Author: Elizabeth Brock (page 2 of 7)

Then He Smiled At Me

My third grade year was interrupted by a move to a new state and a new school. My family unpacked in Alabama at the very beginning of December 2001, and Johnathan and I were put in a local public elementary school. I had stepped out of a one-hallway private school into a web of hallways lined with classrooms and filled with throngs of other children. I spent most of my time there trying to be invisible.

It was Christmastime. Our classroom was decorated with small trees and handmade ornaments, and there was often a soundtrack of faint holiday tunes in the background.

I don’t remember her name, but my first teacher was a tall woman. Plump, with dark gray hair and a grandmotherly demeanor. She filled the room with herself, and though I remember her as a kind and jovial woman, I also remember having a vague sense of fear associated with her presence.

One afternoon, The Little Drummer Boy came through the stereo system. She perked up and announced with enthusiasm that this was her favorite Christmas song. She turned up the volume and chimed in with a loud contribution to the rum pum pum pum lyric.

Because that was the first time I remember hearing that song, and because it was tied so closely with a negative experience, I have shuddered nearly every year since when I hear the familiar chorus rumble through any speaker. It has always been one of my mother’s favorite Christmas songs as well, but for years I have made her turn it off whenever it cycles through the car radio. I hated it too much to listen all the way through.

But this year, it has been a favorite.

I don’t remember when it happened, where I was, or whose version I was listening to, but I remember hearing the last verse as if for the very first time:

(For the sake of clarity and my sanity, I’m going to remove the “pa rum pum pum pums.”)

“Shall I play for you
On my drum?
Mary nodded,

The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,
Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum.”

I heard it and thrilled at the idea of the child Jesus smiling with delight at this little boy and his drum.

The character isn’t biblical. There is no historical reference to document this little drummer boy’s existence. No likeness of him was ever taken.

But I can see him.

His face is dirty and his feet are bare on the cool desert earth. His little hands are plump with newness and wrapped around two splintered sticks. His tangled hair falls just above the bridge of his nose. And he carries a drum. Something makeshift crafted out of found and forgotten things.

I see him in the doorway of Joseph and Mary’s home. As the magi move further into the room, his faint shadow is pushed across the threshold by the light behind him. And he follows its course until it lands on the face of the baby they walked all this way to see.

And looking at this small face, he hears the words of the prophet Isaiah rattling through his brain:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is Him, he thinks. This is the One we have been waiting for.

He looks to his left then to his right, noticing the shine reflecting off of the costly gifts brought by the magi. He looks down and sees the sticks in his hands. It isn’t the same, not as valuable, he thinks, but he has nothing else. He must give something. He is face to face with the promised Messiah, the One who came to rescue. The One who came to bind up broken hearts and make all things new.

He must give something.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Mary,” he whispers timidly. “Would it be okay if I played for Him?”

The young mother nods with a kind smile upon her lips, and he takes a deep breath, raises his sticks, and brings them down upon the drum.

The sound reverberates off of the walls. His rhythm is crooked, and it is more noise than song, but he doesn’t hear. He isn’t performing; he is praising.

When he is through, the boy bends forward for a better view of the child before him. Eyes lock and the baby Jesus, delighted by the sound, smiles at his new friend.

And in that moment, everything changed.

I think I see the little drummer boy so clearly because his heart looks so similar to mine. I know what it is to stand in the presence of the Savior and scramble for something to give in gratitude. I know what it is to remember God’s promises and be overwhelmed with a desire to praise.

And I know what it is to feel your heart nearly explode with joy when the Light of all the world looks at you and smiles.

This Christmas, my bare and dirty feet land on the cool hay covering the stable floor, my grimy hands grasp the edges of a rough manger and my chin hooks over the side to catch a glimpse of my Savior. His face is turned toward me; He sees me and the heart He came to save.

And then He smiles at me.

I Never Laughed at 24

A very specific memory has been running through my mind recently. It was a conversation I had in high school, somewhere near sixteen. The whole thing is a little frayed, but the edges start to crystallize around a certain point when the age of twenty-three came up in a conversation about the future.

I raised my eyebrows and laughed uproariously.

“I’m never going to be twenty-three!” I howled.

The thought was absurd. Though it was only a seven-year stretch from where I sat, it seemed like an unimaginable eternity, impossible to cross.

Somewhere in the same time frame, I made a detailed plan for my life. I was sixteen for crying out loud; it was about time I sorted that out.

I would study creative writing for four years at a great university, graduate, and move into an apartment in a town square somewhere—preferably a spot above a local bookstore—and sit at a desk by a window as sunlight peers through the maple leaves hoping for a glimpse of the novel beneath my pen.

My dreams shifted at different ages. Plans for the future looked different at nineteen and had been altered again by the time I arrived at twenty-one. Somewhere along the way, I had surrendered to the idea that I would turn twenty-three, but even in my grandest dreams, all ambitions halted there.

I’ve been thinking about these wispy memories lately. They play through my mind, and again I laugh.

I smile at my sixteen-year-old self, and look teasingly at her dreams all laid out neatly and in perfect order. I smirk a little at her unquenchable belief that her wildest ambitions were as good as it could possibly get.

Silly girl. You weren’t even close.

Every dream I had then seems so small and puny when I think of what the Lord has done. At every turn, at every change, I’ve stamped my foot and pouted, begging for my ideal to be returned. But I kept following, and around every corner, I have been blinded by the sheer enormity and extravagance of what He had planned for me instead.

Today is my first day of twenty-four, an age I never envisioned or laughed at. It’s the first day on the other side of my sixteen-year-old dreams.

It is also the first birthday in fourteen years that did not dawn beneath Alabama sunshine. It is the first birthday in twenty-four years that did not start at home with my family. Suddenly, growing up doesn’t seem so absurd.

There have been moments recently when I’ve wanted to go back and kick that silly sixteen-year-old me for not planning further out.

But there have been other moments when I’ve had some things to say to her. Things that I imagine my future self will want to tell me, too.

Your most extravagantly imagined plans aren’t even close to the adventure unfolding.

The shadows are not as dark as you think they are.

Just because you feel alone, does not mean you are alone. You aren’t.

The Lord hears every prayer, even the ones you’re too afraid to write, speak, or think. He knows. He isn’t ignoring you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He sees and He understands.

Don’t be so afraid. Don’t step so timidly.

Be brave. Be bold.

Pay attention. Observe. See. There are stories happening in lightning speed around you. Let them wash over you, sink into you, pour out of your fingertips.

Write.

Stop collapsing in the face of a really terrible first draft. If you can’t fight through, you’ll never make it to a relatively okay second draft or a moderately decent third draft.

Life is a process; stop trying to skip steps.

Don’t spend all your time and energy looking for ways to tiptoe around failure. Face it as an inevitable foe.

And when you fail, know when the battle begins. The war won’t start while you’re failing. It’ll happen on your knees, when you’re afraid to stand back up. It’ll happen when you no longer trust the legs beneath you to hold you up. It’ll happen when you drop your head in defeat. Come prepared for this moment. Bring your sword, lift your chin, and face the lies of defeat with courage and purpose. Don’t waste the fight. Try again.

Perfection is a ruthless prison guard who delights in failed inspections. Don’t believe her when she tells you how great everyone else is doing. When she says you’re the only one who doesn’t measure up–you’re the only one feeling lost. She’s baiting you. Don’t let her hold you captive.

When you’re right and you wish you weren’t, don’t allow your validated instinct to sow seeds of cynicism. Instincts were meant to protect, but if you let them, they’ll turn you to stone.

Relish the moments when you feel the smallest. You’re too prone to view yourself as the center of every lens. In the rare moments when you glimpse a vision of a world bigger than you, breathe it in. Feel very small and very relieved that you are not the center of any universe.

Take those leaps of faith, even when you think you can’t. Even when you tremble at the thought. Even when you can’t see past where your foot will land, step forward anyway.

Be brave, and step forward anyway.

A Thumb That Isn’t Green Yet

When I moved into my apartment a several months ago, I felt an overwhelming surge of domesticity. I wanted to cook things and hang things and grow things. On my first free Saturday after settling in, I took a drive exploring the surrounding area and stopped at a roadside floral shop.

Along the corner of a crowded street, baskets full of flowers stood neatly in rows, like a little army whose sole job was to drive out all the ugliness in the world and replace it with new, springtime beauty. Boxes of individual plants stood resolutely on and under tables. More baskets spilling over with full blooms hung on displays that were built specifically for showing off.

I hadn’t browsed very long before a middle-aged woman approached and asked if I needed any help. It was pretty obvious that I did. She wore an apron that was streaked with dirt and her frizzy blonde hair was trying its hardest to escape from the precarious pile on her head.

I admitted to my inexperience with growing things and asked what she would recommend to one whose thumb had yet to change colors. She pointed out a few options and assured me that the hanging baskets I was eyeing would basically take care of themselves.

That sold me. For my sake and the sake of the plant, I knew I would need something that required very little responsibility.

I hung my prize-winning baskets on their hooks as soon as I got home and sat on my little patio enjoying their loveliness.

But I wasn’t very good at perpetuating the experience. Watering them was an afterthought that mostly came after they were nearly dead.

My roommate took them from their perches, set them at the edge of the patio and watered them far more faithfully than I did.

I would forget consistently or put off filling up the pail because I just “didn’t have the time” or was too lazy to get up and do it. I’d shrug off another day without water and wait instead for the rain to come and restore them. I periodically pulled the dead pieces from the ones that still lived, hoping that by removing the old, I would make room for new shoots to spring up.

But here’s what I learned as a plant owner: You can’t depend on someone else to water your plants and removing dead pieces doesn’t make new life grow. As long as I continue to forget to give their thirsty roots water, nothing new will spring up. I’ll just be left with a basket full of dirt and a plant that used to live.

Pulling away the dead limbs, pruning back sick leaves, and allowing dead blossoms to fall are all necessary and helpful things, but without water to nourish, replenish, and heal, I’m just tossing out symptoms of parched roots that will continue to die. I can’t just wait for seasons of rain. I have to fill up my pail morning after morning and give the poor things a drink. They have to have the water to grow.

Just like we do.

Double Grace Photography

Double Grace Photography

We can often get caught in the dangerous position of depending on someone else to water us spiritually: our pastors, Sunday School teachers, mentors, friends, or family members. Though those folks do often provide a refreshing bout of rain through their encouragement or discipling, they were never meant to bear the burden of keeping us alive spiritually. That’s not their job.

In the same way, it’s not your job either. If you were “dead in your trespasses,” unable to stir yourself from the cold grave of sin, chances are you probably won’t be that successful at keeping yourself alive either. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit—to sustain and nourish you through the Word of God.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself far too often trying to pull off the dead pieces of my life with legalistic hands, rather than looking to the compassionate Gardener who desires to prune AND to grow.

I haven’t been doing this long–trying to make things grow. And to be honest, I’m not very good at it. But one thing I have noticed is that every day is different. Some mornings are cooler than others. Some afternoons are soggy and others are oppressively dry. But regardless of temperature or season, the plant never stops needing water. Daily. Regularly. In plentiful gulps.

And even when they look dead, I keep watering them.

Because one cool morning, when I step out on my patio expecting to see a dead plant, I might just see instead a brave little bloom with its pale yellow face turned boldly toward the sun, rising from the wilted vines, declaring to all who pass that it isn’t dead at all. Despite its appearance or surrounding circumstances, it is very much alive.

 

“The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, the true Christians) say, Come! And let him who is listening say, Come! And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of Life without cost.”

—Revelation 22:17 (Amplified)

Spatchcock Is A Verb

So, as it turns out, spatchcock is a verb.

Let me back up.

In last week’s post, I mentioned that a big, life-altering event had occurred. My very first issue of Southern Living had crossed the threshold of apartment K14, and I became a new woman. A true Southern lady.

But receiving the magazine was only part of the transition. In order to fully step into my destiny as a Southern woman, I’d actually have to turn the oven on and cook something—an idea that would normally terrify me. Or exhaust me at the very thought.

But holding my rite of passage in my hand, I felt brave and energized.

As I browsed through the list of recipes in the front of the magazine, I glossed over any that included words like “roulade,” “andouille,” and “court-bouillon.”

I was brave, not cocky. I didn’t want to attempt anything I couldn’t properly pronounce.

(I also skipped Fig Dutch Baby Pancake, because I didn’t think I could find any figs or Dutch children on such late notice.)

When I saw Garlicky Roasted Spatchcock Chicken, I thought, “Hey, I recognize most of those words! And I can say all of them! Here’s our winner!”

Now, as only an English major would, I would like to point out that the word “spatchcock” is used here as an adjective. This is important, because I assumed spatchcock was a spice or ingredient that would give the chicken a certain, well, spatchcockiness.

HOWEVER, I was wrong.

These were the first words I read when I turned to page 116 for the recipe:

“Removing a chicken’s backbone—a technique called spatchcocking (or butterflying)—ensures juicy meat and golden crisp skin in less time than roasting a whole bird.”

DOES IT, NOW? Well, isn’t that special?

So, you see, this brings me back to my initial point—spatchcock is a VERB.

Though I did consider the fact that it is 2016, and I could very well buy the chicken sans backbone, I decided that if I was going to this, I was going to play by SL’s rules.

Sunday evening, I unloaded all the groceries, opened the magazine to page 116, and GOT TO WORK.

(I’d tell you how many times I walked back and forth through Publix if I hadn’t lost count.)

(There was one guy working the produce section who, I’m sure, was looking at me with more than a little suspicion as I made my third trip through the vegetable aisle.)

First instruction: “Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.”

Okay, I can do that.

Click.

Look at me, cooking and being an adult. Alright, what’s next?

“For step-by-step instructions on how to spatchcock a chicken, turn to page 132.”

I do indeed need step-by-step instructions, Southern Living, thank you!

Flip, flip, flip. Page 132.

Here we go.

“Place a whole chicken breast-side down on a cutting board.”

It should be noted that, up until this moment, I hadn’t thought about the reality of touching the chicken barehanded.

Oh, gross. Gross! GROSS! I can feel its bones. No, no, no, no, NO! Aw, it looks so sad and scared, all curled up like that. I feel so bad! Am I crying? Maybe a touch. Elizabeth, get yourself together! It’s dead. You can’t kill it again. PLACE THE BIRD ON THE CUTTING BOARD.

“Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Repeat on the other side to remove the backbone.”

Okay, thigh end. I have the shears. Just need to cut. OH, NO! THAT BONE CRACK! GROSS.

Crack. Gross. Crack. Gross. Crack. Gross.

“Freeze and reserve for stock.”

For stock? I have to keep this thing? No, sir. I don’t think so.

Oh, no! Its heart is going to be inside. I can’t look! I’m going to cry again. I feel like such a monster right now. I DID NOT THINK THIS THROUGH.

Wait. Why is there a bag in here? Why would you pull the insides out, stick them in a bag, and PUT THEM BACK INSIDE? Who did this? That is so dumb. I’m not putting that in a stock either. No, thank you.

“Flip the chicken over so that it’s cut-side down. Then firmly press on the breastbone to flatten it.”

Flatten it. Well it looks pretty flat already. I think this is as good as it’s going to get. Back to page 116.

Flip, flip, flip. Page 116.

Alright, where were we?

“Using the heel of your hand, press firmly against breastbone until it cracks.”

No, no. Page 132 mentioned only flattening, NO CRACKING. Ugh, okay. I’ll do it. If SL says so, I’ll do it. Until it cracks. 

Crack.

Okay. Okay! OKAY. Hard part’s over. I can do this.

And I did.

I knew I was okay when I shot the headless hen a double finger gun and said, “Looking good.” When you start talking to your poultry, you know you’ve moved away from being emotionally invested in its past life on the farm.

The grand finale was indeed pretty grand. It looked similar to the picture in the magazine and tasted delicious.

I told you this magazine would be a turning point for me. See for yourself. 

BEFORE:

Doesn't she look like a sassy lady with her hands on her hips?

Doesn’t she look like a sassy lady with her hands on her hips?

AFTER:

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All dressed up for the ball.

BONUS: voicemails I left my mother during this whole process.

“Ugh, it just squeaks!”

“I should’ve started with mashed potatoes! Why didn’t I start with mash potatoes?! And my arm is sticky okay call me back thanks bye.”

The Newest Member of the Southern Ladies’ Club

Two weeks ago, something big happened. Something major. Life-changing.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, Elizabeth, we know. You found the laminating machine at work and someone showed you where the good snacks were hidden. Big deal.”

And while that is true, and those were VERY BIG DEAL THINGS, this thing is bigger. Better. More spectacular than even the laminating machine.

*collective gasp (because how could anything top a laminating machine?).

It was just an ordinary Monday. I had gone to work as usual, unaware of the life-changing event that was happening just outside my apartment door.

I wonder if the mailman knew. I wonder if he could feel the heaviness as he placed the glossy pages inside the tiny tin can that is also referred to as my mailbox. Judging by the way it had been neatly nestled into the small compartment, I bet he did.

At six o’clock, I pulled into my complex, wrestled my stuff out of the car, and stopped casually by the mailbox on my way to the apartment. I stuffed the key in the lock, turned, pulled, and there it was.

For the first time in my life, this showed up addressed specifically to me.

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My mother ordered the subscription for me a month ago, and now that it’s here, I have carted it delicately all over the apartment, careful not to bend even a single page.

If I weren’t so dead-set on keeping it intact, I would tear off the cover and laminate it.

For as long as I can remember, there have been stacks of Southern Living magazines on coffee and bedside tables, stuffed on shelves, and piled in baskets next to couches and chairs. Nearly an entire shelf of my mother’s cookbook collection is dedicated to Southern Living’s annual hardback compilations of their best recipes. The rest of the space on that shelf is inhabited by the mother of all binders, stuffed with torn pages and cut-out recipes that were disconnected from their original binding, gently pushed behind page protectors and inserted into a system only Charman Brock can understand.

And when the controversial new binding was instituted several years ago, our house was not left untouched. There were rants and threats of letters to the new editor who had the audacity to change the binding and add a series of fashion articles to the publication. How dare he! This was a home and cooking magazine, not an issue of Vogue, for crying out loud.

But still, the subscription continued to show up. In the mailboxes of both of my grandmothers. In my mother’s. Now, in mine.

And I have to tell you, I am SO EXCITED.

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My mother’s reaction to this glorious occasion. Notice the emojis.

I am an official Southern lady.

(It really should come with a card and a certificate of authenticity.)

Admittedly, I have a long way to go. I know this because the first dish I saw that looked both delicious and achievable turned out to be an ad for dog food. Great looking dog food, but dog food nonetheless.

Even so, I believe that this may be the turning point for me. Despite my string of terrible cooking experiences, the ghosts of soupy pies, hopelessly misread cookie recipes, and the vivid memory of a toaster on fire, I am feeling boldly optimistic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make a grocery list. I may not know exactly what “spatchcock chicken” is, but I’m ready to find out.

To be continued…

 

Me and Mom and Amy Sherman Palladino

Like most of the other Gilmore Girls fans in the world, I am impatiently awaiting the promised revival debuting soon. In preparation for the four new 90-minute “episodes,” I have recently decided to revisit Stars Hollow a little early by going back to the beginning of the iconic series.

I didn’t grow up watching the mother-daughter series. I was seven when the show debuted for the first time and much more interested in cartoons and Disney plotlines. The show was cancelled by the time I had entered my early teens and had already started circulating in reruns on ABC Family. Friends of mine picked it up in the hours right after school and became dedicated fans through that two-hour block of episodes. However, throughout high school, I spent most of my afternoons at the gym with a basketball or volleyball in my hand. By the time I slumped to the couch after practice, the episodes were nearly over, and I couldn’t seem to care much about a plot I didn’t understand.

But by my sophomore year in college, I had been able to sit through a handful of entire episodes without losing interest. I was at the apartment of a friend of mine drinking coffee and gabbing when I noticed that there, on her shelf, sat all seven seasons of the show. I asked to borrow them, explaining that I had never watched the series all the way through. After a few gasps of disbelief and exclamations of “How have you survived this long without seeing this?” and “What kind of life have you been living?” the first season was readily shoved in my arms to take home with me.

(That’s the thing about Gilmore Girls fans–we want everyone to love this show as much as we do.)

By the time I had devoured the first season, that same friend was moving into our house along with the other six seasons she owned.

One day, while watching a second season episode, my mother plopped down on the couch opposite me and watched with growing interest. After watching a few episodes together, Charm [pronounced sh-arm] declared that she was going to have to start the series from the beginning. The witty dialogue and excellent casting had caught us both–hook, line, and sinker.

I suggested we start over together. I wasn’t very far along, and I thought it would be fun to watch it for the first time with her.

It quickly became a habit. Night after night, we’d come home from work or school, grab a snack, pick a seat, and watch an episode or two of our favorite show. When we weren’t watching, we were quoting our favorite lines and reflecting on our personal views of Rory’s best romantic interest. (The correct answer is Jess, although Charm makes a decent argument for Logan.) (Dean is irrelevant in our world.)

When we finally finished the series, we spent a few days mourning our loss then started it over again. And for the last three years, that’s the show we’ve watched. On and off, we’ve revisited our favorite moments with our favorite girls in our favorite Connecticut town.

Moving away from home has been hard. I miss the safety of my home, the lack of bills, my family and friends, my sweet little city, and my mama. I miss my mama a whole lot.

The main reason I picked the habit of Gilmore Girls up once again was because it made me feel close to her. I know the things she laughs at on her couch back home, so I laugh harder during those scenes. I know the characters that frustrate her most, so I roll my eyes at the screen when they enter the frame. I know the parts that, as we say so eloquently in the South, just “clutch” her, so I get misty-eyed every time Lorelai sings the last note of “I Will Always Love You.” Gilmore Girls has established its place in the thread of our relationship as a forever tie that binds.

Whether mom and I are 130 miles or 1,000 miles apart, we can always meet in Stars Hollow in a moment.

Happy Mother’s Day, Charm. I’ll meet you at Luke’s in five.

 

A Moment in Trig

I have never been good at math. What comes easily to brainy mathematicians is about as easy to me as sawing off my own arm with a butter knife. Not easy and certainly not without pain or tears.

Which is why, when I was answering the cursory, “What did you do this weekend?” question at work a few Mondays ago, I found myself smiling at the irony in my answer.

“What did I do this weekend? Well, I went apartment shopping, started reading a book on the rise and fall of the Russian aristocracy, and went to a concert with my high school math teacher and her husband.”

I don’t need to tell you how strange it is that a less than average math student somehow became friends with her math teacher.

(I also don’t need to tell you that my coworkers have expressed mild concern about my social life.)

The first time I realized Mrs. Finch would be my math teacher, I was terrified. I had heard about how difficult her classes were, so you can imagine my panic. I didn’t need a tough teacher for math to be challenging. Saying the word “math” without trembling was challenging enough.

But during my time in her classroom, I learned that Mrs. Finch was as compassionate as she was tough. Over time, I came to respect her not just because of what I had heard about her, but because of who I knew her to be: a patient, kind, and fair instructor. I valued the time she spent helping me comprehend difficult concepts, and appreciated the way she sympathized with my difficulty to learn something that came so naturally to her.

She has been a great teacher all of her career, I’m sure, but I remember the exact moment I knew it for myself.

It was trigonometry, and I was miserable. I was the lone junior in a class full of extraordinarily smart sophomores. They were breezing down the trig path, while I was trudging slowly behind.

In one of the units, there was a string of vocabulary words that we had to learn, and I lived for weekly quizzes on the terms. Memorize the definitions? That I could do. Apply them on a test? Well, that’s where the problem came in.

One day, near the end of class, Mrs. Finch perched on her stool, folded her hands together, and put on her, “We need to talk about a new assignment” face. She went on to explain that she was giving us an assignment using all the vocabulary words we had learned during that unit.

She wanted us to use the words to write a short story.

I looked around the room at the brainy sophomores and knew with certainty that this assignment was for me. She knew my strengths. She knew that English was my best subject and that creative writing was where I excelled. She knew. And she created an assignment that would capitalize on my gifts and give me one small victory in a class in which I knew consistent defeat.

While the rest of the class groaned about an assignment they felt was unnecessary, I nearly burst into tears of gratitude.

That’s when I knew she was a great teacher. And that’s when I knew we would be friends.

I don’t remember anything about trigonometry.

(I actually couldn’t even remember how to spell it without looking it up on the Google.)

If I were in a life or death situation and asked to solve a complicated math equation, I’d just shrug my shoulders and say, “Go ahead and kill me now. I’ve got nothing.” I don’t remember any theories, Pythagorean or otherwise. But I do remember that moment. I do remember the feeling of pride when I finally handed Mrs. Finch a completed assignment that I was confident in. I do remember how grateful I was (how grateful I am still) that my gifts and talents were being valued and cultivated by a teacher in an entirely different subject matter.

Though I did not choose to teach, had I entered that field, there are several teachers from my career as a student that I would’ve wanted to emulate.

Mrs. Finch, my friend, you are one of them. Thanks for seeing me, for valuing me, and for contributing to the woman I am today.

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Mrs. Finch and me at Puckett’s in downtown Nashville a few weeks ago. Photo courtesy of her sweet husband, Randy.

Music Monday

Back by popular *demand, here’s another Music Monday.

*Popular demand also goes by Lacy Triplett, who is a true pal and wanted to know more of what I was listening to these days.

1. Alive in Me-JJ Weeks Band

I had the privilege of hearing the JJ Weeks band perform an acoustic version of this song earlier last week. This is a single from their upcoming album, As Long As We Can Breathe. 

Untold-Matthew West

Fair warning: you should grab a tissue before you press play on this one. It’ll getcha.

Every Giant Will Fall-Rend Collective

I don’t know about you, but my Monday has BEEN a Monday. This little tune from Rend Collective’s latest album, As Family We Go, will give you some much needed encouragement this evening.

Slow Down Time-Us the Duo

As I mentioned in my last Music Monday, I am obsessed with the duos these days. This couple is largely responsible for that. This is their latest single, and to be honest, I hated it the first time I heard it. Now, I can’t get enough. Even if they aren’t your typical style, give it a chance (or maybe two).

I Love You Will Still Sound the Same-Oh Honey

Again, with the duos. Not only do I love their name–(isn’t Oh Honey the most precious band title you’ve ever heard?)–but I love their sound. And this song is about twelve different types of darling.

Suitcase Full of Sparks-Gregory Alan Isakov

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, and I’m guessing the same rule applies for judging songs by their titles. But I do both of those things, so I loved this song before I heard it all the way through. His name may sound like a character from a Tolstoy novel, but his voice sounds like melted butter.

The Tall Fiddler-Tommy Emmanuel

This one is a little bit of a deviation from my normal style. I had never heard of this man before this weekend. Some friends from Florence took me to see his show at the Ryman on Saturday night, and y’all–I was BLOWN. AWAY. This man is so incredibly talented. He made that one instrument sound like four. The whole night, I just kept thinking, “How does one person walk around with that much talent in his body?” When asked how I liked the show, all I could say was, “I had no idea a guitar could sound like that!”

And now, because it’s Leap Day, here’s a bonus video that will brighten the rest of your week, I’m sure. Try not to smile when Ben sings this classic. I dare you.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody-Ben Rector

Happy Monday!

 

 

Music Monday

If you’ve ever ridden in my car (or had me as a passenger in your car) you will know that, usually, the first words out of my mouth are, “Hey have you heard this song/band?” Not only do I like to discover new (or new-to-me) music, I am not satisfied until I have made someone else fall in love with my new finds.

So, since I don’t have many folks riding in my car these days, and since you are the poor souls that clicked on this blog, you are my new victims.

Grab a seat, get comfortable, and prepare to treat your ears to some great tunes.

My Current Top Seven Jams:

Though I did include a pretty significant throwback track, along with some already established music names, you should know that several of these folks are brand new artists. That means that once you move through their limited selection, you’ll be ready to form a mob, go right to their doorsteps, and demand more songs featuring their beautiful vocal cords.

  1. Oh My Love-The Score

I’ve recently developed an obsession with duos, typically of the male and female variety. However, these two guys circulated through one of my Pandora stations and immediately caught my attention. Their fun lyrics and dance-able rhythms have made me a raving fan. I recommend checking out their whole EP, Where Do You Run.

  1. Polaroid-Imagine Dragons

It saddens me to think of all the time I spent underestimating Imagine Dragons, assuming that all they had going for them were a few radio hits (i.e. “On Top of the World,” “It’s Time,” etc.). I will gladly admit to being wrong. Though I haven’t made it all the way through the twenty-one track deluxe version of Smoke & Mirrors, I have yet to hear a song I didn’t like. This song is one you’ll want to crank up on your morning commute. Don’t worry if you start to involuntarily dance/bob your head/play an imaginary set of drums. It’s a pretty standard response to “Polaroid.”

  1. Lost Boy-Ruth B.

Y’all. This girl. She is crazy talented. For her debut EP, it’s just the simple power of her voice and a piano. She brings raw honesty in both her lyrics and her vocal tone. After a six-second Vine of this song went viral, she wrote the rest of the tune and included it on the four-track EP, The Intro.  It’s a little weird and quirky, but it is BEAUTIFUL.

  1. Hypnotize Me-Taylor Berrett

One word: SWOON. This song is so fun and is often blaring through my room while I get ready for work in the morning. His debut album was released last year and is full of great tracks like this one. So you might as well just open Spotify and stream the whole album, because this song will definitely leave you wanting more of his voice.

  1. Live at Rockwood Hall-Johnnyswim

Stop what you’re doing and go listen to this album. And, while you’re at it, you might as well listen to every other song this husband and wife duo has ever recorded. Then, allow yourself to cry openly about the fact that you’ll have to wait until June for their next record.

  1. Heart Won’t Stop-John Mark McMillan

I recently had the opportunity to hear John Mark at a show here in Nashville. To put it lightly, I was blown away. I have, of course, crossed paths with JMM followers, but have never really investigated for myself. Not only if his voice great, his lyrics are powerful. This song is a perfect display of both of those facets.

  1. Orphans of God-Avalon

This is clearly my token throwback. I grew up listening to Avalon and have always loved their music. But occasionally, I run across a song I haven’t heard in years and the Lord uses the freshness and familiarity of it to speak straight to my heart. This is one of those songs. The lyrics are powerful, the music is incredible, and the message is overwhelming. Grab a few tissues before you hit play. Trust me, you’ll need them before it’s over.

I hope you enjoy this list of my current favorites! Now it’s your turn. What are you listening to today? Tell me in the comments below!

 

 

 

Sundays

Nashville life has been an adventure. I’m learning how to adult and so far, it’s going well. Here’s a brief list of the things I am most proud of:

  1. Without using my GPS, I can navigate my way to my job, my house, my church, my gym, and my favorite pizza place. Though most of these are on the same road, it’s still a pretty huge accomplishment.

**Those of you who know how long it took for me learn how to get to Florence Boulevard should be especially impressed.

  1. I’m no master chef, yet, but I did (fairly) successfully use my George Foreman the other night.
  2. My socks match. Everyday. (To be honest, this is my crowning achievement thus far.)

Yes, things are going very well here. During the week, the days go by quietly, systematically, gently allowing me to adjust and settle down into this new life. Saturdays might have been more difficult had I not had a fairly steady stream of visitors from home.

But then there are Sundays.

Sundays have proven themselves to be the most difficult of all.

I cried the first time I visited a church here. The first time, I looked up at the pulpit and saw someone other than my dad addressing the congregation. I looked out into the teeming crowd of unfamiliar faces and used my fingers to push back in the tears that were trying to escape. For the first time, it occurred to me how alone I was. There were no hugs from long-time friends, no familiar laughs in Sunday School, no choir light on my face, no sweet grandmother’s voice singing beside me, no dad to teach the Word from a familiar pulpit. There was family in that room, but it wasn’t mine. I suddenly felt Highland’s absence painfully, like a tightening band around my heart squeezing until I thought I’d have to reach in and rip it out myself.

Sundays are hard, and this week was no different.

Except this time, it was hard to be home. I held my breath from the moment I arrived to the moment I left, trying to cage my emotions. My trembling hands again caught tears before they could spill conspicuously over my cheeks. I didn’t want anyone to see, to know how much I hurt with the ache of missing this church family. I didn’t want anyone to think I was lying when I answered the constant stream of “How’s it going?” and “How’s Nashville life treating you?” with a resounding, “Great!”

Because I wasn’t lying. It really is great. The Lord has continued to prove Himself faithful, and I am still certain I was being obedient to His call on my life when I moved here. No question.

But the truth is, I miss home. And never more than on Sundays, when I’m missing my church family.

I wish I could articulate how much I love Highland and its people. I wish I could put words together to adequately explain how my life has been formed and shaped through the ministry of this church. Maybe someday I’ll be able to express it fully.

But until then, Highland family, know that I love you dearly. And miss you fiercely. But because you have shown me what it means to love and serve Christ’s bride and the lost community around her, I am equipped to do the same in a new location.

For that, and countless other blessings you’ve given me, I’ll be forever grateful.

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