“I spent a lot of my time going to concerts, getting drunk, and smoking weed,” said Kristen Reed. “It was an escape from my pain, and it gave me a feeling of significance. I was living a really unhealthy lifestyle and found myself in impure relationships with men.
“When I was in college, my parents got divorced and around that same time my mother was diagnosed with stage four colon, liver, and lung cancer. I ended up taking care of my mom, going to school, and working.
“Throughout my life, and specifically at this time, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I had panic attacks at school so often that I eventually dropped out. I had a full college scholarship, but between my anxiety, poor grades (which were new for an overachiever like me), and my mom’s declining health, I eventually lost the scholarship.
“Two years before my mom passed away, my grandmother died. In just two years, I lost the two people I thought loved me the most. Experiencing and grieving my mother’s death in 2009 took my depression to another level. She wasn’t just my mom; she was my best friend.
“Throughout this time, I was living what I thought was the typical college life – going to parties and drinking too much, but it got a lot worse after my mom passed away. With that lifestyle came a really unhealthy obsession with the music industry and the guys that were in bands. I was looking to fill a void that I didn’t know only God could fill.
“I was working at Macy’s part time during the holiday season of 2012. One day, a customer handed me a pamphlet that explained the gospel. At the time, I called myself a Christian, but I never believed the gospel. I opened up the tract, even though I was rolling my eyes at the gesture. It included the verses Proverbs 3:5-6, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’
“This was the exact verse my mom blessed every meal with, and it was on a plaque that my grandma gave to my mom when she passed away. I had seen this verse almost every day of my life, but that day I realized the reason I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel like I had a purpose was because I wasn’t following God.
“One night, I decided to go to a concert at the music venue I frequented often. As I was listening to the lyrics of an unknown band, it was clear they were singing about Jesus. I met one of the musicians after the show and confirmed they were actually singing about Christ. We connected on social media, and he invited me to The Porch.
“May 22, 2013 was the first time I went to The Porch. Each time I returned, it felt like the speaker was talking about exactly what I needed to hear. The messages were so relatable to what I was experiencing and helped me desire to change my lifestyle.
“I eventually became involved at re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry, and joined the church. During the Membership process, someone asked me, ‘On a scale from one to ten, how certain are you that if you died today you would go to Heaven?’ I told her I was ‘a seven.’ I was carrying a lot of guilt because I felt like I didn’t do enough to keep my mom from dying.
“She told me that my mom’s death was in God’s hands, not mine. Even if I had done something wrong, Jesus’s blood covers all of my sins – every single one. The words she spoke really resonated with me. After trusting Christ as my savior, I realized I was ‘a ten’ on the scale and could be certain of my eternity because of the free gift of grace given to me by Christ.
“It has been amazing to see how God has redeemed areas of my life. Over my life, I’ve dealt with abuse, depression, anxiety, inappropriate relationships, and a porn addiction, and Christ has redeemed every part of it.
“Now I serve with Reclaimed, one of Watermark’s ministry partners, serving women who are victims of sex trafficking. It means so much to me to be able to serve and care for them. I can say from experience that God can and will heal and restore us.
“God turned an idolization of the music industry and musicians into a vehicle to share God’s grace. Before I trusted Christ, I was hosting concerts and interviewing bands, but now I’m putting on concerts and a Christian music festival to share the gospel and encourage people who struggle with mental illness. God brought so many things from my past full circle.
“He is also redeeming my relationships and views toward men. I am engaged to get married this year to a wonderful, God-honoring man. Quite opposite from my view on relationships and marriage before, I now understand that marriage is a picture of Christ and His love for the Church. I want to use this time of engagement as an opportunity to love people well and not focus on myself. A wedding lasts a day, but, in Christ, our souls last forever, so I want to use this season to glorify God.”