When We Don’t Have the Words, He Does

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I’m staring at the mountains rising up behind the screen of my laptop. The sky is impossibly blue, and the sun is shining. The breeze is cool on my face. It’s almost cold enough to grab my jacket. Birds are singing. Voices, music, and even some laughter are drifting over from neighboring campsites. This entire scene unfolding around me feels almost normal. Like any other day in any other time.

You could almost pretend there’s no global emergency going on. You could almost imagine it doesn’t feel like that impossibly blue sky might fall on our heads at any moment. You could almost forget the enormity of the grief and pain in the hearts of humanity this whole world over.

Almost.

I’ve agonized for days over what I should write for you. What words of encouragement could I offer to this hurting world? Every time I started, my words seemed to be painfully inadequate when held up against the light of statistics and headlines. Every sentence seemed sorely lacking. So I just stared at the mountains and the blinking cursor on my white screen while I whispered to the Lord.

The truth is, I don’t have the words our hearts need to hear. Contrary to what my Instagram feed might lead you to believe, I know I never have had the right words. But that’s not how I want the world to see me. I want to be seen as calm in the midst of chaos, stoic and courageous in the face of uncertainty and fear.

During quarantine, I’ve taken up cross-stitching. I worked for hours on a three-inch kit designed for kids. As a complete beginner, I painstakingly followed the pattern. When my colorful little llama was finished, I proudly held it up for my family to admire. My four-year-old was extremely impressed—until she turned it over and saw the back…

I’d love for you to click through to continue reading this post at The Glorious Table. Just click this link and join the conversation: https://theglorioustable.com/2020/06/when-we-dont-have-words-he-does/

Take Heart, Daughter

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Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

Social media has been a hard place lately. Between the news stories and political happenings and the responses of friends and family sharing their own stories and then the responses to the responses of friends and family, there is one thing that has been made so overwhelmingly clear.

It’s something that can’t be debated or doubted or downplayed and it’s this–there is so much hurt out there.

With each new secret shared, my heart is continually being brought to its knees.

But as a society, pain makes us uncomfortable so our first reaction is to discount it or rationalize it away. We tell ourselves there are ulterior motives or political manipulations.

I just want to stand on the roof of my house and shout.

STOP. EVERYONE JUST STOP FOR A HOT MINUTE.

Your neighbor. Your babysitter. Your mother. Your mail carrier. People are hurting.

And they are vulnerably and courageously bringing their broken pieces out into public view. With trembling hands, they are offering up their stories and holding their pain up to the light.

Just stop for a second and consider what you’ve been hearing from the people you pass on the street, in the grocery store aisle, in the halls at work.

So many people have been going about their lives, never letting on that they were carrying these heavy, heavy burdens.

But Jesus sees those broken places inside us and wants to heal more than just our bodies. He wants to heal our souls.

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22 NIV)”

This woman had suffered from a bleeding condition for twelve long years. Her physical pain must have been great. Her body must have been struggling with all sorts of issues resulting from continuous blood loss. This is what I’ve always tended to focus on when I read her story—the obvious need for physical healing.

It’s hard for me to imagine the modern-day equivalent of the crushing loneliness this woman must have lived with for the last dozen years. In a time when bleeding women were considered unclean and sequestered in isolation, the last twelve years of her life must have been a nightmare.

But Jesus knew. He not only addressed her physical healing, but with a single word, he addressed her emotional healing, as well.

Daughter.

With that single word, he banished loneliness and isolation and brought her into community. In the presence of so many witnesses, he deemed her wanted and welcomed. As far as I can tell from my limited knowledge and research, she is the only person Jesus referred to as “daughter,” and she just might have been the one whose heart needed to hear it most.

We all have our scars and broken places deep within us. Lately, more and more of those hidden wounds are being brought out into the light. It’s been overwhelmingly heartbreaking to see just how many have been carrying such heavy burdens of pain, often silently.

Take heart, daughter.

He sees the invisible and hears the silent. He heals the hidden hurts.

Do You Know the Power of Your Words?

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face. As soon as the words rushed out of my mouth, I regretted saying them, but they tumbled out faster than I could pull them back. Once they were out there, the damage was done.

We were eleven years old that summer at church camp, and for the first time in my life, the “cool” girls were paying attention to me. Wanting to make myself more acceptable to them, I tried to distance myself from my closest friend. And when the line was drawn in the sand, I outright denied our friendship right to her face.

Even though we eventually reconciled, and she graciously forgave me, the shame of that moment still burns whenever it comes to mind. More than twenty-five years later, I still feel awful for the words I said.

I’m constantly in awe of the power of words. They can bring life and love and joy and peace. They can also bring utter destruction in a matter of seconds. “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt”? I beg to differ.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

If I asked you to remember a time in your life when you said something you regret, I bet it wouldn’t be too difficult to think of several times. I’m also willing to wager you’ve had at least a handful of hurtful things said to you over the years…

I’d love for you to click through to The Glorious Table to read the remainder of this post. Join us in a conversation about the power of words and how we can speak life into one another.

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Facing Down Your Gorillas

One of the benefits of homeschooling my kids is that once I’ve recognized my sanity is at the breaking point, I can spontaneously declare a field trip day. On one such day, when nothing seemed to be going well, we ended up at the zoo for the afternoon. It seemed all the baby animals were also over it and the mamas were reaching their own breaking points.

When we came to the gorilla enclosure, we were treated to a show. Two juveniles were having the time of their lives. They wrestled, threw dirt at each other, and chased each other in circles around their mama. My kids loved this big game of mischief and could not be happier watching those two get into trouble.

After a few warnings, mama gorilla had finally had enough of their antics. (Solidarity, mama.) The big silverback jumped up from where she had been trying to get some peace and quiet and lunged after her rowdy kids. Everyone thought it was hilarious—except my two-year-old.

All Abby could see was this angry gorilla charging full speed right toward us. Terrified, she pointed and screamed, “IS COMIN’!” She called out for her daddy and instinctively reached for his hands, practically climbing up his legs, trying to get to the security of his arms.

To find out what happened next and read how we all have to face down our own gorillas sometimes, click through to The Glorious Table here:
http://theglorioustable.com/2017/05/facing-down-your-gorillas/.

 

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What About Saturday?

Nothing helps you realize just how much you don’t know like a child’s questions. The approximately 1,200 daily queries from my ten-and-under set certainly keep me on my toes. If your role in life has brought you anywhere near young children, I’m sure you know what I mean.

My kids tend to ask their most philosophical questions after we’ve said our bedtime prayers and I’m on my way out of the room.

“Mom? What if you wake up tomorrow and realize you’ve been asleep for seventy-five years and your whole life has been a dream?”

“Hey, Mom? Do you think there’s Chick-Fil-A in heaven?”

“Mom! If I tell God a joke, do you think he’ll laugh?”

One night we were talking about the upcoming Easter weekend. I explained Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper and Jesus was arrested. We talked about Good Friday and all the events of that sad day when Jesus died on the cross. Then we wrapped up with the celebration of Resurrection Sunday when Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave.

“But, Mom? You talked about Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. What about Saturday? What happened that day?”

To continue reading about the truth that question brought to mind, please join the conversation at The Glorious Table. Click here: http://theglorioustable.com/2017/04/what-about-saturday/.

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What My GPS Taught Me About Trust

pexels-photo-134643I recently celebrated a major victory. It felt monumental. I almost expected the world to pause on its axis to acknowledge my accomplishment.

I made my way home without using my GPS.

I know this may not seem like a big deal to most people, but having lived in the Atlanta area for only a year, the GPS on my phone is always on. Without it I would likely end up crossing the state line on my way to the grocery store.

When we first moved, every outing sent me into planning mode. A simple trip to the park found me researching my route, pulling it up on my phone, and familiarizing myself with all the street names. I like a plan. I feel more comfortable when I know what turns are ahead.

After getting stuck in a few of Atlanta’s infamous traffic jams, I tried a new GPS app. It offered real-time traffic updates and promised to keep me on the best route. It was perfect. The first time I used it, I pulled up my destination, studied the route, and got comfortable with the directions. I had my plan and away I went…

To see what happened when the GPS lady went off the rails and what life lesson she taught me, click through to read the rest of the story at The Glorious Table. http://theglorioustable.com/2017/02/gps-taught-trust/

Ho Ho No – 5 Reasons We Don’t Do Santa

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** You can now click here to read a version of this post on The Huffington Post! There are so many ways to do Christmas and I love that no two families celebrate in exactly the same way. Whether you skip Santa completely or you go all North Pole in your home, I’d love for you to click through, like, or share this post to spread some Christmas cheer. **

The tree is trimmed. The stockings are hung. The gifts are ready. And by that, I mean the gifts are ready for me to find them at the store, buy them, hide them, wrap them, and put them under the tree at approximately 1:37 a.m. on December 25th. It’s okay. I’m good at other things.

The only thing that’s missing is a jolly old bearded guy in a red suit. And his reindeer. Oh, and that creepy elf dude.

Yes. We are one of THOSE families. We don’t do Santa at our house. I know, I know. It’s okay to go ahead and roll your eyes. We get that a lot.

It’s not like we’re marching indignantly on the North Pole, picket signs in hand, but it does come up a bit during this time of year. The reaction is generally one of disappointed surprise mixed with polite disapproval. “Oh, is that so? I didn’t realize. Well. I guess the children will find other ways to have a childhood.”

In an effort to reclaim some of our parenting points in the eyes of society (not that I was already in the running for Mother of the Year), here are some of our reasons for sacking Santa.

Santa’s unlimited resources don’t match our very limited budget.
As much as I love the idea of writing a letter listing all my dream requests to someone with the hopes of them being granted (wait–Ellen, are you Santa?), this would only set my kids up for disappointment. Because while the elves might have some back channel connections, Mama isn’t paying $250 or arm wrestling a trucker for a Hatchimal. Sorry, baby girl. Mama still loves you.

We don’t want to share credit with a cartoon.
Okay, so this one is admittedly a little selfish. But over the last decade of Christmases, we’ve worked really hard to scrape together enough money to be able to put a couple of modest gifts under the tree for the kids. It’s not much but ohmygoodness when they open those gifts and we see those huge smiles? I didn’t really want to hear, “Thank you, Santa!” I wanted some hugs.

For all my kids, but especially my literal-thinking aspie, it’s kind of creepy.
If I told my kid that there was a man out there who sees him when he’s sleeping and knows when he’s awake and knows when he’s been bad or good with the thinly veiled threat of “be good for goodness’ sake,” he wouldn’t sleep for a month. It does make Santa sound less like a jolly philanthropist and more like an unsub profiled on Criminal Minds.

It only takes one child in need to make you question the whole system.
Once upon a time in a world far away, I was a 2nd grade teacher. I will never forget the day an eight-year-old broke my heart wide open. I was on playground duty just after winter break when I spotted a student playing alone and decided to keep him company. We started chatting about his holiday and I asked him if he had a good Christmas. He looked up at me with confused eyes and said, “Santa didn’t come this year, Mrs. Pooser. I don’t know why. I tried so hard all year to be real, real good. But he didn’t come anyway.” That moment took my breath away. I just couldn’t bring myself to pass along a tradition that has the potential to make a child feel like his behavior is somehow responsible for his family not having any gifts under the tree.

Our holiday is less cluttered.
When we shifted our attention away from the material side of Christmas, we were able to focus more clearly on what we’re truly celebrating. The long-awaited Messiah, with Calvary already in mind, born to a desperate and dark world, bringing with him the light of hope, joy, peace, and love. And with the love of Jesus in our hearts, we do talk about St. Nicholas and how his spirit of kindness and generosity can live on in our Christmas traditions. We try to think of ways to spread joy to our neighbors and our community. Whether we’re able to sponsor a whole family from the Angel Tree or if we can just swing a few dollars to leave a Starbucks gift card on a stranger’s porch, there are lots of ways we can spread Christmas cheer. We’ve learned to step outside ourselves and think of others.

So even though we don’t do Santa Claus with our kids, there is still plenty of room for St. Nick in our Christmas.

When God Writes Your Story

light-forest-trees-morning.jpgThe bickering from the backseat couldn’t dampen my good mood. We were setting off on our one and only family vacation for the year, taking our six- and three-year-old kids on a weeklong camping trip. It wasn’t quite the Disney cruise I’d dreamed of, but we had a good tent, a great campground, and my stubborn determination to make it an Instagram-worthy vacation.

Adventure awaited!

And waited. After eight long hours of driving through Georgia, we finally made it to the cool mountain air. Except the air wasn’t cool at all. It was 109 degrees. The record-breaking heat wave that drove me to walk my young children into the beer cooler at the gas station was relentless.

No matter! There was a beautiful mountain stream to splash in and a shady barnyard to explore. The kids had a blast, and I got some great Facebook documentation of our potential as future farmers. We held bunnies, chased chickens, petted horses and goats, and even milked a cow! Our first day at camp was exactly as I’d envisioned. It was definitely hot, but we were pushing through. I planned to end the day with the perfect night: showers, s’mores, and “Kumbaya” around the campfire.

We could smell the bathhouse before we even got close. An apologetic sign informed us a water main had broken and there would be no running water for two days while it was being fixed.

Two days of no flushing and no showers for people living outside in a massive heat wave. Throw in some barnyard animals for flavor, and it was a recipe for a smelly disaster…

Seems like a slapstick comedy? Find out what happened next! (Spoiler: a bear is involved.) God used this trip to teach me some valuable lessons and give our family some lifelong memories that we will cherish forever. Click through to The Glorious Table to read the rest of the story:
http://theglorioustable.com/2016/08/when-god-writes-your-story/

Can We, the Church, Please Get It Together?

I have no words for the news this morning.

I feel like the world is quickly running out of words for days like this when dawn breaks yet again on a new depth of sorrow.

Our souls are weary. Our hearts are heavy.

How do we explain this to our children?

How do we look into their sweet faces and explain that someone had such incomprehensible hatred for their fellow human beings?

I just don’t know, y’all.

I’m a peacemaker. That’s probably code for people-pleaser. I can’t stand the idea of someone being mad at me and I feel sick when I have hurt feelings or offended someone.

Because of that, I have remained publicly silent on a number of issues in the past. Under the assumption that someone else will always say it more eloquently, I’ve let others speak out. And while I nod along and silently wave my pompoms from the sidelines, I’m content to let them take the heat for it. I’ve kept my head down.

I’m done with all that.

So, Church?

Listen up, please.

We need to get it together.

When we come together now and offer prayers for the victims of this shooting, but have been unwilling to acknowledge our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community except to shame and ridicule, we are not taken seriously.

Can you blame them?

How can we be so strong in our pro-life conversations and then tell a grieving community “they reap what they sow,” belittling every ounce of humanity they have?

Could times like these point out our hypocrisy?

Our brothers and sisters are hurting. And have been hurting for quite some time. Sadly, we who are to be loving our neighbors as ourselves, are responsible for some of the pain.

We’d rather point fingers, shout about bathrooms, or carry picket signs.

Look, we can disagree on every issue under the sun. But we are called–commanded–to love.  Tweet: Look, we can disagree on every issue under the sun. But we are called--commanded--to love. http://bit.ly/1tkWfIb via @ashleydpooser

We’re talking LOVE love.commanded to love 2

Radical love.

Without limits.

Extreme love.

Without qualifiers.

Jesus love.

 

We, as the church, need to pause and reflect.

Are we showing Christ to a hurting world with our chronic indignation? With our outrage about bathrooms and holiday coffee cups?

We have much work to do.

Because love wins in the end. We already know that. So let’s get it together. Let’s enjoy being on the winning team.

Please. Let’s be extra kind today. And show love.

Love neighbors. Love strangers. Love the guy who cut you off in traffic.

Just. Love. Period.

To all my LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors: I love you. I see your pain. My heart hurts with you. I stand with you. I love you all.

And the idea that that statement could be deemed as controversial is heartbreaking.

 

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31, NIV

 

Connecting with God When All You Have Is a Moment

dawn-nature-sunset-womanOnce upon a time, I was an adventurer. I was fearless. I lived each day to the fullest. Carpe diem and all that. I climbed mountains and flew across oceans. My passion to share Jesus was a fire burning, and I wanted to spread it across the world. I prayed aloud all the time, whether in the arms of my dearest friends or with complete strangers at the next gas pump.

As time passed, though, that fire died down until it seemed only embers remained. I think I got lost in the haze of day-to-day life. Over the last decade, my adventures have consisted mostly of navigating Walmart with three kids without causing a major public incident. The only mountains I’ve climbed have been the lofty peaks of laundry I step on to get to the dryer.

When I became a mother, I think I hit a pause button on being me. I think this self-imposed hiatus is something to which all caregivers can relate. It’s in our nature to give and give and give to our families. That’s part of what makes being a wife and mom so fiercely beautiful. This system we’ve set up seems to work–until the time inevitably comes when we have nothing left of ourselves to give.

That’s where I was just a short time ago. Drained. Short-tempered. Exhausted. Spiritually parched. Easily frustrated. One day, I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed aloud. There were the bedtime prayers and meal blessings with the kids, but other than that, it just didn’t happen anymore. I’m not sure why. With church and small group and Bible study and MOPS meetings, there were plenty of opportunities. I would just sit there, though, with the weight of the pause pressing on my shoulders and the heat of the moment burning my cheeks. It’s not like I thought my friends or church family would jump to their feet, laughing and pointing at me. Why was I so self-conscious? I realized it was because I was out of practice.

I was disconnected. In my frantic need to take care of everyone else, I wasn’t making time to connect with God, and that disconnect was spilling over into all the other parts of my life. My identity is found in him. Unless I am spending time with the One who created me, I am bound to lose myself…

This post was challenging for me because it felt very vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary but authenticity is so worth it if even just one person is encouraged or says, “Me, too!”

To read more of this post, please visit The Glorious Table:
http://theglorioustable.com/2016/06/connecting-with-god-when-all-you-have-is-a-moment/.