Monday, December 30, 2013


Apart from the forty-eleven questions I get from our resident four-year-old on a daily basis, I've also been asked one specific question by the adults in my life lately:  

"So, do y'all 'do Santa' with Ethan?"

While, "Mommy, what does 'sarcastic' mean?" can be quite tricky to explain, my answer to the Santa question can be just as difficult. I say this because it can instantly seem judgmental or snarky, neither of which I want to convey.  It has nothing to do with the "war on Christmas", or even that "Santa" and "Satan" share the same letters.  (I'd love to know who sat around and figured that one out...)

We've had a lot of conversations about this over the past few weeks, so I know that many of you are thinking through these same thoughts.  For Jeramie and me, the decision to no longer "do Santa" became simple as we were driving back to Raleigh on Christmas Eve and realized this:

The "message of Santa" that is taught from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve is in conflict with the message of the Gospel that we strive to teach Ethan all year long.

Santa says: you deserve gifts because you're a good boy.  The Gospel says: you are more sinful than you ever imagined, but more loved than you ever dared hope.

In response to the ultimate gift of Jesus, we spend all year-long thanking God and giving Him credit and glory for what He has done.  Then December rolls around and, by "doing Santa", we have no one to thank but ourselves, since we've theoretically done all the work of "being good" to "earn" all these awesome gifts.

(Side note: I've yet to read a blog post about the kid who got nothing from Santa because he/she couldn't maintain good behavior throughout the month of December.  What parent would do that?! And if you would, why even perpetuate the idea of Santa in the first place?)

Now, that's not to say that Ethan will never take a photo with the jolly ol' guy or that he won't adorn Santa-related pajamas at some point during the Christmas season.  It also doesn't mean that we'll shoot you nasty looks when you mention the "S-word", and it definitely doesn't mean that we'll judge you for including him in your Christmas celebrations. It simply means that, for our family, we'll "do" Santa about as much as we "do" Mickey Mouse.  He's a friendly character that shows up in books, movies, and TV shows.  Just as we can travel to Disney to visit The Mouse, we can make our way over to the local mall to see Mr. Claus.  They can hug and smile and and high-five, but Ethan will know that Santa won't fulfill a list of Christmas wishes any more than Mickey will actually invite him into the Clubhouse.

Our goal is for Ethan to know that we give and receive gifts because we love one another, and that love is out of response to the love God showed us through Jesus' birth - all of which require grateful and humble hearts.

But what about the magic that Santa brings?

I read an intriguing blog post a few weeks ago that made the point that, for Christians, Christmas is already more than magical.  I don't care for the "Santa is a lie" rant that takes up the first few paragraphs of the post, but the rest is really, really good.  If you're seriously contemplating some of this stuff, I would encourage you to read it

My parents "did Santa" when I was little and I have fond memories of what that was like.  I've also realized that if Santa were to be removed from those memories, they would be just as sweet.  The nostalgia I feel is related to the traditions my family shared - visiting the world's largest Christmas tree, singing Christmas carols in the car, spending Christmas afternoon at my grandma's house.  While Santa did "show up" at our house on Christmas Eve, he was not the main event, and all of those memories exist just as fondly without his presence.

When Ethan is thirty-one years old and reflecting on his childhood, I want him to have warm memories of being a kid, tangled with love and kindness.  I hope he'll be able to look back and say, "I remember when..." and smile about those times.  Most of all, I want him to understand that Jesus Christ - our Savior, our Rescuer, our Redeemer - is the center of it all and that in Him we live, and move, and have our being.  My hope is not to raise a child who enjoys a few years of Santa's magic, but to raise an adult who grasps the fullness of our Savior's love.

That, my friends, will be quite magical indeed.

Friday, December 27, 2013


"...for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
-Luke 2: 11-14

I've always loved Christmas - the story, the lights, the songs, the togetherness. It is my all-time favorite holiday! Something about Christmas this year was extra sweet for our family. Maybe it's Ethan's age, our focus on Advent and Jesus' birth, the simplistic approach we took - or a combination of those things - but it was truly wonderful. We did things a bit differently this year and I look forward to continuing these traditions and making new ones in the years to come.

Here's how the Tri Mulli "did Christmas", in 20 photos or less...

We decorated...

We celebrated Advent...

"Every story whispers His name"

The Advent e-book we used was exceptional! Each day corresponded with stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible (which is also fantastic).  All three of us thoroughly enjoyed this experience.  I can't say enough good things about it! (Plus, the teacher in me can't get over how much Ethan's coloring improved over the course of the month...)

We traded gifts for experiences...

We spent time with friends... 

And enjoyed lots of family time...

We celebrated with our church family, too...

In the eight years we've lived in Raleigh and been a part of our church, we've never been able to attend the Christmas Eve service.  That all changed this year and will be a priority from now on! Seeing my sweet boy's face lit by candlelight while we sang "Silent Night" just about did me in.  It was the perfect culmination of all we learned during Advent and set the tone for Christmas day.

We gave and received gifts...

...simply because we love and are loved, not because our behavior is deserving of presents under a tree.

And we spread some of that Christmas cheer to local hospitals...

We ate, we laughed, we played.  We thanked God for sending his Son to rescue us, and we celebrated that extraordinary gift.  I never sent out Christmas cards and an elf never donned our shelf, but Christmas still happened with awe and wonder for what has been done for us.

And, in the words of Ethan, in response to me telling him that Christmas is over: "Christmas is about Jesus' birth, so Christmas is still here."

Amen, my sweet boy.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Since becoming Ethan's mama, one truth has been repeatedly pounded into my heart and my soul: God is faithful.  I've grown up in church all my life, so my mind has always known this to be true, but only in the past four years has my heart grasped it as well.

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I lose sight of His faithfulness and I begin to doubt and worry.  But! Every single time, God brings me right back to this place.  He's even faithful in proving His faithfulness! It's a good thing I'm not God.  I would have surely rolled my eyes at myself and left me to figure it out on my own by now.

Not only is He faithful, He's so very good, too.

With that said, I have an announcement to make...

Mama's got a J-O-B!

But first, let me back up a bit.  Stick with me for a minute, please...

Since June of 2009 (with the exception of the year I went back to work full-time), our family has received SSI and Medicaid benefits for Ethan.  While the system is completely flawed and incredibly frustrating, those benefits were a massive blessing for us.  The monthly check we received allowed me to stay home with Ethan so that I could be present for therapies, appointments, and hospital stays, and Medicaid paid for all of those things.  We knew God was using those benefits to provide for us, so we swallowed our pride and accepted the help.  Replacing a full-time salary with a government-issued disability check came with a huge lifestyle change, but it was just enough for everything we needed.

In March of this year, we found out that we no longer qualified for SSI payments because of the "resource limit".  That was a hard pill to swallow, but we pressed on.  We fought the decision, which extended Ethan's Medicaid coverage for six more months, and ultimately we believed that everything would be reinstated in September.

Well, we found out last month that we have been indefinitely denied.  We will no longer be receiving the supplemental monthly income and Ethan's medical expenses will no longer be covered under Medicaid.

I won't lie; I was MAD.  It felt as if we were being punished for maneuvering this system with honesty and integrity.  I cried - a lot.  I remember sitting on the floor of our walk-in closet, sobbing over the phone to Jeramie.  At that moment, everything - from our adoption to how we would buy groceries the next week - was up in the air.  As I expressed to him that I was scared and didn't know what we would do, he spoke truth to meHe reminded me that God is our faithful provider.  He didn't know what would happen, either, but he was confident that just as everything had changed so quickly for the worse, it could just as quickly swing back the other way.

That was on a Tuesday.

On Thursday morning, two days later, I went to a rising-kindergartner tour of a local elementary school.  The principal and I taught together for five years and he has since become the principal of this new school.  It's one of my top choices for Ethan and it was my very first school tour.

That morning, I walked into the building as a prospective parent and walked out a couple hours later with a job offer. "Floored" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt when he casually asked me, "Hey... would you be interested in some part-time work?" I was (still am!) utterly blown away by God's faithfulness and goodness.

My answer was a resounding "YES!" and, as of yesterday, I have returned to the Wake County Public School System.  I've been given the incredible opportunity to teach/tutor kindergarten and 1st grade special education students while Ethan is in preschool, and I couldn't be more thrilled!

We still have a long couple of months to go before my first paycheck, but I am confident in the Lord's provision.  He has reminded me, yet again, that He is our hope, our provider, our cornerstone. He is faithful.

This will be a slight adjustment for me, so please pray that I will manage my time wisely and settle into this new routine gracefully. 

Here's to new adventures for 2014!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Over the past four and a half years, I've often struggled with "waiting for the other shoe to drop".  When Ethan was inpatient at Duke it seemed like there was always something, and those dramatics continued until well past his first birthday.  I had a difficult time trusting that he was truly okay and shaking those anxious feelings.

The further removed we get from his last surgery, though, I find myself "forgetting" that he has a less than ideal heart.  Words like "stable" and "healthy" replace "critical" and "rocky".   Two-week appointments are traded for six-month ones and we live a typical, relatively boring life in between them.  The anxiety subsides and we learn to trust Ethan and that special body of his.

Then, I get a mid-morning call and the worries and fears come racing back.  At one point yesterday, I had convinced myself that Ethan would need a defibrillator to further protect him from this arrhythmia.  Thankfully, I talked myself out of that one pretty quickly, but those dark places are still most definitely there!

But, enough about me.  I know who y'all are really here to read about...

The report from Dr. I this morning was music to our ears! "I am not concerned.  This isn't anything we need to worry about.  He's doing just fine."

Praise the Lord!

Here's what we know after this morning's tests: there is an atrial arrhythmia present, it has happened seventy-some times in the past seventy-six days, and it only lasts (on average) about 30 seconds.  It is something that we'll continue to keep an eye on, but no intervention (medicine or otherwise) is currently needed for it.

I'll take it.

Ethan's pacemaker is also performing excellently, so surgery is at least four months away.  Given that no other concerning rhythms show up on the monthly call-ins, we'll take Ethan back to see Dr. I at the end of March!

Thank you for the love you've shown us and the prayers you've prayed over the past twenty-four hours.  God is good and I am full of relief and gratitude. 

We love y'all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


So, I got a call from Dr. I today. 

It's never a good feeling when you see the name of your child's cardiologist pop up on caller ID at 10:00 in the morning, especially after realizing you had just missed a call from him four minutes prior.

Apparently, Ethan's heart was in some sort of funky rhythm on Monday while we were performing the monthly call-in for his pacemaker.  It appears to be an atrial arrhythmia and we've seen it pop up before.  Dr. I is concerned that Ethan's heart could be entering into this arrhythmia more frequently than we thought, so he wants to see him sooner (like, tomorrow) rather than later (at his scheduled check-up in two weeks).

He's fitting us in first thing in the morning and Ethan will have a full work-up.  A pacemaker interrogation will let us know if/when any arrhythmias have occurred over the past three months, and we'll know exactly how long Monday's episode lasted.  Ethan will also have an echo to make sure his heart function is not being compromised by any of this.

Based on the general pacemaker status (battery life, condition of the leads, etc.), we could walk away from tomorrow's appointment with a very real idea of when Ethan's next surgery will be.

Take a deep breath with me and say a few prayers for us, please.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Yesterday I spent a couple hours visiting with families on the 5th floor of Duke.  Those halls have become so familiar to me over the past four and a half years; I'm confident I could navigate them with my eyes closed if need be.

On one hand, it's hard to believe they were our home for nine and a half weeks; some of the memories have faded, our scars have healed, our life has gone on.  But, on the other hand, our time there feels like it was only yesterday.  It sounds so cliche, but it's so very true.  Memories flood my mind with every pump of the soap dispenser and every beep of the monitor. 

My heart still drops standing outside of 5324.  I remember exactly what I was doing the moment Ethan's monitor told us he was flat-lining, but I can no longer picture the nurse who finally retrieved my phone from our room so that we could call family and friends.

As I snuggled with a precious four-month old baby yesterday, just six days out from open-heart surgery, it was hard to remember Ethan just two months older, being discharged on that sixth day.  Memories of how to hold a baby with a freshly opened chest awkwardly came back to me.  "It's like riding a bike", her mama assured me.

I spent a lot of time remembering yesterday.  Remembering the hours of pumping, remembering the feeding difficulties, remembering the scary times and the joyful times when sometimes only tears could express how we felt.  As I hugged another mama who was preparing her own heart for a surgery that would fix her baby's, I remembered.  The fear, the grief, the hope.

Some days, like yesterday, I think back to those early days of Ethan's life and I wonder how in the world we made it.  Then, I remember.


Your prayers.  Your encouragement.  Your support.  The kingdom of God was alive through you.  I remember the calls, the texts, the blog comments. (I've saved most of them!) I remember the visits.  I remember you making us laugh and I remember you sitting with us in silence.  I remember the way you prayed with us and for us, sometimes around the clock.

I remember all that, and so much more, and I'm thankful - thankful for where we've been, thankful for where are are now, and thankful for the opportunities to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  We are so thankful for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

Happy Monday, friends! We've had a beautiful weekend here in North Carolina. Even as I type this, the sun is shining brightly and our windows are wide open! How's that for mid-November? The past few weeks have been home to some wonderful family time, a long weekend for Jeramie and me, and a great balance of productivity and relaxation.  Have I mentioned that I love fall?

Ethan gets cuter and funnier by the day, and equally as challenging! He and I have had some rough patches lately, but a trip to Granny and Poppy's seemed to be just what we needed to take a breather and reset our attitudes.  Praise the Lord for grandparents!

So, the question I get asked most often these days is, "How's the adoption going?" Let me just tell you - it is not easy.  We haven't even gotten past the application and we've already done more soul-searching and wrestled with more questions than my feeble mind could have imagined.  It's tough, but I am more than confident that it's exactly where we're supposed to be.

As far as where we are in the process, we've chosen an agency and we're about half-way through the application.  Our goal is to have that sent in before Thanksgiving.  There are some outside factors that could hold us up, so we're just trusting that God's timing is perfect.  Please continue to pray for us as we check boxes, lay out our financial information, and attempt to sum up our family and our faith on a series of blank lines.

I've also gotten a lot of questions about how this adoption is related to the trip to India, and how it plays into us having additional biological children.  While the timing may cause you to think otherwise, we are not adopting from India (yet, at least!). We are pursuing a domestic adoption and would be thrilled if we're on the waiting list by late spring. This adoption is, in no way, intended to "replace" having additional biological children.  As Christians, we are commanded to care for orphans, and adoption is one way God has called our family to do that. 

This is not "Plan B" for us.  We know that God is bigger than my infertility. We are not "just adopting" because my body doesn't want to grow babies right now.  I believe with all my heart that I could birth another baby again someday, but we are pressing pause on our plan for our family while we pursue His.  I'd even go as far as to say that God has used this "momentary affliction" to point us to that plan in order to break our hearts for the things that break His.

And, man.  When you hear that the world-wide orphan population would make-up the 7th largest nation, that's heartbreaking.

Figuring out how to care for these children can feel daunting and overwhelming.  No one I've talked to since starting out on this journey has the answer, and adoption is not always that answer.  Some of these children need to be reunited with their families, some don't. Some are available for adoption, some aren't.  So what do we do?

Isaiah 1:17 has been on my heart for a few months now, and I think there are no simpler instructions...

"Learn to do good; 
seek justice,
correct oppression; 
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause."

Do good by one another.  Work toward justice for all.  Help the poor and needy.  Shut down stereotypes.  Defend those who can't defend themselves.  Show love and compassion.

We can all do that, can't we?  The way I live that out day-to-day may look different from how you do, but the big picture remains the same.  Even after Jeramie and I bring a precious new baby into our home, we can't simply check Isaiah 1:17 off our list; our job is not done. 

I have a feeling adoption is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing the "pure and undefiled religion" that James describes.

I can't wait to see how we'll continue to be led into that.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
-James 1:27

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall fun!

Fall is, hands down, my favorite season.  There comes a day, typically in October, when I step outside and can feel it.  The air is a bit cooler, the leaves are less green, and it just smells like fall.  Jeramie senses it, too, and we share a wide-eyed look that says, "Bring it on.  Let's do this."

The hoodies come out, the windows go up, and our house constantly smells like pumpkin.  I think our love for the season is quickly rubbing off on Ethan, too.  A few days ago, we walked outside and he declared, "What a beautiful day! Fall is my favorite year!"

Going to the pumpkin patch is a much anticipated family event each fall and this year's trip was especially built-up.  I won't name any names, but someone had to be removed from a birthday party, kicking and screaming, the morning of "pumpkin patch day" a few weekends ago.  We canceled our visit for the day and I'm honestly not sure who was more disappointed - Ethan or me.  We more than made up for it the following week, but not without learning a hard lesson in controlling our emotions. 

Just keepin' it real.

Now, back to happier times...

First up, I was able to join Ethan on his first-ever field trip and it was about as cute as you can imagine it to be! He has made fast-friends with Parker this year and their friendship warms my heart.  They were pretty much inseparable throughout the whole trip!

Other field trip highlights include: feeding a goat, picking out a pumpkin, and finding our way through a millet maze.  Good times!

A couple days later, Jeramie, Ethan, and I ventured out to a new-to-us farm outside of Raleigh.   It was much smaller than the others we've visited, but so fun! Ethan was most looking forward to the corn crib and it did not disappoint! Little did we know that we brought home about a cup of kernels in the pockets of his overalls, half of which showed up in the washing machine a few days later.

Ethan was all about feeding the animals there ... for about two seconds.  Once he saw the size of this cow's tongue, he quickly changed his mind! I put on my brave face for his sake, but I'll admit that I didn't love it, either.

I mean, really. Look at that tongue! ...and Ethan's face.  Everything about this picture makes me laugh!

There were a few other fun things for kids to do, too - rubber duck races, barrel train rides, and an awesome playground!

Of course, the hayride out to the pumpkin patch was a big hit! Each of us brought home a pumpkin, which we plan to decorate sometime this weekend, and I'm pretty sure it's going to involve power tools.  Stay tuned.

The prized pumpkin in the patch.

After a quick trip through the corn maze, our afternoon at the farm was complete. If you're local to the Raleigh area, check out Naylor Family Farm (but find a coupon first)!

This face? He can do it on command and it cracks us up every single time.

It's fall, y'all! We hope your days are happy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On saying "yes"...

Up until I was twenty-one years old, I had never stepped foot inside an airplane - a fact that greatly surprised many of my college friends.  Growing up in Small Town, USA, I'd never had a reason to fly anywhere and, quite honestly, the desire was never there either.

Fast-forward through a couple years of college and my roommates and I came up with the grand idea to fly to Los Angeles to visit another college buddy.  It wasn't until I began walking down the jet-way that I started to panic and question our decision.  Surely I could keep both feet on the ground in North Carolina and see our friend some other time, right? And what part of my brain thought it would be a good idea to lose my "flying virginity" on a cross-country flight?

Once we boarded the plane, I discovered that my seat was separated from my friends' and I may or may not have cried.  Some poor military guy, who was well-versed in traveling above the clouds, got stuck beside me - the irrational first-timer.  His tan knuckles were white by the time I was done with them, but he managed to convince me that looking out of my window wasn't such a terrible idea.

I've loved flying ever since.

Over the past ten years, I've found myself in planes headed to California, Oregon, Ohio, New York, and Florida - but never outside the borders of our country.  I'll often get the itch to fly somewhere, but rarely has it crossed my mind that the "somewhere" might be more than a few hours away.


Four months from now, I'll be walking down another long jet-way into quite possibly one of the biggest planes I've ever been on.  I'll settle into my seat for ... I don't even want to know how long ... and, yes, I'm sure there will be tears.  (Mandy - get your knuckles ready.)

God has given me an opportunity to travel to India with Global Hope India and I'm still in awe of how He works.  Much like adoption, international missions has never been "my thing".  I'll support "those people" who are "called" all day long, but I've never "felt led" to personally participate.


I've been learning over the past few months that caring for orphans and making disciples of all nations aren't callings that give us the warm-fuzzies.  They're commandments that will most likely make us a little uncomfortable.  Adopting a baby and leaving my family for an international missions trip have never been on my short-list, but they're on God's and who am I to say "no, thanks"?

So, I'm saying "yes, please" and I would love your support.

First and foremost, please begin praying today for our team.  There are around ten of us going, flying into Hyderabad then traveling in-country to Kesigna.  We'll be in India for about nine days, with a day or so of traveling to and from the U.S. on either side.  While I do pray for the safety of our team and the people we'll be loving on, my main prayer is that the good news of the Gospel will be heard loud and clear by the people of India.  Furthermore, I pray that they will be empowered to share it with others long after we leave.

In addition to your prayers, I am in need of financial help to make this trip happen.  The total cost is $2,800 and I need half of that within the next two weeks in order to book the airline tickets.  It is very difficult to ask for money, especially after wrapping up Heart Walk fundraising, but I'm stepping out in faith that some of you would like to financially support God's work in India.  If that's you, I would ask that you prayerfully consider being a sponsor of my trip.

You can make an online donation by following this link: Donate to Joye Mullis


You can write a check payable to Global Hope India, with a note included with my name, and mail it to: 400 Fayetteville St., Suite E Raleigh, NC 27601

(All donations are tax-deductible.)

Am I nervous? Absolutely.  Am I excited? For sure.  Do I sometimes look up and think, "Lord, what exactly are you doing?" Just about everyday.  Getting to a place of saying "yes" to God is a wild journey, that's for sure, but I'm confident it's where He wants me ...and you.

Thanks in advance, friends.  Your support is greatly appreciated!

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"
-Matthew 28:18-20

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Washing" D.C. in Photos

A few days before our trip, Ethan and I were having a conversation about where we were going and what we would be doing.  I referred to Washington as simply "D.C." and Ethan found it necessary to correct me...

"Mom, it's not D.C. It's Washing D.C. You hafta say the whole word."

My bad.

I'll refrain from captioning every photo with "the sky was so beautiful!", but it really was.  We couldn't have asked for a more pleasant sight-seeing day and I'm glad we were able to experience it all before this week's shutdown!

Other trip highlights include: Jeramie meeting John McCain, riding an underground trolley from the Senate office building to the Capitol, and meeting up with friends for dinner and play-time before heading back to N.C.

We're looking forward to returning some point... for a longer stay!

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