As we mentioned in the previous post, we had the chance to have a mission weekend with some friends in late June! You heard from Dustin in the Part 1 post, but we also wanted you to hear from our two friends from out of town, Jason and Jon. Here are their interviews with Tim about their visit to Nashville.
We had the amazing opportunity to do a mission weekend at the end of June. We had two of our friends from out of state, as well as our local friend Dustin who has been hanging out with OneLife for several months, hang out with us for a weekend of prayer outreach and prayer walking. Here is a video of Dustin talking about his experience from that weekend.
Tim and I recently celebrated our 15 Year Anniversary! People are often surprised when we tell them we’ve been married that long. I think that is mostly because they think we look too young but some say it’s because many couples don’t stay married long anymore. Personally, I think that 15 years doesn’t seem very long. I guess it’s long enough to have learned a decent amount about marriage but I’ve been blessed to know many couples who’ve been together much longer. So, I know there’s still so much room to grow in our relationship.
We got married when I was a few days shy of 22 and he was 27. Somehow, I think we both pretty much knew the type of person we wanted to be with by this time. We had known each other a few years and even worked together before we were both “available” and started being attracted toward one another.
I remember the first conversation in which we were sort of checking each other out to see if there was any potential attraction between us. In 2002 we were at a summer camp where we took a group of youth from the Inner City Church in Montgomery. He was working full-time there and I interned (under him). One night, it was time for the kids to go to sleep and Tim asked me if I wanted to hangout on the front porch of the mess hall since we had more than one adult per cabin. In that conversation we talked about what we wanted to do with our lives, our goals and dreams, how we viewed marriage. I remember being impressed with how much our desires aligned with each other.
There were two big connecting points that I recall. We both viewed marriage as a team. Growing up my family always worked in everything as a team so I honestly expected nothing less. There are so many benefits to approaching marriage and family as a team and that could be a blog post by itself. The other main thing was that we both wanted to spend our lives devoted to the mission of God…whatever that looked like. I feel that we both have remained open to what God’s mission and ministry for us looks like. I love that because He continues to lead us into new territory. After that conversation…the rest, as they say, is history. We continued to spend more time together. Tim proposed on New Years Day in 2003 and we got married on May 17, 2003!
The most obviously unique thing about our marriage is that we don’t have kids. We equally have chosen and really have felt called not to have children. Instead, our ministry has generally taken that place. Over the years, our mission at the given time has been what our conversations revolve around and where our extra time, money, and love go towards. I have so much respect for parents and I love kids but the potential of having many spiritual children as we grow old really excites me. Like many couples we are mostly opposite. We’ve spent a lot of time learning to understand the nuances of our differences and discovering through trial and error how those differences can work in our favor. That could be another post on its own too! It definitely takes effort and intentionality to work through those things but we are absolutely stronger together thanks to our differences.
There’s so much I could write about in 15 years… dark and difficult seasons, fun and exciting adventures, things we’ve learned the hard way and things we’ve done very well… but I try to keep these posts short. I am grateful that I can say that through it all our love and respect for each other has kept growing. We adore each other more now than we ever have. We work together so, so much better than we did in our first ministry job as a couple in campus ministry. As each of our relationships with God have deepened so has our intimacy with each other. Though we haven’t always been on the same page in our vision, over years God worked in each of us to align us in His vision for our lives. I’m thankful for the good and bad of these 15 years we’ve had together. I couldn’t be more excited about the next 15 years as we walk together in God’s path for our life!
Here’s a photo from our honeymoon in Nashville! Ha! It was taken at the Parthenon in the park across the street from where we now live. 😊 Funny how God works sometimes!
Servanthood. This is one of themes that we felt the Lord emphasize at the same time He was directing us to move to Nashville. So, when we moved here, we knew that we were to be about serving this community. There are many ways to do that here so it was quite paralyzing at first. We’ve been able to take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities to volunteer and serve since moving here but God has slowly focused our efforts towards certain communities within Nashville.
Trying to serve comes with a temptation: it’s easy for us to assume that we know what a community needs or even individuals for that matter. We often walk in to a place thinking we know what’s going on. Sometimes we come with a plan of what WE WANT to do to help, not even knowing what the real issues are. Much less knowing where they’ve been, where they want to go in life, or what God is trying to do. I know we’ve certainly been guilty of this approach in the past, and that is why we’ve tried our best to go about things here in a different way.
In an attempt to serve well, we have purposefully taken a lot time to observe the people and places in our context, and reflect on what we see and hear. We’ve done this by interacting with key leaders and stakeholders, asking a lot of questions, and doing a lot of listening. We’ve heard a lot of stories and history, and have been invited to join in what others are already doing in that context to make a difference.
Some in our missional context have been surprised when we ask, “How can we serve you? What do you need?” Come to find out, they have become accustomed to groups coming in with their own answers and agenda. Below we’ll highlight some of the ways we’ve been able to serve over the past month.
As we’ve interacted with General Hospital on a couple of projects, we started to learn about free services they provide for those without health insurance. So, we asked them what we could do to create awareness in the neighborhood across the street about those services. They gave us some flyers and we went door to door in the Osage neighborhood to let people know about free cancer screenings. This ended up being a great opportunity to meet people! We knew we were on the right track when one lady said, “Thank you for doing this. This is a service this community needs.”
The volunteer coordinator at the hospital also told also us that they needed items to help build something they call “comfort boxes.” They’re given to give patients who end up staying in the hospital a while to help them manage their pain. Some of the items they needed were puzzles, adult coloring books, and color pencils. We told her “That is definitely something we can get!” We went out and purchased those items, and then brought them back to her office. Her face lit up with a smile. She wanted to know if she could call on us when the supplies ran out. We said “Absolutely!”
We had an opportunity to serve food at a local food distribution event. After the event was over, they allowed us to go out to the tractor trailer that brought the resources and we looked through some of the items that remained to see if we could find anything useful to donate to the Robert Churchwell Elementary School. To our surprise, we found several cases of Graham Crackers, several cases of Skin Moisturizer, and a case of 3 Ring Binders from Office Depot. The school was super excited to receive those resources.
We are always asking the community coordinator at Robert Churchwell Elementary what we can do to help, and last week they needed us to volunteer as proctors for the state wide TCAP testing. They also told us the teachers don’t receive much appreciation 😦 So as a way to bless the teachers who are doing the testing, we took breakfast and snacks each morning when we went to help 🙂
If you would like to help us cover the costs of these purchases, you can make a tax deductible donation here or send a check to PO Box 330576, Nashville, TN 37203.
As we move through this journey of incarnational mission, we are learning to genuinely serve the community we are being sent to. What would happen if we just asked people “How can I serve you?”
As this new year began, the thought of fasting started to occasionally cross my (Tiffany) mind. Then one Sunday morning I woke up and got the sense that Tim and I should go to a certain church service in town. We were free at that time, so we went. The pastor got up to speak and it was all about… fasting and prayer. As we walked away I knew the Spirit was leading me in that direction, so I started asking God to show me what kind of fast I should do. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep right away, so I asked God what He was thinking about the fasting. As I asked questions, He gave me details about what I should eat… or not eat. Basically, no chewing, primarily fresh vegetable juices, hot teas, with some supplement like coconut oil.
I also got the sense that it’d be best to start as soon as possible and that it should last 40 days. Within the previous couple of days, I had read the account in Luke about Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and found most intriguing and inspiring that He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit! After 40 days of fasting and temptation!
As I continued to process and pray about this the next day, my flesh said “What?! There is no way you can do that! You get “hangry” if you’re an hour late to eat lunch.” And that is so true! Tim can confirm it! Sure, I’ve done 2 or 3 day fasts before, but in a normal day I’ve never been able go a few hours without food and not get light-headed, weak, and cranky. The Spirit-led side of me said “Yes! Great idea! It would be a great time to pray for clarity and breakthrough in our mission with OneLife. Not to mention for breakthrough and growth for me personally and for those I love.”
I shared with Tim what I felt that the Holy Spirit was leading me toward. After praying about it himself, He thankfully thought it was a great idea to join in. We proceeded later that week to begin our first 40 day fast.
I, of course, knew this type of fast would not be a cake-walk but that, especially since God led us to do it, He would help us through. And the reward of seeking Him over food would in the end outweigh the difficulty. That was absolutely true! I’m pleased to announce that we made it through! Yesterday was the last day of our fast and today we are thoroughly enjoying actual food… though in small portions. There were definitely some very hard days, which played out differently for Tim and I – weird cravings, plenty of stomach growling, and yes more tiredness than normal – but overall it was more wonderful than I could’ve ever imagined. No doubt worth it!
Cleansing and Clarity
Throughout the 40 days, God sustained us and gave us energy to continue working on projects and in our mission. Also, we are walking away with more clarity and renewed faith in what God is calling us to here in Nashville! I had a fairly extensive list that I wanted to pray through each day. Even after a week or so I noticed that God was speaking to me, clarifying, guiding me…bit by bit… in various prayer points on the list. As my body was cleansed in fasting from food, I also felt He cleaned out some fears and insecurities within me. Opening my heart and spirit to more freely walk the path He is leading us on. It never ceases to amaze me how gently the Lord can do these types of things in us. His love and kindness are so abundant in these times as we open ourselves to Him!
Midway through the fast, Tim and I felt it would be a good time to retreat for a more focused time of prayer. During the retreat we revisited words God has already spoken over us and came up with a list of specific questions we wanted to ask Him for direction on. We each spent time apart, talking to the Lord about these things and then came back together to compare notes. There were too many questions to go through here, but we each received many similar answers from God. Not earth-shattering revelation, but mostly confirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be… and that we should keep doing it prayerfully. This may not seem like a big deal but, as we are trying to follow the Spirit and chart new territory, this kind of clarity is quite encouraging. It has created more confidence and excitement as we walk out our weekly rhythms!
These last 40 days have proved to me once again how rewarding it is to go the Lord’s way. I surely would have never come up with this idea on my own! In fact, I previously thought I would be physically incapable of doing a 40-day liquid only fast. If I’d have limited myself to my way, I would’ve so missed out on opportunity for breakthrough and clarity… not to mention beautiful time with God. I’m so thankful for how the Spirit so wisely guides us, for Jesus and His example, and the Father and His loving and gentle way. They are absolutely the best and no doubt know the best for us.
As we continue to build relationships in our first missional context, God keeps opening up doors for opportunities to serve. The most recent opportunity was the 4th Annual Secret Santa Event at the Nashville General Hospital (NGH), which is literally right down the street from Robert Churchwell Elementary (RCE), the school we tutor at. Here’s how it went down…
We asked one of our new friends, Pastor Enoch Fuzz, founder of One Nashville Community Awareness (ONCA) if he knew of a way to provide Christmas presents to some of the kids at the school. He said “Yes!” We didn’t know it at the time, but Enoch happens to serve on the board at the Hospital, and each year they provide close to 40 kids from the community with a Christmas party, filled with pizza, presents and fun. Enoch asked if I wanted to help register kids for that event. I said “Yes!” So he introduced me to the Hospital staff in charge of the event, and we took responsibility for coordinating the registration of about 20 students from the school to participate. Here are some pictures from the event.
It was a great experience to serve as a bridge between the school, hospital, and local community. This is a great example of how local organizations can come together to make a positive impact on the community. Thank you Pastor Enoch Fuzz, ONCA, RCE, and NGH for being such amazing assets in the community!
We’re excited that a new partnership is forming between OneLife and Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary!
This partnership is emerging from our roles as volunteers with The Pencil Foundation. Tiffany and I have two students each that we tutor every Tuesday at the school. Not only is this a strategic way to disrupt the school to prison pipeline, it also allows us to show our love for the community.
We also had the amazing opportunity to participate in the school’s Trunk or Treat event. We enjoyed great interactions with parents, kids, teachers, and school administrators. Also, in November we enjoyed a great meeting with the school’s Community Outreach Coordinator (who just happens to be the son of the man after which the school is named. How amazing is that!). After that meeting we found out that there was an opportunity to help a few families of the children from the school with Thanksgiving meals. So that’s what we did! We’re so excited about the opportunities to serve in this context!
There was a time when I thought that surrendering to God, to His way, was a hard but necessary occasional act. You do it and get it over with… and on occasion you may come to that place again. Over time and experience I have realized that abandoning myself to God is a continuous and necessarily repetitive act on my part. This has become clearer than ever in the time since Tim and I moved to Nashville. My own plans tend to take over in the daily. My ideas, my thoughts, my worries, my self creeps in and I veer towards a path that is my way instead of His. Many times, unintentionally.
There have been times when just getting to the point of deciding to surrender something in my life to God seemed so excruciatingly painful. Which…it can be hard to surrender. We are still in the flesh after all. I have found though, for me, that the decision to surrender has become easier. Not because I’ve become better or more righteous. Not because I’ve had more practice in surrendering…though I have. I’ve found that it has gotten easier as I’ve come to know my God better and better.
The more time I spend with God and the closer I become to Him, the more clearly I see Him. The more I sit with Him, the more I remember His faithfulness and wisdom when I have gone His way. (Or how things went not so well when I went my way instead.) The more I rest in Him, the more I know His love and desires for me. The more I lean into His heart, the more I feel His good intentions towards me. This. This nearness to God is what continues to make the decision to surrender to Him easier.
Truthfully, the path of His way sometimes seems to get crazier and it certainly doesn’t always make sense to me. It doesn’t usually look like I’d want it to and things don’t go how I think they’d go. But I’ve found (sometimes the hard way) that even if my path for myself is good… His path for me is amazing. I’ve found that when I go His way, peace reigns because He’s in control and I don’t have to be.
His plan for us is above and beyond any plan we could imagine for ourselves. The more of ourselves that we can let go of, the more of ourselves that can be released to live in His abundance for us.
As I have drawn nearer to God, He has shown me glimpses of His vision for my life and it’s not anything I would have come up with. I have no doubt that His view of you is more beautiful than you can imagine and His vision for you might blow your mind a little.
We will have times when His way may seem too scary or foolish. We will doubt what God has said about us, what He said He’d do, that His way is better… even doubt that He’s with us. In these moments we must step closer. Lean in a little further. He will be there. We will remember that He is more trustworthy than the fact that the sun will go down today and come back up tomorrow. Then it will be a little easier to at least decide to let go of whatever we’re holding onto, release it to Him, and surrender to His way once again. His abundantly good way…
Hey! We just wanted to do a quick shout-out to point you to our OneLife social media spots. This is where we post snippets of what’s happening in our world. We update each one uniquely. For example, we’ll be using Facebook mainly to post about our events, but we use Instagram to mainly post pictures from those events. Our social handle is @onelifenash
Also, we are prepping to make a few videos which will be posted on our website and youtube. In these we hope to highlight a few tools that we use to help us be and make disciples of Jesus.
Thanks for your friendship, support, and interest in what’s happening in our world!