On Food {and a recipe}

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I spent the better part of the afternoon in the kitchen yesterday. It was raining and the kids were napping and instead of catching up on laundry, I decided to bang the pots and pans and ramble through the pantry.

I should probably confess to you that I don’t love spending time in the kitchen. Our kitchen is in the back of the house and it’s galley sized with not enough counter space. My cabinets are awkward and since I’m not the most organized homemaker {make that not organized at all}, things have a tendency to tumble out and onto the floor whenever the cabinets are opened.

That being said, I’m finding myself thinking about food and planning for food quite a bit. When I try a new recipe, I consider what steps would need to be changed or eliminated to make the meal into a freezer meal for the crock pot. I make cheaper substitutions and leave out ingredients to cut down the cost of the meal so that I can help someone stretch their EBT dollars. When I bake, I take note of the presentation and note whether or not the presentation would make someone feel special or treated. If I make soup, I double the recipe not to stick in the freezer for later, but to have a jar or two to give away. And since I’m blessed to live where I do, I can deliver a jar of soup to a neighbor two streets over as soon as its jarred.

I tell you this not to pat myself on the back or humbly brag about my meal planning endeavors, but I tell you because the longer I rub shoulders with poverty, the more I realize that the poor think about food a lot.And because I think about the poor, I think about food.

And not just food as in canned veggies and Spam. I think about food and how one feels when they eat a particular food. Dave Ramsey tells the story of how when he was “poor” he ate tuna fish sandwiches every day for lunch and today, when he gets a whiff of tuna fish he feels sick. I have a neighbor who can’t stand the sight of boxed macaroni and cheese because when he was younger, they never had the milk or butter to make it the right way. His mom always made it with water. Yuck.

I think about food and the sheer abundance of it and the utter lack of ability or resources to distribute it to those who need it most. I have a friend who picks up food  by the van load from a food pantry in the area each week because they simply do not have the means by which to get the food to needy families. Last week, I drove my truck out to her house and loaded it down with enough fresh food {butter, cheese, milk, fresh pork, chicken, beef} because my whole neighborhood is full of people with no cars and no means to get the food for themselves. And y’all, just on a side note, people in dire straights usually only know other people in dire straights. If you know someone in need, don’t assume someone else is helping to fill their gaps. You might be the very one Jesus has assigned to be the gap filler.

And I think about food and the way it is bridging the gap between us and them in my neighborhood. As much as I’d like to pretend that there is no us and them, there is. But when we gather round the picnic tables in the front yard or the fire pit in the back yard, food is the bridge I  lay before us to make the us and them a we

 DSC_0746Since it’s Christmas and food is the love language of every person everywhere {or at least everyone I know}, I had planned to just pop in here and share a recipe with you.

My thoughts on food are just bonus material. Be grateful I only shared 3 of them. {You’re welcome.}

This recipe is for Honey Baked Granola and it is a standard favorite around the holidays. I usually make 5 batches, 4 to give away in little bags, and 1 for my people to enjoy over vanilla yogurt.

As you raid your own pantries to finish up your holiday baking, maybe you’ll add this recipe to your crazy making in the kitchen.

And maybe you’ll decide to double it and give some away.

Honey Baked Granola
Crunchy and nutty granola with a hint of orange zest! Perfect served with yogurt or on french toast.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup of salted butter
  2. 1/2 cup of honey
  3. 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  4. 1 heaping Tbsp of grated orange rind
  5. 1 heaping Tbsp. of cinnamon
  6. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. 4 cups of uncooked regular oats
  8. 1 cup of toasted sunflower seeds
  9. 1/2 cup of slivered almonds
  10. 1/2 cup of pecan pieces
  11. 1/2 cup of toasted wheat germ
  12. 1/2 flax seed
  13. 1 cup of unsweetened coconut
  14. 1 cup of raisins
  15. 1 cup of craisins or dried blueberries
  16. 1 cup of chopped dates
Instructions
  1. Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a simmer over medium heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, grated orange, and cinnamon.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, wheat germ and flax seed. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix together until thoroughly coated.
  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray. Spread oat and honey mixture on parchment paper using your lightly greased hands to press into the pan.
  4. Bake at 275 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes, checking at the 1 hour mark. Granola should look toasted and slightly browned. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack.
  5. Once cooled, break into small chunks and stir in coconut and dried fruit. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days.
Notes
  1. If your oven cooks on the fast side, you may want to check the granola after 45 minutes. It will go from toasted to burnt pretty quickly! But even slightly burned, this granola is fabulous.
Adapted from from Christmas with Southern Living
Adapted from from Christmas with Southern Living
Lori Harris http://loriharris.me/

Look Up and See {thoughts on hiding and waiting}

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DSC_0714On Saturday, the Man and I feed the kids an early dinner and then buy two hours alone by popping in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and letting the kids eat snacks on the floor in the family room. Our oldest girl relishes the time to be in charge and the younger ones relish the lax rules and all the cheese balls they can eat.

The Man and I relish good guacamole and the time to clumsily sort out life.

It’s dark when we leave the house for the Mexican joint we don’t usually frequent, but we like the high backed booths and the train car atmosphere. And although hiding is not in the top 5 reasons why we choose this place, it is in the top 10. We choose it because we can hide in plain sight.

Hiding feels safe and hiding together feels even safer.

When life stirs up more questions than answers, hiding comes knocking on our front door.  When folks long to sweep in and help fix the mess it appears we’ve made, hiding seems necessary. And when the future rolls out before us like low hanging fog, hiding in plain sight is easily accomplished.

Hiding isn’t a bad thing, but figuring out how to hide rightly is tricky business.

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DSC_0718This season of life is producing one question after another with no answers ever coming and in this small town, there is not much space for open ended questions. We like things tied up round here, everyone doing what we’re supposed to be doing, all the time, as if we are all supposed to be doing one particular thing. We like order and things that make sense and answers to questions that include the words fine and good and the occasional dandy. I can say this because I was reared in this small town and its ways and its thoughts still rattle around in my cage, aching to settle somewhere and stay awhile.

I am a product of the place that reared me and my flesh longs for what my place longs for me.

My flesh longs for deep roots and straight laid paths and nice red bows along the way. It longs for acceptable purpose that makes such good sense that no one asks what we’re doing next. It longs for a 10 year ministry plan and a college plan and a retirement plan. It longs for normalcy of life with predictable next steps and measurable successes. It longs for easy and for comfortable and for sameness.

And yet for all the things my flesh longs for, my soul longs to hide in Jesus and actively wait for Him to do what He said He is going to do.

DSC_0688DSC_0686DSC_0690DSC_0684It’s fitting that this season of hiding is unfurling before us as we bend head long into Advent, the season of waiting. Hiding and waiting are close friends. Hiding, when done rightly, beckons us to come and sit under the cover of Jesus’ wings and be comforted. And waiting, when done rightly, beckons us to do the same, just patiently and with great expectation that Jesus is going to do what He said He was going to do.

We’ve had about eight weeks to hide in Jesus and wait for Him to give us our marching orders, but we’ve had years to wait for Jesus to do what He told us He was going to do here in our place and among our people.

And in this season of hiding, we’ve heard Jesus call us to simply look up and see.

 

All pictures from the past Saturday’s “hay”ride in the city. Most FUN neighborhood event all year. Hands down. Jesus comes small and so does His kingdom. May we simply have eyes to see it and the words to answer every question that the people in my place ask about what we’re planning to do next. This living small is the next thing. And Jesus is enlarging my heart in such a way that all I see is my small neighborhood.

Being All In {and how that’s hard doings}

DSC_0658Two years ago~

“You got a nice tree,” he said.  “I like them lights.”

I stood on the front steps of our house and leaned back to see what he was seeing.  “The lights are nice, aren’t they?  Kinda sparkly,” I said.  Our Christmas tree stood just inside the window and the blinds were open, letting its twinkling lights filter through.

He stuck his hands in the pockets of his older sister’s coat and smiled at me.  I could see his breath in the cold air when he spoke again.  “My daddy’s got a tree at his house, but he ain’t got no lights on it.  Y’all are lucky.  You got any more cookies?”

I answered him with a stack of cookies piled high on a napkin, letting his few words rest on the edges of my heart, afraid to let them seep in any further.

“You better go get a seat on a blanket.  The movie is about to start,” I said shooing him off the porch.  “The yard is filling up.”

He grinned at me and I watched him bound back down the steps with his cookies crammed into the pocket of his coat, his shoelaces trailing along behind him.

The lights twinkled through the great big windows of our home as I stood on the porch trying to swallow the lump in my throat  and I felt myself shiver not only because of the chill in the night air, but because I was being awakened to the poverty that lived six doors down from me.

And the kind of poverty I was seeing was messing with my Christmas tree and all its lights.

DSC_0657On Friday, we hosted our third annual {movie on the lawn} at 554 Avent street.  We made 5 gallons of hot chocolate and bought about  500 cookies from Aldi and as the temps dropped near freezing, we lit up the side of the house with The Polar Express.  Kids from all over our neighborhood  piled into the yard on blankets and sleeping bags and if I’m honest with you, the snot flowed with wild abandon from the noses of a half dozen young’uns.

It was glorious, y’all.

Glorious,  I tell you.

In the middle of the city, we had fires ablaze, one in a barrel and one in a pit, and by night’s end, we were all gathered around the flames.  And that was glorious, too.

The only thing missing was the tree peeking through the blinds.

The boy from two years ago was there wearing a coat 3 sizes too big and his laces were still trailing along behind him.  He stuffed cookies in his pockets and drank 5 cups of hot chocolate and snuggled up close to his sisters.  The yard was just as full as last year, the movie the same, the red bearded man still overseeing the organized chaos.

But this year, there was no tree, no decorated mantle, no lit up windows.

This year we waited to bling up the house.  And I use the term bling loosely.  By bling, I mean burlap garland, glittered letters made exclusively by the Harris Barn, and a handful of Target ornaments.  This year’s Christmas was named The Year of Free, meaning we decorated with things found in the woods at my mama’s  house, things found in the closet of forget-about-it, and Dollar Tree candles in mercury glass.

This year’s blitz has been reined in by poverty and Jesus.

DSC_0025For many days now, I’ve thought about Christmas in my neighborhood.

I’ve thought about poverty and how it does something to you when it wears a face and lives a few doors down.

I’ve thought about how it casts a shadow on the pretty things of life and pricks the heart in a way that never stops stinging.

Poverty messes with holidays and meal times and back to school shopping excursions.  It messes with trips to the grocery store and the donut shop and the mall.  And it messes with your world because you begin to see your excess as your neighbor’s necessity.

And neighbors have names.

And faces and bare feet have a way of finding their way to your front yard and into your heart.

When you live in a neighborhood like mine, you learn to dig deep, everyday, and you learn to take stock of your stuff.  You learn to blink your eyes in order to see your stuff the way your neighbors see it.  And you stand back and peer through your own windows and you keep asking God to trim the house and the yard in a way that opens wide the door to Christ.

You lay down the stuff  in order that you may unwrap the gift of Jesus.

And you pray that when others see the Jesus you’ve unwrapped, they see only JESUS…

And not the wrapping.

 

This is a repost from the archives because this mama has no time to write and the feelings from last year still simmer hot here. And we’re still muddling through Christmas and how exactly we  should do it. We just know that in order for us to be all in here, then we have to be all in. And to be honest with you, being all in is hard doings.

And one more thing: The winner of last week’s slamming Advent giveaway is Jennifer C. You can thank Audrey for randomly choosing your comment number. I’ve sent an email to you.

8 Ways to Find the Merry in Your Christmas

DSC_0650Endless lines at Target got you down? Amazon keep logging you out every time you click submit order? Does your tree keep falling over in it’s stand? Elf on the Shelf making you lose sleep?  Christmas play practices making you wanna sling a few choice words because they keep being scheduled during the dinner hour? Feel like you can’t find the merry for your Christmas?

{Yeah. Me, too.}

Maybe you fall into the other camp, the one where everything is falling into place. Your cards are signed, sealed, and on their way to mailboxes all over America. Your gifts are wrapped and fabulously tucked under the tree. You have just 2 parties on the calendar and 2.5 children to get to play practice. But somehow, amid all the pretty, all your merry has gotten lost and you’re not quite sure what to do to find it.

{Yeah. Not me, too.}

Can I let you in on a little secret?

The only way to get the merry back into your Christmas is to give it away.

By giving it away, I don’t mean buy it and give it away {although that is part of it}.

I mean give it away by inviting the people who are mere shadows on the backdrop of your life onto the main stage for the most special parts of your Christmas.

And it’s your lucky day because I’m about to give you 8 ways to give your Christmas away.  You can thank me later via cookies in the mail.

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1.) Hire the guy on the bike with the two rakes tied to the handlebars and the push mower tied to the seat.

The next time he rides by your house, run out to the sidewalk and flag him down. Hire him to do the five odd jobs around the house that you can do for yourself. When he gets to raking, grab a rake and work alongside him for a few hours. Hold the ladder while he cleans your gutters. Give him a lunch break and then serve him lunch. In your house. And then pay him a little more than fair and square. Hug his neck and tell him Merry Christmas and thank him for doing a bang up job because even though he needs some jangle for his pockets, he probably needs the Jesus in YOU more than anything else this year.

2.) Invite someone over to bake Christmas cookies.

Pick out two, no-fail recipes, buy all the ingredients, and invite someone over to bake cookies with you. Maybe it’s your Target lady. Maybe it’s your favorite Starbucks barista. Or maybe it’s the kids’ bus driver. Whomever it is, invite them into your home, just for the afternoon and make a memory together. And then send her home with half the cookies you bake, because homemade cookies make people feel special and when she eats them she will be reminded of the goodness of the Jesus in YOU.

3.) Plan a Christmas party and invite all the people you’d never, ever, ever, ever invite to come.

Circle a square on your calendar and write this in the circle: Christmas Shindig for the Folks Who Have Nothing Else to Attend. Get on your laptop and create a simple invite with your address and the date and time of the event. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of every person that you cross paths with in a given week: Mark the mailman, the lady with the bags at the bus stop every morning, the Target lady, Kid #2’s math teacher who lives alone, etc. You get the idea. After your date is decided, invites made, and list created, go hand deliver all your invites. Once the invitations have gone out, plan yo’ party. Think simple, festive, low-key, hot chocolate and 5 kinds of cookies. No fuss, come as you are because you are enough party. People will come and it will be awkward and you will do it again next year because at the end of the night, you realize that YOU just hosted the kind of party that Jesus told a story about. And that kind of party is the hands-down best kind of party ever.

4.) Baby-sit for the single mom with 3 wild ones.

Give the single mom with no outside help an afternoon off. Buy her a Starbucks gift card, open your home to her wild people and plan an afternoon of extravagant FUN that those kids will never forget. Decorate gingerbread houses. Make buckeyes. Make ornaments. Roast marshmallows over the stove. Take them to an afternoon matinee. Take the kids to the mall and let them pick out a gift for their mom for Christmas and then buy it and wrap it. Love that mom to Jesus by loving her kids to pieces.

5.) Invite a homeless person over for dinner.

Spend the day setting the table with your finest. Cook steaks, baked potatoes, and make a salad. Make a cake for dessert. Wrap up a box of love {whatever you deem lovely}. And then pick up the homeless man or woman you drive by everyday. Bring them into your house. Give them the best seat at the table and lavish them with hospitality. Let them talk your ears off. Let them lick the plate. Let them grubby up your pretty table. And then give them your wrapped up box of love, a hug, and an invitation to come again.

6.) Take a group of hard-to-love kids to look at Christmas lights.

Load down your minivan with a half dozen kids that you find hard to love. And no, not your own. Swing on by Starbucks for 6 hot chocolates with whipped cream and then crank up the Christmas tunes for a 2 hour, 25mph sightseeing tour of every twinkly light in your city. They will LOVE it. And you might just love them back… just a smidgen.

7.) Host a Make A Craft party.

Pick a festive craft, buy the supplies, and invite a handful of ladies into your home to craft away the day. Serve light snacks, coffee, and space to chat. Easy, fun, and great way to build community with people who may have no community.

8.) Do a drive-by, spy-on, LOVE bomb.

Get in your car. Drive across the railroad tracks {every city has them}. Ride around and take note of what you see. Are there homes with chimneys smoking? Is there firewood a plenty stacked in the yard? Do any homes look in disrepair? Are there children in the yard with no coats or shoes on? Do you see bikes with flat tires?

Take in all the broken things you see. Pick one broken thing. Go fix it.

No firewood at house number 537? Drop off a load.
Baby with no coat on toddling in the yard? Swing on by with a pack of Huggies and a warm coat.
Bikes with flat tires? Make a trip to Wal-Mart, buy some tires, and drop them off.
Home with no lights on? Cook a meal and take it over at dinner time. It’s hard to cook when you have no electricity.

Love bombs are my favorite. Do one, just one time, and you’ll do it again. Promise.

 

Inspired? Freaked out? Thinking you’re never bringing a homeless person home with you?

That’s okay.

I used to be afraid, too.

How We Advent {and a giveaway!}

How We AdventDSC_0628Five Decembers ago, when the Man was in his last year of seminary and we had 5 and a half children, I began to feel the weight of motherhood in all its heaviest wreaths of glory. I was three months into a brand new pregnancy and I was exhausted and scared and overwhelmed with life. I felt time slipping through my fingers faster than I could keep up. I would lie in bed at night and stare at the ceiling feeling utterly afraid that our family was missing the living part of our life. I felt like we were missing one another and I felt like we were missing Jesus.

And we were. We were missing everything and then some.

So in a short burst of energy one afternoon, I made an Advent calendar similar to one I’d seen on the cover of a magazine at our local Albertsons. I filled the homemade calendar with treats and slips of paper with bits of the Christmas story on them and each day, for 25 days, the kids got to open one small treat. It was an epic mess.

But it was a mess that we remember.

DSC_0636DSC_0627We sat round the table two nights ago and we laughed until we nearly cried. The kids were being kids and yammering on and on about all sorts of nonsense and it occurred to me, while sitting across from the Man, that for a family bent towards switching things up every few years, we had somehow managed to observe Advent for five years running.

“We’re winning at this Christmas tradition thing, you know?” I said to the man with the crinkly eyes that make me swoon. “We do have some stick-with-it-ness. We’ve pulled out the Advent calendar every year for the last 5 years. We’ve been rocking the Jesse Tree and hanging the ornaments. We’ve thrown in Johan the Elf and taken fun to a whole other level. And we’ve now shown the Polar Express on the lawn for 3 years straight.”

He smiled at me. “Yep. Winning.”

We cleared the table and poked fun at every thought we had that we were winning at anything.

And then we gathered up our tribe for 15 minutes and opened up Day 1 of our Advent calendar.

DSC_0625DSC_0630If I could give you one thing for Christmas this year it would be Advent.

Id give you Advent because Advent is a gift of wonder-filled time.

It’s a gift of 25 days, each day whispering a part of the whole story…

Each day whispering the same thing: He is coming!

But I can’t give you Advent.

I can only give you how we Advent.

And hope that if you’re feeling like you’re missing the wonder of Jesus this season, you’ll wake up to the abundant life He is coming to bring and choose to prepare your heart to receive it.

{It’s worth it. Pinky swear.}

How We Advent

1.) In order to set the stage for Advent, we deck the halls the Friday after Thanksgiving. There is little to no shopping around here because frankly, shopping frenzies make me queasy. I clean and we decorate the tree. We love our neighbors by way of a Christmas movie on the lawn, hot chocolate and cookies. We anticipate this event all year and it prepares our hearts to see the Kingdom coming small and quiet. We love it!

2.) On the following Saturday, we make a Jesse Tree. We gather an armload of twigs or small branches and arrange them in a large jar. The Jesse Tree is the way we trace the scarlet thread of Jesus from the beginning of time until His birth. It’s a tangible reminder that our family is included in the family tree of God.  During Advent, we read aloud Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and each day has a printable paper ornament that is hung on the Jesse Tree.

3.) On Advent Eve, I hang our Advent calendar. Our calendar is made up of 25 miniature paper bags, clothespinned to a length of ribbon. Since our family uses the Jesse Tree, each bag contains the paper ornament for the day. Each bag also holds a little something special!

4.) Each day of Advent, after dinner time and bath time, one child is allowed to retrieve the day’s paper bag and hang the Jesse Tree ornament. He or she also passes around the treat or reads the clue that points to where the treat is hidden. The Man and I take turns reading the passage from the book. And that’s it. It takes no more than 15 minutes.

But before you bite your nails thinking we know what we’re doing, let me set your mind at ease. We are not precious and our daily Advent readings are not like tinsel or glitter. We have knock down, drag outs over the hidden candy canes. We groan when the readings get long-winded. We wail and gnash our teeth. But we do it. All 25 days.

And you know what? Jesus takes our 15 minutes a day as a family and He fills up our dingy cups with awe and wonder and He pricks our beat up hearts with just enough of Himself that we anticipate His arrival all the more sweetly.

I know I told you I can’t give you Advent for Christmas this year, but I can give you some tools to help you wake up to wonder next year. I’m giving away 1 copy of Ann’s The Greatest Gift, 1 copy of Ann’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and 1 Advent calendar especially made by yours truly- you just pick your colors!! Just tell me something in the comments. Anything. I’ll pick a winner either Friday or Monday.

 ps. Cindy…you won The Hardest Peace two weeks ago. I emailed you. If you’re reading this, I need your address, ma’am!

Sharing the Love {our favorite Christmas goodie}

DSC_0624I own 27 cookbooks.

Nearly every one of them is smeared with leftover ingredients from whatever I cooked last.

There is dotted grease on page 114 of the Neely’s cookbook because I add bacon to their recipe for collards. I also leave out the sugar and add extra red pepper flakes. {Who puts sugar in collards? I shudder.}

There is a small round stain of half and half on page 88 of the Southern Living 2007 Annual recipe book because I bake the ham and tomato pie for every mama who has a baby, loses a baby, or simply needs a meal. I serve those ham and tomato pies with either a Caesar salad or a spinach and apple salad and a loaf of crusty bread every time. It’s my go-to mama meal.

I make the mango and black bean salsa from Bobby Flay’s cookbook once a month and without fail, I drip honey or mango juice on page 217  . It’s my second favorite salsa of all time because it goes great with chicken and fish and pork and or just a bag of Calidad’s.

If I happen to invite you over for dinner, no matter the occasion, I will serve you tacos al pastor with black beans and rice and a side of fresh guac. The recipe from the Austin’s Taco Queen, Maria Corbalan  makes a drippy kind of awesomeness that runs down your arm when you bite into the cilantro and pineapple marinated pork. I could eat a taco right this minute and it’s still early. Thank you, Maria.

Come October, I make chocolate bourbon pecan pies like a master pastry chef. I just leave out the bourbon, not because I have a problem with bourbon, but because the pie is just as gooey and amazing without it and bourbon is not a pantry staple at mi casa. I serve it up with vanilla Blue Bell because there is no other ice cream in American worthy of being dolloped on a slice of this pie. And yes, this is a Southern Living recipe.

When December rolls around, I pull out the most loved cookbook I own and make buckeyes. Making buckeyes is a labor of love, friends. Rolling perfectly symmetrical peanut butter balls and then dipping them in melted chocolate takes this mama a few hours. I double the recipe for my tribe because this rowdy crowd can eat their weight in buckeyes. We love this Christmas goodie so much that we hide them in the fridge in an old round tin and only pull them out to share with our most special friends.

{And just to clarify, at Christmas, we have no most special friends. All drop-in, party-invited people are just people until January. You get what I’m saying?}

This heart is as small as the Grinch’s heart when it comes to sharing the buckeye love.

But friends sharing recipes with friends is my second most favorite slogan of all time, so I’m going to share the recipe love with you friends this morning. And if you have a favorite Christmas goodie recipe to share, please do! You can join the community over at Grace Table this week and either share your recipe in the comments section of Annie Barnett’s post, How to Ice Gingerbread Cookies or link up your own recipe filled blog post.  {Her post is awesome, by the way and she also designed our header over there! Multi-talented, she is.}

Buckeye recipe

 

On New Skin and Small Comings

DSC_1126I’ve lost my groove.

Or I’ve lost what I think used to be my groove. Maybe I’ve never had a groove. I’m not sure.  I’m not sure about much of anything anymore and I know you know this. I tell you all the time: I’m not sure.

Before MOPS last week, I sidled up next to my mentor mom and unloaded three shovels full of the I’m not sures and then wrapped it up with something lame like, I feel like a person not sure what to do in the new skin she’s been given to wear.

I mean, really, what does that even mean? New skin?

She looked at me, wide-eyed, and I looked at her just as wide-eyed, embarrassed that I had let that little truth slip out. It was another awkward moment in the current state of my awkward life and bless her heart, my poor mentor mom had no idea what to do with all my awkward. I had no idea what to do with my awkward. She smiled at me and I smiled back at her and there we stood, in a state of utter What in the world just happened here? awkwardness.

But if I’m honest with you, I have to tell you I’ve thought a lot about that lame sentence and wondered why in the world those exact words lined themselves up like that.

Why do I feel like someone lost in a layer of skin that doesn’t feel quite like me and what is this new thing I think {hope} God is doing?

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For the last three Sundays, the Man and I and our whole tribe of gingers have joined a local congregation in town for their worship service. It’s a large church with over a couple of thousand members. And it’s predominately African American. I hesitate to tell you this for fear of making the race thing an issue, but the whole world is broken, the Harris clan included, so I tell you that this church is black and we are white and the entire time I sit in their services, I cannot not take note of the race difference.

They are black and we are not.

We’ve been visiting this church for a host of reasons, but at the crux of all the reasons is this deep-seeded desire to simply know the black Christian community in our city. We believe we’ve been called to love our people and our place and that means we have to keep going to school, sitting at the feet of the ones who live this life in black skin.

Their church services are two hours long. There are long stretches of time spent clapping. People shout amen and jump to their feet in agreement with the Word spoken. Women weep and outwardly pray over their lost sons and daughters. Men wrap their arms around the shoulders of younger men and hold the hands of their wives. Dredlocked boys sit next to curly, gray-haired grandmothers and small children sit in the laps of older siblings. The invitation is given before the sermon, not after, and when it’s given, scores of men and women fill the aisles and the front of the church waiting to pray with the ones in need of prayer. And people file in line, longing for prayer.

Truth is proclaimed and people are called to do their part in rebuilding the walls in our city and under the surface of our skin color, our hearts beat the same: {The Gospel proclaimed and our city restored.}

And at the end of the day, we sit around our table not chatting about our differences as much as we chat about the scarlet thread that runs between our skin colors, blurring the lines until they are unseen.

DSC_1078This morning, Advent greets me small and tender, its coming quietly beckoning me to sit up and take notice of the Kingdom unfurling all around me.

The boy from across the street asking all the questions about the Jesus my boy can’t stop talking about.

The girl from around the corner who slips into our yard and then into our home, asking not to be sent back to her own.

The laughter found round the fire and the three years worth of Polar Express memories shared by our neighbors.

The black couple from our sending church home who is moving here, to Rocky Mount, in just 18 days because their son now lives here and works for our city and they desire to be our people.

The new skin slowing growing in places where the old is being sloughed off,

The grace shooting up in all the awkwardness I feel in this being made new.

Advent.

Jesus is coming.

 

Joining Ann and the rest of the world as we wait on the coming of Jesus. My clan is continuing our tradition of the Jesse Tree and reading Ann’s new book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. It’s not too late to unravel the Scarlet Thread with us. Click here to find out more.

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}

DSC_0076

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.