Raised in Christ

In just under two months Levi will turn 3! He is like a sponge these days, soaking in all of the things around him and exploring anything he can get his hands on.

Levi is going through a baby stage and is absolutely fascinated by babies on tv. He will also pretend to be a baby every now and then and when he does that he lets me hold him and rock him for a few seconds.

This week as I rocked him and held him close to me I felt a lump of emotions well up in my throat. Like I have said so many times, special needs grief is so unique and can be sparked by the tiniest moments.

This wave hit me as I flashed back to baby Levi. After Malachi’s rough beginnings my mommy heart was so excited to hold my baby right after birth. But when I woke up from surgery Levi was nowhere to be found. Within the hour he was headed by ambulance to another hospital and I found my arms empty.

After a few days I was finally discharged and got to snatch up my wire covered and oxygen tubed 4 pound baby boy and I cherished those moments. Very quickly those moments of peace were replaced with bad news, surgeries, air ambulances, and LOTS of intubations. When he was on the ventilator I wasn’t able to hold him often- and he was on and off of the vent for the first 5 months of his life. All I could cling to was one day hoping to snuggle my baby at home like a typical mom.

When we finally got the discharge papers we raced back to Tennessee and it was my mommy moment to shine! But as I held his little body close to mine he immediately erupted into tears. It reminded him of the many times he was swaddled to prevent him from pulling his ventilator out. It also reminded him of the many times he was held down for blood draws, IVs, intubations, and so many other procedures.

My sweet baby had associated being held by human hands to inflicting pain, and rebuilding that trust took a long, long time. He never truly got to a place where he was comfortable simply being held, and each time he rejected my attempts to do so felt like a dagger popping yet another expectation balloon.

So now when he crawls into my lap as a two year old pretending to be a baby I am flooded with such emotions…pure joy that I can snuggle my baby, disappointment that I missed this in his early years, pride that he and I have been able to rebuilt the trust the NICU took from our relationship, and plain ol’ overwhelming love for him.

This week we had an appointment day with the Gastroenterologist for both boys. I love when I can pair up a specialist, and right now they share about 7 of them. Levi’s medical PTSD kicked in and when I asked him what he was scared of he showed me his nose (the COVID test from surgery last month). His memory is apparently really good. He screamed and cried for the appointment, then when we went to leave was so happy to be going he told each staff member “love you” as he walked by them toward the exit.

The good news is that both boys are gaining weight really well right now. Before Levi’s birth, Malachi was 40 pounds. Living in the Ronald McDonald House and me not being able to focus on everyone’s needs took a toll on Malachi and he dropped down to 25 pounds. When we returned to Tennessee we went ahead and got Malachi’s g-tube and have been working hard to get back to a healthy weight for him. This week he weighed in at 35 pounds!

Levi is also gaining well right now and is just shy of 29 pounds. The doctor was happy enough with their progress to put us on a 6 month rotation!

We high tailed it out of the office and headed for an adventure! The boys have not really done anything in public since March, so I thought it was time to try an adventure. I had told them both we were headed to the zoo and Malachi’s eyes immediately lit up.

We made the hour drive there and when I pulled in the parking lot was a little more crowded than I imagined it would be. I got cold feet and considered leaving, but when I looked at Malachi I knew he was eagerly listening for cues we had arrived. I pulled into a parking spot and announced “We’re here” and he erupted into a fit of giggles.

I got them out of their seats and headed toward the entrance and Malachi continued giggling uncontrollably. His laughter was contagious and pretty soon all three of us were laughing and squealing with joy. I haven’t seen Malachi that excited EVER. It genuinely caught me off guard to see him so excited about a day at the zoo.

He can’t really see most of the animals, so I describe each one to him. He spent at least the first 20 minutes giggling non-stop. We went straight to his favorite, the jaguar, who so kindly came over to the glass for the boys. Then we went to see the monkeys- I took a video for you so you can see how much joy was exploding out of him:

Levi didn’t shed a single tear this time, even going nose to nose with the jaguar. He was so excited to be out of the house, and was way more fascinated with the other zoo guests over the animals.

The boys each got to pet the goats, but I wasn’t able to get photos of Malachi as holding him takes both hands! Malachi loved feeling the sharpness of their horns.

I was so pleasantly surprised by our ability to avoid all of the other people. We never shared an exhibit with another person and even the trails were empty. We have a season pass that expires in November so we are going to try to make several more trips while we can- maybe even another one this week.

Other random, yet noteworthy moments from our week…

Levi rode his horse by himself at therapy!

Malachi’s new Chill Out chair came in from Canada! We are still finding the sweet spot with it, but overall I am thrilled! His posture is so much better in it than his other comfy option.

The chair has a rocking ability, and it didn’t take long for Levi to discover it. We have to be very close when Malachi is in it- and this video explains why:

And as always, we had moments of pure chaos. This week most of those have revolved around urine. Lots and lots of urine. We are thrilled that Malachi is putting on healthy weight, but his diapers are no longer a good fit. Typically I would get a stack of samples from the medical supply company, as he is now entering adult sizes but with COVID they are no longer sending samples. I purchased several options from Amazon, but the cost is outrageous. I will be working with insurance this week to find an affordable alternative, but until then we are dealing with lots of leaks.

Malachi’s most epic one was when we were away from the house at an all day soccer tournament. We thought the boys would enjoy the fresh air and it was an overcast day, so they sat on the sidelines with us (away from everyone else of course). After lunch I plopped Malachi on my knee for a quick diaper swap out and he unleashed a half a days worth before I could complete the mission. It rolled up my leg, filling my shorts and covering my shirt. The stream went strong for what felt like a minute and by the end even my socks were squishing. I was mortified, as I had packed extra outfits for everyone but me. A friend mentioned that we were less than a minute away from a sporting goods store so I handed the boys to Jake and jumped in the car to find some replacement clothes for the rest of the day.

Malachi laughed at his little tirade and especially at my reaction after. Since then he has been plotting to do it again, laughing each time I get ready to change him again. Stinker.

Overall it was a wonderful week, filled with lots of little adventures that kept us all sidetracked from reality. We even had a nighttime swim in the therapy pool. In the gaps of the days we had lots of medical phone calls, pharmacy pick ups, grocery pick ups, and therapies.

One evening this week I snuck outside to read the Bible and do a devotional. I heard the door creak open and saw curly haired Levi peek around the corner at me then run back in the house. A few minutes later he came around the corner with Jake’s Bible tucked under his arm and casually sat next to me to read his Bible too.

He pretended to read the words, speaking gibberish with such confidence.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes:

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

I have been so challenged this week to examine the example I am setting for others, including my own children. There are days I feel like I am nailing it, and other days I let my worldly nature win out. I saw this photo this week and couldn’t stop laughing.

The truth is that no matter how hard we try, we will never be a “good enough” imitator of Christ. It is impossible to imitate perfection. But we can’t ignore that so many eyes are watching us- watching our reaction, our habits, our motivations, our conversations- to see if our love for Christ goes beyond the church doors on Sunday morning.

We may not always get to see the ripple effect our “different” walk has on the world, but there are small glimpses that remind me the importance of actions over words.

I read an article this week that I really wanted to share with the parents in my youth group, but a friend said it might not be received very well. So instead I will share it with you. It has given me some big food for thought and I hope it does the same for you.

I am not quite sure what proper etiquette is for sharing Facebook articles on this platform, so I want to note that this article came from “Jeremiah Johnson Ministries” Facebook page and was written by Jeremiah Johnson.

Jeremiah Johnson Ministries

I RAISED MY KIDS IN CHURCH, BUT…..“As a church leader and traveling prophetic minister, one of the most heartbreaking conversations to have with so many distraught Christian parents across America right now is the familiar one where they can’t figure out why their kids aren’t serving God after they raised them in church for 18 years. I have wept down in altars and felt the burden of God concerning this issue with hundreds and hundreds of parents along my journey.

One night after preaching at a church service and crying out with a particular set of parents, I got down on my knees in my hotel room later that night and asked God for revelation concerning this crisis in the Church. I went to bed and God woke me up at 3:33 am and said, “Satan is not afraid of anyone who lives IN CHURCH, but he is terrified of those who have learned how to live IN CHRIST!” The voice of God specifically distinguished between “in church” and “in Christ”.

As I sat in that hotel room after hearing the voice of God, great sadness swept over my soul. I realized in that moment what a great deception had swept over the body of Christ. Parents have fallen into the trap of dropping their kids off at youth group and kids church hoping the teacher would invest in their students at the expense of them having to actually disciple their own children in Christ while they were at home.

Like a twisted Hannah syndrome, parents are dedicating their kids to the Lord with the expectation that someone in the church (Eli) will do the discipling for them when this mindset is full of deception.

I’m all for church attendance, but I’m convinced the vehicle God created (the church) for people to actually encounter Jesus Christ and be discipled in Him has become a social club that entertains and caters to the flesh. Videos games and pizza have replaced radical encounters with the Holy Spirit and fire.

All of us Christian parents have to ask ourselves, “Are we/did we raise our kids ‘ in church’ and just expect them to magically serve God the rest of their lives because they heard good teaching in Sunday school/youth group OR are we actually teaching them how to live “in Christ” through discipleship and living by example in our own homes?”

The awakening and revival that so many are longing for is actually going to begin with healthy marriages and sacrificial parenting.-Jeremiah Johnson

As my little Levi continues to grow, I pray that God continues to press on Jake and I’s heart the importance of raising him in Christ. We don’t get a second chance at raising our children, so prioritizing a firm foundation in the Lord has to be intentional.

And seeing his love develop for the Word of God is just so precious to witness.

Please continue to pray for the health of our crew. With cold and flu season creeping in we will have to continue a pretty tight lock down. Getting out and about a bit this week reminded me of how detrimental these past few months have been to the boys, especially Malachi. He thrives on human interaction and being locked in the house all day doesn’t really provide what he needs.

Much love,


Oh Boy

This boy.

Levi has been surprising me this week in so many ways. He always wants to help with whatever care Malachi needs, which is something I encourage greatly. If he sees me check Malachi’s diaper to see if it needs to be changed he will scurry off and grab a fresh one and some wipes for me.

One morning this week I was prepping the formula bags and bottles for the day and Levi was watching me intently, looking for ways to help. I just casually said “Will you go get me one of Malachi’s extensions and a syringe for the top?” I said it jokingly, but off he went. I watched him get the stool from the bathroom, open the correct supply bin for an new extension and open the bag all by himself. He then went to the syringe drawer and opened a new bagged syringe, removed the stopper, and hooked it into the extension successfully for Malachi. He held it up with a proud smile on his face and I looked back with shock and admiration. What a precious little two year old helper.

Look at him go! Here is a video of his soccer dribbling.

Now for every sweet moment there is a rascal one of course. The biggest one from this week was when he removed his shorts, onesie, and diaper before I could catch him. In the diaper removal process some excrement fell out, unbeknownst to me. I chased him for a good bit, then finally caught him and took him to the bedroom to change. When we came out I was horrified to see that my shoe had tracked his poop all over the chase route. Oh boy.

Someone has been sneaking Oreos from the kitchen.

I have been working with Levi on color identification and took a short video to share with you all:

Malachi has been struggling with some seizures this weekend, and we are not quite sure what the trigger is. It could be the weather changing or something else. Regardless of how many seizures he has, he still continues to smile that famous Malachi grin that melts my heart into a puddle.

Malachi is changing into a big boy. I think he has mentally suffered the worst through this COVID phase at home. He craves engagement with others, and has really missed being social. We spend a lot of time outside listening to the nature noises, but he misses people. This week some of our dear friends came to sit with the boys so I could attend a soccer game. Leading up to them coming Malachi was wild eyed with excitement. It made his week!

It was during the wee hours of Friday morning that I woke up to Levi shouting my name from his bed. He does this every night, several times a night in fact but during the hours of 4a-6a Malachi wakes very easily. I jumped out of bed to run over to him and climb into his bed, something that successfully quiets him down. But as I sprinted across the dark room like a ninja he laid down again and drifted off quickly to sleep.

So there I was, standing in the middle of the bedroom looking at both of my sons sleeping peacefully. Malachi looked so small in the big queen sized bed and I knew there was plenty of room for me to sneak back up there with him, but doing so meant risking him waking up. Levi looked so big in his twin bed and I spotted a sliver of mattress I could lay sideways on, but that seemed like a risky move too.

As I weighed my options my eyes grew tired and I decided the safest and fastest route back to sleep would be sleeping on the floor. I couldn’t grab my pillow without waking Malachi, as I use my pillow to support his and keep him from smothering himself. So I did what any sleep deprived mother would do and grabbed a stuffed teddy bear out of Levi’s bed and the bath towel I keep at the foot of the bed to catch surprise nighttime vomits (don’t worry, it was clean).

As I curled up on the floor I couldn’t help but laugh, thinking to myself “This is definitely not the life I imagined I would have.” My husband sleeping soundly in our king sized bed alone, my medically complex kids hooked to machines, and me sleeping on the floor with a vomit towel for a blanket.

Life can be full of surprises.

There are weeks the surprises of this life make me giggle. There are times when they make me roll my eyes. But lately there are times that they make me angry. I have been so frustrated this week by the things beyond my control. I crave easier motherhood, but that is a desire that will never be satiated. In my head I need to accept this, but my heart just doesn’t want to.

Last night I had a anger burst. Long story short, the kids and I were up until 4:45am. It was a series of unfortunate events full of seizures from one and toddler mania from the other. By the end of it we were all three crying and I was just plain mad.

I scrolled through Facebook to try to distract my brain from the reality of what was happening and saw post after post of typical mothers with typical problems. The more I scrolled the more my frustration grew. I remember seeing this photo a few years ago and the phrase has stuck with me since.

I am not disillusioned, I am fully aware that my anger stems from my grief. Grief typically grows from a difficult day, hour, moment. But living life with medically complex kids means living in potential grief every hour of every day. It is not sparked by a memory that simply creeps in every now and then; it is sparked by a very difficult every day life and the reality that it isn’t a rough stage we will likely ever grow out of.

But let’s be honest here…anger is in no shape or form something that reflects God. There is nothing about our anger that glorifies Him, points others towards Him, or makes Him smile.

James 1:19-20 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

I can sit here and try to justify my frustration to you all, but I know that each angry outburst is a moment when I have invited darkness to overwhelm my heart.

So how do I slow down this grief? How do I get rid of my anger? I am working on figuring that out. But for now, I can stop comparing my life to this hypothetical book of what parenting looks like that my mind has created.

When God wrote my story, He knew there would be nights on the floor with a vomit towel for a blanket. And He knew there would be a whole chapter devoted to sanitizing poop smeared floors.

Each of us have been written a unique story. So I am going to try to focus hard this week on the blank pages He is slowly illustrating for me. And I will be working on not getting disappointed when the image on the page doesn’t match what I thought would be there.

Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Much love,


Mountain Goats

To be truthful, Jake and I are wiped out. School has been kicking his tail with all the additional things he is having to do for the remote learners in his classes as it is hard to teach math remotely. He is discouraged, frustrated, and continually falling behind so I am trying hard to offer loads of grace and understanding. And lots of home cooked meals!

But in reality, I am wiped out as well. I shouldn’t be…my workload is lighter than it has ever been, and our appointment calendar is thin. But the monotony of our schedule paired with being a medical mama is wearing me down. The boys aren’t sleeping well so I jump back and forth from bed to bed most of the night, trying to keep everyone quiet, calm, and safely hooked up to their machines. On a typical night (Malachi’s “nights” are 6 hours long) I am up and down at least a dozen times.

There were so many times this week that I packed up the boys and went for a drive, just hoping to keep toddler Levi strapped into a seat and still for ten minutes. I love him with all of my heart, but now officially understand the phrase “toddler tornado”!

I have been working hard to plump up Levi for his upcoming GI appointment. We are lectured continually about his weight but at the rate he moves he burns a whole lot of calories. I am finally seeing a change and he has gained two pounds in three weeks. I have been trying to run his feeds longer at night to add in some extra calories and try to keep him on his feed every 2.5 hours here at the house. He was fighting me about putting on his feeding backpack so we ordered two more and now he gets to pick which one he uses for the day. The new Toy Story one seems to be his top pick. We have a connection with a lady that modifies preschool backpacks for us so he can get some cool prints instead of medical looking ones.

Malachi is gaining weight with ease! He is up to 37 pounds and looks very healthy. He isn’t moving as much as he did pre-quarantine and I have been growing more and more concerned about his tone. I called his physical therapist and talked to her about some options for getting him seen at least a few times a month. She told me she drives out our way twice a month and would be willing to come by the house to do a session with Malachi! She came out Friday and confirmed that yes, Malachi has lost a lot of muscle tone since she saw him last.

On the flip side she was pleasantly surprised with how well Levi is doing!

I have been working this week on trying to get him another seating option that will encourage Malachi to engage his muscles and hold his head up. Seating for special needs kids runs between $3,000-$8,000 and insurance doesn’t cover comfy/non-essential seating. I have had my eye on a specific chair for him for a few years and I reached out to the company this week to see if they had any floor models in Malachi’s size that they would sell me at a discounted rate. To my surprise he wrote me back this week to let me know they had one they could ship out next week for $750 (includes shipping and taxes)! This same chair is over $3,000 new so I am thrilled.

We were approved for a local grant this year, the same grant that helped cover the pool last year. That extra allowance is helpful for purchases like these, and I will be working with them to see if they will help with the cost of the new chair.

I also spent a few hours on the phone this week filing our final appeal for Levi’s Cincinnati surgery. They have 90 days to respond, so say some prayers with us that they will reverse their decision and cover it.

This week I stretched past my comfort zone and took the boys to two soccer games. I kept them away from the stands and people, and it was the break we all needed. Malachi giggled and squealed with joy, so happy to be doing something normal. Levi cried 90% of the time yelling that he wanted to go home haha. He didn’t like the crowd and all the noise around him. Thankfully his buddy Tanner was there to act as his safety blanket.

We did a whole lot of outside playing and swimming this week. Both boys love to be outside and now that we have some great spaces to sit and enjoy shade they are always ready to go out there. I haven’t been as concerned about bears during the daytime, as the earliest we have seen them is 3:00. But yesterday at noon I pulled out of the driveway and scared one out of our yard. He crossed the street in front of the house and jumped into the treeline. I have seen dozens and dozens of bears but for some reason they still take my breath away when I see them. They are just so big! It’s like my brain can’t process how something that big and furry can move with such agility.

I have been trying to work with Levi on his colors, and he has been cracking me up. Definitely a work in progress. I took a video this week for you so you could see his silliness:

Levi has a birthday coming up in November and I found a company that writes books using your kids as the main characters. You design what each character will look like and choose the story topics. I worked to make one for the boys, as they both love hearing me make up stories about them at night. I don’t have the finished product yet but the sweet cover made me cry.

Special needs parenting is just so complex. There is so much grief, but you have to mask that even in your own home. I never want Levi to see me grieve over Malachi’s differences. I want him to see Malachi for the beautifully unique creation that he is. And I absolutely NEVER want Malachi to know that his challenges sometimes break my heart for him. I have to create a world where the challenges we face are seen as normal.

Seeing this cartoon made a lump creep up in my throat as it represented the life I imagined I would have…two healthy brothers climbing trees, scraping knees, and loving adventures together. My heart hurt for Malachi, knowing that he can’t get his body to do the things his mind wants him to do. My heart hurt for Levi, knowing the instant responsibility he has thrust on him to help his brother. I truly don’t think Levi will ever see it as a burden, but the loss of his normalcy in that hurts my mommy heart. It is an extra push for me as a mother to teach Levi about the unconditional love of Jesus, and how we show that love to others when we serve them.

Oh, the depths of special needs parenting are so thick.

But when I look at them together I see the bond of two brothers who love one another with all of their hearts. I think I am prematurely mourning over something that neither of them will ever mourn.

This book will be a special one for us all as it allows each of us to use our imaginations.

And on a totally different note, I saw a photo this week and I don’t know that I have ever related to an animal more in my life.

Take a look at these mountain goats..

When I saw these images I thought to myself, “THAT is a perfect image of special needs parenting!”

Facing mountains that look impossible to climb. But those steep, vertical walls are the ones we must scale in order to give our kids the most full, rich lives we can. Just like these silly mountain goats we search for a single ledge to put just one foot, and step by step we work our way dangerously up the mountain.

The Bible talks a lot about mountains, and the visual pictures each verse paints is powerful. When I was young in my faith I clung to the verse about faith moving mountains. What a powerful thing!

But as I walked deeper with the Lord and he revealed this different plan He had for my life, I started to understand that some mountains are not meant to be moved. They are meant to be scaled perilously, step by step…not knowing where the next foothold may be, but trusting that God will guide your foot to it.

Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Time and time again we will each encounter mountains. My mountain will likely look very different than your mountain but the daunting nature of those mountains will be very similar.

You may be like me, and try to “pray away the mountain”, closing your eyes hard and mustering all of your faith to command the mountain to move. But when you open your eyes the mountain still stands, sometimes growing larger each time you look at it.

Sometimes we are called to climb. Because it is in the climb that our faith gets the chance to mature and grow. Trusting God sounds simple, but when you rely on Him as you scale the mountain, you start to truly understand the importance of a God with an aerial view.

Who knew a photo of mountain goats would be such a spiritual encouragement for me this week!

Please continue to pray over the health of our family, and pray that some of the wackiness gets ironed out this week for Jake.

Much love,


Looking for Lovely

This handsome seven year old lost another tooth this week. I was brushing his teeth and out it popped! I think Levi was more excited to share the news with daddy than Malachi was.

Look how long those legs are getting! We are cautious about telling Malachi about imaginary things like the tooth fairy and santa; we don’t want to plant a seed that some of what mommy and daddy tell him isn’t true. But we do tell him that some kids believe in a fairy that takes their teeth and leaves presents, and we let him pretend too. We put the tooth under his pillow and the next day he gets a special treat from mommy and daddy, usually a chocolate bar.

Levi and mommy returned from Cincinnati with minor head colds. I tried desperately to keep Malachi from catching anything but grew discouraged when I watched in horror as Levi wiped his snotty nose on Malachi’s hair. Thankfully neither Jake or Malachi caught it and we were healthy again by the middle of the week.

Levi does not handle any congestion well with his airway, and this go around was not an exception. He had a very difficult time sleeping which trickled down to Malachi and I also having a difficult time sleeping. I ended up dragging our giant bean bag into the living room so I could separate the boys from one another and keep everyone close.

We tucked in for the week, going on drives periodically to give the boys some adventure. We also spent a lot of time outside enjoying the cooler fall-like days. Malachi loves to listen to the sounds of nature.

We did spot a single bear print on the edge of the pool cover this week. We are really hoping they will leave it alone!

I have been so relieved to have our Cincinnati trip behind us. Right now we don’t have any surgeries on the horizon until next summer and I feel like a weight has been lifted. I have started tackling some big phone calls and paperwork packets I have been putting off.

One of the big projects is filing an appeal with our secondary insurance for Levi’s surgery. They sent us a letter telling us that Vanderbilt could do the surgery and there was no reason for us to go out of network to Cincinnati, therefore they would not be paying any of the bills. Clearly taking him to surgeons who did not complete the original experimental surgery is not an option, but we are hitting brick walls with insurance even after getting the surgeons to call and explain the situation. I will keep filing, but it looks like we may lose this battle; and unfortunately this will set a precedent for each additional Cincinnati surgery trip that will be required in Levi’s lifetime.

We did get approval this week for Malachi’s homeschooling, so I will start trying to find the right pieces of equipment and curriculum to get him rolling here at the house. Taking on his schooling will be a big endeavor so I am no longer going to be able to handle working office hours part time as the church secretary. But maybe one day when things settle back down I can jump back into that role, as it has been a good mental distraction for me from all things medical.

Levi has not enjoyed being cooped up this week and has been getting into all sorts of mischief. He has been pestering the fire out of Malachi, and one day this week he accidentally hit Malachi with a toy. Malachi was livid, and stayed mad at him for about 4 hours. Seeing his anger made me smile, as weird as that sounds.

Levi tried to make up for it, bringing Malachi stacks and stacks of toys to try to cheer him up. He genuinely felt bad and confessed the whole story again, with reenactments, when Jake got home.

He has also decided that Malachi should be fed the same snacks he gets and has been “sharing” his snacks with him. Malachi can’t chew and choked on food, so eating most foods is very dangerous for him. Today I jumped in the shower and Levi popped his head in and told me that he put shredded cheese in Malachi’s mouth. Twice this week I caught him shoving tortilla chips into Malachi’s closed mouth, and once I caught him pouring water from his cup into Malachi’s mouth. Each time I race over to find a wild eyed Malachi trying to process what to do with the foreign objects in his mouth. Poor big brother!

Levi has been wearing a thick winter Carhart coat and this silly hat around the house just for fun.

He then decided that Malachi also needed a hat and dug this one out of a kitchen cabinet. Malachi thought it was hilarious that he had a bowl on his head and was cracking us all up with his funny faces.

Both Malachi and Levi have such big imaginations! Malachi acts out the scenes from the movies he watches, yelling when the characters yell and even crying when they cry. Levi has started making up stories about all kinds of things. This week he told us that the dog down the road bit him in his arm and that a bear also bit him and then ran into the woods. He can spin quite a tale.

Jake and his amazing friends spent another Saturday working on the therapy pool area for Malachi. I have been blown away by how kind the people in our community are, and several of them have given up entire Saturdays to help make our vision a reality. We would have never been able to afford outsourcing a project like this one.

Tonight we had our weekly youth Bible study out there and having the extra space to spread the teens out was a blessing. We still have a few more Saturdays of work left to finish the electric and small touches, but I am so thrilled with how functional it is for Malachi to swim in all weather settings.

We added a slide off the back and Levi boldly went down it all by himself this weekend. Malachi also rode down it with mommy and daddy, squealing with joy the whole ride down.

One of the most challenging things about being a youth pastor is trying to figure out which direction God wants us to take the group next. Sometimes the topics and themes I personally want to do are just not the right fit for where the teens are spiritually. We have been praying about what direction to take the group and listening for God’s prompting.

On Sunday nights we split them up and the girls do a Bible study with me. We are kicking off a new study called “Looking for the Lovely” and the topic strikes such a nerve in my heart.

If you have read the blog long I am sure you already know that Philippians 4:8 has become my life verse. I have it plastered on our living room wall, and recite it over and over again in my mind most days.

“Whatsoever things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent, think on these things.”

This verse used to be an easy one to incorporate into our lives before Malachi was born. It is easy to focus on the lovely when you are immersed in the lovely.

It wasn’t until challenges hit that I truly understood how radical living this verse out could be. There are days when I can’t find the lovely. I can’t find the praiseworthy things, or the excellent things. My mind searches for them but can only find hard, and discouraging things to focus on.

I am in a world that I have very little control of, but the one thing I can continually attempt to control with some success is my thoughts. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive and not let our minds wander too far from where we need them to be.

Although looking for the lovely can be challenging, I see the importance and benefits of the hunt. When you train your eyes to see through darkness looking for glimmers of light, you don’t have time to focus on the overwhelming nature of the darkness.

Looking for the lovely can be a wonderful distraction and keep us from settling in that darkness where fears have a chance to grow beyond recognition.

I don’t know what darkness you may be facing, but I want to encourage you to search high and low for those flickers of lovely in your situation. They are there- God always leaves evidence of his goodness and grace for us to find. Maybe you can collect enough of them in a jar and use them to help you get to the other side of the darkness.

May God bless you this week,