“Our reality is not what many people would dream of living. But, this is us! This is the life we chose to live, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Having a large family was never something we talked about or even imagined. I’m still amazed when I look through our family pictures. This is my family! This is our life! Each child uniquely created by a loving Father. They are all so special and such a gift to this world.
It’s hard. It’s expensive. It’s challenging and exhausting on every level. We don’t get to eat out as much as other families. We don’t drive the cool cars or have the nicest toys. There’s a price to pay for having a large family, and I’d be willing to pay that price ten times over to have what we have. We have community. We have support. We have laughter. We have a shoulder to cry on. We have what money can’t buy; we have love!
But it didn’t always look like sunshine and roses.
Our journey started back in 1999, when I met my husband, Topher. Neither of us were in a good place. Drugs, alcohol, depression, lust… you name it. We were lost. We were broken and in desperate need of hope. I found out I was expecting in late 2001. The news rocked our world, and I was scared. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had purpose. I had something to live for and a little human who would love me unconditionally. I had used drugs during the first trimester of my pregnancy, not knowing I was pregnant. Of course, I stopped as soon as I found out. Topher, at the time, was still drinking heavily and using drugs.
In May of 2002, we welcomed our first child. She completely wrecked our hearts. She was perfect in every way, and no one could tell us differently. She made us want to be better people. It was her birth that woke us up and helped show us there was more to life than what we had been living. In January of 2003, we got married. Looking back, we were a train wreck waiting to happen! It’s a miracle we have made it this far.
It was this same year we both surrendered our lives to Jesus. I wish I could say it was all downhill from there, but that’d be the farthest from the truth. It was a challenging few years to follow. Drugs and alcohol continued to be a source of conflict in our marriage. Selfishness and pride were rampant. Our marriage was struggling.
In the summer of 2005, all things surfaced, and we came to a crossroad. I had grown up around drug and alcohol addiction and desperately wanted to break the cycle. I didn’t want to raise my children in the same dysfunction. Yet, here I was repeating history. I left work one evening and saw I had a message from my mother-in-law concerning our children. Topher never came to pick them up after work. That wasn’t normal. I called multiple times and no answer.
As I was about to turn on our road, I felt a nudge to keep driving. I had no reason to believe Topher was at a specific location. I just knew to keep driving. I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant, got out, and began walking to the front door. The lady greeting at the door said, ‘Oh hi! I think your husband just left.’ I had no clue who she was, but apparently she knew me. I turned and began walking back to my van, only to see Topher wiz by in his truck. I flagged him down and begged him to get out of the car. It was obvious he was highly intoxicated. He could barely talk. He didn’t make sense. I knew it would only escalate, and the possibility of someone getting hurt was high.
Thankfully, he pulled the truck over and got in my car. We got home, and he proceeded to go to bed. My heart ached for my kids as they saw their daddy so sick. I knew, that night, something had to change. I couldn’t change him though. The kids couldn’t change him. Only he could make a change. The kids and I left for the evening and stayed at my parent’s house. The next day, we headed home. I sat out on the back swing, contemplating what I would say to him. How would I say it? Would I leave? Would he ever change? I was angry. I was frustrated. I was scared.
He walked out and sat next to me, with his head hung low. In that moment, all anger and frustration vanished. My heart was softened towards him, and I just listened. He apologized and expressed how he wanted to change. He wanted to be better for his family.
Looking back, I know the ‘nudge’ to keep driving was from Jesus. Pulling into a random restaurant and meeting the hostess at the door? That wasn’t coincidence. What would have happened had I not listened? What if he had made it onto the main road under the influence of alcohol? What if I had not chosen to go home the next day, or to let my anger take over as I sat on that swing? Would I have missed the opportunity to love my husband in such a way he felt safe to apologize and make a change.
He will tell you to this day, ‘I experienced grace on a new level… God’s level! It was a divine grace that wasn’t of human origin. It was unconditional love that drove me to Godly sorrow and repentance.’ The perfect verse to describe what happened on that swing would be, ‘Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking–seek His purpose for your life]?’ –Romans 2:4. ‘His goodness on display, through you, lead me to repentance!’
It was in this season we took a turn for the better. We had to surrender a lot and work hard. We had to fully press in to Jesus and start living for Him — not for us, not even for our children! It was no longer what ‘I’ wanted or what ‘we’ wanted, but rather, what Jesus wanted. Topher had to give up drugs and alcohol. I had to give up my dreams of being a gymnastics coach and a career driven woman. It wasn’t a perfect journey from that point forward. We had sown a lot of bad seeds. It was going to take time to uproot bad relationships, habits, and mindsets. To say it was a bumpy road would be an understatement. Having a healthy marriage doesn’t just happen. We’ve had to work hard to build a great marriage. We’ve put time and resources into learning and growing into the people we need to be, to be the spouse each other needed. We’ve had to set boundaries to ensure we create a safe and healthy environment for our children and our marriage. Capturing the hearts of our spouse and children takes consistency, diligence, humility, and LOTS of time.
Part of surrendering to Jesus was saying, ‘Lord, we will fully devote our lives and our family to You.’ This is where it all began. Fast forward 15 years, and we just celebrated 17 years of marriage and welcomed our 10th child to our family.
Every two years, we’ve had the privilege of adding a little one to our family. This too has been a journey though. It’s been a walk of faith for me. I’m not geared to have a lot of children. I’m a little bit of a control freak. I like things to be clean. I like order and calm. And if you can just imagine, life with 10 children is nothing short of crazy! It’s like having your very own circus. It was easier for Topher to accept we would have such a large family. His trust in Jesus is solid. His faith is strong, and He never doubts God’s ability to provide exactly what we need to raise our children. I, on the other hand, like to have a plan. I want to see it on paper and know what to expect. I’m analytical, an over thinker. How can we afford this? How can we home school so many kids at once? Can I mentally handle the load that comes with such a large family? I felt completely inadequate. At first, the thought of growing our family was fun and exciting. But, when it got to our fourth or fifth child, it was more than I could personally handle or control. It was bigger than me! And that scared me to death.
Topher would always ‘talk me off the ledge’ by reassuring me, with Jesus, we would have everything we needed to be successful parents raising godly children. As the seventh kid rolled around, I started to freak out a a little. Topher says it best, ‘It’s like you’re drowning, and someone throws you a baby.’ LITERALLY! I knew this was what the Lord called us to do. I didn’t question the calling. I just struggled to understand that He would be made perfect in my weakness. All He needed was a willing heart. It wasn’t until about the eighth kiddo I finally released my need to control my current circumstances. I fully surrendered — not just physically, but mentally. I was all in! I understood the calling and saw the fruit being produced by our obedience to the Father. But I didn’t want to just obey in having more children. I wanted to have a HEART of obedience. One that fully trusted His ways were greater than my own and this life wasn’t all about me. There was a greater purpose.
We’ve also chosen to home school. This year marks 13 years of choosing this form of education for our children. Our oldest just graduated with honors, in May of 2020. This too has been a journey…another story for another day.
There are perks to having a large family. There’s always entertainment; you’re never lonely; and there’s always someone to do life with. But there’s also hard moments that come with having a large family. We don’t eat out very often and usually hit up the dollar menu if we’re lucky. Nice cars, shopping trips, and lavish spending is not a reality. Personal space? What’s that? You get crazy looks when you’re all together in public. As a mom, that’s hard to balance at times. Knowing people are sizing you up at all times can be a pressure that can have a negative effect on your parenting. It’s common to hear, ‘You sure have your hands full,’ as you check out at the grocery store with four of the 10 kids. You just nod and say, ‘Yep, we sure do!’ If they only knew…
I sped through the aisle of a store one day, as a lady stopped to ask if all the kids were mine. She literally asked me if I was receiving government assistance. What in the world?! I sat across from a friend at church, and she said, ‘Why would you have more kids?’ I answered her and said, ‘The real question is, why not?’ The Bible says in the book of Psalms 127:3-4, ‘Behold, children are a heritage and gift from the LORD, The fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.’ Children are a gift. They enrich our lives in so many ways. Yes, that may mean you don’t get to do the things you did before, or spend the money as freely. But the pros outweigh the cons greatly!
We would have never dreamed to one day have 10 children. It wasn’t even on our radar! But, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. For so many years, I thought we were here for them (our children). But, in reality, we needed them even more. Each child has brought a special gift to our family. We are a team! And together, we have all we will ever need… LOVE! Through my kids, I’ve learned to love greater, forgive more freely, to trust in the unseen, to laugh a little more, and to smile at the future. They cheer me up when I’m down and help motivate me to be the best person I can be. They have taught me how to see the best in others and how to serve the less fortunate.
One of our kids has a love for the elderly. Watching him spend time at a local nursing home, hugging those who probably haven’t been hugged in months, pushing wheelchairs to the dinner table, and singing songs with those who may not be mentally sound, makes my heart explode. The love of Jesus is evident in the way he lives and serves those who are forgotten and pushed to the side. Another one of our children has led thousands of people in worship, through the local church. Her gift has touched the hearts of people in ways that will forever mark their lives. Another one of our children has a soft place for the homeless. She pools her money together with siblings and friends and makes homeless bags filled with snacks, water, socks, chap-stick, hygiene items, etc. We keep them in our car, and she NEVER misses an opportunity to hand them out… even if that means we have to turn around and go back. I could go on for days with examples of how they have taught me to be a better person. There’s no greater joy than to have people send you messages, or stop you in the hallway, and share how your child has blessed them. Whether it be from a stage of ministry, or behind the doors of a nursing home, they are walking examples of a love far greater than you can fathom… the love of the Father.
It wasn’t until I moved out of my comfort zone and surrendered my plans to the Father that I found true purpose and fulfillment.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laura Jones of Nashville, TN. You can follow the Jones’ journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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