Cheated or Blessed?

I am the fifth of eight kids. My parents got married young and never went to college.  My dad was a machinist and welder by trade and would buy used cars and fix them up to make ends meet so that my mom could stay at home full-time with us kids. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had enough.  My mom clipped coupons and shopped at discount stores and re-sale shops.  In fact, my dad jokes that my mom saved them millions of dollars by shopping at our favorite little children’s resale shop, and in the process our family has single handedly kept them in business these past 40 years.  (We still make an outing to the same shop for our own children every time we are all in town.) 

I’ve heard my parents share several times over the years that they didn’t exactly plan to have a big family…they were just open to life and accepted each child gratefully, even in the midst of trial or sometimes unemployment.  They trusted the Lord, and He always provided what we needed. 

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It didn’t always look like the rest of the culture around us. We rarely had friends sleep over, but who needed that when we had a permanent sleepover party already with 3 of us sharing a room.  Though we definitely watched our fair share of TV, it was limited and the shows that we watched were monitored.  We spent a lot of time playing outside, especially in the summer.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of all of my siblings playing house together, building motes around sand castles in our sand box made out of a tractor tire, swimming at the YMCA and playing hide-and-seek at night with the neighbor kids.  We had built in friends because we were all so close in age, and there was always something to do. 

It wasn’t always glamorous.  We never had name brand clothes, unless it was a hand-me-down or a great find at the re-sale shop.  We rarely ate out (except our monthly outing to Pizza Hut with all the free personally pan pizzas from our Book-it Reading).  We didn’t get an allowance, but we always had what we needed, and my parents very early on started giving us each money to put in our church envelopes to put in the collection on Sunday (usually only quarters, but it showed us the importance of giving).  We had daily dish duties and weekly house chores divided among all of us.  My older brother had a paper route that my sisters and I helped with and eventually took over to make a little spending money of our own (at the time we made 5 cents a paper…big bucks to a 10 year old).  I started babysitting at age 13, worked with my sister for an elderly lady, cleaning her house and doing her yard work through high school, and was allowed to play one sport if I wanted to, provided that I could walk to and from practice without having to be picked up.  (We lived right across the street from the high school, which made it convenient.)

It was known that if we wanted to go to college, we would have to pay for it ourselves.   We worked hard to keep good grades and filled out scholarship applications.  While on some levels it may seem like a burden to have to somehow cover the cost of college, there was actually a real freedom in it.  My parents were supportive of us going to school if that is what we wanted to do, but there was no pressure to do so.  There also was no pressure to go to a specific place or study a specific thing.  There was a freedom in being able to choose what I felt God calling me to (and not just what my parents wanted me to do).  This especially came in handy when after two years at Franciscan University, I heard God’s call to leave school and become a foreign missionary.  My parents, while they maybe didn’t fully understand it, were supportive and never pressured me to finish school, which made my decision to follow God’s call on my life a little easier.  (And God has been faithful to me, using my student debt as a means to bring me back to the States to work, which ultimately led me to meeting my husband and moving to Covecrest.  By His grace, I was able to pay off my loans last year and am free to serve Him without that burden hanging over me.)

Now our family has grown exponentially.  Just a few weeks ago, over Easter, we had the chance to go “home” to Ohio to visit.  All of my siblings and their families were together for about a week, with all of the out-of-towners staying at my parents’ house.  It was beautiful chaos.  There were 24 people under one roof for the week, and 12 of them were kids, 9 and under.  Not to speak of the times that my other two siblings came over with their families…all together we are 32, with 16 of them being kids, 11 and under.  (Our baby #2 will make grandchild #17.) 

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It was chaotic, but so entertaining, watching all of the little cousins interacting and getting to know each other.  Little personalities coming out, tiny little voices calling out, and older cousins helping with younger cousins…I was constantly laughing to myself as I overheard all the little conversations, role plays and questions that all the little ones were having together all week.  What a joy children are!

While it wasn’t perfect and there were definitely difficult things about it, growing up in a big family was such a gift and still continues to be.  I am so grateful that my parents said Yes to Life and weren’t afraid to be counter-cultural, sometimes being mocked for their decision to be open to life.  Each day that goes by I am more and more aware of this truth; that children are a gift from the Lord.  Our Theresa brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined.  Every day she is learning new things and a little more of her personality is coming out.  She keeps us laughing and gives us a run for our money.  I know it won’t be easy, but I am excited about the years to come, and hopefully all of the children to come, as our family continues to grow.  I pray that we can always be a witness to the GIFT that LIFE truly is, even if it is in the face of difficulty and sacrifice.

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~ by martinsonmission on April 18, 2013.

2 Responses to “Cheated or Blessed?”

  1. Love it! Thanks for posting.

  2. Your family is so similar to mine, though we were only five kids. And I definitely feel blessed by my parents’ choices. Excited about baby No. 2!

    Susanna

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