848 Miles

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“Manipulation became my weapon of choice to keep my dream of having a family alive.” – Kristen Lira

Thirteen hours and 848 miles – that’s how far Kristen Lira drove every other weekend in her search for truth. Two weekends a month, Kristen drove from her home in Corpus Christi, Texas to Watermark to find out more about this man named Jesus and His free gift of grace. In those long hours between the two cities, old sermons played through her car stereo. Mile after mile, and week after week, her heart drew closer to the Lord, even as the world around her seemed to have crumbled.

Marriage had always been of upmost importance to Kristen. Her parents divorced when Kristen was young, leaving Kristen with a thirst for affirmation and love. Manipulation became my weapon of choice to keep my dream of having a family alive. Just a few months after she and her former husband began dating, they were married and expecting their first child. But the dream marriage and family Kristen had hoped for turned out to be a nightmare.

She tried to play the “cool wife” for a while, thinking that if she didn’t confront her husband’s unfaithfulness, her marriage troubles would work out. She turned to anger and control when her pain became too great. She found a little hope amidst heartache when a doctor said their fourth child could be born with spina bifida. The couple went through a time of mutual encouragement and support as they discussed the possibility of having a special needs child. Their fourth child was born healthy, but her marriage was not and eventually ended.

During this painful time, Kristen met a friend who did not seem to be afraid of the heartache and messiness in her family’s life. She told Kristen about her faith, and the free gift of grace she had found in Jesus Christ. Growing up, Kristen said that she never felt certain of her faith or salvation because she felt she could never measure up to God’s standard. How could she know how good was “good enough?”

Kristen wanted her children to have a solid foundation of faith, but the traditions and teachings of the faith she was raised in did not feel relevant and applicable. Continuing her search for truth, Kristen actually visited Watermark on a blind date. That’s when she heard for the first time that salvation was not earned (Ephesians 2:8-9) through good works but through faith in Christ alone. Kristen said that truth hit her like a lightning bolt. She walked out that day awestruck by God’s love for her and eager to know more.

For months, Kristen felt compelled to learn more about a relationship with Jesus Christ. She spent several months driving back and forth to Dallas from Corpus Christi to attend Watermark. When a job in Dallas became available, she packed up her kids and moved north. Her new-found faith in Christ continued to grow.

The first night that Kristen attended DivorceCare, the teaching centered on forgiveness and reconciliation. After all the pain in her first marriage, Kristen’s heart moved toward healing and hope as she learned more about God’s power to restore relationships. “I started to trust that God was big enough and loving enough to heal my wounds and hurts,” said Kristen. “DivorceCare was instrumental in shaping my walk with the Lord, and I see now how the Lord has been protecting and pursuing me throughout my life, and continues to do so.”

Kristen says although she grieves many of the choices she made in the past, she doesn’t hide who she once was. “By God’s grace, I’m no longer that person, so I’m willing to share everything about myself so others can know how good the Lord is. I’m so thankful to have come into a relationship with Jesus at a time when my kids were young so that I could impress God’s truth and love into their little hearts and minds. They are always so excited to come to Watermark, and their leaders in Children’s Ministry feel like members of our family.”

Kristen says that she doesn’t really feel like a single parent anymore because the Lord has provided leaders and mentors who fill in the gaps that she cannot. In addition to her job as mom, Kristen also sees her career as a platform to serve the Lord and bring Him glory. “I wanted my life at work to mean something in God’s Kingdom, and recently I was given the opportunity to be featured in a company-wide publication. There’s nothing to my story without Christ, and I was humbled to have the opportunity to share what He has done and how He has brought my life a new level of joy. My life was a wreck when I made things all about myself and my needs. The Lord has done a perfect job making things beautiful and preparing me for great things! Whatever I do, I want to make more of Him!” – written by Amy Tubbesing