Earlier this week, I posted on Instagram asking for feedback on what kinds of posts people wanted to see on this ol' blog. One sweet follower said something that really resonated with me. She said: "thoughts on bringing a second life into the world! Why you chose to have them close in age and whether you would like more children close in age and how you would handle this." And I really wanted to share some honest, vulnerable, raw thoughts on that today.
Matt and I desire a big family. We want a lot of kids - "a lot" being a completely subjective term, of course. "A lot", for me, is five kids. Some of you are going "she is NUTS" right now, and I'm sure some of you are saying "only five? That's not a 'big family.'" That's the number we've settled on, although it's entirely up to God and His plans for us. We're also open to adoption and foster care, so I truly have no idea what the future of our family will look like. My hope and my desire is to keep seeking the Lord in each new season, and asking what His will is for us. We practice Natural Family Planning and are totally open to life at all times, so as far as kid spacing goes, we sort of have no preference. We chose not to avoid a pregnancy after Xavier was born, and decided to be open to life whenever God saw fit. God saw fit when Xavier was a year old, so here we are, with another babe on the way.
The world, our culture, society, tells us that the goal of life is to be happy. "Just do what makes you happy" - the slogan is plastered everywhere. It's the reason people change jobs, move across the country, buy and sell houses, travel the world, begin or end marriages. We're all in search of this elusive "happiness" that all the self-help books promise.
But my goal in this life, as a follower of Christ, is not to be comfortable, build wealth or even to be happy. My goal in this life is to become like Jesus, and to get to Heaven. Jesus didn't live a comfortable life, and as His followers, we're called to forgo our human comforts as well. I've never experienced that more than through motherhood.
Motherhood isn't super comfortable. There is a lot of sacrifice involved. We sacrifice sleep, solitude, quiet, alone time, our bodies, our money. When you have little ones to care for, it seems as though everything is beyond your control. Human comforts often go out the window when these tiny humans rely on you for their every need. But motherhood is sanctifying me. Motherhood is making me holier. Motherhood is what Jesus is using to draw me ever closer to himself. Jesus wants what is best for me, not what is most comfortable, or what might bring me fleeting happiness. He truly has my best interests at heart. He wants me to come home - eternal Home - forever.
Of course, I'm human, so my flesh longs for the trappings of this world. I want a pretty house. I want to be able to shop. I want to be able to buy Xavier cute clothes and nice toys. Sometimes the thought of having a large family or having lots of kids close together freaks me out, because of all the sacrifice. Of all the things we won't be able to do or buy or provide for them. What about vacations? What about college? What about my own comfort? It feels like I'm going to have to give up everything I love. But if you look up sacrifice in the dictionary, the definition is really so beautiful. Sacrifice isn't a word to be feared, it's a word to be upheld as a goal of believers. To sacrifice is to "surrender something for the sake of something else."
Having children means you surrender things. So many things. But you aren't surrendering in vain. The things I've surrendered to become a mom, the things I'm surrendering to have another child, I surrender for the sake of something else, something greater. I surrender my creature comforts, my longed-for luxuries, my many conveniences, for God's great plan to be made manifest in me and our family. To bear witness to His goodness and His provision. We surrender for a higher good.
In my human mind, I don't feel capable to mother two children. We live in a small house - two bedrooms and one very tiny bathroom that is, as of this moment, completely torn up with absolutely no plan for remodel. I am exhausted at the end of every day - even the best days - after caring for Xavier, my husband and myself. I feel maxed out. How on earth will I have energy or affection or love or time for another child? How on earth will I have time for any more children beyond that? Can I love another child? What if I love Xavier more? I know they say your heart expands, that love multiplies, but what if? What if? What if the depression returns? What if we have this second baby and I realize I'm not cut out for this?
I have no answer except: God. God provides. And I don't mean God provides in that He'll just provide money. I think that that happens and I think that's incredible. But God provides in other ways, too. He will provide opportunities for me to grow in contentment, so that I'm not jealous that other families can afford nicer clothes or toys for their kids or awesome vacations. He will provide opportunities to practice self-discipline and time management, so I can still have time for myself and to pursue hobbies I enjoy. He will provide opportunities for open and honest communication with my husband about my fears about a second child. He will provide opportunities to be courageous and invite other mamas into the community I so desperately need. He will provide opportunities for us to take on extra work to ease the financial aspect of adding another person to our household.
Our culture views large families or having kids close in age as crazy, even irresponsible, and I think this is so sad. Pinterest will tell you that by the time your child is eight or some crazy young age, you will have spent tens of thousands of dollars on them. What about college, friends will say. That's a lot to start saving for. The overarching theme is fear. Be afraid to have lots of kids. Be afraid, because it's scary. Be afraid, because it's expensive. Be afraid, because it's chaos all the time. Be afraid, because it's overwhelming. Be afraid, because you'll never sleep again.
Having children IS scary, because it's so beyond our control. Because we have to rely on strength beyond what we naturally possess. Because we can't do it on our own. But I know that I know that I know that God is greater. God is bigger than anything culture tries to tell you. Of course I'm scared. I've never mothered two children! I've never been pregnant while also having a VERY busy one year old! We live on one very modest income. We have a small home. We have a very minimal savings account. I already struggled with postpartum depression once, will it come back? Will it be worse? Have we made a huge mistake? Every day I have to make a choice: to live inside those fears, or surrender them to God. I have to choose to let my faith be greater than the fear. Sometimes I don't make it to the surrender and those are hard days. But there is grace and every morning is a fresh start.
I've felt it all so far this pregnancy. The fear, the joy, the gratitude, the overwhelm. But more than anything, I want to be a woman, a wife, a mother who trusts in Jesus. Who works out of His strength and not my own. Who trusts that He is writing my family's story and that He holds us in the palm of His almighty hand. Having children is scary, yes, but it's a beautiful act of surrender, too. To lay down your comforts and conveniences to bring another soul into the world that was breathed into life by the Creator, it's incredible. He didn't have to make it this way, make it so that women are the bringers of humanity, but He did. I'm honored to play this role in God's Kingdom story. I'm grateful for the many ways He's changing me through motherhood, and the ways He draws me closer to Himself.
To sacrifice isn't to give up everything in vain. To sacrifice is to "surrender something for the sake of something else," and because of God's grace, He is helping me become willing to sacrifice my comforts and luxuries and conveniences, my money and time and sleep for a short season, for this incredibly short season of growing and bearing and raising children, for the sake of gaining holiness and, eventually, Heaven.