Celebrating Joy Amid Loss

My husband and I became foster parents in 2014. Since then, we have had ever-changing family photos. I will forever have holes in my heart because of the absence of the kids we have fostered for a week, a month, or longer, who have called me “Mom.”

The apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship and loss. Yet he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). And, “Rejoice always,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

During our years of fostering we have struggled as we’ve walked through our foster kids’ difficult behaviors and prayed for their emotional healing. Our “good-bye” moments have been filled with tears with little ones we have loved. Yet God’s Word is clear to believers—joy is to be a consistent part of our story.

What can we do to celebrate joy when we’re on a path that brings inevitable loss?

Remember Jesus’ Story

Jesus’ earthly life began with joy yet ended in sorrow—or so it would seem. The gospels tell us that although His life on earth ended with great pain and suffering, His Resurrection proves there is more to the story than meets the eye: Sorrow is often a conduit for joy, death can bring forth life, and loss is only for a little while.

Jesus told His disciples they would weep and mourn while the world rejoiced, but their grief would turn to joy that no one could take away (see John 16:20).

The author of Hebrews encourages us to focus on this lesson as we keep our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus, who “ … For the joy set before him he endured the cross … Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2–3).

Keeping our eternal perspective in focus can help us know the joy of serving God—even when the journey is difficult or painful.

Surrender Our Mistakes

We recently said goodbye to a foster daughter who had lived with us for seven months. While I knew I had loved her well, I also wished I had done better. The morning after she left, I sat before the Lord and offered Him my regrets and mistakes, praying, “God, I offer these pieces to you and ask that you would take my broken efforts and put them back together into something good.” In response to my prayer, this verse filled my thoughts:

“[He will] … bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3a).

Our lives will never be perfect this side of heaven. Yet carrying around guilt because of the mistakes we’ve made will push away the joy God wants to give us. His comfort that day reminded me that I need not despair: He would take my efforts—an offering of ashes—and turn them into something beautiful.

Create Memories

My memories from fostering the kids who have since left our home are filled with games of hide-and-seek, playing “make believe,” sharing funny words and phrases, and teaching them how to catch a ball or ride a bike. Although we no longer have their physical presence with us, they will always be in our hearts. Living fully in each moment and remaining aware that we can make a joyful memory any minute is a key to letting joy be a consistent part of our lives.

At a playground recently, one of my foster children and I played tag. We laughed together when she realized I was harder to catch than she expected. Pausing to catch her breath, she said with a smile, “It’s fun to play tag with an adult.”

She was right. Life can be fun—even for us adults—if we celebrate the smiles in the small moments and hold onto the joyful memories.

A Costly Mission

On April 18th, 1942, sixteen B25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier on a mission later considered as one of the most daring of WW II.   The mission was called “The Doolittle Bombing.”

Americans were recuperating from the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese who kept on boasting that they were invincible and impenetrable. Americans demanded retaliation.  It was then that President Roosevelt approved an idea presented by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.  The mission was simple: sixteen modified B25 bombers would take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet which was stationed on the westernmost part of the Pacific Ocean and attack Japan.

There was a problem, however:  though that aircraft carrier was long enough for the planes to lift off it was not long enough for them to land.  This would be a one-way mission!

They attacked Japan. One of the aircraft ran out of gas and crashed in Russia.  Strong winds allowed the other fifteen to crash in a territory in China occupied by the Japanese.  Sixty-nine of the eighty airmen were able to return home

What was it the Lieutenant told his pilots? What type of airmen was he looking for? No matter how he delivered the mission to them, he may have said something like this: “I have a challenging mission for you.  Its success may well cost you your life.  Anyone interested?”

I’m pretty sure that mission was handed to the very best of those airmen.  They were probably passionate men, willing to give their lives for their country. It was their turn to put into practice what they had been trained to do, no matter the cost.  They believed that protecting their country came before anything else.

For those of us who follow Jesus, there is also a high cost. In His Word, He tells us that following and serving Him will not be easy. He desires passionate hearts willing to give all for Him, just as those brave airmen had done.

This makes me think of the early missionaries who were called to serve in Africa.  They packed their belongings in their own coffins because they understood that they would not be returning home.  They gave their all so that the message of love could be preached to those in need of it.  One of them was buried in the village he had served for thirty-five years.  The villagers wrote on his tombstone, “When he came there was no light.  When he left there was no darkness.”

How willing are we to step out of our comfort zone to take on the mission of sharing the good news of salvation, knowing that it could cost us relationships and even our lives? Matthew 10:38-39 reads, Whoever does not take up his (her) cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his (her) life will lose it, and whoever loses his (her) life for my sake will find it.  Jesus was the perfect example for us all:  there is no mission more valuable than to give one’s life for the sake of the Kingdom.

In the busyness of our lives, may we not lose sight of our mission!

She Could Not Go Unnoticed

Women Impacted by Jesus – part 9

Have you ever tried to accomplish something without drawing attention to yourself? Perhaps you’ve arrived late at a meeting and tried to slip in quietly using the back door only to discover that you’ve entered through the front door and everyone is looking at you! In Luke 8:43-48, we read of a woman who had a similar experience. Seeking healing, this woman comes up behind Jesus and touches the edge of His robe. She doesn’t seek an audience with Jesus. She simply wants to receive healing without interrupting His journey.“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.”(Luke 8:47)


Sit for a moment and imagine this woman’s trembling testimony. Why is she trembling? She has been discovered. She has taken something from Jesus without asking. Now in the spotlight, she tells why she touched Jesus and reports that she has been instantly healed. Having confessed, she awaits His response.


“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)


Listen to the tone of Jesus’ statement. Accepting. Affirming. Lifegiving. Gentle. There is no condemnation. May you hear the voice of Jesus speaking into your life in like manner.


Consider the content of His statement:


Daughter. This is an invitation to relationship. This is a declaration of belonging. Jesus gives this woman the assurance that she is accepted, she is adopted, and she has Someone who will lovingly see to her needs. Jesus does not want us to receive from Him without relationship. We don’t need to sneak around and “steal” from His supply of resources. We are daughters loved perfectly by our heavenly Father. Approach Him. Ask and receive.


Your faith has healed you. This is both a commendation and a confirmation. Jesus recognizes the faith that motivated this woman’s actions and confirms that she is indeed healed. Healed physically. Healed relationally. Healed emotionally. Jesus’ healing is a complete healing.


Go in peace. This woman is commissioned to move forward in the knowledge that she is loved, accepted, adopted, healed. What caused her fear, being discovered, became the source of her new-found peace. Her life was transformed by an encounter with Christ.


Take some time during this season of Lent to contemplate Jesus’ willingness to give you healing, His desire for relationship with you, and His commission to “go in peace.” Approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, coming through the front door, not sneaking in through the back. There you will receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Wide Open Spaces

It’s November already! The holidays are upon us. It’s a joyous time of the year with traditions and people and gifts and food, but often each of those characteristics of the season become a task and we feel the season closing in on us. It can make us claustrophobic if we let it.

I became claustrophobic as a child. One day, as I was playing with my brothers and cousins, I climbed into an old dryer out in their yard, that we had been using as a kind of carnival ride. The top of the machine was gone, so a person would get in, they would shut the door, and push the drum from the top. Inside, you would brace yourself against tumbling around so you could not get hurt, but rather, spin head over heals. Great fun! On this day, they decided it would be fun to give me a good spin and then not let me out. The door couldn’t be opened from inside. Panic ensued.

Another time, I was at a friends’ house. Several boys and my brothers were there. There was a stack of old tires we were climbing on. At one point, I found myself inside the stack, and two or three of the boys thought it would be funny to sit on the top, trapping me inside. It was a good time…for them, but for me, panic.

In Psalm 18 David tells us, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” This verse always blesses me. I find myself wanting to stretch my arms out to my sides and spin in circles. I picture Him pulling me out of that stack of tires, putting me in an open field and letting me spin with nothing to bump in to. I feel the panic of claustrophobia turn to euphoria. No longer trapped, I feel free.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I’ve been delivered from the excessive fear of claustrophobia, but on a spiritual level it can still haunt me! In this verse, Paul is talking about the bondage of the law. The need to do something to earn God’s love will trap us, chain us, restrain us to the point that we can hardly breathe. Ever feel that way? Subtly, it creeps in and slowly begins to tighten its grip. We are walking our walk with Christ when we forget that He completely fulfilled the law for us and think we have to make up for some sin we’ve committed or prove our love to Him. We start to focus on “doing” rather than “being”, and the grip of the law is tightened. We feel the pressure and try to struggle against it by doing more, adding to, trying harder. When all the while, we can simply trust that His work was finished on the cross for us and walk with him again.

I don’t know why, but when life gets crazier, busier, more hurried, that’s when I tend to forget His provision of freedom. I feel like I have to buckle down and take charge. During the holidays, I really have to be mindful of this tendency and just continue to walk. Ephesians 2:8 & 9 says that it’s, “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.“ He’s in charge and has provided all of my salvation. If I try to do and do in order to please Him or look like I have it all together, I’m trying to earn the right to boast. My responsibility is to stay close to him and obey. When I sense that I “have to”, I can switch to “Jesus did”, and go about my day with him. It doesn’t take away any of the things on the “to do” list, but it takes the pressure off of me to not mess up, or to be in control.

Another scripture I love is Matthew 11:29 & 30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”. When the need to please God begins to squeeze, I need to rest, not struggle. I never think of panic as restful. It takes so much energy!  I try to let that panicky feeling remind me to let him open the door to the drier, nudge those boys off the tires, and put me into a wide open space, because he delights in me. This holiday season, put the heavy, claustrophobic weight of the demands of the season on Christ and take on His burden, and you will find rest for your soul.