Written in early April, 2013
First off, I am not a blogger. My writing experience consists of a few e-mails, Facebook posts and school excuses. But something changed a few weeks ago, and I started jotting down a few thoughts here and there. And then the words wouldn’t stop coming. I even pulled my car over to the side of the road and scribbled some words on a napkin I found on the floorboard! Not really sure what this is…a journal, a letter, maybe an explanation of sorts. I am certainly no intellectual or theologian, but we are told to “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within us.” (1 Peter 3:15) So the hope that these words may encourage someone, is what compels me to share my heart so openly about such a private matter…
I am pregnant with my 7th child…at age 42. We were a bit surprised to say the least. Of course my husband immediately figured out how old we will be when this child graduates high school…OLD! And I envisioned myself waddling down the halls, big and pregnant, at my son’s high school orientation this fall. We had been open to children throughout our marriage, but had not conceived in over 5 years, and thought God had closed that door. We were enjoying this new phase. It’s not that I didn’t love being home all those years raising my children, but I was looking forward to serving more outside the home. Besides, my days were already super busy with helping with homework, getting kids to lacrosse, gymnastics and a myriad of other activities, doling out consequences, getting driver’s licenses and starting to visit colleges.
So how does a plate-already-full, often-overwhelmed momma to 6 children, who is home alone during the day for the first time in 16 years react to such news? Shock? Disbelief? Fear? Perfectly normal reactions I might have expected myself. And yet, none of these things describe how I felt. Only peace. And joy. Pure and utter joy! The minute I found out…everything changed. I couldn’t quit smiling! The sun was brighter, the sky was bluer…even the air was sweeter! How could that be? I had not desired this, planned for this nor prayed for this. We thought that chapter in our life was over, but God must have had a different plan! A better plan.
A friend, whom I haven’t seen in years, called when she heard our news. She had a child at age 42 after her other children were older. She said, “Sometimes I just look at him and cry…he is such a blessing to our family! Never could I have imagined how much he would add to our family! I learned that my plans are just so dumb! God’s plan is always so much better!” Wow.
We may have been surprised, but God was not! This child has been in the heart of God for all eternity. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4) We are each unique, unrepeatable souls with an important role in God’s kingdom that cannot be filled by anyone else. I can’t wait to see how God uses this child for His glory!
I’ve never had an early ultrasound before, and texted the picture to a few close friends. I promised them I would try not be obnoxious throughout this pregnancy, but had to share this first picture of our little peanut! You’d think I was a first-time Mom!
A friend texted back, “Oh please. We love it. Besides, every baby deserves to have an obnoxiously happy mother!” And I suppose I am. I will celebrate every heartbeat, every ultrasound, every ache, pain and varicose vein! (Remind me I said this around my third trimester…)
I am absolutely certain that as our news spread, there were plenty of eyes rolling and heads shaking in disbelief. Some people were probably moved to pity. “Poor thing, doesn’t she know better?” Others, to outright condemnation (we get this a lot since Gary and I are carriers of cystic-fibrosis, and 2 of our children have CF.) That’s OK. Things that used to bother me don’t anymore. I feel like a child on Christmas morning! All I can do is offer bursts of praise and thanksgiving. Like Mary, my heart is saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name…”(Luke 1:46-49)
~Thank you sweet Lord, thank you for your perfect plan. Thank you that your ways are high above our ways. Thank you that you made me, you love me, and you know infinitely more than I do about what is best! Thank you for entrusting me with another soul to care for and teach about you. Thank you for this great honor and privilege! Praise you for your goodness, your faithfulness, your mercy and your grace!~
I have only known I am pregnant for a little while, yet God has done such a work in my heart in this short time! The only way I can describe these initial weeks, and sharing the news with our children is that not only are we excited, we are better. Instantaneously. Why? Suddenly there is this tiny life that is inspiring us all to be better…more patient, more loving, more prayerful, more intentional. And I realized how as a family, we had let some bad habits creep in. Things like sarcasm, messiness, bickering, and slacking a bit in our standards regarding what we watch and listen to and how we spend our time. Too little family; too much individual. Too little reading; too much watching. Too little stillness; too much rushing.
We started our marriage 17 years ago with such high ideals and hopes and plans. But through the years, the demands of everyday life wore us down and took their toll, and our standards began to relax a bit. But all of a sudden we find ourselves wanting not only to clean out the clutter in our closets to make room for this child, but also the clutter in our souls! I want to be a better wife and Mom than I am today… kinder, more patient, more organized, more loving. My 7-year old even said she was going to do whatever I asked of her right away, because she doesn’t want any fussing in the house to upset the baby in my tummy. (Bonus! More obedience!) Our ideals have suddenly resurfaced because we want this child to grow up in a happy home with the very best of us…not this mediocre version that we have settled for lately.
I get this a lot: “Oh you must be so patient” or “you must love children!” Um, no. I am certainly not always patient, and I have never been one of those women who oohs and ahhs and rushes to hold the baby in a room. Believe me, I am as selfish as they come. I am an introvert. I love the quiet. I take naps. And in all honesty, it’s nice to have a home no longer cluttered with baby toys and high chairs. I love jumping in the car to go somewhere without first having to fill sippy cups, pass out bags of goldfish and wrestle kids into car seats! When that yellow bus pulls away each morning, I pour a big cup of coffee and let out a giant sigh.
I think a lot of women have the misconception that in order for something to be God’s will, that He must first put that desire in our hearts. This is just not true! I have found that very often he changes our heart, after we submit our will to his…not before. Look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Did He desire to die a tortuous death on Calvary? No. Quite the opposite. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”(Luke 22:42) Truth be told, our wills are usually not in line with God’s anyway! It’s also a misconception that we must be virtuous, holy and have everything in order in our life before we can say yes to God. Grace is given anew every day. Most of the time we don’t get the grace for something until we desperately need it and ask for it!
People ask, “Were you trying to get pregnant?” That’s hard to answer, because no, I was not. But I wasn’t trying not to either. But that’s just it… it’s not about what I want, but instead, asking what He wants. I am called, in response to what Jesus did for me, to live every day saying, “Good morning God, what do YOU want of me today? Where do YOU want me to serve? How do YOU want me to love? I am yours…do with me what you will.” This is known as the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
We apply this principle to other areas of our lives, why wouldn’t we apply it to the building of our families? With our finances, we know the importance of tithing and being generous. With our talents, we know the importance of serving in the church and sharing our gifts with others. Does God say, “I want dominion over all these areas of your life, but when it comes to having children…do whatever you want… do the American thing.”? Of course not, that would be absurd! So why have we bought into this?
This vital part of our lives, the bringing forth of new souls, he wants to be Lord over that too! His word says, “You are not your own; for you were bought for a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We were bought with a price…a great price! Isn’t it interesting that St. Paul doesn’t say, “therefore glorify God with your thoughts, your words or even your actions”…but with your body?
Absolutely, there are valid reasons to postpone or avoid pregnancy, and these can be not only physical, but mental, emotional or financial as well. Each person’s situation and family circumstances are unique, and we should never judge anyone else’s decisions in this area. We are to be good stewards and pray for God’s wisdom and discernment regarding the size of our families. My husband and I have, at different points in our marriage said, “God, we just can’t handle another one right now!” And He understands that. He knows our weaknesses and our limits. But we must continue to pray about it as our situation changes. I think sometimes we throw out the “good steward” card without really praying about it, make a decision, and then never discuss it again.
God doesn’t want part of us. He wants all of us. He did not give us part of himself on the cross. He held nothing back, out of total sacrificial love. He wants us all the time too, not just on Sunday mornings or during praise and worship when it feels good…but every day, even when it’s hard.
But why don’t we? I think one reason is because it is scary! He assures us in scripture that He will never give us more than we can handle…but what if he does? I think we are like Peter when Jesus was walking on the water towards him. Jesus called to him to get out of the boat and join him on the water. Peter got out of the boat and headed towards him. He too was walking on the water, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked instead at the waves…his circumstances…he began to panic and sink. “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
I love the song “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns that speaks of this:
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown, where Jesus is
And He’s holding out his hand
But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed…
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
How many times do we take our eyes off Jesus and let fear to prevent us from following Him? I do it all the time! God’s voice is soft and quiet and usually drowned out by louder ones. In our case, it began with the concerned voices of doctors and family telling us we shouldn’t have any more children after our second child was diagnosed with cystic-fibrosis. They made us feel like we were being naïve and irresponsible. But we asked ourselves, “is our son’s life defined by this disease, or is it just one tiny part of the wonderful, creative, special person he is? Is his life so horrible and burdensome that we should not have any more children?” We thought not!
Other times, the voices can be our own: “Another baby? Are you crazy? You are stressed out as it is. You can barely afford the ones you already have! You are so impatient…did you see the way you yelled at your kids this morning? Your house is a mess. Look at your laundry pile! What will other people think? You’ll never be able to afford college! When will you have time for yourself?” Believe me, I have heard them all!
I have worries like anyone. I know my advanced age this time around increases my risk for both miscarriage, and having a child with disabilities. But the minute I begin to worry I know I have to take those thoughts captive and ask myself, “What does God say?” and act in accordance with what He says…not how I feel! This baby, no matter the length of its life here on Earth, will live with God forever! If our baby has Down’s syndrome, or CF, or anything else…it will not be because of a mistake on God’s part! We’ll praise God, press in all the more, and shower our child with love!
We also have to keep an eternal perspective. This is not our home. Do we really believe that? It’s choosing to look beyond the here and now towards heaven…looking at the horizon instead of on the steps right in front of us. Deliberately choosing to fix our gaze on Jesus and follow Him. I do not know what our future holds, but that’s OK, because I have a firm grip on the hand of the one who does!
God knows exactly what He is doing. Two people called me right after they heard our news and told me this: “Laney…God does not make mistakes.” They both knew I knew this. They knew I believed it. Yet I must have needed to hear it, because God put it on both their hearts to call me and repeat this precious truth! We need to constantly remind ourselves of what God’s word says, to counteract what the world says.
Another reason we don’t want to get out of the boat is that we don’t think we are capable of doing what He asks. We aren’t able, but He is. We shouldn’t limit God! “All glory to him, who by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) It’s not in our power, but in His. Or maybe it’s because we think we aren’t strong enough. God never asks us to do anything in our own strength. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) He even goes so far as to say, “…for apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
It is only through His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that we accomplish anything. So of course we aren’t capable enough or strong enough! In fact, it is good for us to be weak. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I love the song “Strong Enough” by Matthew West:
I know I’m not strong enough to be
everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up…I’m not strong enough.
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me?
Lord right now I’m asking you to be
Strong enough, for the both of us!
We are closer to God when we are weak. Why? Because that is precisely when we let go and cry out to him. We pray more when things are difficult. We realize we can’t do it ourselves and must lean on Him and His strength, which is exactly where He wants us…dependent upon Him! Pregnancy, like nothing else, causes me to fall to my knees and beg for help, sometimes just to make it through the day!
I know acceptance of God’s will is not always easy. Because like in my case…it may mean a houseful of kids! But it goes the other way, too. I have many friends who long for another child, and are just not able to for various reasons. Some cannot conceive and struggle with the pain of infertility. A few have had to have hysterectomies before they wanted to. Others conceive, but have lost multiple children through miscarriage. Some want to adopt, but do not have the financial resources. Still others have spouses that refuse to even discuss having more children.
Having a large family these days seems to be an open door for all kinds of comments…sometimes from complete strangers! I occasionally get these looks like, “What are you trying to prove?” I know I am an oddity and I welcome questions about our decisions. We have even addressed, on several occasions, a room full of doctors and nurses at CF medical conferences regarding our personal choices in having children. I am never put off by sincere curiosity. But honestly, I am not out to prove anything! I’m just trying to live a simple, faithful life. It would never cross my mind to question someone as to why they have a small family, because it is really none of my business!
I have also been asked how can I give so many children the individual love and attention they deserve? That’s a valid concern. It’s similar to when you have your first child, and can’t imagine loving another as much as him! But somehow, miraculously, you do. See, love is not divided…it is multiplied. It grows. It’s not as if God gives you this finite amount of love in your cup, and you have to divide it amongst all the people in your life throughout your lifetime. No! God’s grace is a never-ending ocean. His love is infinite and it is ours for the asking!
Just yesterday I was singing along with the radio to the song “One Thing Remains” by Passion with Kristian Stanfill. I love the chorus, repeated over and over again:
Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me!
It never runs out! I just have to keep asking Him to refill my cup …stretch my heart, stretch my patience, stretch my strength, multiply my love, multiply my time. If He can multiply the fishes and loaves, he can multiply my efforts. So that’s what I do…I give him my little fishes and loaves and trust Him to provide the rest! I fail all the time…daily in fact! But He has never failed me. He has never let me down. He meets me where I am and makes up for where I am lacking. There is so much freedom in letting Him be God! He is in control. He is on the throne. He is all good, all loving, all trustworthy. He is capable, He is sovereign, He is victorious, He is Lord! I can rest in that.
As followers of Christ, we can look to Mary as our model. When the angel Gabriel came and asked her if she would bear God’s son…she said yes. She didn’t ask what it would require or know ahead of time what that yes would cost her. She simply was presented with God’s plan and said yes. God created us with free will and isn’t going to force any of us to obey. But we do have that choice, every day, in every area of or lives. Mary could have said no, but instead she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38), and so fulfilled God’s plan for her life, and ushered in God’s plan of salvation for the world!
God never promised us a life of comfort and ease. Unfortunately, trials don’t magically disappear when you follow Christ. He said it would be hard, that we would have to choose the narrow road and go against the crowd. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) He also said we must deny ourselves and carry our cross. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He never asks us to do anything He hasn’t already done himself. We have a God full of compassion who knows suffering firsthand and is with us in our sufferings.
Suffering and trials can come in various forms and different ways: through a body fighting cancer, arthritis, the pain of divorce, the unexpected death of a loved one, a rebellious teen, addiction, loneliness in old age, or living daily with a chronic disease. Mine at the moment is being pregnant at age 42…minor when compared to what others face, but still real, nonetheless! I can remember during one of my previous pregnancies being unable to push my grocery cart and load the groceries into my car, because I was in so much pain just from doing the shopping! They had to get someone to help me to my car, and someone else to push the cart. Talk about being stripped of all pride! Then I had to leave the groceries in the backseat until my husband and kids got home to unload them! I am already starting this pregnancy 25 pounds heavier than the last one, and 6 years older, too. I am tired just thinking about it. But again, I count it all joy!
St. Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24) So not only can we unite our sufferings to His, they actually benefit others and make our prayers that much more powerful in the building up of his kingdom! By uniting our sufferings to His, it transcends time and space and becomes eternal. This is seen so beautifully in those who have borne the heavy suffering of infertility, taken that pain, and welcomed a child through fostering and/or adoption. What a great blessing!
We are all called to holiness. Each of our journeys will look different. He will lead us along different paths, but each of our paths will have to go through the way of the cross, the way of self-denial. Mother Teresa said, “For love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.” But the good news is that Christ is victorious over suffering and death and there is joy in the cross!
In Genesis, we read about God’s first command to Adam and Eve, “And God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28). Then God repeats this same command to Noah and his family, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) God’s word is the same yesterday, today, forever. His commands don’t change for us in the modern age in which we live. How convenient that most of us usually skip over these verses! God doesn’t present us with all-you-can-eat buffet where we can pick and choose the things we like, and leave the ones we don’t. How much we miss doing that! Instead, let’s pull up a chair to the table He has prepared for us and feast on all that he wants to give us. He wants to fill us with every good thing!
We have to remember that God is not there to limit us, or keep us from enjoying life. He’s not some harsh God, sitting up a cloud cracking his whip, but a loving father gently guiding us. When He gives us commands, it’s because He loves us. I think about my own children. When I set limits or forbid them from doing something, it is not because I want to be mean, but because it could harm them. I love them and only want what is best for them! They don’t always understand, because they don’t see it from my perspective. They don’t see the big picture. Likewise, we don’t know what is best for ourselves and have to place our trust in Him. Isn’t it awesome that our Heavenly Father knows best and we can trust Him with everything? We can climb up in his lap like a child and rest secure and peaceful knowing He will take care of us. True, abiding peace comes from total abandonment to God’s will.
It says in scripture that “Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward.” (Psalms 127:3) We all know this one don’t we? This sounds so sweet and we like to put this on our birth announcements or embroidered on a little baby pillow, but do we truly believe it? Notice what it doesn’t say. “A few children are a blessing, but you don’t want any more than that, because then it becomes a burden and may limit your lifestyle.” It doesn’t say “healthy children are a blessing, but not sick ones, handicapped ones, or less than perfect ones…those too are a burden.” No! Children, in and of themselves, are a blessing from the Lord! A gift! A reward! I once heard it said that each time a child is conceived, the entire universe is changed forever…because something has come into existence that was not here before, and will exist for all eternity. Beautiful.
God could have chosen to create life in any way he wanted, and yet He chose to allow us to participate in this magnificent task. He created and designed our bodies with the ability to bring forth new life. He can’t do it without our cooperation. Why would God design our bodieslike this…fertile for about 30 years, if He only wanted us to have 1 or 2 children? Now obviously, some women are not able to have more, but why would he design our bodies this way, if he only intended the majority of us to have a few? Abortion and contraception are heralded as great goods in our society, and having more than a few children is treated with great disdain. Jesus himself, while carrying his cross on the way to Calvary said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ (Luke 23:28-29) That time has indeed come.
Professor Janet Smith has spent years researching, studying and writing on this topic. The statistical evidence of the detrimental effects on the family and society from the widespread use of contraception and abortion is unbelievable. She summarizes her findings in a practical, witty talk entitled, “Contraception: Why not?” that has sold over a million copies. It’s very interesting! The transcript of that talk can be found here: http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/264/contraception-whynot.htm
I was raised in a wonderful and loving home, but never learned about any of these teachings while growing up at home or at church. Once I discovered the what and why of the Catholic church’s teaching on contraception, it made so much sense and I wanted to know why I hadn’t heard about it before! Most people don’t know that up until 1930, every Christian denomination taught that contraception was wrong. There was a universal teaching against contraception within all Christian churches. It was only in 1930 that the Anglican church first broke with that unbroken tradition and approved contraception within marriage for serious reasons only! Early in our marriage, Gary and I used to travel and speak through a ministry called Engaged Encounter. We challenged these engaged couples to take a look at these teachings on marriage and family, and would tell them, “even if you disagree with us on this, at least listen to this CD or read this book, so you can be informed and truly understand what it is you are disagreeing with!”
I have a heart of compassion for other women, and my intent is never to wound or pass judgment on those who have chosen a different path, but to speak only of what I know and have learned from others. In speaking of the blessings of children, I am in no way minimizing the beauty of small families. However, women today have been fed a bunch of lies regarding this great gift and it would be wrong of me not to share these truths. What joy to share in this attribute of God in giving life! What joy to bring forth new souls and consecrate them to God and to His service!
We are so excited about this new baby! My kids are beyond thrilled.
I can’t walk into the room without one of them rubbing or kissing my growing belly. They have been having so much fun throwing out possible names. “How about Joshua? Or Gabriel? I know…Barack!” We are planning where the baby will sleep, and looking forward to shopping for all the cute little clothes and toys! The chatter is non-stop! “I wonder who he will look like? I hope it’s a girl…no, Dad needs another boy to take hunting! No, I want a girl, so I can fix her hair!” The energy and anticipation is palpable! So. much. fun.
I do not know the future, but I can pretty much guarantee a few things:
We will not be a “perfect family” (whatever that means!)
We will mess up.
My kids will not always make the honor roll.
Our house will be loud and chaotic at times.
We will definitely not win any neighborhood awards for our well-manicured lawn.
We will keep wearing hand-me downs and driving used cars.
We will fall down. We will get back up again.
We will continue loving, forgiving and doing the best we can. We will seek to bless and encourage everyone God puts in our path. We will strive to honor God in all we do. And we will embrace life… the bitter and the sweet…and give thanks for every gift along the way! (Yes…even the unexpected gifts! Especially those!)
Before I was able to share the above post, I went in for my 9-week checkup. They were unable to find a heartbeat, and discovered I had miscarried. We did not know it, but I was carrying twins. Our hearts are broken, and we are grieving with our children over this great loss. I am now momma to eight children… six on earth and two in heaven. Everything I wrote in the post above, I still believe. God is in control, and loves us very much!
A dear friend who has herself experienced multiple miscarriages wrote me the following: “Just know that your sweet babies were loved immensely their entire earthly lives. Now they will love and pray for you the rest of your life. Your openness has given them eternity in Heaven.” Her words, and the prayers of countless others, are like a soothing balm bringing comfort to our hurting hearts. We are trusting God and learning to say “thy will be done.” All praise and thanks be to God… Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May His name ever be praised!
If you are interested in reading more on this subject I highly recommend these excellent resources:
“Life-Giving Love. Embracing God’s Beautiful design for Marriage.” By Kimberly Hahn. http://www.amazon.com/Life-Giving-Love-Embracing-Beautiful-Marriage/dp/1569552924
“Open Embrace. A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception.” By Sam & Bethany Torode. “http://www.amazon.com/Open-Embrace-Protestant-Rethinks-Contraception/dp/0802839738