Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Little Reminiscing

When I was a little girl, my Papaw kept Chris & me while Mama & Daddy went to Hawaii. Being handy - & a good Papaw - he built me a little stool so I could "wash dishes" in the kitchen sink. One day, he left me happily playing in the sudsy water until all of a sudden, he heard "a bloodcurdling scream" (his words). He raced into the room expecting to find me grievously wounded, only to come upon me holding out my pruny hands in tears & exclaiming, "They're ruined!" (I was a bit of a drama queen as a child.) I find today that this little girl still lives in me, for after spending an hour scrubbing doors, molding, & baseboards, my hands are pruny, & I can barely stand it. Thankfully, I shed my drama queen side long ago, so I'm not in hysterics . . . much.  ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Red Pepper & Prince Albert, Reunited

My dearest Emma,

What a hard week this has been. Your schedule has been completely thrown off. Naps didn't happen when they should, almost every meal was take-out, & I was not available to you like I normally am. Except for a melt-down or two, you handled beautifully the disruption to your normally routine & fairly placid life. I'm so proud of you. I have, in no small way, your sweet Daddy to thank for this. It's been a heartbreaking week for me, & he's been right by my side the whole way - supporting me, helping me, being a shoulder to cry on, & taking on the tasks that I simply wasn't able to do. It would have been sheer misery without him. Quite honestly, without his heroic effort, I would have missed out on the opportunity to see one of the dearest souls who ever lived before she breathed her last. I'm grateful to God for the gift your Daddy is to me.

You won't remember the sorrow of this week, but I'll never forget it. It's hard to think that it's already been a week. One week since I lost my Granny. One week since one of the brightest lights of my life dimmed, flickered, & went out. Just two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, this spunky, precious lady met her Lord & Savior face to face. What was the happiest day of her whole life was one of the saddest for me. Even now, my eyes are welling up with tears; but, make no mistake, these tears are for me, not her. They are for my loss, because I will - I already do - miss her something awful. I cry, also, for you, because you will never know her this side of heaven, & that is a great loss. I want you to know her as I do, though, so let me tell you about the Granny I grew up with.

First of all, she was as sweet as her famous iced tea, which is still the benchmark for tea in my book. "Well, it's not like Granny's" is my common reply when someone asks how the tea is. Secondly, she could cook. Especially desserts. All of them are wonderful, but we each have favorites. Your Mawmaw is partial to Granny's baked chocolate pudding, your Uncle Chris loves her lemon cake, & I adore her World's Best Cookies. I never ate a bad meal from her table, but the best of all was her Creole Sauce & Rice topped with a heaping amount of Parmesan cheese, all mixed together & patted down. Yes, sir! Good stuff!

Granny's laugh is infectious. I say "is" because the thought of it still makes me smile. Plus, I reckon she's laughing more now than she ever did before. And with our crazy family picking on her about dancing on the table, telling stories about Papaw Jack, & fighting over who was her favorite grandchild (me, obviously), she had plenty to laugh about! Her laugh was so infectious that she could be clear on the other side of the house, & her laugh would set me to giggling.

Every single time we stayed with her, Chris slept in the "school room", & I slept in her bed with her. Even when I was a teenager or when Chris went out to Papaw's, I slept with her. One night, I awoke to her saying,  "Ow! Oh! Oh!" & discovered that my dream about getting into a fight with Chris had turned into me bopping my poor sleeping Granny on the head! (It's our family's curse that I still laugh at that memory.) I remember feeling awful & apologizing, but promptly falling back asleep. She never said a thing about it the next day. Thankfully, it didn't make her skittish about continuing to share the bed with me. We even shared a bed the night before your Daddy & I got married. I treasure that memory.

Granny had all sorts of quirks & traits that made her so very lovable, & there are memories of her that still make me smile. She beat your back when she gave hugs. She closed her eyes when she talked on the phone (something I caught myself doing the other day). She would go through every other family member's name before getting to yours (Lisa, Brandy, Steve, CHRISSY!). She always kept Christmas coloring books for me because she knew I loved them. She sat on the floor & played Go Fish with Chris & me. She & I would go for walks & the insects would swarm around me & even dive bomb my head despite me being slathered in repellant while leaving her unprotected self completely alone (true story). She took us to the school with her (she taught 2nd grade for 20 years) so we could play in their blue carpeted gym. She bought us BBQ sandwiches at Claiborne's & snow cones at the stand at the end of her street. She made bubble baths for me, let us play in the sprinklers, & had Papaw set up a swing set for us. She'd sit on her front steps while I hung from the monkey bar & Chris leaped from the tire swing hanging from her big Oak tree. We set off fireworks in her driveway & watched "The Wizard of Oz" every year when it came on TV. Her living room at night with the curtains drawn was cozy & dim. I still try to get that effect myself in our home, even if it's just a corner. She loved to read & kept a little notebook of the books she'd read. She & Papaw would talk on the CB radio that sat by her bed; his handle was Prince Albert (the tobacco brand he rolled his cigarettes from) & hers was Red Pepper (red hair + feisty personality = her). She collected spoons, & they hung on her wall in the kitchen. She was always busy, always wanting to clean & help. She had pictures of every family member on the wall in her "school room". I only saw her angry once in my entire life. She said a cuss word, & I remember being shocked that she knew that word!

I look around our house & see vestiges of her:  Her cast iron skillets that I cook in every morning. Her chest of drawers that sits in our room & holds my sewing fabric & her sewing kit. Our little yellow sofa, "Granny's sofa" with the wooden frame, & the matching rocker. Her scalloped glass amber bowl (my favorite) that I sobbed over when it broke a few months ago. The little wooden mirror hanging in our hallway that used to hang in her front bedroom. Her mouli grater that I always use to grate cheese (just like she did when making pear salads for me). The "Autumn in New England" CD that she bought me because I loved hers so much. The hummingbird feeder hanging on our porch, which was never hers, but reminds me of how she always had one filled for her little feathered guests. The sound of a ceiling fan & the sight of curtains billowing in the breeze, which remind me of all the naps I took in her bed. The sound of night critters in the summer that always take me back to her little single-wide that was sort of in town yet almost in the country. The sight of pine trees stretching up to the sky, swaying back & forth in the wind just like those behind her house.

Granny was special. Spunky. Funny. Fun. Precious. Adorable. Beloved. Missed. These are all words that describe Ellie Evelyn Willis, your great grandmother. And, of course, Red Pepper, who has now been reunited with her Prince Albert before the King of Kings. One day, I pray you'll get to meet her. I guarantee you'll love her as much as we all do. And one of the beautiful things about that day is that we'll be able to throw away one of her adjectives, because she'll be missed no more. I look forward to that day. Until then, I'll tell you stories about your "Hip Granny" & we'll live out her legacy of spunkiness, fun, good food, & sweet tea.

Love Always,

Friday, February 28, 2014

Trying Days & A Faithful God

Photo Credit: Storm Clouds over Lone Pine by Gary Hamburgh - All Rights Reserved
Found on BluEyedDaizy
It's been a trying few days. Oh, not completely, mind you. There have been lots of wonderful moments: playing with Emma, laughing with Michael, visiting with my family by marriage, & chatting with Mama. These have been fabulously happy moments! But in between those moments, the clouds have rolled in as my thoughts have turned back to the disagreement with an old family friend that has resulted in a complete fracturing of the relationship.

Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut. Looking back, that is really the only way that I could have prevented it. And maybe that's what I should have done. You see, without going into great detail, this friend posted a status that I had some trouble with, one to which I attempted to apply some biblical wisdom. As she claims to be a Christian, I assumed there would be no problem with this. I was wrong. Very long story short, she took offense & we went back & forth several times. I apologized for my wrong & asked for forgiveness, but she would not repent of her wrong, & chose to withhold forgiveness & end the friendship.

I don't like conflict. It ties my stomach up in knots. Trying to be objective, I've taken a look at myself & discovered that there are some things about me that mean that sooner or later, I will be in conflict with someone.

     ~I have a temper, especially when I'm tired, hungry, or emotionally taxed in some way. These things make me impatient , more easily irked, & more likely to enter into an argument. That's not good. I definitely need to refrain from interactions as much as possible when I'm in these states. (That's one reason why I'm better at communicating through writing, because I'm able to let my emotions cool before initiating or responding. I'm also able to proofread & reword, so that something that would come out of my mouth harshly can be significantly toned down.)

     ~I don't like untruths, especially when it comes to the Bible. Now, I've learned over the last few years not to engage every error that comes across my newsfeed. But there are times when I feel like my friends need to hear the truth. I try very hard in those times to tell the truth in a loving way, but I am firm. I do see things as black & white, & I don't back down from the truth. I honestly believe that whether we like it or not, truth is truth. (One of those truths [that came up in this instance] is that there is no such thing as "serving a different God". There is one God - the God revealed in the Bible. He is the only way to salvation, & if you don't serve Him, you serve a god of your own making who cannot save you. I may write a blog post elaborating on this later.)

     ~I'm not terribly skilled in the "kid glove" treatment, & tend to opt for a more straightforward approach. (After reading that last point, I can hear the sarcastic, "No! You don't say!" coming all the way from my Mama's house in LA. But it's her fault. I get it from her. ;-) ) I've found that not everyone handles the straightforward approach well. I often feel, though, that the kid gloves water down the truth (which ultimately doesn't help anyone), but sometimes I do better. However, Michael's the one really skilled at putting on those gloves. I probably need to rely on him more.

     ~I tend to believe that everyone has the right to express & defend their view, so I act on that principle. I'm always a bit caught off guard when I interact with someone who wants to have their say & deny me mine (which doesn't happen often, but was the case here). It just doesn't make any sense to me to direct a comment my way, only to get angry when I respond.

     ~Finally, I operate from a framework in which the Bible informs my life rather than trying to use my life to inform the Bible. I believe that the Bible tells me how I'm supposed to conduct myself in every sphere of life, & that I'm to be obedient to that. (Not that I'm perfect, so I'm thankful for the gifts of repentance & forgiveness.) I reject any notion that we're allowed to interpret the Bible according to our own opinions or disregard any part of the Bible that we don't agree with & still call ourselves faithful Christians with a strong faith. This clashes significantly with the postmodern mindset that seems to be prevalent in our society & even among some Christians.

I've prayed a lot over the last few days. I've asked God to help me not be petty & post FB statuses that jab at this person. My flesh wants to, but He has helped me control that. I've asked Him to take away my anger, to forgive me of my anger, & to "renew a right spirit within me". I've asked Him to keep me from the sins of an unrepentant heart when I'm confronted with my sin & an unforgiving heart when I'm sinned against. I've asked Him to help me obey His command to be reconciled to others. I've asked Him to help me be gentle & loving when confronting others' sin & to keep me from self-righteousness lest I become guilty of the same. I've asked Him to help me be more wise before opening my mouth (so I don't step into another hornet's nest or make things worse). Finally, I've thanked Him for forgiving me of my sin & saving me from my sin & His wrath. I'll never be perfect this side of heaven, but how incredible is it that He continues to love & sanctify me so that one day I will be a perfect reflection of His Son! And just like that, the clouds are blown away.  ;-)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

All About Emma

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." ~ Psalm 127:3

By the wondrous grace of God, I get to experience this first-hand daily! Emma is a tremendous "reward", a phenomenal blessing to her Daddy & me! My heart is filled to bursting with joy & love because of her! So, this post? This is all about Emma.

As I write these words, she's sleeping in my arms. I love feeling her chest rise & fall against mine, love the feeling of her warm breath on my neck & her dreamy twitching fingers on my shoulder. Except for a brief stint from 3-8 months, she's never gotten to the point of sleeping on her own. At night, she's never far from my side, sometimes even groggily rolling over & snuggling into my chest in her sleep. At other times, she awakens a bit more & crawls on top of me - a couple of times even going to the trouble of rolling me onto my back so she can complete the endeavor. ;-)  And if I should attempt to get out of bed - say for a "top-of-the-morning-my-bladder-is about-to-burst!" emergency - I must do so ever . . . so . . . slowly, or I'll have some cranky company. Sadly, she will soon find herself going through sleep-training boot camp (of the no-cry variety) so Emma can nap by herself & Mama can keep up with the household chores I'm currently drowning under.

During her waking hours, she is an absolute delight! She loves to dance, & lets you know she wants the music on by bouncing at the knees & stomping her foot. She runs toward the speakers, then laughs & dances with gusto when she hears the music. She loves Sovereign Grace Kids, Brook Hills Kids, & (funnily enough) Shai Linne. She also got in a good dancing session this evening to Dave Carroll's "United Breaks Guitars" trilogy. What can I say? The girl's got good taste! Just this morning, she was dancing to her knock-off "Little People" farm, which was beyond adorable. I would push the doorbell so the music & animal sounds would play, & as soon as she heard it, she started bouncing & jumping (with the windowsill's aid). It doesn't play long, though, so we pushed the doorbell over & over to make it last longer. Yep! Adorable sums it up!

She also likes movies & tries to climb in the pack 'n' play whenever I ask her if she wants to watch one. I let her choose between 2 of them, & I've noticed that she always chooses the one in my right hand. I have no idea why. She loves all of the versions of "Monsters, Inc.", "Toy Story", & "Despicable Me". She snuggles down amongst her stuffed animals (including her 3 feet tall panda bear, Oreo) & watches while I cook, clean, or get a shower. (As a side note, I was totally one of those "my kids aren't going to watch TV" people. You know the ones. Those wise people who know everything about rearing children before actually having them. Yeah. That was me. I know better now.)  ;-)

Reading is one of her favorite pastimes. All I have to do is ask, "Do you want to read a book?", & she drops whatever she's doing, toddles to her play area, & plops down on her mat expectantly. That always tickles me! She happily sits on the floor with me or in my lap & reads book after book. Sometimes she sits right there mesmerized; other times she plays while still listening to me read aloud. I can always tell she's still listening because when I stop mid-way through the book, she looks around at me as if to say, "What happened? That's not the end."

She loves playing with her blocks. We'll build them into a tower, counting as we go, & she gleefully squeals while she knocks them down! Then we do it all over again. She also loves "her babies", be it furry or doll, & is usually toting around one or more. She's very sweet & gives them lots of hugs & kisses. But she also likes to stuff them in the towel basket, hang them over the toilet paper holder, & drop them behind her changing table. Those that aren't strewn throughout the house can be found in her pack 'n' play waiting for movie time, when she lays on & among them, sometimes melding in so well that you can barely see her! She also likes making beautiful music on her xylophone, playing in her tent, dumping out her chunky puzzle pieces (although not necessarily putting them back), turning the lights on & off, sword fighting with spoons, & biting her toes while I shrilly exclaim, "Noooo! Don't eat your toes!" & "Ewwww! Gross!" She thinks that's hilarious!

Emma girl is quite a talker! She regularly says "Mama", "Daddy", "bye", & "baby", & the rest is her adorable baby babble. Just this evening at supper, she said what sounded like "gollygollygollygollygollygollygolly" in her precious little voice. It was seriously cute! Michael sometimes likes to joke that she's speaking in tongues!  ;-)  She's also not afraid to let you know when she dislikes something, especially if it's new. I heard all about it the other night when she observed my new face-washing ritual (she disapproved of the rag covering my face), & she was none too pleased when I washed my hair after bathing her. She stood in front of me in the tub & babbled in a somewhat stern voice to let me know there was to be no more of that!  ;-)

She's started giving sugars instead of just receiving them, even making the smacking sound with her lips. Sometimes she achieves this by putting her upper teeth over her bottom lip & smacking. Other times she makes a fish face. Again, adorable! Perhaps it's because of how we kiss her repeatedly, but she's not one for moderation when it comes to giving sugars, walking a short way away only to double back several times to plant one on you. She's also been having her babies give each other kisses, like her bath time squirting beaver & otter, making the kissing noise for them. Of course, being an animal lover, she hugs the dogs & (tries to hug) the cat. And not to leave anyone out, she gives sugars to the pictures of her Daddy, Mawmaw, & Papa Ray that pop up when we're talking on the phone.

She loves to be chased & caught! Like, seriously, LOVES it! Every time I say, "I'm gonna get you!", she takes off running, her little feet slapping the floor & her little hands waving. She laughs as I chase her & then squeals with delight when I snatch her up & give her sugars. Then I set her down, say, "Run! Run!", & we do it all over, again & again. It never gets old!

She's a wonderful helper, always going out of her way to help me close the refrigerator, dryer, & dishwasher doors. It can be a bit of a problem, though, when it's nice outside & I want to leave the front door open. Invariably, five minutes after I walk away, I hear the door close & see her walking away, triumphant. ;-)  She also picks little things up off the floor to give to us. And if she has something she shouldn't, she may run away when we ask for it, but she (almost) always brings it back to us. Likewise, she brings my phone to me when she hears the cricket chirp informing me that I have a text message, & she hands me my shoes when she sees me putting on my socks. She's such a good, sweet girl!

Emma loves taking a bath & playing with her toys. Her hair has gotten so long that we have to use conditioner to combat tangles & a blow dryer to get it dry. She's not wild about having her hair rinsed twice, & for some reason - 
so long as she's standing - she feels better about the water that inevitably runs down her face. She also doesn't care for the blow dryer & often hides her face in my chest to try to avoid it. She's very good, though, about having her teeth brushed, & she enjoys the homemade (by one of my nieces) lip balm that I slather on her lips afterwards. (Although I do have to remind her to keep her mouth closed, no doubt because the peppermint scent is just too tantalizing!)  ;-)

Speaking of lip balm, she recently discovered a tube of lipstick that I never use. It's a vibrant shade of magenta! (Which is why I never use it, because I feel like a circus clown in it.)  Boy howdy, does she love that lipstick! First she got it out with her fingers - because I'm not about to show her how to turn it! The second time, she used the bulb end of a medicine dispenser. Don't ask me how I'm going to get the lipstick out of that thing. I still don't have a clue. Just last night, she somehow fished the lipstick & a pair of long tweezers off the counter, & I found her on the floor in the bathroom covered in magenta (as were the bath mat & floor)! Each time, she looked at me like, "What's so funny?" as I doubled over laughing at finding her in such a state. She is such a hoot! Obviously, I took pictures!

Our baby girl is a very good eater & tends to eschew more processed foods. Except for chocolate. Oh, my, does this girl like chocolate!! But if you don't have chocolate, give her some fruit, & she'll be happy as a pig in mud. Especially if it's bananas. She lights up like a lightning bug when you offer her a banana! She also loves spaghetti squash with meat sauce, sweet potatoes, steak, & - yes - bacon. Oh! And French fries slathered in ketchup (like her Daddy)! Taco soup, pancakes, & cinnamon rolls, not so much. We gave her Chick-fil-A minis the other day, & she even picked the bread off so she could just eat the chicken! She's a pro now at using her spoon & fork, & loves to be praised for her achievement. She's not shy, either, about getting the applause started if Michael & I are lagging behind. ;-) Despite my best efforts, I've never been able to get her to use her signs, so she just points & makes noises for what she wants. I guess that's her sign. ;-)

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." ~ Psalm 127:3

Truer words were never spoken! Thank You, Father, for our precious, beloved "reward"! We love her more than words can say!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Forgiveness: Are Repentance & Reconciliation Necessary?

Can true forgiveness happen without repentance? Without reconciliation? These are 2 separate yet intertwined questions that I've not only been thinking about, but dealing with lately. One situation is long resolved, the other relatively new & ongoing. My emotions are a tangle of anger, confusion, & hurt, but I'm hoping that writing this will help me sort them out.

In short, I think the answer to both of the above questions is yes AND no. For the first question, I think you can give true forgiveness without the other party's repentance, but it takes time. Time because hurt feelings have to be worked through & gotten over. Repentance, of course, helps speed that process along. Without that acknowledgement of a wrong done & a sorrow over the pain caused, the healing simply takes longer. The time needed also depends on the depth of the wound. Even with repentance this is often the case. Forgiveness, in that case, may be immediate, but the hurt & damage still have to be healed. Just as with any physical wound, healing is not instantaneous. And, as we all know, emotional wounds are often harder to heal than physical ones.

What about reconciliation? I know from personal experience that reconciliation can likewise occur without repentance, but time will again be a major factor. Even then, full trust may never be restored if repentance has never been expressed, again depending on the depth of the wound.

As for the other part of this, do true forgiveness & reconciliation go hand in hand? In other words, can you forgive & not be reconciled to the person who hurt you? I know I sound redundant here, but I think one of the factors - maybe even the main factor - is how deeply you've been hurt. I also think it depends on how often the same person hurts you. If someone displays a habit of causing pain, that is going to be a factor in whether or not reconciliation can occur. There are times when you can forgive a person, but the sin is so grievous (or repetitive) that reconciliation is impossible, unwise, or incomplete.

Here are some examples from my own life to illustrate what I mean. If you know me well enough, you know I was molested as a child. In that situation, I was hurt not only by the molester, but also by two other family members because of their response to the revelation of the molestation. Repentance was never expressed by anyone. It took years - 2 decades, really - but I was finally able to forgive all 3 of them. Two of the relationships have even been restored. I am grateful for this. One relationship - with the molester - will never be restored, nor should it be. I harbor him no ill will, but there are natural consequences to our actions, & destroyed trust is the least of those when you violate someone like that.

The recent & ongoing situation is of a much less serious nature, thankfully. It has been very hurtful to me, though, for a couple of reasons. One, it's a recurring event. Meaning that - particularly over the last few years - this person has caused me some excruciating pain repeatedly. Secondly, this most recent occurrence communicated to me that our relationship is not the close one I had thought it to be. I do believe forgiveness can happen, even if repentance is never expressed, but I don't know that full reconciliation will happen. Or maybe I should say that the fundamental nature of the relationship may have changed from a deeper friendship to a more surface acquaintanceship. At this point, I can't say because my emotions are too raw.

I don't know if any of this makes a lick of sense to anyone, or if it is the tiniest bit helpful to anyone (I hope it is), but I appreciate y'all letting me think out loud (sort of) & try to figure this out for myself. It made me feel a little better to flesh this out a bit. So, thanks for sticking with my rambling. ;-)

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Being An Example To Our Children

A disgusted Michael showed me a video today of a group of girls engaged in a popular sexually-suggestive dance while what sounds like a grown man cheers them on. These girls appear to be from around 7 years of age to early teens. I watched in growing horror & disgust as they frenziedly gyrated to this man's enthusiastic encouragement. The whole spectacle was repulsive. It was vulgar. It was disturbing. And it brought home to me the very real responsibility we parents have to protect our children. Of course there's the issue of the pervert videotaping & encouraging these young girls to move their bodies in this way. "No decent grown man behaves this way! What on Earth is wrong with him?! And where are the parents of these girls?!" Such were some of the (quite appropriate) reactions to the video. Obviously, that man needs some responsible fathers to come set him straight, if you catch my meaning. But that aside, we need to remember that these sorts of things don't happen in a vacuum . . . which set me to wondering. How many of those outraged people bring (or allow) into their homes the music of the singers who "dance" this way? How many of them have been entertained by such performances on the T.V. or computer? Our children aren't blind; they see perfectly well what we are entertained by & follow suit. After all, if it's okay for a performer to do it, why not our children? We can pretend there are 2 standards here - one for adults & one for children - but we need to remember that children learn by example. So, when we see our children behaving in certain ways, we always need to look in the mirror first to see where the blame falls. (I'm not denying here the doctrine of original sin, but I am saying that our children observe behaviors in us & others that stoke their indwelling sin & even give it new expressions.) And that leads me to one other facet of this video that bears scrutiny, & that is that this occurred in a group. These girls fed off of & emulated each other. Which underscores how very important it is for us to guard our children from destructive "friends". When we see that our children's friends are teaching & encouraging sinful behaviors, then we should erect barriers between them. That is our job, even if no one else agrees, for our children's good. We have a God-given responsibility to guard & protect our children. Just because we won't be 100% successful in this fallen world does not mean that we shouldn't be diligent in that task. Children are moldable, & their young hearts, minds, & affections have to be protected from any influences that seek to harm them. God has given parents that responsibility, & we will answer to Him for how well or poorly we shoulder it. There is grace when we fail, thanks to our Savior, but it is a solemn task we undertake to raise our children in the fear & admonition of the Lord, & we must work at it to the best of our ability. So, all that is to say that I was very forcefully reminded this week that Michael & I must be oh, so careful what we allow into our home, lest we unwittingly encourage our little blessing from God to choose friendship with the world rather than God because of our example. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rethinking "Working" Mothers

A couple of days ago, Matt Walsh posted on his blog about the animosity toward stay-at-home mothers & how society has it all wrong. Being a stay-at-home mother myself (& a housewife before Emma was born), I've felt the judgment & pressure to "go to work" first-hand from friends & family. So, Matt's post resonated with me, & sharing it sparked a conversation between a friend & myself. As a result, I wanted to take some time to address where I believe Christians are going wrong when it comes to mothers who work outside of the home.

First, I want to be clear that I am not speaking about all working mothers. I am not talking about those mothers who have no choice, who have to help their husbands provide for the family even though their heart yearns to be home with their children.  I am not talking about those mothers who have cut extraneous expenses everywhere they possibly can, who go without cable, the smartphone, the new car, & the bigger house, yet still require her salary to make ends meet.  I am not talking about those mothers who, through no fault of their own, are raising their children by themselves - like my own mother had to - & have to work in order for them to live. Finally, I am not talking about mothers whose children are grown & living on their own. All of these mothers are doing everything they can to take care of their family, & they are right to do so.

But there are an awful lot of mothers who do have a choice, who could stay home & commit themselves to the noble task of being the primary caregiver of their family, but instead choose to work outside of the home because they . . .

     -would "go stir crazy" being "cooped up" at home; or

     -put a lot of time & effort into obtaining their degree & don't want to "waste" their talents at home; or

     -want to be able to live "the good American life" (i.e., cable T.V., iPhone, a new car, a bigger house, designer wardrobe, vacations, etc.).

Amongst unbelievers, these are expected & acceptable attitudes. They have unchanged hearts & unredeemed desires. But those of us who are saved by Christ are to look to God's Word for guidance, not follow the world's "logic". And God tells us that

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." ~Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis mine)

So, the older women are to teach the younger women "what is good", & part of that teaching includes that the younger women are to be "working at home". Why? "That the word of God may not be reviled". Which means if we don't attend to this, the word of God will be reviled.

Now I realize this flies in the face of what our culture proclaims & even what many in the church practice. I am also aware that some - or perhaps even many - of us may not like this teaching. However, our feelings are not the final arbiters of truth, any more than the culture or even our own opinions are. God's Word is, & whether we like it or not, it's quite plain here what God's plan is for His daughters. The world tells us this is antiquated, outdated, primitive. Perhaps. But that doesn't make it less true or right. And, really, when we take off the blinders to get a good look at how living according to the world's standards has destroyed our society, we see that God’s way is also better.

If Christ is our Savior, He is also our Lord. We can't say that He saved our souls from damnation, but has no right to tell us how to live our lives. If we show by our actions that He's not our Lord in this life, then we show that He's not our Savior from God's wrath in the next. As Christians, we know that we "were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 7:23) & are "bondservants of Christ" (Eph. 6:6). As such, we cannot claim freedom of choice over what God has decreed. God has dominion over every facet of our lives. Our responsibility as Christians is to prayerfully search, study, & meditate upon His Word so that we may discover His will & then act on it.

I'm not saying this is easy. Anyone who has read their Bible knows that we are told that following Christ means going against the world's "wisdom" & enduring hardships. What this looks like changes from person to person & family to family. For us, it's meant hearing repeated questions from family & friends about why I'm "wasting my talents" by "not working". . . & when I will be. It's meant not going on vacations that we felt an almost desperate desire for. It's meant not having cable (or even a T.V.) or a smartphone until this past year. It's meant making do with older clothes, & eating at home (although not as much as we should). It's meant not buying a new car (because what we have works) or a bigger house (because we can't afford it on one salary). It's meant distinguishing between needs & wants. It's meant sacrifice. It's not easy, but the trade-off of being home taking care of Emma - & knowing that I'm obeying God to His glory - are both so very worth it. No matter what we do, in the end, all mothers - whether working outside of or at home - sacrifice something (or someone). But it occurs to me that this sort of sacrifice, the kind where we give up some "things" in exchange for always being with our little one(s), is always worth the reward.

So, all that is to say that for those mothers who do have the choice to stay home with your children, you should make the sacrifices necessary to do so. Not because I think so, but because God says we should be "working at home". And if we claim Christ as our Savior, we must also submit to Him as our Lord.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning Lessons

There are all kinds of things I thought I knew about parenting (especially when it came to sleeping) . . . & then I became a parent!  ;-)

I just knew that babies sleep all the time, so it would be no problem to follow everyone's advice to "sleep when she sleeps". Then I had Emma, who seemed to have a built-in radar that alerted her every time I tried to sleep. I don't think she slept more than 30 minutes at a time for the first couple of weeks. I cried a lot because of sleep deprivation, & Michael said, "I thought babies were supposed to sleep" very often.

I just knew that it was easy peasy to get babies to sleep on their own. Then I had Emma, who always wanted to be held while she slept. Which is why she woke up every half hour when she was a newborn. I learned to hold her on my chest while we slept just so we could sleep, & I remember feeling so blessed when I was rewarded with 2 straight hours of sleep as a result. We finally tried putting her to sleep in our hand-me-down musical swing, & that thing was a miracle worker! As long as it was on, she slept. Which means we went through a lot of batteries, because she slept in it all night every night - plus naps - until her feet were hanging over the edge a bit!  ;-)  It was wonderful! If we're ever blessed with more little ones, we'll be getting an electric musical swing for sure!

I just knew that we'd never have a "family bed" & that babies leave parents plenty of time for chores while they nap. Then I had Emma, who slept by herself in her pack 'n' play beside our bed for 3 months before changing her mind quite dramatically. All of a sudden, when she was 7 months old, she simply could not sleep by herself any more. We still don't know what happened, but I followed everyone's advice to "let her cry it out", & was rewarded with a vomiting baby. We continued to try to put her down to sleep, but every single time, we ended up having to clean a vomit-covered baby, bed, & floor (plus ourselves). So, I finally gave up & now she sleeps snuggled up next to (or on top of) me at night & in my arms during naps. It's often inconvenient, but I'm learning to do what I can when I can & not stress about what I can't get to . . . because she needs me, & that's more important.

I just knew that I would be a Mama who got up before everyone else to get a shower & be ready when my family arose every morning. Then I had Emma, who knows when her Mama is not right beside her in the bed & wakes up protesting. One time she even sensed - in her sleep, mind you - that I was fixing to sneak out of the bed, & she woke up long enough to push me back down so she could crawl on top of me. Which, of course, made me laugh!

Actually becoming a parent opened my eyes to all of the things I thought I knew, but didn't. Emma's taught me plenty more lessons than are expounded upon here, & many more are to come, I have no doubt. But there is one more lesson that she teaches me every day, & it's the most important one of all.

I just knew that having a baby would be one of the most profound, most rewarding, most life-changing blessings of my whole life. Then I had Emma, who proved me right even beyond my wildest dreams. She has been such a joy, & each day my love for her grows . . . which always astounds me because my heart almost bursts with love & you wouldn't think it could hold any more! Yet it always does! She has shattered so many of the things "I just knew" about parenting before she came along . . . & I couldn't be happier.

*Note:  This is a light-hearted post about how Emma has changed some of my pre-conceived notions about parenting. I am not looking for advice on how to get Emma to sleep on her own. We're happy with our arrangement for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rethinking Homosexuality

An old youth group friend of Michael’s recently announced that he’s homosexual. This friend still claims to be a Christian, but is embracing rather than fighting his sin. To be honest, the writing has been on the wall in big, bold, uppercase letters for quite some time, so we’re not surprised. But we are sad. Sad because he’s given up the fight & accepted the culture’s lie that his sin isn’t sin, that it’s just “who he is”, & that he should celebrate it. Sadder still is that he does so in God’s name. Meaning that he is reveling in that which is reviling to God while simultaneously worshiping “God”. I say it like that because, unfortunately, the “God” he’s worshiping is one of his own making & in no way resembles the God of the Bible. And even sadder still, he’s going to take others with him.

Look, I get it. I really do. Although I've never struggled with homosexuality, I have my own struggles with sin. Because of some of the things I was exposed to as a child, I've had to fight against sexual images that have been indelibly burned into my mind's eye. And it's been a war at times! There's a reason that sexual sin is the only sin that Scripture tells us to flee rather than fight. It's incredibly alluring, deceptive, & strong. Which makes it deadly. It's not a foe that we can subdue on our own. And that can be so very wearying. We can get so tired of fighting against it - & often failing - that we just give up & give in. Sometimes we may think we'll give in just this once, just a little. Maybe that little acquiescence will satisfy the urge & it will stop hounding us. But it doesn't. It's got a foothold now, & soon it will take over completely, clutching us in a death-grip. So, we have to keep fighting it. We can't just give up simply because we've been at war with little or no relief for so long. We also can't give in because we've prayed for God to take it away to no avail. After all, are we better than Paul? God told him that "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). We should find comfort & strength here in our fight against sin! We should echo Paul with renewed vigor, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me"!

I know how hard it is to have something be a part of you that others find unacceptable. Honestly, everyone does. Homosexuals do not have a corner on this market. We are all born with a sin nature, every single one of us. And not a single one of those sins is tolerated in society - well, outside of the entertainment industry for some insane reason. But you take any sin - lying, stealing, adultery, anger, murder - none of these are tolerated in everyday life. They're all frowned upon & judged. It may not be comfortable, but it's right. I mean, do we really want to live in a society that encourages our most debased inclinations? I've heard homosexuals give the argument that their sin must be okay because they've "felt this way/had these desires" for as long as they can remember. So have all of us, it's just that our desires are for lying or stealing or venting anger. Go to any preschool & tell me I'm wrong. These innate desires aren't tolerated in toddlers because they're sin. They're wrong. The children have to be taught not only that they should change their behaviors, but how to do so. Homosexuality is no different. Those desires being present your whole life does not mean that it's not sin any more than my temper being with me my whole life means my anger isn't sin. And if you're a Christian, you are commanded - not encouraged or urged - commanded to "put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit" (Romans 8:13, yes, I know I mixed up the order, but the meaning is the same). We're promised, if we do this, that we will live (as in, with Christ in heaven). But we're also promised in the very same verse that if we "live according to the flesh, [we] will die" (as in, go to hell to endure God's wrath). Living a life reveling in our sin, celebrating our sin, & branding our sin "normal"/"okay"/"not sin" is living in the flesh. Whether that sin is anger, lying, or one of the sexual sins, & even if society is suddenly applauding it. And we absolutely, positively cannot live in the flesh and be true Christians. They are mutually exclusive.

Another argument by homosexuals is that "we can't help who we love". But homosexuality is not about love, it's about self-gratification. I know this because God invented love, which means He gets to define it, & He says in 1 Corinthians 13 that

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (emphasis mine)

God has told us repeatedly throughout His Word that homosexuality is wrong, & God always speaks the truth. Since love "does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth", then the person who pursues homosexuality is not pursuing love. Instead they are "insisting on their own way", a way that is in direct opposition to God. This is not love. It's not love toward God. It's not love toward yourself. It's not love toward your "partner". True love means holding fast to the truths & promises found in God's Word. It means that when God says, "This is good", we pursue it & encourage others to do the same. It also means that when God says, "This is evil", we fight it, we flee from it, & we encourage others to do the same. No matter how much we protest, true love will never, ever be found in any relationship where sin is being celebrated. We may not like that, but our feelings are not the final arbiter of truth.

Now, do I believe homosexuals can be saved from their sin? Absolutely! The Bible says so! There is no sin that can't be repented of & taken up by Jesus. There is no sin that He will not forgive & give His righteousness in return. I know there are people out there struggling against their homosexual desires, praying fervently that God will enable them to continue to "fight the good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7). And every day, sometimes every hour, God is giving them the strength to stand firm against their sin. To those men & women who have chosen to believe God's Word rather than man's, I urge you to continue your fight, knowing that you don't battle alone! I know that it is incredibly difficult to ignore the siren's song - especially when society is her backup choir - but God has promised that He has made you a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). Your old self with your fleshly desires has already been defeated by Christ! I love what He says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, especially the last half:

"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (emphasis mine)

And then again in Phil. 1:6, Paul gives us the sweet assurance "that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

You don't have to give in to your sin! God will continue to sanctify you, & one glorious day when you are ushered into His presence, that sin will be completely removed, & you will have to fight it no more! (Which is a good word no matter what sins we may be struggling against!)

Finally, a word to the church. We have failed our brothers & sisters who struggle against homosexuality. We have elevated this particular sin above all others without biblical warrant. We have thumped our Bibles in fury at homosexuality while neglecting to enact church discipline on the adulterers & fornicators sitting next to us in the pew. We have told our brothers & sisters who are struggling against homosexuality that they are going to hell while turning a blind eye to the young woman conceiving a child out of wedlock or the worship leader "having an affair" with the church secretary. All sexual sin is sin, & all of it should be confronted. The cheating spouse, the pornography connoisseur, & the co-habitating college kids shouldn't get a pass just because their sin is heterosexual. All sin is deviant, all sin dishonors God, & all Christians should be confronted in their sin. Lovingly, yes, but confronted just the same.

Then, there are those in the church who have lied to our brothers & sisters struggling with their sin, telling them that it’s not sin & that living a homosexual lifestyle is perfectly fine with God, when Scripture very clearly says otherwise. I know that in doing this you think you’re being loving & supportive, but what you’re actually doing is hastening their destruction. They are speeding toward a cliff, & instead of pulling the emergency break, you’re stepping on the gas! The loving thing to do is help them fight their sin. The whole point of the Gospel is that God loved us when we were yet sinners, & sent His Son to live a perfect life & die an atoning death in our stead so that we would be saved from His wrath & from our sin! Claiming God’s love while living in sin – any sin! – is delusional & damning. If you love someone who is struggling with homosexual desires, then do the truly loving thing & help them in their fight against their sin.

For Christians struggling with homosexual desires, find someone you can trust who will help you fight your sin & who you can also help fight their sin of anger, impatience, worry, etc. Remember to "place hedges" around yourself (to use a Nancy Leigh DeMoss term) to protect you from being tempted in your interactions - such as always meeting in public. And check out these resources from Desiring God & Grace To You. You're not alone, & there is help.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Gift of Suffering

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake . . ." ~ Phil. 1:29

I just read this, & felt that stirring in my spirit that always indicates the Holy Spirit's nudging. "Pay attention to this", He seemed to whisper. What caught my attention was the word "granted", which has the connotation of a gift. That means that, according to this verse, not only is our belief in Christ a gift from God, but so is suffering for Him! We could lump in our everyday trials, & in a sense that's certainly true. But the wording, "for His sake" leads me to think of suffering through persecution. That would mean that when our society persecutes bakers or photographers for refusing to serve in a homosexual union ceremony - to use two recent examples - that persecution is a gift from God. And when, like Paul did when he was persecuted for Christ's sake, believers stand firm in their convictions while responding with grace, He is glorified. Just like with Paul, the Gospel will be preached & sinners will repent & believe. What a glorious thought! When viewed through this lens - that our persecution leads to others' salvation - we can see the gift so clearly, & we can rejoice in our suffering, knowing that God is using us to fulfill His purposes! How truly amazing is our God!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why We Don't Vaccinate

I can't remember exactly when I began to question vaccines, but I believe it was a couple of years before Emma was born, when I first watched "The Business of Being Born". I was immediately hooked on homebirth! I loved everything about it & devoured every resource I could find. What does homebirthing have to do with vaccines? Not a thing. But the whole aspect of having a non-medicated birth because of the harmful effects of drugs on a baby naturally led me to question all drugs. I steered clear of all medications while I was pregnant & nursing. I didn't even take anything for my headaches or nausea, not even the ones deemed "safe". All I could think of was all of the drugs that we have been told were safe only to find out later that they weren't. I didn't want to take a chance, so I just dealt with any uncomfortableness for Emma's good.

Naturally, I also began to look into vaccines. After all, if we can be wrong about a medication's good, can't we also be wrong about a vaccine's good? In a world full of fallible men, it certainly seemed plausible, but I wasn't sure. I mean, as a teacher, I never questioned it. Vaccines were just a given. If I ever taught an unvaccinated child, I never knew it. Not knowing for sure, I began to research. The first thing I came across was the anecdotal evidence that suggests a danger to vaccinating babies - the parents & babies whose lives are forever altered because their newly vaccinated child has been harmed or has died. Reading these stories or hearing about them from pediatric nurses who witnessed the unfolding tragedy gave me chills. I was scared to my core, mainly because of the unknown. Is it the fault of the vaccine? Is it some pre-existing abnormality - a predisposed sensitivity, perhaps -  in the child? Is it because of an overwhelmed immune system? The scary part is that these adverse reactions do happen, & you don't know if it will happen to your child until it's too late.

I had already read about the ingredients used in vaccines, ingredients like formaldehyde, aluminum, & MSG & knew I wasn't comfortable with them. However, I wanted to know more, so I kept looking & found studies showing that epidemics were on the decline before vaccines were introduced, that sanitation & better nutrition had a large impact (there's a lot of other information in this study, as well as graphs corroborating the previous point), & reports that recent outbreaks were happening among vaccinated children. As compelling as this was to me, all it took was one video of a baby suffering through pertussis to make me fearful. Then I would anxiously question, "Are we making the right choice?" We kept Emma home a lot, used GermX, & washed our hands so much people would have thought we were OCD (were they ever around us)! We were so uncomfortable with what could go wrong with vaccines that we chose to postpone them, a choice that, thankfully, our family doctor supports. He even admitted that even though his kids are vaccinated, he wonders if we won't find out in coming years that vaccines contributed to the issues we see in children these days. Even so, I continued to waffle between certainty & uncertainty in our decision until finally, finally, I read The Vaccine Book. They are so right - knowledge is power! Dr. Sears laid out every piece of information I needed to make an educated decision. Now I know exactly what's in the vaccines, the ins & outs of the diseases they aim to prevent, & the adverse reactions experienced from the vaccines. There's even a chart on each disease that gives a quick synopsis of the prevalence, severity, & treatability of each disease. From reading this book, I know that for a variety of reasons, there are no vaccines I want to give now, some that I feel she might need when she's older, & even one (pertussis) that Michael & I will most likely get if we have any more children just to protect them from the disease. My belief that grouped vaccines are dangerous was also affirmed. In short, this book gave me the confidence that we are making the best choice for Emma's health, & I no longer live in fear.

One note of importance: I am not anti-vaccine in the strictest sense. I believe that there are highly educated people on both sides of the debate who come to very different decisions in the quest to do what's right for their children. I do know that vaccines - like the one for Polio - have made this a safer country for those of us who don't want to vaccinate. They've given us a choice that parents in other countries may not have. I'm grateful for that, & don't begrudge anyone from making a choice different from ours.

This is not an easy topic. No matter which decision you come to, there are risks. You run the risk of adverse reactions, sometimes severe, if you vaccinate. And you run the risk of the disease itself, also sometimes with severe complications, if you don't vaccinate. Neither side should stick their head in the sand & ignore these facts. Anyone who says it's an easy or obvious decision is either lying or trying to sell you something. It's also not a decision that anyone can make for you. As the parent, you have to do your due diligence to find out the truth, weigh the risks, & come to the decision you feel is best for your child. So, know that my purpose here is simply to explain how we came to our decision, not to judge anyone for choosing differently. Humanly speaking, there are only 2 experts on Emma - Michael & me. And the same holds true for your child - only you & your spouse know what's best for him or her. We need to keep that in mind, discuss our differing opinions respectfully, & show grace to other parents who are just trying to do what's best for their children, even if they don't agree with us. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sanctification of Parenthood

And so begins the sanctification of parenthood. Not that it hasn't already been happening, but now it begins in earnest! See, our little angel is a little sinner. A little sinner who has inherited her Mama's temper. Up until now, when something hasn't gone her way, little Miss Emma has simply cried. Like a couple of mornings ago when I was attempting to load the dishwasher while she was doing her darnedest to unload it. "No", says Mama, with resulting sobs from the baby girl. She obeyed, which I think is why she cried, because she flat didn't want to. Only a couple of days later, & she's added in a slap & emphatic "Unh!" when she doesn't get her way. She's sitting in the way of the door she's trying to open . . . slap, "Unh!" to the mean, uncooperative door. Josie comes up to me while Emma's in my lap . . . slap, "Unh!" to the attention-hogging dog. Mama tells her to be gentle & "we don't hit" . . . slap, "Unh!" to the controlling Mama who dares correct her (which makes the correction have to take place again). This is a mirror to me because I often have outbursts of anger. If there's any sin I struggle with, it's anger. When I hit my head on the washer, or when the limp shower head sitting in the tub suddenly springs to life & sprays hot water in my face, or when I have no counter space in the kitchen because I haven't had time to clean it, or when it's taking 2 years to get her down at night because of all the little "going-to-bed" tasks that have to be completed, I respond with anger . . . all true stories. Poor Emma's got her own sin nature, she doesn't need me displaying my own for her to copy! She needs me to learn to control my anger so I can teach her how to control hers. A task which requires my reliance on God. I am convinced that the more I'm reading & meditating on His Word, the more I'm in communion with Him, the more His Word & His Spirit will dwell in me & change my behavior. Which, of course, demonstrates to Emma how to rely on God to help her overcome her own sin. And then, when I fail & allow my sin nature to control me, I need to model repentance for her. She needs to see me admit my sin to God, her Daddy, & her & ask for forgiveness. She needs to see me trust God's promise that I am forgiven in Christ. And she needs to see that I believe His promise to continue to perfect & sustain me. My hope is that one day, when I look into the mirror that is my child, I'll see Christ's reflection gazing back at me. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

When I was researching cloth diapers just before Emma was born, the following questions almost made my head explode!

Which kind of diaper? (There are dozens!) How many?  Which cover & how many? How many wetbags? How often should I change her? When should I use liners/doublers? Should I use a spatula or sprayer? How often should I launder them? How do I launder them?

We planned on using cloth from the beginning, but life with a newborn was more overwhelming than I had anticipated. Everything was new, & the idea of adding the tasks involved with cloth diapering was daunting. It seemed so much easier to wrap it up & throw it away. So, we started out in disposables, intending to make the switch once Emma was out of the newborn size. But, we found it easier to just continue as we were, so here we are using cloth diapers for the first time on our 14-month-old daughter. Needing to save money, we decided to finally take the plunge, & I am so glad we did because - strange as it may sound - I love it! I love knowing that there are no more chemicals & dyes next to Emma's skin. I love knowing that, in the long run, I am saving money for my family. And I love pulling freshly laundered diapers out of the dryer, clean & ready to be used on my precious girl's hiney. I know from personal experience that making the change can be overwhelming, so I would like to share what I've learned so far as a complete novice, in hopes that I can help other newbies in a very small way.

Okay, so from one greenhorn to another, if you need advice in choosing a cloth diaper, I highly recommend you running over to Kitchen Stewardship for some incredibly in-depth reviews, including videos. She solved all of my exploding-head issues! Which is definitely a good thing! As for our own experiences, because of the reviews on KS, I knew that 2-pieces were a good fit for us. ;-)  I liked the idea of just folding up the prefolds & using the cover to hold them in place. I further decided on the Econobum covers because they adjust as Emma grows, plus they're a good quality at a lower price. I was excited when my box of goodies came in, & I have to say that my enthusiasm hasn't abated!

Alright, so I've just given my choices to answer my "which kind of diaper & cover" questions, so let me tell you what I've discovered so far about the others. Upon advisement, I forget from where, I ordered 2 dozen red-edged & 1 dozen brown-edged prefolds. That has been good advice! With the ones always packed in the diaper bag, plus those waiting to be used or laundered, it's been the perfect amount. Emma wears the red-edged, with the brown being the next size up, & I've only had to use them a couple of times while the others were washing. As for how many covers, I initially ordered 7, but very quickly sent for 3 more because I almost ran out on laundry day. 10 seems to be the perfect number for now. Finally, I have found that 2 small & 2 large wetbags work well for us. I keep one large as a trash can liner (not closed, which encourages fruit flies), & dump this into the wash with the diapers. I replace it with the other large bag, because she's going to have wet or dirty diapers while the laundry is going, & I need somewhere other than the bookcase to put them. I chose 2 small ones so that if one was in the wash, I'd still have the other available if we go somewhere or to hold soiled covers. 

Now, how often should I change her? I had some trouble with this initially. It was an adjustment, because disposables don't have to be changed as often. Also, it's been harder for me to tell that she needed a change. Apparently, the cotton holds in odors better! A plus, but definitely an adjustment. And, unfortunately one that made our little ladybug's hiney break out in the worst diaper rash. She was red, raw, & obviously in pain, & I was very upset with myself. So, I grabbed my kitchen timer & set it next to her changing table. Every time I finished changing her diaper, I set the timer for an hour. When it went off, Emma got her diaper changed (only once has it been unnecessary). It only took one day using the timer to figure out how often I needed to change her. Normally, it works like this: she gets 3 diaper changes in the morning - 1 when we first wake up, 1 right before sitting down to breakfast, & 1 just before her morning nap. We follow the same pattern between her morning & afternoon naps, & again between her afternoon nap & bedtime. All told, she gets between 9 & 10 changes a day. And, it should be no surprise, no more diaper rash! Some will say you don't have to use any sort of diaper rash cream with cloth diapers, but I always slather coconut oil on her, & it works perfectly! We also keep Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand, as it works well, too - & not just on diaper rashes. Both are safe on cloth diapers. When Emma has a wet diaper, I toss the diaper in the pail & hang the cover wrong-side-out over her bed railing. I keep 2 covers in rotation, so I simply grab the other one off the railing to use. If her cover is soiled, I simply put it off to the side until I can clean it (more on that later). While I'm on the subject of changing her diapers, let me address liners/doublers. My sister by marriage gave us a lot of their cloth diaper collection, so I already have these, & I use them 3 times a day - before each nap & before bedtime - to pad her diapers & give extra absorbency. As for storing all of these goodies, I have one basket to hold my diapers & another for the covers & liners.

Spatula or sprayer? I started out using a spatula, but have happily moved on to a sprayer, albeit an unconventional one. You've got some choices here to make, & it may depend on the configuration of your bathroom. Some people make their own sprayers or purchase them. I honestly had one picked out, but we're trying to save money, so I grabbed an empty cat litter bucket, & I use my detachable shower head on the massage setting. I set the bucket in the tub, hold the diaper over it, & spray it with hot water. All of the contents go into the bucket, which then gets poured into the toilet. Thanks to a tiny bathroom & a long shower head cord, I'm then able to hold the bucket over the toilet while I spray out anything that got left behind. Then the diapers go into the wetbag to await laundry day. 

Which brings me to the last questions. As for how to launder them, I will refer you to Green Mountain Diapers, who will send you a comprehensive guide with your order. I highly recommend it! In our own home, I wash the diapers every Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday, with diaper covers being washed the evening before & laid out to dry overnight. The covers are washed once on warm for the long cycle. Because of my washer's settings, the diapers are essentially washed twice, always with detergent. The first go-round they receive a short warm wash, & the second time I set it for the long hot wash. I've only bleached targeted areas once & rewashed those diapers separately. I've also used 1/4 cup vinegar in the final rinse once to make sure all of the soap was removed. Once they are done washing, I put them in the dryer on normal heat (due to the wetbags). Then I fold them in half & store them in their basket. That's it!

If you're new to cloth diapering like I am, or are considering it but find it daunting, I hope this has been helpful & encouraging. I am the sort who gets overwhelmed by new things, & I can let that hold me back. But I can say with confidence that cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables once you have a system that works for you. And you'll save money & feel good about the fact that cotton is next to your baby's bum instead of chemicals. Happy diapering!