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. 

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!

Discipline and Desire

Bloggers everywhere are posting new found web pages that help organize family life: chores, meal plans, exercise and diet apps….

These sites tell you what to cook, give you grocery lists, tell you when to wipe out your sink, hang up new hand towels, when to replenish the toilet paper and more!

No brainer, right? Just open your wallet, pluck out that trusty credit card, pay for the system and next thing you know, your house is sparkly house beautiful clean, your bathrooms sanitized, towels washed, clothes are put away (not left in the laundry basket or dryer), table is set with festive dishes and the happy family sits down to dinner and participates in lively intelligent conversation. All you have to do is order, order, order, print, print, print, or app, app, app.? Right?

Wrong!! Don’t stone me yet, I am not against these organizational apps in the least, in fact, I use some of them! These apps give birth to the desire that is within us to be organized, functional, eat wholesome meals and have a low stress home. (Clutter breeds stress.) For those of us who just can’t find a starting point to put it all together, these geniuses have done it for us!

What happens after the birth? You have to take care of the baby, right? Simple? Right? Make a system. Work the system. Have a plan. Follow the plan. What does this take? Discipline. It is the key that unlocks any organizational plan. Period. You can plop down the money for all the apps, worksheets, planners, organizers in the world and none of them will work for you. You work for them. It can be a healthy relationship. It’s okay, don’t be afraid, it’s just words on a page. How tough can it be?

Change all hand towels. Check.
Wipe out the fridge. Check.
Feed the dog. Check.

The mental discipline is the challenge. I can do it, I can work the system. My desire and my discipline will line up.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [g]infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. Phil. 4:13

The battle is fought in the mind, more specifically, the will. Weak willed people don’t accomplish much. Many times in my life my will was weak when it came to certain tasks such as putting the book down to cook dinner. One more chapter, I told myself. Half an hour later, hungry kids sought me out, “When are we eating dinner, can I have a yogurt?”

Aligning my will with my desire to have a clean organized home accomplishes the task.

Many eons ago, before INTERNET, web pages and apps for the I-pod/pad, I designed a system of organization with a PEN and PAPER, note cards, a ruler and assorted books. Most of my ideas were gleaned from reading BOOKS, not necessarily organization books. (Cheaper by
the Dozen
is one)

My system:
A chore chart on the fridge (for kids and me) plus time during the day to do the chore
On this chart each child is assigned a room to be responsible for per day (in addition to their bedroom)
Note cards tacked up in each room to list cleaning tasks for that room, daily and weekly
Meal and snack plans posted on the fridge from the Menu/grocery list page I designed

My system requires industry to keep it running. The investment of time was well worth the outcome. The performance of daily tasks grew discipline in me and in my children. The desire became reality.

Is my home perfect all the time? No, there are days when we don’t toil for the system, but not many. We get back on track because as daughter Ania says, “I don’t care whose dish day it is, I am doing it cause I can’t stand it!” Her will parallels her desire.

What?

Yesterday I was setting up a crock pot dinner before heading to THESIS (our homeschool co-op). I was feeling dizzy and dropped the chicken.

Hunter reprimanded me, “Mom, ask for help!”

He ordered me to sit down and drink my fruit smoothie while he took over. I had already removed the innards and bathed the beast. I instructed him in mixing the spices in a bowl.
“Okay, now what?” he asked, showing me the spice mixture for approval.

“Now, take the spice mixture, get it all over your hands and rub it all over the chicken, getting some of it under the skin.”

“WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You want me to touch the chicken? You want me to put my hands under the skin?”

With a few more grunts and some moaning, “I can’t believe I am doing this,” Hunter complied and did an awesome job of spicing the chicken liberally.

The result later in the day was a tasty dinner. I just wish I would have taken a picture!

Last night, THESIS held its annual Talent Show/Christmas reception which my family missed for the first ever. I have struggled with health issues this year and it has been different.

As I peeked into the rehearsal yesterday and heard and saw many amazing talents, I began to feel guilty that I hadn’t been able to assist my kids in pursuing their’s more this year. A reminder via text from daughter Audrey got me back on track.

Performance arts is not the talent that has grown exponentially in my kids lives this year. Self-discipline on Gregory’s part has made him a better guitar player without a live teacher. Yesterday, I watched Rafal help another student in class without complaint. This school year, he has made some amazing connections. Ania and I have cooked together, listened to podcasts on health and searched and tried healthy recipes. Damian is learning the rigors of college life and managing his time. Amerey is balancing classes life and homemaking for her new husband. Audrey is busy with twins,managing her home and helping me homeschool and craft for Christmas.

Yesterday, the crock pot meal was completed by Hunter. What a talent he has for empathy followed by action. Many times in the past year he has stepped in to do my job when I was not feeling well. Just the other day he made awesome quesadillas with pepper jack cheese, black beans and home made guacamole.

Yes, I missed the talent show which saddens me, but my children have many talents that the Lord is growing daily because of or in spite of me. Performance in real life is the talent my family has grown in exponentially this year.

Even a child is known by his acts, whether [or not] what he does is pure and right. Proverbs 20:11

Family

 
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Photo by Jessica Lueken

What is your definition of “good things?” In Psalm 84:11 we read, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

My cousin Jeanette posted this query on facebook last week and received various responses, one of which my brother posted-

Fresh air, nourishing food, company of good friends and cousins- Robert Craven

Many of the other posts had to do with peace and joy in the inner man, while I do agree with those aspects of goodness, I also agree with my brother’s response. Fresh from a family reunion, he was feeling the joy of family. This good thing comes from the Lord also.

James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect (free,large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light….”

My family has been through a series of trials over the years, but there have still been GOOD things, God has provided our needs. God has blessed us with each other. When I look at the above picture, I can count my blessings, LITERALLY. God has multiplied my blessings, first in 2000 by adding four new Guires and recently by adding grandchildren, Sam and Theo, not to mention two new sons (Adam and Seth).

As long as I focus on the Lord first, I can see these GOOD things. It is when I become me centered that I seek things or focus on circumstances that I sink into depression.

“For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good-whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit),
I Peter 3:10

If I speak evil, negative words about my circumstances then I will not enjoy my life! I can enjoy my life whether my days are apparently good or not.

I am not going to list all the apparently bad that has happened in my life lately, instead, I will list the goodness of the Lord that I have seen in the land of the living!

*swimming with babies
*birthday cook-outs
*family photo shoots
*singing hymns with Audrey and Adam
*watching netflix in the MIDDLE of the day with Ania
*gardening
*visiting with my sister-in-law and nephew (Kris and Simon)
*swim days with friends
*coupon clipping with freinds
*blasting praise and worship music in my house because I live in a free country where men still fight for freedom
*long conversations with coffee on the side
* studying the Word and writing while sitting on my bed

Photo by Jessica Lueken

 

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There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…..

In “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy wants to run away, yet when she lands in Oz and encounters adventures, she wants to go home. Sometimes the mundane tasks of every day life overtake my schedule, all I want to do escape as Dorothy wished to. I have however, sometimes awaken to find myself in an Oz-like land where things are upside down and backwards, witches are good and bad, monkeys fly and Scarecrows have brains. Some days all things just seem to go wrong, the schedule is off, kids are fighting, the house is a mess and satan is whispering in my ear, ‘you are no good, you can’t do this, it’s just too hard, what do you think you are doing giving others advice about homeschooling and childrearing, you don’t know a thing, your kids are the worst, you have failed…” and the dialog continues to resound in my ears.
Lately, I have gone through an especially difficult time-my husband has been working out of town, which has reawakened some insecurities in some of my children. There have been issues resurfacing, anger abounding and some outbreaks that I haven’t felt equipped to handle- FELT being the key word in that sentence. My feelings are not the true measure of my abilities to cope or conquer, only the outpouring of my emotional reactions.
When going through periods of trial with my family, I can focus on the moment or the larger, eternal picture.

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”- Romans 8:28

When recent trials have been enveloped me, this scripture has resounded in my head. ALL things, not some things, not a few things, but ALL things. When I have had the right perspective in mind, I have been able to enjoy whatever time I have with my whole family, knowing that ALL things are working together, and fitting into a plan, whether I understand it or not.

No matter what is happening in my life, there is no place like home and home is where my family is. It is where children call me ‘mamusa, momma, mother, mom,” or any name that signifies the safety and security of a family. It is the Mother’s day celebration when the most meaningful and eternal accomplishments of my life gather to call me “Mom’. It is the cookout that got rained out and everyone crowds in the kitchen and family room to converse about youtube videos, babies, books, music and the nothings becomes the everythings of life! It is the walk in the rain with the grandkids, the seemingly mundane every day acts of life are the joy of living. There is no place like home……