by Patti Armstrong and Theresa Thomas
“I joined with (cancer survivor) and mother of nine, Theresa Thomas to write Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families,” Patti told me. “This collection of 22 stories is a recipe for happiness and love for families of any size. We’ve included some of our own stories including how my family came to include 2 AIDS orphans from Kenya. Big Hearted is a glimpse inside the struggles and joys of ordinary families with generous hearts.”
Big hearts that welcome life are not just in large families. Sometimes big-heartedness comes as the family deals with a tragedy such as miscarriage, infertility, alcoholism or financial devastation regardless of family size. “When a family opens its collective heart to love one another fully, there is no end to the gifts that God will bestow,” Patti said.
Big-heartedness develops in us when pressed into service by a calling. The prayer of an orphan from Kenya to go to school in America. The decision to reverse a vasectomy. The passion for adopting the autistic boy who always acts out. The care of a baby with both cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy for his short life.
The dynamism of impractically large families demonstrates how God cares for everyone in the family in how the college-age siblings provide security and protection to the toddlers and role models for every sibling in between. Or how the children taught the parents that Christmas is not about presents but family traditions, creating homemade gifts together, and the joy of giving of themselves.
Among the stories of grandparents, my favorite showed how children instinctively know how to respond to elderly parents, failing in mind and body. In doing so, the children learn a lesson in the value of the cross.
A father shares his relentless pursuit to learn to love a deformed daughter as God loves us and sees her emerge as the heart of the family. Another father begins to experience doubts about his faith when his 35-year-old wife became pregnant with their seventh child. He asked God for a sign of his will, and that changed everything, but not the way he wanted.
A mother explains how a 3,000-mile road trip with ten children changed from the myth that it was impossible to a feast of memories. The journey taught them all that it is no sacrifice to be surrounded by those that love us, for with God all things are possible, even if not entirely easy.
A family who had to move 13 times from one rent house to another questioned their ability to give their 6 children a sense of safety and security. A priest assured them that true security comes only from trusting God, and their children were totally secure within their family. After their seventh child, God provided an inheritance and they bought a home of their own. Another family dealt with the unplanned pregnancy of their daughter by giving her the experience of God the Father’s merciful love for us.
In one of several stories about former career women, one mother had to drop her perfectionism when she dropped her career, along with her idea of success and fear of rejection.
Many of the families accepted foster children, often adopting them even though they realized that they were powerless to heal the child of their heart. It was all up to God to resolve the misbehavior, the child’s fears and handicaps, the lack of resources or the outcome of surgery.
Patti and Theresa encourage their readers to “Choose God’s will. Love profusely. Be big-hearted. And then see how our almighty God, who is the same now as always, blesses you again and again.”
(Scepter Publishers, Inc. 2013)