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.

November is National Adoption Month

National Adoption Day

National Adoption Day

 

November 22nd is National Adoption Day. This month you might notice news outlets, organizations, and even Facebook friends posting stories or opinions along this theme. This month is very special to several of us here at Three Strands Ministries because we have become or hope to be foster and/or adoptive parents. This month you will here from us about Foster Care and Adoption. We hope that you will relate to our stories, share them with someone who is a Foster or Adoptive parent, and consider opening your heart and your home to a child in need. For those of you who have never adopted and are wondering what the fuss is about, here are some important facts regarding National Adoption Day:

What is National Adoption Day?

Every year on the  Saturday before Thanksgiving thousands of children, their soon-to-be-parents, and local social workers assemble at their local courthouse to finalize their adoption. Some children are adopted from birth. Others were swept into the Foster Care system and wait several years before they are adopted, and, in some cases adult children (18 or older) are officially adopted by their parents.  Each family has their story, which has led to this culminating event. It is not the end of their story, but simply the end of a chapter and the beginning of another. If you would like more information about National Adoption Day, we recommend you click on this link nationaladoptionday.org .

Why is this Adoption Day different from other Adoption Days throughout the year?

This is the time of the year when several states make a big push to finalize the adoptions of kids who are in the foster care system in an effort to ensure that foster children find their forever homes. Typically, more adoptions occur in the month of November than in any other month throughout the year. It is a day of celebration and a time to raise awareness about the needs of foster children

I am interested in foster care and/or adoption.  Where can I find more information?

There are several great organizations across the country that specialize in foster care and adoption abroad and in the U.S. We at Three Strands Ministries recommend the following organizations:

  • Youth For Christ (YFC) for foster care and adoption services (Seattle/Tacoma region)
  • Child Share (LA region)

Is there a way to help foster kids without becoming a foster parent or adopting? I want to help, but I can’t foster or adopt.  What can I do?

There are lots of ways to support Foster and Adopted Families. Here are some ways that you might consider helping a foster/adoptive family:

  • Respite care – Child care for the foster/adoptive parents while they enjoy a date night, run errands, or even go grocery shopping. This is like specialized child care in that you may need some training or to attend a class to know how to care for children with special needs. You will also need to have a background check on file with the child’s social worker. This is easy to obtain and the foster family and their social worker should be able to help you know what needs to be done.
  • Host play dates – Foster/adopted children, for the most part, are just like your kids. There may be some children who have special play needs and a play date may not be appropriate. But for the most part, helping to provide a sense of normal and a safe place to play with friends is important and will be a great encouragement to the kids and their families.
  • Be a friend – Foster moms and dads need someone who is willing to listen and not judge them or their kids. Invite them over for dinner, take them out to  coffee, and just listen.
  • Don’t judge. Offer to help – Sometimes, being a Foster parent can be difficult.  People who are not Foster parents don’t understand the special needs and challenges that come with caring for a child who has been exposed to drugs or alcohol, abuse, neglect or abandonment, and have behavioral, emotional, developmental,  or psychological challenges. So if you see a mom at the checkout stand buying subsidized food who seems overwhelmed by unruly, undisciplined kids, don’t write her off as a bad mom. Instead offer a smile, offer to help carry her things to her car, and just be a blessing.
  • Help raise awareness – Change your profile picture on social media and challenge others to do the same, and help give a voice to the thousands of foster kids who are looking for their forever home.

Join the conversation

Do you have questions about Foster Care or Adoption? Are you a Foster or Adoptive mom and are willing to share your story? Email us your questions or share your story and we will post it on our blog.

The Day You Came Home: a letter to my adopted son | by Britta

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

To My Dear Son,

It was just another Monday morning. We had finished school the week before and I was on the phone with one of my best friends, Holly. Right before Holly and I hung up I got a beep from my other line. I told her to hold on because the caller ID said it was Rose. I had been waiting for this call for over a month. When I picked up the phone Rose said in an excited voice that she didn’t have time to talk but that I needed to go check my email right away. I clicked back over to Holly and while she was still on the phone I checked my email. There it was in black and white. I read out loud: “He was born over the weekend”. I instantly started to cry and had chills all over my body. What happened over the next few hours became a miracle only God could have orchestrated.

I had been praying for you for 3 months prior to your birth. I knew during that time that you were fighting to live. I didn’t know for sure if I would ever get to hold you in my arms but I felt honored to pray for you and be your spiritual mother.

About an hour after I got the email that you were born the phone rang again. This time it was your case worker from CPS. Her name was Becky. She talked with me and told me about you. She said that she needed to check and see if you were healthy enough to come home. She said you might have to go to a special place called the PICC Center. That’s where babies born affected by drugs go to safely wean from the drugs in their system. I hung up the phone and called daddy. I gave him the update. I also called our adoption agency and told them what was going on. Our adoption counselor called Becky and sent over our home-study. Then not long after that Becky called me back and said that you were ready to come home. I was in shock!! She said that I needed to call your nurse at the hospital to get the details on how and where to pick you up. I called the nurse next and she was so sweet. She said that all the nurses wanted to take you home. I told her I would be there in about 2 hours. I called daddy back but he couldn’t come with me to get you because he was working. So I called Rose back. Remember she’s the woman who called me and emailed me that you were born. She is your aunt and we met her at church and she told us all about you. Aunt Rose asked if she could come with me to pick you up and of course I said YES!!!

It was a long 2 hour car ride to get you but it went by so fast! Aunt Rose and I talked and she told me all about your biological family. We cried and we laughed. When we got to the hospital we went up and met the case worker in the birthing center. They took us to a room. Moments later they brought you into see us. We cried again. You were such a beautiful baby!!!! I asked Aunt Rose if she wanted to hold you and she said that I should hold you first because I am your mama. I told her that I would be honored if she would hand you to me. That was such a special moment and one I will never forget.

The first time I held you in my arms was amazing. I felt like I was going to float away with happiness. I had been waiting for this day for so very long. I fell instantly in love with you. You were not of my flesh, nor of my bone, yet at that moment I knew you were truly my own.

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Soon it was time to head home. I dressed you in a sweet little outfit with a hat that said “watch me go”, I fed you, and then put you into your car seat. I buckled you into the van and off we went. I kept telling Aunt Rose to pinch me because I thought I was dreaming. We were so hungry so we stopped for Mexican food. I inhaled my salad so fast I don’t even think I tasted it. I just wanted to hold you!! You didn’t cry a peep all the way home. Once I got to Aunt Rose’s house your two sisters came out to see you. Aunt Rose adopted them and she is now their mommy. They didn’t know you were their brother but they saw you for the first time the day after you were born. I gave Aunt Rose a big, big hug and then got into the van and drove away with you. Just you and me!!

We got home around 8pm to Daddy, Bailey, Simon, and Silas. I had to go to the bathroom so I took you out of your car seat and handed you over to daddy. When I got back I asked them what we should call you. Everyone gave you kisses and we all just couldn’t believe how small you were. We looked you over and felt your soft hair and skin. We talked about lots of names. We wanted a name from the Bible. Simon got out his Bible and started looking. What a glorious day!! We had you home and you were perfect. You are loved so much by so many people!!!

The next morning we all agreed to call you Solomon. It means “Peaceful”. God has given us so much peace through this whole experience. Daddy chose your middle name as Kal-El from the Superman comic books that he liked so much as a child. Superman was adopted by a family who loved him just like we love you. Kal-El means “Voice of God”. We pray you listen to the peaceful voice of God your entire life.

Five long years before your birth God put on my heart that I would have another son…the day you were born His promise was fulfilled. “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.” 1 Chronicles 22:9

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Solomon Kal-El this is only the beginning of your story. I am honored to be your mama. I can’t wait to see what God does in and through your life. Always know how much we love you. You were chosen by God to be chosen by us. Adopted into our forever family on November 22, 2013 after 901 days in Foster Care.

All my love,
Mama

Consider It All Joy | by Breanna

It’s been one year since I sat nervously waiting – they were late. I cleaned, re-cleaned, and organized some more to keep myself busy. I finally saw a car pull into the drive and my heart raced. She’s here. Our social worker got out first and then lifted the most precious little girl out of the back seat and came to the front door. This beautiful girl came bounding in the door, put her backpack down, looked and me and said, “Hi mom,” and at that moment I thought my heart would burst. She was amazing – so resilient and brave for all she’d been through. After the social worker left, we sat in the living room talking and getting to know one another & she spent a lot of time checking out her new bedroom & toys.

One year before that amazing day was another amazing day – our wedding day. We had a beautiful wedding & we couldn’t wait to start our life together and have a family. However, it didn’t happen the way I would have planned – great things never do really. Each month as time ticked by and I still wasn’t pregnant was tough, but I trusted God and knew he would give me the desires of my heart and allow us to have a family, even though sometimes trusting God is hard – we pressed on and prayed a lot. Then one day my husband and I were talking about a tough situation a family member was facing. She had lost her children and they were in foster care. I was still new to the family, and didn’t know the dynamics and history so I kept quiet – all the while my heart was screaming “why don’t those kids live here?!” Months had gone by and one night it just came out, I said to my husband “I don’t understand why those girls don’t live here.” That was all it took to change the course of our cozy life. He agreed and had been struggling with the same thing but too afraid to say it out loud. We made some phone calls that next week, and things begain to move at lightning speed. Within weeks we had our first precious girl moving into our home and a couple weeks after that – we got her little sister as well! We had always agreed that once we had children I would stay home and be a full time mama – so I resigned from a position I loved at a non-profit to be a full time mama to our beautiful two foster daughters.

Not everyone understood our decision and lots of people probably thought we were crazy. However, lots of people rallied around us. I was truly amazed by the generousity of people – within a week we had a twin bed, a crib, a changing table, toys, books, tons of clothes, car seats – pretty much everything we could have ever needed to make these two girls who had been through so much, feel right at home.

God knows what He’s doing

So here we were raising two beautiful daughters and loving every minute of it. Certainly there were challenges – lots of struggles and days of tears and wondering if we made the right choice. None of those compare though to seeing two children thrive, grow, learn, and be comfortable & feel safe. When we started this journey – we didn’t know how long we would have the girls, but the social worker thought that it would be a long term placement with possible adoption. We were a family – the girls knew and loved our parents as grandma & grandpa, hungout and played with all their cousins and aunts & uncles, and fit right in with our church family & friends. Then one day we found out that they would be going to live with their dad. At first honestly I was mad & then so incredibly sad. I felt like I had been punched right in the stomach. I cried a lot. I prayed – I probably should have prayed more. Because slowly God began to change my heart & I could have never imagined this – but I was glad. I was so happy for the girls. They deserve to have their dad in their life. Girls need good dads. I remember sitting in a Bible study of James and Beth Moore said anguish and joy can coexist. I never knew that to be true until now. I felt anguish over losing our girls and joy that they were getting their dad back.

God knows what He’s doing. He knew what He was doing all along. A couple weeks after the girls came to our home, we found out we were expecting! And now we have a beautiful daughter of our very own. But God used this to open our hearts to the foster system & the needs and we plan to go on this roller coaster again and have dreams of international adoption. The coolest thing is that we’ve been able to build a relationship with the girls dad and we still get to be a part of their lives. They call us aunt and uncle now – we have sleepovers – we take them to church & family events and it is awesome. Only God could have weaved these lives together in such a beautiful way & changed our lives so dramatically and amazingly in just one year. God will give you the desires of your heart – it just might not look like you expect. I wanted to be a mama so badly, yet I could have never dreamed that in one year I would get to be the mom for three beautiful girls.

“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” -James 1:2

If you’re struggling with infertility or some other unfulfilled desire, don’t lose hope & don’t give up. Continually seek God – I know it’s not easy & it’s okay to get mad & be frustrated – God can take it. Just always know that He loves you and He has a plan for you and for your family that you could never even imagine.

I Love to Wait!! | by Britta

My youngest had just turned 4 years old. He wasn’t a baby anymore and I wanted more children. Well that door had been closed…my husband and I closed it ourselves. Actually we slammed it shut and said “NO MORE!!”

I realized I had made a horrible mistake. I begged my husband. Can we adopt? Can we reverse our mistake? The answer was always no. I began to pray for more children.

The answer was always no. I began to pray

I have to admit in the beginning I did not like waiting. I actually hated it. I remember going into my closet and crying out to God…sometimes in pain, sometimes in anger. Not sure if this happened but I see myself shaking my fists at God saying “Why would you give me the desire to mother more

children if you weren’t going to allow it?” It was a painful time. A time where I did not feel close to my husband. A time where I cried everyday. A time…a long, long time of waiting.

Five years of waiting…five what? Years? Really?

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Looking back on that time in my life I can see where the Lord renewed my strength over and over again. I see His faithful hand guiding and shaping me. Even though at times I thought I would faint from the exhaustion of it all Jesus held me up. It’s interesting to me that through every trial in our lives when we are IN the trial we can’t really see much. We are just in it…in it knee deep, waist deep, and sometimes we feel like we are drowning. But looking back I can see God’s sovereign hand upon it all.” 

Hope changed everything for us

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2010 our friends had just welcomed their 8th blessing a brand new bundle of special awesomeness named Hope…I like to say that Hope changed everything for us. You see, she was born with Downs Syndrome and when she was born my husband’s heart was softened to more children. He told me that we could have more. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. The feeling of such deep love from my husband. In January 2011 we decided we would pursue adoption through foster care. I’ll save the story of our first little guy for next time.

Today 8 years later I can say that it was all worth the wait. I am not the person I was 8 years ago. I have a deeper faith, a deeper love, and a deeper longing for my Savior. I’ve had to wait for many things in my life and after this VERY long wait I can honestly say that…

I love to wait!!!

Obedient Decisions | by Lesley

Since adopting our son from the foster care system, I often have people tell me how amazing we are, or how they could never do what we did.  And honestly, before making the decision I thought the same thing when I saw families with adopted children.  Or foster children.  Or lots of children.  Or one child.  Or young children.  Or older children.  Or no children.  You get the picture.  I was always amazed at what other people did do; I still am.

 

Now when people say that to me I view it differently.  I sometimes think, “Are you kidding?  You know ME, right?”  Because here’s the deal … hold your hats … I am not that amazing.  I do a few cool things here and there … sometimes I teach my children new important lessons patiently, sometimes I cook a healthy meal that everyone eats.  But most days, I’m not very amazing.  I lose my patience with my kids, I serve cereal for dinner, and my floors are pretty regularly sticky.  I even cry hard once in a while because I am grieving what I thought my life would look like at 45.  You know, lunching with friends, shopping, volunteering gracefully at church and school events.  My life is NOT that.

But the difference in my life…is that I made a DECISION. 
But the difference in my life before adopting our son and now, is that my husband and I made a DECISION.  God gave us some clear direction (without us asking mind you), He allowed our hearts to hear over and over how great the need is for children to have a FOREVER family.  And we were having a hard time ignoring the need.  I wanted to.  I wanted really bad to continue my life of safety and familiarity.  Not too messy, predictable, NO CHAOS.  The perfectionist in me fought it at ever turn.  But our hearts could not let it go.  And so we made one seemingly small (and fateful) decision to find out more.  Then another decision to attend an informational meeting about fostering to adopt.  Then another decision to receive some training.  And then another decision, and another, and another.  Each one with doubts and fears, but each one affirmed by God once we stepped forward in reluctant faith.

All those small decisions led us to adding a 4th child to our family.  I heard a comedian once say, “having a 4th child is like you are drowning … and someone hands you a baby.”  I agree.  No kidding!  But we now have this brown eyed, smiley, adventurous (help me Jesus), adorable boy.  And oh my, the lessons I’ve learned and am learning.  Lesson #1 – We all have such untapped potential – our own fears and hesitations keep us from experiencing God’s best for us.  What if we said no initially?  No one would have blamed us.  Everyone would have understood.  We had 3 awesome young children, our lives were full.  It would have been fine and happy and blessed.  But I wouldn’t have been stretched beyond my limits (well beyond) to experience dependency on God like never before. Not to mention our youngest son would not be part of our family.  He brings us laughter daily.  Lesson #2 – It’s not easy, but things that bring joy are rarely easy.  I crave easy.  But not as much as I crave joy.  Joy is found in obedience, and in the learnings and blessings that flow from that obedience.  Lesson #3 – perfectionism can keep you from the best for your life.  If you are a perfectionist like me, accept the good gifts that come with that – maybe organization, planning.  But dive into chaos.  Your gut will resist but do it anyway.  Probably the most challenging lesson for me, and I am still working on this daily.  But it is so much more fun and rewarding on the chaos side.

Our fears keep us from experiencing God’s best for us

There are many more lessons to come, and I am so grateful for the small decisions that lead to big changes and growth.

1 John 1:6

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.