Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For the love of food.

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday. 

Second only to Easter.

Easter is hands-down my favorite holiday but it's November, and talking about Easter when the leaves are falling and the air is crisp with the smell of Autum would be, well, ridiculous.

Actually, we're in Dallas so the weather now may or may not be the weather we'll be having come Spring, and, since there are still mosquitos trying to consume my children in small bites, it may not be such a stretch.

Anyway, we're talking about Thanksgiving - the greatest holiday ever because it revolves around food.  Lots and lots of delightful food. Food and football.

Food + Football = Wonderment

There aren't presents to buy, one million parties to line babysitters up for, finals, fireworks, or the guilt trip associated with forgetting to buy your spouse a romantic pink and red card covered with hearts and stuff.  I don't know that last part first-hand, I've just heard rumors.  From my husband.


We're getting ready over here at the Hill house and are camping out inside for the day.  I've got myself a lot of cooking to do since, over time,  I have slowly been entrusted to some of the Hill family recipes.  It's taken 15 years but I've finally been given something besides the pies.

Something VERY important.

This year, I'll be making the Sweet Potatoes (please don't let me ruin them, please don't let me ruin them).

The sweet potatoes are a VERY integral part of our Thanksgiving menu.  Were we to rank them, they'd be almost as important as the broccoli rice, on par with the stuffing, and exponentially more important than the rolls which I'm also in charge of.

Oh, the pressure.

And so begin my annual jokes that I'm making the recipe with Splenda and it will be, for the first time, gluten-free.

Of course I kid because actually altering the recipe at all would easily cause an insurrection in the Hill house the likes of which hasn't been seen since the great 2006 Thanksgiving Day game upset of the #10 ranked University of Texas by the unranked Texas A&M. 


I had to sleep outside that night.

Truth be told, the Hill family love of food is one of my favorite things about being part of this crew.  I grew up with a dad who was constantly in the kitchen trying out recipes on us, making vats of Spaghetti sauce from scratch, and feeding us grilled chicken covered with crazy-spicy African peppers and loving food in general. 

It doesn't get much better than sharing a wonderful meal with people you love and eating until you want to die.

Or vomit. 

Darius just came in and said that's his goal for tomorrow.  "MaMelissa, I'm gonna eat tomorrow until I want to throw up.  Can I wear basketball shorts because, you know, they're stretchy."

Yes, Darius, you can. 

Welcome to the family.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving from our table to yours.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They must have had dynamic personalities.

It's Tuesday and we're on day two of the official Thanksgiving Break.
I'm already tired.
Thankful, but tired.
All the fun started last Friday when we celebrated our school's annual Living History Day.  This year, we celebrated Ancient times and dressed as the following: Romans, Greeks, Hebrews, and Egyptians.

The Greek goddess costumes were fabulous, as were the Egyptians'.  They were white or pale blue and adorned with jewels, gold, and fabulousness.

I was a Hebrew.

May I just say for the record that, after seeing myself in the mirror in a 'to-sack, head-covering, and sash made of ticking, I now, more than ever believe in the Immaculate Conception.

In costume, I made eyes at Trey and said, "Hey, Baby, what's this do for ya?"

"Not much, Sweetie.  Not much."

And, there you have it.

Sadie, on the other hand, looked precious.


My other children were running around like wild banchees so I didn't get shots of them.  What I did get were lots of pictures of the backs of heads.  Perfect for the individual and crafty scrapbooks I haven't made for them.

It kind of reminds me of Graham's first birthday.  I forgot to take pictures so, a month later, at a friend's birthday party, I sat that little man down in front of the pretty cake, put a party hat on him, and captured his "first birthday" forever on film.  He was none the wiser.  Um, except for now.  Secrets are not my gift but, come on, it's not always the accuracy of the picture, it's the idea represented in the picture.  Just like on Fox News.

Can I get an "Amen, Sister"?

What would be fun now, would be to actually show you that picture.  Unfortunately, those photos are forever locked inside my now broken computer.  As I wait pseudo-patiently for it to be restored to me, I am once again harkened back to the days of my Hebrew brethren wandering in the desert.

Adorned in 'to-sacks' and unfortunate head coverings.

***Edited to add...***
My good friend, and clearly more theologically astute brother in Christ posted the following comment and I just wanted to make sure you all read it...

"Melissa, the Immaculate Conception is not the same as the virgin birth of Christ. Catholics believe that Mary was conceived sexually but without original sin. That is the IC. I don't think any Protestants hold this doctrine. I won't tell Trey."

To be clear, I hold to the doctrine of the Virgin Birth but the Immaculate Conception sounded funnier.  I don't always believe in throwing doctrine out the window for the sake of comedy but, in this case, I didn't know any better. 

I'm so tortured thankful I have people like Wes in my life to point these things out. 

On my blog. 

In front of millions. 

Or twenty-seven.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome Home!!!

Our nephew Seth Eyasu Alexander arrived home in a whirlwind on Saturday afternoon from Ethiopia!!!  Head over to the Alexander's blog, watch the amazing video, and welcome this precious angel home. 

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:18

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Country Come to Town.

Fall in the city lasts about a day and a half and so last Saturday, Mercy Street grabbed that bull by the horns by celebrating with the First Annual Fall Festival.

Next door to the ministry facility is a 20 or so acre field perfect for a community gathering.

Johnny, the mastermind behind the event and the head of the Bike Shop, built a bike track for some competitive racin'.  I love seeing these big ol' boys racing on pink bikes with streamers on the handlebars.

We had tire painting, face painting, games galore and, of course, the Pickle Walk.  A Mercy Street event wouldn't be complete without the Pickle Walk.

Families could be seen walking from all parts of the community to the Fair and we all had a great time.

Here's Sam, sharing the Gospel around a keg...of Root Beer.  I worked the keg for a while and had some flashbacks of my college days at Texas A&M telling myself I was "just where Jesus would be if he were here now.  At a Frat party, witnessing by the keg."

Hmmm.  Really, Melissa?  Was that what you were doing?


Here's Sadie, contemplating another corndog.

Mrs. Rita, a community stalwart, worked all day painting faces.  She loves butterflies and wears them every day from head to toe.

Tire painting.  All these need now are some sweet twenty-fo's.

Volunteers from area churches and neighbors came out to lend a hand with the games and food and share their day with one another.

Jaquavian, one of the early classes of Mercy Street Mentees, brought his Uncle's horses out and led the kids all day on rides around the property.  We're hoping we can help provide a permanent home for these horses in the stables that currently are unused on the property.

My main responsibility was helping with the food. 


Hannah made the best cupcakes ever and Elotes which is corn seasoned with butter, sour cream, spices, yumminess, and deliciousness and eaten with a spoon.

Nanny and I made cornbread and charro beans.  I spent the better part of the day trying to pronounce "charro" in the authentic, rolled-r's kind of way. 

I was, for the most part, ineffective.
Now, let me explain something to you.
We were keeping everything hot on a grill which I had turned on and walked away from for a moment to try to get some more root beer.

Hannah went to move one of the giant pots of beans and burned her hand.  I know this because she screamed "OUCH!  I BURNED MY HAND!"
I, in my most sympathetic moment, quickly raced to the scene and said, "ARE THE BEANS BURNED?!?!"
That was a big mistake. 
Here I am on my knees, graveling.

Isn't Hannah beautiful when she's mad?

In my defense, the pot was Nanny's and I would have been fine burning my own beans but would have felt pretty bad if Nanny had stayed up all night making a pot of beans and I burned them.  Blah, blah blah, Hannah cared not who's beans they were but was instead was frantically applying burn cream to her hand.
Clearly, I owe her a root beer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Partner with us!

An old friend, seasoned in the ministry of the inner city, once used this illustration and it forever changed the way I see and work out the call of the gospel in my life.

When his son was little, his greatest joy was to help his daddy do almost anything and everything.  Whenever they would pull into a gas station, he would beg for the opportunity to help fill up the car.  Almost always, our friend would succomb to the pleas of his son and begin the process that allowed the child to be 'helpful'.  He would unbuckle him from his carseats sift him from the car.  Then he would steady the boy while he wrestled with the nozzle.  Being much too weak to pull the trigger, this daddy would wrap his giant hand around his son's and squeeze the handle for him.  Inevitably, there'd be splashed gas and the nozzle would drag across the paint on the car leaving a scratch to be buffed out later.  Once the tank was full, the nozzle would be replaced into it's cradle, and the child replaced into his seat, buckled in, ready to go, clearly satisfied with a job well done.

Truth be told, our friend didn't need his son's help.  If anything, he often hindered his progress - made it messy, slow, and fraught with mistakes.  Alone, he was capable of completing the work perfectly every time.

But as a father, who desperately, unwaiveringly, wholly loves his children, he allowed his son to help because he knew that his son delighted in doing the work of his father. 

And he delighted in his son.

For six years, Mercy Street has existed to serve the community of West Dallas.  In our own brokenness, we have tried to humbly come alongside the beautiful, residents of this community to serve them, to love them, to be the hands and feet of Christ and to live worthy of the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Could He do it by himself?  Of course. 

And, I'm guessing without a personal i.v. drip of Diet Coke and a stash of Milk Duds. 

But He, in His perfect mercy, invites us to participate with him in His work - because He knows His children delight in doing the work of their Father.

For the first time, Mercy Street is in need of formal fundraising.  Giving across the nation is down 35% and we have not been immune to this statistic.  What's not down, though, is the number of children, and their families, who want to be a part of this ministry.  Kids wait outside for the doors to open at every event and,  on a daily basis, children are asking one of the mentor coordinators when they can get a mentor. 

One of my best friends, Jennifer, who I love dearly because she is so painfully honest, has told me more than once why she gives to the ministry. "Girl, I give what I give so I don't have to do what you do." We laugh and but the truth is, we couldn't do what we do without people like her.

So, here's the deal.  Trey very sweetly, and with chocolate, asked that I put the need out to my friends in the blogosphere.  One of our fundraising goals is that 250 new donors would pledge $25 a month.  I know a lot of ya'll readers live here in Dallas but many of you live in other countries, like Florida, and we need you all. 

If you so feel led (no pressure), would you consider giving to Mercy Street - partnering with us to continue to do the the work of our Father?  If so, the Mercy Street logo below, or on the left sidebar, is a link that will take you to a secure site where you can give. Also, feel free to forward this to all of your friends.  I won't get mad at all.

On a side note, if this is your first visit to my blog, take heart, I don't ask for help all the time.  I swear.  Unless it comes to laundry advice.  Or hair advice.  Or good ideas for meals that look and taste like I spent a lot of time but I actually just defrosted and microwaved them.  To those - I'm guilty as charged.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Saw this online this morning and stole it.
I'm not proud.
I am proud though - especially today - of the countless men and women who have fought, and are fighting still, on behalf of our country.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A lesson from Victor.

One of the most striking things I heard at the CCDA conference, came not from one of the amazing speakers, and wasn't, believe it or not, about the fabulousness of other people's hair. Instead it came from a gentle brother named Victor, from the Congo, who is living in the United States with his wife and children.

He spoke about dignity. And about how we, in our efforts to help, to bring aide, to transform a community, often rob the recipients of dignity.

We do this by refusing to come alongside in humility and by assuming that we know the "fix" regardless of the culture or opinions of the ones we are ministering to.

An example he gave was of a church that came into his village to build a latrine where there had previously been none. Their efforts were efficient, their design flawless. Flawless except for the fact that they had failed to consult with the villagers about their culture and their desires on the placement of the latrine and more importantly, the door.

The latrine, built with skilled hands and professional tools, was placed adjacent to the playground and common area where all the village gathered - the door facing all the people.

For this village, for there culture, it was extremely undignified to be seen walking in and out of a latrine so, after the workers left, feeling satisfied that they had been a blessing, the villagers simply continued to go into the bush to use the restroom.
Being paternalistic means to treat someone in a fatherly manner, instead of a peer, especially in providing for their needs.

It's SO EASY to do this.  To come in to a community or a situation and think we have the answers and ours are inherantly right.  We're efficient, we're educated, we're seasoned, and we've read lots and lots of books. 

But, without humility, we can strip away the dignity from those we come to serve, to uphold, to encourage.

Thank you, Victor, for this gentle reminder - and for coming alongside all those within earshot of you that afternoon, and in humility, asking that we become humble.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:1-3

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One is the lonliest number. Unless you're Vanilla.

The sun came up on our beautiful Saturday morning but, little did we know, it was actually the sunset of a member of our family's life.

Marshmallow, the gerbil, was sick and clearly dying.  I know this because I have a keen sense that when something stops moving and breathing, it's dead.

Olivia was pretty sad and Sadie faked some decent tears.  I mean, they loved Marshmallow and all except she bit and chewed holes in all their clothes.

I think she was bitter about having such a wussy name.  Truth be told, her cage-mate, Vanilla may have done her in just to have the place all to herself.  She's got people.

Since Trey's got me on some kind of shoe-buying moratoriam, we were short of shoe boxes - the obvious go-to coffin for a small animal you're going to bury in your backyard.

Instead, we used the next best thing.

And Olivia wrote a note to put inside.

Unfortunately, she wouldn't let me read it.  My curiosity is killing me.

Trey paused the game and dug a hole for his daughter.

Olivia made the headstone except she accidentally wrote "Vanilla" in Sharpie.  Remember, Vanilla is the perfectly healthy gerbil who was, at this point, repainting and recarpeting the place.

Scout was just wondering what all the commotion was about and when someone was gonna throw her ball.   She's a little like her momma and clearly thinks there's a distinction between REAL pets, and rats with short tails and girly names.

I'm kinda proud of our recycling.  How do you think Quaker feels?

Graham spoke a few words at the memorial service.  Mostly about how much he loved Marshmallow even though she bit but that he was sure glad it wasn't Vanilla laying there in that cereal bar box.  And then he thanked the Lord for bringing my brother home from Iraq, for Abe, for Seth, for Carson, for Mercy Street, for Eric the addict, for Tee's ankle, for Grandpa Steve and Maxine, Nanny and Bunty, and Michael Jackson's family.

It took 45 minutes.

Finally, with a proper headstone, Marshmallow was laid to rest.  Complete with flowers picked from my rose bushes.  They look pretty good if I do say so myself.

Ahem, sorry.

Later, that evening, even Vanilla came out to show her respects.  She had just completed installing the disco ball and was working on her surround sound.  To her credit, she did make her good-by look sincere.

This afternoon, with her own money because I refuse to spend "one more dime" on animals my kids tire of feeding or cleaning up after past two weeks, Olivia replaced Marshmallow with Cupcake the gerbil.

I suggested "Moose" or "007" thinking a stonger name might help it to live longer and hold it's own with Vanilla, the new slum lord. She would have none of it.

Cupcake, I'm giving you two weeks.  Max.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday afternoon stream of consciousness.

November is officially here in Dallas with 80 degree temperatures, our one tree in the city sporting fall colors (exaggeration, we have 2), and a total inability to wear fall fashion because anything besides shorts and flip-flops just makes you sweat.

I'm taking the afternoon to let my little monkeys run around the park and hopefully exert all their energy before they step one foot into my sparklingly (not a word) clean house.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's a mess but I like to dream.

The sun is shining and I'm incredibly impressed watching my kids climb all over the playscapes one handed because their other hand is occupied by a giant Slurpee. Being relatively quick learners, they've realized the best way to keep mom away from your Slurpee is to make a "suicide". It's where they go down the line of Slurpee flavors and put a little of each into their cup. No matter how many times I tell them that Mango Fangango and Mountain Dew, much like, in my humble opinion, Kool-Aid and dill pickles, were never meant to go together, they just look at me like I have ulterior motives and fill 'er up anyway.

"Mom, wanna taste?"

"No. No thanks. And why can't you just mix Coke and Wild Cherry like normal people?"

Then they flash each other a knowing, satisfied grin, confident they can enjoy their entire drink without having to share with me.

We can't stay long because the three dozen or so live crickets bagged up in my car won't survive the heat and our bearded dragon, Augustine, only likes 'em alive and hoppin'.

That's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Anyway, this is how our weekend is starting - all posted from my Blackberry because my computer decided to crash yesterday. What I love about my computer crashing is...nothing. It should also explain the total stream of consciousness feel of this post. Remember, I'm reading it on a 2x2 screen so it makes perfect sense in small snippits.

Hopefully, I'll be back Monday with a report on our weekend. It's parent day at Pinkston so let's pray I don't embarrass Darius.

Odds are NOT stacked in his favor.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

New Friends. Bad Hair.

After our last couple of weeks of being out of town and then coming home to more drama than daggum Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, we were ready for a long restful weekend.

Instead, we had ourselves some out of town comp'ny.  Staying with us.  In our home.  Which I hadn't gotten around to cleaning yet this year.

Becca and Adam, whom I met via this blog, are starting a mentoring program in Atlanta and wanted to come in town and eat all the Mexican food they could get their hands on see what we were doing down here in Dallas.

I'm going to be honest, and we've already told them this story, the whole thing gave Trey pause.

"Now, how do you know these people?"

"Our blogs."

"Uh huh.  And they're staying with us?  In our house?  For four days?"


"Um, baby, that's great and all, and I get the whole 'Body of Christ' thing and everything but, um, is there a chance they could also be serial killers?"

"Naw.  They're fine."

And they were.  They were more than fine.  They were amazing - the sweetest, most genuine couple who love Jesus and are really looking at what the Bible says about the poor, the marginalized, and the needy, and what biblical justice and mercy really look like.

And as soon as they said, "Kevin should TOTALLY win Top Chef this season.", all Trey's fears about serial killers went out the window.  Meeting people who'd vote for the same chef you would on a reality show is, for Trey, tantamount to running a background check through CIA Headquarters.

You know what I like about writing CIA Headquarters in this post?  Becoming the cog in the machine for people legitimately searching Google for 'CIA Headquarters'.

I know.    

Anyway, the Lord has been incredibly faithful to allow us, over the past several weeks, to meet face to face, several friends who are doing incarnational, inner-city ministry around the country.

It's been such an encouragement to both of us to sit down with more people who share the same heart, have the same outrageous stories, and love what they're doing enough to think they're the luckiest people in the world to be called into this kind of ministry.  Admittedly, sometimes I wondered if everyone on the Mercy Street staff had just fallen into the same pool of crazy.  Apparently, it's a pretty big pool full of pretty inspiring people.

What, however, has not been great has been realizing that every woman I know who does urban ministry has really great hair.  The kind they can just let air dry and it looks all beautiful and shiny and Pantene-commercial-like.

Hannah has it.
Mindy has it.
Stephanie has it.
Becca has it.
Delta has it
Nicole has it.
Carly has it.

I don't has it.  The 80's were not good to this head of hair and I'm not sure it's ever recovered.  My hair is fine, kinda naturally wavy-straight-frizzy, and I ashamedly take my hot rollers on out of town trips.  Without a hair-dryer, well, you don't want to go there right before bed.

In the interest of revealing my complete insecurities, I wonder...Becca's whole blog is chock-full of pictures.  She's a pretty great photographer.  But, the whole time they were here, the whole four days, she got out her camera zero times.


I mean, I don't want to seem paranoid or anything but, does anyone have the 411 on good hair they can give me?  Apparently, with this kinda company, I'm gonna need it.