Crystalina Evert has just published a book on healing for women called Woman Made New: Reflections on Adversity, Healing, and Transformation through EWTN Publishing, featuring the stories of women transformed by the deep healing that can only come from God.
We have been given permission to publish the first chapter written by Crystalina. Other writers in the book include Mother Angelica, Johnnette Williams, Teresa Tomeo, Catherine Hadro, Joy Pinto, Kimberly Scipione, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Cameron Fradd, Lisa Cotter, and Leila Miller.
This could be a perfect devotional to journey with through Lent.
By Crystalina Evert
Have you ever felt that you are not enough, that you amount to less than those around you, or that a situation was too much to handle? Did your self-doubt then kick in, and did you start questioning your ability and skills? Have you felt that you do not deserve the love and blessings God has placed before you? Have you thought that you are not smart or pretty enough compared with others? Have you allowed fear to prevent you from moving forward to attain a specific goal? Did you ever ignore that still, small voice nudging you to do or say something; or did you decide to act on it, only to talk yourself out of it?
Unfortunately, I have ignored that still, small voice on many occasions. We are all guilty of giving in to self-doubt and fear because somehow that negative voice seems more powerful than the still, small voice assuring us that we have what it takes.
There was a time in my life when I allowed those doubts and insecurities to control me by living a life of grave sin through my wounds. Those doubts and insecurities slowly dominated me and evolved into fear. I became careless in how I chose to live my life, and I dismissed God’s will and His many attempts to reach my heart. Ignoring Him seemed much easier than responding to Him. My pride was an obstacle to His grace as I held on to the false reality that I was “in control.” I was swayed by the opinions of others, and I defined myself by my past mistakes and by my upbringing in a dysfunctional family. How many countless years, days, and 3 hours I wasted on the petty things of this world and the people who did not care about me!
I had no understanding of my true purpose and was afraid to surrender to God’s plan for my life. My disobedience to His call hindered the work He wanted to do within me. Over time, I became someone I never wanted to be. It is so easy to make excuses, but I’ve learned that excuses are just lies we tell ourselves. As I look back, taking the “easy road” made my life more difficult in the long run. The struggle grew more intense as the hole I was digging for myself became deeper.
During my high school years, I had no interest in my Catholic Faith and often doubted the existence of God. I spent my time keeping up appearances to protect my family’s image. I agreed to go to Confession only to appease my mother so she would allow me the freedom to be with my “friends.” But after many reckless weekends of drinking, drugs, and casual sexual encounters, my life spiraled out of control. I felt like trash—utterly worthless. The void in my heart was so big that I grew discouraged and believed it was much too late for me to change.
I didn’t know then that God has an assignment, a mission, and a plan for each of us. The problem is that we often ignore it because we are too busy listening to others and living according to the world’s ways. We make the mistake of looking outside ourselves for the answers, and we end up going down a rabbit hole that can consume us. Without the firm foundation of faith and God’s grace, we will always end up questioning who we are.
Jesus challenges us women of God, young or old, not to be of the world. He tells us in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” If Jesus Himself tells us we are not of this world, why do we try to solve our problems with a worldly mindset, leaving Jesus out of our life decisions, as if He doesn’t care about them? We end up settling for scraps the world gives us. As a result, we are frustrated, disappointed, and always left in a state of longing. But Jesus wants to give us so much more—more than we can ever imagine!
Every decision we make matters and has some impact on the rest of our lives. When we go against what we know is right, most of us feel it in the depths of our hearts. Think about your own life. Are you dating someone you know you shouldn’t be? Are you afraid to embrace a specific vocation because you don’t want to miss out on something else or because you fear you will end up like your parents? Maybe you are struggling with an addiction to social media or are viewing immoral entertainment you know you should not be watching. We convince ourselves that our poor choices are not that bad. If we feel the need to justify what we are doing, well, what we are doing is probably not good. I have fallen into this evil trap many times over.
Have I failed in areas of my life at times? Absolutely! But does that determine a life sentence of failure? It depends on whether I give up.
We will always be tempted to give up and dwell on the past. The important thing is to be intentional and honest with ourselves in answering why. This small word helps us understand who we are and what we will become. Why is not easy to ask. Why did I sexualize my anger when I was younger? Why did I push people away? Why was it hard for me to receive and give love? Why did I struggle with my vocation as a wife and mother? To go deeper and find the answers, I needed to ask these tough questions. But I didn’t dive into them on my own. I was able to face my deepest wounds only with Jesus. Frankly, I didn’t want to go into those dark places within myself without Him. He gave me the courage, strength, and grace to go into those broken places and deal with the mess I had created for myself. There are some things only Jesus could help me overcome. But I needed to face those hard truths, to own what happened to me, and to heal so that I could move in the direction God wanted me to go.
Since my early twenties, I’ve had a strong devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She was a simple cloistered nun who did small things with great, childlike love. During her time on earth, she was considered a nobody in the eyes of the world. However, she was a force to be reckoned with in the spiritual realm. St. Thérèse knew that she was created for more, and she made the decision to sow the seeds of her divine mission. She knew that her real mission would begin when she died. She said: “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses. . . . I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth.” For years, I have treasured one of her sayings: “He has never inspired me with any desire and left it unsatisfied” These words have helped me understand that if God asks me to do something, no matter how small the task, it must be significant. In my spiritual journey, I have learned to take this very seriously. Too often, we get stuck in our heads and give in to thinking that what God asks of us does not matter. We are tempted to talk ourselves out of doing what He asks of us and to justify ourselves in doing so. As a result, we grow further away from our hearts, which is exactly where God speaks to us.
I want to share with you the moment that changed the course of my entire life. It was when I heard a brave young man give his testimony about how Jesus healed him from his godless lifestyle. This is when the concept of to me. It seemed foreign to me at the time. But what struck me was this man’s peace, joy, and holy confidence. He seemed so unashamed when he spoke about the bad choices he had made. I completely identified with his past mistakes, which paralleled mine. Yet he was free and not weighed down by the burden of his sin. I tried to think of a day when I wasn’t ashamed. The sad truth was that I couldn’t think of one.
And so my spiritual journey back to God began at that moment with one simple yes. I knew that if I truly wanted to turn my life around, I needed to start with an honest confession. From there, the graces began to flow, and for the first time in my life, I felt free. What a grace-filled Lazarus moment! With all my heart, I know that if I didn’t say yes to Jesus’ invitation, I would never have married Jason—that brave young man—and would not have been involved with our important ministry work. If I had said “maybe later,” my ten children would never have come into existence, and I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this book.
Mother Angelica said, “Everything starts with one person. . . . I don’t care if you’re five or one hundred and five; from all eternity, God chose you to be where you are at this time in history to change the world.”
What you do now on earth matters and holds heavenly weight. Of course, you have been given the gift of free will in making choices. God the Father will never force Himself on you. But every decision you make will have an eternal effect on the state of your soul. Your yes is everything! Your obedience is vital, and God will give you the grace and courage to face your fears and get through whatever He is asking of you.
Some time ago, a woman wrote to me: “Thank you, Crystalina. I am seventy-five years old and ready to heal. My father sexually abused me until I was eighteen, and I couldn’t escape. I carried these wounds and secrets all my life, but now I finally have the courage to start my healing process.” I was brought to tears and so happy for this woman who had the courage to face what happened to her fifty-seven years ago. God’s mercy is endless!
I’m sure you listened to that small, still voice of the Holy Spirit when you decided to read this book. Nothing is ever a coincidence with God. He has something He wants to say to you, and He invites you to go deeper. No pretending, no excuses.
So here are some questions I’d like you to ask yourself:
Am I truly the woman God is calling me to be? If not, why not?
When was the last time I took a sobering look at myself?
Some women choose to live their lives in complete denial. Others avoid and deflect the truth and are driven by their fears. You and I are going to be different. We were created “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). We are strong, capable, and worthy of the mission God is calling us to. We need not remain complacent and adopt the falsehood that “this is all there is.”
I am an abuse survivor, a woman from a broken family who was almost crushed by the weight of a sinful lifestyle, but the Eternal Father proved His faithfulness to me. He is a God of second chances; I am living proof of that. Look at how He has used me to do His work! Jesus will use you, too, but you must listen to Him and be ready for spiritual battle against the enemies of your soul.
I have in my office a picture that reminds me of this spiritual battle. It is a large photo of St. Thérèse dressed as St. Joan of Arc, wearing armor and holding a sword in her hand. To the right of her is her shield. As I was gazing at this picture the other day, I noticed for the first time a crown of roses next to her shield, hanging on a branch. I believe this foreshadowed the crown of roses she would receive in Heaven and give back to us here on earth.
During her lifetime, this great saint was small and hidden from the world. Today, she is a Doctor of the Church. Some may say, “Well, she was a saint, and I can never attain that level of holiness.” Don’t sell yourself short or put limits on the importance of your mission. Whatever our state in life, God is calling every one of us to be a saint.
The truth is we are all striving for a crown. James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” Our striving for this crown need not be arduous. In a letter to her sister Céline, St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, “The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity.”
Have you had enough of being consumed by the trappings of the world? Are you willing to detach from your old ways and take on the new? What virtues would you like to trade for the vices you struggle with? Do you believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that you were created for much more? Do you believe God can transform your life and make you whole again?
My invitation to you now is this: Face it! Own it! Heal it! Make the decision to abandon yourself to God’s will. Trust Him! He will give you what you need to take the next step. Remember, it’s never too late to start over. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. All that matters now is where you go from here!