Friday, September 28, 2012

A Window to Heaven

Do you ever have those moments where you feel like you are having a glimpse into what heaven must be like? Last night I had one of those moments. It was 8 pm and the girls were getting their pajamas on and brushing their teeth while Cory and I were in the living room talking. Then Cory decided to play a song for me, which of course meant dance party in the living room. All the girls came running into the living room in their pajamas and with their freshly washed wet hair and started dancing. The music was turned up even louder, Cory was singing, and all four girls were dancing around the room. I was loving every second of it!!! As I watched my girls beautifully dancing around the room and listening to my husband's AMAZING heart-melting voice as he sang along to the song, I seriously felt so much joy. Joy for the family that I belong to, joy in good music filling my home, joy for bodies that are strong and healthy, joy for my girls that are not only happy but full of life, energy, and personality. Joy in motherhood and joy in being alive. Then as my mind went over my day, I felt even greater joy as I remembered the conversation that I had earlier with my mom. She had told me of an incredible experience she had the previous day in answer to a prayer that morning in which she had prayed for an opportunity that day to help the Lord in some way. (yes, my mom is an angel). I also remembered the sweet act of service that had been rendered to me by a friend. At 3 pm that afternoon, I heard a knock on the door. It was my good friend, Amanda with her three children. She had felt like she should come over and help me (yes, she's another angel). So for the next hour she helped me do dishes, clean my kitchen floor, start laundry, clean bedrooms, etc. I was SO GRATEFUL especially since she had no idea how miserable and sick I have been feeling this week (a cold or sinuses or something). Anyways, as I thought of all these things I felt so grateful, so joyful, and so very very blessed. I just don't know how heaven could get much better than that moment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hero Series: Post #2

There are many different reasons for somebody being a hero. Sometimes just one little experience or moment with a person can make them a hero just because of the profound impact their words will make on your life. Almost five years ago, I was serving as Young Women's president in Asheville, NC. I loved all of the girls in my ward, they each held, and continue to hold, a very special place in my heart...for many reasons. But, there is one specific experience that I had with one of my laurels, named Amanda, that has come to my mind over and over again throughout the years. The experience actually happened when I was taking her home from a stake YW activity (I swear that some of the BEST conversations I have ever had with YW have been in the car as I have driven them to and from activities). She was serving as the laurel president at the time and we were discussing her role as president and some specific things that she and I could do to show more love and concern for the other laurels. One of the young women we were discussing was a pretty recent convert. Not only was she still learning the gospel, but she, and her family, were also trying to adjust to a completely different lifestyle than the one they had previously led. Amanda had really connected with this young woman and had become really good friends with her. Although they ran around with completely different people at school, the love that Amanda was continually showing her was really making a difference in this young woman's life. She was beginning to make changes and she really looked to Amanda for guidance and support. But, this girl still struggled in many regards. Amanda was sharing with me some of the things that she had noticed and she told me that in many ways she couldn't really trust or believe the things that this girl would tell her, because a lot of the time she wasn't being very truthful. But then she said something that brought me to tears. Something that I will never ever forget. I can still imagine us in the car having this conversation and I still remember looking at Amanda and seeing the complete love in her eyes and feeling the sincerity in her heart as she said to me these words....."Sister Mann, I don't believe her but I do believe in her." The spirit was so strong and I was completely overcome with emotion. I couldn't believe that I was hearing and feeling the power of those words come out of a 17 year old girl. Although I don't regularly see or talk to Amanda anymore, I have continued to love and admire her as I have kept up with her on facebook. I doubt that she has any idea of the impact her words had on me, and still continues to have on me. Through her words, the spirit taught me a very profound believe in people. Sometimes people do and say really stupid things, but we cannot lose hope for them. We must continue to believe in the good within. Of course people (sometimes even those we love the most) will disappoint us. Sometimes they may even make really bad choices and stop believing in who they really are. But, that doesn't mean we should stop believing in them. More than anything, they need us to continue to believe in them. People can change, or rather people can desire to change and then as they turn to Christ, he can change their very natures. My very favorite quote of all time is from President Benson. "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature...Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world." Through Christ, people can change...the world can change. But first, we must believe.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hero Series post #1

I think that one of the greatest lessons in life that I have learned is through my dear friend Alison. Her and her husband, Clair, came to stay with us a little over a month ago. We were SO EXCITED to see them both. When we were leaving Chattanooga, the last place I went before we drove out to Texas was the hospital, which was were Alison had been staying for the last month. When I went to say goodbye to my sweet friend who I had visit taught for almost the whole three years I lived there, I really thought it was going to be the last time I would see her in mortality. Since then, she has improved significantly and all though she is still going through chemo (for the fifth time, I believe, it actually may be more than that), has lost all of her hair, and is on tons of medication, walks with a cane, and still regularly has seizures because of where her tumor is located, she is still trying to be and do the very best she can. I have learned so many lessons from Alison through the years. Here are just a few... -Almost every single time I would go to visit teach her she would have some kind of sweet bread waiting for me to take home. -She ALWAYS talks so highly of others and she is always so grateful for the service others render to her. -She doesn't make excuses...and she could very easily. She is at church almost every single week, even though there have been quite a few weeks where she is so weak that she can hardly walk or when we'd have to make sure that there were two friends on either side of her chair just in case she had a seizure (which she did pretty frequently during Relief Society for a time). She is also a very dedicated visiting teacher and whatever calling she has she puts her whole heart into it. When I was Visiting Teaching Coordinator, she was one of the supervisors. She would faithfully call me each month with her report, even when she couldn't even remember exactly who she had or hadn't talked to (she had always called but her memory suffers greatly because of her tumor). -Whenever I would drive her around and take her places (she cannot drive herself because of her seizures and hasn't been able to for around 15 years), she would always make me feel so important and she was always willing and excited to help me in anyway that she could with my children. -She LOVES my girls. A couple of times I got letters in the mail from Alison with packs of stickers that she would send to Katelund and Cloey. She would always give them lots of love when she was with them and even crocheted them little purses. Whenever I talk to her on the phone, she always tells me to give hugs and kisses to my girls for her. -She is honest and real. Alison will tell you how she really feels, she is never insincere or dishonest. When she's having a bad day, she'll tell you. When she is struggling because her hair is falling out, she'll cry on your shoulder. When she feels lonely, upset, or discouraged she'll share her feelings and humbly accept advice and/or encouragement. I LOVE this about Alison. It is something that I really admire about her. If you make her upset, she'll tell you. She has no time or patience for fakeness. It is so hard to really love or be friends with someone whom you don't really know because they only put on a happy face for you. It is so much easier to love someone who really lets you know who they are and how they really feel. -She always sends me thank you cards (even for the smallest things). -When I went with her to pick out a wig, she was so strong. I just couldn't even imagine sitting in a chair and letting someone cut all my hair off. I know that it wasn't easy for her, but yet again, she was and is blessed with strength beyond her own. -She believes in me and makes me want to be a better person. She always tells me how creative I am (which I'm really not), or how well I do certain things, or how good of a mom I am (I really have her fooled). Although I don't feel like I deserve the compliments she gives me, they really do make me want to live up to them. One day she called me and asked me if she could come over so that I could give her a hair cut (her hair had started to grow back). I desperately tried to convince her that I was not a hair cutter but that I'd be more than happy to take her to a salon. But, she insisted that I do it. And when Alison has her mind set on something, it would take a miracle to talk her out of it. So I did. I prayed the entire time that the Lord would intervene and direct my hands with each cut I made. He did, and thankfully it turned out pretty good. -She would let me give her pedicures. There were times, as her friend and visiting teacher, that I felt like there was nothing I could do for her. So, I started giving her pedicures and foot rubs. It kindof became our thing. Everytime I would go to visit her in the hospital (for awhile she was in and out of the hospital very regularly) I would take her Red Vine licorice (we both LOVE licorice) and remind her to "put her trust in the true and living Vine" and then I'd rub her feet. Those foot rubs meant the world to me. As badly as I wanted to, I couldn't take her cancer away, I couldn't get her out of the hospital, I couldn't cure her, I couldn't take away her fear, pain, and uncertainty, but I could rub her feet....and I'm SO GRATEFUL she would always let me. -But of all things, the thing that I admire the most about her is her love and faith in her Heavenly Father. When they were here visiting, I was so honored to be with her and watch how Clair would lovingly help her up and down the stairs, in and out of the shower, up and down from a chair, etc. I was so grateful for their example of unconditional love and concern. Yes, I have seen some pretty in love newlyweds, but there is nothing that compares to the kind of love that I saw in a couple who have struggled and sacrificed so much together. That kind of love is rare and incredibly beautiful. Together as they walked hand in hand at the temple, I felt not only my own love for them grow, but also I felt the Lord's loving approval on a couple who has gone though some very very hard times but who has faith and hope in a day when Alison's body will be healed and perfected...a day when they can be free from the burden of disease and affliction. I know, and they know, that this short little time will one day seem but just a moment. One day, Alison will receive not only a perfected whole body, but also a crown of glory for the incredible and beautiful person that she is. Thank you Alison for being my hero.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hero Series Intro.

Blah. That last post was so depressing, right? Well, tonight as I was doing the dishes (my most common time to receive revelation and inspiration) I had this great idea come into my head. I am going to start a whole hero series on my blog. First of all, it will help me to record and remember all the many people over the years, and currently, who have touched my life. Also, it will help me to be positive and think of others (instead of having a pity party for myself). Lastly, it will be a great way to blog more regularly because I am really excited to do this. Especially at a time like this when it is so close to elections and the slandering of other people is out of control (and absolutely ridiculous). Yes, I love Mitt Romney and I will be voting for him but I do not feel the need to absolutely trash the current president (even if I have seen the error of my ways when at one point I considered voting for him). Anyways, this is not about politics. This is about real people who are real life everyday heroes. Yay! I'm so excited. I'll start with my first hero tomorrow. I can't wait to tell you all about her.


It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord works in my life. I know that I have written about it a lot over the years of blogging (wow, it's been like 7 years now), but it has just really been on my mind so much today. Everywhere I have lived, I have had to struggle, learn, and grow in different ways. In fact, whenever I feel like things are going really great, I have really good friends, and life just seems to be perfect.....we move. It is as if the Lord is saying okay you've learned what you need to here, now it's time to get you a little uncomfortable again and teach you new things. So here I am in Texas struggling, learning, and growing once again. Don't get me is good and I feel SO very grateful to live the life I do, but there are some things that I have really been struggling with. It is hard for Cory to really understand because...well, because he is a boy, and sometimes boys just don't get it. But, just in the last two days I have felt like the Lord has spoken to me through conference talks I've been listening to and through some good friends (including my best friends aka my sisters). Texas is so different than Tennessee, North Carolina, or Idaho. Each place has such a special place in my heart, not just because of the beauty and uniqueness of the states but mostly because of the people who have influenced my life in each one. I am so grateful to have such an incredible support system. I have so many friends that I feel like I could call up at any given moment and feel like I was just with them yesterday, even if it has been months or years since we were together. Friends whose influence are still so powerful even through a text or blog post. But then there are times, especially lately, when I feel completely alone. Alone in my struggles, alone in a park full of women from my ward who I am trying to be friends with, alone on days when the laundry, homework, diapers, dishes, and demands of life seem to pile up into a never ending to-do list. But, it is in those alone moments when my heart is humbled as my knees fall to the ground and my thoughts lift heavenward. It is in these moments that I am reminded of what's important and what's not. I am so thankful for moments such as these. Moments when the only one who can completely console, heal, humble, and strengthen me is the Lord.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thoughts on Being a Soccer Mom

I am not. Yes, I have two daughters who play soccer right now, but I am not a "soccer mom" according to the criteria that I have witnessed over the last couple of weeks. A soccer mom is one who is ruthlessly screaming from the sidelines and telling the coach and all of the other kids on the team what they should or should not be doing. It's crazy. I think some of those moms just need to sign up for their own soccer team so they can go out and be the star instead of expecting their child to be. Okay, that was pretty mean. Sorry, but I just feel so bad for some of these kids. During one of the games, it was getting really bad. In fact, one of the girls came running over to Cory (who is the coach) crying her eyes out because all of the moms were screaming and telling her what to do. At one point, I got so sick of it that I yelled out as loud as I could, "Way to go Stars! Just have fun out there, that's all that matters." Yep, I was pretty much kicked out of the "soccer mom" club after that comment. Oh well. During the game on Saturday, one of the mom's little boys did the unspeakable. The other team, who was also not very good, had just scored their first goal of the game (so the score was 0-1). The little boy starts cheering and clapping and then yells "Good job Ladybugs" His mom, and all the others, almost had a heart attack. She turns to her son and tells him to stop cheering for the other team. He then said, "Why mom? They just scored and they did a good job. Why shouldn't we cheer for them too?" As the other moms explained why he should NEVER cheer for the other team, I just smiled. I have thought about this many times over the last couple of days. His words have gone through my head over and over. I think that all too often, as women, we think that we are in a competition. A competition for being the best mom, being the most creative, having the best house, the cutest clothes, the best ideas. At least I know that I have been found guilty of these thoughts. As embarrassing as it is to admit, there have even been times where I have been guilty of not cheering on somebody else who "scored a goal" because of feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and of course, the origin of all those feelings...pride. I hate when that side comes out in me. Cory is so much like that little boy. He cheers on others victories so humbly and easily. He is sincerely happy when others do something amazing. I love that about him and I hate that I am not always that way myself. There are times when I am, and then there are other times...times when I have to compare myself and wonder what is wrong with me or why I can't do or be as good as them. It is good to want to be and do better, but not when those feelings come from comparing yourself to somebody else and realizing that you have come up short once again. Lately, Cory and I have been listening to a lot of general conference addresses, especially those by Elder Holland (our favorite speaker). These words have been on my mind ever since I heard them last week.... "And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty. Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture’s obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are “enough.” Such a great thing to remember not only as a mother of girls, but also as a woman with a lot of amazing friends and family members. It is so easy to get caught in the negative and discouraging web of comparing and competing. In fact, our whole society is centered around these the business world, economy, and sports arenas. But.....I don't want to let my heart and mind to get caught in this obsession. One of the things that I love about running is that it is my race. I am not competing against the person running ahead of me. Most of the time I use their pace to help improve my own. While I was coming up to the last two miles of a half marathon I did last year, I started to slow down and wanted to walk so badly, but these two men that I was running near talked me out of it. They pushed me onward and gave me the encouragement that I needed. Isn't this the way life should be? At the end of a half or full marathon, all the finishers get a medal. Yes, it is nice to get a good time and to improve your time with each race you do, but, in the end, all that matters is that you finished. Along the way, crowds and crowds of people cheer you onward and celebrate you and your race. It doesn't matter who you are, what size you are, how big your house is, or anything else. You are a runner, and because of that you deserve to be cheered and celebrated. Why isn't it the same with life? We are all here to run our own race. Some of us may be better at the hills, some may have a longer stride, but we need to encourage and cheer each other onward because in the end all that we'll care about is that not only did we finish, but we helped and encouraged a lot of others to finish as well. So, I am committing to being a better cheerleader. Each of us have our own strengths and our weaknesses but we are all on the same team. Each of us here to be part of the great plan of our Heavenly Father. Each of us with our own role to fulfill, none more important than another...just different. We are enough and we don't have to feel like we aren't just because the person next to us just scored a goal. And the best part? Knowing that our team will win in the end. Even if we occasionally miss a goal or even if it seems like the adversary is gaining the the end, good will win, and that in itself, gives me even greater reason to keep on cheering.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What We're Up To...

I'm not sure what order the pictures are going to be in, so I guess I'll just write all my journaling below. Here's what we are all up to the last couple of weeks... Katelund.....has started 4th grade this year. At her school, she is now officially the oldest on campus because in 5th grade you go to an Intermediate School. She has a male teacher this year and she is loving him. She told me yesterday after school that she wants to be a nerd and do really good in school. I am SO ON BOARD with that idea!!! She has also been doing well in piano. She started lessons this summer and she is constantly amazing me how quickly she seems to be picking it up and enjoying it. I hope it continues because I'd LOVE to have at least one person in our family that is a good pianist (Cory and I can play a couple of hymns but neither of us can just pick up a piece and play it). She also just started playing soccer a couple of weeks ago. She is loving that as well. She is staying really busy and overall seems to be pretty happy with life...except for when it is time to do homework. :) now in 2nd grade. She loves her teacher and she is excited about finally being in school again. Cloey is so wonderful about getting all of her homework done but absolutely hates practicing piano. It is a fight just about every day. So much fun. But, I am a stronger fighter than her so hopefully someday she'll just learn to love it (I know my mom is just rolling on the ground in laughter right now because I was the WORST piano student ever!!) But, as long as a I remind her than she can play with her BFF Julia, practice soccer, or go ride her bike when she is done practicing then she will eventually just give in. She loves soccer. Not only does she go to her practices twice a week, she also goes to Katelund's practices twice a week because she wants to the best player on her team. Katelund has a lot of raw talent in just about everything she does, but man, Cloey has the discipline, determination, and competitive edge in her that really drives her in sports. It's so funny because where Katelund is weak, Cloey is strong and vice versus. I don't think they could be any more opposite. missing her older sisters but learning how to pass her time at home by giving me a heart attack about every ten minutes. She is still a climber and she climbs up all of our bookshelves, dressers, and closet/pantry shelves on a daily basis. I really need to get her into gymnastics or maybe even mountain climbing. She is quite a little monkey. She is still taking speech therapy every week and we both ABSOLUTELY LOVE her speech therapist. I have learned so much from her and I think in a couple of weeks I'm going to give her a Book of Mormon. She is such a sweet girl and I look forward to her coming each week. Over the last month or so, Hailey's language has just exploded. She is talking more and more each week and it is SO fun to hear her communicating so well. Makayla....has such a fun personality. She is already starting to say some words (thanks to all the awesome things I'm learning from speech therapy) and she has so much fun playing with Hailey. Of course, she is really into baby dolls and she also loves balls. She gets so excited whenever she sees one. She is quite feisty (must be those Mann genes) :) and definitely knows what she wants but she is also so good about being loaded into her car seat ALL THE tIME. I guess it's just part of being the youngest of four. Katelund's soccer coach. He has never played soccer in his life but he thought it would be a fun thing for the two of them and he really wanted to get involved in this whole soccer thing. He read the book "Soccer Coaching for Dummies" and he also has asked a lot of questions and done a lot of studying. I'm sure that by the end of the season he will have the best soccer team in Wylie. He's just a great coach. He's staying really busy with all of his responsibilities at work and church, but in his spare time he does a lot of road and mountain biking. He's working hard to get ready for the guy's trip he's planned in October to go biking in Moab. ME...I'm pretty much the maid and taxi driver of all the above mentioned. :) But in my spare time (that I have to make in the early morning hours before the babies are awake), I run. I am preparing for the half marathon I am doing in October. I haven't been biking as much because of all the training but I am looking forward to picking it back up in November. I REALLY want to do a triathlon in the spring. I am also enjoying my calling in YWs again. I am serving as the laurel advisor right now. I really miss teaching Sunday School but at least I still get to teach the girls. They are an AMAZING group of girls, and I'm not just saying that. They REALLY are. I have never seen a group of laurels that have things figured out so well. They are a lot of fun to be around and I am learning so much from them. I feel like I just wrote a Christmas letter. If the spacing in this post doesn't work I am going to be SO IRRITATED!!! Why can't I space out my paragraphs anymore!!!!! Someone help me fix this (if anyone even reads my blog anymore). I have SO MANY POSTS to catch up on. Someday I'll get it all written down. I have to because someday I'll want to remember these busy exhausting days of diaper changing, endless laundry, permanent finger prints on the glass, and the many small moments that make it all worth it.

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