This is an excerpt from "They Call Me Mama" available on our "Resource" Page. I pray it encourages you.
As a mother of nine boys and five girls, I have begun to compile a list of things I never thought I’d ever say. The list is endless—growing every single day, right alongside my children.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
Who flushed the “my little pony” down the toilet?
Why is their underwear hanging from my tree?
No, you may not climb on the roof with your homemade parachute and jump off.
No, frogs do not count as visitors for church.
Who let the lizards out tonight?
Child, why are you wearing your pants on your head?
And my all-time favorite: “Who painted the cat green?”
This was said in response to an epic Pinterest-fail. “Snow Paint” they called it. They had promised it would keep my children entertained for hours. I don’t know who “they” are, but I want to publicly inform them that they are horribly wrong. Arming my children with enough snow paint to rainbow-print every inch of our ten acres and directing them towards the door, I breathed deeply of ten seconds of quiet. In the middle of a Michigan winter when most of your roommates smell like puberty – ten seconds of quiet is pretty much an angelic visitation.
Before I knew it, they were on their way back inside and I was looking out the window to see their handiwork. Puzzled, I asked, “Kids, why is the snow still white? Where did the paint go?”
Before they could speak, I had my answer. Coming from around the corner of the house and into my line of sight, came our good ole kitty, Miracle. No longer speckled white and grey, she strutted towards the house with a brand new coat… of many colors. At least it was non-toxic.
If there was a "Most Unlikely To Have Fourteen Kids" category, I’d be one of the names on the top of the list.
Here's just a few reasons why:
I'm easily overwhelmed in crowds and thrive on quiet time.
I like a neat and orderly home where everything has its place (mind you, my husband would say I like “organized chaos” – something he believes is a far cry from neat and orderly. To each his own).
I hate rodents, snakes, lizards, and every other creepy crawly my boys decide to name "pet."
I have a serious lack of patience at times.
My hair abilities begin and end at ponytail.
I like sleep… like LOVE it. If sleeping were an Olympic Sport, I’d medal. There are few things in this world that I love more than the feeling of my soft, warm blanket wrapped around me as my pillow gently cushions my head.
I do not like all the "common children-friendly" meal options. Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dogs. Get thee behind me, Satan.
And, at the very top of the list, of why I should not be the mother of so many children, I absolutely hate, loathe, detest, and disdain… laundry. It is the thorn in my side, the bee in my bonnet, the hair on my plate.
Oh, and, number nine, I have no idea how to get green paint out of cat fur.
And this is only the short list!
Sure, I could tackle one or two, maybe even four or five kids… but fourteen? No, this was not my plan. This is not something I am qualified for, nor am I capable of. But God. He’s the wild card, the wrench, the game changer. He loves using the most unlikely. He has a special place in his heart for the under-achiever, the benched. He loves to put us in situations where the outcome can only be explained by pointing upward. To use our lives in such a way that the only response is to give Him all the glory because it just couldn't be us. It's just not possible without Him. And this is how I feel every single day.
I live fully aware of my inability, fully aware that I'm not cut out for this on my own, but also fully aware that I can do all things through Christ. He is what qualifies me and that reality sets me on the edge of my seat. It makes my heart explode with expectation and excitement. It shatters all the boundaries I place around my life, all the limits I feel safe to dream within. If what God can do through my life is based on HIS ABILITIES and not my own, then there are NO limits to what He can do!
Luke 18:27 says that “what is impossible for man is possible for God.” Living a “yes” for God will often require us to dream beyond our limits and to embrace the ground outside our comfort zones. It will call us to step beyond what makes sense in the natural and reach for things that may even feel a bit unrealistic. Some may even call them impossible. Oh, how our God LOVES the impossible. He is in the business of taking inadequate offerings and using them to meet impossible needs. Take the feeding of the five thousand in John 6 as a perfect example.
Five loaves and two fish in MY home would be an appetizer. The offering—this little boy’s lunch basket—was completely inadequate. There was no possible way to feed five men, let alone five thousand from this simple lunch. It just wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. Looking at it, the disciples asked the obvious questions.
“But what is this when there are so many?”
How often have I asked that same question? How often have I looked down into my own basket, insecure about what I have to give and wondered how God could ever use this simple offering?
I have become very good at comparing myself with others. All humans tend to gold medal in this Olympic sport. Be the best, look the best, write the best status, calligraphy the best invitation, cook the best heart-healthy meal, exercise the best or feel the worst because you don’t measure up. Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest have fed into this spirit of comparison that has captivated and crippled the body of Christ. We look into each other’s baskets and always feel we come up short – my offering seeming so much less than yours.
“Look at what she has to offer. She can sing and dance and chase a toddler in stilettos. I trip over my house slippers.”
“Ugh. She is exercising again!? How does she have time? She is so fit. I bet she doesn’t even wear spanks.”
“How is it possible he got another promotion? Now he has all this money. I bet he even has a boat.”
We’d love to blame all of this insecurity and comparison on social media, but the truth is it feeds what has always been there. This has been one of humanity's struggles from the very beginning and is found woven throughout the Bible’s vibrant tapestry of historical accounts again and again and again. Since the Garden of Eden, the enemy has done all that he can do to make us feel small and less than. Why? Because he knows if he can make us question what we carry, we will never give it to God to use.
I’m writing that out again, because I need you to hear it. The WORLD needs you to hear it: The enemy knows that if he can make you question what you carry, you will never give it to God to use. “And who knows, but that you were brought to the kingdom for SUCH A TIME AS THIS?!” (Esther 4:14)
Shiloh, my daughter, is a beautiful, kind, creative soul. She is everything I wish I would have been and think I could have been at the age of twelve had it not been for my intense struggle with insecurity. I watch her dance wildly, laugh loudly, join in conversations freely and I’m in awe of her bravery. She is sugar and spice and courage and love all rolled into one. I am amazed by her and what she carries. I look at her as she sews costumes for her little siblings and writes songs on a notepad secretly tucked underneath her bed, and I think, “This girl has something special.”
My son, Isaiah, is handsome and strong, built like an ox, athletic and wild. Not only can he scale walls (like… literally, scale them) and run miles without breaking a sweat, he can also draw and paint the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. I look at him and I just know, “This boy has something special.”
And it’s not just them – it’s all of fourteen of them. Jordan and his quiet strength and hilarious sense of humor; Abraham with his intellectual conversations and musical stylings; Reuben with his incredibly kind heart and strength of will; Brionna with her determination and fearless resolve; Peter with his creative and inventive mind; Nevaeh with her gentle love; Daniel and his infectious joy; Phoebe’s fearless and tenacious take on life; Hadassah’s open heart; Ezekiel’s quiet strength; Gideon’s joy and passion for life; Jedediah’s wisdom way beyond his years – I look at them and I say, “These kids – they have something special.” I can see it in them. I can see what they carry. And the way that I look at them, the Father is looking at you. There is something special in you – something HE put there that HE wants to use. To you, it may not look like much, but in His hands – five surrendered loaves of bread and two fish can feed multitudes!
That’s why I love this story in John 6. It proves that when we give God what we have, our little becomes much in his hands. By the end of the story, not only was everyone fed, but there were also twelve baskets full of leftovers. Jesus did “exceedingly, abundantly more” than was necessary. He did the impossible. Using one little boy’s lunch, He fed a multitude.
I wonder – what could He do with your basket? With mine? What would happen if you worried less about measuring up to others and more about lifting up what you have to Him? What could He do with a people like that? With a people who lived a “Yes?”
A few years ago, my husband and I were asked to speak for an award ceremony where we would be receiving an award for our service as foster and adoptive parents. Looking out across the many faces that had gathered, we felt foolish. We felt like imposters. Why were we here? We hadn’t done anything special. We just loved our kids. And then, it hit me – “Niki, God has given you a platform tonight. Use it.”
So we did.. .and every other one that He has placed us on. Are we qualified? No way. Is it still unreal all the doors God has opened, people we have rubbed shoulders with, and platforms we have stood upon to share our story? Absolutely. I didn’t finish college! I have no real training, no education or study to back what I say. I just have my stories. And as I lift them up for Him to use – He takes my small basket and feeds multitudes.
I am okay with the fact that I will never be qualified for this life. I fully accept that my offering will always be inadequate. I will never have what it takes in and of myself. Yet, that’s the beauty of it all! As I just give Him my basket, He takes it and uses it for His glory and He does things I could never imagine and takes me places I never thought I would see. He does the impossible through me as I simply say, “Yes” to Him.
So, what gifts, talents, and resources has He placed in your hands? Are you a cook? God can use that. Are you an artist? God can use that too. Are you a letter writer? A scrapbooker? A card player? Do you ride a skateboard? Do you like going out to eat on Sunday after church? Can you build stuff or change the oil in a car or are you just really good at showing up? God can use all of that. Just give it to Him, give Him your “YES!” and see what He can do!