I’d say my faith life starts out fairly “boring.” My family of five regularly attended the local Catholic church and my sisters and I all participated in religious education classes. I walked through the sacraments of baptism, first communion, reconciliation and confirmation like any child growing up in the Catholic church.
It is interesting to me that in the eighth grade, at age 12, I couldn’t drive, vote, or drink—but my Catholic church encouraged my colleagues and me to complete the sacrament of Confirmation, where one publicly announces their belief in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and proclaims they will spread their faith to others. In hindsight this decision was one of the largest of my life, but at the time it felt like I was completing the motions alongside friends without truly understanding its significance.
So, I was confirmed as a Catholic in the eighth grade and active in my youth group throughout high school. I have many fond memories of youth group events, trips, and sleepovers and these happenings no doubt impacted my relationships as I ventured through my high school years. However, my faith was never truly challenged until the end of my college years.
I was drawn back into conversations about faith in my late college years by friends, and this is when I started to learn more about Catholicism. And when I started to learn more, it brought up questions. Questions regarding the priesthood, questions regarding transubstantiation, questions regarding how I truly believed Jesus would have acted in situations I encountered daily.
After college, a serious relationship ended and I was left hurt and lost. My post-college and early-career days were filled with me leading a double life: joining a young adult group at a local church, but also drinking with friends or coworkers until 2am simply to then get up at 6am and go back into the office. I couldn’t figure out what was best, as I treasured my friends and my social life, but knew I wasn’t making the smartest decisions regarding drinking and spending money.
I truly believe God pushes us until He knows we reach our limit, and through the church group I was introduced to Austin, a friend of a friend. His sly smile and timidness left me intrigued, and over the next few months he and I were able to connect over phone calls and eventually we had our first date. I started to spend more time with Austin and less time closing down bars. We still had fun together, but he balanced my “wild side” and I began to feel refreshed, too. Two and half years later Austin and I married and seven years later, here we are.
Many who know me would say I’m determined and that my career is an important part of my life, and I’d completely agree. However, my career has also been an adventure full of ups and downs. Of the five employers I’ve had, two have been fairly significant (and even national) companies that have gone out of business. Another employer was being bought out and my position would have ended with a similar outcome, had I stayed there long enough. My career path has truly been a roller coaster ride, much of which has been out of my control. In these times I’ve been challenged to remember that God’s path is not necessarily the path I’d pick…but I need to let Him lay out His plan.
On February 23, 2017 I learned that my fourth employer—a national retail chain—was shutting its doors. My colleagues and I were asked to clean out our desks that day, as a liquidation company would take over from here on out. Less than a week later I had an appointment with an infertility specialist, as Austin and I had been trying unsuccessfully for nearly a year to become pregnant with baby #2. The specialist discussed next steps and options with us, and we agreed that we’d begin these next steps.
Three days later I saw a plus sign on a pregnancy test. My excitement for baby #2 (even though I had tears every time I didn’t get a positive test for the year prior) was hindered by the fact that there were so many unknowns: I’m losing my health insurance for the family in a month! Can we afford two kids if I can’t find a job? How are the loss of my job and this pregnancy related? How is my daughter going to adapt to being a big sister?
So many questions toying with my emotions and my elation over baby #2, but the Lord is steadfast. And, thankfully, my husband was quick to remind me of this and be there for me as well.
As my due date with baby #2 quickly approaches and my new position has started, I’ve come to realize that there will always be questions. Often we don’t know—and won’t know—the answers to questions until God shows us His way. It’s my job to allow Him to work through me, and this is what I aim to do daily.
I grew up in a mostly Christian home. By that, I mean we went to church every Sunday and were very involved in whatever was taking place.
From the outside, we looked like we had it all together. My family included my mother, the towering Christian example in our home, my dad, a functioning alcoholic, and my three older siblings. I had a good childhood despite the dysfunction. However, I always knew I wanted my adult life to be different than what I was witnessing.
Through the years, I stayed connected to church, was baptized at 13, and loved Jesus. In high school I got super involved and went to everything. It was my escape and I had an amazing close buddy who took me under his wing. He showed me what it meant to be a real Christian. We were together all the time. However, when I was 18 he was ripped away from me when he tragically lost his life. I was left feeling lost and needed to figure out this God thing on my own. Throughout the storm, I decided to cling to God and found delight in Him carrying me, a message that would prevail. As the years went on a key word entered my life – TRUST. I clung to the promises of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
Fast-forward a few years…
I went to college, became a dental hygienist, and through an interesting chain of events that could only be orchestrated by God, I moved to Florida at the age of 21. I lived there 4 years and worked at a barefoot waterskiing school, which had nothing to do with my dental hygiene degree. While in Florida, I met a dentist from Switzerland who offered me a position as a dental hygienist in the luxurious land of mountains and chocolate. I prayed, prayed some more, and finally in September of 2005 I packed my suitcases and moved to a country where I knew one person. TRUST!
I lived there, I loved it there, and I thrived there. I was finding life on my own and clinging to my Savior in every new adventure and every obstacle that blew my way. One summer I came home for a friend’s wedding. I was supposed to hang out with my brother and all of his barefoot waterskiing buddies, not something uncommon for me to have done over the years. This particular day the only guys that showed up were my brother and his friend, Will. My brother bailed – it was a nasty day and “supposedly” he was tired, but Will and I stuck it out. I had known him for years, but all of sudden, while being alone with him for a few hours, I began to wonder, Who is this guy? WONDERFULNESS that’s who! You see, all of the years I knew him he was married and we never talked much. In fact, I had actually hung out with him and his wife on many occasions but I never gave him much thought other than he was my brother’s friend. Now, Will was divorced and I had NO idea what God was doing with the emotions I was feeling.
After a year and a half of long distance dating, many, many, MANY hours of praying over marrying someone who had been divorced, and surrendering my desire to marry a man who waited for me, we were ultimately married on a beach in Florida. WONDERFULNESS was prevailing. We packed his bags and with no work set up or any plan in place, Will moved to Switzerland with me. TRUST!
We had our perfect projected plan in place. “We” being the key word here. Will would go to school to get his bachelor’s degree and towards the end we would get pregnant. So time ticked, we prayed, and the little stick with a pink line signaled, “Job well done, guys.” Ten weeks later those dreams shattered as I laid on the operating table saying “Good-bye” to Lil’ BE (Baby Ellis). We were crushed, but we trusted and clung to God like never before.
The next pregnancy happened fast and was the prefect pregnancy. We were monitored like crazy and had a fridge covered in ultrasound pictures as proof of the pregnancy progressing. Just over 9 months later, Mayla was born. But not without her own story – right away, I knew something was wrong. The pale-blueness that covered her body was a giveaway. Minutes after giving birth she was taken from my arms and rushed by ambulance to a local children’s hospital. I laid there, childless and once again shattered. Will and I held each other and sobbed, crying out to the Lord. Hours later we learned her aorta and the pulmonary arteries on her heart were switched and at 8 days old her little body laid on an operating table as she had open-heart surgery to correct it. For three weeks we lived in that hospital, hovering over her daily as we watched her little body fight for her life. Miracle Mayla became her nickname. We went home and the challenges continued with posttraumatic stress disorder; our brand new little bundle of joy wasn’t so joyful, something we still struggle with to this day. TRUST!!!!!!!!!
When she was 4 months old God called us back to America. With no plan in place we packed our bags, mine had grown after living there for over 7 years, and moved into the basement of my parents home. This was hard as my father was still an alcoholic and my mother no longer the strong tower as the years had taken a toll on her with negativity and bitterness. My husband could not land a job and we did the only thing that was making sense at that time and started our own business. After 9 months and losing everything we came back with, God finally opened a job in the finance world for him. We always wanted to grow our family but didn’t think it seemed fitting while in the basement of my parents’ house. We finally were able to get a house of our own and once again, the little stick with the pink line signaled, “Job well done, guys.”
Through the first miscarriage and Mayla’s short life we learned that these children don’t belong to us, but rather are on loan from God. We did what we could and immediately surrendered these lives to our loving Lord. At our 12-week appointment, after seeing a strong heart beat and what looked like a fully functioning little munchkin, we were informed that our child was not compatible with life and had something called anencephaly. The baby’s skull had not, nor would not, develop which would leave the brain exposed. The “system” encouraged us to abort, on more than one occasion. Twenty-eight weeks later, after a successful and amazing full pregnancy, Arabella Nani Ellis was brought into this world on her own timing. She was amazing! She defeated the odds and bottle-fed, breast fed, made sounds, had dirty diapers, smiled and touched the lives of thousands.
After an incredible 45 hours of life, she lifted her arms and went straight from our arms into Jesus’. Days after she was born we buried her along with our dreams for her, but through it all she taught us to celebrate EVERYTHING and TRUST! I felt so empty, yet so full – full of God’s love. He was carrying me.
In May of 2016, ‘The little stick with the pink line” signaled again, “Job well done, guys”. I remember telling my doctor, as I personally called her, “I’m not worried, God’s got this and I have hope!” Nine weeks later, I again laid on the operating table, with that same doctor looking over me. “TRUST,” says the Lord!
On August 19th 2016 during Arabella’s 1st heaven birthday party, that little stick again stated, “DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!” I was ELATED, what an amazing redemption story! I thought, God, how cool to work in this way! Still, days after having blood work done confirming I was in fact pregnant, we said good-bye to another projected due date and grieved another child we would never hold.
“Trust me,” God said.
I’ve been through a storm bigger than I have ever anticipated. I’ve also seen God work in ways I never expected! I’ve had many chances to turn from God and I think some pretty valid reasons, too, but have only found myself running closer to Him. I crave Him, I desire to be near Him, and I’m pumped to keep doing work for Him because I know that through it all, He WILL hold me because I am treasured, I am adored, and I am LOVED by the One who created me and knows me!
This is my story, given by God, but I prefer to call it God’s story. I trust His work in me is not complete and I know He is wonderfulness.
I was raised in a Christian home but did not have eyes to see Jesus until after college. While most who have yet to meet Christ would say, “OK, so you just found comfort in a religion,” I can say, with all my heart, I do not have religion.
I have a Lord and Savior who relentlessly pursued me in what I can see now was the deepest, most dangerous time of my life. With that, there is evidence that my heart has supernaturally been transformed and filled with His Spirit. God brought this about by allowing me to see the transformational work He had done in a sibling’s life.
As my brother and I sat at a restaurant and caught up one Saturday night he started to tell me about Jesus. Immediately his voice started to shake as he spoke and I could tell he was trying to hold back tears as he told me of what had transformed his life. He shared that God had completely changed his heart. That Jesus had rescued him from the path he had been walking and the life he felt he was so lonely wandering. Immediately something was incredibly clear. My brother’s story revealed that he not only knew Jesus, but he truly loved Him too. I sat there shocked. I didn’t have questions, I didn’t have resistance and I didn’t have unbelief. I just listened and knew that God had truly done something in my brother’s life because there was evidence of a new person sitting across the table from me that night. So, there we both were, crying into our pints of pale ale discussing how he got here. A part of me felt changed at that moment too. As we walked out of the restaurant I felt both amazed at what God had done and burdened at the same time to face the fact that I didn’t have a heart for Christ like this. I was faced with a tough reality, the Jesus I grew up thinking I knew was not the same God that saved my brother. Therefore, I must not know Him at all – not even a little.
I walked into my apartment that night and I had everything I thought I ever wanted. I lived a life so many other women my age desired. Yet, I stood in my living room and God so mercifully showed me who I am in comparison to who He is and I realized that without Him I had absolutely nothing. I sat on my couch weeping, and for the very first time I spoke to God in full surrender that night laying down my life and asking to pick up a new one.
The day God met me in my apartment I didn’t have it all together; in fact, Jesus preferred it that way. For years I wandered this earth tirelessly trying to fulfill this yearning for acceptance and love while I carried around pride like a daily accessory. I would run from one relationship to the next knowing that each one emotionally shook me a little worse than the one before. This heart had wandered for so many years and was unknowingly so thirsty for an identity in Jesus – the only One that could give me purpose and help me to live it out for His glory.
God has since used me in several different areas of ministry. My most favorite thing on earth is to sit in my living room with ladies and talk about Jesus (coffee in-hand, of course!). I have a deep passion for walking alongside women and their journey with the Lord and really cling to opportunities to be mentored by other godly women myself. The Lord continues to use my home as a resting place for women of all walks of life and my prayer is that His name will be glorified through it.
“I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 24:7”
I have to admit, I struggled with the idea of being “reborn.”
I grew up in the Catholic church where most people I knew who called themselves “Catholics” were baptized as infants, believed they’d be sent to heaven upon leaving this earth and could always visit a priest to repent and reconcile when they messed up. For me, it was a cycle of experiencing what many call “Catholic-guilt” and I always found comfort in knowing I could be forgiven if I simply asked for forgiveness. The one thing, though, that never really caught on for me (probably because I wasn’t taught it) was that I should always be transforming and changing into a better person. A person who was accepted for who they were but challenged to become more like Christ. To be someone who lived their life for God by pursuing a life that followed His son.
Something wasn’t cutting it for me. Maybe other Catholics had different experiences but for me, as someone who spent thirteen years attending Catholic school plus many more years sitting in a pew each Sunday counting the minutes (or what felt like hours) until mass was done so I could escape, it just wasn’t clicking. I think I had three or four spiritual experiences during the eighteen or nineteen years I attended the Catholic church, yet I always felt like I wasn’t measuring up. I desperately wanted to change but found myself falling into the same traps of sin and couldn’t break the cycle. I craved more. I needed accountability but it was nowhere to be found. Telling a priest I sinned wasn’t keeping me from committing the same sins again.
I felt like something was always missing. A relationship with Christ was what I needed but [in my experience] it was never spoken about in the Catholic church.
My opinion of all of that changed when my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, asked me why I was Catholic. I had had thirteen years of religion classes under my belt but couldn’t come up with any response other than because it was what I grew up identifying with. My now-husband told me he was Christian and he’d accept me being Catholic if I could defend my faith and religious denomination. As it turned out, I couldn’t.
I didn’t know why I couldn’t answer his seemingly simple question. You’d think my entire life up to that point would have prepared me for that question but believe it or not, I had never been challenged to it before. I believed in God and felt guilty when I sinned, but I couldn’t defend my religion in anything other than routine and tradition. Apparently, repeating the same prayers over and over again during church wasn’t making an impact on me. I felt so worthless and empty.
“But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ.” ~ Philippians 3:7-8
In the months that followed, I traveled down a path of questioning faith and religion. I previously wrote in another blog post about the first Christian church service I ever attended and how it took almost a year for me to commit my life to Christ. When that day happened in late October 2006, I was on the road to recovery but it still took several years of transformation until I finally felt reborn.
The greatest thing about being reborn is that you start over with a clean slate and can leave all of your junk and past life regrets in the past. Like I mentioned above, I never understood the concept of being “reborn” until I finally experienced it myself. In fact, I’m still experiencing it. I am grateful for God’s process of sanctification and the opportunity to be molded and shaped by Him. Each day I am gifted life on this planet, I am becoming more like the woman God created me to be.
“Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, He has given us new life and a hope that lives on.” 1 Peter 1:3
God’s timing of me accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior was perfect, as it always is. I was given an ultimate gift of becoming a new Christian at the same time I was about to get married and relocate across the country. It was symbolic to me that I was able to “die to myself” in the city I grew up in with a surname I carried for twenty-one years. I was in a place, literally and figuratively, of so much pain, sin and heartbreak. I was blessed to be able to take on a new identity in Christ along with a new last name and completely start my life over in a whole new state hundreds of miles away from my hometown. I didn’t have to hit the “rewind” button. I could totally start over. And I did.
“You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about.” ~ Ephesians 2:8-9
The city I moved to upon getting married quickly became my home. Everyone I met and befriended only knew me for me and not me as the person who I used to be. There was no hiding from the past, but because I was reborn I was able to start over, start clean and have a new life. My chains were gone and I had been set free. Oh amazing grace!
I acknowledge not everyone has a “reborn” occurrence. Some, like my husband, are fortunate enough to have grown up with Godly parents and in a church that proclaimed having a relationship with Christ and carrying your cross daily as the keys to transforming your soul for eternity. Others, however, may not believe in a “rebirth.” That is their choice and belief but I hope they aren’t missing out on the fullness of life. I was. For me, I felt there was something better and knew in my heart there was.
If you don’t believe in God or are questioning your faith, I pray that either the blog posts on this site or someone in your life sparks your interest to consider “more.” I don’t know where I’d be if the Lord didn’t call my husband to challenge me in my faith all those years ago. In fact, it frightens me and drives me to pay it forward in spreading the good news about being saved by God through Christ’s sacrifice of dying for my sins. Jesus died for me and for you and there is nothing we can do to pay back God’s favor or earn God’s love. God loves us and tells us to come to Him as we are so He can transform us into who He created us to be. God formed you with His own hands. You are not an accident. You were created on purpose for a purpose and only you can live out your story.
“God chose you and we keep praying that God will make you worthy of being His people. We pray for God’s power to help you do all the good things you hope to do and your faith makes you want to do.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11