Content warning: This episode contains sensitive subject matter, including rape and depression, which may be triggering for some listeners.
Dr. Elizabeth Stevens: God’s Word is what pulled me through that darkness and helped me to hold on. And when I had setback after setback, I just held on and I didn’t let go.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Pursuing our God-given dreams can lead us into unexpected places, whether it’s climbing mountains, building homes, or sharing your story with those who need encouragement. God’s beautiful purpose remains steadfast, but sometimes we can’t see past the setbacks or the trials that confront us first. Learning to trust God in everything puts us in a posture of peace and allows for His grace to define our days. These are the moments that can hold deep meaning for us when we look back and see that God never left our sides.
Our guests this week share with us what happened when they believed in something better when their own plans were sidelined. Dr. Elizabeth “Ellie” Stevens had dreams of joining the Air Force and becoming a psychiatrist, responding to the spark in her heart that told her she could help people in this way. Faced with deeply difficult events and setbacks to her health, she questioned if God had abandoned her when she truly just wanted to live for Him. Daniel and Noell Jett shared a mutual desire of building their dream home together. Proving to be more difficult than they expected, they share how God showed them it wasn’t about having their dream home, but enjoying the journey as a family together—no matter where they laid their heads at night.
Let’s begin with Dr. Stevens’ story.
Dr. Stevens: I’m Ellie Stevens. I currently live in Colorado. I was in the Air Force for ten years, trained as a psychiatrist, and I currently have a private practice for psychiatry in Colorado, as well as I run a nonprofit called Advancing Warriors International to help first responders, veterans, and military members.
Never Feeling Like You Are Enough
My whole life I really tried to be the person people thought I needed to be, be the person God needed me to be. And I wore these masks of trying to prove my worth, trying to cover and hide any vulnerabilities or failures or darkness within me because I didn’t want to see it and I didn’t want anyone else to see it. Even though I understood from four years old that I was a sinner, I did bad things, I needed Jesus’ forgiveness for my sins, and that He gave me complete forgiveness when He died on the cross—I received that.
“I wore these masks of trying to prove my worth, trying to cover and hide any vulnerabilities or failures or darkness within me.” – Dr. Elizabeth Stevens
But deep down, I didn’t feel like I was enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t athletic enough. I wasn’t a good enough Christian. Fill in the blank. And so anything that would prove that I would try to hide and bury. And it wasn’t conscious. I wasn’t consciously trying to do it. It was just kind of how I operated.
Originally, I wanted to do mission work, so I thought, Well, I’ll join the Air Force, get a lot of really good training, help give back, and then I can go on the mission field. However, when I went to medical school, it was really difficult for me because I couldn’t really spend that much time with patients. I really wanted to get to know what their main issues were and really help with deep healing. And I would get yelled at for spending too much time with the patients. I learned that within the mission field, a lot of it is just kind of seeing as many people as possible because they really don’t have that much access to health care. And so when I found psychiatry, I could spend a lot of time with the patients. That was the point, was to really see what the underlying issues were with their mental health. And so I just fell in love with the field. And that’s where I knew I needed to be.
An Unexpected Accident Changes Everything
I had just started a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship. The Air Force allows a couple of scholarships a year for people to pick a child and adolescent psychiatry program. And so I picked Colorado. On August 1st, 2015, I had just completed one year.
I am very goal-oriented and I wanted to climb all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado within my first year, which there are fifty-eight of them. So I had high goals. And I was on peak thirty-two. So I was climbing Longs Peak. I had climbed some pretty tough peaks prior to that. And I was hiking down the mountain and I was at the end of a boulder field and my poles, my hiking poles, got stuck at the same time because the snow baskets were on the poles. And I couldn’t brace my fall. So I catapulted and went headfirst into the boulder below me.
I had a huge gash on my head. There was blood pouring down. I thought I was blind when I regained consciousness. And I ended up having to hike out four miles after that injury.
So after the injury—it happened on a Saturday—I thought I could go to work on Monday. Complete denial didn’t realize the gravity of my injury. And I ended up throwing up, not keeping anything down all morning on Monday, having to go to the E.R. And then the doctor told me I needed to be on brain rest for a month. And so I probably should have realized that it was graver than I thought. But again, I think I was still in kind of shock and denial of what was really going on.
I thought I could go back to work quickly, but I ended up not being able to read without getting a severe migraine for three years. So it was a very long recovery process. And it wasn’t just the traumatic brain injury, but there were a lot of complicating traumas and injuries following that too.
Traumatized by an Act of Violence
So prior to the traumatic brain injury, I had a previous trauma that year. I was forcefully raped, and I couldn’t process what happened because I had just had that brain injury. I could barely string two sentences together. I would slur my speech. I couldn’t find words. And so I think there was a part of me that was trying to protect myself from understanding what truly happened. And I blamed everything on my traumatic brain injury because I didn’t realize that that deeper trauma, that soul trauma, was actually what needed to be healed primarily in order for me to recover from my traumatic brain injury.
“I blamed everything on my traumatic brain injury because I didn’t realize that that deeper trauma, that soul trauma, actually needed to be healed in order to recover.” – Dr. Elizabeth Stevens
And underlying that was an anger that I had at God that I refused to acknowledge. Deep down, I believe that I made the right decision. I chose God first, and He wasn’t there to protect me. And so that was one of the main spiritual wounds that I had that I really needed to heal.
And so after that rape, it was almost like one step forward, two steps back. I went through a treatment program, and it was for about a month. And that month, I started finding some relief from my migraines, which I had never had prior to my traumatic brain injury. I still couldn’t read, but I was getting a little bit of relief. And then on my way back home from the treatment center, I had a grand mal seizure, and I lost most of my gains. I started seizure medications and was stable without seizures for about a month or two, and then started to wean off of those.
And then I was in a car wreck. So I was in the backseat of a car and a deer ran in front of the car, completely totaled the car, and I had another concussion. So it was some healing, a little bit of healing, and then set back. And it was just this constant state of fear, living in fear that I was going to get injured again and I was going to get another setback. And I developed a dark depression. I had suicidal thoughts. I just felt trapped, like there was no way out.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day, but it’s like every day is the same. You just wake up and you do the same thing over again. And that’s kind of how I thought my life was, that I couldn’t read, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t be productive. And that’s what I used as part of my identity and worth, was being productive and being able to achieve things. And I had nothing left to give.
And so when I had the traumatic brain injury and the other traumas, I didn’t have anything to cover up with. I was completely exposed. The darkness within me, all my failings, all my vulnerabilities were out in the open and I couldn’t hide anymore. However, what I learned was that I actually felt God’s love in a more powerful way when I didn’t have anything to cover up. So I was actually blocking His love, blocking His grace, blocking His forgiveness with that mentality of, I have to prove myself. And when I could no longer block anything, it was just this open door into my heart to receive. Once I realized that even in my darkest state, even in my rebellion, God loved me the same, and I could actually feel it more, that empowered me to really stop trying to protect myself, stop trying to hide, stop trying to cover up.
“Once I realized that even in my darkest state God loved me the same, that empowered me to stop trying to protect myself, stop trying to hide, stop trying to cover up.” – Dr. Elizabeth Stevens
Through my experience with depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of independence, it was key for me to connect with Jesus. I couldn’t read for three years struggling through the TBI and all of the trauma. And I would just listen to the Bible app. I would listen to podcasts. I would listen to whatever I could, Christian books that would help keep me alive, that would help keep me strong, that would help keep me connected with God. And that is pretty much what kept me going because there were themes over and over again giving me hope. But looking back, I can see that He was there all along. He was with me all along.
The Pursuit of Healing Mind, Body & Spirit
I went through psychiatry training, and medical school, and seeing tons of patients. But I never truly understood what trauma was like until I went through it myself and went through the process, went through what works, and what doesn’t work. And even if you think of trauma as the word of whenever you’re overwhelmed and you have to decide, Am I going to lean into God or am I going to try to go it alone? And what is that decision within that space? And so in this world, there’s a lot of darkness. It’s a fallen world. Everyone experiences some kind of trauma. And so part of it is to really help people have that awareness of the trauma around them, the awareness of their decisions that they have made in the past, and how to make the best decision moving forward.
When someone is hurting, a lot of times in the field of psychiatry and psychology, the spiritual aspect of things is neglected. But a lot of people are dealing with a lot of spiritual struggles, whether they’ve been burned by religion, burned by the church, burned by other Christians. They really don’t have a space to talk about that, they can’t talk about that to those people who burned them. And if someone is a mental health provider and they don’t talk about any of the spiritual things that allow them to have that outlet, then they can’t talk about it there either. And so I’ve provided that space, where they can talk through spiritual struggles, any struggles that they have, and they, don’t feel judged. They don’t feel condemned. But they have that space where they can talk through things. And that’s when some of those moral injuries come out. That’s when some of those issues with trust and identity and purpose and value come out. And so just creating that space for them to have that discussion, where they don’t likely have that anywhere else.
“A lot of times in the field of psychiatry and psychology, the spiritual aspect of things is neglected. . . . I’ve provided that space where they can talk through any struggles that they have don’t feel judged.” – Dr. Elizabeth Stevens
Through my story of trauma, through my experience, I created several programs with the nonprofit Advancing Warriors International to help people have that awareness of trauma within their lives, help them recognize barriers to growth and healing, and help them connect with God in the right perspective, helping them understand what their misconceptions are about God, and how to move past that.
All of those programs are about connecting people to God, helping them understand that they don’t have to prove their worth, that God proved it when He died on the cross, and that there is a way out, that God redeems all wounds, no matter how far they’ve gone, no matter what darkness they’ve been involved in, no matter what’s happened to them, God’s great enough and powerful enough to provide a way out, to not only help them have a deeper healing, but also help other people heal through them.
“God redeems all wounds. God’s great enough and powerful enough to provide a way out.” – Dr. Elizabeth Stevens
No one has it all together, and we’re all in a process of growth. Those groups are for that community grow together and building up each other and really identifying that there might be everyone in the groups struggling with the same exact thing, and they can really have that accountability and encourage one another to persevere and keep going and not to give up.
This is a passage from Jesus Listens on February 26th:
Trustworthy Lord Jesus,
Please help me trust You enough to relax and enjoy Your Presence. I confess that I often live in a state of hypervigilance— feeling and acting as if I’m in the midst of an emergency. Your Word tells me that I am remarkably and wonderfully made. My body is carefully crafted to “gear up” when necessary and then “gear down” when the crisis is over.
Thank You for training me to trust in You with all my heart and mind. The more I lean on You in confident trust, the more fully I can enjoy Your Presence. As I relax in Your healing Light, You shine Peace into my mind and heart.
Narrator: You can find Dr. Ellie Stevens’ book, Unshackled: Finding God’s Freedom from Trauma, wherever books are sold. And be sure to check out her nonprofit, Advancing Warriors International, at www.advancingwarriors.org.
Stay tuned to Daniel and Noell Jett’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Our next guests are Daniel and Noell Jett from Jett Set Farmhouse, who had a dream to build a home with their own two hands, despite no prior experience, and shared that journey on their social media accounts—learning along the way that true joy could be found right where they were.
Daniel Jett: We are Daniel and Noell Jett with Jett Set Farmhouse.
Noell Jett: We are currently based in St. Augustine, Florida. We got our start building our own home, which is something we took on even though we had never built a house before. We built it primarily with our own hands and began sharing that process on social media. We also share homeschooling tips, cleaning tips, life tips, just anything that goes along with life as a busy, bigger family that also does DIYs and renovations.
Noell’s Early Years Shape Her Dreams
Noell: I was raised in a pretty difficult childhood. And I know everyone has issues and struggles that we go through, but we had extreme poverty. A family of seven, there were five kids, barely making enough to survive. We really lived off the land, had a garden and hunted deer, and had cows and pigs and chickens, which is romanticized by many people. And it seems like a really cool way to live. And while there are so many benefits to it, when you’re doing it truly just to survive, it is a little different. And added to that was a lot of religious extremism.
So it really shaped our lives and our thoughts and our beliefs, everything about the way we saw the world. My dad was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident when I was twelve years old, which just completely traumatized my entire family. He was in the hospital for many months, went from making an income to having no income whatsoever. So what was already a meager income became nothing. We had no insurance. Medical bills stacked up.
So it was just truly surviving for my entire family, and I didn’t know that life could be better and different because we were so sheltered and confined within that small community. So until I became an adult and was able to really grow and experience the world without the confines of that church and just this religious extremism—I was finally able to get away from that and learn about a real relationship with God and discover a life with love and the way I believe that Jesus meant for it to be lived. So that’s the state I was in when I met Daniel.
“[When I became an adult] I was finally able to learn about a real relationship with God and discover a life with love and the way I believe that Jesus meant for it to be lived.” – Noell Jett
A Dream of Building Something Together
Noell: He had had a dream since high school to build his own house. We actually found some paperwork in our garage that he had listed three dreams for his life, and the three dreams were to get married, have lots of kids, and to build his own house. So when we met about ten years later or so, he shared that dream with me and I loved it. I said, “That is something that I can get behind.” And that became our mutual dream.
Daniel: I love to work with my hands. And my parents built a house back in ‘96, and I loved watching that process. So that was a dream that quickly became mutual.
When I was building my business, it was really tough for me to look way ahead in the future, almost like day to day: How can I grow today? How can I grow today? And even though we got knocked down at some point throughout business, thankfully, I had the God-given ability to kind of just say, “You know what? It’s in the past, let’s move forward, let’s take one step, and try to grow and progress.” So it did seem out of reach at times, but then sometimes you’d kind of make a leap. You’re like, Wow, I can see the end of this. I can see a future.
And we made many, many sacrifices, one being we moved into a camper. We decided to do that after much convincing from my wife and also my dad. We got to a point, we’re like, “Okay, if we’re really going to grow this business to get to our point where we’re able to be financially free or at least have some room to grow in our business, we would have to make sacrifices.” So they both convinced me to buy a camper and move this camper onto my mom and dad’s property.
So I said, “You know what, let’s do this finally.” And we did it. And looking back, it was one of the best financial decisions we’ve ever made.
Noell: We look back and say it was the happiest time of our marriage and our kids, really. It just forced us to focus on each other and spend time with each other. And when you fought, you didn’t really have anywhere to go, you didn’t go and sleep on the couch, like, you’re in this little tiny space together. So you kind of had to learn to work it out. And in that situation, we really found true happiness and joy exist wherever you are. Circumstances change, you know, the house came and went, but the true joy, the true happiness is found within yourself, within God, within your family.
“True happiness is found within yourself, within God, within your family.” – Noell Jett
So for seven years, we’d look for land and try to find something that would work for us and dream about the day that we would be able to make this house happen. And then one day I stumbled upon a piece of land, and I knew Daniel wasn’t going to like it because it didn’t have any trees.
However, I was on that exact road the other day, and at the very end of it there’s a vacant lot that’s just sitting there. So I wonder if we could find the owners and see if they’d be interested in selling it. So we looked up their information on the county website, drafted them a letter, just kind of telling them who we were and what we were interested in doing, about our family. Well, I didn’t even get a chance to mail this letter because the very next day Daniel calls me and he says, “Hey, I happen to be right by where these people live. Do you think it would be weird if I stopped by and talked to them?”
Daniel: I knocked on the door. Very, very nice older couple and just kind. They brought me in and I sat down and I chatted with them for a while. And he says, “We decided we would sell it to you.” And we agreed on a price. And I brought him a contract. And when I brought him the contract, I didn’t hear from him for three or four days, and then maybe a week or so goes by and he texts me and he says, “Hey, sorry, we’ve decided not to sell the property.”
And I’m like, Oh, goodness, the wife’s going to be distraught, you know? We waited so long to find something like this. And, I mean, it was literally three minutes away from my parent’s house, a beautiful lot, and gorgeous oak trees. And so, you know, I had to break the news to Noell that day, and she was really upset. And I said, “It’s okay, we’ll just keep looking.” And so we did. We kept looking for the next four or five months.
And then it came about Christmas time and her birthday is on Christmas Day. So I thought to myself, Okay, I’m going to reach out to this guy one last time. And I sent him a text and said, “Hey, look, my wife’s birthday is on Christmas, and I can think of no better gift to get her than this property. Would you reconsider?”
And then he texts me back maybe an hour or so later, and he says, “We would reconsider, we’ll contact you in a few days.” He called me up and I brought him a deposit that day, “Here you go, sign on the dotted line.” And so what a blessing that was that they changed their minds and now we’re able to build this.
Reaching Your Dreams and Watching Them Change
Noell: The house build itself took us a total of eighteen months, not including the land clearing, right?
Noell: So we took a couple of months to clear the land and then we broke ground in July of 2018 and we got our certificate of occupancy in November of 2019. So it took us about six months longer than the bank originally gave us. Thankfully, we were able to file a couple of extensions and complete it for the most part in the timeframe that we were allotted.
As far as what we dreamed of when we envisioned this home that we would be creating for our family, we really wanted land that our kids could play on and experience time outside. We just love watching them playing and enjoying the great outdoors. And we did not want to be in a neighborhood where they were confined within their little yard. So that was a big thing for us. We wanted plenty of space to entertain. We both come from large families and have a big friend group, so we wanted to be able to have a big kitchen space where I could cook and enjoy company, and we also wanted big porches. That was something I always dreamed of, which was having a massive wraparound porch on the front of the house. And then we also did a big screened-in porch on the back so that we could really just enjoy the outdoors and watch our kids—what we thought was watch our kids grow up and we would grow old in. But the story takes a little turn.
So last September, we ended up selling, and basically what we thought was the pinnacle, what we were working our whole lives toward, turned into just a stepping stone. And we realized we loved it so much and we enjoyed the process and it was something that we wanted to do again. So we bought more land and we’re in the process of designing and building another one. Everyone gave us such a hard time on social media. Like, “I thought this is your dream home, you don’t sell your dream home.” But your dreams change.
But just seeing what’s happened over the past year and where our lives have brought us and our current situation, I’m thankful that it happened the way it did.
The Foundation for Life You Love
Noell: I always say this: hard work is not the only answer. Like there are many people with this toxic positivity mindset that will tell you hard work is everything, you know, get up early and stay up late, work yourself to the bone. And that’s the secret to success. And it’s not the total secret at all. It is a small percentage of it. And it’s going to take hard work, but it is not the end all.
I remember my mom giving me Jesus Calling many years ago and we just think it’s so important to connect with God on that daily basis, to keep your mind focused, not on the things of this world. You can get so caught up in the daily, the monotony, the materialistic aspect of things, but just keeping our focus on where it really should be, remembering that there is a bigger picture at play here. We have a purpose. We have a bigger calling in this life.
So we’re just kind of sitting back, relaxing, enjoying this little season of our lives. And as soon as we’re ready, the land is already cleared and ready to go.
Building a foundation for a life that we can love, whether that includes building a new home or just finding contentment and peace—happiness and true contentment and peace are not found in external circumstances. If you’re not happy where you are in the moment of this time, you’re not going to be happy when you get a new house. A house doesn’t fix your problems, nothing fixes your problems, a spouse, a child, a relationship, financial stability, those things don’t truly bring us peace and happiness. Finding that in our relationship with God is what is so important. And if you can truly focus on finding that peace and contentment right where you are, first of all, it’s not going to matter whether or not you get that big home because that’s just going to be icing on the cake if you get to that point.
“Happiness and true contentment and peace are not found in external circumstances. If you’re not happy where you are in the moment of this time, you’re not going to be happy when you get a new house.” – Noell Jett
Daniel: We could totally go back to the camper and I’m still happy to do so. Some of the happiest times we had in our lives and times our kids enjoyed, Ava and Isley, were in that camper. We were broke. We were building a future for ourselves and our kids. But we are still so happy. And that, really, for us it didn’t we didn’t need the big house. We didn’t need the material things. What we needed was our relationships and the time that we got to spend together and the closeness and the bond that we had as a family, as one unit—that was really the most important thing to us and still is.
“We didn’t need the material things. What we needed was our relationships and the time that we got to spend together and the closeness and the bond that we had as a family. That was really the most important thing to us—and still is.” – Daniel Jett
Noell: True happiness is found right where you are.
Narrator: To learn more about Daniel and Noell, follow them on TikTok, or visit www.jettsetfarmhouse.com. And be sure to check out their new book, Create Your Dream Home on a Budget, anywhere books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about pursuing the dreams that God gave you, check out our interview with Erwin McManus.
Next Week: Jesse Bradley
Jesse Bradley: I didn’t even realize it, but I had an identity that was performance-based. My identity was linked to how well I did in school, how many friends I had. It was linked to my performance as a goalkeeper. It was linked to my career and how well it was going. And all of that is a trap. Because if you have a performance-based identity, you ride a cruel rollercoaster between pride and shame, and you can be inflated and deflated based on your performance. And ultimately it will lead to insecurity.