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.

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.****

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

Life’s a Rocky Road | by Julie

icecream

Life’s a beach or is it? From a young age we buy into the fairy tale of life. We dream of becoming rock stars, walking the red carpet or playing first base for our favorite professional baseball team. As we grow older, our dreams become more “realistic.” We set our sights on marriage, 2.5 kids, a big house, a dog and a successful career culminating in a happily ever after. And once you get it, you know that you have won at the game of life. The end. Life’s a beach filled with fun, love and don’t forget money. Until . . .

. . . you wake up from the fantasy that we’ve been duped into believing and trade in your dreams for the hard-to-swallow pill of reality. Life’s not a beach. Happiness isn’t a box of chocolates. And even if you do manage to get everything you’ve ever dreamed of, something’s still missing because life’s a rocky road for sure.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer, get married buy a house and have kids. I don’t know why I wanted these things. I just did. That’s what you do. And I was confident once I achieved them all, I’d coast into old age happy, happy, happy.

But that’s not exactly what happened. My college degree didn’t win me a high paying, newsworthy career. Even once I snagged a senior editor position, I could barely afford my car payment and roomed at my parent’s house. My prince charming didn’t come riding in on a white horse the minute I graduated college. In fact, my younger sister beat me to the altar. And even once I did walk down that aisle in a beautiful white dress and gave birth to two beautiful boys, picture perfect isn’t exactly the adjective I’d use to describe the life I was building.

But, but, but . . . I’m a Christian. I gave my life to the Lord at a young age. I did everything right. I never ditched school, not even once. I married a man who loves Jesus. I pray with my kids before bed and so on and so on. Where’s my perfect life? What happened?

In John 16:33 the Bible says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There it is. Right there in black and white. It never says that our earthly lives will be filled with our heart’s desires, free from trouble, easy or even happy. Our lives are not like Hollywood movies wrapped up in a neat and tidy package. Satisfaction isn’t found in others or successes.

We’re chasing the wrong happy ending!

If instead, from the moment we were born we lived our lives focused on our eternal destination we could find a joy and peace unsurpassed by anything this life has to offer; a reality that blows all manmade fairy tales away. The prize isn’t the material offerings of this world, the fantasy of the American dream, but the majesty that awaits us in Heaven.

But we have to travel the rocky road of disappointment, divorce, poverty, cancer, loneliness, depression, childlessness, abuse, failure and so much more to get there. The sooner we accept it and look beyond ourselves Heavenward, the sooner our eyes will be open to the real happily ever after.

I’m 42 now. Gained a few pounds . I fight with my husband over his dirty clothes laying on the floor and rent my home. My kids are less like angelic cherubs and more like escaped zoo animals. I doubt my parenting ability and don’t’ really have many friends. I’m often paralyzed by anxiety and feel inferior, unaccomplished.

Yet, tomorrow I’ll laugh till my belly aches at my 9-year-old’s silliness. I’ll be completely content when he snuggles beside me on the couch. I’ll smile when my almost teenager shares his excitement about skateboarding and girls. I’ll look admiringly at my husband as he goes off to work at a sometimes thankless job. And I’ll walk outside my front door and see God’s majesty in the bird’s chirping and the kindness of a neighbor. All the while, I will be filled with the hope and faith God has embedded in my heart, which will not, cannot die unlike the fleeting dreams of this earthly society.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” EVERYTHING we have ever wanted is within reach. We’re just looking in the wrong place. It’s not in the here and now, but in the hereafter. And if we simply put our life in God’s hand, set our course on his path, the reality God has prepared for us will greatly surpass our dreams and the disappointments of falling short in this lifetime.

Life isn’t about worldly wealth, fame, popularity, success, or even us. When we refocus our dreams away from the earthly desires ingrained in us by our society and open our Bible to discover what our creator truly designed us for – simply to love God and love others – we will find meaning, purpose and JOY in all circumstances.

Life’s a rocky road. Might as well eat ice cream!