I often like to share encouragement here about the blessings of family, because it’s a message that is seldom heard in our society. I try to refrain from focusing much in the way of difficulties in parenting, because I don’t want to give the impression of complaining, and I don’t want to send a false message that children are a burden instead of a blessing. When I do share struggles that I am having, it is usually to share wisdom that the Lord is teaching me through those trials.
I think that because I tend to focus on the positive, joyful aspects of our life as a large family, sometimes a message is heard which was not intended, and is not true. That false message is that I can do this (bear eight children, homeschool, take care of my home and family, etc.) because I’m some sort of super-woman. I often hear comments such as, “I don’t know how you do it,” “You are so organized,” or “You must be so patient.”
These are all comments I’ve heard from some very sweet people, and I truly feel honored by their kind words. But the unsettling common thread that runs through all of those thoughts is that the credit for our family is going to me. I am not deserving of that. We are very blessed indeed, but it is not because of any inherent goodness of mine. The only part I’ve had in any of it is choosing to trust the One who actually is all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful. And I even struggle with that sometimes!
I’m going to branch out and do something a little different right now. I’d like to take a moment to share a few ways that our family has struggled, not to complain, but rather so you can see that you are not alone in any struggles and doubts you may be having. Then I hope to encourage you with a few nuggets of wisdom that have brought me comfort.
One of the most common thoughts expressed runs something along the lines of “I wish I had your peace. The thought of a large family is overwhelming to me. I couldn’t do it.”
Oh friends, you think I can’t identify. I can! Let me share a few ways that I’ve struggled with peace in trusting the Lord with our family.
We’ve struggled with pregnancies.
I’ve actually been blessed with pregnancies that seem relatively easy. I don’t get much morning sickness, and most importantly, I’ve never suffered the loss of a miscarriage. I have a lot of compassion for people who have suffered in those ways, but I’ve not been there myself and my burden is comparably light. But, my pregnancies are not perfect. I struggle with depression when I’m pregnant and in the early postpartum months. I have zero energy in the 1st and 3rd trimester, and struggle with being an active mother and adequate homemaker in those months. I gain too much weight and have body-image issues (afterward, the weight never comes off as fast as I hope, either.) Then there’s childbirth. My labors are tough, to put it mildly.
And yet, we’ve been able to rejoice through eight pregnancies as a gift, and we’d joyfully do it again – depression, fatigue, weight issues, hard labors and all.
We’ve struggled with trusting Him in the day-to-day.
Back when we had just three children, I read a book written by a mother of ten. Oh my! Ten just sounded so huge and frightening to me! My children were only all under the age of four at the time, and our days seemed so busy and chaotic! Our house would get messy (still does), I frequently encountered new organizational challenges (still do), and we were often met with new parenting challenges (still are). I couldn’t fathom being able to handle ten children.
Now that I have eight of my own, ten really doesn’t seem quite so impossible anymore, but I still watch in admiration at families like the Duggars and wonder if I could do it with half the amount of grace that moms like Michelle D. do.
We’ve struggled with trusting Him to provide.
You wonder how you’ll afford college? Yep, we’ve done that too. I often have to re-read my own words on college in this post to remind myself that I don’t need to worry about that.
Think you need a bigger house? I often think that, but I eventually come to my senses. When we first bought our spacious, 4 bedroom house, we had three children and I thought that we might be able to fit six. With a little thinking outside the box, we’ve been able fit eight children, comfortably even! We actually have space to spare and I suspect our house could be home to still a few more. A tour of our home (big-sized family in a medium-sized home) is a blog post begging to be written. Soon, maybe. (Update: Said post is now written! See Seven Children in Two Bedrooms.)
We’ve struggled with the thought of pregnancies as we are getting older.
I was thirty-eight when Handsome (#8) was born. I know the risks of Down Syndrome, miscarriage, and other medical issues increase after age thirty-five. Yes, it concerns me.
I know that I will be raising children for quite a long time. We’re a math-minded family (as evidenced here and here), and we love figuring out how old people were at various times in history, and how old we will be at various points in the future. I’ll be fifty-six by the time Handsome is eighteen and ready for higher education. I also know that keeping up after a toddler in my forties will be physically tougher than it was in my twenties.
I know I may not get to meet all my grandchildren. The thought breaks my heart. I know that the Lord could possibly take my life before my own children are grown. The thought disturbs me more than you can imagine. A former coworker of Iron Man’s died this weekend at forty-one from a car accident, leaving behind three children, including a two-year-old. My stepfather passed away from a heart attack at forty-two. It does happen, and close to home too.
But I also know that God doesn’t make mistakes. When He creates a child, He knows what He’s doing and He has a reason for it. If He sees fit to make me us the parents of that child, then we can joyfully welcome that child into our family. I need to look beyond all the “What If ___?”s and focus instead on Jesus and faithfully following Him. I also know that he’s met me where I am and equipped me with many impossible things already. I’m not in this alone.
We’ve struggled with relying on Him.
See? We’ve had fears, doubts and worries too. We see the big, huge responsibility of parenthood, and we see our own ineptitude. The parenting role is a joyful one, but the undertaking is huge and feels impossible sometimes.
But here’s the point. It feels impossible because it IS impossible.
Impossible for us, that is. Not impossible for God.
So here are some words of encouragement.
Impossible things are a blessing.
If God only calls us to do things that are comfortable, things that are possible, or things that we can handle, then we aren’t really going to rely on Him very much, are we? If Iron Man and I had stopped having children at a point that we felt we could handle on our own, we probably would have stopped at one or two. Honestly, we couldn’t even handle that on our own, but it took us that long to realize it. Thank God for giving us what we can’t handle, so we can learn to depend on Him!
God knows more than us.
We don’t have all the facts. God does. If we had all the facts, we’d want the same things that He wants. So I choose to trust Him.
Who knows whether God’s planning to use that 7th child to lead the 2nd one to Christ?.
Maybe #8 will be instrumental in finding a cure for cancer.
A good friend of mine is the youngest of a large family, and her mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Her other siblings either live too far or lack the ability to provide much care for their aging, widowed mother. My friend (#6) has joyfully welcomed her mom into her home. Supposing my friend’s mom had stopped at five? Most likely, she would be living in a nursing home instead of with her family.
I don’t claim to know what plans God has for my children. I couldn’t possibly know that. But I already see blessings being poured out that we’d have missed if we’d stopped bearing children when we didn’t trust ourselves to handle any more. Maybe He has more children planned for us, or maybe He doesn’t. But with His unfailing wisdom, I’d rather let Him make that decision that entrust it to my own feeble mind with such a narrow perspective. When I go to Heaven, I don’t want to see a whole pile of unopened boxes of gifts that He wanted to give me, but I refused to take them.
Avoiding Sin versus Following God
Friends, I’m not judging anyone. Trusting God with your family is a very difficult thing to do! I get that. I’ve been there, and far be it from me to point any fingers. I’m such a planner and control freak, I want to know what’s coming up for the next 15 years so I can plan and prepare for it right now. My reason for posting this is not to argue about birth control or any such thing (although, I must mention in passing that some forms of birth control, including the pill, can act as an abortifacient; read this article for more info.) I’m also not saying that big families are better than small families, or that people with children are better than those who have none. I’m not here to shame anyone for their decisions. My purpose in writing this is simply to speak my own convictions, possibly share a perspective you may not have considered before, and encourage others who are struggling with trusting God.
In our family, our goal is not to merely avoid blatant sins. Our goal is to walk as closely in line with Biblical precepts as possible. I often like to imagine our walk with God as a literal road. In my mind, I always imagine walking a winding path with a long, high bridge. Not sure this is a perfect biblical analogy, probably not, but it’s the image that is in my mind. Looking at this mental picture, I imagine sinning as going off the path. I think of avoiding blatant sins as walking all over the path, peering over the bridge to see what else is out there, and maybe walking as closely to the path’s edge as possible without going over.
That isn’t where our family wants to be. Walking in the middle of the path is the safest place to be, and we want to be joyful there. Our goal is to willfully and joyfully walk as closely in line with God’s will as possible. We’re not perfect; we’ll mess up sometimes. We’re prone to wander off the path sometimes, but we need to get back on and try to stay there.
Scriptures to Ponder
Here are a few of my favorite scripture verses that give me reassurance during those moments of doubt and worry, when the task before me seems impossible. They remind me that…
- God is all-knowing, certainly infinitely more wise than I.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
- God knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
- My children are a blessing and a gift.
Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
- He has plans that I’d want to be part of if I knew what they were.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
- God can do the impossible.
Mark 9:23-24 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
- Lord, increase my faith!
Luke 17:5-6 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.