5 Things To Ask Yourself Before You Donate

This is the 3rd post in a 5 part series on How To Love Your Neighbors Well.

You can catch post one here and post two here. Thank you for sticking this out with me and for asking hard things.  We don’t know what we don’t know and this series is my attempt to snatch the bliss that’s often wrapped up in our ignorance of poverty. I’m writing from my own place of learning and living and loving others better. So grace in the process?

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If you could see my mud room, you’d nearly die from all the donations we have piled up.

No, I take that back.

If you actually saw my mudroom, I would surely die.

There are linens stacked to the ceiling and a cardboard box full of pillows and the odds and ends of numerous pantries in paper sacks lining the walls. I have coats and mittens and extra hats and random jugs of apple cider. I’ve even got Ziploc bags of dried pinto beans in a cracked plastic bin.

It’s full to overflowing. I can hardly walk through there.

And here’s the thing: Donations are fabulous and we are thankful.

For most of them.

But some of the things scattered about the mud room were acquired through a particular method that I fondly refer to as Drop and Runs.

Drop and Runs are donations that we never saw coming. 

And these sorts of donations have made me ask myself two questions: 1) Why would someone donate that? and 2)What the heck is it?

And because I’ve been asking myself these 2 questions, I thought I’d give  you beautiful people 5 questions to ask yourself before you donate.

{P.S. For the love of Jesus and your neighbors, if you have to drop something and run, please don’t donate it.}

 5 Things to ask yourself before you donate1.) If I found myself in need, would I love to receive _______?

Would I really want 16 cat sweaters? Or the top of the line espresso maker that’s missing all the bells and whistles? Or the 3-tiered silk bed-skirt custom made for a king-sized mattress? Probably not.

My pastor used to tell the story of receiving the gift of a Cadillac from one of his congregants. He loved that car. Until it needed to be repaired and he couldn’t scrape up enough funds to pay for the repairs on his gift. Consider the extra costs associated with whatever you’re willing to donate. Can your recipient afford your gift in the long run?

2.)If I could sell _________ at a garage sale, would I still be donating it?

If your donations pile is filled with items you couldn’t possibly sell at a garage sale, then you shouldn’t donate. The end.

3.) Is my donation sacrificial?

Am I forgoing the $20 I could make at a consignment sale so that a needy mom is blessed with a couple of super nice sleepers? Could I share from my stock pile of Buy One, Get One Free instead of bagging up the back of the pantry cans of Spam? Could I give away the set of bunk beds I don’t need instead of selling them on Craig’s List for $100?

I know it’s not fun, but whatever you give should cost you something.

4.) How will my donation make someone feel?

Will my wool coat feel like love when my elderly neighbor wears it to walk to the store? Will my grandma’s old dishes make a mom serving Hamburger Helper feel like her table is welcoming and pretty? Will the single dad down the street feel a little more dignity using my old push mower rather than continuing to swing his weed whacker back and forth across the grass? {Don’t ask me how I know about that one. It was a weekly thing to behold.}

Whatever you choose to donate should lift a person’s head. It should make a person feel like the most special person alive. It should be so awesomely what they need, that they ask you how you knew! And you’ll jump with glee and say JESUS told me!

5.) Does my donation come with strings attached?

 If I donate my most favorite coat, am I only willing to give it to someone who is asking questions about Jesus? If I buy the mom down the street a new pair of shoes, am I going to expect a return on my investment by way of her hiney next to mine at church on Sunday? Am I only willing to donate my best things to someone who already loves Jesus and will pay it forward?

Or am I willing to give my best because I am simply called to love my neighbor?

 Hope you’ll come back on Monday for part 4 of this series.

Thoughts On A Mattress

DSC_0907On the day that our neighborhood has an open house for scores of people to traipse up and down our muddy sidewalks and peer into the empty homes, my neighbor decides to toss a mattress onto her lawn.

Nothing screams WELCOME to the NEIGHBORHOOD more than an 87 year old mattress on the front lawn.

Big trash pick-up is only 48 hours away, but what the hay? Why not toss it early? Company’s not coming.

{sigh}

It’s not the mattress that bothers me, really. {At least I don’t think it is.}

It’s the fear that someone who has their eye on the cute little yellow house down the street will stand on that cute little porch and stare out across our somewhat cute little street and see that 87 year old mattress and immediately, in their subconscious, begin to make up a story about that mattress and all the people who have ever laid upon it.

Do you feel me?

Anyone who wants to live in that cute little house will have to imagine themselves in that home and today, that dirty, soaking wet mattress will be the backdrop to whatever story they are conjuring up in their head.

Sweet tea on the porch in a nice wicker rocker? {Don’t mind the mattress.}

Pick-up games of football with the kids in the front yard?  {What mattress?}

Rows of zinnias and marigolds and black-eyed susans along the walkway? {They make the mattress look nice.}

They can’t imagine a story in that home without the mattress on the front lawn any more than they can imagine away the plastic film taped to the front door of the house sitting in the same patch of Avent street as the mattress. Nor can they pretend that the shutters aren’t hanging all wonky or the plastic flowers aren’t really plastic or the drapes in the windows aren’t actually blankets nailed to the walls above the broken windows.

Because here’s the deal: No one’s dream home includes a nice, up close and personal view of poverty.

Views like that sorta mess with things like wicker furniture and flowers and sweet tea on the front porch and property value.

And views like that mess with those things because it’s the things of life, be them broken or whole, that say something about the persons who belong to those things. {Be it morally wrong or right, we know this to be true.}

And broken things equal broken people and ain’t nobody got time for broken people with broken things.{especially me}

So we hole up and hide out.

Because to choose to live across the street from it- the poverty and the brokenness and the dirty mattress on the lawn- would mean that we are not simply saying yes to a house.

We are saying yes to Jesus and the people who live in those homes.

And to say yes to Jesus is to lay down the comfort of the American dream to pick up the task of being a rebuilder of walls, and a restorer of homes.

 …..

Once a month, poverty eats my lunch. Yesterday, poverty ate me for lunch and dinner. And this has been my prayer for the last 48 hours. I’m sharing it with you because so many of you are in your own trenches, in your own places. And I stand with you, in solidarity, as a people who desire to be known as rebuilders of walls and restorers of homes.

Jesus~

Posture my heart to consider You in all things. Incline my ears to hear You. Open my eyes to see You. Give me shoulders strong to bear what You’d have me bear that I may know You more in the bearing. Lift high my  arms that I  may glorify You in all things and put praise in my mouth that I may rejoice in the life set before me. And set my confidence ablaze in only You- this work in my city is not my own and I cannot do it apart from You.

Amen

 

One Thing I Learned {Live Small, Love Big: February}

IMG_2938[1]For weeks it’s been a struggle to roll myself out of bed, to put my feet on the floor of my life and get the job done. My mind is a constant whirl of the things I want to do and the things I have to do and the things, that in my flesh, I simply don’t want to do.

By nature, I’m a starter-upper of things, a dreamer of next steps, a builder of teams to get jobs done and sometimes, my house feels like it’s closing up around me. I can literally see my world from any one of the 29 windows in my drafty old  house and yet, the seven or so little people dragging out every toy in every daggum bin and basket all over the inside of my house, keep me hog-tied to my home, just trying to keep everybody alive.

Some days, I find myself staring out any one of those drafty windows like a crazed woman who is being held hostage by ankle biters and toy snatchers, that I wonder what my neighbors think. Do I creep them out? Have I  become that weird white lady with all the wild kids, married to that man who knocks on their doors? Surely, not.

I spend hours each week watching all of my neighbors that I know, but don’t really know, come and go on their bikes and in rickety strollers and hooptie cars.  I know their names and the houses that hold the stuff of their lives, but the nagging sensation that there is more to my neighbors that I want to know is always hanging around. 

But at the root of all the nagging and the staring is the lie that what God is doing out there, on the other side of my windows, is more important than the work He is doing inside my windows.

And Tuesday was a reminder that I thought I didn’t want.

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On Tuesday, I woke to the promise of snow and a house filled to the brim with my people and the people from down the street and the little people who spend their days with me.

And not just any snow. The kind of  snow that brings downed power lines and school closings for years and vats of snow cream. The kind of snow that’s ripe for snowman making and muddy boot making and cranky, we’re-stuck-inside-forever making.

The kind of snow that slows our sleepy little town to a crawl and sends this mama to the couch in search of a book.

That kind of snow.

But by 11am, the impending southern-style blizzard had filled my house with 14 children, one being the 12 week old babe from down  the street.

I could write you a small book on all the ways the events of Tuesday messed with me. I could tell you about the crying and the tracks of snow through the house. I could tell you about the most awful, paint-peeling smell that will eat your face off if  said snow-tracker-in-ers decide to take their shoes off and stay well into the evening. I could tell you about the cookie eating that happened in places where cookies are not to be eaten. I could tell you about how the boys ganged up on the girls and doors got slammed and fingers mashed.

Or I could tell you about the baby snuggling and the way she found her hands. I could tell you about how one boy ate 12 cookies and 3 glasses of milk because we don’t have no milk at my house. I could tell you that the boys maintained the fire in the fireplace for hours and felt like men for days after that. I could tell you about how the smelly socks and baby things got laundered because snow causes me to nest and how little people hold their heads a little higher when their clothes are clean. I could tell you about the 2 girls who got a lesson in how to swaddle a baby.

Or I could tell you about the mama who turned her hands to serve the neighbors Jesus sent into her home and learned that sometimes, being closed up in a home is the best gift she can give her neighbors.

Live Small, Love Big 2

Because You Asked: How Do I Love the Poor?

DSC_1260Last week, I wrote a post that struck a nerve with a few of you. I know it did because the emails came pouring in faster than I could respond.

And you guys all asked one question:  How do I love the poor without making them feel poor?

I’ve let this one question roll around in my head for days trying to come up with how to do this, thinking that the answer must be stuffed somewhere deep inside of me just waiting to be drawn out and have words wrapped around it.

But for all these days, I’ve had my life spun around and dumped upside down and it’s been in this cacophony of activity, the mixed up comings and goings of people, that I’ve felt Jesus whisper to me:

This is how you love the poor. You bend and swallow your wants and then you bend some more.

Every time my front door flung open or my phone dinged with one more request or someone stepped all over my best laid plans, scripture sprung up from the deepest parts of my well and over and over again, Jesus said to me:

This is how you love the poor. You show up and say yes and enter into.

Every time I stood over the sink with suds up to my elbows and my shoulders drooping under the weight of life that is too heavy, Jesus met me there.

This is how you love the poor. You carry their load with them.

So I’m going to give you an answer to your question and it’s not going to be the answer you were hoping to have plopped down in your inbox.

To love the poor without making them feel poor, you have to know the poor well enough to call them your neighbor.

And friends, my literal neighbors just so happen to be the poor.

 DSC_1259You need to know that the Man and I didn’t move into our neighborhood in order to rub shoulders with the poor and the marginalized or to be the 10% in our neighborhood.

We didn’t move here to  stock groceries for people in need or to clothe the barefoot or to provide free babysitting.

We didn’t move here to become a collection site or a distribution center or a filler of every gap imaginable.

We moved here with the lofty goal of planting a church among a people whom we believe to be a forgotten people group, the poor.

And somewhere in the midst of planting a church and simply making a life here on Avent, Jesus began to wake up the parts of us that we’d let sleep for far too long.

What we’ve learned is this: The only thing Jesus has called us to do is to love Him above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

And our neighbors are the poor.

So when you ask How do I love the poor without making them feel like the poor? the only response I have for you is to become their neighbors.

Literally, friends.

Make the poor your neighbors.

And how you go about doing that is between you and Jesus.

Live Small, Love Big

Hope to you people back here on Friday morning for our Live Small, Love Big link-up. Link will go live at 11am. As always, love your neighbors by showing some love. Can’t wait to read your stories. I think Jesus gave me mine while I wrote this one to the music of a wailing baby and the 14 children running in and out of my house tracking in snow. Click here if you need some help getting started!

The Savory, Not So Sweet

DSC_1190I’ve spent a week in my house with all of my kiddos, plus some, and I’d love to tell you that these snow days have been hot chocolate and marshmallow days of awesomeness.

The kiddos came home from school early on Monday, an hour before the first flakes hit the pavement, and the giddiness I felt as a child on the brink of a snow day crept to the surface and bubbled over. I served an early snack and we chatted about the weather, literally, before I hit them up to volunteer for child care duty. It was my first day with the cutest little baby from down the street and I longed to give her the first bath she’d had in six days. The girls jumped to serve and I jumped into full-on mothering mode. I bathed that baby in the kitchen sink and she wailed the length of her good long bath. I took 10 minutes to let her soak and then 5 more to slick her down in baby lotion and when I zipped her into a fleece sleeper I’d bought at Wal-Mart, she let me snuggle her close.

Monday was a sugary-sweet day.

On Tuesday, everyone slept late and the Man and I spent the day close to the fire while the kids ran in and out and in and out and in and out. I made head way on some things that needed to get done and then snapped pictures of the kids in various stages of living.

Tuesday was a savory-sweet day.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent in a blur of activity. Neighborhood kids came and went. The kids I watch every day came at odd hours and left at even odder hours and I plodded through the days like someone unsure of where to step next. I kept looking for the babe from down the street, but she never came.

And those days were hard ones.

I woke this morning at 4am to a neighbor’s dog barking. The house was frigid and I knew it would be. The temperature was supposed to be somewhere around zero. Even at 4am, my first thought was on that dang dog and the hell that it must be living on our coldest night of the year. In my head, I cursed its owners and thought about all the ways I could have their dog taken from them. Cruelty against an animal and negligence and pure sorriness were at the top of the list at the crack of dawn and at 6am, when I finally rolled out of bed for good, I thought about that poor dog. I cried in the shower for the dog and my neighbors who don’t know any better, or can’t do any better, and for that babe down the street.

At noon, the Man left for a weekend trip to Maine to speak at a church for a pastor friend of his who is naming his third kid Harris after the man who discipled him when he was in high school. It’s also his birthday, but around here we have so many birthdays we tend to not make much of them. He left the house before the first light and then left town before we ever had a chance to wish him a happy 38th year. I know this man and I know he hasn’t given our lack of well wishes a single thought.

At 2:30, right about the same time the Man should have landed in Boston, I began to look for the littlest baby on my block to arrive in her stroller. But at 2:45, when she still had not arrived, her mom called looking for a ride to work.

“Who is watching the baby?” I asked the mom when she climbed into the truck.

“Her daddy’s mom,” she said. “She spent the night there last night since I had to work late. I couldn’t go get her this morning because mom had to be at work.”

I looked straight ahead, every ounce in my being rising up to fight or flight.  With her dad’s mom? The same dad who beat the crap out of you, her mama, 4 weeks ago? The same dad who made you choke on your own blood? That dad’s mom??

“So when did you last see her?” I asked. “You think she’s okay? When is she coming home?”

“Yesterday. And maybe she’ll come home tonight at midnight when I get off,” she said. “I’m not really sure.”

I drove the rest of the miles to her job site in silence. I wanted to cry and scream and shake a knot in her.

But I did nothing.

“Work your hiney off, girl. You need this job,” I told her. “Call me if you need a ride home.”

And I choked down every feeling and thought and plan I had to save this baby from the jaws of poverty and despair and hopelessness.

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Tonight, the kids have long since gone to bed.

The ocean plays in the background, its waves intermingled with crashes of lightening and the howling of wind and I sit by the hearth of the fireplace.

The weatherman tells me the temps will rise tomorrow with a chance of rain. It will be 41 degrees by noon.

The morning will come with no donuts and chocolate milk for the neighborhood kids since the Man is out of town and the mama part of my heart is happy about this. To be alone, with my children, on a Saturday morning is a rare gift and so I choose to receive the gift, rejecting the shadow of guilt that looms.

I know who casts the heavy shadows of guilt and Jesus is not his name.

I watch the fire dance on the last log and the wood crackles and pops, the blue flames licking up between the splintered wood and I am caught up in the dance.

I think on the babe who lives down the street and know she should be home now. It’s nearly midnight.

And from the depth of my heart I hear Jesus whisper into my soul:

She is mine.  Do you trust me?

I shrug my shoulders as the tears roll down my face and I know Jesus is beckoning me deeper still.

And it’s this deeper still that keeps me on my knees.

Joining Lisha’s community this weekend because I am swimming in grace today.

10 Ways to Love on a Mom {in need}

DSC_0863DSC_1011DSC_1039On any given day, someone asks me some variation of the question What do you need?

I always reply with I need you to move into my neighborhood which is usually met with awkward laughter and some variation of the response Are you crazy?! I just wanted to drop off some canned beans.

At which point I respond with some variation of Well. Okay. I’ll find someone who needs your beans.

This happens at least 5 days out of 7. Every week. My house is literally like one of those cute little bins you find parked at local grocery stores. Except my house needs a cute little paint job and a pull-down door that can receive the donations.

The sweetest folks in the world drop by our house every day, all day and unload all sorts of things. Needed things. Good things. Awesome things, even. Jesus has made Himself known to me and to my neighbors with every sack of awesome dropped off.

And I am very thankful.

But all the dropping off of things has led me to spend a lot of time thinking about the things people are donating in relation to what my neighbors actually need or want.

Is what we’re receiving and distributing improving the life of our neighbors or are the things we’re distributing just adding clutter to homes that are barely inhabitable?

Are we piling on the canned beans and not insuring the means by which to cook the beans?

Do our babies have enough onesies to choke a horse but no infant Tylenol to chase a fever?

When we bag up groceries to feed our neighbors, are we loving them big by giving them what we would feed our own families?

 

I’ve learned a lot about my neighbors in the process of receiving and distributing donations and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the form of a few top 10 sorta lists over the next few weeks.

Today’s list has been compiled with moms in mind.

My hope is that this list is helpful to you the next time Jesus invites you to come alongside a mom in need.

 10 ways to love a mom in need

1.)  Burp cloths, bibs, diapers, wipes.

Most moms have hand me downs out the wazoo, but are in dire need of burp cloths and bibs. Diapers and wipes are always needed.

2.) Baby food and baby spoons.

These are things most moms do without because of the expense and instead, feed their children chips, fries, or carbohydrate laden foods that are processed and cheap.

3.) Sippy cups.

These are rather expensive, get lost easily, and not readily available for purchase at the local gas station or Piggly Wiggly.

4.) Tylenol (infant’s and children’s), band-aids, Neosporin, diaper rash ointment.

5.) Thermometer.

The moms in my neighborhood walk to my house to borrow mine quite often.

6.) Fresh fruit and Healthy Snack Foods.

Anytime I have the neighborhood kids in my house, they go for the fruit basket. Oranges, pears, any apple other than Red Delicious. {who likes Red Delicious apples, anyway?}

Popcorn for the top of the stove. Cheese sticks. Baby carrots. Salsa and corn chips. Celery and peanut butter. Yes these are perishable and that’s perfectly okay! When poverty has a face and a name and a physical address that you have walked by, the food is delivered much like you would deliver food to a mom in your church who has just had a baby.  With love and a Hey, here’s something to lessen your burden while you love your kids.

7.) Foods that make a meal. 

Think flour tortillas, refried beans, salsa. Soup mixes that you just add water to. Canned chicken, cream soups, canned vegetables, pie crusts. Boxed bread mixes. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Boxed brownie mixes.  Milk, eggs, butter, spices, vegetable oil. Hamburger Helper AND the ground beef. Don’t always provide the boxed item without the meat. The meat or milk is often the very item that the mom cannot afford to purchase.

8.) Crock pot.

Yes. Every mom needs a crock pot. It saves electricity and you can dump just about anything in there and create a meal.

9.) Socks and underwear.

10.) Cleaning supplies in a bucket.

Think dish detergent, laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets, wash cloths, bathroom cleaners, a broom, a mop, Lysol, sponges, steel wool. And put them in a bucket with rubber gloves.

 

Hope this list is helpful. And PLEASE don’t stop asking what we need. We need your things.

Ever been a mom in dire straits? What would you add to this list? Consider what you’d need to run a house without a car if the local grocery store that you can walk to robs you blind. {I love me some Piggly Wiggly, but if I had to buy everything there, I’d go broke.}

For the Love

lori-harris

I live in the south, right next to the wrong side of the railroad tracks, where poverty runs deep and racism even deeper. My neighbors live in dilapidated homes with sparse pantries and drafty windows, hustling to make ends meet.

Under dressed children get lost in oversized sweatshirts and they roam the neighborhood with nowhere to go, their parents lost in the frayed edges of their tattered lives. Dogs are chained to trees, cars rest on blocks, and litter rolls across yards when the wind blows.

Life is brutal in my zip code.

But it’s also beautiful.
The Man and I have lived on Avent street with our six children for three years now. We moved in armed with rosy colored glasses, Jesus, and the desire to plant a church among the poor.

We just had no idea that the poor would worm their way into the fiber of our life, weaving their bare threads among our sturdier ones making the fabric of our days rich beyond measure. We didn’t know that the poor would become our neighbors. And we were shell-shocked when God began to shift our hearts from the focus of planting a church to intentionally loving our neighbors in the name of Jesus, leaving the business of building a church to the only One who can do that.

And as we began to love our neighbors, we began to seek their welfare in tangible ways.

 

I’m sharing over at ViBella today. This company speaks my language and shares my heart. I’d love for you to click over and  join me there.

Tuesday

Because it’s Tuesday.

Simply Tuesday.

I savored and pointed and clicked the day away.

And you can join Emily Freeman in savoring the everyday, too. Join her over on Instagram and use the hashtag #itssimplytuesday .

{And because you’ve asked, I also made some headway on a small project.}

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And we get to do it all again tomorrow.

Thank you Jesus for ice.

{what’d you do today?}

What Do You Need? {Thoughts on Poverty}

DSC_0154Poverty is on my mind all the time.

I told you on Monday, that for the last week, poverty had been eating my lunch and dinner.

Today, I feel like poverty has decided to pull up a chair to my table and make himself quite comfortable. Poverty has become the guest in my life that I can’t seem to get rid of.

When I clear the table, he gets up and follows me to the kitchen, hanging over my shoulder while I scrape and swish the plates. He hangs out around the mud room when I’m folding laundry.

When my kids line up at the sink to brush their teeth and clip their hair, he’s there on the bench watching us piddle around the vast array of toiletries, squeezing too much toothpaste and wasting the toilet paper.

When my kids head out the door with two jackets and a scarf, Poverty’s out in the bitter cold, sitting on my porch swing in an over-sized jacket with a broken zipper. His shoes don’t fit and the laces are shreds.

When the day comes to a close and the kids are taking turns in the shower, Poverty stands by, taking stock of the pajama drawers and the three blankets on the bed and the fire in the fireplace.

He also takes notice of the two parents at home, at bed time.

Poverty has made himself a place in my home and he is ruffling my well-feathered nest in ways that I don’t like.

 DSC_0155Of all the questions I am asked, I am most often asked What do you need?

I am asked that question no less than every single day, sometimes 3 times in a day. It’s not even lunch yet and 2 people have messaged me that very question: What do you need?

Sometimes, I have a quick response because I have a neighbor with a tangible, immediate need. Usually a coat for a 3 year old or a sack of groceries. But most of the time, I have to sit on the question because the answer is overwhelming and multifaceted.

Obviously, we {the Man and I} need the Gospel to permeate the hearts of my neighbors above all else. Only Jesus can save and deliver. Where the Gospel lives, there is freedom from the bondage of this world- poverty may still be present, but HOPE reigns.

Secondly, we need other believers to move in- on our street. The most effective way to give people what they need is to plant yourself right next to them. Sacks of groceries and bags of clothing are great and our neighbors need those things, but more than anything, our neighbors need to be in loving relationships with believers who are permanent fixtures in their lives. Our neighbors need neighbors who provide momentary refuge from their everyday, hard lives. And by refuge, I mean a glass of iced tea on the front porch and a listening ear. Or a home cooked meal around a real table in a heated house with enough food to satisfy a belly for an evening.

Communities change when the Gospel moves in. Literally.

So when you ask me what we need, I have to be honest and tell you that we need YOU.

Our community needs you and the Jesus who lives in you.

 DSC_0550Because you’ve asked, over the next few weeks I will be sharing some tips on how to best love the poor. I’ve compiled some things to donate, things not to donate, and ways you can practically love the least of these.

I hesitate to give you these lists because somehow a list feels like a thing you check off and move on from.

And loving the poor is not a thing you do and then move from.

Loving the poor is a decision you make to enter into the suffering of another person in order to provide some relief in the name of Jesus.

So when these lists slip quietly into your email or into your Facebook feed, please don’t think of what you can give away.

Think instead of how you may give yourself away.

 

Loving our neighbors with you~

me

The Grit and the Glory

DSC_1089DSC_1088She texts me at 12:38, right after the babies I watch have gone home for the weekend and right before I’ve fully loaded my kids in the car. I’d promised the kids a Frosty, just the four of us, no older kids, no neighbors, no niece.  Just us.

You still coming to get me?  it read.

My body was one foot out the front door and one foot in the door and my heart was in a puddle between the two. Her interview. How could I have forgotten?

I’m on my way.  I text her back.

OK. I have my little brother, too. And the baby. she texts back.

I lean my head into the door frame and I sigh. I slam the door and drag myself across the yard. Why does she have her brother? He’s supposed to be at school. I need these 2 hours off. My kids need these 2 hours. We’re supposed to plan our garden this afternoon. Jesus, help me.

I pray all the way down the street and for the entire 20 minutes I still have to wait before she comes to the car. The newborn is squalling and the boy is dressed in his school uniform and she’s dressed for her interview. I force a smile.

“So, what’s the drill? How is this going down this afternoon?” I ask her.

She tells me nothing except that I’m to drop her off and come back for her when she texts me. We drive the few minutes down the street in quiet except for the screaming baby and this song playing in the background. I drop her at the door.

We pull away and I break the news the kids. “We’ll have to do that thing I promised this afternoon,” I tell them. My baby’s bottom lip quivers and the tears roll down her face and still the baby screams.

We drive home so I can feed the baby that doesn’t belong to me and when I pull in the drive, I realize my community garden planning crew is waiting for me.

I choke back the sobs that beg to come and I unload the car of its children, unsure of how long the extra 2 will be with us.

 wisdomDSC_1090On Sunday, after a six day stretch of swinging doors and children coming and going, I wake early to swing open my front door one more time.

I run the vacuum over the floors and cut strawberries for yogurt. I grind the beans for coffee while the boys are tasked with washing the 3 loads of laundry found in their room. The have no pants to wear and if they don’t get to washing, they’ll join our company in their tightie-whities.

I’m still in the kitchen when they arrive, the boys still in their skivvies, and I can feel the tears brimming around my eyes. My floor hasn’t been mopped and the mud room is stacked to the ceiling with donations of food and clothing and in all honesty, I see my house through the eyes of a guest and shame makes my face burn. I’m a hot mess and my house is a hot mess and I don’t like people.

That last truth burns a hole right through me. How can I feel that? I am a wretch.

I hear her as she speaks to the kids, calling them by name, and when she comes into the kitchen, I crumple.

“I’m cracking up,” I tell her.

“It’s okay,” she says. “You’re a human.”

 DSC_1081DSC_1077We gather around the beat up farm table and sit the kids in the family room to watch the Bible on DVD.  The four of us make small talk for about one minute before setting the weather aside to cut straight to the heart.

And the man who is a gift to my man tells this story:

We took in a prostitute one time. She’d walked the aisle and committed herself to 17 weeks of recovery and when she found out she was pregnant with twins, her parents turned her out. We took her in. I wasn’t so sure about it, but sometimes you just can’t convince your woman of anything so you just go along with it. When she moved in, I laid down the laws: No being out late. No strange people in the house. You know, just the basic rules. She broke every one of those rules. But she did eventually move out into her own apartment and go to college.

But that’s not why I’m telling you this story. I’m telling you this story because I’m about to tell you something that I know you’re going to think is crazy. And I know it’s not right, but for about 3 years around the time we had that girl living with us, I used to ask God to show Himself to me. Now I know God isn’t going to do for me what He won’t do for Thad or you or anyone else, but I just thought I’d ask Him anyway. {He chucked.} So I asked Him, Lord if you’re real, just show Yourself to me. I prayed that for 3 years.

And one day, after that girl had moved out, I was walking down the hall past her room that was empty and I just glanced over into the room. And you’re going to think I’m crazy, but as clear as anything I heard a voice say, Thomas! Did you see me? I stopped dead in my tracks because I knew it was the Lord and I knew what He was telling me. He had answered my prayers and shown Himself to me in that girl. {He’s visibly crying.}

I still get choked up when I think about it.

 Tears leak from the corners of my eyes and I wipe them with a checkered napkin. I stare at the man across the table from me and he cannot contain himself.

And I am quite certain that I hear a voice in the corner of my soul.

Lori! Do you see Me?

DSC_1091DSC_1092This morning, I brew one cup of coffee and turn open the blinds to streams of sunlight.

Poverty looks back at me, it’s shadow across the pavement slender enough to hide if I close one eye and peer harder with the other.

So I do. I close one eye.

And in the sunlight, Jesus transfigures all that is hard into something more like an invitation to come and see Him.

 

{I share the gritty with you in hopes that you receive it with an outstretched arm extending grace to me in my fumbling through. Poverty has eaten my lunch and my dinner this week and my eyes don’t always see Jesus in those whom I’m called to love. And I don’t often love well although I show up to serve. But Jesus meets me in my lowest moments. And sometimes He meets me with skin on. }

On repeat here today. Thought maybe someone else needed to hear this truth too.