The Doctrines of Scarcity and Abundance

“Mommy! We need to buy more cereal,” he says, and his eyes are wide and serious behind his glasses. There are four or five new boxes, unopened, on the high shelf at which he is staring, besides the five allotted open ones in their neat line on the pantry floor. But we are getting low. He can tell.

I respond by buying more, on my next shopping day. I buy ten big boxes, a worthy stash, and I line them up on the high shelf. I do not tell him, but he notices immediately the next time he gets cereal.

“Mommy! You bought more cereal!”

His noticing is thanks enough, though he does not say Thank you. He does not say, Now I feel cared for. Now I know I will have enough easy-open food for the weeks ahead in case I am left to my own devices.

Instead he says, “Mommy. Next time, I want you to buy Fruity Pebbles.”

I perform my own automatically protective response: I lower expectations. Aaaannd that’s not likely to happen, darlin.

But it probably will, someday soon.

Fruity Pebbles is his favorite cereal, the one that says LOVE to him in capital letters. Fruity Pebbles tastes like a rainbow of additives got into a fight with a bag of kitty litter, and both sides lost. Fruity Pebbles matters so much to him that occasionally, I buy him a box. I love him that much.

It has been many years since I fostered children with this kind of hunger, the kind that famines in the time of feast. (Never three at once.) The kind that asks for dessert as it sits down to dinner. The kind that needs a bounty of admiring eyes and physical closeness and lavish time. It grows worse in times of upset, like anniversary trips, and the ruling of a judge this month in Erie County to terminate birth parents’ rights. Then it craves and cannot be satisfied, sure that everyone else is getting the best of it: that X is the favorite child, and Y gets all the privileges, but Z is not good enough and will never be good enough and nobody likes him and he doesn’t get anything nice. The hunger sings this repeatedly, to the tune of hot tears.

There are reasons for the hunger, and the reasons make sense. The reasons are not needless or entitled or ridiculous. They are how we survived.

After months of steady enough-ness, of cereals and outings and snuggles and stories and praises and warm eyes and good clothes and trust and privileges, the craving settles to a low hum again, until the next upset, which takes less time to feed into health than the last one did, and so we continue.

Because I am a fixer and I like to fix things, I have to step back over and over, and remind myself that it is not my job to fix, only to love. Only to love and go on loving, which some days is a desperate kind of courage I do not have. I sound heroic in this but sometimes I am only tired, and the door of my heart swings closed by mistake. Later, when I can, I push it open again. I can see Karyn Purvis, who never frowned, frowning at me now from her grave; and once more I genuflect briefly to the lie that if I were the perfect mother, I would heal them quick and certain. Meanwhile I do all that I can, ma’am, and I am grateful for the good that you taught me; but when I can do no more, I breathe in grace and watch for redemption. There is only one Healer in this world.

One day,
be it ten months from now
or ten years
or ten decades,
these children I love
will discover abundance
for themselves,
and they will believe in it
because it is the ultimate truth
about the universe.

There is enough.

One day,
they will drink straight
from the cornucopia of bounty,
and I will be there
to watch their faces

This post contains an affiliate link to a book I recommend. Do you ever see the doctrine of scarcity showing up in your home and heart? I would love to hear about it, and any secrets you have to disarm it.

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7 months ago

Thanks, Shari, for sharing that! It was exactly what l needed this morning! The reminder that l’m called to love and not fix applies to relating to grown step-children as well. After spending several enjoyable-tinged-with-pain days over thanksgiving time and going to see a new grandbaby last evening. I’m still trying to learn how to love well.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jenelle
Osiah Horst
7 months ago

Thanks, Shari! So many of us have no idea how blessed we are even when we think times are tough. Compared to these little ones, we have an abundance.

7 months ago


7 months ago

After a childhood of growing up always hungry, never having quite enough to eat, the scarcity mindset is my default. When I’m down to one box of butter or half a gallon of milk, I can feel the panic setting in. I combat it by speaking Truth to myself—we have enough for today. You can go to the store and buy more at any time. I realize though, that this method probably won’t work well for children. Like you said, one day they will discover abundance for themselves.

7 months ago
Reply to  Melissa

I like this. Thank you for sharing it. ♥️

7 months ago

No secrets to help you. I’ve gotten many frowns from Karen Purvis 😆 We just had the worst month in 11 yrs… mainly bc said child had to go talk to the judge. Something no 14 yo child should have to do. And then ‘they’ needed time to think and so we still wait on the final ruling. And she still thinks that boundaries and ‘no’ are bc we hate her. 😰😔 And so we stumble on, always learning, trying to find a way to help.
Thank you for putting it all into words so well.

7 months ago
Reply to  M.E.

Wow, that is a hard place for a child to be. Praying for peace.

7 months ago

Laughing at the sentence about frowns from Karyn Purvis. I know the feeling too well. Thanks for sharing, and for the book recommendation. I hadn’t seen that one yet!

7 months ago

“a rainbow of additives got into a fight with a bag of kitty litter, and both sides lost” 😁How do you think up these things?!!

Much grace and love to you and yours, dear Shari. Your poem is 👌.

7 months ago

I am just in awe of all you foster Moms. You ask to be used and abused and beaten and bruised all for the love of Jesus who went through these pains and sorrows for each of us.
I love you all and what you are doing. Stay faithful and true through to the end.

7 months ago

I have not had the joy of fostering children older than toddlers. However, I have mothered many children who fight many big battles stacked against them. And one of my favorite tools to teach a child is the ability to cancel lies with truth. Together, we pick apart the thought process and find the lie. And together we seek for the Truth to counter it. Little by little, day by day, I press in to the hard, face set against the wind. It’s hourly sometimes. My flesh wants to bail out and run for coffee dates and shopping days out with friends. It’s hard and rugged and exhausting. But boy does it pay dividends. My child learns to take every thought captive (even though they don’t even know that verse in the Bible) and hold it up to the Light. And slowly, slowly, they begin to walk steady and strong. I love how you are meeting you young ones with such love, in such practical ways! ❤️

6 months ago
Reply to  Louise

Thanks for sharing, this is a tool I want to try to incorporate into our home.

2 months ago

Beautiful this!!

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