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Liz Curtis Higgs: Bad Girl Turns Good
She was in a pit and couldn't climb out—until God lent a hand.

At 27, Liz Curtis Higgs, author and motivational speaker, knew she had reached the bottom of her pit. She was consistently drunk, waking up in cars and apartments of people she didn't know. How had things come to this?

Liz Curtis Higgs

Born Ruth Elizabeth Higgs, Liz was the youngest of six children and was raised in Lititz, Pennsylvania. At an early age, she attended the Lititz Moravian Church. Her mother went on occasion, but mostly dropped her off at the door. Her dad, a self-taught engineer, had no interest in church. Ruthie, as Liz was then known, sang in the choir and trimmed the beeswax candles for Advent. "The Gospel was preached, but I missed it," she says. "It was just a place you went on Sunday, like you went to Girl Guides on Tuesday."

Liz was a voracious reader as a child. "In the summer, I would inhale a book a day. I went to the library and took out seven books. A week later, I returned them for another seven."

At ten she completed her first novel. It was a full-length Nancy Drew-style mystery, written in a lined notebook, with a typo in the first sentence. "No one read it except for my friends and teachers," Liz giggles. "I wrote it in 1965 in three months. Oh, that I could do that today!"

From age ten to 17, she wrote ten novels. "They were awful," says Liz, grimacing. "They did show that I was willing to invest time in telling a story."

Good by day, bad by night

Church faded into the background of Liz's life. She hung out with a faster crowd. This led to endless nights on a bar stool, dangerous games with illegal drugs and a promiscuous lifestyle.

"I was determined to be a 'bad girl,' and I was!" says Liz. "I ran up 12 credit cards to their maximum limit trying to keep myself on cocaine, speed and pot and convinced myself that sleeping around was okay when I was drunk."

After high school, Liz attended college, majoring in music and vocal performance. "I love to sing," she says, "But didn't have that extra measure of talent to be a professional."

After partying all year and wasting her parents' money, she quit the program, working as a teller in a bank and then as a bookkeeper for a law office. "I had 'good girl' jobs, but would be wild at night."

Overnight delivery

Returning to college part-time, Liz enrolled in a broadcasting course. She did a weekly jazz show at the college radio station. Someone recommended she contact her local broadcaster for a job. When she did, she was hired on the spot.

Ruthie, her given name, wasn't suitable for the midnight to six a.m. rock-and-roll show. She quickly became Liz Curtis, using her mother's first name, Elizabeth, and her father's middle name, Curtis.

Outside of work, her values continued to plunge. "I was so drunk, I lost blocks of time and awoke to find I'd spent the night with yet another man I didn't know." Liz was in a pit and couldn't climb out.

By the fall of 1981, Liz was playing oldies at an AM station. A husband and wife team arrived in town to do th morning show. What these two talked about most was Jesus Christ. Even more amazing, they accepted Liz "as is." "Can you imagine what they must have thought when we men?" Liz smiles. "'Now here's a project!'"

It was Sunday, February 21, 1982, Liz's seventh visit to her friends' church. She sang in the choir. The service closed with the song, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. Liz stepped out of the alto section and down to the baptistery. God had delivered her from the gates of hell to the gates of heaven overnight.

Leap of faith

During Liz's ten years as a radio personality, she wrote and recorded hundreds of commercials and developed a following among local radio listeners. She was now getting invitations to speak to various church, civic and educational groups. By 1986, she was writing and presenting 80 programs a year. Liz, 32, was content to be a single Christian. Then, along came 34-year-old Bill Higgs.

"He was handsome, smart and a gentleman," says Liz, recalling their first encounter at a friend's wedding. When Bill asked her out, she was in a state of shock: "He was dating a former 'bad girl!'" At the end of the date, he shook her hand at the door. "I had never been on a date where it was a true date. Sadly, before I was a Christian, dating for me was 'Let's get together and have sex.'" Eight months later, Bill and Liz were married.

In 1987, she took a big leap of faith and left radio to pursue a full-time professional speaking career. At the same time, she returned to school, earning a BA in English.

Since 1986, she has presented more than 1,500 encouraging programs around the world. In 1995, she received the Council of Peers Award for Excellence from the National Speakers Association, becoming one of only 30 women in the world named to the Speaker Hall of Fame.

God in control

When Liz's audiences began asking her, "Do you have your speech material in a book?" she knew it was time to return to her first love—writing—and embark on a new chapter of her life. Non-fiction books for women came first, then children's books and, finally, at the turn of the 21st century, fiction.

Liz, 52, is now the author of 23 books. In the fall of 2006 her non-fiction book, Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life, was released.

"This is the most important book I have ever written," says Liz. "It answers the statement I hear constantly: 'I know God has forgiven me, but I can't forgive myself.'"

Liz and Bill share their 19th-century farmhouse in Louisville, Kentucky, with their two teenagers, Lilly, 17, and Matt, 19. Bill is Director of Operations for Liz's speaking and writing office.

Her ministry is to women; her calling is specific. "God is in control and I'm not." She states. "Left to my own devices, I cannot hope to be a 'good girl.' Only by His grace."

To learn more about Liz, visit her website

Linda Leigh is a staff writer and proofreader for Faith & Friends.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, October 2006.




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