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"I was supposed to be aborted," says Elizabeth Paige. "My mother and father were having trouble in their marriage and they were about to give her the anesthesia and she sneezed."
That sneeze literally saved Elizabeth's life. Doctors were concerned that her mother had an infection, and so they refused to perform the abortion.
"I don't know why I was told that as a child, but knowing that sent me through a whirlwind of emotions as a child-sent me into self hatred, not understanding my purpose in life, feeling unwanted," she says.
Those feelings intensified after her parents' divorce. Elizabeth lived with her mother until she was 13. Then she and her brother moved in with their dad-but he was gone months at a time on business.
Says Elizabeth, "He would leave $100 in the cookie jar. That was for emergencies. Back in those days, no one even checked on us. We just learned to grow up quickly. Our house was party central, and everyone would come there. I would get stoned all of the time. I would go to all my classes stoned. I would drink like a fish, and I could out-drink all of my brother's high school football team. That was my way of gaining popularity and respect."
By the time she was 15, Elizabeth was dating a 26-year-old man. Other boyfriends followed.
"I had never an intention to be a virgin when I got married-to me that was the reason behind my parents' problems," she says. "I wanted to learn everything I could so I could please somebody more. But I felt used and I felt cheated and I felt dirty."
Elizabeth got involved with an older married man when she was 19. They began living together, and soon Elizabeth found herself pregnant. She was excited about the baby and couldn't wait to tell her mother.
"We were walking through the mall and all the children were lined up to sit on Santa's knee, and my mother leaned over me and kind of elbowed me and said, 'I can't wait to be a grandmother!' " Elizabeth recalls. "So I leaned over and said, 'Well, Mom, you're not going to have to wait very long. I'm pregnant!' At first she seemed happy. Then I think the reality sunk in and she was furious at me."
Elizabeth's mother became furious that her unmarried daughter was pregnant.
"She insisted on an abortion," Elizabeth explains. "It sent me into a whirlwind of confusion wondering about myself-if there were regrets in her about having me. It made me question the love. Would she love me if I didn't do what she wanted?"
So reluctantly, Elizabeth had the abortion.
"It was greater pain than I would have imagined I could live through," she says. "It felt like my insides were absolutely blown up by a grenade. I was absolutely crushed. I knew I had committed murder. I went home and I took my boyfriend's 9 mm semi automatic and I put it to my head. All I could think of is I just had to end it."
But she didn't end it. Instead she continued in a relationship that was quickly becoming abusive.
"It just started out with insults: he told me I was stupid; I was ugly; I shouldn't have been born. And I couldn't argue with him. I felt all those things about myself. Then it got more intense-he'd slap me, push me, kick me. My neighbor across the highway told me later he could hear the sound of my head smacking into the brick walls."
Eventually, Elizabeth fled from her boyfriend, and before long she met another man.
"When I met Paul, he was so handsome and had everything going for him, so when he asked me out, I gave him a list of what I considered my unforgivable sins and tried to deter him. But he didn't deter easily and wanted to go out with me anyway," she says.
"The stories that she had told me weren't worse than things I had done or been involved in," says Paul, "so it really didn't matter to me. We were dating and we were drinking and partying and doing all sorts of things and moved in together. We tried to live life to the fullest in the world's sense-the best food, the best wine, the best restaurants-but really there was such an emptiness inside. I always had this pull on my life, and I knew that all the best in the world didn't satisfy me and I was hungry for more."
Then one day, Paul bought a truck from a man who asked him, 'Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior?'
Paul says, "It was like an arrow pierced my heart and I could hardly speak. I started to weep, and he shared the Gospel with me. Later we went to a Bible study and continued there."
Elizabeth reacted differently.
"The man actually made me mad," she remembers. "He infuriated me-all the things he was teaching, so I went home and I dusted off my Bible and I said, I'm going to prove this man wrong."
The more Elizabeth read God's Word, the more she knew it was true. So, like Paul, she asked Jesus into her heart.
"Everything changed. All the fears, all the doubts, all the hatred toward myself and to others just vanished. He poured over me with His love and His forgiveness, and I couldn't have even believed that that would have happened. I thought, When I talk about telling Paul about my unforgivable sins, that's what I felt like," she says. "To me I was past the point of being helped; I had done too much. I was too dirty, but He just flooded me with His love and mercy. I didn't realize that it was possible, but He gave me forgiveness for every one who'd hurt me and a love which I didn't think was possible."
Once they became Christians, Elizabeth and Paul married. Then not long after, Elizabeth got an unusual word from the Lord.
"I was praying and fasting, and I just asked the Lord, 'What do you want from my life? I'll do anything.' About three days later, He answered me just as clearly as I ever heard the Lord speak: 'You will adopt two children from another country.' And He absolutely melted my heart for His children, the orphans of the world. He has gifted us and blessed us with two of the most beautiful, wonderful children. We are all following the Lord as a family."
Today Elizabeth is a budding author as well as a busy wife and mother. She and Paul are developing a Christian camp and Bible school where older orphans can come to America and learn life skills. Most importantly, they can learn about the love of Jesus Christ-like Snez-hanna and Mikhail.
"God gave them a second chance, and they get it, like He's done with all of us but some of us don't get it, don't appreciate it," she says. "He's painted His picture, God's picture of grace on them and on me because we don't deserve it. None of us deserves it, but He's given it to us. And now they're beautiful. They're wonderful."
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