accept Children...

accept Children...

The third question of intent, Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? will be reflected upon by the wonderful, beautiful Gina Fensterer.

I’m so delighted to be guest-posting on my dear friend Amanda’s blog while she’s honeymooning! Her series on the questions of intent and marriage vows is lovely, and writing this post to share has been fun. We do, after all, have some experience in this topic. 😉

Marriage isn’t just something to do when you love someone and think they’d be swell to live with for the rest of your life. Not even close! I’ll let you know, I love my husband. He is swell. But we don’t always get along, we don’t always have the same ideas about how to raise our family, we don’t always speak the same language, we don’t organize things the same way. Marriage is not always swell! But it is worth it. Marriage just so happens to be one of the various vocations to which a person can be called. It’s a vocation, because it’s a call from God on how best to live our lives and serve Him in this world. Do it well, and we hope for a place in Heaven alongside our spouse (and kids!) for the grand feast and perfect joy that comes with being united finally with God.

The Church has a few things to say about marriage and what is important. She teaches these things because, well, Jesus gave us the Church to guide us. The “rules” are in place to guide us, teach us, and help us as we learn to live in the love of Christ.

It’s a big deal. And so, the things which a couple must understand and consent to–the things the Church has to say about marriage–are also a big deal.

One of them has to do with children.

When a couple is ready to say, “I do” with all the love and mushiness and happy feelings they have at the altar, they are going to say, “I do” to:

Accepting children lovingly and bringing them up according to the law of Christ.

Take a moment and let that sink in. You can’t go separating children from marriage. You also can’t go about your merry life having children but not telling them about Jesus and his love for us and his plan for us. It is pretty counter-cultural, in these days of “have 1-maybe 2-babies–if we have any, and bring them according to the law of iDevices and instant gratification, as well as what feels right to you is fine and Christian morals are for boring people”, to be open to having a large family (if God wills it), and to bring them up living a life motivated by God’s love.

When Fence and I were preparing for marriage over 12 years ago, we talked about kids, and knew we’d have a few. I used to think that having a large family would be “fun” and maybe 5 was a good number of children. He comes from a family of 2, so 5 is awfully big compared to his experience. It’s big compared to my experience, also; I came from a family of 3 children. We also talked about waiting 2 years until having children…just because. We had no good reason to delay having kids. But it seemed like a good idea even for no reason at all, so we got married with the plan to wait 2 years and then start our family. We kinda sorta thought we’d use those two years to just enjoy the two of us, do fun things before kids enter the picture… ha!

We said our “I do”s at the altar and meant every single word. 9470929943_6c8313c2df_b

Of course we’d lovingly accept children and bring up them up according to the law of Christ! Why wouldn’t we, as faithful Catholics? We just didn’t realize that accepting children would look like surprise pregnancies…

In the next several months, our talk changed from “let’s wait two years” to “what is stopping us from having kids now? Why do we think we should wait?” What we came up with to answer those questions sounded a bit like: “nothing, and we have no idea.” We’d been practicing Natural Family Planning all along (part of being open to life!), and changed our approach from trying to avoid pregnancy, to trying to conceive.

Six months into our wedded bliss, I was 4 days late, bought a pee stick on the way home from work, and before I was done washing my hands, the test practically shouted to me “PREGNANT!” We had tried for this baby, and we were thrilled! Two weeks after she was born, we had her baptized. Here we were, 16 months into our marriage, and we were well on our way to happily and faithfully holding up this part of Catholic marriage.

Fast forward from November 2004 when our oldest was born up to about September of 2005. Life was good, we were happy with our little family, but knowing that God probably had more in store for us, decided to open up our prayers to finding out what God’s plans were for our family. We were faithfully practicing NFP still/again, and while we were of course “open” to possibility of pregnancy, we weren’t trying to conceive this time around. God, however, heard our prayer, and answered us. His answer was quite clear. His answer was,”You are pregnant. Surprise!”

I won’t lie to you and tell you that we were immediately overjoyed. We were surprised, and some surprises come with a bit of shock. And yet, we were accepting. God had a plan, and we were open to whatever that may be in our lives, even an unexpected pregnancy. We didn’t fight it. We didn’t “consider our options” as many sadly do in our society. The only option for us was acceptance, followed by a growing joy and excitement.

Now, we have 5 children. I love them and can’t imagine life without any of them! They are so amazing. For the sake of tying this together, I’ll skip the details of all the pregnancies and get to the heart of the matter. Repeat, we have five children. We actively tried for one. We were open to whatever God had in mind for 2. 20121106surprise52 copy

Do your math and you’ll find quickly that 2 of our babies were complete surprises.

Surprises in our marriage do not mean unwanted! God in all His wisdom and love for us blessed us with these sweet souls as gifts. Children are amazing gifts from God; they are a part of our marriage and having children helps us get to heaven! Ask any parent, and you’ll hear how much having children helps to grow in patience, generosity, selflessness, gratitude. (Hint: those are all good things which help us grow in holiness!) We may not have understood God’s will when we had those surprise pregnancies, but we were accepting. Like Mary, when she didn’t exactly understand how on earth she could possibly be pregnant, or how the details would all work out, she trusted in God and accepted his will for her to be Jesus’ mother. Like Mary, I haven’t always understood “why NOW?”, “where did we goof up on charting?”, “how is this going to work out?”, but I trusted. *We*, my husband and I both, trusted in God’s plan, in his graces to “make it all work”, in the beauty of another life blessing our family. And as we know, God’s graces are abundant! Like a couple’s love multiplies and grows into another life when they conceive, so does God’s grace multiply when children are welcomed into a family.

There are so many things I could say about being accepting of children! So many lessons God teaches us in being open and accepting, among them are: gratitude for the blessing of any number of children, trust in God’s providence, patience in waiting to conceive when a couple is trying, courage in the face of hard circumstances, reliance on God when children are sick, joy in the miracle of birth. Yes, it can be very hard to be accepting of the plans God has for us, whether that means we struggle to make ends meet with surprise pregnancies, complicated health issues in our children, or infertility. And yet, being open and accepting of God’s plan for our family–no matter the number of children!–will not be without reward. God’s gift of children ranks among the tops gifts in marriage, in my opinion. God has so much in mind for our families when we open ourselves to the gift of life, the gift of children.

Stay tuned for part 2 {on Wednesday}, in which I discuss raising children, and bringing them up according to the law of Christ. Also! If any one would like to further chat about any of this, please feel free to email me ( With all these little gifts running around, I have a lot to talk about regarding children. 😉

Gina is a wife, daughter, mother, friend, homeschooling mama, Colorado native. Documenting life through photography and blogging at lets her save memories for her family, and is a creative outlet for her during her crazy awesome and busy days. Yup, you read that right, crazy awesome days. She may have 5 kids, a hubby, and some random pets in the care of her kids…she may have the overtime job of homeschooling and making meals all day long, wiping noses and tushies, kissing ouchies and handing out band aids, listening to the dreams and dramas in her kids’ (and husband’s!) lives…but their days are awesome. They’re Catholic, move often, watch Doctor Who, and have inside jokes. She is actually old enough to have the five children she has birthed in 4 states (no one believes her), and yes, her hands are full but they are never, ever bored.

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