Sunday, April 15, 2018

Four Year Old Sam!

It's so hard to believe that it's been four years since we have welcomed Sam into our family outside them womb! So much has happened since he joined our family, but our lives have been made so much richer because of Sam.

What can I say about Sam? Sam is Sam!

He is so strong both mentally and physically. Sam is a big boy and wants to be a big boy. He tackles his brothers and is in the mix of all the big boys. He is also strong minded. When Sam sets out to do something, he does it. While this can be quite frustrating for us at times, it is becoming an asset as he grows and it determined to learn to do things.

Though Sam is not formally being schooled yet, he does love to learn. He enjoys puzzles and learning letters and numbers. He wants to do everything the older kids do and enjoys playing and learning with his siblings. He is also learning to clean, do dishes and other various chores around the house. He really likes to help and wants to do it all. The learning process is sometimes frustrating, though.

Sam is also very funny. He sometimes says things that make no sense, but is so sure about them you almost believe them too. His facial expressions also add so much to what he says. He is just funny. And so full of life. He adds so much to our family.

Already, God has already used him so much to teach and grow our family.

Father, thank You so much for Sam and putting him in our family. He is such a precious blessing. Please make him a man after Your own heart who loves Your Word and follows You wholeheartedly. Call him out of death into life with You for Your Kingdom and Your glory. Continue to use your precious life in amazing ways. In Jesus's Name. Amen!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Expected the Unexpected

I know I have been pretty quiet on here since returning to Smyrna nearly 8 months ago. Things have not gone at all how we expected. But then again, how often does God do exactly what we expect?

As God began showing us His plan for us to move back to GA, we had discussions about what we wanted and prayed over what God wanted us to do. We always hope that our desires and the Lord's desires are the same, but let's be honest, often times their not!

We prayed for clarity of vision. As we prayed a few things were clear:

1. God was calling us back to Smyrna First Baptist to be a part of the Body there
2. God was wanting us to take a step of faith and begin a multi-faceted ministry through blogs
3. We were to move July 16, 2017, 7 years exactly from the time He took us to Louisville
4. Jim was to look for something that was a better fit for our family's season

So just like when we moved up, we took a leap of faith that God would provide exactly what we "needed" in a couple months, and we would be resettled into our new life.

But just like God, what we expected did not happen. While we moved July 16 like He said and entered back into the Body of Christ at Smyrna First, the other two were a bit more elusive, especially a job for Jim. He applied, had some interviews and even thought a couple were a guarantee but nothing until December, and that job did not seem like it would really work. But we took it, knowing we needed something and God provided. 

Then the hours that Jim was told he would have did not happen. And several times he was canceled due to patients not being at home. We thought, this is never going to work! In this time we started looking at houses again, but the hours we needed to buy a house were not there. Our hands were tied and we could not move forward.

So we stayed, feeling defeated again. Jim had an interview for another job. It looked really promising. He even went to shadow, with a couple of months before it started. He called, he emailed. Nothing! We prayed, "God what is going on???"

What was going on, was God teaching us patience, obedience, endurance, connecting, trust, crying out to Him and relying on Him for everything. During these months our family grew together, worked through tough times together, and learned what it meant to cry out to God together.

Jim and I began working together, combining our strengths to launch 2 of the sites God had been laying on our hearts: Psalm 127 Ministry, the parent site for all of the ministry we desire to do, and Childbirth Conversations, a rebirth of my previous blog. (We would love for you to check them out and sign up for our mailing list!)

Then two weeks ago, Jim found out about a new patient, oriented, and started last week with a five day work week with more than what we need. God has provided! In His perfect timing, God has given us what we need. In fact, all that we envisioned before we came here is coming to fruition, just completely differently than we thought it would be.

We put an offer on a house and by God's grace everything will come through with it soon. God is providing what we need, what He wants us to have.

God is good and His timing is never slow!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Our 9 Year Old, James

What can I say about our James? This boy is such a gift and I am so grateful for such an amazing first born. This has been such a year of growth for James as God has worked in him and saved him from his sin in Jesus! This entire year we have watched him wrestle with God, the truths of the Word and come to repentance from sin. On the 4th Jim had the privilege of baptizing James as he followed Jesus in obedience and going public with his faith. There is not much greater in life than seeing your children be saved by the amazing grace of God!

With this we have also seen growth in James in all other areas of life. He has become such an amazing big brother, playing with his siblings, taking care of them and stepping up in responsibility. He has grown in his diligence in work, his creativity and how he handles stressful situations. It has been amazing to watch him grow, and I am so thankful to God everyday for the work He is doing in James's heart.

James does not know a stranger. He will ask you anything and has very little filter because he tells you how it is. While a bit embarrassing at times, I greatly appreciate his honesty, as we see God growing him in honesty. James loves to write and draw. He is very creative and has recently finished his first book, illustrations included! He also enjoys coming up with games for everyone to play together. God has made him a natural leader and it is exciting guiding him in learning how to be a leader under God's authority.

James tells us he wants to be a builder so he can build churches! He has mentioned being a pastor before as well, but being a builder he talks about more. It will be exciting to see how God grows him in these areas.

We are so thankful for James, and the life he adds to our family.

Father, thank You for James! Thank You for saving him! Thank You for how You are working in his life to grow him in You and make Him more like Jesus. We pray that he will grow in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man. We pray his desires would be Yours and that You will guide all his steps. Give us grace to teach him what it means to follow You in everything with all that he is. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen!

This is the cake James wanted for his birthday, a book that said "Eat This Book"!
I love the creativity of this crazy boy!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Year 34

Tuesday I turned 34. Each year becomes more and more reflective as you realize how little time you really have. This past year has been a crazy and very unpredictable year for our family, and it has caused me to stop and really think about what life is.

As a Christian, I know it is to bring God glory. I have always known that intellectually. But as I think back, I realize that generally I live life as if it is mine and not God's. My 34th year on earth has really been opening my eyes to the fact that I must seek God in everything because I need God for everything.

Without Him I have nothing. He gave Jesus, His only Son, to die for me! In Jesus, God has brought be from spiritual death into spiritual life. Why, then, do I think I can live life how I want? Why do I think I can feed the flesh and still honor God? How much more God shows me that this is how we all live and that following God takes prayer, reading the Word and intentional living in everything. It takes community and a life with other believers. It take repentance and fighting the flesh. And by His daily grace, I can do these things.

We lost a beautiful Sister at our church recently, and the theme throughout her funeral that she had learned was, "So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12. And this is what God has been teaching me as well. Father, teach me to number my days and live in Your wisdom!

Because that is what life is about. Living for God's Kingdom for God's glory. We do that by living the life He has called us to and doing this beside His people in the lives He has called them to.

So learning this so deeply in year 34, I pray that I will live this in year 35 and beyond. To seek God in everything and to live His way in the life He has given me. So bring on year 35 with God!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Isaac Maxwell

This story has to start at the beginning: August 18, 2017 was the day we found out I was expecting baby number 8. Movement had alerted me to that I might be pregnant in spite of not feeling pregnant at all and we were right. But I thought I was maybe 24 weeks or so. I ended up having to get emergency medicaid, which put me at 33 weeks! All of this was a huge surprise, but so exciting and amazing. It took another 2 weeks to get an appointment.
I ended up going to a group chosen because they accepted my insurance and women who were farther along in pregnancy. I knew nothing about them, I just had to trust God knew what He was doing and would take care of us.
Oh, how He took care of us! This group was wonderful! They are primarily midwives and are very hands off, exactly what I hoped and prayed for! My due date was set for October 9, just over 4 weeks from my first appointment day! Can we say shortest pregnancy ever! (For me at least.) A one hour GTT was performed as well. This was elevated, so a 3 hour GTT was scheduled for the next week with my ultrasound and next appointment. The 3 hour GTT was terrible, but we were able to see our baby, which was a huge blessing. Excess amniotic fluid was seen on the ultrasound, as with my previous pregnancy. The 3 hour GTT confirmed Gestational Diabetes, which recommends delivering in the 39th week. This was not what I wanted to hear, as I so desired to not be induced again. I prayed and had everyone I know pray for me to go into labor. I had contractions and even dilated some, but labor never started, and I was scheduled for induction.

October 4th came and early in the morning Jim and I headed to Kennestone Hospital, a whole new experience for us. I ended up waiting for about an hour before I was taken to a room. Tonya took us back around 8 am. I got changed and hooked up to the monitor. The midwife who was leaving checked me, with no further progress made she ordered pitocin to be started. Next order of business was getting an IV started. The WORST part of giving birth hands down. It took two tries, but thankfully a previous ER nurse was able to get it started on the second try.

Around 10 am the pitocin was started. Not long after this Carson, my midwife for the day, came in to meet me and see how I was doing. She was happy with the level of contractions, so we talked L&D and shared previous experiences. She was wonderful! She allowed me to stand up and attempted to get a cordless monitor working on me. During this time Jim got our essential oil diffuser going and my labor playlist running. We turned down the lights and I walked around the best I could while talking and singing praise. It was such a wonderful time. Tonya also told us how Kennestone is mama baby friendly as well as natural friendly, which was a huge blessing! I even got a lunch tray! I couldn't believe it. It was exactly what I needed to keep me going in my labor.
Around noon Carter checked me for herself and there was no progress. She realized we should have done something different, but with the pitocin we could not do a cervidil as well. We talked about a Cook's Catheter to put pressure on my cervix from both sides and decided that would be the best option. They got the catheter in place and I stood back up to keep the baby in place, as he kept popping up out of position when I sat or lied down.

The Cook's Catheter was the right decision. It made the pressure and contractions stronger, doing it's job! Within a couple of hours the catheter fell out, meaning I was around 5 cm dilated. We debated on whether or not to just have her break my water and get it done, but the baby was still too high to safely break it. With the Cook's Catheter out, the labor was less intense for awhile but still consistent.

Around 3 Carson checked me and I was 6-7 com and mostly effaced! Yay for progress! We decided to wait on breaking my water even though it might have been possible. We wanted to be sure the baby was in a good position before doing that. Carson asked me if I wanted to get in the shower. I asked, "I can do that!?" (This never would have been offered at the other hospitals I delivered at with me being on pit.) They put me on a telemetry monitor and let me get in the shower. This was amazing and completely made my labor. It really helped me relax even though I was standing.
The contractions continued to get stronger and I was hopeful. Around 5:30 pm my lets started to give out. I had been standing almost constantly since 10 am. My feet were incredibly sore! I decided to get out and attempt to lie down for a few minutes. I was so tired!

Lying down was not the best thing. The baby bounced back up and labor decreased, so I stood back up again. Around 6:30 Carson checked again. There had been no progress and the baby's head was too high again to break my water! I did not know what to do. I was struggling badly. Carson and  Tonya suggested I kneel on the bed so I was upright but off my feet and would hopefully bring the baby back down. They fixed the bed for me and I was able to kneel comfortably on it. I had a contraction, which put pressure on my bladder to relieve some pressure. We thought maybe the baby was being held up by my bladder, so I went to finish emptying my bladder. IT WORKED!!!!! The baby came back down and Carson was able to break my water by leaking at 7:10 pm!

With my water broken and the head well applied, I was able to sit in the bed! What a relief after standing for 9 hours! They put me in high fowlers so I could be upright and still relax. I had to say good-bye to Tonya who had been amazing! Sarah came in after her. I got situated and dozed off and on for about half an hour as the contractions got stronger.
Around 7:50 pm I felt like I needed to pee, so I got up to go to the bathroom. As I reached the door I had a strong contraction hit and my legs started to give way. I grabbed on to Jim and Sarah walked in and caught me. She told me I needed to get back in bed. The baby was pressing hard! I kept apologizing for getting up as she put me back in the bed with Jim behind us with the IV pole. She called for help but everyone else was tied up. They got me back in bed and Carson came in. Baby was right there. Carson and Jim got gowned up and I pushed.

At 8:10 pm, Jim delivered our baby, put the baby on my chest and laughed, "It's another boy!" We were so amazed and happy God had given us another boy! The whole room was laughing with amazement. How much joy was in my heart at having another son!
It took him a minute to really perk up. They worked on him and he started to pink in the warmer.  They brought him to me for kangaroo care, hoping that would help him to level out. Jim and I finally got a good look at him as he rested on my chest. We decided to name him Isaac, "he laughs". The whole situation was wrought with laughter from only finding out 6 weeks before I was pregnant to welcoming our 7th boy into our family. Jim had also been wanting to name a son Isaac and now seemed like the perfect time. It took a few minutes to come to a decision about the middle name, but we decided on Maxwell, Jim's dad's name, Jim's brother's middle name, and meaning "from the great well," which Isaac had been with such high fluid level. It was perfect, Isaac Maxwell Manor.

While on my chest Isaac was grunting terribly and was clearly struggling to breathe. They came back in to check him out but he was obviously struggling. These nurse parents, especially NICU dad knew something wasn't right. They took him to the nursery and soon admitted him to the NICU. That was so hard, but we knew it was the best thing. We decided to sleep that night and get started with pumping in the morning. Best decision!!!

We went to see him in the morning and took a little colostrum. They put him on CPAP so he could not nurse and I continued to pump. My parents brought the kids to see Isaac the next day. It was good for them to see him but they struggled with Isaac being hooked up to things. They were a little scared, but God used it to teach all of us to pray and trust him.
For 10 days we went back and forth, pumping and praying for healing. Finally on October 14th, Isaac was able to come home! We were so thankful.

It's been a crazy, almost 4 months since Isaac's birth, but God has been so faithful. Father, thank You for Isaac. He is such a blessing to our family! Please save him and grow him in You. Let him know Your laughter. Let him be a great joy to all who are around him because he is overflowing with Your joy! Thank You for how You have used Isaac already for Your glory. Please continue to use his life to point others to You!

Thank you to Nichole Begerow for our newborn photo!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Our 5 Year Old Gabriel

Today our precious Gabriel is 5 years old! It is amazing that it has already been that long since we welcomed into our arms. We had just moved into our Louisville house a couple months earlier and still settling into our new routine in our home when he arrived a week and a couple days early. He came in a whirlwind and he has not stopped.

Gabriel is such a spunky go-getter that is always on the move in some form or fashion. He has a strong personality and his reasoning for why something is is because that is what he has decided. His name means "mighty man of God" and he is certainly mighty in his opinion. How we pray for him to become mighty in God, but for now we watch his mighty personality grow and blossom.

Gabriel loves to learn. He is starting a Kindergarten program with our home school and he loves his math! He really enjoys working through books and learning what he can. He talks and shares what he is learning as much as he can. Gabriel is extremely observant and notices all around him. He is a mover that likes to be rocking or writing or chewing at all times. He is excited about learning to read, but his strong personality balks when he doesn't understand. He wants to know and understand right now!

Gabriel loves his family. Whenever someone is missing he asks where his friends are. He loves to play with his siblings and learn with them and from them. While he enjoys moments alone here and there, he really loves to be around people and interact with them. Church is one of his favorite places to go as well as the park; anything where he is with people.

Gabriel is such a big helper. He enjoys learning to cook with Daddy. He helped make his birthday cake. Cleaning with a rag or mop is also fun for him, but he does not like picking up toys.

Gabriel also loves to be outside enjoying creation. He prefers to be barefoot and loves textures on his feet. Climbing and jumping are also big for this active boy.

We are so thankful for Gabriel and the fun dynamic he brings to our family. He keeps life interesting in a good way.

Father, thank You for giving us Gabriel to raise for You. He is such a gift to our family! Please save Gabriel by Your grace and make him Mighty in Your Spirit. May he boldly proclaim Your Gospel to those he sees!

Thank you to Nichole Begerow for the 5 year photos

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Manor Party of 10!

Yes, you read that right. Our family is now a family of 10!!!!!

No one could be more surprised than us, but we are so happy about this special blessing that God has given to us. What's more is this special blessing will be joining us in about a month!!!!!

With all that has happened this year I was extremely stressed out and had no normal pregnancy symptoms and did not even realized until a couple weeks ago that I actually was pregnant! I am now one of those people who can say "I didn't know" and everyone can look at me like I'm crazy. But seriously everything I felt seemed stress related.

What a blessing to make it to 34 weeks without knowing and being able to just do what I need to do!

The kids are so excited about another baby, especially since they have been asking when we would be having another one since we brought Malachi home. James is regularly giving the baby hugs and kisses as well as talking to the baby. Lillian and Reuben also enjoy talking to and feeling the baby. Sometimes Nehemiah will say "Hi Baby" even though he is clearly confused about what is happening.

God is so gracious and good to us! We are so thankful for this added blessing. Though it makes little sense to much of our culture, we are so happy to be on this journey as a large family.

Things are crazy and unpredictable right now, but we know God is working in all of this. Please pray for everything to continue to go smoothly. Pray for health for both baby and me. Pray for my body to go into labor on its own and not need any assistance. Please pray for continued provision! We have gotten what we need thus far, but Jim is still in need of a job. Please pray for God to open doors for this!

We are so grateful to have you on this journey with us. Life with others is so much richer. Thank you for being a part of our life!