It was customary in our mission for missionaries to review their patriarchal blessing with the president. During my interview the mission president took out a red pen and actually underlined a part about paying attention to the Spirit and said that’s where I really needed to put my attention.
It turns out that Judy was the one who paid the most attention and turned our lives around.
I was a graduate student at Yeshiva University on a fellowship with a living stipend that included my wife and children. We had Jennifer and Kristen, ages two and one, and we were stretching that stipend by living with another family and providing child care and household chores for room. And we paid a share of the food budget. They had two boys ages two and six and worked full time. We planned to continue having children after I finished my schooling and after Jennifer and Kristen were in school themselves.
Then Judy had an acute and painful health condition over several days. We had given her a blessing that said Heavenly Father needed to communicate with her, and she needed to listen. That fast Sunday the rest of us went to Church leaving her at home in bed. She expressed frustration at not being able to hear what Heavenly Father was trying to tell her.
When I returned she said she had been attempting to control the pain and at one point knelt down and prayed to Heavenly Father that she would clear her mind and do whatever came to her mind. She heard, “Have a baby.” There was no way that could be correct given our situation and plans. So she cleared her mind once more. Again, “Have a baby.” And a third time, “Have a baby.” So she told me that even though that seemed crazy, we probably should consider having a baby right away.
You know that feeling when a member of the bishopric or stake presidency calls and asks if he can stop by to visit? And after we accept the calling, and he takes his leave, our whole life is turned upside down. Heavenly Father can do that very directly without going through anyone else. Once we realized that Heavenly Father was taking a personal interest in our having children, we found ourselves rethinking our long term family planning.
In the end we’ve had nine children interspersed with four miscarriages. There was barely time to work everyone in. All nine are married and later this month Judy will be flying to Utah to help our most recently married couple with the birth of their first child. It will be our 40th grandchild.
In these 47 years of marriage I’ve learned that Judy is the one authorized to receive inspiration about having children. It’s been my role to sustain her in that decision. I believe our children have also come to understand that this is the proper order and meaning of family planning.