And the Winners Are...

Well, Jake and I are making our names for the twins public knowledge now. They are:

Maurah Kate and Hayden Charis

Maurah is pronounced like Laura and then the "ch" in Charis sounds like /k/ and the "a" is a /long a/ sound. I'm so excited that we're telling because I felt awful when people would ask me what our names are and I'd have to respond with, "I can't tell you." Jake and I realized today that neither of us really minded and felt like we had to keep it a secret, so I have no idea why we didn't just tell people to begin with! But maybe it's better this way because we've had them for a while and know that we don't want to change them. Just a few more months and we'll get to meet Maurah and Hayden!


I've been reading a book about healing and, in it, the author points out something pretty interesting. Usually when we try to go about healing ourselves, we think that we need to erase the painful things that have happened to us - that we will truly feel restoration once we have no marks on us any longer. But wounds that are left untreated or covered, as many of us tend to do, don't heal as they should.

I think that the self-help industry jumps on this bandwagon and makes their billions off of it. "Just follow these few simple steps and your past will be forgotten completely."

But what if we're not meant to forget all together? What if our pasts, as painful as they may be, are supposed to be with us always? I'm not saying there isn't hope for restoration - of course there is. But when Jesus came back and appeared to Thomas, He appeared with the scars on His hands and feet. John 27 shows Jesus inviting Thomas to see His hands and feet and even takes Thomas' hand and puts it to His side where He was pierced. Jesus is in His glorified body, yet the scars are still visible.

I think our scars are supposed to be visible too. Really, it is through our scars that we are able to minister to others in empathy. When we have lost a loved one or had someone wrong us in such a horrible way - we can find restoration in Christ so those scars don't hurt anymore. But then, we can take ourselves, scars and all, and minister to others. We can take others' hands and say, "See me. Hear me. I care about you and I can fully understand what you are going through."

I don't understand why so many people are into erasing their past hurts when we can use them in such a way to bring glory to God. In reality, it is usually the hard times that mold us into the people we are - they are part of our identity. And for us to be able to take them once they are healed and give love and encouragement to someone else - what a gift.

Starbucks IV

Saw this on another blog this morning and thought it was so funny - - - - and sad enough, too true for my life somedays! Although I am trying to cut down on caffeine while pregnant, this picture gives me great joy - - - - maybe when my steam starts to run out, I'll just look at this picture and dream of my Starbucks IV!

A Portrait of Heaven

It seems our church family has been surrounded by death lately. In the last two weeks, Jake and I have attended two funeral services and have one more to attend this weekend. In the midst of all of this, I have gotten what I think is an amazing picture of Heaven. One of the men who passed away has been a Christian for many years and has served the Lord in full-time ministry for over fifty of those years and is a patriarch of our church. He worked as our Visiting Pastor right up until he was no longer able to leave the house, which was just a couple of months ago. His wife is still continuing that ministry as he is now in the presence of the God he worked for on this earth for all of his life.

The second man who passed away recently is the father of a very important family in our church. This man was a believer for many many years as well, raising his family to know and love Christ. He was a doctor and although not considered in full-time ministry as a position, he and his wife served faithfully in their church home and started up ministries that are still thriving today.

The third man whose funeral we attended was just 31 and had been married for three months. This was the hardest funeral I have ever attended, but it's the piece of the mosaic that makes it that much closer to completion. This man had just accepted Christ a few months before his passing. He was not well-educated in Biblical knowledge, and his job was a "normal" position of an electrician. He didn't carry with him the status a doctor has, or the pedestal pastors are usually put on. But he was a minister of the Gospel, sharing his faith with his family and telling them about Jesus and the exciting faith he found in Him.

When I think of these men together, I get a bit teary. In an earthly sense, they had nothing in common. But through their faith in Christ, they had a bond and now they are all in Heaven, rejoicing together with their Heavenly Father. I love that Christ takes us all, don't you? I love that we don't have to be perfect because He has taken care of that for us through His death and resurrection. I love that Heaven is a hodge-podge of believers and that none of us will look the same, even in Heaven. I just love how God works - and am thankful that He takes broken vessels like me.

The Battle of Self

The last couple of weeks have been very interesting in the Manne home. Many scenarios have arisen that continue to point Jake and I in the direction of growth. Whether it's an issue in our marriage, in parenting, or in our ministry in the church, we have found that these last few days have hit us hard with conviction after conviction. In a world where everyone is "always right," and humility is hard to find, it can be very difficult to receive these conflicts with grace and with true reflection on why these issues have come up and what we need to do in order to resolve them. In every case thus far, the solution depends on us changing something about ourselves, which we all know is not an easy task. It could seem that getting defensive and fighting back would be easier, but it's really not. Taking things personally and out of context of the spirit they're intended only brings dissension and even more hurt. So I am working on having a spirit of humility and discovering the amazing grace that God provides in situations such as these.

Proverbs 3:7 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." How often do we think we're doing the right thing - and that the right thing automatically means it's the wise thing? I am learning through these difficult times that me acting out of my own wisdom is still me acting out of foolishness. Only God's wisdom is true wisdom - and if I act according to His knowledge and wisdom, then many problems in my life wouldn't occur. However, this takes much change on my part. I have to learn what it means to listen to God and to find His wisdom. I don't even know what wisdom looks like, let alone how to find it in all situations. But - that's where another common Scripture comes into play.

Proverbs 3:5-6 say, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." This is such a commonly used piece of Scripture. It's printed on pretty paper and matted in beautiful frames, stitched on pillows and etched onto many a coffee mug. We've all heard it and we can all recite it. But in my Bible study the other day, I found something about this verse that no one ever told me and it makes this verse that much more important and powerful. The Hebrew word used for "paths straight" means more than guidance. It means that God removes the obstacles, making a smooth path or way of life or perhaps better, bringing one to the appointed goal. So applying this to the above-mentioned conflict of me battling myself in order to change, God does that for me when I acknowledge Him and seek His wisdom for my life. Isn't that amazing? God removes the obstacles - and in this case, I am my own obstacle as I try to be wise in my own eyes. I am encouraged now and excited to see the growth the God brings as a result of all of the "messiness" around us right now. And I encourage you to see how God may be drawing you in to see His wisdom all the more closely as well.

The Art of Getting a Toddler to Sleep

Last night was a big milestone in the Manne household - Cole slept in his toddler bed for the first time! I wasn't sure how I should go about the transition from crib to big bed, but knew that I needed to do something before these babies come so that he could get comfortable in his new bed before he sees us taking the crib away and giving it to the babies. So last night we had our usual Mommy/Cole cuddle time and then I laid him in his bed and rubbed his back for three songs on his CD that we always play for him. He was out like a light by song number two. The biggest thing is that he slept through the night and even slept in this morning! I think Jake and I struggled sleeping more than Cole did as we're trying to get used to having a monitor on again and not freaking out about all the creaks and noises we hear through it.

Then, we come to today. I figured that naptime might be more difficult than bedtime mainly because he's more tired at bedtime and it's lighter during the day than at night. I laid Cole down and patted his back again, but could tell from the look in his eyes that he wasn't about to fall asleep with me at his side again. So I said "Goodnight", and left the room. Cole played for about an hour before I heard silence. I wish that I hadn't gone into his room when I did, because when I opened the door to lay him back in bed, he was already there, cuddling with his blankie and I think he may have gone to sleep on his own. But, because I disturbed the process, I ended up having to rub his back again.

My nightmare come true is if we end up like those overdramatized families on SuperNanny! However, I don't think that 15 minutes of back rubbing is too bad of a habit, do you? All in all, I feel like the transition is going very smoothly and I'm very excited about it, even though my baby has nothing baby about him at all anymore! I guess that's what I'm striving for as a parent though, right? For my child to become more and more independent every day. It's one small step for Cole, one giant leap for Mom! =)

A Big Boy Bedroom

Just wanted to share Jake's and my latest project that I'm so excited to have completed. This is Cole's new room that we painted and finally have in order. He's still in his crib, but as you can see, the toddler bed is ready for him - we'll keep working on that transition! Anyway, his room before was all white and terribly boring - now it's become my favorite room in the house. I learned something on this project too - if an idea sounds too easy to be true, it probably is! All we have left to do is the nursery - and much to Jake's dismay, that is the room with the 12' ceilings. I know he's not looking forward to that, but thankfully, it will be the last room he'll have to think about painting for a very long time!

Bring on the Pink!

It's official - we found out today that we are having two girls! The news has finally sunk in and we are very excited. Jake and I went to the at-risk doctor today and I think we were pretty consumed with some anxiousness and maybe fear about how healthy the babies would be. Because of that, we didn't have that many thoughts about the gender of these babies. So now the news is kicking in and we are very excited to have a room in our house that will have some pastels! The babies seemed very healthy with Baby Girl A weighing 1.1 pounds and Baby Girl B weighing 15 ounces. Apparently, I'm not gaining weight the way the at-risk doctor would like me to, so he's setting me up with a dietitian - funny - I always thought it'd be cool to have a dietitian so I could lose weight and be in amazing shape - not to gain weight that I'll have to try and lose later! I will now be seeing this doctor every two weeks as well, which puts me in a doctor's office once every week. I'm glad they're making sure all is well with the twins, but I also laugh inside and think How did women have twins before ultrasounds and technology? My goodness, the precautions they take! But again, I'm just glad to know that we will definitely catch anything that might go wrong. So, as I was told today, prepare to buy more shoes and welcome to the world of pink!

The Messiness

As I've been going through my quiet time each morning, I found myself studying Christ's birth during this Christmas season. Never before have I taken the time to think about the nativity story, as I usually just go along with the usual picture we've all been given since we were children. But this year was different and it started with a message I heard about the messiness of what Christ was born into. The nativity scene I display in my home is quite pretty...very plain and definitely not showy, but I make sure that the shepherds and wise men are placed "just so" amongst the animals so that they are symmetrically placed and we get an unobstructed view of each of Christ's visitors. However, my nativity scene doesn't have dirt around it anywhere, and it definitely doesn't smell like I'm sure the manger would smell. The animals I display are clean and leave no unwanted waste behind them. Isn't it funny that we make sure our nativity scenes are so perfectly beautiful when the real scene where Jesus was born was anything but? Of course the story we are so familiar with is beautiful solely because it's about Jesus' birth. But the situation He came into was anything but perfect. I was reading this morning again about Mary and Joseph and how they probably endured incredible ridicule from their communities. The Bible doesn't tell us so, but we do know that Elizabeth and Zacharias were ridiculed when they couldn't conceive, so it's only logical to believe that Mary and Joseph endured the same type of hardship - if not worse - when Mary was told she was pregnant and she wasn't even married yet. Still.....Mary and Joseph obeyed and it was all worth it when they saw the face of their son - their Lord.

So what are we called to in our lives? Much like Mary and Joseph, and that manger scene, I find myself in "messiness" much of the time. Many of my life's circumstances are not the perfectly beautiful ideal that I had in mind when I dreamed of life as a little girl. Still, I am realizing that God has called me to fulfill many different roles amongst the messiness. As a wife, mother, and follower of Christ, life isn't always filled with a pleasant aroma. But I am seeing now that when I choose to obey as Mary and Joseph did many many years ago, I too see the face of my Lord more clearly. There is nothing more beautiful and no feeling compares. Of all of the gifts I've been given this Christmas season, this lesson is one I am most thankful for.

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...