All Natural

Around our house we’ve got a little trend going. We’re keeping things natural. We haven’t really talked about this. It’s not a bandwagon we’re on or anything, we’ve just been enjoying a lot of natural, simple things…

Local produce from Hollygrove Market and Farm.


Our weekly produce haul

Creole tomatoes growing in our yard.


Little Baby Creole Tomatoes

Mint Juleps with mint we grew ourselves.


My mint!

A new/old shelf from an onion crate found in the neighbor’s garbage.


Our new/old crate/shelf!

A made from scratch Mother’s Day brunch at home.


Mackenzie's Mother's Day Brunch

These days natural things are kind of rare. Natural foods, hair colors, clothing, body parts… they’re an oddity rather than the other way around.


My natural lips plus a little unnatural lipstick!

Even things that say “natural” on the label usually aren’t really natural at all. I’ve been thinking how the same goes for our relationships, with God and with each other. Natural, honest, calm communication is rare. What we normally experience is flowery, fake, frantic and fraught with double meanings if not all-out untruths.

Being part of a house church provides a very natural, basic way of expressing my faith. I find myself more and more uncomfortable with manufactured spirituality. My own included. Have you ever heard someone pray aloud and wondered if they really talk to God that way in private? Heh. I’ve wondered that about myself. There comes a point when the “pre-packaged” expressions of spiritual speech just don’t nourish anymore.  Just like a wrapped granola bar can’t compete with a warm homemade oatmeal cookie, the boxed and labeled premixed prayers and conversations cease to satisfy a craving for true, authentic interaction with the Father God and His other children.

I’m not talking about prayers like The Lord’s Prayer here.  I’m speaking of those expressions, fillers, things we say just because it’s expected or because we don’t know what else to say.  I have a few pet peeves like using “Amen?” to ask for agreement or understanding, the “unspoken” prayer request, or asking an omnipresent God to “be with” us.  You know the type of thing.  Could be a figure of speech or just saying fluffy stuff in prayer or conversation with another person rather than getting to the real, natural expression of actual thought and concept.  I’ll be first to admit that sometimes I’ve said nothing in prayer because other than platitudes, I had nothing to say.  Yeah, God wasn’t surprised.  I find my “out-loud” prayers with my family and my church family are sometimes stilted and awkward as I struggle to keep it natural rather than resorting to something prepackaged or formulated.

I’d like to see my life, in prayer and conversation, filled with less prepackaged things like “Fine, how are you?” and more home-grown stuff like “I don’t tell you enough, but I love you.” or “You know I really respect you, admire you, or even disagree with you.”  I’d like to stick to natural words and concepts that are real rather than convenient but empty words that fill time but don’t really accomplish any communication.  And ya’ll can hold me to it.


Mint Julep with homegrown mint.

Here’s to natural!









Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

The Easter I Couldn’t Plan

Oh law, did WE have us a wonderful Easter or what?

We did!

Growing up I have a lot of special Easter memories. Many of them involving an Easter dress WITH a bonnet or a hat. Mmmm hmmm. Many memories also involve a musical of some kind, or a passion play.

20130401-223824.jpgThis year, however, we made some different memories with our family. On Saturday night we attended a Messianic Passover Seder with our Origins family. I had so much fun hearing again the story of Passover and drawing the parallels to Jesus, our Lamb of God.





Easter morning,while my darling picked up our 60 pound crawfish order from the seafood merchant, I made Hot Cross Buns! (Click on the phrase to see my inspiration) Please tell me I’m not the only person who played the song in first grade piano lessons and on the recorder in third grade and never knew it was about buns with crosses on top. Please.


Anyway, they’re evidently somewhat of an Easter tradition. Perhaps not a southern one which would explain why I had no idea. But when Joy the Baker put a post up about Cross buns I knew I had my Easter morning breakfast plan. I do love Joy the Baker. I love anyone who knows the value of a carb as much as I. A sister in all things sweet, she is. Anyway, since I’m nowhere near as awesome as Joy the Baker, my crew got whop cinnamon rolls (you know, the kind where you WHOP the can on the counter to pop it open) with icing crosses.

It’s the thought that counts, yeah?

And since we had a big group of 15 for house church (Easter crowds everywhere, ya know!) it also took a dozen biscuits, NOT whop biscuits thankyaverymuch, and a breakfast casserole with enough cheese to bind us all together if you know what I mean, to feed everybody. Oh, and two pots of coffee. Don’t tell, but I love the feeding everybody part the best about house church. Give me Jesus, a table full of biscuits and butter, a hot pot of coffee, a bunch of people, and it is on like pecan my friends.

As a matter of fact, Janet’s dad was telling God when he closed us in prayer how he had loved sharing house church with us, it had seemed a little like what we’ll all do in heaven… sitting together enjoying each other and talking over all He has done. I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way before, but it’s true. A little bit of heaven is practiced in my home every week. I’m loving it.

And as if that weren’t enough, the coffee hadn’t even cooled before people started arriving for phase two of Easter festivities: the crawfish boil.


Ya’ll, there were kids everywhere, family, friends, faces to love all OVER the place.20130401-224312.jpg We killed a BUNCH of crawfish, hunted eggs, laughed and talked.






It was incredible. And I don’t even eat crawfish.



But people I love DO.20130401-224127.jpg20130401-224143.jpg










Just as everything was winding down, everybody dragging their happy, crawfish-stuffed selves to their cars and heading home, it started to rain. It was a lovely, soft rain just perfect for a visit with one of my favorite people who happened to wander over from down the street. God blessed me with some relatively quiet moments to chat, eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, and enjoy the company of yet another person I love.

After the rain, Janet and Ray’s electricity went out so they came back and piled on our couches and we ended the day watching the Bible on TV and drinking another pot of coffee.

I’m sure I could have never planned a more perfect Easter weekend. Good thing I didn’t really plan it. I mean, we knew we’d attend the Seder, we ordered the crawfish ahead, I schemed over the cross buns and all that stuff. But those weren’t the things that made the weekend perfect. It was the love of friends and family, the love of God, all blended up together to make a level of exquisite-ness not able to be conjured up through human effort.  What better way to celebrate a miraculous, resurrected Jesus?  I can think of none.







Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Unforced Rhythms of Grace


This came from a great blog I follow, Margaret Feinberg. I really like Margaret’s books. Check her out sometime.

Anyway, this scripture was taken from The Message paraphrase. The phrase “unforced rhythms of grace” keeps echoing in my mind. I’ve been learning a bit about those unforced rhythms over the past few years. When I took piano lessons as a kid, I had this old thing called a metronome. It FORCED me to keep a certain time, meaning any rhythm I played had to obey that particular speed. I didn’t enjoy that thing. You wouldn’t know it, though, by the way I lived for a long time. I lived by some very forced rhythms.

Get all A’s. Do everything right. Make sure you live up to expectations. Never let ’em see you sweat.

I have to be honest, I’m so used to marching to a very strict beat, that unforced rhythms aren’t too comfy for me. Or weren’t. Now I’m learning to bask in them. Enjoy them. I’m liking what happens when I stop trying so hard and leave it to God for real.

Sunday morning was house church, of course. We’re on four years of house church now. That means we’ve been meeting since I was pregnant with Caleb. That means Caleb’s ALWAYS been a house church kid. Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been SO scared that somehow my littlest love would know less about God or love Him less than my big darlings. They WERE ministry kids, after all. They went to the Sunday Schools and VBSes and Summer Camps and all that stuff. They got rocked in the church nursery by ladies that love Jesus and came home with lipstick marks on their cheeks and clothes that reeked of grandma perfume. How would Caleb EVER begin to match their God-stuff pedigree? Back to Sunday morning.

We sat in the living room finishing up house church and were closing with prayer. Caleb came to my lap and sat there quietly while Janet prayed. He whispered to me “I want to pray.” I said “Ok, Mrs. Janet is talking to God now and then you can pray.” “No,” he said “All of us pray.” I finally caught on that he meant he wanted us to say The Lord’s Prayer together, as is our tradition every week. Janet finished and another person chimed in his prayer, then I let everyone know Caleb wanted us to pray the Lord’s Prayer. As we did, my baby boy prayed along with us, keeping up with the words, and finishing up with a loud AMEN!

In a very quiet way, I realized that our unforced rhythm is being used by God to work His grace in all our lives. He doesn’t need my metronome to tell Him how to show Himself to me or my children. As I’ve been trying to keep my eyes on Him, follow as best I know how with brothers and sisters and babies He’s given to me, He has still caught the heart of my boy. And this Sunday, my babies worshipped alongside their dad and me, another dad and his kids, a single guy, and another couple who have become as close as family. They had someone to play in the yard with them, hug them, affirm them, and little Caleb had his choice of laps to occupy and arms waiting to wrap around him. God’s family played out right in our living room as it does week after week. Simply loving Jesus is catching, my friends! Perhaps it’s those unforced rhythms of grace that capture our hearts anyway, no matter where or how we engage with the church. It’s Jesus Himself that becomes so wonderful, so irresistible, so all-sufficient.  It’s been Him all along.


My church “metronome” went out the window a few years ago, and I won’t lie, it ain’t easy to let go of all my church-ey labels and security blankets.  Sunday mornings look like this instead of a pew-filled sanctuary.   I’m learning to simply love God, follow Him sincerely, love His word, and walk humbly with the people He places along the same path. I’ve pried my fingers time and again off of the old confidences I held because of my Christian pedigree and I’m learning to look to God as Conductor. These unforced rhythms are making for a lovelier sound than I ever thought possible.





Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather


Jesus told a story about a farmer. Check it out here. This weekend our little church group studied this parable and the whole weekend seemed to carry a theme of sowing and reaping, planting and growing. The Parable of the Sower always reminds me of my Dad, my Papa, and home. I have vivid pictures of my faithful dad planting his garden every year, the joy found in the process, and the harvest at the end. It’s a precious story, so close to my heart.

In an attempt to do a better job of putting healthy food on our table, and to teach our babies that food really comes from God’s earth and not a brightly colored box, we’ve been frequenting Hollygrove Farmer’s Market. I love the idea of supporting local farmers and eating fresh food. After our Sunday morning spent with the Sower, what better to do than head out to the farm and market? I couldn’t resist this picture of the inner city bunnies!20130313-003054.jpg (Bunnies to left behind the kids)  It inspires me to see an oasis of a garden in the middle of our crazy city.


Anyway, with the market’s bounty, and thanks to a Winn Dixie buy one, get one free sale on Plant City strawberries, I made jam. 20130313-002918.jpg

Few things, my friend, are more comforting and confidence-boosting than making your own jam. I put on an apron and for a while behave like the women of my roots, the heroes of my faith and heart. When I was a kid, there used to be a song “God Loves to Talk to Boys While They’re Fishin’.” I think there should be one about how God loves to talk to moms while they make jam.

God and I talked about how I want to be the “good soil” Jesus spoke of in the above mentioned parable. The soil that produces fruit. Too often I’m the thorny kind, or even the hard, stony kind that won’t accept a seed at all. I want to produce fruit, to grow in my faith. But sometimes the process doesn’t stop with a gorgeous, fresh, red berry. Of course, there’s something to be said for ripe, plump fruit. But then there’s the further process of making the jam. The washing, the cutting, the crushing, the heat. All these turn the fruit into something that can last. Something sweet and enjoyable that can be tasted long after the harvest has come and gone.


Could it be that the Grower of All Things sees me, a plump lil’ berry in His hand and says “I’m gonna make some jam with you.”? Why do I fight and scream and worry and fret over the difficulties in my life, when all along, He could be making jam? Is He really using all my craziness to make me sweeter and longer-lasting? Lord, I hope so. Some days I wonder why he’d bother for a second with me, but even in my wildest moments my heart cannot escape Him.

Oh ya’ll. I do wanna be sweet. I do want to last.

Me & Jesus… we makin’ jam.



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Origins: Journeying On

For three years now, I’ve been on a journey.  A pilgrimage, if you will, into my own heart.  Three years ago, we began what is now called Origins, a group of house churches who lean on one another for support and encouragement.  For most of the three years, my house has been the meeting place for “house church.”

By now, I’m accustomed to the double-takes and odd looks when I tell people my church meets in my home.  I’m confident about what we do and why.  I’m able to easily tell another person what a house church is and why it’s a perfect fit for our family.  Three years seems to be a milestone of sorts.  In a human life, the first three years are crucial to setting beliefs, behaviors, and “bents.”  After three, most kids are out of diapers, moving toward school, and asserting more and more independence.  Babyhood is definitely over and toddlerhood is quickly nearing its end.

So what about our house church journey?  It’s three years old now.  Infancy has passed, and I look around and think “Hey.  We really ARE doing this!!”

So what has house church meant to me?  Here’s my top three:

1)  House church has given me confidence in my faith.  When we began, there were many scary moments for me as I let go of things that were part of brick-and-mortar church.  Would I “stick it out” with God if no one was expecting me to play the piano, teach a class, or show up lookin’ good on Sunday morning?  Would I love God as much without the “game” to play that I was so accustomed to winning?  Could I separate myself from the things I’d always used as outward proof of my love for God?  The answer is:  YES!!!  Yes.  With 100% confidence I can now say that I am God’s daughter.  He is my Father.  I love Him more than ever.

2)  For the first time in my spiritual life, I have experienced unconditional acceptance for who I am as a person, not for how well I play, sing, speak, look, or what I know about the Bible.  That is not to say I haven’t HAD this type of acceptance.  There are many beloved friends, teachers, pastors, fellow believers who have extended this acceptance to me in the past.  I simply could not let myself experience it while still attempting to earn it by playing well, lookin’ good, and being the poster child.  There have been moments in my living room when fellow believers have prayed for me, and I for them, we’ve struggled and celebrated, and kept on being there for each other, all without the trappings I was used to.  I NEEDED to know, deep down, that not only would I still love God if stripped of my church “position” but that other believers would still love ME.  And they do.

3)  It’s OK to let God take care of me.  In the past three years, people have come along who’ve needed what house church offers… the healing, the acceptance, the rest.  But for the group that meets in my home, there hasn’t been an explosion of numbers.  No one’s beating down the door to get in.  Not that I expected or was shooting for a group that is bursting at its seams.  We do not have a goal of building a church building to house our meetings.  In all seriousness, I… we have needed the past three years to let God work in us, care for us, and knit us together with Him.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to let God teach me and lead me, even if the steps are miniscule.  I’ve learned that big crowds, microphones, offering plates and the latest tunes are not necessarily evidence of God’s presence or His blessing, or His work in my life. 

I’m so grateful for the simplicity, the straightforwardness, the purity of BEING the church.  I in Him and He in me.  In us.

Our hands in His, we journey on.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Offense and Defense

Origins NOLA has been studying the books of 1, 2, and 3 John.  Again and again as I’ve read these books, my attention turns to one subject:  Love.

God is love.  Love one another.  We love because He first loved us.  All these ideas are repeated throughout 1st 2nd and 3rd John.

The bottom line is, believers should be marked, above all else, by their love.  As I’ve been pondering this subject, I’ve been asking myself:  How am I doing in this area?   If Jesus’ main command to me as a believer is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself,” then it’s high time I take stock of my ability to love.  One thing I’ve found is that I’ve never really spent much time purposefully searching for ways to grow in my ability to love.  I wouldn’t say that meanness is a defining trait of mine, but that’s not the same as being a person who loves excellently.  I know how to be a nice girl, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m great at love.

As we were talking Sunday, discussing the idea of loving others, it occurred to me that when it comes to showing love there are two main directions, if you will.  I’ll call them offense and defense.  (Thanks to my Dad, my brother Bud and beloved New Orleans Saints for a good grasp of the game of football.)

Offense love I’ll define as active, purposeful things done to show love.  Defense love I’ll define as countering whatever comes our way with love.  Showing love through reactions, patience, and the ability to recognize and capitalize upon unexpected situations where love is needed.

Saving my pennies for months to surprise my husband with something special?  Offense.  Dropping my plans to listen to a friend who calls?  Defense.  Planning a special day for my daughter? Offense.  Setting aside my book when my little boy asks me to watch his latest trick? Defense.

There are times in loving that I take the initiative, the offense if you will, and make some love happen.  Then there are those constant moments when love should be the rule that governs whatever situations come along, a sort of defense played as life brings along bad days, stressful times, or needy individuals.

I’m planning to explore these ideas a bit more.  I’m excited at the possibilities that come to mind when I think of improving my “game” as I seek to obey Jesus’ command to love.  I’ll be writing a few more blogs on this subject, but for now I wonder if anyone has some thoughts for me…  Which is more difficult for you, offense or defense love?  Why?  And, why do you think there isn’t more specific direction about HOW to love?  Has anyone else been going along as I have, sort of assuming love would come naturally to a believer but not really purposefully seeking to learn HOW?



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Termite Theology

It’s time for house church.  Picture this:

We were gathered around the dining table, two couples, a single mom, two kids, two toddlers, and a teenager.  On the lazy susan at the center of the table sat my laptop, with our dear friend’s face on the screen.  (She’s homebound and so we Skype her in for church.  We spin her around on the lazy susan so she can see who’s sharing in the discussion.) Kids were sleepy and cranky, Dads sleepy too from long hours at work.  Everyone was distracted it seemed.  I was presenting our lesson and it seemed like no one was paying attention or interested.  Then it happened…

Termites invaded our church time.  (In New Orleans, we are blessed seasonally with swarms of termites.  These pesky creatures swarm (think plagues of Egypt) and are especially fond of light.)  In the midst of what seemed to be a particularly chaotic church time already, we began to see termites flying around us.  People around the table began smacking their hands together in an effort to annihilate the intruders, but to no avail.  They just kept appearing! I looked down and saw, to my horror, that there was just enough space between our door and the threshold to admit a veritable flood of termites, drawn by the light over our dining room table. 

At this point, we descended into all-out armageddon as we tried to stuff something in the entry point and kill the termites already invading us.  Everyone was on their feet, kids alternately screaming and giggling, teenager totally grossing out.  A few dead termites landed on my Bible as I tried to figure out what to do.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to laugh.  I wanted to stomp my feet in frustration at the absurdity of a termite swarm on an already out-of-hand evening.  I wanted to quit.

I fought the tightness in my stomach and the lump in my throat, barely controlled the irritation in my voice and finished the lesson in our much darker living room.  I was relieved when it was over.  It had felt like nailing jello to a tree! 

In hindsight, we’ve laughed a lot over our little invasion.  But I’ve been wondering to myself just why it got me so irritated.  I think there are still a few old habits and ideas stuck inside me.  Ideas that I picked up in a brick-and-mortar church but really have no bearing on church done at home:

1)  You must sit very still and quiet as the preacher preaches his sermon.  You must not get up to go to the bathroom unless absolutely necessary.  A reverent quiet must be maintained in “the Lord’s House.”

I think this is one of my main obstacles to being positive and confident about what we do to worship at home.  The reverent hush in a church building is a precious thing, dear to my heart and comforting to the soul.  That said, the rules and regs of church are really simple etiquette for any type of formal meeting or performance.  The same rules apply for a play at the theatre, an opera,  or even a matinee movie.  As we worship together at home, there really is no need for the type of formal behavior expected at a traditional church meeting.  Yet I stress out when we can’t maintain absolute quiet, or I feel like no one cares when all eyes aren’t trained on me as I’m attempting to share a scripture verse or Bible lesson.  Why is this? 

2)  Noisy, wiggly kids shouldn’t be disrupting the church.  They should be escorted out or maybe taught in children’s church.

This again comes back to etiquette for a formal meeting or performance.  At home, we are teaching our children about worship, about God, and about how to follow Him, and I want them to be included in our “services.”  Yet I can’t escape the fact that I’m not going to accomplish the totality of their spiritual training in a two hour meeting each week.  What did the early church do with their children?  As I consider this idea, a scripture comes to mind where God commanded the Israelites to teach His commands to their children.  He instructed them to talk of these commands as they come in and go out, as they wake and go to bed.  I think I’ve had it backwards.  Teaching my children about Jesus is something I need to do 24 hours a day.  I must do it at bedtime, wake up time, mealtime, bathtime, and playtime.  If the children miss something at our church services, or can’t quite sit through the whole time, well, what’s the big problem if I’ve spent every possible waking moment teaching them of Jesus at other times? 

3)  You must “get fed” every week by the preacher’s sermon.  Sunday services are your source of spiritual growth and so if you don’t receive adequate encouragement, exhortation, learning, and so forth, then your preacher is probably doing something wrong.

I hate the phrase “get fed” when it comes to church.  Part of my spiritual training by my parents and even my childhood pastor and his wife included the instillation of enough scriptural knowledge to enable me to “feed” myself!!  I feel it’s a poor excuse to say “I’m not getting fed” as a way to blame one’s lack of spiritual growth on the church one attends.  That said, I also know that there was a time that Jesus commanded Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  I know that there are those in my home church who need leadership and teaching.  So during a chaotic moment when no one seems able to focus or when termites are swarming, I feel inadequate as teacher.  I know that the scripture commands us not to forsake meeting together, and further exhorts us to continue doing so to encourage each other. (Hebrews 10:24-25)  There are times of great learning that occur at our home church, and yet I return to the idea that, much in the way a child is spiritually trained, discipling of other believers should take place constantly, not only during one weekly timed meeting.

4)  You need “good worship” in order to really connect with God.  If your music doesn’t compel people to stand, sing enthusiastically, lift their hands or shed a few tears then you haven’t “let the Spirit flow.”

This one’s a doozie!  The phrase “good worship” is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  As an experienced church musician, I know, love and appreciate the church music.  I also know that chill bumps are induced as much by well-timed dynamics, well placed acapella measures with triumphant instrumental re-entry, or well-chosen instruments as they are by the “flow of the Holy Spirit.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I love to worship God through music.  It’s biblical, it’s wonderful, it’s fulfilling.  There have been times I know the Holy Spirit has enabled me to play or sing a song in a very supernatural way, and I know I could not repeat it of my own ability.  I just can’t help feeling ashamed of the direct correlation placed in today’s church between the quality of music and the “flow” of the Spirit.   I know the scripture tells us to play skillfully on our instruments to the Lord.  I know there is merit in giving God the best of our abilities.  Yet sometimes I’ve worshipped through music, with sobs, with tears, with mistakes.  It didn’t sound good, but it WAS good.  There’s a difference between “good worship” and professional sounding music.  At home, all the trappings of mics and drum sets, sound boards and screens are stripped away.  Music takes some of its most primitive forms as our little group finds ways to use it as we worship together.  Again, I wonder, shouldn’t music be more prominent in my DAILY interactions with God, my family, and those I disciple.  Shouldn’t it go beyond the performance during a service?

There seems to be a theme here.  A theme that would apply whether one worships at a traditional church or in a home or wherever:  Spiritual growth, training, and worship is a LIFESTYLE.  Church meetings, wherever they are, are simply one PART of what we should do as followers of Jesus, most specifically for the purpose of encouraging each other. 

This definitely lessens my stress when I think about trying to structure our home church meetings.  They are a valuable tool in our spiritual growth, but not the “be all, end all” of our interactions with God.  I knew that embracing home church would be a lifestyle change for me, but I can’t help wondering if embracing the idea that our spiritual lives should permeate our WHOLE lives in an all-consuming way might enhance the church experience for anyone, no matter what their church situation.  If church is our only method of spiritual practice, then when church meetings go awry (as they often do at any church) we are left with nothing to fall back on.  But if church meetings are simply a wonderful tool to assist us in our spiritual growth, not our only source of spiritual nutrition, then we are much more free to be ourselves, worship together, and handle the occasional termite invasion. 

Those termites might be pesky alright, but they’ve sure given me some theology to consider!  Let ’em swarm!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather