Read an encouraging letter from a family who rises to the challenge of raising seven children in the city.
Our living in the city has presented us with many challenges to keep 7 children busily involved and actually contented in the projects and activities we come up with. There definitely are times that I find myself daydreaming of sending my 3 boys out the door to feed the hens or go fishing in the pond or hunt for critters in the woods. But alas, for us (for me!), we daily must face the reality of where the Lord has placed us and increasingly rely on His provision for our children.
My husband, Greg, the avid nature lover, has never been deterred by city dwelling. In the very beginning of our marriage, he began to fill our bedroom with aquariums of confiscated pond water from the nearest swamp he could find, and then, with child-like expectancy, he would watch delightedly for signs of microscopic creatures beginning to grow. Occasionally, a monster toebiter would escape and terrorize us until Greg would rescue me. (My hero!)
So, naturally, my boys are carrying on the tradition. Their bedroom is home to 5-foot terrariums that house leopard geckos, scaled lizards, a hognosed snake, and a 3-foot iguana. From time to time they will bring home some terrible hairy creature, like a tarantula, that they unearthed on a camping trip to Heber Springs, Arkansas. Sometimes they end up sleeping on the couches in our living room, because there is no more room for them in the zoo that doubles as their dwelling place. I have had to draw the line occasionally, like when I walk past the door to their room and decide it smells like the elephant cage at the zoo. I tell myself that the Lord has some great plan for them, and this is all just part of His preparing them for the future.
It is very probably just another God-prescribed opportunity for me to let go of some more of my obsessive-compulsive personality hangups and propensity to control, and let my boys just be boys. Last year, they bought an incubator with their own money and hatched out a gecko from an egg. Unfortunately, the poor little thing was born with some deformities and died. But my boys were not discouraged, and by the next week, they were off to some new project.
I think living in the city is harder on the boys, because they need more strenuous, physical activity to satisfy them. Greg bicycles to stay in shape. It is a great stress reliever for him to just get on his bike and take off to someplace outside the city limits. Sometimes the boys accompany him on these trips. We have invested in some nice mountain bikes, and everyone in our family has one. One year, Greg and Russell, our oldest son, rode to a men’s retreat from Memphis to Pickwick, a cycling adventure of over 100 miles. Greg, himself, has taken week-long trips in the past that were over 500 miles.
Elliot (17) and Jeffrey (14) have invested in well-made unicycles and are quite adept at riding them. I think Elliot is presently working on juggling and riding at the same time. (Hmmm, I wonder if the circus could use another act!) Just kidding! But they have joined a unicycle club, and Dad takes them once a week for the meetings. There are mostly older men at the meetings, and they are quite impressed with my sons. The boys get a chance to interact with older men and tell them what the Lord is doing in their young lives.
We worship with a group of people who live in a community near the University of Memphis. We would love to live in the same neighborhood, but finding a house big enough and affordable has been an ongoing challenge. Many of our friends in the fellowship are homeschoolers. They have found innovative ways to keep their children busy. My friends, Matt and Beth, have raised chickens in their backyard, and as long as the neighbors don’t mind, their children have the responsibility (and fun) of keeping them fed and watered. Matt recently quit working full-time as a CPA and started a lawn and yard business with his boys, so he could stay actively involved with them while they learned how to be men and provide for their families. Many of the people in our fellowship, if the truth be told, would prefer to be living in the country. But the Lord has called them all to live in the heart of Memphis. We regularly fellowship with these families, playing soccer with them and going on outings together as often as we can.
The Lord has provided part-time jobs for my boys. Russell helps in the Gateway Extension program 3 days a week. Elliot is apprenticing 2 days a week as a computer information tech at the West Cancer Clinic, and Jeffrey cleans the homeschool department at Gateway. It gives them enough money to buy their own clothes and support their hobbies.
Jessica, our oldest daughter, started taking piano when she was 13. She loves music and has learned to play the guitar, too. Now, at 21 years of age, she is teaching guitar and piano in our home 3 days a week. She is also Greg’s part-time secretary. We have come to appreciate music so much in our home. Greg taught himself to play the flute, and most of our children are learning to play an instrument or two.
The Lord has provided a way for our girls to take ballet very inexpensively from a dedicated teacher. It gives them a great outlet for exercise and has contributed to a substantial growth of personal poise and self-esteem. And we have enjoyed meeting and getting to know a diverse group of people in a family-friendly environment. God has been so gracious to us, providing so many ways for our family to be involved in life-enriching activities. We are in the van and on the road more than I would like, but because we travel a lot in this ministry going to many curriculum fairs, we try to always engage in worthwhile conversations, sing together, and listen to books on CD while driving. My children are never at a loss for words and are very opinionated, so we have some very lively and heated discussions on world affairs and the human race. We take every opportunity to apply Scripture to our opinions and our daily lives.
Yes, country living would be more to my liking at times, but the God who designed this family has put us right smack-dab in the middle of a city, and He has been faithful to bless us here and to satisfy our widely varying needs. He is our portion and our strength. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He is the God of the country, and He is God in the city. The only thing that matters is that we go where He leads, and that we faithfully dwell in and possess the “city” that He has given to us.