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Vocations Retreat Recap by Marshall Clark

*Each year, the Nashville Fellows take three development assessments and head out on retreat with two consultants who spend four days with our Fellows helping them understand how God has created and shaped them. This retreat is a pivotal point for Fellows each year, and Marshall shares about this year's retreat below!

From January 26-29, the Nashville Fellows embarked on the vocations retreat, admittedly, with a mixture of anxiousness and anticipation. The Fellows are currently all over the spectrum in regards to future plans. Some are returning home, some have jobs already lined up, while others are lurking somewhere in the middle, but all of us were ready to engage with the “greatest thing our program does” according to Theresa.

Although perhaps a little stir crazy by the end of our time in the cabin, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated how much of a blessing our time with Bill Fullilove and Suz Grimes would be. We seemed to cover everything imaginable, from a theological basis for calling and vocation, down to the nitty gritty of making a vision statement for our work lives. Bill and Suz were both treasure troves of information for us who struggle with many fears and lies regarding our vocation. And finally, the Fellows were able to dive deep into the personality tests that have been rattling around in our brains for the past few weeks (EQi, MCORE, and Highlands).

Selflessly, Bill and Suz met with every Fellow for an hour, 1-on-1, to go further into anything that was confusing. This was one of the biggest blessings from the weekend, along with “pod sharing”, where the three partner churches got to meet with their specific Fellows to share with and affirm one another with all they've been learning. Overall, the Fellows left with a sense of hope filled with more questions: some are still deep in the midst of processing their assessments while others have a better idea of what direction they want to go next. Either way, all of the Fellows learned so much about vocation, the intersection of gifts, desires, and opportunities, and God’s overwhelming faithfulness to his children regarding it all.

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A Season of Manna by Caroline Garvin

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a co-worker about fundraising, and she described to me seasons of manna and how we have to depend on the Lord to provide every day. She was explaining what the Israelites were going through in Exodus chapter 16. I thought what she said was profound and remembered this story in the Bible, but wanted to reread it for myself. As I read it, I was shocked at how much it not only related to the nonprofit fundraising world but also to this year and what I have been experiencing.

For the past couple of years, I have struggled deeply with depression and anxiety. It has been trivial and exhausting, not having the energy to live and function as a normal human, but at the same time having to perform as one is crippling. There have been points where it has been tough to see the light and I've wondered if this will ever end. Throughout this year as a Fellow, it seems as though the things I have struggled with have been revealed even more to me. We do many self-assessments and learn more about who we are and I have had to face some of my deepest struggles head-on. At times it’s felt like a live nerve being exposed to the open world.  As I was reading in Exodus 16, I was amazed at how much I related to the Israelite community.

If you look at the 16th chapter, you can see in verse 3 that the people complain and wish the Lord would have left them in Egypt to die, where they were eating pots of meat and had all the food they wanted. I found this almost comical because two chapters prior the Lord was parting the red sea. This, in a sense, is me. I will often look back on a season of my life that probably wasn't as glamorous as it seemed and hope for it again. I will tell the Lord I wish I were there, rather than being in this Fellow's year. But just like the Israelites, I forget about the miracles God is doing in my life. We are forgetful people.

As I kept reading in Exodus 16, I was amazed that the Lord, even despite their grumbling, gave them food to sustain and fill them.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day, they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." (v.4-5)

This is proof that the Lord hears our cries. He hears our hurts and needs, and he responds to them. What astounded me as I kept reading was the part when the Lord gave them food for that day, and that day alone. He gave them enough to fill them up and sustain them. Looking at verses 16- 20 below, one can see that the Lord gives us what we need to get through the day. He, this year, has given me a host family to support me, a community of believers to cheer me on and pray for me, a work environment that is healing and nourishing, and a church that is there whenever I need them. He doesn't give us any more or any less. It is interesting though that when the Israelites tried to store more food for the next day, it would spoil. I feel like I do this in my own life. I will cling to the blessings the Lord has given me, make them the ultimate things, and they turn out to spoil like the manna. I take good things, make them ultimate, and come up empty. For me, especially in college, I took the gifts and blessings God had given me to do well in school, and made it the ultimate thing that drove me at the cost of friendships, sleep, and time with the Lord. This is a small example. We can take the jobs we get, the spouse we have, the kids we have, the house we live in, the wardrobe that sits in our closet, and make them the “thing”. It will spoil. If we don’t keep watch it will fill with maggots because these things were never meant to fill us. They were never meant to heal our depression or brokenness; never meant to get us to the next day.

"16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.'"17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.19 Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them."

As we know, the bread of life that sustains us is Jesus. He tells us this in the gospels. In this season of hardship, I have had to lean on him to fill me. I have had to lean on the blessings he is pouring down from heaven to sustain me. There are some days where I cannot function, but the Lord reminds me and whispers to me that he is here for me. That he will never forsake me. He is my abundance. Nothing in this world that I can store up will sustain me the way he does. I, like the Israelites, store up the things of this world to try to make me full, but it fails me. Only Jesus can fill me up, make me whole.

I am unsure why God has not taken this struggle away from me. I know that there will be a day where he does, but for now he wants me to see that he is the only thing that will fulfill me. No job, spouse, kids, material things, degrees in school, friends, body size, and so much more.

Those things will fail me.

As I look forward to what is to come, I am very thankful that the Lord had the Fellows program as a part of my life story. He has challenged me in ways I never thought, and I have grown into a better version of myself over the past six months. I am learning, just as the Israelites had to, that God will continue throughout my life to give me what I need for that day. He will provide me with no more or no less, just what I need. He will bring me through the desert, feed me, and give me something to drink. My prayer is that we as a people will grow into relying on him and his abundance. There is simply nothing sweeter. I think we also have to remember that what we think we need, might not be what God knows we need. I often find myself in a trap thinking God's manna being poured down on my life has to look exactly the way I want it to. We have to press into the fact that sometimes what we need isn't for our depression and anxiety to be taken away, although that would be nice, but learning to rely on Jesus and find joy in the midst of suffering. The food he rained down from heaven might not have been the meat that they wanted, but it was what sustained them.  

I know this season of manna will not last forever. Jesus tells us that. He has come to sustain us not for a day, but for forever. He is the true bread. The Lord and giver of life.

 

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Community by Kayla Powell

At the opening BBQ, the first day the Fellows moved to Nashville, Theresa shared a quote from Henri Nouwen with us:

“The best gift we can offer each other is not our togetherness but our brokenness.”

I was surprised and a little confused that Theresa would start our time together with a quote so impactful and heavy on the first day of the program.  The words seemed to fit together nicely, but the meaning of them was strange and unreliable.

Fast forward 6 months and her words ring truer today than they did the first time she said them. 

Over the course of this semester; Monday morning classes, round table, testimonies, weekend retreats and so much more, these Fellows have embedded themselves in the depths of my heart.

These people who used to be strangers are now some of my best people.  They know what motivates me, what drives me, what makes me happy, and what frustrates me.  They know the depths of my heart and they love me anyway.

As a group, we have experienced some dark days together.  Days that are sometimes filled with sickness, depression, anxiety, death, isolation, and loneliness.  But beyond the reach of darkness, they are each shining lights.  They are my supporters, fans, cheerleaders, and truth-tellers.  They point me back to the gospel and to who I am when I lose sight.  

They are my people.  The ones who love me regardless of the situation.  They have slowly crept into my life and nested there.  I am better because I know each and every one of them, and I know Christ better because of them.  

This blog is about people; for the friends and fellows that celebrate life with us in the good and the bad times. This is community at its finest. 

When we graduate this program in May our community will be altered.  Some will move away and some will stay, but our group will never be the same.  When this day comes I know it will be a day of sadness, but for now I am going to cling tightly to the people and this program knowing that each are a divine gift.  

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Feeling Stuck by McClain Cauthen

Sometimes You Get Stuck...Sometimes You Feel Clueless.

I’m here to tell you a story. You’ve made it from the social media post, email, or word of mouth to this page and instead of perusing the post and moving on you are reading it. So for those that are reading, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. We are in this thing together; till the end.

The story I want to tell you is hilarious, embarrassing, and most likely relatable.

It was a cold December day. The kind of day where the cold stings, the sky is grey, and your alarm clock is truly your worst enemy. Black coffee was poured, the car was started, and we were headed off down the road for the Hunt woods. It was about 5:30 am, I was barely awake, and Randy Travis was singing some sort of sad love song through my speakers. Robert, my cousin softly snored in the passenger seat.

With an easy drive from Boone and Charlotte our hunting lease in Southern VA had become a meeting ground for family and friends. It was and is the ultimate destination to get away and scratch your outdoor itch. As we pulled up to the gate to the farm, Robert jumped out to open it. The rain had turned the road into a mud bog and the stream slowly meandered through the middle of the road. I made it through (barely) and started up the hill at a strong pace. As we headed up the hill towards the old graveyard, my car started to slide backwards. Robert and I looked at each other and both said something under our breath as the car slid into a pile of barbwire, rusted old metal, and debris. Freezing wind and daybreak met me as I climbed out and sloshed over to the other side of my car to inspect the damage. Shoot. “Hey man, I am so stuck. We need to call the others to pull me off this stuff,” I said as I wiped sleep from my eyes. Hours later after being rescued and laughed at, my car was ready to go.

By this point it was mid-morning. The hunt was a wash and we decided to give it up and head back to town for a much needed breakfast and more coffee. There was only one problem. I had to go back down the road I came in on. I stared down the barrel of this muddy road that was also covered in cow...um...well you can imagine what it was. I goosed it and headed down the road toward the gate.

That same familiar whine began to sing out and my car slid into a fence and bottomed out in the back. Laughter, erupted from the peanut gallery that had formed on the hill. I crawled out of my car, Duke’s of Hazard style, and surveyed the damage...again. “Hey bud, you’re gonna have to crawl under your car to get it unstuck. That's going to be terrible the ground is covered in” I cut him off “I know”!  I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed the chain and crawled through the nastiness to hook up my car. After that I had to ride back to town in the back of the truck because I stunk to high-heaven. The story gets worse but I’ll spare you the details. If you see me ask me for the rest.

This situation is unique but it also feels all too relatable. Time-after-time I find myself in a situation where I can’t get anything right. I feel like I have no direction. I honestly just feel stuck. Part of me feels like this is because I am 23, interning, a fellow, and living in someone's guest room. I have few things figured out. I believe the lie that I have to be accomplished, established, and all-knowing.

What a foolish thing to think. And the pressure of these thoughts then causes one to miss out on the present. I often catch myself doing this. In this season of life I choose to revel in the unknown. I choose to embrace the questions about my future. I choose to be aware of what I do not know. I choose to believe that my name is written in the book of life, but rather the book of my current circumstance...and let’s be honest. Stupidity.

If you are 23 or 63 I think that everyone feels stuck or confused or simply stupid from time-to-time. I say embrace it. Ask yourself what God is trying to teach you. Meet a bunch of different people and gain some perspective. Being stuck is not a bad thing. If anything you’ll look back on the seasons where you feel most stuck and long for them. I long for them because it is where I tend to grow most. So in this season I say, "hurray." Amen. Thank you Jesus and praise the Lord! Stuck I may feel, but growing I am!



 

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Sit Down, Be Humble by Olivia McLean

Humility is the word that has dominated my thoughts for the past few weeks.

Humility,

Humility,

Humility.

The story of my Fellows year thus far is one of having rash preconceptions replaced by careful observations that more often than not result in deep breaths and a dose of humility. Rinse. Repeat. In almost every area of my life as it is today I can think of examples of when I have taken for granted a skill or made a quick assumption that has had to be reformulated at a later time. The most poignant example would perhaps be with my job serving as the Volunteer and Student Coordinator at Faith Family Medical Center (FFMC). FFMC exists to help those who are uninsured or underinsured access healthcare in the greater Nashville community. It operates much like any other doctor’s office, yet we never require insurance and our patients pay on a sliding scale of $20-$55 to see a provider with lab work included. As someone who has seen her fair share of doctors, the fact that people who need healthcare and cannot afford it can get help here is comforting and intriguing. I am all too familiar with the fear that is attached to managing the effects of a chronic disease and navigating the often-overwhelming maze of doctors, specialists, appointments, insurance, and medications.  My specific job, though, at the beginning set me back on my heels. I had not expected to be working behind the computer as much as I was, and often I felt as though whole days were passing without doing anything of obvious or tangible significance. This feeling is akin to hell for me in a way, and doing tedious tasks without human interaction makes me antsy and irritable. Time passed, though, and I began to see the bigger picture behind Faith Family and the day-to-day workings of a clinic. My perspective slowly shifted and I understood that any contribution I made during the workday ultimately added to the success of their mission. I had the privilege to care for the people who are the backbone of our society—the Uber drivers, the construction workers, the small business owners. Was I excited about looking up 500 patients phone numbers and appointment dates in our patient database by hand? No. But that contribution meant that 500 more patients would know about Chronic Disease Days, where they could get over $1,000 worth of medical care for free.

With that change in perspective work shifted from meaningless to meaningful. Reorienting myself with the greater mission inspired a new sense of drive and purpose. In many of the same ways God calls us to reorient our worldview to inspire that sense of drive and purpose in everything we do. The Book of Ecclesiastes documents this juxtaposition referring to meaningless, earthly work as “under the sun” emphasizing the sweat, toil, and tears. In my opinion one of the most beautiful portrayals of what it means to live and work as a Christian , Ecclesiastes says:

“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

A life that is lived under the sun is empty, exhausting, and toilsome. The only glimmer of hope to Solomon, the author, is the prospect of a sovereign God. The promise of heavenly reward and working for a purpose changes every facet of the daily grind. It adds a deeper meaning that saturates each action of the worker. Through Christ we are made for stewardship, for creation, and for good works.   

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.” Genesis 2:15-20

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10

The Gospel makes each and every job relevant if it is done to the glory of God. What we, as humans, deem significant and prestigious is often antithetical to what God deems significant and prestigious. They expected a king on the throne but got a baby in a manger. The reality of my work this year, contributing to the kingdom of God, is something that I need to be told over and over again because too often I forget. Scott Sauls, pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church here in Nashville, reminded us at the beginning of the year, “In the Kingdom of God, a small thing is no small thing.”

This year has humbled me in a way that I was truly not expecting. At Faith Family I have seen the beauty of a well-ordered spreadsheet and the value in a single task done well. As a Fellow, I've learned to cherish the little moments we have together as a group. Dinner with my host family has become a favorite time of my week. I believe that as I learn more about God’s character and who he created me to be, my ability to see the beauty and value in the invaluable increases.

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