For When You Need the Son

The world changed while I was in Kenya last week.

I spent about 20 hours a day focusing closely on the work of Mercy House. I counted miracles and I asked for more. I returned to breaking news of a more broken world, my children talking about bombers and explosions. My heart splintered by a global reality and sadness in our own country.

They are different kinds of pain, but both hide the sun.

And cast shadows.

I am catching up on muddied laundry from Africa, searching the abyss for lost socks and scratching notes on random slips of paper, trying in vain to catch up. I wipe blue marker mustache from my little girl’s mouth, listen to my daughter play her new flute piece and watch my son hit the bulls eye with his bow. Dinner is in the crockpot. Stacked suitcases by the door. Unspoken sorrow mingles with the joy of home.

I am the same mom. I will never be the same.

And I’m tired.

Not just because jet lag nips at my heels and I pry my eyes wide open through carline, I’m tired of seeing so much pain in this world.

I’m exhausted from reality. And I long to unsee images of frightened runners and a burning school in a sleepy small town. I want to stop seeing the bewildered faces of teen boys high on glue and the violent, drunk father we dodged on our home visit to the slum.

My husband asked me last night if I was depressed. I shrugged my answer, a sure sign that I don’t know what to do with all this seeing. 

I had panic attacks nearly every night I was in Kenya, mostly induced by blinding fear. I huddled in bed and cried and I prayed for the Light of morning. It always came.

Some moments so glorious and divine, I longed to take off my shoes.

I look towards the Son, the blinding, bright Father who is Light.

I’ve been a mother and on this journey long enough to know there are shadows that do not lift, pain that doesn’t fade, sorrows you can’t escape. It’s not so much about unseeing or overcoming, it’s about letting His Light lead you through the dark places.

We are not alone. His Light will lead us home.

She Opens Her Hand

I’m home.

Thankful. Exhausted. Broken. Healed.

I opened up the gift (a book of letters) from our girls at Mercy House before I even unpacked, I read every one of them to my family.

I want to share one with you:

My Beloved and Lovely family,

I want to take this opportunity to greet all of you! I want to say that you are the wonderful family I have in my life. I do pray you can come back so we can be a big family again.

I want to appreciate you for the good work you’ve been doing for us. Thank you for understanding, for your love and support. I really do appreciate your good heart. I know God showed you the way so that you can help us and also change our lives from being the people we used to be, to being Christians. I really don’t know where I would be now if it weren’t for Mercy House.

I appreciate those who donate for us. Thank you for using your energy to fight for our lives and the lives of our babies. I know without God everything is impossible, but if you trust in the Lord you will succeed and the way will be opened.

Every morning I pray for you and every night while I am going to sleep because you  have welcomed me into this house as your own daughter. I thank you and God for changing my life. God bless you and keep you strong all the days of your lives!

From, Quinter (our first rescued girl, March 2011)

(below with Precious, 21 months old)

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Over the past 2 years, I’ve watched this wounded girl transform into a mother and believer. It’s been an amazing transformation. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

Mother’s Day Card:
Get this beautiful card free with every order of our fast-selling Mother’s Day jewelry at the Mercy Shop thru May 1, 2013. (We listed a few more Mother/Daughter Necklace Sets and Bracelets).

You can also order one of these gorgeous Limited Edition cards for $5 here.

The Domino Effect

When we said yes to Mercy House, so many said it with us.

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Babies with Housemom, Winfred

My husband calls it The Domino Effect.

It was like God strategically placed people in our lives, church and all over the world who would be willing to go with us on this journey of starting something from nothing.

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Skills teacher Debra seeing The Mercy Shop for the first time online

Most of what I thought would happen, didn’t. Most of the people I thought would help, haven’t. But God has provided the right people at exactly the right time. And we haven’t been alone for a minute and I’ve learned His plans are so much better than mine.

Two and a half years ago, I got an email from another mom that would cause dominoes to fall. It’s actually the reason I’m in Kenya this week.

Suzanne Box emailed me one day and said, “I live about an hour from you. I’m a photographer and I’d like to help you.”

I’m an introvert and have a busy life, so I almost didn’t drive across town to meet an online stranger at a Chick Fil A.

I’m so glad I don’t always listen to me.

Suzanne began to quietly and really anonymously fill in the gaps, volunteering her time and skill on a regular basis. Not only does she take all of our product pictures and help with design, she coordinates our Home Parties and advocates for Mercy House. Most importantly, she’s become my friend.

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She called me one day in the fall and said she’d arranged a meeting with her church and pastor (on her own), so she could tell him about Mercy House. She told him our story and he asked my husband and I to meet together.

As we sat in Pastor Jerry’s office and shared our heart for the impoverished pregnant girls in Kenya, another domino fell. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more affirming meeting and instantly liked this Pastor with a big heart and fatherly love. I cried openly when they told us they had chosen Mercy House for their 2013 Advent Conspiracy recipient, which will provide a significant offering to further our work in 2014.

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I came to Kenya this week to meet our new girls, help Maureen make a final decision on a permanent home and mostly, to meet Pastor Jerry and worship leader, John Cordes at the maternity home to shoot two days of footage for four videos during the week of Christmas 2013.

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The girls led us in a beautiful time of worship and devotion this morning and afterwards, Pastor Jerry walked up to me and said, “I’m proud of you, Kristen.”

I said, “I know I shouldn’t be proud, but look what God has done!”

With eyes full of tears, he hugged me just like a father.

It’s astounding to think of what came from an email and a willing heart.

As we wrapped up this amazing week today, we worshipped God and shared testimonies, His Presence tangible. The girls presented a very special notebook to my family, full of thank you letters from each girl. I cried when they presented it and I can’t wait to read them with my family.

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I want to urge you to say yes right where you are, step into someone’s else’s yes like Suzanne and make it your own. I’m so thankfulGod has provided so many amazing people to journey with…

You just never know where the road will take you.

With God All Things Are Possible

We woke with the sun this morning and drove to Elizabeth’s house. She has been with us since January of 2012.

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This is the first time she’s stepped back into her home in over a year. Her mother has traveled to Mercy House for family visitation days, but this was Elizabeth’s first visit home.

As our girls move along in our program, we access their situation, locate a family member who will help support them in the future and help the family start a small business.

She was nervous as baby Rehema slept in her arms on the bumpy, hot ride.

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It was my first visit in one of our girl’s homes. I was anxious, too.

We drove out of the city and stopped on a dirt road, next to a slaughterhouse, past a dump like the one Elizabeth’s mother walks for two hours to collect rotten food to sell for dog and pig food. Her family welcomed us into their home, four brick walls without a roof, no more than a chair and a mattress, no running water, or bathrooms, rats and stray cats as company.

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I don’t have words to describe the condition of this home. It’s by far the worst I’ve seen and it was even harder because it wasn’t random poverty in a poor country. It was the home of one of our beautiful girls, where eight of her family members sleep in a 10×12 room without electricity and most days, food.

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Her mother thanked us and told us what Mercy House meant to her. She shared her business idea and we dreamed with her.

Then shy Elizabeth stood and said, “I don’t have words, but I thank God for your big heart and for helping me. I want to thank you for saving my life and giving me hope.” I couldn’t help but remember the bitter, angry girl I left in Kenya nine months ago. She struggled adjusting more than any of our girls after the trauma of her abuse and unexpected pregnancy. Maureen and I literally begged her not to leave.

Tears coursed down my face and in that exact moment, as I sat in unimaginable poverty, nearly gagging from the raw sewage nearby, every single hardship and challenge over the past three years was worth it–

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Elizabeth has been transformed by the power of Jesus.

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We said goodbye and I was overwhelmed with just how big the need is and what we still need to accomplish. The task ahead of us feels so big. I feel so small.

But as we drove away, I saw this message:

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And I started recounting miracles. I added Elizabeth’s words to the list.

He loves these precious people so much more than I do. He has a plan and specializes in the impossible.

Tonight I’m holding this promise close to my heart.

Expecting Grace

When God said “Will you help girls in Kenya?” I didn’t know what to do or what to expect.

I took one step and then another with Maureen.

I’ve learned so much on this journey. And I’m learning that I have much more to learn.

Mostly that even when I don’t know what I’m doing, He does. He doesn’t need me to figure this life out, He just wants me to be willing.

Between feeding babies and learning new skills, we had some guests at Mercy House today and as I showed them around and shared the story of all God has done, I got emotional. But I can’t take credit for the transformation in our girls or the beautiful work being done in our home. I blame God for every good thing. This is His house.

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When the hard comes, so does the grace. It comes when it’s least expect it, but when you need it the most.

Grace comes in a wonderful doctor who has delivered all eight of our babies and makes house calls in preparation to deliver three more.

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It comes in the quiet wonder of new residents who didn’t know how to turn on lights or a shower two weeks ago.

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It comes in a young girl who came to us burned and broken and now is full of healing and love for her baby.

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Grace is a God Who Stoops Low–

He knelt to form Adam–

He squatted to write in the sand–

He hunched to heal a leper–

He bent low enough for a manger–

He leans down for the last of these–
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We are expecting Him.