Rolling Out the Welcome Mat in the ‘Hood {Loving and Sharing the Home You Have}

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

To wrap up the Loving and Sharing the Home You Have series, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Lori Harris.

Lori is wife to Thad, a church planting/warehouse managing/sometimes guitar playing/always Jesus loving man.  She’s also a mama to a small tribe of 6.  She and her family live smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt on a street called Avent, in Nowhere, North Carolina.  They spend their days in a hundred year old house with drafty windows and patchy landscaping and a yard full of other people’s kids.

They’re 2 years into planting a church while simultaneously navigating the muddy waters of poverty and racism by living in a less than desirable neighborhood some would call the ‘hood.

She calls it home. You can find her writing about how she’s learning to love her place at

Lori Harris

I live on a street called Avent in a small town called Rocky Mount.

My neighborhood runs right alongside the railroad tracks and right through downtown and ribbons right through all the things that make the dirty south the dirty south.  Poverty runs deep and wide and racism spews from both sides of the tracks and we love Jesus when He looks and talks and acts like us.

We are a people long on church and short on the Gospel.

And this is the place where I was reared and the very place I escaped right after college.

Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

And it’s the very place God’s seen fit to plant me now, 15 years later.

I live in a hundred year old home with drafty windows and door knobs that come off in your hand and a yard that boasts of patchy landscaping.  My warehouse managing man and I are in the thick of planting a Fellowship Bible church, while our small tribe of 6 makes a ruckus all over our house and up and down our street.

We live what we call the ghetto fabulous life on Avent street.

Our kids speak ebonics with a Southern drawl.  Our yard is consistently littered with trash and beer bottles.  Poverty knocks on our door and frequently sleeps on our front porch swing.  Mamas push their babies down the street with friends who are pregnant, both babies the offspring of the same man.

Drug deals go down four doors down and pit bulls are chained to porches and boys practice gang initiations on unsuspecting neighbors.  Cars rattle under the weight of suped up sound systems and men throw punches on the sidewalk for the affection of one woman.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Most days I look at our kids and wonder what we’re doing to them, living out here on Avent, in a place that feels like it has forgotten to move forward in time.

But then there are other days, when I see glimmers of wild hope through the stark white smiles on dark faces and I think this life is fabulous.

And I think it’s fabulous because I didn’t set out to make this life for myself.  God did.

I’d love to tell you that this ghetto fabulous life has come easy for me, but it hasn’t.  It’s come hard, bearing down on all the things I hold dear.  It’s jacked up all the things I thought I knew about hospitality and community and boundaries.

And it’s forced me to take a good long look at my nice little Jesus-loving heart and ask myself some hard questions, the chief one being:

Do I really love my neighbors?

In all honesty, I don’t think I do.

But I’m trying really hard to go through the motions of loving them in hopes that one day I actually will.

For by serving them, right where they are, I give God space to break my heart for them.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Here are some practical ways in which I move towards loving our people, right here in our community:

Instead of hosting sit down-get out the china- put on your best manners sort of meals, I host neighborhood movie nights on our lawn and pass out hundreds of cookies and gallons of hot chocolate.

Instead of hosting play dates for the moms across town, I provide a safe yard after school for kids to land while mamas are still at work.  I hand out Aldi popsicles and Little Debbies and serve Kool-Aid from the porch in a Come and Get It and Don’t Throw Your Trash In My Yard, Please fashion.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Instead of planning baby showers or decorating my house for new mamas in our neighborhood, I invite women to help me shower mamas in their own homes where they feel safe and secure and not on display.

Instead of hosting Bible studies solely for the women of my church, I open my home up to anyone who wants to come.  The invitation is simply being to meet Jesus because a relationship with Jesus is always the chief end, not membership at my church.

Instead of passing out a tract or laying out the Four Spiritual Laws on some poor man taking a nap, the Man does a lot of knocking on doors and he asks if there is a way he can ask God to bless that house.

He then takes a peek into the home and mentally files away needs that he may notice:  a hole in the ceiling, a naked baby crawling around in squalor, no furniture, no running electricity and then he does all that is humanly possible to see that those spoken needs get met, along with the unspoken needs.  Meeting these needs takes a small village and God is growing His village.

Instead of perfecting my homemaking abilities, I am choosing to simply let my house and my yard and my cooking be and perfect how I make Jesus known in my place.

The Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Today, right where you are, I want you to consider what hospitality looks like outside of your home

Who are your people?  What do they look like?  What do they do in their free time?  What are the cultural norms where you live?

And then I want you to consider how God may be moving you to serve your place by doing something you love to do.

What makes your heart race?  What brings you the greatest amount of joy?  What needs do you see when you meet your neighbors in the cul-de-sac?

How can YOU roll out the welcome mat by simply stepping outside on your front porch and being fully you?

Because hospitality is not about your pretty house or your matching dishes or how clean your floors appear to be…

It’s how you use what you’ve been given to show the love of Jesus with the people who cross your threshold and those who live across the street.


About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • Julia Stockwell Reynolds

    Thank you for this post. It speaks volumes to me. Maybe it sounds silly but I’ve never thought of hospitality happening outside the four walls of my home. This resonates deeply as I have been considering that Jesus commands us to “Go” but I seem to want others to come to where I am instead. Come to church with me. Come to my house (where I feel safe).

    • Yes! I so agree.

    • You are so welcome, Julia. I never considered hospitality outside of my home until moving to Avent. The going is not where I’m most comfortable, but it where I’m most reliant on Jesus. Thank you for joining in the conversation!

  • Lori, this challenges me right to the core. God hasn’t called us to the same situation as yours, but sometimes when we’re not surrounded by obvious poverty and racism, it can be very difficult to open our eyes to the poverty of the spirit among our neighbors. You are so very brave. God bless you and your family as you serve your community.

    • I know, I love her heart and her family’s story! And how honest she is in the midst of it.

    • Kimberly! Love seeing a familiar face here! Moving here has opened my eyes to my own depravity and the depravity of my neighbors,no matter the race or economic status. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here- and thank you for serving us over at (in)ked!

  • Lori, besides what Julia said about being willing to go where I may be uncomfortable for the sake of others & the gospel, I love the idea of serving by just doing what we love to do. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.

    Thanks so much for sharing, friend!

    • Thank you for inviting me, Jenn! Honored to be asked. (and you have a great community here!)

  • brenda venable

    I haven’t responded to ASH in awhile, but today’s story has really touched me. I think sometimes we forget just how our neighbors live, where they live and how challenging that might be….. especially with 6 children to care for. Your story, your life on Avent is full of ‘instead ofs’ and you have certainly made the most of adapting to every situation thrown at you. But, your faith is providing you w/ the guidance necessary to make the most of every day, and that is critical to survive. I truly applaud you, Lori, you are a brave young woman who knows more about her neighborhood than most of us. You have had to dig deep to provide a safe haven for your family, but you seem to be up to the task. Again, I applaud your strength and faith. Please know that you would always be welcome here on my front porch, that is my safe haven to share w/ you.

    • Thank you Brenda- I fail more than I like to admit, but I’m learning to engage my people. And I’m all the better for it. So grateful for my life here and the invitation to join God in what He is about here. Thank you for much for your encouraging words. And I’d love to join you on your porch!

  • JessHopkins

    My pretty house, my matching dishes, my clean floor…. is something I struggle with so deeply. I don’t let people in when they visit if I don’t think I have the place in shape. I’m uncomfortable inviting people over in case they judge my “lack” of effort in the home. As a stay home Mum, I have felt that it is an expectation I have never been able to meet and keep failing and falling in a heap trying to do so.

    It is comforting to find a blogger willing to challenge these boundaries. I have come away too many times from reading posts feeling less worthy and like I have more pressure on my shoulders to do more.

    Thank you for just telling me to find what I’m good at and let that be Jesus to the world. Instead of this perfection I keep failing at and telling myself I can’t even do this God thing myself, so why would anyone else want it.

    Beautiful post. I will be following along on you blog as a new read looking for hope that there is a real Jesus out there not just a perfect one.

    • Jess, thank you for sharing your heart so honestly! As a recovering perfectionist, one of the most freeing things for me has been to invite people in at less-than-ideal times– and then realize that no one really minds the imperfections anyway. (At least, they don’t seem like they mind and that’s enough for me ;)). They just want to be loved.

      So thankful that Jesus doesn’t expect perfection of me anyway. 🙂 Hugs to you and thanks so much for stopping by!

    • Me too, Jess. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your honest thoughts about your struggles. Over the last 5 years, I’ve learned that my imperfections are a gift to others. They give others permission to imperfect as well. So nice to meet you!

  • Gay B

    I am not a religious person, I don’t belong to any church, and, to be completely honest, when I read something that has lots of “God” in it, I start to skim. But I didn’t skim this post; I read it all. Something about it spoke to me and touched me. To me, this is the simple truth of the way things should be. You should really look at others and see what they need and how they need it. That may not be the way you want to give it or the way you think they should get it.
    Thank you for the post.

    • Gay~ your words have made me smile this afternoon. So true about meeting a person, right where they are. Hard lesson for me to learn and it has stretched me, but it’s becoming more fluid in my approach with my neighbors. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with much honesty and kindness.

    • Gay, thanks so much for reading and dropping a note. I love what you said about seeing the real what and how of others’ needs. I want to be better at that!

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