Finding God in the Middle of Your Mess

“Wait. When do you have to be out?”

My friend and I were sitting in my living room, and as she looked around, she was thinking she must have misheard me. My family had been living in our rental home for two years, and it was time to move on. We were scheduled to turn in the keys in just four days.

Not one thing had been packed. Not a book. Not a photo album. Not a single fork.

“You have help coming, right?”

I mumbled something about it all being fine and that we’d figure it out. We were moving just twenty minutes down the road and everything would be okay. I basically said everything but the one word I knew I needed to say—help.

Because we’ve been friends for almost twenty years, she knows me well. My protest went in one ear and out the other. Within the hour, she had lined up her husband and set aside Saturday to help us.

My friend spent countless hours over the next several days cleaning out bathroom drawers, pulling long-forgotten items from under beds, and battling giant dust bunnies behind the dryer…

Please click through to The Glorious Tableto continue reading about how accepting help with a move brought up all kinds of emotions but, most of all, pointed us back to Jesus.

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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.”

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

ho-ho-no

** 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.

But What About Saturday? Finding Hope in the Wait

Mom Confession:
Easter week has completely caught me by surprise this year. My excuses reasons: (1) We are on Round Two of strep throat in the last month. That would be six cases of strep in the last four weeks. That’s 120 doses of antibiotics. (2) We are on Jake’s eleventy billionth shift in a row. (3) Each kid has had a different school project. (4) Full moon. (5) No sleep. (6) First Easter away from family and our regular traditions. (7) General loss of mind.

So in a last ditch effort to reclaim some of the holiness of Holy Week, I spent some time talking with the kids about the days ahead.

We covered it all. Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper and Jesus was arrested. Good Friday and all of the events of that sad day when Jesus died on the cross. Then Resurrection Sunday when Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave.

“But, Mom? What about Saturday? What happened that day?”

My daughter’s question took me by surprise. I guess I had never really thought much about Saturday. We tend to skip over Saturday. “Jesus died on the cross and on the third day was raised from the dead.” Growing up in Sunday School and Bible School and Youth Group, it became rote. Just as 1+1=2, it was too often more like “Jesusdiedonthecrossandonthethirddaywasraisedfromthedead. Time for pizza!”

But Grace’s question got me thinking about what the followers of Jesus must have been feeling on that Saturday.

They had sold out completely for Jesus. He was Messiah. This was the real deal. Jesus was The One sent to save the Jews in what they most likely anticipated to be a dramatic and triumphant fashion.

They had literally up and walked away from their lives as they knew it to live on the fringes of polite society. But it was worth it because everything was on track for them to have a front row seat to history. And as they came into Jerusalem, they must have been riding high as the people celebrated Jesus. I can only imagine the adrenaline and jubilation.

How quickly it all changed.

In a matter of days, their hero who was here to deliver Israel, the one who held all their hopes, was arrested, mocked, tortured, and killed.

And on that Friday, the sun set on all of their expectations.

On Saturday, the sun rose. Life went on even though the story they thought God was writing was dead.

Can you imagine how long Saturday felt?

They had watched hope die on a cross. Their faith, so strong just days before, now broken and bloodied and lying lifeless in a borrowed tomb.

I take Saturday for granted. I say it all in one breath, “Jesus died and rose on the third day.” As if it were just the blink of an eye.

But even in the most important work in the history of ever, there is waiting.

There’s a day in between. A long, dark Saturday when all seems lost. When it feels like we’re completely on our own. When it all seems to be unravelling. When all we can do is look around a world of confused faces and wonder, “What now?”

Thank God he doesn’t leave us there in that place of loss and confusion. When we’re floundering somewhere in the middle pages of our story, he is not surprised at the twists and turns in our lives. He knows every page.

The Author knows how our story ends. He knows the stone gets rolled away. Darkness is defeated. Love wins.  Tweet: The Author knows how our story ends. He knows the stone gets rolled away. Darkness is defeated. Love wins. http://bit.ly/1pAIkfl

In the craziness of this world today, it often feels like we’re living in the tension of a lifetime of perpetual Saturdays. When our expectations of how our story is supposed to go have been shattered, we’re looking around a room and wondering, “What now?” We’re feeling abandoned.

Oh, friends. Hold on.

It is a cold and dark Saturday right now. But Sunday is coming!


What About Saturday blog

 

 

He Knows My Name

abby mouse blogThis little cutie is almost six months old now. She has been having lots of “conversations” with us, including tons of hilarious inflections and facial expressions to emphasize her points. So of course, I take that as my cue to start teaching her to say mama.

(Jake has also taken it as a cue to start teaching her to say dada. Which she will probably say first because she loves him more it’s easier.) 😉

There’s something about hearing your child call, “Mama,” that just grabs your attention. You could be in the middle of a playground full of kids and hear 37 different children shout for mama but instantly know which one was meant for you.

I started thinking about this after a morning at the Chick-fil-A playground. Each mom knew when it was her own kid shouting for mama. It reminded me of a video MOPS produced for MOMcon 2014. The beautiful video told the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and it took my breath away. (You can watch it down there at the bottom of this post and I highly recommend you do.)

Jn 2014-16 blog

She thought He was the gardener until He said one simple word.

Mary.

He said her name. And suddenly she recognized her Savior.

Y’all. It just blows my mind.

He knows my name.

Our hearts are designed to recognize His voice calling us. Just like a mama can instantly pick out her child’s voice calling to her from a crowded and rowdy playground, our hearts respond when He calls our names.

Whenever I’m feeling invisible and unappreciated at home (Does no one else see the empty toilet paper holder? I mean really.) or whenever I’m feeling like I have no real purpose outside of my house and I’m battling insignificance, I try to remind myself of this: He knows my name.

Ashley.

The next time you’re up to your elbows in dishes and up to your knees in laundry and you feel like your only contributions to this world are carpooling your kids to soccer practice and changing diapers,  I hope you can just pause for a second. Turn your face toward the sun. Close your eyes. Store this up in your heart and treasure it.

He knows your name.