Sitting in church last Sunday, I inspected our seats to see if eight of the ten kids had arrived. (Hope was in the nursery, and our oldest and his wife are still sparring with winter in frozen North Dakota.) One, two, three....six, seven, eight. My eyes followed to the end where Captain Fun, my husband of 28 years, finished off the row. Every single chair was occupied by a Sims.
Suddenly, I was struck with the wonder of it: There it is. What I have wanted since I was nine years old. I held my breath, my eyes misted. I wanted to stretch my arms all the way down that row and pull them close.
From the time I was a child, I desired a big family. After I committed my life to Christ at the age of nine, a big, Christian family became my vision, my quest.
And there they were. Oldest daughter Bethany sitting between her two little brothers, both at West Point, who towered over their big sister. Matt, who is newly engaged (we love her), and Ben settled in after singing O Holy Night to our adult Sunday school class, which touched me so deeply.
Mary and Emma, just 17 months apart; both runners but so different, yet the best of friends. Cory, unassuming and a bit stoic, until he surprises you with his quick wit. Silas and Dorothy, happily chatting and drawing in their children's bulletins.
I couldn't know when I started, all that this calling would entail. Long days, longer nights. The mayhem, the mess, the mountains of laundry. The mountains of money. For brief moments the vision became blurred when both the Captain and I (and everyone else) questioned our sanity at having such a brood.
It wasn't until they began to grow up, to launch, that I started to understand where all this was going. "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth," Psalm 127:4 says. A strong family? It's like a weapon that equips us to fight life's battles.
And now, here we were, worshiping together in a full pew. My heart was full, too. And I wonder this Christmas Eve at the miracle of it all. Ten kids, a happy family. Not without struggle or flaws or fears, but still steady, connected, grateful.
And I say to myself, "There it is," and I know that we exist only because of His strength, His mercy, His grace and for His glory.
"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman wakes but in vain."