Renewed Inwardly

I write this blog for many reasons, but one of the primary ones is that it allows me (maybe ”forces” is the better word choice here) to process a lot of thoughts and emotions that I tend to stuff down out of my psyche. This week I have been avoiding processing a lot of things, so when I open the page to start typing I have to take a deep breath and break the walls I have built this week to separate the hard stuff from the everyday.

As you know, Malachi headed to the operating room this week for a bronchoscopy to look at his airway and lungs. I will do a quick summary for you of the findings…I try to include all the medical terminology and jargon in case other parents researching these terms need some insight for their own child.

Bad news #1- Prior to the procedure the pulmonologist suspected he was aspirating, and it was confirmed that he is silently aspirating his secretions. Aspirating essentially means that they are going down the wrong tube and finding their way into his lungs. Lungs are often not able to process the foreign bodies and infections can occur. Malachi’s cultures did in fact show that he has a current lung infection that is going to be treated with 14 days on amoxicillin. We are thinking that this may be one of the causes for the frequent random fevers he has been having.

This also revealed a new diagnosis through his CT scan called bronchiectasis, which is scarring of the lungs due to frequent aspiration. Malachi’s scarring is on the back side of his lungs, which makes sense due to the way he is often positioned in a slight recline.

Bad news #2- Malachi has a floppy trachea (called tracheomalacia). This may sound familiar as Levi also had this condition, but his has improved dramatically. Unfortunately Malachi’s is worsening as the years go by. When he breathes out he is having a 50% collapse in his upper airway.

Bad news #3- Malachi has bronchomalacia, so same concept but in his lungs. When he is breathing out the cartilage is flopping over the bronchi into the lungs by about 75%-80%, trapping anything that is finding its way into the lungs from being able to get out. So you and I can have a ”productive cough” and bring stuff out of our lungs when we are sick or congested. Malachi doesn’t have the ability to do that well. And then if he was successful at getting it out of the lungs it would struggle to get through the windpipe due to bad news #2.

The surgeon was able to clean his lungs while he was in there and test the samples, and Malachi’s breathing was EXCELLENT for the few days after the procedure. He even had an oxygen saturation of 100 post op at one point, which we haven’t seen for years.

So in summary, we know that foreign substances are getting into Malachi’s lungs and the chances of him getting them out are slim. So what do we do?

We treat on the assumption that he will have a lifetime full of infections and start preventative measures. Starting this week Malachi is on azithromycin (same meds as a Z pack) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for life. This is in addition to the 14 day antibiotic he started for the current infection. He will also be getting a shot that prevents against several strands of pneumonia.

Okay, so let’s go from medical jargon to mommy jargon.

Remember that switch I talked about last week? I superglued it into medical mom mode, trying to completely detach from the emotional side for the day. And I was successful…until I wasn’t haha.

When the time came to send Malachi back with the anesthesia team he was giggling and I was able to do the send off without shedding a tear. I kept my wits about me during the surgeon updates, and didn’t even think about crying through any of the parts that normally get me. I mean, we have done this 44(?) times now and have been through some really hard and really unknown outcome surgeries. A simple exploratory procedure like this one shouldn’t get me unraveled.

After the surgeon updated me I exhaled and sat down in a chair to wait for them to take me to recovery with Malachi. I watched the clock tick away and tick tick tick. Still no Malachi, and no updates. Aside from the surgeon updates no one else had given me updates on Malachi in the three hours since they took him from me and the procedure process from start to finish was estimated to be 1.5 hours (including prep and anesthesia). Typically I get a call when anesthesia and IV attempts are successful, when the surgeon starts and finishes, when Malachi leaves the operating room.

Three hours of silence.

I assumed he was in recovery since I had spoken with the surgeon. But as I processed the silence my imagination started wandering and I started to get a little panicky. After waiting a bit longer I couldn’t stand it any more and pushed the nurse call button. When she entered the room the emotion flood gates broke and I sobbed, trying to explain that I assumed this procedure would be like all the others and I would get updates and be able to join him in recovery as soon as possible.

She explained that due to Covid parents were no longer allowed in the recovery room, and this surprise piece of info made me panic even more. Malachi is not able to communicate verbally but I can read him like a book and figure out what his needs are based on his body language. The idea that he was back there potentially trying to convey something and no one could understand him tore my heart.

And then the mom guilt slipped into the picture. I had promised him he would get to listen to his favorite song the second he woke up. I had told him when he opened his eyes I would be by his side. I was mad at myself for making assumptions that this round would be just like the others.

I was also extremely disappointed in the hospital staff for not keeping me updated. I can’t help but wonder if Malachi was treated differently than other patients due to his differences. I don’t want to believe this is true, but I also fully believe that other parents would have been updated regularly had this been their first OR experience.

Malachi was finally wheeled back into the room and I was able to calm down. I snuggled him and then had to pop that switch right back into medical mom mode so I could get him out of there. Our day was delayed significantly and even though we arrived at our 7am scheduled time (for a 1.5 hour estimated procedure) we didn’t make it home until 4pm.

Malachi ran a high fever due to the lung intrusion but was back to his bubbly self after about 24 hours. The new medications are causing some pretty severe belly issues and creating lots of explosive crying from belly pain. I am also looking into the potential for more liver failure issues due to the new antibiotics being metabolized through the liver.

Little Levi had a very hard time with this procedure. As soon as he heard Malachi had to go to the hospital he burst out crying and physically clung to Malachi. The day before the procedure I heard him whispering to Malachi “Malachi, you should punch the doctor.”

As I put Levi to bed the night before he just sat silently with tears streaming down his face. His empathy for Malachi was so real in that moment and I spent some time snuggling Levi and praying with him for Malachi.

He was overjoyed to finally have Malachi back home. Their love for one another is just so special.

Ugh so much heavy stuff here. Let me take a commercial break and talk about some fun things from the week before we jump back to the hard things.

We spent the majority of our week enjoying the sunshine and getting some fresh air. The boys have been enjoying lots of rides on the little truck and playing with friends. Malachi has not been 100% due to all the medication changes, and it is weeks like this one that I am extra grateful for the ability to give him little bursts of fun but still remain close to home base for our medical needs.

Alright, back to the hard stuff.

It is incredibly rare for my hands to be empty. I typically have Malachi in them, and when he is not being held I am busy chasing Levi. So being in a hospital room for 3 hours with empty hands really messed with me. I struggle with anxiety (I wonder why haha) and have a tendency to self mutilate without realizing it by picking at my fingernails and the skin around them. The night before surgeries I always clip off all fingernails just in case and pack extra chapstick to keep me from biting my lip.

Passing that time is very, very hard to do. I used to think I could read a book or read the Bible but truthfully I am unable to focus well on anything. So I just have to let my thoughts run and pray that the time passes quickly. I spend a lot of time praying, but not in a consistent manner- more like a sporadic way when the anxiety starts to drown me.

It is hard on days like this one to even know what to pray for. I have a t-shirt that reads “Dear Jesus” then lists the whole alphabet and ends with ”Amen” and I truly feel like this is my prayer on surgery days. I don’t even know where to begin.

As I let my mind wander I couldn’t help but process that the rest of Malachi’s life will continue to be full of these procedures, waits, and bad news. Malachi’s body will only continue to decline without a miracle from God.

The amount of potential suffering that lies in wait for my son takes my breath away.

I found myself pouring my heart out to God and praying over Malachi’s death, and begging God that Malachi’s entrance into heaven would not be preceded by suffering. I love Malachi with all of my heart, and I treasure every minute, hour, and day I get to spend with him. But my mind wanders often to the potential ”lasts”.

I know I share this verse often, but this week its words soothe my heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Those initial words, ”Do not lose heart”. I have been evaluating what that process looks and feels like, and I have realized that this is a temptation often in my life, and especially on surgery days. It is allowing discouragement to take my eyes off of God and giving them the opportunity (and excuse) to focus on current reality.

When I keep reading that verse I can’t help but think about Malachi’s frail, scar covered body that continues to fail him over and over again. The medical community has created such amazing technology to preserve life, but it also allows a firsthand look at the ”wasting away” that this verse refers to. As Malachi ages and his medical conditions progress these words pop off the page at me. And it is easy to allow my focus to rest on the doom of those words and stop there. But we have to keep reading.

Yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

So what does that process look like? It means that our bodies are designed to fail us. Malachi’s body will fail, my body will fail, and your body will fail. No one is exempt from this process. The words of this verse remind me that we are daily being renewed, and sustained, by God because He has more work for us to do on earth.

God will continue to renew Malachi day by day because He has more God honoring work for Malachi to accomplish. And when I fix my eyes on the unseen I remember that even the suffering that we may encounter, or our “light and momentary troubles” are being used by God in ways we cannot see.

I don’t know what lies ahead for Malachi. But I do know that regardless of the potential suffering leading up to it, the day that Malachi runs into the arms of Jesus will be the best day of his life. And that hope that I have in Christ keeps me choosing joy in spite of the hard days.

Please pray for our family as we enter new territory. Transitions into new medical routines is always challenging. We will be starting a new style of breathing treatment daily as well as trying to introduce several new medications into his system. That many changes can trigger his seizures and cause a lot of discomfort, as we are already starting to witness. Please pray that his body adjust quickly and that the benefits outweigh the complications.

Much love,



I find myself eager to write the blog tonight, really needing to dump some emotions somewhere. It has been a busy week, full of good things and hard things.

It is sometimes difficult to explain the pendulum of being a special needs mother to others in a concise way. As I thought about our week I visually pictured a toggle switch so I whipped up a visual to help me explain.

First of all, let’s collectively laugh at the ”off” sticker in the middle. All of us moms can agree that we never rest in an off position as momma. In my days I often toggle between these two very different styles of mothering.

When the switch gets flipped to the Medical Mom Mode I become caretaker. It is not that I withhold love and cuddles in this mode, but my focus is more utility making sure needs are met and life is preserved. This mode takes an incredible amount of effort and focus. Medication doses, seizure activity, positioning, oxygen levels…it is a mode that I can’t afford to do half heartedly. Oftentimes the fun gets overshadowed by the necessary, so it becomes a dark place for both Malachi and I to rest in. And a boring mode for Levi. But I also can’t afford to let emotions cloud my thinking, so those get shut off to allow me to focus.

Then there is Typical Mom Mode. I am always keenly aware when I am in this mode, and it is a gift each and every time the switch gets to rest here. In this mode we get to pretend that medical issues don’t exist and just enjoy being a family. I would venture to say that each day has moments of this mode, but spending more than an hour or two in this mode is rare. Medical routines and feeding schedules require the switch to get toggled back over. And truthfully it is in this mode that the exhaustion of medical mom catches up with me, depleting my energy to do much with the boys. Adrenaline crash is such a real thing in our world.

This week I spent a lot of time in Medical Mom Mode. Malachi’s brain is severely damaged and one of the areas that sustained injury is the part that controls temperature regulation. This week has been filled with mysterious high fevers that appear out of nowhere and disappear after an hour or two. Normally I ride out these fevers and they eventually stop, but he is scheduled to go to the operating room on Wednesday for his bronchoscopy so I am a bit more nervous about waiting it out.

On Tuesday evening we got home from soccer practices and I fed Malachi. Within 10 minutes he zoomed from 98.6 degrees to nearly 102. His oxygen saturations dropped from 94 to 84 and his heart rate was around 170. He started visibly shaking, clearly in pain and the only thing I could think of that may have contributed to this sudden change was the fact that Malachi had not had a bowel movement in several days. I started to wonder if we were dealing with impacted stools so I packed a hospital bag and took him down to the Emergency Room at 1am. By the time we got there he was completely back to normal…no temperature, no oxygen issues, normal heart rate. I almost felt foolish being there but we went ahead and verified with x-rays that he was moderately backed up.

They sent us home with a clean out protocol, so the second half of our week kept us home and close to medical supplies and diapers. I will spare you the details from that process haha. Saturday night his random fever came and went and tonight it came back. Something is definitely irritating his system but it doesn’t seem to be a visible illness.

In situations like these it seems the switch gets jammed into medical mom mode and superglued there. Even in my sleep I am listening for seizures (worsen with fevers) and waking up to administer medications and check temperatures. When Malachi is uncomfortable I try to do anything in my power to keep him comfortable, and oftentimes that means holding him for hours and hours at night. I lose track of days and nights and psychologically that starts to mess with me. It has been a mentally and physically exhausting week.

But let’s talk about some fun things for a bit.

Our soccer ministry came to an end yesterday and it was such a fun final day. We set up some backdrops for parents to snap some photos and I snagged a few of the boys during our trial run. I had to bribe them to smile with some chocolate from the concession stand but the results were worth it.

The last six weeks has been such a refreshing thing for me as I had the opportunity to connect with so many amazing kids. We were able to talk to them about Jesus twice a week and teach them soccer. Watching them improve their skills and soak in truths about God energized me so much. I am going to be sensitive to not post group photos without parents permission, but I know this sweet girls momma won’t mind me sharing this one. Such precious souls!

Monday the boys had their annual appointments with the pediatrician. Because we are followed by so many specialists we don’t often have to go to the pediatrician, so most of these annual appointments are me filling her in on what each specialist is happy with and concerned with. She was pleasantly surprised with Levi’s progress in one year and Malachi’s ability to communicate.

Levi had to get a few shots and was not happy. When we got in the car I heard him mumbling to himself in the backseat and I asked him to repeat what he said. In a sulky voice he said ”Me ’bout punched that doctor.” Y’all, I have no idea where that came from. We don’t talk like that, but in his mind he was ready to start swinging.

Levi is so observant and has picked up on so much medical terminology. He often catches me off guard with his random knowledge, like the correct names for the tools the doctor uses. This week he saw me drawing up Malachi’s medicine and said ”Getting Malachi’s keppra?” Malachi takes 6-8 different medications and he can correctly identify 4 of them by name when I hold up the bottle. Ummm what?!? That isn’t something I have taught him so I was shocked when I tested him. Smart boy.

Malachi got a fancy new headrest cover for his wheelchair to complete the Spider-Man theme. He is very proud of it! We found an Etsy shop run by a high school girl and were thrilled to find one that was perfect for Malachi. If you are a special needs mom and want to check her out here is the link:

You can also spot our new family game in the background. Malachi absolutely loves this dart board and gets really into our friendly competition.

Now on to some reflection time. I haven’t had a chance to really script this beforehand so you all get the fresh cut version.

This week Levi said ”Mommy, look at this.” When I looked down he was crawling on the ground like a baby.

And I felt hot tears come to my eyes. I have been a mother for 9 years and it was the first time I witnessed a child of mind crawl like a baby.

Now Levi is four years old and walking, jumping, climbing, and scaring me on a daily basis with his adventure seeking. But here he was crawling, and so proud of himself for his ability to coordinate his body to do that action.

He jumped up, waiting for affirmation and I laughed through my tears and told him how proud I was of him. And then the feelings flooded in. Actually, they are flooding in right now as I type this.

The first wave of emotion is such joy. I flashed back, thinking about that little baby Levi hooked up to oxygen, his feeding tube, and a pulse oximeter 24/7 for the first few years. I remember watching him play on the floor and trying to make a plan for when he would start to crawl. But after months and months of waiting that developmental skill never came.

The second wave of emotion is such mourning over our loss of normal. A sadness that after 9 long years I am celebrating something that most parents get to celebrate a few months into the parenting gig. Our journey has been so, so hard. It has been riddled with disappointment and unmet milestones. And filled with specialists that are very skilled at using those unmet milestones to label, medicate, and reality check us. I actually detest milestones and the grief I allowed them to bring into my life.

The third wave of emotion is shame for even allowing emotion #2 to enter my psyche.

And the fourth wave of emotion is overwhelming thankfulness. I am so thankful for a miracle in Levi’s life. I am thankful that God granted us these seemingly insignificant glimpses of normal.

The truth is that I could choose either of these four emotions and settle into them. I could decide which reaction to stick with, and let it influence the moment. And I could find dozens of you that would justify whichever one of these I chose.

As Christians we are called to be different than the world. We are called to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

We aren’t called to settle in the dark places our mind will inevitable be drawn to. Even when they are justified.

This week I was sitting on the couch with Levi and I noticed him studying our photo wall. He pointed at the large, stenciled words scattered in between the pictures and asked ”Mommy, what do those words say?”

It was the first time he has noticed the words so I read each one carefully to him…

“Whatsoever things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent…Think on these things.” (Taken from Philippians 4:8)

He intently listened to each word, trying to understand what they meant. I explained that we are called to focus on the good things that God does in our life instead of the bad. I asked him if he could think of a good thing God has done for us and he said ”Malachi amazing!”

Yes he is, buddy. Yes he is. Cue the ugly cry.

We kept the list going and talked about the good, and watching him reflect was such a reminder to me that wherever that toggle switch lands, whether I am in medical momma mode or typical momma mode, I am called to focus on the good, recognizing the gifts God places in those moments for me.

I don’t know what labels you could place on your toggle switch, but I want to challenge you to look for the good even when it gets flipped to the challenging position.

Please say a prayer for Malachi this week as we attempt a procedure on Wednesday. Pray that it is a fruitful endeavor and we get some answers onto whether or not he is aspirating.

Much love,


Faith Ownership

Daylight Savings is a thorn in the side of most special needs family, and definitely one of my least favorite things twice a year. We live by the clock, constantly monitoring medication schedules, feeding schedules, appointment schedules…you get the idea. When the clocks change life gets a bit bonkers as we try to level out to a new normal. I will be working for the next several weeks to slightly move medication routines a little at a time to be cohesive with the boy’s routines.

The boys had appointments with their pulmonologist this week, each for different diagnoses but it is so nice to be able to combine those appointments. Levi is still doing really, really well and specialists are continued to be surprised at his voice quality. Most children with his condition are unable to speak, or can only speak with a slight whisper. We can tell that his vocal cords are still paralyzed due to the minor rasp in his voice and the very slight stridor when he is active. But overall the doctor is very pleased with his progress. Levi’s main ENT and pulmonology specialists are in Cincinnati but we are also followed here locally so we have a point of contact for emergencies, hospital stays, medications, etc.

Total rabbit trail here…but 9 years ago I would have thought this was such a sweet picture. Now all I can see as I look at it is that invisible germs dancing on those steering wheels and the inner voice inside of me yelling ”get your finger out of your mouth!!!” But then I remember that after so many years of desiring with all my heart to push a child in a shopping cart, God has answered my prayers and given me a taste of normal…nasty germs and all. I am also laughing at this picture as I look like a neurotic mom who buys things in fours. And that may be true…but I will instead blame the weirdness on a buy one get one free sale on green beans and Nature Valley bars. Ahh rare glimpses into the unspoken mind of Leah.

Malachi’s appointment did not go as I had hoped. For the last 9 years we have oddly been able to avoid pulmonology for him. Even when Malachi was fighting for his life in the NICU, his lungs were shockingly strong. Recently I have noticed his oxygen saturations dipping and he has had shallow breathing, mainly right before bedtime. Our last two ER trips were due to this issue and we have been unable to find full blown pneumonia that we can point to as the cause. In an hour he can swing from an oxygen saturation of 94 (his baseline) down to 89. While this doesn’t send me into a panic, I am watching our safety window closing as 88 is the ER worthy number and typically the hopsital admission mark.

When they triaged Malachi at our appointment Wednesday he was having a hard time pulling a number higher than 89 and the nurse grew anxious. He did not look oxygen hungry or in distress but I understand her anxiety over his numbers. She went and got someone from the respiratory team to come in and they started to try to hook him up to the wall oxygen in the exam room. I knew if they did this they would likely try to send us on to the ER and I really did not want that to happen with Levi in tow. I had just medicated Malachi in the waiting room and I assumed that maybe his reflux was causing his shallow breathing. I tried some positional changes and he popped up a bit for them to feel comfortable.

When the pulmonologist came into the room he listened to Malachi’s lungs and said that they sound very wet. He has not been sick, so he believes this is a pretty good indication that Malachi is aspirating his saliva and secretions (meaning it is going down into his lungs and settling). The hard part with this issue is that there really isn’t a great treatment to stop him from aspirating. He already isn’t taking any food by mouth, and we can’t really make him stop salivating. So even if we did determine that there is fluid in there, we can’t do anything about it.

So if that is the case we need to start treating the potential bacteria that is getting into his lungs with a routine antibiotic. This is done often for patients with cystic fibrosis and other airway disorders so it isn’t an uncommon thing- but obviously one we would love to prolong as much as safely possible. In a week and a half Malachi will have a CT with contrast (dye) so they can see the anatomy of his lungs as they function. Then he will go directly into the operating room for a bronchoscopy so they can send a camera down into his lungs for a look as well as testing the fluid. Levi has had about two dozen of these but this will be Malachi’s first. They are relatively quick and painless but he does have to go under anesthesia, and they can often trigger an immune response after bringing on a fever.

As much as I loathe any and all procedures and surgeries for my children, I recognize that many serve a needed purpose and this is one of them. So I am in the momma mode of ”let’s just get this over with”. We need to get ahold of his oxygen needs before any sickness hits Malachi and gets too far beyond an easy repair.

We all three got sunburned on Thursday then snowed in on Saturday! The weather has been so wonky but fun. We had a much needed family day on Saturday, just soaking in the quiet time and taking turns trying to catch up on some sleep.

We are still wildly but wonderfully busy right now. This week we have had Bible studies at the church on Tuesday (kids soccer) and Wednesday (youth group) and at the house on Thursday (for women), Saturday (for men), and Sunday night (for the youth). We are still cooking for the teens, which always leaves me laughing. Tonight we had over 40 youth in the house! What a blessing….a chaotically wonderful blessing.

I think often about my boys and their individual walks with the Lord. Malachi carries a pure innocence that I sometimes envy. I truly believe he loves the Lord, and he loves to talk about spiritual things. He is very intelligent and has the capacity to listen and understand truths. I smile when I think about the joy Malachi’s life brings the Lord. And what a ”chosen instrument” he is.

1 Corinthians 1:27 ”But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

At face value this verse can sound offensive towards my Malachi, but you know my heart better than that. God has used what our human eyes see as ”foolish” and ”weak” to shame what we consider wise and strong. Seeing God work in Malachi’s life has reminded me of the mysterious ways of the Lord.

Then there is Levi. Sweet, wild Levi. We are very much like first time parents with him as the developmental stages he goes through are new to us. Each day I find myself in wonderment at some of the things he says and does, recognizing that he is a unique individual with a mind and will of his own.

I read a quote: ”Children don’t grow up to be Christians because of their Christian upbringing, but because God took their unregenerate heart, and made it alive in Christ.” -Angela Mitchell

I have been really challenged thinking about Levi’s walk with God and what that will look like. And one of the things that I keep settling back to is how much I desire to not manufacture that walk for him. There is something so beautiful and important about each of us on our own journey falling in love with Christ. As youth leaders we see firsthand a false confidence that ”coat tail” faith can give- teens relying on their parents faith as if it were their own, all while never truly experiencing God for themselves.

Levi is set up to be a coat tails kid as he is often at the church when the doors are open. He is our ministry sidekick and witnesses a whole lot of religion. But it doesn’t matter how many times he steps foot in church or how many Christian songs I play on the car radio- God will pursue him and he will have to open that door when the Holy Spirit knocks.

Now, this doesn’t absolve me from raising him in a Christ saturated home. And it doesn’t excuse me from opening the Word of God with him often to teach him what it says. The Bible is very clear about our responsibilities to train up a child. But it has activated this trust in God inside of me, remembering that I don’t have to drag my children to the throne of God….He is also their good Shepherd and when the time is right reveal Himself to Levi. When I look at Levi and remember that He is on a faith journey all of his own it brings me such happiness.

Levi’s testimony is already such a powerful one, and when I hear that beautiful, raspy voice that he “would never have” my heart warms thinking about those mysterious ways of God and what he has in store for my son.

My job as momma to these two amazing children is to continue to cultivate a life of faithfulness and allow the fruits that God grows in our lives to be a natural classroom in which my children can experience God for themselves. That they may ”taste and see that the Lord is good”, not because of something I taught them or a story that I told, but rather because they witnessed His immeasurable grace with their very own eyes.

Please continue to pray health over our family, and pray that we are wonderfully surprised by a good report from Malachi’s upcoming procedure.

Much love,


Grace Abounded

Today’s post is full of photos!

We live in a small, rural town in Tennessee but I am continually amazed by how wonderful this area is. Our friends own a farm a few miles down the road and have been adding some exotic animals to the mix: kangaroos, camels, llamas, emus, and so many more. This week they had a burst of baby goats, baby lambs, and baby puppies that needed to be bottle fed so I took the boys over to help.

When Malachi’s senses get overloaded he shuts his eyes so he can focus. Malachi loves animals and being able to get him close to them is such a special treat. Levi has no fear, so I have to keep my eyes on him…and the llamas continue to believe his hair is hay and chase around getting a lick in to test their theory.

Little Levi has been dressing himself lately so if you find him in giant clothing or backwards shorts with knee high socks just know momma wasn’t willing to fight the small battles that day.

If I am being completely honest with you, life is pretty crazy right now. We always embark on this crazy train for 6 weeks starting in February and we always survive it. In addition to our ministries we also begin fundraising for our teens to go to youth camp in the summer. Our adult soccer league will end tomorrow and that will free up two of our evenings again.

This weekend we tackled soccer all morning on Saturday and then hosted a fundraising banquet that evening, serving dinner/dessert/entertainment to over two dozen couples from our church. We set up a photo backdrop for photos and I took the opportunity to take a quick photo with Jake, but we were running pretty ragged, so I left the backdrop up so we could get a new family picture after church this morning!

**Full disclosure here: I am a big fan of transparency and being authentic so I feel compelled to mention that these photos have been slightly edited. I have an autoimmune disorder that affects my thyroid, something that has become more obvious in recent years. I often hesitate posting pictures of myself because of the comments and personal (well-intentioned) messages I get from people concerned about my enlarged thyroid. I see the thyroid doctor a few times each year to monitor the nodules that keep appearing and get them biopsied each year, but so far everything is benign. If the nodules continue to grow at the rate they are going I will need to have my thyroid removed, but we are delaying that as long as possible. Not a big fan of my crazy neck but I also recognize that it helps keep my vanity in check haha!**

Malachi has been doing so well these last few weeks and his personality is continuing to grow. Right now he is in a very opinionated phase and it is so fun to see him feeling empowered to communicate his desires.

His sense of humor is pretty amazing too. He is a genuinely funny kid and finds humor in so many things. He loves hearing a good, funny story. Health wise he is doing so incredibly well right now. His seizures are still there and out of control but he is happy and relatively healthy so we are so thankful.

I had just started entertaining the thought of being able to transition the boys into two separate bedrooms at night but this weekend I woke up to Malachi struggling to breathe. He was in the middle of a seizure and had inadvertently turned his face into the mattress and cut off his air supply. I don’t feel confident that I would be able to hear that through a baby monitor and it wake me up from a deep sleep so I still sleep nose to nose with him.

Levi is also staying healthy, something I have been praying fervently over! It has been so faith building for me to watch God protect us all from sickness as we have been coaching just under 100 kids twice each week in the soccer ministry. Praise the Lord!

Levi has been loving the warm temperatures here and has been riding his bike every chance he can get.

And yes, the puppies are all grown up. They are both about 90 pounds and still growing! Watching Levi ride his bike has been very special to me. I have actually been having a lot of those special parenting moments lately. I have been a mom for 9 years now but in so many ways we are new at the ”typical”.

Watching Levi’s character develop has been so much fun. He heard this week that one of our neighbors was sick and he immediately went to the fridge and asked if we could take her some food. ”Does she like grapes, mom?” as he packed her a bag of food from our fridge. I told him we would reach out to her this week and offer to bring her dinner. Then today at lunch he set one chicken finger aside and some french fries. I asked him why he wasn’t eating them and he said ”I am saving them for Ms. ____.”

Watching that kindness develop in him is an indescribable blessing.

I have been thinking a whole lot about parenting lately and I have read two quotes that have really stuck with me.

The first one is a quote from Pastor Andy Stanley: ”Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God might not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

I have been given the blessing of being a testimony bearer for one of my children, and a cheerleader in the stands for the other. They each already have such powerful testimonies and I find myself captivated by the plans that God has for each of their lives. What a blessing motherhood is. And what a wonderful challenge to raise children to recognize the voice of God when He calls them.

The other quote isn’t a feel good one…but it is incredibly challenging and something I needed to hear.

”Your kids are not ’making you crazy’, they are revealing your sin.” I wish I could credit this quote but unfortunately the source I read it from didn’t credit it either.

But take a moment to read that one again. If you don’t have children yet, plug in the name of your spouse, boss, family member…

All week long I have been reflecting on this one and bringing it to mind each time I find myself frustrated throughout the week. And each and every time I am able to back it up to a specific sin in my life- most often my pride and my desire to control instead of trust God. It is so interesting how our flesh can take our sin and push the blame onto others around us. The devil is such a deceiver.

A huge part of a healthy relationship with God is taking ownership of our sins. Naming them. Acknowledging them. And most importantly learning to hate them rather than accept them.

Sins remind us of the need for a Savior.

If you get a moment this week take the time to read Romans 5. There are so many beautiful truths in this chapter about our sin. Verses 6-8 tell us this:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

And then another beautiful verse:

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (verse 20)

In order for us to understand the magnitude of what Christ did on the cross we have to acknowledge our sin. Our worldly pride tries to tell us that we are justified in the sin that we daily allow. But Christ calls us to a life that is different than the world, a life full of grace from God and true repentance for our sins.

This week I am thankful to be a mom of two wonderfully unique boys and increasingly thankful for the many lessons they continue to teach me. And I am thankful for a God that allows His grace to abound, even when I don’t deserve it.

Much love,