Labor of Love | by Britta

Everyone around me is getting their gardens ready. They call it a labor of love. Soon they will reap a harvest of yummy fruits and veggies. Every sunburn, sliver, dirty finger nail, and bruised knee will all be forgotten when they enjoy the fruit of their labor. On Mother’s Day I started to think about the different labors I have had with each of my five children. As I recalled them one by one I was reminded by the Lord that each one is very special just like the child that came after that labor. Webster’s Dictionary describes labor as an expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory. Not all of my children were birthed from my body…but they were all a labor of love.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I honestly think that the labor of a child starts long before we actually are about to meet our child for the first time. We prepare by first dreaming of becoming a mom. What color hair will he or she have? Should I paint the nursery blue or pink?  Some of us get books on how to boost our fertility. How to have the best labor. We get every book we can about parenting.  We walk down the baby isle at Target. Some of us buy books on how to bond with our adopted child. We pour over the internet reading adoption and/or birth stories by the dozen. But in our wildest dreams we never realize that the labor for this child will change and grow us. We learn so much from the process of labor.

When the day finally came for me to give birth to my first born child I had no idea what was in store for me. My labor was induced due to high blood pressure and my feisty red-headed daughter was born via forceps. By the time my second child was due to arrive I signed up for another induction. I thought in my head that I knew all about that and I could do it again…no problem. My hungry toe-headed son was born via c-section. Then came surprise baby number three. I had learned a lot from my previous labors and decided to blaze a new trail. My 3-week late brown haired son was born a VBAC at home.

As I sit back and remember each detail of those labors something stirs deep within me. I start to think about our road to adoption. That is a much different type of labor. After five long years of praying for more children we were called to adopt. I never thought I’d get to hold another newborn but the Lord blessed me with that privilege two more times. My labor for my last two babies was much more spiritual and mental than it was physical. Adoption really is spiritual warfare. We are laboring in prayer for these children lives, literally. My two should not have lived according to the medical community. We are laboring in prayer for them to be raised to know the Lord. Either with us or with someone in their bio family. We are laboring for the truth to be told and that the lies of the enemy will be squashed. We hold up the judges, lawyers, and social workers in prayer. If we are fostering we also pray for the birth parents. For their salvation and for them to be set free from the chains that bind them. We even begin to have a strange love grow in our hearts for the birth parents and family.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

When we labor in prayer for our foster and/or adopted children we need to remember this scripture. Let NOTHING move you dear mama!! Stand FIRM!! Give yourself FULLY to this work the Lord has called you to…because those that labor for the Lord do not labor in vain!! I remember many of my prayers during our long road to adoption. Oh the tears that flowed on the feet of Jesus during that time. I constantly had to remember that these precious children were God’s children first and He loved them more than I could ever love them…but I love them so much!! My love for my adopted children is just as great as my love for my birth children. No. Different. The labor may look different but in the end my love is the same.

So I want to encourage you today. Whatever stage of labor you are in right this moment, focus and breathe. Do not give up!!! Call on your praying friends to stand with you. Be diligent dear mama. Put on the full armor of God. You have been called to the highest calling…Motherhood.

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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.

I Will Survive . . . I Think! Confessions of an Imperfect Mom | by Julie

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When I was first asked to contribute to this blog, I consulted with the woman who had started this entire project. It’s her desire to create a place where moms from all walks of life and in all stages of motherhood can come together for support, advice and friendship.

She asked me what my passion was; what area of motherhood spoke to me when it came to writing. Some of the writers focus on parenting adopted children and foster care. Others missions and homeschooling. I thought about it for a moment. And I really couldn’t come up with an answer. Days passed and I finally came to the conclusion that my focus isn’t as profound or noble as some mothers. My primary goal as a mother is SURVIVAL!

As the busy, 42-year-old mother of two boys – one entering the fourth grade and one on the brink of starting junior high – it’s a good day when we all make it out alive.

When my children were first born, I did all the things good, Christian mothers are supposed to do. I scheduled regular naps and bedtimes. I prayed with my little ones before meals. We read Bible stories, had playdates and helped out at church. Sure, there were bumps in the road, and I imposed the typical time outs and hand swats to correct my boys and set them on the path to becoming honorable Christian men.

But somewhere along the way, a change began to happen. They began to walk, talk and have minds of their own. My boys started to expand their vocabulary. It became a bit more “colorful.” They embraced their strength and realized words weren’t always the best way to express themselves, but a nice knee to the “nether regions” conveyed some messages quite nicely. They’re favorite past-time evolved from coloring and Legos to vying for a championship title in the art of annoying people. The volume level in the house went from loud to LOUDER, and super glue and air freshener are household staples.

After my kids were born, I came to the realization that being a parent of a newborn is tremendously harder than I ever thought it would be. Looking back, I now realize that the infant years were, in fact, still the easiest stage of parenthood. Sure there were sleepless nights and diaper explosions, but all I had to do was make sure my babies were breathing. Now I worry about their futures in this cutthroat and increasingly cruel and wicked world we live in, and I pray they won’t turn away from Jesus and their Christian faith. But their well-being is no longer completely under my control. They have choices. And my skills as a parent are greatly stunted by my sinful human nature.

More often than not, I am overwhelmed as a mother and even feel like a failure as a parent. I see all the Facebook posts and tweets from super moms with perfect children and wonder how their experience can be so different.

Are they really raising the selfless, genius, award-winning, humanitarian, on-fire Christian tweens and teens their social media posts boast of? Are they really always patient, soft spoken and overflowing with wisdom when their kids challenge them? Because I’m not! What am I doing wrong? I would gander that maybe not all is as it seems. But then again, maybe I’m wrong.

I yell, cry and want to pull my hair out at least once a week! I covet the moments when I can escape to the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. When I tell my kids to do their chores, I might as well be talking to myself. When I order them to go to their rooms for disobedient behavior, I often wonder if I’m invisible. My kids have even uttered those three little words: “I hate you,” and I have threatened to run away on more than one occasion.

I wish I could say I was going to wrap up this post in a neat and tidy package filled with Godly advice and answers. But I’m not. I can’t. I don’t know how. But if you’re like me, I can tell you you’re not alone.

You’re not the only one. I know what it’s like to be an imperfect parent with imperfect kids.

Still amidst the chaos and circus-like atmosphere we call home, I’m certain I’m doing one thing right. I truly love my kids and I have known no greater joy than that of being a mother. My love for them is sincerely unconditional, I’m filled with compassion for their hurts and my forgiveness knows no bounds . . . even when their acting like little big stinkers!

What a beautiful picture this dysfunctional family mess creates, though. If I can genuinely love my children like that when they act like that just bask in the knowledge of how much more God loves us . . . even when we’re being little big stinkers. Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

If we just do our best to love God and love others, we will survive! And our ending will be more than happy. It will be glorious!

Desperate Parenting | by Seana

Kavin was born into a world of tubes, needles, and breathing machines.  That seems like a life-time ago, now that he is 4 years old and hasn’t needed his inhaler for months, but today I still feel that powerless desperation.  Today he is defying me.  Saying mean and hurtful things from a heart I prayerfully sow love and kindness into.  I correct him, give him consequences, and put him in his room.

Then I cry.

I try to do what is best for his heart

The same feelings come back.  I try to do what is best for his heart.  I read the Word to him, pray for him constantly, teach him the right things to do.  Yet he has free will; free will to rebel; free will to love; free will to hurt me.  I am powerless over his choices just as much as I was powerless over the condition he was born with.  Like his diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in his diaphragm, he also has a hole in his soul where sin separates him from God and others and even hurts my heart.  More than anything, I want him to know God and make Him known.

All the control I try to grasp for will never change the fact that apart from God’s transforming power both of us are wretched.  And I am reminded, once again, I am a desperate parent.  Desperate for God to do His work in my heart, to make me love well, even when I don’t feel like it… and desperate for God to make Himself known to Kavin- even when I am a poor example of a Christ-follower.

We need His power to penetrate our hearts and the hearts of our children

A worship song comes to mind:

I need You, oh I need You.
Every hour I need You.
My one defense.
My righteousness.
Oh God, how I need You.

Apart from God’s power in the lives of our families, there is only dogmatic outward compliance.  We need His power to penetrate our hearts and the hearts of our children.

Lord, please make yourself known to us.  Please make Yourself known to our children and take our imperfect parenting, wash it in Your perfection, and grow these children to know You and make You known.  AMEN.

Psalm 34:4  I sought the Lord and He answered me.  And delivered me from all my fears.