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Blog: Where do I find my strength?

in English 22.3.2016 13:05 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
People often ask me where I find the strength and energy for my daily life. They approach this question from different viewpoints: Where do I find the energy for my job when I have so many children? Where do I find the patience to be at home with my family when I have so many children? Where do I find so many causes of joy in my life when I have so many children?
I have often hoped that someone would ask me: Where do you find the strength to deal with all those unintended – and sometimes even intentional – negative comments on the size of your family? If only people would ask me about that instead of forming their opinions based on media publicity or random prejudiced comments. But although so few people have ever asked me this question, I thought I would write a response anyway. Just in case someone might read it.

When our first wonderful baby was born about twenty years ago, I knew our family would likely grow. It was my completely voluntary choice to believe and trust that God, who is the Creator of all things, would guide and protect our life. I did not even want to know how big our family would eventually be. With childlike confidence I thought that, if we are given many children, we will also be given enough love to take care of them.  

I have met people who seem to think that Laestadian women cannot use their brain to think what is good for them. That because I have so many children, I am unable to think independently. That I have been brainwashed. That my husband has subordinated me so that I no longer know what is good for me and only imagine myself to be happy. At the very least, I am considered a foolish and childish person.

But this is not so. I have a fairly good level of intelligence, I have an academic degree, and I am fully qualified for my job. I also believe that my husband genuinely loves me. I know that, for him, love is not only words but also small gestures and actions, such as cooking breakfast and making coffee in the morning, sorting and washing the laundry, lovingly touching me in passing during the day. Our life has no room for subordination – neither psychological or physical, nor spiritual. Any such claims seem insulting.

My brother told me about something that happened when he went to work one morning. He met two of his colleagues in the corridor. He greeted them with his customary cheerful “Good morning”. One of the colleagues said: ”I just can’t understand how you can always be so cheerful, although you have six children.” My brother asked this colleague: ”How many children do you have?” She said she had two. He then asked a second question: ”Do you love these two children?” After a positive answer, he asked yet one more question: “If you had more children, can you tell me which child would be the one for whom you would no longer have any love left?” There was no answer to that.

When I think about my brother’s question now that I have nine children myself, I am happy to know that I have not run out of love. The more you are loved, the more love you can share. Every time when I hold a newborn baby, I am astonished at the huge amount of love contained in that small bundle. Everybody at home is waiting for the new baby. There is hardly anything more touching than seeing a grumpy, short-tempered teenager come home from school and go straight to the sleeping baby, sniffing at it, patting at it gently, and only then – if even then – recognize the presence of other family members. And what about Dad coming home from work? He kneels down by the cot and charges his batteries with a few minutes of baby smell therapy.

It is true that I am sometimes tired. There are mornings when I am trying to get to work in time, but the two-year-old howls at the top of his lungs, the four-year-old throws a tantrum, the eight-year-old begins to cry for no obvious reason, the ten-year-old cannot find his jacket, and the teenager has an acting-out day. But I guess we all are sometimes tired of our life, regardless of how many children we have, or even if we have none. I think what really matters is our general attitude to life. I believe and trust that the powerful hand of God is guiding our seemingly haphazard life into the direction that He in his wisdom has decreed for us. It is comforting to feel this guidance.

It is also comforting to know that, especially when I am tired, there are people around me who have had the same experience. I get peer support. When I come home with a newborn baby, I get the best kind of peer support: a group of women gather in our home. They are cheerful, sad, tired, well-rested, successful, unsuccessful, talkative, or quiet women with their arms full of gifts. They bring presents and baked goodies to us, but most importantly, they bring love. They do not ask how many children we now have, or if I feel tired. Or they do ask, but they do it with love.

Now some of you may think that we are one of rare families whose life has been exceptionally easy. But no, we are not. During the past five years I have had such heavy temporal trials that they have left me devastated and almost unable to believe in a good and merciful God. There have been deaths and serious accidents. I can probably say that there have been more than enough burdens for one person to carry. 

At the moments of greatest distress, human life is stripped down to the bare essentials. What is left after that is love: love of the Creator who maintains all things and also love of our family and friends. One day when life seemed utterly hopeless, my daughter consoled me and said I should concentrate on dealing with my own life and leave the things I could do nothing about. That made me realize that I have been greatly blessed with wonderful children. That the little ones who may be such a lot of work when they are young will later grow up into wise adults, who in their turn will support me. 

Especially when I am tired, I think about my husband and my siblings and their spouses and find them such a huge treasure. And when I am tired and worried about the future of our children, I find peace in the thought that our children will always have God and each other.

This is where I find my strength. 

Sirkka Lehto
Translation: S-L.L.
The blog post was published in online Päivämies on 21 Oct. 2015.


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