The Story of Leyl Valdez
As told to Grace Roscia Estuesta

The prayers my lola uttered, the worship songs that played in our house, and the Word of God ministered to me and kept me. I believed this birthed my encounters with the Lord. Through it all, I believed that God pursued us. God was really after us. He was after me. But God’s work in me remained hidden until I transitioned from elementary to high school, and when I went to camp in church.

A Father to the Fatherless

Prior to the camp, my Kuya Yash, who was on the camp’s worship team, had been praying for me. He prayed for my breakthrough from fatherlessness. When Kuya Yash sang “Just Like You” by Jason Upton, I felt the sweetness of the Heavenly Father’s love embrace me.

I desire to be like you, like any son or daughter.
I want to be like my Father.
You promised to never forsake me, so I’ll risk it all if you’ll make me like You.
I desire to be like you, like any son or daughter.
I want to be like my Father.

You stand beside me just waiting while I try to go it alone.
Smiling, You say, “Son, come here, won’t you let me just help you.”

But frustrated I try to make it cause I’ve just got something to prove
Not knowing it is my weakness that perfects your power.

-from Jason Upton’s album, Faith (2001)

In that moment, I got healed from my fatherlessness. I experienced God as my Father. I wept while I was aware that the Lord held me. This led to my burning desire for intimacy with Jesus. I became hungry and thirsty for Jesus, and these enabled me to read the Bible from cover to cover.

Leyl of Judah

As I studied the Bible, God made me treasure and see the value of  integrity and purity. My lola and mother also echoed the importance of purity, so when I entered a relationship with Judah Valdez, I carried these values with me and did not have a rebellious heart.

Judah was a church mate, and we admitted our feelings for each other through texting. We were not able to let our parents know immediately about our relationship, but at the same time, we didn’t want to pursue it without their blessing. My eldest brother found out about it and told my mom. She was outraged. 

We were in a financial crisis as a family at this point in my life, and I could have just easily allowed myself to act on my feelings for Judah. However, I surrendered these to the Lord’s will and I inquired of Him about this through Scripture. I informed Judah of all these, and we submitted our relationship and our intentions to our leaders and families because we did not want an us-against-the-world kind of love story. So Judah and I waited for the Lord’s timing and honored our leaders and submitted ourselves to our parents.

After some time, the Lord confirmed the relationship to me through a Bible verse in Psalm 78:68: But I have chosen Judah. 

I treasured the Word of God and His Word carried me in every season of my life. His Word helped me value my relationship with God and with men. This gave room for the Lord to move in our lives and eventually, Judah won my mom’s favor and even the church’s. And so in 2018, I married Judah.

My father was not present on my wedding day. But months before our wedding, I had a chance to meet with him again. While having dinner, I courageously asked him about the issue he had with me. That’s when he repeated the lie he told me back when I was in high school and said that he loved me even if I wasn’t his child. I felt like I was in a nightmare, and I thought my heart would burst at that moment. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit made me remember a prophetic word released over me back in 2012: “The obstacles in your life are temporary, but I AM permanent, says the Lord.” Right at that moment, I felt the big, warm hands of God, my Father, resting on my back.

Fast forward to our wedding day–even if my earthly father didn’t walk me down the aisle, my Heavenly Father was the one who did! He comforted me and gave me strength to forgive and love my earthly father. 

Abba’s Girl

Was I truly healed?

There was a pinch in my heart when a friend asked about my name one Saturday. I didn’t want to ignore the pain, but I couldn’t believe that after all these years, it still hurt. I thought that it was over and that I was already okay.

I sought the Lord about this, and he led me to Isaiah 62. I sensed the Holy Spirit ask me, “Where do we find precious jewels?” I answered: in the dark where they need to be dug and mined. I sensed in my spirit  God saying that even if my earthly father named me Leyl – “away from the light,” God got His hands muddy and dirty to dig me out. He hammered the rocks just to mine me away from the shadows and into the light. After this revelation, I felt waves and waves of His love filling my heart, and at that moment, I was found by Him again.

Indeed, it was God all along who pursued me and made me whole in every season. This may not be the typical story of someone brought from darkness to light, but God, Who Himself is light, pursued me in the darkness and called me His.

God made a way to draw me to Himself. God lit up the way for me to walk on. The grace of God, through His Word and Spirit, gave me strength to forgive my father and see him in the eyes of Jesus–a child of God. I never knew I could forgive him the way I did, but the seed of intimacy that I had cultivated with the Lord grew more in my heart. I was being transformed to be more like Jesus in my abiding with Him.

It was like that day again in the room filled with love notes– where the Good Father sang over a younger Leyl, making me identify with the song of Jars of Clay: 

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
Dull the nails that still remains
More and more I need You now
I owe You more each passing hour
Battle between grace and pride
Gave up not so long ago

So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash my feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
Sin-soaked heart, make it Yours

-from “World’s Apart” by Jars of Clay (1995) 

In the absence of my earthly father, the Lord presented Himself as a Father to me through Jesus’ work on the cross. And just like that moment in my room, I felt the unexplainable and overwhelming presence of the God I grew up with. This time, I knew Him and could count on His return.

Leyl Valdez is a wife, worship leader, and full time staff worker at Jesus’ Flock Gateway Church, Jesus Revolution Now, and Gateway House of Prayer. Her encounters with Jesus through worship and the Word fuel her to serve and minister. She enjoys spending time with her husband at home, especially during moments when he paints and she sings and plays the piano.

Grace Roscia Estuesta

Grace is a child of God and a lover of Him. She is a graduating student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Convergent Media Track) in Far Eastern University.