My Celebrate Recovery Testimony
– Shared March, 10 2018
Hi. I’m Karen. A very grateful believer in Jesus who has been dramatically changed because of a program called Celebrate Recovery.
Before hearing of Celebrate Recovery, I was a mess. A mess primarily on the inside. On the outside I appeared to be a strong Christian woman who served as a leader and as a pastor. I wore a fake smile and hated myself all at the same time. I was the self-righteous type. A Pharisee of all Pharisees. Pretending I had everything together when in fact my world had fallen apart. I was a good kid, got good grades, and lived a pure lifestyle. But miserable. And it all started when I was just a small little Karen.
I was a church kid my whole life. I always knew the Trinity and knew all the Bible Stories. I never moved from my childhood home until I got married. I didn’t go to college. I went straight to work after I graduated High School.
While living in this same house, I was abused by my father in so many ways. My childhood was not ideal. It was down-right dysfunctional. Years of emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse wore me down to nothingness. I only knew my dad as manipulative, secretive, scary, and controlling. My mom on the other hand was very submissive. Her submission created an environment of “do whatever it takes to make dad happy.”
I grew up very fearful of this man. I was afraid from the moment I fell asleep til the moment I woke up in the morning. He was my monster. Not the typical closet-monster that most kids have. The fear of my dad was physical, emotional, and psychological.
From a very young age until I was 15 I recall being fondled by him on a regular basis and naptimes with him were a requirement. I would lay there motionless hoping it would end faster. I would mentally “check-out”.
I never spoke of this abuse to anyone. I was too afraid of my dad to ask for help. At the same time, I desired my dad’s attention. I would watch sports with him and cheered on his favorite teams in order to gain his affection. Anything to make him happy and not the angry monster he typically was. So I learned to be the “good child” and to do everything perfectly. This created my roots of perfectionism and co-dependency.
I ran to food as my lord for comfort as a way to cope from abuse. Food made me feel good. Food made my heart “ache” less. Food was my escape. Over time my love for food got twisted when I was mocked for hiding food and gaining weight. One example of this is when I was a very young child, maybe 7 years old, I recall hording an entire bag of miniature chocolates. My brother found them and mocked me endlessly about it and about my weight. So I began to obsess about my weight. At times I would starve myself and diet in very unhealthful ways. I would even use spiritual “fasting” to cover up my anorexia thoughts. Food consumed my thoughts 24/7. Obsessed to want to eat and binge; obsessed to starve to lose weight. A vicious cycle full of shame.
I recall one time in my life planning to kill him and then to kill myself. I was around 10 years old. I was miserable and wanted life to end.
My parents divorced when I was 15 ½. That was a good decision but very traumatic as well. On one visitation with my dad the week after my parents’ divorce, he asked that I call his new girlfriend “mom”. From that moment onward I refused to talk to my dad or see my dad. I had enough. He continued to marry other women and I didn’t care. I moved on with my life but I grew in my bitterness towards him.
Learning that my father hid a prior marriage before my mom and then watching him marry three more times after divorcing my mom lead me to believe that women were simply tools and replaceable at any moment’s notice.
Years went by of not talking with my dad. Of harboring emotional cancer inside of me that grew by each year. And my eating followed suit.
I prayed so specifically for a boyfriend and my future husband because I didn’t want to waste time with any jerks who were like my dad. I wanted a good and sustaining marriage. So I took my time. I wanted a man who loved God more than he loved me. And I wanted a man who was stronger than me spiritually to lead our home.
At the age of 25 I finally got my first boyfriend and married him just 7 months later. We had been friends in our church’s singles group. His name is Dinesh and he is from India. He came to Ohio for a job and because of his Christian upbringing he found our church online and began coming. By God’s grace I was able to remain pure in my lifestyle. I prayed very specific things about my husband and now looking back, I see it was God who placed those specifics in my heart to pray for. When I realized these prayers matched Dinesh’s prayers, and that Dinesh’s prayers matched mine, we both knew we had the greenlight from God to go ahead with the marriage. So, on our first date we both knew we were to be married. And we have been newlyweds ever since. We just celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary this last Valentine’s Day.
Just one month after our wedding, I became a youth pastor at our church. I loved being a youth pastor, as teenagers were always so precious to me. Mainly because of my traumatic life especially around those teen years. I get teenagers. I understand them. I actually like teens. They are blunt and I prefer that honesty.
Then after marriage to my God-send of a husband we survived 4 miscarriages.
We had two miscarriages. We then had our son, Christian, who is now five years old. And then we had two more miscarriages.
The first miscarriage in 2010 came and went and I thought it was normal for a woman to experience one miscarriage and I wrote it off. Never truly acknowledging what had happened.
The second miscarriage also in 2010 came and I was surprised wondering why I had a second miscarriage. But again I wrote it off and never grieved this loss.
We then got pregnant with our son, Christian Gracen, in 2012. I had peace but didn’t fully enjoy the pregnancy in fear of another miscarriage. By God’s grace and by God’s plan for Christian, he went full term and is healthy to this day. I did have an emergency c-section with him. I also suffered post-partum depression after his birth.
The third miscarriage in 2013 was more traumatic than the first or the second, because I realized I had a problem. It wasn’t so “normal” to have three miscarriages. However, once again, I was quick to move on since I had a son already. I never processed this grieving either.
The fourth miscarriage in 2014 sent me into a cycle of breakdowns, emotional depression, and psychological oppression. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was suicidal. I was done with God. I was done with church. I was done with life. After all, I was replaceable, right? All women are replaceable tools, right?
Each time I went to the doctor for a pregnancy I honestly thought the prior babies were still in there hiding. I was in full blown denial about their deaths. After the fourth miscarriage and breakdown my husband had to tell me, “Karen, the babies are dead. Live for us. Me and Christian.” That hit me like a load of bricks. Truth finally sunk in. The babies ARE all dead and they are not living inside me. This realization began a huge work of grieving all four losses at once. I wanted to die. I wanted to be with my babies in heaven so much. I missed them terribly. But, I had to choose life. And to live for my husband and my living son. At this point I didn’t understand the value of my life yet.
Through wise council and counseling, I then chose to name all four babies and make them small caskets out of tiny boxes with letters written in them. This was my way of finally letting them go.
The first child we named David Judah.
The second child: Kimberly Faith.
Our third child: Christian Gracen.
The fourth child we named Silas Timothy.
The fifth child we named Esther Selah.
I then decided that I was not physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually able to give to others. I needed to care for myself. Not to mention I was inwardly angry at God. So, I retired from youth ministry after 6 years of pastoring. I am glad that I did. I needed Sabbath in my soul to rest and heal.
We then we through many years of infertility seeking methods to try to get pregnant. Nothing producing results. This shook our world. Why would God not bless us? We served faithfully for years. We fasted. We prayed. We gave. We…We…We…
Two major cycles…..food obsession and grieving. Both needed desperate healing by the Father. Wrong thinking about myself had to surrender to the truth of how God sees me.
I started attending a new women’s bible study and was able to speak freely of my heart pain with the miscarriages. I met some great friends there but knew that I needed more and I needed deeper friendships.
I then heard about Celebrate Recovery through one of our staff pastors. I was meeting with this church staff pastor along with a friend that I had been encouraging to seek out help for her life’s challenges. Never ever dreaming that I would need this “Celebrate Recovery” for myself.
When I first heard the words “Celebrate Recovery” I immediately thought it was not for me. I assumed, wrongly, that it was only for people with severe addictions mainly to drugs and alcohol much like AA. After all, I was fine. I was a strong Christian lady who served the Lord. WRONG! Boy was I wrong….and for that I am extremely glad!
So I went. I showed up at Celebrate Recovery in February of 2017. From day one I was smacked across the face with truth that I was in fact, NOT O.K. And that it’s O.K. to not be “O.K.”
I went to all these meetings each week noticing that things both small and large began to change inside of me. This was working!
Through Celebrate Recovery I learned that I need a tribe. A team. A sisterhood. I need same-gender people who I can trust with the rawest version of myself. I needed to get out of denial from my hurts both as a child and as a grown adult. I needed to understand that I can be loved even in my brokenness.
I deeply craved “real friendships” and through the sisterhood of Celebrate Recovery I found just that.
I learned how deeply I was loved by God. I learned that I could fall in love with Jesus and fall out of love with religion all at the same time. I had lived such a “perfect” Christian life on paper. Yet something was missing. I was striving for God’s love just as I was striving for my earthly father’s love. I learned that having a relationship with Jesus was far more than going to church, tithing, going on missions trips, serving in the church, or even being a pastor. Not that those things are wrong. My understanding of the “why” behind “the what” was wrong. I learned that I was loved by God as a human-being and not just as a human-doing.
Only a couple months into Celebrate Recovery I discovered that the cloud of grief (much like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh) had lifted and disappeared. I was now on a journey of joy and peace!
I love the verses in Isaiah 61 which read: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners….to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve….to give them beauty for ashes and the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of despair.”
Jesus wanted to heal me of my brokenness. He wanted to set me free from my own emotional prisons. He wanted to comfort me and to give me joy. I simply had to give him access and open the door to the process. And for me, Celebrate Recovery was that door.
I then began to focus primarily on my food obsession in Celebrate Recovery now that the grieving process had been closed. It was still a daily struggle.
About four or five years ago I was able to forgive my dad and have Christmas visits with him and his wife. Those were challenging meetings yet I had peace. I still had harbored hurts but at least I was able to see him as a broken man verses my monster. He was very obese growing up. His own obsession with food led him to a life of extreme morbid obesity. His body began to fail more and more. His body was shutting down and he became bed-ridden for a year. No getting out of bed for any reason.
In June of 2017, (just four months into the Celebrate Recovery process) my dad’s health immediately failed fast. I had one week of him being in the hospital to spend by his side daily before he passed away on June 26th. I then helped plan and attended the funeral. . This may not sound like much, however, to me I had confessed my whole life that “If the man died, I would not attend his funeral.” To think I went to his funeral, let alone planned his funeral and was at his bedside everyday at the hospital. That’s Jesus.
God had me in the right place with the tools and support team to cope. Now in Celebrate Recovery, I was able to more fully forgive him and extend him the grace of Jesus on his last few days on earth and even now since his passing. My life has been completely changed! This was truly the work of Jesus in me! Writing out all of my wounds and hurts was therapeutic but very painful.
Even after his death, I never grieved his loss in a negative way. I was able to grieve with Jesus right with me the whole step of the way. It was healthy and it was complete.
Then around the end of August I confessed my wounds and sins to a trustworthy Sponsor. Nearly immediately after this confession, the addiction to food broke. I never thought that I could be free of grief nor of food control. But Jesus did it! He set me free! I never realized before Celebrate Recovery that there had been a connection between my food control and my past. I no longer needed my blankie….my food comfort.
What a transformation! I had lost 22 pounds from August to January and I am still eating healthy and have a restored and healthy body image of myself. I plan to have an ongoing healthy lifestyle and look forward to the outward changes just as much as my inside changes have been. I attribute this weight-loss mainly to the emotional weight that I had been carrying around. It had to go. And when the emotional weight was gone, so followed the physical weight.
And then it happened. I discovered on November 16, 2017 (just 4 months ago) that we were pregnant again! Now my 6th pregnancy!
We had stopped all fertility treatments months before and simply surrendered it all to Jesus. What a wonderful shock this was. We never even thought we could actually get pregnant again! We decided this time around to celebrate the life that God had allowed us to receive right away. We told our friends and family members. What a joyful celebration that was!
And then “it” happened for the 5th time. Another miscarriage. I had immediately worried if I would go back to my old patterns of suicidal thoughts and breakdowns. That I would again get mad at God and reject His intimacy and closeness with me.
This is when I knew that Celebrate Recovery was the real deal. I used my tools taught in recovery and reached out to my team. I asked for prayers. And I released control and just rested. I cried and let out all of the hurts. In the past I would have stuffed those feelings and went about with a happy face mask on. I would have returned to denial. But I didn’t. I faced them head on with a full team of support around me. They flooded me with love and prayers.
This Child #6 we named: Mercy Joy
I did not one time return to old patterns and I actually was able to experience the fruit of the Spirit while grieving the loss of our 6thpregnancy. I had love for God, for others, and for myself. I had joy. I had peace. I had patience. I had kindness. I had gentleness. I had faithfulness. I had goodness. I had self-control over my emotions and reactions. All this while grieving.
And I knew that I was finally grieving God’s way. And this was healthy and freeing. Never once gaining weight or returning to unhealthy eating habits or body image issues.
We are at peace yet again with whatever lies ahead. Not taking back control from God’s hands. We are simply sitting back and resting in Him.
I am now free of the two negative cycles in my life. Grief and Food Control. And also a third, as I found freedom from unforgiveness by fully and completely forgiving my dad. And today I am speechless. Shocked and in awe of Jesus.
My relationship with God changed dramatically. I was no longer angry with him for my childhood nor for my multiple pregnancy losses and infertility. I was loved by God and that love wrecked my life in a good way. And my relationship with Jesus is exciting and I can’t help but to be His daughter and stretching out my arms to Him to be loved on by Him. Religion verses relationship are two very different things. I am glad to be free from a religious relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
My relationship with others dramatically changed as well. I began to love others with the love of Jesus because I knew His love for me. The sense of Pharisee-like judgement and condemnation I carried for others had left and what remained was the fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control).
Lastly the love I had for myself improved. I am learning to love and like myself now. I am learning that I am irreplaceable and not a tool. That I am loved just as I am. And that Jesus likes me.
I have learned to rely on my team and my tribe to help with along my journey. I have learned to reach out for prayer and support. To no longer be an island.
Today I stand free. Head up. Shame of who I was, now gone. Guilt of what I had done, now gone.
She whom the Son sets free is… FREE INDEED!
Oh, and one last thing…..we are again pregnant. 3 months pregnant. A healthy baby with a very strong heartbeat for Jesus!
My name is Karen. I am a grateful believer who has been healed from grief, food control and unforgiveness. I have a heart to help women who have experienced miscarriage and infertility to find hope again through YouTube Videos and Daily Word Press Blogs. I will continue to unpack the next layers God will show me with the tools and accountability partners I’ve found through Celebrate Recovery.
Thank you for letting me share ♡
Here is a link to Karen’s Blog titled Beauty 4 Ashes 24/7.
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