We sat in a circle and we waited.
She cleared her throat and began telling her story, looking over at her husband as he nodded in support.
I was 15 and in high school. I made mistakes. I got pregnant. It was so hard and I felt very alone.
I leaned in because I wanted to hear the whole story.
She told of the absent teen father, how her parents did the hard work of mostly raising her baby so she could finish school.
When her child was 5 years old, she got married.
To the father of her baby.
He cleared his throat, “God redeemed me.”
I looked at this family and all I could see was redemption and restoration as I sat in their beautiful home. I couldn’t see the scars of wrong choices or missteps as clearly as I could the hope. Their son is now a teenager and other children have come and by this point, tears have pooled on the Bible in my lap.
And all I can think about is the young teen moms we seek to help on the other side of the world. Their situations are different, but brokenness is brokenness.
And redemption is redemption.
I tuck my friends’ story in my heart for the rainy days ahead.
A couple of weeks later I’m on the phone with someone I don’t know. She is dreaming of starting something like Mercy House. These calls come more often these days and I can’t help but smile at another audacious yes. But then she said something that made my heart stop,”You’ve made this look so easy and you haven’t had many problems.” And I know right then and there I have failed. I jot down a note to send her my book so she will know some of the unknown.
I think over the past four years of 19 pregnant teens and 19 babies and there are more problems than I can count. Problems I haven’t shared. Problems that would shock over and over again. Maybe I was trying to protect the moms we help, the babies who shouldn’t have been born or maybe I was just trying to protect myself. Maybe I was trying to keep this yes from looking like a failure.
Maybe I should have told you of the young mom who brought a tangible evil presence with her into the home and left in the middle of the night. Or about the young mom we loved, but after trying everything to ease the post traumatic stress she’d suffered during a gang rape, we had to send her back home because she was violent and continually threatened the safety of everyone in the home. Maybe you should know about the mom we have desperately loved, who was just about finished with the 3 year program in Kenya, the one who made us proud, only to end up pregnant. Again.
I hung up the phone with the lady and I wanted to bury my head on my desk. Because the problems people can’t see are overwhelming.
I thought about the parenting book I’m in the middle of writing and the ugly words one of my kids yelled at me earlier that morning, “I hate my life.” Not exactly what I was planning on calling the next chapter. Nobody likes failure. But that’s exactly what I felt like-a failure, an impostor.
I’ve always believed God uses failure as much as success to reveal Himself and bring redemption. But who wants failure? I don’t want to live it and even more I don’t want you to see it. The unfinished, ugly stories of unbelievable pain are uncomfortable. There isn’t a happy ending to some of our stories yet and there may never be until Heaven.
A few minutes after that phone call, Maureen, who runs the Kenya-side of things, asked if we could talk. I hold my breath. She doesn’t always bring bad news, but it comes often enough, usually on the heels of a new rescue or new babies or new victory. There’s nothing simple or easy or clean about stepping into the pit of Hell and taking girls from the grips of the enemy.
After some small talk, she started off the conversation with this question, “How do you know if we’ve been successful?”
I give her the same answer I’ve told anyone who has asked the past few years, “That first baby born made us a success. We’ve had 18 more now.” I could tell she was discouraged and so I reminded her,”Maureen, what we are doing is an act of obedience. He asks us to say yes, the results are up to Him.”
In tears, she says, “I’m glad you said that because I have to tell you something.” And then I learn of a devastating decision by one of our new graduated 18 year old moms. And I can’t see the screen for the tears and my platitudes are empty and I wonder at our audacity and I question our resolve. This is what it must feel like to watch the kids you’ve sacrificed for and loved deeply leave your home and make bad choices and you can do nothing to stop them.
We’ve come to the point in the conversation where there aren’t words to fix the problems and we both know this battle is unseen and we must wage it on our knees.
My husband and I sat on the edge of our bed and cried. “God, why did you ask us to do this? It is too hard. We are too weak.”
I swiped away tears in time to get my kids off the bus until I can find a moment alone and grieve, which happened to be 30 minutes in my car during my daughter’s flute lesson.
The words hammered in my chest: God can redeem anything. God can redeem anything? Can you really, God? Even this? God can redeem anything. He will redeem everything.
We don’t talk about the anything very often. We don’t reveal the depth of our pain, the problems we face, the uncertainty. People think I know what I’m doing because it all looks neat and easy and maybe that’s what I’ve shown them.
I’m letting you into my weakness today because I’m a bigger failure if I don’t.
My daughter returned to the car and asked if I’d been crying. “No,” I whispered as a silent tear fell. She awkwardly patted my back and said, “It will be okay, Mom. It will be okay. We have God.”
That night, I am back in my friends’ living room. Their family picture smiles down at me. And I thank God for their story. For the redemption and restoration in front of me.
Maybe you’re grieving a yes or regretting a no. Maybe you feel hopeless or hopeful. Maybe this feels like the end and you really just want to began again.
I don’t know what mountain you’re facing today.
But I know God can redeem anything.
We might not see it overnight or in our lifetime, but He promises to work it out for His good.
Pregnancy, bankruptcy, rape, marriage, diagnosis, adoption, unemployment, rebellious kids, abortion, a cross-country move, divorce, failure, addiction, mistakes, even death.
He will redeem even this.
Thank you for sharing honestly. This is the type of posts that keep us real.
YES! You are exactly correct. Real is where it is at. Deep down we all crave REAL! Once we become real with each other, comfort comes hand it hand. I believe that is how God designed it. <3
Karen Moon says
They are doing great work.
Beth R. says
This beautiful side, this honest side, this openness… is all part of you, and the reason why I keep coming back. You are doing such a blessed thing. The good, the bad, the ugly. I wish there was a way that I could help, somehow. Just know that God’s purpose is always bigger than our plans. <3 B
Thank you for your honesty, and beautiful words. God’s heart breaks with you but you are right. He can redeem anything! May you know His love and peace right now.
Oh my goodness, this just hit me. So maybe I’m not running a maternity home in Africa, but I felt like this could have been me writing. Thank you so much, Kristen.
It has been a rough week ministry wise here too. I keep reminding myself that I am neither capable of nor responsible to FIX people or situations. I am just to be faithful to however God calls me to participate in their lives!
Praying for you right now! Lam 3:22-24
Beautiful post, Kristen. I continue to pray for your ministry.
Thank you! I needed and loved this post. I am one of those former young girls that had a less than stellar family. I am one of those teens that made terrible, horrible decisions that haunt me to this day. I am now a loving wife, the best mom I can be, and have completely put my trust in God. I still struggle with the question, “Am I worthy of your forgiveness Lord?”. This really helped.
Julie B says
I just love you. Yes. I’m a stranger. But thank you. For all the real honesty you share. Thank you.
Thank you for this. I don’t know how I stumbled upon this today, but I needed it. For 4 months now, I have been facing the harsh realities of my husband’s emotional affair. He wants to make our marriage work and I do to. We have been doing very hard work. My reality is accepting that I thought we were bigger than this kind of problem in our marriage. I thought we were stronger. I became prideful, holier-than-thou. This experience has pushed me to my knees, and taught me that God is God, I am not Him, and He is bigger. He can redeem this, but the humility it has required of me has really knocked me off my high-horse. Which was needed. But, it has been hard. A giant leap of faith to accept that this is completely out of my control and while there is hard work for me to do, I have to trust my husband’s and God’s work in this. It isn’t just up to me. I can’t be the only one who fixes it. Letting go of control is hard. Trusting that he can turn this into something good. It’s hard.
Thank you for sharing that. The truth of west you shared is so real. We lived that almost 8 years ago and though it was the hardest thing I’ve walked through it was the BEST thing in terms of waking me up!! Fight together and allow this to make you and your marriage even stronger!! Don’t broken bones heal into stronger ones?
Pardon typos 😉
Heather M says
Please consider posting more of the challenges. Your prayers along with ours might just make miracles happen. And please remember, what may seem like a failure just may be not the right time….not in Gods time.
I believe in redemption, but I dont believe is iyanla He wont always ‘ fix my life’ I have permanent consequences. I dont know its a struggle, I stopped looking for God to rescue me..I dunno.
God loves you more than you could ever know don’t think any situation you face in this life is permanent because the Lord can change everything in a blink of an eye…. Don’t make permanent decisions that have permanent consequences but trust in Gods time he will use it for the good of those who love him… He says draw near to him and he will draw near to you…cast all your anxiety fear and worries upon him and he wants us to realize and have the faith to trust him no matter what we face… Gods love and grace and kindness be with you in all you do and say
I needed this. Thank you!
I’m reading this through tears this morning, as I sit feeling frightened and exposed by a very, very similar blog post that I’m sharing with the world this morning, about God using our hurts for His work. This is perfect timing. God is using your post to encourage me, and your quote, “I’m letting you into my weakness today because I’m a bigger failure if I don’t,” as my mantra in my fear. Thank you for letting God use you to encourage me.
These words are a blessing and balm to my soul. Thank you so much for sharing. I am amazed at how easily failure make me forget the redemption or goodness of God in all and any situation. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your life with your readers. Continue to do so.
Thank you for sharing.. I needed that encouragement today.
Thank you for your honesty! My “yes” right now is stepping down and saying no to something that I don’t believe God is calling me to at this time, but I still grieve and question. It is a relief to hear that even when we follow His call, it is messy and hard. I needed this reminder, especially this morning. And I will continue to seek the story being woven in my life!
“This is what it must feel like to watch the kids you’ve sacrificed for and loved deeply leave your home and make bad choices and you can do nothing to stop them.” Yes, I know this feeling to the depths of my soul and those choices, which I have had to accept I have no control over, have brought me to my knees with excruciating sobbing more times than I can count. I understand your pain and will continue to pray for the joys and sorrows of your “YES”.
I am the Executive Director of a pregnancy care center in my town. I understand so well those feelings of inadequacy…is anything we’re doing making any real difference in anyone’s life? There is so much in this culture that is ugly, painful, evil even. It feels insurmountable sometimes. But what God is showing me is to look at each person as He sees them; someone worthy of His love. Someone worthy of His son’s life. He is saying, “do you love me?” Then feed my sheep…tend my sheep….love the ones I send you way.” It takes a lot of pressure off of me when I know He is just calling me to love. I can do that. The results are truly up to Him.
I read this earlier today and I was in tears. As a young college aged woman with my “whole life ahead of me” God redeemed my unplanned pregnancy, turned evil for good and now my walking, living, breathing memorial to the awesomeness of God is a 22 year old, God fearing, young married man who kept himself pure and presented his gift to his wife, also a young woman who kept herself pure and presented her gift to him, all before our loving God! Wow! It doesn’t get any better than that!
I so needed to hear this today. I have been a little bit put out with God that He would ask us to say Yes to something that will drain me out just when I’m starting to heal! He will redeem this thing, yes He will. There is a season and a purpose to everything under heaven! Guess I’m not in control.
Missy Robinson says
“We might not see it overnight or in our lifetime, but He promises to work it out for His good.”
I needed this reminder today. I have experienced this to be true, but the waiting gets so hard on some days. Thank you for showing the real.
Saying yes is wonderful and awful, sometimes all mixed up at the same time.
You have no need to second guess yourself. If you had felt led to share those things at that time, you would have. The Lord uses you to minister to so many of us with each post, and I am thankful for that! Praying God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost all minister to you right now and each one who visits your blog. He is the Redeemer!
Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers says
I’m reading this through tears. I’ve got teens and it’s been one of those weeks – you know, that ones that drive you to your knees before God and find you rereading the story of the prodigal son to find hope and nuggets of wisdom. And, I have found myself praying more than once that God would redeem.
I know the mountain I’m facing would look like a tiny little hill compared to what others are dealing with, but it’s still a rough road to walk.
Thank you for being real, for letting me know I’m not alone, and for revealing areas in which I can pray for you because I know those girls in Africa are your kids, too, regardless of who gave birth to them, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to see them make poor choices. Praying for you all.
Dear sweet Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Couldn’t help but respond to this interesting address. I know it is just saying what your critics say … but as a non-home s chooler, non-mom … homes school kids are my favorite kids to spend time with and on rare occasions, babysit. They are the most articulate and conversant. Public school kids tend to be unable to say more than one word to an adult! Home school families help me believe that America might be able to survive the craziness of the current area
Homeschoolers are not weird or unsocialized (in spite of what the public school advocates have warned). Keep the faith!
Lori Covington says
Thank you so much for sharing this. I know it must be hard to let people see the things that aren’t pretty or that you think of as failures. But there is not a single part of your ministry that has been a failure. You are battling evil, and evil is always going to put up a fight.
God can redeem anything and anyone. Your honesty and your heart for the ministry is exactly why I support the Mercy House. Please know that there are many people, that you don’t know in real life, who are also on their knees praying for you, your family, and the ministry.
Kristen, I heard you speak at Declare. Those two days were the most wonderful, overwhelming time I’ve had in a long time. I think I’ve forgotten more than I remember about my time there. . .except your story. I think of you and your family and what you’ve done and are doing every. single. day. You’re timing with this post was perfect. My life and ministry right now doesn’t look much like yours but your “yes” reminds me every day to keep saying “yes”.
Yes and yes. It’s so hard because the world constantly screams what SUCCESS is…and it is so hard to block out and contradict…but God’s plan is different and He can and does use it all…even when it looks so far gone. Retraining our minds to His definition of success is an ongoing battle, but you are so right…being faithful to say yes and let the outcome be His…that is success! And one day, He will open your (our) eyes to so many things unseen and we’ll all be amazed!
Keep up the great work – thanks for your vulnerability and willingness to be used for Kingdom good!!
Kristen, thank you for sharing so honestly the struggles and hard moments. I so appreciate your candor and the message that God can truly redeem every situation. I will be praying for you and for Mercy House.
Karen Baughman says
I subscribe to only a handful of blogs. I usually read the posts as they come to my inbox and delete. Only the very best, most moving posts get moved to my “Amazing Blogs” folder. This post got moved there immediately. It reads like a Psalm…though the world may be crashing down around us, yet we will have hope…hope in the ONE who REDEEMS!
Thank you for your authenticity and for sharing the real joys and pains of living your life as a Christ follower.
Because of His great love we are not consumed! His mercies are new every morning!
Janet from FL says
Thank you for being so honest. Jesus told us that life following Him will be hard. You are giving those girls a 2nd chance. Where would those moms and their kids be without Mercy House? That is why you chose to do this.
Jill Raby says
I read this post because of the title. Thank you for sharing! I am trusting that God can and will redeem my many wrong “yes’s” and the hurt I have caused my kids.
Thank you for sharing. Even when I feel I haven’t done any good, or can do any good, then I look up and think that’s right. God is doing the good. I don’t like the problems and the pain, but I know I can look past them to see who is in charge, and He is always Good.
God has been teaching me a lot of lessons lately… #1 Be.Real. I sent out a Christmas card with a letter that basically (without the blow by blows of a year that couldn’t end soon enough) shared that our life is not perfect and that In a houseful of 4 teenagers I am grieving the little people who used to cling to me and adored me. Im not as popular around here as I used to be. And I realize that growing up and becoming independent is the goal… I received so many notes, calls, messages thanking me for being real. I’ve battled anxiety and depression for 2 which had been a stronghold of shame… BUT GOD has taken the lead and you would not believe how He has turned this around for His glory. He has required me to share this struggle. And not even once have I felt shame… And most of the time the person on the other end has opened up to their difficulties. He has put things in front of me recently which have only required my obedience and the message from Him that He will handle the results. Your message today was another affirmation from Him. I am on my face greatful for the reality of His presence.
Well done, sister. You are making a difference for the Kingdom.
Thank you so much for sharing the struggles along with the blessings.
I believe that just because people have had to leave that is not a failure. They were still touched by God while they were there, it might not show right now but who knows in 1 or 20 years, it will make a difference. I needed to read this today, I fail and its ugly. Its been an ugly week and a trying day. But I also know that even though the repercussions suck, I am not the person I was. I fail, but my failure does not have to define me and I have a Lord who knows me better than me being a failure.
For we wrestle not (our struggle is not) against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6: 12
Redeeming young women is a spiritual transformation and requires us to struggle, wrestle, war, and pray against the forces of evil and beseech the powers of heaven on their behalf. It is not an instantaneous process, nor does it always produce tangible results or make for pretty blogging material. Nevertheless, it is of eternal importance to continue on, and not become discouraged! The Lord is on our side, and his purposes are often unknown but always for our good and the good of his African children too! Don’t be afraid to share the burdens of this work. It is then that you enlist an army of prayer warriors to pray with you. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Thank you. I needed to read this today! So thankful for his mercy and grace.
I esteem your honest and transparent post. I cannot tell you how many times my husband and I have felt the same pain and anguish in the past 20 years of working in Bolivia. It becomes even harder when those around you expect the perfection that no one can achieve. We stand amazed at the power of God to redeem everything, and we wait in hope for that, not in our time frame but in HIS.
Being obedient and loving even when your heart cannot bear to give out one more drop of love or trust is a deliberate choice. It is never easy and rarely has a good return in that moment, God promises in Ephesians 1:19 that the same power God used to raise Jesus Christ from the dead and place him in honor and glory at the right hand of the Father, is the power at work in those of us who believe. What problem supersedes that power? Keep walking day by day. HE WILL do what He has promised to do, completing every word and promise.
Nicole Elliott says
Your realness is what inspires us and lets us know we’re not alone. More Christians need to share that “yes” is often hard, and ugly, and getting back up after being knocked down over and over and over again. Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart today. Praise God who CAN and will redeem anything and work ALL things together for good!
Deborah (Debbie) says
The words “thank you” is just not enough for the encouragement this post brings. But “thank you”.
Such a blessing. This I know to be true, but we must preach it to one another often. Thank you.
emily wierenga says
thank you Kristen. thank you.
Ever since I have read this, it is has been turning about in my mind. I don’t often write comments because I don’t have a lot of free time at the computer, but I feel really strongly that I have to respond to what you wrote and the pain, doubt, and grief you are sharing.
First I would like to say that if someone says you make Mercy House look easy, they haven’t been reading all your posts (or they are only seeing what they want to see). You have made it very clear that it is hard work that has made you grow and stretch through really difficult times. I have been impressed by the way you share your struggles while maintaining the privacy of the women and children at Mercy House.
Second, please don’t underestimate the effect you have had on the women’s lives. Even those who have chosen other paths that what would be preferred. The love you have offered and shown will leave it marks on their lives. No one knows what would have happened to them if they hadn’t found Mercy House. However, I am sure their future would be all the more difficult. And just as importantly, the future of the children they had there and the children they may go on to have in the future. You have allowed them to feel and show love. That can only effect the future generations in a positive way. Your being there for those young women was not just about them, but about the life they were bringing into the world. By providing a safe place for those young children during such a critical time, you have had a lasting effect on their lives. And by showing those mothers that there are people in the world that love and care of them, you have also changed them for the better. No act of love is wasted. We may never see the results of our love this side of heaven, but it is NEVER wasted.
I will continue to be praying for you, your family, and the Mercy House family. Your work is hard. You are clearly being refined by fire. However, you will also soar on the wings of eagles my dear sister.
Kristen, you are beautiful and brave and obedient and authentic, and you’re living out what the communal life in Christ is meant to be! Thank you for sharing a smidgen of the hard stuff, the not-so-pretty stuff. Because it helps the rest of us know how to come alongside you better through prayer and whatever other resources we may have collectively. Thank you for saying “Yes” to even this.
Thank you for honesty. Exactly what I have been feeling but haven’t yet been brave enough to do. Thank you again.
Lanette Haskins says
Beautiful words…thank you for sharing your heart Kristen <3
This is so beautifully written and really struck a chord with me today. Thank you for openly sharing your heart. I have your book on my amazon wishlist – I’m hoping someone will gift it to me for an upcoming birthday?!?
I needed this post this morning. My “mountain” is my 13-year old daughter. Thank you for all your words of encouragement. I literally wept when I heard your child say, “I hate my life!”. Thank you for sharing that b/c I’ve devoured your blog when you chat parenting advice. It’s not easy raising kids against the grain…when you’re not doing it the way 98% of the community around us is doing it. So hard. I have SO enjoyed your blog and can’t wait to start your book. And, looking forward to your new one:). In it together…Tiffany
ministry is hard. Parenting is hard. Ministry to single moms is hard. Keep up the God work.
–from pastor’s wife with 9 kids.
PS I found great encouragement in your book. Thank you.
He CAN redeem anything. But do I have the courage and faith to hand it all over and LET Him? I’m right there. When I think I have, something new comes up. And I teeter. Good stuff. Powerful.
Nine years ago our yes was adding 3 children to our family of 6. Three children from another country who had lived in an orphanage almost all of their 14, 9 and 7 years. A year later we adopted their 1 year old nephew. I was not prepared for what this yes would cost me in every area of my life. We disrupted the adoption of ow of the children 3 years ago for our safety and sanity. I believe in redemption, I’m just waiting to believe it can happen for us. I would never be so bold/ foolish/ brave or naive now that I know what our yes has cost. I know God has been loving to us, we had another biological child that has brought joy back to our family. He has been merciful in his faithfulness, but a yes doesn’t always feel good and I believe sometimes the fruit of redemption doesn’t come to us in this life.
Kari Whaley says
Much needed this morning. Struggling with two foster children in our home that are disobedient and deceitful. They’re sweet children that have just never been taught how to be a part of a family. Their family is full of addicts and it is looking like parental rights will be terminated and DCS will look to us to adopt. Right now I can’t see this being my life, my future…. I’ve been praying for months for God to help me love them as I should. Please pray that He will redeem them, encourage my heart, and show me how to move forward. Thanks again for sharing.
Stacy Keller says
Thank you, I needed to read this today!
Thank you for real honesty. The enemy tries to hold us captive through our failures and mistakes by having us hide them. God bless you for this transparency, especially for all of us wives, mother’s, daughters weighed down by unrealistic expectations, whether they were given to us by our families, churches or our own shame. Thank you.