You know how they say cells regenerate every 7 years, making a person essentially new? I wonder if relationships experience that cycle, too. Today we’ve been married for seven years and somehow it feels like we’re totally different people, but even more of a safe place to each other, than we were in 2014.

Lucky number seven. Love you, Danny Tilmes. No matter how many times we cycle into new people, I’ll look forward to all thats to come while standing by your side. 

How to Fall in Love with Nashville

Danny and I have been going to Nashville nearly every year since 2014. It is at the very top of my list of favorite cities. Don’t you dare come at me with hate words against Nashville because I claim it as my own.

I’ve had a note saved on my phone for years that I’ll send to friends and anyone who asks for Nashville recommendations on Instagram. I figured it was time to put it here for the public. Go forth and boot scoot boogie.

Note: There are few walkable neighborhoods in Nashville. Most of these spots will require you to drive from place to place. That’s the most common thing I hear from people who claim they don’t like Nashville… “There was too much driving.” So, do with that what you will and set your expectations right before you show up in Music City.

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It Sucks and It’s Sanctifying

This was a journal entry written on July 5th, 2020.

Today, three weeks after returning home from our annual Team Tilmes retreat, I’m writing out our 2020-21 goals and intentions on notecards and hanging them up. In the past, I eagerly wrote and hung them right after coming home. But this year was different. Our annual trip ended quite terribly and made me want to do nothing but cover up those goals and intentions until right now.

We drove to Louisville on a Friday with the best kind of secret: we were pregnant. 12 weeks, with our formal ultrasound scheduled the following Wednesday. At 8 weeks, we went to the OB, heard a strong heartbeat, and were given a due date of January 3rd. The unknown was so exciting– would we have a boy or a girl? Would our baby come early before the new year or hold out until 2021? What would life be like as a family of three? I’ve really never felt so excited or in love or curious about a person I didn’t know at all.

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Selah, Pt. 3

The week before I miscarried, I stopped feeling nauseous. For the first ten weeks of my pregnancy, I felt mildly sick all the time. The thought of certain foods could make me gag, and in general, nothing sounded appetizing at all. But right around week 11, which in hindsight was the week before I miscarried, I felt fine. So fine that when friends asked how I was feeling I would say “I actually don’t feel nauseous at all anymore. I hope that’s a kind gift from God and not the sign of something bad, but I feel totally fine!”

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Selah, Pt. 2

For weeks after our hospital visit, I cried.

I cried because we lost our first baby. I cried because it felt unfair that we waited twenty months to have to wade through (drown in?) this pain. I cried because the plans we were dreaming up in early January suddenly and without warning were cancelled. I cried because my husband experienced the same events in different ways, and I hurt for him, too.  I cried because I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I cried when I imagined opening myself up to the vulnerability of being pregnant again. I cried when I considered opening myself up to the vulnerability of talking to God about my hurt. I cried because there was life growing in me and then there was not. I cried out of anger at my body, which wasn’t doing what I always thought it was supposed to. I cried when we got a package of props I ordered for our announcement photo because it felt like a cruel reminder of what we no longer needed. I cried when I cleaned off my dresser and found the pregnancy test I had been saving for a memory book — now a memory of loss. I cried when friends dropped off flowers because the grace of God felt close. I cried when friends responded with thoughtful words. I cried when friends responded with honest words admitting they didn’t know what to say, but that they cared, because I believed them. I cried when friends who have been through the same thing responded with heartbreak because it hurt to know they knew the feelings. I cried over friends who didn’t respond at all. I cried when a friend stopped by to drop off bread just because — she didn’t know my news — and it was the first time I said “I had a miscarriage” out loud. One day I got in my car and I cried a lot. I cried because it was the only thing I felt I could do. I cried on the first day my life started to feel “normal” again: at the moment I realized I hadn’t cried at all that day. I cried during group prayer at a friend’s baby shower. I cried in the shower when I thought Danny couldn’t hear. I cried at times without knowing why I was crying.

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Selah, Pt. 1

We were half way through quarantine when I lost an appetite for coffee and meat and really all foods that weren’t cold or white (cold AND white? Even better!). I didn’t know it at the time, but my body was changing, which I’d find out the day before Danny’s birthday. My period was several days late, so I decided to pee on a stick, and did that nervous back-and-forth-pace in the bathroom until two minutes passed and the vibrant plus sign was undeniable– we were pregnant.

I have peed on many sticks over the last two years, but none have been pregnancy tests until April. Every month I pulled out an ovulation test to confirm that, yes, my cycle was “regular” and, yes, I was ovulating. But I never needed to take the other test– the one we all want to take unless we don’t — because my period always came… right on time. And then it didn’t.

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What We Want/What We Get

Sometimes what we want isn’t what we get, and sometimes what we get is even better.

WHAT I WANTED: passion for work + ministry
HOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD HAPPEN: doing full time ministry; specifically by going on Young Life staff
WHAT GOD GAVE ME: passion for work + ministry… and really good friends

In late 2015 I was feeling burned out. I worked more than 40 hours each week and often felt drained on the nights Danny and I drove to Kings for Young Life events. I knew that I loved doing ministry through Young Life, and wasn’t feeling much purpose in my full time job, so I assumed that God might have been calling me to interview for Young Life staff so that my time and energy could go towards the thing I loved (ministry) rather than feeling like my life was split in two.

The interview process was several months long and throughout it I was praying and asking God for affirmation in this decision. I never really heard a clear yes or no, so I took the silence as a “yes” from God. After all, it was full-time ministry I was considering. How could God not approve of me choosing to do full-time ministry?

In the spring of 2016, I was offered a position on Young Life staff, and because I had been waiting on this offer for over six months, I accepted without hesitation. Taking the position meant leading at Loveland High School beginning in the fall, which was exciting. But, in the days to follow, I began to feel really uneasy about the decision I made. For the first time since beginning to pursue the idea of full-time ministry, I felt like God was asking me to reconsider. At first I was nervous that my apprehension about the position was rooted in fear, so I tried to ignore it. But the more time I spent talking to God about it, the more peace I felt in the fact that I needed to back away from the thing I thought would change everything (full-time ministry). Because I declined the position, nothing about my day-to-day life changed: I kept my job, Danny and I continued to lead at Kings High School as volunteers, and I felt drained doing both, but now with added feelings of confusion, embarrassment, and sadness.

About two months after declining the Young Life position, I met my current boss, Sam, and began interviewing for a position at High Five Salon. That’s another story, but in the summer of 2016, I completely changed career paths and started managing a hair salon. My job isn’t “full-time ministry,” but I have a better understanding that our life is ministry whether or not we get paid to do it. I have capacity to spend time with girls after school and can say with thankfulness that my job at High Five and Young Life ministry in Kings both fuel my passions.

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Agree to It

We have our vows to each other on our nightstands. The promises Danny spoke over me 5.5 years ago are within arms length from me when I wake up. But, if I’ve learned anything from 10 Valentine’s Days spent with him, it’s that I have to actively agree that those promises are true.
Some days I wake up already agreeing to a belief that I’m unloveable, too much, not enough. Those days feel dark and lonely. But when I’m intentional about agreeing that his words are still true, it’s as if a light turns on and wins over my dark and lonely. I’ve learned that I’m always agreeing with something, and it takes effort to agree to the truth, but there’s joy waiting there.

God speaks incredible promises over you. His truth is always within arms length when you wake up in the morning. Actually, it’s even closer than that, but it’s easy to overlook. I wish it wasn’t. But the best news I’ve ever heard is that no matter how I feel towards God, he is constant in his love for me. I’m more loved by him right now than I’ve ever been and more loved right now than I’ll ever be, and I just get to agree to it. You just get to agree to it.

No matter your relationship status on a day like today, you have hope and love and worth spoken over you, and you just get to agree to it.