I will never forget the hundred block of Blackburn Avenue in Dallas I was crossing as God spoke the name Nico to me.  I didn’t know what it meant and went home to look it up.  Victorious One.  What incredible truth and power in just four letters.  What a gift that spring day riddled with sunshine with beams bouncing off retail/living-space high rises in progress.  I asked Brandon if he liked the name when he returned from work that night.  He did.

We were chosen by a birthmom.  There was a baby growing in the womb of a Mother whose plan was to say goodbye and choose a different road for her baby. She would live knowing that we would do what she would if only she could.  We were humbled.  We were so deeply, truly, humbled.  I was filled with respect and admiration and a deep responsibility.  She was counting on us.  They were both counting on us.

My sister was pregnant too; she was due just 2 weeks apart from our birthmom.  I watched her belly grow.  I asked question after question about Jacklyn’s pregnancy.  I was fascinated and grateful that I could pray for our baby’s mama throughout her pregnancy and have a tangible picture of what they looked like as they grew together, mother and child.  What a gift.  What an unexpected and extraordinary gift.

We got the call in August and were told she found out the sex of the baby.  She wasn’t going to find out and after a car accident changed her mind.  She was having a girl (Jacklyn was too) and she was going to keep her.  We were not having a baby in September.  Jacklyn did.  She was perfect in every way.  I wasn’t sad when I held her.  I was overwhelmed with peace.  I thought about our birthmom.  I prayed that she was overwhelmed with the same peace.  I pray her little girl is as radiant and free as Arden was.  I pray she was able to do everything for her she hoped we would.  I pray today God has blessed her with even goodness than she hoped we would.

Two months later (and months after I heard the name Nico) I was sitting in my office in Dallas and the phone rang.  There was a mama who loved our book and wanted us to adopt her baby.  She was going to have her baby in less than a week- probably a few days, and she wanted us to be the parents that would do what she would for her baby if only she could.  We said yes.

We walked into the hospital to pick up the tiniest little human we would ever call our own. He was a wonder-kind of a creature; a little man who was made for us.  We were made for him too and knew exactly who he was when we set our eyes on him.  Nico Zane Maness, our Victorious One Who Prepares The Way Of The Lord, you were always ours- and you will always be hers, too.

The picture of the legitimacy of adoption begins with our need for The Messiah, the one who would come to save us.  The significance of the Messiah coming from the line of King David cannot be overlooked.  Joseph, the father of Jesus, was a son in the line of David.  Joseph had no part in Mary’s pregnancy.  Mary was having a baby conceived by The Holy Spirit.  I’m not sure how that processes through a man’s mind.  I suppose that’s why God sent an Angel to make sure Joseph understood and  didn’t run for the hills.  Joseph mattered.  Jesus was intended to be the son of Joseph the carpenter just as he was the son of Mary.  Joseph took Mary as his wife putting his faith and trust in God alone.  Joseph adopted Jesus as his Son.  Jesus, Son of Joseph, from the line of King David- the Son of God and Son of Man. is a picture the truth of Adoption.  God entrusts men and women to mother his sons and daughters.  Sons and daughters are not determined by bloodlines, they are determined by God.

I watched this video on youtube tonight and cried tears of thanks.  Nico waited for us in the NICU with a team of nurses who were so excited to meet us.  The nurses beamed with joy as they told us they kept him a couple of extra days to make sure he was in perfect health for us.  They cared for him and for his birth-mom as she spent time at his side as her time to say goodbye approached.  I can’t imagine the weight of that goodbye.  I can’t imagine trusting another human with my child’s complete care and good. I’m so thankful she trusted us- and thankful too that God trusted Joseph- what a priceless gift.


I could write (and probably will) forever about my love and thanks to her.  We honor her here at our home.  She is brave and we are forever thankful for her courage.


Shauna Maness Scotish Cross

Grief is like God.

At least that’s what I keep hearing in my head over and over.  When I hear things like this in my head it’s been my experience that the words I’m hearing are from God.  In keeping with the pattern of communication: I hear words internally, feel them in my bones, in the deepest places of my soul, and then try to sort them out.

“Grief is like God.”

“Then what are you like, what is this i’m feeling?”

“It is both beautiful and terrible.”

I don’t think I could describe God any better.

Beautiful and Terrible.

In the same space in the very same moment, it is a great paradox.

In the same way, as I experience grief I am in the same space in the very same moment angry- yet overwhelmed with love and thanks.

Grief is defined as a cause of deep sadness. To grieve is to to feel or show deep sadness over something.  My mother’s sickness and death has caused a deep sadness in me (and many others)  that is showing itself in the strangest places.  The Beauty is clear in a million ways I can still see her and in how I hear her all day long; I can find her in almost every little thing I do.  The terrible part is: what we have of the woman who stood among us like a great wonder of the world- even among powerful sky-scraping triumphs in architecture, feels like ground zero.  It’s causing me to look at my heart in new ways and in old ways too. 

I believe that Jesus really was dead- that he actually died on a cross similar to what we read of in historian accounts, the Holy Bible, see in paintings, books, and on television.  I also believe that the power of God that created our Universe from nothing and authored this galaxy (and the billions of others) raised Jesus from the dead.  I believe he was dead and made alive again.  This has incredible implications in my life and heart.  I didn’t always believe this.  I mostly believed that Jesus was real because his life is recorded historically by people who weren’t religious at all.  I hadn’t really every thought the Christian story through.  I hadn’t really given a second thought to what the majority around me believed about Jesus.  I didn’t begin thinking about those things until their beliefs started being projected onto and into my life.  These beliefs were being used to attempt to make me feel better when I felt bad or feel bad when I wasn’t being good.  It felt manipulative and wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on why.  I didn’t grow up trusting religious people.  I still have a hard time with that if I’m really honest.   These projections led me into a pursuit.  That pursuit led me to a real Roman cross and a real empty tomb.  What the hell was I supposed to do with an empty tomb?

There was unspeakable grief caused by the Roman cross.

There is beauty and terror in an empty tomb.

How do we grieve death, truly grieve it- if we believe Jesus conquered it? Why do we hold onto the pain of loss during the time we have left on earth to live-  if we believe that our lives on earth are a vapor? (that’s what the bible says in James 4:14)  I’m not sure.

What I know is people give it their best shot.  It’s hard to communicate why we love who we love even when we clearly see them, have experienced life along side them, and intimately know them.  Add eternity, the ineffable (one of my favorite words ever. I learned in a painting class from a guy who was/is? an Atheist and taught me more about God than he could imagine) God, and our propensity to make everything about ourselves- and it’s a cocktail of disaster.  We get it wrong- a lot.  We are led by the wrong motives- a lot.  We miss Jesus- a lot.  We miss the cross- a lot.  We certainly miss the empty tomb- a lot.

That’s where the hope is.  Not in the place that we finally arrive and skeptics like me finally trust our words, or we finally figure out how to crack the seemingly impenetrable wall of resistance to religion or any other spiritual thought…

the hope is all the way back at the empty tomb.

we all have to deal with the empty tomb.

Even when we don’t – we do;  it’s beautiful and terrible.




  • Jack Douglas - Profound words. Each of our paths are different but we all wind up at the empty tomb.

  • Jack Douglas - I sure do love you too. Are you in New York?

  • Barbara Reynolds Martin - You are amazing Shauna, love you.

  • Kaysa Len Pierce - So glad you took the time to share what God placed on your heart. I have y’all in my prayers. Thank goodness the power is not in my feeble attempt to pray to a mighty God but in his awesome power to hear and answer.

El Dorado Edgar Allen Poe

i picked up a copy of a small collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s work at the thrift store.  It seemed easier to pay the $2.50 to have it at my fingertips than to search my shelves for my copy.  It was the $2.50 I’ve spent in a long time.  These words poured over my heart like water and drenched the driest places. i hope it does the same for you.

  “‘Over the Mountains
   Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
   Ride, boldly ride,’
   The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’”


Oh to Ride, boldly ride.

It seems a simple thing.  When I’m honest,  I like my thoughts to be organized, compartmentalized, with titles, paragraphs, and conclusions; all points therein expressed clearly without out lagging, unclear, or unresolved points. The reality is that life doesn’t work this way.  No matter how many times I sort my thoughts there are still some that show up in places they don’t belong.  No matter how clear I attempt to be I still muddy most waters I wade into.

Like my thoughts- I like my life and things to be sorted, organized, and compartmentalized as well.  I like to know where my sharpies are when I need one.  I find great comfort in knowing when I open the supply drawer in my kitchen (yes, that is a real thing)  I will find (at least one) pencil, ink pen, and sharpie.  Nobody better move my sharpie.  If they do- I can go to the next room’s stash, but i don’t often have to do that.   If I’ve learned anything from my Mama it’s that you never know when you may need a sharpie so you better know where you can find one.

She was brave.  She grew weary quickly.  She had been sick for a very long time.  As was her way, she didn’t look into that compartment, focusing instead of things she could do that didn’t tire her too much, keeping that compartment closed.  Genealogy and sewing, sorting, and organizing were all sub-conscience distractions from reality.  Regardless, each brought her great satisfaction.  She loved nothing more than to dig into anything and do it well.  She created systems, folders, binders, and boxes for anything she could group together.  She’s done this my entire life.  I suppose that’s why I find incredible comfort in organized places.  I am like this in every sense.  I want things to belong.  I want things together that belong.  It brings deep satisfaction to me as it did her to know where all my sharpies are.