A Root Out of Dry Ground

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up in a rather large family {nothing like this girl‘s crew featured in her fun new blog series}, a modest family of 9, 4 girls, 3 boys, 2 parents. Surprisingly, so did my husband, only there were 4 boys and 3 girls. He was second to youngest. I, second to oldest. Kinda a cool reversal of family order that gives us a healthy combined view on home life I think. Given my birth order, I grew up with a keen sense of responsibility to protect, care for, teach, and love my brothers and sisters. I remember changing my brother’s diapers when I was only 5 years old, and that kid put out some pretty unpleasant ones. My sister, 10 years younger, shared my room for the first year or so of her life and called me mom long before addressing our mother by the same name. I adopted a mother bear instinct with them early on and didn’t respond well when they were threatened. Extended family and friends looking on often praised my “maturity” and repeatedly assured me that I would make an awesome parent and would most likely have lots of children. I was destined for it they said. “Fertile myrtle” remarked one, an awkward label I won’t ever forget. And when I married a man from a family of identical size, everyone decided their predictions would definitely come true.

When my husband and I were engaged he brought up the subject of family size several times, always to my frustration. “How many kids do you want?”, he would ask. “Just give me a number, a preference.” But I never could. For one, I didn’t know what being a parent was like, and two, I didn’t know if it really mattered how many I wanted or didn’t want. I didn’t see myself as ultimately in control of that. Now, there’s nothing wrong with playing with numbers and calculating your perfect family size, but I think I was beginning to realize something at that point in my life: plans change, preferences are altered, and ideals shift and are reformed over time. And no matter what number I stuck out there, it would most likely be different from reality.

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Right now Dr. Hubs and I are raising one little girl. But no, I still don’t have a final desired head count for you. Well I have a current one, but you may not like the answer. When people ask me “How many kids do you want?” I usually say, “One, for now.” I’m shy about that. Part of that comes from feeling I have some “quota” to fill before I can fairly pull my eggs off the market. Three seems to be the culturally acceptable norm right now. “How will I ever measure up, gain respect, top the other mom’s labor stories and stay-at-home-mom woes if I don’t have a number to contend with theirs?!” Having one child seems to scream, “wimp.” While 3 says, “go-getter” and 3+ says “super mom.”

But the truth is? I currently really struggle with the thought of having more kiddos. Now before you gasp and unfriend me, please hear me out. Most of us have numbers we are and aren’t comfortable with, regardless of how you feel about birth control and all that. This is not that discussion. What I’m getting at here is how we view families with fewer children, no children, or more children, and how we view ourselves when under that comparison.

When I first got pregnant with Ali, I immediately started re-evaluating my concept of family size. It was a rough pregnancy, and I didn’t see how I could exactly manage to sanely survive several more. But I fretted over that, concerned about what people would think of me. So I started calculating my odds at sticking it out for 3 or 4 more just to save face.

Enter: Aletheia. Born amateur screamer, now turned expert tantrum artist. She screams anywhere at any time and usually over our refusal to give her food, particularly fruit snacks. After a couple years of these daily mind-numbing, physically-draining episodes, my calculations started coming up with smaller and smaller child to parent ratios. And fear and despair started owning me.

I can’t do this again. I can’t get pregnant again. I can’t be a mom forever. But I don’t want people to be disappointed with me. I don’t want to let my husband down. What will my parents think? They deserve more grandchildren. God will judge me for these thoughts by taking away the child I already have if I don’t get my act together.”

Before my husband and I got engaged we talked about birth control and what our position was towards the issue. Talk about awkward! But it was necessary to work through our convictions together before moving into something as serious as getting married. And without re-hashing all of our pre-baby ideals and thoughts on the issue, I’ll sum it up with one word: trust. We decided that however we planned or didn’t plan our children out that we would strive to be motivated by faith and not fear.

We wouldn’t say no to kids because we were afraid we didn’t know what we were doing.

Allowing what people thought of us to dictate our choices wasn’t going to be an option.

Imposing others desires onto our own family dynamic for the sake of making everyone happy wasn’t going to work.

Reeling in despair or unchecked anxiety over an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t an appropriate response.

And terminating a pregnancy was never going to be an option {barring unforeseeable life-threatening circumstances that have to be handled on an individual basis}.

God is sovereign. Completely. And we are responsible. Completely.

Now it’s one thing to commit yourself to such a mindset. It’s an entirely different thing to walk that talk of faith. My first suspicion of pregnancy in marriage was met with panic. I’m not proud of that. And fear’s most faithful companion, guilt, dredged my heart in sorrow. Following that false alarm, God continued his faithful work of grace in my heart and began leading my trembling heart away from fear of failure and loss of approval into confidence in my Father’s will and assurance of his love for me in all things. Soon after, I found out I was expecting Aletheia and the news was thrilling, a total gift of grace.

Now, in the midst of temptation to fear that I won’t physically be able to handle another day of tantrums, another tough pregnancy, that other mom’s contempt for my weakness, my contempt for my weakness, a few disapproving comments, my {daily} failure as a mom, reading Goodnight Gorilla or visiting the park for the 3rd time today, I have to remember to trust.

Trust that God has given me a good calling.

That he is working out his kingdom plan through my life, through my giving birth to life.

That he will give the desire for children as they come.

That he brings joy.

That even though I can’t see how I will make it through the day, his grace will meet me there and carry me the whole way through. Even when I’m crying my eyes out as my little one screams her heart out. Even when I’m feeling proud that I’m the best parent there is because my daughter finally recognizes the color yellow. Even when I’m feeling like I’m the worst parent ever when I handle my child harshly.

That the Spirit gives wisdom as to when to say no and when to say yes.

That before the Father I stand righteous, beloved, holy, accepted no matter how approving, pleased, or displeased people are with me.

It isn’t a matter of how many children I have or don’t have. It’s a matter of where my heart is wrestling or resting.

In fear or faith.

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Linking up to The Wiegands

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18 comments

  1. Very lovely, Susanna. Faith and not fear.

    1. Thank you Leila! So grateful that faith is being worked into me by the Spirit, you know? Can’t conjure it up on my own. Thanks for encouraging me girl!

  2. Brittney George · · Reply

    Greatly appreciate this!

    1. SO glad to hear that! Can’t tell you how nervous I was posting this. Hoping it encourages many, including my baby girl if and when she becomes a mommy one day. I want her to know the honest truth of it all, the good and the bad, the work and the fun. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Ok. I don’t know if you saw my facebook comment or not, but there is something about Ali that makes me love her. I think she and Shiloh are the same child. I get the scream thing. I became the worst mom on the planet and put out the worst mom tantrums when I had that child. You’re probably waaay better than me. But I swear, from day one, she got to me. You know? Got me under my skin. Grated my nerves. Her will was against my will. All. Of. The. Time. And I was honestly terrified of doing life with her, plus more. And it’s been a rough few years. And a lot of rough days I’m not proud of. But like you said, God’s been working on me. And my heart is in a way more broken place than it was before I has the schooners. And regardless of how messy my days are. Let’s face it, my life. 🙂 I will forever be glad God used this mothering process to refine my soul. It is such a day by day thing, and I don’t think anyone can tell you how to “plan” for it. LOVED this post…thanks for sharing!

    1. I DID! She is my lovely one. I love showin’ her off. And thank you for taking the time read this wordy verbage. I know you’ve got just a few things going on right now 😉 Thank you for speaking to my heart, for sharing your heart on your blog and in your photos. It really IS reaching people friend. I’m blessed that you reach out to me, make me feel welcome, give me an encouraging word. I don’t deserve them, but I’m so grateful for them. And your Shiloh is gorgeous! She’s definitely gonna be a heart throb. I’ll be praying for you as you parent her. It takes a lot of creativity, a lot of re-evaluating what is and isn’t important in life, but I think God likes to throw us those curve balls to force us into those helpful re-evaluations, to get us to see life from a new perspective. Without Ali, I wouldn’t be doing this blogging thing, this photography learning thing. I’d be off being a doctor or PA, working crazy hours like my hubby. He’s got a plan. And I’m starting to get excited about it 🙂

  4. Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

    1. mmmmm . . . sweet water for the thirsty soul. HIS righteousness! Thank you!!

  5. I loved this Susanna! Thanks for sharing, honestly. I was glad to hear your heart and hear that there are mothers out there who aren’t perfect. No one ever says anything like this because of the fear of how they will be seen by others. But like you said, it’s ultimately about what God thinks. It’s about the fact that in Jesus you stand as righteous and pure before Him, as His beloved. Thank you for reminding me to react in faith and not fear.

    1. I almost didn’t say this because I’m afraid of what people will think of me! Haha! I am still kinda nervous about what my daughter will think down the road when she reads it. I’m praying that over time she’ll read the posts and put the pieces together, see the journey God brought me {us} through and praise Him, smile, be encouraged in her own motherhood journey, if God takes her that route. I’m glad it encouraged you and didn’t scare you away from motherhood. It’s a beautifully hard calling with lovely rewards. A sweet, exhausting, messy, grace-filled life. Thank you for the helpful word!

  6. Susanna, have I mentioned that I’m excited to be moving an hour away from you? I hope we get to meet up sometime and I get to meet the little blessing that has drawn you closer to God. Thanks yet again for sharing real and honest thoughts. You are a few steps ahead of me in the journey, and it is a good reminder and helps me to set my thoughts on the important things. Thanks for being a godly example here, even when it may not be fun or exciting to write about the hard things God does in your life. I appreciate it!

    1. Have I mentioned how excited I am that you’re moving an hour away from me?! And that the train to DC is like only $15/round trip?! Yeah, it’s pretty much going to be awesome. Thank you for supporting me in the hard words, for not shying away from them, but walking through it with me. Your comments always help the fear fall away. Thank you!!

  7. I feel like I have or at least have had so many of the same thoughts and feelings. I just had my second, and my oldest is–a handful! I always felt a little like people didn’t believe me when I just had one, but I feel justified now–no, he really has always been much more demanding than my daughter, even in her short three months! At best, neither of my pregnancies were pleasant, and with my second I had nausea + gall stone problems for most of it. I want more children, but just the idea of being pregnant again almost makes me physically sick all over again! I love your “faith not fear” motto. I find myself doing that constantly these days. Even when naps aren’t going well–I trust Your plan for this nap, Lord. I trust I trust I trust I trust.
    🙂
    I just love your daughter’s beautiful curls! And–I think tonight I am going to try your recipe for bread (the one you linked to in your balsamic chicken recipe).(and ps I LOVE that pan you use for your bread 🙂

    1. I too feel like I have to justify, prove myself to people. Sometimes I’m relieved when someone catches her mid-tantrum so they don’t think I’m a looney mother who exaggerates things 😉 Haha! And those gall stones! Ugh, sounds so tough girl! I’m a wimp when it comes to discomfort so my “rough” isn’t exactly the best standard, but my pregnancies were rough on my pain tolerance scale 😉 And yes! Trust . . . trusting that God is working this moment of tantrum, naptime failure, food fight into His good plan for our lives is the ONLY way to see it and receive it as good. All other perspective is hopeless. So grateful that HE is working that faith into our hearts as we look to Him, and that it isn’t something we have to conjure up ourselves. You are going to LOVE that bread! I don’t recommend coating it in the olive oil before rising though. I tried it last time, and didn’t enjoy it as much. And the stone I cooked it in is from Pampered Chef, a wedding gift 🙂

  8. tricia segar · · Reply

    That he will give the desire for children as they come.
    This thought from your blog struck such a chord with me. It rings with a truth that is of the epiginosko kind…knowledge by experience! While your dad’s first wife was still alive, and we were touring the Midwest states on a college drama tour, I would watch the other young women naturally coddle your big brother Isaac, (then two years old with glowing white hair, and adorable chub cheeks) and wonder at myself for my total lack of “motherly instinct”. There was nothing in me that prompted any kind of maternal nurturing as I saw evident in the other members of our crew. I had no internal desires to hold, pet, draw in this delicious two year old that seemed so utterly irresistible to the rest. That, along with some horrible experiences as a day care worker at the small Baptist college, was the cause of some deep alarm and fears for me as to my ability to be a mom. I did not think I had it in me to love children. The first three years as a new mom of a three year old toddler only confirmed my fears and utter feelings of inadequacy. Then along came you. Darling to a fault, my love for children was awakened. By the time we had had our second child, another girl, God was revealing to your dad and I through the ministry of Bill Gothard a totally foreign concept to which we had never been exposed…the matter of trusting God with your family size utterly and completely. With fear and trembling we put my womb and our futures on the altar. God gave us Caleb. The coming days would be a trial of fire that would test everything we believed about children. Tantrums? We still talk about the book we should have written. But during those crazed days of barely sustained sanity, God was teaching me something wondrous. “He would give the desire for children as they come.” He gave us faith for Jonathan. I remember when he was born the scripture God laid upon my heart that, to this day, I consider Jonny’s verse: The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. Through those long days of homeschooling seven children and hemmed in from every side with financial pressures, unrecognized health issues and endless hours in the bedroom applying the board of education to the seat of learning, I was being molded, chiseled, conformed to the image of my Savior Jesus Christ. “She shall be saved through child bearing,” became a living reality. I marveled at the miraculous changes in my soul as God was “enlarging” my capacities to love and to receive children. (Psalm 4:1) Suffer the little children to come unto me is a sobering reality to the young woman looking into her future and her own failing capacities, but is one of the greatest admonitions of scripture for the family. In its most literal sense, the placing of our wombs on the altar is the ultimate in ‘suffering the little children to come to Jesus’. I love you and am praying for you. We are beholding your growth and faith walk and are proud beyond words. It is hard to watch at such a great distance, but this too is part of the work of faith he is accomplishing in you and it is a wondrous thing to behold!

    1. Mommy, YOU are the best, most wonderful woman alive. Love you so much and admire your commitment to family. It’s a beautiful example and encouragement to me. Thank you! Who knows what God will call us to as far as having more children goes, but we will be looking to HIM for those answers and not to media, culture, or emotions. And that’s thanks to how you and the Hindmans raised us and taught us. So valuable. So good. Thank you!

  9. […] wisdom. Thank you all for your overwhelmingly loving, encouraging, and edifying responses to my blog post last week! It meant so much and helped quiet a lot of fear. The way you all have come alongside me […]

  10. […] far too many questions, rely heavily on affirmation, and get spooked at the slightest criticism. As I’ve said before, fear tries to own me. Failure, or rather having the reputation of one, terrifies me, and keeps me […]

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