We have had so many people over the last few years ask us how we “do it”. Usually a woman encounters our family at the grocery store, they see me pushing a double stroller with our twin boys Leo and Robert inside and then at some point, they see Jeremy with our three girls Emilia, Victoria and Lillian. A quick background if you don’t know, we had five children in less than three years. Yes, when our youngest Leo and Robert were born, our oldest Emilia was only 2 years old. Back to our scene at the grocery store – initially most folks don’t realize that we are together because it isn’t often that you see so many young kids in one family (unless you encounter the Duggars). The woman will usually look at Jeremy and then look at me and then look at him and back at me one more time before putting it together. I am learning that it isn’t typical to see a father caring for so many kids on his own which, I suppose is the reason they finally realize that all of the kiddos are siblings and that we are their parents. That is when the questions start: Are they all yours? Two sets of twins? How close are they in age? and eventually HOW DO YOU DO THIS? We just simply say “We have Jesus!” In a quick moment at the store, that is usually all we can get out of our mouths before people move on. However, many of our friends have asked the same thing and I wanted to take some time and share a bit more of what that actually means. Before I dive into the specifics of what our daily life is like and how we “have Jesus” in our family, I want to be clear about a few things. Jeremy and I do not have a perfect family or marriage. Actually, our marriage has gone through some very serious issues. We have gone down to the depths of darkness in how we have treated each other. It is only by the grace of God through Christ’s death on the cross that we have a loving marriage and peaceful home today. We can’t take any credit ourselves.
Alright, here we go…
Our day looks a little bit like this:
Somewhere around 6am we wake up so we can get time with our Heavenly Father without noise or distractions. This means coffee. Ahhhhhh coffee, we love coffee (and throw a load of laundry in the washer). Maybe a granola bar or something while we have our personal time with God. What is personal time with God? Christians use many terms for this: Quiet time, devotional time etc. What this means for us may be different for others but, I will share what we do daily. Everyday we offer God the first time of our day. This isn’t out of a religious command or anything. We have seen a difference in our ability to handle all of the things that come flying at us throughout the day such as, poop-splosion diapers, poop-painting parties, screaming children, or (my personal favorite) “I don’t want to eat that, it’s gross” whine-fests. It is an opportunity for me to spend time without any outside noise. I don’t know about you but, I can’t even think much less read with five kids talking at me at the same time. I usually turn on worship that I know really ministers to my spirit. I had to learn a few years back, no matter what was going on, I needed to have a few dollars to buy whatever worship was moving me. Having worship that is meaningful and the Holy Spirit uses to speak to me is crucial to my walk and connection to Christ. If you aren’t sure what you like to listen to or even how to approach the issue of worship, message me, email me, Heck! Call me and I will hook you up! When I first started having personal time with Jesus in the mornings, it was built more on a certain structure. I think I started doing it out of a religious ritual. I wanted to know Jesus more and my Christian friends and leadership said this was the way to do it. I asked them how to have a “quiet time” and they were kind enough to instruct me how to open in prayer, where to start reading my Bible and how to pray for others. I wanted to share that so you know, this all started many years ago, with simple instructions. Over the last few years, my personal time with God in the mornings changed. Now, each morning I do things a bit different from the day before. Some days I begin with worship and other days I begin in the Word. Every day I get some of both. The “goal” I have in this time is to learn more about the Truth from the Bible. If I don’t know the Word of God, I will not have Truth to use for comparison when false doctrines (teachings) are presented. I will get more into that in a bit. Worship is important for my walk for a few reasons. One is that I love telling God how much I love Him. He died for me, I get to spend eternity in Heaven because of His grace. Worshipping Him for who He is and how He loves is just a no-brainer for me. Worship is my absolute favorite thing in the world to do! The second reason worship is so important for me is that I begin to feel God’s heart for others during worship. I realize that might sound super weird to some of you however, God loves people. He created us (Genesis) and reached out to us through the old covenant (Exodus, Deuteronomy) and continued to pursue us (Hosea) and died for us (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and send Himself to live in us through the Holy Spirit (Acts). He has a heart of unconditional love for all of us. I want that heart in me. I want Him. When I spend time worshipping and dwelling with Him daily, I begin to understand His love for everyone else. He breaks my heart for others and gives me the power to love them as He does. Well, what the heck does that mean?! Alrightly, I will explain just the piece that pertains to my children. If you are reading this and have children, this may resound within you. My oldest child was the one that everyone called “emotional”. I personally hate labels and particularly that one (might be because I too was the “emotional” child). She would struggle with melt-downs over something as simple as going to the bathroom or her fingers being too sticky. My second born is what folks would call “willful”. She has very clear convictions for a three-year old. I feel on certain days, that she and I are in a constant tension. During my time of worship with God, He reveals to me His vision of these children. He reveals His compassion for them and vision of their strengths. My time with God every morning is crucial to my family.
Back to the schedule – I will mosey into the kitchen around 7:30 or so to make breakfast. I make eggs or pancakes or something yummy. I love to make a breakfast fit for a king in the morning! I also make the BEST french toast so, if you are ever in town, swing on by! I bring the kids down around 8am and the chaos begins! Our three oldest sit on the potty before being put into panties or training panties for Lillian (2 yrs old). I carry the boys down the stairs (double gunning them) and change them as their older sisters bring them their sippies. Once everyone is “pee’d” and changed we settle into our spots at the mini-picnic table and booster seats. Each of our girls take turns praying (talking to Jesus) and then the kids eat. I love the idea of me eating with them but, there is usually food-spillage, extra trips to the potty, poopy diapers or a need to get up and just see that thing over there that happen during any meal-time. After breakfast we usually get dressed and have some indoor playtime. Indoor playtime looks something like a herd of cats let loose to play with rolls of toilet paper. It is busy, sometimes there are disagreements and in the end there is a huge mess and no one else but me truly capable of cleaning up the aftermath. There is almost always an issue with some sort of whining or frustration over a stolen toy. My job when this happens is to address it the way God wants be to. I try to look for the natural opportunities to teach my kids God’s heart for each other. I will get more into this in a bit. We will typically have a snack during our morning time (hopefully around 11am) and then nap begins between noon and 1pm. I watch my kids to read what their needs are quite a bit. A huge part of “reading their needs” is prayer. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me understanding of what to do next. Generally, God will show me if it is an issue of hunger or rest that needs to be addressed. Once the kids are down for nap, I typically begin the clean up process and feed myself some lunch. I will work on laundry or cleaning – typical stay-at-home parent stuff. If I feel lead to spend some more time in worship or the Word, I will drop everything and do it. I mean, food on the floor? I leave it. Dishes in the sink? Leave them. Laundry everywhere? Leave that too. If God calls me to be with Him, I go to Him. He is my source and I have to be inclined to what He wants for me each day. The kids get back up from nap around 3pm and we get outside in the afternoons. We eat outside doing whatever we have planned that day. Snacks are so important to our day. We will go play in the backyard or take a walk together. If it is a rainy day, we will do indoor things like art, music, or dancing. I teach my little ones their colors, numbers and letters by using everyday tasks. For example, we play eye-spy, we count our food. You get the idea. The only time I sit my children down and “teach” them is when I want them to learn the Bible. I usually pick a story from the Bible and tell it in my own words. I ask the kids how they think that individual felt, do they think the person was acting nicely or mean, how do they think things should have been handled. The story I share pertains to the issue the kids are having that day so it is relevent for them. This is another reason why I read my Bible daily. If I don’t know the Word then I can’t teach it to my children. Dinner is around 5pm, then PJ’s and cuddling until bedtime around 7:30pm. Our days are busy and filled from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed (typically around 11pm). There are days when someone wakes up earlier than expected and I don’t eat anything until noon. The other day, one of the kids stuck their finger in my mouth and it still tasted like syrup from breakfast. Oh my goodness, it tasted so good because I was super hungry. There are weeks where I don’t shower for a few days in a row. Things get busy and I won’t sacrifice time with God, even for a shower. There are tons of moments mixed into the day where I am teaching my kids how to make spit bubbles and jumping around in the puddles from a recent rainstorm. When my head hits the pillow at night, I am asleep before I know it because I have put in a long work day. So, what makes our life so different from others? I mean, everyone is tired at the end of the day, kids or no kids. We all seek God, we are all trying our best right? I suppose. However, I do want to share a few things that I have been thinking about since my first child was born.
Our culture (in the US) has changed drastically since I was born. I am not a historian but, even I can see that we are now living in a post-christian culture in the United States. Without diving into too much detail, we have changed God’s definition of marriage, our government is using our money to pay for the murder of babies as well as the selling of their parts for research, minorities are being murdered as if their lives matter less than others, one in every three girls is molested, pedophilia is being referred to as a sexual preference instead of a crime, and terrorists are murdering unarmed soldiers. We are definitely in a different time with many false doctrines (teachings) all over the place. To those of you who do not see this, I say WAKE UP. When I gave birth to my beautiful first-born daughter, I knew that I brought her into a fallen, broken world. I didn’t just want to say “God help us” and leave it at that. I wanted to know how to equip her and all of our children for what lies ahead. I am not sure if as a Christian Church we are looking at our children in this way. They will not be little forever. They are on the journey to becoming men and women. My daughters who are 4, 3 and 2 years old already carry the future generations of our family inside of them. They carry the potential to mother already as little ones. First, am I even allowed to think about what kind of adults I want my children to be? They are their own people and can make their own decisions. As their parent, if I don’t purpose to direct my children to truth, I have failed them tremendously. Why would I be called to mother them if I didn’t direct them in any way? In that scenario, anyone could come along and feed and clothe them. We have asked ourselves: What kind of family do we want to be? Who do we want our children to become? Is it enough to say “we want them to be who they want to be”? What does it mean to be fulfilled as a Christian? Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 4
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We all want our children to be fulfilled. We want them to be happy and at peace. There are many ways folks try to accomplish this. Jonathan Edwards, a preacher during the First Great Awakening wrote this in The Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers –
“The men of this world, many of them, when they come to die, have great estates to bequeath to their children, an abundance of the good things of this world, large tracts of ground, perhaps in a fruitful soil, covered with flocks and herds. They sometimes leave to their children stately mansions, and vast treasures of silver, gold, jewels, and precious things, fetched from both the Indies, and from every side of the globe of the earth. They leave them wherewith to live in much state and magnificence, and make a great show among men, to fare very sumptuously, and swim in worldly pleasures. Some have crowns, sceptres, and palaces, and great monarchies to leave to their heirs. But none of these things are to be compared to that blessed peace of Christ which he has bequeathed to his true followers.”
Our desire is for our children to have what is everlasting and we want them to live in it now. Do not be mistaken, the time is coming soon where we will have to choose keeping our life or standing for our faith. I would not be shocked if my own children have to choose their own lives or confessing their faith. I want them to choose what is eternal. When my child has a toy that another child wants, I want them to be like Jesus and give it away in love. I want my kiddos to know the total fulfillment that only comes from knowing Christ and being like Him to others. God is love. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Have you ever been around a toddler? Umm…. yeah. Everything is theirs, they are super-duper rude. They bite and hit. Toddlers are the definition of seeking their own. Toddlers need Jesus and the Holy Spirit! Just as I need to turn to Jesus all day, my kids do too! From the time my children are born, I am venturing to win their souls for Christ. Our three oldest have prayed and given their lives to Christ. We are now helping them walk our their salvation for the rest of the time we are on this earth. We ask the Holy Spirit to give our girls power over sin. We teach them to ask the Holy Spirit to help them to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and have self-control (Galatians). We can’t do all of this in our own strength and we don’t expect them to either. We ask God to bring our sons into a faith in Him. When they give their lives over to Him, we will help them walk our their salvation as well. Knowing that we are teaching our children how to be disciples of Jesus definitely highlights where we ourselves are falling short. It is pretty intense but in a really cool way.
We are in a battle, we can no longer send our kids off to school, vacation bible school, or youth group and think that will be enough. We need to put on the full armor of God as parents: gird our waists with Truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of truth, which is the Word of God (Ephesians). We need to pray everyday and ask God to give us a heart for our children once again. Enough of the daily routine, let me just get through this day so I can sit down and drink my glass of wine and watch my TV show! Trust me, I have Netflix, I get it! We must get out of the rut and start seeking Christ for the sake of our families and the sake of our nation. We need to get off our butts in the morning and get with Jesus and find out what His heart is for our homes! When the moment comes, where one of my children has to stand for their faith, I want them to be ready at 5 years old or 50 years old.
Lord God, thank You for what you did on that cross. Thank You that we are covered by your blood, the blood of the new covenant. Thank You for the gift of our children. Show us the gifts and plan You have for each one of our children. Give us dreams and visions of who You want them to be and how You want to use them for Your kingdom. Keep us from laziness in how we raise our families. If we are tired, remind us that You are the source of everything we need and in You there is always enough. Light a fire in us Lord, to desire more intimacy with You. You are so good. You are love. Amen.