Our guests today share stories of the hope and transformation that has happened in their lives as they were pursued by God and daily started following Him. From a young age, Lisa Delgado experienced trauma and abuse in her life. As she grew older, she pushed away from her family’s strict religious upbringing, but always knew something was missing. Struggling with depression and darkness, Lisa shares a pivotal moment where a friend’s kindness and compassion showed her something that would change her life forever. Lisa Whittle grew up as the daughter of a pastor. Lisa wasn’t interested in a life of ministry until she found herself being pursued by God for that very thing. Lisa has dedicated her life to writing and speaking about the truth of Jesus Christ and shares the joys and challenges of what happens when you let God lead you to the places He would have you go.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with two women who tell stories of hope and transformation that have happened in their lives as they were pursued by God and daily started following Him. From a young age, Lisa Delgado experienced trauma and abuse in her life. As she grew older, she pushed away from her family’s strict religious upbringing but always knew something was missing. Struggling with depression and darkness, Lisa shares a pivotal moment where a friend’s kindness and compassion showed her something that would change her life forever.
Chased By God: Lisa Whittle and Lisa Delgado – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode #77
Lisa Delgado: Hello, my name is Lisa Rene Delgado. I was born and raised here in Phoenix, Arizona, and my upbringing as a child, it was pretty rough. My mother was a single parent, and she had four children, and we were all separated. We didn’t necessarily have our own home. We had babysitters, kind of like foster parents or temporary foster parents, because we would stay in each home for maybe up to two weeks to a few months at a time.
One of my biggest dreams as a child was having our own home and having my mom with us. It was really hard, though, because like I said, she was a single parent, and she didn’t have any support.
So, it was pretty rough. There was a lot of abuse, emotional and physical. And when we would see her, I would just think, “Is this the day we’re going to go home with my mom?” But it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen until I was 12. And that’s when we finally got our own home. My mother was… I will never forget, she was so excited because she actually bought her own home, and we were so happy because we had our mom back. And we had our own home; we had our own bedroom. We didn’t have to share it with anyone, and we didn’t have to worry about sleeping with one eye open because someone might come in and molest us. We pretty much lived a life of fear… very fearful.
A Family Together…Yet Torn Apart
In my early years as an adult–well, before then–as a teenager, I became very rebellious. My mom remarried, and she endured a lot of pain there and there was abuse there as well, for all of us, not just my mom. And we endured it because we had our own home, so the pain that was going on inside of our home was nothing compared to being separated again. So we endured that, and we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t cry out for help because we were still together, and that was the most important thing… that my siblings and I and my mother would not be separated again.
“…the pain that was going on inside of our home was nothing compared to being separated again.”
But in the meantime, as a teenager, I became very rebellious and sexually active. I had my first child at the age of 16. But prior to that I had attempted to commit suicide twice. Thank God I failed. The second time I attempted suicide I ended up in a rehab for six months, and I couldn’t share what was going on at home in group meetings or talking to a counselor.
Being in that rehab, though, I met some pretty amazing people. My roommate was a young girl my age who also attempted to commit suicide, and we became really, really good friends. And we kind of helped each other. We didn’t go to the group meetings. We didn’t participate in any of that, so we were just tagged as spoiled brats who wanted whatever they wanted. We were okay with that. But we helped each other. We talked. We encouraged each other. While that could have been bad, it was actually good. They didn’t put me in a straightjacket or anything, so that’s a good thing.
And then, in my early adult years, like I said, I had my first child when I was 16. I had a son, and he is so amazing. I mean, I am so proud of my son. But I kind of followed in the footsteps of my mother because when I became pregnant, his biological father didn’t want anything to do with us. And so, there I was a single parent, and again, like my mother, I had to work two jobs to support my son and myself.
“….that was one of the darkest times of my life, but the darkness made me realize I needed to do something”
After a short time, I met a young man who I thought was my best friend. There was nothing other than that. I trusted him. I told him all my secrets. We were just friends. To me, he was my very best friend. He had talked me into moving into a house with two other guys, and that we would all be roommates. I think I was 17 at that time, and I was really excited because my son was going to have a home and a yard. I had big dreams and there was kind of a little hope there for us.
So we moved into this house, and I think I was there two nights when my so-called best friend–I didn’t have a job at that time–gave me a proposition to become a prostitute. He said that he would take care of me. I got up after the conversation and gathered my son, and we walked. We walked in the middle of the night down Roosevelt Street, and that is a very, very dangerous street to be walking with a two-year-old baby.
That was one of the darkest times of my life, but that darkness made me realize that I needed to do something. I needed to really do something and change for myself and my son, to give us a better life. I did go back home to my parents. I went back to school, and I acquired my GED. I went on to Maricopa Skill Center and worked towards becoming a secretary. During that time, I did have to leave my son with my mom because I didn’t have a car. And I would take the bus to and from school during the week, and then on the weekends, I worked as a waitress. There was a short time that my son and I were separated while I was pursuing that dream for us, but I am so grateful that I went back to school.
Later on, I got married, and we had two daughters. He had children as well. The depression never left me, even though I made life changes, the fear was one of the things that kept me paralyzed from really pursuing and chasing after any dreams that I had. There was like this unfulfillment in my heart, and I’m not trying to preach. I’m just saying there was something missing, but I never knew what it was. As a child I grew up in a religious house, and everybody, relatives and friends, they were all very religious to the point where they were always condemning me and very abusive, and they would tag me and my name was basically “Whore.” That’s what they would call me as a child.
Spiraling into Hopelessness
I strongly believe that when you tag somebody in a positive or a negative way, that’s pretty much what’s going to happen because you have no self-esteem, and you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror because you see the person that they named you. So I never felt worthy of anything, especially worthy to God. There were times that people would approach me and ask me, “Do you want a personal relationship with Jesus?” And I would literally cuss them out and then throw them out. I didn’t want anybody who was religious near me because to me, at that time, people who were religious were constantly condemning. They made me feel bad. They made me feel dirty. I already felt dirty, and I didn’t need anyone else to add that extra mud and dirt on me.
My marriage did not start off as a fairytale. He had two children to a prior marriage, and me, I had my son. And we both drank a lot. We loved to party, and so we made a lot of bad choices, bad mistakes. My parenting skills, I never knew how to be a parent, not even when I had my child because I didn’t really have anyone to model the proper parenting skills.
And then there was a time that we lost everything. I started a cleaning business, so we were both pretty successful. We were making really good money, and I hired quite a few family members in my cleaning business, and we were doing really well. And then, my husband decided that he wanted to retire and come and work with me which I was 100% against. Other things happened within the family, and we ended up losing everything: our house, our vehicles, our dignity. We lost everything.
When we lost everything, we lost everybody. I was devastated. I felt like a failure in every way possible. I failed my children. I even lost my driver’s license, so I became a prisoner in my own home. The only way that I could get out is if someone came to pick me up and take me, which didn’t happen very often. I did have a couple of friends who would literally show up and drag me out of bed because I was so depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed.
There was a time that I thought about ending my life because I just felt like everything was over for me. One day a friend of mine called, and I hadn’t spoken to her in years. She called and said she really wanted to come over and visit with me.
I had already given my life to Jesus, but I didn’t have a relationship with him. Like I said earlier, people would ask me, “Would you like to have a relationship with Jesus?” So I never really–even though I’d given my life to him–I still did not have a personal relationship with him. I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what that meant. If it meant getting religious and being on my knees 12 hours a day, that just wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t be religious. There’s just no way.
“There was a time that I thought about ending my life because I just felt like everything was over for me.”
So this friend of mine called, and she said she really wanted to see me and asked if she could come over, and I said, “Of course.” And so I was actually excited because I hadn’t talked to her in a while, and she had just lost her daughter, and I thought it was kind of strange for someone who had just lost their child… I don’t know what I thought. I just thought it was kind of soon. I didn’t really know what her intentions were until she showed up. And she came, and I had a nice lunch for us. She brought this book to me, and believe me, I had a lot of friends bring me books because they knew my mess and they were trying to help me.
But this particular person brought me this book, Jesus Calling. I looked at it and didn’t really show much interest in it, but she said, “You know, Lisa? I don’t know why, but I was out shopping, and I saw the book. I just felt like I had to buy it. I don’t know why. I just felt like I had to buy this book, so I thought maybe I needed to read it. I went ahead and picked up two, and when I got home, I just couldn’t get you off my mind. I just felt like I had to get this book to you.”
I wasn’t one for thinking that way, you know, like the Holy Spirit is trying to nudge about something because I didn’t believe in any of that. So I kind of looked at her like she was a nut, and I said, “Okay.” I didn’t know that the Holy Spirit worked like that, but I took the book, we talked, and I laid it on top of all the other books I had on my nightstand. I definitely was planning on tossing it along with all the other books, so I was going to toss it along with the rest.
A couple of weeks pass after seeing her, and my darkness just got darker and there were a lot of problems. I still struggle with depression. Fear was paralyzing for me. I was very fearful of making decisions. My husband made all the decisions. I just existed. That’s all I did. I was a mom, I did my mom stuff. I was a wife. I did my wife stuff. I felt like a robot. I washed dishes six times a day until I would snap and literally run away. Like I said, I lost my driver’s license, so one day I just ran away and got on the city bus. And the bus driver laughed at me because he asked me where I was going, and I said, “I don’t know.” And so I rode the bus all the way to one end of town and back home just to calm down and cool off.
Choosing Hope Over Despair
This one particular night I was at the end, and we had a gun. My husband had the gun in the closet, and on my side of the bed was the closet and Jesus Calling was the only book left. I don’t know why I didn’t toss it. I did toss all the other books. But Jesus Calling was still there. And I remember I went into my room, and I was just going to–because I tried to attempt suicide as a teenager, and I took pills, I knew those weren’t going to work–so I wanted to make sure that something was going to work this time. So I went for the gun.
When I went for the gun, I looked down and saw the book, Jesus Calling, and I opened it. It was August 31st, and in big bold letters–like I said, I didn’t believe that the Holy Spirit worked in mysterious ways–but in big bold letters it said, “I am not punishing you.” And I just broke. I broke, and I cried because my whole life I felt like God was always punishing me for every single mistake I ever made. I just felt like any bad thing–which a lot of bad things happened in my life–I just felt like God was always punishing me. And so nobody could have told me that. Only God could have told me that because only He knew what was in my heart.
“I am not punishing you.” – Jesus Calling
And from that day on I just, every single day, have been reading Jesus Calling, and I have a personal relationship with Jesus. And every single day He helps me walk out of all my fears. I still have more, and I’m still struggling. Right now, we’re in a season of pain, but Jesus, He helps me. So this is a book I have read for over 15 years every single day. I still read it. This was 15 years ago that I began my relationship with Jesus, and I still, to this day, wake up every morning, and I read the Word. And I always go to my Jesus Calling, and I have a relationship with Him. The only way that I can describe my relationship with Jesus is with this from August 31st passage in Jesus Calling.
“Grow strong in your weakness. Some of my children I’ve gifted with abundant strength and stamina. Others, like you, have received the humble gift of frailty. Your fragility is not a punishment, nor does it indicate lack of faith. On the contrary, weak ones like you must live by faith, depending on Me to get you through the day. I am developing your ability to trust Me, to lean on Me, rather than on your own understanding. Your natural preference is to plan out your day knowing what will happen when. My preference is for you to depend on me continually, trusting Me to guide you and strengthen you as needed. This is how you grow strong in your weakness.” Amen.
He helps me every single day, and since then I’ve been healed in a lot of ways. I’m still walking in areas of my life where I’ve had unforgiveness, especially for myself. And one of the things that I could never ever receive was love. I could never receive love. It’s just actually been recent, maybe a year or less than a year ago, that I actually experienced what love really felt like because I could never receive it. I was so self-condemning, and I didn’t think I deserved it.
And so God uses people to shower that love on you, that unconditional love. The times that you feel like you don’t deserve it, and He’s still there. He’s still loving on you, and you’re like, “What? I just did this. This was awful, Lord. How can you love me?” Which verse is that, Romans 8? When he says, “Nothing can separate you from God’s love.” I have done some pretty bad stuff, and I’ve lived in shame most of my life, and just knowing that no matter what I have done, or what I do now, or what I’m going to do in the future, God still loves me. Nothing is going to take that from me.
I would tell you, if you are thinking of giving up, please don’t. Please don’t. Don’t. You have no idea what plans God has for you. And just because it’s dark right now where you’re at, doesn’t mean there’s not a light shining because Jesus is the light and He does… He’s sitting right next to you in your dark. Even in your dark, He’s sitting right next to you. He’s there. He’s just waiting for you.
Narrator: To follow along with Lisa on her faith journey, please visit her blog called “Day’s Journey,” at LisaReneDelgado.com. We’ll be right back with our second guest, Lisa Whittle, after this brief message from Audible.
As a special offering to you, the listeners of the Jesus Calling Podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out their service. Find your favorite Sarah Young titles, including Jesus Calling and Jesus Always in an audiobook version, and get it for free by trying Audible.com. Check out a small sample of the Jesus Calling audiobook featured at the end of this podcast. To download an entire free audiobook today, go to audibletrial.com/jesuscalling. Again, that’s audibiletrial.com/jesuscalling for your full, free audiobook. Now, on to the second half of our show.
Where He Leads, I Will Follow
Narrator: Our next guest is writer and speaker, Lisa Whittle. The daughter of a pastor, Lisa wasn’t interested in a life of ministry until she found herself being pursued by God for that very thing. Lisa has dedicated her life to writing and speaking about the truth of Jesus Christ and shares the joys and challenges of what happens when you let God lead you to the places He would have you go.
Lisa Whittle: My name is Lisa Whittle. I’m a wife, a mother of three. I’m a writer, a speaker, an author of six books, and believe that Jesus is everything.
My husband and I have been married for 22 years. We’ve lived predominantly most of our married life in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he’s from. He’s a native Charlotte-ian, and we have three children. The two oldest are boys ages 19 and 17, so my oldest is in college. That was a sort of a weird launching for us last year. And then my youngest is my daughter. She’s 15, and she’s a freshman. So we’re in this kind of mad, crazy stage of raising teenagers and young adults, and it’s the greatest time of our life in many ways and the wildest and the most mentally taxing, but we’re enjoying it a lot. We are a tight family of five, and yeah, then I write and speak and do those things too.
I was born in Houston, Texas. I was born into the family of a pastor, so ministry in church life is something that I’ve known from a very early age. Really, my longest relationship has been with the church. So that’s kind of a familiar place for me, and I really found a lot of beautiful things there and also found some pain there, too.
I have loved Jesus intimately my whole life and became a believer in my heart when I was six. And just then through a series of events, my father was a megachurch pastor who lost his church when I was a young woman, and I really had to sort through a lot of identity issues.
It just created some holes inside of me about who I was outside of my dad’s roles. And, you know, how the church can hurt us sometimes, and yet we’re all flawed humans as a part of that institution. And so I was figuring out where God fit in with all of that. And so that was all a part of my journey.
I met my husband when I was in seminary in my young 20s because I was actually going to go to seminary to study psychology. Marriage and Family Counseling is what I was going to do, and then just somewhere along the way decided I didn’t want to sit and listen to people’s problems all day. I have a lot of respect for counselors, but I just thought: “I don’t know if I can do that.” And so the full disclosure is that I’m a seminary dropout.
Being Chased By God
I’m sort of that rebel, and I’m sort of one who is a questioner and a skeptic. But the one thing that I’ve always known innately is… I’ve always known, even in my running away, that Jesus was everything. I just sort of knew He was it. And it was in that heart way, too. It wasn’t like my parents just taught me that, and I just received it and never questioned it. I just knew it. I knew God was it.
I knew there was this call on my life, and when I say that, what I mean is just sort of this innate thing that you know… where Jesus was drawing me to to serve him in a way. Now, I didn’t understand at the time that that might involve me having some kind of public ministry of speaking and writing, or I probably would have said “Absolutely not.” And then, subsequently, as the years went by, I did say “No” on many occasions, but a real catalyst for me writing was my husband lost his job when I had three children under the age of four.
It was a lot of me running away and a lot of Jesus pursuing my heart, and me saying “He’s worth me giving my life to.” And from my passion for Him, it grew this desire to say: “I want to talk to people about what a life with Jesus looks like.” And out of that grew this ministry.
I think being a reluctant servant of Jesus–whatever that looks like–is when you do finally surrender. When you do finally say, “Okay, Jesus, I’ll do whatever I feel like you’re calling me to do.”
For me, after years of being reluctant to step into any type of ministry and after seeing what happened with my own father and family and just some of the things that we went through and knowing too much, probably, about systems and organizations and how you know we can hurt each other a lot when we get off course and don’t keep our eyes on Jesus, but it starts becoming about programming and weird things like that.
The beautiful thing was I realized, number one, there was so little to be afraid of. And so much beauty in the life of actually following Jesus and doing what He’d equipped me to do all along.
Then there’s also just this this sense of purpose and peace that I’ve found in saying, “This is what I was born to do. This is what God put me here for.”
“Okay, Jesus, I’ll do whatever I feel like you’re calling me to do.”
It was interesting because my father went to heaven April 2nd, and it was a difficult time in my life, certainly. I’ve been a daddy’s girl my whole life, and we were very, very close. But I’m also, sort of, you know how we all take on roles in our family, and I I’m kind of in that strength role in my family even though I’m the middle child.
I’m kind of the strength person in my family. They would all agree, I’m sure. Maybe it’s a self-appointed role in some ways, but also, I think, it’s just kind of the way I roll in life. I’m that person that if you’re in a crisis, call me because that’s when I’m the best. I’m on. I’m that person you’ll call when you’re in the middle of a crisis.
But it was interesting, because around the time of his funeral, I had many, many things to do. I was really kind of in charge of the whole funeral, and that was a role that I wanted because I wanted to do that for my mother because I wanted her to be able to mourn and be in an elevated position that she deserved as the wife of someone who stayed so faithful to my father through ministry all these years. And I wanted her to enjoy the funeral, and I wanted to just take care of the details because I knew my father so well. I wanted to honor him so well. But it was a lot. I was also giving part of the eulogy. I was also coordinating many details.
And I’ll never forget. It was the morning of his funeral. I received a text. It was from somebody, and they needed some little small detail. I think it was safety pins. Actually, they were like, “I’m at the church, and I need some safety pins.” And I’ll be honest with you, at that moment, I was so overcome and frustrated. And I said to myself in my bathroom, “Are you kidding me? I am doing… I’m giving this eulogy. And I’ve coordinated this whole funeral. Are you kidding me?” And I really sensed the Lord speak to my heart: “Why do you resent what I have created you to do?”
Being Who God Created You To Be
He spoke to my heart, and it was this: “I created you that other people might draw strength from you. That’s your role. That’s literally why I’ve created you. Now, that’s not to say like there can’t be boundaries. That’s ridiculous. I’m a big boundary person, so I don’t believe in us running ourselves ragged. There’s a difference. It was a sense of like, “Lisa, this is this is who I’ve created you to be. It is a person that others can draw strength from. And this is a role that I’ve created you for, so don’t wonder when other people call you for things that they need because this is what I’ve given you to do.”
And that gives us a lot of peace and hope and purpose. And I’m grateful for that.
Sometimes, there are things so deep and so difficult. Sometimes it’s just normal life. Sometimes it’s just the weariness of life that’s deep and hard. And sometimes, it’s people like my friend, Angela, who bury their teenaged son. And that is that is a pain that I can’t fully know.
And yet, what I can imagine in my empathy and in my in my prayers for her, is that we’re not going to have the words for that.
5-Word Prayers came to be out of my own frustration over my prayer life because here I’ve been in the church my whole life, as I’ve said, and here I have been a believer in Jesus since I was 6 years old when I gave him my heart, and I’ve heard probably a couple hundred, maybe close to a thousand, sermons on prayer in my life and read many a book on prayer. But, you know, it just goes to show that as long as we travel with Jesus and we’re believers, that prayer is still something that a lot of us struggle with and that tends to elude us, in some ways. All of us are on a quest to deepening that.
What I love about 5-Word Prayers and what I believe and what I hope and what’s been my intent in writing it is that it would help us pray more, not less. So what I hope is that it will spark something because I have full confidence that if we offer five small words to the Lord, He can take it from there and help us know how to further that. But sometimes we just don’t know how to get started. So this is just a gentle nudge from a sister and from a friend who says, “Hey, you might not have the words today, but let me offer you these five. Start with those and see where it goes with the Lord.”
Taking Time to Remember Our Creator
I got my first copy of Jesus Calling years and years ago, and I think it was gifted to me by a friend. Which is you know beautiful, right?
Just the simplicity of it which is so similar to the 5-word prayers philosophy. We often try to make things so difficult. What I love about Jesus Calling is it speaks to our heart. It connects us so directly to what Jesus is saying to us. And I think that it’s important for us to remember the intimacy. That is something that is powerful, especially in this day and time, to remember our Creator and how much He loves us and purposes for us and that intimate way.
I gave it to my oldest son before he went off to college because I knew that, though he might have great intention, it would be hard for him to read a lot of long devotional books and things like that. He was going to be going off to college for the first time to play football and going to a secular university. And I knew that he would just need something, a little something, every single day. And after he’d been gone for several months, he sent me an email and told me about how powerful it was for him to read, every day, something from the Jesus Calling book and that it just ministered to his heart so deeply. And that means a lot to a mama.
Narrator: To find out more about Lisa Whittle’s book 5 Word Prayers: Where to Start When You Don’t Know What to Say to God visit LisaWhittle.com
Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit Donna Barrett, a woman who’s story of faith and tragedy brought her closer to God.
Donna excerpt: All my life, I felt like I was a mistake. And it’s come full-circle. I’m not a mistake. I’m God’s handiwork. I’m God’s masterpiece. And faith comes from knowing and knowing the word of God. I want people to be healed and to live in the fullest of Christ.
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