“Are those all your children?” Over the years I’ve heard this question hundreds of times. Even with half my kids in tow, we stimulate the curiosity of the most socially cautious, who want to know how many we have, whether they’re all our own, if we’ve figured out where they came from, and when we’ll be finished having them.

“Are you Catholic?” they ask. “Are you Mormon?”  Puzzled that a pair of everyday people would willingly trade fancy cars and dream vacations for fifteen-passenger vans and doctor visits galore. 

I must admit I’ve had my moments. Like when we had six simultaneously in braces – top and bottom. I shook my fist at heaven Fiddler-on-the-Roof style: “Is this really what it’s all about? Building a swimming pool for our orthodontist and otherwise driving the American economy?”   

Of course that’s not what it’s about, as God has made clear that he intended us to enjoy children as a blessing and reward from Him. 

Tripp and I didn’t know that in 1985 when we gave up our birth control. We weren’t even Christians then. We were raising two daughters from my hippie days – Samantha Sunshine and Jasmine Moondance. And somehow - in spite of our best efforts at birth control – we’d somehow ended up with two sons 17 months apart. 

In fact, it was our birth control failure that began a paradigm shift (or collapse!) leading us to trust the natural process of childbearing in marriage. But by then we’d lost our culture-driven fear of children: our four – no matter how hard the work involved in raising them – were bringing out the best in us. Our capacity to love had expanded. Our commitment to each other and the future seemed more solid and sincere.

Besides, we loved them madly – each one so different and unique. How wonderful to look into the faces of our sons and see the unique blending of ourselves! How exciting to watch their individual personalities unfold, to see their gifts revealed. And for survivors of two families scarred by divorce and alcoholism, what an opportunity to grow! While we could not go back and fix our own broken childhoods, we could find a lot of healing in purposefully parenting the next generation.

Tripp and I made a covenant together that we would never again use birth control, trusting our “Higher Power” – in the limited way we understood Him as some remote spiritual overseer – to provide for them. 

We were thinking materially, of course.

But God went us one better.  In 1987, after the birth of our third son, we ended up at a Family Life Weekend to Remember, where the dots were connected for two confused spiritual seekers in four simple steps: God loved us and had a plan for our lives, the separation we felt was because of sin, Jesus died and rose to bridge that gap, and we needed to make a decision.

Knowing we were God’s children changed many things about how we viewed the world, but it didn’t change how we felt about our children and – especially now that we understood who He was – our commitment to leaving the construction of our family to His care. It was plain that God had us on a fast-track, wasting no time waiting for us to “find” him before beginning his plan. His fingerprints were all over the names of our boys: Joshua Gabriel, Matthew Raphael, and Benjamin Michael. 

I breathed a sigh of relief, looking forward to finally having fellowship with people who understood what made our family tick because they too trusted God in every aspect of their lives.