Mourning the Life You Thought You Would Have

When my husband and I got married we moved from Miami, Florida to Wake Forest, North Carolina. We were beyond excited to get out of Miami. I wouldn’t say we hated Miami, I think we were just longing to see what was out there. We wanted to experience a different life from the one we had always known. So we walked down a church aisle, said I do, and then packed our bags and headed north. We loved our time in North Carolina. I went to seminary and earned my degree in Biblical Counseling. We spent weekends exploring nature trails and farmer’s markets. We drank sweet tea and ate venison. We eased into life, enjoying the seasons and Southern hospitality.

North Carolina is a beautiful place, but soon we fell in love with a different city. We set our sights on Denver, Colorado. The first time we visited the city we were in awe. The city felt young and vibrant. The people were full of dreams and adventure. And the mountains, well, the mountains are truly majestic. We really felt like it was a great fit for us. A group of our friends were preparing to move to Denver to plant a church and they wanted us to join them. They definitely didn’t have to twist our arms. My husband and I both had a heart for city life and the church, we felt like this is where God wanted us to be and were eager to do life and ministry in a place we loved.

It started out just fine. We bought a home and prepared for the birth of our first child. We met together with our church family, ate at new restaurants, took our dog to the park. Life was exactly as we hoped it would be.

But then something changed. After our son was born I was dealing with postpartum depression. I felt alone and anxious and every bone in my body wanted to run away from this life. I was so confused. I had always pictured that motherhood would be amazing. I thought for sure I would be a natural. I had this idyllic view of early motherhood. I imagined rocking my sweet newborn to sleep, feeling a close bond, passing him around to our friends who would ooh-and-ahh over him.  Instead I had a baby who spent most of his time screaming, never slept, wanted nothing to do with anyone, sore breasts, and dark thoughts about ending my life.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. I didn’t feel as if I was thriving, I was barely surviving! I loved my son but wondered if I was doing it all wrong. My husband and I were not connecting at all and I spent most days resenting him. I was no longer participating in our church and barely communicated with any of our friends. I felt like a failure: as a mother, a wife, and a missionary.

I retreated into myself and all I wanted was to be close to my family in Miami. After a lot of tears and discussions and threatening (on my part), we moved back home with our baby boy (and another surprise baby on the way). I still had a lot of issues to deal with. I was still depressed and anxious and our marriage was on the brink.

Moving home didn’t exactly solve all our problems, but we were able to seek professional counseling and gain support from our family and friends. I am beyond thankful for the way our family showed up for us in real concrete ways—babysitting, giving us a place to live when we had nowhere to go, drying my tears.

I am beyond thankful for the prayers of our friends—their advice and encouragement. Without this tribe of people I don’t think I would have been able to find my way out of the fog of depression. And my husband, I am so thankful that my husband always remained strong and held me up when I could barely put myself together. I still remember a hard conversation we had—we were arguing about some nonsense and I was crying and finally I blurted out, “I just wish I wasn’t alive!” The words barely escaped my lips when my husband started sobbing and he held me. He just held me. And in that moment that was all I needed.

It’s been a few years since we moved back to Miami. I’m grateful to be home, close to family and part of a church that is there for us, but there is a part of me that feels sad. For a long time I could not even speak of Denver. It was like a bad word that tasted sour in my mouth. It took a while and lots of prayer, but I no longer feel resentment towards the city I once loved. I even reached out to some of our church family back there and reconciled all the bitter feelings. Making peace with our church plant, and the city of Denver in general, took a weight off my shoulders. A lot of my depression was alleviated, but if I am truly honest there is always a small part of me that wonders, “what if…?”

Our kids are a little older now and the postpartum depression has passed. My husband and I are in a great and loving place. I feel a lot more “normal” and at ease these days. But when I look back at our time church planting in Denver I feel an ache in my heart. I look back at pictures of our home or read updates about the church plant, and I feel loss. I wish we were there. I wish I would have been stronger. I wish we could start over and do it right.

Sometimes I feel like I walked away from a great opportunity that God had for me and our family. Maybe this would have been a great chance for growth and cultivating true community. Maybe this would have been an incredible learning experience that I could have used for ministry. Maybe I would be a better person today if I hadn’t walked away. Why wasn’t I stronger? Why didn’t I have more faith? Why didn’t our church family show up for me when I needed them? Why did we have to leave so suddenly and abruptly?

The reality of the matter is, we are here now. Miami is our home. These are our people. This is our ministry field. I have to mourn the loss of the life I thought I would have but embrace the one that actually is mine. I’m a firm believer that God directs our steps and if we’re in this city He must want us to be here. So not my will, but His be done.

I know I am still young. Lord willing, I have quite a few years left on this earth. Who is to say what the future holds? Perhaps God still has another adventure in store for us. I would be lying if I said I didn’t long for more than what our current life has to offer. Until then, I will just wait and trust in the Lord. My one desire is to glorify Him, whether that’s in Miami or to the ends of the earth.

Kristel Acevedo
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11 thoughts on “Mourning the Life You Thought You Would Have

  1. Oh, sweet friend. Thanks for sharing your heart. I’m so sorry for the way your time here ended, and for the hurts that happened. I’m thankful for God’s grace sustaining you, your marriage and your family, and I’m thankful for His grace when we screw up at loving well. If you’re ever interested in another Denver adventure – we’ll find y’all a house in the neighborhood again and we can all screw up, I mean raise, our kids together 😉

  2. Dear Kristel, thank you for sharing your painful and powerful story. May that ache you feel continue to be comforted by God’s faithfulness, and may your story encourage others.

  3. As I read this I felt an ache in my own heart. I know just how you feel. So many times I read something you have written and it is almost a reflection of my own thoughts and experiences. I am thankful that you put what was on your heart into words and had the courage to share them with all of us. I know that your story is encouraging others, me included. Your ministry –your story– is touching people, and fueling hope, not just in your city but beyond (here I am, typing from California). I am praying for your heart girlfriend, “not my will, but His be done.” Amen.

  4. Thanks, Kristel, for sharing your story with transparency.

  5. Kristel, oh man, we just moved “home” so I so, so, so get this. Thank you for sharing your heart and all the hard. There are tons of questions but wide open spaces of life — either at home in Miami, or in Denver, or in some other space. Thanks for lending your voice to The Mudroom.

  6. Just finished reading about your book and some of your items off the Fuller website on working with youth. I love the comments on immigrants.

    While I haven’t a clue what to do with the issues of person’s immigrating to the United States from many countries I find the verse you quoted and so many others talk about welcoming strangers and taking care of them. I wish I had an answer.

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