“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
There is tremendous beauty in seeing someone come to embrace God’s love for them. The love of the Father was always there…wooing, tenderly whispering, gently prodding…but then there’s that moment when the beloved of the Lord responds to His love that has been present and extended all along. That moment is glorious. That life is then forever changed by His love. Her Story today is one such story. For far too long she believed the lie that she was unlovable, unworthy of being loved, not captivating. But God’s love knows no limits, not even the walls she had built around her heart. His love penetrated through and rescued her. This is Her Story.
As far back as her first few years on this earth, she knew about Jesus and loved Him. She would say that she doesn’t really remember life before Christ. She’s always lived her life loving Jesus the best she knew how to. When she was just eight years old, she was baptized by her dad. Although she’s had several turning points in her walk with the Lord throughout the years, she has always had faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
Being born and raised in a Christian home made an incredible difference. She is the middle of five children, and although having faith from such a young age, she remembers always feeling lost in the shuffle. Because the age gap was so large between her and her siblings, she never felt very close to them growing up. She was the outgoing one, the social one, and coincidentally the one who always got into trouble. In fact, her dad would always tell her that she got into more trouble than all the other siblings combined. She wasn’t a bad kid, and by comparison didn’t really do “bad things”, but she had a mouth on her, and it was her mouth that always got her into trouble. Because she got into so much trouble all of the time, she grew up hating herself, thinking she was a screw up and a waste of space. She was plagued by thoughts like, “If only I could be more like my older brother and sister. My dad would be so much more proud of me.”
Because of her low self-esteem, she searched for people that would show her attention, affection, and anything that would make her feel better about herself. Her perception of herself was so distorted. She was beautiful, but she thought she was ugly. She was thin and petite, but she thought she was fat. By Junior High school, she wore clothes that were three times her size because she thought they would hide her “fat”. Finally, in 7th grade there was a guy who showed her the attention she had been looking for, craving for. He told her every day how beautiful she was. He never missed a single one of her volleyball games. He wrote her love letters. He was filling a giant void in her heart. And this was not good. Besides the fact that she was allowing someone other than God to fill the ache in her heart, this guy was 21 years old and served in a role of leadership in her life. Pushing that major detail aside, she continued to have an unhealthy relationship with him for two years. It didn’t really seem unhealthy to her because she was young and naive. She just couldn’t believe that an older guy cared about her the way that he did.
Her freshman year of high school came around, and her dad decided to move the entire family to Costa Rica to learn Spanish. This was the first significant turning point in her faith. She was so mad at her dad and at God for uprooting her from everything familiar and taking her away from this guy that she thought she had grown to love. Yet, in the midst of this challenging season, she can remember the Lord speaking to her heart, telling her that she needed to trust Him through it. It was an intimate moment that instantly changed her attitude. The entire eight months that her family was in Costa Rica, she never talked with the guy back home, and the separation brought such a new perspective and some healing to her heart. It was God at work in her that kept her from reaching out to him and attempting to keep the unhealthy relationship going. God’s grace kept her from the unhealthy desires of her heart as He began to create new desires within her. She fully engaged in the life that she had in Costa Rica. But then, another abrupt and sudden change altered her reality. They were supposed to be in Costa Rica for a year, but after eight months, her family ran out of money. So, her dad told them that they had to move to Tijuana, Mexico for the last few months of the year where her parents had received a job offer to be house parents at an 18-bedroom home for university-aged orphans. Once again anger filled her heart. She had tried to embrace her life in Costa Rica only for it all to be cut short and taken away. She felt betrayed by God. Why was it when she finally chose to trust Him that everything had to change…again? Weren’t things supposed to be smooth and go as planned once she surrendered to God?
When they moved into the home in Tijuana, she rebelled. She remembers as if it were yesterday telling God that she didn’t love Him anymore and that she was finished with trying to please Him. Christianity would now be nothing more than a thing of her past. Her heart grew so cold, hard, and calloused. And it wasn’t long after arriving in Tijuana that she received the devastating news. A friend from back home confirmed that the guy she had been dating, the one she had given her heart to was now engaged. She felt as if someone had stabbed a knife into her heart. She had never felt so much rejection in her life. He had promised her that he would wait for her and that one day he would marry her. And she had believed him. She had put all her hope in his promises. Empty promises. Her heart was broken. And to make matters much worse, it wasn’t even a few months into her new life in Tijuana that she was molested by one of the boys in the group home. The emotions she felt inside were overwhelming. She felt dirty, rejected, used, bitter, angry, and just broken. The hole in her heart grew, and she ran to the only thing she knew to fill it…attention, affection. She pursued one of the guys that lived in the house who was 21, and they secretly began dating. It didn’t take long for her dad to found out, and he sent her to live with her youth pastor back in the States while the rest of her family finished out the year in Mexico.
By far, this was the lowest point in her walk with the Lord. She was so far from Him. She had distanced herself from Him in her pain. She couldn’t help but wonder and question why a good God would allow so much heartache and so much pain in her life. But in the middle of her questioning, in the middle of her pain, God was right there, right by her side. After many discussions with her youth pastor and his wife, she came to an amazing realization. It wasn’t God’s fault that she felt the way she did. God loved her with an everlasting love. She had made unwise choices, and there were consequences to those choices. God was still good, despite all that had happened, and she wanted her life to reflect that truth. In the days and weeks that followed, she began to reach out to God, to seek Him again, to trust Him again, and day by day, her heart began to soften as the walls she had built began to fall.
Although her faith was growing, her self-esteem was worse than it had ever been. The “love” she had known from guys hadn’t been love at all. She had never felt smart enough, pretty enough, behaved enough, or loved enough. She wanted to let God love her and fill the emptiness that she felt inside, but she kept finding herself running to relationships to meet that need. She’d give anything just to feel wanted, valued, and special. She would make out with any guy who wanted to make out with her, buying into the lie each time that she had found what she was looking for. Yet, each time, she felt emptier than before, more used, more dirty.
When she was 19 years old, she did a DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). The entire experience was absolutely incredible, but there was one night in particular that was life-changing for her. During a time of worship as they were singing this song, the words brought her to her knees in complete brokenness:
“And You know who I am
And You made who I am
And You love who I am”
Through tears, she fell to her knees, unable to sing the words because she didn’t believe them. In those next moments, she wrestled with God, struggling to believe that these words could actually be true. Did God know her and yet still love her? As the words continued to dance through her thoughts, God spoke so gently to her heart, “It is true. I know you. I made you, and I love you.” And for the first time in her life, she believed that she was loved. She raised both hands and sang as loud as she possibly could, her heart completely abandoned. It was so freeing. Healing began to flood into her heart. The Lord met her in her brokenness, and as He faithfully does, He healed what was broken and made something beautiful from her ashes. Of course, this wasn’t an overnight change. There are still days that she wakes up and doesn’t like what she sees. This is still an area that the enemy uses to attack her and try to destroy her. But, she knows the truth, and it is the truth that sets her free – daily, hourly, sometimes momentarily.
Because her youth pastor played such a significant role in her life when she was a teen and going through her biggest crisis of faith, she decided that she wanted to spend her life working with youth so that she could help them during such a critical time in their lives. She knew that God did not allow her to go through all these things in vain. He has a purpose for everything, and His Word says that He works all things out for the good of those who love Him. The more she began to seek God and surrender her life to Him, the clearer her passion became to impact the lives of teenagers. She had made some foolish decisions in her past, and she had lived through the consequences of them. She wanted to do whatever it would take to help keep others from making those same foolish choices. Nearly one year ago, she stepped out in faith and founded Vantage. Vantage exists to show teens that “with temporary sacrifice comes a promising future.” Vantage empowers teens to live a life without regrets, and it will help free them to achieve their personal hopes and dreams. Vantage’s goal is to ultimately enhance self-esteem by teaching teens about healthy relationships, sex, dating, and developing good decision making skills. The Pure Sex program is a candid and uncensored four-week program designed to inform teens ages 12-19 how their decisions regarding sex will effect their futures. Just within this past year, I have personally witnessed God using this ministry to change lives. In a world where sexual confusion runs rampant, God is using Her Story and her voice to help shape a healthy future for the lives of these teenagers. God has taken her past, reclaimed it, redeemed it, and is using it for His glory!
She is truly an inspiration to me. Had it not been for her leap of faith and example of surrender, my own ministry (Neue Thing) wouldn’t be what it is today. Over the 4 years that I’ve known her, she has sharpened me and caused me to look more like Jesus. We’ve walked through some valleys and some dry and weary places together, yet through it all, she radiates the love of Christ. She loves people passionately, and she’s fiercely devoted to Jesus. Her Story is beautiful, but it’s not finished yet. Elizabeth, you make me want to love Jesus more. You inspire me to live my life to the fullest. You push me to a deeper faith and trust in the God who provides and will never forsake His own. You continually remind me of whom I serve. You’re the real deal, and I love you. Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that it impacts lives to the degree that it has impacted mine.