Our Daughters and our Sons | Patty

fostering hope image

I recently went on a hike to take some time to be alone with the Lord. It was beautiful, the weather had not yet turned ridiculously hot, and so I hiked up the mountain, just me and Jesus. And while walking, I was listening to a song by Audio Adrenaline called “Kings and Queens“. If you haven’t heard it, you need to – it is powerful! And I was suddenly struck by a thought.  Foster kids aren’t just “someone else’s kids”.  They are the son or daughter to a foster or adoptive parent they may have never met.

Can you imagine how different things would be if we thought of foster children as our own, instead of someone else’s child? We would walk through fire for our biological children, but for a foster child, we are held back by our fear of the unknown. What if they were exposed to drugs? What if they have behavioral problems? What if they were abused? What if, what if, what if? If someone had told you not to have biological children because they could have challenges, would that have stopped you from having kids?

Since fostering and eventually adopting our daughter, my heart has been burdened for children in the foster care system. Foster children are not often seen (meaning we don’t know they are foster kids), and their stories not often heard (we don’t want to hear what they have been through- it’s too painful). It was only when I walked through the path of foster care toward adoption, that I could finally see and understand the complexity of this system. If you have never experienced the state foster care system, let me enlighten you. Currently, there are over 400,000 children in foster care at any given time. Their stories are heartbreaking, their wounds are deep, and they need you.  My daughter entered foster care at birth, but she still feels the pain of not growing up with her birth parents and siblings.

Foster kids are strong, brave and yet scared at the same time, and they want permanency – the safety and security that comes from having someone to call mom and dad, a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and a place to call home. They are not drug babies, problem children, or a hopeless cause. They are not the circumstances they were born into; they are not responsible for the choices of their birth parents. They have the same potential as you and me, and were created for divine purpose, just like you and me.

Psalm 139:13-16 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

They could be your daughters and your sons. They are waiting for you. I don’t say that flippantly, or romantically. Taking in a child from foster care can be challenging. But as a Christian, I believe that we are called to stand in the gap for these children.  We are not meant to be their savior- Jesus is their savior.  But we are called to step forward and love them like Jesus would. It is time for true believers to step forward, to be the light in the darkness, to show them the transformational and unconditional love of Christ.

So what can you do?

  1. Become a foster parent or foster-to-adopt parent. It is not easy and there is no guarantee that you will be able to adopt a child that is placed with you. In fact approximately half of the children that enter foster care each year, return to their biological parents. But there are children who are languishing in the foster care system with no plan for permanency (aka no one willing to adopt them). So if you have thought about it, and don’t know the next steps to take, think that you can’t afford it, or that you would never be approved as a foster parent, please reach out, and we will put you in touch with people that can walk you through the process.
  2. Become a respite care provider. For anyone who is not ready to foster or adopt, but wants to help care for a foster child on a short term basis, respite care is a great option. Respite providers care for foster kids on a short term basis – a few hours or possibly a few days at a time to give foster parents a much needed break. If this is an option for you, please reach out.
  3. Meet a need. Foster families often find themselves in need of the most basic items. It is not uncommon for a foster parent to receive a call that children need to be picked up, and find that the child(ren) needs clothes, shoes, diapers, or even a car seat or crib.  If you cannot volunteer your time, but can meet a tangible need, please reach out.  Your gift will meet a need and be a HUGE blessing.
  4. Be a friend, extended family, and prayer partner for a foster child or foster family. Aside from the tangible needs, one of the most valuable thing you can give a foster family is your love, friendship and prayers. It takes a village to raise a child, and for many foster children, they have been uprooted from and lost contact with their community. So helping to build relationships encourages healthy attachment, emotional security, and a sense of normalcy that these children need.

There are several organizations that are helping foster families in your community. Here are a few that we recommend:

  1. ChildShare
  2. AdoptUSKids
  3. Rays of Light Philanthropic
  4. Families Like Ours (FLO)
  5. Olivecrest

Everyone can do something. If you are ready to take the first step, and learn more about how you can help, please reach out to one of these great organizations.

Blessings,

Patty

Parenting Through Pain | by Britta

freedoms

We all have pain don’t we. Pain comes in different ways. It comes in the heart break of infertility, it comes with divorce (either our own or our parents), it comes in the loss of a baby, it comes with raising hurt & broken children, it comes in the failed adoption, it comes in the form of health issues (our own or someone we love), it comes when we sin or others sin against us, it comes when we get offended, it comes when…you fill in the blank. In John 10:10 the bible says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There is a “thief” who wants to cause you pain and destroy you. The enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to keep you stuck in your emotional and physical pain because in doing so you won’t be as effective for the Kingdom of God. So stay with me and take in what I have to share with you today.

Recently I was facing a lot of physical and emotional pain. This pain was robbing me and my family of many things. I was crying most days and I was trying to parent through the pain but it wasn’t going that well. When things usually happen in my life I tend to jump to Google, the doctor, essential oils, friends, food/diet, books, Pinterest and so on for my answer. But these past 6 months I’ve been really practicing going to God in prayer FIRST and I’ve been practicing listening to the Holy Spirit for direction. (See Philippians 4:6-7) So I prayed, my family prayed, my friends prayed, my church prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed for wisdom for me to know what direction to take. I felt good about going to a new doctor in Seattle and I met with a team there. I had lots of tests and everything came back fine. There was no diagnosis. But I was still in pain. I knew deep in my spirit that this pain was more than just physical. This pain had a deep spiritual root.

John 10:10a “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”    

The Lord took me on a journey. A very long journey. A hard pressed, shaken down, tear stained journey. When I felt like giving in I pressed in. When I felt like giving up I reached up. I cried out more often and louder to the Holy Spirit. I got up off the ground and I ran to Him. When I was at my weakest I just cried Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He could have healed me instantly but instead He showed me something so I could share it with you. I want you to understand that the steps the Lord showed me you can apply to your life too. So here you go.

1) I asked the Holy Spirit to show me why I was in so much pain. He showed me that unforgiveness and being offended had created wounds in my soul which then gave the “thief” legal right to enter in and start to steal, kill, and destroy me and my family and cause me emotional and physical pain. I began to repent for my sins and forgive those who had sinned against me. I applied the blood of Jesus over myself because what washes away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!! See 1 John 1:7

2) If we only focus on asking for forgiveness we will miss the amazing power of Jesus to heal our soul wounds. There is supernatural power in the glory of Jesus. When we grab a hold of this truth we are taking part in ALL that Christ has for us. His blood AND His glory. After I completed step one I focused on the glory of Jesus. I meditated on the Word of God day and night. I asked Him to shine His glory light into my soul and heal the wounds that were created by unforgiveness and sin. Jesus wants our souls to prosper (be in good health)!! See 3 John verse 2

3) Finally, after all that time repenting and applying the blood of Jesus and soaking in His powerful glory, I told the “thief” that it was time for him to go. I told him that he no longer has any legal right over me because Jesus paid for all my sins on the cross and the glory of Jesus had healed my deepest wounds completely. I commanded the “thief” to leave in Jesus name…and guess what? he left…and my pain left too. Peace flooded my mind and body. There is power in the name of Jesus. We as Christians have the same power that conquered the grave living in us. See Romans 8:11

No pain is too much for Jesus. There are too many of us carrying heavy burdens. We walk around wounded, angry, hurting, sick, and broken. Our spouses and children need us whole. We need to share these tools with our children to see them set free. Our friends need healing too. I shared with you what the beginning of John 10:10 says but you need to read what the end of that verse says to us…Jesus came to give us life, abundant life. That means that God is a loving Father who wants good for us and not evil. A lot of Christians and non Christians alike blame God for their situation, blame Him for their pain. If nothing else I want you to know today that the God of the universe, your Creator, is FOR you and LOVES you!!!

John 10:10b “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Shout it out!!! When you have been set free like I have and healed like I have you want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops. I want every person on this earth to experience this kind of freedom in Christ. I can testify to you that the Lord is returning to me all the years that the locusts ate.(See Joel 2:25) Jesus has given me back the ability to parent my children without pain. Jesus has restored my marriage. Jesus has given me back my joy times seven. Hallelujah!! He wants to do those things and more for you too!!!

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. 

****I learned about the healing of soul wounds by listening to teaching by Katie Souza on YouTube. I really like the one called Stay Un Offendable. You can also go to her website at www.expectedendministries.com  for more info.****

****In no way is Three Strands Ministries affiliated with Katie Souza or her ministry. This is just my personal journey and the teaching God used to heal me.****

How to Spiritually Survive a Difficult Season | by Seana

Life happens. Family sickness. Job loss. Rebellious children. Difficult diagnoses. Marriage strain. A deep loss. Our families consistently encounter seasons that test our limits and even drag us over the line.

I am in such a season right now. I see God moving in miraculous ways, yet there is trial that still leaves me heavy hearted, broken, and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Been there? If not, something will happen that takes the carpet out from under you. How do we spiritually survive these seasons? Not just survive, how do we thrive? Is it possible?

Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us some tangible Biblical truth to help equip us through these seasons. I will share 3 of these truths and 4 ways you can practically spiritually thrive in difficult seasons.

Truths:

  1. It is God’s strength that carries us. Eph. 6:10.
  2. We have a real enemy, the Father of Lies. Eph. 6:11-16
  3. We can stand firm with God’s supplied armor, but we need to put it on. Eph. 6:11-17

How?:

  1. How to depend on God’s strength? Go to Him in prayer (Eph. 6:18) and tell Him you need His strength. Then, in every moment consciously setting your mind on Him and not your own wisdom and resources. For example, when my sick son is complaining for the 100th time about the food that I spent all day in the kitchen to cook, I breathe… pray… and (usually) am then able to respond in encouragement and kindness. In actuality I want to scream (and sometimes do when I don’t breath and pray). Learning to depend on God’s strength is a process.
  2. Recognize the lies and replace them with truth. When I am in a difficult season the enemy is right there to point out my shortcomings and failures. These may be true or not, but what is even more true is who we are in Christ. So, when I am feeling overwhelmed by inadequacy or condemnation, I write out what I am hearing. For example: “You are not a good mom.” And then I pray for God to replace it with a Biblical truth such as “Only God is good. (Mark 10:18) In Christ I can be a good mom if I remain in the Vine.” (John 15:5) WRITE DOWN THE TRUTH and post it somewhere to remind you. Those pesky lies are like weeds that keep popping up until completely destroyed.
  3. Use your spiritual resources first. It is so easy for me to depend on my skills and abilities in difficult seasons, but that only leaves me empty. Ephesians 6:10-18 teaches us the spiritual resources to arm ourselves with for the spiritual battle we face daily, especially during difficult seasons. Read through Ephesians 6:10-18. What are the things we are to dress with for battle? Truth, righteousness, the gospel (good news), faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. If we choose to dress our minds and hearts with these daily (and sometimes multiple times a day), we will see God at move and have victory over the darkness that threatens to steal, kill, and destroy our joy and our very lives. Choose to use your spiritual clothes first.
  4. Implement the “First 30”. In difficult seasons we often don’t have enough time to go to the Well of Living Water and find refreshment for our souls. During this time, I have implemented the “First 30.” It is the first 30 minutes in your day where there is not something urgent important that has to be done. Often times, it is during afternoon naptime for me. Housework can wait. Chores can wait. Find a quiet place and for 30 minutes connect with Jesus and read the truth (Bible). For me, the only quiet place I have in this season is my closet. Amongst the clothes, I find my solitude. Find your place. Find your first 30… and connect.

What are some truths and practices that spiritually sustain you in difficult seasons? Please leave a comment.

Find more from Seana Scott at her blog: http://www.SeanaSScott.com

Image

The Courage of A Mother | by Seana

Photo by connieriggiophotography.com

She told me over the phone that she was pregnant. I swallowed. “How is she going to take care of this baby? Is she still using drugs? Is she going to abort? Dear, Lord, please don’t let her abort.”

With a thickening pause she added, “Don’t worry. I’m going to put it up for adoption.”

Relief released my tension, but then came the complex emotions of sadness and joy spinning together, making me nauseous.

“Can you help me find a program or place to live while I have the baby?” She asked.

By God’s grace and favor, we found her a pregnancy home to stay in. She remained sober through the birth and we dreamed together, as we did in the park as children years before, of what this young child will be when he grows up. As children we imagined having husbands and homes, not being homeless and pregnant.

During the following months, her love for her unborn son cultivated. We talked about what giving birth is like and what to take in your hospital bag, but instead of shopping through baby registries, she combed through parent profiles.

How do you choose a parent for your own child? Selflessly, bravely.

This week I read the beginning of Exodus, Moses’ birth story. During the time of Moses’ birth, all the Israelite parents were forced to leave their baby boys in the Nile to die by exposure, drowning, or however else babies left in the wild die.

I picture Moses’ mother. She just pushed her last exhausting push with joyful relief, but the next words meant life or death for her child. “Please be a girl, please be a girl,” I imagine Moses’ mom thinking. Instead, the word “boy” turns the beautiful moment into one of fear and angst.

However, Moses’ mom was brave. She saw that Moses was different and hid him for three months. Then, when she could no longer hide him, she makes a special basket with tar and places in along the Nile. What was she thinking, I wonder? The Bible does not say, but as I watched my friend offer life to her son, I can imagine. I believe she was heartbroken for the life she could not give Moses, but prayerful and hopeful for the life her son could have if she gave him away.

I held my friend’s sweet, perfectly health baby boy the day he was born; such a gift to the world in a small, totally-dependent package. I prayed over him and asked God to be with him, no matter what, no matter where, all the days of his life. I cried. I too lost the joy of knowing him as he grew up.

What I see from Moses’s mother… what I see from my sweet childhood friend… is the courage it takes for a mom to lay aside her own dreams, desires, and life itself, to offer her child to another for the sake of that child.

And in the case of my sweet friend, the birth of her son eventually brought her heart to a tender place to receive the birth, death, and resurrection of God’s one and only Son.

Whether women raise the child they did not birth, or birth a child they do not raise, it takes much courage to give of our selves so another may live.

Live courageously, today Mamas! God has a plan for your life and all the kinds of children He brings into it.

-Seana

What matters most | by Seana

Seana and Kavin 2014

Me and my little man K.

I am Mom

Some days I wake up tired. Scratch that. Most days I wake up tired. Two little boys and one tall man hammering for my attention the moment I wake up. Sure, I should rise up early like the Proverbs 31 women, but most days my kids rise up early too.

And with all honesty, there are some days I wish I could just pull the covers back over my head and play sick, like when I was in high school and just wanted to lay around for a day and watch Family Feud and daytime soap operas.

Until I hear his voice.

“Good morning mama. How is your day?” My 4-year-old, Kavin, will come in my room if I am not already up and lovingly encourage me with his smile. Or he will just demand breakfast. Either way, in a moment, I am mom.

And every moment throughout the day, I am the…

Mom who gets the kids ready. Mom who plans the meals. Mom who cleans the house. Mom who throws in the laundry. Mom who practices Bible memory verses. Mom who runs kiddo to school. Mom who changes diapers.

Yes. I am that mom.

And in-between all the errands and tasks I am the…

Mom who comforts my crying baby. Mom who plays Legos and Superman. Mom who teaches right from wrong. Mom who dances in the living room. Mom who reads nap time stories. Mom who knows. Mom who builds up with words.

Mom.

I can hire a housekeeper. I can hire a cook. I can hire a laundress. I can hire a school teacher.

But I can’t hire Mom.

And when my children are grown, I won’t miss the soap operas or Family Feud. I won’t miss my bed covers or my accomplishments in the world. I will miss them. I will miss being Mom in the early years.

The early years of: make believe and big questions like “why?”. Play dough and race track cars. Cuddles and giggles. Sloppy letters hard to read.

I will miss them needing me.

I am Mom. No one else can be me for these God has entrusted to me.

I Can’t Do Everything | by Breanna

pasta mess

Motherhood isn’t glamorous. Being a new mom has quite the learning curve & surprisingly, I would say the most important & most challenging lesson has been that I simply can’t do everything. Life changes once you become a mom and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I couldn’t do all the things I could easily manage when it was just me and the hubs.

A few weeks after our first baby girl was born I was so excited to get together with some of my girlfriends! The endless stream of family was awesome, but sometimes you just need some girl time! We all have pretty busy schedules so it took some time but we finally picked a day and had a girls night all scheduled and I was soooo looking forward to seeing my pals and of course showing off the most beautiful baby in the whole world. Then I realized I had signed up for a Meal Train on the same day to deliver dinner to another pal who had just had a baby. I thought to myself, “No problem! I could do both.” So, I made a plan of making two dinners: Baked pasta & bread to go and pizza for my girls here.

So Ruthie and I set off for the grocery store to get everything we needed for our evening. This was one of our first solo trips to the grocery store and after struggling with our Moby wrap, sweating (so much sweating), and a screaming baby we finally got back home only to realize I’d forgotten to stop at Papa Murphy’s for the pizza! Ruthie hates the car & screams for every blessed mile of car travel so I just couldn’t bear another trip out in the world. So, slightly embarrassed – I texted one of my pals and asked if she could please stop and grab a couple pizzas on her way & of course she would! I think they actually offered this from the beginning but I was pretty determined to prove I could take care of it.

My friends pulled up in the drive and I was SO excited for some girl time! As they were unloading, the timer for the baked pasta went off. They came in and were making themselves comfortable as I took the bubbling dish out of the oven. It was in a foil disposal pan to make life easier for my pal. However, the pasta was too heavy and the foil began to bend under the weight & in mere seconds, before I could even flinch – pasta & sauce was everywhere! Mostly it landed on my thighs and spilled down the cabinets and onto the kitchen floor. HOLY SMOKES! It was SO hot!! So hot on my legs, that without really thinking, I ripped off my jeans for some relief.

There I was standing there in my marinara stained kitchen, legs burning, new mamma stretch marks out for all to see & I was thinking, “I am so thankful I managed to get some underwear on this morning!” And then tears began to stream down my face, mostly because of the pain and partly red hot embarrassment for my new squishy exposed body (stretch marks and all) & the sinking reality that I couldn’t do all the things I did before becoming a mom.

My friends were so kind and so worried about my poor legs – which were burned pretty badly. My sweet husband came home and brought me burn cream & picked up some roasted chickens for our friends for dinner & delivered them. I bandaged & iced my wounds as my friends went right to work cleaning up the disaster that was now in my kitchen. That’s when you know you have good friends! They scrubbed the counter, cabinets, and the floor and cleaned up all the pasta and sauce that seemed to magically cover every square inch of my kitchen.

When I finally got brave enough to come back out, they asked if I wanted to reschedule our dinner and were so understanding. Of course not! They had come from a long way and it took too long to get this dinner on the calendar. Thankfully, we got to have some awesome time of chatting and laughing and of course they got their baby snuggles with Ruthie. Things were winding down and Ruthie was getting fussy, so I got out my cover and began nursing her. Nursing was another thing that was really hard for me as a new mom, but I was feeling pretty confident that things were finally getting better. Well, that attitude quickly changed when I heard/felt some rumbling from my sweet princess. Before I even knew what happened I felt warmth oozing out onto my freshly changed clothes! There was poop everywhere. So much poop. So we had yet another wardrobe change, this time not just for me but Ruthie too. And when I came out – much to my surprise my friends were still there! They hadn’t ran for the hills J We got to have a good laugh about it all.

Life as a new mom takes a lot of adjusting. Your hormones, your body, your everything — has changed & it takes some getting used to. I had to learn that I couldn’t do it all, I couldn’t take care of everyone, but I am so incredibly blessed to be a mamma and to care for and love and raise up our baby girl.

Most of all, I’ve learned that as a new mama you need friends & community. To laugh with when you’re covered in pasta or poop, to cry with when you feel like a failure and just can’t figure out this breastfeeding thing, and to love you (stretch marks and all). I couldn’t have gotten through those first few months without some amazing friends & family. We need each other as moms to love & to walk along side one another without judgment or shame.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help him up.” –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Walls Fall Down by Dudley Rutherford | Book Review by Patty

walls fall down book

Walls Fall Down – by Dudley Rutherford

Have you ever heard the expression, “I have hit a wall”? I grew up saying this when I was exhausted, tired or had done all the work I could do, and no more progress could be made until something else was done. I had hit the wall. I could not go any further. I wonder where that expression came from anyway? … maybe I’ll look it up later.

But along the lines of hitting the wall, and waiting for something to be done, I will transition to the Battle of Jericho- the lesson we all learned in Sunday School as kids, which has been retold from a unique perspective by Dudley Rutherford in his book, Walls Fall Down, 7 Steps from the Battle of Jericho to Overcome any Challenge.

Rutherford sets the stage for one of the greatest moments in history by drawing you into the lives of the people that lived it: the people of Israel, the people of Jericho, the soldiers in the army of Israel, Rahab the prostitute, and Joshua himself.  Each chapter begins and ends with a historical fiction account of what could have happened in the lives of each of these people in the 7 days that Israel marched around the walls of Jericho. It is the perfect balance of story telling and real-life application that anyone from any background can relate to. We all know how the battle ends. Walls Fall Down is about how the Battle of Jericho begins. It is about knowing that God is bigger and stronger than the challenge you are facing. With God all things are possible.

When I first learned about Walls Fall Down, the title of the book, “7 Steps to Overcome Any Challenge”, left me a little skeptical. I tend to over analyze things anyway, and in true form, I was skeptical, and thought it a little risky to claim to have seven steps to overcome any challenge. After all, there are so many complex issues in the world. How could any challenge be overcome in just seven steps? I took the book home and stared at it for a few days, preparing myself for another well intentioned, self-help book making great promises that it couldn’t possibly keep.

Finally, I started reading the book.  And I was so wrong. This is not a self-help book at all! But a call to believers to humble themselves before the Lord, and ask Him to go before us and to claim victory over the impossible for us in His name. That is powerful!

Each chapter I read left me feeling encouraged and eager to keep reading. Rutherford’s unique style combines Biblical teaching with contextual understanding to help the reader connect with the scripture, and testimonies of real people to help the reader make a personal connection to the message that he conveys.

There were two personal testimonies that really stood out to me: the story of Raul who was abandoned as a child and overcame incredible odds, and the second is the harrowing story of Louis, a WWII Veteran and POW. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say this: these men overcame unimaginable obstacles and impossible circumstances only by the power and grace of a God whose power knows no boundaries, and whose strength knows no weakness. Their testimonies are powerful reminders that no matter the battle you face, God will be with you; you are not alone.

Joshua 1:5-6 (NIV) says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”

What an amazing promise!  Walls Fall Down reminds us that we can go forward with confidence because the battle is the Lord’s. He has promised us the victory; it is up to us to put one foot in front of the other, and trust that He is big enough and strong enough to overcome.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Who is this book for? Why is a blog geared towards mo, of course, but I mean out of the home) and recently moved my family to a different state and am trying to figure out what the new norm is for my family.

I spent 5 1/2 years shaking my fist at God, asking when He was going to give us another child only to be blessed with two children within the same year. Life has not turned out the way that I thought it would, but I have seen and conquered my share of Jerichoes, and I can tell you that whether you are wandering in the desert wondering where the heck this promised land is or have just found your Jericho and have no idea how to conquer it, this book is for you.  There is a saying, “If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”  My friends, this book will give you the hope and encouragement you need to face whatever impossible challenge you are facing and make those walls fall down.

If you would like more information about Dudley Rutherford visit theshepherd.org .

For more information about Walls Fall Down, visit the official website wallsfalldownbook.com or find it on Amazon.com.  If you’re visual and you like trailers, click here for the promo video.

Blessings,

Patty