How Having a Large Family Taught us to Have Joy During Trials

Ever have one of those moments when you look around and time seems to be in slow motion? You have one of those sparks of realization that your life is different than those around you? I had one of those recently, concerning trials.

I was sitting in church and Pastor W. was talking about suffering. We have had some serious health things come up in our church body and everyone is reeling from the stress of it. We did a massive prayer service a few Sundays ago which I highly recommend. The following Sunday, Pastor W. gave some super helpful tips about suffering. I looked around and realized how many people only experience suffering in blips. It’s not an everyday occurrence. Weird. Not like my life at all. My life has been a series of trials. Not on a daily basis, on an hourly one. I’m not complaining. Just a fact that my adult children and I have talked about before. We’re used to trials. They’re pretty normal to us. I’m not talking about major trials, although we have had our share of those as well, I’m talking about those “death by paper cuts” ones. The trials like storm clouds that keep rolling in.

My elder brother and I were catching up over the holidays one year, I shared about three of my seven kiddos. “Ania almost drove into the ditch and had to get help, Gregory wrecked his car and Amerey had a baby!”

“All in one month?” he asked.

“No. All in one day. Actually within a few hours.”

Raising a huge family with some kids from hard places can be chaotic. It can be organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Let’s just say, the sort of chaos I’m talking about is suffering/trials of various levels. Those are good teachers.

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.- James 1

 

Large (Adoptive/foster cause that’s my experience) families face trials of many kinds on a minute by minute basis (especially if you homeschool). This scene from Cheaper by the Dozen is real life for us. We did this whole scene minus the frog with spaghetti. Five plates of spaghetti on the floor.

 

Three Things Large (Adoptive or Not) Families know about trials/suffering.

 

  1. We take on the belief that “This too shall pass.” We get used to the waves of trials. Large families realize that milk can spill, be cleaned up and spill again. I’m sure other families do the same. We just have more trial runs (pun intended). One year we had a Christmas party at our home for friends and a toddler pulled an opened liter of sprite off the counter. I remember so distinctly because of her mother’s expression. Yes, I would be horrified if my toddler spilled something at someone else’s house, but it’s a minor trial, not a major one. If there isn’t someone hurt, it’s just a thing, a mess that can be cleaned up. People are more important than things.
  2. We learn how to be calm in the midst of the storm. This point really goes back to number one. I think of Jesus sleeping on the boat in the midst of the storm (kind of like a mom trying to get a few winks on the couch while kids are playing) and the disciples wake him up, “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?” Our kids have a similar version of this “Mom, don’t you care if _________.” Moms with multiples learn how to stay calm in the storm. Why? Because, there is always a storm. You have to have a big perspective and little actions. And also, expending energy for things that we can’t control becomes way too counter productive. WE learn how to persevere. In the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” that God has given him to keep him from becoming conceited. Paul has asked God three times to remove it…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.– 2 Corinthians 12: 9Text placeholder (3).png

 

  1. We learn to set aside our self interest for those of others. We become spiritually mature. It’s sink or swim. Trust God or remain in constant stress. You either rely on the grace of God or you fall apart. You either set aside your self or you end up frustrated and angry all the time.

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2: 3, 4

It’s an interesting dynamic. Once you get used to telling yourself “no” for the interest of other’s a few times, it gets easier. After a while, it gets downright joyful. I am not talking about letting someone walk all over you. I’m talking about sacrifice. Staying up late to make a costume, help with a project or bake cookies with your kiddos or turning off Netflix to read aloud with a child on your lap.

4. We realize our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. This is a biggie. I will be the first to admit, this is almost an hourly struggle. It’s hard to admit that God is in control when my circumstances are out of control or feel as if they are. Often we get the big call of God on our lives, to raise children, stay home, homeschool. start a blog, write a book or volunteer at the food pantry and the list goes on. Those are the big picture things. You can write them on a sticky note and put them on the calendar. But, what happens when you know you are supposed to write a book, but circumstances keep getting in the way, those circumstances might even be your children. What if you blocked off a chunk of time and a child ate up that time, literally and figuratively. My experience has been when I wallow in frustration, it effects me physically. I feel sick. My muscles ache from the tension.  When I realize that God directs my path and I accept it, things go so much smoother. If God gave you a job, He will equip you for it. He will if you trust Him.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].- Proverbs 3: 5,6

I’m sure you can learn all of these lessons without having a large family, but having one definitely offers many more trial runs. I’m speaking from my experience. I’m sure you have your own. However you get there -practicing perseverance helps us work towards maturity. Trials are opportunities. 

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Craft Day at the Guire Shire

In the middle of soaking bottles to remove sticky labels and putting down old sheets to catch paint drips and wood chips, Carly and I talked of our love for this book:
Design is not everyone’s forte, but everyone desires beauty in their innermost being. God created us this way. The beauty of a sunset leaves us breathless. A drive down a country road in autumn leaves us gasping “ooooos and ahhhs” (in the hills of WV).
We women like to capture the beauty of creation and drag it into our homes.
We create bouquets of wildflowers.
Some of us capture it on film and frame it.
Others have husbands chop logs to make ‘pumpkins’.
We cut Egyptian grass and put it in spray painted bottles.
“Aristotle defined art as the capacity to make. For the ancients, any exercise of human creativity-building ships, making shoes, healing the sick, governing the state-is described as art. In this sense whenever we exercise our minds or our hands to make something that was not there before, we are functioning as artists.”-Gene Edward Veith, Jr State of the Arts
If we desire beauty in our homes, why does it often get put on the back burner?
Do we feel guilty?
Inadequate?
Unsure?
I know.
Be a wife and mother is time consuming.
Being an adoptive mother to hurt children is stressful.
It can wreak havoc on our creative gene.
WE END UP JUST SURVIVING.
And that is no fun.
It’s like a great meal with no dessert.
Having a beautiful space is like having dessert in your home all the time.
It gives your eyes something to feast on.
I’m not talking about expensive furnishings or having a designer decorate your home.
Myquillin Smith, author of The Nesting Place asks the questions:
“How do you want people to feel when they come over? How do you want your family to feel about the home they live in?”
Maybe you haven’t thought about this before. Making your home feel like home is part of your ministry. It’s okay. You can decorate with wooden pumpkins or hang up a homemade banner. It’s not a waste of your time and energy even if your teenage son tells you so. 
As we talked about our love of some of the concepts in The Nesting Place, I realized that her advice on the home was bleeding into other areas of my life. 
When I move away from the traditional expectations of the home and implement my character then I am a better hostess. My home words? WELCOMING and COMFORTABLE. When I AIM for these as I make my home beautiful then others will feel those attributes.
When I do the same in my life, other will feel what I exude.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”-  Myquillin Smith
What words would you like to describe your home?
What is stopping you from creating something beautiful where you are right now?

Five Minute Friday:: FILL




Write for five minutes- no editing, no back spacing, no over thinking. Just set the timer and blog!

Today’s word:: Fill

Fill your time.
Fill your coffee?      

Fill your heart.
Fill you up?

How many different ways do we use the word fill?
What does it really mean.  I know, you can tell when the coffee cup is full.
But, can you tell when you have had your fill?
When it’s been too much, too many, too loud?
When you need to get away and fill yourself with the ONE who really fills?
I don’t think I pay enough attention to when I have had my fill of sights and sounds of the day, the kids fighting, the watermelon juice all sticky on the floor, the dishes in the sink that won’t magically move to the dishwasher on their own, the towels wet and threatening mildew on the hardwood floor.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy serving my large family.
It it that my attitude can fill the house with tense feelings when I have had had enough.
I need to step away and have my fill of Jesus. He is enough.  He gives me grace. His Words are life. STOP

Our Family

Our Family
I recently added an updated photo of the Guire family to my blog. It took me hours of fidgeting (in my seat because I am technologically challenged). Sizing. Re-sizing.  Fading. Unfading. Loading. Unloading.
Our family photo makes the idea of a banner photo a joke. We are not a a banner. We are a life size poster.
After haggling with myself, the computer and begging God for help, I rested. I decided to leave it big, bold and colorful, taking up half my blog page because that’s how we are.
Big. Bold. Blessed. Beautiful. 
And, we are not a soap opera, tv drama or a reality show.
We are a family that God personally knit together through marriage, birth, adoption, marriage and birth again.
Our Family Photo circa 2011 minus Jerry and me
Building families is a lifetime commitment. Just ask God.  When God called Abram to be the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4), He made a covenant with Abram. He promised descendants that number the stars. That family photo would take up more than the banner on a blog. God kept His promise. Abraham, after a name change, had a son, Isaac.  There is more to the story, the Ishmael saga, a son through adultery.  That made for some messy family photos. First, we have the lovely family photo of Sarah, Abraham and baby Isaac with Ishmael photo-bombing in the background.  But wait. Read on.  
“Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah.
And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.” -Genesis 24: 1,2
The next family photo is crowded with a new wife (Sarah has gone on to glory) and a handful of new children. A man almost one hundred years old has a son. That’s a miracle. That man became the father of  many nations. He had a quiver full of children in his old age. His descendants number the stars. Wow!  
Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, don’t discount what your family is. What it can be. What an influence you are in your own home. Right now, you are planting seeds that God can water. If you are broken through divorce or adultery, God can restore. If you are childless, He can give you an Abraham sized miracle. He can grow your family. He may open your womb or open your heart to adoption. He may call you to raise spiritual children on plain in Africa or a crowded run down street in your own home town.
Your family photo may have all the colors of the rainbow.
Your family photo should grow.
Trust God to do the growing.
Start with what God has given you.
What has He set before you?
Long before my over-sized family photo, it was just Jerry and me.
We started with a covenant.
We had dreams and visions.
Those became a family.

Family Vacation

Our Cabin in the Woods.
The Guire Family Vacation.
Rafal taking the kayak out on the lake. Toddler-Lucy trying to jump aboard.  Quick save by Mom-Audrey.

Part of the cabin before we dumped all of our stuff on the table and made it messy.
Two cousins, Cecilia and Lucy playing!
After dinner stroll around the lake.
Sam and Theo enjoying dinner on the deck.
A walk in the field with dad-Adam.  What’s a dad to do? 
The Lake of Shining Waters. (Anne of Green Gables)
Rafal taking off in the kayak.
There were campfires and s’mores.
Late night scrabble games.
Guitar playing and singing (son-in-law, Seth).
Violin playing and squeaking (that was me. I’m a lot rusty). Daughter-Amerey played beautifully.
Hikes.  So many hikes. 
Bear tracks.
Jumping in the lake off a diving board.
Canoeing.
Talking. Talking. Talking.
A visit to an old Schoolhouse.
Late night run to Walmart.
Chore charts.
These photos were taken by me.
The real camp photographer? Ania. She has more than 500 photos.
Ania took the action shots of all the older kids jumping off the diving board. Canoeing. Kayaking and the like.
I jumped too!