Liz struggled with her faith during her parents’ separation and subsequent reconciliation. In high school, Liz began leading a double life, trying to fit in with both her Christian and non-Christian friends. This unsustainable lifestyle eventually collapsed, leaving Liz feeling alone and numb until she found her way back to the camp that introduced her to Jesus.
Welcome to Brought Back to Life, a podcast where we explore how Jesus changes everything.
When I was finishing up high school, I kind of felt like everything that I had built up in my double life started to collapse. All of the things that I had put my hope in just were disappearing from me. Friendships that I’d put a lot of stability in, fell. This ability to live a double life without anyone figuring it out fell apart. And I just felt like I was left with nothing.
Welcome to Brought Back to Life, a podcast where we explore how Jesus changes everything.
My name is Liz, and I was brought back to life when I realized how loved I was by God. For me, I was born and raised in a house that we went to church Easter, Christmas, some other times. But it wasn’t a really big part of our lives.
And growing up, I was a very energetic child who preferred to be outside than inside. And so going and sitting in a pew for a few hours on a Sunday wasn’t my ideal. And so we’d go. And it was just, when we’d go, it was kind of just what we did, but it wasn’t a huge thing. So when we stopped going to church, I was like, yes, so much more time outside! And it wasn’t a huge loss in my mind at the time.
So when I was probably about eight or so years old, we stopped going to church as a family, and I just was kind of living my life. We were a part of the YMCA Dads and Daughters organization and my family. And so I actually at first came to Miracle Ranch Summer Camp when I was five years old, as a part of a weekend camp that I went to with my dad.
And I loved it. I was a horse-crazy kid. I was that horse girl that you kind of make fun of, because I would name my bike after whatever horse book I was reading. Would try to set up fake jumps, not because we wanted to jump our bikes, but we wanted to pretend they were horses. And so, accidentally did some probably pretty dangerous things. Thinking that, oh well, if a horse can do it, I’m sure I can do it on my bike.
But yeah, so I loved going to Miracle Ranch from a super young age. It was the weekend camp that I liked the most. And as soon as I was old enough, which was about nine years old, I saw a little pamphlet on the table of, sign up for a week at camp. I was like, yes!
I ran over, I was like, “Dad, I really want to do this.” And I knew it was a Christian camp and that wasn’t really what I cared about. I was just really excited to go for the horses, honestly.
So I convinced my parents to sign me up for a week of camp, drug my friend along with me and came to a week of camp. And sat there, and listened to the messages, but it kind of went in one ear out the other. It was just another time of sitting on a bench, listening to someone talk when I would rather be outside, is kind of where it was at that point. And I was like, okay, when can I get back on a horse? When can I get back on the lake? There’s so much to do, let’s go.
But it became a staple part of my summer. Every summer for a week would come to camp, and every summer looked forward to it. When I got old enough to kind of work, doing some babysitting, I started saving up some money so I could help pay for part of my time at camp. And would pack my suitcase a month ahead of time, and just kind of live out of my suitcase. But I was just so excited to go that I was like, I just want to be packed. I want to be ready. So that was the thing that I looked forward to every summer.
And things in my family started getting a little rocky when I was in middle school. My parents got separated, there was some different addiction and mental health things going on, and things didn’t feel so stable at home.
But when I was at camp, that was when things were feeling … I felt a peace there. And at the time I didn’t understand where that piece came from. I was like, oh, camp is just the best. I didn’t realize that that was the place where I was hearing that I was loved, that I had a God who cared about me, and that that structure and safety was something that I was really yearning for.
But every year I went back. And one year when I was 13, I came as a part of the teen camp and something just struck me a little differently. And I was sitting there. And I remember looking up at the stars, and perfectly carved out in between the big bows of the cedars. And I was like, that’s too beautiful to be on accident.
And I started listening a little differently to the speaker, and he was speaking on the same things that I had heard about for years. But for some reason they were just hitting me a little differently. And decided that week I was like, I’m going to, maybe I’ll try this out. And instead of just waiting for the next thing, actually took the time to listen.
And so I went through that week, and heard that sin separates us from God. And I remember they went through some scripture of just, the wages of sin is death. And I was like, that’s heavy. That’s not a light thing to just go in one ear and out the other. And they’re like, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. And I was like, whoa.
So that struck me. And I was like, that’s a heavy thing. That’s not something that you just blow past. So I sat down my poor, probably 18-year-old counselor, who now I know did not have all the answers. But I was like, “Listen, I have many questions, and I’m going to need you to answer all of them tonight.”
She was like, “Okay, I’ll try.”
And so we sat and I just asked every question I could think of about science, and God, and all these hard topics that this poor girl handled with so much grace. And enough grace that I was like, okay, I am going to give this a shot. So I was like, you know what? I’m going to give my life to Christ, and this’ll be great. And I’m going to go home, and everything’s going to be perfect because god loves me, and everything’s going to be stellar.
And I went back home, and it wasn’t. And I was like, what? I thought everything was supposed to be great now. I thought everything was supposed to be perfect. I gave my life to Christ, and I thought that he loved me. Why aren’t things just better? Why isn’t my family happy? Why do things still feel unstable? And that was hard.
And I went back to my school, where I didn’t really know any other Christians. And people were pretty vocal about the fact that I was going to church, and wanting to do that. And they’re like, you can’t. Just don’t bring us into it. And I was like, okay.
So I was going into high school, and I heard that the same camp that I went to, Miracle Ranch, had a high school leadership program. And I was like, great, I want to do that. So I signed up to go there for the full summer to work with horses, so I was a wrangler in training. And I was like, this is going to be great.
And so I went, and for that full summer I got discipled. It was where I met some of the first people in my life who showed me what it was like to be a Christian. Made lifelong friends. Some of the people who I met that first summer were in my wedding when I got married. They have truly changed my life.
And came back home and I was like, great. I grew, I’m stronger, everything will be great now. And went home, and things were still crazy. And it really kind of created this shift in my life where I was like, okay, so maybe to be successful at camp, I go all in for Jesus. And to be successful at home, I go all in for whatever everyone else is going for, and almost created this split life.
And people started calling me a chameleon. Where, wherever I was, I kind of was all-in, and able to perfectly fit in with whatever everyone else is doing. Which, spoiler alert, doesn’t work out too well.
So my family was kind of getting it together, and going through therapy. And my parents actually ended up getting back together, which was really crazy and such a blessing. Because I know that’s not a normal part of people’s story. And so I was kind of left going from feeling everything was unstable around me to, all of a sudden, I was in a more stable situation. Which allowed me to feel more of what I was struggling with, and kind of had my own existential crisis at the ripe old age of 16.
And really just went headfirst into both worlds. Was like, you know what? I’m going to be the best Christian I can be when I’m with my Christian friends and I’m going to make everyone love me while I’m with my worldly friends. And my family still weren’t Christians, and weren’t super supportive of the fact that I wanted to work at a Christian camp, and were afraid that I was going to judge them. So I didn’t want to bring things up around them.
And when I was finishing up high school, I kind of felt like everything that I had built up in my double life started to collapse. All of the things that I had put my hope in just were disappearing from me. Friendships that I’d put a lot of stability in fell. This ability to live a double life without anyone figuring it out fell apart.
And I just felt like I was left with nothing. Because I’d built my life on a really rickety duality of, oh, trying to be the best at everything. And left feeling so numb. And I felt like everything I’d built my life on just disappeared. Just felt alone, and I felt numb. And I remember thinking, I’m not going to go back to camp because clearly, that didn’t work out for me. If I was loved by God, I wouldn’t be feeling the way I was. Which, of course, didn’t lead to anything good.
And just was like, I’m just going to live my life. I’m not going to go back to camp. I’m going to do whatever I want to do. I’m not going to live a double life anymore. I’m just going to go all in for the world. Thinking, that’s going to be it.
Peace isn’t about the absence of problems, it’s about the presence of Jesus. For more, go to the faith tab at onpurposely.com.
And then I got a phone call from the program director at the time, Eric, being like, “Hey, we need some counselors this summer. I know you’ve been in the barn, but do you want to come counsel for a few weeks?”
And I was like, I wasn’t going to go back to camp, but I guess. I guess I could go for just a few weeks, and I’ll just be there while I’m there, and the rest of the time I’ll just live my life. Do whatever it would be to make me happy.
And so I went, and went to staff training. And was just still numb, and still really depressed and anxious. And felt like I was a misfit there, felt like no one wanted me there. And I was sitting there, and I was sitting in a worship night in the middle of our staff training. And the Holy Spirit was just moving.
And I was just brought to tears. And I felt the voice of the Lord tangibly speaking to me, saying, “You think I don’t love you? You think you can determine how much you’re worth? I made you. And you think that you can tell me that I made something less than lovable? You don’t have that right. I can determine how much you are loved. And you are loved.”
And I remember just being on the floor, bawling. And I was like, okay, God, I can’t argue with that. And so that summer, I decided to stay the full summer. I was like, nevermind. I’m not going to live my life, I’m going to live for Jesus. I want to give this a shot.
Because that was the most loved I’d ever felt. In that moment, just on the floor, in tears in front of the Lord. I had never felt like that. I, all of a sudden, felt like I had a purpose. So I went all in, and that summer the Lord was really dealing with me. And I was still struggling with anxiety. It didn’t just, poof, disappear overnight. But all of a sudden, my thought process wasn’t like, “Oh, if God loves me, this will be perfect.” It was, “God loves me. Let’s do this.”
And so bit by bit, the Lord did start healing my anxiety and my depression. And I had a reason to get out of bed, and I had a reason to go and pour into some campers. And I was a counselor who had kids consistently in my cabin that were struggling with the same things that I was.
And week after week, the Lord was dealing with me. Of, this is something that you now get to speak into other people’s lives about. You can share that these kids are loved. You can tell them that they have a father who loves them. And went from being so confused with like, oh, why is this happening? To realizing, hey, I get to be a light to these kids. And I get to tell them the things that I wish someone had been there and told me.
If I could jump in on this part of the story.
So I’m the program director that Liz was talking about, and my name is Eric. And when Liz … Now, I’m a dad of four girls and one boy, and Liz is somebody who speaks regularly into my girl’s life, and my kids’ life. And so just seeing the first full circle of … I remember that worship night that Liz is talking about. And God, on purpose, puts us in each other’s lives. And so there’s people in your life and my life that he wants you to speak the love of God to.
And now seeing Liz speaking that over not only campers, but over staff. And especially, she’s helped raise the bar of staff care. And so just, I’m a witness to see God’s miracle at Miracle Ranch, and Liz in her life. And getting to meet her husband there too.
And as a dad, I’m so proud of all of my kids, but I just think the Heavenly Father is so proud of Liz, and her obedience to just receive God’s love, and then give it out freely to people around her.
Oh, thank you.
Isn’t it such a good thing that God, me included, just God calls messy people into his meaningful work. And so, just, the Holy Spirit was leading that. You need to give an opportunity. Because she was willing. If you didn’t know, she’s incredible on horses too. She’s does gymnastics on horses. And she’s amazing with people, as you’ve probably heard already.
Aren’t we glad that God gives us a second chance, and a third chance, and a fourth chance? And so I’ve seen her do that over and over again for staff and campers.
Oh, thank you. It’s a lot of fun to see the full circle. To go from being the camper that was sitting there, feeling like they don’t belong, to getting to be the counselor, walking through that with them. And being like, okay, Lord, this is all by your mercy that I’m in this position. And then to get to be a leadership staff that then’s walking through that with the campers.
And now I work full-time at camp, and get to walk through with our interns and our leads that come over the summer. And getting to see them, and getting to walk through that with them, of how I’ve been in each of those places. And the Lord’s had so much mercy. And not by anything that I could do, but just by his grace, he’s allowed me to be called up from that place of feeling so unloved and unworthy to be given a purpose, and understanding of who I am in Christ.
Not because of anything I could do, but because of what he’s already done. And so I think camp is just such a fun way of tangibly being able to walk through that. Because there’s so many different places that we get to do ministry, and get to be a part of it. And get discipled, and get to be discipled. And be led, and then get to lead that. There’s a really cool pipeline we get to see people go through.
And Eric’s been a huge part of my growth, and being able to be a leader. And so many of the other full-time staff, like my first high school leader when I was a high schooler still works full-time at camp, and is one of my closest friends. And has these people that have seen me in every stage, from being a messy teenager who just wanted to have fun and figure out what is living all about, to really trying to strive for God and making so many mistakes along the way.
And just the people in my life that have called me up, and continually affirm the Lord’s love for me and purposes for me, it’s just such a blessing. And community is so incredible. God has such a plan in putting people all in one place. So it’s just been so great to kind of see the ways that he has shaped me through something like camp.
Obviously there’s been so many different seasons past that, ups and downs and highs and lows. But the best thing is when you understand that God loves you, it just totally redefines the way you see trials. And it goes from just being in a place of, oh, what’s next?
To like, okay, how is this going to work for God’s glory and my growth? And sometimes it’s harder to see that in the moment. Sometimes it’s like when you’re part way through. But having those people around you to remind you of that is so important.
And I think that that’s really special, about being in camp or being in ministry with these people around you that are a community. That are more like a family. A lot of workplaces say that they’re like a family, but I think that’s really special about camp, is it is like a family. And it’s a group of people who have been through highs and lows, and all sorts of things in between. And just continually have been able to pull each other back, and remind each other of who Christ says that we are.
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