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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A Person’s a Person

Let me begin by saying this post won’t be very long. Because I just don’t have words for all I’m feeling right now. It will probably be disjointed at best. Jibberish and jumping off the rails is more likely.

I am discouraged by what’s been going on in our country.

Lots of wellmeaning people that I love and respect feel differently than I do. On many issues. And in many ways, both right and left. And that can often make me feel politically homeless.

I often feel like I’m supposed to wrap my heart around my politics. Or wrap my politics around my heart. And I’m living in the tension of being unable to do that.

I don’t know what the correct answers are. I’m not even sure what the correct questions are.

Whenever I’m overwhelmed by what I don’t know, I have to go back to the basics of what I do know.

All throughout Scripture, we can find simple instructions for what we are to do as followers of Christ. We’ve been studying the book of James in our Bible Study. We’ve gotten through the first four chapters so far and just in those alone, we find all kinds of instructions.

  • We are to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27).
  • We must not show favoritism (James 2:1).
  • We are told mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
  • We are told faith without action is worse than useless, it’s dead (James 2:17).
  • We are told the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).
  • We are reminded that he gives us grace upon grace and that while God opposes the proud, he shows favor to the humble (James 4:6).

Are our actions/rants/memes/tweets/posts in line with our Biblical instructions?

I usually fall short of reconciling what my political beliefs “should be” and what I truly feel in my heart. I wrestle with the practicality of living out our Scriptural calls in the day to day. In the middle of the wrestling, I’m reminded Jesus didn’t exactly fit the politics of the day either. It isn’t practical. Maybe it was always intended to be impractical and radical and nonsensical, this love and grace for our fellow human beings.

I’ve been heartsick these past few days. I felt like the timing of executive orders concerning refugees and immigrants coming on the heels of the March for Life was especially poignant.

As I watched coverage of the marchers standing up for the unborn, I saw many signs with a popular slogan: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

I absolutely agree with this. I have spent many nights as a volunteer counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. I have wept with mothers who feel hopeless. I have shared their sighs of relief when they hear the ways we’re able to come alongside them. They come in feeling like they have no choices, no allies, no hope.

In our training, we were taught a reminder–Save the mother, save the child (meaning that in order to save the baby, you must first save the mother). That has stuck with me for the last decade whenever I think of how I want to make a difference in this world.

It has influenced me in my serving at the pregnancy center, in my leadership roles with MOPS, in my writing, even just in line at Target.

Whatever you do for the mother, you end up doing for the child with a cascade effect. Love the mother, love the child. Help the mother, help the child. Feed the mother, feed the child. Clothe the mother, clothe the child. It goes on and on and applies to everything, this trickle down love effect.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

A person’s a person, no matter how small. Yes. Absolutely and amen. But you know what else? A person’s a person. Period. Full stop. And we are each created in his image. Fearfully and wonderfully made. With a purpose and a plan. A story designed by God himself.

What is our role in this whole big mess that this world is in? Love your neighbor as yourself.

Because a person’s a person, no matter what.

No matter if she’s in jail. No matter if he’s on welfare. No matter if she’s Muslim. No matter if he’s an immigrant. No matter if she’s disabled. No matter if he’s 103 years old. No matter if she speaks every language but English. No matter if he’s an addict. No matter if she’s a single mom. No matter if he looks suspicious. No matter if she cuts you off in traffic.

A person’s a person, no matter what. Love your neighbor as yourself.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:37-40 NIV

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The image in this post can be shared by going to my facebook page at http://facebook.com/ashleydpooser or my instagram at http://instagram.com/ashleydpooser or my twitter at http://twitter.com/ashleydpooser.

The text in the image is as follows:
“A person’s a person, no matter how small? Yes. And also this…
A person’s a person, no matter how small.
No matter how short, no matter how tall.
No matter how dark, no matter how light.
No matter the day, no matter the night.
No matter the land, no matter the tongue.
No matter how old, no matter how young.
No matter the act, no matter the deed.
No matter the god, no matter the creed.
No matter the smarts, no matter the grade.
No matter the cash, no matter the trade.
A person’s a person, created to be
a unique addition to humanity.
In His own image, He created us all.
No matter how big and no matter how small.”

The Joy of the Lord


The joy of the LordWe were getting ready for a dinner party but ended up in the emergency room. I was six weeks pregnant and an ultrasound confirmed my fears. There was no heartbeat.

This was the first loop of the roller coaster.

Two days later, I followed up with my doctor. There was another silent and still ultrasound. There were tears. There were a lot of labs drawn. There was a brief glimmer of hope in the doctor wanting to wait before making a final treatment plan.

More loops in the roller coaster.

And this is where we were on the day my husband and I were to head out of town on a very rare getaway to see Rend Collective in concert.

I packed my overnight bag in a daze. We had been so looking forward to this trip. They are one of our very favorite bands and we’d already bought the tickets. Even though we were emotionally exhausted, we decided to make the best of it.

The entire four hour drive was spent waiting on pins and needles for the nurse to call with my lab results. I called her twice with no success.

Finally, as we were pulling into the parking lot, the phone rang. The labs were inconclusive.

I walked into the concert not knowing if my baby was alive.

Hindsight is a precious gift. At the time, I could not wrap my mind or heart around what was happening and the timing of it all.

But now I know the lesson God wanted to teach me that night. And His timing provided the best way to learn.

The concert was not a show. Not at all. It was a night of worship. And, if I’m honest, I was not in the best emotional place for that.

But God is on His throne and the Holy Spirit is not deterred by emotions. The Lord ministered to my heart and I could not help but worship the Creator.

My Creator. My baby’s Creator. I knew I had to trust God in His plans. No matter what the outcome might be.

There was peace. Such peace. And there was joy. Which seems so improbable. But the joy of the Lord is not situational.

God was merciful to us and the following week showed a strong heartbeat and a growing babe. We named her Abigail (“the Father’s joy”) and we’ll be celebrating her first birthday in just ten days.

God’s divine timing had us in the right place at the right moment to truly learn about the joy of the Lord. In spite of our emotions, we worshipped with abandon and chose to glorify Him no matter what. We got a chance to deeply experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Tomorrow night, we are getting a chance to worship with Rend Collective again and I am so looking forward to it. Our life has been less dramatic lately but still tough.

The icky things of daily life pile up one after another and it’s hard to shovel through when you’re not sleeping.

I’ve just been so worn.

I’ve found that sometimes a strong faith comes easier in the dramatic valleys of life than it does during the long hot trudges through life’s deserts.

Thankfully, the joy of the Lord is not based on my spiritual geography.Tweet: Thankfully, the joy of the Lord is not based on my spiritual geography. http://ctt.ec/LGX28+

I’m looking forward to celebrating Him tomorrow night.

More Than I Can Handle


more than i can handleSo I know this isn’t any kind of newsflash for you, but life is hard.

When we’re growing up, we imagine how our lives might be.  I was one of those realistic kids.  I’d seen my mom, in particular, overcome some tremendous hardships in her life.  I knew that life would have its ups and downs.

I knew that chances were high that we might struggle with jobs or finances or kids or our health.

I guess even with all my realism, I didn’t really expect to struggle with all of them.  At the same time. We are very blessed in many ways.  I know that and I’m very grateful for each and every one. But so many times, even with all our blessings, it can all seem completely overwhelming.

“Oh honey. Bless your heart. Remember God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

We’ve all heard that, right?

Well guess what?

It’s crap.

God gives us more than we can handle all the time.

One day a few years ago, when both of our cars were falling apart and the bank account was in the red and my RA was flaring and we seemed to run out of everything at once and autism had me out behind the woodshed again and Jake was gone 24/7 for school, I found myself sobbing on the floor in the kitchen.

Overwhelmed.

Broken.

It was more than I could handle.

And I sat on the kitchen floor and I cried out to God for help. For mercy. For comfort. For peace.

And that’s when I (eventually) realized that, of course, this is more than I can handle. I was never meant to handle it alone. It was time for me to humble myself and admit that I couldn’t do this on my own.

I hope you’re not thinking that this story ends here with my admission suddenly causing things to magically fall into place and bring about a sudden reward for having learned my lesson. Maybe it happens that way in the movies. Not in real life.

I begged God for some kind of encouragement or special word that would show me that He heard my desperate appeal.

It didn’t happen that way. Instead? Different Bible verses popped into my head. Scripture that talked about God’s promises of peace, hope and His plan for our lives. But still…Instead of me suddenly feeling all better with the warm fuzzies, it was more like if I repeated them enough, they would eventually take root.

I realized this was one of those times when my faith is shown by choosing to believe it. Even when I don’t necessarily feel it. And I was reminded that one of the reasons I need to study the Word is so those promises and reassurances are somewhere in my stressed-out brain when I find myself overwhelmed and broken.

I love this song by BarlowGirl that says, “I cry out with no reply and I can’t feel you by my side so I’ll hold tight to what I know…You’re here and I’m never alone.”

Faith isn’t always about feelings. It’s about choosing to believe even when (especially when?) those feelings aren’t there.

I don’t have it all figured out. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that we’re never done learning.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

That’s another one that I’ve heard quite a bit. And the truth is that I don’t do it. I couldn’t possibly. Not by myself.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as preachy because that’s not how it’s meant and I’m definitely in no position to preach. I just hope it might possibly be a small encouragement to someone else who might find herself sobbing on the kitchen floor.

If that’s you today, take a few minutes to listen to this song and breathe. Because no matter how strong we are, we’ll never be strong enough to do this whole life thing on our own.  And we don’t have to be.

 

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every Act of Love



Rope HeartI don’t remember how old I was. I don’t remember if it was spring or autumn. I don’t even remember where we were going that day. But I’ll never forget Mrs. Jones.

I was a little girl riding shotgun with my grandmother. We were driving through our small town where everybody knows everybody when Mamaw spotted Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones was probably in her 70s, thin as a rail, still working hard. She was about a block into her long walk home from the grocery store, carrying a big brown bag on each hip. Mamaw explained to me that Mrs. Jones didn’t have a car and this was the exhausting way she had to go about getting groceries. My grandmother immediately pulled over and, in that sweet Southern way that leaves no room for argument, asked Mrs. Jones to let us drive her home.

Several years later, I looked around a large room and felt my eyes well up with tears. We were visiting family for Thanksgiving and, along with my aunt and uncle, my parents had brought us kids to help serve a meal at the soup kitchen. I was holding a baby so her mother could eat a rare hot meal. There were so many hungry people. There were not enough seats. At 11 years old, I remember a hopeless feeling because I thought there wasn’t enough that I could do to really help.

In much the same desperate way that I wanted to buy Mrs. Jones a car, I wanted to buy every person at the soup kitchen a home filled with food and clothes and love. I dreamed of being super wealthy and surprising people by anonymously meeting their biggest material needs. I became discouraged and even dreaded outreach projects because I wanted so badly to fix it. Fix it all. And it was so frustrating when I couldn’t.

Eventually, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t fix it all. I couldn’t buy new cars or new houses for all the deserving folks I wanted to surprise. But I could serve a meal, sweep a floor, hold a baby.

There are so many ways to show love to our neighbors.

It doesn’t always require a major gift or a trip to the other side of the world. (Of course, that would be amazing and I’m sure we would all jump at the chance! But I don’t want to wait for those opportunities to spread acts of love.) I feel so blessed to be surrounded by loving and compassionate people who are always giving me great examples of how to spread the love of Jesus by blessing others. Here are just a few ideas that don’t require a passport:

  • Operation Christmas Child ~ This has been a great way to involve the kids and allow them the opportunity to do acts of love. Even from a very young age, we’ve tried to explain to our kids that not all children are able to have Christmas gifts. We’ve taken them with us to collect supplies and goodies to pack a shoebox to send to a child for Christmas. We pray for the child represented by each box that he or she will be blessed and feel loved.
  • Swap ~ We recently held a swap with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The members of our group showed lots of love by donating so many things. Nice things. Things that they could have posted on Craigslist and made money for their family. I know I can probably speak for the majority when I say it was an incredible blessing. I was able to bring things that we no longer needed and I left with several items that we desperately needed (but would have trouble affording) for our new baby coming this spring.
  • Share Box in the Car ~ My mom kept a box in the van that contained bottles of water, snacks, and toiletries. Whenever we were out running errands and we saw someone who could use any of those things, we’d stop and hand them out. Just today, a Facebook friend suggested adding gloves, coats, and blankets to our cars for sharing with those in need. It’s a great idea for an act of love as the Florida temps drop below freezing.

There’s a song by Jason Gray that I just love. I need to listen to it every morning when I wake up as my daily reminder. With every single act of love (big or small), we are showing the love of Jesus to our neighbors and teaching our children how to do the same. Fostering a compassionate heart in our children can be as simple as just letting your kids see your own acts of love.

“With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come.”
~ With Every Act of Love, Jason Gray

Roller Coaster

Step right up, folks, and I’ll tell you the tale of the biggest (emotional) roller coaster I’ve ever experienced. There are extreme highs and sudden drops, with lots of loops and twists thrown in for fun. You must be this high to ride.

It all started about a month ago with two (highly unexpected) itty bitty pink lines. How unexpected? Well, the last of our baby stuff was hauled away over a year ago. Once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we were thrilled, of course.

I’m somewhat of an oversharer (not exactly a shock, I know) so keeping a secret this big was going to be super hard for me. So I began to journal little blurbs to have an outlet. Here’s a little bit of what I wrote after a week of expecting:
“So many nerves this time around! We’ve had some time to get used to this new idea. I’m excited. Attached. And that makes me so nervous. I’ve had two healthy pregnancies. Statistically speaking, am I due for my share of heartache? It seems that for every happy ending you hear about, there are nine horror stories. It’s not fair for me to be exempt. Praise God for grace. Just have to walk one day at a time, trusting in Him no matter what.”

Then this was written a few days later:
“Dear Baby, Your life is so precious. We thought we were done but God had a different plan. He meant for you to be. Your tiny heart is starting to beat. It beats for the glory of the Lord. Your very existence is such a gift.”

Four days later, as we were getting ready for a dinner party, I began to miscarry. Once my mind registered what was happening, my heart sank to my toes and I began to sob. I knew there couldn’t be any hope. We were advised to go to the ER to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. This is what I wrote that long, horrible night:
“The ceiling tiles needed cleaning. There was a cobweb dangling over me like a crib mobile. The tech apologized for the warmth of the room but I felt like I was frozen through. A tear slipped silently down my cheek and into my ear as they discussed KFC’s latest chicken creation. The ultrasound wand was heavy on my abdomen as if it carried the weight of my fear. It pressed hard against the still, quiet place where you were. Instead of the relief that comes with the sudden rhythmic whirring, there was only the silence. The sound of our hearts breaking.”

Once the official report came from the radiologist, a big tough doctor brought us into this little room where he told us that I had miscarried. They could see the beginnings of a pregnancy but there was no heartbeat. He looked terrified that I would burst into tears on him. I felt like I was already cried out. For now. I was to follow up with my OB in a couple of days to make sure everything was progressing as it should.

This was from my follow-up:
“Sitting in the OB’s waiting room in the furthest corner I can find. The isolation doesn’t protect me from happy, rounded bellies and cheerful ultrasound photos. I wait. Try not to let the tears fall. Try to sink into the floor and disappear. Please call my name. Let me get this over with. Put it behind me. Move on. Can I? I’m still so queasy. Unfair… Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Trying to chug water from bathroom sink. Hands still shaking. Feeling sick… Waiting in the room for the doctor to talk to me. There’s a large painting of a raccoon staring at me… Still waiting. Raccoon is still watching to see if I’ll cry. The ultrasound is next… Nothing has changed. There’s still no heartbeat but I’m leaving with more questions than answers. The OB isn’t ready to call it a lost cause. I have to wait for the phone call tomorrow to tell me what my HCG numbers are doing. I’m afraid to hope. My chalkboard at home is a huge drawing of the word HOPE. I don’t believe in coincidence.”

That night, I had a long drive from my parents house back to my home. It was a rare solo drive and I had the song, Oceans, on repeat. After I sobbed it out, I cried out to the Lord to breathe life into our baby and to help our teeny tiny one grow. I spent the entire drive in prayer. I kept remembering what I had written the week before. “Your heart beats for the glory of the Lord.” I had to come to a hard place of realization that God would be glorified even if baby’s heart never beat. My heart would be broken, but I would still praise my God. A peace came over me that I cannot explain. This child was God’s idea. His gift to us. As hard as it was to let go, I had to mentally release this baby back to God. This little life was in His hands all along.

The next day, the only words I could get onto paper were these:
“Waiting for The Call. For this child I have prayed. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

A nurse called at the very end of that Friday. My numbers had not doubled as they had hoped. But they had increased. If they had decreased, then we would have known it was a loss and we’d be waiting for the next step. But they had gone up. The nurse warned me not to get my hopes up but to come in for another ultrasound on Tuesday.

From Tuesday:
“It’s time for the ultrasound. What will we see? Lori’s kind voice is extra sweet today. She remembers the limbo we were left with the last time I was here. The bed raises until I can almost touch the ceiling. I grip Jake’s hand tighter and try to control my breathing. The screen turns on. Lori gasps and almost giggles, “We have a heartbeat!!!” We turn to the screen. There is a beautiful, glorious flickering. The tears once again stream down my face and into my ear. She allows me the moment I need to totally lose it. We have a heartbeat. Baby’s heart is beating steady and strong. We are speechless. Basking in the grace and mercy of our mighty God who is writing one heck of a story for this little one. Glory be to our God.”

We’re having a baby.