I Swear I Didn’t Teach My Kids THAT | by Julie

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My son clobbered his brother because something or other went awry during a game of Minecraft. My other boy flipped the game board in a move to rival the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous table flip because he was losing. Then there was that LOUD argument at the grocery store over what flavor Pringles to buy, an Academy Award winning meltdown at a friend’s house because one kid was bored, kids streaking across the house naked after showers, and the always shocking faux pas of a four-letter word slip. And that was just this week!

Screaming, mayhem and the chaos of a 3-ring circus are hallmarks of my household in spite of the effort I put forth to be a good parent. I take my kids to church every Sunday; teach them Christian values. I’m present and involved in their lives; aware of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They have rules and boundaries and lots of love. And yet they still behave badly, make poor choices and deliberately challenge me.

Unfortunately, when this behavior occurs in front of onlookers the door of judgment swings wide open. Truthfully, when my children are at school or other people’s homes, I’m often told how well-behaved they are, but they’ve definitely had their share of cringe-worthy moments. So when I hear people weighing in on the unflattering behavior of other’s children and parenting, I tend to shrink back a bit and internalize the condemnation.

And while as mothers I think we’ve learned to tune out the gossip, ignore the stares and stay the course, there is one remark that will always cut to the core. As a mom struggling, doing her best to raise two beautiful, but rambunctious boys, the wind is always knocked out of my sails when I hear somebody automatically assume that a child is behaving poorly because a parent isn’t doing their job or something terrible is going on at home.

If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Every mother has uttered this cliché statement in hopes of driving a point home, and invariably the answer is a resounding “NO” complete with eye roll and sassy tone. Likewise, if your mother told you not to do something, does that mean you’re definitely not going to do it? And again, the answer is a big resounding “NO.”

Truth is, young and old, while we take in what we’re taught, what behavior is modeled to us and resulting consequences, we are not controlled by it. Our decisions are still our own, and if we’re set on doing something or ruled by emotion, nothing is going to derail that train . . . not even being grounded from your iPhone for two weeks.

As much as I may wish I could control my children with a remote control, it’s simply not reality.

God has created us all, especially teenagers, to be individuals and make our own choices . . . good, bad and ugly. And while there are adults who are blatantly, even criminally, falling short of their parental responsibilities, many of us are truly trying to do the best we can with the resources we have and the results are mixed to say the least.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Did you catch that, “when he is old,” not necessarily tomorrow or next week. Like many things in life, you might not see the fruits of good parenting until your child is old. Now if that ain’t sobering. . .

And to complicate matters of parenting even more, we live in a world where we are not the only “teachers” our children have, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Children don’t always learn inappropriate behavior at home. They are exposed to a host of negative behavior and language via television, the internet and schoolyard friends.

As Christians, we need to stop judging and start supporting other parents. We need to stop commentating from afar on how we’d do things differently and take a step closer to lend a caring hand. We need to be a friend, a helper, a support system. We need to reserve judgment and invest in the lives of those God has placed in our path; go deeper to reveal the true story, not just the sensationalized headlines.

We need to remind ourselves that we too often disobey our Father in Heaven, and I’m confident it’s not because he’s doing something wrong as a parent.

All children are not created equal. While some are naturally agreeable and “easy” to parent, others naturally test boundaries. Some have learning or physical disabilities, some are subject to bullies, some have mental health disorders and others still struggle with self-esteem issues and the list goes on and on.

Not all parents are created equal either. While some are blessed with picture-perfect marriages and abundant finances, others struggle to make ends meet. Some battle health problems and depression, some are lonely, some are overwhelmed and others are single parents.

Think of parenting like a video game. While some of us are on level one, parenting with ideal circumstances, some of us are navigating the obstacles of the advanced level, pitfalls and challenges at every turn.

Seriously, in my household asking my children to brush their teeth is met with the resistance of a request to scrub a public restroom with a toothbrush. And my boys’ reaction to losing their video game for a day is akin to missing their senior prom. Some days their displeasure with household boundaries and consequences result in stubborn, hour long standoffs. I assure you I’ve read all the parenting books and attempt to impose the proper discipline, and believe it or not, they still don’t always comply.

So if you see me or any other parent losing their marbles in Target or taking a tear-filled, self-imposed timeout in the bathroom while their children run amuck for a few minutes, please try not to judge and make us feel like even bigger failures than we already do. Instead, offer us a kind word, a gallon of ice cream and the assurance that we’re not the only ones raising miniature hellions. And don’t forget to remind us that God promises everything will turn out ok in the end.

Parenting Through Pain | by Britta

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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

Infertility and Adoption Changed My Life Dramatically | by Jan

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 Hi everyone:

Since this is my first post I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and why I’m excited to be a part of this ministry. I am a biological and adoptive mom, as well as a wife, daughter, sister, grandmother and most recently a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. My experience with infertility and adoption changed my life dramatically. So much so that it inspired me to go back to school at age 47 to get my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and become a therapist in order to help others who might be going through infertility and adoption as well. I chose that population for the topic of my research, and learned so much that I’d like to share with you over the course of my next few posts.

  “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ” Ephesians 1:5

In the course of my psychology program I also learned a lot of things that I didn’t expect. About myself, about the world, and even about the Bible and God. I had expected to find opposing viewpoints everywhere I looked, but instead I became reassured again and again of the wisdom and truth of the Bible and God’s Word. For example, what psychology calls the “multigenerational transmission process” the Bible calls “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ Ezekiel 18:2……and while the world considers adoption an “alternate or deviant family form” the Bible says he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ” Eph. 1:5.

In the world the idea of “family” is largely defined by blood or biological bonds. But in church we consider each other brothers and sisters in Christ, not by our own or our parent’s blood, but by the blood through which we were all saved. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Rev. 1:5  What the church has known for so many years, as in so many things, our society is slow to acknowledge.

  The idea of “family” is largely defined by blood or biological bonds

Next time I will share more of my research findings about infertility and adoption, and why we struggle to feel accepted by the world when we choose an “alternate” definition of family. For today, I’d like to leave you with this good word: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Rom. 8:22-24

– Jan

It’s Time to Wake Up Before We “Sleep” through Life | by Julie

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Wake up. Pack lunches. Take the kids to school. Exercise. Do laundry. Take a few minutes to catch up on friends’ Facebook updates. Pick up kids from school. Supervise homework. Take kids to sports practices. Make dinner. Clean up kitchen. Put kids to bed. Collapse on couch for an hour of TV. Say a quick prayer (and I mean quick). Go to bed.

Wake up and do it all over again.

Oh sure, we’ll mix it up a bit. Run some errands here and there. Carve out a few minutes to catch up with our bestie. Maybe devote 30 whole minutes to our Bible study homework IF we’re meeting the next day. Throw in a little, ok a lot, of yelling, and maybe a 20 minute nap (Who am I kidding? No mom has time for a 20 minute nap.) But all the same, it’s like our life is stuck on auto pilot and we’re living out a real-life Groundhog Day scenario. At least I am.

Meanwhile, Satan’s kicking back in his lair, feet propped up, catching up on old episodes of the Vampire Diaries on Netflix while we voluntarily self-destruct.

Satan need not exude the effort to tempt us with murder, mayhem, violence, stealing, pornography, adultery, drugs or any other evil depravity lurking in the dark shadows. Matthew 4:1 says “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.” For 40 days and 40 nights the Devil taunted him to no avail as Jesus clung to the Word of God. Unlike Jesus, we don’t require Satan to put in that much work. We willingly hand him the keys to our souls in the form of busyness, stress, exhaustion, apathy and worldly desires.

Truth is Satan doesn’t comingle with most us in the immoral, ugly, secret corners of life. Satan is in the details. He’s crafty. He’s scheming. He’s calculating, and, most of all, he’s subtle. Just as he duped Eve into desiring the apple, truth is he’s duped us into an over ambitious, overscheduled, pleasure seeking superficial, world-loving, purposeless, robotic existence. And we think we love and desire, even need, every second of it. And that’s the biggest, most devious, most ingenious charade that Satan has perpetrated on the universe, on us. We’re on the highway to hell and we don’t even realize it.

Every day that I watch TV instead of opening my Bible, Satan wins. Every night that I go right to sleep instead of praying, Satan rests easy. When I miss church to sleep in, Satan rejoices. Every time I let a swear word slip, Satan smiles. When I quarrel with my spouse, Satan is at peace. When I pass judgment on the way friends and family live, Satan is satisfied. When I keep my mouth shut, when someone bad mouths my Savior, Satan is delighted. When I allow the tragedies of this life to overwhelm and depress me, Satan laughs. When I worry the days away, Satan is pleased. And when I do all of this in front of my children, Satan goes on vacation. His work is done.

If I’m not careful, I think I may just get to the end of the long-in-years earthly life I desire and realize I haven’t lived my life at all. That I may very well miss out on the joyful abundance, the meaningful commission that God would have for me. And worse yet, this sort of going through the motions, trying to keep up with the Joneses existence is quite possibly a contribution as Satan’s inadvertent foot soldier.

HOLD THE PRESSES! This is not the way I want my story to be written! But I must will my thoughts into actions. I cannot wish the life God wants for me into existence. It’s not going to effortlessly manifest. We have to work for it. Fight for it. We need to be intentional Christians or it’s not going to happen. We will just comfortably slip back into the world’s routine. Wake up. Take care of the kids. Work. Relax. Go to bed. Do it all over again and again and again. Unless. . .

We help each other. We worship together. We serve together. We challenge each other. We hold one another accountable. Proverbs 27:17 says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

We need to change our relationships. We need to change the way we interact. We need to go deeper. What if we texted our friends every day and encouraged them to read their Bible. What if instead of gossiping about Jane’s divorce over lunch, we encouraged one another in our own marriages. What if instead of critiquing Mary’s parenting style over drinks, we offered our support to one another as mothers. What if instead of spending our extra cash on designer clothes and pedicures, we bought groceries for a hungry family. What if instead of a playdate at the park, we volunteered with our kids at a homeless shelter. What if instead of correcting our kids we complimented them. What if instead of nagging our spouse, we pampered him. What if instead of fishing for success or popularity, we became fishers of men.

I suspect IF we did our lives would overflow with joy and abundance, and we might quite possibly change the world.

Life was not meant to be about getting married, having kids, buying a house, becoming a CEO. Life was not intended to be a solitary experience where sink or swim we’re on our own. But we know all these things. We have the knowledge. What we need to do is practice what we preach. Put words into action. Immerse ourselves in our faith. Kick Satan to the curb.

WAKE UP!

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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

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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.