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Hear the Rocks Cry Out

Hear the Rocks Cry Out

Today is my birthday.

On this date twenty-five years ago, I entered this world. Opened my eyes for the first time. Joined the ranks of beating hearts.

For every birthday since, there has been one thing that has always remained constant. After every celebration, I have found my feet firmly planted on the ground. My view of life around me: horizontal and concrete.

Very different from the view I see today–vertical and ever-changing.

On this birthday there will be 39,000 feet between the ground and me.

The truth is, there have been 39,000 feet between the ground and me a lot lately. I have stepped onto twenty flights in the last ten weeks.

Every pilot has landed the plane somewhere new and unfamiliar to me, so I’ve spent plenty of time with my nose pressed to the glass drinking in new sights. I indulge in the beautiful luxury of stillness, my forehead leaning on the window beside me as I sit quietly and watch the world go by.

There is something really special about the view from up that high. The land below stretches out and falls away making it look small and enormous in the same glance. I’m suddenly gazing at a vast topographical model like the ones you see in museums. Instead of one battlefield or city, I see everything. All of it. Stretching farther than my eyes can reach.

Flat farmlands connect like patches on a quilt. Colors and patterns threaded together by dirt roads.

Rivers wind and twist, running like veins across the earth, flowing, giving life to stagnant things.

Clouds float delicately alongside, so close you could reach out and touch them. They are never concerned by the strangers passing through their midst.

Some mountains rise up in friendly competition, each one stretching higher than the last. Others have their chests puffed out proudly, reveling in their glittery crowns of snow. They all stand stoically beside one another like broad-shouldered soldiers vowing solemnly to protect the valley below.

Canyons carved in the dry places, always watching the clouds beside you waiting for rain to refill their cracked walls.

Pools of lake water–puddles of sky fallen to the earth–are nestled sweetly between the hills, waiting with kindness for the wanderer who approaches thirsty for beauty and peace.

It’s clarifying in the most soul-clearing way. It’s perspective. It’s zooming out to remember for a moment that the world is big and I am small. Those mountains have stood at their posts since long before I entered this world twenty-five years ago and will go on standing without my help or permission for years to come.

I see the topographical model of my life so far. Twenty-five years stretched out behind me. Dry deserts, mountain peaks, valley beds, running rivers. Every part singing a different note in harmony to the same song.

You can hear them all the way up there, you know—39,000 feet in the air. You can still hear the rocks.

I imagine they sing out in a sweet, tenor tone. The trees in the forests join in with a rich alto, and the mountains belt out in strength and provide the foundational bass. And the running waters of the rivers sing a clear soprano melody.

You can hear them all the way up here, crying out to their Creator. Singing a never-ending song of His faithfulness.

“The Lord has promised good to me

His Word my hope secures

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.”

-Amazing Grace, Chris Tomlin

I can’t think of a better place to be on my birthday than right here, 39,000 feet in the air, joining in the song.

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Names Matter

Names Matter

Part I

There are 704,352 people in Seattle, WA. I stood among throngs of them just a few weeks ago—exchanged glances, made way for passersby, bumped shoulders, watched, smelled, listened.

It was my very first time on the West Coast. In all my 24 years, the furthest I’d ever been across the country was a family trip to the Grand Canyon when I was a child. I had planned my visit months ago when my parents suggested I go visit their friends Stuart and Lisa Bell who had moved to downtown Seattle last October as church planters.

After visiting the city and hearing God’s call to relocate about a year and a half prior, the couple sold and gave away most of their personal belongings, packed what remained in a storage unit, piled their clothes and essentials in their jeep, and made their way to Seattle, WA from Bentonville, AR.

The Bells met me at baggage claim with a hug and a smile. Apart from a brief interaction when I was very small, I had never met these folks, but I immediately felt at home.

Throughout my visit, I walked all over downtown Seattle. For 20,000 steps, I followed closely behind Stuart and Lisa, watching all the way at how they interacted with their city.

Periodically, we would stop on a corner or glance out the bus window at a landmark or site, and Lisa would educate me on the history or significance it carried. It was clear every time that the couple had already fallen head over heels for their new city and had taken great care to learn its story.

When I arrived to my room in their Queen Anne apartment, there was a document for me to keep with stats and facts about Seattle and maps on the wall with markers indicating the locations of other church plants. There were only a handful.

Stuart and Lisa filled me in on the challenges of planting a church in a city like Seattle and on the challenges they’ve had personally in relocating to a place so very far away from all that was loved and familiar to them. But more than their challenges, they told me with great excitement of all the victories the Lord has shown them in less than a year. While seemingly small to those who aren’t really looking, they are nothing short of miraculous to Stuart and Lisa, who know full well that God is a God of careful detail. Every victory is an advancement of the Gospel.

Part II

There are ­­704,352 people in Seattle, WA.

On our way from the airport to their apartment, we saw only a handful of that number. We took a quiet, scenic route, and as we walked, Stuart and Lisa began to pour out all they’d learned from their city. They rattled off names of connections they’d made, where they’d met them, when they last saw or interacted with them, and what each person thought about Jesus and Stuart and Lisa’s ministry here.

We walked past a coffee shop, and Stuart stopped and peered through the window. His face lit up when he saw his friend Ben, a barista there. He waved and made a goofy face at Ben, who smiled with recognition and waved back.

We rounded the corner and made a stop at a neighborhood bookstore. When we walked in, the two greeted the owner, Erin, by name, and she acknowledged them with a smile. I browsed briefly while the Bells conversed with Erin, talking about landmarks she suggested for my visit, their upcoming trip to China to meet their first grandchild, Erin’s husband Pete, etc. They introduced me, and she chatted with me kindly as a friend of her friends.

While Stuart met to read Scripture with a believer he met recently, Lisa and I stopped in a recommended coffee shop. As we walked in, Lisa called out to the girl behind the counter. Hearing her name, the girl looked up and smiled as Lisa introduced us.

We visited a Danish bakery a few blocks over for breakfast one morning, and the owner, a young woman named Isabelle, smiled when Lisa said hello and recognized her regular customer.

“Did you hear her call my name?” Lisa asked Stuart. “She remembered me.” Another advancement on the battleground. Another stake in the earth.

On our way to the bus stop Saturday morning, a man in a neon vest exited the CVS on the corner behind us, and Stuart called out.

“Nate! Hey, man!! How’s your morning been?”

Nate smiled broadly and shook Stuart’s outstretched hand. His vest was issued by the city as a uniform to wear when he patrolled his area on the corner of Mercer and Queen Anne. When Stuart complimented him and acknowledged the great work Nate was doing to keep the area clean, his head bowed slightly, a little bashful at the encouragement, but grateful to someone for noticing.

Turns out, noticing is something the Bells are great at.

Part III

There are ­­704,352 people in Seattle, WA.

And there are 2.5 coffee shops for every thousand of them. One of my requests when I arrived in the city was for the Bells to help me find a really great cup of coffee. We ended up finding several, but the first came from a quirky place a few blocks from their apartment: KEXP, which functions as a radio station, record store, music venue, and coffee shop.

As I sipped on my mocha in my first Seattle coffee shop experience, I had a chance to pull out my current read and spend a little time in *Middle Earth.

*I’d like to take this time to forewarn you that there may be several other references to LOTR in my future writings, because it’s wonderful and poignant and I make no apologies about my love for Tolkien’s writing.

I opened the page to where I’d last left Aragorn and his captains. In Tolkien’s The Return of the King, there is a moment right before the Last Battle that stopped me in my tracks. The armies of Rohan and Gondor have ridden right up to the Black Gate of Mordor with every ally they could muster riding alongside them. Before the monstrous barrier, the captains of each unit shouted forth their challenge and, after an eerie silence, an ambassador of the enemy came riding out to meet them.

As my eyes moved over this descriptive passage, I was struck by how Tolkien identified the foe.

“The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: ‘I am the Mouth of Sauron.’”

In his service and slavery to Sauron, he had forgotten his own name. His master, the enemy of all that was good and free and true, cared not even for a moment about his identity.

And I was suddenly aware of how true that rang across the pages of fiction into the realms of reality.

For we also have an enemy, a master liar and deceiver, adamantly opposed to all that is good and right and true. He fights to fill human hearts with lies about identity and worth.

“You’re not valuable.”

“You’re not noticed.”

“You’re not worth saving.”

“You’re not loved.”

“You’re alone.”

“No one knows your name.”

It’s all a trick. A lie disguised as truth designed to trap its victims in a pit of hopelessness and loneliness.

But here’s what’s true: Jesus knows every name.

He knows every name, and He values those to whom they belong. He loves each heart personally, deeply, intimately, fiercely. He died for every name and rose again so that every name might be freed from sin.

Individuals in the masses are not lost on Jesus. He sees everyone, and he calls people by name.

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”

-Genesis 17:4-5

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.’”

-Matthew 16:16-18

“He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means “Teacher”).”

-John 20:15-16

“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”

-John 11:43-44

Names are important to Jesus.

Part IV

There are ­­704,352 people in Seattle, WA.

Jesus knows every one of them. Personally. Intimately. He looks on each face with great compassion and love. He formed them. They are His creation, after all.

And one by one, He is introducing them to Stuart and Lisa.

They know the importance of names.

They understand the value in valuing someone else. They know what it means to be loved deeply by the One who gives worth and identity to His creation.

They are in Seattle, far from home and familiarity, because He called them there.

By name.

And every time the Bells call out to a new friend, every time they remember a hometown or a favorite coffee haunt, every time they lock eyes with hurting hearts and call them by name, a thread in the enemy’s cord of lies is severed.

“You are valuable.”

I notice you.”

“The Savior of the world came to rescue you.”

“You are loved.”

“You are not alone.”

I know your name.”

Jesus sees you and loves you.”

“The Creator of all the world knows you and calls you by name.”

Part V

There are ­­704,352 people in Seattle, WA and this Sunday, seven of them met in a conference room downtown for Stuart and Lisa’s very first worship service.

The Lord is not just calling Stuart and Lisa to plant a church, but to be the church. From the moment they heard the call, and every moment since, they have been all in. Every time they leave the house, they bow their heads at the door and ask the Lord to guide their steps and orchestrate their encounters and conversations. They pause in front of buildings with “For Lease” signs in the window and ask the Lord to open their eyes for plant locations. Out loud, without making a show or drawing attention to themselves, they speak to the Lord like He is standing with them, shoulder to shoulder in the crowd. And streams of people bustle past, moving unknowingly under the sound of intercession.

Intercession on their behalf.

Stuart and Lisa have a heart for downtown Seattle, but they know no calling can be answered without prayer. It is the foundation of their ministry. And they asked me to ask you for it.

If you’re reading this and would like to support the Bell’s ministry, please consider committing to pray for them faithfully and intentionally. If you feel led to give financially, you can do so by following this link >> http://nwbaptistplanting.com/give. Simply create an account, click “Make A Donation,” and select “Pike Place Church” to give.

The Lord is moving in downtown Seattle. He is calling hearts that are far from Him–calling them to draw near and be filled. And He is calling Stuart and Lisa and the believers who met in that conference room this Sunday, to be His hands and feet. To look on the faces of 704,352 people with the love and compassion of Jesus. To take the lost around them to the foot of the cross so they can find hope. So they can find peace. So they can find redemption.

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The Newest Member of the Southern Ladies’ Club

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…

 

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A Moment in Trig

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.
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Sundays

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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The Promised Land of Paperclips

The Promised Land of Paperclips

In my last post, I mentioned a new job; I recently began working as a sales rep for Capitol Christian Music Group. And though it has been a tremendous adjustment, I have loved every second of it. In fact, after Nashville received some very unusual snow last week, I sat squirming on the couch, watching the clock tick towards Monday when the snow would be gone and the roads would be clear and I could go back to work.

(A good sign, I think.)

Though each day has had it’s own special thrills, I have to tell y’all about yesterday. On day one, my boss showed me around the building, pointing at this and that, introducing me to everyone who crossed our paths.  But there was one place in particular in which I desperately wanted to spend more time—the office supply center.

Or as I like to call it, The Place Where Dreams Come True.

(Before I go any further, let me issue a warning. There is a real possibility that, after you learn this part of my personality, your belief in my elevated level of cool may be damaged. You may find yourself thinking how disillusioned you are. Just note, you have been cautioned.)

Of course, in the days to follow, I thought of reasons I’d need to go back downstairs. I needed post-its and paperclips, drawer sorters and pushpins. It was like shopping in Office Depot without having to pay for anything.

And let me tell you, it is embarrassing to admit how much I loved it.

Yesterday, after swallowing a panic attack at the messy pile of papers in one of my filing cabinets, I marched right back down there to that land flowing with stationary and staplers in search of something that would bring order to my mess.

I was borderline giddy when I walked out with my spoils. So great had been my quest, I could almost hear Gandalf saying,

“One pile of protectors to rule the papers, one packet of monthly tabs to find them,

One binder to bring them all and in the darkness of my desk drawer bind them.”

(My apologies, Mr. Tolkien.)

As I walked through the hallway, smiling to myself thinking of how much fun I would have stuffing all my pages into their individual protectors and placing them behind the January tab, it hit me.

I am super weird.

I get a thrill when I walk down an office supply aisle. I love starting a new list on a brand new notepad. I enjoy color-coding a spreadsheet. In fact, I can’t look at a simple, black and white Excel document without feeling as if the walls are closing in. And I’m afraid I came by it honestly. I had a whole conversation with my mother last night about the many merits of her newest discovery in the world of pens. And I’ll be going out soon to purchase my own set of The World’s Greatest Erasable Pen.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I’m an organizational, borderline OCD, office supply addict.

*collectively respond, “Hi, Elizabeth.”

I know I’ve surely fallen to an eight or nine on the ten-point scale of cool. But I guess you had to find out sometime. And I had to tell you. Because how was I supposed to keep the glorious reality of The Place Where Dreams Come True to myself?

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Big (But Probably Old) News

Big (But Probably Old) News

 

Every time I get in my car, my phone lights up and tells me how far I am from home. I first noticed this little trick several months ago after I downloaded the new update for my device. Of course, like any iPhone owner after a new update, I experienced several emotional reactions to this interesting habit my phone had developed.

First, I was amused—delighted, even—to discover how smart my phone had become overnight.

Way to go, phone, for knowing how long it takes to get somewhere and for telling me this information entirely unsolicited.

Then, I noticed that it only pulled this little stunt when I got inside my car. I was unnerved by the fact that somehow, this device knew my location and often guessed where I was going based on the time of day. Immediately following my discomfort at being so well known by a cell phone, I became infuriated when it would light up with an “8 minutes to home” message. It developed into a challenge, which is no real surprise considering my uncanny ability to make everything into a competition.

Eight minutes, huh? I’ll be home in five. Just you wait, you stupid electronic. I’ll prove you wrong. YOU’LL SEE!

Now, however, there is a new emotion that catches in my throat every time I see that little screen light up with my geographical location. “One hundred and thirty minutes to home,” it tells me. Every time, I blink back a few tears, and I wonder when the system will adjust—when I will adjust. When it will notice that I’m not going home anymore. Part of me hopes it never catches on.

If you didn’t know already, I have moved to a new city to start a new job and live in a new house. All kinds of new.

As I was telling folks about my big move, I heard so many precious and kind words of affirmation.

“You’re going to do great!”

“That’s so exciting!”

“We’ll miss you around here!”

“I’m so proud for you!”

“Things won’t be the same when you’re gone.”

All those things were nice, and I soaked every bit of it right up. But, I have to say there was one phrase I heard that really, really touched me. It came from my precious friend Madeline. As I was lamenting about the limited Sunday afternoons we had left to spend at Ricebox or Bluecoast, she said to me, in the kindest and sweetest of tones, “Oh please, Elizabeth! Don’t be dramatic!” Doesn’t that just tear your heart out? So precious. The eye roll that followed really sent this sentiment out of the park.

But she was right. There’s no real need to be dramatic.

(Though, I have certainly been about twelve different shades of it throughout this whole process.)

After all, I’m only one hundred and thirty minutes from home. And it doesn’t matter much if my phone updates the geographical location of my living arrangements. Because the truth is, wherever I am, Florence, Alabama will always be home for me.

 

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Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 3

Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 3

So it’s taken a little longer than I initially anticipated, but here it is: part three of my Lawrenceburg fair blog series.

As a teenager, I had heard all kinds of legendary stories about the Lawrenceburg fair.

(Let’s just pause for a moment to laugh at my use of the phrase, “As a teenager.” Like it was so long ago. Also, laugh at the implication that I am now an adult. Ha!)

There was a glow of grandeur around my vision of this event. But to be perfectly honest, I was less than impressed when we arrived. We walked in next to the bathrooms and the animal stalls, and I have to tell you, it was not thrilling. Around the corner, we came to a string of rides and booths. Exciting but nothing different from any other fair. From where I was standing, it just didn’t look like anything to write home about.

After a short wait in line, a friend and I climbed into a cage on the Zipper. If you’re unfamiliar with fair rides, let me explain: the Zipper is essentially a Ferris wheel for thrill-seekers. Hence the cage. Though I have seen it make grown men nauseated and terrified, it is one of my favorite rides.

Much like the Ferris wheel, whenever other riders get off, the ride stops mid-circle, leaving you dangling wherever you stop. After a few minutes of flipping and screaming, the ride paused, leaving us at the very pinnacle of the machine. I looked to my left, through the holes of the closed-in contraption, and saw the Lawrenceburg fair. All of it. It was glittering, beautiful, and huge, expanding far beyond what I had originally assumed. At the highest point, I could see all the grandeur I had missed from the ground.

That’s often how life goes. We see only pieces at a time, confused by their smallness or ugliness or inability to fit in the puzzle we’ve already started.

But sometimes we get glimpses from the top. We stop at the peak of the ride and look out on all the pieces at once. We’re allowed a moment of perspective. Of understanding. Of clarity.

When we’re standing on the ground, it’s important to remember that another view does exist. There is a bigger picture. There is an end result even if we can’t see it. Just because the stables are clouding our current view, doesn’t mean there isn’t more just around the corner. There’s always more than what we see.

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Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 2

Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 2

Other than the animals and the food and the strange characters one can find, I go to the fair for the rides. I love the adrenaline, the speed, the heights and flips. Naturally, the first one I hopped on was the ride characterized by all of the above. The contraption looked very similar to those little colorful plastic windmills.

I watched for a moment as the base turned and twisted, causing the rows of seats to spin and flip dramatically. Screams from riders echoed from the top as I tried to convince my friends to join me. One brave soul agreed and moments later we were strapped in tightly to our seats, legs dangling over the edge.

The ride started, lifting us higher with each turn. Our row spun and twisted. The machine threw us in the air then dropped us dramatically toward the ground below. In one particularly impressive plunge, I had a thought.

In the middle of my screams and laughs and squeals, it occurred to me that I was trusting my whole life to this blundering contraption that had, only a few hours ago, been in pieces in the back of a trailer. My security was resting on the dirty bars strapped around my shoulders and the accuracy of the bored worker who had come by to lock me in. At any moment, it could fail. At any moment, I could be flung across the fairgrounds if the engineering should fail even in the slightest.

And, as it most often does, the Lord’s voice echoed quietly inside my brain.

Why are you so willing to trust this piece of equipment, but struggle to trust me with the details of your future?

As the idea rattled inside my head, it suddenly seemed absurd to me that I had so thoughtlessly surrendered my safety to this man-made machine, when I regularly fight to trust the One who created me.

So many times, I end up placing my trust in other people, in plans I’ve made, in my own ability. In a radical display of ridiculous logic, I trust in things that have failed me time and again, instead of trusting wholly in the God who has never once failed me. Never once.

As absurd as it is to surrender total trust to someone (or something) who doesn’t deserve it, it is equally illogical to assume that our Creator, who has never failed us before, would abandon His creation in the future. He won’t. He just won’t.

He is a God who knows us, sees us, loves us in spite of us. And let me tell you, He is a God who can be trusted. Every time. Every season. Every circumstance. He will never fail.

 

 

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A Small Tribute to Lauretta

A Small Tribute to Lauretta

“She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.” 

I arrived on this earth a blessed little girl. Every one of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and one great-great-grandmother (my namesake) were still here to welcome me into the world. Among those patriarchs and matriarchs of my family was one Lauretta Tullos. In every bone, she carried strength, selflessness, and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. At the beginning of this week, we gathered together—all of us, her legacy—to say goodbye to our beloved Mamaw Tullos. For on September 4th, 2015, she closed her eyes to this world and awoke in the presence of her Savior. And I have to tell you, though the sorrow was very present, I could not help but be overwhelmed by gratitude. I am grateful that the life we celebrated was intertwined with mine. I am grateful for the opportunity to have known her and loved her. For the opportunity to be known and loved by her. For hers was a deep, powerful love. One that was fierce and faithful.

In the printed program for her funeral, my cousin included the last seven verses of Proverbs 31. As I read over them, I was amazed by how accurate a picture they painted of Lauretta Tullos.  She had been clothed in strength and dignity. Without a doubt, she was a woman who feared the Lord. And she definitely was one to laugh at the days to come. Truth be told, she was prone to laughing at just about anything.

 *******

It was almost a year ago, I guess. Thanksgiving. Maybe, Christmas. I had my legs tucked under my aunt’s kitchen table, nestled between the table top before me and the window behind me. And everyone was laughing at something I’d said. I couldn’t tell you what came out of my mouth to garner such a reaction. The scene is too common for me to tell one from the other. But I will never forget what happened when everyone started to catch their breath and let go of aching sides. My dad leaned back in his chair, looked to another family member and commented on how much my sense of humor reminded him of his grandmother, my great-grandmother. The living, breathing comedy routine that doubled as our family’s matriarch.

All my life, I had heard story after story of things Mamaw Tullos had said and done that had caused a round of raucous laughter. During holiday gatherings and visits, I had experienced first hand her razor-sharp wit and quick tongue that was always waiting for an opportunity to send those around her into a fit of laughter. I had witnessed crocodile tears roll down my aunt’s cheeks after a muttered sarcastic comment had escaped Big Mamaw’s lips. My aunt and I both have laughs that could wake a graveyard. When Mamaw Tullos had us both laughing at the same time, I’m sure the ground shook beneath us.

She loved nothing more than to make those around her laugh.

When my dad compared my humor with hers, something inside me exploded with satisfaction. On the outside, I grinned and listened as others nodded and agreed. After all the stories and personal experiences with her hysterical sense of humor, my great-grandmother had taken on an almost unreachable, legendary quality in my mind. To be compared to her overwhelmed me with a sense of undeniable pride. It wasn’t for my sense of humor or for my ability to make a joke every now and then. I was tremendously proud of the fact that somewhere inside of me, there was a part of me that looked like her.

“Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her…

Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

-Proverbs 31:25, 28, 31

 

 

 

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