Here’s the Deal

DSC_0577Here’s the deal.

When I have something simmering under the surface of my skin, I have a hard time keeping it there. If it’s s feeling, it’s coming out. If it’s a thought, it’s coming out. If it’s something I don’t want you to know about me, well, that thing I don’t want you to know is going to come out in a big way.

I wish I weren’t this way, but I am. {The Man is the this way, too. You wanna get some dirt on the Harris clan? Just swing on by for a hour and the both of us will shovel it for you.}

Yesterday morning it was 22 degrees when I rolled the Suburban out of the drive and headed out, what I would call, the back way to Wilson. I took 301 to 97 and stayed on 97 all the way past the cotton fields and the 13 churches and the long lines of streaming sunlight bouncing off the frost covered ground until I arrived at the dot on my phone that told me I had arrived..

at MOPS…

where I was due to share my take on being brave.

Just in case you’re wondering about my speaking capabilities, let me tell you I’m no speaker. I’m a storyteller who loves telling stories. And I’m good at telling stories because I tell all the details other people leave out. {see above}

Lucky for me, this MOPS group was just like mine- imperfect, messy, beautiful, JOYOUS-so I was right at home.

I was so at home that when I stood up to share my story, I opened my talk with this run-on zinger: {prepare yourself- it’s a doozy…}

I’m so happy to be here with you guys. Like Eliza said, I’m Lori and I’m married to Thad and we have six children and our church plant recently failed so I stand before you as one living through a broken patch of life and although I don’t like to call what happened to our church a fail, that is the correct lingo for church planters, so yes: Our church plant failed. And not only am I living through a broken patch of life I am also feeling like I have a big scarlet F on my forehead that all of you can see and I am here to talk about being brave and let me just tell you I don’t feel brave, I’m so nervous I might throw up.

Yeah. I said a version of that, except that I think it went on for at least four or five more rambling lines of detailed confession.

At the end of the confession, I think I prayed. I don’t remember exactly when I did that, but I know I did because I remember asking Jesus to take my flat tire of a wheel.

And He did.

I stood up there feeling altogether naked except for my big girl panties with the word BRAVE stamped across my hiney and can I tell you how else I felt?

I felt free.

DSC_0576This morning I woke to find that I had an extra hour to myself. {yippee!} This rarely happens around here and when it does, I often find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I spent long minutes thinking about yesterday’s talk and how I’d do it differently next time. I thought about how I’d probably drop the part about me wanting to throw up and the whole run-on sentence factor. I thought maybe I’d keep my chatter to thirty minutes instead of  forty-three.

I also spent some time thinking about how I should have shared less about the outward circumstances that brought to surface the things that were hiding out in my heart, and spent more time sharing about the state of my heart. I beat myself up over things I left out and the things I over-shared and all the rabbits I chased.

I  even let myself take one trip around the circle of shame, my face burning pink the whole trip around, and then I let myself off.

Because really, who gives a rip?

Who gives a rip about the small mess-ups and mix-ups and the one time reference to vomit?  Who cares about whether I told stories for forty-three minutes instead of thirty and chased three brown rabbits and one white rabbit down into Wonderland?

No one, that’s who.

No one cares because we’re all the same and no one cares because we’re all dying to to hear we’re not the only ones a hot mess.

We’re all a mixed bag of slip ups and mess ups and failures walking around in skin we feel uncomfortable in, living lives we feel are broken and imperfect, feeling lonely because we’re too afraid to put words to our story and invite someone in to know the whole us. We’re prone to hiding, wallowing in shame, thinking we’re the only ones with a scarlet F on our foreheads. We’re all sitting around tight lipped about our own piles of dirt, just waiting for someone else to go first.

I guess you could say I went first.

{yay, me}

 

With Love and a Sliver of Crazy~

me

Upside-Down Shopping {and the winner is…}

DSC_1071I spent an hour in Target yesterday, friends. I wanted to curl up and hide. It was crowded and loud and the line to our Starbucks was wrapped around the Icee machine, everyone wanting the Buy One, Get One Free Holiday drinks.

And just in case you’re wondering, if your Peppermint Mocha is served alongside an Icee machine , it ain’t worth waiting in line for 30 minutes to get it. {Don’t ask me how I know that.}

Anyway, after an hour of navigating a squeaky cart around  a store filled with people doing the same thing I was doing, wasting time buying stuff we don’t need, I came home to a porch full of folks who need the stuff I take for granted.

For the second time in one hour, I wanted to curl up and hide.

The longer I live here on Avent, the more and more I come face to face with my dollars and how I spend them. Over the last few years, I have made so many changes in how I spend our money , but I still have a ways to go.

And honestly, as Christmas approaches, I can feel my insides getting all wonky.

It’s hard not to get caught up in all the holiday sales and deep discounts and all the clamoring that goes along with getting something for nearly nothing.

But when I get something for practically nothing, the person who made whatever I’ve just purchased, really gets nothing more than a pot to pee in. If even that.

And that’s not good or God honoring, people. It’s just plain wrong. And I’m as guilty as the next person.

I’m compiled a list of my favorite organizations that exist for the greater good. They exist to provide jobs, resources, and a living wage to artisans all over the world. And since they provide a living wage to others, guess what people…You have to fork over a few more dollars to buy the art these people make. That means instead of buying two scarves, you might buy just one and totally rock the entire world’s view of Christmas shopping that says {One for her, One for me}.

And y’all, that’s good and God honoring shopping, right there.

Hope you’re inspired to spend a little more, buy a little less, and love a little bigger!

BLBBetter Life Bags

Rebecca Smith and her husband moved to a low income area of Detroit in 2010 with the purpose of being Jesus in that community. Her business came out of a personal need to create a functional diaper bag!  After sewing the perfect bag, she posted it online and had so many friends requesting a custom made bag, she knew she had found a niche: custom made bags. Fast forward to today, and Rebecca has successfully launched a company called Better Life Bags where they hire women who otherwise could not work. The women work from their homes and are predominately first generation immigrants who are given a rented sewing machine and the tools they need to sew fabulous bags. Each woman is paid a living wage, 20%-25% of the retail cost of the bag and given the opportunity to grow in dignity and in hope! And y’all, these bags are gorgeous!! {One side note: Although there are bags and accessories at all different price points, some bags are on the high end. The positive spin is that your seamstress earns a chunk of change and that means her family may eat a little better as a result of your sacrifice.}

Here’s how it works: You pick a style you like, choose the fabric, and place your order. A woman receives your order, sews your bag, and then writes you a note so you know who created your piece of art. Click on over to find out more!

therootcollectiveThe Root Collective

The Root Collective partners with artisans who own their own businesses in Guatemala, Kenya, and Peru. This company invests in the local artisans who are bringing about change in their places and provides the support they need t0 keep doing what they are doing! Each artisan sets their own pricing. My favorite of these artisans is Otto. He is a skilled shoemaker, living in the slums of La Limonada in Guatemala. His dream is to employ former gang members and teach them a trade. He is changing his community one life at a time, or one pair of shoes at a time! Click on over and splurge on a pair of ballet flats made by a man who is seeking the welfare of others.

HOPE-Coffee-Logo-Brown-2Hope Coffee

I was introduced to Hope Coffee a few weeks ago at a Jen Hatmaker conference and I loved the idea because the profits from the ethically sourced coffee from Honduras are used to further the Gospel throughout Honduras. Large organizations can purchase coffee in bulk or individuals can purchase it by the pound. It’s great coffee and it helps to further the kingdom. So drink a cup and change a life.

noonday-collection-logoNoonday

Wow. I cannot say enough awesome things about Noonday. I love their products. I love the concept. I love the way this company improves the lives of 2000 artisans in 10 countries. I love the way Noonday is committed to helping provide orphans forever homes. I LOVE it. If I had time, I’d become an ambassador. Click here to order a piece of jewelry or scarf and then spend the next hour poking around their website. It’s gorgeous and inspiring.

heathers lettersHeather’s Letters

I met Heather Ritchie on Instagram. Or more accurately, I met her art there. And several months later, our local MOPS group was given a stack of t-shirts with her art on them. She’s a local gal, married to a man who serves Jesus and together they have one son. They’re pretty fabulous. She’s recently launched a business creating lettering and logos and she will be creating our design for our Feed A Neighbor t-shirts. Check out her website and support a local girl who serves her community well.

Fair Trade FridayFair Trade Friday

I found Fair Trade Friday from Kristen Welsh and guess what? It’s a ministry of Mercy House Kenya! I’ve not ordered a box, but the concept sounds FUN and a great way to keep the gift closet stocked. {or a great way to stock pile your own closet…}  Here’s how it works: You sign up to receive a monthly box with 3-4 fair trade items, each box valued at $50-$75, and each item is tagged so you can give some of them as gifts. Each item is fairly traded and provides employment to women all over the world. All proceeds go to empower impoverished women. Click here   and scroll over to the FAQ to see some examples of things that will come in your box.  {and I’m joining in January! I’ll let you know how it goes!}

 

Happy Shopping-You-Can-Feel-Great-About, Y’all!

And the winner of Kara Tippett’s book is Cindy, commenter #27. Cindy, PM me on Facebook or leave me your email and I’ll drop it in the mail to you!

On Hospitality and Being Brave {at the Grace Table}

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It’s the witching hour when he swings by on his way back to the men’s shelter. I hardly recognize him.

“Hey, is Thad here?” he asks. “I really need to see him.”

I walk to the edge of the porch as he makes his way up the stairs. “It’s Kevin, right?” I ask.

He nods. “She done kicked me out. Took my kids and the last time I saw her she had hickeys all over her neck. I’m tore up. I been loving her forever and everything I been doing to keep her happy ain’t made her happy.”

I’m at the Grace Table for the first time today. I’d love for you to pull up a chair and  join me at the table there.

All The Answers to All the Questions {and a giveaway…}

IMG_1574[1]DSC_0364DSC_0471I’m pretty sure that I’m breaking all sorts of blogging rules today.

Heck, I’m pretty sure I break blogging rules every day I show up to write. This is just how I roll and honestly, I love breaking all the rules. {smile} I’m even posting pictures that have nothing to do with this post. I’m on a roll.

For the last several weeks, you guys, and my guys in real life, have been busy sending encouraging emails, letters in the mail, texts, and Facebook messages at a rate to which I’ve been unable to respond to in a timely manner.

Heck, I even missed writing a guest post for a friend of mine because I was sitting under your piles of words and couldn’t climb above the fray to see to write a thoughtful post about intentional parenting. {and I’m loving the word heck today, by the way…} Thankfully, she forgave me, but here’s the thing. For months, there has been so much church and MOPS and Rocky Mount talk happening around here, that I’ve been having a hard time writing.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

I’m writing less frequently and the writing I am managing to do is full of emotions. Rightly so because my life is full of big emotions now.

And out of this hard place of living and writing, you guys have done what you do best: You’ve asked questions.

Today’s post is my feeble attempt to speak to your questions.

DSC_0410IMG_1595[1]DSC_0550In this hard time of dissolving a church, do you have a support team or are you guys alone?

We have lots of support, both in Rocky Mount and elsewhere. The Man meets with a local pastor for wise counsel and pastoral support. He also has a board of directors who help him make decisions here on the ground. And he has a man who provides great spiritual counsel, emotional counsel, and accountability. I have a mentor that speaks truth into my life, listens to me, and provides counsel and my women’s pastor from Dallas also provides counsel, encouragement, and next steps to take. God has also provided me with two friends, locally, who are actively serving alongside me in MOPS, who are kindred spirits. They are the iron sharpening me.  I also have a handful of online friends, who are real friends {wink, wink} who speak hard truths into me, encourage my heart, and help me to navigate this online world.

You need a church. What are your plans for joining a local body?

Obviously, we need a church. The Man and I are what Jen Hatmaker refers to as lifers- folks who have belonged to the local church since the womb. We love the Church and the church and we desire to be a part of a local body in this in-between time. Because are hearts are drawn to our neighborhood and our schools and the marginalized here in Rocky Mount, we will seek to help us grow in our understanding of the people we are trying to reach and the culture we have immersed ourselves into.

Your writing is sometimes very dark. Do you think you’re suffering from depression?

I have a history of undiagnosed depression that began when I was sophmore in college. I do still battle depression, and I most likely will the rest of my life. When I get extremely fatigued and stretched thin, I find that the symptoms of depression are more marked. I used to war against it by trying to avoid all symptoms of the depression, but now, I find that it draws me closer to Jesus by illuminating my very present need for him, it keeps me in tune to my physical body, and it cracks open the parts of me that need to be excavated. I say all of that to say this: I am not suffering from depression today. But I do believe my writing may seem dark to you because I write from where I am and today, I am grieving the loss of a church. To write in any other way would, for me, not be authentic.

DSC_0342DSC_0567How are the kids adjusting to public school?

They LOVE it! I can’t say enough about it. THEY LOVE SCHOOL!!!!!!!!! And the Man and I love it as much as they do. We are building community in a way that wasn’t possible last year and we simply love our community. We are growing and changing and speaking a new language and one of our girls wants an Afro so bad she can taste it. Of all the decisions we’ve made since moving to Rocky Mount, putting our children in public school has been the best decision yet! Hands down.

What are you reading?

Oh man. I’m reading everything. I’m reading books and blogs and my neighbors. I’m still in a season of learning about my people, who are predominately African American and poor, and learning how hospitality is the vehicle by which I become a kingdom builder. I’m also curious about writing and story telling and leadership. These authors and books are just listed because I could write a thousand words on why you should read each of them and ain’t nobody got time to read another thousand words.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey

Speak by Nish Weiseth

The Tangible Kingdom by Halter and Smay

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Christine Caine - I listen to all her podcasts on leadership development

Becca Stanley, Shannan Martin, Deidra Riggs, Shelly Miller, Alia Joy,   Lisha Epperson , Austin Channing, DL Mayfield, Grace Table and many others- These are just the bloggers who are writing what my heart is drawn to in this season.

IMG_1514[1]IMG_1780[1]Are you planning to stay in Rocky Mount? Our church is hiring if you’re willing to move.

We are putting down roots here and we’ll stay until Jesus says otherwise. But thank you for wanting us. It’s nice to be wanted!

Don’t you think you should take a break from writing while your life is so messy? You know, maybe wait until you’re done healing.

If you’ve been around these parts for more than a year, you know I routinely take breaks from blogging. I lay it down for a season to hear from Jesus and then resume after a specified number of days. I enjoy these sabbaticals and I find them healthy and soul giving. But, in this hard season, I am not feeling led to take a writing sabbatical. I am loving this season of messy living and although words are slow to come, when they do, I want to write them. I’m not a blogger prone to write sharable content for the masses. I’m a writer who just so happens to blog, no matter the number of readers. And honestly, if I wait until my life is no longer messy to write another word, I may as well close up shop now.

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What  is Grace Table and how did you make the leap into writing about hospitality? You don’t write about meal planning or hosting or decorating. This new writing gig doesn’t seem like you.

Grace Table is a community of writers who believe that Christ calls each of us to lay down our personal preferences, personal spaces, and our personal desires for the good of another. We believe that Christ longs for us to bravely open our hearts and our homes to others. We believe that loving our neighbors means setting the table with love and offering what we have. I’m so honored to join this community and so thankful that Kris Camealy invited me to the table. {She’s a generous soul, y’all. You’d love her.}

I don’t write about my home or how I decorate my mantle or share recipes that I love, but I do open my home and my yard and my heart to my neighbors and let me just tell you, my neighbors can throw down some hot dogs and kool-aid.

And by the way, last week when I went off script and gave you guys a mini home tour, it made it into my all-time Top 5 Most Read Posts. So who knows…I might just add recipes for the perfect hot dogs to the blog, too. {smile and wink} I’m the boss of this blog and as long as my words make much of Jesus, then the whole world is fair game. So watch out. I may just spice it up around here…

FYI: My first post at Grace Table goes live tomorrow! Yippee!

How do your neighbors feel about the pictures you post of them in your posts? Do they feel exploited?

I actually love this question because it is something I consider every time I snap a picture of a face or tell a story. I’m not often without my camera and what I’ve found is that my neighbors want their pictures taken. They LOVE to pose and then see themselves in pixels. They know I use the best pictures for the blog and some of them even read the blog. They know you guys are the ones who provide the resources for Feed A Neighbor and the toys in the yard. They are quite aware of why I write and what I write about. Our life on Avent has been on the front page of the local paper twice, not a big deal, but the things we say and do here are common knowledge. I post pictures and write in full knowledge that everyone local is reading. I am writing a story that God is unfolding and stories include real people with real faces. I do not write stories that include real names or post pictures of people unless I’ve been given permission to do so.  I do, however, write stories in general terms that include real people and my real interactions with them. All storytellers do this.

 

Shew. That was a whole lotta words, y’all.

Hope my responses satisfy your thoughts and also encourage you to keep doing what you do here and in your real life.  Ask questions. Make others’ business your business. Reach out with kind words and demonstrate the great love of Jesus by showing up with compassion, mercy, and grace. I so love this community. Thank you for continuing to show up.

the hardest peaceAnd if you stuck it out to the end, then guess what??? I’m giving away a copy of Kara Tippett’s book, The Hardest Peace. Leave me a comment- any comment will do- and I’ll draw a winner by the end of the week. One of my fave books of the year!

On What Jesus is Up To Here {and in me}

DSC_0537DSC_0538In the late afternoon, before the night slips in to steal the day, I find myself wanting. I’m in the throes of meal preparation for a new mom, slicing tomatoes and dicing ham, and the wanting is so thick I cannot breathe. I crack an egg and whisk in half-n-half and I watch the clock, counting the daylight hours. There are three good hours of light left.

I slide the meal into the oven, setting the timer for 20 minutes and for the next 20 minutes I sit in the wanting trying to name it.

If I can name the wanting, I can give Jesus space to fill it. If I can name it, I can breathe. And if I can name it, I can give thanks for it.

The timer dings and I set the pie on the baking rack to cool. I go through the motions of making a salad and I run my mental fingers over the things coming to the surface of my mind, naming each one and tossing each one aside. This naming and tossing goes on for long minutes and the wanting only grows deeper, wilder, stronger, until Jesus names it for me.

You want to see Me.

I pause in the mixing of maple syrup and mustard to roll this naming around in my head.

I want to see Jesus.

I pour in oil and vinegar and shake the jar of dressing until all the ingredients are melded into one.

The wanting is living life slow enough that I see Jesus here.

I breathe and with my hands in the sink, I give thanks.

DSC_0539It’s been nearly a month since Fellowship ceased to function as a church, and by church I mean institution. Four weeks have come and gone and a lot of life has happened in four weeks.

A lot of good life has happened.

The Man and I are in the much prayer about next steps here in this place we call home. We’re having a lot of conversations about what church looks like and how we see the kingdom coming in Rocky Mount. We’re reading up on multi-ethnic churches and asking hard questions about our place and the people who live here with us. We’re loving our neighbors and loving our schools and serving our community and you guys are enabling us to do these things with the resources you send our way!

We’re recently put up two large picnic tables, fellowship tables,  in the front yard and are in the midst of planning our annual day after Thanksgiving movie night for our neighborhood. This year’s event will include a meal! {Paid for by some of you!}

MOPS is functioning in the messiest, BEST way possible. We’re dependent on Jesus to make this ministry happen every day and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The IF: Gathering team had it’s first meeting on Saturday and my face hurt from all the cheesing I did. I’m excited to see how God will make much of our small offerings.

Feed A Neighbor will host its next crockpot-freezer meal class on Saturday at my house. A new family will get a crock pot and we’ll get messy in the kitchen for a couple of hours and my children will have see small ministry change a neighbor’s life in a big way. I’m cheesing now at the thought of the kingdom breaking through in a crock pot of taco soup.

Our kids continue to be the conduit by which we reach new faces here. Public school has fully assimilated our oldest three kids and I’ve gotten the opportunity to help with yearbook photos for the middle school this year. Jesus has taken my love of photography and given me a place to put it to use. I’m giddy with the thought of being more present at Parker.

A group of mamas fed breakfast to the 60 teachers at Bakerville Elemenatry  who serve an under resourced part of town and you know what? Jesus loved on that staff by way of sausage casserole, pumpkin muffins, and fruit. I’m cheesing again at the thought of Jesus making His presence known by way of food.

And over the last four weeks, I’ve seen Jesus in the unlikeliest of places.

DSC_0546DSC_0545Sometimes, I long to get lost somewhere downtown across the railroad tracks.

I long for the noisy, quiet that comes only when I load the kids into the car, bribing them with happy hour slushes and Taylor Swift loud enough to rattle our cages.  I long for the messy way they scramble in and over the seats and I long for the back roads that lead us into places we’ve not gone before. I long for drives slow enough to roll the windows down and cool enough outside to require the heat inside. I long to point out the pretty in the midst of the gritty brokenness that shadows my edge of town. I long to call out the good.  I long to set my eyes behind the lens of my camera and capture life as it is framed for me in the moment.

I long for eyes to see my people and my place and ears to hear their stories. I long for a heart pliable enough to love well, yet strong enough to stand firm in the freedom I’ve been given so that I may set others free.

I long to live slow and small here.

I long to sow the Gospel.

And I long to sow it in slow and small ways so as not to miss the One who is building His kingdom in the unlikeliest of places.

 

Since our church plant closed, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of questions you guys are thoughtfully and lovingly asking. You guys have asked questions ranging from books I’m reading to whether or not I’m suffering from a bout of depression, and I thought maybe I’d put my big girl panties on and answer as many questions I can in a post that contains less than 5,o00 words!  So here’s your chance- if you have a burning question for me ask me now. You can ask in the comments, email, or messaging. Your name will not be attached to the question when I post my responses. I hope to gather them, respond and then post tomorrow or Thursday. 

Truth Telling and the Bottom Rung

IMG_1522[1]There’s been a lot of truth telling going on around my house lately. Truth telling is good for the soul and healthy for the body, but truth telling is heart wrenching business. It’s giving someone permission to dig around in your innermost thoughts and pick out the things that are ugly and hurtful and sinful. It’s letting someone uncover all the things that you want to shove under the rug and allowing them to clean house with you. It’s humbling and scary. It’s quite like standing naked in front of someone who is looking at you from all angles, trying to find your most unattractive parts, and then standing still while red circles are drawn around your need-to-work-on spots.

Actually, it’s just like that. Like standing in front of someone naked.

Truth telling is not fun.  It’s not fun at all.

And if I let the enemy have an inch of my thoughts in this process of truth telling, he’ll take the whole of them and spin webs of shame right round them, leaving me suffocating in the sticky mess.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on curling up and suffocating in a web of shame.

I have too much life to live and too many stories to tell.

There are so many ways I see God’s kingdom coming in my place.

And when I write what I see, I proclaim the fullness of God’s kingdom here.

IMG_1520[1]God’s kingdom comes small and quiet here. I think it comes small and quiet most everywhere, but here, on my street and in my community, His kingdom is breaking through in ways you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention.

It’s funny how much clearer you see when you find yourself at the bottom of the spiritual ladder. I’ve spent my whole life climbing this elusive ladder, moving from one rung to the next as more visible {or more prestigious- depending on how you view these sorts of things} ministry opportunities have come my way. But it’s been on the climb down this ladder that I’ve found Jesus in tangible ways.

And I’ve found His kingdom coming in the smallest of ways.

His kingdom has always been here, of course, but at the bottom of the ladder, I can see it a little more clearly.

At the bottom of the ladder, there is an absolute view of my humanity in light of God’s holiness.

At the bottom of the ladder, there is a recognition of my limitations in light of God’s faithful provisions.

At the bottom of the ladder, there is an ability to see the slow movement of God in the mundane moments of my day.

At the bottom of the ladder, there is an ability to hear, loudly, the call of God to join Him in His redemptive story here in my city.

And at the bottom of the ladder, I’m low enough to lay on down as a sacrifice, my life given as a vessel with which to proclaim all the ways His kingdom is breaking through in Rocky Mount.

A Mini Home Tour

DSC_0479DSC_0480DSC_0481DSC_0482It’s been a few weeks since any words last found their way into this space. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed you.

October lent itself to many days of dark shadows and few slivers of light. I traveled out of state twice, both times to be filled up with truth after being emptied of all sorts of lies the enemy would like me to believe.  And to be honest with you, I’ve been emotionally rung out and strung up and every thought of coming back to this place has been a fearful moment for me.

{I’m so grateful that I only have eight weeks of living out BRAVE this year. Next year, my word is SKINNY- even if it hurts, I’ll have an outward show of all my hard work. Wink, Wink.}

I thought I’d wait one more week before coming out of hiding, but my dear friend Pam inspired me to jump back in with something I’ve never done before: A Home Tour.

First off, I’ve never done a home tour because, let’s face it, my house is most always a wreck. It’s full of children and dirty dishes and crumb scattered floors. It’s got one man taking up space with books and boots and little piles of paper. {It also houses one mama who would eat beans just to have a house keeper.}

And secondly, I’m not a decorator. I don’t write about decorating. I don’t give you tips on feathering your nest on a shoestring budget. It’s just not my thing.

But, after a weekend of entertaining a lively bunch of women who said my little home was cozy, I thought I’d take Pam up on her challenge and give you guys the 36 photo mini -downstairs- house tour. There are no photos of the older kids’ floor. I don’t even walk up those stairs and trust me, you’d be forever scarred if I subjected you to photos of their rooms.

This post is mainly a photo dump with a sprinkle of links to inspire you. It’s also my quiet shuffle back into my online home. I hope my imperfect home inspires you to invite others into yours.

Family Room~

This room is the room you walk right into in our house. We have no entryway. I wish we did. Every single day.DSC_0486

DSC_0489DSC_0490DSC_0492DSC_0521IF Chalkboard:  Tanner Brice, girl I mentored last year {so PRECIOUS to me.}

Family Photos:  PhotoJewels ~ Rockwall, TX {my most prized possessions!}

Cow Painting and Bird Watercolor:  my oldest girl, Elli Harris {yes, you can commission a piece for your home.}

All Odds and Ends: Pottery Barn and Target

Dining Room~

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Curtains:  Tablecloths from Target

My Office aka Home for Piles of Paper

DSC_0508Master Bedroom and Bath~

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Iron Bed:  It’s been mine my whole life! Second favorite thing in my house.

All frames:  TJ Maxx

Harris Chalkboard Wall Hanging:  Hopeologie tutorial by the Nester

Love Has Come print:  Jerusalem Geer

Photos of kids: Me!

Large Family Print:  PhotoJewels

Kitchen~

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Curtains: Target Napkins hung on clips~ Idea from this fabulous chick

The Babies’ Room~

DSC_0493DSC_0528DSC_0529All artwork made my girls and myself with a little help from this website. We bought 1 $24.95 class over the summer and made 3 pieces of art. So much fun!
All furniture thrift stores, friends, and Target.

Laundry Room~

DSC_0522Artwork by me…thank you ModPodge and the kids’ Crayola paint.

Rug:  TJ MaxxGraceTable

And if you have a minute, swing on by Grace Table! It’s a brand new website devoted to brave hospitality and storytelling and making much of Jesus. I’m a humble, monthly contributor and I’m extending an invitation to you guys to join me there each month. The lineup of storytellers is amazing and the heart behind this work inspires me to be more intentional when it comes to loving my neighbors. Hope you’ll stop by today and enter to win a pile of goodies!

Days 18-31 {When A Church Doesn’t Take Root}

DSC_0395DSC_0381DSC_0402I’ve come to the front porch to write and to escape the billowing smoke from the fire pit.  The Man’s tending the last few flames with the handful of boys still circled up around him and the girls are swinging from every bar on the tree house. The 18 wild ones who came for “a story about Jesus” ate 48 donuts in 30 minutes and 1 boy said that this was his best thing of the week.

His words made my heart well up in the best kind of way and I let my eyes meet the Man’s. He smiled at me because we were both thinking the same thing.

We’re going to be okay.

DSC_0382DSC_0396Y’all, it’s been a roll coaster of a week. Emotions have run the gambit, from despair to audacious hope and back down to confusion and sadness. We’re 19 days into this series of marriage and church planting  and although I’ve been committed to this, things are tough round these parts. This is just the nature of planting a church.

I began this series with all 31 days planned. Each day was designed to set up the next day, all the days moving towards a grand finale something much like the scene in Braveheart where William Wallace cries FREEDOM! as he is being murdered.

Seriously. That was the plan.

But 15 days ago, I trashed the whole plan and went rogue.

I scratched the plan and reverted back to what I do best: Write exactly the story God is writing, right as it is happening.

For two days now, I’ve been feeling the need to wrap up my 31 days early. I thought I could write through the dark parts and end on day 31 with the whole truth, but y’all I can’t.

I can’t write through this dark part because the writing is not giving space for some much needed heart healing. And my heart is not the only one in need of healing.

Our entire church needs time to heal.

DSC_0398DSC_0390On Monday of this past week Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount closed its doors.

In the earliest parts of 2011, while living in Dallas, TX, we began to pray that Jesus would burden our hearts for a people and a place. And in the summer of 2011, He answered that request with one place and one people: Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

We moved to Rocky Mount  in December of 2011 with only one direct mission from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of My name.

And today, we still have only one direct mission from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of My name.

The Man and I have spent the better part of the last 12 months, wrestling through our call here. We have prayed and sought council and read more books than we can even count. We have spun plates and moved our congregation and done all the things we felt Jesus wanted us to do to serve His church and make much of His name here.

We had people filling chairs and carrying out the tasks of our church. We had people showing up early and staying late. We had people writing checks and loving on our community.

But we did not have spiritually mature co-elders laboring with us.

As a result, our enemy has sown seeds of distrust to such a degree that makes leadership, without spiritually mature co-elders, impossible.

DSC_0385Going forward, our hope is that the people of Fellowship would find strength and wholeness in Christ in another healthy church in our city.

Our hope, for our family, is that we would be renewed in Christ and given clear marching orders as to how we are to fulfill our one clear directive from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of Him.

My desire is that this post not be the end of this conversation about church planting and marriage and all the things that fall in between. The Man and I are still church planters. We plant the Gospel of Jesus all over our city. But our thoughts about what the church must look like are evolving. This weekend, church looked a lot like 18 kids around the campfire eating donuts. Next weekend, it may look like PBJ sandwiches across the picnic table.

But the Church is wherever we are.

And today, we live on Avent street.

 

 Going forward, all neighborhood ministries, including MOPS, will continue in fullness of health.  We will still Feed Our Neighbors, and round up the neighborhood for donuts and OJ, and make plans to host the IF:Gathering in the spring. God is doing good things here and we desire to join Him in what He is already about.

And one more thought...I did not know that when I began this series that Fellowship would close its doors this month. But over the last year, the Man and I have become increasingly aware that we were unhealthy. Only recently have we become privy to the severity of the unhealth in our body.

I will continue to write this story as I feel led by Jesus to do so. Writing through the dark is hard and scary. I covet your prayers and I thank you for continuing to love us through this hard part.

Days 16 and 17 {I Interrupt This Series…}

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Lisa-Jo is the mama who is takes the mundane and magically spins it into bittersweet strands of sugar. She is the mama who encourages my heart and a bazillion other mama hearts all over the globe.  She is the mama who lost her mama at a young age and wrote a book about her journey into motherhood.

She is The Mama, if you know what I mean.

So when you get a Voxer  message from Lisa-Jo Baker, the cheerleader of moms everywhere, your tummy does a flip flop and you sit down on the floor before you take a listen. You think surely she has the wrong person, that surely, Lisa-Jo must have made a mistake.

But then you take a listen and smile with glee because you realize that you are the right person. Lisa-Jo wants to chat up motherhood with you.

And she wants to chat up motherhood because she believes that mothers like me, the ones who mother in the hood, have something to offer to the glorious community of mothers everywhere.

I’m sharing my humble offering to this conversation over at her place today. Join me there?

{psst…This is sort of a big deal. Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}

 

 

Day 15 {Mourn}

DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0256DSC_0766Two weeks ago, I flew to Atlanta to attend the IF:Gathering one day lab at Catalyst. It was a quick 36 hour trip with online friends who share my heart and live similar lives in different parts of the country. We ate fish tacos outside by candle light and then chatted until late in the night and it was hard not to try to hang onto the hours knowing this time together would not likely happen again anytime soon.

On Wednesday, after coffee on the porch, we drove 30 minutes to the convention center for the full day event. We put on lanyards and circled up around tables to share lunch with the IF team. It was fun and informative and needed. But after lunch and before the first session, we found ourselves in a standing room only worship center.

And the tears immediately welled up and spilled down my face just like every other time I’ve been in the midst of a corporate worship service in the last three years. I tried to dam up the streams of tears, embarrassed by my shaking shoulders and heaving chest, but the tears kept coming.

Before one word was spoken, my heart was splintered in a million little fragments, each fragment a sliver of all the things my soul longs for in these dry years of our church plant.

DSC_0177DSC_0313When the Man and I date each other on the front porch, we sometimes find ourselves in a place of mourning.

We mourn for the life we used to have. We mourn for the dreams we used to dream.

We mourn for the loss of people who saw our babies grow for 7 years.

We mourn for the loss of ignorance that comes when you’re climbing the ministry ladder convinced that serving the church is the highest calling, each rung climbed indicative of God’s blessings upon us.

We mourn for the loss of the privilege of sitting in a corporate worship service where the music is the art that God uses to speak to your soul.

We mourn for the loss of time spent under the teaching of a pastor whose weekly words spur on droves of people to live their life on purpose, with purpose, and for the good of others, always making much of Jesus.

We mourn for what we think our kids are missing.

We mourn for the loss of oneness lived out when living on mission with a group of people.

We mourn for the loss of unity and for the loss of like-minded people and for the loss of  lifters of arms that we can reach out and touch.

We mourn for the loss of an established, local church.

DSC_0319DSC_0796No one told us that when we said yes to planting a church, that the first two years would be a period of deep mourning. And no one told us that even after the joy of planting began to set in, there would still be days of mourning to come.

Mourning doesn’t exactly pair well with the hip, cool, and sexy image that is often attached to church planting. It doesn’t make for good conversation when trying to build a team to help do the work.  It doesn’t spur others on to want to come and die with you- Who wants to do that?

But church planting is a kind of death.

Actually, it’s a lot of small deaths, one right after another, for many months. Or like in our case, over several years.

Planting a church is an invitation to come lay down all of the comfortable, meaningful worship experiences, all of the stability and predictability of an established church, and the people with whom you have done life.

It’s an invitation to come and lay down all your hopes, dreams, expectations, preferences, and desires.

It’s a walking away from something good and life-giving and soul-filling in order to go to a place where people need the Gospel.

And y’all, it hurts.

All of it. Every last little piece of the giving up and walking away and dying the slow small deaths of preference and personal hopes.

But can I let you in on a little secret?

When the Man and I sit on the porch and rest in moments of mourning, he always asks me one thing:

Would you do it all over again?

And I always respond with the same thing:

Absolutely.

Because I would. I’d die all the little deaths all over again because there is joy after the mourning.

And after mourning, the JOY is so much sweeter.

xo~me

{I am loving this series with you. Thank you for all the emails and messages and Me, Too’s. You ladies are a beautiful bunch and I’m blessed by your presence in this space.}