Oh, the Places You'll Go: Travelling with 12 Kids
Two years ago we arrived home from a trip in a somewhat war-torn state; we had just completed a 24-hour (turned 30-hour) drive home from a visit to Denver, Colorado for a family member’s wedding.
Here were the terrifying stats:
14 people in one van
6 of the kids aged 6 and under
4 in diapers (potty training twins still in the works)
1 flat tire + 2 tires needing to be replaced
2 car sick children
1 toddler crying/whining 80% of the time
1 child in desperate need to urinate during a grid-locked hour-long wait at the border = 1 (16 oz.) coffee cup filled to the brim and labelled with the warning “Do NOT drink - NOT coffee!”
The greatest attack right now is on marriage and the family. Why? Because it is in living out this vocation with beauty and grace that we’re combating the darkness. We give and give, often without any recognition or immediate reward, and we do it out of a beautiful, selfless love.
The trip itself was a whirlwind of van repairs and scrambling to find alternate rides, dealing with fevers, convulsions, an upset stomach, and hotel room mix-ups; but it all led up to a beautiful wedding and reception ... I may have missed part of the latter when my toddlers started to reenact the scene from Cinderella where the step sisters start tearing apart Cinderella's dress, but my kids took it a little further by emptying a large glass of icy water down my chest, saturating every layer of fabric, and leading to a quick exit where I tried desperately to place my eyes back into their sockets.
It was so, so hard.
I had asked the new priest from our parish to bless me before the trip. I told him that I knew my husband and I would need supernatural graces to meet all the demands and unexpected challenges that can and do arise when travelling with 12 children. And he blessed me and assured me of continued prayers.
I left wincing. Why hadn’t I asked for prayers to avoid all the challenges instead?
Why hadn’t I asked him to pray that we would be spared the trials?
Because, His grace is sufficient.
Somehow, in the midst of all this chaos, Patrick and I did not freak out. On the contrary, we both experienced those supernatural graces to the full extent. We sought out and appreciated the sweet moments of joy and we rode with the hardships. We even laughed through a few of the trials, suddenly catching each other’s eyes, and shaking our heads as if to say, “Is this for real? How is it possible that something else is going wrong?” and “How are we not losing it right now?!”
I didn’t even feel the urge to ask, “Seriously! Why God?” Because I know why.
The greatest attack right now is on marriage and the family. Why? Because it is in living out this vocation with beauty and grace that we’re combating the darkness. We give and give, often without any recognition or immediate reward and we do it out of a beautiful, selfless love.
We glorify God with each humble offering - with every yes to life and love, when the appeal of comfort would compel us to say no or to seek an easier path.
We kiss the cross as we meet each obstacle from the mundane to the extraordinary. We wipe the foreheads with a cool cloth, begging God to heal our child. We change the diapers, we clean up the vomit and messes, we find the missing shoes, chase the stray toys and bottles, and let go of our expectations of having our hair, clothing, and accessories left intact. We hold the 16 oz. coffee cup, nervous that our child’s bladder might actually be bigger than anticipated, somehow understanding that each selfless act of love is piercing the darkness with light.
We felt it. After our trip, we were left with an inexplicable sense of peace – the type I presume one would experience in victory after a great and well-fought battle. We had felt weak, helpless, and inadequate in the face of so many obstacles all beyond our control. We were spent, but somehow we felt satisfied. We had been held by the unseen yet faithful hand that steadies us beyond our own capabilities.
God, in His kindness, also offered us a couple of sweet consolations. The first was seeing someone I love being joined to his (stunningly beautiful) bride, embarking on this path to holiness. Their union is so decidedly centred on Christ. This, and the joy of being surrounded by friends and family, really made the trip worth all of it.
The second consolation was hearing the second reading when we stopped for Mass on our journey home. It was one of those moments when you know God is speaking directly to your heart:
''Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.'
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.''
2 Corinthians 12:7
Stay with us Lord!
Mane Nobiscum Domine
Carissa Douglas is the author and illustrator of the Little Douglings series. She’s the mom of 13, and a passionate promoter of the culture of life and all things related to this: our awesome Catholic faith. To follow the adventures of the Little Douglings, visit them here.