There was a time when Peter and I wanted a big family. We were newly-weds and planning our desires for our future. We both loved children. We knew we wanted to homeschool. Peter grew up with a large family of four children. Our conclusion was that a large family of four children was our desire. Fast forward to when we had two children. Admittedly, having kids was a lot harder than we had presumed. We felt maxed out on a practical level, but our conviction about having a large family hadn't changed. We certainly had to outdo the average family out there and be a role model of amazing-ness to all of our peers. But we could also sense that God intended for our lives to be invested in more than a lot of what we were seeing in the world around us.
About that time, Peter accepted his first position as a senior pastor. This suddenly allowed him more time to read and search for answers to many of the questions he had about the dispensational theology he'd been taught in college and the practical function of the American church. Long story short, his reading led him to reformed theology and he found himself convicted of a lot of beliefs that didn't fit with our church backgrounds and that changed the whole direction of our lives. One of the convictions had to do with birth control and trusting God with the size of our family. We spent hours talking these things over as he'd share with me all that he was reading about and answer all of my questions/objections.
As I gave birth to our third child we both felt a different sort of excitement about adding another son to our family. We saw him as a gift from God in a way that we hadn't viewed our first two children. Something had shifted and we saw the whole act of procreation as more about furthering Christ's kingdom than about fulfilling our own desires.
After our fourth child and a number of difficult sacrifices made in order to live in obedience to our new convictions we began to "count the cost." How many kids would God end up giving us anyway? How would that work out financially and in terms of our time resources? We worked through many questions but ultimately believed that the Bible taught us 1)God is to be trusted with all of it 2)raising children is an eternal investment and what would we rather be doing or would God rather us be doing with our money and time than that? In theory, we prepared to give up other pursuits and comforts in order to invest all that we had into raising children. How could a large, nice house, for instance, compare to the blessing of more family and the reward of investing in Christ's kingdom? We understood we would be making a trade-off. We realized that we would watch other families around us have different lives with different flexibility and ease.
That trade-off was much harder in reality as we went on to have several more babies.
I am now pregnant with our 9th baby. I went through a number of years of horrible struggle with my life and my inability to carry out the task and responsibility involved in the choices we had made. The more I had to sacrifice, the more deep-rooted selfishness came to the surface. I am now at a different place with my perspective on this than I was a couple of years ago with my eighth child.
The truth is that resources, (i.e., my body, my time, my mental and physical energies, my belongings, my "wealth") are all given to me by God. All that I have belongs to Him. Anything He gives me, I now see, is only correctly used when seen as an opportunity to do good to others, for His sake. As God has cleaned up my heart, he has convicted me to clean up my life and get busy repairing the ruins and turning my home into a blessing to others, my family members and extending out to minister and spread the gospel to the world around us.
As I began to learn and work on this earlier this year, I found out I was pregnant and it felt a little in-congruent with God's directives. I was thrilled and truly at peace with the pregnancy, but wondered how God wanted me to keep up the "clean up" while growing this baby in my close-to-40-year-old body. Even so, I trusted Him and I knew by now that His plans were always for the best.
This growing child within me is several weeks away from being born. God has faithfully shown me how perfectly this work of growing another human life fits in with the lessons He was/is teaching me. Many aspects of "clean up" that I had been doing had to slow down or stop completely, but the Lord had other ones for me to be working on.
A few thoughts:
1)While the pregnancy consumes a lot of my resources, I find my relationships with my children and husband have every opportunity to grow. As my physical resources are being alotted out to my growing baby, I can be sitting using my mental resources to converse, listen, respond, encourage, teach and build up my other family members. As our relationships become more selfless and fulfilling, the peace and joy in our home increases and the atmosphere changes. Proverbs 17:1, "Better is a dry morsel with quiet, then a house full of feasting with strife." This is clean up.
2)My character is strengthened by persevering through fatigue and pain to accomplish the basics of meeting our large family's needs and serving others in spite of my own weakness. Seeing my ability to do much more than I have been able to in past pregnancies, when I rely on the Lord's strength, helps me realize what is possible by His power. A life of daily reliance instead of fear is such an incredible blessing and this pregnancy has been a great conduit to experiencing this. This is clean-up also.
3) As God began to teach me years ago, people are worth investing in. Even as I am working to clear away the mess that built up in the past, I must learn how to live real life, the right way. There is the present and the future to be working on too. This baby has been a constant reminder of this. People are a priority. There is nothing in-congruent about learning to expend my resources on people. This is what I was doing before, just in a different way. As I was fixing up my house physically earlier this year with the original conviction to be doing it for the people around me, in service to the Lord, it began to become an idol to me. This pregnancy has cut that off and got me back on track with the point: My resources are to be used continually, daily, in investment in people and the growth of Christ's kingdom. That can look like a lot of different things. Making this baby is certainly one of them.
I find the Lord leading me back to some more progress on the physical aspects of my home right now. Motivated by making ready for baby's arrival and having my other children settled and cared for before that time comes, as well as creating a better environment to celebrate Christmas in and have guests in, I have many ideas of improvements to do in the next few weeks. I don't know how many of my ideas the Lord intends for me to bring to reality at this time, but as long as my heart is daily receiving the resources and giving them away wherever God desires, then it shouldn't matter. I pray as I move forward that I will remember:
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 9-13:
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven...What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God."