Before I answered your letter I took a three-mile walk and let your question reside in my heart and my head for some time. I wanted to appreciate your situation and mine as well before I attempted to articulate an answer. It is times like this that I would feel so blest to be in the same room with you and other moms so that we could share together the emotional and the physical side of raising a large family in this world as it appears now. It seems that the beauty and blessing of a large family are only celebrated through very limited forums. I am going to answer this very important question candidly and with truthfulness sharing with you my very personal feelings about providing for a large family.
There is an emotional side to raising a large family that goes hand in hand with the very practical side of the unique needs created by having several children to care for. For me the emotional side of this issue is vital in order to understand and live in the practical side.
Emotionally it is obvious that you have given your family to the Lord in accepting from His will the gift of each of the children's lives. You have trusted in the Lord to provide and you walk in that trust in that you do have a large family and with each birth you fully understand the responsibility that accompanies the joy. I am always saddened by the comments I overhear from persons (who do not understand the calling of parenthood) who will remark "Don't you know what causes that?" referring to a pregnancy in a large family. It is as if the world is saying "You know what causes that, now stop being such a fool and get with the program. If you have so many children how will you ever get your head above water?" Those families with several children do not view the gift of each new child as a burden that somehow 'prevents' joy but an additional joy that diminishes burdens.
There is another issue that I would like to address with regards to the emotional side of a large family. In our family we strive to be keenly aware of how very fortunate we are to have each material thing and pleasure that the Lord has allowed. Lest you think we are all saints, remember that we are all normal here and grumble and complain like every other family. What I am talking about is something far more important. It is something that I trust you and your family (as well as many reading this reply) have developed through your love of the Lord. Let me explain.
When I was growing up, it was engrained in me how very fortunate I was at every opportunity that arose. If we children were enjoying a camping vacation, for example, my parents would gently remind us that there were children who would never have the great fun of doing what we were doing. In other words we were to reflect upon our great blessings in comparison to those children who were less fortunate. I appreciate this in my parents because I believe it has helped me to raise children that are for the most part humble and thankful. Nothing breaks my heart more than a child who has not developed this virtue. It is indeed a sorrow.
A few days ago my husband and I took the younger children to our community pool. It cost us approximately $20. The girls knew that this was a great pleasure and were thankful for the day. As we got in the car to come home one of my daughters remarked, "Thank you for taking us to the pool. I had a blast." Without fanfare my husband remarked in return, "I'm glad you had a good time. Think about all the children who do not have the opportunity to come to the pool because their parents can not afford it." She replied, "Someday I am going to build a pool where everyone can swim for free." We all agreed that if anyone could figure out how to build a pool where everyone swims for free, she would be the one.
In order for children to live with less, they must be taught that what they have is a gift from the Lord and feel a certain gratitude for His gracious abundance. I believe that this is vital to their well-being and their future service to the Lord as they become His servant in adulthood.
When we have instilled this very emotional side of economics in our families then it is easier to do without the material things that many times aren't nearly as important as the world would have us to believe.
Practically speaking we are a family, I am certain, much like yours. We have debt, we have financial challenges each and every day, we have true needs and frivolous wants, and we wonder sometimes how it will all get done on the amount of real money in our pockets. But I believe that the Lord is taking care of us and if I with my human heart know our needs then surely the Lord Who is God of all the earth knows and will provide for those needs (and some of the frivolous wants) that I have.
My parents taught us that people and their needs were always more important than things.
They lived a life in raising us that walked this talk. They raised the 6 of us on one income and I am certain it was a financial burden much of the time. I can remember debates about how to pay for everything from braces to car repairs and all in between. My mother painted, repaired, sewed, gardened, remodeled, and economized in ways that I am only now fully realizing. I never felt deprived or 'poor.' Praise God from Whom all blessings come.
I once read a book about a large family who decided to homestead and homeschool. It wasn't until their 7 children were grown and on their own that they had time to look back and see just how God how provided. Each time they were just about to go 'under' something from the Lord would save the day.
Many times as we raise our families it is only in reflecting on the past that we take joy in the truth that God will provide for the future.
I can tell you that God has always provided what was necessary to walk through each calamity (lay offs, medical, etc.) and each celebration (wedding, births etc.). I know that I am weak and sometimes do not use the monies that the Lord gives to the best of its purpose. I must work everyday to remain faithful to our ever fluid, ever changing budget. I am mad at myself when I slip, but I continue to try to do the most with the amount of income that is allowed by God. It is a daily faith walk.
I suppose you realize that I have not given you concrete 'ways to save, etc.' I feel very strongly that the Lord will work with you and your situation according to His will and His designs for your family. I sense that you are a loving person who strives to do the Lord's will. It is true that when a person with this type of love and docility of spirit approaches the Throne our loving and tender Lord empowers and showers with the resources and skills necessary. Jesus' greatest desire is to show us how to better serve Him.
The only real practical hint I can give you is this: always tithe to the best of your ability. Think of the money that you give to the Lord as a tiny seed from which He will grow more.
Jesus, we praise You and thank You for Your abundant generosity. Lord, You can never be outdone in this generosity. Lord, we ask that all families that are struggling find comfort in the truth that You are caring for them at each moment. Lord, please empower us with the knowledge of how we can give our help and support to those persons who are less fortunate. Allow us the words that will instill in the hearts of our children a true desire to serve You and the Body of Christ. I ask for continued health for this dear mother and most especially for her dear husband. Send them the resources necessary to care for their children. We praise You and thank You most especially for the gift of each child that is conceived. You are the Giver of all good things. St. Joseph, pray for us.
Sending out a prayer,