One of the first questions people ask me when I tell them we have seven children is, “How do you feed them?” It’s posed as a joke, and even though I’ve been asked this dozens of times, I still scramble for a good response. I know people don’t only mean how do we pay for food, but also implied is how do we even do it? Financially, physically, emotionally… It seems like so much. So exhausting. So overwhelming. Why would we choose this life? And now that we’ve chosen it, how does it actually work? I don’t have time to say what I’d really like to say when someone asks me this in line at the grocery store. But I have time to tell you now. So I am going to give you the most honest answer I can.
How do we feed them?
We feed them out of the abundance of God’s grace and miracles.
Let me explain. Yes, we work hard. We have a few part-time jobs that we combine to make a living, but the truth is there have been many seasons in our family where we have lived on a steady diet of God’s goodness, his faithfulness, and his quiet miracles. We seek him, we ask him for wisdom, we ask him to lead our family. We pray for vision, and over and over again, we have felt him leading us to remain open to having another child. As crazy as it seems. Even in times when the cupboards were bare. He has always shown us that when we seek his will for our lives, and when we step out in faith and obedience, He will provide everything we need.
Looking back over just this year, I have been amazed at all of the tender ways God has revealed his love for us. My heart is just overflowing with his goodness. And because of this, I want to share with you seven stories of quiet miracles that our family has seen since January of 2020.
Here we go.
I began the year feeling, again, that we could not live in this house another season. I re-began my inexhaustible search to find the right house. I did all the research, consulted a realtor-friend, had all my friends praying, spent half my waking hours in the zillow vortex. I felt desperate that this family of nine could not spend another year in this little house on this little piece of land in such an unstable, crazy world. I felt the need to be more self-sufficient. Well-water, good soil, space for chickens or goats should we ever need them, space for my children to roam and explore… When I visited a farmhouse with acres and acres of beautiful open space, my eyes welled up with tears. This was where I imagined raising my family. But all the doors were closed.
At some point, it became obvious that apart from a miracle, we would be staying in this house indefinitely. We don’t want more debt. That is the opposite of beautiful, open, expansion. And nothing we could afford was better than what we already had. So, I flipped that restless switch in my heart and decided to make the best of what we had.
And here begin the miracles of our year…
Our church was going to be remodeling the kitchen, and our family was offered the cabinets and counters if we wanted them. At first we hesitated because we couldn’t envision where they might go. We had considered putting a kitchenette in our in-progress basement. So, we decided to go ahead and say yes. They were delivered to our basement door, and over the course of several weeks of rearranging, we ended up creating a kitchenette (still to be plumbed!), a huge workspace with counters and cabinets in Randy’s basement shop-room, and two walls of overhanging cabinets in our laundry room. The cabinets fit perfectly into these spaces and literally look like they were built for our house. We reorganized our things and gained more house-space. Miracle #1–The Cabinet Miracle.
The basement was very cold last winter. (This was our first year of using the basement as actual house-space. Through a series of barter transactions–teaching music lessons for labor–we poured a concrete floor, did a bit of electric work, and built walls for a storage/utility closet, Randy’s shop, and a future bathroom.) We had some money in savings for house projects, but it was running low. We decided that a top priority would be a wood-burning stove or a ventless gas fireplace, although we seriously doubted that we had the money in our budget to purchase and install either. I was overwhelmed by all the research involved. Which would be the better system for heating? Which would be the most cost-effective in the long-run? Which would be the easiest to maintain and keep our children safe? We finally decided that we would look into the gas fireplace and had a date planned on Thursday to go do some in-person research. Over the weekend, our dryer died. Another unexpected expense… On Tuesday, Randy got a message from his friend, Eddie. Eddie asked if Randy was still interested in his keyboards, which he was selling at an amazing price. (Earlier in the year we had discussed the possibility of purchasing them.) Randy explained in his message that we didn’t have the money because we had to buy a dryer and that we really needed to use the money on a ventless gas fireplace if we could even afford it yet. Eddie wrote back immediately and said, “You have to call me right now.”
And here is the second miracle. Randy called Eddie, who had cancer and had been very sick. Eddie said that the same morning, a friend of his had called and said he had been thinking about him and wanted to stop by. When he came, he said he wanted to bless him, and he gave him a dryer and a ventless gas fireplace. Eddie said, “Thanks, man. I don’t need these right now, but I’ll put them in my garage until I figure out what to do with them.” The same morning!!! Eddie delivered them both to our house the next day. The fireplace heats our basement in about 5 minutes. We were able to buy the keyboards, which both blessed Eddie and blessed us, and still have money in our house fund. And we were given the dryer and the fireplace as gifts. I call this The Fire/Dryer Miracle. Miracle #2.
I woke up one morning wanting to plant a garden. I called my Daddy, who is an incredible artist in the garden. He was driving when I called, so he pulled over to talk to me. I asked him what would be some things I could plant that wouldn’t die. He said, “Mack, your problem is your soil. What you really need is some good topsoil.” He also told me that he hadn’t seen any good topsoil in years. Then he paused and said told me to wait a minute, that he would call me right back. A few minutes later, the phone rang and he told me that where he had pulled in, a man was shoveling top soil. He went over and asked him if he could buy some, and the man agreed to sell Daddy a dump-truck full. That afternoon, he came and unloaded a truckload full of glorious earth into my backyard. My first real garden. I have already enjoyed radishes, arugula, and kale, and I am just seeing the first tiny tomatoes and zucchini flowers. Gardening is another miracle all together. But my garden is my own quiet, personal miracle. Miracle #3.
A friend is moving this summer, and she is going through all of her things. She is a little older than me, and her youngest child is older than my first. She and I share a similar philosophy about life and creativity, homeschool, living with vision and purpose, and allowing children to explore and create and read great books. So she began bringing me things. It started with boxes of books–homeschool curriculum that seemed custom-built for my children. Then came the bookshelves and a box or two of art supplies. And then the downpour. Have you ever been to someone’s house who has been building a garden for a lifetime? Where you realize no one just makes a garden like this happen in a few years? And you just stand in awe. (This is how I feel in my Daddy’s garden.) Well, my friend Michelle eventually passed on to me what felt like a life-garden of books, art supplies, games, and toys. All things that inspire creative play and learning. Any craft I had ever wanted to dabble in, I now own a starter set of the materials. I am talking about twenty or thirty big boxes of amazing supplies. A life-garden for my children to play in. This was the fourth-miracle. The Homeschool Mama Soul-Friend Moving Miracle. And what was equally amazing was the fact that I had empty cabinets waiting to hold these treasures when they arrived.
I have entertained the idea of beekeeping for several years. I thought it might be something we would do one day when we move to the country. Maybe inspired by my garden, I woke one morning and declared, at the breakfast table, that I was going to talk to my beekeeper friend, Joel, and find out what the initial investment of time and money would be to start keeping bees. Randy was hesitant, but said I should look into it. I made the call, got an initial understanding that yes, it was investment in both time and money, but that it was doable. I asked Randy what he thought about it. He said he didn’t feel like it was something we should do right now. It was an overwhelming thought. I said ok. I truly wasn’t pushing. I just had that bit of intuition about it, but wasn’t sure if it was a path we should pursue or a desire that would hopefully be fulfilled in another season. I really wasn’t even sure if bees would be happy in our yard, where the best thing we have to offer them is our dandelion weeds. I let it go. A few days later, I was standing in the front yard and saw a commotion over in the corner. A small swarm of honeybees were building comb inside my water meter! I went in to get Randy. He came out, took one look, and said, “Honey, if God is giving us the bees, I am not going to say no…” And that began the story of our beekeeping adventure. We had to save them, because the city policy is to spray and kill them. So Joel came and helped us move them into a bee box. And day one as my life as a beekeeper, I got to taste the honey. And so did Randy and our children. And he became sold on the idea. I literally barely know what I am doing. But I have a stack of books and a friend who is helping me. And they are our bees. They chose us. As humble a home as we have, they wanted to live with us. And this is the fifth miracle. The Sweet Miracle of My Honeybees.
The sixth miracle I want to share with you is The Hidden Room Miracle. I have been writing and developing an online course about journaling. This means so much to me, and I have realized suddenly that I have something to share that I know backwards and forwards and could talk about all day long. I have been logging countless hours on this work, but I really haven’t had space in my house to work without interruption. Earlier in the year, I turned my closet-office into a closet-nursery, giving the baby crib the space that used to house my desk. This was a small miracle of its own, with the baby sleeping right inside our room, but with a little bit more privacy. I have, however, missed my own little space. I have been leaving the house for whole days at a time, working wherever I can find quiet. (My Daddy’s garden, a local camp that has been vacant this summer…) But two weeks ago, it hit me that I need to find a space of my own in this house. I went to bed and woke up knowing exactly what I was going to do. The next week, I spent every spare minute rearranging literally every room of the house to make it work, and I transformed our utility/storage closet into an office for myself. Complete with a door that locks and enough space for a writing desk, a bookshelf for all of my journals, another bookshelf for books, a huge storage shelf for my personal favorite art/craft supplies, a small table for an electric tea kettle, a tea pot and my favorite mug. Did I mention the door locks? I can leave out my stuff. I can work any time of the night or day when I can get away. This is a huge miracle.
I will leave you with one more. I was having a quiet conversation with a friend in my office last week. She is a homeschooling mother of six children. Her oldest children are grown, and she has a beautiful, calm, peaceful quality about her that ministers to me deeply. I was telling her about this season of my life–how full of blessing it is, how much my oldest children are helping me. That so much of parenting the early years is learning to die to yourself, and that I am relieved to be in a new season where I feel like God is giving me a little bit of myself back. And that my children are helping to bring that back out of me. She smiled and said, “Don’t you think that is interesting? You now have seven children, more than you have ever had before, and I hear you saying that it is easier than it has ever been.” She said that many people don’t understand that dynamic, but it is true. And I realized that it is such a miracle. This new season where I have such amazing helpers. My children, who know me and love me and want the best for me, as I know and love and want the best for them. This is the Surprising Miracle of My Growing Children.
There have been other miracles. Beautiful, glorious boxes full of groceries delivered by friends who know all our favorite foods, a friend who came and pressure-washed our house as a gift to us, unexpected money in the mail sent at just the right moment to meet a need, the miracle of conversations that came at just the right time to help us make an important decision… I could go on and on. This is how we live. This is the life that our children experience, and they can trace the hand of God providing every need throughout their entire lives. They are being raised on God’s goodness. They are being brought up on a legacy of seeing how He meets our needs and cares for them as he cares for the sparrows and the lilies of the field.
I am writing this because I want to share God’s faithfulness. And because I truly want to remember this year. We are living in the lovingkindness of God. I say this with trembling and reverence and joy and peace and hope overflowing: God cares about the details of our lives. He cares about these children and that we have chosen to bring them into the world. He goes to supernatural lengths to reveal his love for us. Yes, there is heartache. Yes there is suffering. Yes, this world is far from perfect. But my goal is to live a life that looks for his hand and sees him at work. To see his tenderness in every miraculous detail. To see life as a sacred gift. To walk in faith. And when we walk in faith, we will walk in miracles.