This weekend we got a little courageous and took a day trip to Pigeon Forge. We are still being cautious with the boys in public places, so we researched two shows that we felt were safe enough for our crew. Yes, we have all had Covid but we want to still be wise about limiting their exposure to other sickness with their immune systems being as protected as they have been this past year.
Our first stop was at the Pirate Voyage Theater. They require masks while anywhere on the premises other than your table, and there are no medical exemptions. Both of the boys have airway issues so we never frequent places that will require long term mask usage, but we started working a little each day on building their tolerance up for the two minutes it would take to get to our table.
Loooong rabbit trail here…
Being in isolation for the last year has also freed me from “skin toughening” moments that we encounter on a daily basis when we are out and about. While 80% of the people we encounter are kind and accepting, there is a small percentage of people that are not. When Malachi was younger and his differences started to become noticeable we were naive to this reality. When it happens now we are able to attribute it to ignorance and don’t feel the need to “educate” certain individuals like we used to. We read each moment and decide if it is worthy of my emotions and energy.
So when Covid hit we found ourselves in a safe Carroll bubble of love. As we planned this quick family trip I started with a phone call to the Pirate Voyage show. I asked about handicap seating and the young girl on the other line explained that they were sold out of every handicap seat for the entire weekend. The show has limited seating due to their Covid precautions, so I wasn’t shocked. I told her “that’s okay we will just carry him in and he can sit on my lap.” I told her we would need two adult seats and two children seats in the regular seating section. Even though the boys don’t eat and can’t sit in their own seats (one due to toddler-ness and one due to disability) we have always had to still buy them full price tickets….something we totally accept.
She said “hang on, let me talk to my manager”, and in my mind I had decided she was going to talk to him about having any wiggle room with the handicap section. Yes, presumptuous but I was hopeful! She came back on the line and said “I’m sorry ma’am but I cannot sell you tickets. My manager says that you having your handicap son on your lap will be a fire hazard.” It was said in such a matter of fact way and it genuinely caught me off guard. I felt my face flush with embarrassment, which I can’t really explain, and I felt my voice starting to do that shaky thing when emotion hits.
I thought that maybe she didn’t fully understand exactly what we were planning to do- leave the wheelchair in the car, carry Malachi in on our shoulders (he is 36 pounds so not crazy heavy for Jake), and sit him on our laps which we would have done anyway to help narrate the show. I re-explained and she said “I understand all of that but I cannot sell you tickets. He will be a fire hazard.” I kept repeating this line in my head and the more I said it the more upset I felt myself becoming. I asked her if they don’t allow scared four year olds to sit on their parents laps and she said “that is different”.
The longer we spoke the more belligerent she grew, and I found myself giving emotion to something that clearly wasn’t going to change. I asked to speak to the manager directly and she gave me a different number to call. By this time I was pretty upset, but while I was on hold with the lady initially (after I had verified they had open seats) I whispered to Malachi who was eavesdropping on my conversation and let him on the big surprise. He was giggling and super excited. As I got off the line I considered letting it drop but his sweet joy caused me to dial the phone again.
Thankfully a different woman answered, and this time around I simply told her we needed 2 adult seats and 2 children’s seats. No details until she asked, and no emotion. I also didn’t mention my previous phone call with the other woman. She was super sweet and said they had plenty of open seating and asked if we had a preference. I told her “ideally the handicap section but I have been told you are all sold out of those seats?” She asked about Malachi and I explained that he was in a wheelchair and had very limited vision but we would be content wherever they could safely place us. She said “hang on a minute, let me talk to my manager” and I cringed from dejavu, bracing for another rejection.
She came back on the line and said she spoke with her manager and they had reorganized things to give us the center section in the front row of the handicap section. It was literally the best seat they had to offer. I literally started crying, which I was embarrassed about (seriously, who cries about tickets for a pirate show haha). It wasn’t really even about the prime seating, it was about the willingness of someone else to walk a moment in my shoes and try to make life a bit easier. My son went from being a “fire hazard” to being a very special 8 year old boy who would get to be right up front for the action.
As I got off the phone and wiped my eyes I shook my head at the drama and had to laugh a bit. Then I told Malachi the news that not only would he get to go to the pirate show, but he would be close enough to touch them!
I often hesitate to post things like this as I never want to give off the impression that we have a sense of entitlement, or an unrealistic expectation of the world to be perfectly accommodating. But like all mothers, I do have an expectation that kindness be extended to my children, regardless of their abilities. To hear Malachi referred to multiple times as a fire hazard simply because of his special needs hurt my heart and I was so incredibly grateful that those words were reaching my ears and not his.
But I do post this with the hopes that it will remind you to saturate special needs families with kindness when you are out in public. We are often bracing for the bad moments, as they are not unfamiliar or rare. When the uplifting moments happen it brings me to tears and breathes life back into me. We remember both moments, and need desperately for the good interactions to outnumber the bad ones.
We arrived and sat in the parking lot until all of the crowd had gone in and sat down. Then we masked up and walked straight to our table and got settled with about 30 seconds to spare. I figured we would be close, but we were literally RIGHT in the front, and Levi was cautiously looking around and soaking things in when BOOM the show began. Pirates were firing guns at each other and sword fighting and I am pretty sure a cannon went off. Malachi started laughing hysterically and Levi lost his ever loving mind. Jake and I couldn’t help but laugh at how quickly (and loud) things kicked off. We finally got Levi calmed down, but literally every time we got him to stop crying something else would scare him and it would start all over again. He watched the show with a horrified look on his face, but couldn’t look away for fear of being surprised again.
Malachi was the happiest I have seen him in a long time. His imagination kicked into gear and for that 1.5 hours he was a pirate with them. He shouted when they shouted, laughed when they laughed, and got super intense in every fighting scene. He is legally blind, so I narrated the show to him quietly in his ear and he was so engaged clinging to every word. But the actors would often be right in front of his line of vision and with the low lighting he was actually seeing them! I know because each time he caught a glimpse he would grin from ear to ear.
At one point there was a big fire explosion and you would have thought it was the greatest thing he had ever witnessed. Levi disagreed. At another point in the show some pirates jumped into the water so close it splashed us, which made Malachi erupt in giggles and Levi shriek in fear.
We would absolutely do that show again for Malachi, as he loved it even more than we ever imagined. We snuck out of the show 10 minutes before it ended to keep them from being mixed in with big crowds. Then we headed over to the second wave of our adventure…the Lumberjack Feud.
I had researched several shows that we haven’t already gone to in Pigeon Forge and this one caught my eye. They do 13 lumberjack competitions, like chopping logs, sawing logs, and other noisy events so I figured Malachi might enjoy the auditory nature of the show.
Levi no longer had an ounce of trust in my show selections…
I would love to give you details about the show, but the second those chainsaws fired up Levi ran like the devil was chasing him and he and I ended up playing in the wood chips behind the theater.
But I was able to enjoy about 15 minutes with Malachi, and it was so special. Just like the pirate show he was hanging on to each new noise and competition. He was cheering with the rest of the crowd and so into the show! I took a video to share with you:
In fact, much to our surprise right when I stopped filming this video above them awarded him with a Lumberjack cookie, a slab of wood that was signed but he lumberjacks, for being one of the “rowdiest fans” haha. He was so proud and still is.
He loved the loud chainsaws and noises, and especially loved the trash talking between the two teams on the stage.
And Levi finally gave me some smiles after playing in the wood chips for an hour…far, far away from the chainsaws.
After the show we loaded up and headed home. We talked in the car about their favorite parts of the day and Malachi signed that he liked the Pirate show the best and he liked the sword fighting and fire. Levi also voted for the Pirate show (not a shocker) and said he liked the puppies the best. The show uses dogs in one portion of it and they jump in the water and swim. Both of the boys thought that was pretty amazing.
I will tell you though- we were all exhausted!
Other quick updates from the week…
Momma got her first Covid shot! I was extra sleepy and my arm was sore but other than that no negative reactions.
Levi has been a dancing machine this week and it never ceases to make me smile. I filmed him for you, and it will be worth the click for sure:
And Malachi’s front teeth are insanely close to popping through the gums. This has led to a very emotionally charged week for him, and lots of crying spells but we are hoping that this is the week.
Jake is on spring break this week and we are looking forward to a very calm week.
If I sat here and dumped out all of the thoughts I have been wrestling with this week we would be here awhile. There are so many things that God has been pressing on my heart lately, and each of them can captivate my brain for hours.
Jake and I were talking on our road trip about a sermon he had listened to. He said that they were interviewing a pastor in a different country whose identity had to be hidden for fear of repercussions on his life. He said that the interviewer asked the man about what he thought about the American church, and his response was “Satan is singing a lullaby the the American churches.”
The more I thought about this the more I see truth in it. When I look at the Christian walk of the people in the Bible and the Christian walk in America today I have a very hard time spotting the similarities.
This thought has created some self reflection in my life, and might be an interesting thing to process this week in your life as well.
In what ways is my life a threat to the devil?
Do I make him nervous?
In what ways has his lullaby dulled my mind and sensitivity to the Spirit?
It is so incredibly easy to water down Christianity to a title and a check mark. But it is a life of action, a life of your faith causing other seeds to be planted and grow. If your Christianity is not influencing anyone other than yourself then you are likely not on the devil’s radar.
When I look at the men and women of faith in the scriptures I see an excitement. And I believe that we all have that level at some point in our faith walk. But we allow the devil to sing lullabies to us until we forget that inexplicable joy Christ bought into our life.
This week I met with a group of about 50 women for a meeting about an upcoming youth event. As the hours ticked by closer to the meeting I found myself growing anxious about the meeting, which sounds so silly. Give me a room full of 300 teenagers and I can have them laughing within minutes, not an ounce of nerves brewing inside me. But give me a room of 10 adult women and I just feel so…inadequate in all facets. I only knew two other people at the event and for some reason I have grown even more socially awkward than pre-Covid. It was being held at my church so I made myself busy in my office until the meeting began, then slipped into my seat.
I had been asked earlier in the day to pray aloud over someone specific during the meeting My inner dialogue was cracking me up as I looked around the room. I caught my mind saying things like “Am I qualified enough to pray aloud?” Or “Should I write down some notes in case I get stumped in my prayer?” And “What if I don’t get asked to pray first and my prayer is super lame compared to everyone else’s?” A lame prayer? For real, Leah (insert eye roll).
Each time a new ridiculous doubt formed in my brain I quickly pushed it away as I recognized that the devil was using one his biggest tactics on me- the feeling of inadequacy. He plants these seeds of doubt in our hearts to keep us from acting in faith.
The meeting started and the Holy Spirit joined right in. I found myself in a room with 50 other women, all praising the same God in the same Spirit, and in the same unbridled way. The Lord used His Spirit to squash my unfounded inadequacies underfoot as we prayed together and worshipped together.
As I felt tears rolling down my face I looked around the room and I thought to myself “THIS is what the early church must have been like.” A group of people brought together with one thing in common- an unmatched love for God. And then I transitioned into the thought “THIS is what heaven must be like.”
But in Heaven I will get to hear the clear voice of my son worshipping the Creator alongside me.
The point of all this is to remind you that Christianity isn’t meant to be done alone. If your faith only impacts you then you are missing the point of the transforming power of the Gospel (which literally means “good news”). While the devil may not revel in the idea that YOU don’t belong to him, there is no threat in you.
I don’t know what you need to do to silence the lullaby in your ears. It may take signing up to serve somewhere in your church. It may mean you actually start going to church somewhere or a Bible study. It may be a challenge to start making intentional faith filled social media posts. It might mean seeking out that one friend that god has been laying on your heart and inviting them to talk about God with you this week. May our faith lead us to action this week.
Silencing the lullaby will look different to each of us, but may we be sensitive this week to recognizing the singing voice of the devil in our lives.