When I first met Greta, she struck me as a warm, kind and beautiful person. She was studying to become a hair stylist and lived down the hall from my sister. Fast forward a couple of years… My sister and her friends had asked me to lead a small group bible study. At the time, Greta wasn’t yet part of the group. Randomly one day, I asked my sister how Greta was doing, to which she replied that she hadn’t really seen her much since school. The next day, Greta showed up at the salon where my sister works – just to say hi – and that is when we invited her to join our group (Greta lives 40 minutes away from that salon and was only there because she was visiting another friend in town; the coincidence of my having asked about her not 24 hours earlier even struck my sister as completely crazy). I knew then that God had a little something planned for Greta; What I didn’t know, was that there was nothing LITTLE about it.
I later learned that Greta grew up in a very religious family; Her older siblings, cousins, parents and extended family all loved God, did well in school and were wonderful people. As the baby of the family, Greta was the only one who struggled with things like detention and going to some of the parties during high school. Somewhere within that timeframe, she found herself giving up. She felt like she would never be able to live up to the bar her family had set, and a dark vulnerability began to take over her heart.
One night at a party, she found herself talking to a guy whom she’d recognized from school. Things progressed between the two of them and the encounter quickly went from romantic to intense. The night swirled away from her as things began to blur – colors faded into black and white and everything seemed to go numb. When she awoke the next morning, she knew in her heart that something had gone terribly wrong.
A month and a half later, Greta took a pregnancy test only to stare in horror at the two, solid pink lines. She was pregnant. Her family was going to be in shock; her parents would never understand – how would she tell them? Would she even be able to go through with the pregnancy?? Thoughts stormed through her mind at a thousand miles an hour as she considered all of the options. Ultimately, it was just too much to take in. She quietly gathered all of the pain pills that she could find one evening, and swallowed over 300 of them. At that exact moment, an old boyfriend stopped by. He knew something was wrong the moment he saw her; She managed to mouth the words “took pills” before passing out on the bedroom floor.
She was later told in the hospital that had the ibuprofen she’d taken been Tylenol, death would have been inevitable. Coldly, a nurse also told her that she was pregnant and that if she attempted suicide again, she’d be thrown in jail. No one seemed to be seeing Greta in all of this, she thought, Couldn’t they see her pain?
Some time during the next few months, a strange peace came over Greta. As she told me her story later, she said that she knew that peace was God. Never before had she heard Him so clearly as He held her in His arms and told her that everything was going to be alright. That He had a plan; that He’d always had a plan and despite her pain, He would use her situation for the good. Greta chose a sweet family in a neighboring city and decided to give her baby girl up for adoption.
As I look at Greta now, I see a warrior. I see someone who has stared darkness right in the face, demolished it in the name of Jesus and still has the sweet demeanor of an angel. Someone who has conquered her past and now stomps, vehemently, on the enemy’s turf by speaking boldly to teens and other young adults about her story. Greta has a light to her that only shines brighter over time and I know that God has some pretty – not so little – things planned for her life. There is hope in her eyes when she looks up and proclaims, “God used my baby’s life to save mine.”
Photography by Naomi Goff.
Model is Greta Guldseth.