In the last few days, I've had three people tell me that I'm amazing, mostly due to the fact that I have seven children. I won't lie; I think I'm amazing too. I think it's amazing my children came so close together; it's amazing that I was able to function through six pregnancies; it's amazing that my children are turning into thoughtful, dependable, loving individuals; it's amazing that I've nursed twins and four other children through their first year of life; it's amazing that I still want more children; it's amazing that I look for the good amidst the difficult in my life; and it's amazing that I try each day to be kinder, more patient, and more wise than I was the day before. The truth is, if I didn't think what I do is amazing, I wouldn't have chosen this life. I would have chosen something much easier and less fraught with frustration and difficulty.
But I think it's the difficulty itself that people find so amazing. We admire others who do tough things, who persevere despite the challenges they face.
And here's where I come to my message: you're amazing too, because your challenges are just as tough for you as mine are for me. That's one of the reasons we came to earth -- to be stretched by encountering trials and difficulties. In life, we have periods of rest and calm and we have periods where we are stretched, times when it takes every ounce of energy and willpower just to get out of bed and face the world, times when we feel overwhelmed by all that we face and times when we're unsure of what to do or where to turn. If we never felt challenged, we wouldn't learn to trust and rely on God.
Which is why God has a way of taking us to our limits, and not always in a way that is apparent to others. Sometimes, our challenges are given to us like burdens to carry and the very act of carrying previous burdens makes the additional burden easier. Having children is like that; if someone handed me seven kids nine years ago and said, "Here they are, good luck!" there is no way I would have been successful as a mother. But growing, stretching, and adding those children one (or two!) at a time strengthened me for the work and gave me insight and wisdom into raising them.
Other challenges come out of the blue and shock us to the core. So many of my friends face challenges that others cannot comprehend. While it is easy to see me, with my seven children, and think, "Amazing!" there are so many women who face their hidden challenges with courage and determination. I find that amazing. I think of a wonderful friend from high school, kind and beautiful, who has yet to find someone to marry. I think of a friend who had just had her fifth boy (on the side of the road on the way to the hospital!) and named him "Alden" because that was IT for them. Her road to mothering, and her optimism in facing so many males in her family, amazes me (If I'd had all boys, I think our "All done" would have come a bit sooner). I think of a mother of two who quietly makes the best of life and loves her husband despite his addiction.
I think of another mom of five boys who maintains her faith and tries her best to provide a normal life for her oldest son who is suffering from a brain tumor. Even her ordinary trips to the library become an act of courage. I think of two families I know who excitedly prepared to welcome their first child and then buried them instead. I think of another friend who lost her husband while she was expecting their second child. She faced that birth alone and carried on each day through grief and loneliness.
I think of a younger me, the perfect, confident mom of two, suddenly blindsided by postpartum depression. Trust me, compared to figuring that out, parenting seven is a breeze. And I'm sure my good friend with three kids born in under two years (one adopted) would agree that while her life is challenging now, its difficulties are not as painful as the many years she yearned for children and could not have them.
A mother with one or two children may see another with five or seven and wonder, "how in the world do you do it?" But the truth is, having one child and raising her the best you know how is an amazing act: navigating through those first sleepless months, learning to give and sacrifice and stretching in ways you never expected. Having two is a whole new ballgame: figuring out just how to meet everyone's needs when both children need you now; finding out just how far you can function without regular sleep, wondering what you're doing wrong when your children aren't the best friends you hoped they'd be. Having three is an act of sheer nerve: by then, you know what you're getting into and you do it even though you know they'll outnumber you. Having four . . . well, I don't know what having four is like because I skipped straight to five. But you get the point.
So whether you have two kids or twelve or none, you are amazing, because you reach forward, look upward, and just do your best with whatever life has handed you. The number of children we have is secondary; the way we meet our own life's mission is primary.
I salute all the wonderful women I know.
You are amazing!