A time to look back. Mike, this ones for you…

To the father of my children,

Looking back Mike,  after you and I said, “I do,” there were a lot of uncertainties, but one thing we did know – was that we were called to ministry. Do you remember the day when I asked you, “How do you know that God has not called you to be the father of a large family?”

Now, mind you, at that time, I never thought that God would give us more children than His number of perfection, 7! I completely forgot what God said about Himself in Isaiah 55:8,9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Thoughts of a large family weren’t on our mind in the beginning, we simply knew we wanted our first, and we prayed for him. Do you remember how I also prayed for a scripture for each child while we were waiting for them to finally arrive? Chris was born, what a prize from the Lord! Oh, what a blessing – and yes, God gave me the scripture, “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.” 1 Sam. 1:27. And aren’t you amazed how our love just grows and grows for him and for his beautiful wife. God is awesome how He fills a heart with love. When I think of Chris, I think of Pooh in Winnie the Pooh, OK, with a bit of Eeore, but oh,  don’t you just love him!

And, of course, we didn’t want an only child, so we gladly welcomed Chris’ new little brother, Jared. And I have to say, the word God gave me while waiting Jared’s arrival says it all, “Behold children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is His reward.” Psalm 127:3-4. Best friends from, well, not day one, but from 1 yr. – on! And oh, the music that came out of these boys together. The beauty of it all, truly, the ‘fruit of the womb is His reward.’

And Mike, how God encouraged us with this scripture, Psalm 127:4-5, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;” (but at that time, I had no idea how big your quiver was!)

So perhaps we can look back and say it all began very slowly by the Lord working through a hymn, yes, “I Surrender All.” I remember leading worship for a woman’s retreat and ending up the whole time with , “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee thy blessed Savior, I surrender all.” I was 9 months pregnant with our 3rd at the time. It was then that I felt God speaking to my heart, “Toni, what about your womb?” My thought after this, “I must have eaten too much pizza!”

So Carolyn was born, but God encouraged me through this pregnancy in which I had been sick with consecutive flu viruses and I was anxious about her health with Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you…” Our little one in which we were anxious about will probably end up being the smartest of them all! Kids, you can prove me wrong anytime, but she did graduate top in her nursing class! We were satisfied. Two boys and a girl, one happy family!

I am sure you remember, Mike, the day I had you sit down, about 7 1/2 months later.  Yes, Nick was on his way. O my goodness, I was overwhelmed, no one has 4 children! My life was over, I thought! I really didn’t have an attitude of joy, but each and every day we woke up and sought the Lord and gave Him our lives, and He encouraged us once again in His word, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14. And when Nick was born, my heart was broken about my attitude toward His rewards and gifts to us, and I asked forgiveness and prayed to the Lord, “I surrender all, even my womb.” God has gifted Nick with amazing artistic ability, ‘marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well’ and Nick knows that it all comes from God. (But Nick, you are all Eeore, totally lovable, but you really need your ‘Pooh’s’ in life to keep things sunny!)

And this is when you heard me ask you the question, “How do you know that you’ve not been called to be a father of a large family?” When even inside you were thinking these same thoughts as well.

Not long after the birth of Nick, 17 months later, Jonathan was born. The word, the word, oh how I needed His word! God spoke to me in Isaiah 44:2 for my Jonathan, “Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob My servant…” (Jonathan, God encouraged me with this scripture while we were waiting for your special day, take hold of this verse, it is for you.) Jonathan started life collacky and he was quite the screamer, but if you were to look for the word Gentle in the dictionary, I think you would find Jonathan’s picture there.

Mike, I write this for you. You are probably the only one who would be interested to keep reading at this point, but oh there is so much more. Yes, it was after Jonathan, our 5th that you met everyone that had 5 and did not want to have 6! Children that is. And they all took care of that good and fast. But you prayed and sought the Lord.

Needless to say, God spoke to you as well and gave you courage, (some might call it something else!) to being willing to trust God with our family. Maybe you were thinking the same as I, that He wouldn’t give us more than 7!

Emily! What would we ever do without our Emily. If we never had #6 we would never have all the maturity that we have!(haha) Having to learn how to cook all over again, (I think this is when I discovered most of my 5 minute meals!) how to do laundry, (did we ever learn how to do it, we just did it all the time! OK, I should not say ‘we’ because this is when I should simply say ‘you’, because you did most of the folding. My verse for Emily was, Psalm22:9,10.  “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust when I was on My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.” It is about how Jesus trusted the Father from the womb, and this gave me great comfort that our girl would trust the Lord all of her days. Em, you were born to praise Him! And oh, what a voice. I love to hear my kids sing.

Now people were really wondering about us, even to the point of worry. At one time there was even a  joke behind the pulpit even,”Get Mike a T.V.!”

But what would we do without our Liz? Life would never be right. With Chris, Jared, Carolyn, Nick, Jonathan, and Emily around Liz never wanted to sleep! She was busy Lizzy from the beginning. And the Lord gave me word for our girl, Psalm 139:15,16, and 17, “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” (Liz, you are ‘Kanga’ in the Pooh story to me! So sweet. Doesn’t everyone just love Kanga.)

Amazing the joy we had in our chaos! The house always a mess, kids making tons of noise, music amidst the whines! Pure joy, right Mike? I truly believed that a house was always better when there was a baby in it! Yes, at this point, my friends were worried when I held someones new baby, because they were worried that’s how they came for us!

God had plans for my Gracie-girl, and she was born right on her due-date, (just like Jared by the way). I do not even know if she knows that God gave me a verse for her before she was born. But God gave me Psalm 119:73,74, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, Because I have hoped in Your word.” And it is so beautiful to watch the Lord grow in the lives of each of these His children given to us on loan for a time. (Grace, how sweet to see you blossom and this verse truly represents you.)

Mike, to think of that question, ‘how do you know God has not called you to be a father of a large family?’ Oh my, how beautiful to have a man that no matter what – seeks the Lord. Even if everything looks totally foolish from the outside, you simply listen to God, you wait on Him. You really don’t listen to a lot of opinion, or we would never have had David, our year 2000 baby! Because we went past the perfect 7 number now and were now expecting #9.  What  amazing verses the Lord gave to me for this special child. Psalm 145:4,5, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.” And how sweet, to get another with the ‘Pooh’ temperment in our family. Quiet, inquisitive, and sweet. May you keep meditating on the glorious splendor of God’s majesty throughout your days.

Certainly by now, most just thought we were plain ‘stupid!’ But isn’t it crazy that we never really wanted more babies, we were simply ‘willing’ to have all the babies. Of course, by this time, I had to learn to organize even more! We functioned well on a schedule. That is how everything got done.

I remember when our 10th was born, you didn’t like any names at all except Anneliese. That is kind of a big name for a little baby, but I told you that if  the baby was a girl and if she looked like an Anneliese, you could have your name! She looked like a little princess – thus the name! God encouraged me  and gave  me Psalm 16:11 for our little Anneliese, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  The Lord has been our help and how wonderful for the Lord to give me a scripture to encourage me that our girl will continue to grow and know that, ‘in His presence is fullness of joy!

I must admit, that it was challenging being pregnant  in my early 40’s with 10 other children in the house! It was nice people didn’t say much! You really didn’t want to know what they were thinking! But after the baby was born, there were no more of those looks. The beautiful baby changed everyone’s opinion, to  have children is wonderful  all of a sudden!

Who would have thought that one of my most wonderful births was #11 when I was 42 years old. You thought he was going to be  a girl, I had no idea, but on the day that I went into labor I had just finished reading the very last chapter of Matthew, with  the verse, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” on my mind the entire day of laboring! But the verse God gave me for Matthew is very precious, just as all the others, (that is why I have spent all this time writing about them because I think God wants to encourage us all with them.)  2Corinthians 9:15 says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!.” And of course we know this gift is Jesus, but for you and for me and every member in our family, Matthew is a gift, indescribable!

Mike, my husband of almost 27 years and the father of our 11 children, I believe that ‘He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the coming of Jesus Christ’ Phil 1:6, and I believe that as He has begun all of this with a hymn, He is going to strengthen us to finish well with a hymn:

Because He Lives, by Gloria Gaither and William Gaither. You see, we brought children into a world of troubled times, but the world was troubled even when God Himself had implanted His Seed in that young woman Mary. We think these days are troubled, yet all of time has been troubled because of sin, BUT the hymn reminds us,

Vs. 1: “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive. He lived and died, to buy my pardon. An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

And every mama and papa can sing these words with truth,

Vs. 2: “How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives…”

But it is with belief and trust in Jesus we can have peace and sing,

“But greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because He lives.”

And Mike, as we do the best thing for our children by keeping our eyes on the Father in heaven – looking to, seeking and trusting in Him – we will do the next best thing that we can for each one of them by

me- loving their papa, and you- by loving their mama! We’ve been through better and worse. We’ve been through sickness and health, and we’ve been through richer and poorer but God knows each of our names and we are His – and,

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future, All life is worth living just because

He lives.”

Mike, thank you for being a father with faith, and integrity. I am not sure, but if there were pictures in the dictionary, I would probably find your picture next to both.

Stuck to you babe! Thankful that Jesus is our glue!

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Author: tonirypkema

Wife to 1, mother of 11, daughter of 1. "The most amazing woman in the world." -Jared (son)

1 thought on “A time to look back. Mike, this ones for you…”

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