I’m a grateful believer in Jesus, who struggles with co-dependency, pride, and food issues, and my name is Sylvia.
I grew up in church with a mom who was the piano player, so we were there if the church was open. My biological father had left when I was very young, and although I didn’t realize it growing up, I had abandonment issues and used a variety of things like food and men to fill a void left by his absence. I always felt like I was a Christian, but I didn’t always make choices that reflected Jesus in me, and I didn’t have a personal relationship with him. I had many friends and was always social, but inside I was lonely and hurting, especially after my mom passed away when I was 24. I had cared for her during her last year and knew she needed to be released from her suffering, but it was incredibly hard to lose the person I loved most when I was young and felt alone and, in a way, abandoned again. I moved to Northwest Arkansas a few years later and immediately met my future husband. Thanks to him, I was back in church and living a “Christian” lifestyle on the surface, but I still hadn’t worked through the issues that made me make choices that caused harm in my life and in the lives of others.
I came to Celebrate Recovery in a completely different way than most. We launched CR in 2003, and since I was already involved in children’s ministry, I joined the CR Kids’ team. In this ministry, we made sure kids had fun and heard about Jesus each week, but we weren’t intentional with lessons to help them lead healthy emotional lives. When the elementary curriculum for Celebrate Recovery came out in 2009, we started it with the children and were excited to see how it could help families grow together. Soon after that, I attended the Celebrate Recovery Summit. While listening to teachings and testimonies, I realized that I was one of “those people” who needed CR. I realized that I tried to control and fix everything in our home, sometimes to the detriment of our marriage. I worked through a Step Study and started recognizing how the loss of my biological father and the difficulties our family went through in my earlier years affected who I had become. I realized that I try to fix and manipulate things to keep them from becoming an issue because of the multiple failed marriages both of my parents had. I also started to recognize that some of my actions as an adult may have stemmed from those hurts from the past but were now my responsibility to control.
At around the same time, we started fostering our great-niece and nephew, who had been neglected and removed from their home due to their parents’ drug use. They brought a lot of chaos into our home, and everything got harder for our family. They started attending Celebration Place, and we saw little bits of understanding and change to take place in their lives. Our son had been told by his stepfather that he was useless, bad, stupid, and he believed those lies and was angry all the time. Through Celebration Place, he learned how much God loves him and wants him to be happy and began to work through many of his feelings of low self-worth and anger. Because we talk about real stuff like drugs, alcohol, and anger during small group time, he has learned that those things only cause more harm and that when we feel pain and sadness, we should turn to God for comfort instead of the things of the world. His prayers slowly changed from “thanks for my stuff” to “please help me change the things I can that make me frustrated.” His anger and sadness changed into the beginnings of joy and hope. We truly believe Christ has broken the generational cycle of dysfunction for him and his sister through the lessons in Celebration Place. At the same time, our older girls started attending The Landing. They had a safe place to share how hard and chaotic our home had become since the younger two moved in and how stressed we all were. My husband saw the amazing things happening with the kids and started helping lead with The Landing, which led to him working through his issues and leading multiple Step Studies to help others and continue with his own growth. We probably would never have attended Celebrate Recovery if we hadn’t added the Celebration Place program to our ministry. I can’t imagine where our family would be now if we hadn’t had all the tools we have learned through Celebration Place, The Landing, and Celebrate Recovery. I tell people all the time to reach outside or out of their Celebrate Recovery body for leaders for Celebration Place and The Landing so that they can introduce this kind of life-change to people who don’t think they need Celebrate Recovery. Our family is a perfect example of how entire families can heal and grow together.
As we started seeing these changes in our family, I got more passionate about sharing CP and CR with others. I took our college-aged leaders through Life’s Healing Choices and helped lead Celebration Place breakouts at various training conferences. I have served on the Celebration Place National Team for many years and love being able to help other churches launch and maintain their ministries. My husband and I have been able to speak together at conferences about the changes in our lives and how important these ministries are to families. What started as my job has turned into a true mission for us to help families find hope and freedom in Christ. Seeing the joy in people who have worked through the steps of Celebrate Recovery fills us with so much hope for families and futures.
The Message version of John 14:27 says, “That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” Working the Principles of Celebrate Recovery, I have learned that I can have peace instead of feeling abandoned if I put my hope in the Lord. Thanks for letting me share.
If you would like to learn how to start your own Celebrate Recovery ministry, to contact your Celebrate Recovery Rep, please visit: https://crgroups.info/. To get involved in an already existing Celebrate Recovery ministry near you, please visit: https://locator.crgroups.info/.