My daughter has a big family by some standards. There are six children. Three of them are in diapers and are considered “special needs”. In addition there is a sassy five year old girl, a sensitive eight year old boy and an almost twelve year old boy who is introducing his parents to the joys of living with a tween.
They are a foster and adoptive family; they have opened their hearts and home and doubled their family in the past three years. As with any acquisition and development endeavor there have been hurdles and a few obstacles but they’ve managed this like they are the boss of it. And yet, they have repeatedly insisted that they are the boss of nothing (well, maybe that sassy five year old!).
Fostering fosters uncertainty. I’m an observer, albeit a much invested observer. I love every one of these children; I’m their grandma, after all. Even from my perspective, it is very difficult to know that our future with some of them is literally in the hands of case workers and ultimately a judge. We pray and wait for adoptions, holding our breath at times because nothing is certain. I can only imagine the reality of that to my daughter and son-in-law. However, they would be quick to tell you that they signed up for this.
When my husband and I get together with friends, everyone pulls out their cell phones to share pictures of their latest grandchild. Last weekend, I was excited to share a picture of two children who recently joined my daughter’s family, pushing the count to eight.
One of our friends asked a fair question. “Really? Isn’t that a lot, maybe too many? How do they manage all of that?
I have to admit that when I got the text that they were adding to the headcount short term, I thought about how much work they were adding to their load. I considered logistics. I wondered how these children would fit into the daily ebb and flow of life for this family.
Then I tried putting myself in the place of the two children. After living in one foster home for months, they were now moving to yet another strange place, with strange people. Uncertainty was thrust upon them. They, along with garbage bags stuffed with their belongings, were loaded up by a case worker and brought to their new home.
They must have had questions. Where will I sleep? Will they be kind? Are there other kids to play with? Will they understand that I need to sleep with a light on? What if they make me eat broccoli?
The best news is that these children will be reunited with mom soon. When? The exact date is to be determined. There are so many factors and dependencies; the only thing that is certain is today. But they are doing well, all things considered. Uncertainty has been their way of life for a while.
For now they will wake up every morning in a comfy bed and be fed and dressed in clean clothes. Whether they are put on a bus or driven to school, they know that they will return to a home that houses a loving family. They will eat a home-cooked dinner and they will go to bed clean with prayers spoken over them. That is certain.
So, back to the question that begs to be answered: “How?” I also marvel at how some people seem to have the capacity for so much. I asked the question. How is it that the same person who was once a fully extended new mom of one can now successfully mother eight children?
Her answer was so simple that I have continued to think about it weeks later. “We always perceive that we are currently ‘at capacity’. The truth is that when we live with open arms, we not only receive more opportunities to serve; our capacity increases.”
There was a widow whose husband left her with a mountain of debt and two sons. She had no means; she lacked the capacity to repay the creditors who would soon seize her sons as slaves. Her only asset was a small bottle of olive oil.
This widow was a realist. She knew her limited capacity and certainly her circumstances. She cried out to the prophet Elisha and he gave her instructions to begin pouring oil into every container she could get her hands on. “Ask your neighbors and don’t ask for just a few.” (2 Kings 4:1-7)
Once she and her sons gathered the containers, she began to pour into each of the containers, one by one, from her small jar. Miraculously, the tiny crock of oil didn’t run dry until there were no more containers to pour into.
My heart quickens as the Holy Spirit reveals to my heart what my ears have been hearing from the mouth of my petite but oh so wise daughter. My life is a tiny crock of oil.
If I hoard it, I will never have any more than what that petite bottle will hold. It is when I open my arms, when I begin to find people to pour into, that I see the true capacity of my life. As it is poured into others, the capacity increases.
To be sure, there are some difficult choices to be made. People who live with open arms have their arms full. They have often had to let go of something in order to have the freedom to turn toward a call to serve and fully embrace it.
That tiny jar of oil had amazing, even miraculous supply. The resource was there all along, but it was only when she began to pour from it that she could truly know its capacity.
Where is God calling us to trust Him to reveal and release His capacity in our lives?