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 loriharris.me
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.