My seven month old baby has to be off daytime bottles by the end of the week, and weaned completely by first of December.

Because life is hard, that’s why.

She is seven months, only ten pounds, and weaning off bottles.

That’s when, in Oklahoma, you say, “Bless her little heart.”

We finally found, on our 14th try, a spoutless sippy cup that works for her.  It’s tricky since her tongue is still sewn to her lip.  Most sippy cups without a spout have a flow that’s too fast for such a little one, much less a little one with no airway.  But we have finally found one that works for her, with much practice and experimentation since we came home from Cincinnati, and she can do it even by herself when we keep it thickened (with rice and prescription thickener) somewhere between nectar and honey.

She drinks her oatmeal and fruit out of it in the morning, her vegetables and bananas at lunch time, and some bonus mixed vegetable and fruit in the evening.  Her bottles in between now come from the cup, and soon we will start it at night also.  She is trying so hard.

She’s pretty funny, doing such big girl things in her tiny little body.

She will, as far as feeding goes, be ready for her cleft palate repair surgery whenever they decide she is stable enough to do that.  Her airway will be the big scare then, so any progress we can make with feeding now will help.  If she can do really well, and stay off the ventilator even, then we might be able to get by the next surgery without a feeding tube. This would be a miracle, but not a goal they will make for her.  Their goal is just for her to wake up, at some point, on the other side.

That means that for now, she is stuck at stage 2 baby foods (no chunks), thickeners, high calorie formula as we try to get her to gain weight, and no finger foods (because they can get stuck in her palate).

In the meantime, I resigned from another job and told the ER no extra shifts because I need to be with the baby.  I still work my regular job for now, and will maintain that best I can, but for now we have to be home so much more with the baby and all her therapies and appointments.

It is good and right and as it should be anyway, and very slowly my testimony of motherhood grows.

It is sacred to me.

In the meantime, since we take turns with the baby anyway, there is no point in sending the preschoolers to preschool only for lunch and naps, so we gave their teacher notice that they won’t be going back to school after Thanksgiving.  They already only go for half a day, anyway.  They are learning so much and working so hard and playing so well, and we are very surely settling into being a family.

This was today, when we realized that since they consistently write A’s and M’s very nicely, that they could spell “Mama”.  They were writing it everywhere, so I finally just made them practice sheets and gave them stickers for each line they finished.  They were so excited and proud!

They have made it far enough in our curriculum, which is the same one I did in high school, that they have already started social studies and science in addition to music, reading, writing, art, math, and scriptures.

They surprise me every day!

I love to listen to them play and chatter, and those little moments make me so happy.

There are tantrums, but not as often and not as severe, and the kids are doing better, too!  Both are fully potty trained during the day, finally, and both like nap time enough that’s not very dramatic.  They do get cranky when they get hungry or tired, though, which they probably learned from me.  We are all learning together!

We talked to the first graders last night about how we may need to pull them out of school for a season.  They know the curriculum we already use for days they don’t have school and summer, so they didn’t seem to be worried about it. They did want to be sure we still got our Go Noodle brain breaks and recess, though, so we assured them of that!  They are all a little ahead, so we would just need to be sure we are keeping up with what they are learning at school.  I talked to the school to find out how that would work, and what kind of testing they would need to come back to school once we were in the clear. We have everything filled out so we are ready, but on hold because it’s not yet time.  We just know it’s coming.

In fact, what prepared us were a number of promptings over the summer and since then, which have helped us gather our supplies and talk with each other and consider scheduling issues and different things. We really are ready if it is necessary, but only because we were already prepared for it before we understood why.  It’s maybe one of my favorite blessings from covenants, that kind of help you get to really succeed at covenant-keeping.  There is so much extra help to do better than what we could do on our own, and we need all the help we can get!

So we are ready to homeschool entirely, when it is time, because He already told us to get ready.

I am not always so obedient, but it sure makes life easier when I am.  When I went to get my patriarchal blessing after getting baptized, I told the patriarch that I was “stubborn and obstinate” most of the time and that’s why it took me so long to soften enough to get baptized.  He said that was okay because I could be stubborn for righteousness and obstinate against evil.  I have never forgotten that, and ponder it a great deal.  There were big things I had to change to get baptized, and consequences I didn’t even realize were coming. I don’t regret it now, though, and know those struggles have made me strong, like the afflictions and hard things we have experienced one after another in recent years.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

That’s what I have to remember when the adversary tries to confuse me on culture and eternal identity, and the adversary tries to distract me from remembering who my Father says I was, I am, and am becoming.

There is always temptation to go backwards, because even just stopping would be too easy and cause me to slide. A “backsliding heifer” is what Hosea called Israel when they kept doing that. I know the feeling.

Prophets have admonished us to forsake the world and turn our hearts to Jesus Christ, who promised us:

“In this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full” (D&C 101:36; emphasis added)… Christ provided the pattern, declaring prior to Gethsemane, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; emphasis added). The only way that we may overcome the world is by coming unto Christ. And coming unto Christ means walking away from the world. It means placing Christ and Christ only at the center of our lives so that the vanities and philosophies of men lose their addictive appeal. Satan is the god of Babylon, or this world. Christ is the God of Israel, and His Atonement gives us power to overcome the world. “If you expect glory, intelligence and endless lives,” said President Joseph F. Smith, “let the world go” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 243; emphasis added).

It turns out that rather acting on my passions, not acting on temptation can be the greatest expression of love there can be.

A stake president once told me that it is almost always in giving up our greatest sin that we obtain the greatest blessing.

That’s the Great Exchange (see my essay on Isaiah 22).

This transformation of our wilderness into Eden, our desert into a garden – this is the work of the atonement. It is the Great Exchange of our sins, lost-ness, and chaos (wilderness and desert) for His righteousness (Eden, temple-Garden, His presence).

It is the exchange of our separation from God for our at-one-ment with Him.

This is our joy and gladness, to be reunited – embraced by – the Lord once more.

In His presence will we find joy and gladness, and give thanks!

“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation; for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light for the people” (verse 4).

But to return to His presence, we must keep our covenants.

Listen and do; go and do.

It is by His covenants, through His covenants, that He does protect and provide for us.

It is by His covenants, through His covenants, that He does make a way for us to return to Him.

So it is by these laws (of the covenants) that we are judged (as to whether we have followed the way to return to Him).

In this way, His laws are a light to our path, leading to His rest (presence).

“My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth…” (verse 5).

He is near, waiting to justify us, waiting to give us His righteousness, waiting to save us.

But we must look and see. We must open our minds, ears, and hearts to receive.

As I thought about the social media drama this weekend and what my own response would be, I considered a great deal that as time nears the Savior’s return, Heavenly Father must prepare His people for that time. The closer we get to that time, the more distinct we will become from the world. It is not meant to burden us, but to show us the way. When I am confused and muddled and think, “who I am is okay, as long as I don’t do this,” He instead sheds light that gives me greater understanding of who I am and who I am to be. It is not a heavy oppression, even while I struggle to catch up to what I learn and live it out (like going from single to married and six kids in two years), but rather a soft whisper that shows me the way.

This way, this way, He whispers.

In making covenants with Heavenly Father, we have already declared ourselves willing to be set apart. We have already committed to being a peculiar people. We have already accepted the course of training that will, in time, maybe a great deal of time, make us holy. We are different from the world, and more so as we increase in capacity to be like the Savior. We are unique:

We are unique because of our covenants, our spiritual privileges, and the responsibilities attached to both. We are endowed with power and gifted with the Holy Ghost. We have a living prophet to guide us, ordinances that bind us to the Lord and to each other, and the power of the priesthood in our midst. We understand where we stand in the great plan of happiness. And we know that God is our Father and that His Son is our unfailing Advocate.

With these privileges comes great responsibility, for “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3), and at times the demands of discipleship are heavy. But shouldn’t we expect the journey towards eternal glory to stretch us? We sometimes rationalize our preoccupation with this world and our casual attempts to grow spiritually by trying to console each other with the notion that living the gospel really shouldn’t require all that much of us. The Lord’s standard of behavior will always be more demanding than the world’s, but then the Lord’s rewards are infinitely more glorious—including true joy, peace, and salvation.

President Kimball made a statement we have quoted ever since:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days … will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that [they] are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, 103–4; emphasis added). We can no longer be content to just quote President Kimball. We are the sisters who must and will make his prophecy a reality.

But we can do it.

I know we can.

And so we must go and do, which is to love and serve all of God’s people simply because they are His children.

That includes, as it turns out, serving my own children also, or rather, foremost.

I really do love them. A lot.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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