As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, October 25, 2010


The other day I had coffee with a friend who hadn't seen me in a few weeks.  She commented that since the last time she'd seen me, my pregnant belly had dropped.  "How many more weeks do you have?" she asked.  "Five," I answered.  She shook her head, smiled, and told me almost definitively that I would not go that long.  I shrugged and said that if the baby came earlier that was okay by me.  Then, on the way home, panic set in.

I'm not worried about bringing a baby home in the least.  But this being the fifth time around for me, I am well aware of the pain that awaits me in the delivery room.  I do not have difficult labors by any means.  But pain is still pain, and sometimes when you know what's coming, it can be overwhelming.  During this particular pregnancy I have really tried to be joyful where God has me in this moment as a working mother, rather than lamenting over the time I am missing with my children.  Knowing it is only for a short time, and feeling like this is where God has called me to be, I have tried to focus on the now. 

Needless to say when my friend reminded me that things are so much closer than I realized, it left me slightly frazzled - and by slightly frazzled, I mean the thought of it made me nautious several times over the weekend.  Of course logically, I know there is no point in worrying about it.  I know that no matter what, I am going to be in the delivery room someday soon.  I also know that it will pass quicker than I can imagine, and that once that little baby is here I will probably say, "that wasn't so bad."  And I even know that if for some reason things go differently this time, there is still no merit to my worrying about it right now.  Still, it took effort over the next few days for me not to be consumed by this worry. 

On Sunday morning my wonderful husband got up with the kids as he often does, so that I could wake up on my own.  Laying by myself in those first lazy minutes, knowing that he had things under control and relishing in the relaxation of not having anywhere to be in the next few hours, God and I had a heart-to-heart.  I realized that I needed to surrender all of this fear to Him, and to trust that He was going to get me through it.  I needed to be grateful for the fact that I, unlike many people, have the benefit of knowing what lies ahead of me.  And of course the tremendous blessing that awaits immediately following labor, when I finally meet the little one I have known only in secret all these months.  I really felt like in that moment God was lifting a burden from me, but I had to be willing to give it over to Him.  To acknowledge that I have no control, and to allow Him to be in charge.  It's tough.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that submissiveness is woven into the very fabric of who a woman is.  Ephesians 5:22 calls wives to "submit to your husbands as to the Lord."  This is very controversial in our day and age, largely because women have traditionally been hurt by people trying to take advantage of this.  Seen by itself, it makes you think we got a raw deal.  How can God call us to forsake ourselves for someone else?  Yet it is in the very way we were created, and to me it is no more apparent than in our role as bearers of life.  Long before our wombs see life our bodies begin to prepare for it.  Even women who never conceive still have monthly cycles which require them to sacrifice of themselves.  And of course when a child is conceived, while it takes both male and female to create, it is the woman who is called to be submissive - to be a home for the new baby as it grows, to sacrifice herself for the sake of the life within her, and to endure suffering for the sake of a greater good, a child. 

Still, you can't just look at the role of women by itself or else it does seem like we got the short end of the stick.  When we were created male and female, we were created complimentary, with a complementary call that only reflects God when it is lived out by males as well as females.  The call to men? To "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)  Husbands must always look to the needs of their wives above their own, and to serve and love them first.  Only in this way will women find true comfort and peace in submission, when they can trust that the one they love will not take advantage of them. 

My prayer throughout the rest of this pregnancy, and with each day that passes in my life, is that I will draw strength through being submissive to God's will in my life.  That in surrendering control to Him, I will cast aside fear and doubt, so as to fully know the joy that comes from anticipating a miracle.  May these last five weeks (or less!) be for me a time of overwhelming peace and excitement!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Jeff is reading a book I recently read in which one of the authors talks about how the bible never says things like, "blessed is the couple who perfectly spaces their children" or "has exactly as many children as they intended", or "only has a small number of children so they can afford to put them in hockey".  Of course it never says there's anything wrong with having a smaller family, but when it speaks of the blessings that come from family life, it's always in the context of many children.  "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:4-5).

Unfortunately the bible is one of the few places these days where you find such encouragement.  Over and over I hear, "wow, so you're expecting your fifth?  So is this your last one?"  When we tell people that it probably is not our last, and that we have no set number in mind but rather intend to just take it one baby at a time, then it's official - they either think we're completely crazy, or that we're saints doing something that no normal person could possibly ever do.  How wrong they are on both counts!

What I notice is that the bible uses the word, "blessed".  Not holy, exceptional, abnormal, heroic - but blessed.  To be blessed is to reap rewards from something, and clearly what the bible is saying is that if you are willing to welcome children (even many of them), there will be many good things in store for you.  This is a truth that is lived by every parent, those who only have one child, and those who have twelve.  People talk to me all the time like I am a hero doing something extraordinary, and while I can agree that not everyone is called to have a big family, I think that many more people are called than are open.  Everyone thinks, “I could never do that”, but to me that’s like saying, “I could never handle that much love”.  Like if someone was going to hand you a million dollars and you said, “no thanks, I’ll just keep the fifty I have in my pocket.”  Our culture has so attuned us to the extra responsibility that comes from raising children that we are blinded to the good (which far outweighs the bad), and time and again turn our backs on the treasures that are ours to enjoy.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was streaming in the windows, and I had some soft music playing on the computer. I looked outside at my two older boys climbing trees, and when they spotted me their little faces lit up, and they waved.  Then I looked at my two youngest ones inside, sitting on the same riding toy going for a drive together, and enjoying each other’s friendship.  I am slightly emotional these days (impending birth will do that to you!) and it made me cry just a little.  It was just the kind of moment you see in a movie, and it made me so happy.  When Jeff got home I shared it with him, and he replied that when he was out getting groceries earlier that day, the cashier commented to him how strange it was to see a man by himself getting groceries.  She said she usually sees either just a wife, or an entire family shopping together.  When he told her that he’s the grocery shopper in our house, she responded that I must either be pregnant or have a small baby at home.  When he told her that actually it was both, that we had four small children and I am expecting our fifth, she responded with, “what did you do to that poor woman?”  Hearing this in hindsight made me laugh, especially since I had been having such a great day with the kids, but I think it didn’t sit so well with Jeff.

She was definitely more bold than most people are, but her words still echoed an idea that is common to our society: that children are an affliction, and how unblessed is the family who has many.  I know when she said that, the image she had in her mind must have been of a kitchen full of messy pots and pans, a laundry room full of dirty clothes, unhappy children crying and wanting to be fed, and a pregnant and frazzled mom just wanting a break.  And true, I have many days like that.  But I also have many more good days, and I wish this is what would come to mind when people think of me “stuck at home” with all my children.  There really is no place I would rather be.

My challenge to anyone reading this is not to think of children as a burden, but as a blessing.  And not to think of the parents of large families as extra-ordinary, but normal people, not who are doing something incredible, but who are just accepting these many blessings that are being poured out on them.  I don’t know about you, but when someone is showering me with gifts I want to open them all, not just stop at one or two.  And of course I know that every person is not called to live the same life I am living (in a similar way you could speak of the blessings of religious life, but still see that not everyone is called to be a priest or a sister).  But if you are feeling like you want to have more children, don’t listen to the people who tell you that you’re crazy, or that you can’t do it.  Be open to what is on your heart, and you will never be disappointed.  The things you have in this life will fade away, but the children you bring into this world will be for all eternity.  And when I die, it won’t matter that I earned a business degree, or held down two successful careers.  And it won’t matter (thank goodness!) that I struggled along in a house that was too small and too unfinished for the family that I raised in it.  What will matter is my contribution to eternity, and the joy they helped me to know in my life.  There is nothing that could make me prouder.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lover's Eyes

My husband tells me all the time that I am the most beautiful woman in the world.  I know that I'm not (obviously!)  But I really believe that to him, I am.  Because one of the things I love most about my husband is that he is honest.  And he wouldn't just throw those words out there if he didn't mean them.  I can tell by the way he looks at me - he means it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have low self esteem.  I'm generally happy with my life, and my appearance.  Still, when you're eight months pregnant, it's hard to imagine being beautiful - especially by today's standards.  When I'm between babies and staying fit, it's a little easier to believe him.  But when I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy and completely devoid of energy, it's a little harder to understand.  The funny thing is that I came across some pictures of me from ten years ago the other day, when I was about thirty pounds heavier than my average weight now (heavier than I am at the moment, seven weeks away from delivering a baby!) - and he said it to me then too.  Despite my ever-changing appearance, he always sees me as the most beautiful person in the world.  I tell him that I hope he always sees me like that, and I have a feeling that he will.  Because I figure it must have something to do with love.  Not so much that love blinds you, but rather your love is reflected back to you in the one you love.  You see, when I look at him, I see the one who loves me more than anyone else in the whole entire world.  And because of that, I look at him differently than I do anybody else.  I smile bigger, I glow a little brighter, and it changes my appearance.  I am more beautiful when I look at him than anybody else, because the love he has for me makes me more beautiful.

It's the same with kids.  Every parent thinks their children are the most beautiful children in the world - I tell my own kids all the time.  Of course I know that they are not, really.  But they are to me, and so I feel confident in telling them.  I think that every person should be the most beautiful person in the world to somebody.  And I think that this happens because of the relationship of love that people have with each other.  Children look at their parents and completely light up because they know they are more loved by they than any other people.  And they know it by the things their parents do for them - sometimes hard things, many times gross things, but each thing with love.  And responding to that love, they draw it even deeper out of the ones who are loving them.  That is why, to them, there is nobody more beautiful - because they are seeing with lover's eyes.  And what those eyes behold is a beauty not imagined or created, but deeply real and personal, reflected only to them.

Love is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How I do it

 A few nights ago, it was just me and the kids.  I've been in this situation many times before - arriving home from work by myself, after picking everyone up at the babysitter's, greeted by the need to prepare supper and get all the kids ready and off to bed by myself, all the while in my third trimester of pregnancy.  The only thing that changes is the number of children I have underfoot.  Or is it?

The other thing that is drastically different is how much I've come to enjoy this time with the kids.  You could say it's because I'm working all day and I've missed them, but that wouldn't be enough.  Because any other time I've been in a similar situation, I've been so overcome with the stress of everything that falls into that small window of time between 6 and 8 pm that to make it through without pulling my hair out is a huge accomplishment.  Every time Jeff would mention that he had to work late, I would dread it.  The mere thought of what awaited me on those days exhausted me.  And now, with one extra child running around, I can honestly say I am thankful these kinds of days are so much different.

I have a theory - and I don't think it's that I've gone crazy (which might be what you would be inclined to think!)  I have tried not to keep it a secret how much patience has been an ongoing struggle for me.  People always say "I don't know how you do it!"  But the more I think about it, the more I don't know how I did it before.  Because I find that the more children I have, the easier things are getting.  True, there's the fact that now there's a group of them to entertain each other.  But there's also the fact that the way to grow in an area is to challenge yourself.  Marathon runners don't wake up one day and run an entire 26 miles - they train, discipline themselves, push themselves farther than they think they can, until one day they can do what had previously seemed impossible.  Like running a marathon.  Or getting through supper time and bedtime and not only keeping my sanity, but actually enjoying myself.

We all have our own personal marathons.  And like athletes, we will never get anywhere if we don't train.  I am not resentful of the increased workload my life has brought me.  In fact, I am grateful for it.  Because without the challenges I have faced and will continue to to face as my family increases in size, I would never know what I was capable of.  And I don't want to sit on the sidelines, I want to finish that marathon!

You may not know how I do it with four children, but  I don't know how I did it with less!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dance

 I have always loved to dance.  I remember being in ballet and majorettes as a kid.  I remember wearing my Mom's old dance costumes every year for Hallowe'en, and looking at pictures from her dance days, and wanting to be just like her.  I remember junior high and high school dances, trying to let myself go and look cool, in that awkward way that kids do.  And I remember being in cheerleading, learning precise dance routines as a group, practicing for days to perfect them, and the confidence that came from performing as a group.  To this day, I still love to dance.

But something changes as you get older.  Society becomes much more important, and people's opinions start to influence you more and more.  I admire people who can dance really well - but I am not one of them.  If we go out now, I spend most of the time sitting in my chair, building up the confidence to let myself loose.  And I'll only do it if someone else is going to put themselves out there with me.  Somewhere along the way, my childhood confidence has given way to reservedness.

And then, I had babies.  And those babies started to get older.  And I saw in them the first signs of dancing as an expression of happiness beginning to emerge.  Like my husband and I, our kids love music.  And when they hear it, they can't help but to allow their bodies to follow the rhythm. 

With each child I had, more choas entered my life, and thus more need for an outlet.  There was a time when I would feel really silly blasting the music and dancing around my house.  And I don't do it when I'm all by myself.  But I do quite often with my kids, and I find that it helps me let myself go.  We bounce around, we laugh, and we're silly - and it doesn't matter how foolish we look.  In fact, that makes it all the better.  When the kids start to move and I respond by doing the same, their little faces light up, and it makes my life.  And while it might seem that I am the one doing them the favor by taking time out of my busy schedule to play them, it is really they who are doing the favor for me.  By encouraging me to take a minute and play as they play.  No wonder kids are so happy all the time!

Whoever you are, whatever you are doing today, my prayer for you is that you take a few minutes to yourself, put on your favorite music, and dance like no one is watching!