Thursday, July 28, 2011

21 years! And how we've changed….




Today is our 21st anniversary, and I still can hardly believe that so much time has passed! On our milestone 20th, I dedicated a whole post to that beautiful day in 1990 (when most of you were still in Pull-ups).

To wrap up NFP Awareness Week, I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you where we were then, and where we are now. 

Back then, I was content to begin married life on the Pill, and my husband and I were set on having two children, three at the most. Why? Well, because that's what society told us was acceptable. The thought of thinking for ourselves never crossed our minds. Having more than two or three kids? It just.wasn't.done.

After we quickly had our three children (so that we could be free to have fun and travel in our forties… ha ha ha!!!), we were ready for my dear husband to undergo the knife and destroy his reproductive capabilities. Because, again, that's just what responsible people do, right? We had no qualms. 

However, something temporarily stopped us from going ahead with the vasectomy (that is a story in itself), and our subsequent reversion/conversion to Catholicism stopped us permanently, which means our fertility wasn't permanently stopped. Whew! 

Long story short, we have welcomed five more children to our family since then (all boys!), and we can't imagine life without them. We also have one soul already with God.

If there is one message I want to send clearly to all, it's this: The fact that we have eight children is not an indication that NFP does not work. On the contrary, it has worked beautifully for us, and our children came when we expected them. No, the reason we have eight children is because understanding the truth and meaning of human sexuality changed our hearts. We went from being closed to the possibility of new life in our marriage, to opening those doors wide. It was a freedom in so many ways and on so many levels that turning back is unthinkable.

When you see NFP couples with a houseful of children, please don't make the mistake of thinking "NFP fails!" Like blogger Second Chances' husband says

"The best part of NFP is that after you use it for a while, you realize you don't want to use it anymore :)"

And consider Jen Fulwiler's observation regarding her first encounters with NFP couples:

"Instead of seeing pregnancies as precarious, once- or twice-in-a-lifetime events that require extensive planning and hand-wringing, they seemed to see pregnancy as a natural part of married life." 

And as the wonderful Fr. Frank Pavone says:

"Love leads to life; it does not close it off. Love welcomes life; it is not afraid of it. Love and life go together because they are two aspects of the one God." 

NFP may start as a dutiful obligation on the part of some newly convinced yet still-fearful couples, but when we put our trust in God's promises, it ends in a transformation of hearts, souls and marriages, for the glory of the One who is both Love and Life.‎

Amen!

Happy Anniversary, honey!





84 comments:

  1. Congratulations! As a 49 year old single guy, never married and chastely living for God and neighbour, I may not have a family of my own, but I can delight in the beauty of such families blessed by the Lord. It's moments such as these that knowing God's vision for human relationships is being lived and enjoyed for its life giving goodness and joy! Your family is a great gift from God. May you and your children always be blessed with the knowledge of God's love and, God willing, may your children pass the same gift on to their children. May it be God's will that He also grant you, the parents, the grace to nurture vocations to the religious life among your children. In Jesus' Holy Name.

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  2. Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful family!!! The world is deeply blessed at your change of heart.

    I also want to thank you for your fearless commitment to clarity and truth. Just yesterday I sent your links on NaPro technology to a woman 'raised Catholic' who struggles with secondary infertility, considering IVF... but she has doubts! I think the soil of her heart is softly tilled, and ready for new seeds!

    Again, thank you, Leila! You're helping me find my own voice and giving me the resources I need to speak the truth longing to spring from my heart.

    Ramona

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  3. More Millers, please! ;-)

    LaToya

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  4. Congratulations, and your family is beautiful! I can't help wondering though, with you and your husband both being so dark, where did the red-heads come from?

    I love this post, especially this part:

    "If there is one message I want to send clearly to all, it's this: The fact that we have eight children is not an indication that NFP does not work. On the contrary, it has worked beautifully for us, and our children came when we expected them. No, the reason we have eight children is because understanding the truth and meaning of human sexuality changed our hearts. We went from being closed to the possibility of new life in our marriage, to opening those doors wide. It was a freedom in so many ways and on so many levels that turning back is unthinkable."

    I also love the quotes that follow. I'm going to share this w/ my husband, who practices NFP but continues to be very fearful and wary of it.

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  5. Amazing! You have a beautiful family!

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  6. Happy anniversary! May you have many more years of marital bliss!

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  7. Congratulations, Happy Anniversary! I hope you have many more happy years together. :-)

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  8. Yep, you nailed this one Leila!

    We just celebrated our 22nd Anniversary...and also started married life on the Pill...and we started out WANTING 6 children...just on our terms with unlimited sex when the "timing" was not right...even as a cradle Catholic with 16 years of Catholic education under my belt, it was never explained WHY contraception was wrong and all the faithful young Catholic couples like us were doing it, so it must not be a problem...

    I thank God for opening our hearts...my children have a more thorough understanding of the Church's teachings as teens than I did until my mid 30's...

    Carla
    www.bringinghenryhome.blogspot.com

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  9. Congratulations! Lovely family and such beautiful kids. You are not going to be liked by the furious environmentalists. Have you check out the story on the Beckhams? They are being lampooned by the British media and chastised by environmentalists for having a large family of four. Can you believe that? http://rudy-soycatolico.blogspot.com/ Well again, congratulations, by the way my wife and me will celebrate their 27 anniversary next August.

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  10. Happy Anniversary!!!!!!

    I dedicated a whole post to that beautiful day in 1990 (when most of you were still in Pull-ups).

    Come now, I turned 12 that year. ;)

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  11. Congrats!

    On a funny note, when I read 21 years, I thought, "Oh wow, she's been married as long as I've been alive!" ... and then I remembered I'll be turning 29 this year... :-)

    And I second the question- where does the red hair come from??? lol.

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  12. Happy Anniversary Leila!!! Such a BEAUTIFUL family photo. Seriously, your girls are gorgeous! And your boys are dashing :) Your family is a beautiful example of God's love in this oftentimes dark world. God bless!

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  13. Beautiful family! Congratulations on your anniversary. Ad multos annos!

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  14. Truly awesome! Your love and joy are a gift to this world - Happy Anniversary!

    (I love your little guy’s gesture - his fingers pointing – ah, boys are a riot)

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  15. Happy anniversary, Leila and hubs!!!!!! What a beautiful story and witness you have- living the Paschal mystery!!!! I love your family!!!

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  16. Congratulations Leila to you and your husband. It is a change of heart and mind that goes with practicing NFP.

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  17. Congratulations & Happy Wedding Anniversary!!! Such a beautiful family and a perfect example as to how God wants all families to be..

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  18. By the way, in 1990 I was 9, going on 10, so well out of pull-ups! ;)

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  19. Congrats! By the way, my son's name is Dean (I think someone referred to your husband under that name)

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  20. Beautiful post. Happy Anniversary!

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  21. Happy Anniversary! What a celebration! Your family looks so happy. :) What a true witness you all are to God's fidelity.

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  22. Oh my gosh, thank you all for your kind wishes! I don't cry easily, but I did get a little teary-eyed reading them!

    As for the red hair: We have no idea! My husband's mom was adopted, so we don't know her background. We have no discernible redheads on either side of the family. When our oldest child was born with red hair, we were shocked! We assumed it was a crazy fluke. (Everyone wanted to blame the mailman, but our mailman was a black woman!) Then, when numbers 6 and 7 both had red hair, we knew it was no fluke! So funny! See, if we had stopped at three, we would have never known that redheads were fairly common for us to create, ha ha!

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  23. Pull Ups came long after I was potty training. And while I wasn't getting married in 1990 I was still in high school. But I'm not *that* far behind you. Happy Anniversay, amiga.

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  24. Congratulations. My husband and I wish that we will be as fortunate as you have been.

    As for the red hair, it "sneaks" into our family only because later in life the red hair turns to black and we forget what color hair family members started with.

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  25. Happy anniversary!!!!!!
    Glad you saw the light - those are some mighty cute boys!

    (I enlisted in the USCG in 1990.)

    :)

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  26. Thank you, thank you for your witness for life. The picture of your family reminds me of the children that might have been in our family had my siblings and I not bought the "program" of our culture. May God bless you!

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  27. Happy Anniversary to you both!

    I feel the need to bring up something about NFP. If the alternative is using artificial contraception, then certainly NFP is preferable (as it can be moral, and quite effective). But I get tired of hearing Catholics (of which I am one) promote this "gospel of NFP."

    I know it can also be used to achieve a pregnancy, and this is great, assuming that is God's will for the family. But having to avoid pregnancy - regardless of the method used - seems to be NOT *ideal* in a marriage. Even though NFP can be a moral way of doing so, I don't understand why people get so excited about it, and think it's this great marriage-saving thing (or is this only when compared to their former contraceptive ways?). What if a couple started out completely open to life? Maybe knowledge of NFP would be good to have "in case" future situations made it necessary to postpone children. But I, personally, would hope that I'd never need to use it at all.

    No one ever talks about the Catholic couples who are open to life, and obeying the moral laws of the Church without NFP ever being a part of their lives. Wouldn't it be better to never have to consider NFP?

    Maybe there's something I am missing. I'd appreciate other people's thoughts on this. Thanks!

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  28. Love the mailman comment! Just was reading through some of the comments on your July posts. 2.5 hours are gone and i was reading, skimming as fast as I could. Some profound comments in the mix as usual from your commenters and you. As usual I did learn a few things. Amazing blog. I know one of the activities I can look forward too once the kids go off to college to avoid empty-nest syndrome.

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  29. Leila- Happy Anniversary! May many more happy years lay ahead in your future!
    Love you!

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  30. Christine, thanks for the thoughtful comment, and I will just say something quickly and let others chime in:

    The Church does not require use of NFP, so certainly each couple can decide for themselves what God is calling them to do on that front. As long as we are not in sin, we are free! I wrote about that topic here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/04/knowing-gods-will-and-catholic-freedom.html

    The Church has condoned the use of NFP for responsible parenting and child spacing if there are serious reasons to postpone a pregnancy. Each couple must discern those reasons for themselves, and it's between them, God and a spiritual director if they have one. We cannot get into the hearts, minds or motives of others. We accept that NFP is licit and moral, because the Church has spoken on it, and so is not using NFP if a couple doesn't want to.

    As long as we live within the moral law, we are free. It's a beautiful Faith and a beautiful Church we have.

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  31. Congratulations! I loved reading about your beautiful family.

    Only the mention of NFP kind of ruined it, I can't imagine trying to avoid one of those beautiful babes. Why is everyone so afraid of babies?

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  32. yay Mommy and Daddy!

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  33. Awwww, thanks sweet Cecily!

    Katherine, thanks for the good wishes! Although I think you may have missed the point of the post….

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  34. I've found NFP to be incredibly useful in our marriage for achieving pregnancy. I have long cycles and tend to ovulate around day 25 or so. Given that most OB-GYN offices still use that outdated "pregnancy wheel" which automatically calculates due date based on an assumed day 14 ovulation, it's been a blessing to be able to know the exact day upon which I conceived, which allows my OB to have a much more accurate due date in my chart (and thus, I've been able to avoid the cascade of interventions that can come with induction of labor for a "late" baby who might actually be right on time, or even early...).

    Moral of the story (and Leila's, too) NFP is an equally wonderful blessing when used for getting pregnant as well as spacing pregnancies! That's why I think all married couples should at least know how to chart a woman's cycle regardless of how they use that knowledge, as charting can also help pinpoint potential cycle health and/or fertility problems.

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  35. Christine: I love your comments and touched on some of your thoughts in my most recent post on NFP here:

    http://secondchancesblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-nfp-post.html

    I think the beauty of NFP for many of us Catholic couples is that, although we may have begun using it with a contraceptive mentality, many of us now realize the gift that life is and have been brought so much closer to the faith through it. I know that when my husband and I were engaged, the thought of having as many babies allowed us was terrifying! We're in a much different place now, after years of infertility and of course conversions along the way. We attribute overcoming infertility to NFP as well as growing closer to the faith. So, those are some of the benefits of learning NFP. Of course, spacing is very helpful during extreme circumstances, such as unemployment or depression. Although we've never used it to avoid for these reasons (because of the infertility) we know couples that have and I think it's done with wisdom.

    I hope that helps!

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  36. Joanna: Me too! We used my last chart to determine exactly when we conceived, and it was NOT day 14! It was two weeks later in fact. I'm so glad because, like you said, I hope it will avoid inducing and panicing over getting the baby out!

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  37. Sorry, I meant "panicking". Not sure where my English skills went there!

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  38. Beautiful FAMILY....I LOVE LOVE LOVE the red hair. You are so lucky!

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  39. Please try for a girl!!! Because I would be so happy with another bubble boy! LOL

    Happy Anniversary!!! xxoo sew

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  40. Happy anniversary!! God has blessed your family so fully. This post is great. Love it!

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  41. Happy Anniversary! You have such a lovely family!

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  42. What a great testimony. We were Catholic when we married but were using birth control also. We came to NFP for health reasons. For some reason we only have 3 kids. I attribute this to the fact that my now Deacon husband spent 7 years going away to once a month classes that happened to fall for the most part during my fertile time. We have three and it looks like that is what we will be blessed with as I am an older mom. I thought we would have a larger family, but that was not in God's plan.

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  43. Happy 21st! I had to look closer b/c I didn't think you were in the picture! I just saw a bunch of young folks:) And where do the redheaded kids get the red hair from? I had red hair when I was born and used to tell people I got it from the mailman!

    Because of IF, I have never used NFP to delay a pregnancy, always to achieve. And even now, with a 7 month old and feeling like another pregnancy would do me in right now, I haven't used NFP all this time trusting God will know what's best for our family. It's really hard to let go and let God handle that being the control freak that I am, but I have to trust Him to take care of this for me. Thanks for putting such a fine point on all of this.

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  44. Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful family.

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  45. Thanks for making me cry like a baby.

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  46. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!! :) :) :)

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  47. Happy Anniversary, wonderful friend! (And Dean... he's kind of crucial to the whole marriage-thing). :)

    Your kids are GORGEOUS-- I just love looking at the pics of your family here and on Fb.

    And as far as NFP goes, let me second (third? fourth?) that about how great it is to know all about your cycle. With one pf my pregnancies, I had a period in mid-March and did not ovulate until mid-May. I was 5 weeks pregnant when I went to the doctor, but they kept thinking I had to be 11 weeks. I shudder to think of what some women would be encouraged to do in that situation: no heartbeat (yet) for the baby, measuring 6 weeks behind expected size. Luckily, I knew within 1 day when I ovulated/conceived. Literally, thank God.

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  48. Seriously cute family! Where does the red hair come from?

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  49. Whoops...Red hair question answered.

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  50. Aw, Happy anniversary, Leila! We will be celebrating 27 years in August! Your family picture is beautiful! Three of our kids are redheads, too... the rest are blonds. May God bless you all! Love, Annita +JMJ+

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  51. Happy Anniversary Leila and Dean! I was 10 in 1990 thank you very much!

    You guys and your red hair, Leo and Madeleine with curly hair, who knows??

    I'm so glad you had those 5 boys too - maybe one of them is M's future husband! I do think you should try for an even 10 though :) :) :) I'll have M say a prayer for you tonight. You know her track record!

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  52. Happy happy anniversary!

    You have a beautiful family!!!1

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  53. Oh I'm so glad I was brave enough to stop in to see your blog today! (I usually hold my breath before reading your blog, knowing your posts are likely to have 200+ responses in just a day or two, and knowing I will have to fight the temptation to read them all!) What adorable photos of everyone, both from this year and from '10! Nice to see how you and "your rock" looked way back then! :)

    This post also answers a question I've had about your previous one. You know how Paul so disagreed with your previous post, saying "I know many loving families (including my own) where husband and/or wife uses contraception. It does not seem to have a negative effect on the way husband views wife." And I was driving around this week (I drive around a lot - 36,000 miles in the past year for hockey and Irish dance! so lots of time to think random thoughts!) wondering about you and your husband. I remembered that you had originally used ABC, and I thought that really, during those early years, you probably would have agreed with Paul. And so I wondered how you would describe the change in your heart after switching to NFP. You've probably told that part of the story before but I missed it, and now you tell it so well. Following the truth just opens your eyes in so many ways, and for you, it changed the way you viewed children. They were no longer something to be avoided (at least, beyond the socially-approved maximum!), but something to be welcomed. And I think that happens so often when we begin to follow the Truth. Maybe we weren't unhappy before, but when our eyes are opened to the truth, we see that there is so much more to be happy about, happiness on a level that we would have missed if we hadn't been given the gift of faith.

    Anyhow... Congrats to the two of you, and to your eight-plus-one-in-heaven precious gifts!

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  54. Congratulations to the both of you! You are such a beautiful family, and you happen to be a good portion of the beautiful colors swirling around on my Catholic bubble. Many good wishes and much love, LeeAnne

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  55. I have been married 21 years, have 9 children (7 on earth and 2 in heaven) and have 5 boys! Happy anniversary!

    I am fine if people do not choose to use NFP because they are open to children. However, I have met people who believe it is wrong to use NFP. I struggle to understand what they know that the popes, bishops, theologians, and priests do not know.

    The Church wants us to be responsible parents. NFP is sometimes necessary to be responsible parents. I, for one, was misdiagnosed with MS a few years ago. I had to take weekly injections that made me ill for at least 24 hours including high fever and chills, which required further medication. I then was switched to a different,daily injection. None of this medication was safe for pregnancy...and I was so ill, tired and overwhelmed! So we began, once again, to practice NFP.

    One year later I found out the diagnosis was wrong, so we were free to stop NFP.

    There are "just" reasons to space or avoid pregnancy and the church, in all Her wisdom, realizes this.

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  56. Happy Anniversary, Leila! Your family is just gorgeous!

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  57. Happy Anniversary!!!
    TheresaEH

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  58. Happy Anniverary!!

    My baby sister is red headed. One day her kindergarten teacher asked her where her red hair came from, her response "the milkman". Her teacher laughed out loud. We do have a redheaded cousin and a previously redheaded uncle (now gray), but my sister was always told her redhair came from the milkman.

    Poor non-existant milkman.

    Your family is beautiful!!!

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  59. Jan, exactly! LeeAnne, love you, babe!

    Sharon, great question! I don't want to get too personal with my husband's thoughts and such, to protect his privacy, but I will tell you that in my marriage it was I who viewed my husband negatively when we used contraception. I couldn't have put my finger on it then and said "It's because we are contracepting!", but looking back there are a million reasons why a wife would have negative feelings and experiences about sex and her husband when contraception is part of the mix. It's just yucky to think about, on so many levels. Let's just say I was able to love my husband much better when we had right thinking about sex and marriage, and when we ditched the barriers and chemicals. And it wasn't only on a physical level that things changed, it was on an emotional and spiritual one, too.

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  60. Happy Anniversary! I always tell my husband that the good side of being IF is that we never have to use NFP and fall into the temptation of putting off having children or misusing God's gift. I suppose that is a silver lining in the cloud of IF.

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  61. What a beautiful post - so inspiring and encouraging! Thank you Leila for your wonderful words! Happy Anniversary =)

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  62. I am so happy for the two of you. What a beautiful thing you have done, adding these lovely souls to the world. You are always an inspiration to me!

    DD

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  63. I remember when I was at your house and you introduced me to #3. You commented, "Yep, she made the cut, back when we were only having 3!" I remember gasping to myself and looking at all the rest of your little ones running around, thinking, "Oh my gosh, look at everything that would be missing from your lives!" Obviously you came around (thank God!! :), but it just makes me think of all the little souls who are missing from this world because their parents decided to take matters into their own hands. It's heartbreaking.

    On a lighter note, Happy Anniversary! Thank God He put you two together!

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  64. Happy Anniversary my friend! I can honestly say IF changed our minds about NFP. If we were fertile we'd have exactly 3 kids 3 years apart - that was the pill plan anyway.... That would be 4 kids NOT in our family, not in existence. God's ways are so much better than our!

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  65. Amen & happy anniversary!!---beautiful family, and you look *skinny* mom to 8! Wowzers. Hugs....

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  66. Ashley, it's calle Spanx and a great cut dress!!!

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  67. Don't listen to her, Ashley... I've met her when she was wearing capris and a blouse and she was still thin and gorgeous!! ;)

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  68. Oh, what a beautiful family! Thanks for writing this. I'm sending it on to several friends. I was a year out of college in 1990. How I wish my husband and I had met and married then! However, God's timing is ALWAYS best. We've been married almost 7 years and have 4 children, ages: almost 6, 4, 2 and 2 months. We currently have one with red hair. Hoping God blesses us with more babies!--LeAnn

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  69. haha Leila! Spanx...riiiiiight...

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  70. Happy anniversary, Leila and Dean! And as a mother of a surprise redhead myself, I love it! (and our mailperson is a black woman too! Go figure!)

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  71. Congratulations on 21 years of being icons of God's love!

    And on the NFP... Just wanted to reiterate what one of your commenters said,,, it's a merhod by which to responsibly plan pregnancy, which implies both achieving and avoiding... So that peopke understand this is not a teaching just against "artificial" birth control, but rather is about being open to children in a responible, loving way.

    Best to all as you make loving, responsible choices in this NFP Awareness Week :)

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  72. My pat line to the busy bodies that ask if I'm 'done yet' etc....is "I'm going to keep going until I get my redhead"
    I have red hair and no redheaded children I'm 0 for 9. My husband is one of 8, 4 of the sibs married redheads. 68 grandchildren and not one redhead. A couple strawberry blondes as little children was the best we could do.
    Obviously the redheaded gene is not present in dh's family. I expect that the redheads will show up in the NEXT generation.

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  73. K, that is fascinating to me! I've always wondered if redheads have redheads!!!

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  74. Congratulations.

    I always find it encouraging to see couples who has been married for a long time and are happy about it.

    Your children are fortunate to have parents who are happily married and to have siblings.

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  75. You have such a beautiful family, Leila! Happy Anniversary! :)

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  76. Congratulations!!! I love your story. Oh yeah, and I was in high school in 1990 :) I have two with red hair...the auburn variety...one who is just 1 month old. :)

    My husband and I found that using NFP led us to openly accepting (now up to) five blessings...NFP has been a huge blessing to our marriage. I shudder to think how some folks might judge my husband and me for using it...and I thank God it's between Him and us regarding our reasons. :)

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  77. Congratulations to you and your husband! I'm so happy for you and your great big family!

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