I moved to Nashville 11 years ago with Ken, ready for PA school and life with 200 boys in a dorm. Now I have just departed our first home, with our first two dogs, and two new-to-us kids. My time in Nashville has been a turning point in my life on many different areas. I’ve confronted death, heartbreak, accomplishment, defeat, and celebration. As I look back over my time in Nashville, these are a few of the most important lessons learned.
If I am honest, do what is right, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide me, I will have no regrets. God defines success as obedience. The world defines success in many ways that don’t really matter. Most problems in life come when we forget the difference.
Appreciation for life
Before I moved to Nashville, I had very mild exercise-induced asthma. My first year here, I was hospitalized for asthma, and several times since. I once went to the doctor’s office and begged them to admit me so I would have the option of a ventilator because I was so exhausted from just trying to stay alive. Nashville was really hard on my lungs. But in the moments I laid in a hospital bed, or on my couch, unable to breathe well enough to even walk across the house by myself, I realized that life is not about me, or breathing. It’s about glorifying God in whatever He calls me to.
I never have been able to get rid of the cough that has now become known as my “funky Africa cough,” since it struck me just after I arrived back in the United States from our adoption adventure. I now understand what the Apostle Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians and how God used the thorn in the flesh to strengthen him. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Every breath is a blessing, and every cough a confirmation that He is my strength.
Poverty is always more than it seems
I must admit that a decade ago, I had a lot of misconceptions about poverty. I fell into the “just pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” category. And then I actually met some people trapped in poverty. And I fell in love with them. I heard their stories of broken relationships and broken systems that kept them frustrated and trapped in poverty. One of the most interesting things I learned is that for the most part, they really didn’t want my money, or my handouts, or my instruction. In fact, those things sort of made it seem like I thought I was superior. They wanted friendship, a hug, to be seen as equals, to be loved.
And really, I was a jerk. I was a jerk for thinking that our relationship was a one way street, and that I was the one who had more to offer. I am ashamed of my conceit. When I started to hear their stories, understand their needs, and find ways to work together toward solutions, it changed my life. I never would have expected that a group of people who feel like they have no power would radically change my life for the better. In fact, I feel a bit selfish now — that they gave me more than I ever gave them. If you haven’t surrounded yourself in a community of the poor before, I highly recommend it — especially if you’re of the “bootstraps” variety. Whether here or in third world countries, no one wants to be seen as a charity case. What they want is dignity.
No wonder Scripture calls us so many times to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner among us — it’s primarily for our benefit, not theirs. When we can recognize the character of God in the “least of these,” we realize that the “least” is really us.
Sovereignty of God
Through our adoption journey, my bouts with illness, the stress of difficult work situation, God has been faithful. I may not understand where He is leading me or what will happen in the the days and years to come, but that is what makes Him God, and not me. The situations in which God places us are not by mistake, but so that He can accomplish His will. Sometimes that means that things will go well for me, and other times, not. When Scripture tells us that all things work to the good of those who love Him, I must remember that God defines what is good, not me.
Nashville was a great city to live in. We have many cherished memories and treasured friends, but most of all, life-changing lessons learned. I can’t wait to see what God has for us in Boiling Springs!