Saturday, January 9, 2016


It's 9:30 on a Saturday morning, and Jeramie just left with all three kids for a rainy morning trip to the gym (bless him). This has carved out some much needed alone time for me, for which I am incredibly grateful. I don't really "do" resolutions, but I have told myself that, for each month of 2016, I want to read at least one book and publish at least one post to this space. I figure this morning is my chance to get started on one of those, as the bulk of this has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite some time, and writing doesn't come easy with children breathing down my neck.

So, here goes...

I've been thinking a lot about joy recently -- deep, full, abundant joy -- and the lack thereof. Here we are in the first, fresh days of a new year, and Jeramie and I are now almost nine months in as foster parents. In case you haven't heard me say this once or twice (okay, a hundred times) already, these have been some of the hardest months of my life -- the exhausting, defeating, what-on-earth-were-we-thinking kind of hard.

A couple months ago, Jeramie and I were sitting by the fire pit and I started to cry. Tears come easy these days as I surrender to the enormous responsibility that comes with being the primary caregiver of three young children, but that particular night I was feeling like a total failure as a mom. I lamented over how hard and overwhelming our days had been, and how much of a mess I was trying to shoulder it all. Jeramie gently reminded me that obedience isn't always easy, and that hard things are worth doing, but I was quick to reply that I'm not looking for easy. I just wanted joy.

I recently read through a book with a friend called The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care. It is a fantastic resource for foster parents -- quick and easy to read, but filled with such deep truth and application. So much of the book resonated with me, but over and over again I find myself coming back to this:
"Foster care is a beautiful expression of the Gospel. It demands a selfless, costly and potentially painful love for the sake of a child gaining much, as you willingly give it all. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. He joyfully laid down the infinite value of His own life so that we might know the immeasurable worth of being fully and unconditionally loved by Him."
So powerful, right?!

But. I read that and find myself focused on the word "joyfully". In full obedience to his Father, how did Jesus do that for me with JOY? I know nothing of what it's like to be crucified, and I have a limited imagination to understand the anguish he must have felt leading up to his death. The Bible tells us he sweat out blood, for crying out loud! And he did that with joy? That is so difficult for me to grasp. On any given day, I can rarely get through my morning responsibilities without turning into a harsh, bitter mess. I am so selfish, and so sinful, and so NOT Jesus. I do not live up to my own name 98% of the day!

The challenge I've been faced with over the past nine months (and, really, since right after Ethan was born) is how to live a life full of joy amidst hard, exhausting days -- rather than just looking for momentary bouts of happiness.

I've spent quite a bit of time contemplating the idea of joy that exists outside of our circumstances, and I've come to this conclusion: deep, full, abundant joy is not something I can manufacture on my own. Scripture tells me that fullness of joy exists only in the Lord's presence {Psalm 16:11}, and that it is evidence of his spirit at work within me {Galatians 5:22}. I cannot know true joy without abiding in the Lord and allowing his spirit to work in and through me. Knowing that kind of joy demands that I imitate the one who obediently endured the agony of the cross for the joy that was set before him {Hebrews 12:2}.

When I consider what has been done for me -- how God sent his son from their Heavenly dwelling into this messed up world, only to be despised, rejected, and crucified, so that I can trade my sin for his righteousness -- I gain some perspective. Jesus joyfully sacrificed his own life for me (for you!) because he knew what it would mean for us. Understanding that, how can I not joyfully give up my own selfish desires for the children the Lord has placed in our home, knowing what it will mean for them?

I realize now, that night at the fire pit, that I was looking for joy in all the wrong places. What I really wanted was to feel happy -- to manufacture fleeting moments of enjoyment to carry me from one hard moment to the next -- instead of looking to Jesus for long-lasting, abundant joy. Why would I do that when the best has been made available to me?!

It makes me wonder just how often Jesus looks at us, spinning in our hamster wheels, fighting against all that he's already done and whispers to us, 

"I'm right here. Find your rest, your comfort, your joy, your peace, your worth, your belonging, your satisfaction in me. It's all right here. Just ask."

Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to allow your spirit to work in us, and let the fruit of your spirit be evident in our lives. Thank you for drawing near to us and giving us the amazing, humbling opportunity to experience abundant joy in your presence. Keep our eyes fixed on you, as our hands and feet do the good work you've called us to here on Earth. All glory, honor, and praise is yours, forever and ever.


Sherry said...

Oh, this is so beautifully written. I am with you on the trying to fill my days with fleeting happy memories to get through the tough times and not relying on God's gift of long lasting Joy. How fitting that I saw this post from you right after reading a post on Facebook about foster parenting and sending it to you. You may not feel you are living up to your name, but God is using you to show his gift of joy to others. :-)

Shannon said...

You have no idea how much I needed to read that. Seriously. And do you have any idea how much we need to hang out and chat? For real. <3

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