On Making No Sense

DSC_0734DSC_0717DSC_0663Late in the afternoon, while the kids hang from the trees and the Man cleans up the bathroom we’ve never committed to renovate, I grab the camera and sneak out to south Rocky Mount to find the pretty in the gritty. It’s hot out, but I roll down the windows anyway. The places I’m headed don’t open themselves up to sightseers and today, I’m a sightseer.

I walk the line between my life and their life and this line I walk is thin and brittle as spun sugar, but it’s familiar to me so I walk it.

The radio is loud in the car and the volume rattles my chest in a way that summons up that sliver of bravery that likes to settle along the bottom of my gut. Music is the art that speaks to my soul and the art it speaks today is the one that sets my soul ablaze in justice and mercy.

And justice and mercy don’t come easy to this black and white thinker, this woman who’s accustomed to pull up your boot straps and get ‘er done theology. I turn the music up louder and louder until my poor thinking is sitting underneath that sliver of bravery and I squint my eyes to see what Jesus sees in this place I used to call my Ninevah.

DSC_0728DSC_0726DSC_0725I drive slow and steady down the streets that seem to bear no name and I count the steeples and makeshift marques that stake a claim for Jesus. There is one church for every ten shacks, ten apartments, ten shotgun style homes, ten boarded-up, broken down houses, and I swallow hard with the hopelessness of it all.

There is no traffic.

No people walking about or boys dribbling basketballs up and down the street.

With the windows rolled down, I can hear everything and there is nothing to hear. Just dead space and heavy humidity.

I drive up and down and then make the same loop, three times, trying to catch the light just right on my favorite steeple, but with each snap of the shutter I catch only shadows.

And the shadows I catch only serve to drive home the harsh reality of poverty that is seeping into my bones. I fight back the feeling that any sack of groceries or cup of cool water I serve is just a drop in the bucket of an ocean full of need.

My bones ache.

My mouth is dry.

And I drive around for more than hour before I give up and drive home to Avent.

DSC_0384DSC_0451DSC_0001Tonight, the Man and I do business about our business here. We talk a circle around the church and the neighborhood, MOPS and IF, the blog and school. We hash out the pros and cons and the callings and the want-to-do’s. The more we talk, the less sense we make, and after a few hours, we retreat into our books.

Sometimes, there is no talking sense into things that seem to make no sense. And today, Jesus makes no sense.

“What is your fondest memory of us?” I ask him when the house is quiet. It’s my stab at righting our world and us, the me and him, we make sense.

At least in my mind, we make sense.

And tonight, that is enough.

 

This is my small offering to Lisha’s community of grace-filled writers. It is not meant to be a Debbie-downer piece as much as it is meant to stand alone as a reminder that we’re not meant to fix this world. We’re meant to live in it, as people filled up with Jesus. Following Jesus makes no good sense at all, but I’d rather wade through this messed up life with Him, than muddle through it without Him. Amen?

10 Things I Learned This Summer

DSC_0057DSC_0509The humidity is so thick this morning that I could cut it with a butter knife. I’m hankering to hang my fall wreath and bedazzle my porch with pumpkins because when the calendar rolls over into September, my whole being leaps for joy. In September, I pull out The Mitford series by Jan Karon and I spend the whole month lost somewhere in small town America. I hunker down and hole up and I bake fruity breads. Quilts get pulled out and the mantle gets smattered with little gourds and candles are lit from sun up to sundown. I love fall.

But today, it’s still August and the heat is stifling.

To usher in the coming of fall and my lovely month of September, I thought I’d share with you 10 Things I Learned This Summer. (Actually, I read Shelly Miller’s list and was inspired to scratch out my list.- Just telling the truth and letting Jesus love me, y’all.)

There’s some hills of beans, some mounds of fluff, and a dash of prophecy talk in this list. I hope the things I’ve learned will make you laugh, make you take stock of what you’ve learned this summer, and make you brave enough to own your God-given gifts.

Happy weekend, friends!

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1.) If you come to the end of yourself and your resources, there are people who will jump up and down for the chance to fill your gaps. And if you let them, you will get to see Jesus do beautiful things.

2.) If Jesus is building something and He has invited you to participate in the building, say YES! His yoke is easy and the burden is light and obedience is all that is required. Show up, be faithful, bend when you need to bend, break when He asks you to break, and then rest in the deep abiding joy that fills your every crevice.

3.) Sabbath is not not working one day a week. It is an acknowledgement that I am a human in need of the kind of rest that only an infinite God can give. It is a sacred rhythm of work and rest that provides the avenue for a fuller, richer, more gracious way of living. Receiving this gift is not easy for me, but my life is requiring that I learn to receive it. And I’m grateful.

4.) Grace levels the playing field. Always.

5.) When your gut says something is not quite right, something is most likely not quite right. And waiting four months to do something about the not quite right thing, only makes things messier. Lesson learned the hard way.

 

6.) A facetime interview with someone is so much more fun than a phone interview. And when the interviewer tells you she is going to transcribe the interview, believe her. She is going to do just that. So be brief, cut the the fluff, and don’t ramble. Also, plug in your phone before the interview begins. (Bless you Natalie Razavi. I was a rambler. This is my public apology for giving you 6,000 words of nothingness. You are a gift.)

7.) When Jesus plants you in a neighborhood that is hungry, He will rally His troops to feed your neighbors. He will send Amazon pantry boxes out the wazoo, crock pots by UPS, and grocery bags by the dozens. And you will stand amazed that He chose to use one Facebook post to begin a new work called Feed A Neighbor.

8.) Back to school supplies for three children will cost upwards of $500. But public school is still cheaper than homeschooling. YAY!

9.) If your neighbor brings her home improvement guy over to ask if you have any work for him to do, it is best to refer the home improvement guy to the Man. You should never say, “Sure! Can you give me a quote on what it would cost to fix the back wall of the mudroom?” Because before you know it, the home improvement man will have done the work and handed you a bill instead of a quote. The work will be perfect and a steal, but you will then spend four hours trying to convince the Man that you don’t know what happened…and the four hour conversation will be worth it because you have been nagging the Man for two years to do something about that rotting wood on that wall.  (And all the women nod their heads in agreement because you know what I’m talking about. I’ve already got my eye on the hall bathroom that needs some work…)

10.) I have the gifts of wisdom, discernment, and prophecy. I’m okay with two of these gifts, but I still have a hard time with the other one. Wisdom and discernment are safe, but prophecy, well, I’m not even sure what to do with that one except not play with dry bones or run around naked. Until this summer, I’ve not wanted to embrace this gift. I’ve wanted to slide it under a rug and only pull it out when no one is watching.  Prophecy is one of those gifts you don’t tell people you have because they either look at you weird or ask you to predict the future. And for those of you wondering, those with the gift of prophecy do not predict the future. This gift manifests itself, in me,  more like an understanding or a vision for what God is doing or how He is moving and then calling out the Church to wake up and join Him. Not very popular, huh? It makes me a little odd and lonely feeling, but I’m learning to be okay with that.

Your turn, What have you learned this summer?

 

I’m Not Sure and That’s Okay

IMG_1322[1]We’re four days into this half-of-the-kids-being-at-school business and it is not quite like I’d imagined it to be.

To say it has made my days all wonky would be a gross understatement.

I start my day at 5:30, running.

Not running outside with the cool breeze in my hair and Rend Collective in my ears, but RUNNING around the house like a crazed person making lunches and trying to be a perky and happy cheerleader for my little team. And I’m not a morning person. Nor is any member of my little team.

At 6:40, the first two of three little people get dropped off at mi casa for an almost eleven hour day of baby sitting. (One of these little people is only seven weeks old. Enough said.) An hour later, one more little person is dropped off for a ten hour day of baby sitting.

At 8:00, the rest of my team rolls out of bed and takes up residence on the couch to watch the three babies tear the house apart. They say nothing for at least an hour. There is nothing to say, really, at 8am.

From 8am until 5:30pm, someone is crying.

On Monday, I almost cried with them. On Tuesday, I held it in until bedtime, and then I cried. On Wednesday while the kids were sucking down corn dogs, I realized that although someone had cried all day, I had somehow managed to function in the midst of the crying and still get a lot of thinking done.

And I like to think.

{Winning. #1000Gifts. Jesus Loves Me. Coping Under Stress. Checking Out. Just Going Through The Motions. Call it what you will, but I was thinking!!!}

IMG_1323[1]When we lived in Dallas, I worked part time in the children’s ministry area. I was the director of facilities, meaning, I was the goldfish buyer and distributor, the craft putter-outer and picker-upper, the toy manager, the cleaner-upper of all the messes, and the go-to person for all the jobs no one really wanted to do.

And I LOVED that job.

I loved it because it was a no-brainer, three hour a day job and my mind was free to wander into all sorts of things.

I wrote entire books in my mind while I pushed around the cart of supplies. I hashed out ministry issues and relational mishaps and parenting woes while my hands worked.

I thought about that job last night while I was curled up under the covers. The kids had been in the bed for less than an hour and like the three nights before, I turned in along with them. I’m working my way through a season of hard thinking and heart searching and the early nights to bed are easy doing.

As I thought about this season, I couldn’t help but think how good Jesus is to give me a job with built in space to think.

loribrownharris1_10369357_741748892512444_1626972230_nBack in March, I bought a ticket to a conference that is built around the idea that our online voices can be shaped and used to unleash the power of Jesus in our places of influence by equipping us to use our social media presence (our blogs) for good so that others are drawn to Jesus. Amazing, Jesus honoring, FUN conference made for people just like me.

I sat up late the night the tickets went on sale and I was one of the first buyers, scoring an Early Bird Ticket. I was over the moon and quickly lined up a hotel room with three other blogging friends.

I’ve spent the last six months counting down the days to this event in October. It’s been my big event of the year.

Until two weeks ago.

When I began to do some hard thinking about what I’ve felt Jesus doing in my life and in my place. At first, all the thinking never led to thoughts about the conference and whether or not I’d go. I’d bought a ticket, drawn an arrow on my calendar, and gotten some roomies. And I wanted to go more than anything.

But last week, in the middle of the night, I began to let myself go there. (I’ve been going there a lot lately and so far, nothing good has come of it.) I began to consider opening the hand holding Allume to see if Jesus would pluck it. I prayed about it and called in the troops and spent a few days imagining myself not attending.

Honestly, I still have no clear answer. Jesus hasn’t said go and He hasn’t said don’t go and the only peace I have is that Allume is not as important to me as I once thought it to be.

And maybe that’s the point.

Maybe all the angst about making the right decision is less about the decision and more about the heart making the decision. Maybe it’s not about platform or networking or book writing. Maybe it’s about choosing to let Jesus write the story and His invitation to let me live it. Maybe the blogging is not the thing. Maybe it’s just the thing by which Jesus gets the things done.

And maybe it’s not about the writing at all. Maybe it’s about having a life worth writing about, even if it’s never written.

I’m not sure.

And that’s okay.

 

And you? Where are you? What kinds of things are keeping you up at night? What is Jesus not giving you an answer on?

 

*If you are in need of a ticket to Allume, please let me know! I have one!!!

To All the Mamas on the Edge

DSC_0680After seven years of homeschooling my people, I woke this morning , packed three lunch boxes and put my three oldest kids on two different buses headed to two different public schools.

They’d been up since before 5am, carrying on like wild ones are known to do, fixing hair and tucking in shirt tails. Taking on the posture of  the kids from across the street and practicing cool slang-filled phrases, they spent long minutes in front of the bathroom mirror, hooting and hollering like any other day.

The girls worked to cutify their khakis and white shirts while the boy admired his face in the mirror and I stood in the doorway quite uncertain of how I should read the moment.

So I quit trying and I lived it.

The kids fixed their own bowls of cereal and glasses of milk and the Man joined them at his spot at the end of the table. They all laughed as he gave a daddy pep talk and I fell in love with that man all over again.

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DSC_0692The homeschooled kid from next door met my girls on the porch at a half past six and walked them to the bus stop one street over. I watched them giggle all the way to the stop sign, the latest stray running along behind them and I etched the sight in my mind,

Counting gifts: no tears, peals of laughter, good friends who share in the joy of the moment.

DSC_0694DSC_0693The boy and I sat on the porch for a while longer before his bus was due to arrive.  He adjusted and readjusted his belt and smiled at me, too grown up for words. I asked him if he was scared going to school all alone and he answered with a shake of his head.

I believed him.

I hugged him goodbye and then watched him stride on down the street, alone, to his bus stop.

And I stood on the porch and counted again: one strong boy, confident gait, compassionate heart.

DSC_0696The house is quiet now, but not empty, and it’s the quiet that threatens to wreck my heart this morning.

Quiet can sometimes break a heart, making it soft towards Jesus, gently bending the soul towards the loving arms of Truth.

But sometimes, quiet can provide just enough space for the mind to begin to  fill a heart with angst and regret and should have done betters.

DSC_0681So this morning, before I tackle the nine loads of laundry and the sink of dishes, I offer this prayer for all the mamas who are sitting on the edge of angst and regret and should have done betters,

Because I’m sitting right there on the edge with you.

Jesus.

You are enough and all of life begins and ends with You.

You, who have given me a house and a heart full, You have called me to mother these children.

You have named me good enough, strong enough, loved enough, equipped enough.

You have put your very nature in me and even at my worst I am still Jesus Christ in Lori Harris.

I give you my quiet house, my achy heart, my thoughts I can scarcely hold captive and I trust You in this very moment.

I trust You to redeem any time I’ve squandered,

Right any poor decisions I’ve made,

Release me of any angst that chokes the living out of my life.

Jesus.

You love my kids more than I ever could.

You see the big picture, the larger community, the scarlet thread running from our home all the way to Baskerville and Parker.

You know how this turns out.

And I trust You with the beginning, the middle and the end.

Use us, me, to make much of You in the smallness of this everyday life.

Increase our faith, enlarge our territory, and embolden us with Your story.

Make our lives count. Make us brave. Make us servants.

Make us wholly Yours.

Amen.

 And for all you mamas who are trusting Jesus with your children in the public school system for the first time, let me know who you are. I’d love to put some names and faces together. 

 

Go Live Small

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Can I take about five minutes of your time, back up my entire dump truck of junk, and dump it on you?

Good.

I was hoping you’d say that.

Right this minute, there are nine children in this house.

One of them is only six weeks old, bless his little heart, and he has acid reflux. He is only mine 47 hours a week, but y’all, all those little thoughts about me wanting another little chunk of love are gone. Forever. Never coming back.

Another one is my 15 month old niece. She’s teething and has the full on booger thing happening this week. And Jesus help me, she has tears.  Alligator tears. All day. And no napping.

The other seven kids are pretty easy. Except that they run in and out all day and I now have seven houseflies in the house. They also talk. And whine. And eat all the livelong day.

Then there are four other kids outside. They are not mine and I am not responsible for them, but y’all they are still at mi casa. Tearing up my miniscule patch of grass and dragging out all the toys and broken down pieces of everything under the sun and they LEAVE THEIR SNACK TRASH IN MY YARD.

Help me Jesus.

It is also hot as Hades out there and the cups of water requests are doing me in. They’re doing me in y’all.  Actually, I’m done. Like all the way.

This is the state of my world today. And yesterday and probably tomorrow. I’m praying not tomorrow.

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And then there’s the whole other world outside of my street and I can’t escape the feeling that I’m supposed to do something that I’m not yet doing.

Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and sometimes the not knowing is nice.

Ignorance is bliss. Especially when you learn or see or hear things that you wish you hadn’t.

Because once you know, you can’t not know. You know?

It seems to me that for the last two weeks, the world has been on standby waiting for the other shoe to drop or for Jesus to come back and save us from ourselves.

This world is a vile place and we humans do vile and unspeakable things to one another. And sometimes the righting what is wrong in this world feels too big and too hard and too costly. And to be honest, we feel small and insignificant, like our tiny offerings of peace on earth and good will towards men won’t be enough.

So we hide out and hole up and delve into mindless television or poorly written novels. We eat cartons of ice cream and watch the news waiting for someone to do something. We waste time scrolling social media and reading what folks are saying about the state of the world that we can’t touch and we climb into bed exhausted with all the knowing of the things we wished we didn’t.

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On Tuesday, when the last of the babies had left my nest for the night, I made a quick run to the grocery store. I don’t normally make runs to the store mid-week, but we were out of all the have to haves, so I went.

When I gathered myself into the car and pulled out of the drive, I realized that the half-dozen kids still kicking up dust in my front yard would probably be there when I got back.

Unloading groceries in front of children who have little to no food in their pantries is always awkward, but it happens nearly every week.  And after two years of navigating all shades of awkward here,  I still don’t know how to handle the unloading the car deal.

I was gone for less than an hour and when I returned, the crowd in the yard had grown by three. And as always, I felt my throat tighten with insecurity and the deep rooted feeling that this is all wrong.

I sighed as the kids clamored around the sacks of groceries and I tried to shew them off, not wanting them to see what I’d been able to buy. But the kids were relentless and the smallest one, the one with the curly lashes and big eyes, wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“Let me at ‘em,” he’d said. “I can carry all of them.”

I handed him the tub of ice cream and the bag of sugar and then watched him drag them across the dirt and into the house.  The other kids grabbed a sack and just like Little Man, they carried them into the house.

I followed in behind them to put the groceries away and after a few minutes alone, I realized that Little Man was standing in the office watching me work.

“What’s up?” I asked him.

“When you gonna give me some of that ice cream I drug up in here?” he asked.  He was grinning.

I smiled and sent him outside with the others and then set about scooping fifteen cones of ice cream.

And I relished in the idea that fifteen ice cream cones would bring a smidgen of order to the chaos in my little world.

DSC_0530My house has been quiet now for an hour, the time it’s taken me to tap out this sloppy post, and honestly, I don’t even know where I’m trying to go with all these words.  I hadn’t thought I’d write this week in light of the whole world falling to pieces, but the writing helps me process all the levels of crazy going on around me.

And I thought maybe my crazy making here could help you, too.

Here’s what I know, in a list form because the baby is beginning to stir and I have no time to wrap this up with a bow:

1.) The whole world is falling to pieces.  It truly is.

2.) God is not asking us to put it all back together, just like it was before the Fall.

3.) God is asking us, His little image bearers, to live in this world in such a way that when the broken down, the hurt, the angry, the forgotten, the mistreated, the unloved, come face to face with us, they want the Jesus who dwells within us.

4.) Because Jesus is the only HOPE we have and He has already overcome the world.

5.) Go live small, right where you are because your place and your people need the HOPE living in you.

And nap time is over…pray I don’t cry?

I love y’all. I really do.

 

In Which I Humbly Go There

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My world is a small one.

It’s made up of a few streets, one elementary school, one yard with patchy landscaping and lots of litter, a Wal-Mart, a Piggly Wiggly, one coffee shop, and a few fists full of in real life people.

I rarely drive more than fifteen minutes to go anywhere.  I’m committed to my place and what my place has to offer, so except for the quarterly Stitch Fix box, paid for by you fine folks, and the occasional Ebay win, I get everything I need right here.  I make three trips a year to the big city and when I do, I feel like my insides are climbing the wall.  The stuff crammed in-between more stuff and all the twinkly lights, wrecks all the things that Jesus has been doing with my heart pertaining to my love of pretty things.  So I avoid the big city.

I just choose to be satisfied here.  In Rocky Mount.  On Avent street.  And always in Christ.

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If I’m honest with you, my life has become so small that I rarely look above the fray that isn’t zip coded in 27804.

When I tell you that I’m all in here, I mean I am so far in that I forget there is a big ol’ world out there dealing with big ol’ world things.  I feel a smidgen of shame as I write that.  The Man and I chose our seminary because of its big world appeal.  The multi-ethnic body, the different denominations, the abundance of expressions of worship, the diversity in professors and languages and skin colors intrigued us and woke us up to our creative God.

But we’ve been out of school for nearly three years now, and for nearly three years we’ve been saying yes to this small world.  We’ve been waking up and putting on blinders and seeing Avent Street and Rocky Mount and Nash County.  We’ve been hunkering down and going to school on our people and our place.  We’ve wrestled with racism and poverty and good ol’ boy theology as they pertained to our city and along the way, I’ve lost the desire to change the whole world.

Who can entertain changing the whole world when the groaning on one’s own street is loud enough to make one’s head spin?

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When the Man came home early tonight, I slipped out the door to pick up our weekly $5 pizzas from Little Caesars.  We always get four: two cheese, one sausage, and one pepperoni and we usually get two meals from the four pizza deal.  Every Thursday, this is our dinner plan.

I love Thursdays.

The yard was full, as usual, and all the kids were streaked in something that could only be a mixture of dirt and sweat.  I counted the number of kids and came up with eleven:  eight white kids and three black kids.

Usually, we have about ten white kids and five black kids.  This is just how it is here on my street.  The poor white kids outnumber the poor black kids and the distinction between the two groups of kids, other than skin color, is scarcely worth mentioning.

But I am mentioning it because, well, the whole world is talking about race and race is a big deal in my place.

And to not mention race would be negligent because everything I do or say or think or write is framed within the context of my understanding of the racial tension in my city.

Sadly, my understanding amounts to not much more than a hill of beans and a stack of books with statistics and and laws and injustices that I can’t wrap my mind around.

The fact that I can’t wrap my mind around all the things I see and read and feel bothers me to no end.   My lack of understanding causes me to feel like an uncaring, unloving, apathetic white woman living in the ghetto pretending to get what’s what out here in poor man’s land.

For days now, I’ve been unable to find my words in regards to what is happening to all over God’s green earth.  I’ve shrugged off my address and my daily happenings and my heart for my city because I’m a white, evangelical woman, married to a church planting, grace preaching man, with a slew of kids who have chosen to live in the ‘hood.  No one forced us into this life but Jesus and everybody knows that Jesus forces Himself on no one.

We chose this life and we have staked our claim on this patch of asphalt and jacked up sidewalk.  We bleed Avent and Grace and we gladly do so.  But to bleed for Ferguson or our family in Iraq or for the injustices shown to every mentally ill person that has ever contemplated ending their life, is a whole other world and a whole other story that I have no idea how to engage.

Jesus has planted my feet and my heart at 554 Avent and the whole other world seems just that: a whole other world.

I have no leg to stand on or soapbox to preach from because out here in no man’s land, where no one has access to the internet or television or newspapers, the only thing people care about is their unpaid light bill or grumbling belly.

So I am moved to suspending time and internet and the nightly news to feed empty tummies and give rides to the store and chat on the front porch.

I am moved to swinging little boys on the horse swing from the big oak and passing out Kool-Aid and Little Debbies to the half dozen extra kids piled into my yard.

I am moved to braiding lengths of hair and bandaging boo-boos and laughing over the newest slang.

I am moved to dreaming big dreams with the people in my city who long to see Jesus eradicate poverty and racism and the segregated 11 o’clock hour of worship.

But mostly, I am moved to replicate the small acts of Jesus as the great big world outside of Rocky Mount fights a battle I have no idea how to fight.

And late at night, when the rest of my place sleeps, I troll social media and catch up on the rest of the world and I fall on my face and confess my ignorance and my small world view and my lack of fight for the rest of the world.

And I beg Jesus to move His people to fill the gaps that I can’t even imagine.

And I tremble as I ask Him to come quickly.

DSC_0095This is my humble, small minded offering to the community of other writers committed to #GoingThere with Deidra Riggs.  Deidra says that going there is messy and ugly and everyone’s toes get trampled on in the process.  But she says it is necessary for the body of Christ and in the fullness of Christ, I agree with her.  But tonight, in the fullness of my white, middle class skin, I wonder.  I pray my words here are received as they have been given, for I am but a work in progress and I fail more than I succeed.  Please respond gracefully.

And Deidra- thank you for calling the church to be the Church.  You inspire and teach and call me into different living.

On Opening A Can of Worms and Asking the Hard Questions

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I watch the rain pound the front yard into puddles and I talk myself through the circles of things I need to do and have to do and want to do.

And I wonder how all the things I need to do and have to do and want to do, meld themselves into something like a meaningful, purposeful life.

They do, of course, but in the thick of it I find myself on the porch, after dark, watching the water in the yard rise to pond-like proportions and I ask myself the hard questions.

I don’t like the hard questions any more than I like the pond in my front yard, but the hard questions keep me looking to Jesus and that’s a good thing.

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Last week, at some hour after late, the boys from across the street came and apologized for all the nasty things they’d done to our house and our yard over the last year.  They unloaded the dump truck of offenses and made things right and then told the whole truth about why they’d come to make amends: They have a court date at the end of the month and they’re scared.  They’re afraid of going to jupee and being away from their mama. They’re afraid of ruining their already messed up life and being away from each other.

The Man and I forgave them and I apologized for loving them mean and we both came back into the house wondering what the heck had just happened on the porch.

And tonight, after a week’s worth of days with jupee-bound boys in my yard, I’m asking myself What the heck am I doing letting these boys back into my life?

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On Saturday, I made coffee and moved chairs around and then welcomed a house full of women into my home for a MOPS meeting.  We unloaded the ugly parts of our souls, handled business, and then stayed late to encourage one another to run our races well.

This MOPS deal is stretching us and growing us and waking up all sorts of things in our hearts.  We’re on the brink of laying down our preferences for the good of the whole, but this laying down of our wants is no easy task. It’s painful and gut wrenching.

No one wants to come and die, but this MOPS and the Jesus who has called us to it, beckons us to do just that:

Lay down and die.

I’ve not slept well since I told Jesus yes to MOPS.  And for those of you wondering, that makes nearly 16 months.

I’m tired.  And alive.  All at the same time.

But the hard question putting down roots in my soul is this:  Why must MOPS come at such a high cost?

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On Sunday, I went food shopping at our local  Wal-Mart and true to Wal-Mart and the culture in which I live, the place was abuzz with Spanish speaking migrant workers.

I intentionally shop on Sundays because I know they’ll be there and they remind me of home.

But this Sunday, as I made my way from the parking lot into the store, I stopped and took stock of the people lining the wall outside and I let myself have all the feelings and thoughts that I’ve shoved down into the deep crevices of my heart.

I let myself go there and by Sunday evening I was wishing I hadn’t.  Nobody living in my county, where tobacco and corn and soybeans and peanuts still try and pay the bills, would really want to open the whole can of worms by asking the hard questions about the plight of our migrant workers.

Especially if the nobody asking comes from a long line of farmers and has no concrete facts on the matter.

But I have opened the can of worms and the only question that keeps crawling around is this: Is Jesus asking me to really go there and engage this community that keeps our economy rocking right along or am I to leave it well enough alone?

(Don’t answer that y’all, unless you can answer kindly and with grace.)

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And on Monday, after a weekend of birthday partying and little to no sleep, we committed our oldest three children to public school.

We’d spent the weekend talking through all the things that go with the public school and we weighed them against the offer we’d been given of free private school tuition.  We’d prayed through the free tuition and the feeling in our gut that Jesus was asking us to trust Him with our children by letting them attend the local public school.  We discussed the diverse population of children and the private school and how we’d be the 1% at the public school and how our heart was set on diversity.  We talked around the being all in and the commitment to our neighbors and the mightiness of Jesus.

But on Monday, even after doing the deed, I couldn’t help but ask myself What if we’re wrong?

 

This morning, I wake to clear skies and a muddy yard and more questions than I have answers.

But I make coffee and give Jesus space to direct my steps.

And I do the next thing.

 

Our next community v-log will go out on Monday of next week.  If you’d like to join the avent*ure community you can do so here.

If You Build It, They May Not Come {Why Avent?}

DSC_0288DSC_0280At a few minutes after 9pm, after the wild ones have hit the sack, the Man and I leap head first into the How was your day? conversation.

He wears his reading glasses and I wear dust and fatigue and we both wear looks of mischief.  The longer we’re married the more looks of up to no good we seem to wear.  We’re in a good spot and the move from needy children into the launching-little-birds phase of parenting is good for us.  We’re relishing new found freedom and longtime love and we’re happy-

Over the moon happy.

We’re midstream the blah blah blah’s when someone knocks at the front door and it’s late, even for our neighborhood. He pulls himself up from the chair and closes the door behind him.  I scroll Facebook looking for my friends while he meets our neighbors on the stoop.

And I sigh, full.

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DSC_0525We’ve been in full-time ministry since we were in college.

That makes nearly 20 years.

To say we know church would be an understatement because we have bled church work eight times longer than we have not.

We moved to Avent Street with the sole purpose of planting a house church in an under reached neighborhood full of marginalized people who desperately needed Jesus served alongside a hot meal and a break from their life.

It was intentional and thought out and strategic-

Purposeful.

We moved our little white family full of redheads onto Avent Street and set up house. We hung a tire swing from the big oak tree and sunk about 1.5K into a treehouse/swingset/slide combo for the backyard.  We bought a porch swing and a rocking chair and potted geraniums to line the front steps. We planted shrubbery and swept the front walk.

Because if you build it, they will come.

Because if you come in to save the day, you will indeed save it.

Or so we thought.

Within six months, we were holding church in our living room. I spent every Saturday, for an entire year, cleaning my house and cooking food and cutting our construction paper Noah’s arks so that we could get our church on here on Avent.  (I also yelled at my kids and cussed the Man and cried at God, but that’s another post for another day.)

Because if you build it and cook it and clean it, surely Jesus will choose to make a grand appearance and people will get saved.

Right?

We passed out loaves of bread and held movie nights on the lawn and played nice in the neighborhood sandbox.  We gave out turkeys at Thanksgiving.  We passed out diapers and dollar bills.

For twelve months, we did everything we knew to do to reach our neighborhood.

And nothing sparkly or magical or strobe-lighty happened.  We only made three ticks on the baptism chart and we would have made zero ticks on the Sunday School attendance chart if we had had Sunday School.

For twelve months, I chunked cans of beans at the Man and screamed that we had ruined our life.  I was convinced that Jesus was punishing us for having prideful hearts and impure motives.  Nothing was working and I was tired.

And when I got tired, I gave up.

And after all those months of crazy making, I finally heard Jesus whisper, “I was wondering how long it would take you to quit.  You ready to do this My way? The easy and light way?”

And with my face on the floor of my hundred year old kitchen, I sobbed a broken yes.

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DSC_0003It’s been a year since that episode on the floor of my kitchen.  It’s been a year since the Man and I sat at opposite ends of our farm table and pushed all that we knew about church into the center of the table and just quit.

And it’s been a year since Jesus called us out of the doing and into abundant living.

We moved onto Avent Street to plant a church among a people lost without Jesus.

But Jesus moved us onto Avent to plant a desire within us for only Him.

And so we simply live here.

Right on Avent.

And we try and love our neighbors as we love ourselves…kinda like we do over at Baskerville.

And on sparkly, magical, strobe-lighty days, our neighbors see Jesus in our living.

 

This is the third post in a three part series titled, We Are Fellowship.  I thank you for hanging in here until the end. You guys are troopers!

 

Why Baskerville? {On How Jesus Doesn’t Need My Defense}

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DSC_0542If God chooses the foolish things to shame the wise, then this may be the reason that we are at Baskerville Elementary.

Because it is foolish to plant a church in an impoverished neighborhood.

It’s even more foolish to plant a church in an impoverished neighborhood that is 99% black when the church doing the planting  is 99% crazy white.

But to rev up the foolish factor and cast it into a whole other level of making no good sense, then consider that this church plant, in the 99% black community by the 99% crazy white church, is being planted in the dirty south.

We’re talking full blown crazy making.

I know you’re either shaking your head or chuckling over your bowl of grits and that’s okay.  Shake or chuckle. I don’t care. I’ve done both, usually at the same time. And on a good day, I let a river of tears rolls right down my face while I laugh and shake my head.

But the truth is this:  Of all the doors in Rocky Mount, the only door that God opened to our church was at Baskerville Elementary.  The only one.

And then there is this:  All the kids in our neighborhood attend Baskerville Elementary.  Including our kids. (More on this later…another don’t want to write it kinda post.)

I know God has a sense of humor because my life is a comedy written in His own pen.

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DSC_0162DSC_0163FBRM Serve Sunday July 2014-3DSC_0595At 9:30, every Sunday morning, I load the 2003 Chevy Suburban with six wild ones dressed in all variations of Sunday best, none of which include a dress or a monogram, and we roll right over the railroad tracks into no man’s land.

I use the term no man’s land loosely because there are obviously men in the land, but the land is not prime real estate. It’s not even sub par real estate.  It’s just rows and rows of shotgun houses with metal bars at the windows. It’s Section 8 housing and Payday Loans.  It’s KFC and Roses.  It’s neighborhood stores and pink flamingos and broken down cars with tinted windows and shiny rims.  It’s four schools and one childcare center and more church buildings than I can count.

It’s the kind of land no man clings to in his American dream.

But it is where God has rolled out the welcome mat and the place where we’ve staked our claim.  It’s the place where we’re all in.  And it’s the place where we’re made foolish to shame the wise…the wise, more often than not, being ourselves.

DSC_0543DSC_0467DSC_0463DSC_0317DSC_0599I could write a small book on all the ways Jesus came close to the least of these.  I could spin a week’s worth of words devoted only to imploring us to love the poor, to serve others, to lay down our lives so that others may live.  And initially, that was my intent.  Last week, I had planned to take my small stack of notes on why we are who we are and turn the notes into something worth considering.

But after days of wrestling with all the why’s of Baskerville, I feel this deep seeded desire to be quiet, to let Jesus smile at all the unanswered questions of Why Baskerville?

I have no desire to stake our claim in the Bible Belt or jockey for position alongside the Big Four in our city.

Gone is the need to state the reasons why we drive right into the government sanctioned ‘hood in Edgecombe county and pick up trash or play pick up basketball.

The fight I once had for proving right Jesus’ model of drawing others unto Himself is just gone.

I have only Jesus and the new life He is birthing in this calloused, good girl heart of mine.

This is His story here and we, Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount, are simply a body of believers heaven bent on doing what Jesus has asked us to do:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

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This is the second post in a three part series titled We Are Fellowship and I hesitate when writing anything about our church.  God is mysterious and most every time I think I have Him figured out, He spins my world off center. 

And I’ve wrestled a million words about Baskerville down to nearly nothing,

Because Jesus needs no words to make Himself known.

And I think He does such a marvelous job of glorifying Himself without my help.  Don’t you?

Later this week, I will answer the question Why Avent Street? and conclude this series, We Are FellowshipYou can read the first post in this short series here.

Tomorrow

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Late at night, when sleep is hard to come by, I punch the pillow and imagine the hour.

I know it’s well after midnight because the moonlight is slanting in through the blinds, just like it does after midnight. I try and not watch the slant of light, but I can’t help it.  The slice of light holds my mine captive while my soul musters up the strength to beat back all the lies that come to life after dark.

Be not afraid. 

I hear these three words and I say them to myself, moving my lips in the dark. 

Be not afraid.

I watch the slant of light thin as my chest heaves under the weight of heaviness that I can’t put words around.  Unable to breathe, I slip out of bed and walk the house.  I check on six dreaming children and listen to their breathing.  It’s slow and rhythmic. The lights upstairs have been left on by mistake and I switch them out.  One street lamp pours into the hallway, casting shadows on the walls and floorboards and I run my hand along the shadows.  Light and dark live in the same space and I live in their midst.

And I am afraid.

Not of the dark, but of the light.

All good things cast shadows and at some time after 2am, I stand full length in the shadows of a handful of good things.  I stand for long minutes, choosing shadows over the light I’ve not yet fully seen or wholly touched or adequately imagined.

I find cold comfort in the fear, the doubt, the not-enough-ness, for we’ve spent years becoming well-acquainted.  And the light, it dances and sways and stretches into places I don’t quite know yet and it ripens things in me I’m not yet ready to let bloom.  Why bloom when the cool shadows beckon me to come and sit a while?

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I slip down the stairs, back between the sheets, back to where the sliver of moonlight is no more, and I stare at the ceiling.

And the thrum of my heart pounds ever so quietly.

For I know the Light and He is not safe.

But He is good.

And he is calling to me,

Be not afraid.

Tomorrow, I whisper into the dark,

Tomorrow, I’ll not be afraid.

 This is my humble offering to Lisha’s beautiful community. Swing on by…you’ll be so glad you did.

*On Wednesday, I will post the second post in my short series, We Are Fellowship.  And I’m having a hard time finding my words.  Last week’s post and this week’s post are not my most favorite things to write. I truly did not sleep last night for fear of writing the hard things.  I write in story and the posts that call me to write from a this is what I know to be true place are very hard for me to write.  If you have a minute, could you pray I find my words laced with grace and truth and that Jesus would simply write His story here?    The more I write and the more Jesus calls me into me into brighter edges of light, the more aware I am of the weight of the words I choose to write.  This new found edge of light frightens me and I am a beggar in need of grace and the prayers of the saints.  I humbly thank you.