“I still struggle with stuff,” I said to the young married girl standing in my living room the other day.

“You mean like having, buying, getting stuff? Even after Africa, after all you’ve seen? This makes me feel better,” she confessed.

Why are we afraid to admit we struggle? While my struggle has changed in the last two and a half years, it’s still there, resurfacing nearly every time I see a throw pillow that would look amazing on my bed.

Last week, I bought a new one. I hope you’re not disappointed in me.

Here’s the honest deal: When I returned from my first trip to Kenya, I was wrecked. My husband and kids had little wrapped gifts for me. I refused to open them and asked that they be returned. For months, I cleared and cleaned out, I struggled, I labored with responding to what I’d experienced. We sponsored six more Compassion kids, I didn’t go to my favorite store once in all those months. I decided we would only wear second-hand clothes, I only bought fair-trade gifts, I set up this prison of self-sacrifice that made my entire family miserable.

And then finally, I discovered all the pain was leading to an unplanned and unexpected birth, it was hard labor and it produced Mercy House.

One day a wise friend said to me (after hearing of my ridiculous search for second hand black pants my daughter needed for a concert), “what is your one thing?”

“What do you mean?” I asked cautiously.

“What is your passion? If you could pick one thing God has called you to. What would it be? One.”

I answered, “Encouraging mothers. Here and around the world.”

Then the words that brought freedom, “Kristen, you’re wasting a lot of time and energy trying to do it all. Your giving a lot, sacrificing with your time for Mercy House. Don’t let guilt rule you. Buy what you need and occasionally something you want. You’re all tangled up in sacrifice turned to good works.”

Maybe your one thing is fair trade clothes or healthy living and organic food, maybe it’s the local homeless shelter, orphan care or adoption. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware and generous in other areas. This is a given. I just think we shouldn’t try to do it all because we are motivated by guilt.

Take adoption for example. We are not all called to bring orphans in our home, but caring for the orphan (and the windows) is a Biblical mandate for believers. It’s not optional. Your one thing might not be adoption, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give to the couple in your church raising money to bring a baby home, host a fundraiser, become certified to offer respite care for foster families.

Finding and pursuing your one passion, changes your life and ignites a Godly desire to support others in their divine pursuits.

My dear friend Suzanne (who is my right hand volunteer for Mercy House) recently brought Reese home from China. This beautiful abandoned child with a cleft palate was just two years old when she came home, she couldn’t walk, talk or eat normally.

In just six months, she’s walking, talking, potty-trained, enjoys food, is in love with her three big brothers, bonded to her mommy and daddy and recovered from two surgeries.

When this baby girl walked thru my door the other day and hugged my leg, I thought my heart would explode.

You know what’s amazing about being a part of someone’s struggle?

You get to be a part of their victory too.

Because when you pursue your one passion, it’s so beautiful, others will want to be a part of it. So, I’m going to keep on struggling.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass

This weekend, I’m at Together for Adoption in Atlanta, Georgia, representing my one, Mercy House, but I’m also hoping to engage and encourage in someone else’s struggle and eventual victory.

What is your One?


  1. 3


    Love this post! It is easy for me to get bogged down in guilt about not being able to “do it all” when it comes to causes and passions but the older I get and the larger my view of God grows, I am experiencing that same freedom you spoke about. I am getting closer to finding my “one thing” and pray that God would continue to reveal that to me. Thanks for sharing!


  2. 4


    Lovely , beautiful pics, wonderful true story, amazing grace. It’s true! His truth sets us free, it doesn’t encumber us in laws -mine or any others. If the result isn’t peace of mind & spirit, we haven’t got it just right yet…still work for Him to find the bugs and get them out.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. 5

    Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for this post! It is ringing so true with me today. It is so easy (especially as women!) to try and pull ourselves in so many directions and do every good thing we see and feel we should. But focusing on the ONE and going from there ensures that we will always be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished.

  4. 6


    I needed to hear this although I didn’t know I need advice on this subject. But the truth you shared resonated deep in my heart. Thanks for sharing, and for what you choose to do.

  5. 7


    Oh my dear sweet Reese!! I LOVE seeing her featured here. We prayed and prayed and prayed for that family, that child. Now seeing her run around church and the Y with her brothers is such a joy. Adoption definitely is our thing, but in this looooong waiting period I am always wanting to do more.

  6. 8

    Heather says

    Wonderful post and so true! It’s taken me a long time to find my “one” thing. Love seeing little Reese so happy. Can’t wait to see what God has planned for our little girl.

  7. 9


    Oh how I love adoption stories! What’s even sweeter is when you pray for the adoption and you see God’s miracle… God’s blessing come true in front of your eyes. I remember when Reese came home. Oh the joy! I honestly didn’t even really know her parents well (saw them at church, occasionally said hi) but I had prayed for them as they waited. They probably didn’t even know; but I did and so did God. He’s so great that way… touching hearts to pray. I’ve seen three people whom I’ve prayed for bring their miracles home. Now I’m praying for two other families. My ONE thing is not to actually adopt, but to pray for those who do. And oh how I am blessed!

  8. 10


    Thank you for your vulnerability friend. This is spot on and spoke right to my circumstances. Love you for your heart for Him and what breaks His. Love – D

  9. 11


    This is such a healthy attitude. It’s so easy to get caught up in the cycle of “I have to do this…” without stopping to ask, “Do I? Have to?”

    Once in the midst of great financial struggle (my husband was out of work for two years), I was scrambling at a thrift store to get one of my kids what they needed…and a woman in my neighborhood was also there, looking for a similar item. She had her Starbucks in hand as she scoured the $3 pants for the right size, holding them up in victory, she said, “Got it! Now I can keep feeding my addiction!” She held up her Starbucks cup.

    And I felt insulted. I only had $5 to buy pants and I hadn’t had a Starbucks in a very, very long time. Couldn’t this woman just walk into Target and buy what she needed?

    Fast forward to now, and I do try to be a good steward of our resources and we’re still on a tight budget, but thankfully, we have enough. And when I can just walk into a store and buy what we NEED, it almost brings tears to my eyes, I’m so grateful.

    Spending less money doesn’t make us more holy or closer to God. Sometimes, being thrifty becomes an addiction…and we need to learn to just let go of the money to buy what we legitimately need and just be grateful.

    At least that’s my journey. Thank you for sharing so honestly about yours!

  10. 12


    My journey echos this as well. Maybe ten years ago, when I first became aware (after a lifetime in the church!) that followers of Jesus were called to care for the poor and other “least of these,” I started feeling like in order to be a good Christian, I needed to sell everything I had and move to Africa. “Do you feel called to move to Africa?” my husband asked. “No, but that’s not the point!” I felt so much guilt for not doing more–or much of anything, really, beyond giving money.

    Finally, just two years ago, on a silent retreat, I came to realize that my mission right now is in my home and I needed to let go of this burdensome-type faith. So I tried to let the guilt go and focus on being better to my family, still knowing that my mission couldn’t be confined to my own house. Now, the calling has become clear that I’m to be a foster mommy, and we’re now in the process of certification! I didn’t even think about the retreat-realization until a few weeks ago, and now I see that it was all building up to this. It’s so exhilarating to see how God has worked over time.

  11. 13

    Alicia D says

    Coming out of lurkdom to say –

    This. Is. Profound.

    Thank you.

    “You know what’s amazing about being a part of someone’s struggle?
    You get to be a part of their victory too.”

  12. 16

    Beth Hess says

    I think God has given you such a gift as you share your struggles. The way you have written about it has brought me back to read more, encouraged me to think about what God wants me to do, caused awe about the way God created Mercy House. I’m so thankful for your wise friend who helped you navigate, and to you for sharing. My sister, now 30, was abandoned in India with a cleft lip. We received her with long-awaited joy when she was just 9 months old, and she had already had surgery. I was a kid, so this felt enormously exciting but also very normal. Of course adopting a baby was cool! Why not? As I read your post today I was reminded anew how thankful I should be for my parents – who went about caring for orphans and other needy people. Mom befriended a Muslim family after 9/11, thinking they might feel ostracized in her small town. She helped them, using her nursing skills, with family medical issues. They have encountered Jesus numerous times during this journey. Who knows how this will impact their family? THANK YOU for writing, for sharing, for encouraging the rest of us with your words while not trying to mold us into your calling. You invite us, you don’t boss us. I respond so well to that.

  13. 17

    Jen A. says

    Beautifully written. Loved what you said about not only being a part of someone’s struggle, but also their victory : )

  14. 19

    Jocelyn says

    Thank you. I needed this today. It’s a struggle… feeling the weight of everything, all the hurting, all the pain, all the areas of life that need help and I often get so bogged down that I can’t even move towards that “one”… I love that… what’s your “one thing”. My one thing- as you well know by now– children in foster care.

  15. 20

    Kristen P says

    This is great reminder that we CAN and SHOULD share in others’ struggles. My “one thing” is fostering and have been so touched and amazed in not only family but also friends who have shared in my struggle. As I write this I am sitting in the NICU with our week old foster daughter and comforted by the fact that I don’t have to do this alone!!!

  16. 21


    “Maybe your one thing is fair trade clothes or healthy living and organic food, maybe it’s the local homeless shelter, orphan care or adoption. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware and generous in other areas. This is a given. I just think we shouldn’t try to do it all because we are motivated by guilt.”

    I needed this today. Just last night, we were driving home and I suddenly felt this overwhelming guilt- this sense of I’ve failed in every area of life. I don’t love my job. My house is a disaster. I don’t cook enough. I don’t work out enough. I am selfish. I am materialistic. I want to serve better. I want to craft. I want to love better. I am called to love overseas, and yet I am not called to be overseas right now. I need to be doing more….

    Lies, I know. But still so easy to get caught up in. I have seen and experienced things that have changed me. And it should be that way. But I cannot let that burden consume me.

    Thanks for the challenge. This week will start a prayer journey of figuring out how the Lord wants me to apply my “One” thing. Love you! :)
    This morning (before I found your post) I sat on the porch

    • 21.1


      (not real sure what happened there)
      …praying that the Lord would help me organize and prioritize my life/dreams/goals. And then I read this. Such needed encouragement that came at exactly the right time!

  17. 22


    This was just what I needed to hear. I too, can feel stretched too thin by trying to “do it all” and feeling guilt for all the comforts in my life. I need focus, and to concentrate on the thing God has called me to do – rather than all the many, many problems in this world. I’m not in charge and it’s not my job to fix everything – it is my job to listen to God and obey his teachings. Thanks for putting it in perspective like this. It’s not an excuse to sit back, but it is good to know that it is okay to focus. You are inspiring and doing great work, Kristen.

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