Park for welcoming Taylor into their gathering. Praise God for the grace He’s shown us in raising a teenage daughter. Her faith, relationship, and dependence on our Lord have remained strong.

Aaliyah is 11 and in the 6th grade. She started taking piano lessons this year, and received a piano for her birthday in April. All the children love playing with Aaliyah, as she is usually leading up some new game or playing make believe. Seth, especially loves Aaliyah, and will often call for her if Heather is occupied. School is going great. She loves to diagram sentences and is proving to be driven and self-motivated.

Ethan is 9, but will be turning 10 on the 28th of December. He is in the 4th grade. Ethan went hunting with Martie for the first time this year. On his second outing, he shot and killed his first deer. This provided 12 pounds of meat for our family. He was very excited and loves to tell the entire story. Ethan also started gymnastics this year. We’ve wanted to get him and Andrew into a wrestling program, but can’t find one in the area. Instead, they’ve been getting their exercise each Thursday on the gym mats. Ethan loves to read and play with his friends.

Naomi is 8, and in the 3rd grade. She continues to go to gymnastics each week. This is her second year. Besides Heather, Naomi is our home hairdresser. Each Sunday, she’ll line several children up in the bathroom and make sure they all look presentable for church. After having Naomi tested this summer, we decided to back up with some of her academics. She seems to be doing much better and is a lot less stressed. There were too many “Holes” in her education to keep moving forward. We needed to fill those gaps, so she won’t struggle in the upper grades. She is really enjoying teaching Carissa Math, while Heather works with the other children. Naomi loves to read now, and will lie around reading often.

Andrew is 8, and in the 3rd grade also. He started gymnastics this year with Ethan, Naomi, and Carissa. Andrew has always been super strong, so this has really been a neat opportunity to see him use that strength on the bars, rope, or rings. Most days he is outside, barefoot, with no jacket, climbing trees, and chasing squirrels. Getting him to sit at a table to do Math continues to be a struggle, but he can climb a pine tree with no branches barefooted without any problems. Andrew is definitely our most passionate child, and we look forward to seeing how God is going to use that piece of his personality.

Tabitha is 6, and in the 1st grade. She has learned to read much better this year, but Math is her thing. She loves her timed math sheets, and gets her work done in only a few minutes. Tabitha continues to take ballet with several of her friends. She loves to come home and share the new positions and movements that she learned. She and Naomi continue to share a bedroom, and now even clothes.

Carissa is 4 and working on some Pre-K “Stuff.” She loves to do school and will sit at a table for hours if you let her. She has a unique ability to focus and concentrate on a task for an extremely long amount of time. She plays really well by herself, but she and Seth are best buddies. You can often find her telling him what to say and do in their make believe games. He joyfully follows her lead. She is always smiling and giggling and willing to go with the flow. Carissa has also memorized most of the Frozen songs, and sings everywhere she goes! As a matter of fact, as I was typing this she came up the stairs with Tabitha, singing.

Seth is 2, but will be 3 on January 5th. Seth is everyone’s baby. He travels to Martie and Heather’s bed most mornings to cuddle. He has very specific ways he likes things done such as getting milk in the morning, only Heather is allowed to pour it. There’s a systematic way Seth likes things to work. He is talking well and carrying on full conversations now. We’re starting to see some of the baby ways he used to say things, change. He is very fun and always keeps us laughing. Seth is very independent and plays well alone or with Carissa. It’s really neat to watch him play with his toys and use his imagination.  

We are grateful to God for every recipient of this letter. Specifically we are thankful for how many of you have encouraged us to walk more closely with Jesus, prayed for us and/or invested in our family in some way. Our hope is that each of you will experience the fullness of joy found in Christ Jesus this Christmas. 
The Mangum Family

Martie, Heather, Taylor, Aaliyah, Ethan, Naomi, Andrew, Tabitha, Carissa, Seth

Friday, December 19, 2014

15 years ago

December 19, 1999

I went to a Christmas party with a friend. Later we decided to head downtown Chapel Hill and dance the night away at Tree House. That's where I saw "Him." Yes, "Him." Corny, I know. I looked at my friend Brandy and said, "That is going to be my husband." Psycho? Probably. He had "The look," he could dance, and his eyes....(no depth there people) So we danced, and danced, and danced. We eventually exchanged numbers. (Something I've never done at the club, just sayin') I waited for three days for the call, which never came.

I eventually paged him, yep it was when pagers were cool. He eventually called me back. That was the beginning of many conversations. One conversation we had was Christmas night. I wanted to get to know him on a deeper level, you know to see if he really was the one. That was an awkward conversation. He communicated to me that he didn't want to be married, didn't want any children, and really couldn't see life beyond 25. Wow! That was encouraging! Just what I was looking for in a husband. (insert sarcasm)

So, I continued to pursue. We began to hang out more. I was more and more convinced that I wanted a relationship with him. Graciously, he even came to church with me a couple of times. Both times he seemed uninterested and annoyed. That was a huge flag. At that point in my life I wanted a husband, but I wanted a Christian husband. I was trying to get my life together. However, I knew only a few Christians. No one reached out to encourage me, teach me, or model Christ to me. So, I did everything many things wrong.

I finally asked him, "Do you have a problem with God?" He said no, that he just didn't like my church. See he was brought up in a traditional Southern Baptist Church. My nondenominational, pants wearing, drums playing church caused him to go into major culture shock. We agreed to start searching for a church together.

We eventually found Cresset. The pastor faithfully preached the Word, and we began to grow in our knowledge and understanding. Long story short, we both dedicated our life to following the Lord. We were married in 2002, Martie started seminary shortly after.

I say all this to show you God's grace, and how magnificent it's been in our lives. I try to remember all that He's brought us through. The days that I feel like I'm a total failure, which is most days. I KNOW His grace is sufficient. He rescued this poor, insecure, selfish girl, His patience is unbelievable. His loves reaches to the depths of my wicked heart that I didn't know could be reached. What God has done in me and Martie is truly a miracle. One that I'm thankful for each and everyday.

So today I remember 15 years ago, when I first met the love of my life. No, he wasn't perfect, and neither was I. We loved ourselves far more than we loved Jesus. A relationship which seemed impossible in the beginning, was made possible by the pure GRACE of God.

Thank you Lord, for my husband. Thank you for allowing me to meet him in the most unfortunate place. Thank you for your patience and your grace in our lives. May we continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of you. May You grant us wisdom as we seek to honor you each day.

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.