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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.

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?

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair

Fall is here, bursting through our doors with over-enthusiastic promises of cooler weather, pumpkin-flavored everything, and a glorious vanishing of the mosquito population.

Though, in Northwest Alabama, the weather is never as crisp as it should be, thus leaving a few lingering summer fiends behind. And making a gourd into a dessert is never quite as thrilling as I remember it. But, even so, I am grateful fall has arrived.

One of my favorite gifts fall brings along is the fair. You know, the excessive number of bright lights and carnival workers calling out for you to stop and play their games. And the clanging, metal contraptions meant to sling you around in the most terrifying and exhilarating fashion.

And the smells. Oh, the smells. The caramel, the kettle corn, the animals in the stables nearby, the fresh scent of mud and grass twisting together beneath hoofs and boots.

I went to the Lawrenceburg fair a few weeks ago with some friends of mine. When they invited me to tag along, I was so excited. I’d never been to the Lawrenceburg fair before, but had always heard stories of its superiority to the Florence production. It had become a sort of legend in my mind.

And I must admit, it lived up to its reputation. The Lawrenceburg fair was indeed a marvel.

Though most fairs have some sort of animal display, I had never seen one as large as this one. There were sheep and cows and horses and rabbits and goats, and I wanted to stop and pet every one. Talk to every one. And my kind and patient friends sweetly indulged me.

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As we walked toward the stables, I caught a glimpse of two men standing in the doorway, heads bent over something curious held by the man on the right. The back of the man on the left was obscuring my view, but I was determined to see what was so interesting. As I stepped around, the man on the right caught my eye and quickly tucked his prize back into his jacket pocket. But not before I saw a flash of squirming fur.

So, naturally, I had to ask.

“What’s in your pocket?”

The guy looked back at me with no expression of response and a tinge of suspicion in his eye, which to be honest, I found kind of ironic. I mean he’s the one who is carrying a tiny animal in his windbreaker. I just want to know what it is.

I realized he was trying to make me believe he had nothing to hide. That his jacket was just naturally a little squirmy. And I guess that should’ve been a warning sign, an indicator that this man might not be sitting squarely on his own rocker. But still I pressed.

“C’mon, man. I just saw you put that thing in your pocket. I know you’ve got something in there. What is it?”

Another moment of him staring at me, no response, just carefully considering his options. My friends stood behind me, trying to suppress snorts of laughter, glancing back and forth to each other in confusion.

Finally, realizing I wasn’t stupid enough to believe he had nothing to show, he pulled out his treasure to show us. As his left hand emerged, a trembling squirrel came with it, tucked firmly in the guy’s fist.

A squirrel. Garden-variety yard rodent. Immediately, a dozen questions filled my brain.

Does he carry it with him everywhere? Was it captured for this specific occasion, or had it been transformed into a kind of domestic pet? How did he come to acquire this little creature? Did he chase it down? (That image I found comical considering his age and build.) I had to know.

So, naturally, I asked.

Still I got no real response. I gave up with my questions, content with just ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over the tiny thing. I figured his squirrel, his business. As my friends and I leaned in to look closer at the shaking captive, the man spoke.

“You can pet him for a dollar,” he said in a low voice, his eyebrows lifted, seeming to suggest that he was offering us a real deal.

Unfortunately for him, we were all pretty uninterested in petting his contraband rodent.

It turns out that characters aren’t always fictional. Some are as real as the squirrels in their pockets and are oftentimes far more interesting than any invented personality.

 

**P.s. Stay tuned for Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 2 . Apparently, the fair’s got more to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Things to Celebrate

Hold on to your hats, ladies and gents, because I am posting a blog for the third consecutive week. This is big news, people. To be perfectly honest, I am patting myself on the back just the tiniest bit. I feel like this should be celebrated considering that, before these last few posts, my most recent blog was from May.

While we’re having a party about my short-lived consistency, here are a few other things I think should be celebrated:

  1. This fall weather, though. It feels like the world just let out a breath it’s been holding in all summer, don’t you think? I love it. There is now a need for me to wear fuzzy socks at night, and you won’t hear me complaining about that.
  2. The Woodpecker Café. If you haven’t made it to this new breakfast and lunch spot on Court Street, you are missing a good thing. I’m not even a little embarrassed to tell you that I have been there twice this week. The food and coffee are fresh and delicious, and the customer service is ON POINT.
  3. Miss America’s hair. Y’all. HAIR GOALS, RIGHT THERE. Miss Georgia was talented and brilliant for sure, but that hair is what carried her through. Not even Brett Eldredge’s stupid question was enough to stop that kind of volume. (P.S. who invited him?)
  4. Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton. Last summer, the very kind owner of Ms. B’s Used Books & CD’s in Hendersonville, TN, introduced me to Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. I loved it so much, that I recently picked up another of Morton’s books, The House at Riverton. Brilliant. Let me just say, if you like Downton Abbey, you will like this book. (If you don’t like Downton Abbey, you’re wrong.)
  5. Salted Caramel Latte Doughnut from Krispie Kreme. Let me tell you, these are good days to be a fan of the salted caramel. Pumpkin spice gets all the attention, but this little salty-sweet flavor is really the best fall taste. And in doughnut form? Why, yes, please. Don’t mind if I do.
  6. It’s Friday. Hey, guess what. You made it to Friday. Go buy yourself a doughnut.

**P.S. Here’s a tune by Us The Duo I’m obsessed with these days. I’ve learned from experience that it’s a good dancing song, and dancing is really the perfect way to celebrate Fridays.

 

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

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts About Waves

I love the beach. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I cannot resist a good trip to the ocean.

In May, a week after my college graduation, I found myself knee deep in the Alabama gulf coast. The wind was strong, and the waves were fierce but so much fun. I waded out into the water with a bright orange float wrapped around my waist, laughing as the salt water splashed my face.

It was fun fighting the waves, jumping the frothy water and picking the perfect one to ride in to the shore. It was fun, but it was exhausting. I could hear my muscles screaming, “No, no! Not any further! We’re not as young as we used to be!” Whiny things.

I was out with a friend of mine, and though my goal was to pick the biggest wave to hop aboard, her goal was simple. Get deeper. Get behind the waves.

Now, I’m not one who has ever been terrified of the ocean, but I do have my limits. I prefer for my feet to touch. My five-foot-ten frame can go further than some, but when my toes swipe and miss when searching for the sand, my caution flag goes up. I can swim, but so can a lot of other unseen creatures beneath me.

Yet, I am always bolder when I am not alone. So, as Amber swam further out, I followed right behind her.

Suddenly, we made it. I could feel my body relax against the float as the waves turned from fierce foes to gentle rockers. I put my chin on my arms and gave in to the waves as they swayed me back and forth.

We stayed out there for a while, talking and floating and watching the waves. It occurred to me that the waves had grown calmer the further out I swam, and from way out here, the waves didn’t seem as big as when they were crashing down around me.

In those moments of silent floating, I had plenty to think about. To wonder about. To worry about, mostly. I was a recent college graduate, unemployed, and unsure of where I was going next. As anxiety threatened to take over the quiet moment, I heard a still voice inside my heart speak to me.

“There is peace in the deep.”

 

Traditionally, the shallow end is the safe place, and the deep end is the one to be feared. But sometimes, it can be harder to stand where our feet can touch. Wave after wave of uncertainty hits. And just when we’ve recovered from one blow, we are hit with another. Each one looks so much taller from our vantage point of looking up. Every inch of the body struggles to stand against the aggressive water pressure. And with each passing wave, we grow more exhausted.

But why do we insist of planting in the shallow end when God has called us to the deep?

We fight for our spots in the edge of the water, digging our toes in deep in the sand for one simple reason: control. Our minds lie and tell us we have it. Our society says we need it. Our fear says we won’t survive without it.

But let me tell you what’s behind the waves. Buoyancy.

Behind the waves, the water does the work. Moving to the deep end requires a new level of surrender. Here’s where the problem comes in: surrender and control cannot coexist in the will of God. He hasn’t asked for you to give Him some of your fears. He wants them all. He wants to hold every expectation, every nightmare, every hope and every dream. He wants your heart, the whole thing.

He’s waiting patiently for you to surrender your spot in the sand, move to where your feet can’t touch, and trust Him to hold you above the waves.

For the Love of the Game

For the past fifteen years, I have spent a huge portion of my time perched on the bleachers of a baseball diamond. My younger brother, now eighteen years old, is the main reason I know almost every rule of the game.

He is the only reason I learned to love the game at all.

I have watched inning after inning in the blazing Alabama heat. I have watched games in dusty snowfalls. I have stood in mud puddles behind chain-link fences, with summer rain pelting the tops of my feet as I watched my brother round first for the umpteenth time.

And I have loved every moment.

I have loved the quiet stillness during the singing of the national anthem. I have loved the hearty cry of fans the second it ends. The crack of a bat meeting the red-laced ball has become my favorite song. My heart is stronger after skipping so many beats during a long throw from the plate to second. Somewhere along the way, the dust that stirred at home plate crossed the chain-link fence and seeped into my skin.

I don’t know when I began loving the game. It certainly wasn’t in the hot summer of my seventh year. Johnathan was three and preferred pulling grass from the earth to chasing a silly white ball. And I preferred reading to watching him stand in the outfield with his glove on his head.

But sometime between then and now, I fell in love with baseball.

Even more, I fell in love with the family that sat beside me in the bleachers. We share no DNA but are bound together as if by blood. Our ties that bind are living and breathing, standing with gloves on their hands and brave hearts beating inside their chests.

I often tease my parents about Johnathan being the golden child, the favorite in our family. Though I joke and know truly they don’t have a favorite among us, in my heart, I know I do. He is the golden child to me, my favorite baseball player to ever take the field. I stand close and hope some of his bravery and courage will drift from his heart into my own. My greatest pride is in telling others that I am his big sister.

He is the golden child to me.

In a few hours, he’ll stand behind the plate for the last time in his high school career. And I’ll be in the stands, covered in sunscreen and cheering my very loudest. Like always. I’ll be there, heart and soul. For the love of the game, for the love of Flame baseball, and mostly, for the love of number twenty-two.

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