The One Thing That Will Change Your Life

We have laughed our way thru her first automatic carwash and basketball game, introduced Chinese food and trampoline-jumping. We’ve exposed her to the wonders of marshmallows and s’mores, silly string and hammock-lying in our backyard. Oh, and laundry in a washing machine.

We’ve dreamed and planned, worked and played and cried our way through deep conversations, remembering the amazing, often hard road we’ve journeyed, nearly three years now.

For the last two weeks, Maureen and I have told our story, the story of Mercy Housetogether— it’s another first, and it’s been powerful.

How could I know, this, too, would change me?

How could I know seeing my life thru her lens would wreck me in a new way?

How do I explain why my country spends more on accessorizing pets in a year, than her entire country earns? She asks innocently without judgement, “Does your country know how we live in Kenya?” I don’t even have an answer. I’m just embarrassed.

How do I explain why she sees so few hospitals in my suburban town and so many in hers? I try to describe healthcare and preventive medicine and my words sound hollow because I don’t even say thank you for what I’ve always had. We take her to the doctor for a physical and blood work, another first.

Everything about my life is easy. From the laundry piles I whine about to the dinners I prepare, my life of comfort and convenience is the polar opposite to hers and millions of other. I know this. I have been to Kenya three times now and even as I prepare to go again in April, it’s startling to see my life thru her eyes.

It’s one thing to think about your life, comfort and convenience when you’re in the middle of extreme poverty. It’s hard not to. But it’s a whole different ball game when you bring someone from that background into your comfort and convenience.

She’s shared story after story of countless people who suffer more than I can fathom on a daily basis. Today, right now. Children who do not have enough food to eat. And I feel the old question welling up, tears with it. I still don’t have answers; it’s still unfair.

I’ve spent the last few weeks seeing my life as she sees it.  I am deeply compelled to be a part of the answer.

She tells me more of her childhood story, so much that I can smell the sewage that ran in front of her family’s shack. I am moved with compassion at the suffering she endured. I ache for her family and her world and I long to wipe out the suffering of her people. “Don’t cry, Mom. Look how far God has brought me,” and she begins to name blessings. “Look at all I have,” she exclaims and spreads her arms out.

We are standing in my big, beautiful home and I quietly answer, tears falling now, “Look at all I have.” There is no comparison.

But then Maureen holds one arm up to Heaven and one down to the ground and gives me a knowing look. It’s the pose we created for moments like these. It means:

I want to live my life with one hand open to receive from God above and the other hand open to give it to others. I want to be a conduit, not holding anything too tightly, ready to open my hands to others, to give to those who can never give back.

This is our commitment.

This one thing will change your life.

I dare you to try it.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” -John Bunyan


[photos by Suzanne Box Photography]


  1. 2

    Michelle says

    Isn’t it amazing how those who have lived with so much less than us have so much to share with and teach us? As I live this amazing life God has laid before me, I realize that humility is the big and almost untouchable goal. It does. It just wrecks us when we realize how our lives are compared to others in the world. And yet, they are the ones who are grateful for what they have. So much more to learn :-)

  2. 4


    I love reading and following….. my heart splits wide open. Thank you for all you have done Kristen and continue to do. I was telling some of Maureen’s story at the park last week and the questions she asked and they just didn’t get it. …. how we live here compared to there….. etc .

    thank you for your vision…. thank you for sharing with all of us.

    Much love

  3. 5


    The term “cute” has a lot to answer for, I think. Less cute (cute house, cute outfits, cute hair, cute pets, cute…) please and more love.

  4. 6


    i needed this shift in perspective this morning as i find myself whining about fatigue….and this stance (one hand up and open , the other down and giving) what if i lived it?

  5. 9

    Karen says

    A perspective change that we all need!!! We want to sell our house so as to downsize. In order to do it we have to spend a huge sum of money to replace the carpets and put in flooring. I feel caught!

    That John Bunyan quote fits right in to the bible study I am teaching today! THANKS!

  6. 10


    ouch. what an incredible perspective. I spent years in the philippines living with the kids and doing missions work, but you are right, it’s a whole new perspective to bring it all back home. <3 thanks for sharing.

  7. 11


    Thank you for sharing what you are seeing as you view life through Maureen’s lens. It is wrecking me, calling me back to that Kay Warren thought of being gloriously ruined.

  8. 13


    My life was forever changed when I “met” you & read about Mercy House online for the very first time. I feel like a piece of my heart is there even though I’ve never physically been there, nor have I known about Mercy House for that terribly long. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this “journey”, even though it’s simply through prayer & the donation of a few scripture prints at this point. And thank you for sharing so much of your heart with all of us. You’ll never know what an impact it’s having on so many! Lastly, thank you for the challenge to live daily with one hand up, open to receive what God has for us, and the other down, giving as a representation of all that we’ve been given through Him. Blessings on your day!

  9. 15


    Tears falling… I also have no good words, only a drive I don’t want to push away again. I’m listening to Mumford… “In this twilight, our choices seal our fate.” It’s fitting, I think. We have SO MANY choices in this country, so many distractions. Praying to make the best choices. Praying to move beyond what I know into acting on what I know. Thank you for opening eyes, in Jesus’ name. You beautiful ladies, you look so much like him.

  10. 20


    This post was the inspiration I needed to move forward on a project that God has been pressing on my heart over the past year! Thank you for being faithful in what the Lord has called you to do. :) Be blessed!

  11. 21

    Ami says

    I am in tears after reading this. Thank you for opening my eyes again. I want to print and frame the photo of you both to help me to remember to live my life more like you two. Not to put you on a pedastool, but you are both more like Jesus more than anyone else I know. Lord, change my heart.

  12. 22


    I am so blessed to have been able to hear your stories together and see the love between you two. I knew your story but hearing Maureen talk about growing up in the slum…it was moving. The way she described flying latrines and survival prostitution so matter-of-factly was jarring for sure. A conduit. Pastor Jerry calls it being a river of blessing, not a reservoir of blessing where we store it up for ourselves. You can see why I love my church.

  13. 24


    “I want to live my life with one hand open to receive from God above and the other hand open to give it to others. I want to be a conduit, not holding anything too tightly, ready to open my hands to others, to give to those who can never give back.” LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!

    Great pic of you and Maureen!

  14. 26


    this is so great. we have to be constantly reminded of these things. i love watching God stretch you and break you. i want to be broken for Him, to love like He loves.

  15. 27

    Hannah says

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart… I went to Thailand in 2008 and was completely wrecked for the Thai people. There is still a burning in my heart to return. I know how it feels to be blown away by all we have (and all we unknowingly take for granted) just because we’ve gotten a glimpse that our reality is far different from the majority of the world’s. Wow. Breath taking…

  16. 30

    Aisha says

    My heart is bursting right now! I want to be a part of the solution as well! God has blessed you with this experience. Love it!

  17. 31


    Yes. Had a Haitian couple who run an orphanage that we worked in stay with us last year. It was definately a heart changing experience.

    So grateful fir the work that you are doing. Loved seeing Maureen with you in the US. Can only imagine what the experience was like for her.

  18. 32


    Great thought-provoker, Kristin. I know we are beyond blessed and that there are just so many ways my own little family can give back to our own community here in Costa Rica. Thank you for the reminder. You’ve got the gears of my brain rolling now on what little ole me can do to make a difference from the abundance I’ve got.

  19. 35

    ro elliott says

    this is beautiful…and I am taking these words with me…living wide open…giving to those who can not give back. God and I…learning not to give to get…seeing this in the smallest of ways…letting God root it out…learning to be faithful in the small things…so I will be faithful when it “hurts” to give and not “get. ps…I have the same necklaces as you…ordered it a while ago for Mercy house:) blessings and thanks so much

  20. 36


    Just beautiful, Kristen. Your words challenged me and made my eyes well up with tears. Thanks for being an example of selflessness, authenticity, and kindness.

    I am so very proud to know you.

  21. 37


    Does your site have a contact page? I’m having trouble
    locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some
    suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing.

    Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  22. 38


    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my website thus i came to
    “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>