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.

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