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With an unplanned turn of events, I find myself on a mountain in northern Alabama with a family of 13 children. My gracious hostess, Vanessa, puts up with my incapacitated rehab state, all the while singing and smiling with her 12 of her 13 children round about her. One of the 13 is away in the Marines.

Although older and, I thought, wiser than this young mother of 13, I’m learning quiet a bit from this wonderful family. Having the 13 was a walk of faith for them and I do call her blessed. Instead of living in the city, her husband commutes an hour to Birmingham. The kids play in the field and woods, the view is spectacular and their home pleasant.

Listening to their story of how God brought them together, and then talked with them about giving Him control of their family instead of the normal family planning methods, it’s awe inspiring. It was not easy, but God came through with raises with the birth of each child, with provision from the community and with blessings from places not expected.

This lifestyle really takes a bit of unselfishness. I have seen families who have hit their limit (their selfless limit) and the Mom can’t handle it. Her level of selflessness is at an end and either the kids are farmed out, her appointments become more numerous as she finds *me* time or she turns it inward into resentment of the children. All variations can be detrimental to a family.

Also, many times a father’s faith in God’s provision will give up before hitting more than 3 kids. Instead of handing over the provision of the family to the Father of us all, a dad tries to carry the burden, works more hours, resulting in less time with the kids and general unrest among the family. Working harder does not insure success as noted in Proverbs, if God is not blessing you. Learning to hand over the reigns in our life is the most important constant lesson in all our stages of growth.

To go forth and multiply really is a walk of faith and selflessness from both parents. To pour yourself into children, day in and day out, without the breaks that even teachers with 20 kids obtain over the weekends, can be taxing. But knowing where your source lays, and returning to that source each day to be refilled is the only way to continue pouring yourself out to your children, whether you have 3 or 13.

From this family of 13, I see builders, medical people, artists, soldiers, debaters, lawyers, actors, athletes, and other great talents. Will anyone outside this mountain know what work Vanessa did day in and day out as she tended her garden of children? I hope so.

copyrighted 2008 by Jube Dankworth

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