Extraordinary duty

July 6th, 2013


“If we go through life trying to make sure we’re never stretched beyond our comfort zone, we’ll never learn true obedience to the King of the universe.  We become our own little kings of our own little universes.”
~Joe Musser



I’m not sure the answers to your prayers could possibly be more clear.


God is getting to the heart of the matter, using this life we’re living to mercifully, relentlessly root out the most selfish places in the family. I wrote long ago that we have nothing to lose but what needs to go.  It’s true!  What He gives in its place is grace.


And grace in family form has a unique, complex, irregular, organic, harmonious loveliness that gives us a glimpse into the nature of God.  We need it and want it, and even our wanting is of grace.


On a surface level?  Wow, more answers to prayer.


Some of you shared your best strategies with me, and I appreciate this so much, even if I haven’t replied to all your emails yet!  You just never know when one little idea might completely revolutionize an area of life that previously struggled along, so please know that I love to hear how others make life work on a large family scale.


A sample of some changes we’re making, in no particular order…


~We’ve reinstituted the Fifteen Minute Connection.  As soon as possible after Joe arrives home from work, he and I sit down together and talk for at least fifteen minutes.


~I’m collecting music for us to play during our morning routine–energetic, excellent quality, sing-able solid truth.


~God helped us to give a new vision to our children for where He’s taking us.  He helped them to respond with soft hearts to this vision.


~We have new chore charts put together and waiting to be laminated.  New wine in new wineskins.


~After purchasing five more laundry hampers, we’ll see whether having the five oldest children do their own laundry will help to tame the voracious Laundry Beast that lives at our house.


~The pattern of our week has been slightly altered.

Monday night is Work Night, for household projects some of us can work on together, like making repairs, cleaning and organizing a storage area or installing a twelve foot high, eight seater swingset.

Tuesday night is still Date Night.  [Joe stated that this meets his need for quiet shoulder-to-shoulder time, a la Love and Respect, which by the way we generally, uh, love and respect.]

Wednesday night alternates between the older children’s ultimate Frisbee with their friends and one-on-one time with me.

Thursday night is still Reading Night for Joe and the children, Mom’s Night Off for me to use for planning, writing, and/or connecting with friends.

Friday Night is still Family Night.


~Those of you who reminded me that flying solo isn’t going to work because God didn’t design the family to work that way will be pleased to hear that I am learning how to ask for help.

“Hey guys, this is the part where I don’t want to ask for help, but I do anyway.  Anyone available to change a diaper?”


~Those of you who reminded me that others can help with everything but nursing baby Ben were right and I needed to hear it.


~God’s sending help we didn’t ask for, and He’s doing it through some of you!

I can’t find the right words to do justice to the blessing our church fellowship is to us on Sundays and beyond.  The loving hearts and helping hands are beautiful to behold.

One friend is doing all our ironing free of charge again.

An adoptive family in our church fellowship with several older daughters committed to bringing us a meal each week.

Our good friends offered to have our children over for a long day to allow me to get a large chunk of painting finished.

A neighbor friend occasionally brings a meal over out of the blue.

Other neighbors share extra produce with us from their large garden.

Another friend blesses us with a large amount of artisan bread every so often.

Several of you regularly share hand-me-downs with us.

Some of you give regularly to Katie and Tommy’s care fund.  This has been a wonderful help for things like the more than $1000 worth of Thick-It we use in a year.


God can multiply little into much and leave us with twelve baskets of leftovers.

That’s impossible, isn’t it?

But we are witness to this truth every day.


Some of you are called to some extraordinary duty and do not feel strong enough.  Follow that call, for surely the Lord is in that place.  He will help you.
~Another good quote by Charles Haddon Spurgeon




About four gallons of thick, rich, flavorful, meaty beef stew…



…pureed two cups at a time…



…and frozen for Tommy.



Two very, very much alive little treasures, no longer hidden.



In spite of her very poor hand-eye coordination, Katie’s gaining competency in feeding herself a wider variety of food as a direct result of me being busier.



All the news we received at Shriner’s was good news.  It will take years of hard effort, but there’s no orthopedic reason Tommy can’t someday learn to walk.



Katie is eager to walk now, but she has to slow down and learn to balance a bit better before that can happen.



Sweet girl with her biggest brother~



Grandpa saying, “God bless you,” to his newest grandson.

This is my favorite photo of Tommy so far.

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Did I already tell you how much Stephen loves Katie and Tommy?  He is always kissing them and telling them, “I love you!”

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Fridge phonics is a hit with Katie.



Isn’t she looking like such a big girl?



Snuggling with the mama and the baby brother…





Goofy girl! IMG_0686



You might be three years old, but you are still my baby doll, sweet Verity.

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“What’s the password?”

“I know it, it’s frankfurter.” 

“That’s German for ‘I want a hot dog.'”

*giggles of hilarity*



Twins.  Best friends.



Baby Benjamin has slept through the night for almost a week now, like the very obliging sort of baby he is.



He’s calm, social, expressive and cheerful.

Not that you can tell that from this photo.



Little as he is now, I have this feeling he’s going to outgrow tiny Verity long before he’s three years old.



Benjamin Justus, you are the cherry on top of our family.  What a very unique start in life you will have.



Now Tommy has experienced a favorite activity of our other little ones.



Katie has six IV treatments down and two more to go on her way to strong and healthy bones!



Tommy knows the names of over half his new family members now.  Joshua is one of them.



A lot of the photos I take nowadays are taken from my big rocking chair.  I can ordinarily be found either flying about the place at one hundred miles an hour or sitting down with a nursing babe and another small person.  Sitting is more conducive to photography than flying.



We have four booster seats and four car seats in our big van.



That’s eight little people who are developmentally age seven and under.



Each one a uniquely valuable life who adds humor, sweetness, challenge, fun…



…and love to our family.  They make our life very full…



…and we couldn’t spare even one of them.


“Verity, I love you more!”

“I love you more!”




Are we not a privileged family??


Yes, we are.








P. S.  I invite you to check out this post by Sasha Carpenter.





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25 Responses to “Extraordinary duty”

  1. Cinderellamommy says:

    Love is apparent in your words, photos, family. Continued prayers for you all! (Moms are up late tonight, I guess!)

  2. Nicole says:

    did Joshua get his tonsils out ? I had it done at his age… it was something… :(
    Thank you for sharing !

  3. I have been praying for you all.  Sounds like you have a wonderful game plan in place.  We have to tweek ours every six months.  We have a family meeting to listen to all of the children express anything from wanting to switch chores with someone else, ideas they have to make things work more smoothly or someone feeling like they are not happy with something.  We listen and take it all in and talk about it and make changes if needed.  I have found that some kids have a happier desire and knack for certain chores so if they ask for it and do it well let them have it.  I have a child that loves to organize.  She has CP and she waited and waited for her job to be putting up all the clean dishes.  Most of my kids dont like that job.  Since my girl got that job, I never have had to put up a dish.  My dish washer and counter is always clear of dishes and she puts all the pans and lids in order of size where they go!  She loves it.  So that will always be her job!  I really enjoyed all the pictures you shared.  How very blessed you are indeed!  Praying for you always. God be with you!

  4. Susanna says:

    Nicole, it was Joseph (he’ll be 20 years old in December) and he just went back to work this week. It was pretty painful for him and he’s still recovering. Thanks for asking!

  5. Susanna says:

    Susan, the laundry idea came from your email, and so did some of the family vision. Joe had me read it aloud to our children. Thank you, sister!

  6. Kim says:

    What a nice quote by hubby.  I think we all need that tattooed on our foreheads :)
    I’m so glad you are finding your way!
    Love you!!

  7. Nicole says:

    sorry I get mixed up ! I knew it was the eldest ! :v
    I was 20 when I had them out and it was very very painful… :( so  I “felt” for him ! :)

  8. Susanna says:

    Nicole, that’s okay, I call them by the wrong names sometimes, too, and I helped name them! 8O

  9. Colleen says:

    Thank you for this wonderful update. Praise the Lord!

  10. Your whole family looks like so much fun.  I wish you guys lived closer.  I’d probably hang out all day with with you guys and drive all the special needs kids crazy with my speech pathology ways. 

  11. Louisa says:

    What a wonderful glimpse into your everyday life with all your treasures…it is busy but it is wonderful.  Many happy days ahead for all of you!

  12. laurie says:

    thanks so much… your openness and transparency are a gift to so many!
    LOVE all of those pictures!   One of the things that God has shown me through
    our friendship is how to wait on him…and trust him especially when it all
    just doesn’t make sense….. not to rely on our limited understanding of things..
    but to keep our focus on Him and trust that He will take care of it all…
    thank you Susanna

  13. Jane says:

    God bless you all.  Thank you for this inspiring post.  May you find peace and rhythm in the coming weeks!

  14. Kim says:

    Today’s pictures are extra sweet~and praising God and rejoicing with you over His goodness!  I love how you’re working with Him!

  15. Galit says:

    This is so inspiring to figure out how to make the increasing complexity work! I have a question about the little boys. You write about how loving and accepting Stephen is, and that’s beautiful! But how are the other younger children adjusting? How do you “give them a vision” and “soften their hearts” to it?

  16. Amy Boroughs says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s reassuring to know that other large families need to work at these things, not just us! I would love to see your chore charts. We are having similar discussions with our children about how best we can ALL work together to make our home more hospitable and less chaotic (with a less-stressed mom). Love the pictures! 

  17. Susanna says:

    Galit, Stephen sees them as his size and doesn’t mind playing with their toys. He also hangs around me much more, whereas the three older than he is are often way up in the woods or riding their scooters on the road, etc, etc. I look for opportunities for Tommy, Katie, and Verity to interact with the older littles in ways they are able to, such as when they’re all in the play room or baking cookies or playing in the sandbox or in the sprinkler–things like that. I don’t force any of them to show affection, I just give opportunities and let them take their time getting comfortable with the new family members. Some are more shy, some are more demonstrative.

    Give them a vision? It’s an ongoing process, but specifically what had an impact this time was talking about different families we know. No outer structure will work as long as the individual family members are putting themselves first. Joe had me read an email from a serving and giving adoptive family that made an impression as to the possibilities. We also talked about several examples of families we know and love who are OBVIOUSLY happier than the ordinary family. Without exception, those families are made of givers, not takers. People who spend their time working for their own happiness are not happy, and we have some striking examples of this up close and personal. It is simply not God’s way to a joyful life. But we focused on the positive, the possibilities, rather than the negative examples.

    Soften their hearts? That’s God’s job, 100%. We prayed, and many blog readers did also, and that is one means of appropriating the grace of God. But ultimately, no one can soften a human heart but God.

  18. Susanna says:

    Amy, we listed all the things that need to get done every day and worked our way up. The youngest who could do a certain chore had that one assigned, until all the daily chores had been assigned. xoxoxox

  19. Lish says:

    I love how Katie is learning to feed herself because you’re more busy! This happened in our family as well. We were the guardians/caregivers to my (much younger) sister who had cerebral palsy after my mom’s death. Sarah relied on us for nearly everything: dressing, toileting, etc. But along came our first baby and my little sis had to wait until I was finished nursing the baby. Before we knew it, Sarah was pulling herself out of her wheelchair with her one working hand and putting herself on the toilet! While she still needs assistance with some tasks, 11 years later she’s now living quite independently in her own apartment and taking classes at a local technical college! I felt so bad at the time because I had to make her wait or could no longer give her the prompt care and focus I thought she needed, but God knew exactly what He was doing, and that waiting, while not always enjoyed, really helped her grow.

  20. Melissa says:

    Every time I thought, “Oh, THAT is my favorite picture in this post!” I came across another one. You should publish a book to inspire other families who include the lost and forgotten…or to inspire those families to go get those who are lost and forgotten! :) The pictures alone would tell the tale.
    Thank you for allowing a glimpse into your incredible, grace-filled family. About two weeks ago, I was reading your site from the beginning, and I printed your quote about not shrinking back from the Lord’s pruning shears; it’s pasted on my computer right now. It’s like a jewel; every time I look at it, I see another facet of truth…
    I don’t know how you even have two coherent thoughts together, but God has gifted you with either the ability to retain the thoughts you have and collect them all at once, or…something! :)
    I need to get that ‘100 first words’ book for my three-month old! Like Ben, he’s a smiley boy who comes out with new sounds and behaviors on a daily basis. Both my kids are gifts from God and I marvel at them (even when my two-year-old is deciding that the carpet needs to be decorated with Cheerios).

  21. Dannette says:

    We were blessed with a blender from blendtec when I shared our story of our little one.  Meya eats orally, but due to her severe cp, she needs her food pureed.  Her primary diet was pediasure (great for calories), but I wanted her to experience what we were eating.  Anyways, the blendtec blender has made preparing her meals so much easier and I don’t have to worry about my old blender not getting all the chunks out.  If you go on their website and email them they may very well gift you with one too!  Truly it is the blender of all blenders and will make preparing Tommy’s meals so much more efficient!

  22. Michaela says:

    I was just looking on YouTube around and found this video. You can see Tommy at minute 7. (You probably already know this video but I wanted to share it. :-) )

  23. Michaela says:

    Oh…and of course Katie too :-) (sorry for two postings)

  24. Renee says:

    I love your blog!! And i love music, sharing it and hearing new music. Since you are adding some new tunes to your morning routine I thought I’d send some, (all Christian). Maybe you and the family will find some new albums!
    “Oceans” – Hillsong United’s album called “Zion” – amazing, just listen if you haven’t heard it yet
    “Faith’s Review and Expectation” (Amazing Grace) – Sandra McCracken, from the album “In Feast or in Fallow” (southern gospel hymns done tastefully)
    “Father of Lights” from Jesus’ Culture’s live “Awakening” album (if you don’t mind a little electric guitar)
    “Boat Song” from JJ Heller’s album “When I’m With You” (just adorable)

  25. Susanna says:

    The boat song is cute, Renee! Thanks for taking time to share your favorites!

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