Posts Tagged ‘Nashville


where do I even start?

Where do I even start? That’s what I feel like when I write this…it’s been so long, and God has been doing so much that I don’t even know where to begin.  So I’m going to begin with Him. He is good. I know this goodness; I’ve tasted it, felt it, experienced, clung to it. And because of His goodness and knowing His goodness toward me, I started spending more time looking up and looking out.

I’m finally realizing there is no system for this. There are no ten steps to finding God (which is good because by step 3 I’m bored and overwhelmed anyway). But I think this is good for everyone, because there is nothing anyone else can put on you or put on me that ends up becoming a burden and not the easy yoke that Jesus intended.

But as far as “how to” seek Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness, I know it’s happening for me right now, but the way it happens for me may not be the same way it happens for the people around me. I really thought I knew, but I just don’t. Which is good because when I thought I knew, pride settled in and took over.  I know for me He used a camping trip and someone listening to my long story and openness to Him, but I don’t have the answers, and I’m finding He uses different things to open other people’s hearts.

Not long ago, I came across a passage that pretty much said, Love instead of talking about what you know;  and if you think you know stuff, you don’t have a clue yet; and God really knows who loves Him. (my paraphrase, of course).

I know there is openness and yielding and surrender and waiting and leaning in and repentance and belief and laying down your life and “help me” prayers or whatever other words and ideas begin to open our hearts up to a big God, but I don’t believe this is a scavenger hunt to try to find God. He is there, and I don’t have to make it into a ten step program to get Him to pay attention to me. When I do this, when I make knowing God about a “how to” lesson for me and for those around me, the program, the agenda, the formulas always seem to take over, and I seem to lose the very thing I was after. And many times it seems God is nowhere to be seen in all the organization and practicality and boring-ness of it all. And I’m beginning to start to think that God just isn’t all that practical.  I’m not saying God is not a God of order; I know He is; it’s just not my order, and I don’t get to determine the outcome. And He began to show me that I really wanted to be in control, which is really quite laughable.

So this is my story…my finding Jesus or Him finding me in the midst of all of my junk and my self-righteousness and even my formulas for finding God that didn’t work. It’s just a story, not a prescription or a recipe…

In my early thirties, I struggled to know God, only to see small glimpses of Him here and there. I began to taste grace and freedom, but I didn’t seem to pay attention for very long. I knew He was good; I knew He was God. But in the last year, I feel like I’ve been taken hold of by the Master of the universe, and I now know that He will never, ever let me go. And in Him taking hold of me and me surrendering myself to Him (becoming His slave), that’s where I’ve found freedom.

God began by tearing away some of the doubts and the lies I had believed about Him, about myself, about people, and about my marriage (Marriage: Being All In) that I had allowed to seep in over the years. I began being in community with other people and began to really hunger for God which I believe He gave me, and little by little I began to submit to God and the things He wanted for me. Even though these were such tiny, tiny baby steps, I struggled immensely with letting go of what I thought I wanted and allowing myself to fall into Him.

God also began speaking to me through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. I had a thirst for His Word and for Him that was almost unquenchable.  Some of the words that I couldn’t get out of my head that began to reach down and take hold of my heart were:   Stop saying you love people and do something about it. (my paraphrase again) So what in the world does that look like? What does it mean to truly love God and love my neighbor? Because loving my neighbor is loving God. The two go hand in hand.

So, one of the first things He worked on me about was gentleness. And the hardest place for this mom to be gentle? My own home. “Be gentle” showed up everywhere I looked for months. I realized I was powerless to do this in my strength, so what did it look like to do it in His strength? Honestly, I’m not really even sure. It took months for Him to make it go from my head and sink into my heart and gradually I noticed “gentleness” began to really be a part of every day.

Even after God’s gentle treatment of me, I started to think that I knew something or at least more than other people did. So, I got this whole self-righteous thing going on, and it manifested itself in bragging about reading the Bible and pushing other people to do the same. What is it about us humans that want to take the good things we are learning and shove them in other people’s faces? We want to be the “haves” and show the “have-nots” that they don’t understand God’s grace and love. Which again is just laughable, not to mention ironic. But God is good, and He opened my eyes to my sin, and I was able to repent and ask forgiveness from one friend who had taken the brunt of my holier-than-thou attitude.

During that time, God took away every source that I had to lean on, and I learned to really lean into and depend upon Him; I took everything to Him. I had no one else to take stuff to, but I realized in my frantic journaling/praying that He alone could take my stuff and give me peace in the midst of whatever I struggled with at the time. Sometimes my anxiety or anger still threatens to overwhelm me, and giving those things to Him sometimes takes longer than I think I have, but I continue to sit until I am able to walk away in peace knowing that He will take care of my heart much better than I can take care of it myself.

I’ve begun to be thankful for everything, even the things that don’t look so great because I now realize that difficulties are the opportunities to really grow and lean heavily into God more and more. This is no big deal, but our washer broke a few weeks back, and I had been putting off going to the laundromat for weeks. I finally loaded a few basket loads of dirty laundry in the back of the van early the other morning and drove there. I haven’t done laundry in one of those places for close to 20 years, so I was stunned to walk in and see that to use the largest washer cost 9 dollars, and that price did not include hot water!  I couldn’t do it. To use even the very smallest washer was over 3 dollars, and that would have washed about ten items on cold. I walked out. As I got home, my heart did a turnaround, and I realized that this washer dilemma was no longer about me, because God showed me that this is what the poor have to do all the time. They have to go to the laundromat and pay, what I think are, exorbitant prices to just be able to have clean clothes. I got angry, and then I started crying for them. Over laundry. Yep, that’s what God used this time to get my focus off myself and my own dirty laundry.

So that very morning, the washer opportunity led Jeff and me into a discussion about boldness and what it looked like to love our neighbor. So we began to pray for boldness, and three hours later we were driving near our home in north Nashville trying to see if we could help our most recent flood victims. God showed us the needs and directed our paths in a neighborhood that I would have formerly driven through with my doors locked. A day later, our family was able to go back and help these families. The physical part of the job we did was important, but the spiritual aspect of encouraging people who had just lost everything and praying holding hands in circles in their front yards is kingdom stuff. And this is what God does. He takes my shock, my outrage at the poor being taken advantage of, and He uses this to get me off my couch and out of my comfort zone for one moment. And things happen, and my eyes open to His love, His crazy kind of love for me and for all people, and that makes me want to shout for joy and thank Him forever.

I realize more and more that everything God does is for our good and His glory. And, some days, that’s all I’ve got. But it’s enough.

This I know: God is for me. (Psalm 56:9)


Not the Path I Would Have Chosen

When Jeff and I moved to Nashville almost six years ago, we came here to help a struggling school. When that school closed down four years ago, we had no idea what to do with our five children (ages 4-12 at the time) who attended that school. It was sad to see so many families struggle with where they would send their kids to school, as well.

Feeling like we had no other options, we went ahead and homeschooled. We had homeschooled several years earlier when our older boys were younger, so I knew we could do it, but I didn’t really want to, to be perfectly honest.

After the school closed down, my plan was to home school our kids for a couple of years and then find a  private school our kids could attend. So, for me, homeschooling was a very temporary thing, to say the least. I love my kids, but I didn’t want to hang with them every day, all day long.

We survived homeschooling for two years, and then that next summer I begged God to release me from homeschooling my kids. I was done. When I realized He was not answering my prayers for release, I realized I might be in this for the long haul, and instead of fighting it, I chose to embrace it.

I had a decent relationship with my kids. I was physically present and took care of them, but I struggled with being emotionally present a good deal of the time. For years, I struggled with emotional affairs, always looking for greener grass elsewhere and not satisfied with God or what He had given me.

But a few years ago, God really began doing His healing work in me, and I began to have victory in an area that I thought I would struggle with for the rest of my life. As a result of His healing, I now had the time and the emotional energy to invest in my kids and began being in real relationship with them, not just passing them in the hall or cleaning up after them or even teaching them school.

We began talking and haven’t stopped yet…real conversations about God, about the stuff that they feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis. We laugh; we joke; we play games; we talk. Jeff and I love sitting in our dining room in front of the fire talking and hanging out with our kids. It is truly one of the best parts of my life.

I’m not a creative home school mom who comes up with fun activities for my kids to do, and my kids would probably say homeschooling is pretty boring for the most part. But what I’ve found in being around my kids all day long and them being around each other is that I would not exchange the relationships I now have with them and the ones they have with each other for anything in the world. It’s a gift from God. And I am just so incredibly grateful.

I would not have chosen this path for myself, but I’m thankful for my loving Abba who chose it for me and gently pushed me down it. He really does know what best for me, for all of us.

And those years the locusts ate…they’ve been reclaimed and restored many times more than I could possibly have imagined.

I will lead the blind by a way they did not know;
I will guide them on paths they have not known.
I will turn darkness to light in front of them
and rough places into level ground. (Isaiah 42)


Community, Discipleship and Courage

Jeff and I are called to do two things. We are called to start small communities that meet in homes, and we are called to do discipleship. We believe that both are vital to living in God’s kingdom here and now.

These communities consist of 20-50 people. The people within these communities eat together, pray together, love each other,  and commit to one another. These communities are small enough so that all the people in the community are able to bring their gifts to the table and use them for the Body’s benefit and for God’s glory.

This is not a spectator sport, where we cheer others on to do the work. We all do the work together. No one gets lost or ignored because these communities are small enough that each person is equally important. These communities meet in people’s homes, where life takes place. Simply put, a Community Group is an extended family following Jesus together by doing life with missionary purpose.

We have an active community that we are already involved in. We share a meal together weekly, help each other, and support each other by being an active part of each other’s lives. The relationships within our community are covenant relationships that require time, energy and commitment.

Our community started as the Holy Spirit called on us to do the small acts of obedience in opening our homes and lives to each other, and this community has become our extended family where each week it feels like a family reunion in the very best sense of the word. I long to be with these people, and I miss them when I’m not able to.

We are looking to start other communities similar to this one as God brings together people who are desperate for Him and who desire to share their lives in community. These groups will be similar but also very different in that they will be led by people who have different missional outreaches. We are ministering in such a way that these communities can be started all over Nashville and led by the people God raises up. Once a few community groups have started up, we will have celebration gatherings where this network of communities, who want to serve Jesus and the people around them, will come together for praise and worship and times of teaching. These groups will be the basis for New Life Church Network.

Jeff and I are partners in this work God has called us to. Really, our whole family is doing this work together. We are seeing our children embrace the people in our community. And they are active participants in loving and serving those around them.

The second part of what Jeff and I are doing is discipleship. The way of growth in the New Testament was discipleship. Jesus chose His disciples, and He spent three years discipling them as they walked with Him. At the end of Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples that He had been given all authority and then commanded His disciples to go make disciples. We believe that we are following Him in obedience by doing discipleship with people, Jeff with men, me with women.

Discipleship is NOT a Bible study.  Discipleship is meeting on a weekly basis with 1 to 2 other people who are reading the same Bible passage, NOT to study the passage but rather to go to the Word to see what God is calling them to do in repentance and obedience. It goes back to John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ message:  “Repent and believe. The Kingdom of God is here.”

Discipleship is simple in that anyone can do it. We are discipling and training our children, because we believe it is essential to growing and maturing in Christ. We have already seen lives changed because of what Jesus and His Word can do with people who are willing to submit themselves to Him in obedience and humility. When Jesus came and took  on our flesh, He emptied Himself, took on the form of a slave and became obedient to the point of death.  He calls us to do the same…to come and die.

Simply put, discipleship is listening to what God is telling us to do in the context of community. It is following Jesus. And it really comes down to two basic questions. What in my life do I need to repent of? And what is God, not man, telling me to do about it? Neil Cole calls this process exhaling and inhaling: exhaling our sin in repentance and then inhaling the Word of God and seeking Him in obedience. We have to expel the junk and sin of our lives before we can breathe in the Gospel.

Eugene Peterson talks about this in his book Eat This Book. He says, “Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God.  The most important question we ask of this text (the Bible) is not, ‘What does this mean?’ but ‘What can I obey?’ A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text  far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.” (71)

Community and discipleship work together. It’s meeting people where they are and growing up and maturing in Christ together. We’re walking side by side with people in their journey to Him. I have this sense of urgency and mission within me to do discipleship with others, because I now see hope where there was none. It’s hope in a God who changes people, not fixes them or makes their lives better, but actually transforms them into a new creation.

We can spend years trying to figure out who we are with numerous self-help books, but change can only happen when we’re ready to come to Him in repentance and belief. The same message that John the Baptist and Jesus preached still applies now.  Six or seven months ago I said to Jeff, “I’m not doing that discipleship thing.”  I know He can change lives; He is changing mine.

Please pray that we would be courageous and obedient and let God do His work in us and through us. We also need God’s people to come along side us and support us in this thing God has called us to. We are all called to serve and make sacrifices in the kingdom of God. And we are excited that others are joining us  in their prayers and with their money. We are, in fact, spurring each other on to love and good works. And that’s what kingdom living is all about. So, thank you, for acting courageously and sacrificially on our behalf and on behalf of the kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria…to God alone be the glory…

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072


Walking With People Toward Jesus

And He began to send them out two by two… So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (Mark 6)

This is what Jeff and I are called to do. We are being sent out to walk with people towards Jesus. We are doing discipleship with people, showing them how to repent and believe, urging them to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling them they need to repent of and what He is telling them to do about it (not in a legalistic kind of way, but rather Holy Spirit-led, growth kind of way).  And this is done only in the context of community.

God has put us in community with other believers who are seeking Him. This happened almost overnight. He called us to take small steps, and we simply had to listen and obey. This was not easy. It felt like there was much opposition; there was fear and doubt and insecurity on my part, but we obeyed and put one foot in front of the other. And God is flinging His kingdom wide open here in Nashville. We are letting our light shine so that people will glorify God and the great things He has done in us and through us.

In the eight weeks since our community started, we have seen God’s Spirit break in, and there is life. Beautiful, abundant life. The people in our community are starting to really love each other, not just in word but also in action. And Jeff and I are committed to walk the journey out with these believers.

And this is just the beginning. God has put in our hearts to start these small communities of 20-50 people all over Nashville. One of the guys Jeff is doing discipleship with already wants to start one on his side of town. We are excited to be a part of God’s kingdom here in Nashville…we are simply blooming where we have been planted.

The word for what can happen in our culture with these small communities, focused on Jesus, loving each other and caring for one another, is virus. If people get a whiff of the life that happens when surrender occurs, following Jesus with other believers in these small communities could go viral here in our cities, states, country. This is the way it’s already happening all over the world. I’m humbled and grateful that He has called me to give my life for this.

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  (Mark 6)

Jeff and I are called to put on our walking shoes, take our walking stick and put on our jacket. But how does this translate in our culture? How do we “earn” a living doing this?

Simply put, God’s provision. The expectation is 100 percent on Him to show up to provide for our family’s needs. However, He uses His people to share their resources with those who are ministering, and as Paul urged the Philippians, he said it was to their benefit to share in the work of the ministry. I’m excited to see how God does this. Because this is not done out of duty or obligation but the Holy Spirit working and His people listening.

Our family is called to this. And everything else is a distraction. I feel an urgency to share our journey with others and see others grow up in Him. I am very much in process, but I know this–that Jesus and His kingdom are worth giving my life for.

Please pray that we would continue to stay grounded in God and the things of God, that we would have listening ears and receptive hearts, and that our community and the others that are started would bring glory to Him. And consider being a part of what God is calling us to do. We’d love to hear from you.

For the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5)

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072


Are They Worth It?

These are all of Pioneer Christian Academy’s Upper School students. This video was taken the first week of school while the students were on their retreat. 

Pioneer is really all about the kids…and I believe that teachers, parents, and students would say, “This is home, Now I’m finally where I belong.”

But we need a miracle…

We need help…prayer, students, support.

 PCA video


Does Jesus Care About A School?

When we moved from Alabama to Nashville last year, Jeff came to be the principal of Pioneer Christian Academy, the school he graduated from 20 years ago. Jeff never imagined being a principal of a school, and I certainly never imagined being married to a principal. But we knew that this is where Abba was sending us, and we saw Him part the Red Sea to get us here.

Pioneer is a school that has been around for 40 years on the Northside of Nashville near Goodlettsville, but not many in the community seem to know about it, and it’s a miracle if you can even find it. If you happen to stumble across it, it is one of those weird God-things, and funny thing is, there have been quite a few of those in the last year…I see Abba’s hand all over this place.

Pioneer’s legacy has been one of legalism all wrapped up in fear, from the sign in the principal’s office that said, “Be sure your sin will find you out,” to the faculty and students walking around on eggshells, fearful that they were going to cross over some very real imaginary line. The fear and condemnation have been thick, so much so that some alumni and former students refuse to even step foot on campus because they cannot stand what the school used to represent for them.

The school has really struggled and has been more or less coasting for the last 10 years. It’s hard to run a school in neutral. So Pioneer needed a jump start, and Jeff was coming to literally shift it out of neutral and turn it in another direction.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have a hard time dealing with change, and some people seem to like neutral. Some would rather have something stay unhealthy than to be a part of growth and change…change is very uncomfortable for me as well, but I’m learning it is a necessary part of being alive…otherwise life is lived in an unhealthy coma-like state.

And Pioneer is no exception. It has to grow and change, and Jeff sees a vision for it to be other than it is. So, Jeff talked about his vision for the school, but, instead of the school growing, it actually decreased in attendance. But the ones who left, teachers and students alike needed to go…no hard feelings or anything…just going a different direction.

Pioneer is a school that’s quickly growing a heart, among other things and only those who can see past surface things, like old carpet and Pepto-Bismol pink walls, will truly get it. But for those that do, it’s like an unexpected gift…it’s actually becoming a place where the students want to be, and that in itself says a whole lot.

This year, there are teachers teaching at the school because Abba brought them…that’s all there is to it. I look around and think, why in the world are these amazing people here? But maybe this thing is bigger than a school…maybe it’s about seeing Christ in each other, about embracing our diversity, and loving each other in the process.

But right now at Pioneer, finances are a serious issue, due to the lack of students. My faith is big in some areas, but finances have always thrown me for a loop. I have fear and doubt all mixed in with questioning whether Abba can really provide for a school or even if He wants to. So I’ve been asking the question does Jesus care about a small school on the Northside of Nashville?

I was at a Moms in Touch group the other morning where we pray for our school, the faculty, and our kids. And one of the other moms really believes that Abba is going to provide for the needs of the school. I told her that I had my doubts, and I asked her if she thought her faith was big enough for the both of us. She told me it takes the faith of a mustard seed, and I think that’s about all I’ve got right now…

I know it’s often thought tacky to talk about money…maybe it is…maybe it isn’t. But I don’t think Jesus thought it was, because He says, “Ask and it will be given to you.” And I tend to think this phrase also includes money or students or whatever the need is…I have a hard time asking for things…I hate it, really…I grew up thinking that asking for stuff was presumptuous, but clearly, that is my own issue… 

So, Jesus, I’m asking. I’m asking that a school that cannot get enough of You these days is able to remain open. I’m asking that You provide the money or the students or both so that these adults and little ones alike can see You, can experience Your power, can feel Your presence move and are mindful that You are the One doing it. Provide the daily bread or part the Jordan River…we’re like the Israelites standing on the shore in the middle of flooding season and see no way to cross on our own. Our strategizing and our planning are all in vain if You’re not in it. But I see You, and I know that You can provide what is necessary if this is Your will. I am already grateful for what You have done in us and through us and in our midst. Help us see You and experience You in a way that a school never has before. Help us be a light in our community that points people to You, Abba, because knowing You and experiencing You are what it’s all about, and the school is just a small part of it. But I’m here, and I’m asking because we need You more than anything…

I got one of those e-mail cards for my birthday, and at the end of the card, Eph 3:20 came across the screen…”God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine.” So, right now, in the middle of all my fear and all my doubt, I’m praying and hoping that Abba will provide the miracle that will keep the school’s doors open, that He will do the “far more than we can imagine.”

And, yes, I still have my doubts because humanly speaking it looks bad. But I know this for sure that Abba is bigger than my fear, bigger than my doubts, and really it’s not about me anyway…my faith or lack of faith. But I have a feeling that whatever happens, it’s going to be one of those things that when I finally see what’s really going on, I’m either going to be falling on my face in gratitude or dancing till my head pops off…

“Word of God speak,
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty.
To be still and know
That you’re in this place…
Word of God speak.”


Owning My Broken Road


A little over a year ago, we moved from Tuscaloosa to Nashville for Jeff to become Headmaster at his alma mater Pioneer Christian Academy. What an absolute whirlwind (some might say nightmare) our lives were last year this time. Right up until the middle of July we thought we were going to be in Tuscaloosa doing church work. Then, we got the call that brought us to Nashville.


We sold our house two weeks later on July 31 and moved to Nashville August 2, only to put most of our stuff into storage. The school had already started their teacher in-service which technically Jeff was supposed to be in charge of since he was now the principal, but Jeff and I were busy dashing around town trying to find a house to live in, since all seven of us were living with Jeff’s parents in a 1 almost 2 bedroom house.


In two weeks, we not only found a house, but the seller immediately accepted our low-ball offer, and we were able to move into our house two weeks later. I knew in the middle of all the craziness that Abba was guiding us through it all…and I could feel His presence. I don’t always see Him working as clearly as I did last summer, but everything was so insane that I knew it had to be from Him, because who else would come up with a plan like that? But I can honestly say that in the middle of all the chaos I was at rest.  One writer says that her two favorite prayers are “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Those prayers sum it up for me as well.


Even though our move was a miracle, and I took it for what it was at the time, I still refused to embrace last school year. I grew up as the principal’s daughter…I didn’t ever think I would be a principal’s wife. I was willing to move to Nashville because it’s where we were supposed to be, and I knew it, but I struggled and I wrestled and I failed to “own” the people and the place.  


Sometimes when I see Abba move me to a new situation or a new place, I often have this faulty thinking that the new situation will be better than the one I left, and if it’s not better, I convince myself that I somehow missed the right road, and then berate myself accordingly, because Abba certainly wouldn’t move me to a more difficult place, especially if I’m listening and doing what He tells me to do.


But it was a more difficult place in a lot of ways, and it was a hard year for many different reasons, and even though I learned a lot, I was already dreading what this school year might look like. But I was recently talking to a friend on the phone, and I was starting to whine about my situation and I was talking about how I couldn’t go through another year like last year, “Because last year…” This friend cut me off and said, “This isn’t last year.” Right then, the verse that came to mind was Phil. 3:14 which says, …forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. This was Abba speaking directly to me, saying, “Kim, you’ve got to let this stuff go and own the road you’re on.”  


I recently found a quote that I’ve been chewing on for a couple of weeks now, and it says, “God’s will is 98 percent about who you are…not where you are or whom you are with.” If I allow this thought to sink in and take root in my heart, then I won’t be so easily convinced by the enemy’s voice that I’m in the wrong place or with the wrong people…so as broken as my road is, I’m convinced more than ever that I’m on the right one…“Every long lost dream led me to where You are.”


That I may know Him…and isn’t that really the whole point?


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