A MOMYS friend of mine (meaning I don't actually know her, but we're friends by virtue of having spoken through email a couple of times and are MOMYS), Julie at Seeking the Old Paths, has a new post entitled You Should Have Thought About That Before... that I really enjoyed.
There is an unwritten rule that mothers of large families know. The ones who do not know this rule, figure it out on their own pretty quickly, as there are no shortages of situations in which it will need to be applied. Any stranger in the grocery store, most relatives, casual acquaintances, pastors, and even close friends can be the tutors to introduce a Mom to this rule. How helpful.
The rule states that a mother of many children, in any case where any circumstances related to bearing or raising children are less than the picture of textbook perfection and bliss, must remain silent. Such a mother may never utter so much as a syllable indicating the less-than-Utopian condition of her health, her family dynamics or her discipline struggles in auditory range of another individual save her husband."
This is true. There is a lot of pressure (self imposed, culturally imposed...) to look as if we have it all together. This has been, and still often is, a huge struggle from me. I, ashamedly, have imposed too much stress on my children in the attempt to appear as if life is perfect, a mom can do it all, her children can be perfect, her house can be perfect, etc., etc., etc. I am working to overcome this. The Lord finally got through to me in telling me that in my being and looking like that, I wasn't helping anyone. I wasn't helping my children, and I sure wasn't being encouraging to my friends by appearing as if I had it all and could do it all. Not to mention that it was downright deceitful. The Lord showed me that part of my role in encouraging moms was how important it is to be real. Do I do this perfectly? Not at all. Have I gotton better? Yes. But just know, that if you happen to come over and my house looks great, my children are probably just waiting to share with you what the previous hours and/or day was actually like around here! You can just call them Cinderella :o)
She goes on to talk about the pressure moms of large families face because of their decision to have more than the average 2. whatever number children is currently average. People feel the liberty to criticize and/or offer advice or say, "Well, you should have thought about that before you decided to have ___ children, home school, get pregnant again, fill in the blank with whatever." Thankfully, I happen to live in a community and most importantly, attend a church where large families are not so odd. (Two of my good friends from church are Vange and Serene of Above Rubies fame and you can bet that I feel pretty inadequate to dispense encouraging mommy wisdom in light of their example! :o) In fact, I often feel funny in my writing as I have many friends and many women that I look up to that have quite a few more children than I do, but I am also in a funny place in that I do have several more children than most women my age, not to mention anyone that may happen to stumble across this blog, so I write from that perspective.) Anyway, I do not run into the rude comments as often as I think some women do, but you can bet that I feel as if I'm under a microscope a lot of the time.
She ended her post with the following, which was just, well, encouraging to me...
"I cannot speak for everyone who has a large family, but ours… I know. Let the record show that I did think about it before I did it. I counted the cost of pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, raising these blessings of ours, and every detail involved. What I found is that it is hard. It involves excruciating pain… backbreaking, toilsome labor day in and day out, often giving what I did not know I had to more people than I knew I could love.
Our culture is so selfish that it often surprises us to know that people still decide, even today, that just because something is hard does not mean it isn’t worth doing. Let’s not assume too much. The mothers of many children that I know are making this decision over and over again, even in the face of persecution from the ones who should be supportive. Most of us have to suffer in silence. Alone. It adds to the difficulty, but by YHWH’s grace, it cannot detract from the joy."
It was just so nice to hear someone echo my heart. Glen and I had a small discussion last night about having more children. It was late and right before bed, but for me it clarified in my mind that I do not want to be "officially done." My heart would break I think. Last week I took pregnancy test as I had just been so exhausted it just caused me to wonder. Now, I haven't had a cycle again, and I am still nursing two not-so-little-anymore guys, so I didn't really think I would be, but when it was negative, I had that moment of my heart kind of sinking and feeling disappointed. It was then that I really knew I want to do it again. That and the realization that I wish I could the one facing labor in the near future instead of my sister :o) (Not that I would deny her that incredible experience of laboring and birthing and bringing new life into the world and the privilege of becoming a mother, I just wish that I could do it too. I really do look forward to labor, it is such an amazing, incredible experience. Call me nuts, but I do. It is so exhilirating and empowering and sweet. I just walk (or sit) around in this aura for a couple of weeks afterwards treasuring my new baby and thinking about what an incredible miracle a baby really is.)
Anyway, I just so appreciated what Julie said at the end. With this realization that I want to have more children comes the flip side. The work that I know is involved. I am still smack covered up in the work that comes with babies and toddlers and preschoolers and grade schoolers and grade schoolers growing into middle schoolers. I know. But I love it. I love my life. It is hard. It is really hard. I do not like the work, but I love it. I always think about that verse that talks about the boundry lines falling for me in pleasant places and having a delightful inheritance.
I was thinking last night about the people I meet or encounter when I am out with all the kids or when they find out how many I have had in such a short span of time. I have noticed a huge difference in who makes what kinds of comments. There are mainly three categories. The women of still-childbearing age are usually the ones that are amazed and have the "I don't know how you do it" kind of comments. The baby boomer generation that grew up in the dawn and heydey of feminism are the ones that give you bad looks, and snide or just plain rude comments. These are the women who are just past childbearing years for the most part, and who I strongly suspect, are largely reacting out of regret, whether they realize it or not. Regret for buying into a lie that pouring your life into your career is more rewarding than pouring your life into your family. They are getting older and realize they have precious little of lasting value to show for all their years of hard work and the sacrifice of their children on the alter of career advancement and keeping up with the Joneses. A lot of them are separated by long distances or even alienated from their children. Not all, but a lot. Then, there are the older men and women. The ones that smile, encourage, and say some of the sweetest things ever. These are the men and women of the Silent Generation and even the GI Generation. These precious men and women grew up surrounding the Great Depression. Even having grown up in very lean times, they are not the ones usually wondering how we're going to pay for "all those children." (This falls under the category of rude baby boomer comments.) They are, for the most part, nearing the end of their lives, and they know, without a shadow of a doubt, what is truly important and worth investing your life into. So many older men and women stop me and tell me how many children they had and how wonderful it is. How worth it it is. They're not remembering the diapers (cloth, mind you!), the laundry, the countless hours cooking and cleaning. The sleepless nights, the tired pregnancies. They smile at my children, they rub their heads. You can tell they know what they're talking about. They know what is important in life. They are the ones who encourage me the most in imparting value to my role as a mother. The Bible talks about the wisdom of the aged. My experience, for the most part, is that the aged realize the importance and value of family. I rarely, if ever, hear older men or women talk about their successes in life outside of their family. That tells me that what I am and the value and importance I place on it is worth it. It has value. More value than anything else I could be doing. I am in a sowing stage of life. That's the hard, intense part. I am trusting the Lord that I will reap a harvest of righteousness.
"Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
One of my favorite verses comes from Isaiah 32. He is speaking to the women of Jerusalem, and while the times and circumstances are different than mine, I believe in part what he is saying when he talks about righteousness has to do with the choice to live in accordance with the Father's commands and according to the way He set forth long ago which is vastly different than the way the culture around them (and us) was (is) living. When he talks about the effect of righteousness, I apply that to me as it being the choice (as the children of Israel long ago were called and instructed to choose) to live differently than the culture and peoples around me are living. What I mean is that by applying this verse to my life, I am by no means claiming to be righteous of my own accord. My righteousness is through Christ alone, but when Isaiah was speaking, the term righteous or righteousness was used when speaking of following the law and God's commands as opposed to living how they saw fit and living as the pagans around them lived.
"The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free."
I am not speaking of the decision to have a large family necessarily, I am talking about the decisions we as Christians have to make every day to live for the Lord, even when, and especially when those decisions are hard. When those decision alienate us. When we live in the world, but not of it. When we walk the narrow path. That is even hard in the church. Maybe even more so. The world knows that "evangelical Christians" are different, so it's not so weird when we are different. But when Christians start making different and hard choices around other Christians, you can bet that toes get stepped on, people get offended, standards and bars are raised, guilt is imposed on both sides, etc. etc. etc. It is a fine line to walk. We are often on both sides of that line. We as a family do a lot of things vastly different than a lot of our friends, but we know a lot of people that live even more "conservatively" than we do, for lack of a better word. And they are calling us to a higher standard. It's hard, but I can trust in the Lord that though things around me may be hard, or chaotic, or seem to be falling apart, or don't make sense to people around us, or don't make sense to us, in my spirit I can be at rest and peace knowing that I right where the Lord wants me...seeking Him, following Him, and depending on Him.
As I tell my children often, the fact that I want to obey and am trying to obey, is often more important than when I fail. Yes, there is a place for obedience. We are called to follow God's commands and to obey. But He does see our heart. My children get in way more trouble for a rebellious attitude and it concerns me much more if I feel they don't care if they obey or not. But when I know they are trying, when they want to obey and it's just hard, there are still consequenes for disobedience, but it carries a lot of weight that they love me and want to please me.
One quick thing I did want to add in regard to my previous post. I didn't want to leave anyone with the impression that life with Anna is bad. On the contrary. It has some definite new challenges, but it is also a sweet stage of life. It's just new territory in our home, one that we're learning to navigate, and seeking wisdom from the Lord in learning to navigate it well. She a source of constant joy and a treasure and delight to all who know her :o)
I also didn't want to leave the impression that I felt as if God had talked to me about the whole birth control issue as if I am right, Glen is wrong, and I just need to wait for God to set him straight. I don't know what I think about the whole birth control thing as far as is it okay or not. I do think most people limit their family size for mostly selfish reasons without bothering to ask God what He wants for their family, but I am not officially in the camp of "birth control is wrong." Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Maybe the line isn't really that black and white in every situation. For me, this was, and is, an issue of my learning to not think I need to change my husband to be in line with my thinking or what I want, but learning that God works in me, and God works in him. Sure he uses each of us in forming the other, but it's up to God, not up to me to instruct my husband as if I am the Holy Spirit. Make sense? I also didn't want to imply that we are majorly against one another on this issue. We often find ourselves debating opposite sides of things just for the sake of debate. We are best friends, and get along fabulously. We prefer to be around each other more than anyone else. We don't do things separately very often. In all honestly, I have never met anyone else that seems as well matched as we are . Obviously, I don't know the inner workings and dynamics of other couples exceptionally well, I have just observed that for the most part, our personalities are very complimentary, much more so than average. (This is not at all to sound prideful. I am thankful for this beyond words and just want to convey that I am aware that things can often be easier for us as we have well suited personalities.)
Anyway, just wanted to add that on.
I hope everyone has a fabulous week!