The Hospitality Project

DSC_1540The morning breaks in gray clouds and drizzle and I stare into a cup of black coffee, itching to turn on Good Morning America. Coffee with vanilla creamer and Robin Roberts at 7:01 is my normal, everyday routine. The kids I care for play on the floor while Josiah and I catch up on last night’s travesties via the morning news. It’s what we do while he waits for the bus and I like the familiarity that this routine provides.

But today there is only black coffee and conversation and things are strangely awkward. Josiah stares at me and I stare at him and the two babies stacking blocks just stack blocks. I grin, unsure of what to say to my boy whom I birthed nearly 11 years ago. He grins back and gives me the sideways eye. We buy time for a good 20 minutes before he walks over to hug me goodbye.

“So, no cable until September, huh?” he asks. “It’s going to be boring a summer.”

“Yeah. No cable. Or internet. Just us and the air we’re sucking,” I say, laughing. “It’s gonna be an adventure. Fun, even.”

I watch him leave the house and I wonder, though, What if my heart is totally unchanged come September? What if this is just one more hamster wheel I’ve jumped on?

DSC_1539For the last eight weeks, I’ve been trying to put my finger on the root cause of all the emotions bumping around in my heart and erupting all over my family. I’ve looked at my calendar and looked at my neighborhood and looked at our family budget. I’ve made lists of things I have to do, things I want to do, and things Jesus wants me to do. I’ve also made lists of things that I don’t want to do, things I don’t have to do, and things I’ve felt Jesus asking me to give up. I’ve drawn Venn diagrams and filled them in and drawn lines through the things that overlap with nothing else and I’ve let myself begin to let those things go.

I’ve spent time listening to my people and spent time at my picnic tables in the front yard listening to my neighborhood and I’ve spent time listening to the still quiet voice of Jesus asking me to just trust Him and do the hard things anyway.

On Wednesday night, we had dinner with some dear friends who listened to Thad and I unload all the heart junk and at the end of the unloading, one of them asked one question: Do you want to do this?

She was referring to something entirely different, but I’ve let that question rest in the front of my mind because I think the entirety of the last 4 years of my life could be summed up into one statement:

Jesus asked me  to do __________ and I didn’t want to do it but I did it anyway and I’m so grateful I did. {You, too?}

Today is no different.

I’m saying YES to four months of hard things because Jesus has asked me to and He has asked me to because He loves me and He desires for me to live an abundant life.

And I’m going to invite you to say yes, too.

The Hospitality Project2Today marks the beginning of something I’m calling The Hospitality Project.

Creative, huh?

The Hospitality Project is a four month experiment of implementing spiritual practices that will create space for me to be able to receive others with a heart that is open enough to hold them.

Because I like order, I’ve arranged the next few months with specific areas of intentionality. They will unfold as follows:

May: Prepare the Heart

June: Prepare the Home

July: Prepare the Table

August: Prepare the Basin

I plan to blog my way through this venture, giving you guys the plan for each month, the first of each month. I’ll likely only post one weekly journal-like update each week to let you know how this project is stretching me. I encourage you to pick and choose some of these practices and invite Jesus to wake your heart up to the world around you.

Now, the plan for May.

 

May: Prepare the Heart

Because all of hospitality is an overflow from a heart that is loved by God and others, I must make some shifts in my everyday living to make space for some heart work by stripping away some things that clutter up my heart and replacing them with practices that produce life. The following in the loose plan:

*Cut cable television and internet at the house

*Limit social media to no more than an hour a day- including email correspondence

*Stop baby sitting 2 of the children I currently provide care for full-time

*Implement a Daniel Fast

*Spend 1 hour walking outside in quiet solitude

*Read the Bible for story {planning to read The Message}

*Pray often and intentionally

*Look at my children and talk with them, as individuals and not as a tribe

*Have lots of sex {I know. TMI. But sex produces vulnerability and closeness and vulnerability and closeness produce an open heart.}

 

I wish I could tell you that I have a huge hope for May, but I don’t. My hands are wide open to receive whatever Jesus wants to give me with the time I am giving back to Him.

If you are planning to join me in this venture, let me know!  I’d love for you to tag anything you post online with #TheHospitalityProject so that I can find you online easier. I’m only gonna have an hour a day online and a hashtag will simplify things for me! It will also help me to be intentional about what I choose to read online.

I love that you are here. Your words encourage me and your stories inspire me to live a better one.  I plan to read every word you guys share, but over the next few months, I’ll be slow to respond here and on social media. Thank you for bearing with me!

xoxo~

me

A Guest Post by Courtney Cassada

 I met this lady over on Instagram and then followed her gorgeous  pictures over to her blog. Courtney Cassada is a beautiful soul and this post was her generous offering to our monthly #LiveSmallLoveBig link up. If you’d like to read more from Courtney, you can find her here.

And friend, all the link ups last week were gorgeous pieces. I’ve shared them on social media this week, but if you missed them, you can scroll to the bottom of this post and catch up.  I love the hearts behind every one of these writers.

cassada1

love

 
nearly 4 years ago, that word took on a different meaning in this heart of mine.i became the mom to a broken little boy that hadn’t known what a mom was for the first 4 years of his life. i opened my arms and heart wide, i smiled big and answered all the questions. i had no idea where this road was taking us – he and i – but i knew God had put us together so we were walking forward, moment by moment.{on the floor of the airport in ethiopia. telling him “i love you” in his language. we only had touch and facial expressions to share…and i wanted to SPEAK words to his heart so badly.}
 
my heart has been bruised, hurt and abused by the brokenness that has poured out of this little boy. and his heart has been bruised, hurt and abused by the brokenness that has poured out of my heart. i was not prepared for any of it. i just wasn’t. and i haven’t responded well all the time. we’ve hurt each other so many times, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes just because we’re so entwined in each other that our sin pours out and it’s effects are far-reaching.
cassada 2
 
he is so quick to forgive. i try to be quick to ask for that forgiveness.
we aren’t perfect at any of it, and i think we’ve both learned we can’t do this in our own strength. we keep going to the only One that can help us. we pray together. we talk about who God is and how much He loves us no matter what. sometimes we look at each other with lies in our eyes, but looking to God always proves true. so that’s where we go.
 
we are still waiting with hope that he will trust us one day. that his need to take care of himself and his anxiety in the world around him will fade away, and he will let us take care of him.
 
the tension in our relationship is as much my heart not trusting as it is his heart not trusting. when i say that i love this little boy, it’s not the hallmark-valentines-day kind of love. i love this little boy through all my sin, through all his brokenness and only because God is with us every step of the way. it’s a messy, hard, beautiful, strong love that i believe with ALL my heart will be fully redeemed one day. and, until then, i will not stop loving him no matter what our moments look like.
 
many say that lincoln is “lucky” to be in our family. but the real truth is that, because of this amazing little boy, every member of our family has grown and changed and seen who God REALLY is and who we really are and how much we all need Jesus every moment of every day. and what a BIG and DEEP thing LOVE truly is.

 

How Not To Run Scared

DSC_0102When we first moved to Rocky Mount, we had to do quite a lot of work to the house we moved into. There were evenings, after I put the kids to bed, that I would drive across town and sneak into the house to either paint or clean or unpack boxes. Sometimes Thad and I would go together, but usually we’d take turns, leaving one at home with the kids and one to drive over to the house on Avent, after dark, where it was super scary and super dangerous.

Or so we thought.

I’m embarrassed to tell you now the method I used to get myself in the house on those nights I had to work. But it went something like this:

*Pull up right in front of the house, under a streetlight if possible.

*Wait in the locked car until I could get my bearings on my surroundings. Check all mirrors. Turn around in my seat and look directly out my back window. Check all mirrors again.

*Pray while placing my keys in-between my fingers on my right hand  so that I could stab an assailant in the eyeballs and then rip his eye sockets out with the keys if I were attacked running the 50 feet to the front door. {Thank you Oprah.}

*Check all mirrors. Open the car door. Run like the wind while holding my purse close to my chest. Slam my body into the front door. Jab the key in. Open the door. Slam it. Lock it. Turn on every light in the house.

*Thank Jesus.

*Clean, paint, etc while checking all windows and doors every few minutes so as not to be burglarized.

*Repeat in reverse order when time to leave.

I can only imagine what you’re thinking and it’s okay. I’ve thought all the same things. Lori’s an idiot. She could have gotten herself killed or raped or mugged.

And I might could have…If there had been rapists and murderers and robbers prowling around my house, but the only thing I ever saw prowling around my house late at night were stray cats and the occasional loose dog.

 DSC_0094Three years have passed since those 5 months of late night work sessions in our home and now that I know my neighbors, I know how foolishly unfounded my fears were. I’ve never asked them, but I wonder if any of my neighbors ever stood in the windows of their homes and laughed at the white woman running scared in the dark. {Man, I’m sure I looked like a lunatic.}

Fear made me not only look like an idiot, but it also laid quite a few bricks between me and the people who would become my neighbors.  Fear kept me tethered to me and my house and my children and my way of thinking and living. Fear kept me in bondage to the lie that nothing good comes from this side of the tracks.

Fear kept me so keyed up on the inside I had no space to let anyone in. And that’s exactly why Satan uses this tactic.

If he can keep us afraid of our neighbors, he can steal the abundant life Jesus desires to give us.

And I am a strong believer that abundant life is found when we love our neighbors.

The world would love to convince us that evil lurks around every corner and lives in every person we don’t know.

But Jesus tells us a different story.

He tells us that just around that unknown corner is a chance to see the world like He sees it. He tells us that every person that crosses our path is a person made in His image. He tells us that every day is an invitation to wake up and know Him more wildly and free.

And sometimes that invitation to wild living looks just like a knock on a neighbor’s door.

Scary? Yes.

Dangerous? Maybe.

But I’d rather be standing scared on the threshold of my neighbor’s house anticipating an encounter with Jesus than running scared from nothing at all.Live Small, Love Big 3

 

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When Jesus Asks You To Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

DSC_1491DSC_1495Can I tell you something?

I have a feeling that I’m getting ready to bite off way more than I can chew.

In just a few days, I’m about to overhaul life as my family currently knows it and thrust us head first into whole other living. I’m kinda scared, sorta anxious. A little bit excited about the butterflies in my tummy. But mainly scared.

Last night, after popping 8 chewy melatonin gummies {don’t freak out, that’s only 12mg}, I tossed and turned and stared at the wall feeling like an idiot. What am I thinking? How exactly did I land upon this life overhaul? Did Jesus really plant this little seed or am I just making crazy for my family? What’s the point? It’s gonna fail because I’m gonna quit because the truth is I don’t really like people and everyone will know and I’ll secretly feel relieved.

All of that and then some played in my head until at least 2am when I eventually passed out due to exhaustion.

 At 5:45, when I rolled out of bed, my first thought was Dang. I do not want to get up.  And my second thought was I like people. What is wrong with me?

This is the story of my life, at least right now, anyway.

There is a non-stop tape playing over and over again in my head challenging everything I think I know about what it means to love people.

And everything I think I know about loving people is attached to doing. I love my family so I do the laundry and I cook the food and I clean the house and I do the shopping and I do the homework. I love my church so I clean the house and make the coffee and take the meals and help out with making people feel wanted and needed. I love my neighbors so I feed them and play with them {ok, not really. I let them play.} and see to it that they have clothes to wear to school and rides to work.

All the doing is important. It’s necessary even. But I know me. I’m an expert plate spinner and I can do all the things without a smidgen of love.

And this is the nagging truth keeping me up at night. 

DSC_1489A year ago, almost to the date of last week’s post about my  kitchen blow up, I wrote a post about margins and boundaries and rights. I had exploded over dinner about how I felt pressed in from all sides. The neighbors were constantly in the yard and on the porch and needing things from me. The front door was in perpetual motion and my insides were in perpetual unrest and I knew that Jesus was asking me to enlarge the territory of my house and my yard to hold the people who were coming.

And I was mad.

I was mad because Jesus had already asked us to move somewhere that I did not want to go to live around people I did not want to live around and now He had the audacity to ask me to give these people my yard and my home.

I remember banging out every word of that post to you guys and I also remember writing a short post script at the bottom in italics. It read:

Some of you will read this post and feel the need to kindly direct me to all sorts of books on boundaries and margins.  And even though I thank you now,  I  want to let you know that I am keenly aware of the need for both boundaries and margins.  And I am even more keenly aware of how ugly my heart truly is and how much Jesus longs to lead me into deeper waters so that I may know Him more in the sufferings of His people here on Avent.  So I ask you to let Jesus have His way here in my heart and refrain from encouraging me to put up boundaries.  I think He’s asking me to trust Him with my whole life.  The whole thing, not just certain hours of it.

You guys were more than gracious to me and you gave me space. You gave me space and I gave my neighbors my yard and my house.

And last year, Jesus began to move me to compassion in ways that I have not experienced before. He illuminated the hunger down the street and the poverty four doors down and the hopelessness of the single moms working patched up jobs trying to make ends meet. And He began to birth in me ways I could meet those needs. Feed A Neighbor and our Crock Pot Meals classes and Sunday night dinners on the front lawn were born from months and months of allowing Jesus to have His yard and His house back. Even our community garden was birthed from this simple act of obedience.

But last week, after all the truth telling in the kitchen, I immediately felt a check in my spirit that Jesus was calling me deeper still. He was asking me to do more than neighbor well; He was asking me to enlarge my heart to hold them.

And at Starbucks, after I’d confessed my sins to the whole internet world, Jesus began to unfold His plan for loving well and guess what He named it?

He named it Hospitality.

Go figure, right?

 

After Friday’s Live Small, Love Big link up, this little patch of internet will go quiet until May 1 as I make preparations for our full on lifestyle change that also begins on May 1. And you guys will be invited right along with us.

Jesus is jacking my pretty little world up again and this time, He’s going straight for all the parts of my heart I’ve yet to hand over. 

On Hard Things

blowing rock 1I’m knee deep in a seven day funk.

No wait, maybe it’s been longer than seven days.

Maybe my funk really began when I had that good cry in the middle of my MOPS Bible study for no apparent reason except that when I started yammering about what following Jesus costs you, it hit me like a ton of bricks that Jesus was serious about everything He said.

But I don’t think that revelation in the middle of Hebrews is the source of my funk, it’s just when I think things sorta hit the fan in my heart.

If you know me at all, you know I often overshare. Get me alone and put coffee between us and I will start unloading the dump truck called TooMuchInformation. I’m good at it. It’s like my talent, my gift that no one wants me to use. I can talk you under the table while simultaneously throwing myself under the bus. While you’re slinking down in your chair, I’m spilling my guts, talking a blue streak, hoping that every word I share gets me one inch closer to what is wrong with my heart until you holler at me to put a sock in it.

{I know. I’m not a good coffee date. I’m sorry.}

But I digress.

Tonight, in the throes of getting a clean-out-the-fridge dinner on the table, Thad met me in the kitchen and the rest of my heart hit the fan by way of me using my gift.

And this is the story of how things went down, or up, depending upon how you see it.

blowing rock 2“How was your day? You good?” he asks me while bagging up the two bags of garbage and one sack of recyclables. I’m slamming refried beans onto the counter and flinging tinfoil at the trash can only to watch it hit the floor.

“Like that,” I say pointing to the ball of tinfoil next to the trash can. “Just like that balled up piece of trash. I’m tired and irritated and frustrated and I cannot fix what is wrong. Heck, I don’t even know what is wrong I just know something ain’t right.” I slam one more bowl onto the counter.

He says nothing and leans back into the counter. I take his body language as permission to keep on keeping on and I do.

“It’s like I’m angry and I’ve not had a minute to breathe in 11 hours and I want to write and I need to write to meet a deadline that is today for Pete’s sake, and if I could just quit it all, I would. I’d quit it right now. All of it. Even the garden.”

He raises his eyebrows at me because we both know the only gardening I’m gonna be doing is picking and I’d never quit the garden. “Why do you think you’re feeling this way? What’s got you so mad?” he asks me.

“It’s who I am!” I scream. “It’s in my DNA. I’m a Brown and Browns get angry but we get stuff done. How long have you known me, man?” I’m straight irrational and he’s cool like butter and the cooler he appears the hotter I get.

“Ok. You’re mad and you say you want to quit stuff. But I don’t think that’s really true, is it?” he asks, still leaning into the counter. I want to swipe him with a dish rag. “I don’t think you want to quit any of this stuff.”

I unload another load and as I talk myself under the bus, the truth slips right through my lips.

“Every time Jesus invites me to do hard things, He pushes up another layer of ugly hiding out in my heart and today, I just don’t want to do the hard things because the hard things cost me everything. And all that ugly that keeps being excavated- it forces me to deal with how crappy I really am on the inside,” I say.

He smiles at me from the sink. “And you don’t like to feel like you’re not good, do you? You want to ignore the state of your humanity and pretend like you’re not like the rest of us.”

I grin at him. “Yep. Something like that.”

 

After dinner tonight, I slipped out to drive the 23 miles to our closest Starbucks. I didn’t mind the drive, really. Car time is thinking time and for months, my soul has been craving thinking time.

I thought about all the words I spewed all over Thad and the slow, compassionate way he received them.

But mostly I thought about what he said to me, about how I didn’t really want to quit everything and move away.

He’s right, you know.

I don’t want to quit everything.

I just want to skip the heart things on the way to the hard things.

And I guess that’s the whole point Jesus has trying to make while I’ve been wallowing in this funk for the last few weeks.

These hard things He’s called me to are just that: Hard things.

He’s simply after my heart.

 

For all you new readers, WELCOME! Since you’re new here, I need to let you in on a little secret: I don’t usually write shareable, Man, She Knows What She’s Talking About sorts of posts. I write messy posts, in real time, that rarely get tied up with a neat red bow- because life has no red bows this side of heaven. We’re all in process. Hope that’s okay.                     So glad you’re here.

Let’s Eat!

But the Son of Man came eating and drinking. It’s not complicated. True, it’s not always easy–it involves people invading your space or going to places where you don’t feel comfortable. But it’s not complicated. –Tim ChesterIMG_3379[1]DSC_1434

DSC_1437DSC_1460On Sunday, while we guzzled coffee and polished off the breakfast casserole, our itty bitty church got down to garden business and we chose what we wanted to plant and how we wanted to plant it and chatted about ways we could work together to involve our community.

I wish I could have captured the buzz that reverberated in our home when we talked the garden. There was such an energy around our table that I swear I think my heart vibrated under the weight of it all. It was glorious, really.  Too glorious to capture.

DSC_1461DSC_1464DSC_1450Last night, we spent the first two hours of our evening walking our triangle shaped plot of garden with our experienced gardener only to pony up an extra $15 to purchase an additional plot. I thought our watermelons and cantaloupe and peanuts and pumpkins and lettuce and carrots and beans and corn and cucumbers and peppers and squash and zucchini and tomatoes and broccoli and peas needed some extra space to let their leaves just roll on out.

I know. We’re overachievers. Our experienced gardener friend said, “No peanuts, Lori. I ain’t getting into no peanuts.” So instead, I’m aiming for collards come the fall. And maybe some beets and turnips and parsnips and leeks. Time, and our gardener, will tell.

 As we plodded through the dirt, I couldn’t help but look at Thad in his holey jeans and muddy boots and ponder how all the things of the last few years have led us to a community garden.

We don’t garden. We do church work.

{I also don’t sweat, but that’s another story for another day.}

I ran through our skills sets and the years of seminary training and this church we’re planting and I couldn’t help but think Why a garden? That’s not in our wheel house of things we can do.

And for a moment, I even let my mind consider the location of our home and our the logistics of getting the neighborhood kids to the actual garden and came up with so much angst about the whole thing I had to take those thoughts captive and go back to what I know.

And this is what I know:

I know that Jesus has set us in this place, among this specific group of people, and He has invited us to push back the darkness and bring His kingdom right here.

DSC_1451DSC_1454DSC_1466DSC_1465This morning, as I sift everything through my fingers – the church, the neighborhood, the garden, the Sunday evening meals around the picnic tables, the crock pot classes – all I hold in my hand is a whole lot of small things that by themselves, seem like small potatoes.

But deep down, I know that lots of small things, done one on top of the other, over time, push back the darkness.

I guess you could say we’re pushing back the darkness by way of food…

Sorta like Jesus did.

{And on that truth, I say, Let’s eat!}

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking , and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”   Luke 7:34

How are you living to push back the darkness, right where you are?

 

 

Psst…If you’re still with me, I’m letting you in on a little secret. I’m working on a 4 month long project for the months of May-August. Could you pray that I’m able to flesh out all the moving components and order my thoughts? I’ll fill you in on the details when I’m able…Which reminds me, I believe I’m 2 months behind in sending out our community newsletter. I may need to do that. You can sign up to receive HomeFries over in the sidebar. I’ll try to send out our next one before next  week.

xo~

me

All the Answers: Volume 2

All the Answers Vol 2You guys are relentless and I love you for it.

No matter how many times I fail to answer your questions in a timely fashion, you keep coming back for more.

Today’s post is dedicated to all you diehard waiters waiting on a response from always slow-to-respond me.

I hope you’ll forgive me and move in next door.

And hey, if you moved in next door you’d never have to wait on an email response from me…. {Tresta and Amanda and Erin and everyone else} You could just sit on the front porch with all the other yahoos I live with, dangle your legs from the porch swing and holler at me through the front door.

I’m a first responder to hollering from the porch.

But until then, here’s my second installment of All the Answers. {you can catch my first here.}

 DSC_1432What are you reading?

I’m breaking down this list because several of you have asked for specifics: spiritual growth, poverty/race relations, and hospitality. The ones starred are currently being savored.

Spiritual Growth {books that have rocked my world in the last 5 years}:  A Chance to Die, An Altar in the World, Love Does, A Severe Mercy, Surprised by Joy, Pursue the Intentional Life, The Hardest Peace

Poverty/ Race Relations: *The Blue Sweater, Let Justice Roll Down, My First White Friend, The Irresistible Revolution, Interrupted, The New Jim Crow

Hospitality: Bread and Wine, Love Does, *A Meal with Jesus, Slow Church, *The Art of Neighboring, *Radical Hospitality

And I just finished All the Light We Cannot See. Best work of fiction I’ve read in a long time.

 

What are you serving up in your crock pot meals class for the neighborhood?

I am always amazed by how many of you sincerely want me to share the recipes we use for Feed A Neighbor events. Sharing recipes is tricky because I’m not a food blogger nor do I think we’re using the best recipes found on Pinterest. I choose recipes based on what ingredients we have on hand in the food pantry and how many dollars we have to work with. I also take into consideration the number of families we’re serving and the number of people in each family. I’m constantly tweaking the recipes and chunking ones that didn’t turn out that great, so as we taste test them and perfect them, I’ll gradually share them. And y’all know what I mean by gradually.

But to tide you over til next spring, here’s my newest favorite! {You can always follow my Feed A Neighbor Pinterest board to see what we’re trying.}

DSC_1384What exactly do you do with the kids in your neighborhood? Do you run a program?

We actually don’t do much of anything. We really just live on our street and have adopted somewhat of an open door policy, meaning our yard and porch belong to the neighborhood. Some kids think this open door policy goes for the house too, but it doesn’t.  Because I have 6 kids and I care for 3 others full time, I can’t always allow extra kids to take over the house. On rainy days or super cold days, I will occasionally allow 4-5 extra little people in for a limited amount of time but I’m not so good at this.

On Sunday nights, we do have a planned meal around the picnic tables and a fire in the fire pit. Thad tells a Bible story and we let the kids share their highs and lows of the week. We’re intentionally trying to build community within our neighborhood so I wouldn’t call this a program. We don’t have volunteers serving the meal or organizing activities. We just have neighbors, one teacher from the middle school, and one couple from our church showing up to talk with the kids. That’s it. We’re not trying to implement a program as much as we’re trying to make intentional space to foster community that gathers because we love Jesus and we love our neighbors.

How can I move to love my community when I’m so busy at my church?

I can only speak from what I know and this is what I know: You’re going to have to give up some things you love being apart of/doing/leading at your local church so that you have time to simply live. When we begin to cultivate a life that doesn’t begin and end inside a church building, we begin to develop new rhythms in our living that allow for natural interactions within our communities.

Think baby steps. Invite friends from work over for dinner on Sunday night instead of going to a third service in one week. Choose parks and rec ball over Upwards. Visit the local park instead of your church’s playground. Skip your church’s women’s tea and host four ladies from your neighborhood for a Saturday brunch instead. Begin to pick and choose.

Or…You can just open your hands to Jesus and ask Him to give you a people and a place.

You may just end up like someone I know who wouldn’t trade her life wrecking for anything in the world.

DSC_1363How do you protect your kids from the crap they’re exposed to at public school?

We don’t. We just over parent and pray hard and trust Jesus to be bigger than the crap. And we work really dang hard to parent the kids our kids go to school with. Because if we say we love Jesus, then we have to believe that he loves the kids across the street just as much as He loves our kids. And He’s placed us on our street and in our schools to bring love where love has not yet gone.

But mainly we just trust Jesus. And pray.

 What’s up with your church?

We’ve replanted Fellowship Rocky Mount and are in throes of a very quiet relaunch. We’re back to meeting in our home which means lots of cleaning and hosting and Sunday morning meltdowns. We’re a small group of people who desire to gather to scatter and intentionally love the people Jesus sends our way. Our church belongs to Jesus.

 What is the status of the Community Garden?

We’ll break ground on Saturday if we have no rain. We’ve partnered with Strong Communities, Strong Cities and are pretty confident that with their help we’ll have a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, squash, bell peppers, radishes, zucchini, and green beans. I hope to provide pictures and more details next week!

 IMG_1514[1]What bloggers do you follow?

I used to share my favorite internet reads on a regular basis, but y’all, life is BIG here and I just don’t have time to read online like I really want to. I always read Becca, Emily, Deidra, Jessika, Amber and Shannan because I find their words encourage me to keep plodding along in the hard, finding beauty in the cracks of life but there are a dozen others I read when I have a chance. I also read along and contribute at Grace Table- I’m really learning to love this group of writers.

 What kinds of things do you speak on?

I’m passionate about brave hospitality and intentional neighboring. I’m also pretty crazy about seeing the church be the church. You guys know me- as long as you don’t ask me to come speak about sex or teach a class on door to door evangelism, I think whatever you have in mind is probably just about right.

{I’ve actually been asked whether or not I’d be willing to come lead a class on how to replicate this Feed A Neighbor thing we do. I die at the thought because food prep makes me get all weird and stuff, but I guess there is a first time for everything.}

 

Shew. You fine people wear me out in the best way possible with all your hard questions, but I love that you make me think through the hows and whys and whats of what I do.

If I’m missing something, shoot me an email or leave your burning question in the comments. I’ll get around to it in the summer when I write Volume 3.

And that last sentence reminds me of this weird token thing I got as a child at a revival called a Round To It- As in when you get around to asking Jesus into your heart.

That memory makes me smile.

I hope it  makes you smile too.

xo

Like A Good Neighbor, The Harris Family Is There {and how that’s not good enough}

DSC_1428DSC_1430We’re in the throes of spring break here which means we’ve revved up trash production right along with the Kool-Aid  and Little Debbie snack production. The city can is filled to overflowing and pick up isn’t until tomorrow.

Today is nabs day and in my mind, I’m already seeing those plastic wrappers rolling across the yard.  What can I say? We’re trashy people.

For the most part, the kids and the neighbors have gotten along alright, but if I’m honest with you, it’s been a hard week. And it’s been hard because the neighbors are growing up right along with my kids. {This never occurred to me.}

Last spring, everyone was still under the age of 12. This spring, we’ve got kids right on the cusp of hormonal explosions which have taken this idea of play to a whole other level. Gone are the days of playing house in the tree house or building forts under the picnic tables. Enter cell phones and holding hands on the side of the house and sneaking off to the hammock in the backyard. We’re talking weed and bongs and music that would make your ears burn with vulgarity.

And with new play comes new rules that have to be implemented by one Man who loves rules and order and one mama who just wants everyone to do the right things all the time because they know the right things to do and because she despises conflict more than everything else in the whole world. {Except for spiders. She really despises spiders.}

I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it, too. Put your big girl panties on and mother those kids, woman.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t want to mother them. Mothering costs too much.

I just want to neighbor them and I want to neighbor them American style.

I want to provide a clean, safe place to play and eat Nutty Bars. I want to swing on the front porch and rock in the rocking chair and laugh until the streetlamps flicker to life. I want to sit around the fire pit and sing Kum Ba Yah while we roast marshmallows. I want to play rousing games of HORSE and hide and seek and Ghost in the Graveyard. I want happy, Norman Rockwell memories made in the patchy grass in the side yard.

And at the end of each day, I want to send the kids back home to their mamas having had a nice day of fun at my house with the theme song from State Farm playing in the background, Like a good neighbor, the Harris family is there.

But I know that when Jesus told us to love our neighbors, He envisioned something entirely different than what I’ve imagined in my mind.

What I’ve imagined looks and sounds an awful lot like:  Like your neighbors. It’s easy and fun and the cost is minimal. My way of neighboring is a provide-what-you-want-to-give not a meet-the-need sort of love, which really isn’t love, anyway. I’ve drawn invisible lines and circles and put on the table the things I’m willing to give away and the things I’m willing to do, giving little regard to the things the kids in my yard really need.

My current state of neighboring is like putting a quick band-aid on a gaping wound when I’ve got the goods that will treat the cause of the wound, slowly and over time if I’m willing to take the time to give it.

And I guess that’s the question that’s gnawing at me.

Am I willing to take the time to love my neighbors by giving them what they really need-

Even if some of my neighbors need loving like a mama?

DSC_1429I woke this morning knowing I’ve got to make a sign to nail onto our big oak tree in the front yard today.

I should have made it last year or even the year the before that, but who in the world wants to nail a big sign on the best tree in the yard with phrases like No Weed Talk, No Public Displays of Affection, No Name Calling, No Fat Mama Jokes, No Sneaking Off to Couple Up on the Hammock, No Cell Phones?

Not me, that’s who.

I’m not even good at hand lettering, but if this thing has to hang in my front yard forever, then I want it to at least look nice and welcoming- if you can even make a sign with No Fat Mama Jokes welcoming, that is.

Because that’s what mamas do, right?

 

 And if you have 20 minutes, I’d invite you to listen to Father Greg Boyle give a talk on kinship and compassion. He’s the author of Tattoos on the Heart, a book that I return to over and over again. He steps all over my toes. And my prayer is that you’d let him step all over yours too.

 

On Friday

DSC_1424The sun pools in the front room, right at the base of the seven foot cross the Man lugged down the stairs yesterday for our Maundy Thursday service.

It’s presence, looming heavy in the room, speaks to the severe mercy it represents and the Man says we’ll leave that cross there for 3 full days. I think three days is a long time to have a seven foot cross in the front room and I told him so.

“It’s in the way,” I said. “We won’t have room for everyone on Sunday if we leave it right there in front of the windows.”

But he answered in his slow way, the way that says his heart knows something my  heart is too hurried to comprehend and so I choose to trust him because he is good and true.

It’s supposed to be in the way,” he said. “That cross is meant to be so offensive and so audacious and so in your face you can’t help but see Jesus and fall at His feet. I want it to be the only thing we see until Sunday.”

 

This morning, I drink coffee under the shadow of that cross while the Man sits across from me in his corner of the room.

I ask him what’s on his mind.

He grins at me, the shadow of the cross lengthening across the floor and he says nothing for a good long while.

Just thinking through Sunday,” he says.

I think we should move the cross to the front yard,” I say. “Maybe do the whole service out there. I think the neighbors will come if they hear you on guitar.” I’m teasing and he knows it.

“Maybe,” he says as he rises to refill his mug. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

But in my mind I’ve already flung open the doors and potted flowers for every table in the front yard and imagined resurrection Sunday as a neighborhood party,

That cross pointing straight to Jesus, turning our whole community upside down.

 

As we move through the weekend, may we remember that at the Last Supper, Jesus gave a new commandment:

That you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34

Our testimony of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection hinges on this simple commandment.

We must love our neighbors as Jesus has loved us.

 

And if you have a minute, I encourage you to swing by here and here to read two stories of two women who are choosing to love their neighbors in tangible ways. Both ladies linked up last month and I loved both their stories, I just simply failed to remember that today was the day I was supposed to guest post one of their posts! So I’m sending you to their patch of internet real estate to give you a full picture of how they love well.

14 Things I Learned in March

Things i Learned in MarchIt’s time for me  to recap all of the little things I’ve picked up along the way and organize them into a concise, brilliantly executed post that is balanced with a heaping spoonful of humor and a dash of spice. {smile}

Sometimes, I sprinkle in a pinch of something brainy just to make y’all think I’m bookish and scholarly and altogether smart.

But not today.

Today’s post is pure nonsense and whimsy and all things that amount to nothing but a hill of beans…

Except for maybe a handful of things.

Okay. Except for maybe two hands full of things.

I can’t help it. I’m a whole lot of  heavy. You can talk to Jesus about that.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

{and thank you Emily Freeman for hosting this link-up. you are the quietest little firecracker in all of the internet.}

IMG_3192[1]1. White girls can rock an Afro.

2. Fifteen minutes is the magic number if you’re trying to almost freeze a Diet Coke.

It takes a grand total of 17 minutes to take an 8oz. Diet Coke from simply chilled to frozen all inside your freezer. Ask me how I learned this.

3.I don’t know how to receive nice words.

It now takes me 10-12 days to respond to personal email. And the more lovely the email, the longer it takes for me to respond. I’m squirrely when it comes to receiving niceties via my love language: written words.

DSC_14174.Thank you’s are hard.

If someone sends some love for our neighbors through the mail, I can hardly wait to snap a picture and thank them from the internet gates. But when someone sends some love in the mail, specifically to encourage our family personally, I experience something like the 8 stages of How to Say Thank You. I go from pick up the phone and call to run to Target and buy an $8.95 card to send via snail mail to How in the world do you thank someone for that? It’s too nice and we’re just worms trying to glow. I will never be able to say thank you. Shamefully, more often than not, I land on the last stage and send a lame thank you late. Like 3 months late. Working on this.

5.Loving our neighbors means we must love our public schools.

If every Jesus-loving family in America chose to send their children to public school and spend the same number of hours serving their local public school that they currently spend either homeschooling their children or serving their private school, our generation could turn this world upside down. We could be known as the generation who chose to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 6. Plexus is rocking my world.

I’ve been using their products for 3 weeks and I’ve had only 1 headache in 21 days. I’m sleeping better and getting things done more efficiently. I’m always a skeptic of things like this, but I’ve watched 2 pastor-wife friends have these products transform their bodies. You can ask me anything you’d like, but I can assure you I have no answers. I’m giving it 60 days and then I’ll give you guys a thumbs up or a thumbs down. So far- I’m a fan! {Plexus is not a weight-loss program, btw.}

DSC_14167.Picnic tables can be altars.

When you put a couple of picnic tables in the front yard and serve food to the poor, the poor will quickly become your neighbors. And when they become your neighbors, you can’t help but love them and desire to give them Jesus. And when you give them Jesus, Jesus will build His church right in your front yard.

8. Never stop praying your heart’s desire.

If you pray for 3 years for an African American couple to help you plant a church, Jesus will take your request and give you more than you prayed for. He will send an African American couple, from your home church half a country away, who have been trained at the seminary of your heart, who have planted churches and closed churches, and he will knit your hearts together in such a way that brings both laughter and tears and necessary kicks in the pants. And He will choose a couple, in their last years of life, to plant alongside a couple who needs their wisdom to run their race with excellence.

 DSC_1402Thomas and Sandra Moton: These 2 are firecrackers masquerading as 70 year old people.

9.Jesus just wants me to say YES to hard things.

Every time I get an email inviting me to speak at something or other, I don’t open the email for 24 whole hours. Instead, I freak out and play the You’re a loser and everyone knows it. tape. I wallow and cry the ugly cry in the shower until Jesus reminds me that He is able and all He needs is my YES. And then I say yes.

10. Book-Launch teams send this people-loving introvert running for the hills.

I’m on the smallish book launch team for Jen Hatmaker‘s book For the Love and part of being on this fabulous team means that I am in a Facebook group with the rest of the team where there are miles and miles of Facebook threads as long as the fingers can scroll. My phone dings and lights up every minute of every day with their chipper chatter and these women have even made leather cuffs and mugs and t-shirts and planned meet-ups and launch parties and book clubs. All For The Love.

And I’m overwhelmed with the way they love well.

Grateful I get to be a silent cheerleader. {insert quiet finger snapping and big smile.}

11. The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but a person who loves those around them will create community.  Dietrich Bonhoffer.

IMG_3149[1]12. I love Voxer.

I can vox all day. Just don’t call me on the phone or send me an email or a text that has to be sent in 6 separate texts. Even Facebook messages that are more than 6 lines long overwhelm me. If you love me, Vox me. Find me at user name lharri6442.  If you use Voxer, please let me know. I’d LEAP FOR JOY to be able to chat with you. Because if you send me an email, I may never respond in a timely fashion.

13. If the dream feels too big, you’re probably dreaming the right dream.

As we’ve wrestled out the community garden dream over the last year, we’ve been worried we were getting in over our heads. Little did we know that Jesus had already been dreaming of feeding our neighbors through a community garden and that He was sending someone from the WHITE HOUSE Strong Cities, Strong Communities into our city to lead the initiative. And little did we know that this guy from the USDA would take our dream and blow it out of the water, giving us more than we had asked Jesus for….for free. With an expert farmer, on a plot of land irrigated by the city that we can do whatever we want to with. Bam What?!

I love it when Jesus highjacks our plans.

Most of the time, anyway.

14. The new Victoria’s Secret Fabulous bra is really fabulous.

Seriously.  It’s the best bra I’ve ever bought. You’re welcome.

 

Your turn- What did you learn in March?

I’m all ears.

Literally.

Vox me. {smile.}