The Hope of Heaven: Kristen Kill & Donna Barrett
Our first guest is Donna Barrett. While working as a missionary in Nicaragua, Donna’s life was affected not only by the systemic poverty she witnessed in this country, but the relationships she formed by working alongside the team who accompanied her on the trip; in particular a gregarious young woman who God placed in her path, who would have an impact on her life for years to come. Our second guest is writer Kristen Kill. Kristen was exhausted, depressed and desperate for a change. Something sparked in her when she read the Psalms and discovered the true meaning of “selah” – the pause, rest or interlude between the notes in song. Kristen discovered the secret of finding selah in her own life, and shares how others can also find this rest.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. While working as a missionary in Nicaragua, Donna Barrett’s life was impacted not only by the systemic poverty she witnessed in this country, but by the relationships she formed working alongside the team who accompanied her on the trip, particularly a gregarious young woman who God placed in her path and would have an imprint on her life for years to come.
The Hope of Heaven: Kristen Kill & Donna Barrett – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode #78
Donna Barrett: My name is Donna Barrett, and I am a wife. I am the mother of two children. My upbringing was a tough one. I’ve never met my biological father. My mother had four children. We were all from, or are from, all different fathers. There was sexual abuse, a lot of confusion, sadness, and anger in the household.
My mom was physically abusive to my older brother and sister. My mom was sexually abusive to me on occasion. My mom was very emotionally abusive to all of us children. I remember at an early age of 9 years old crying and praying to God that he would just take my life. I always believed that I was a mistake.
When my mother died, I was 11 years old, and my dear Aunt Nancy adopted me and my three siblings. At the age of 14 years old, I started to smoke pot and drink on a regular basis to numb the pain in my life. And then at the age of 18 years old, I had a dear friend that committed suicide, and that is when my faith journey really began. I was in a deep place of mourning grieving the loss of my dear friend, and I accepted Jesus as the Savior of my life at that time.
I became very involved in the church, but I was angry. I was angry with God that I never had a father, that I had a mother that I felt didn’t love me, and I was angry about my childhood. I quit smoking pot and drinking between the ages of 18 and 21 years old. Then, at the age of 21, I started to smoke pot and drink again because the anger had never really been dealt with. Fast forwarding to the age of 33 years old, that is when I really made the plunge and accepted Jesus as the Lord of my life.
The Mission Trip Of A Lifetime
I was a youth camp counsellor for a few summers, and during one of those summer camps, I sensed that there was a calling upon my life to do mission work. And it was something that I just pushed into the back burner or onto the back burner. And our church had been sponsoring a village in Nicaragua. So fast forwarding to 2014, and they had been building homes. They had been building a water system for this village. They assisted with the village to ensure every house had a latrine and worked to build a road. They were actually putting a village together in Nicaragua.
And I was sitting in church one day, and my husband is a general contractor, so I gave him the nudge. I looked at him, and I said, “You should go.” He nudged me back and looked at me, and he said, “You should go.” And he didn’t have to tell me twice. I went. That was in April of 2014.
So we started our adventure to Nicaragua on April 5th. It was a Saturday, and I was the blessed member of the team that got to sit by a young gal with the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. At that time, I didn’t realize this person was going to be my roommate. And then when we arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, and she was my roommate. So I got to spend the week with this gal with the beautiful, piercing blue eyes. And during that week we shared devotionals with one another, and Jesus Calling was my devotional of choice. I’d taken my Jesus Calling book, and she shared scripture with me. We spent time laughing and truly enjoying one another’s company, and we found that we shared a lot of the same interests.
“Being a girl from Wyoming and thinking I knew what poor was, I was amazed by the level of poverty that I had witnessed.”
So the trip was a solid eight days. On Friday, April 11, 2014, I woke up, and this was the debrief portion of the trip. We had been in the village of Tierra Nueva for four days, and we left the village on a Thursday afternoon about 1 o’clock in the afternoon. It took us 12 hours to get to our debrief site because there had been some earthquakes in Managua, Nicaragua as well as some demonstrations.
Being a girl from Wyoming and thinking that I knew what poor was, I was amazed by the level of poverty that I had witnessed. Nicaragua is the second most poverty stricken country in the Western Hemisphere, and I had no clue. And I took a walk on the beach that morning with another team member, and we saw where somebody had written in the sand: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) And I was so thrilled to see that. I really sensed that it was God’s way of telling me that the people in the village, no matter what level of poverty they were in, they were okay.
The Beginnings of a Friendship
I went back to my room that morning, and my roommate was there. It was another morning where we were sharing our devotions. She was in the shower, and I opened my Jesus Calling book, and I read it for April 11th. And the scripture was: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” So I shared what I had witnessed in the sand on the beach that morning with my roommate as well as the devotion from Jesus Calling. And my roommate just looked at me, and we both started crying with joy. And we shared that we were thrilled that we had spent the past week together and had gotten to know one another and develop this friendship. It was just the beginning of a friendship.
So I had decided, because of the level of exhaustion, that I was going to just lay low. I was going to just get quiet and hang out by the beach and hopefully meet my roommate on the beach later. And she decided that she was going to go for a walk or a run on the beach. About three o’clock in the afternoon, I was sitting on the beach and wondering where my roommate was, but I didn’t think anything of it because I had not seen really anyone from the team that day. So I decided to go back to our room and take a nap.
The Hope of Heaven in the Midst of Tragedy
I woke up about 5 in the afternoon after taking a great nap, and I just sensed… I sensed something. But I went back to sleep, knowing that I had to be at dinner at 7 o’clock that night. I woke up about 5:20, and I started to get ready for dinner. The team leader came to my door about 6 o’clock telling me that we were having dinner at 7 o’clock. I reassured her that I knew that, but I was somewhat concerned about my roommate because she had not returned. At that point, we all became very concerned. The team got together, and we decided when and who was the last person that had seen her. It was Friday, April 11, about 8 PM, when the search began.
This search continued until like 3 o’clock in the morning. I went to bed and woke up about 5 in the morning. I grabbed my Jesus Calling book. I went out to the lobby of the hotel where we were staying, and there were a few other members of the team sitting there. And I opened my Jesus Calling book, and it said, “Trust Me. Trusting Me is a moment by moment choice.” And once again, the Lord talked to me very clearly that I needed to trust in Him through this.
“Trust Me. Trusting Me is a moment by moment choice.” – Jesus Calling
We went through the day looking for my roommate without success. We made a decision that half the team was going to stay and other members of the team would leave to go home, and I was one of the team members who left to go home. We flew out of Nicaragua on Sunday, April 13, and we got home about midnight of April 13. The team that stayed, which was one of the team leaders, our interpreter, and our bus driver, they stayed searching.
We were meeting with our pastor to go over what had happened when the phone rang. It was the team leader, and we were asked to leave the pastor’s office. My pastor came out of his office and told us that my roommate was dead. Of course, the local authorities were involved, and they were searching. And on Monday, April 14, she was found, and she had been murdered.
The day my roommate was found, the devotion was: “Heaven is both present and future. As you walk along your life path holding My hand, you are already in touch with the essence of Heaven… nearness to Me. You can also find many hints of Heaven along the pathway because the Earth is radiantly alive with My presence. Shimmering sunshine awakens your heart, gently reminding you of My brilliant light. Birds and flowers, trees and skies evoke praises to My holy name. Keep your eyes and ears fully open as you journey with Me. At the end of your life path is an entrance to Heaven. Only I know when you will reach that destination, but I am preparing you for it each step of the way. The absolute certainty of your heavenly home gives you peace and joy to help you along your journey. You know that you will reach your home in My perfect timing, not one moment too soon or too late. Let the hope of Heaven encourage you as you walk along the path of life with Me.”
“He had not forsaken any of us, but His presence was there in the midst of this tragedy.”
After reading that passage, I sensed the blessed assurance that God was sovereign, and He knew. He had not left me. He had not forsaken me. He had not left Karen. He had not left my roommate. He had not forsaken her. He had not left the team. He had not forsaken any of us, but His presence was there in the midst of this tragedy.
My roommate was born on Christmas Day, and her memorial was on Easter Sunday. At the memorial service, I met her brother, and then a week later flew to Boston and met her parents. The Lord has continued to work in this story. First, there was the relationship with my roommate, and it grew into a relationship with with her brother who I had met at the memorial service and then her parents who I’d also met at a memorial service in Massachusetts.
Her mother and I talk, I would say, two or three times a year. Her mother, actually I call her her “Momma.” I call her “Momma J.” And I had the pleasure of talking to her just last evening, and I ended the conversation with, “I love you.” And she said, “I love you, too.” Through this tragedy, I got another momma.
Let the Healing Begin
I knew when this tragedy took place that there was something bigger going on, and I knew that I had to return to Nicaragua. So the next year, April 2015, I returned to Nicaragua with my husband and our six year old daughter. By me returning to Nicaragua, I think the biggest lesson that I learned was there were still people in the village that wanted to be ministered to and wanted to minister and wanted to be a part of God’s plan. They were very sad and sorry about what happened to my roommate. They welcomed me with open arms. There was a part of me that had a lot of guilt and a lot of shame like I did something wrong in all of it. And by returning and getting off the bus that day and seeing a line of Nicaraguans with arms open ready to engulf me with their love and to be healed through them… it was essential for my healing journey.
God is good, even in the midst of tragedy. God is sovereign, and He knows all. This was an opportunity for me to truly learn about forgiveness. That’s my message: FORGIVENESS. It’s essential for me to live in freedom. I don’t want to be in bondage to anger, to tragedy, to murder, to darkness. I want to live a life that the Lord has graciously and generously given to me each day because this is the day that the Lord has made.
“God is good, even in the midst of tragedy. God is sovereign, and He knows all.”
Life deals us some pretty hard hands sometimes, but God is in the midst of it. And He knows. He wants you to be in constant communication with him and communion with Him about every detail of your life. Every time I read open Jesus Calling, it was right on from where I was going during my journey of mourning and grieving and healing.
You know, this isn’t only about what happened in Nicaragua. This is a story about a little girl being born illegitimate, always feeling like she was a mistake, and then coming to this place of being God’s tool.
“This is a story about a little girl being born illegitimate, always feeling like she was a mistake, and then coming to this place of being God’s tool.”
Out of all the people on the team, I am the one that’s in contact with her family, and I’m the one that gets to that gets to talk to them. And I get to pray with them, and I get to walk alongside them during this healing journey that they’re involved in as well.
I’m not a mistake. I’m God’s handiwork. I’m God’s masterpiece. And faith comes from knowing and knowing the Word of God and digging in. And I’m telling you, it was after this tragedy that I really began to dig in to His Word and to believe His promises of who I am and what He is in my life.
Narrator: To read the transcript for Donna’s interview and to follow along with Donna’s journey, please visit JesusCalling.com/Podcast
We’ll be right back with more of the Jesus Calling podcast after this brief message from Audible.
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Author Kristen Kill Discovers the Secret of “Selah”
Narrator: Our next guest is a young mother who found herself stretched to capacity caring for a large family in the middle of Manhattan. Kristen Kill was exhausted, depressed, and desperate for a change. Something sparked in her when she read the Psalms and discovered the true meaning of “selah,” the pause, rest, or interlude between the notes in a song. Kristen discovered the secret of finding “selah” in her own life and shares how others can also find this rest. Here’s Kristen.
Kristen Kill: I am a wife and a mama of five and just love to write as a way to be able to express my heart to God.
I grew up in Washington state, the dry side of the state I always like to say because I think we all have a connotation that it rains all the time in the Seattle area. I’m from about two hours east of there. It is sort of rolling hills and wheat fields and vineyards and orchards, and it was just this really sweet, idyllic valley that I grew up in.
My parents are both educators. My dad was a principal, and my mom was a teacher. And all of my aunts and uncles and grandparents are teachers or bankers. We always say, “It’s a really good thing if a teacher marries a banker because of just the way that life works.” Education and learning were always such a key point of life in our home because it’s just the culture of our family. And so we were always buried in great books, and my parents both really came to a personal relationship with the Lord in college even though they were both from Christian families. So they were super passionate.
We had a very discipleship oriented home. We would go through Bible studies together and be talking about Jesus all the time or talking about our personal relationships with Him. Seeing how that was modeled in our parents was a really big thing for my sister and I. My dad was a leader in a small little Bible Church where we grew up, and it was so beautiful because a lot of the leaders had been similar to my parents and had come to a personal faith in the Lord in their early adult years. And so they were very, very passionate about how to pass on that legacy to their children that they had sort of created this culture of wonder for us as kids.
Searching For Acceptance
When I was 12, I had a really severe strep infection that wasn’t affected by antibiotics, and it ended up going into my nervous system and damaging my nervous system. In the same way, I always say, that scarlet fever is known to affect your heart or root and becomes rheumatic fever, this affected my brain. And so it caused all of these myriad of symptoms, but most are these muscle twitches that are uncontrollable in me that I’ve had since I was 12. I was shopped around to doctor’s office after doctor’s office, and it was really confounding to a lot of doctors at the time. It really made me withdraw and hide away because it’s middle school, and I was so embarrassed. You already feel like the most awkward creature in the world under the best circumstances. So for me, it was this real wound that was really defining in a defining point in my life.
“You wonder why you just can’t fit it and be like everybody else.”
You wonder why you just can’t fit in and be like everybody else. You question if God really loves you if this thing has happened to you. I mean, real talk, right? Like, the real heart stuff you have to deal with. I really hid myself away from other people. I became really good after a while at hiding and acting like I was okay when on the inside I was just kind of screaming and not okay and questioning who I was and wondering what everybody thought about me and how I was so embarrassed all the time and felt physically out of control. So there was that, and I think that over time, what happens is you have something in your life that keeps you having to come before God. A wound that is active in your life like that requires that you have to deal with it or you completely fade away. And I really started to fade away, and in certain seasons, I can look back and see that. And I see God’s gentleness in a wooing me back to Himself.
I had learned how to hide myself away and just pose and posture and act all tidy on the outside because I just got tired of people asking me if I was okay. I wasn’t okay, and I wasn’t ever going to be okay. And I didn’t want talk about it anymore, so I just pretended I was fine. I think that what struck me in the Psalms and what really opened my heart wide to the Lord was that there was permission to say anything. And yet, it really today is probably the thing that I’m most thankful for, because throughout all of my teenage years and all of my young adult years, it’s just that thing that is right in front of my face that I can’t escape: my need for Jesus; my need for His comfort, His acceptance, His love, and His healing hand.
“when you experience [depression], it’s really natural to feel really numb and really hidden away and misunderstood and just sad…”
It’s a really interesting thing to have those things that hurt us and grip us and are just the hardest things we deal with become a foundation of ministry and a foundation of who we are.
I was actually in high school as a senior in high school, and my husband was freshman in college. My little sister, who was a sophomore in high school at the time, has this gifted singing voice; and she was leading worship, and she needed a ride. And so I took her and hung around and met my husband, who I actually had been friends with his sister. We worked together. And he was like, “Hey, I think you know my sister…” That kind of thing. At the time, his sister was not a believer, and I had no idea anyone in her family was. He didn’t know that she had any Christian friends, and so we started talking about the conversations we were each having with her and how we were praying for her and invested in her.
It was pretty cool, and then we slowly started talking more and more and more. By that summer, we were kind of inseparable. During our whole courtship and dating, I was working with YWAM. So after we finished college, we wanted to go back on the mission field together, and we did that with our oldest daughter. She was a toddler at the time.
When I had my first daughter, I was just 22… almost 22, and I had some really severe postpartum depression. I think when you experience any depression like that, it’s really natural to feel really numb and really hidden away and misunderstood and just sad. And a lot of the things that had come up from that childhood wound of feeling isolated and hidden away became the pattern that I was coping with in the process. I listened to a poetry reading, of all things, and the poet was just so very passionate in the way he spoke, and it woke me up. He spoke with this passion and this art that caused me to sit up in my seat and think, “Gosh, that is missing. This passion is missing.” And it led me to realize: “There’s a lot of poetry in the Bible, and I’ve really been neglecting it.”
Finding Rest In The Psalms
I remember rushing home and starting to dig into the Psalms. That’s where I found a lot of permission to really be free and be liberated by the things I was hiding in the tidiness that I had taken as a mask and started to really share my heart vulnerably with God through that process of healing from depression at that point. As I read and read further, I kept seeing that word “selah” pop up all the time. I think any of us that have grown up in the church probably know it.
I started seeing it pop up more and more as I was really engaging my heart in the Psalms, so it made me want to know “What is that word?” because I believe every word in the Bible matters, right? This is all God-breathed, so I wondered, “What is this all about?” And so I read that it literally means “a pause or a rest or an interlude.” But one of the things that struck me was that after the “selah” would come, there would often be this reorientation of a Psalmist’s heart.
So they would be lamenting and crying out to the Lord, there would be a “selah,” and it changed them. Sometimes even the verse immediately afterwards would be, “And I trust in You. You are my God. You are my fortress. I acknowledge You. You will be the one to avenge me before my enemies.” Whatever it would be, there would be this confidence and this shift, and I began to think about the analogy of that in my life, the analogy of when I take a pause, when I take a rest, when I have an interlude of beauty in my life… it bolsters me to be able to come back.
The Act of Yielding Ourselves To Christ
I’m so thankful that there was a cause for me to run to Him at an early age and then again and again in different seasons because I just needed Him so very desperately. And I’m thankful that there was a reason that I needed Him so very desperately because it formed the curve of the rest of my life to have to run to Him in that way.
I think, for a lot of us, we follow this progression where we really, really want rest, and we’re looking to escape our lives all the time through either what we choose to do on the weekend or the vacations that we jump to. You know, we come back to work, and we don’t think about that as our real life. We just sort of bemoan it until we get to the weekend or until we get to a vacation, and I don’t want to live my life always wanting to escape it and always wanting to run from it. I want there to be “selah” moments in my life that cut right into my very ordinary days or to the chaos or the difficult circumstances of my life that are ways for me to engage with the beauty of God and be transformed by that.
I always thought that rest was always just something where you just stop everything, but what I realized is that it’s very active. It takes a lot of work to be able to yield. It takes surrender. That is an act of our will and an act of our minds and hearts.
A really good friend of mine named Patty Sauls, when we lived in New York, she gave my daughter, who was in middle school, a copy of Jesus Calling, and we had never read before. It became her first ever independent devotional that she did, and she’s now almost 17. So she was 11, I think, maybe only 10, but I think she was 11. It just became something that she read every day and that started to be the beginning of her own personal, devotional life. Then she would get mad at me because I took it and would be reading it as well.
And now we’ve introduced it to all of our kids that are at that age or older. That’s been their introduction into their devotional life, and it’s just so perfect for them because, I think, when you are growing in your own personal faith and coming out of the covering of your family and what Mom and Dad believe and learning how to express your faith and prayer life before God independently, it’s just such a beautiful place to start.
Narrator: You can find out more information about Kristen Kill’s book called Finding Selah: The Simple Practice of Peace When You Need It Most at KristenKill.com
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we speak with Paul Teutul, Jr., the star of the popular TV reality series, American Chopper. Paul talks about his faith and how he strives to unleash his God designed creativity and live life to the fullest.
Paul Teutul, Jr. Excerpt: I had a certain situation that took place in my life that I can’t explain. I can’t even tell you what it was, but it was terrible. And that really made me dig in. I really got in the Word, and I really got involved. I think that really began to shape who I am today, right? Because that’s how we learn who we are…through the Word of God. That’s how we develop, hopefully, you know?
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