Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Year Approaching...

And so, the journey continues, a year come and gone, a new year approaching...  And, the boys are busy playing superheroes, saving the world, and I sit alone at the computer with coffee cup at my side thinking, pondering.  The years, they go by so fast anymore.  I told Erik the other day that I could not believe winter was in full swing.  Wasn't it just yesterday that I was begging God for a cool breeze to take the edge off the heat of summer in the deep south??  And, now here we are, smack dab in the middle of winter facing a new year.

Year after year, we change, we grow.  The kids, they really change and grow ~ so fast it makes my head spin silliness.  Slow down, time!  Where does it go?   My Eriky a three year old little boy!  Wow!  And, my Joshua is nearly 9!  I've been at this mothering business for nearly a decade.  I can't believe it!

But, I was reminded this morning of the true journey of life ~ not motherhood, family, career ladder climbing, wrinkles, or slowed metabolism.  No, the true journey we are all on is our spiritual journey.  The closer we grow to Jesus the closer we come to being the person He designed us to be.  The more we catch sight of His vision and not our own self-focused vision ~ like blinders being taken off, the ability to truly see the larger picture.  The closer we journey toward His heart, the more able we are to love freely those who journey near us, those whose paths we cross and those who cross our paths.

We are on journey to His heart.  And, how exciting... a new year to know Him in new ways, through new trials and new joys!  And, so our New Year's Resolution as Christians should be the same every day of every year of our life!  That we would journey on, journey closer to Him, to His Heart. I love the way Sarah Young said it, "Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me."  Please Lord, may it be more and more, year after year!!!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011 Recap

Christmas with little ones is soooo fun!  And, we were home for Christmas this year which I really enjoyed.  The boys got to run down the steps at 5:30 Christmas morning ready to open presents and celebrate! :-)

But, first things first, Nana came on Friday to bring gifts to us because Poppy was not feeling well and wouldn't be able to celebrate Christmas with us as originally planned.  Here is Eriky giving Nana some love...


I took the boys shopping at Wal-Mart and let them pick out whatever they wanted to get Erik for Christmas. :-)  They chose well...


Daddy loved his presents... especially the Bod Man body spray!!  

Here are a few pics from our Christmas morning...


















After we opened presents, we ate breakfast and got ready for church.  Our church was packed!!  I really thought it would be a slim crowd on Christmas Sunday, but I was soooo wrong!  And, our pastor said something that I just loved!!  He said, "A truly great gift reflects the heart of the giver and meets the greatest need of the receiver."  Reflects the heart of the giver, the heart of God, that He would give His son!  And, Christ meets our greatest need!  I thought about that statement off and on all day.  Beautiful!

We came home and played hard all afternoon!  Isnt' it funny how boxes are so much fun!  This is the packaging that my ergorapido came in.  It became a pirate ship and a castle (when turned upside down)...


Cute...


 Sooo cute....


 As per Christmas tradition, we headed over to the Reynolds for Christmas dinner and gift exchanging! We had a wonderful time as we always do.  Deana and her mama cooked the most amazing dinner!!!  And, Sean grilled steaks on their new Food Networkesque outdoor grill/kitchen area ~ so pretty!!!


The kids' table...


After dinner the kids sang happy birthday to Jesus and ate birthday cake...



 And, then we opened presents....









 But, once again Brother gave the most thoughtful gift.  He hand painted this sign in North Carolina and Duke colors for Erik and the boys.  It is a Tim Tebow quote, and it will always be so special to us....


Sweet Days....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life the Last Few Weeks

The last few weeks have been sort of busy contrary to what I had hoped.  But, in comparison to our usual life of sports and school, it has definitely been a bit of a refresher.  I forget that even laid back days with 5 kids are busy! :-)  Excelsior ended with a Christmas program on December 9th.  The younger classes preformed scripture recitations that they have been working on and sang carols.  The boys did great!  I snapped a couple friend photos...



As soon as we finished our last day of Excelsior, we headed to Florida to celebrate Pop's 70th birthday and Christmas with Erik's family!  We had a blast!  The kids were soooo sad to leave their cousins!  And, I was sad to leave my Jen. :-(  

Erik and I worked feverishly on the drive there and back to come up with a name for our newest addition.  The boys have nicknamed her "Ladybug."  I love it!  Unfortunately Erik and I could not decide on a name a real name!

Then, last weekend Erik and Jason surprised Pop with a weekend at the beach.  They sipped coffee and enjoyed a lot of meaningful conversation.  A special weekend, no doubt.  Those boys love their Daddy. Jason text me this picture mid-weekend...


Meanwhile, back at the homestead I attempted to keep the boys happy and busy with lots of cookie baking and decorating...

Yum!


Here was my list for Saturday.  God is always so gracious and gives me and the boys easy, peaceful weekends when Daddy is away.  



These two little guys fell asleep playing, and that always makes mama smile...


Sweet cowboy...


Saturday night the boys snuggled in for movie night with mom.  I usually let them camp out in the living room at least one night while Daddy is away.  Everyone slept very well! Eriky was the only one who made it through the entire movie without falling asleep.  But, a head tickle and a couple of Christmas carols later, and he was in dreamy land with his brothers!


This week we have done "light school" meaning simply ~ writing, math, and reading in that order.  This only takes them an hour and a half to two hours, so they have enjoyed a no pressure easy week!

The boys are really learning to enjoy reading.  I let them choose whatever books they wanted to read, and they have been grabbing them and reading them without mama asking!  Fun for me to walk into a quiet living room and find this...


I love books, and so it makes my heart happy to see them enjoying reading so much!

And, Jackaroo started pulling up to stand this week.  I love the look on their faces when you walk over and see them for the first time.  They just light up with pride in themselves!  Jack is growing so fast!  He will be 9 months old next month!  I can't believe it!  His first year is flying by!


One of Erik's older patients dropped by the house with happies for the boys earlier this week.  She had mugs filled with Christmas goodies and candy.  The boys have loved drinking out of their new mugs.  It makes mama slightly nervous, but I'm trying to get over it!  What tickles me is how Eriky holds his mug.  Sometimes he just walks around holding his empty mug just the way I carry my coffee cup around each morning.  This is how I hold my mug...

:-)

The past few weeks have been a bit blurry looking back but still very good.  Next week we will take a complete break from school, and then we will start back to full days of school the first of January!  Merry merry to you and yours!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Emmanuel

God with us.



I couldn't resist!  One more video!  For you, sweet Tyna!

Furious Love

Contrary to popular belief Erik Daniel Manning was not named after Peyton or Eli Manning.  Living in the south, this simple fact is often greatly mistaken.  Erik Daniel Manning is named after a less famous Manning, a more humble, quiet Manning.  Brennan Manning.  In his book The Furious Longing of God, Brennan introduces himself this way...

"I'm Brennan.  I'm an alcoholic. How I got there, why left there, why I went back, is the story of my life.  But, it is not the whole story.  I'm Brennan.  I'm Catholic. How I got there, why I left there, why I went back, is also the story of my life.  But it is not the whole story.  I'm Brennan.  I was a priest, but am no longer a priest.  I was a married man but am no longer a married man.  How I got those places, why I left those places, is the story of my life too.  But it is not the whole story.  I'm Brennan.  I'm a sinner, saved by grace. That is the larger and more important story.  Only God, in His fury, knows the whole of it."

I had a bad day yesterday.  I was not the mother that I should have been.  I was selfish, self-focused, tired, and frustrated.  The day was a mess from start to finish.  It was so bad that I couldn't start it over, fresh, no matter how hard I tried. And, I tried all day.

Oh, and for those of you who think I'm a wonderful mother, who so sweetly tell me that I inspire you, I have to be completely honest with you...

I pulled my son's hair yesterday.

I did.  I'm not proud of it.  I'm not promoting it.  Just being real.  Elijah pulled my hair accidentally while showing me something.  He took a handful of strands of my hair with him.  It hurt.  I screamed.  I may have over-reacted.  But, as I said earlier I was not in the best of moods yesterday, and I think I saw it as an opportunity to let out some of my frustration.  So, I reacted... overly.  Then, Joshua let me know about it.  He went on and on and on and on about how it really didn't hurt me that badly, how he had endured far worse than that and not reacted in such a way as that, and on and on....  I listened for a few minutes to his little speech, and then ever so quietly, ever so discreetly, I reached up and grabbed a handful of his hair and gave it a little tug.

Cringe.

I think I shocked him.  He was stunned.  floored.  And, I was, too!!  In fact, I was so taken aback at my own sin that I didn't know what to say.  After I gathered myself, I asked his forgiveness, told him what I had done was totally wrong.  Being the sweet thing that he is, he smiled, even chuckled, and forgave his sin-filled mama.

But, that was my day in a nutshell.  When Erik and I sat in bed later that night, I confessed my sins aloud to him.  I confessed my insecurities, the fears that I have been struggling with lately, I opened my heart up, and then I changed the subject.... or so I thought....  I began to tell him about the book I've been reading by Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.  I reminded him that when Rich Mullins first heard Brennan Manning speak on the love of God, on a tape in his truck, he had to pull his truck over because he was crying so hard that he could not see to drive.  Then, I began to tell him about how in the book Brennan talks about how we can't preform enough for God to love us, we can't earn His love....

And, I couldn't even get the sentence out, the dam broke, the tears fell, and I couldn't stop them no matter how hard I tried.  Because no matter how old I get, no matter how much life I live, I still struggle with the same thing!!  Laying down as I am before God and accepting the fact that He loves me where I am today.  I still want to be good enough.  I still want to arrive.  And, though my heart knows it is impossible, my will still wants to try.  And, yesterday, in my mind, I had totally failed Him.  I had not been the mom that I should have been.  And, thus, the tears fell as once again I realized that I am loved even when I am so completely, wholeheartedly, undeniably unlovely.  How deep His love and grace  beyond what we can imagine or fathom!

Several years ago God gave me a little personal revelation that still today makes some people cringe when I share it.  And, this is it... He is not so concerned with my perfection.  Not that He wants me to live in sin.  He doesn't, and I think that is why the statement is so easily confused.  I am interested in perfecting myself, in using Christianity to better who I am.  I am interested in being good, in being perfect. But, He is interested in me, just as I am, in relating to me, in being intimately connected to my heart.  He knows I will never be perfect, and He shows me more grace than I'll ever show myself.  That is why He can call an adulterer/murderer a man after His own heart.  Where we as humans may not have shown David nearly as much grace.  And, that is why I can believe that He loves me even when my insecurity, my sinful nature, and my daily failings tell me that I am unworthy, unlovable.

And, so it all comes down to His love for us ~ the backbone of our faith.  Love.  Unconditional.  Undying.  Never ending.  Love.  He loved us, so we can love others.

I sat down at my computer this morning and scanned Youtube for films of Brennan Manning.  Ironically Erik Daniel crawled up into my lap and watched video after video with me.  Here is one that spoke to my heart.



How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure!  May you dwell richly in the fact that today, right now, you are loved with an everlasting, undying, furious love, no matter what sins you have committed, no matter how insecure or unlovely you feel.  Today and always His love rests on you, so.... what is stopping you???  Believe it, and live like you do!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Winter Morning...

I came out of my bedroom after getting ready for the day and was met by my Joshua.  He took my hand, walked me to the window, and showed me a sprinkling of snow falling to the ground.  And, as the morning grew so did those big beautiful white flakes gently, softly falling like peace from heaven down upon our home.  And, though there was little accumulation, I echo JCT's sentiments when he said, "Well, even if it isn't sticking, I'm thankful it tried!!"

Oh, the peace of winter, calm and cold, dreary and damp, causing us to stay inside a bit more, stay home a bit more.  And, this morning my heart was full, and how could it not be...

One little one sleeping sweetly, two cuddled together on the couch watching Frosty, two working diligently while snow falls as a beautiful backdrop through the windows behind them, coffee in hand, lazy grey dog sleeping in the middle of the kitchen, chocolate cupcakes baking, powdered sugar like snow scattered on counter, and soft Christmas music playing.  I should be stressed, but today I am refusing to worry.  I will get done what I get done ~ one thing at a time.  Jesus is here.  I feel Him with us, and I am resting in the peace of His sweetness.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Moments

Moments that take my breath...


They happen everyday, and sometimes I am able to capture them...


and sometimes the moments slip away before I get the chance.


But, everyday there are moments and memories....


that I hope I never forget...




How I wish I could bottle them up and save them for later....

Finding Out About You!

My love, we never dreamed that God would give you to us.  We never dreamed that our sweet God would give us a little girl.  We've always been a boy family, and I think we couldn't even imagine that this time around would be any different.  But, we are so thankful, so amazingly thankful for the opportunity to be your parents.

We saw you for the first time on sonogram in November.  We had decided to have the tech write down whether you were a girl or a boy on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and then your Daddy and I would read it together at dinner.  But, when the tech went to investigate whether you were a girl or boy,  you were modest.  You put your little foot in just the right spot, and the tech was afraid to tell us for certain.  So, she wrote her guess on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, gave it to us, and told us to come back next month.

We never opened that envelope (until after we knew you were a girl!  And, for the record the tech thought you were a girl, so she was right!).  We came back for our December 1st appointment with the same plan ~ to have the tech write down what you are on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope.  Well, she looked and looked and just never could feel just right about it.  She knew what she thought, but she wanted a more experienced tech to double check her.  The other tech came in, looked around for just a few moments, and said to our original tech, "It is what you think it is."  Then, our tech put one of the pictures in an envelope, handed it to Erik, and sent us to see Dr. Y.

After we left the doctor's office, we went Christmas shopping.  Then, around 7 or so we headed to our favorite restaurant, a very special restaurant to us.  After we ordered and received our appetizer, Erik took the envelope out and pushed it toward me.  I refused.  I wanted him to open it and tell me. So, he opened it.  I watched the expression on his face change completely as he looked at the contents of the envelope.  He handed it to me to look, but I refused.  I said, "I want you to tell me.  Just tell me."  I'll never forget what he said....

"You're going to have a daughter."

And, the dam broke.  I cried and cried and cried.  I still can't believe that inside me is a little girl.  I didn't know that was possible.  Me, who nicknamed myself a boy factory, carrying a bit of femininity...

How sweet is my God!

And, now I pray for your health and for a safe delivery, and I wait patiently until I have the privilege of meeting you.  I love you so much already, and so do your brothers.  We are so thankful for you!  Godspeed, sweet love, godspeed...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Big Reveal

So, so, so, so much fun!!!


The Big Reveal from Erin Dukes on Vimeo.

Deana B. made the cakes for the boys to cut!!  They were so cute!! She did an awesome job, and, man, it meant so much to me that they were made by her!  One of my favorite moments on the video is when sweet Afton says, "We're having a girl!!" I love that she feels like we are all family!  Even though Afton will be 6.5 years older than our little one, I hope they will have a special girl bond!  I love that James finally got his wish.  He has always wanted a sister.  When I tucked him in, I asked him about how he felt about everything.  He was so happy!  He said, "I've never had a sister!  I've always wondered what it would be like!" It was a special night full of sweet memories!

After our sweet friends left and the boys were tucked in bed and Erik went to sew up a man's hand, I sat down at the kitchen table by myself with a glass of milk and a piece of pink cake. I knew without a doubt that it would be a blue cake I would be eating that night!  I was so sure. God really surprised us, all the way around, with this little one! Overwhelmed is an understatement.

Friday, December 02, 2011

My photo
Hi! I live in a sweet country home overflowing with love, laughter, and little ones. I have been blessed to journey these days beside a man that I love, respect, and admire. He is my soul-mate and best friend. Together we are seeking to raise our seven children to be lovers of God, to be wise and discerning, and to be all that our sweet God created them to be. I am in the goldfish and cheerio stage of life, but I am keenly aware that these days are slipping right through my hands. This blog is my attempt to keep our memories safe for years to come.

 

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