When I tell people that I have eleven kids, I never quite know what people are thinking behind surprised faces and frozen smiles. Here in the Midwest, people are generally reserved and share their opinions cautiously, but acquaintances and grocery store cashiers have told me:
- You must be a saint!
- Better you than me!
- How do you do it? I have my hands full with two kids!
Like a mother duck with a stroller, I’d lead my children through a public place, wondering if people were also thinking:
- She looks tired.
- Is she crazy?
- Or just unrefined?
Shh…don’t tell anyone, but I am all of the above.
Yes…I’m tired, crazy, ignorant and unrefined.
Tired, Crazy, Ignorant & Unrefined: One Mother’s Journey
My husband and I decided we would leave our family size up to God, although neither of us grew up with this mindset, and neither of us grew up in a large family. The Bible, peers, mentors and books inspired us to seek a different outlook on life. My husband and I had grown up in the church, but after being spiritually transformed in young adulthood, we realized we were tired of playing church and just hearing the Bible on Sundays. We wanted to grab hold of the practical, spiritual kind of truth that went beyond the expected norm.
We considered this truth from the Bible: Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3). We decided to step out in faith and let God pour out His gifts upon us — in the form of children.
One dictionary definition for crazy means: extremely enthusiastic, fanatical, or passionate.You could say that our approach to family size was our way of living out a crazy, passionate faith.
We heard, “Children are expensive. Your husband must have a good job.”
The saying God pays for what He orders has been true in our lives. Working hard along the way, we saw God increase our finances as we added members to our family.
Some people said, “Long ago, farming communities needed lots of children, but our culture has changed and it isn’t set up for big families.”
We don’t have a big family because we need more workers, farm hands or dishwashers. It’s just our way of trusting God.
It’s our responsibility as parents to raise them in such a way that they will be a joy to other people, too. We pray that God will make heart changes, and we will do our part to train and guide them.
We want them to be good citizens, kind neighbors, capable employees, and loving spouses.
I was ignorant (unaware, lacking knowledge) of the ramifications about being the mother of a large family. Walking in faith can be like taking one step at a time in the dark.
We knew some big families and they seemed to get along, help around the house and work well together.
But we didn’t see sibling squabbles and crowded closets and extra hotel rooms on vacations and lots of mouths to feed.
Who knew that someday I would:
- Drive a big, boxy van
- Awaken at 4:00 a.m. to scrape up some time to myself
- Adopt maternity clothes as my new fashion style
- Routinely cook two 9 x 13 pans of food for every meal plus side dishes
I might have balked, not realizing that the benefits would outweigh the struggles, but then I wouldn’t have known I would:
- Have the best job in the world
- Never be lonely or bored
- Enjoy the satisfaction of investing in living souls
Though it’s wise to plan, prepare and seek good counsel, we are all ignorant of the future. If I’d let fear or negative comments dampen my faith, I’d have missed out on the joy ahead.
Being unrefined can mean backwards or crude. Other definitions for unrefined include:
The refining process has been one of the best and unexpected parts of motherhood.
Growing up in the suburbs, I was the bossy eldest child. My dad used to fill up my gas tank for me, even after I finished college and had my own full-time job. I seldom helped around the house, never planted a garden and never touched a sewing machine except to make animal pillows in school. I could read for hours in my own room if I liked, go to the mall, or ride my bike to a friend’s house.
God had work to do on me. And, I’m pretty sure it was His plan to use the challenges of motherhood to change, mold, and refine me.
I have told people, I need eleven children more than you do, because God has so much refining to do in my life.
This is true, and it’s still happening.
Throughout the journey of motherhood, I am continually being challenged, stretched and refined through:
- Faith-building births (ten of these happened at home)
- The battle for consistent child-training
- Making mistakes, repenting and changing
- Working together with my husband in parenting
- Counseling teens through their own struggles
- Knowing when to speak or just listen
We haven’t even ventured into new chapters such as: children getting married, having in-laws, grandchildren and juggling holidays. God has more refining work to do.
The Motherhood Marathon
It’s easier now that we are beyond the diaper stage and nobody naps anymore (except me). Friends and acquaintances have mentioned that our children have grown into normal — even outstanding — young adults.
This motherhood thing is a marathon, and each day holds new challenges. Whether you have one precious child or a van-load of blessings, I hope you are finding joy as you press on through the joys and challenges of parenting.
As mothers, may we:
- Never tire of walking in faith.
- Always be crazy about loving our families — even when it’s hard.
- Face the unknown future with peace in God.
- Look back someday and see the refining God has done in our lives.
For this tired, ignorant, crazy and unrefined mother, it’s been a good journey so far.