New. Every. Morning.

Last night, I struggled to go to bed and to sleep, but at 2am I finally reached a point where I had pretty much finished processing, crying, fussing at God, crying some more, and much more. Especially as I thought about the many evenings I have spent on our front porch, at our dining room table, playing wii in front of the TV with a house full of youth and friends.

Side note:  Louis treated me to hot chocolate chip cookies, since Terence hadn’t been around! Gotta love him for doing that for me!!! (Terence – your cookies are still the best!!!)

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then you missed my last post…check it out here>>>  A Night Unlike Most Other Nights.

This morning I woke up well rested and with a fresh perspective.  God’s mercies are new…every. single. morning.  Instead of feeling defeated, hopeless, mad, and lacking peace, I awakened a new person! I thank God Almighty for hearing and answering your prayers and mine! I felt peace that passes ALL understanding.

I was reminded that we live in a dark, sinful, wretched, fallen world that is in DESPERATE need of a Redeemer and a Savior!  We need Jesus. I need Jesus.  Jesus is the only answer to what plagues our community.  And we are in desperate need of a move of the Holy Spirit…of individual and community transformation.

I woke up with a greater desire and almost a compulsion to share about Jesus and Him crucified.  I woke up with courage and boldness to cover our streets, our homes, our children, our community, our city in prayer.

So, tonight…at 6pm, Louis and I held a Community Prayer Service in front of our home – at the corner of Barton and Roberts. We had 30+ people (old friends and new from the community and from other parts of the city) praying bold and outrageous prayers covering our streets, our corners, our homes, our children, our community in the name of Jesus. Not only did we pray for our community, but we also spent time just praising and thanking the Lord for His protection, for His blessing, for HIs goodness and faithfulness, and so much more.  We ended our time together singing…

In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus
We have the victory.
In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus
Satan will have to flee.

Tell me who can stand before us
When we call on this great name
JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, JESUS
We have the victory!

Our community grew tighter tonight, as we prayed and believed together….as folks just lingered and talked afterwards.  We also had a time of individual prayer with one man who wants a new start in life. He’s been shot 5 times over the years and struggles with a lot. We are claiming a victory…in the name of Jesus!

At the end of the evening, I learned something new that I did not know before.  I learned the name of the victim. Again…another young man I have known since shortly after moving to SBH. One who has been in and out of my house when he was in middle school, but now about 18 or 19. One who was in our wedding nearly 5 years ago. One who I love, but Jesus loves more.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

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What I Learned on the “First Day of School” Morning

Nuggets, learnings, questions from the first day of school morning…

As I posted yesterday in Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round, it is my attempt to “love my neighbor” by greeting them at the bus stop on the first day of school.

Wow! What a morning!  Here we go…

#1 – As ridiculous as it may sound, I used the car in order to make it to as many as possible.  With this kind of schedule….I couldn’t see another way.

John Marshall  

6:44                North and Poe             29

Henderson   

7:32                Poe and Lamb               4

7:33                North and Poe               4

7:34                North and Roberts        9

Overby     

7:35                Poe and Lamb              15

7:40                Dove and Barton          23

Total – 84

#2 – Why does the bus stop every 1-2 blocks for Henderson?  Really?  7:32, 7:33, and 7:34?  It takes more than a minute to safely stop the bus, load the kids, and drive the block to the next stop. Does it have to do with where the kids live and how far they have to walk?

#3 – It’s soooo NOT cool to greet the High Schoolers at the bus stop in the morning. Yet, they should at least appreciate the fact that I got my butt up this early to do so!  🙂  My compromise…I went straight to their house…and promised to NOT post pictures. Last first day of High School for one. And first day of High School for the other. You know who you are….and I love you.

#4 – It’s interesting how small groups form at the bus stop. At the intersection of North and Poe – Poe T’s into North. There were small groups on all 3 corners, even on the wrong side of the street. Wonder if there is a reason for that. The ‘arranger’, ‘efficiency nut’ and ‘connector’ in me wanted to get them all organized and talking to one another. (I know…I’m a freak!)

#5 – There are a lot of great and loving moms and dads out there who ensure their children get to the bus stop safe and sound!

#6 – Elementary Bus Stop – I found myself saying, “Scissors are NOT a toy! Please put those in your backpack.”

#7 – Some kids missed the bus on their first day of school.  I pray that this is not a foreshadow of what is to come.

#8 – Kids really want to learn!

#9 – It was hard to get up this early (insert whine here!), and I didn’t have to pack lunches, wake kids, make sure they ate breakfast, brush their teeth, grabbed their book bag and their lunch, dressed appropriately and more! I just rolled outta bed and into whatever clothes I took off yesterday. (Real Truth!)

#10 – I need to pray more for the children and their parents, the teachers, school staff, bus drivers, homeschool parents, and all who work with these young, bright, eager people.

Let’s see how it goes this afternoon when I’m back out there! Say a prayer for me, will ya’?


Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round

schoolbus

Tomorrow all over the metro RVA area,  we will see the yellow school buses transporting our future doctors, plumbers, lawyers, bankers, mechanics, secretaries, pastors, recruiters, store clerks, teachers, school board members, mayors and city councilpersons, social workers, construction workers, etc. back to school. Let’s keep them in our prayers…and all that will be involved in their education!

Some kids will be going to school for the first time. The rising 6th graders and freshman will no longer be the BMOC, but will be back on the ‘bottom’ at their new schools. Others have moved and will be going somewhere completely new…maybe even across town where they don’t know anyone…or may not know English. Those who didn’t successfully pass last year, but have a new chance at making it through successfully. Some will be donning their new “Back To School” clothes, while others are wearing something from last year or a hand-me-down. The backpacks will weigh heavily full of all their new school supplies, although some will be without. The bullied may be fearful.  The bully is puffing up.  The teachers, bus drivers, administrative staff, janitors, and cafeteria staff have all prepared for this day. And we are so grateful for them!

It’s a day with many mixed emotions after a fun-filled summer. So, tomorrow… I plan to get up SUPER early and walk to my neighborhood bus stops to wish the youth well on their first day. I will pray with them and encourage the parents that are waiting with their children.  I also plan to meet the bus tomorrow afternoon to celebrate the first day of school with snacks and goodies.  I can’t say that I will do that every day, but I hope to do it more often than I have in the past.

It’s a simple way to get to know and love my neighbors and to encourage our future generations.

Anyone willing to do the same in YOUR neighborhood???  

I would LOVE to hear about how it goes and learn from you!

Important Note: Please be sure to drive carefully as you go to work, the gym, etc. tomorrow morning…and every morning. Watch for those kiddos as they wait for the bus!  And remember to leave some extra time in your commute!


Why?

Why do I do what I do? Why do I live the way that I live? These are 2 questions that I am asked on a regular basis. Then, I am often ‘warned’ against the many, many things that could go wrong and the risks that I am assuming. Then, I am usually told how unsafe it is and how they could never live like that. This conversation happened in-depth again this week. I am guessing that some of you and many others think the same way, and I want to respond the best that I can. I should say ‘we’ now that I am married, but often times – I tend to be more provocative than Louis… I’m the gas pedal. Louis tends to be the brake.

Why do I do what I do?

Why do I live the way that I live?

Nearly 8 years ago, I felt a calling to move into Southern Barton Heights. I struggled with it a bit. I was not at all used to a community that had such heavy street crime – drugs, prostitutes, shootings, etc.  I also wasn’t used to being the minority – one of the few white folks for what felt like miles around. I had no idea what God had in store for me, but I knew that I had a choice to be obedient to what God called me to do, or be disobedient – running, like Jonah. I really didn’t want to end up in the belly of a big fish. And, I was also somewhat excited.

Since that time, I have learned so much about myself, about others, and about God. Louis and I attempt to live in reckless abandon to what God has called us to do. We have good days, and we have bad ones. Let me recap the last 8 years.

8/17/2005 – I bought a house and moved into my beloved Southern Barton Heights; and God made it a home.

8/19/2005 –  (Yes, 2 days later.) I meet a bunch of the neighborhood children – when they ask me if I have any kids that can come out to play. We bake and eat a ton of chocolate chip cookies together. We live life together, and I don’t go anywhere alone. To the grocery store – I’ve got some with me. We’d talk about the price of groceries, good eating choices, explaining different types of fruits and vegetables. I’m sure it is not much different from when a parent takes their kids to the grocery store – even down to the ‘put that down’, ‘no, you can’t have that’, ‘come back over here’, ‘stop running’, etc. It wasn’t much later that Miss Marti, Miss Marti’s House, and Miss Marti’s Kids became everyday language.

I’m working full-time and traveling quite a bit for work. Even today, some of the kids, now grown, talk about how they would ring my doorbell, only to be disappointed because I was traveling….AGAIN.  The group of mainly boys steadily grows. One comes to live with me after his mom passes and his dad ends up in the hospital. One of the most challenging situations to date.

We are having sleepovers, parties, brunches, and other fun field trips. But, I am no longer doing all the things that I used to do. Movies, dinners out with friends, and fun trips became less and less. In fact, some friends weren’t willing to come to my home because they didn’t feel safe. As time progressed, I am happy to report that my friends feel much more comfortable and will even spend the night!

December 2006  – This life continues until my new mentor, pastor and friend, Don Coleman gives me Luke 10:1-7, which changes my prayer from ‘Lord – will I ever have a husband?’ to ‘Lord – I’m praying for the other half of my pair.  Someone who can go on this adventure….carry out God’s mission with me, just as Jesus sent out his folks 2 at a time in Luke 10.’ And, I continue to hang out with the kids, yet I learn that my job and my company is relocating to St Louis, and God tells me to stay in Richmond. I was left wondering how in the world I would pay my bills.

12/27/2007 – God answers my prayer….and I talk to Louis for the first time on the phone and set up our first date.  Arranged by God, Don and another friend, Jennifer.

12/30/2007 – I meet Louis for the first time on a blind date….dinner at Edo’s Squid. YUM!

12/31/2007 – God answers another prayer! Louis joins me on our first joint mission – a New Year’s Eve party for some of Miss Marti’s Kids…giving them a safe place to hang out.

1/27/2008 – A guy gets shot 9 times outside the back door on our 4th date. Needless to say – that changed up our date that night…and our lives as we entered into a lovely relationship with the victim (yes, he lived) and his family.  Earning some street cred with another population in the community. We continued dating, as Miss Marti’s Kids watched – sometimes way more closely than I would have liked…asking all kinds of questions, usually pertaining to kissing, sex (or our lack of!!), and more. I wasn’t prepped for that one at all! Our “family dynamics” were challenged and shifted as a male adult entered the picture. Many a family meeting were held as Louis’s position in our ‘family’ was challenged, and as Louis and I moved toward engagement and marriage.

12/27/2008 – Louis and I tied the knot and officially start our mission as a married couple. So much has happened since!

12/31/2010 – My position at work finally comes to an end, after being extended several times due to another merger. God was so gracious with me as my identity was challenged, my faith was tested, our finances were being stretched and our spending plan was being tightened. But, God has us on an assignment…in our community and our city. As we engage in organic community/church, Christian Community Development, and living out God’s mission in our everyday, walk around lives. All the while…encouraging and mentoring others to do the same. Walking alongside churches, small groups, individuals, etc. who are trying to figure this kind of life out.

1/1/2012 – Louis and I find ourselves both working without pay for 5 months. We are busy doing God’s work, just not getting paid for it here on earth.

5/20/2012 – Louis has a short stent (10 months) in an interim pastor’s position, which ends in a way that totally surprised us and a lot of other people. But, I know that it didn’t surprise God, and He’s in control. I am grateful for that time.  Even though it is marred with difficult times that weren’t at all Christlike or God-glorifying, I am so thankful for the many lovely friends we have made, stories and lives and journeys that we share with so many people who now worship at a number of different locations.

Today – I could complain incessantly about the days that I am frustrated because change hasn’t happened soon enough, because empty chip bags, styrofoam boxes, and ‘urban tumbleweeds’ (black plastic shopping bags from the 2 local stores) litter our streets, because the corner dealer is still slinging heroin 8 years later, because negative influences move in and pollute the minds, souls and hearts of my neighbors and their children, because well-meaning people drop in and out doing more harm than good ‘in the name of Jesus’, because the education system, economic development, affordable housing, mass incarceration, crime and poverty still seem to be rampant.

But, then God gives me a glimpse of how HE is at work in my beloved community.  Now, 8 years later, we still have kids (some now 8 years older!!!) hanging out the house and doing life…and joining us in God’s mission.  It’s not by hit-and-run ministry, but through new suburban friends who are willing to sacrifice their time to come be in relationship with me and my friends and neighbors.  It’s how God pulls 6 neighborhood moms together with me and a couple of suburban moms during Camp Splash to build community. One who stated she prays that we will become a group of moms who will transform the community. Today – the sacrifices and frustrations, the difficulties and challenges, the pain and tears, the loneliness and sometimes feelings of isolation… it’s all worth it.

It takes time.

So…back to the question.  

Why do I do what I do? Why do I live the way that I live?

Because just as the Father sent Christ, Christ sent me. I’m about doing the Father’s business, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I was recently nominated for Epoch Award. And they have recently asked, what this nomination means to me. It’s an honor to be nominated and be recognized as an unsung hero… one who could share in $50,000 cash awards that would allow Louis and I to continue to be about God’s mission in our community and to continue encouraging, challenging, and mentoring others to live a radically obedient life that honors God and make the name of Jesus famous. It would help to bridge our finances until another paying gig comes our way.  You know, it’s an honor to be even nominated because this isn’t a formal non-profit.  It’s a way-of-life. It’s the way we roll. It’s what God calls us to do.

That’s what we want to encourage others to do. Go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and do what God has called you to do in your everyday, walk-around life.

Love God. Love others. Go make disciples who will make disciples.

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Games, Creation, Rain, Hope, and Pizza!

Our 2nd Annual Camp Splash – backyard VBS –  kicked off today with 19 community kids and 7 moms who hung out with us, too… along with the youth and college folks from Hope Church, the community and my niece!!  Quite a team that God has put together!

We started our time playing parachute games.  The numbers steadily grew as the evening progressed. The sounds of laughter echoed through the community.

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Then, we took a break to hear the story based on God’s Letter to us – the Bible, specifically Genesis 1 and 2.  God made everything including you and me! He spoke it into being. We also learned that God is eternal, powerful, loving, perfect and very kind.

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Then, it was time for the water games….

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Although the rain hit about 45 minutes or so into the evening, the timing worked out perfectly. We quickly got everyone inside before the torrential downpours! Which gives a whole new meaning to Camp Splash!

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Just in time to play some inside games….IMG_0210

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before we had pizza dinner and craft time, where the kids could create something out of Model Magic! And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to our neighbor and friend, Claudia, for making some killer cookies! They were a HUGE hit!

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Tomorrow…We play more wet games! We learn about SIN (boo!!!!) and craft time is scratch art! Dinner…wow.  Dinners this week are going to be amazing because I have some WONDERFUL, LOVING, GIVING friends who are providing meals… Subway sandwiches are on deck for tomorrow.

I have to admit, one of the biggest surprises and best blessings is the fact that 7 of the moms chose to hang out with us. I love getting to know my neighbors!!!!

Enjoy the rest of the pictures…

 


Makin’ Waves…at Camp Splash 2013

It’s that time again! Sign up for our annual backyard Vacation Bible School called…

Camp Splash!

For more information and pictures from last year…check out this link…

Splish Splash, I was taking a bath…. 

Be sure to RSVP, so that we will have enough supplies for all the youth.

In addition, note that weather permitting…we are having a community cookout on

Friday evening at 7pm!!!

Bring something to share! Thanks!

Camp Splash Flyer - Front

Camp Splash Flyer - Back


Front Porch Challenge – Need Some Help!

Louis and I undoubtedly have THE. BEST. wrap-around front porch ever.  Best view of the best neighborhood.  EVER.  Now that the weather has warmed up, we will find ourselves out there every chance we can get. We refer to it as our front porch ministry.  Since we live at an intersection with quite a bit of foot traffic, we get to meet a ton of our neighbors just by sitting outside chillin’ with a drink in hand greeting our friends and neighbors.  Sometimes we have music…and Louis and I have been known to dance as well.  🙂  We have created a ton of a unforgettable memories of on that porch as well.

We also have the happiest, best dogs ever.  Bella and Wesley love the porch just as much as we do, and we LOVE to have them with us.  Wesley, the nearly 15 year old black lab, is not our worry.  Bella, the 8-9 year old almost chocolate lab, might as well be 2. With all the feral cats around, she will bound off the porch before you know it, which doesn’t make for a very peaceful night when we are constantly saying…No, Bella.  And we find ourselves a bit more stressed than we need to be.

So, here’s the challenge.  Note in the pictures below the set up of our porch.  We need a creative, tasteful, inexpensive, simple, portable, easy-to-store, way to contain the dogs on the porch while we are out there. You might say…simple!  Get a leash.  Well…not so simple.  Bella will chew through it in about 10 seconds flat – which won’t end up being very inexpensive after we replace it over and over again.

So, any ideas???

 

happiest dogs ever

happiest best dogs ever

 

the entrance - steps

the entrance – steps

 

across the street

across the street

 

from the front to the left

from the front to the left

 

from the front to the right

from the front to the right

 

from the side

from the side