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Roxane B. Salonen, Published May 31 2013

Faith provides more opportunities than limitations

Some perceive the faith life as one burdened by limitations, but I’m grateful to have witnessed and experienced just the opposite.

Though every human life is filled with potential, a life of faith lived well should lead not to undue constraint but expanded possibility.

This expanded life comes from believing in something beyond this world, leading to a broader perspective.

I reflected on this recently while reading, “Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families,” written by fellow faith-writer Patti Armstrong, Bismarck, co-authored by Theresa Thomas.

Between them, the author-mothers have 19 children, including two adopted AIDS orphans from Kenya. Talk about expansion – they cut our brood of five kids down to size in a hurry.

I mention family size because it helps illustrate my point. While I don’t intend to discredit any size family, bigger families do seem more primed to embrace this life of increased possibility.

One of the first stories in the book details a recent scene in Thomas’ household. Her oldest son had just gotten fitted for his high-school graduation attire while her youngest daughter had discovered sitting and solid foods.

“At 5 months old, she’s been in our family for her entire lifetime, but that’s only a semester in my older son’s world,” Thomas says, noting the two are an entire generation apart.

“She’s just getting to know our faces and voices,” she adds, “he’s ready to exchange them for new ones.”

Many might wonder what kind of relationship the two siblings could have, Thomas adds, being so many years and worlds apart.

But then she describes a moment after her son’s football practice when she catches a glimpse of him interacting with his baby sister, and how she grabs her big brother’s face and wiggles toward him.

“‘Shh...shh…shh,’ he says, as he cradles her in his arms and bounces her gently back and forth, holding her securely against his chest,” Thomas says. “Back and forth, back and forth – they are engaged in a dance, two unlikely companions frozen in a single moment.”

Just for a time, the two will be under the same roof in the same world, she says, and then, suddenly, their lives will diverge into two strikingly separate paths.

But for that moment, the world stands still.

“She is learning from his strong arms to trust. He is learning from her vulnerability to give,” Thomas says.

How many of us would have wondered about the limitations of two siblings so far apart in age that they won’t know each other as closer-aged siblings do? And yet how much more is gained than lost?

Armstrong’s story of how her family welcomed two boys from Africa – brothers who came separately and seemed unlikely to fit in at first – further exemplifies my point. How many must have whispered about how crazy she and her husband, Mark, were to add another child, and then another, to their already bursting family of 10?

After some stops and starts, the youngest adopted son began thriving and was offered a full-ride, college scholarship for running. Both have their sights set on careers in medicine. What potential; what hope.

Another chapter introduces a family who came to embrace a special-needs child despite great initial reluctance, and another shows a family, already foster parents, welcoming an aging, ailing parent into their household, and how that experience enlivened them all.

Though big-hearted families can manifest with or without faith, in this book, the underlying impetus of an expanded life springs from belief in God; particularly a God who has modeled for us that life is most meaningful when we live for others.

Faith in something bigger than us, along with the larger vision that comes with that, can help supply the extra courage needed to willingly take on such challenges.

This, I’d say, is the secret to the good life: my life for yours. And it’s one secret that deserves being shared with all.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com