Tag: family

The Sam’s Club with Charman Leigh and Big John

Hey there. Yes, you. I’m talking to you sitting on your couch scrolling absentmindedly through the Facebook. I know what you’re doing. You’re procrastinating that grocery trip you have to make before All The People show up to your house for The Very Big Feast that is also sometimes called Thanksgiving. I know. It’s daunting and exhausting to even think about it. The masses will be out and about doing the very same thing, and just your luck, you WILL get the buggy with the squeaky wheel and the sticky handle. Them’s the breaks, kid. So, I get your desire to postpone the horrifying task of grocery shopping until the very last possible minute. But I think I have something that will make you up to the task.

I thought you might like to come with me today and accompany Big John and Charm to the Sam’s Club. It is just entertaining enough that it might do the trick, and inspire you to tackle your own grocery list.

Yes? You would? Great!

Now, step one: Walk through the door.


If you’re with Charm, you’ll notice that she already has the card out and ready. She flashes it quickly at the friendly attendant without slowing down a tiny bit. I doubt they ever actually see her identification, but no one has ever questioned her. My mother marches into Sam’s Club with all the authority and confidence of a general riding in to retrieve the prisoners of war. The battle’s already over. She has a list and a route. She’s here to collect her spoils.

As am I, frankly. There are two reasons I go to Sam’s Club. Neither have anything to do with grocery shopping. Years ago, I learned that if I volunteered to accompany Charm on her regular Sam’s run, I could coax her into paying me in a ginormous Coke and a soft, cinnamon pretzel. There’s little I won’t do for a cinnamon pretzel.

If you’re tagging along with Charm, you’ll need to step lively, please and thank you. Her legs are short, but they are quick and determined. Don’t stop to smell the roses, and don’t you even THINK about looking at the electronic section. There is invariably a sweet-smiling salesman there waiting for the teeniest flash of eye contact to greenlight him into a sales pitch. Charm does not have time for this, so please keep your head down until you pass the section with books and outdoor furniture.

Note: If you’re with Big John, this previous information is irrelevant.

Now, the second thing I go to the Sam’s Club for is the conversation. I walk beside my mama and tell her all the things I’ve been thinking on recently. So if you have anything that you’d like to get off your chest, now is the time. This L-shaped walk between the eager sales guy and the produce section is the land of grab and go. This is the part of our stroll that requires the least amount of critical thinking on Charm’s part. This is where her attention is evenly split, and now is your chance. After this, the conversation will narrow to jokes and bits that are purely for your own benefit and entertainment. Once you catch your first glimpse of fresh fruit and veggies, she loses a significant amount of her attention span. Don’t even think about discussing anything serious until you round the corner into the aisle with the canned beans. She just won’t hear you.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating: there are people who work their entire lives to have the kind of concentration my mother has in the Sam’s produce section. Experts write books about it and sell gobs of them with how-to instructions printed neatly inside. And she just has it. When she is examining heads of cauliflower, the rest of the world simply doesn’t exist. It’s like a scene in a movie when the main character is so lost in thought and their surroundings just fade away behind some kind of dream. She goes somewhere entirely different when she’s concentrating on getting the best looking box of spring mix. Sometimes I wonder what that other world must look like, how it must feel to escape the confines of this concrete warehouse of household necessities into a calm and quiet place to really examine the price difference between different types of cheese. I usually stand with my feet firmly planted on the ground, while she floats inside her own head, coming back to reality only when she sees something so attention worthy that she’ll have to point it out to me. “Now, look at that, Elizabeth,” she’ll say. “That’s one of those pre-made salads. It’s got all the little things that go with it. The dressing and all that. That might be something you might want to try.” Or “Oh! Look how cute the packaging is on these cherry tomatoes! Ugh! I am a sucker for some cute packaging!”

One of my favorite parts about the Sam’s Club are the little sample carts scattered throughout the store. There are usually about three or four in this section alone. I wander to and from my mother’s cart to the folks wrapped in hair-nets offering me tiny cups of flavored popcorn or carrots and a new veggie dip. Not Charm, though. When she is in her shopping zone, not even the tantalizing smell of a tiny cup of cider turns her head. It is otherworldly.

Now, once we move passed the bread and into the non-perishables, you can pick up your conversation here with a real hope that she’ll join back in. However, at this point in my journey

I’m usually too lost in a few bits or jokes I started when I was my only audience. Charm’s fog lifts, and it doesn’t take her long to be 100% over it. She just spent an exorbitant amount of energy back there – mental and emotional – and she’s losing steam quickly. We’re back to the land of grab and go, and we are moving fast so please keep up.

We’re nearing the end of our Sam’s Club route with Charm. In days past, this is the part when I’d actually have an opportunity to be helpful. We’d wheel the loaded down cart to the nearest (and least crowded) conveyor belt and unload every piece from inside the treasure chest only to watch it be scanned and dropped back into another buggy. Now, though, we’re in a new era of apps and technology. And let me tell you something – this thrills Charm to NO END. You’re saying that she can go into Sam’s, scan her own items, and walk right out without talking to another soul? That is music to her introverted ears.

Because Charm is typically the valiant grocery leader in our family, I should’ve known that things would end poorly when Big John and I ventured in on our own a few weeks ago. When we started at the pretzel counter and actually sat down to enjoy our snack, I was lulled into a false sense of security. “Great!” I thought. “This will be way less stressful than grocery shopping with Charm. Look how laid back we are.”

FALSE.

Even as we got started on the actual task at hand (in the PRODUCE SECTION NO LESS. What are we? SAVAGES?), I still held to the belief that this would be a perfectly lovely afternoon. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

We had been standing at the butcher’s counter for nearly fifteen minutes, my dad staring with a look of consternation into the freezer box below, when I realized we were in deep, deep trouble without Charman Leigh. Knowing how much time we had already lost in this section alone, I left Dad to his thoughts and started on other parts of the list. Where Charm needed not an ounce of help, Dad would need all the help I could give.

Eventually, we made it out. We lived to tell the tale, although Big John always like to include the defense, “If you hadn’t have been buggin’ me and putting it all on Instagram, I would’ve been fine.” He’s still in denial about the trauma and my heroic contribution in getting us out in one piece.


There now. Don’t you feel better? Don’t you feel inclined to brave the cold for some canned pumpkin and jellied cranberry sauce?

I knew you would.

Best of luck! Call Charm if you need help finding anything while you’re out. Call Big John if you need help with…well, literally anything else.

 

What Do These Stones Mean?

In Joshua chapter four, a new generation of Israelites stood on the far side of the Jordan watching as the raging river waters returned to their normal flow. The people stood in awe as their fingertips grazed the fabric of their clothes. Dry as the desert from which they just emerged. They walked through the river and there wasn’t a wet fiber on them. A reminder that their lives had been preserved by the hand of an Almighty God.

He had been faithful.

The leaders of the twelve tribes each took a stone from the bottom of the river and placed them in a pile beside the bank to memorialize the great deliverance.

“Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over.”
Joshua 4:21-23

My parents and grandparents have done this my whole life. They have picked up the stones made smooth by the tumultuous rivers of their lives and placed them in a visible spot, so that the generations behind them will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Much of who I am as a person is comprised of their stone stories. The
memories of grace told to me, shown to me, by those whose feet have walked farther than my own—they are the stones that built my foundation. And throughout my history, I have been adding memorial stones of my own next to the rivers I’ve crossed. My pile is small and still growing, but it is clear evidence of God’s faithfulness in my legacy.

Maybe while you read this, you remember the stones you’ve collected. Feel them heavy in your pocket. And maybe someone needs to hear the story. Needs to know, “What do these stones mean?” I can’t think of a better time to tell them than around a Thanksgiving table.

Bring out the rocks you picked up as you crossed through the waters of this year, of your life, and pile them right there next to the turkey and sweet potatoes. Show your family what the Lord has done. Tell them of the moment when you put your foot in a raging river with faith you weren’t sure was yours and watched the waters peel back like old wallpaper. Tell them how you watched the faithfulness of God come through an impossible situation. A painful crossing soothed by the balm of His presence. Tell them. Stack the stones high and remember the rivers from whence they came.

“….so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”
Joshua 4:24

My View From the Top of the Stairs

The year was 2012. It was a Saturday in February, and I was nestled in my warm, comfy bed. Asleep. Deep, unbothered-by-dreams-or-stirring sleep.

When all of a sudden, I wasn’t.

There was a siren! I was under attack! This was the end!

I am not a fast human by nature, but in that moment I was a jungle cat. Out of the bed, down the hall, by my parents’ bedside in just a few bounds. My parents were out of town, and my dad had forgotten to turn off his no nonsense alarm set for 5 A.M.

On a Saturday.

It was one of those obstinate alarms that grows more infuriated every second that passes without silencing it. Its volume steadily ticks upward until you start to believe you’ve been transported right inside the machine and are standing directly next to the noise-making mechanism.

I hit buttons, turned knobs, and finally just ripped the stupid cord from its secure spot in the wall socket.

I walked slowly back to my bed, but not before texting my parents a long message dripping with sarcasm and irritation.IMG_3676

For as long as I can remember, John T. Brock has set his alarm to ring at 4:30A.M. If ever there was a day when I was awake before my dad, chances are I hadn’t yet been to sleep. He cuts himself some slack on Saturdays and will sleep an indulgent half hour more.

He fixes the coffee the night before and sets a timer on the pot so it will wake when he does. He pours himself the first cup of the day. Sometimes, he’ll walk to the back room, flip on the television, and stand a few minutes in the bright glow of the breaking headlines.

By 4:45, he’s settled into his chair and has already made a significant dent in his first round of caffeine.
His chair. It sits firmly by the fireplace. Beside the left arm there sits an ever-changing stack of leadership books, commentaries, and sermon notes. To its right, a small table stands at attention holding a pair of glasses and the aforementioned cup of coffee.

This is where he sits. Day after day, month after month, year after year.

The rest of the house is asleep, but my dad is awake. And he’s there at this time, in this chair, every day to meet with Jesus.

I’ve always known about his habit of waking early in the morning. I knew how he spent that time. I knew he’d be there every day. Without fail.

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Our house is laid out in such a way that when I walk from my room to the bathroom down the hall, I walk past the staircase on my left. And if I make that trek at anytime between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 A.M., I can catch a glimpse of my dad’s knees and feet. Sitting in that chair. Talking to Jesus.

On another dark morning a few years ago, I again emerged from the comfort of my bed, slow and groggy this time, annoyed that my sleep had been interrupted by my need for the bathroom.
When I rounded the corner of my doorway and walked past that familiar first step, I caught a glimpse of a different image at the bottom of the stairs.

And I won’t ever forget it.

Knees, not crossed gingerly in his normal seated position, but pressed to the floor in front of the chair, long legs stretched out behind him. His larger-than-life, 6’4” frame bent at a ninety-degree angle. His elbows in the chair’s seat, his hands resting on his shoulders, his forehead pressed to the fabric. Praying. Interceding. Having an all-encompassing conversation with his Savior.

Until today, he never knew I saw him in that moment. He didn’t hear me get up. Didn’t hear my feet pad across the floor. Never knew for a second that someone was watching him.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve told it.

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Not long after moving to Nashville, I found myself in the middle of a conversation about parents. About our relationships to them. About how frustrating those relationships can be. I heard story after story about damaged paternal relationships, wounded and scarred by broken promises and sinful choices.

And suddenly everyone was looking at me. It was my turn. What was my father like?

“Well,” I said, “he’s like this,” and I pointed to that moment. That image. That dark morning when I caught the most beautiful glimpse of my dad’s heart.

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I won’t ever stop being grateful that the Lord woke me up at just the right time, at just the right moment for me to take that mental picture.

Because that is a picture of my dad. Not just in that moment, but in every moment. That is the physical posture of his heart. He kneels daily to seek his God and to serve the people who have been entrusted to him.

The long list of characteristics I love most about my dad all stem from and grow out of those moments. His kindness, his sacrifice, his love and devotion to his wife, his kids, his church are all marks of a man of God. But those qualities did not arise simply because he is a pastor. They didn’t come as a packaged deal when he became a Christian. They did not manifest within him because he is what the world calls “good.”

No. They did not appear by magic or happenstance.

They came with the morning. They rode in on the sun’s tide. Day after day, new mercy after new mercy, they were carved into the fabric of his DNA. He is kind because he has a standing appointment with Kindness Himself. He is devoted because he has never gotten over the devotion of a Jewish King who came to rescue him. He is sacrificial because, time after time, he has shown up and put his knees in the dust at the foot of a Roman cross and looked up at the most beautiful sacrifice this world has ever known.

He is a good father not because he is perfect or without flaw or failure, but because he starts every day at the feet of Jesus. And of all the things I’ve learned from him, this is, without a doubt, the most important lesson, and the one I am most grateful for.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you, and I’ll never be able to tell you exactly how proud I am to be your kid.IMG_2953

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.