Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Hands Are Full Indeed

We have a big family. We have six boys, and three girls ranging in age from ten months to fifteen years. Our house is full; our lives are full. Everywhere we go, every time we all climb out of our twelve passenger van, each time we run to the store en masse, every time we leave our house, someone either says to us, "Wow, you have your hands full!", or, " God bless you!".

Sometimes it is said with admiration and respect. Sometimes awe fills the words. Many are aghast. But far too frequently the words echo sounds of a society that cautions allowing one's family to get too big. A society that values ease, and rest, and amusement. A society that says small is better. A society that teaches walking by sight, not by faith.

While I am fully aware of the awesome responsibility of rearing a bunch of kids, I am saddened by the view that insists life remain in manageable compartments. And even though I completely understand that not everyone is called to have a "mega" family, I can't help but wonder if far too many well meaning people are missing out on God's incredible blessings by refusing to open their minds to the possibility of more.

I did not always see myself mothering a huge family. I can't say that I planned to have nine children. However I never came to a point when I felt comfortable saying there was no room in our lives for any more. I never felt we were at the end of our resources because God's resources are endless. I never felt comfortable saying, "I can't" because in Christ, "I can do all things".

If our lives only take us to a place where we can manage everything in our own strength, then how have we walked by faith? If we will not allow our minds to explore possibilities we have absolutely no clue how we would ever accomplish, then we are reducing God to a limited God who can only work within the blighted scope of His finite creation. It is our own lack of faith that limits God's miraculous work in our lives, not God's lack of ability to take us beyond ourselves. And it is Society's lack of faith that causes it to fear growing a family beyond its comprehension.

We are not a family without limitations and weaknesses. We are not a family without challenges. We are a family that walks by faith. We are parents who very early in our parenting years asked God to join us on our journey. We asked Him to help us with each child He gives, to bless our efforts to love and guide them, to complete our limited efforts with His ability to make all things good. And we have been blessed beyond comprehension.

Our children have benefited from being a part of something bigger than themselves. The life skills they have learned from living with a group of people with different personalities, needs, and abilities has been a blessing and will continue to benefit them throughout their lives. Words fail to express the joy I feel as a mother when I see the patience and compassion our preteens and teenagers show for their younger siblings. The responsibility they have learned by understanding the impact their decisions have on their brothers and sisters has been awesome to observe.

The little ones love being part of a big family. There is always someone to play with, always a party somewhere, always a sibling to confide in when challenges arise.

Children in a big family, out of shear necessity, learn to wait, to share, and to give. Watching our children grow and learn to love each other amidst a society that seems to be losing its children to a very self centered lifestyle, has been an incredible blessing to us. It is interesting to note, that all of this appears to happen naturally in a big family because, as parents, we have gone beyond our own ability to make their lives easy.

Having a big family is not without its challenges. There are moments when my mother's heart grieves for our children. We are different. Mega families cannot keep up with everything small families do. I would be dishonest to assert that I do not see that or sometimes feel the loss for our children. However, my tears quickly turn to joy when I see the people they have become, the alchemy of their hearts. I can't help but believe that, in some way, our cumbersome size is good for them.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus says over and over again, "Ask whatever you will in my name, and I will do it." And, "Thy faith has made you well." What if we all believed God to take us beyond ourselves? What if we allowed ourselves to dream bigger dreams? Or like Jabez' now famous prayer, asked God to enlarge our territory, and to use us for His glory? I get the feeling we have barely scratched the surface of what we could do if we believed God for more.

My husband and I have allowed God to take our family beyond ourselves, He is blessing us beyond all that we could ask or imagine. In response to all the questioning glances and comments. I am compelled to answer a hearty, "Yes, we do have our hands full, and I am so thankful we do. God has blessed us indeed!"

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." 2 Corinthians 9:6

A Mother's Prayers

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all of my life." -Abraham Lincoln

I posted this quote in my status several days ago. Since that time, my mind has replayed that quote over and over again until it has become like a flashing light of caution throughout my days. "I remember my mother's prayers," I hear again and again. I wonder when this stage of child rearing is long passed, when our children's growing years are over and they have moved on to adulthood, will it be my prayers that they remember? And will they cling to them?

A mother wears many hats. In a day, she is a chef, a laundress, a teacher, a nurse, a decorator, a chauffeur, a comforter, an encourager, a disciplinarian, a puppy trainer, and the list goes on and on. Many women are breadwinners, too. And yet in the midst of all these responsibilities, there is a window of time that is slowly closing and will eventually be forever shut. Like sand through an hour-glass, time is passing. And we are only given a finite amount of time to share our hearts with our children, a blip in the time line of eternity to communicate the burning passion of our hearts.

And so, by necessity, we are sifters, too, of all that clammers for our time and our children's time. After school activities, sports, dancing, music lessons, friends, play dates, birthdays, Dr.'s appointments, shopping, phone calls, emails, pets, laundry, demand our time and attention, and we find ourselves quickly sorting and prioritizing each one. We have a set of standards by which we evaluate every urgency that crosses our path. Is this good for our children? Do they need it? Is is worthwhile? Is is best? And beyond these, we ask ourselves, will this prepare our children for adulthood? All worthy goals and standards, indeed.

However, as I have reflected on Abraham Lincoln's words, I am struck by another standard that must override all other worthy goals. Are we preparing our children for eternity? Do the activities of our days reflect that most pressing and urgent desire of our hearts? Do we have time to pray with our children?

Childhood will quickly pass, as will adulthood. In what seems like meer moments our lives will move from this natural physical world to the permanent, steadfast spiritual world that is our forever home. Our time here on earth is only worthwhile in that it is preparing us for eternity with our Heavenly Father.

So, as a mother, we have the awesome responsibility of prioritizing our lives in such a way as to allow time for prayer with our children. Our children need to hear us pour out our hearts to our Heavenly Father. Are we praying about their days, their school, their country, their futures, their someday spouses, their children, their gifts and abilities? Do they hear us ask God to use them for His glory? And do they hear us ask our Heavenly Father to forgive our mistakes and mend the pieces of our sometimes feeble attemps to parent? Do they know that every accomplishment in their physical lives pales when compared to the importance of their relationship with Jesus, their savior?

When time has forever shut it's window on our days of mothering our children, will it be our prayers that they remember?