Introducing the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Blog!

Welcome!

This blog is a multi contributor effort meant to be both an inspiration for those who struggle with their mental health, and a teaching tool. A way to help those who want to be involved in helping to break the stigma that surrounds mental health.

All contributors are a part of the Mental Health Team or National Team of Celebrate Recovery. A Christ centered recovery program helping people find healing from their Hurts, Hang-Ups & Habits. Celebrate Recovery will never claim to diagnose, treat, or cure any kind of mental health issue. However for those, like myself, who do struggle with their mental health and need a safe place to be open in ALL areas of life, it is our prayer that you will know that it is ok to struggle, you are not alone in your struggle, and you do have a reason to hope!

This blog post serves as the official “Welcome” to the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health information blog. We will be posting here weekly, and we invite you to subscribe and follow our blog.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them here or email me at mncrnate@gmail.com

 

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Nate Stewart, National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

Hurry up and Rest

Today marks day 210 in which I have worked straight, and I’m talking 7 days a week. I don’t say this to brag or to boast, or to emit pity or sympathy. I say this because if I am going to work my recovery, then I need to continue to follow the steps. Step 5 states that “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Principle 4, “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.”

You see, I made a conscious choice to work 7 days a week because I wanted to get through my graduate degree as quickly as I could, and to get a lower tuition bill because let’s be honest here: education is very expensive and if carrying a full course load was going to save me a lot of money, then hey, let’s do that right? So for 2 1/2 years I’ve been attending school full time and working full time. About a year and a half into it, I began to burn out, become weary, yet I refused to back down and take a break. So I pushed myself, ignored my pain detector, and ignored the increasing warning signs from my body that I was pushing a little too hard. I just knew that I could manage a full time work schedule, full time graduate school schedule, part time CR volunteer schedule, and still maintain my home and family life. I put off spending time with my parents and my sister because I knew that as soon as I got finished, they’d still be there and I’d have plenty of time after school to do it. So about a year and a half into it, I was really falling apart. My pain was so loud at that point yet I had ignored it for so long that it became a necessary way of life. It became a comfort. God screams to us in our pain…yet I was completely ignoring it. Little did I know what message God had for me.

The well known verse of Matthew 11:28 “Come me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” I kept hearing the whispers of that verse yet I refused to acknowledge it. Rest? I couldn’t rest, I had to keep going! In my stubbornness, I was in denial that I needed to rest. There’s no rest for the weary, right? I had a goal, a plan, and nothing was going to stop me, apparently not even God, as I stubbornly continued down that path, refusing to rest. In fact, I didn’t even know what it meant to rest. On the seventh day God rested, after He had finished all His work. I misconstrued this in my mind to reassure myself that I could not stop until I was finished. But…I failed to define what it was that needed to be finished. It was a cycle of insanity…that would never end.

After those 1 1/2 years, things began to happen in my life that blind-sighted me, things I never thought would have happened. I wanted to end my life. I wanted to end my life at a time it was revealed that my Mom was fighting for hers. Talk about a heavy blow. I was pretty much forced to slow down at that point. God yet again saved me from myself. Instead of focusing so much on myself, I was asked to follow a different path, a different plan than the one I had already set my heart on. God asked me to walk my mother to Him, and told me that I would be walking back without her. It was as if I was living out Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 

You would think that would have slowed me down…but it did not. Still, I stubbornly pressed on until my body physically began to break down. I began to get sick. I began to struggle deeply with my mental health and emotional regulation. I rarely get sick. However recently, I found myself out of commission for a full week with a very nasty virus which ended up in pneumonia. I had no choice then, I HAD to rest. I physically could not get up anymore. That’s what God had been trying to tell me all along. I’ve been so busy trying to play God and follow my own path, that I have failed to listen out for Him and His messages to me. God did not give up on me. I finally asked him what it meant to rest, and He told me. And now I confess this fault in my stubbornness to listen to God and the truths that He had for me. I have found myself astray and now I am working my way back to making a daily time with God.

For me, to rest means that I need to take the time out of my busy schedule to talk with God, to listen to what He has to say. To ask Him for discernment for HIS will in my life, not the will that I had been executing on my own. I’ve been trying to do this on my own for so long I forgot that I had left God behind. Instead of listening when God told me to rest, I stubbornly told God that it wasn’t good enough, that there was more I could do. I had begun to play God. And this, my friends, is what I am admitting to you today. It’s time to revisit that step and take that daily inventory.

 

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If I am to be more like Christ, then I need to honor Him by resting. Thank you for letting me share.

April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor

 

Infallible Fortress

I’ve spent a huge majority of my life in isolation. I’ve felt like a weed among beautiful flowers. I’ve tried to please others, to figure out where I belong, and to fill a deep void within my soul that seemingly can never be filled no matter how much Earthly stuff I shove into it. I’ve worshiped false idols, idolized other people, and turned my back in anger, pain, and frustration against God during my darkest times. I’ve felt lonely, alone, afraid, worn out, exhausted, and apathetic at times. I fear being rejected. I fear being abandoned. I fear being replaced. Growing up, my environment taught me to believe that it was every person for themselves, that people were most likely going to hurt me, and that I should just save myself the trouble of working towards a relationship or friendship with someone because it was going to end horribly.

In my isolation, hurt, loneliness, and pain, I had built up a wall, a fortress. A massive structure so thick and so large, with no doors and no windows, that no one or no thing could be allowed in. I had felt the sting of the words thrown like daggers towards me. I had felt the solid hardness of the cold stares and glares like rocks hurled towards me. I had endured the overbearing extreme temperatures of the heated anger and the ice-cold rejection of those who had claimed to be my friend. So what else could I do but protect myself from those attacks? I even built a moat around that fortress.

Over time, I realized that not only did that fortress keep out all the stuff I wanted to keep out, but it was keeping out all the stuff that God wanted to give me, that God wanted to show me. I was keeping out God’s love. Very recently I was made aware of the fact that I still have that fortress to this day, and it’s still standing. I have found myself cowering in that fortress, trying to protect myself from the pain of change. I had asked God to change me, but what I have not been prepared for is the amount of pain it would take to fulfill that change. I had not realized just how far I had stepped back into my fortress until a loving soul bluntly pointed it out to me. And of course I took it gracefully, giving them a look of disbelief, questioning the validity of their words, refusing to take them seriously. In fact, I might have lovingly told them that they were sadly mistaken and that they were wrong. In all actuality, I was lying right to myself. I guess that’s the beauty of denial.

Shortly after that I had a visitor come knocking on my fortress. I refused to let them in. I didn’t ask who they were, I didn’t look out to see who it was, I didn’t even bother to acknowledge their presence. I went deeper into my fortress and silently hoped they would go away and leave me alone. I didn’t want to go out and play. After a while, after I thought the visitor was gone, I came back out a little further towards the door to enjoy the peace and quiet. I came out, and then I heard a soft knocking at the door. What? It’s been this long and they are still here? I froze, not wanting to move, still wanting to pretend that I didn’t hear anything. After what seemed like hours, I heard a soft voice call out to me,

“April, why are you hiding from me? Why are you afraid? Why are you ashamed to come let me in?”

I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. There was nothing that I could say that would make sense of what was going on inside my head. Again, I waited, telling myself that I hadn’t heard anything. Again, after what seemed like hours, I heard again,

“April, let me in.”

Me: “I can’t.”

“All you have to do is let me in. Just let me in.”

Me: “I don’t want you to see what the inside looks like. I don’t want you to see all the chaos, the clutter, the disorganized mess which lies about. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say that I have not been doing a very good job as of late with maintaining this place. I can’t allow you to see what a horrible mess I’ve made. So if you would please just come back some other time, maybe it will be better then. Please, not now. I’m not ready for you right now.”

Another long bout of silence ensued, and I thought my visitor had left. So I settled back down in the darkest corner of my fortress, and closed my eyes. Until I heard this:

“My child, I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t care what a mess it is. I don’t care that it’s not picture perfect. I’m not here to look at some picture perfect place as in those places I don’t belong. There’s nothing for me there. But here, among the chaos, and the mess, and the clutter, THIS IS WHERE I BELONG. You see, I’m here to help you clean it up. I’m here to sit with you when you need to take breaks. I’m here to do some of the harder things for you. I’m here to fill that hole you’ve been trying to fill, the hole that was created just for Me. I’m here to remind you that you don’t have to do this alone.

“My child, my love for you overflows the oceans. Overwhelms the skies. Lights up the darkness. My love for you moves mountains. Fills the air with beautiful sound. All for you. I know you feel unloved, unimportant, alone, afraid, and that you want to give up. I hear the pain in your heart as if it was my very own. My child, I’m not here because you’ve got it all together. I’m here because I want to be here. Because I want to draw you close to me and provide you the love and protection that you need. Take my hand, my child.

“When you feel unloved, unimportant, undeserving, and insecure about your place and your purpose in this world, I need you to remember one thing. I NEED YOU TO REMEMBER TO WHOM YOU BELONG. That, my child, will never change.”

 

It’s amazing what we hear when we open our hearts and our souls to God.

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April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor

To be seen or not to be seen…that is the question…

I am definitely not a person who wants to be seen, and often I don’t want to be heard. In fact, I’m quite comfortable sitting within the shadows, hanging out in the background, doing the behind-the-scenes work. I’ve never been one who has wanted to be in the spotlight. I’ve never wanted the credit, to be called out publicly, or to put myself out there. I’ve been helping Nate out with the Initiative for a year now, and I’ve only just now started to put my name on things. Originally I had asked Nate not to call me out or give me credit for things because I didn’t feel worthy enough to be recognized. I didn’t feel that I was that important to be recognized. Fear has held me back. Fear that I wasn’t going to be accepted. Fear that I wasn’t good enough. Fear that I was going to mess up, do something wrong. In fact, I didn’t even want to put my name on the bottom of these blog posts, but I kinda had to.

The irony in what I had set out to do, to hide in the background, is that God didn’t call me to be silent. God didn’t call me to be in the background, in the shadows. God called me exactly for that purpose…to be seen and to be heard. And when I say this, I don’t mean in a way that is flashy, or all about myself, or self-centered. What I mean by this is that God has called me to share my story, share my testimony, share my passion. Through my story, through my pain, God is writing my story not so that it can be put on a shelf, but so that it can be taken up and read, and passed along for others to read. When they read my story, they are going to be reading about God. So if I continue to hide in the background, in the shadows, then I am ultimately hiding God, and He recently called me out on that. How can I shine God’s light when I am reluctant to show it?

If it’s one thing that I have learned throughout my recovery journey, it’s that vulnerability begets vulnerability. However, with vulnerability comes risk, and it’s terrifying to overcome that risk. It takes courage to overcome that risk in order to bear our hearts, our truths, our feelings, our story. It takes courage to come face to face with our fears, our denial, and to embrace the painful journey of recovery, of change. It takes vulnerability to stand up and ask for what we need. All too often vulnerability is seen as weakness, portrayed as something in which exposes us to being destroyed. Yet, it’s that same willingness to risk vulnerability that shows our willingness to trust God. To be faithful.

It is through our vulnerabilities that we are saying to God, “Here I am God, and I am trusting you. I am trusting you not to destroy me. I am trusting you to heal whatever inside me is broken, and to heal the pain and the hurt that has built up within these cracked walls. ” You see, when I share, or when I talk, or when I put myself out there, I have no idea what the outcome is going to be. I could say something and knock it out of the park, or I could share something and hear crickets chirping sweetly in the background. Either way, it’s me being vulnerable, continuing to trust the process of recovery. It is through my vulnerability that I am able to explore my darkness, and expose it to the healing power of the light. I cannot heal what I cannot see. And God cannot effectively heal what I refuse to show Him. And others cannot see the light of Christ within me if I remain in the background, in the shadows, unseen.

Armed with that knowledge, I began to step out of my comfort zone and further into the vulnerability zone, quite like I am doing writing this blog post. I think my first step to being more vulnerable began with my trip to the East Coast Summit. There I sat, in a room full of people I don’t know, and all I wanted to do was sit in a corner, away from everyone, yet I found myself at a table pretty close to the front of the room. I sat and listened as I heard my name called out in front of hundreds. Again during that same day, my name was called out and I remember shaking my head in disbelief. I didn’t deserve to have my name mentioned! During the mental health workshop, Nate was talking about a mental health champion and then I guess something came over him and he called me out and drew attention to me, giving me as an example for the other mental health champions who had attended the workshop. I distinctly remember him saying that he was going to be in so much trouble for that… I think that’s the exact moment that it finally hit me. That I couldn’t hide anymore. That I needed to be vulnerable and allow myself to be an example, to allow others to put a name to a face, to allow others to come up and ask me questions. To be vulnerable and lead by example. It’s not just about getting all the credit, it’s about being the hands and feet of Christ. Being available to be used as God needs me to be. (I guess I should also clarify that no, he did not get in trouble for calling me out although the verdict is still out on that. I should probably thank him for doing it.)

I’ve started to put my name on posts that I help out with. I’ve started to receive feedback. I’ve started to receive questions and comments that if I had not put my name out there, people would not know that I am a resource to reach out to. It helps remind Nate that he doesn’t have to do everything alone. That he doesn’t bear the full responsibility. I’ve also started sharing other parts of my story, parts which I’ve kept hidden. Being vulnerable has allowed me to connect with others that I would not have connected with otherwise. My vulnerability allows God to reach that many more. I can only imagine how much more is going to happen with my new-found vulnerability.

I must be vulnerable to ask for what I need. To be able to reach those that God wants to reach through my story. To shine God’s light for others to see. Vulnerability is courage. It takes courage to tell my story with my whole heart.

April Brantley, CR Mental Health X-Factor

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Not what I planned

When I was younger I never imagined that I would be living in Duluth MN….married…and a father. I saw myself more as a bachelor living in a major city. Chicago or New York maybe. What I have now is not what I planned.

I love the energy that a major city offers. The hustle and bustle is something that makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger, greater. I remember as a kid sitting on the front porch of my Grandparent’s home in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago. Even when the Cubs were not playing there seemed to always be something going on. People coming and going. Cars driving down the street, often times too fast for my Grandfather’s liking.

I remember walking down by Montrose beach, looking at the skyline and just being in awe. So many buildings, so many people, so much life. Of course, I assumed I would be single, then I could do as I pleased when I pleased.  I loved the city. I loved the idea of not having responsibilities.

That is so not what happened. My plans didn’t just change they went on a complete 180! I just found myself looking at farm land online. Farmland! I’m looking for a place with rolling hills, a spot for some horses and quiet. I don’t need anything extravagant. I want a small house, a shop to work in, and a front porch to sit with my family and watch the sun set in the evening. I want a simple life. The opposite of what I dreamed of growing up.

In fact at one point in my life I was so opposite of this I hated to look outside. My family growing up moved to a small town in Northwest Wisconsin. All I saw was forest in every direction. I hated those trees. I hated the town. It took me all of about a month after turning 18 to move to the city I am in now. A city that was meant to be a pit stop in the road on my way to the big city back in 1993.

So what happened? Mostly, it was because I met a girl. Women have a way of getting a man to change his mind about things. This one changed my mind about everything. I never wanted to stay in a smaller city. I didn’t want to have kids. I didn’t want to get married. I definitely never wanted to live on a horse ranch.

Two days ago I celebrated 19 years of marriage to that girl by driving home from the Celebrate Recovery Summit in Nashville Tennessee, with a teenager in the back seat and a travel trailer behind my pickup truck. I found myself looking at open fields wishing I owned one of them and wondering how I got to that point. And how in the world did I get to being happy about being at this point?

The answer is God.

My wife didn’t fix me. I didn’t develop a love for the land on a whim. I didn’t learn to enjoy the quiet. God changed my heart to not be afraid. I wanted busy to drown out the noise in my head. I wanted to stay single because it seemed safer than to risk being hurt. I was afraid to be a Dad because I didn’t want my child to turn out like me.

I am not a different person than I was growing up. I didn’t lose me by becoming a Christian, by sobering up, by risking to love. I became me. I am able to realize who I am. I am able to realize who God created me to be. And here is the strange part. I like it. I like who God is shaping me to be. I haven’t arrived yet, but I can see where I am going and I like it.

If you are struggling to see where you are going. If you are struggling to see hope. If you are struggling to see purpose. If you are struggling to see your worth. Please hear me when I say that it won’t always be this way. I will never promise that life will be perfect. It won’t. You will get hurt, you will have loss, you may have to live in a small city that somehow manages to get 13 months of winter every year. However, if you hang on, if you let God have control, you will find your way. Something I never thought I would do. But the reason I couldn’t see it was because I was looking for it in the opposite direction. What I wanted was not what God wanted. And what God wanted is so much better. Please don’t give up. If you are willing, over time, God will show you a way. It may be just a different way than you thought. A better way.

We can’t force happiness, but God can cultivate joy. Don’t give up.

Nate Stewart

National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

 

Faith through the Pain

We are in the middle of Celebrate Recovery East Coast Summit 2018 in Hendersonville, TN and let me tell you it has been quite an experience. I might also mention that this is also my very first Summit that I have attended since being in CR. I have always wanted to go, but never in my life would I have ever thought that I would be where I am now. I have listened to story after story from those who have come up to the CR Mental Health Initiative table and poured their heart out, spoke of their struggles and how they have overcome them. I have listened to uplifting devotionals and I have heard encouraging speakers. Within all that I have experienced this week, through my own personal struggles, I have come face to face with a recurring theme: I am in the place I am right now because it is right where God wants me.

I had a conversation with someone about the story of Job and how it seemed that perhaps God did not care much about the lives of those servants, Job’s family, and the others who were negatively affected by allowing them to die regardless of their faith in Him. It wasn’t fair. The person admitted that it was a good point, then posed this question to me…”Who was the one getting the lesson in the story?” In my haste I answered Job. However, I was then corrected and told that it was Satan who was receiving the lesson. God used Job and his faith to teach Satan a lesson, to show dominance in the war between good and evil. Job was right where God wanted him to be, struggling, grieving, in physical, mental, and emotional pain, and even questioning God Himself. Job was someone who was trying to live his life, yet he was afflicted with all of those losses and such deep pain. Here is the kicker…Job had done nothing wrong to bring on these terrible things, to have to lose everything. He had committed no sin or wrongdoing. Still he suffered greatly, suffered immensely.

Job endured this pain and loss for a great time. Finally, he spoke his pain out to God, questioning why he was born, why he had not died at birth. In my perception, one of the most powerful things he says in his spoken word is

“Why is light given to him who is in misery,
    and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not…”

This is often how I myself have felt. I have questioned my existence. I have questioned if I matter, if I have a purpose. I have questioned why I continue to have such painful situations happen in my life, why I continue to struggle deeply with my mental health. I have asked God How are you using me, God? Isn’t there a better way?” Yet, God has not changed what I am experiencing. He has not given me an easier path. And today, it really hit me as I sat and thought about the conversation I had today.

God had Job exactly where he wanted him. He knew Job had unshakable faith and would remain loyal, and even boasted to Satan about Job’s faith. Even though Job had faith, he still endured pain, still struggled, still questioned. God trusted Job. It wasn’t about Job at all…it was about God’s greater purpose. To continue to fight against evil. THAT was Job’s purpose. There was purpose for Job’s pain, in his suffering.

Therefore, I took a look at applying that to my own situation. I have asked God why. I have thought that I must have sinned or committed some form of wrongdoing for God to allow such persistent pain in my life, even though I have remained loyal. However, that is not true. Perhaps God does have me exactly where He needs me to be in the fight against evil. Perhaps my faith in Him is serving His greater purpose in reaching others, to be open and vulnerable about my struggles, about my mental health issues. To talk about it and share my testimony. Perhaps where I am in my struggle is going to save others from the effects of evil, from the effects of a silent struggle. See, the enemy wants us to say silent. I’m fighting against that silence. So if the enemy wants us to stay silent, then I am fighting the enemy. God is using my pain, my struggle to speak through me, to use me for His greater purpose. Everything that I have done up until now, everything that I have endured, has led me to this moment right here, in a position on the CR Mental Health Team, something that I never would have dreamed that I would be doing.

IT’S OKAY TO STRUGGLE. IT’S NOT OKAY TO STRUGGLE ALONE. TO STAY SILENT.

God has us exactly where He wants us. We just have to remember that just like Job, it’s not all about us. It’s about the greater purpose. It’s about spiritual warfare. It’s about having FAITH in a God who can speak things into existence.

We must continue to lead by example. Don’t stay silent. Keep talking through the struggle. Keep taking it one moment at a time. God uses the broken. He is also using us through our struggle with mental health issues, too.

 

April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor

Starbucks

I am sitting in a Starbucks right now. The people around me are typing away on their computers. Scrolling through their phones and generally not wanting to interact. Every once in a while I see a couple of people come in during a break from the office building next door. They chat with each other while they are here but they don’t stick around.

I wonder what is going on in the lives of the people around me that led them to isolate from the rest of the world in the solitude that comes with a coffee shop. Maybe they are here because it is the only place they have to get some work done without someone asking something of them. Maybe they just want to feel like they are a part of something, anything, but there is no way they are willing to risk going to a place where they may be turned away. Starbucks is a safe place. Maybe they just needed a cup of coffee and there is nothing more to it than that.

I wonder if any of these people are here against all odds? Maybe they have agoraphobia and the fact that they are in this place at all is a testament to their incredible strength. This make me want to go around high fiving people yelling out “I’m proud of you! Good job.”

Maybe someone is here because they are trying to hide from someone. There is a responsibility that is being pushed aside; amends that are refusing to be made. Who did they hurt that they don’t want to face? What did they do that is so terrible that facing the other person is so hard? It makes me want to go around yelling out, “Face it before it’s too late!” Maybe someone is here because they are processing the thing they wanted to say but never got the chance to say. Regret is painful.

I wonder if there is anyone here who is waiting for their appointment that is coming up any moment. What are they feeling? Are they excited because they are waiting for a job interview at a place they have always wanted to work? Are they nervous because they are waiting to talk to their doctor about what to do with the diagnosis? Are they wondering what they will tell their loved ones? Will it be good or will it be bad?

I see a couple of guys that just walked in. They look like they came right from the gym. They earned that latte!! Something I have not done.

This place makes me wonder. There is a safety that can be found here. It pains me when I think of the men in Philadelphia who lost that safety and were arrested because the color of their skin made them suspect. They don’t know the safety I take for granted.

This place makes me wonder why I don’t wonder more. Everywhere I go I see people doing their thing. Living their lives and I don’t think about them at all. Why don’t I think about them? I should. Everyone has a story. But how many people never get to tell their story because I wasn’t willing to look up from my phone long enough to hear it? How many people in this world have been told that their story doesn’t matter? Told so many times that they now believe it. Even though it isn’t true.  It makes me want to run around yelling, “Your story matters! You matter!”

But I don’t. I sit here keeping to myself because that is what is socially acceptable. But I can’t be ok with that. I just can’t.  God help me to not be ok with that. Give me the chance to hear their story. And help me to share yours.

Nate Stewart

National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

On the Edge of Expectation

“Expectation is the quickest way to disappointment.”

The first time I encountered the painful truth of disappointment, I was a young child. Growing up, I quickly learned that when you went to the grocery store with Mom, you sure didn’t ask for anything because you know you weren’t going to get anything, and there was no reason to ask. “Mom, can I……..” and then you got THE LOOK. You know the look I’m talking about, just kinda stops you in your tracks. You just shut your mouth and kept on walking. And then, I found myself disappointed in other situations as well. I remember one time we had been told that we were going to go to the beach, and I was so excited! I had packed up all my things, eagerly anticipating the trip to one of the best places ever! It was gonna be great! My parents, my sister and I going somewhere we rarely get to go. So I got up that morning, and I walked into the living room, and everyone was asleep. Okay, I guess they’ll sleep in a little more. So I waited. And I waited. It’s almost noon, and I walk in there, and asked my Dad if we were still going, and he said no. I still remember the crushing disappointment as I realized that what I had been looking forward to was not going to happen.

Through a vicious cycle of dysfunctional relationships and boyfriends, I found myself disappointed time after time. After some time, I began to realize that it was what I was expecting from them that was leading me to being disappointed. If I didn’t expect anything from them, I could never be disappointed right? So yeah. This refusal of expectation thus also led into my spiritual life, where I also figured that I would most likely expect too much from God and be disappointed again.

It was through CR that I found out that I had this whole expectation thing all wrong. It wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting that was leading me to feelings of disappointment, it was who I was expecting things from. My expectations of others was unhealthy, and stemmed from my inner need to control those people. What was I expecting from those other people? Was I expecting them to fix me? Was I expecting them to fill the empty hole that was left in my heart? Was I expecting them to to essentially be God?

The Serenity Prayer says that we are to take, as Jesus did, this sinful world AS IT IS, NOT AS I WOULD HAVE IT. So, in my realm, my expectations were saying that I was not accepting the world as it is, I was accepting the world as I wanted it to be, as I thought it should be. In my mental health recovery, I cannot expect other people to fix me, as that is not their responsibility. I cannot expect other people to always be there on-call even at 4am in the morning, I have to respect their boundaries. I cannot expect other people to be able to read my mind, I have to take responsibility to reach out to others and honestly, truthfully let them know what’s going on and how I feel. I cannot expect that my psychiatrist is going to know exactly what combination of medications that I need, as it is trial and error, and it is going to take time, patience, and honest consistency to continue to coordinate care to find the right combo for my specific needs. I cannot expect that it will only take a few sessions with a counselor to process a lifetime of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, just like it took a process to get to where I am, it is going to take a process to get to where I am going.

The real question is, what am I expecting of God? What am I expecting of myself? If expectations are what I am seeking, then what does the Bible say?

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Proverbs 23:17-18 “Don’t envy sinners but always continue to fear the Lord. You will be rewarded for this; Your hope will not be disappointed.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours…”

…and perhaps one of my favorites…

Hosea 2:15 “God is the only one who can make a valley of trouble a door of hope.”

Where do your expectations lie?

edge-of-expectation-elephant

 

April Brantley
National CR Mental Health Team X-Factor