God Will Use Your Family to Give Saints to the Church — If You Let Him

It is from the messy fabric of family life that God promises to weave a stunning masterpiece.

‘Family’ (photo: WorldStockStudio / Shutterstock)

Three months ago, my husband and I dropped our oldest child off for her freshman year of college. There were tearful goodbyes exchanged between my daughter and her 10 younger siblings, bags packed full of clothes, and an airplane ride — and then, in the blink of an eye, she began her new life, two time zones away.

If I didn’t feel old before, I certainly do now!

I was only 22 years old when my daughter was born. Back then, we were not yet Catholic and anticipated having only a few children. And because we’d married and started having those children relatively young, we assumed we’d be empty-nesters by our mid to late 40s, and that we’d embark upon a life of worldwide travel and leisure.

“Imagine all the things we will do when our kids are grown and out of the house,” we’d muse. Not that we looked forward to it necessarily, but it certainly did seem like a benefit of having your children one right after the other, when you are young.

God of course has a grand sense of humor, or at least I like to think so, because our lives clearly took a very different turn. When we were moving our daughter into her dorm room, her 1-year-old baby brother was there with us. As I sit writing this, my nearly 4-year-old son is chattering nonstop about one of his favorite book series, Mercy Watson. My teen boys have a big cross country meet tomorrow, my teen daughter has a couple of volleyball games this week, some of the other kids will need to be picked up from school this afternoon.

Just in case it wasn’t clear before, we will not be spending the rest of our 40s traveling around Europe.

There is a general fear among moderns, I think, of having your life turn out differently than you’d thought. And perhaps even more than that, there is a general worry about the notion of having a “wide family” — many children spread over many years. Where there is nearly always someone in diapers, needing something, right alongside bigger people with bigger problems (and sports and work schedules). People can’t fathom, for example, nursing a baby at your daughter’s high school graduation ceremony, or driving a bunch of teen athletes to a track meet with a baby and toddler in the car, too.

But I confess that, in spite of my youthful visions of grandeur and ease, it is actually a pretty good life. I love that my bigger kids have these relationships with the younger kids, and vice versa. I’m glad for the perspective it brings. I appreciate my little ones and their littleness so much more now, than when I had only young kids, and I am also so grateful for my teens and all of the ages and stages in between, too. We all have to strive daily against selfishness and pride, making space for those among us who might be having a bad day, who might be teething again, or who might have knocked over their water glass for the umpteenth time in a row. 

It is from the messy fabric of this family life, all of us and our needs and wants and shortcomings and gifts colliding under one roof, that God promises to weave a stunning masterpiece. We are being shaped and formed, stretched and prodded (occasionally kicking and screaming), becoming the individual people that God created us to be. But it must happen in the context of the family.

When I’m done writing for the day, it will be time to pack for our upcoming trip to visit our daughter at her college, for Parents’ Weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing her, meeting her many new friends, and attending the weekend’s various festivities — including a wine tasting, a luncheon and an orchestra performance. It sounds like she’ll be bringing us along to Swing Dance Club, too. 

I hope I have enough room in my carry-on for the 1-year-old’s clothes, sippy cups and diapers.