Two years ago I moved to Nashville! I didn’t know it then, but I had outgrown my flower pot and needed a place to let my roots run free. Nashville was fertile soil. Through some humbling pruning to my heart and ego, the woman I am today is blooming and my roots are running deep.
I remember being in my various ministry roles a few years ago and feeling happy with my work, but also very exhausted and worn, knowing I needed to step away. My well was running dry. However, this ticker tape kept running in my head, “These ministries need my help. These kids need my help.” Being needed made me feel like I belonged. As a 2 on the Enneagram, helping is my greatest gift, but without boundaries I give and give until my roots run dry. I was also teaching in an under-served elementary. Again thinking, “I can’t leave, these kids need my light!” Talk about PRIDE (This is the vice of a two on the Enneagram.) I seemed to think I knew what others always needed yet I had no idea what I needed.
What started out as leading from a place of abundance-my purpose became wrapped up in my need to be needed. It was wrapped up in the need to always help others. Helping others can be great within good boundaries. But when let run buck wild you often: help people who don’t want or need your help, you don’t help them the way they need it best, and the help usually comes with strings attached. I could feel myself slipping in and out of my authentic self. I knew I felt a little “off,” but how could I ask for help? Making your needs known is scary. It’s vulnerable. I did not want to seem needy or be rejected. By not making my needs known that is pretty much what happened.
Through the counsel of friends and family I was able to come up with an exit strategy that was both healthy and healing for me and left the ministries and school safe and secure. It was a long process though and I fought it a lot- that ticker tape chasing me. I knew that if I didn’t step away I would be forced to or I would self destruct. I was surprised how overwhelmingly supported I was by my community when I acted on what I needed, not the needs of others. It was even more amazing how the next steps of my future plans fell into place easier than I have ever experienced.
When I arrived to Nashville it was like starting over, but not for the reasons I know now. I thought I would take all the best parts of my past and make them into something beautiful in this new chapter. That may work for some, but throughout ALL my seasons of change, this has never worked for me. I am thankful God is relentless in love and patience. God was and is teaching me that God wants to do a NEW thing. Not a new thing sprinkled with remnants of what used to be. I remember cutting off all the hair on “Wedding Barbie” thinking her hair would grow back. When it didn’t I tried gluing her hair back on her head. Can you picture it? Gross. Remnants of what used to be-no thanks.
I am so grateful for those opportunities and experiences because they shaped me into the strong resilient woman I am today. I would be lying if I said I never had any “fear of missing out” moments (CAMP), but there is also peace and excitement knowing God is up to something. Something new. I could jump into all sorts of familiar leadership opportunities, but I can bet the fruit would be half as sweet than if I allow the one who created me to create in me.
Even in my first few years of teaching, I had this “pie in the sky” almost “savior mentality” toward my students. A few years in I swallowed this hard truth, “They don’t need saving. They are tiny brilliant humans with limitless potential regardless of whether I am their teacher or not.” This was difficult to hear because if I am not needed, What is my purpose? Why am I teaching? Why do I exist? (That escalated quickly I know) Fast forward into year seven and realizing teaching is so much less about me and more about how I teach because I have a passion for justice. I have a light that overflows within me and is called to dark places. I get the opportunity to come alongside their journey and plant seeds of hope and possibility.
Two years in a new city has definitely taught me you can’t always take the old things with you and expect to build something new.
You’ll just end up with another version of unmet expectations. You’ll end up with a mediocre version of something your heart longs for instead of something brand new and miraculous like only the Spirit can create. I am reminded of the story of the Israelites coming out of slavery. God provided for them by sending manna from heaven. As they moved toward the promise land they expected manna, but God used new ways to provide for the people. This was confusing and sometimes scary, but God always proved faithful. When I remember God’s faithfulness in my life it quiets my fears and comforts my soul.
At my best I am joyfully creative and an altruistic giver. In a way Nashville feels like I am returning home to myself. It’s simple, but hard for me to swallow sometimes,
I am loved. I belong. I am enough.
I don’t think it is coincidence when I first moved to Nashville I ended up at a church called The Belonging. It was here I found space for the Spirit to fill the well of my soul and to heal my heart from scrapes from the past. It helped clear space for a new foundation.
My roots are spreading confidently these days and which direction they will run is unknown. This can be intimidating at times, but I cling to the big bursts of hope God keeps putting in my path. I choose to let this journey be exciting rather than worry what’s next. Speaking my needs and setting good boundaries is always a work in progress, but I am getting quicker at recognizing when my roots need water. I have a greater awareness about why and when I help others-making sure my own needs are watered first. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but my compassion toward myself and others is increasing which has made me a better friend to my community and to myself.
A dear friend reminds me often, “You can do hard things.” These past two years transitioning to Nashville have been hard at times, messier than I anticipated, but each time I made it through. every. time. even more resilient, more beautiful, and more full of joy than the last. I know that my biggest and brightest blooms have yet to be. Cheers to Nashville Chapter 3: doing hard things and making it beautiful with every step.