When You're Unfit.

"I think this is a great idea, I just don't know if you're the people to do it." 

We lay our hearts on the table along with our carefully mapped out plan to bring healing and hope into an inner city community. We'd stayed up until 1am the night before carefully choosing our words and framing our proposal to have just enough hope to be inspiring but not too much to be accused of foolishness. We were excited and confident. We knew what God had placed on our hearts and were confident that this was the next step for us. The problem was convincing everyone else. And they weren't convinced.

The people that know us were resoundingly supportive. "Yep. This makes sense. This is exactly who you are." But people who don't know us or who wanted us to prove our worth before we branched out into something as scary as living in the hood ... well. They weren't as convinced. But Zach and I have never felt the need to prove ourselves and we knew what God had called us to do, we just didn't know how to do it. So our plan was to fundraise and cast vision and then launch a community development project, because that was the model that made sense. That never really sat well in our hearts, but we thought, "We can't just do this without a plan. We need support. We need finances. We need people." So we went after those things because that is the standard way to go about things. But we were laughed at, mocked, and passed off. We were told we needed to prove ourselves, to be evaluated, and that our callings would need to be determined by a panel of peers. That didn't set well with us either.

I would like to tell you that we held our heads high, confident in what God had spoken and trusting that it would happen with or without our panel of peers. But that didn't happen. We were crushed. Understatement. We were totally, completely flatlined. Unable to function. We were so sure. And then we weren't. We felt so foolish. 

We fumbled and crawled for a few months. We were confused and lost. Our compass was broken. We were completely thrown off the path we were so sure God had placed us on. God was silent and we were humiliated. It's one thing to be graciously rejected, but to be mocked and chided ... that does something deep inside you. The words bury their way past superficial confidence and fight to destroy the very core of who you are. There is no tuning the voices out. They cease to be a loud roar in your ears and become the very foundation on which you build your life and then the only voice you have to tune out is your own. And when you do that, that's when the God that's been so silent finally has a chance to speak.

When we let him speak, he whispered to us the same things he placed on our hearts in the beginning. He didn't change his mind about us. He was firm. We had to decide if we were going to listen to what he says about us, or what they said about us. It's funny when I think about it now. How could we let the words of people who didn't know us define us? Why did we elevate their opinion over our creator's? In the pursuit of validation and earthly confirmation, we drowned out the final authority on all earthly matters. But then we listened. 

We unpacked our boxes in a neighborhood that makes people's eyes widen when we tell them we've made our home there. We put our kids to bed to the sounds of cars revving, regaton, and the occasional gun shot. We wave at our neighbors as they're smoking pot in their cars and we laugh with them when something crazy happens on our street and the cops are called. We bring cookies to them at Christmas and our son leans out of his window to talk to his friend next door, leaning out of his window to do the same. We're still new here and somedays I feel like, "Is this righ? This doesn't feel like full time ministry. This just feels like .... living." 

And that's when the rush of peace and relief comes flooding in and I laugh, rejoicing in God's strange and perfect ways. We are exactly where we're supposed to be. It feels uncomfortable at times. I struggle to share what it is we're doing and why without feeling like I'm being exploitative or "white family on a white horse coming to save the day". We're not in the city to save it, we're here to serve it. We're here to be a part of community, to bear each other's burdens, and to love and be loved. We aren't starting a church or leading an outreach. We're just here. Living. Being the hands and feet. And sharing the hope of Jesus ... by just being here.


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.

zach + kristen

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. 


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.

“Bad mother.”
“Rebellious children”
“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,



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.