Good morning and happy Wednesday!

This morning I managed to sleep through my alarm and promptly roll out of bed and head to Starbucks to meet with a few of my favorite gals. We’ve been reading through Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, and it’s become one of those things that I look forward to each week. This week’s Power of One Wednesday guest is the reason this group meets, as well as the reason that one of my favorite places in Nashville is doing what it does today. Meet TJ!

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TJ grew up in northern Canada, in a little area known as The Yukon. Her family upbringing was extremely abusive and dysfunctional, leaving her in the foster care system at 14 years old. Although she was technically in the system, her care was never consistent and she had to grow up basically fending for herself. Despite this, TJ’s inner dedication led her to complete high school, obtain two collegiate degrees, and then as a global volunteer and traveler, mainly working in Africa with orphans. She spent several years working for renowned Christian evangelist Billy Graham as project manager setting up events all across Canada, and met her husband Kyle during that time. The pair moved to Nashville so that Kyle could pursue his music career. TJ’s passion for serving her community led her to pursue her current position at Cross Point’s Dream Center, where she has fearlessly led for the past three and a half years. She’s also the proud mom of two of the cutest boys you’ll ever meet.

TJ has been a dear friend to me over the past two years, first as an internship supervisor, then as a mentor and friend. Her drive, courage, and compassion for others is nothing short of inspiring, and she’s undoubtedly one of the most impactful people I’ve met during my time in Nashville.

What’s been one moment in your life that has really shaped your perspective/faith?

When I was fifteen, my youth pastor took me for coffee and said he would not stand by and watch me head down a destructive path. He said that even though I didn’t believe it, he knew I was made for greatness and he was not going to let me act any other way. From that moment on he watched out for me and made sure that I graduated and went to college. Even though I was raised believing that I was worthless, he and many others helped me to begin to believe that my past didn’t have to end up being my future.

Tell me a little bit about the Dream Center. How do you feel like it’s making a difference in the Nashville community?
The Dream Center is a place that uses all means to provide hope to people who feel beat down and worn out by a broken system. We are not here to give handouts or enable people to remain in the same destructive circumstances they’re in, but we are here to remind them what it is to have hope and to dream. A few of the services we offer include a food bank, classes for single moms, and support groups for those whose lives have been affected by addiction and incarceration. These particular neighborhoods in West Nashville have been known for their high crime and drug rates, but we’ve been told by the police department that having the Dream Center here as an alternative has led to a huge decrease in the crime rate in this area.

Tell me about a time when you knew that what you were doing mattered.

Honestly, I have those moments every day, when I nearly get knocked over from kids in the neighborhood who race towards me to hug me with their sweaty little arms just to squeeze me and tell me how much they missed me. When we first came to this neighborhood they looked at me like I was an alien, and I think it was a year before any of them would even acknowledge what my name was. We have grown so much and established such positive relationships here. I believe with all my heart that every hug, every tear I wipe, and every free popsicle I give out helps these kids take one step closer to believing that they are worthy and deserve a chance in life.
What’s your favorite thing about Nashville? What’s something you think needs to change?
I love that this city has people from all over the place chasing their dreams. I don’t care if every server is a guitar player and every store has a singer—I think it’s awesome to live somewhere that people come to filled with hope and dreams! While all of the growth has been great, the gentrification has left a lot of lower-income people who have lived here for years nowhere to go. Instead of building new housing for people of means at the expense of others, why not create ways to revitalize these struggling neighborhoods from within and create safer, cleaner, nicer neighborhoods for the people who already live there?
If you had one piece of life advice you could share with everybody, what would it be?
Be honest. with yourself, about yourself and with others.

I am so grateful for TJ’s mentorship and example in my life! She’s a woman who has turned her story into something so beautiful and redemptive—and I think this speaks volumes about the God she serves. I hope that you’ll take her words of encouragement and use them to propel you forward through the next few days. Be well and blessed!

xx,
Jeanette
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