I don't think they planned for their lives to be like this. They were both insurance agents in their early-30s, earning a decent amount of money. He had a graduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics; she had none - and yet she contributed to a greater portion of the household income. They had two children; one, a pre-schooler, and the other, barely a toddler. Despite her tender age, the eldest child had visited more places than some people would have had in their entire lives. The Hawaiian islands, the Swiss alps, the palaces of the Joseon dynasty... Every Sunday after church, the family of four would dine at a restaurant - dimsum was their perpetual favourite. They weren't exactly considered wealthy but as parents of two, they were on the right track to a comfortable retirement. If. Only if they had stopped at two. Or maybe, three.
The third child didn't come as a surprise. Neither was the forth, or fifth. Each child was perfectly timed, with a three year gap in between each one. It was as though they had set a huge alarm clock to remind themselves that "it's time for your next child!" If one did not care to find out the reason behind their abundance of offspring, one may assume that it is due to an overflowing love for kids, a strong sense of national duty, or mere investments for the future. A close friend or relative would tell you that she never liked kids, couldn't give a damn about investments and well, had some sense of national duty (although it wasn't a priority). And he, he always gave in to his wife.
But that's not the point of this prose.
They were both fervent believers of their faith. Each child was neither the manifestation of a great love for parenthood, nor the result of a spur-of-the-moment desire for each other. Each child was instead a demonstration of their faith in the providence of their almighty God, and an obedience to the Maker.
She left the insurance company upon the arrival of the third child. Not long after, he went into a business partnership to make up for the significant cut in household income. They were certain that the forth child would be the last. They were already financially stretched to the limit. Never did they expect that (three years later) they would receive the mandate for a fifth child...
With the addition to the family, overseas trips were rare. Even when they travelled during the school holidays, it was usually a drive down to the neighbouring country. Dining out became an exclusive event for special occasions. Even then, they would refrain from incurring extra expenditure on overpriced drinks that were sold at half the price in supermarkets. When his business suffered the brunt of the financial attacks, they were obliged to downgrade to a smaller apartment. An outsider would consider them blessed to be living in a well-situated penthouse, but a close friend would know that seven people residing in that 2-room apartment was not at all a comfortable thing.
But this is not a story to gain your sympathy.
Despite the humble situation that they were in, the family remained as a source of envy to the people around them. How were they adorned in fancy garments when they could not afford a decent house for seven? Their Heavenly Father clothed them. How were they so joyful despite the economic depression that they were suffering? The joy of the Lord was their strength. Why did they seem to lack nothing when their resources were scarce? They were filled with love for one another.
I don't think they planned for their lives to be like this. They could've been living in a luxurious house, with their two kids (and a room to each). He could've accomplish his childhood dream of watching a football match at the Emirates stadium. And she, she could've had a lifestyle of sipping Green Tea and tasting fresh Sashimi after a dip in the hot springs. Instead, he was satisfied with staying up till 3a.m. in the morning to watch the Premier League finals on TV with his son. Instead, she was blissful making tea and biscuits every day at 3p.m. in the afternoon for her four daughters.
I don't think they planned for their lives to be like this. But I'm sure that they are beyond a doubt grateful that it turned out this way.
And so are we, daddy and mummy!
(Family photo courtesy of Joy, the forth child.)