takeover.

“Guys, these are all really amazing ideas, but I’m not sure that we’re really getting at the point of the project. We’re supposed to be generating ideas about how to raise multicultural awareness in our respective communities, and all these suggestions are super nice things we can do for people, but they don’t really raise multicultural awareness.”

Blank stares.

It’s a group project – do you know the kind of which I speak? The kind where you’re headed nowhere fast and there is definitely a time limit. The kind where you are supposed to collaborate together and do a presentation with a specific goal in mind, and there might be a lot of excitement, but there’s no real vision and no real leader.

Somehow, I almost always end up taking over in those moments. I blame it on my take-charge-and-make-something-happen personality that the good Lord granted me. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but moments like these it comes in handy.

I re-read the goal of the project at least 3 times, but all I get is more enthusiastic off-base ideas and more blank stares. So I start scrambling for an example to get the wheels turning.

“Okay, well for example, my husband and I and our housemates have what’s called ‘Family Dinner‘ every Tuesday night. We invite our neighbors kids, co-workers, classmates, random people visiting to the city. Most people bring an ingredient to help make the meal or a dish to share, except the kids – they usually just show up with a lot of energy! We sit together, there’s always black and white, sometimes Latino and Asian too. Some people share our faith, and some people don’t. Every week we take turns telling good stories from the week, things that God has done for us or miracles we’ve seen. We take turns doing dishes afterwards, playing card games with the kids and helping them with their homework. Family Dinner is a way we raise multicultural awareness in our community because there are always people who are different from each other eating together and learning from each other. I mean, maybe the Mexican guy who works at the grocery store never would have talked to twin African-American boys from the West side or heard their story, but now he has because he came to dinner the other night.”

Let me get this straight: when I walked into class that night, I had zero intentions of sharing about Family Dinner. In fact, if I’m honest, I don’t usually think about Family Dinner in terms of “raising multicultural awareness.”

No more blank stares. Now I’m looking at dropped jaws instead. Quickly followed by the clamor of a dozen questions.

“This is simply amazing! Wow! How long have you been doing this?”

“Well, when we moved into the neighborhood last year. At first it was just a few of us, but now there’s probably 15-20 people that show up every week. But I mean, we did this in Kansas City before we moved here.”

Shock and awe. I’m not telling you this to win brownie points right now. I’m telling you, because truthfully, I was surprised that they were so surprised. I regularly forget how foreign the ways of Jesus are to people who don’t know Him.

“How did you think of this idea? Did someone show you this, did you read about it somewhere? Did you just think of this?? I mean, this is truly incredible.”

I stumbled for words. I scratched my head. I couldn’t think of how I got the idea; I couldn’t trace it back to one moment. Sharing food with my spiritual family and with people who don’t yet know Jesus is simply the way I’ve come to follow Jesus. It’s an expression of my faith. It’s normal life for me. Maybe I heard about it somewhere. I guess I did – the first followers of Jesus shared food and everything else! And followers of Jesus have been living church in this way every since. I assure you that however I ended up explaining that to my classmates was much less than glamorous and eloquent .

My lack of articulation didn’t matter. They dubbed me “the community expert” on the spot and kept asking questions.

“Has anything more come out of these ‘Family Dinners’?”

“Well sure, all the time… a few months ago someone brought someone who brought this guy who had just been kicked out of the place he was staying. Now he’s living with us.”

(And he gave his life to Jesus, is growing in his faith, and is getting mentored by our community.)

I could go on, but long story short, we ended up planning our whole group project and presentation around the idea of Family Dinner. No longer aimless, we had a vision. No longer undirected, we had a leader. And I do not mean my take-charge-personality self. I mean Jesus stepped in my group in class that night and gave us His vision for multicultural awareness. I can imagine Him chuckling over this group of stumped graduate students attempting to solve a classic social problem. Who better to strategize, than the Creator of all cultures and diversity on the Planet Himself? He’s been inviting everyone to His table for ages.

Literally, ages.

And if I may be so bold, I do believe our group project is the best of the whole class. Of course, why wouldn’t it be? Our Leader is a brilliant, funny Genius!

[Published recently in House2House Magazine.]

two truths and a lie.

“I am 27 years old. I’m in here for first-degree murder. And I have a beautiful mother.”

We’re playing a game called two truths and a lie. Have you heard of that game? Its a funny little icebreaker to help people get to know each other. The idea is that you tell people three things about yourself – two of those things must be true and one of those things must be something you make up. Your partners must then guess which of the facts you made up.

My partners in this game both happen to be inmates at a men’s prison. And I happen to be their classmate for the semester. The course is a an elective I chose in my Criminal Justice graduate program, and its called “Inside Out” – they are the “inside” students and I am one of a handful of “outside” students who drive over an hour to the prison each week with our professor.

Our first night of class is spent attempting to make everyone comfortable engaging with each other. Hence the game.

So here I am, facing a rather handsome gentleman who has just presented me and his fellow inmate with three facts about his life. Most of the other guys I’ve been chatting with stuck to small talk, but this guy just put himself completely out there right off the bat, I think to myself. I immediately look to the other inmate for guidance. “Well we know for sure he’s gotta have a beautiful mother, but… you know him better than I do! Which of the other two do you think it is?” “I think the lie is his age,” he says without even pondering. “Cause I know he’s in here for life.”

I’ll be honest. I felt just plain weird about assuming this guy had been charged with first degree murder. So I tossed my alternative guess his way. “Is the second one a lie?”

He laughs and for a minute teases that he won’t tell us which one it is. But he quickly caves. “I’m actually 33 years old.”

“Aaaahhh you totally could pass as younger!” I joke and turn to the next guy to continue the game.
But the first fellow is not at all ready to move on yet.

“What did you think when you realized I am actually here for murder?” His question is aimed at me and face is quite full of concern. “I mean, have you…. have you ever met anyone like me before?”

It’s a weighty moment. The make-it-or-break-it kind, when you know your next words have all the power to calm the storm or all the power to let it rage. Its the kind of moment I always feel Jesus made us for.

I lean forward and look the man square in the eyes. “I know lots of people like you. I have many friends who have been in trouble with the law. In fact, the reason I am studying Criminal Justice right now is because I have seen a great many people I care about stuck in this system and I want to see it reformed. I believe that we do not give people who want to right their wrongs the opportunity to so. And I believe that we do not give people who want to change the opportunity to do that either.”

Relief floods his eyes, and he settles back in his chair.

I’m sure I’ll be tearing up over this one later, because I know that relief in his eyes all too well. Its the relief I feel in my own chest. This is the exact conversation Jesus has with me every day. He is undaunted by the reality of my mistakes. He looks my brokenness square in the face and reassures me that He is not scared by it, not uncomfortable with it, and not willing to leave me in bondage to its consequences. He has lots of friends like me. And He is moved with compassion towards all of us. He gives us abundant opportunity to right our paths and change our ways. I believe He is far more convinced of the power of our destinies than we are.

[Posted in House 2 House Magazine]

little mama.

So many words

Nothing left to say

Little mama, how I miss you

Do you know

That I used to catch a glimpse

Of long brown hair

And find myself hoping it would be you

Over and over it happened

A thousand memories

Won’t leave me alone

Neither will the tears

I still love you

That spot in my heart

I so often told you about

It’s still yours, sweet girl

I’ve hardly been more certain

Of destiny and promise

Than on that corner

Than on all those corners

A thousand memories

Some cry

Some smile

Little mama, have you any idea

The immense delight you bring me?

Your joy is my joy

Your pain is my pain

I still believe for you

Beautiful brown eyes

I miss your shimmer

Your laugh, your tease

Sweet girl, how can I give up

When Grace has marked me

With your name

Little mama, never have I

Been so moved by Heaven

Over one

You, my deepest ache

You, my greatest pleasure

I have little doubt

That I will always love you

He never ceases

How could I?

His pulse is mine

It must be

Else I would have buried you

With all my other dreams gone by

But you live on

Always on His mind

Never far from mine

How great the Father’s love

For us

How vast beyond all measure

For you, for me

I cannot escape it

Don’t run, little mama

Anymore

Sweet girl, come home

Mercy will outrun you

I still,

Still

Love you

we who bind.

{excerpt from a journal entry I wrote today…}

    The concept of incarceration as punishment doesn’t make sense to me.  It never has, and I doubt it ever will.  In fact, I do not wish it to.

     I can understand that wrongs need to be made right.  Every human being with breath in their body knows this.  That is what I live for.  But that a wrong done against society can somehow be made right by stripping a life of all purpose and locking it in a miserable cell is to me, utterly illogical.  If a man has harmed another man or wrought some great tragedy on society, let him, at the very least, have the opportunity to make it right.  Send him to a field, let him toil all day, let him pray all night.  Let him sit and learn and strive to better himself.  Let him work to earn and to give back all that he has stolen.  And if what he has stolen cannot be replaced, let him at least labor to fill with goodness the place on earth he has left empty. 

When we as a society, take a man who owes us a great debt and lock him in a cell and forget about his existence, we take his debt upon ourselves.  We deny him his God-given right to pay his own debt, and we inflict his great burden upon ourselves and our children.  In our desperate clamor to reclaim what has been taken from us and exact vengeance on the taker, we allow ourselves to lose even more – perpetually, over and over.  We who bind are also bound – by our own unforgiveness, fear, and the steep financial cost of keeping men in chains.  

new magazine!

I’ve recently starting writing for a new online magazine called House2House… its geared towards followers of Jesus seeking to live out authentic and simple expressions of church. The first article you’ll see below I actually wrote a few years ago, although it still feels quite fresh in my bones and still quite true of my life today. In the near future you will see new stories from our adventures in Detroit posted. Check out the magazine… its loaded with refreshing posts from incredible men and women!

http://house2housemagazine.com/2013/08/21/paint-me-a-mural-call-it-a-church-by-lindsay-hamby/#comments

perfected green smoothies.

We’ve been making green smoothies on a weekly, often daily, basis for a few years now.  After many failed experiments and burned-up blenders, we’ve finally nailed down our go-to recipe for delicious green goodness.  Co-workers and friends often inquire what is the strange green goo we are sipping in the mornings, so here is is the scoop on perfected green smoothies:

Tips:

–> The key to a perfect green smoothie is citrus.  Citrus cuts the bitterness of the greens and gives the smoothie a refreshing zing.  Keep a supply of lemons, limes, and oranges on hand. 

–> Use fresh greens!  We’ve tried spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, dino kale, curly kale, and watercress.  (We’ve do NOT recommend using mustard greens.)  My advice is, don’t buy the bag of pre-chopped kale.  I mean, you can if you are in a bind, I’ve done it before… but it is definitely the inferior option.  Buy fresh bunches of greens from a local farmer, Whole Foods, or better yet – grow some in your flower bed or garden! 

–> Be nice to your blender.  We literally went through 5 blenders in one year before we figured out how to keep our little machines running smoothly.  The biggest key is to NOT fill the blender full of ingredients and then hit blend.  This makes the job very hard on such a little motor.  Also, there is a very good chance your concoction will turn out to be a Green Chunky.  And believe me, Green Chunkies are NOT delicious. 

–> Use frozen fruit.  Frozen fruit gives the smoothie a thick, milk-shake like texture that makes you feel like you are drinking a treat!  Plus, organic frozen berries are often cheaper than fresh ones – and they have just as much nutritional value.  Sometimes mangoes and pineapple are cheaper frozen too. We freeze our own bananas as well as whatever fresh fruit we can get on sale at the market. (Myles recently bought a box of 130 apricots for $10.  We cut those little guys up and froze them!) 

How to Make a Green Smoothie:

1. Squeeze a lemon or lime into the blender.  You can also put in a peeled and divided orange, or a tad bit of orange juice. 

2. Wash the greens.  Starting from the bottom of the stem, run your fingers along the stem, to quickly and easily remove the leafy part.  You can toss the stems (unless you are like my husband, who eats chard stems like celery.)

3. Fill the blender up with the torn green leaves. (If you’ve never had a green smoothie, you might want to start out with half a blender full of greens and work your way up to a full blender.)

4. Add 1-2 cups of filtered water and hit the highest speed button on the blender.  Let it run for a good minute or two, until the greens have completely broken down.  The mixture should literally look like green liquid. 

5.  Turn off the blender and add 1 handful or so of the frozen fruit.  Continue blending, then add another handful of the fruit.  Again, let it blend until it is completely smooth. When you look at the pitcher, you should see no bits of anything swirling about.  Don’t be afraid to let it blend for several minutes if needed. 

Delicious Combos:

*1 lemon squeezed // blender full of spinach // 1-2 bananas // 1-2 handfuls of frozen strawberries… Tastes like strawberry lemonade! 

* 1 lime squeezed // 1/2 bunch torn and de-stemmed kale // 2 frozen bananas // 1-2 cups frozen raspberries

* 1 peeled orange // 1/2 bunch collard greens or chard  // 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil // frozen banana, mango, and/or pineapple… Tropical flavor!

hambified peanut butter oatmeal cookies

I found this Taste of Home recipe a while back, and modified it to meet the Hamby House nutritional standards.  We eat them for breakfast, snacks, dessert, and yes, once we even ate them for dinner with a big glass of raw milk.  They can be made and ready to eat within 20 minutes!  You can find the original recipe here.

*Mix together:

1/2 cup of natural peanut butter (crunchy is best!)

1/2 cup of either raw honey or maple syrup

1 farm fresh egg

*Stir until smooth.

*In the blender, grind 3/4 cup of organic oats until it is mostly fine, like flour.

*Mix in:

3/4 cup of ground oats

3/4 cup of whole oats (not ground)

1/2 cup of almond flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

dash of sea salt

1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

(You could also add 1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate bits… this is delicious, but Myles doesn’t care for chocolate so I usually leave them out unless I am feeling particularly selfish!)

*Drop by spoonfuls onto a GREASED cookie sheet.  I grease with butter or coconut oil.

*Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 F.  A little less if you like them gooier and chewier, a little more if you like them crispier.

*Makes a dozen medium-sized cookies.  In our house, a batch usually lasts less than 12 hours.

hands open and yes in my heart.

“Hey, wanna make dinner together tonight and eat on the front porch?” Tay asks me as we head out the door at 7:45 am for our short jaunt to work.  Tay and her husband Joel lives upstairs in our two-family flat.  Tay and I both work at an elementary school a mile down the road, so we ride together each day.  Tay and Joel own one car, and so do Myles and I.  Since Joel works at home and Myles goes to school 30 minutes away, Tay and I just take their car so Myles can drive our truck to school.  Ironically enough, I actually drive their car each morning since its stick-shift and Tay doesn’t know how to drive stick.  (And let’s be honest, experiencing my pathetic stick-shift skills everyday have probably dissuaded her from ever trying to learn!)

Dinner is scrumptious.  I have half a salad leftover from a luncheon at work on hand, some bell peppers, onions, and fresh herbs from my new garden.  Tay has 2 chicken sausages, brussel sprouts, potatoes and garlic.  We chat as we chop, tossing everything but the salad into a big skillet with lots of farm fresh butter from the Eastern Market.  Joel is away on a business trip at the moment, so its just Tay and Myles and I on the porch eating tonight.  Dinner never would have been this good if we hadn’t combined what we both had together… I think as we eat, sip ice tea, and watch our neighbor girls all dressed up for prom and out in their yard taking photos with every single auntie, cousin, and grandpa in the family.

I feel so satisfied as I shower and do dishes tonight.  I’m thinking about how the best meals we have are the shared ones.  Every Tuesday night, Myles and I host a “Family Dinner” for our merry little band of Jesus followers and whatever neighbors and friends we can persuade to join us.  There’s always a theme, and everyone brings an item or two or three, and combined altogether, its almost always a win.  We had some killer fish tacos last week – complete with mango & cilantro and a dozen other fresh toppings.  I mean, who wants to chop a dozen different toppings when you’re eating tacos solo or just with your husband?  I find Tuesday dinners are like a sigh of relief, because no matter how crazy the week gets, you know that a healthy, complete meal is guaranteed to happen.

“Linds, where’s the vacuum?”  I hear Tay call to me as I shower.  “In the back room… don’t forget to empty it if its full.”  We share a vacuum.  They are expensive little machines, and so darn essential.  But its completely unnecessary to have two in one house.  We also share muffin tins.  And a 9×13 pan. And a pencil sharpener.  Showers.  Spices. Eggs.  Internet service.  Milk.  Prayer. Bath salts. Flowers. A guest bedroom.  Printer cords and extension cords. Heels and earrings. Aspirin.  There’s also three unmatched socks sitting on our stairs right now, because a handful of other friends who don’t have a washing machine come over to do their laundry here… and I have no idea which of the 8 different people those little lonely socks belong too.  As I write this, Tay just came down to ask for a lightbulb.  Literally, every single day we use or borrow items from each other.   I find it gets easier to ask all the time – because the response so far has always been generous, and because we both owe each other so much at this point, there is no point to any kind of record or any kind of shame.

As I clean up the clutter from the day tonight, I’m thinking about how comforting community is.  I always have what I need.  I freely give and I freely receive.  My life is much, much richer.  Its not always convenient, but its convenient more often than not.  There are definitely those Saturday morning when I want to sleep in and I can hear every move Joel and Tay make in our creaky old house, and there’s definitely those weekends when I’ve let my laundry pile up and unfortunately everyone else in the community has too and there’s a line of baskets out the laundry room door.  There’s definitely those aggravating moments when all I want is a hot shower, but everyone’s flushing toilets and dish washing keeps yanking all my hot water.  But for every moment of frustrating are at least two moments of safety, comfort, and provision.

Tonight I think to myself, God is so smart.  He is so wise, and so, so smart.  His ideas about sharing freely and living as family simply make the most sense.  Community living is smart for so many reasons – I am more free financially, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  I am a better steward of the earth and resources.  I am more safe, which in my neighborhood is a big deal.  People know my business all the time, and it is GOOD for me.  I can’t get away with sin.  I can’t get away with selfishness.  I think when we live in isolation its very possible to be the most selfish person on the planet and never even know it simply because there is no one to expose it!

I wanted to write this out tonight, because I want a reminder.  In case I ever get the notion to strike it out alone, or get tempted to posses two cars when I only need one, or begin to think that I don’t want to share whats in my fridge because there might not be enough for me, I want to read words like these and remember what it is I truly want:

I want richness.  I want fullness.  I want a colorful story.  I want the grace and goodness and generosity of God to fill all my days and all my rooms.  I want to live with my hands open and a yes in my heart.  When my hands are open, I can’t hold on to stuff… but I am also ready to receive anything good that’s given to me.  And when there’s a yes in my heart, I can’t always be sure where I will end up, but I can always be sure that I haven’t missed out on anything glorious.

Our home here in a new city sure looks different than our full house in Kansas City did.  I don’t have little brown faces and giggles and oatmeal-covered hands waking me up in the morning, or the horrid smell of weed wafting through the vents, or teenagers sleeping on my couch every night.

Yet, that is.

Sometimes houses take a while to fill.  Sometimes longer than you hope.  Our empty bedrooms make me sad.  And everyday I ask God, “Who next God?  Who are you bringing us to love and to be loved by?  Who are You going to fill our home with?  Yes to whoever You’ve got in mind.”  And I remind myself that all my best, craziest stories and favorite people from the last few years came from prayers like this.

Sometimes I hold my hands open when I ask God this, as my way of telling both Him and myself that whatever I have I will give and whatever He has I want.  And I do try to always tell Him “YES.”  Even if all I say is that one word, He knows exactly what I mean.  I know Him well enough to know that He always takes us up on every single yes.  Every single one.

i have to live for miracles.

Hugs from A’Lana* are one of my favorite parts of the day.  If its a good day I’ll get three or four.  She’s a ten-year-old sweetheart with a knack for getting into trouble.  She has a hard time staying in class, and she’s known to fight.  But she’s got a smile that will light up the whole hallway and a hug that is always guaranteed to melt me.

First thing this Monday morning I was getting in my morning A’Lana hug outside the cafeteria while other students were filing in for breakfast.  As I squeezed her tight and played with her hair, I asked her how her weekend was.  “Scary, Mrs. Hamby!”  “Why was it scary?” I asked.  She proceeded to tell me the whole traumatic tale.  Over the weekend she came over to the school playground to play since she lives right down the street.  The school was surrounded by cops, as she drew close she realized that a fifteen-year-old boy had been shot in the leg and then in the head in a gang skirmish.  He was dead.  His mother and A’Lana’s mother are close friends.  In fact, A’Lana’s mother is the one who had to call his mother with the news.  Not a privilege I’d ever want to have.

I spent my morning today with two more sweethearts with a reputation for trouble.  This ten and eleven-year-old brother duo has been suspended so many times this year for fighting that they’ve both been kicked out of school until September.  They have to keep up with their studies through virtual programs.  The only reason they were even at the school today was for testing.  Honestly, if I didn’t know these boys had been suspended so much, I never would have guessed it from my time with them today.  Away from their antagonistic peers, the boys were calm, very respectful, and quite enjoyable to be around.  They were just boys – kids who like to see who can swing the highest and climb the fastest.

In between their tests, I gave their brains and little antsy bodies a break with a jaunt to the playground.  It was a gorgeous day, and although they were sad their former classmates weren’t outside with them, the boys had each other and seemed to enjoy their recess.  I challenged them to a swinging contest and on my way over to the swingset I noticed the fresh graffiti job on the side of the school.

SMN.

It stands for Self-Made Niggas, and its the signage of the neighborhood gang.  You’ll find those letters everywhere within blocks of the school.  There are people that think Detroit doesn’t have a gang problem, because most of the major gangs that ravage Chicago and LA haven’t staked a claim here.  Instead of large gangs, Detroit is rampant with smaller neighborhood gangs.  Gang experts say targeting countless small gangs is daunting, because instead of a few major gang signs, codes, and ringleaders to keep track of, there’s literally a different code and contact in every little neighborhood in Detroit.  Neighborhood gangs are constantly at odds with each other, and its difficult to stay on top of who is currently fighting who.  Instead of long-time rivalries that exist in larger cities, the clashes between neighborhood gangs may change often.  Gangs here are more into reputation than money – which is sometimes scarier, because they are willing to do anything reckless to get their name on the map.

I spent this afternoon with Cai*, one of my new favorite kids on the planet.  He is also eleven-years-old, and has a mouth bigger than the rest of him put together.  This boy can NOT at any point stop moving or talking, I’m convinced.  He’s not afraid to say anything to anybody, and despite his skinny self, he will throw a punches right along with his trash talking.  (In case you hadn’t picked up on it by this point, my job currently entails giving individual attention to the worst-behaved kids in one of the worst schools in Detroit.)  He sounds like a tough case, but truthfully he is really irresistibly endearing.  He is a total charmer when you give him more than a minute and get him by himself.  It took me several months to get through to him – he used to just start cussing up a storm as soon as he would see me walking down the hallway!  But a little patience, some hugs and kindness, and a I’m-not-giving-up-on-you attitude finally wore him down and now we get along just great.

He’s just a boy, too.  He loves football, he’s good at math.  He loves to hide and play jokes.  He’s got a killer smile and a contagious laugh.  He’s a complete goofball.  He has a different girlfriend every week – the innocent kind of 5th-grade romance, where everyone nonchalantly breaks up with each other, laughs about it, and moves on to the next person in the class.

Cai was on a roll today.  He thinks he’s hot stuff, thinks SMN are his bros, and thinks the neighborhood gang is the place to be.  He’s eleven years old, in case you didn’t remember.  He was supposed to be doing math, but instead was bouncing around the room making up his own rap to an instrumental beat he found on YouTube.  “If being in a gang is illegal, then take me straight to jail. I’m with SMN forever…”  The rest of his rap was full of “F— you’s” to the guys who shot the fifteen-year-old this weekend.  I found out the kid’s name was Tyrone* and that he used to go to this school.

I hate that I have to wonder if Cai will live to see his twenty-first birthday.  I hate that I have to wonder how long it will be before the criminal justice system interrupts his life.  The kid is brimming with potential.  He is so full of energy and talent its almost ridiculous.  The earth seriously needs human beings like Cai.  But this boy needs a miracle.  A’Lana needs a miracle too.  So do the 600 other little ones at the school.

I’m reminding myself today that I live for miracles.  I have to live for miracles.  I’ve been ruined for anything less glorious. Anything less is a waste of time.  There’s no point in living for anything less than supernatural wonder on the earth.  If you are a friend of God and if you believe in miracles, would you ask Him for miracles for my kids today?  Ask Him to intervene.  Ask Him to grab the attention of their wandering little hearts.   Ask Him to spare their lives from the dullness of death and destruction.  Ask Him to give me words of life on my lips and the power of love in my hands each day.

(*Names have been changed for the security of my students.)