Humans of North Harbor #2: Elaine DeFreitas

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

Walking with God

Elaine grew up in a Christian home in Vermont.  She was a part of a large Christian and Missionary Alliance Church which was unusual in New England.  However, at school, in her community and even among her friends there was a clear message that did not support Christianity.  Education and intelligence were highly valued, and the assumption was that if you were smart you would be smart enough to know that God doesn’t exist or at least wasn’t necessary when you had science.  This dichotomous message of faith in God at home and in church, but then also being educated and science oriented and close with many people who weren’t Christians, forced her to own her faith and find a way to reconcile the two.

Her faith in God and her interest in science followed her into graduate school where she explains meeting Jesus for the first time.  She had very high expectations of herself, a self-described perfectionist, and projected those feelings onto God.  Even though she knew Jesus loves us no matter what, she felt as if God expected perfection from her and was disappointed by anything less.  This led to a cycle of fear and anxiety over failure, then shame for feeling anxious (operating on an assumption that Christians are always peaceful and joyful), then more anxiety of having feelings that she thought were disappointing to God.  

She eventually sought the help of a counselor who helped her anxiety by starting with her view of God.  She expanded her view of God by introducing her to a wider scope of Christian thinking, authors like Rob Bell and Anne Lamont.  Then, her therapist helped her separate true guilt over sin from self-imposed shame.  When the fear and anxiety seemed too much, she was encouraged to take it to Jesus, and let him handle it.  This was a terrifying thought at first.  

She knew Jesus loved her and was all-powerful, but didn’t truly believe he would want to be in her mess with her.  

But one evening she sat down in her apartment and cried out to Jesus with all of her fears, anxiety, pain, and shame.  And He showed up.  He was nothing like she expected. He was non-judgemental and protective and loving.  That day, she says, her anxieties lost their power over her because she now knew He was more powerful.  He was not at all disappointed in her, but loved her and wanted her to come to him with her mess; not rely on herself to be fixed up in order to be in His presence.  Her confidence is now in Jesus and not in her own ability to attain perfection.

A few years later she got engaged, graduated with her doctorate, moved to Maine, got her professional licence, started a job, got a dog, bought a house, and got married all within a year.  The next year they had their first child.  It was all she ever wanted, but a lot of stressful life changes all at once were also very difficult.  She struggled with feeling unhappy, and shameful for feeling unhappy with so many good things, and as if her happiness didn’t really matter in God’s grand plan anyway.  She spent a lot of time talking to God and to other people and felt a sense that she was supposed to walk with God through it with honesty about how she was feeling.  She wanted to stay home with her baby, but financially this was not possible.  At the same time, her husband was gaining passion in construction and alternative and energy efficient building, which he could not pursue in their current situation.  They also wanted to be able to give and be more generous with their money.  

All of this led them to decide to sell their house.  She describes having difficulty letting go of her well-laid life plans, of feeling as if changing paths was somehow a failure, but trusting God and walking with Him through this choice.  They ended up moving into a smaller house which allowed her to be home with her kids, allowed more generosity in how they spent their money and gave them room to pursue interests and passions.  God taught her a lot through this move about letting go of the pride and self-worth she put in her career and her ability to be self-reliant.  She learned about having faith enough in God to listen to her own heart and about His ability to provide and care for her.  Years later, she is continuing to learn lessons from this experience about how it’s not about the decisions she makes, but about her heart turning more toward God through them.

Elaine has been coming to North Harbor since she moved to Maine in 2010.  North Harbor has been instrumental in the formation of their family from Dan giving them premarital counseling, her husband becoming a Christian at North Harbor, and now raising a family in this community.   She loves that she is constantly challenged in this community to expand her view of God.

Watch the video below to hear her full story.


Elaine lives in Bowdoinham with her husband, Paul, and their two children.  She is a mostly-at-home mom and a part-time pediatric physical therapist.  She is a member of our Board of Directors at North Harbor.

I I allow myself to be honest and vulnerable with God?  What do I believe His reaction is or would be when I am?
I wonder...who in my life am I able to be honest about struggles with?  What benefit does this provide?  What role does God play in these relationships?  What role do these relationships play in my view of God?
I I believe that how I feel or what I want matters to God?  How does this impact my relationship with God?
I does Elaine’s story confirm/change/add to my view and feelings towards God?


Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at}] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have!