Kristen and Doug Prince have been my friends for years. Doug and my husband went to high school together. Kristen and Doug were married before me and Michael were, but since the time Michael and I have dated, they have been a part of our lives, including Doug being the Emcee at our wedding.
We've always been close friends, but the last 10 years drew us even more together.
While we lived in Florida at one time, (since that is where Doug, Kristen, and Michael are all from), oddly enough, Kristen and Doug moved to Ohio in 2006. We were sad to see them move so far away, but knew we'd see them, since my family was from Ohio and theirs were in Florida, we knew we'd cross paths.
That being said, while we had no intentions of moving to Ohio, God had other plans. And in 2007, we moved to Ohio as well, an hour and a half north of where Doug and Kristen were. We were happy to be close together again. We did our best to connect once a month, though not always succesful with that by any means.
Kristen became one of my closest friends. In 2009, I ran my first half marathon, and along with my family, Doug and Ten became my biggest cheerleaders. They moved from mile to mile cheering me on, had silly signs written up for me, and even painted up my car to celebrate the occasion of it being my first race. She and Doug have seen me through a lot of life. Not too long after that, I somehow convinced Kristen to start running with me. We ran the Air Force Marathon together. (and we have since run a few others as well!) They were there for me when my mom was sick and when she died, and they have supported all my efforts in the scholarship we began in mom's memory.
|Doug, Me, Kristen, my first half marathon, 2009|
|Doug and Ten, my son and me, 2011, first 5K after mom passed. They came to support the event|
|Me and Ten, 2014, 2 divas who finished the Divas Half Marathon|
I do not know the year exactly, but sometime a few years later, Kristen began attending Amelia United Methodist Church, in Amelia, Ohio. Ten and I shared hours worth of discussion over this, and it was exciting for her to find a place she called home. It's not fair for me to tell her story, so let me tie all these pieces together for you. In 2013, Kristen decided to endeavor on a mission trip with this church to a place called Brisas del Mar in Colombia. Ten knew of my love for the Spanish culture and so of course she invited me along. At that time, I was lost in grief over my mom's death and I was not in a spiritually sound place. Life was rocky for me, to say the least. I was, however, very excited for her to go. I watched her transform through this experience, as she prepared for it and endeavored there on her own (meaning, with the team, but without Doug) and as she came home, it was noticible to me the difference this trip had made in her life. She was ready to go back.
Of course she invited me to go again, but in 2014 I declined again, still not in the best of places. However, Doug did go with her. That was something we'd prayed for as well, so it was exciting to see. She wanted him to understand why the experience of Brisas meant so much to her. When they come home, it was fun to hear the stories, Doug style. (And let me tell you, the people of Brisas remember both of them! When I would speak with the locals, I told them I came because of my friends, Doug and Kristen, and they lit up at that!)
I looked at all her photos with interest, in the back of my head tucking away the thought of maybe one day I could go, too. In 2015, Kristen and Doug had moved back to Florida, but she once again attended with another friend of hers. When she returned from that trip, I was ready. So, I called her to get the information of how to get connected.
At that point, Kristen told me that she would not be going in 2016, but at that point, I knew God wanted me on this trip. I didn't doubt that at all. And while I knew I would miss her being there with me, I was also excited to get to know a new group and step out of my comfort zone. I contacted Michael Estep and the rest is history. One email led to another, which led to my being part of this trip in 2016, a time that forever changed my life.
Through this trip, I have gained new life-long friends, I found my place of belonging once again, God reignited passions of mine, and I have been reshaped by the Lord in a beautiful way. And I trace the lines all the way back to Kristen, and then Doug, and I love looking back over these years to know that God was at work all those years to prepare this way, to make all these things fall into place in their perfect timing- His perfect timing. The story does not end there, though.
Of course, prior to the trip, I was calling Ten all the time to get information about the trip, ask questions I knew she could answer, and just share my heart with someone who knew me, and who knew Brisas as well. She and Doug were those only ones who knew both. The night before we left, we facetimed (along with my new friend, Paula, who they knew from previous trips). They were a huge part of my trip. In fact, you could say I was on the trip because of them. Because of Kristen stepping out of her comfort zone in 2013.
I got beautiful words of encouragement from them both that I will never forget. I had one text from Doug upon my arrival to Colombia and then the day before we left, I got a text from Kristen.
To tidy up this story, as we got through customs at the airport, guess who was there in Miami to greet us all with open arms? ? ? yes... Doug and Kristen were there. They drove 5 hours from Jacksonville to be there for the team, for me. Another marker moment in our years of friendship. I did not know they would be coming there, and it was so wonderful to see them. To be able to share in person my heart and my experiences and my desires. I cried. Because God has weaved our lives together, because they have literally been there for me in every monumental occassion (side note, but reverting back in time, Doug was even at our house when I went into labor with our second child, Joseph.) so, they both have been there for me literally for every single monumental marker I have faced, both beautiful and painful.
|Kristen, Me, and Paula in the airport|
|All of us at the Miami airport with surprise visit from Doug and Kristen!|
We had a 7 (or something) hour layover in Miami, so Doug and Ten piled me, Paula Lou, James and Eric into their Jeep and drove us out to the beach. We enjoyed a few hours of sharing, eating, laughing, and probably a little crying, too. They got to know my new friends and were gracious to drive us around.
|I totally squeezed into the trunk- worth it for time with friends at the beach!|
|The 4 2016 Team Members, Me, James Eric and Paula Lou|
I love Doug and Kristen so much. I love how God has weaved our lives together and made us such a part of eachother's journies. And I am confident we have many more roads to travel together.