Raped by father at the age of six, Lisa Luby Ryan's childhood was destroyed. She thought what followed in her life - affairs, abortions, divorce, and neglect - could never be forgiven by God. But revealing her secrets to the Almighty Forgiver gave her the only thing she had ever wanted: true and unfailing love.
"I would crawl under the sheets and make Barbie houses all day long and created the most incredible houses you've ever seen," Lisa remembered.
What is merely child’s play for many became a survival skill for Lisa Luby Ryan. More than anything else, Lisa wanted peace and order in her home. So she spent her childhood creating the perfect home.
"Outside of my little world there was no order. It was chaotic,” Lisa said. “You never knew what to expect. You never knew when the door would open - what to expect.”
Lisa’s mother fell in and out of love with a variety of men; many of them controlling and abusive.
“Secrets were a very big priority in our family. There were so many men in and out of my mother's life that you couldn't talk about the prior man,” Lisa said. “With looking good, you had to keep secrets. You had to make things up.”
Her father went through his share of women while molesting Lisa on the weekends.
“At the age of six, when your father, the one you adore and worship and you want to be noticed by, when he violates you like that - it distorts everything,” Lisa said. “And yet as I got older, that's how I knew that you showed a guy you loved him; through a sexual relationship.”
At 16, Lisa’s sexual activity resulted in pregnancy. Her mother quickly made arrangements for an abortion.
“Within 48 hours she had scooped myself, my boyfriend and my stepfather in a car and we drove to Boston. Had a procedure, went and ate lunch and came home. It was never talked about,” Lisa said. “It's one thing to have guilt and shame about what others have done to you. It's another to have guilt and shame about choices you've made in life. But who was I going to talk to it about?”
The terminated pregnancy was just another well-kept secret. Once Lisa left home, she felt she had more control over her destiny. She wanted to create a better life for herself.
“I had these great visions of I was going to be a different mom. I was going to be a different wife. I was going to do everything different,” Lisa said.
She married, but her hope for a better life was short-lived. Her family looked a lot like her childhood home.
“I was a wreck. I was not healthy emotionally,” she said. “How could I choose someone that was healthy? I think that I chose someone who could fulfill what I was used to.”
Seven years and two sons later, Lisa left her husband for another man, just like her mom did so many times.
“The next guy was going to be better. He was going to be the one that could love me and could fulfill my wants and needs,” Lisa said. “I don't even know what those wants and needs were. I just knew I wanted something fulfilled.”
Lisa became an interior designer. One couple hired her to create seating to accommodate 26 people in their home every Sunday.
“She goes, ‘Won't you come to church with me and come to the house and have dinner with us?’ Well immediately I was, ‘Yes.’ It wasn't to go to church,” Lisa said. “It was to go and see what 26 family members did. What does a normal family do? To see them experience the joy and the laughter, the concern for each other, the care for each other, the compassion for each other. It was like Wow! This is good.”
This was that “something more” that Lisa was searching for. In the beginning, she went to church for appearance sake. Now she wanted something genuine.
“There was a real powerful presence drawing me,” she said. “Billy, our pastor, every Sunday would give sermons and I did everything I could just to stay in my seat, act like this was about everybody else. Finally, one Sunday I just raised my hands. And I said, ‘Billy, it's OK to use my name,’ because I knew that God was talking to me personally. There was a room of hundreds of people, but He was calling me. That's how my process, my relationship of coming to the Lord started.”
Lisa began praying with Joyce, a new friend she met at church.
“She was probably the first person that I ever trusted. We would just pray. There were just some times that we wouldn't talk. She'd pray in the Spirit. I would just cry,” Lisa said. “The Holy Spirit so knew what I needed and where I needed to go.”
During one of those prayer times, Lisa felt safe enough to reveal her deepest regrets and fears.
“They were not going to give up on me and they were not going to let me keep one thing hidden in the crevices of my heart,” she said.
Lisa confessed that she had aborted not one, but three children.
“My biggest fear in all of it was: the one person I trusted in my life was Joyce, the one that my hope was in was Jesus; and I feared that they would reject me. That's why I couldn't tell them. But what was amazing was after I told them, they were both still there,” Lisa said. “All of a sudden I realized that I was pure; that there was nothing that was hidden anymore. I walked out of there that day a different person. I looked different. I walked lighter. The grass was greener. God forgave me. And once He forgave me, that's all that mattered. Then I could forgive myself. I know that I have three children in Heaven waiting for me and I'll have a life with them one day.”
The new freedom gave her a new outlook on life.
“I have to trust God and I have to let Him be my husband, my father, my Lord and Savior. Everything that I need to see in a man I need to see in Him first,” Lisa said. “Now I had the energy to be a mom. I wasn't wasting that effort to be something that I wasn't. I feel like he was allowing me to be who He created me to be. So my design business flourished. I love how God knew when I was just four, five, six, and built Barbie houses underneath that table, He’d make it into an amazing living today.”
Lisa married Jay Ryan, someone who helped her raise her two boys in a godly home.“To have a man who loves me and values me for who I am is something that I'm grateful for,” she said. “That's God. That's not me. That's God. This is who I am. This is it. This is everything I've got; and that He's not going to reject me. He's not going to leave me. He's still there tonight when I go to pray. God is good and He is faithful and He will forgive you