I’ve been looking forward to this part of my testimony, as it is filled with many fond memories. When I was thinking about a title the words “revival” and “healing” seemed to sum it up for me. Hopefully you will also see these themes in the next part of my story.
After I left World Vision, I felt like my whole life was ahead of me but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. There were times this terrified me. I wondered if God would provide for me financially. I would teeter on the edge of believing I should be ashamed of myself. But I prayed deliberately against spiritual attack in the weeks and months following because I know this is an area of temptation for me. God was faithful to bring me out of that fear when it would come. 2 Cor 10:5 became a key verse for me in this fight:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
I did not know it at the time, but I would be unemployed for the next six months. Not knowing what was ahead brought new meaning to James 1:5: “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” I spent a lot of time studying the spiritual gifts and figuring out which ones God has given me. I talked with mentors and thought a lot about what past things I have pursued and been good at.
What became very clear to me was that God was calling me to discipleship. I thought about what I loved most in my job with Acting on AIDS and by far it was the relationships I had with my students. It went beyond educating them on global AIDS–I found that I was spiritually discipling them. I looked at some of my friendships at Mars Hill and saw the same thing. I had not pursued this–it was something that God had brought me into, in the midst of my own personal failings and weakness. It was something supernaturally flowing out of me.
One thing I didn’t mention before was that the day before I got fired I remember very clearly standing in front of the bathroom mirror and brushing my teeth. I was all torn up inside, wanting to quit my job. I started thinking “If I didn’t go to work tomorrow, what would I do with myself? Where would I go?” My answer was very clear: I would show up at my church and serve. That’s where I wanted to be.
So, post-firing I already had one answer–Mars Hill. In the weeks following, this became even more clear to me. I just didn’t know when and in what capacity it would occur. I started volunteering as a receptionist during the week and got to know the staff and pastors there.
I also had a strong and unusual desire to study the Bible and there were days I would spent 6-8 hours doing so. I would pour over commentaries, read systematic theology, and memorize Scripture left and right. I journaled and prayed a lot. My Biblical knowledge was expanding tenfold and I knew this was essential for life in general, but also for some specific calling He had for me in the future.
I must add that although I will always have a passion for the truth, this desire to study so intensely eventually dissipated. I learned that that’s okay because at some point you’ve just got to go out and live life. But I still pray for another one of those seasons.
The other amazing thing I did during my unemployment was that I enjoyed my life. For those of you who know me, this is nothing short of a miracle. I learned how to cook. I started gardening. I cleaned the house. I had friends over. I didn’t worry (much). I ate well and probably even gained some weight and didn’t freak out about it (much). I was the resident housewife of the 3rd Ave W house. Sally sure appreciated it.
From my time at home I came to realize that this was what I wanted to do when I got married. I had told myself that it was okay once I had kids, but it seemed like a guilty pleasure before that. Receiving so much joy from being at home made me come to terms with the fact that it was good to have that desire and to hope that someday that would be a reality for me (which it now is!).
God also brought me to a deeper knowledge of what true, gospel-centered relationship looks like. During this time much of it was through my friendship with Sally. She was one of the people who taught me what it means to forgive and receive grace. She saw my sin and she loved me anyway. She allowed me to speak into her life. She taught me to lighten up and to pray for joy. We spent many hours talking about God and our own stories. We shed a lot of mournful and joyful tears during that time.
I also spent many hours with Lizzie. Lizzie never responded when I talked to her (at least in English), but I still talked to her anyway. I know some people think it’s weird to love a pet so much, but God did put this little creature in my life to keep me company in the many hours I spent by myself during this time.
Another thing that came out of this season was that God gave me the impression that he was preparing me for marriage and that at the end of this time I would be married. I believe this was part of why I learned how to be a housewife. It is part of why I learned so much Bible. And it’s why I went through a season of counseling where I started to really look through my story and why I respond the way I do to certain things.
During this time I also got a new name. For those of you know don’t know, most of my life my name has been Lisa. Through a time of prayer and study, I felt strongly that God was asking me to change my name to Elisabeth. Lisa is a root of Elisabeth and it means “promise of God.” I felt that God was saying “remember my promises in your life.” I didn’t tell many people about this at first. But I knew that part of changing my name was an opportunity to testify to the changes God has brought about in me.
I didn’t actually make the public switch until about six months later, when I started my job at Mars Hill. I admit I have not been so good at explaining this to people and I apologize for that. There has been vagueness around it because I have been afraid to testify and afraid of what people would think when I’d say “God told me . . .” So this is, in part, an act of repentance.
God also brought a new friend into my life–Keisha. Both her and I have a passion for writing and telling stories. Right off the bat we found that we could spend hours at her table, talking about our pasts and what God might be doing by digging up these old memories. We spoke into each others’ lives, trying to help the other see where Jesus was in the midst of it all. It was a very painfully joyous time for me, one that God used to teach me about myself and about Him in many ways.
From Keisha and I’s meetings we were commissioned by a pastor at our church to start a Story Group–a group where women could come and share stories they had written from their pasts with the hopes of finding healing and the love of Jesus in writing and sharing with each other. We spent several months researching and writing the curriculum and praying for just the right women to come be a part of the group.
So much happened spiritually and emotionally during this season that I can’t fully put into words, but I am so glad and thankful for the opportunity to think back on it. I had joy because I felt the presence of God very deeply in my life and I saw His hand move in ways I never had before. It was also a painful time of looking at wounds and letting God do surgery on me. It was bittersweet, but so much more sweet than bitter.
Below are some verses that I remember thinking about during this time.
“Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6)