To my nine:
Recently we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the beginning of our family. On that evening we made a nice dinner and spent time together as a family. Throughout that day, I reflected on the day I married your mom and the events surrounding that occasion. There are some things about that day I want you to know.
We began our life together as a family at the Portland Oregon LDS Temple. I remember sitting in the airport with your mom the day before, nervously waiting for the flight to arrive. We checked all of our bags except one, a carry on that had your mom’s wedding dress crammed inside. As we sat at the terminal waiting for the flight, we talked about our future family and what we wanted our life to be like. At some point in the conversation your mom turned to me and asked if I had ever thought of a specific number of children I wanted. The truth is, up to that point neither of us had thought of a specific number. We both agreed we wanted a large family, but we had never defined “large”. But in that instant when she posed the question, something happened. A number immediately came into my mind.
I told your mom that I had never thought of a specific number until now. At that moment I had a strong impression – but it was crazy. She smiled and said the exact same thing. She had never had a number but one came to mind in that moment. I’m pretty sure she made me share my number first and I said, nine. She smiled and said that’s exactly what she felt at that moment. We spent the next while talking about how nine was the wrong number. I only remember two of the reasons we didn’t like it now. It was a big number and it was odd. Despite our initial reactions, we shared our excitement about our future family and desire to do whatever the Lord would ask of us. If that meant nine children, then we would gladly welcome each one.
It wasn’t easy. Even though mommy always wanted twins, it never happened. She bore all nine children one at a time. We had the first six in six years. There was a break in between the “six-pack” and the last three, but only because mommy developed kidney stones and struggled with a different kind of pain for several years. Courageously she had the last three to complete our nine. Along the way we prayed a lot, talked a lot and doubted whether we could do it, but that number, and that moment in the airport, came rushing to our minds whenever we struggled. After every child we knew there was another waiting. We also knew when another one was ready to come.
Living in a big family can be tough. We have to make a lot of hard choices and do things differently with our time and resources. You have learned what it’s like to be part of a family that works together, struggles together, sacrifices together, and rejoices together in the greatest blessings God gives us. I hope this serves as a witness to you that even before you were born, you were known. Your family was prepared. Your parents were prepared. Even though we are far from perfect, and struggle daily to make this work, it’s worth every worry, every prayer for help, and every moment of joy and laughter. I am grateful for each one of you and hope that you always remember how loved you are and how this family was prepared for you.
To my nine:
I shared a brief spiritual thought yesterday evening before prayers that I would like you to remember. It was the story of Peter’s faith from Matthew chapter 14. The Savior, Jesus Christ, had left his group of disciples to go up to a mountain to pray. Late in the evening they saw the Savior coming towards them, walking on the water. At first they were afraid, but the Lord called out to them and calmed their fears. Once he recognized who it was, Peter asked if he could come across the water to meet him. In verse 29, the Lord invited him to come and Peter stepped down from the boat and began walking on water.
What a remarkable thing it must have been for a fisherman to step down upon the waters he knew so well, and not sink through. What a wonderful moment to see the Lord there welcoming him to participate in this great miracle of faith. What trust and faith Peter must have had to get out of the boat.
But, as often happens in life, especially in moments where we feel some strength, the wind began to howl and Peter became afraid. As he started to sink he cried out for the Lord to save him. Verse 31 says “and immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”. If Peter had not feared, he could have continued to walk with the Lord. Instead, in his moment of weakness, the loving Lord “immediately” caught him and raised him up.
There are so many conclusions to draw from this story. Here are a few that come to mind:
I hope that you will spend time with this scripture. Think about what it means to you and how you can apply it to your own life. Many blessings have come to my life through faith in Christ. I also hope that you recognize the ways in which the Lord seeks to correct you by living close to the spirit and acting on its promptings. When the time comes for you to walk in faith, I hope you get out of the boat, as Peter did, and trust that Lord is right beside you.