When the Shoe Dropped

Our relationship was always natural. When we met right after our 19th birthdays, we were instant friends. We eased into dating like we eased into friendship. Our marriage was the same. Everyone told us it was going to be hard and to be ready for it. So we armored up and promised each other that even when it (inevitably) got hard, we wouldn't bail. But things didn't get hard. Not for a while. We kept asking each other "When is the other shoe gonna drop?" We never thought "that won't happen to us", it was always, "I won't bail on you when it DOES."

We went years and years. Little things came up here and there, but never anything that was cause for concern. Our marriage was easy. It really was.

But then the shoe dropped. 

And it dropped HARD. 

It was a shoe shaped like postpartum depression and anxiety laced up with unspoken and unfulfilled expectations. And it almost killed us.

Zach checked out. He didn't know what to do with me. I couldn't give him a problem that he had a solution for. I couldn't tell him WHY I was sad ... just that I was. I couldn't tell him WHY I was afraid ... just that I was. He couldn't find his role in my life anymore, so he did what he knew to do. He washed dishes, he put our kids to bed, he gave me space. 

I expected so much of him and when he failed to meet those expectations, I expected more and more and more. But I never told him what I was expecting. I just wanted him to to be able to look at me and know what I needed, just like he always had. But this was different. 

It was better when we were fighting. 

But then I stopped talking. 

I thought if I could just be the girl I used to be, just enough to fool him, that he would love me again. I'd convinced myself that he wasn't in love with me anymore, he was just too good of a man to leave me like he should. So I pushed him out. I let him think I was ok. I trapped everything inside until it turned into anxiety and panic that wreaked havoc on my body. 

This went on for way longer than I care to admit. I felt so abandoned, but at the same time, I didn't want him to know how desperately I needed him. I was sure he would run as faraway and as fast as he could.

But things got better. It was not an overnight fix, by any means, but there were several defining moments that maybe one day I'll write about. Sometimes I listen to married couples share their stories of struggles and they say "But I'm so thankful for it because it brought us closer together." and while I understand the sentiment, I think it's nonsense. I am not thankful for depression and anxiety and they did NOT bring us closer together. No WAY would I give them credit for that. Depression tried to kill me AND my marriage. Don't ever try to tell me it brought us together. 

You know what made us stronger and brought us back together? The commitment we made at 21 years old to love, honor, and cherish each other in good times and in bad. The vows we made before our friends and family and the covenant we made with each other and our Creator. THAT'S what saved our marriage. It saved it before it even started. 

And now, yes, we're stronger than ever. But I hope that's true of us every year, regardless of whether or not we struggle. Maybe one day, when we've been married 40 years, we can tell you the secrets to a long marriage. But for now, all I can say is that our secret today is that we choose every day to keep our vows. And tomorrow they may be harder to keep than today, but we'll keep them anyway. It's hard to remember to love each other when you don't like each other, but when the shoe drops, don't run. There's so much goodness waiting on the other side.

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Transition is a ____ (you know what)

2017 is coming to a close and I'm honestly like WTH just happened. WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED. 

We started the year with a new calling growing in our hearts. We felt like God was drawing us into the city, into an underserved neighborhood, and out of our comfort zones. But it didn't feel like the right time yet. So we sat and we prayed and we waited. I was slowly coming out of the fog that anxiety and depression had trapped me under and I was ready to step back into ministry. Things didn't happen that way.

Through a series of unfortunate conversations, we decided to leave the church that Zach was youth pastoring in. We didn't know what we were going to do or where we were going to go, but we had to go. So we went. We said confusing goodbyes to our community, our church family, our home (it belonged to the church), and went in full faith that God was in it and he was going to direct our steps. We felt confident that we would quickly find exactly what God had for us. And we did, but it didn't look like what we thought it would. 

We spent our summer living in New York City in my parent's tiny South Bronx apartment. It was ... not easy. We were cramped in a tiny bedroom with our only source of income being my Young Living business that was quickly taking off and growing at a rapid rate. It was an incredible blessing, but one that I struggled to understand and appreciate. Getting to New York City (after spending a month in Georgia with my family) set Zach and I on an emotional downward spiral that was difficult to climb out of. In NYC, we began to finally accept all that we had lost. We were sad and angry and confused. We were emotionally and mentally spent. We lived on pennies and took turns being ticked off and depressed. It wasn't all bad. We had some good times and made some fond memories, but it was difficult. But it was also so good.

God shows UP when it's dark. It might be hard to see him in the moment, but when you look back, and try to figure out how in the heck you made it out alive, you can see his light bursting through every dark crevice of your soul. You see where his hand was holding yours, guiding your steps when you thought you were all on your own. You see his faithful provision and relentless pursuit. And when you see it, recognize it, acknowledge what it was, that's when you can hear him say, "It's finished. It's done. Here's your victory."

He is our victory and we are walking in it. It doesn't look like I thought it would, but its beautiful. We are settled in our new home. It's not a brand new colonial built with us in mind, but it's the coziest and warmest place we've ever called home. It's in the exact neighborhood we wrote down on a piece of craft paper a year ago when we felt God drawing us to something different. We can't let the kids play outside by themselves anymore, but they're surrounded by kids their age on all sides and are quickly becoming kids in the hood. We don't fall asleep to the sound of crickets anymore and are occasionally jolted awake by nearby gunshots, but we feel safer and more secure than we ever have. We don't have granite countertops and hardwood floors, but what we have we love and are so, so, thankful.

Every single thing we have is a gift. Whether it's an expensive home worked into a salary package or a two family that we rent from a family member. Whether it's a full time, packaged salary at a church, or working for a non profit and running an essential oils business. It's all a gift. We are not entitled to privilege or wealth or security. All that we have is a gift and all that we do not have is not ours in the first place.

This year has completely changed our perspective on what it means to be a follower of Christ, to be in community with other believers, and to be in ministry. We have never been more sure of who we are and what we're called to do. We have never been more confident that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing. And while it would be easy to look back and point fingers and be angry at the choices that were made to bring us here, we're not there anymore. Every situation, person, and circumstance that led to us being where we are right now, was just a pawn in God's sovereign plan to get us to where we needed to go and to be who we need to be. I'm thankful for every word spoken and every twist and turn. My skin is thick, my calling is sure, and my heart is full of nothing but gratitude and love. It was a painful process to get here, but here I am.

Transition is a you know what. It's painful and draining. You feel like you can't think, can't breathe, can't move. You feel like you'll be stuck in survival mode forever, but the process reveals who you are. I hated the process, but I love what it's revealed in my husband and me. And I'm excited for next year ... and all the years to come. 

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The Last Accusation

*This is a piece that I wrote and preformed at The Women of Influence Conference this weekend. Several people asked me to make it available, so I thought I'd share it with all of you as well. I hope it encourages you.*

I’m running. They’re attacking and I’m running and dodging. I don’t  have time to look back, I’m just running and running and running. I was so STUPID. I didn’t know I was entering a battlefield, so I went unprepared, without armor, intentionally vulnerable and purposefully humble. And now I’m just humiliated.

The battle pauses.

I take a second to look down at the weapons they’ve been throwing. Spears. Written on each blade is an accusation. I read each word and I weigh the weapon, but I put them back down. I am NOT picking these up and I am NOT throwing them back. This is not my battle. I’ll just keep running.

The spears slow down, but i keep running and dodging. They nick me, but they don’t pierce me. I understand this battle is not about me. So I keep my head down, but my faith rises, and I know that the King is going to go to battle for me soon. I know he’s gonna come through. He always does. He rides on the wind and he conquers my enemies and I have no doubt that he will vindicate me and make this right.

But he’s not here yet.
And the spears keep coming.
And I am tired.
I am so so tired.
I can’t run anymore.
But I’m too tired to fight.

I sit on the ground, surrounded by accusations, seeing the destruction they’ve caused. My friends  have left me.. They’re off in the distance, watching me, whispering, with skeptical looks on their faces.. At first they ran with me, but now the evidence is stacked against me. I can hear them whispering - “Surely she did something to deserve this.”

I start to believe them.

I look down at the spears and think to myself, “You know what? These are mine. These things are true and these are mine to carry.” So I stand up and I begin to pick up the accusations.

“Divisive”
“Bad mother.”
“Rebellious children”
“Unqualified”
“Liberal”
“Loud”
“Inappropriate.”
“Feminist”
“Not enough”

These are mine now. I won’t throw them back. That’s not who I am. But I will keep them safe. I will carry them with me. And I will keep running.

But every few steps, another spear flies and now I’m getting ANGRY. And this bag is getting HEAVY. And WHERE is my King?

The one who fights for me and defends me. The one who promised me that he would go before me and crush my enemies. The one who protects and restores and guides. WHERE IS HE. He’s not here. He’s not coming. It’s time to fight. Cause I can’t go one more step. I’ve already lost everything. I’ve lost my friends. I’ve lost my family. I’ve lost my home. I have nothing left to lose.

Something boils inside of me that I’ve never felt before. It rumbles and it roars and it takes over my body. I have watched my life crumble around me and have done nothing but RUN. I didn’t fight. I didn’t gather an army. I RAN. I sacrificed my peace, my comfort, my safety, and I RAN. And what has that done for me? Nothing. Everyone has left me. Even my King has abandoned me. I am alone. And I am ANGRY.

The accusations sit on my shoulders, screaming louder and louder and louder. Until their sound is an ocean and every wave takes me deeper and deeper. I am drowning in self hatred and confusion. I am utterly broken but I don’t know it yet. Because all I can feel is anger and all I can see is red. I have had enough. I will stand my ground. I will win this war. I will take this army on my own. I’ve been storing my weapons and I know I can take them all out with one blow.

So I stand in the middle of the battle ground. I take out an accusation. I ready my bow. The enemy stares me down. Waiting for my move.

And as I pull back the first accusation, a rider come galloping through the middle of the battlefield and stands between me and my enemy. They begin to cheer. “He’s here! He’s here! The King has come to get rid of her once and for all!”

He raises his hand and the crowd goes silent. He stares down my bow, still pointed at the enemy and I hear him say, “I’ve been looking for you.”

That’s when I know it’s over.

I can take the army, but I can’t take the King.  And he is on their side.

The bag on my back instantly becomes so heavy that I can’t stand anymore. The weight of the Last Accusation is too much. And I’m the one that put it there.  I etched the words in the blade until my fingers bled.

“The King is against me.”

With the deepest parts of me, I believe it. He believes these things about me. He is against me. He is against me. I am broken by the weight but in this moment I know that it’s not the weight from the other accusations that broke me. It was this one accusation - the one that I forged in the night, in the depths of my despair, when the darkest parts of my heart screamed abandonment and rejection and fear. The King is against me. Of course he is. I am nothing. I am who they say I am.

I fall to the ground.
I’m done.
Let them bind me up and take me away.
Let them put me in the gallows and humiliate me even further.
Let them say what they want and do what they want because the King is against me and I am who they say I am.

I look up at the king in utter defeat and scream,
I AM WHO THEY SAY I AM!!!!

…..

…..

He climbs down from his horse.
He walks across the battlefield with casual purpose.
He’s coming to accuse me.
He’s coming to finish me.
But there’s nothing left anyway.
He stands in front of me.
He lifts my head.

He furrows his eyebrows and studies my face, quizzingly, as if he can’t believe what I just said to him. And somehow, I know that I’ve offended him, but I don’t understand why. Didn’t I just say what he already believed? Didn’t I just speak the truth?

He opens his mouth to speak and i cringe, waiting for his strike.

“You are who I say you are.”

The enemy roars in defiance, but the storm inside me ceases.

He picks up the spears of accusations and he burns them in the fires of his grace and endless, relentless, love for me. He wraps me in robes of royalty and places a crown on my head. He walks beside me whispering the truth of who I am and who he has made me to be. But his words aren’t meant for others to hear. We ride together past the enemy lines and they watch me ride with the King as royalty, but the King does not speak to them

This is not my vindication. This is my redemption.

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City Kids.

Someone said to me once, "God gives us the desires of our hearts, but it doesn't always look the way we thought it would." That has never been more true than right now. I've dreamed my entire life of living in New York City, but in my dreams, I was single (or freshly married), I didn't have kids, I lived in lower Manhattan, I had beautiful friends, stylish clothes, and I worked for some well known paper, traveling the world and writing articles that made people THINK. Never did I EVER imagine that it would look like the five of us living on the sixth floor, with my parents and brother, in one tiny bedroom near Yankee Stadium. 

When my parents moved to the Bronx last year, I thought, "Well, I may never live in the city, but at least my kids will grow up visiting like I did." Haha. Oh how God laughs. We "moved in" with my parents last month. I write that in quotations because is it really moving in if everything you brought with you fits in the back of a CRV? It's cramped, ya'll. It's uncomfortable. BUT HEY -- I live in NEW YORK CITY!  

Haha. But really. It's kind of cool. I've always loved New York and I really do enjoy it, but "the bloom is off the rose" as my mother says. I don't hate it, by any means, but I'm ready to get back to Massachusetts. We're just praying that God will open a door soon for us to come home. Zach is looking for work, I'm doing my oils business and we'll be out of here soon, I'm sure of it. So I'm trying to embrace the city life. 

But like. Sometimes that's hard to do when my son falls on the playground and lands near an open switchblade. Or when I'm walking to the post office IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY and a full grown man pulls his britches down to PEE IN FRONT OF ME. I could've gone MY WHOLE LIFE without seeing that and I would've been ok with that. Or when I'm walking up the stairs to my parents apartment and there's a girl passed out drunk in the middle of the hallway. Or when some lady trips as she's running onto the subway and lands on top of Anna in the stroller and then just SITS ON HER and looks up at me like, "You mad, bro?". Or when my kids lick the subway poles. Or when I get yelled at by drunk people. Or when I have to spend stupid amounts of money on food because everything is so expensive here. 

But now that I've complained about the bad, I'll show you the good. We're really having a good time and making some memories. Can't WAIT to get back home though. Also if you live in the city can we hang, please?? 

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