Conceiving Courage

March 29, 2016 in Adversity, Book, Conception, Depression, Events, Faith, Family size, Fear, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy

 

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. -Joshua 1:9

Almost three years ago, Robyn and I hosted a Gift of Giving Life party at my parents’ home in Utah County. It was very well attended, and I was privileged to meet many beautiful women who have since become my friends in addition to reconnecting with other women who were already dear to me.

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn's sister

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn’s sister

At the time I was busy mothering my four children, my youngest being just over 2 and my oldest 9 years old. The previous summer and fall (2012) had been harrowing for me as I battled for my life with severe anxiety and depression. Finally having regained joy and peace and a solid foundation, naturally I was not inclined to do anything to jeopardize the calm I had so painfully won. And yet… deep down inside my heart I felt that there was at least one child who was still hoping to join my family. Meanwhile, my husband had very strong feelings against having any more children. And most of the time I was inclined to think he was right. I didn’t think I could do it.

As part of the event, we broke into two groups to discuss and share spiritual experiences related to pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Among the women in the group I joined were several seasoned mothers of very large families. I couldn’t believe my ears when they talked about how much “easier” it got as their families grew (in years and number). “The older kids are so helpful!” they shared.

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A friend of mine (who also had four young children at the time) and I were aghast as we shared our fears that we couldn’t possibly handle any more children, despite feeling that our families weren’t complete. These mothers assuaged our concerns, saying, “Right now you are in the hardest part! With lots of little kids and none old enough to help out. It gets easier!” Even so, my friend and I were still hesitant.

My hesitation eventually gave way to courage, however, and over the course of the following year I attempted weaning off my anti-depressant in order to prepare my body for another pregnancy. When my weaning attempt turned into an even more severe and prolonged battle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts (summer and fall of 2014), my intention of bearing any more children seemed impossible to retain. My husband and I just didn’t think my mind/body/spirit could handle it. So we did what we could to prevent pregnancy. In our then-thirteen years of marriage we had never had an unplanned pregnancy. And our prevention methods continued to work well for us… for most of a year.

Then, in May of 2015, I stared down at a positive pregnancy test after my morning meditation. Immediately I was overcome by so many emotions. I did not see that coming. It was not planned or expected or convenient. But nevertheless it was happening. Friends and family were also surprised but full of support and faith. Many separately shared their strong feelings that all would be well and that this baby would be a beautiful healing blessing to me and my family. I hoped they were right and courageously moved toward my baby’s birth.

It has now been almost a year since I stared at that surprisingly positive pregnancy test. My oldest daughter is nearly a teenager now. The other kids are 10, 7, and 5. And our sweet Baby Hope is 3 months old. Out of the most difficult and darkest years of my life emerged the brightest and most beautiful.

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.

(Hymn #19)

Hope smiling brightly

I have been wanting to shout to the world, “They were right! They were all so right!” The seasoned mothers-of-many at the Gift of Giving Life party I hosted three years ago were right! Having a baby when you have several older kids to help is amazing. It is so much easier. And my friends and family who encouraged me throughout my pregnancy were right. This baby has been one of the greatest healing gifts of my life.

I am so happy. Life is so good.

good courage

If you are interested in hosting a Gift of Giving Life party, you can apply to be a hostess. A GOGL party is a gathering designed to get women (and men when appropriate) together in person to share how God’s hand has worked in their lives (in the area of giving life). It is an opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally to hear spiritual birth-related stories. It is also a great way to spread the word about our book.

We offer hostesses books at wholesale. You can pass on the savings or use profit to cover party costs. We have held many of these gatherings in different states with amazing results (friendships, fun, spiritual growth).

If you would like to apply to be a hostess please email us at thegiftofgivinglife@gmail.com for more information.

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Processing Motherhood with Poetry

August 16, 2015 in Abortion, Family size, fasting, Fear, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

So we moved this summer. In the process of unpacking, I found a composition book with notes, freewriting, story ideas, and poetry from the Creative Writing class I took at BYU during the last semester of my senior year. I was newly pregnant with my first child at the time and thus processing a lot of my mother issues. As usual, one of the ways I chose to do this was through words. The following are two poems I wrote in the early months of 2003 and another written more recently.

This first poem is about my stepmother. She came into my life when I was about three or four years old. My dad met her while attending graduate school at BYU after his marriage with my mother ended. Unfortunately, he was no longer allowed to teach seminary as a divorced man. So he went back to school full time and worked to support our family as a single dad of six. I was the youngest, and desperately in need of maternal love and affection. My dad’s new girlfriend, a former elementary school teacher obtaining her doctorate in neuropsychology, could work magic with small children, and I was smitten from the start. She introduced us to literature, art, history, theater, cultural diversity, music, and lots of new foods. Who I am today I owe in large part to her influence.

Seeds

581653_594088200611546_572607400_nLooking up
A pair of small blue eyes
Soaked in all the love that she emanated
From her tall, beautiful figure.
A little hand,
Fingernails stubby from nibbling,
Grasped tightly
Her warm, slender fingers,
Safe.
A child’s ears
Swallowed her voice–
Drank in deeply the tales
Of Arabian Nights and
Trees that gave and gave.
The growing heart
Embraced the seeds she offered–
Words, knowledge, safety,
Love.
And the seeds still grow.

The next poem describes many women who have mothered me over the years: my mother, my sister, my grandmother, my stepmother, my aunt, and others. As I pondered my pregnancy and the path of motherhood, I thought a lot about these women and having had a rather non-traditional upbringing wondered whether I would be a “successful” mother.

My Mothers

I’ve been saved so many times
By gentle hands and soothing words.
She, with the instincts of life and nature,
Drew me to her.
In nights when only light and noise were solace,
She rescued me.
When the darkness and the silence were unbearable,
Or when I wept, incapable of expressing my fear,
Surrounded by familiar prisons, she pulled me out.
She had so many faces, so many names,
But her heart is called Mother.
Mothers.

mothers

Some of my “Mothers”

And now my own heart strains
As the title bursts upon it.
It hurts, but the pain is also joy.
I fear the title.
Mother.
Can I be Mother?
Will nature teach me how to be a
A Savior–
A Mother?

Now, 12+ years later, I am Mother to four (and a half) children. I wonder all the time if I am really capable of taking on any more, but the truth is I have wondered this every time I have been pregnant. Somehow my children have turned out remarkably well, whether because of or in spite of my efforts. I try to remind myself that, even when I’m not nurturing them as well as I think I should be, they have a life full of love, consistency, and security that I could only have dreamed of as a child.

This last poem I wrote just two years ago. It has been on my mind a lot the past few days. Last week I discovered that I am presently pregnant with another girl. This was a bit (a lot) shocking as I had been anticipating the arrival boy-child who has been visiting me for the past four years. But one of the things that has enabled me to open my heart to this daughter is remembering the millions of girl babies who have been eliminated in areas of the world with boy-baby preference. Girl babies in these areas are far too often aborted (sometimes by force), killed at birth, abandoned, or channeled into the horrific sex-slave trade. There are 163 million females who would have populated Asia but are “missing” because of gendercide. That is more than the entire female population of the United States.

Two years ago, on June 2, 2013, I organized a day of fasting and prayer to raise awareness about this heart-breaking problem. Early that morning, I was awakened by the words of a poem forming in my head, demanding to be written. And when I re-read it now, carrying a daughter in my womb, my heart cries, “I hear you! I want you! I will be your mother!”

3:00 a.m.

When I hear
A baby cry,
Her voice
Her song
An invisible vibration of longing
Penetrates my mortal shell,
Gliding through flesh and bone
Like a delicate silver thread.
It throbs with urgency
As it wraps around
And around
saveagirlAnd around
My heart,
Bleeding ache.
And now
A hundred
A million
A hundred million
Tiny threads,
Bursting with a deafening silence,
Pull me from my sleep
Like newborns in the night,
“Wake up,”
Their silent voices throb,
“Cry for us,
Scream for us,
Mother.”

 A slideshow I made for the June 2 day of prayer… Some of the girls in the video were the daughters of people who participated in the event…

“Your family is complete”

September 9, 2013 in Babywearing, Dads, Faith, Family size, Guest Post, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Lani, Marriage, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy

“Your family is complete”
By Katie Winn

As a child and a youth I always admired mothers with large families. I was fascinated with their patience and love. It seemed to me that the more kids you had the happier the home would be. I loved the idea that each child would have a friend at all times and no one would ever be lonely.

I knew years ago that I wanted a large family. The Lord has seen fit that I should have six children. I love being their mother. There was a time during my fifth pregnancy when I couldn’t see an end to my baby creating. I wanted to have as many children as my body could carry. I truly wanted to leave the decision of the number of children I had to the Lord. I was willing to have 9 or more if that was what He wanted. I never wanted to be done.

DSC00027

I remember conversations with my husband about never wanting to be done having kids, and he was not on board. It was a little bit of a touchy subject between us because I couldn’t imagine never having little feet in the house again. He was ready to move on to a new chapter in our lives, one that didn’t include lugging strollers and diaper bags everywhere. A new chapter when we could attend all three hours of church without having to roam the halls with a toddler not quite ready for nursery. A new chapter when we no longer had to change diapers. A new chapter when we no longer find sippy cups in unusual places filled with what used to be milk, but is now past the cheese stage and you have to throw the whole cup away because you know there is no way you can wash it out. I couldn’t fathom having those moments gone from our lives. I was hurt that he felt that way.

When my fifth child was about 6 months old I started to have the aching in my belly again. I had a physical yearning for baby number six. I started talking to my husband about it, and he was reluctant. He knew that it wouldn’t be the end he really wanted. I felt bad because I knew I wasn’t taking his feelings into consideration, but I knew through prayer and the Spirit that we had another baby who needed to come to our home. He trusted me and agreed to have ONE more baby. I was so excited and happy.

I conceived when my fifth baby was a little over a year old. Twenty weeks went by, and we went to our ultrasound appointment. I was really looking forward to it. We already had two girls and three boys. I thought it would be perfect if we could have another girl to even things out. When the technichian asked if we wanted to know the gender, I said yes. As she was moving the transducer across my belly, I saw for myself. We were having a girl. The tech told us what she was, and I was right. We were having our third girl, a perfect balance. Then I heard a voice say, “Your family is complete.” Tears streamed down my cheeks. I was not expecting that voice. I didn’t know what to think. This couldn’t be it! I was going to have many more babies. I wasn’t ready to have this be it. I never wanted to be done, and couldn’t believe what I had heard.

I enjoyed the rest of my pregnancy and looked forward to meeting my little girl. The pregnancy was normal, the birth went well. I snuggled my new baby all day and all night. I looked forward to nursing her every three hours. I loved carrying her in my ring sling. When she was six months old I approached my husband and said, “I think it’s time to have another baby.” I waited for the tingle in my belly, and the yearning in my chest. It didn’t come. I told him that I really didn’t feel that way, but I just had to test it.

I waited for the feeling to come. I have thought to myself that it should be time to have another one. I have friends who have announced pregnancies and had babies. I liked to look at their growing bellies and hold their new babies but didn’t feel the need to have one of my own. I was really done. The desire was not there. Now my baby has grown and is a month away from going to nursery. I have started looking forward like my husband. I can look forward to her going to nursery and being potty trained. I can look ahead (with an aching heart) to my children growing up and going to school and college and getting married. I can look forward to being a grandma. We are moving on to the next chapter, and I am OK with it.

I am grateful for the prompting I received at our ultrasound appointment. The Lord knows my heart, and knows that I was willing to bring as many children into this world as He wanted me to. He also knows my limitations and my weaknesses. He knows my strengths and my abilities. He knows my husband and his needs, too.

I love the Lord and the direction he gives me. I love that I have an eternal family and that my six gifts from God will be with me long after they are grown. I have learned over the years to accept the Lord’s timing. He knows what my plan is, and I am trusting Him in guiding me along the way.

IMG_9112-1Katie Winn is a stay-at-home mom and currently a student with the BYU-Idaho Pathway program. She has been married to her husband, Steve, for nearly 14 years. Together they have six great kids ranging in age from 13 years to 17 months old. Katie is enjoying juggling student life with church callings and the daily duties of being a mother and wife. She feels her calling as a mother to be the greatest responsibility and blessing.

Bearing Burdens

March 20, 2013 in Adversity, Angels, Death, Family History, Grief, Lani, Loss, Marriage, Motherhood, Savior

Today, in honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share the story of my great-grandmother, Cassie. She reminds me that I can do difficult things. -Lani

When I start feeling sorry for myself or overwhelmed by all the day-to-day problems and concerns in my life as a wife and mother, it often helps me to think about my great-grandmother, Cassie.

Cassie was born in 1890 in a two-room log cabin in Mapleton, UT, “one mile west of one of the most beautiful mts. in the world,” as she described it. Cassie wrote, “Well you know that the years from 1907 to 1918 were the happiest and grandest years of this mortal life to me.” 1907 was the year she met and married her sweetheart, Edmund, and the autumn of 1918 was the start of several years I can’t even fathom enduring.

In October of 1918, Cassie was approximately eight months pregnant with my grandfather. At this time, her mother-in-law (Grandma Roundy) came by train to visit, but she was unknowingly exposed to influenza en route. Within three days, Cassie’s husband Edmund, their four children, Grandma Roundy, a sister-in-law and family, and Cassie’s sister Ella and her husband had all come down with influenza.

These are Cassie’s words about the days that followed:

Memory you can never forget the agonizing hours I spent in those days and the following weeks and months. We had 3 cows, 4 calves, 14 sheep, and 6 head of horses. They must be fed, watered, and the cows milked twice a day. How my back would ache when all was done for the night. It was almost beyond my strength to endure. Edmund raised up in bed and said the most beautiful prayer I ever heard for me. He asked the Lord to bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that were placed upon me and many more beautiful things.

All of this while eight months pregnant.

Within three days, Cassie’s beloved Edmund passed away. Six weeks later, she gave birth to my grandfather, Edmund. Of this time, Cassie wrote: “No one that hasn’t had this cup of sorrow can understand the awful sorrow and suffering I went through.” And yet, despite her pain, she was able to say, “Thy will not mine Father. All is well done.”

A year later, Cassie married a widower named Moses whose wife was also taken by influenza. Between 1919 and 1923, Cassie gave birth to two more daughters, but she would also lose two sisters, her mother, and finally her second husband Moses. Cassie wrote:

Moses was snatched from me so suddenly I didn’t have time to plead the dear God to spare him to us. I am again a widow and cannot say, ‘Thy will.’ The camel’s back is broken. God has been unkind I feel. He gave me a good husband, a kind father, and now he snatched him home. I cannot forgive him this time. I do not feel submissive. I am miserable and try to feel that I do not love God anymore, but his spirit again softens me and I am ashamed that I pitied myself. I say, ‘I am in your hands, father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.’ How the days drag on yet always plenty to eat and clothing to wear. Thank God for his blessings.

It wasn’t long until the Great Depression hit, but Cassie managed to raise her large family as a single mother.

On July 20, 1931, Cassie wrote a letter. It was to be placed in a box and opened in fifty years. In it she shared the words she would have her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren hear. These are some of the words she wrote, to me:

Let me here bear you my testimony that I know that God lives, that he can and does answer earnest prayers and faith. I have seen the sick healed. The hearts of the sorrowing made glad. . . . I know that I am writing to a vast amount of spirits unborn that will be born because I choose to fulfill the measure of my creation and have my family instead of following after the teachings of the worldly. . . . . I would that I could look down 50 years and meet you all and shake your hands. Maybe my life of trials and hardships that I am now passing through would be welcomed that great things may follow. . . . You are all literal descendants of the pioneers on your mother’s and father’s side. Don’t fall short of what they expected of their heirs! . . . May health, strength, and happiness and God’s blessings be yours is the prayer of your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc.

And here I am, looking back at her, eighty-one years later, living in the lap of luxury compared to Cassie’s life and the lives of most of this world’s inhabitants, and I struggle to say, as she did, “I am in your hands, Father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.”

Cassie’s strength and courage inspire me to step up, “shake myself from the dust,” stop wallowing in self-pity, and recognize how incredibly blessed I am. She inspires me to do as President Hinckley’s father told him, “Forget yourself and go to work.” She beckons me to set my sights on the vast number of spirits unborn who will come after me, who will look back at me (as I look back at Cassie). What kind of legacy am I leaving for them? Will they feel proud to call themselves mine? Is Cassie proud of what I have done with her genes… her blood, sweat, and tears? What am I doing with my blood, sweat, and tears?

I love these words, shared by Richard G. Scott in our recent General Conference, originally spoken by President Joseph F. Smith:

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. . . . We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors . . . who have preceded us into the spirit world. . . . Those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond . . . can see us better than we can see them; . . . they know us better than we know them. . . . We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; . . . their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.

Does Cassie pray for me, as her Edmund prayed for her, that the Lord may bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that are placed upon me? However small they may be compared to the burdens she endured?

I like to think so.

In Wisdom and Order

October 26, 2012 in Adversity, Book, Dads, Family size, Fear, Intuition, Lani, Marriage, Personal Revelation, Postpartum Depression

About a year and a half ago, I sat in this very spot and wrote a bittersweet blogpost. In it I shared some personal experiences relating to my fourth pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Here’s an excerpt:

We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true. . . . And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.

Then about six months ago I plunged into a pit of anxiety and depression unlike anything I had ever experienced before. With those illnesses came an intense repulsion of the idea of ever bearing any more children. The thought of discovering I was pregnant filled me with overwhelming horror. I was sure that having another child would be the death of me. And meanwhile I had just helped write a book called The Gift of Giving Life! 

One of the essays I wrote in the “Importance of Giving Life” section of our book is titled “The Spirit of Elijah.” Here’s an excerpt:

As President Spencer W. Kimball has said, “This is the great, irreplaceable work of women. Life cannot go on if women cease to bear children. Mortal life is a privilege and a necessary step in eternal progression. Mother Eve understood that. You must also understand it.” These words from the Savior can remind us of the importance of receiving these little ones into our arms and homes: “And whoso receiveth one such little one in my name receiveth me” (Matthew 18:5).

There were many times during the past six months when I thought to myself with bitter sarcasm, “I don’t even believe any of the stuff I wrote in that stupid essay anymore.” Satan was beating me black and blue and filling my head with all kinds of awfulness. At present, I no longer feel broken down by the fear and darkness, but I do still feel very hesitant to invite any more children into my womb and home.

Yet, I told my husband, children, and friends many times in the months following my fourth child’s birth that I felt impressed that there were two more spirits waiting to come to our family. But now, after surviving a long and hellish summer full of poor mental and emotional health, I can’t help feeling that bearing any more children may not be wise. Are we not also taught that we shouldn’t run faster than we have strength?

My husband is our family’s provider, and he also bears a heavy and heart-breaking burden when I am incapacitated by emotional difficulties. He wants to be “done,” in part because he wants to keep me strong and healthy and happy. Just the other day, I was staring from across the room at my friend’s adorable baby (one of the first times in a long time that I felt a twinge of baby hunger), turned to my husband with a pleading look, and said, “Isn’t she cute?” He replied, “We already have four cute ones.”

I think it’s often the case that husbands are eager to be finished with (or hesitant to begin) childbearing before wives are. In fact, it can become a source of conflict for some couples when one is certain that there are more spirits waiting to come to the family but the other disagrees or feels done. A few days ago, I encouraged one of our Gift of Giving Life readers struggling with this issue to share “A Father’s Sacred Support” with her husband (in the Unity chapter of our book). In that essay, I shared a quote from Marion G. Romney:

Unity comes by following the light from above. It does not come out of the confusions below. While men depend upon their own wisdom and walk in their own way, without guidance of the Lord they cannot live in unity. Neither can they come to a unity by following uninspired men.

The way to unity is for us to learn the will of the Lord and then to do it.

 A year ago, I thought I knew the will of the Lord for my family: more babies down the road. But now I’m not so sure. I just don’t know what to do about those two spirits I once believed were waiting for us to welcome them. And I couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt, knowing that my womb may never again give life, when I heard Elder Oaks say a few weeks ago in Conference:
From the perspective of the plan of salvation, one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth. This is a worldwide trend. The national birthrate in the United States is the lowest in 25 years.

Oh how I wish I could be stronger, healthier, braver, and more capable. Oh how I wish I could completely open my body and heart to more of those children waiting for their turn on earth. But maybe it’s for the best that I simply give thanks for the four beautiful children I have been given and focus on nurturing them with more love and diligence. They deserve a happy mother.

In 1979, the Ensign published a question and answer relating to these dilemmas. The question was: “Is it our understanding that we are to propagate children as long and as frequently as the human body will permit? Is there not any kind of ‘gospel family-planning,’ for lack of a better way to say it?” The response came from Dr. Homer Ellsworth, gynecologist and former member of the Melchizedek Priesthood General Committee. A portion of his reply reads:

As to the number and spacing of children, and other related questions on this subject, such decisions are to be made by husband and wife righteously and empathetically communicating together and seeking the inspiration of the Lord. . . .  As I meet other people and learn of their circumstances, I am continually inspired by the counsel of the First Presidency in the General Handbook of Instructions that the health of the mother and the well-being of the family should be considered. Thirty-four years as a practicing gynecologist and as an observer of Latter-day Saint families have taught me that not only the physical well-being but the emotional well-being must also be considered.

I don’t know the right answer for my family yet, let alone anyone else’s family. But I have sort of decided to put off deciding for now and hope for further light and knowledge to be given to us in the future. For now I’m focusing on getting healthier, happier, and stronger, and I am doing so much better than I was before. I know many of you have been praying for me. Thank you for your love and prayers.

Have you struggled with these dilemmas in your marriage? Are you “done” having children? Has your physical or emotional health ever been a deciding factor in whether or when you would bear more children? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Guest post: Hands Full, by Cherylyn

April 11, 2012 in Dreams, Family size, Fear, Intuition, Lani, Marriage, Motherhood, Prayer

I am excited to share this guest post written by Cherylyn. She is a powerful force for good in the birth blogging world, and I’m happy to know her. Cherylyn is a mom of six who’s figuring it out as she goes. She’s a birth doula, aspiring midwife, and author of the Mamas and Babies blog and its accompanying pages on Facebook and Google +. –Lani

Hands Full
By Cherylyn

“You’ve got your hands full!”

That’s the most common thing I hear when I’m out with my kids. Even if I only have the youngest three or four with me. Maybe it’s because they’re fairly close in age, or maybe it’s the sight of me with a baby on my chest in the wrap and one on either side of me holding my hand. Sometimes I have all six kids with me, and that’s when people simply stare.

Even in Utah where “big” families are more common than in other areas, the socially acceptable number of children seems to be getting smaller. Growing up in California with five siblings, we were stared at and people would ask my parents if we were all theirs, and “How many children do you have?!” Still, to me, it was normal. It was what I knew, and life was good. I wanted that for my own children.

We never talked about how many children we would have. My husband and I both came from what society would consider big families, and we had an unspoken desire to have a big family as well. We wanted our children to have the companionship of many siblings and the joy of a loving family. We also desired to follow the commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth.”

My husband’s ongoing struggle with chronic illness interfered with work, finances, and daily functions in general. We couldn’t plan for a large family without feeling an intense burden and wondering how we would ever manage to get by from day to day, let alone from month to month or year to year. He often felt overwhelmed just providing for and taking care of each child we had, and couldn’t imagine having more. At times he expressed a desire to be “done” and relieve the ever-increasing burden he felt as a father to provide for his family. I felt strongly there were more spirits waiting to come to our family, and I listened to his concerns and continued to pray and seek the Lord’s will and wait patiently. We took it one child at a time.

We’ve been blessed with tender mercies along the way. While pregnant with our fourth, a voice spoke to me, whispering “Don’t forget about me,” and a child’s spirit has appeared to my husband more than once. We felt the presence of another child who wasn’t here yet, sometimes in a dream, sometimes just a comforting feeling that she was there. Many times I would count heads, counting everyone, and feel as though we were still missing someone. Each time a child was born, we knew that waiting spirit had not yet come. Even after two miscarriages, we prayed and felt we should keep trying. She still hasn’t come, and we look forward to the day she’ll join our family. I think we’ll know when that time comes.

When I’ve felt overwhelmed by life, I’ve found myself on my knees, asking the Lord to bless us with the means to provide for the children He’s sending us, temporally and spiritually. We’ve not been disappointed. Despite ongoing challenges, our needs are always met. I find that when we follow His direction we are in turn given access to blessings to help us with what we’ve been asked to do. As our family increases in size, so does our faith, and we feel encouraged to move forward.

We enjoy our children every day. There’s a chaos to six children under 12, and yet a peace and joy to it as well. We find our parenting and lifestyle have changed to better suit our growing family, and we’re enjoying the journey. Our family is our top priority and most treasured blessing.

I find if my focus is on my family, most of the time I don’t even notice if someone is staring. Even when the judgmental comments come, I’m able to shrug it off because I realize that they simply don’t understand my perspective and the gratitude I have to the Lord for blessing me with a quiver full. I know these days will pass and I’ll miss watching them grow and learn. I’m told I’ll even miss the diapers and laundry.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Psalms 127:3)

I love having my hands full.