Holding on to Faith: Kristen's Story
Kristen Mead had been in a church only three times in her life before her boyfriend invited her to Grace Orlando in the summer of 2014.
“My mom was spiritual, but she had abandoned the church and told me to find my own way,” Kristen says.
“I always viewed church as a judgmental, hypocritical place full of people who would never accept a girl who had lived the life I had. But Grace was the most warm and welcoming place I had ever been.”
From Kristen’s early teens to early 20s, her life had been marked by desperation. “I had wonderful parents who would give me anything, but I had felt empty,” she says. “For years I searched for anything that would fill that ‘void’ I had felt for so long. Spiritually, I had a basic faith in God, but I did not know Him or understand Him at all.”
I saw that I didn’t need acceptance from anyone, because I had been accepted by Christ. All of the things that had happened to me suddenly became ways that God had brought me to Himself.
And the little faith she had was shaken to the core in one horrible weekend. “My brother died when I was 15, and that same weekend, I attempted suicide,” Kristen says. “I felt like I lost any faith that I had, because I didn’t understand why God would take him and not me.” From that point, her life was defined by bad choices and hopelessness.
Then at age 25, Kristen says that God gave her a beautiful and amazing gift: her son, Liam.
“Becoming a mother changed me completely,” she says. “But I didn’t know then that the Holy Spirit is how we truly grow into the person God meant for us to become and that God bringing Liam into my life was Him working to start my beautiful journey towards my relationship with Christ.”
When Kristen came to Grace, graceKIDS was the first thing that started to help change her life. “I brought Liam, and he loved it,” she says. “But more importantly, he started learning that even though he doesn’t have a good relationship with his earthly father, he has a father in God, and he’ll be safe with him.
“I cannot tell you the anxiety that took away from me, being a single mom,” Kristen says. “I was always fearful and wanted to control everything in Liam’s life. The second I realized I could give Liam to God and know he would be cared for was so freeing.”
On Easter Sunday 2015, after coming and listening and experiencing God’s love in community at Grace for months, Kristen gave her life to Christ. “It all became real — everything I’ve gone through just fell into place and made sense that day, ” she says. “I had been trying to control my whole life by being a perfectionist. Suddenly I saw that I didn’t need acceptance from anyone, because I had been accepted by Christ. And all of the things that had happened to me suddenly became ways that God had brought me to Himself.”
She started to grow in her faith. “As long as I stay focused on Christ and what He has done for me, it takes that weight off your shoulders of people-pleasing, anxiety about doing things wrong,” she says. “I handle things in a totally different way with God’s help, and I share that with others, too.”
She has also learned to pray. “The How to Talk to God message series was unbelievable,” Kristen says. “I knew nothing about it -— talking to God was scary, and I felt silly. But Pastor Mike had a way of explaining it where it made sense and felt like a normal part of life. Now I pray with Liam, and he will talk to God on his own, too. That’s incredible to me.”
Kristen still faces big challenges, and one of her biggest is living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. “I was actually diagnosed about the time I came to Grace, and it was a big part of me coming to seek God,” she says. “My hands and my hips have been most severely affected; I often struggle to walk or write. I couldn’t give Liam a bath, which was devastating. You grieve the loss of part of yourself. But now I face my struggles with God. Since finding Christ at Grace two years ago, I have finally felt whole.”
Kristen spent her first months at Grace writing prayer requests about her disease each week during communion. “If I couldn’t be healed, I at least wanted to move toward understanding,” she says. “And God has answered. A few months ago, I found myself in that ‘low’ place anyone who suffers from chronic pain or disease will know. This time was very different, though. Before, I wouldn’t know where to turn for comfort or love or advice without judgment. But this time, I had Christ in my life, and knew exactly how to get myself out of this funk I was in. My entire body had been aching and in shooting pain for weeks. I hadn’t slept in what felt like months. I was lying on the bathroom floor one night, when I realized that for weeks, I hadn’t done what I knew would relieve this stress.
“I immediately began praying, asking God to tell me that the pain would not always be this bad and to show me a sign that He was really with me,” she remembers. “I was hysterical, but at that very moment, I felt this unexplainable peace come over me. Then for the first time in my life, I felt like God was really speaking to me. I know God gave me this to help people somehow, and I’ll find it. I’m willing to suffer to help others find the faith that I have found. Pain is not the end.”
This story, written by Communications Director Kelly Adkins, originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.