The State of Things Today

imageIn less then 24 hours, we’ll be on the road headed west to Banner Elk, NC for a week of doing nothing.

To say I’m stoked would be an understatement.

To say I’m giddy with the sheer thought of being with my people, and only my people, for 8 whole days would be a gross understatement.

And to say that my weary soul is already weeping with the greatest joy known to man because it knows about the porch chair rocking that will commence in 36 hours would be the absolute grossest understatement.

So I won’t say any of that.

I’ll just give you this.image(a big selfie of a rested me. yes, it’s an old selfie. i can’t give you a fresh off the presses rested selfie today. i’m not rested.)

Anyhoo, I wanted to let you know this little patch of internet will be a patch of chirping crickets until July 13.

“But what about The Hospitality Project?,” some of you may be asking. “What about July? What about Preparing the Table?”

Well, let me calm your runaway horses and assure you that The Hospitality Project will carry right along and the month of July will still be devoted to learning how to Prepare the Table to receive others.

But more than learning about how to prepare the table, I’ll be inviting people to the table. Nearly everyday.

Let me tell you how and why.

Prepare the Table 2The table is where we learn to connect and belong to one another. It’s where we drop our guards and nourish our bodies and remember that we are all needy, in the same ways. Memories are made around the table. At the table, our senses heighten to absorb smells and tastes, forever connecting feelings of warmth and belonging to certain foods, certain tables and certain people.

Food and drink are the language of the heart and the table is where we speak the language. It’s where Jesus demonstrated His love for us and commanded us to remember Him, the greatest Love ever known, each time we break bread and pass the cup.

Sharing a meal is how Jesus chose to model the way for loving our neighbors. It was His method of disciple making. It was His way of opening Himself up to others and drawing them into new living. It was how He ushered in His kingdom.

And it’s how my family will bring His kingdom here on Avent.

During the month of July, my family will be flinging wide open our doors to our neighbors, to the Target lady who makes my Iced Coffee at Starbucks (true story), to the Jehovah’s Witnesses across the street, to the folks in my church, to the family around the corner we’ve yet to meet. We’ll be hosting breakfast and lunch and dinners on the fly. We’ll be sharing meals and giving away fresh vegetables from the garden and offering our table’s bounty to every person who crosses our threshold.

But mostly, we will work to make a space that provides shelter from the world and a place of belonging to those who know no belonging.

And we’ll eat and drink of every good thing because this is how Jesus lived out His mission.

 

Here are some things you can expect from this blog this month:

* Pictures and stories of our meals around the table {with permission from my guests]

* Recipes and meal plans that work

* How I see Jesus building His kingdom right where I live

* Encouragement to prepare your own table

 

*Although this blog will be quiet, you can find me on Instagram and my blog FB page. My personal FB page is getting more and more quiet as the world continues to be the world and Jesus continues to unearth parts of my heart that go against the grain of the majority of those in my newsfeed. I’m finding a strong desire to keep on running my race and trust Jesus to hold the world. We are an unthreatened people, friends. Let’s quit fighting a fight that’s already been won and instead, live small and love big. Love that you guys are here. You encourage my heart and spur on my soul. And for those of you doing your own Hospitality Project- I love hearing your stories! If you want a quick response to your message, might I suggest Voxer? I’m a speed Voxer. =) You can find me at lharri6442.

When Alignment Throws Everything Off

DSC_0278I flipped the dining room and the family room this week.

As in, the dining room is now where the family room used to be and the family room is now where the dining room used to be.

I moved everything but the fireplace and I rehung every picture, basket, and random thing I’ve ever  hung on the walls in both rooms. I even managed to rustle up some pictures of the Last Harris Baby and get her preciousness framed and on the wall. Sad it’s taken five years to get her a place on the wall, huh?

I don’t know about you, but when my life feels out of sorts and things are beyond my control, I do one of two things: I move the house around or I bang around in the kitchen. Sometimes, I do both. At the same time.

And if I’m honest with you, life is feeling out of sorts right now. Not out of sorts in a bad way. Just out of sorts.

Last week as Thad and I were wrestling with an issue, I looked at him and said, “I’m not who I used to be, but some days, I’m not so sure I know exactly who I am. I mean, I know who I am in Jesus, but I don’t think I know this new person He is making me to be. I don’t know what to do with her or her gifts. And I especially don’t know what to do with who other people say she is or what they say she is called to do. I wanna sneak away to a monastery so I can think. Alone.”

He just looked at me over the rim of his reading glasses and mumbled a response that let me know he was hearing the words coming out of my mouth but had no answer for them.

I think he had no idea what to do with the monastery bit.

DSC_0273Last summer, after years and years of homeschooling our wild tribe of people, we felt Jesus moving us to put our children in public school. Our decision to homeschool the first few kids was made because it was easier to keep the family in a workable schedule while Thad was in seminary. After moving to Rocky Mount, we continued to homeschool because we felt we needed time to assimilate into a new life. Thad was working a full-time job in a field that was new to him. We were planting a church in our home. I was providing full-time care for 3 children in our home, trying to grapple with a call to write, and wading into intentional neighboring.

Life was full and new and FULL.

So we homeschooled again to maintain the fullness of life and in all of the fullness of life, we felt Jesus asking us to trust Him with our children by placing them in public school. Jesus had called us to live on Avent, among the people here, and He was inviting us to be all in. He was inviting us to taste and see His goodness in a new way. He was inviting us to deeper community with a new people that we might know Him more intimately.

After a few months of wrestling, we simply told Jesus yes. No questions asked.

In the fall of 2014, we bought our kids the standard gear and put them on two different buses going to two different schools. I cried when I watched them walk down the street to their bus stops and then came back inside and wrote this post and prayer.

And then I got up and washed a load of laundry.

DSC_0271I tell you all of this because as I’ve spent the last eight weeks making space for hospitality by preparing my heart to receive others, I’ve spent quite a bit of time sitting with feelings that stem from not quite knowing how to walk around in the new person I am becoming. As I’ve grown in Christ, some shifts have been immediately recognizable. But other shifts in my heart have come so slow and steady over time, that I am often surprised by my new heart’s response to things-

Which brings me back to why I opened the whole conversation about public school in the first place.

When we told Jesus yes to public school, we thought we were simply saying yes to being good neighbors. We had no idea that saying yes to public school meant that we were saying yes to every single thing Jesus would put before us while our children were in those schools.

And we had no idea that every yes would only tether us more to the new life Jesus was giving us.

Jesus had used our family’s involvement in public school to draw us into closer relationship with the people we have been called to love. He had used public school to school us in compassion and draw us into a deeper understanding of the plight of our neighbors who have no choice about where they live or how their children are educated. Public school has opened our eyes to social injustice. Public school has opened doors into the homes of our neighbors that were closed two years ago. It has enlarged our territory and our hearts.

But mostly, public school has been the medium Jesus has used to align our lives more closely with those who find themselves on the margins of life.

For me personally, it’s been in this alignment with my neighbors that I’ve fallen in love with Jesus.

But this alignment with my neighbors has also been the thing that has thrown the life I used to know and love all out of whack. It’s messed with all the pretty delusions I have about Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus. It’s widened the chasm between how I used to live and how much more I know about how Jesus desires for me to live. It has snatched the ignorance I once clung to and replaced it with a heavy burden for those whom I love.

And this is why I don’t quite know what to do in this new skin I’m wearing except to keep trusting Jesus to finish what He has begun in me.

But in the meantime, I’ll keep moving furniture and saying yes to everything Jesus invites me to.

His invitations rarely disappoint.

Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. { Thoughts on Racism and My Place}

DSC_0232I’ve spent the better part of my day running errands around town in a car that needs some AC work. It’s been a scorching 100 degree day that has felt more like Dallas than Rocky Mount and under my breath, I’ve cursed the company that couldn’t diagnose our AC needs three weeks ago.

“They’re AC and radiator experts,” I’ve thought to myself all afternoon.”Three days in the shop and $200 later and still no remedy to the heat.  What the heck?”

And on top of all of the heat and sweat pooling in every imaginable part of my body, I’ve been fighting the urge to run from the very thing Jesus is waking His people up to.

If you know me apart from this online space, you know I’m bent to run from all things controversial. I’m made from things that encourage shrugging off uncomfortable conversations and shirking  from responsibility and ignoring hard truth in lieu of make-believe peace keeping.

In my flesh, this is who I am and who I like to be.

Five years ago, when my Jesus-loving husband felt led to pray for a people and a place, I used to stand at the sink and believe that we’d found our people and place in Texas. I’d ignore his prayers over dinner and sling suds in the sink while smiling at him when he asked if I felt a particular nudge from Jesus towards a people and a place.

“I think Jesus is sending us home,” he’d say. “I think it’s Rocky Mount,” he’d clarify.

I’d smile sweetly, knowing he’d lost his mind. Surely Jesus wouldn’t send us home. “A prophet has no honor in her hometown,” I’d think to myself knowing full well I had the gift 0f prophecy. Surely not home.

But sure enough, as forever as the sunsets are in Texas, Jesus sent us home the same year Thad began to pray for a people and a place.

I screamed and cried and laid myself  prostrate on the floor of my kitchen and begged to not go home. “I’ll curl up and die there,” I’d cry. “I’ll become a shadow of the person I’ve become and all the things Jesus has opened my eyes to will become a distant past. I will turn inward and grow silent and assimilate back into the culture that made me and I will forget that Jesus has called me out of my making into a life that does justice, loves mercy and walks humbly with Him.”

And today, as I drove from Target to Sam’s and to Wal-Mart, all I could feel was the pounding in my heart to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before you here in this space.

My bent is to hide out until the powers and voices that be have spoken. My bent is to be steadfast and quiet and reflective and submissive to those who have gone before me- be them right or wrong.

But Jesus has called me home.

And friends, I cannot be quiet or reflective or choose to hide until the storm passes because Jesus has willed the last year’s events into being and He is calling us to wake up.

Whether we want to own it or not, racism lives not only in Florida or Ferguson or New York or McKinney  or Charleston but right here in Rocky Mount.

It does.

Racism exists right here where we live.

DSC_0238When we have predominately black schools in our district with no funds to pay referees and 99% of black children in 8 of our schools receiving free breakfast and lunch everyday, something is not right.

When we have entire pockets of African Americans in our city living in substandard housing and paying astronomical electric bills and living paycheck to paycheck while working two jobs, something is not right.

When I scroll Facebook and read update after update of people’s disgust of our citizens “misusing” EBT dollars and driving too nice of vehicles, something is not quite right.

When most of our churches are segregated and mainstream ministry is seen as whites serving under resourced blacks, we’ve lost all semblance of Jesus’ model of the Church.

When we feel the need to reject the truth that there are stark differences in our skin colors and speak only to the truth of oneness in Christ, we ignore the fact that it was in God’s creative design to make us all shades of colors.

When we negate the sufferings of those living in the margins by drawing attention to the self-righteousness of our thinking, we have mistreated the children of God and served ourselves a lie.

Friends, we have been commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves and we cannot love our friends of color when we are in a full on stance of defense.

We cannot claim the name of Jesus and disclaim the plight of our brothers and sisters who live lives in different skin.

We cannot claim the blessings of Jesus and ignore the hardships of our neighbors six blocks away.

We cannot praise Jesus with whole hearts and fail to weep with those who suffer injustices we’ll never experience.

We cannot condemn those who choose to carry the poverty we’ve never known and lift our own chins higher because our skin color says we’ll never walk the way of those we choose to condemn.

We cannot say that racism does not live here when we’ve never walked a mile in the shoes of our black brothers and sisters.

And we cannot say with our lips that we follow Jesus and choose to ignore the cries of our city with our ears.

We cannot preach one thing and walk another for if we do so, we make Jesus out to be a liar. And He is no liar.

DSC_0233Tonight, as I hole up in my corner of the house, I cannot help but think on every black face in my neighborhood. I cannot help but recall their stories in my head and hear their hurt in my heart and feel their angst in my bones.

I think on race and poverty and injustice more in one day than most people think on any one of these things in a year.

Do I like it?

Not one bit.

I wish I were ignorant to all three.

I wish Jesus had left me to serve the Church in Dallas, Texas in full ministry bliss.

But He didn’t.

Jesus invited me- just like He’s inviting you- to wake up to this new {old} thing He is doing among us.

He is inviting us to be reconciled to one another.

He is inviting us to enter into relationship with one another, shamelessly and humbly, confessing our sins, one to another.

He is inviting us to do justice- to set right the things on earth that aren’t right.

He is inviting us to love mercy- to demonstrate compassion and seek understanding of one’s lot in life.

He is inviting us to walk humbly with Him- to lay down all that we think we are in order to pick up who we are in Jesus.

And He’s calling us to live this out in how we choose to love each other through the manifestation of racism.

Will we be known as a people who did justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly?

Or will be known as a people who ignored the calling of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves?

My Unicorn and The Hospitality Project

DSC_0261I’ve got three kids bent over Minecraft legos and three kids bent over a game of Memory and one kid still in the bed. The one in the bed is nearing fourteen and still just as skinny as a string bean. A strikingly gorgeous string bean, of course, but still a bean.

I’m sitting in the corner of my favorite room, in my favorite chair, with my favorite sparkling water in a can on the table beside me and I’m staring into all this life happening right in front of me feeling quite like I may spill all of my own beans right here on this screen.

That’s what some bloggers do, you know? We spill the beans. We over-share. We start talking and don’t know when to stop. We unearth the good, the bad and the ugly and we write it out in hopes that someone will raise their hand and scream ME TOO!

imageYesterday, I found myself on the front porch, alone in the heat, and I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something about my whole hospitality project was running off course. It was the 17th day of June, the 17th day of Preparing the Home, the 4th day of not hosting company in my home at 6:40 am, and the 3rd day of feeling like all I wanted to do was prepare my home for my family.

And no one else.

I’d ordered a rug for the front room to replace the rug ruined from 3 and a half years of too many feet trampling upon it and I was sitting out there on the porch trying to decide if I should hang navy buffalo check drapes in the same room with the new rug. I’ve wanted navy buffalo check drapes since 2008 and with the heat pouring in through the thin panes of window, I was in full on justification phase of the buffalo check drapes purchase.

We need them. They’ll keep the heat out and the cool in. My windows have been naked since 2012. I like them. I want more privacy. I’m embarrassed that I’ve had naked windows since we moved in. Jesus wants me to have them. They’re like a reward for living in a house with ugly windows. Jesus loves me and He wants to give me the desires of my heart and my desires are for navy buffalo check drapes.

Seriously, y’all. I’ve been thinking about these drapes since 2008, but thinking about these drapes has gone to a whole. ‘nother. level.  since June 1 when I gave myself permission to prepare my home to receive my neighbors.

My rationale: Navy buffalo check drapes will make my home cozy thus making my neighbors want to linger over Styrofoam cups of Kool-Aid and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies. And if my neighbors linger over Kool-Aid and Little Debbies, then they will come to follow Jesus and those drapes will have served their purpose.

Booyah.

I’m telling you people, The Hospitality Project has run off into the ditch at break-neck speed.

I have lost track of all things godly and equated drapes with people coming to Jesus over Little Debbies. My head has clearly rolled off in the ditch next to The Hospitality Project and my heart is running away with its idols under both arms.

And those idols?

My house. My windows. My new rug. My porch with the potted flowers. My picnic tables with the potted plants. My crappy backyard with the crappy back porch and the crappy fence.

Wait. There’s more.

My image of a clean house. My image of the perfect American backyard. My image of perfect neighbors and perfect meals shared over my picnic tables. My image of perfectly prepared food. My image of drinks shared on the front porch with old friends and new friends who love each other. My image of a perfect family.

There’s still more, but I’ll spare you.

Because here’s the deal: June has kicked me in the hiney.

Time spent thinking about preparing my home to receive others has simply illuminated the ugly truth that I care more about the way my home looks and feels and smells than I do about lowering its bar of entry low enough to welcome every person who comes into my home.

Knowing that hospitality is the overflow of a heart so full of Jesus that it can’t help but spill over onto others is one thing. Living that sort of hospitality is a whole other thing.

Living it means that all things are secondary to Jesus and people.

Living it means that you can hang drapes and buy rugs and pot flowers until you’re blue in the face as long as your heart is empty enough to hold Jesus and the people He sends your way.

And my heart is holding a whole lot of my house and some drapes, y’all.

Some navy buffalo check drapes to be exact.

Your turn. What is your heart holding today? I need someone to scream ME TOO!

*This is the second post in the second month of The Hospitality Project. This month is all about preparing the home. Preparing the home to receive others is good and right, it just can’t trump the heart preparation.

The Heat of the Harris Casa and Shining Like the Sun

DSC_0265I hosted my first ever Noonday Trunk show last night on the hottest day of the year. {I also failed to take even one picture. Bummer.}

For some of you, the temperature outside makes little to no difference on the temperature inside your home. But for those of us who live in homes built before 1925, with the original windows still intact, soaring temperatures outside mean soaring temperatures inside.

So at 5:45, after a full 48 hours of the AC never clicking off, my house was a toasty 82 degrees.

Luckily for the eight of us,  it was still 103 outside so my house still felt cool-ish.  We also had peach Bellinis on ice. And goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and a succotash salad with ribbons of basil and bites of avocado which kept our mouths distracted enough to not feel the heat.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I sit in the dark daring the sun to rise and burn my house to the ground.

But I digress. I didn’t pop in here to tell you all about the heat. I popped in here to tell you about Noonday.

DSC_0262I first heard about Noonday in 2012 when the company was just barely a company. I was on the edge of looking differently at poverty and my neighbors and I was hyper-aware of anything that brought awareness to vulnerable people groups AND gave voice to the stories of their  lives.

Noonday did both and went one step further.

Noonday not only told the story of vulnerable people groups and their art, they partnered with global artisans and empowered them to grow their businesses by creating a marketplace for them to sell their products.

I could write you a thousand words on all the ways Noonday loves our global neighbors but I won’t. I’ll just encourage you to click here and check out the simple flow chart of how this company functions to the glory of Jesus and to the dignity of others. They way Noonday serves and loves others inspires and challenges me to love my own neighbors better.

And honestly, I love the art this company brings to my world.

Each piece curated by Noonday is handmade in one of 13 countries with resources that are found in their backyard. Some pieces take as many as 40 hours to complete and each piece tells a story.

A joy-filled, life-giving story.

I’m sharing all of this with you because I sincerely believe that as Jesus-followers, we should care about where and how we spend our dollars.

Do our spent dollars lift the heads of others or do they keep someone in bondage?

Do our spent dollars perpetuate a selfish consumerism mentality or do our spent dollars propel another person into a life of 3 meals a day?

Isaiah 58:10 says this:

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

I want to shine like the noonday.

How about you?

HUGE thank you to Emily Sexton for being such a great ambassador and for enduring the heat of the Harris casa. If you’d like to support Noonday by making a purchase that will lift the head of someone today, click this link. Look for my name in the Trunk Show field. It will be there for the next few days. Also, LOTS of items are on sale right now so grab them before they sale out. Each piece is a work of art that will quickly become your favorite.

Here’s a short video if you’d like more info on Noonday.

 

On Being More Family and Less Charity

DSC_0105On Sunday night, right as the sun had begun to fall behind the big oak tree and cast the whole street in a burnt orange glow, I stood out on the sidewalk and looked into our yard at the people filling its tables.  I did a quick mental head count, lumping family units together and the new kids together and the usual kids together.  I then did another mental head count, lumping the evening’s volunteers together.

Something felt off, but I shrugged the feeling away.

I watched as the kids devoured over a hundred hotdogs with chili and relish and I snapped pictures of the ones willing to pose for the camera. I spent time in the dust bowl we call the basketball court and got so caught up in the ferocity of the game that I forgot I was supposed to be capturing the slam dunks in pixels for kids who know I’ll share their skills via social media. They think if I post enough pictures they’ll be discovered, especially the one with the face that loves my camera. I smile now at the thought of that.

At a little past 6, after the sun had finished dropping behind the big oak tree, the girls climbed into the back of a trailer for a hayless hay ride around the neighborhood and left the boys behind. The red tractor pulling a trailer in the middle of the city is a hilarity all on its own, but the kids love it and my brother loves any excuse to drive through town on his favorite toy. Thirty minutes later, the boys hopped on for their turn around the block and I found myself standing on the sidewalk again, trying to swallow down the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

I stood there on that sidewalk for a good long while, chewing my bottom lip and squinting my left eye and staring back  into the yard, taking stock of the happenings and the people and the dust from the basketball court.

Something was definitely off.

And I knew exactly what is was.

Tonight’s meal looked more like a program being run by white volunteers than a family meal being shared among neighbors.

This was not good. My gut was telling me so.

And so were some of the faces of my neighbors.

I knew where we had we gone wrong, but I wasn’t sure how we were going to remedy this situation.

DSC_0149I’m often asked why we moved to Avent Street or why we don’t just live somewhere else and simply drive in a few times a week and do ministry.

I always respond with the same answer, something like Jesus told us to live here. I also smile rather sheepishly and change the subject because I know to expound on the answer is to open a whole can of worms that just wind up slithering between me and to whomever I’m talking.

Because here’s the thing, if we don’t choose to live among the marginalized and wholeheartedly choose to identify with poor, calling them our people, our family,  then our service is nothing more than charity ringing like a clanging cymbal.

Unless we move in and prepare a place of welcome on a level playing field, then what we offer feels like a handout and a not a hand out in friendship.

Unless we choose to embrace the slow way of Jesus and stay a good long time in a place, our presence will be untrustworthy to our neighbors.

When Jesus chose to push His Gospel forward on Avent Street, He invited us to join Him here that this place might have a tangible, everyday representation of Himself. He meant for the people here to be able to see Him, touch Him, hear Him. He meant for my neighbors to experience the safety of His presence, the joy found round the His table on a Sunday night, the HOPE of salvation found in His Gospel and He meant for us to be His little Christs here that they may know Him.

Which is why we started the Sunday night meals in the first place.

We wanted to invite our neighbors to taste and see Jesus with people that already love them and call them friend.

 DSC_0100Sunday night’s sidewalk epiphany has had me thinking through all sorts of things this week. It’s had me thinking how white I really am and how not white my neighbors really are. It’s had me thinking through my resources and asking myself how we mobilize our neighbors to serve the meal rather than depend on non-neighbors to serve and clean up.

But it’s also had me thinking through the post I wrote last week for Grace Table and how Jesus’ plan for advancing the Gospel is so simple.

We’ve complicated things and institutionalized so much of life that we’ve squashed the natural rhythms of disciple making that Jesus put into place.

Even this go and live among a people group business is something we’ve put into the box labeled Only For Foreign Missionaries.

But it’s not just for foreign missionaries, is it?

It’s for every one of us.

Every one of us is invited to live so intentionally, right where we are, that our people might come to know Jesus.

And some of us are invited to go and live intentionally in a new place that those people might know Jesus, too.

 

*In case you were wondering about our Sunday night crowd of volunteers, let me assure you that they are rockstars. Seriously. We prayed for workers and Jesus has seen fit to send 36 people. Every person who has served on a Sunday night has loved well, served well, and been a JOY. Thad and I just haven’t been able to come up with a plan of action to accommodate the help while preserving the community feel of the meal. And in the process, Jesus has opened our eyes to some things we’d not considered.  If you’re willing, could you pray that we are wise with volunteers and harmless as doves with our neighbors? Thanks friends.

 

On Breaking Bread and A New Family

DSC_0023For a year now, we’ve been hosting a weekly gathering for the kiddos in our neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s been Krispie Kreme donuts and orange juice in the morning around a fire in the backyard. Other times it’s been marshmallows and hot chocolate after dinner. It’s always been a rather informal, the backgate-is-always-open neighborly event and it’s always been in the backyard.

Until recently.

Last fall, I got a wild hair and decided that it would be awesome to buy a couple of picnic tables and put them under the big oak tree in the front yard. I’m a dreamer and as I began to envision picnic tables in the front yard, I also began to envision twinkling lights hanging from the trees and candlelight dinners with our neighbors and Saturday afternoon picnics and Sunday afternoon homemade ice cream parties. I also began to have dreams of a huge pergola and a brick fireplace, but my husband has yet to configure a way to hang some twinkling lights thirty feet above the tables, so the verdict is still out on the other.

But more than all of that, I began to imagine how our neighborhood would change if we began to eat together.

I’m over at Grace Table. Join me there?

Prepare the Home

DSC_1664Some of  you are on the verge of skipping this whole  month of blog posts because you think I’m about to spend the next few weeks preparing my home for radical hospitality by transforming some flea market finds and using washi tape.

But I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I redecorate my house just as often as this girl. Maybe with less washi tape, but with no less frequency. Every few weeks, I get an itch to move the furniture and rehang pictures and paint the walls and I do all of this while Thad’s at work because frankly, I don’t wanna hear his lip. Plus, everything he can do, I can do better. {insert a smile and an exaggerated wink}

In all seriousness though, there is something about moving the furniture and shopping the house for decor that trips my trigger. I love rearranging and sitting in different spots in our home and imagining how I think others will feel. I love walking through the process of making a cup of coffee and reworking the flowchart of coffee making to get the job done in the simplest, cleanest way. I love setting the table for guests and mismatching the dishes and cloth napkins and using paper bags for place mats. I love using all manner of nature in mason jars and I love tying everything in twine. I love scouring T.J. Maxx for  funky serving dishes and table runners.

I love having people in my home.

But in the span of preparing my heart to receive others,  I’ve come to the realization that what I once considered hospitality is actually entertaining.

And I love entertaining.

For all the wrong reasons.

I love entertaining because it’s fun and done on my terms.

I plan the event. I invite who I want to come. I execute the event. I end the event. I clean up from the event. I go to sleep having offered little to nothing but a clean house, a pretty table, and good food. Maybe some laughs if I’m on my A-game.

Entertaining is all the things I like: Control. Cleanliness. Order. Predictability. Control. Me.

{Bleh. So true, people. So true.}

But entertaining isn’t hospitality, is it?

Hospitality is about creating space for Jesus to show up.

And I’m not so sure entertaining leaves much room at the table for Jesus.

 Prepare the HomeToday marks the first day in the second part of The Hospitality Project.

I’m calling this second part of the project Prepare the Home because I’m finding that preparing my home to practice radical hospitality is not so much about how I’ve arranged my home, as much as it is about whether or not my home has room for Jesus to show up. Is there too much me factor? Am I constantly preoccupied with how clean and neat my home is or am I becoming more aware of I feel in my home?

Lonni Pratt, author of Radical Hospitality, says this about preparing the home:

Preparing a place says, “welcome” and “you are accepted and honored.” Few can resist such a welcome. In all our preparations  for the other who comes to us, we will end up a little surprised. As we do the work of preparation, we prepare ourselves too, and, something more, we are prepared  by the divine presence. The work of preparation opens us up. We begin consciously to turn our will toward receiving others.

Just like last month, I’ll be implementing a few things into my life that will hopefully help me prepare my home to receive others.  And just like last month, these are loose ideas that I’ll tweak and change throughout the course of the month.

*De-clutter the home to hold more people

*Develop a method for maintaining the house so that the house stays somewhat straight

*Acquire more serving dishes and utensils for quick, easy hosting and serving everyone

*Develop a plan for organizing the pantry and fridge so that preparing a meal on the fly is simpler

*Stop apologizing for the mess and the DUST

*Finish undone home projects

*Hang more scripture on the walls

And just like last month, I wish I could tell you that I have a huge hope for June, but I don’t. Jesus uncovered a lot of heart junk in May that I had not planned to deal with. I anticipate more of the same. {I’m already holding my horses.}

I’m loving reading your own journeys into Hospitality and seeing your pictures as well.  Don’t forget to tag anything you post online with #TheHospitalityProject so that I can find you. I’m trying to only spend an hour a day online and the hashtag simplifies things for me! It also helps me to be intentional about what I choose to read online.

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

xoxo~

me

Ignorance is Bliss…Or Is It?

DSC_1676I’m on the porch soaking up the largest patch of sunshine I’ve seen all year when Rodney passes by on his way to work.  He works at Wal-Mart as a cart boy and a receipt checker. Sometimes he’s a greeter and passes out the occasional Roll Back sticker, but mostly, he’s a cart boy with a big smile and a job to do.

I wave and speak and he lifts one hand and one index finger to greet me. This is our daily rhythm and I like the sound it makes.

I watch him stride down the sidewalk and I know he’ll walk the full 5 miles from here to there. I also know that he’ll  clean himself up a bit before he gets to the store. His shirt needs tucking and his pants need a belt and his shoes need tying. But what I don’t know is how it feels to work 5 shifts a week at a job that pays just enough to keep the light bulbs burning but not enough to buy bus fare.

I think about these things because I know Rodney. He’s my neighbor and I know the exact house he calls home and I know his comings and goings. I know that he has a tendency to let his pants hang too low and he forgets to zip them up all the way. I know that he listens to his music way too loud and that he walks in the middle of the road in those tight white undershirts with no sleeves too late at night. I know his life is hard and that his eyes are often downcast when he thinks no one is watching.

He’s my neighbor and I know him.

But four years ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at Rodney or so much as lifted my hand to wave at him because I didn’t feel any responsibility to get to know my neighbors.

DSC_0036Most of you know that 4 years ago, Jesus jacked up our whole world and invited us to live on a street called Avent where we planted a church that failed in 3 years.

I won’t go into all the details of all of that, but I will tell you that when Jesus moved us here, we experienced something quite like death. There was a keen awareness that Jesus was snatching every single thing we held dear- especially the good things.

He took the church we loved and our ministries and our friends and our city and all the things we were good at doing. He took our good deeds and our small groups and our Bible studies and our supposed good name and our safe life and smeared them all over the pavement in front of our house and asked something that sounded a whole lot like, “What else you got?”

He asked that same sort of question every day for 3 years until we had nothing else to lay claim to.

And at our lowest point, after we’d handed over every element of the pretty, Christian culture that we loved, guess what was left?

Just Jesus.

And all He was doing was thumbing over His shoulder at the house across the street filled with people just like Rodney.

DSC_0061I’ve spent the better part of a week mulling over how I could sugarcoat what I’m about to say because I like it when people like me.  {I do. I can’t help it.}

But the sugar bowl has come up empty so I’m just going to say it.

I miss being ignorant.

I do.

I miss being so cocooned in my local church that I didn’t know how other people lived. I miss the endless coffee and the precious hugs at the front door and the the old men who pinched my babies cheeks. I miss the safety of the offering plate and the clean cut lines between church ministry and home life and outreach. I miss thinking that I was born to serve the local church and that other people were called to serve outside the church. I miss thinking that surely Jesus would send someone else to love my neighbors because I’d been set apart to serve the saved. {what a load of malarky, huh?}

I miss sermons that made me think about myself. I miss childcare rooms and workers who loved my children. I miss church staff and volunteers and donuts that rolled around on a cart. I miss day-old Panera bagels found upstairs in the office kitchen. I miss being in the safety net with others who were steering the same hue ship. I miss focusing all of my energies into the small space of four walls and seeing smiling faces and neatly boxed people and predictable lives.

I miss thinking that the best of life springs forth from the inner workings of a people inside a church building.

I miss being ignorant to the kind of life that is so abundant it holds as much pain as glory because the sheer weight of the pain intermingled with glory is suffocating.

And some days I want to just breathe easy.

DSC_0025For reasons unknown to me, {Actually I do know- I loved my church more than Jesus.} Jesus has called me out of a church building into a life lived out on a small patch of earth in the middle of Small Town, North Carolina where I am forced to reckon with His command to live out hospitality in radical ways every single day.

This past month of preparing my heart to live more hospitably has dredged up all sorts of things I thought I’d laid to rest, particularly my longing for easy street called Ignorance.

But here’s what I know and what I’m still learning:

Jesus has called me {and you} out of ignorance and across the street because this is where He is.

Across the street is where He’s throwing the biggest, best-est party. Across the street is where He’s serving the most expensive wine and the choicest foods. Across the street is where He’s showing off for the neighbors, casting light into all their dark parts.

And on days when I’m sitting on my own porch, pining away for what used to be, I find that Jesus sends more neighbors down my street to remind me that He’s up to things I cannot see.

And I’m reminded that He’s invited me to this shindig because He loves me.

 

This is the last post {I think} in the first month, of a four month series called The Hospitality Project. This month has been focused on Preparing the Heart. Ignorance is bliss, but radical hospitality is bent on stripping us bare of all silly delusions, inviting us out of ignorance and into the lives of others. For me, part of rejecting ignorance is remaining where Jesus has planted me and choosing to walk across the street when I’d rather slide my hiney onto a pew somewhere. You too?

In June, I’ll be focusing in on Preparing the Home. Join me next week for the details?

The One Thing Sitting Between You and Your Neighbors

DSC_1670We gather around our table late tonight, after church has long been over, and the kids inhale their dinner.  The neighborhood kids know we’re eating and they’re waiting to play in the side yard.

Before I can sit down with my family, half of the kids are pleading to be excused.

“They’re waiting!  Come on, Moms.  Let us go.  It’s gonna be dark,” they all say.

I wave them away while biting my lip. “Just go.  You have 30 minutes,” I yell after them.

The Man looks at me from his end of the table.  He’s smiling.  “I think this is called community,” he says.

I simply stare at him and hold my words steady-like.  “Our house and our yard have not belonged only to us in over nine days and I’m about to snap,” I say. “I can’t mother all of these children and frankly, I don’t even want to.  I just want them to go home and I want to sit on my porch without a pile of children staring at me.”

“And besides just that, I’m tired of people knocking on my door and needing stuff and making me feel like I have to serve cookies 18 times a day,” I say. “I don’t like the whole of my day being summed up in cookies served and hineys wiped. I’m good at other stuff and this part-time childcare gig in my yard every day keeps me from doing the stuff I’m good at.”

The Man smiles at me again, “Yeah, but we live here and the longer we live here the more the lines between us and them become blurred. And I think Jesus calls this place we’re in community.

I stare at him from my end of the table and all I want to do is wipe that smile right off of his face, but I don’t. I simply leave the table.

Join me over at Grace Table for the rest of the story?