A Labor of Love

September has arrived and we are glad about it here on our little homestead at Pumpkin Swamp Cove. Our new school year starts tomorrow and we are weighing in with one fifth grader, one sixth grader and three ninth graders. The two oldest are college bound (to begin in January) and this is going to be a FULL schedule for this #momofmany. There are also several important church activities we will be participating in and this weekend we celebrate the 11th birthday of our next to the youngest son. September has always been full of new beginnings and adventures. I’d like to share one with you.

Eleven years ago we were in the process of adopting our second and third sons and had made it clear with DHR that we were done fostering. The plan was to finish these adoptions, after all who wouldn’t be ecstatically happy with three sons, and turn in our fostering license. We had fostered for eight years and had fostered over forty children. It was time to focus on our three sons or so we thought. I even announced to my husband we should sell all the baby stuff that was in the storage room. I decided that we should put together the baby bed and make sure all the parts were there and all was in order before trying to sell it. And, so we did.

The next part of this story may make a few of you guffaw and hesitate to believe me, but, regardless, I assure you it is an accurate account. I went to bed that night, eleven years ago, with an empty baby bed in my dining room ready to be sold. As I slept, I had a dream and it was so vivid that when I awoke I was breathless and looked hard at that baby bed in disbelief. When my husband walked into the room, prepared to leave for work, he noted my alarmed state and asked what was the matter. You can imagine his surprise when I declared, “We are going to have another baby.” I recounted the dream to his stunned ears and told him how I had seen a baby boy in that empty baby bed as I dreamed. It wasn’t just a regular dream, I knew it. He wasn’t skeptical, after all we had been married twenty years and he had seen such things happen before.

The next day I got the call that I knew was coming. “Mrs. Rodda, we know you said you were done and we respect that decision but, we wondered if you might could help us for just six-weeks?” They went on to explain that the baby hadn’t even been born yet and they only needed a temporary place until the birth-mom could sort some things out. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t call Henry, I didn’t pray about it. I said yes, because I had already been given advance notice in my dreams. After all, I could do this, I had taken many babies home from the hospital and loved them as I ministered to them in the Name of Jesus.

I should point out that I say I did so in the Name of Jesus for specific reasons. First of all, I beleived that God had called us to foster. Second of all, I couldn’t have done it on my own strength. The young woman who had struggled with infertility and longed for a pregnancy and the joy of a child, could have never taken child after child and loved them knowing they would only stay a while. It would have been an impossible feat for me. I know, that it was the courage and strength of the Lord that enabled me. I know that it was His perfect love that poured through me into the lives of hurting children. It had to be His love because I would have never been able to bear it otherwise.

The social worker went on to say that the baby wasn’t due for two weeks and she’d contact me with more details. When she called the very next day it was to say the baby was being born early and barring complications should be at our house in two days. Good thing I already had the baby bed assembled. Can you imagine preparing for a baby in two days? Well, I went into hyper-drive and we got the basics ready. I busied myself and pushed away the urge to slip into the hospital and take a peek as this wee one that would surely be our last baby and my last opportunity to love without the promise of return. It would be a labor of love.

When he arrived, we were all instantly smitten, naturally. I cautioned the boys so they would be prepared that this little wrinkly baby boy was only to be with us a few weeks. I showed them the calendar and we discussed the situation openly. Because of an unusual situation with the new baby’s name we called him J.J. and rearranged our lives to accomodate our unexpected albeit not permanent addition to the family.

As is often the case with such situations, there were some complications and J.J. needed a few more weeks at our home. We didn’t mind, we were enjoying him immensely and took great joy even in the broken sleep and dirty diapers because we knew he’d soon be gone from our lives. Extra weeks led to extra months and eventually caution had been thrown to the wind. I loved him as my own, he was my own and yet, the case plan was the same. He would return to his birth family as soon as they were ready. I actually became involved with the family, the birth mother and the other children. I found myself with them in my home, babysitting, buying medications, providing transportation and trying to assist in their efforts to have J.J. join them one day.

It would have been so much easier to stay distant and mind my own business but, then that same perfect love of Christ just continued to flow. Don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t completely human and tempted to resent and judge her life and actions and choices. Oh, yes I was. What kind of person would assist the only person that stood between her and her baby? Some days I felt pretty stupid. Some people all but told me I was. I was torn, torn between compassion for a mother who was falling apart and the mother in me that just wanted her to go away so I didn’t have to think about the day I would have to say goodbye to the child I now loved deeply. It was a labor of love.

The rest of the story would fill an entire book or at least a long chapter of one. I will get straight to the point. For four and a half years we fostered J.J. and attempted to put our faith in action with the young woman who continued to sabotage herself with destructive choices. What we thought was to be six weeks became years of hard work, heartache, struggle and a trial of our faith. I survived by prayer and by reading the book of James daily as I reminded myself that I was to consider it an opportunity for great joy, that I was to let my faith and endurance grow. It was hard. It was a labor of love. After four and a half years we stood before a judge and declared J.J.’s new official name to include James as his middle name. He became ours forever. We entered into a rest that can only come after you have spent it all, poured it all out. It was the kind of rest that comes after a labor of love.

“So there is a special rest still waiting of the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.” Hebrews 4:9-10 NLT

Here is what I want you to consider, whatever you may be laboring at today. You are not alone. You have a resource available to you through Jesus that can make you stronger and braver than you can imagine. The hard labor is for a season and just as with a woman who travails to birth a child, our labor of love will produce something beautiful. Then, you can rest and that rest will be special.


4 thoughts on “A Labor of Love

  1. What a beautiful story. And what a beautiful 11yo. Happiest birthday to your special guy.

    1. Thank you! We will party all week long.

  2. Stephanie, this is absolutely beautiful. I loved reading it; I’ve always wondered how foster parents can bear to foster kids who can be (and often are) taken from them. Now it’s like, “Duh–it’s the love of Jesus through them!” I’m so glad Jonathan became yours after your labor of love.

    1. Thank you Alison! We have had a fine birthday celebration with him this weekend. We are abundantly blessed with such a great measure of love.

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