Saturday, July 22, 2006

Why We're Letting God Plan our Family

This issue recently came up on the Large Families Homeschooling e-group to which I belong. One member of the group is earnestly seeking the answers to NFP (Natural Family Planning) vs Quiverful thinking (allowing God complete control over the wife's womb and fertility w/no intervention) for her own life. I know we have many friends and family who have learned to just bite their tongues and shake their heads at us when we announce a new pregnancy or another adoption and so I thought that perhaps my responses to the member of that group on this topic would be an edifying addition to my blog. I gave two responses and I am posting both of them here.

Here is part of the first response:

I think part of why my children like to expand the family is that with adoption they have a bit of a say in the matter too. Of course we only adopt the ones we feel genuinely called by God to adopt but they have put in their orders w/Him. JT was feeling rather outnumbered as the only black child in the family and then we adopted an African sister. He still has his order in for a slightly older, dark-skinned brother who likes to play soccer (I'm not sure God's going to honor that one but he's welcome to dream..). They find it fun to kick around the possibilities and often look at the adoption photo-listings with me. But they are just as thrilled when I get pregnant. I don't know if the boys will still be enthusiastic shouldI ever be able to conceive a girl again but as long as I'm popping out brothers, they are thrilled and the girls just seem to like to be big sisters to anybody who comes along.

Our fertility is in God's hands which is an interesting place to be considering I'm about to give birth to number 9 and I'm only 35. I have at least 10 more fertile years I would think before things slow down significantly. That could add up to a lot more little bodies in the family! I really struggled with that, however, after John Michael was born. His was a really hard pregnancy with lots of pre-term labor signs, bedrest and worry. Shortly after he was born, I confessed to the other clergy wives at our annual retreat that I really needed prayer in that area. We had turned our fertility over to the Lord but I was really hoping and praying that God would give us a bit of a break for a while as I didn't know how I would cope. Well, what I didn't know then is that I was probably already pregnant with David who was born two weeks before John Michael's first birthday! He was also my easiest pregnancy ever *and* in between there God provided us with a full-time live-in nanny. God heard my prayers and answered them in ways I never would have thought. I wanted a break and He gave me an easy pregnancy and fulltime help. I just needed to trust Him to know the plan!

And here is the follow-up response:

I have always had funky cycles and when I was in college they became extremely painful and problematic. I went on the pill then to even out the cycles and my moods - not to use as BC. That said, I was still very emotionally unstable when I first got married and stayed on the pill for about another 2 years. I went off the pill and we decided to try to conceive and took NFP classes. We basically failed the class b/c my cycles were literally off the charts and all my NFP "signs" were completely whacked (like perfectly wonderful stringy mucous for weeks on end and temperatures so erratic there was no making sense out of them?!). The nurse who taught the class threw up her hands and said we must be doing it all wrong - unfortunately her incredibly insensitive response came from absolutely *no* training in dealing w/women w/irregular cycles.

After that and still no baby we went to a fertility clinic. We were told that both of us had issues which would preclude us from ever being able to conceive. In retrospect, I blame the pill on those "issues". As soon as we got that news, we decided to adopt instead. A month after we placed JT, we found out I was 6 weeks pregnant w/Ben - a MIRACLE! Since it took us so many years to conceive Ben, we just stopped worrying about it and put it in God's hands. In the meantime, we adopted a couple more children. Then came Betsy, born 4 years after Ben. That was a doable time span -why worry (except that we were in the middle of an adoption from Hong Kong at the time)? Obviously God's clock was going to go nice and slowly for us on this conception thing. So we continued to leave it up to the Lord. Well, John Michael was born 2 years after Betsy -the gap was getting closer and, as I said, that was a miserable pregnancy. That was the one that really made us stop and think about this Leaving It Up To The Lord thing. Our hearts were convicted but we just didn't know if we could handle it if they came any closer and that's when I really started to cry out to the Lord over it and He responded as I told you in my testimony.

There are so many issues surrounding this with us. I now believe that artificial BC is unacceptable for Christian couples. I am sorry if that statement offends but I have btdt and the physical and spiritual pain it caused me and my dh (not to mention the abortifacient effects) are not fruits of a godly thing... I know and understand NFP and see its value for Christian couples. For us, it just can't work because my body just does not work the way it should. So my dh and I are caught between a rock and a hard place -do we completely surrender this to the Lord or do we use BC because the alternative (NFP) doesn't work for us? Well, if you don't believe BC is a viable option for Christians then we were left with a pretty clear answer there...

We also happen to be a clergy family - my dh is a priest who has been teaching on Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body - a very deep,challenging and convicting reflection on God's plan for marriage. It does allow for NFP, in fact actively endorses it as the best, most godly way to go. Since it doesn't work for us, we've had to adjust our thinking.

All the clergy in our church are on board with this teaching and havebeen working together to teach it from the pulpit, therefore our personal lives have been closely scrutinized by our congregation - we really need to put our money where our mouths are, so to speak. Of the 4 clergy couples - one is beyond childbearing years, one couple is using NFP and two of us are choosing to allow God to completely control our wombs. For the other couple this has been a particularly hard walk. It has meant carrying and birthing miscarried babies at home so that they could bury the bodies properly and be a witness to the fact that these are all lives planned by God and not a pile of tissue to be disposed of by hospital personnel. I see the strength in their witness and how can we *not* go the hard road that, yes, we feel God is calling us to walk in?! The couple who is using NFP are currently the houseparents of a home for unwed pregnant girls - a wonderfully dynamic and necessary ministry. They have 2 young children and having another, will make it very difficult to carry out this ministry. They, also, I believe are following God's call for their lives.

So, I guess my response is a mixed bag. I do not believe Christian couples are called to use artificial BC - it definitely dampens the spirit of a marriage and, I believe, goes against a biblical ideal for man and wife. So the choice becomes one of no intervention at all or NFP. Either, I think are acceptable but I don't think either one is *our* choice. I think as husbands and wives we need to earnestly seek after the Lord's plan for our marriages and our families. We can't just make assumptions - but really need to communicate w/our spouses and with the Lord. It can be a hard road to follow the former but, when called to it, the Lord will provide for all our needs.

In some marriages, it may be virtually impossible for a wife to get that conversation out of her husband and so her job then becomes to submit to his wishes and pray for his heart to be open to the conversation. There are many, many women on this list who have demonstrated that beautifully and now have wonderful testimonies about such things as vasectomy reversals, hearts opened to adoption and several homemade blessings who would never be walking this earth w/o God's grace poured out.

I don't know the answers for you in particular, but I do know that calvary was a hard road, that the cup poured out was not the easy thing for our Lord to do. He doesn't ask us to do the easy thing, he asks us, "Can you drink from this cup?" If we look at the cup as death and crucifixion, the answer may be no, but if we look atthe cup as resurrection, the answer will always be Yes, Lord!! I can only offer my testimony which I've tried to make one of saying yes to Jesus in spite of whatever discomfort it causes me.

The baby I am about to birth was conceived during our year in exile after a devastating housefire, after which our live-in nanny left us and I had to pick up the pieces of our home life by myself (dh is not only a priest and a father of many but has to hold down a full-time secular job as well). God has provided more abundantly, over-filling, blessedly in the past year then ever before in our lives.My friend loves to quote a scripture (and I'm sorry, I wish I knew the reference - I'll have to ask her) about how in our obedience GodCOMMANDS a blessing. It's not just His heart, that we are blessed for our obedience, He makes sure it happens by COMMANDING it! Howc ool is that?!

Well, I don't know if I've answered your questions but I've certainlyhad my say

Live Jesus!

Mary K


Anonymous said...

Mary, I so need that scripture referance about commanding a blessing! Your heart is so clear on this. It was very edifying. We are unable to have more children, but our hearts are open to adoption, just something we are waiting of Him about. God love you, dear one and that newest member!
Love,Mair (from fg)

amy said...


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