Tell us about your family? Kids, pets, etc.
My wife Rhonda and I have been married for 28 years and have nine children…all biological and all single births! We get that question all the time…“are they all yours…do you have twins?”
We have a dog: Mac, two roosters: Rufus and Moby, and 5 hens: named “the girls.”
What do you do for a living and how long have you both been in those positions?
I am a photographer and videographer. I’ve worked as a photojournalist for newspapers since 1994, most recently at The Gleaner in Henderson from 1998 to 2015. Since leaving the paper, I’ve turned my part time business into full time, which is called Darrin Phegley – Capturing Life! I also have worked part-time for my church, Henderson’s First Baptist Church, for the past 17 years as their Media Coordinator.
Rhonda and I have the same college degree, and she worked as a photographer for a short time soon after we graduated college at WKU. After having our first child, we decided she would quit her job and stay home full-time. That was 1996, and we haven’t looked back! She works as hard as I do… probably harder… taking care of our large family, taking on the teaching responsibility of homeschooling them, and directing our local homeschool coop, Audubon Christian Coop.
How do you find balance between work, home and raising 9 kids?
It’s really not that hard to balance, at least not after #4 came along! Once we had Gabriel, he’s almost 17 now, we resolved to put everything in the Lord’s hands, as if it wasn’t already, and rely fully on Him for every aspect of our life and family. Raising nine kids certainly has challenges, but I bet you’d find similar challenges in families with two or three kids. We’re not that special.
Anyway, what we’re finding as we raise kids ranging from 23-5 years old is that we stay up late and get up early. We spend a lot of late nights counseling, encouraging, or cheerleading our four older ones that either work or are in college. We sacrifice a lot of sleep for them in that way. It’s just what it takes, and we gladly do it. We give the five younger ones just as much attention and time, they are just spread out throughout the day. Not easier or harder, just different. Each age has their own challenges to parent, but boy it is worth it!
What do you love most about having a big family?
There are tons of great things about having a big family. For a long time, the best thing was to walk in the door from work to see big smiles waiting for me with hugs and kisses. And that still gets me. But probably the best for me now is when we’re all sitting at the dinner table…a large long table. I’m at one end, Rhonda at the other, and all the kids spread out on both sides. I look down at my wife as she smiles back at me, I look at the kids as they are talking and often cutting up with each other, and my heart swells. It’s such a great feeling to realize in that moment all that God has graciously given us…all those lives in the making sitting together and enjoying each other’s conversation and laughter.
Years ago Alan Chamness, one of our pastors at church, dubbed me “Father of Great Nations.” I’ve since added to that with “Father of Great Nations to come” because each one of those lives sitting around that table…lives that God has given us to be responsible for, given to us to raise, given to us to pour ourselves into…I am watching those lives develop into “great nations” right before my very eyes as they are growing up, serving the Lord, establishing careers, and will eventually be raising “great nations” of their own.
How do you manage so many schedules from homeschooling and photography to the kid’s extracurricular activities, etc.?
It’s a juggling act for sure! Now that our four oldest have drivers licenses it has become somewhat easier. But even that has become a juggling act because at our house in order to have a license and a car, you have to pay for your own insurance, which means you have to get a job. This then means you have to actually show up for that job and work, which means your gone parts of the day. That sometimes means less help for mom and dad to keep it all going for the younger ones.
Thankfully most of our extracurricular activities revolve around the church and our close friends. Currently, only Dawson (8 years old) is playing baseball on a travel team, Go Elite! A year or two ago, we had five playing either softball or baseball all at the same time. Certainly a juggling act. Maybe that’s why Dawson is so good at baseball. He practically came out of the womb with a glove and bat in hand. Many, many days and nights at the ball field!
What hobbies do you all enjoy taking part in as a family?
Hobbies… what hobbies?! Our kids are our hobbies! Our kids’ hobbies are their siblings… just kidding!
Each one is somewhat different in their interests and definitions of fun. Dawson is all about baseball and Nerf wars, Gabriel is all about working out at the Y, building all his big muscles, and creating ways to shoot at his friends playing Airsoft wars on our property. Justis is at college so his hobbies are (hopefully) studying and sleeping. Maybe some eating here and there. McKenna and Malayna enjoy their work, and the 4 little girls, I say little…they’re 13-5, love friends, babysitting, dress up, and drawing. No one likes photography – what’s up with that? Actually, McKenna dabbles in it and is pretty good!
As a family, we love to go camping. Three tents and a trailer full of our gear, bikes, and clothes. Add to that good friends around a campfire at night, and we’re good to go. Pretty simple!
You may be outnumbered by kids, but how have they changed your lives?
I can’t begin to tell you how they’ve changed us. We actually look at it as how God has changed us through obedience to Him in giving us these nine kids. Rhonda and I are often humbled at that. Why did He bless us with these nine lives? Why did He see fit to not stop us at four? We had no plans for nine back in 1996. We thought maybe four. People sometimes ask us if we ever thought it would be easier with fewer kids. I often reply, “Which one would you have us give up?” Each one has been such a blessing in their own ways. How could I ever even think, “Well, I could have done without that one, or maybe that one.” That was hard to even type! Actually, Rhonda and I sometimes talk about how we wish we would have started having kids earlier than we did. But God knows why. And we’re fully given to His sovereignty. Thank you Lord for changing our lives with these nine kids!
What advice would you give to a couple who dreams of having a house full of sweet kiddos someday?
Way back in 1996, not long after having our first daughter McKenna, we were sitting at our small kitchen table in our apartment in Burlington, Iowa. Rhonda was crying and I was worried as we prayed about her quitting her job. A knock on the door and a large package was left by the UPS man. I opened it up to find it full of baby diapers. A gift from one of our photography professors at Western, who is also a fellow Christian.
Today, we still have that box top, as sort of a memorial, of how God showed in a real and practical way that He would take care of us.
So probably the best advice we could ever give that couple is this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” – Prov. 3:5-6
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