but the LORD establishes his steps" (Prov. 16:9, ESV).
Being mother to a large family comes with its share of paradoxes. There is joy in the exasperation, love in the frustration, and wealth in the empty wallets. There are nights when you sit, shell-shocked, in front of "Frasier" on Netflix and wonder, "How are we going to survive all these children?" or even "How are all these children going to survive us?" and nights when tears are shooting out of your eyes in laughter over the day's antics. There are times when you wonder if it's even worth it to make that trip to buy milk/cheese/meat/lip shimmer if it means loading everyone into the van, and times when the only remedy to the chaos in this house is to load everyone up and get the heck out of Dodge for a spell.
There are times when it's all you can do not to smack the mother in the organic baby aisle extolling the virtues of jars of pronounceable ingredients as her chubby cherub looks innocently from his spot in the Ergo carrier.
It's not that she's doing anything wrong. It's just that she's skinny and pretty and doesn't have varicose veins and can afford trendiness and doesn't have seven other children touching everything on the shelf and picking their noses and squirming to go potty and complaining that she never lets them get anything and why couldn't they just stay home.
I love my lot in life. I didn't set goals or plan towards having a large family. I did, as a little girl, say I wanted a dozen children but that was before I got married and therefore gets lumped in with saying I wanted to be a jockey and an actress when I grew up. We didn't examine our bank account and then plot children on a graph of years to come. We simply loved, and from that love came one child, and then two, and then four, and then five, and then six, and then eight.
This is math at its finest.
I hear newlyweds discussing their family plans...how many years they are planning to wait, how many debts they are planning to pay off before dealing with children. I hear parents instructing their grown offspring in the virtues of having this-that-and-the-other completed before dealing with children.
I hear it. Sort of.
Mostly I hear my mother's premarital advice: "Get married and stay married!" and her prenatal advice: "You're afraid you won't have enough love? That's how love works! It multiplies with each recipient, not divides!"
And she's so right.
And daily I fail at this trial called motherhood. Daily I scold and sigh and sometimes even cry. But even in the midst of the mayhem, I know I am severely blessed. I know all of this does more than define me. It refines me, and it's not all by fire.
Some of it's by diaper changes and math corrections and grammar lessons and room cleanings and piano practice and sheet changings and cat vomit and the 3-yr. old watching "The Waltons" and then asking, "Is that WHISKEY?" when he sees you and your husband chugging down a root beer. Some of it's by sweet cards to Mama and Pupu and the sway of 2-yr. old hips to a Sesame Street/Feist video and children listening closely enough to a sermon to quote portions of it verbatim on the way home.
I'm glad we were thrust into this craziness. I don't think, had I been given full disclosure, I would have chosen this path. And that would have been my mistake.
I can't imagine a way in which priorities would have been forced more clearly than they are now. Life in a large family is fast-paced. There's always the next meal to prepare, the next load of laundry to change over, and the next room to clean. There is not the luxury of deliberating over non-issues. Only the important things earn time. You learn that for this family the popular magazine mommy debates are moot and not even entertaining.
I can't imagine a way in which I would have been forced more often or more brokenly to the cross and the empty tomb.
I'm not sure what my point here is, except to say that we didn't purpose to be a large family but we are and that is a blessing not to be taken lightly. We aren't here because we know what we're doing. We aren't here because we do more things right than others. In fact, we may be here because we do more wrong. But we are here, and it is good. It is right, and I am sure of this.
Our children have been entrusted to us. Sometimes it's so easy and convenient to forget that there are souls involved and not just smart-mouths. Sometimes it's so easy and convenient to forget that there is a God involved. If all I had to do was ensure that they reached the age of eighteen with few broken bones and a full belly...
I'm not sure I could do even that.
And I know this soul-growing business is not mine. It is God's, and I have to get myself out of the way. I am to love on them and pray for them and read the Bible to them and apologize and correct and thank the Lord always.
And then? We can garden, or not; we can travel, or not; we can host a family movie night, or not.
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