Like every little girl, Elicia carried around in her heart the sweet innocence of childhood where dreams of romance meant Malibu Barbie strolling stiff-legged down a red terry towel aisle to live happily ever after with Ken, and where every handsome pop star sang only to you. Most of the time, however, instead of My Little Pony unicorns sweeping her away into secure and magical places, the harsh realities of life invaded her uncomplicated play world.
“I grew up very shy, insecure, and constantly trying to fit in. My mother and father divorced, and by the time I turned eight my mom remarried an alcoholic and extremely abusive man. My real dad moved in and mostly out of my life. Though an amazing Father when he actually did show up, he went for long periods of time without making any contact. And when we did make plans, most of the time I stood, bags packed waiting for him to never arrive – no explanation. By the time I turned 12, he moved out of my life completely.”
Too often the chaotic and messy lives of grownups seep into a child’s bloodstream and alter their emotional DNA. Once gregarious, vibrant, in love with sports, school and music, slowly Elicia began to withdraw into herself. No longer feeling safely hidden away in her magical, make believe world, Elicia felt lost and overlooked in the real one. Intensifying this sense of unbelonging and alienation, family rifts left behind some poisonous seeds of untruth.
“People eventually go away.”
A human soul demands identity. This innate pining, if left to quest aimlessly, can create the most unholy alliances.
“I needed to be courageous, so I got drunk.”
“I needed to be important – so I had to make lots of money.”
“I needed to be accepted – so I became who others wanted me to be.”
“I needed to be loved – so I gave myself, mind, body and emotions, to anyone who paid attention; constantly in search of someone to love me. Exposed to drugs, alcohol, and porn at a very young age, I quickly learned how to get the attention from men I craved.”
After barely graduating high school, the one thing Elicia felt like she had going for her, was her job at a grocery store where she began working at 16.
“If I could make good money, own a new car, and line my wallet with plenty of plastic, I’d be one of the cool kids, and I did whatever I needed to maintain my status – including break the law. That quest for identity lost me my job at the grocery store and caused me to spiral down into shame, depression, and serious thoughts of suicide.”
Struggling to pull herself out of despair and believing she’d found her own version of Ken, 20 year old Elicia became pregnant, instead. Two years into their relationship and about six months into her pregnancy, Ken opted for a less pregnant girlfriend. One month after that, Elicia’s mom kicked her out of the house.
“During the first two years of my daughter’s life, we moved nine times, crashing on the vacant couch of any friend who offered. I was lost and I didn’t belong.”
Disappointment and hurt can chase us around and no matter how hard we try to run from them, they always run faster. Most times we don’t even recognize them; we simply keep moving forward wondering why we never get anywhere.
Remember Jenny in the movie Forrest Gump, when she picked up a handful of rocks and chucked them at her old home? It wasn’t so much the house she threw them at, but the dilapidated memories still living there. Elicia threw drugs at her phantom pain, but just like Jenny and her rocks, there are never enough drugs. And instead of leading Elicia to her true identity, the drugs only led her to a new one.
“A friend introduced me to stripping, and the first night I cried all the way home, lay down next to my baby and thought, No way! After my second night, however, I became hooked.”
Between the age of 25 and 28, Elicia alternated between working in the strip club and going to rehab, and while a diet of Top Ramen satiated her physical hunger, her soul remained emaciated.
“By some miracle, I still managed to obtain my esthetician license and continue to raise my little girl – until the year 2000.”
That year, the chaos of her life relegated Elicia to a mental hospital. But two years later, sober and restored, a new and improved version of Ken moved into her life.
“For the next four and a half years, I was treated like a queen, became involved in a woman’s organization, made healthy friendships, and worked as an esthetician while volunteering as a Cheer Mom for my daughter’s school. Basically, I lived a double life by keeping one foot in my real job, and going straight back to dancing when money got hard.”
One week after Elicia and her now Fiancé celebrated an anniversary, he called and broke things off over the phone.
“It’s just like I always said, people eventually go away. I went back to heavy drinking, depression took hold of me, and I decided as soon as my daughter was old enough and settled, I would ‘check out’. And then one night, I met a basketball player at the club. We got drunk, had sex, and of course … I ended up pregnant. While not a follower of Jesus, I considered myself a believer, and often prayed while dancing in the club.”
Grappling with the idea of having an abortion, the receptionist at Elicia’s salon spoke words of hope to her.
“Ashley told me, ‘God turns all consequences into blessing if you let Him.’”
Nearing Easter Sunday, Elicia went to church with her mom.
“I was in zombie mode – traumatized. Everything the pastor said sounded as if Charlie Brown’s teacher gave the sermon – until he spoke the words, ‘eternal choices’. Suddenly, my ears perked up. God is talking to me! Confused and stressed out, I went home and grabbed the Bible my mom bought me and got down on my knees.
‘God, I can’t do this on my own. I need you, I need your guidance. I’m gonna open up my Bible and you’re going to tell me what to do, but not at the bookmark, that’s too obvious.’”
Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.
“What? I wondered, but kept on reading …”
Then the king gave his ruling: “… Do not kill him.” (1 Kings 3:24-25; 27)
“I sat freaked out. God had given me an answer, because that’s the page I turned to. I knew God was real, that all this time He was with me and my whole life flashed before my eyes.”
Baptized on July 19, 2009, Elicia left the club for good.
“I cried a lot, and battled to obey. I lost everything, filed bankruptcy, and lived pregnant and homeless with my 16 year old daughter.”
Seven days before Christmas, Elicia gave birth to a baby girl, and began to attend Crossroads Christian Fellowship regularly with her friend and former salon receptionist, Ashley. While sitting alone on a rock at a women’s retreat, Elicia heard from God once more.
“Okay God, I’m here. Now what? What do you want me to do?”
Once again Elicia’s Bible fell open and this time landed on Romans 6:13.
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
The next year, in 2010, As you are Outreach began going into strip clubs, and in 2011 Elicia joined the team where she faithfully serves God by being His light in the clubs.
In 2012, Elicia journeyed to Cambodia and shared her testimony for the first time.
“The room was full of men, and suddenly that Scripture came flooding back to my mind. Instead of standing on a stage offering myself to a bunch of men, I was offering myself to God as an instrument of His righteousness.”