This week took a turn we never expected when an EF-3 tornado passed through our small town. Neither Jake or I had watched the news or had any indication something was even potentially coming our way. We both woke up around 2am to loud winds that seemed to shake the house and loud rain on our metal roof. I went to the kitchen to get my phone and saw that we were under a tornado warning and to take shelter. Luckily the internet on our phones was still working so we were able to listen to live updates about the storm.
The three of us and Boomer dog headed to the bathroom to hunker down and I got such a sick feeling in my stomach when I heard it was headed for our town. We waited for about 30 minutes and listened; it went from tumultuous outside to completely quiet.
The power had gone out, but the internet was still working on my phone so I desperately searched for updates. It seemed that the storm had passed, but I read that a tornado had touched down just 5 miles from our cabin. As I continued to look for updates, a friend posted that the storm had demolished two of our close friends homes but that everyone had survived. I felt sick to my stomach again and ran to tell Jake the news.
This family is so very near and dear to us. They are wonderful Christian people and each of their four boys has been in our youth group. In fact, the picture I posted last week of a man holding Malachi was one of the homeowners, Sam. Every Sunday for close to 3 years, they have brought us Tupperwares full of food left over from their Sunday lunch. It is enough to feed us for several days! Last week they had invited us over for lunch after church…little did we know that their homes would not be standing just days later!
This family built three houses all on the same chunk of land. The elderly parents live in the top house, and the two others live side by side in the front of the property. Both of those homes were destroyed completely and the parent’s home was damaged but salvageable.
Jake’s school was cancelled for the remainder of the week as they used the facilities to start a Red Cross shelter for the victims. We learned that two people that live in front of our friends had died on impact. It truthfully looked like a war zone, and first responders immediately jumped into action. By sunrise the skies opened up and started to pour down rain, flooding the roofless houses and subsequently destroying the things that were left inside. As our friends scrambled to get a few things out, the drywall began caving in on them.
Jake and I continued to pray over the situation but truly felt helpless. We had appointments in Cleveland and the power was out at the house, so we packed up and headed out. We were sitting at lunch when a text came through from another church member asking about trailers and a place to store furniture. She said the families wanted to try and salvage as much as they could as quickly as possible.
Jake and I have been on the receiving end of sooo many blessings over the last several years on our journey with Malachi. I can’t even count how many times one of those teenage sons snuck over to our house and mowed our lawn for us when we couldn’t. We looked at each other and knew that this was a God-given opportunity to pay it forward! It just so happened that I had phone numbers from all climate control storage units and U-Haul rental trucks saved in my phone from our upcoming move. Within 45 minutes Jake was able to get a 26 foot U-Haul into their driveway and we had arranged two large units to bring the items to. There was a crew from the church ready to load things, and thankfully most of the possessions in both houses were able to be saved.
We spent Wednesday and Thursday pitching in where we could. Malachi was such a trooper, tagging along for Wal-Mart runs, laundry pick ups, and meal deliveries. I am so happy to report that the families are in good spirits and set up in some rental cabins down the road. They attended church this morning with smiles on their faces, in spite of losing their homes. And you know what…at 2:00 that weekly text came through: “Are you guys home? We want to drop off some food.” We obviously objected and they said the people that had brought them lunch knew they brought some to us each week and packed meals specifically for us. So much kindness even in the midst of chaos.
I always tell you how much I love the community we live in, and this week re-affirmed that. As soon as the sun came up each day, every able bodied man with a chainsaw was out working on clearing roads and affected homes. The community started donation centers, churches cooked meals for volunteers and families, and things simply got done. It is so inspiring to see a community band together.
Aside from the chaos of the storm, Malachi has had a really great week. On Monday he rode his horse all by himself, and his head control was the best we have seen. I snapped a picture for you:
We decided to cut back on Malachi’s calories this week and switched him to almond milk instead of his nutritional pediatric soy drink. 8 ounces of it was 240 calories. 8 ounces of almond milk is only 60 calories! BIG difference so we were curious to see how it would settle with him. He loves the change and is taking his bottles very well! He is hungry more frequently, so we have to figure out a way to keep him full. We have tried adding some real food into his schedule and we are absolutely blown away by his progress this week alone…he has eaten macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, Quaker oatmeal, sweet potatoes, loaded potato soup, and other snacks. He loves trying new things!
The added bonus from the diet change is that his sleeping has improved a bit! He is still waking three times a night, but will fall asleep within 45 minutes each time as opposed to 2 hours. He is also burping much easier and seems so much happier. He is not gagging as much, so overall lots of improvements! We haven’t noticed a change in his seizures.
Tomorrow is his overnight EEG. The neurologist called and said that he did think the test was necessary to get a baseline image, especially since he has started new medications since his last EEG. I am dreading it, and haven’t even started to pack (we leave at 8am tomorrow), but we will just get it over with.
Our house closing has been moved to December 15th…just a week and half away! YIKES! In our “free time” we have been packing up the house and thinking through our three weeks as homeless vagabonds haha. If you know anyone in Polk county willing to host some late-night partying guests for a few nights, let me know! We were able to meet with the contractor (our brother in law) this week and set the plans for the new house. We also had some friends from church come and bushhog the property- this was particularly exciting because I had not yet been able to walk the property due to it being overgrown. It was an overcast day, but here are a few pictures of the land we will be building on:
We are blessed.
Malachi has been so silly this week. This morning during Sunday School he was extra pumped up, clinging to every word the teacher said. It took me a little while to figure out why but then I realized that the lesson was on Daniel. Malachi is slightly obsessed with a TV show called “Daniel Tiger” and he was just convinced the teacher was filling us all in on how awesome he was haha.
Here is a picture of Malachi in his Christmas sweater. I bought it on clearance last year hoping that it would fit him this year. It still is a little big but it works!
This week I have been processing so much spiritually. There is so much sadness in the state of Tennessee, from wildfires in Gatlinburg to our local tragedy. So many lives have been lost, and family members impacted greatly. My heart has been hurting.
The night before the tornadoes I was preparing my lesson for the youth. We were looking at a passage in 1 Peter 2 that talked about Christ being the cornerstone. I had that topic on my heart all week and knew the Lord wanted me to go that direction with the kids. And as I studied, a verse kept sticking out to me:
5 “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
I started to think about the concept of us being “living stones”. The more I processed this, the more I fell in love with the analogy of brothers and sisters in Christ building upon each other, and our cornerstone being Jesus Christ. I went to bed that night thinking about the challenge that it presents for us to remain “living” in the sense that we are active in our role in the wall. Not stagnate, as it is so easy to be. We must work together as a body of believers.
This week I got to see firsthand how living stones working together is a beautiful thing. I am still humbled by the simple fact that God impressed such a powerful passage on me the night before tragedy would strike in our community. In the eye of the storm you still find God. He is there. He remains in control, regardless of your circumstance.
There is a song that recently came out that has been playing in my mind and heart all week long. Here is a link if you need a pick me up:
Oh goodness how I would love to write so much more, but Jake is graciously holding Malachi to allow me to type and he looks exhausted! Thank you for checking in on us this week. Say a little prayer for Malachi tomorrow as we tackle his EEG. The worst part is getting the electrode glue out of his hair afterwards, and with his sensitive skin this time will be no exception.
Jake, Leah, and Malachi