Christy Jones Nedkov is the quintessential cultivator. She has taken the bitter and made it sweet, and she has made a place of refuge and consolation for others facing similar losses and sorrows. Her courage and generosity inspire me, her kindness and beautiful spirit comforts me. It is my honour to share this interview with you.
LES: Christy, tell us about what The Guest House project is?
CJN: The Guest House Project is a 501c3 non-profit located in Atlanta, GA. It exists to create space and curate experiences of nourishing rest, healing hope and life-giving beauty for women who are walking through the pain of sexual and relational betrayal in their committed relationships. Over sixty percent of marriages in our culture are deeply affected by sexual brokenness and while there are many ministries doing needed and vital work with men in this area, it is often the wives who receive very little care. The work of The Guest House Project is to nourish these women spiritually, emotionally and physically and give them hope for healing. We believe that pointing women to intimacy with Christ is vital when they are walking through the trauma that sexual brokenness can cause in a marriage. When women are hurting, confused and defeated, the pain and isolation only deepens but when they are shown love and care and pointed to the Father, the great Healer of hearts, light is brought into the darkness, bringing hope, community and healing.
Here at the Guest House Project, we know the wounding and pain of betrayal. We also know that returning to the great Healer of our bodies, minds and souls provides a way through that pain. The work we do right now is through facilitated annual support groups, seasonal workshops and guided quarterly retreats. These are run by myself, as executive director, and a team of volunteers, as well as my board members. The long-term vision for the Guest House Project is to own a physical space that will function as a permanent bed & breakfast. This will allow women walking through betrayal to visit at any time, at their convenience, without waiting for our quarterly retreats. This space will also be used to host our workshops, support groups, guided retreats and other events. We are prayerfully laying the ground work for this vision and trust that God has a beautiful plan for bringing The Guest House into being!
LES: How did you come to create The Guest House Project and why did you feel so urged to do this?
CJN: About 18 months ago I was in a period of transition with my work and spent several months asking the Lord what was next for me. I was convinced He had some meaningful work for me to do, but had no idea what it was and pursued several different avenues, even contemplating overseas missions! But one evening I had what I always hesitate to say, but can really only call “a vision” in which I remembered back to a particularly traumatic part of my marriage. It was during this time that one of my dearest friends travelled from out of town to take me away to a bed & breakfast for the weekend. That time away from home, away from the pain and triggers and responsibilities, is forever imprinted on my heart and mind as one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. My friend provided a beautiful setting where I could rest, and tenderly cared for me and my broken heart, praying over me and reminding me that my Heavenly Father was holding my hand. Four years later, in that vision, I realized that God was calling me to do the same for others. While I may have wanted to forge ahead into unknown mission fields, there were countless women in my own city who were suffering through severe pain and brokenness in their marriages. I knew that pain and I knew Who had led me through it.
And in the quiet of that evening of remembering, God, with all the stunning clarity He occasionally bestows, called me into a work that He spent years preparing me for.
So now The Guest House Project exists in it’s small corner of the Kingdom! The picture God gave me was extremely clear and detailed. I could see a house, functioning as a bed & breakfast, where women could receive nourishing rest in an atmosphere of beauty and care. And that is still the long term vision for this ministry. The retreats, support groups and workshops are ministry opportunities now that will still take place in the future, but hopefully in our own space one day! I talk to so many women who are desperate for rest and reminders that God sees and loves them in the middle of deep suffering and believe that providing that kind of care can set a heart on the path to healing.
LES: When chaos seemed to prevail during that period of betrayal and loss, you found a path forward out of what seemed to be complete ruin. What proved to be anchor points for you during that time? Do any of those still hold true for you now that life has changed?
CJN: My relationship with the triune God anchored me like nothing else. Knowing deep in my soul that his sovereign care over my life was assured and absolute, gave me hope and enabled me to take the next step in the darkness. I clung to the hope of the Gospel, that this is not all there is and that the relentless tide of redemption sings louder than the pain. It is incredible to me when I remember back, how He sent encouragement along the way. This was usually in the form of words of encouragement, wisdom or guidance from family, mentors and friends, even my children; small and large acts of kindness by those around me were like blossoms on the path. And then every so often a miracle so unexpected and impossible, that I knew it was a gift from Him, wrapped with a smile and me in mind. So I’d say the relationships in my life were incredible anchors: God and people. And then I’d say beauty, music, the poetry of words, kept me going too. These all still hold true and are the things I value most in my life today.
LES: Would you say that out of your losses your calling and vocation has more clearly emerged? Would you be doing what you are now if you had not suffered the losses you have?
CJN: Oh absolutely, my calling has emerged from my loss! I could never have imagined five years ago, that I would ever be doing work like this. And yet almost everything I have experienced or lived through or worked at through the years has been preparation, even down to places I have lived! I spent three years after my divorce doing therapy, support groups and really allowing God to heal me from the wounds of betrayal in my marriage (healing takes so much time!). So when He presented me with the vision of a ministry to women who were also hurting in this way, I said no for several months. I wanted to wash my hands of anything to do with betrayal trauma and that kind of pain! But God very gently softened my heart by so clearly and unexpectedly giving me a vision for The Guest House and I know without a doubt that this is my vocation.
LES: What has inspired you along the way? How do you use inspiration to overcome the obstacles and disappointments?
CJN: Without a doubt, music has always touched me and inspired me more deeply than anything else. And while I have no gifting in that area, I am very intentional about populating my life with those who do! There is always music on in our home and I find that immersing myself in song is usually a way out of confusion or grief for me.
Christy Nockels’ record “Lullabies for the Beloved” has been balm on many lonely nights. Phil Wickham’s song “Living Hope” is one of my all time favorite anthems of not only salvation but of the redemption Jesus brings to the darkness I’ve walked through. Christa Wells’ song “Come Close Now” has given words to the way those around me have kept watch with me in the suffering . Kristene DiMarco’s “Homeward Bound” always resets my perspective and reminds me where I’m going. JJ Heller, the Hunts, and Rend collective have all kept me company along the way. Playing old hymns on my piano is also a creative outlet for me and brings some quiet to my days.
Aptly spoken or written words are also a huge source of inspiration to me. Whether spoken by a friend, discovered in the pages of Scripture, or jotted down in my journal, words help me see reality more clearly. And so when beautiful words are paired with melodies that stir me, it’s one of the most life giving inspirations for me! I have many favorite songs like this and consider them sweet companions for the way. And I certainly use music to help me through the troubles of this weary old world, to bring inspiration, to endure suffering and to give narrative to my joys. Something that is inspiring me at the moment is the whole idea of movement in worship. The concept of using bodily movement combined with music to worship as well as intercede for others is bringing a new richness to my times with God.
LES: Our lives are continually unfolding with victories, losses, ordinary days, and extraordinary glimpses into eternity. How have you seen the Lord bind all these together for you and do you see a way for others to experience that, too?
CJN: Oh, I see all this constantly in my life! I am most clearly able to see when my heart is tender and my hands are open to Him and to others. By keeping an eternal perspective and stacking my stones of His faithfulness in my life and in the lives of others, it’s like my eyes can see more easily into the spiritual realm. This requires trust and surrender in how God is weaving and working all things for our good and His glory. Sometimes I have that faith in bucketfuls and at others I can only muster up a mustard seed! Either way, I know there’s a whole world going on backstage that I won’t fully see this side of Heaven!
LES: If you could tell yourself of 10 years ago something for guidance from what you know now what would that be? What would you want to tell others going through the same kind of loss?
CJN: Oh my, I’d want to tell myself so many things! I think the dearest treasure to emerge from my own suffering and loss has been a deepening knowledge of the steadfast love of the triune God for me. And I would love to sit with the me of ten years ago and tuck a curl behind her ear and make her look in my eyes and tell her to remember. To remember what she already knows and what is imprinted on her heart and is evident in a million ways in the world around her: that the steadfast love of the Lord never fails His beloved children, especially in the deepest suffering. And this love is deep and wide and steadies every single breath she takes. And I’d tell her that she’ll see mile markers of His love on her road, and that when she doesn’t, to hold fast, knowing that the very ground she walks on is holy and His, and that not a second of what happens is outside His loving care. I love how Romans 5 spells out how suffering leads to the hope we have in God’s great love for us , and I’d tell her to rest in that.
And then I’d tell her to fight. To fight really, really hard for eternal perspective. Remember who and Whose you are. This is important. And matters particularly when suffering threatens to drown you. Listen for the sweet, ever present song of redemption, which can be heard in even the deepest distress. And remember that this weary world is not our home but we fix our eyes on the unseen and eternal glory that is coming.
And lastly, I would tell myself of ten years ago that so much in life just takes time. Well, the important things in life do! Like repairing relationships, forgiveness, trusting again, birthing a project, healing from trauma. And I’d tell myself to take all the time needed. It is often in these slow quiet periods of waiting or work that God’s voice is most easily heard. And that is such a gift if we are willing to take the time to listen and to surrender ourselves to the necessary inner work that the Spirit so beautifully does in us.
LES: What do you most deeply hope for The Guest House to produce? Where do you hope to see it grow?
CJN: My deep hope is to see women nourished in tangible ways that ease the suffering of betrayal trauma. As we usher them into rest physically, spiritually and emotionally, they are ushered into deeper communion with their Heavenly Father, as beloved children. I believe with all my heart that walking hand in hand with Him, undergirded by His sovereign care, brings hope in the most awful darkness. And I believe that reminding women that they are deeply loved is vital in the journey of hope and healing after betrayal.
And my deepest hope for the ministry itself is that one day it will be a permanent space and function as a bed & breakfast. A place where women can come back to for the rest and peace they crave. That is a HUGE dream and I’m convinced that God has something up his sleeve so I’m leaving that for Him to reveal in His own sweet time.
LES: In making a life that is itself an act of worship and art, what are the three practices that you find most critical to sustaining your growth and well-being?
CJN: First, I’d say the practice of surrender. Surrendering every act, every emotion, every suffering, every interaction with others to the sovereign care of God, knowing that He is working out His will in my life and that none of my choices (or the choices of others) are outside of His sustaining power. This constant, sometimes moment by moment, surrender is vital to my own peace and also to my courage as I live out my calling. For me this means continual, open conversation with the Lord throughout the day, breath prayer, scripture reminders around my house, and carving out longer periods of time for retreat with Him.
Secondly, the practice of nurturing relationships. My friendships and interactions, with a variety of people, many of whom are very different from me, are vital to my own growth. Now that I am in a place of thriving again, not simply surviving, the practice of hospitality as nourishment to relationship is something I love having some capacity for! Whether it’s a cup of tea on a random Tuesday or a dinner party for thirty, nourishing others with food, flowers, words and presence is a practice I cherish.
Which makes me think of a third practice I am coming to see the importance of lately: the practice of intentionally speaking life to others. As I look back over my life, I see how I have been in the delightful position of receiving encouragement from certain people who were intentional with their words. I believe very strongly that we as believers have a great deal of power to speak life-giving words to those with whom we interact. And that we have far more opportunities to do so than we think. I am learning to look for those opportunities: to lavish praise instead of withhold my words, to show deep gratitude when my heart is touched and to encourage others in their giftings. This brings so much joy and we often never know how a Spirit led word from us will change someone’s life.
The featured image of Christy Jones Nedkov is by Lancia E. Smith and used with glad permission for The Cultivating Project.
To learn more about the beautiful work or restoration being done by Christy and her team, follow along at The Guest House,
or connect with them on Facebook at The Guest House Project.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.
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