Generation Cedar

(I wrote this about a year and half ago and though long, some needed food for thought, I think. Enjoy!)

The following comment on the post, “Divine Appointment:  Babies are a Part of the Gospel Picture” is a common concern and one I thought deserved its own post to accurately handle the different aspects of the issue (a little longer than usual, but needful to cover each point):

“I agree with you that the church should grow both biologically and not-biologically. I also believe that large families are beautiful, but I have a concern here.

I have realized that in very large families like Duggarts or Wissmans, the ones who de facto are taking care of the little ones are not the parents but the older siblings, including the schooling part. The parents are too busy because of having such a large family.

So, what is the point of having so many children if you cannot take care of them personally and have to put them in the hands of others -even if they are the siblings?…”

The Right Starting Point

I want to first address what I believe is our “starting point error”.  Notice the question:  “What is the point in having so many children”? which presumes that couples who give their fertility to the Lord have a motive other than just believing it is His domain and should be left to His sovereignty.  The “point” isn’t ours to figure out; God does with His creation what He wills and that is enough. The only point is what these couples feel is obedience to God. (By the way, very few families will have as many children as the Duggars, so we’re really talking about a hypothetical to use them as an example.)

Which brings me to the next point:  are we basing our decisions regarding life on pragmatism rather than principle or wisdom?

Conviction vs. Pragmatism

A couple who believes that God is the author of life and therefore the sovereign authority over when/how many/how often life is to come, doesn’t need to think about how that will play out practically. It isn’t irresponsible to obey what one feels is a directive from Scripture without thought of the outcome. (George Mueller comes to mind–a man who took thousands of orphans in, never turning one away, when often there was no food for the next meal.)

For example, if I have a conviction/belief that I am to honor my marriage vows, “for better or for worse”, I don’t take a pragmatic approach, drawing up a contract that allows me to recant in the case that financial hardship gets “too hard”.  I honor my vows with zero thought to whether or not we would be better off financially if we were divorced.

So, even asking the question, “but what if having too many children causes hardship” sounds odd to the ears of those who have committed to receiving their children.

And that brings me to the point of the question, “what if the older children have too much responsibility?”

God’s Design is Made to Work

Truly, we are a fallen people and there are parents who have asked too much of their children, or failed to love them as parents should, or failed to nurture them in the Lord.  This has always been the case, large or small families. The problem is not the number of children, the problem is sin and/or lack of wisdom.

But there are also factors playing into our 21st century mentality that cause us to view the balance of family and work inconsistently.  When we embrace ALL of what His word teaches us, the pieces of the puzzle fit together better.  But often wrong thinking from places other than that Word muddles our perception.

Entitlement Culture

We’ve all bought into it.  We are such a prosperous, free, recreational and entertainment-driven culture that we’ve cultivated a pervading attitude of entitlement, especially among our young people.  Anything more than a smidgen of responsibility is held in suspicion. The “normal” workload of families and children from centuries past would threaten to kill an adolescent of our day, and his parents would most certainly be questioned.

Older children helping younger children is a normal state of family.  Or should be.  But because families are so segregated, teens given so much free time and entertainment, the idea of it is abnormal to us.

Is there a balance between an older child “helping and raising”?  Of course there is.  But it may not look quite like we think it should.  The comment, for example, mentioned “older children helping with school”.  I think it’s not only acceptable, but preferable.  No exercise facilitates learning as well as teaching someone else.The best thing we could do for our older children is to require them to help the younger ones learn. I wish I incorporated this more into our schooling.

Raising Servants in a “Crown Me” Society

I’ve spoken at length about the counter-culture responsibility we have to raise servants of Christ in a world that screams the opposite.  Families are the training ground for servant-hood.  It is very easy in this day to raise children who carry a victim mentality, but it is crippling to allow it.  Again, balance must be present, but we teach our children that it is a command (and privilege) to serve each other (and Mom and Dad must demonstrate that serving); anything else is disobedience to the Word of God.

You want truly happy children?  Get this one thing through to them: We are here to serve, not to be served.

Will They Want Children?

The single most important factor I see in how older siblings view the prospect of their own children is the attitude of the home and the attitude toward children.  Children who grow up in a happy home, balanced with work, love, play and affection have little reason to dread their own home full of that joy.  The quickest way to rob my oldest daughters of their joy is to separate them from their younger siblings.  They delight in them, despite that a busy home does require us all to work.

Furthermore, the analogy would seem ridiculous in another comparison:

Suppose the family grows its own vegetables.  Each year, the Lord blesses their garden and it becomes more and more prolific.  We all know that a blessed garden requires hard work.  Some of it is fun, some is drudgery.  But the fruit of the harvest makes it all worth it.  If a family is working together, praising God for His blessing, balancing work and rest, and enjoying the fruit, then the children grow up with a healthy sense of “how life is supposed to be”.

I submit it is the same if the Lord chooses to bless with a large family (which He doesn’t always do.)  The fact is that if we *couldn’t* choose, these discussions would not exist.  We would simply do what the Lord gives us to do, to the best of our ability and thank Him for life. Children wouldn’t be considered a burden, but a reality.

Our very ability to choose has clouded our reasoning and caused us to question what should be a natural occurrence.

Once upon a time children came and people figured it out.  Simple.

What are We Training Them For?

A pastor (I can’t remember which one!) said, “If someone asks you ‘What do you do’, you answer, ‘I’m a husband and a father or a wife and a mother‘. It is a tragedy that we no longer view these roles as roles at all.  They are so secondary on our life’s to-do list.  And yet, they are actually foundational, making all else we do secondary.

Given that fact, what should we be MOST concerned with in the upbringing of our children?  Preparing them to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers! If I were training for a profession, my professors would likely want me immersed in the field.  Why then do we fear immersion in the care of precious siblings? Whether our children marry or not, the most important thing they do in life will involve relationships with other people.  Preparing them in a life of loving and serving others should be something we seek, not avoid!

Principles Hinge on Principles

Lastly, I would submit that a family who commits to doing the best they can with all the principles from Scripture, will find that things take care of themselves.

If a couple believes God should open and close the womb as He sees fit but ignores the principles of training up their children in obedience and love for the Lord, they bring hardship into the family and that will burden the older children.  It’s not loving to my oldest children to receive children from the Lord, then ignore my parental responsibility and expect them to have to deal with the consequences of that.  That IS a burden.

It’s taking the whole counsel of Scripture and putting it into practice in our homes. God hasn’t created us for a purpose and left us clueless as to how to carry it out.

Balance. Work, rest, love, joy, service, humility, laughter–a proper sense of what God has created us for will instill in our children what they need to carry the torch with their own families.

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31 Responses

  1. Thank you! We are expecting our fourth and I must say, we are dreading to tell people, even people from our church. That makes me so sad. It is because of posts like this that I gain the needed confidence to hold my head up and be happy/thankful for our next gift.

    I especially like this statement, “No exercise facilitates learning as well as teaching someone else. The best thing we could do for our older children is to require them to help the younger ones learn.”

    Even teachers in “public school” do this. It is called peer tutoring. I did this many times in my classroom, and when the time comes, will be doing it in our homeschool.

    1. Congratulations, Erin, on expecting your fourth blessing 🙂

      Your comment about peer tutoring in the classroom reminds me of a program in a school district where I used to teach. High school students who joined the YSY (Youth Serving Youth) program would be bused to the local elementary to work one-on-one a few hours a week with early-elementary students who needed a little extra help. I know a lot of these young children were very fond of their “YSY”s, as they liked to call them, working with the same older student for a full school year. The high school students, of course, developed some neat bonds as well with their younger charges.

      I think it’s quite natural for children of widely varying ages to have a sweet affinity for one another. What a great environment homeschooling in a big family is for fostering relationships with a variety of ages, with children having access to their own “YSY”s or little buddies (in the form of siblings) virtually all the time, and not just on a school schedule!

      Glad to hear you mention you’ll be homeschooling in the future, Erin! May the Lord bless you with a full and lively household 🙂

      1. Oh, thank you! We truly are very excited and thankful for our new blessing. I am so thankful the Lord has put people in our path, like people on this site, that share in our joy!

        We love homeschooling and I pray that we never have to change course! Some days, I think I am blessed more than our kids are to be at home with them. What a joy! (Not everyday, but even on those days, I can find some type of joy.)

        Thank you so much, 6 Arrows!

  2. “If someone asks you ‘What do you do’, you answer, ‘I’m a husband and a father or a wife and a mother‘. It is a tragedy that we no longer view these roles as roles at all.”

    Before my wife and I got married, our belief was that I would work outside the home while she would be the primary caregiver. We wanted to homeschool our children (at least for the first few years of their school-life) and had firm convictions about this. Well, our “conviction” was to be tested. Though I have a graduate’s degree, I have been unable to find a job that would support our family. We have moved once, and in both places, my wife had been given the job.

    As a father, I had to do what was needed. I stayed home and began homeschooling our daughter. This is what fathers (and families) do; they see a hole that needs to be filled and they fill it. If we are to teach our children to help others in need and to give of themselves, it must begin at home, and it must be modeled by the parents. Though I would LOVE to have a profession and support my family so my wife could stay home with the children, I love my children more. I want to teach them that families love each other and take care of each other. The only way I can do this is if I show them how.

    1. Scott,
      That is awesome! With the economy so uncertain, and not looking to change for the better anytime soon, it is a blessing that you just did what you needed and your children have a parent home with them all the time.
      Holly

  3. My dearerst friend,
    I know we haven’ tmet in person but you have blessed me in many ways as I have been following your blog over the last year. I want you to know my family and I will be praying for safety for you and your family and friends as the storms near today! May God’s strong hand keep you all safe!! Love you dearly!!
    Dawn P.

  4. thank you for posting this. I struggle with my older daughters (17&15) doing so much. I am currently pregnant with #8 and am having a rougher pregnancy. On top of that, the year before I became pregnant, I was dealing with other health issues. A lot falls on their shoulders just because I really struggle to have to energy. Yet they do not complain and willing offer to help at other times. Since they do so much, my husband and I have tried to find ways for them to get a break. One day a week, they go and spend the afternoon with their sister-in-law doing something fun. We also try to get all our work for the week finished by Noon at Saturday, so they can have the afternoon to do what they would like. Usually that is a trip to Hobby Lobby or just extra time for sewing and reading. With these set times, I can also be prepared.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate an answer to this question – and you did it perfectly. I’m an older sister to three, the youngest is the baby with which the Lord blessed us after my parents had been convicted to have a reversal surgery. We’re praying for more, but it is as God wills and not ourselves. My parents regret limiting their children (they chose to have an operation because of peer pressure and bad council) and we really did miss having a lot siblings growing up – we know a few larger families and would often spend our time with them to learn the essentials of managing a busy household. Now the Lord has given us a baby blessing of our own He’s in control! God is so very merciful and kind. We can’t wait to receive more from Him if He so chooses!

  6. Wonderful post. Thank you for discussing this topic. I am always so encouraged and convicted by your blog. Thank you for pointing us towards the truth. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our 6th child. My pregnancies are hard, but we always tell our children, just because something is hard does not mean we stop doing what we believe the Lord wants us to do. Your section on “Conviction vs. Pragmatism” really hit home and George Mueller is such an excellent example of this. Thank you again for your wonderful blog and ministry to women.

  7. Honestly..while I began reading this..my 19yr. old daughter is giving my 13 yr.old son a piano lesson.I so understand that people with large families worry about this.We have six children ranging from 27 to 13 and this always seemed to be a concern for other people when they found out we were expecting another one.Not for my kids..they begged for more and after I went through menopause I actually had one kid who cried for three days when he looked at me because I had told him I could not have anymore children.There really is nothing wrong with having our children help and teach each other.My children did it for years and they are not scarred for life.There were times during a pregnancy or sickness that I had to rely on older children to help me and they did and they are more responsible today for it. If I were a young mom today..lol..I’m not so young anymore..I would get down on my knees and ask the Lord for wisdom in how to find a balance.I still have to do this…On a side note and I know this does not happen in every large family..I have known kids from large families who were given way to much responsibility for younger siblings and they resented it and became bitter.This doesn’t have to happen if we cry out to the Lord for wisdom.He will give it to you even if you have more then six!!So I would say..Let your older children help..they will learn to be responsible adults. When I was pregnant with my last kiddo..my sister was concerned that my oldest daughter would resent being the oldest of six.I had to explain to her(our parents were divorced)that although most older kids take on responsibilities themselves..the first born thing..that there is a balance because I AM THE PARENT here and certain things will fall on me regardless.That seemed to help her a little I think.My sis is not a Christian and lots of times you will get this mindset from well meaning Christians.To this I pretty much say..You Just have to let some things go..and live your life the way the Lord has called you.
    So all of this to basically say..Pray..ask the Lord and your husband for wisdom in this and just move forward and Trust him with it.I am here to tell you that they will not be scarred for life because they helped with younger siblings..Have a Blessed Weekend everyone and Kelly—I have been praying for all of you where the tornados are today!!

  8. Thank you kelly. As a mom of only four, I’m starting to get the look and the comments of a large family.
    Another difficulty as so many women are in the workforce (by choice)is how little we help each other. In reading about the Duggars, you discover that she had a sweet, dedicated older lady coming to help her with laundry a couple of times a week. Nowadays, unless you are part of a church where there are lots of big families, most people are either too busy with their schedules to aid a struggling mother of many littles, or have this mindset of “she had all those kids, she should take care of them! If she can’t do it all, she shouldn’t have had them!” I pray that I always may look for ways to aid other mothers.
    Also, choice has become nearly an idol. Somehow “choice” and “freedom” have become synonymous in our culture. If you even suggest taking away the choice of abortion, people jump down your throat like taking away freedom of speech or something! I’m not sure why, except that it seems like if people can avoid something hard, even if it is good, they avoid it. After having a blood clot with my last baby, I have struggled about whether or not to close the womb, as my convictions and my fear were battling. (and my mother says the children you do have do need you! ie–don’t die)and at least for this time, my husband and I have decided to allow the Lord to choose our family. but as I was thinking and reading and praying, the idea of choice being an idol really hit home to me! Do we value “choice” over even the will of God? Ouch…

  9. We have 5 children and often times I get “the look” from people. And 5 is not that many. I think very few people have as many children as the Duggars, though it’s interesting that people choose examples like that to “make a point”.

  10. I’m nearly 15, the oldest of six and I never feel burdened by my younger brother and sisters. It was only recently that it dawned on me that my life might be “easier” if they hadn’t been born. But I have never wanted fewer siblings, only more. and I would be the happiest girl in the world should my parents announce they were expecting again.

  11. Loved this, Kelly! My husband and I sat down last night and read your post together, and it spurred a great discussion! We definitely agree with your statement “Older children helping younger children is a normal state of family.” And also “It’s not loving to my oldest children to receive children from the Lord, then ignore my parental responsibility and expect them to have to deal with the consequences of that. That IS a burden.”

    There’s a balance there, and sometimes things do get out of balance for a season. I think even that, though, can be a blessing, because it teaches our kids that there are times when we have the opportunity to step up to the plate and assist others (and sometimes those others are their parents) with tasks that aren’t generally designated to the kids. In other words, going above and beyond the call of duty. Of course, if the kids are assuming duties that ordinarily belong to the parents, they need to know that this is for a SEASON, and is not the interminable state of affairs. Under most circumstances, parents should be working alongside their children, modeling a servant’s heart, or I think there is definite potential for bitterness and resentment to take root.

    I’ll leave my comment at that, though there is much more I could say, this was such a meaty post! Thanks so much for the time and thought you put into this, Kelly. My husband and I were really blessed reading it 🙂

  12. I love and adore children. I really hope God sees fit to give me many, in any way He chooses, some day. I agree they should not be seen as a burden. I also agree that being a husband/wife and father/mother is an incredible thing and nothing to be snubbed.

    That said, there’s a line in this blog entry I’d encourage you to reconsider. It is:
    “Given that fact, what should we be MOST concerned with in the upbringing of our children? Preparing them to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers!”

    No. No, no. It may not seem like it should be such a big deal, but it is a huge deal when we vehemently assume that every child is going to grow up and get married and have children. And when we are “MOST” concerned with preparing them for doing such, that’s what we’re doing. Assuming what is out of our hands and in the Lord’s. What we should most be concerned with in raising our children is their view of God and His Word and His ways. (His ways may or may not include a family of ‘their own’ some day; His Word speaks well of families but does not require creating one.) It is incredibly dangerous to put even families ahead of God’s personal desires for any given individual.
    The question really shouldn’t be: Do large families burden older children?
    Rather: Does it burden them to have their future prescribed for them before they’ve had a chance at their own relationship with God??

    Please recognize that.

    1. Valerie,

      I think that the post, by itself, might cause you to think that point is “off base”. Because I agree with you when you say, “What we should most be concerned with in raising our children is their view of God and His Word and His ways.”…and you would know that I emphasize this point consistently if you’re a regular reader.

      The context in which I wrote that we should be “most concerned” was a comparison between preparing our children for careers, sports, and the typical activities parents put so much effort in, with the efforts we should be using preparing them for families. And of course, they are not all called to be husbands and wives. But only a handful will be given the gift of singleness and with it, the grace and gifting to live that calling out. By default, we should assume that our children will likely become wives and husbands and spend far more time pouring into that “profession” than other professions.

      That we should foremost teach them His ways is a given. Thank you for your thoughtful commentary…it’s easy to see why you would have pause.

  13. “If someone asks you ‘What do you do’, you answer, ‘I’m a husband and a father or a wife and a mother.”

    My husband was invited to a meeting to go into business as a marketer with a group of doctors. Afterwards we all stood around talking and I met one of the doctors, a very well-known Neurologist. She introduced herself and then asked me what profession I had. I answered somewhat timidly, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” I know, that was such a brilliant and well thought out answer. In any case, she exclaimed, “That’s my dream!” Was she serious?! Seeing the puzzled look on my face, she went on to explain, “You see, I make too much money to walk away from my job. We’ve gotten used to it and we live at our means and my husband is a Police Officer and doesn’t make anything close to what I do and I’m stuck. I work long hours and my children are growing up and I’m missing it! That’s why I’m hoping this business will work. I want to stay home with my kids so badly.” I guess women in prestigious careers isn’t all the glamour it seems to be.

  14. Dianne,
    Sadly that’s true. A gal I’ve literally known all my life had wanted from the time we were 7 or so if not younger to be a doctor. She did *everything* academically- several times even doing things to look good rather than wanting to. (Not impressive to me.) She married a doctor, she’s in her residency, has an 18-month-old in daycare or at grandparents’ houses ….and then I heard through our mothers’ grapevine that she’d saiud she “doesn’t have a passion for medicine”. Jaw drop. Now, I can’t say she wants to be home or that her [high-power Indian doctor] husband would let her; I think she’d prefer to be in museum work, of all things. Go figure on that one. But how sad.

  15. Whether older children are burdened depends on the actions of the parents, not the number of children perse.

  16. When I was 17, my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. I was by no means harmed in anyway sacrificing my time helping her. Looking back, I am so grateful that I was able to do those things. I learned so much!

    Since I was young, I’ve been taught that life doesn’t revolve around me.Taking the time to help my younger brothers and sisters is great training for life! As with everything in life, there should be a balance. An older sibling shouldn’t be used as an “assistant parent”, but there is no harm in them being taught to help out when needed.

    Moms and dads, regardless of the amount of children you have, it really has a lot to do with YOUR attitude and whether or not you are truly teaching them WHY they are helping. As with anything–show them from a Biblical point of view. A mere “you are part of the family” doesn’t really cut it. 🙂

    And you know what? No matter how many dishes I’ve scrubbed…nose’s I’ve wiped…diapers I’ve changed…clothes I’ve washed, I still would love my mom to have another child (though I do not believe she is able). And guess what? I still want to leave my childbearing up to the Lord! I have not been burdened…I have been blessed!

  17. I have 2 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters and i love them all dearly. Growing up, i wasn’t able to go to church functions because i had to look after my siblings (which is just one of the many examples of why i do not want a big family). My husband and i have been married over 2 years and at times, i feel as though i’ve already been a mommy. Once we have had our 1 (maybe 2) child(ren), either he or i need to have the operation to prevent any further children. I often look back at my childhood and wonder where it went. Unless you are going to be a PROPER parent to ALL your children, don’t have more than you can hold in your arms at a time.

    Sorry about the rant

    1. Chantelle,

      I’m sorry to hear that you are basing your current decisions about life on what you perceive was a bad childhood experience. If we use this logic, our whole lives would be skewed. I had some really bad dating experiences. If I transferred that into the rest of my life, I probably should not have gotten married.

      I saw where you have written, “I am a fun loving person who puts God first in ALL decisions I make.” I am not doubting your petition to God about this particular decision, but by your own admission, you are having a surgical impairment to your body (or your husband’s) based on your negative experiences, not because of decision based on God’s leading.

      As an older sister in the Lord, I would simply challenge you and your husband to bring your hearts to Him and seek the Scriptures about His attitude toward children, rather than using your feelings or experiences to make such a life-altering decision.

    2. Hi Elle,

      I echo Kelly in saying I, too, am sorry about your childhood experiences influencing your present-day thinking on your own childbearing decisions. I would like to add a couple other things, also, if I may, based on parts of your comment.

      “…i feel as though i’ve already been a mommy.”

      I would look at this as being an advantage. When I was in my early 20’s, I frequently babysat for the children of one of my coworkers and his wife. His wife told me how much she regretted not having had any prior experience with children before becoming a mother. Elle, even though you feel like you missed out on things because of being the oldest (I was the oldest of 5 children growing up, also), I would submit that there were also many gains you derived from the experience.

      One of the most excellent gains I see is the bond you have with your siblings now. I loved your opening statement: “I have 2 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters and i love them all dearly.” That is beautiful! If your parents had had only “1 (maybe 2) child(ren)”, as you are planning to do, you would not have had as many (or any) opportunities to experience the deep relationships that you have now forged with your siblings. Please consider being open to God’s gift of children, that if He so chooses, your children can also experience the many blessings that come from having a variety of siblings.

      One other thing I want to mention: I know that there are other factors influencing your decision to limit the number of children you have besides what you have disclosed here. I don’t know what those reasons are, but I sense some bitterness toward your parents regarding your upbringing. I’m a firm believer that parents need to guard against a root of bitterness springing up in their children. Scripture reminds us we are not to exasperate our children. I am truly sorry if that is what happened to you.

      Unfortunately, though, bitterness does sometimes take root. What are we to do as adults when our childhoods left an unpleasant taste in our mouths?

      I would suggest we take a close look at the aspects of our childhoods that bother us the most. Were our parents acting unbiblically in certain areas? We can choose to reject carrying on those same unbiblical traditions. We all grew up with sinful parents, and there comes a time when we just need to rise above the troublesome aspects of our childhoods and simply move forward as children of God, operating according to His will, and leaving the past in the past.

      I pray that you will find peace and healing through Christ in all your relationships, Elle. May God bless you in ways you never knew possible.

  18. Elisabeth,

    I want you to know that I saw your comment earlier this morning and am so very sorry for the pain you’ve endured regarding the experiences you have shared here. Please know that I am praying for you, Elisabeth. I don’t know what else to say at this point, but I’m petitioning the Lord on your behalf and want you to know that I will continue to do so. He has the answers and is ever so faithful.

    I wish you God’s deepest blessings. {{{hugs}}}

    1. Hi Elisabeth,

      I think it’s just beautiful the way the Lord is working in your life! I loved this in your most recent comment: “[God] is doing an incredible work in my marriage and healing many hurts, and there are changes happening in the rest of the family too now.” It’s such a blessing for me to hear of that measure of healing God has begun to provide for you! He surely is faithful.

      I want to encourage you that He will continue the work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6). You have endured pain and suffering, and though the memory of that will probably never completely go away, the Lord has moved your heart, despite the pain, to love those who have hurt you. What an awesome testimony of the infinite power and tender mercies of our Lord!

      Elisabeth, I know it’s hard to let go of the past and to not fear how the past will impact the future. I can relate to that. Though I have been out of my childhood home for over 25 years, I am very much aware how my upbringing has affected my adult life, and sometimes worry about how the negative aspects of it impact my parenting, especially when I see my own weaknesses reflected in my children.

      Although my childhood home was not dysfunctional, my siblings and I were not trained to serve, and that is a great drawback in life, IMO. Our parents loved us, but as far as serving went, I don’t recall being expected to do any more than the bare minimum for a family to function; relaxation, entertainment, pleasure, convenience, mainly just serving ourselves were the things we pursued most. (Not entirely, but largely.)

      My siblings and I are all in our forties now, and the “please yourself” mentality has been tough to break, and has yielded some unpleasant fruit in the extended family and in my own life. I’m not sure all of my siblings even recognize how this “me-first” attitude has been a root of several other problems. I’m so thankful to God that He gave me a husband who was raised to work hard: “other-centered” rather than self-centered. It has opened my eyes to what true Christian service looks like, and has given my children and me an example worth emulating.

      I tell you all this, Elisabeth, to let you know that I, too, get disillusioned thinking about my upbringing, that my parents didn’t expect hard work or loving service from me. I chafe under the yoke of having to retrain myself now, and get frustrated with the wide gulf between what I know to do and what I’m ACTUALLY doing too much of the time. My loving and ever-patient husband, though, encourages me that it is good I’m aware of this problem and desire to do something about it, rather than just blindly (or, worse yet, willingly) continuing in the same old way.

      I hope to encourage you because I see in you that same awareness of the problems of your upbringing (though what you experienced was much more severe than what I did) and how you don’t want it to affect your present and future, particularly in regards to your own parenting. You may not be thinking in these terms right now, but your children are blessed to have a mom like you who is thinking so carefully about how you desire to parent your children. Too many parents don’t think through their childrearing philosophy or practices, but just default to “whatever”, perhaps the way they were raised, or the way others around them parent, without thinking much about it. Your children are blessed with a mom who is seeking the Lord and desiring to please Him.

      Elisabeth, you’re a good mom. You love the Lord and want His best for your children – HIS children.

      When satan tells you you are “lacking and full of failure as a mother”, recognize it as the deceitful attack it is. he is the father of lies. Look to the Word of God for His promises and truth.

      “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Eph. 6:10-11.

      “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.” Is. 41:10.

      And finally, one of my favorite verses about the Lord’s tender affection: “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Is. 40:11.

      Elisabeth, the Lord will give you the answers for your deep, probing questions regarding the blessing of children and how to raise them for Him. Keep seeking Him as you have.

      “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

      Love and many blessings to you, Elisabeth. I will continue to pray for you. You and your family are precious in His sight. May you feel the warmth of God’s love as He leads you with infinite mercy and grace.

  19. Thank you. I’m not sure where I saw this post linked, but it has been a huge blessing. My 6th child is now 2 months old. I struggle with this topic all the time because I have people tell me that they won’t have more than one or two because they were made to be the parent. (In fact, a total stranger in the car dealership waiting room said that to me today while I was waiting in there with my 6. I never know what to say to that.) I find that I’m struggling with guilt when asking my two olders to pack diaper bags for outings and help me clean up meals (and prep them). My 7yo daughter now has the 1yo sleeping in her room (which she is thrilled about!) and she loves taking charge and being the “second mommy,” but I’m afraid to let her too much. I care way too much what other people think. It doesn’t help that now I have family talking about how burdened I am and how they don’t think I can do it and my house isn’t overly clean anyway. Sorry to go on and on. This was just a really encouraging post, especially the first part about pragmatism vs. conviction. I’ve been struggling with much guilt lately, and this was timely.

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