“Life change in Jesus” is part of Browncroft’s DNA–what we pray for, long for, and work towards. And when we see it, that’s what we joy in. Read Deb’s story of God’s work in her life, and share our joy!
Eight years ago, if you met me, I would have worked hard to convince you to like me, affirm me, be impressed with what and whom I knew and how much I’d accomplished. I was always comparing myself to those around me. Control, manipulation, criticism, and perfectionism were my everyday tools fueled by my fears. Even though I had been a Christian since 1976, growth was stunted because of my hurts and hangups. As much as I desired spiritual transformation, I was stuck.
Psalm 32:3-5 “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration…My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.”
I am Debbie, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, who has been in Recovery for eight years, and I am learning to live Loved by my Awesome, Faithful, Trustworthy God.
I grew up as the second daughter in a Catholic family with four children, an angry, abusive, alcoholic father, and an emotionally and physically battered mother. In my childhood, my memories include violent fights, glass being broken, and gunshots being fired in our house. Many nights, my sister and I would lie awake in bed, completely terrified of the fighting going on downstairs. Karen was determined and strong, and she would defiantly stand up to our father. I, on the other hand, learned not to speak for fear of receiving a whipping.
Desperate for love and approval, from a young age I exhibited good behavior and excelled in schoolwork. My struggles with worry and fear manifested as early as age 5 with tension headaches diagnosed by an eye doctor. My parents constantly reminded me that children should be seen and not heard, and that I’d never amount to anything. In order to survive, I learned to bury my feelings and work hard. I felt I didn’t have a voice.
The deep lie I believed was: “I don’t matter.”
Starting in 5th Grade, I walked to daily Mass, feeling compelled to serve an overly scrupulous conscience. Some OCD behaviors became an additional struggle. Shaming, constant criticism, and Physical abuse reinforced my identity with guilt and worthlessness.
My teenage memories are mostly of working hard to survive…paying my own Catholic Education tuition, Studying incessantly, and trying to make myself look “just so,” At times, my buried feelings would explode at home prompting my family to call me a street angel and house devil. That saying became part of my warped belief system: “ I am a hypocrite.”
My efforts to protect myself consumed me. I began shopping to steal clothes hoping I would look and feel better. The coverup lies added to my guilt and shame. Any honors I received in Academics, as a Harvest Queen, Salutatorian, Magna Cum Laude Graduate, only added to my sense of phoniness. I was working increasingly harder to maintain a perfect outward image, yet I felt a deep sadness, extreme loneliness, and a chasm of emptiness.
My parents finally divorced, and I was happily challenged at college by the intellectual escape academics offered. Yet I was ill equipped to navigate real life. My struggle compounded when my sister tragically died in a car accident February, 1972.
Where is God now, I questioned?
Trying to relieve my grief, I began a season of alcohol and drug abuse and sexual sin. This only helped launch me into more confusion about myself. When I graduated from college in 1975 with highest honors, I remembering feeling like a failure.
Shortly thereafter, I responded to an Altar Call at a Charismatic Mass in 1976. I so wanted Christianity to fix all that was wrong in my life, but the precepts of surrender and trusting God remained foreign to me.
I married my closest friend, a wonderful man, John Erbland, in 1977. His unconditional love for me has never failed in 40 years, despite all my fear motivated behavior. He understood me, patiently loved me, and even used humor during some of my most unattractive times. As my craving for control surfaced, he affectionately named that behavior “Bossy Betty.” I struggled with depression and frequent bouts of ugly anger.
In 1980, our twins, Alissa and Carin were born. In 1982, our third daughter Jennifer arrived, and in 1985, our son Jeff was born…God’s biggest blessings, for sure. But I was determined to work even harder to show everyone that I could mother 4 children under 5 better than anyone else, do everything better than everyone else. Approval I craved. I was pretending to be healthy when my life was in chaos. I denied myself sleep in order to keep our house perfectly organized, and shuffled everyone off to so many activities that I needed a poster-sized calendar to keep it all straight. I was hard working, driven, determined. Wasn’t I just an involved Christian mom who loved being Volunteer of the Year at my kids’ schools? Busyness crowded out my need to deal with my real issues.
We attended church, and many Sundays I left feeling worse than when I had arrived. Look at all those happy people in the church pews, I lamented. I continued spiraling into the insanity of trying to control, worrying, comparing, criticizing, compulsive shopping, and feeling guilty about everything. We moved several times around the country, and each time I threw myself into arranging innumerable activities for our 4 children, decorating a perfect house, always attending Church, Sunday School, and Bible Study. A deep sense of worthlessness and insecurity remained in my core despite intellectually understanding Christ’s Supreme Sacrifice. I felt empty, alone, overwhelmed and exhausted. I was stuck.
Twelve years ago, my brother accepted Christ and began attending a Celebrate Recovery Group. God’s transformational work in Greg was evident, his becoming drug and alcohol free, letting go of anger, and living a new life in Christ. As he encouraged me to attend, I became defensive and argumentative. Even as I went to hear his testimony at Crosswinds, I remember thinking, “I surely hope these people don’t think I’m here for me, I’m here to support my brother.” Fear, Denial, and Pride were my companions.
Fast forward two years, and some leadership at Browncroft Community Church wished to begin a Celebrate Recovery. I agreed to begin training, falsely thinking I could “help others.”
As I worked through my first year of training by completing a Step Study (a gender-specific weekly meeting where Personal Recovery work is accomplished), I found myself being honest with others for the first time in my life in a safe and confidential group. James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you MAY BE HEALED!” By sharing my Inventory with my Sponsor, forgiving and making amends, I began to experience a newfound and growing trust in Jesus Christ and a profound release to be able to surrender and allow Christ to begin to transform me. Halleluiah! I get all jazzed about the fine work He is doing in my life and in the lives of those around me as we learn Recovery Principles…all based on the Word of God in the Sermon on the Mount and more. Proverbs 29:25: “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you Trust in the Lord, you are safe.”
HIS opinion is what matters, as HE is my accountability. While I spent my life comparing myself to others, I now go to God. “Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.” Galatians 6:4
This has been freeing for me, as I diligently work the Steps. My energies were misspent for so many years on self-protection. Now I can more lavishly spend effort pursuing my God and genuinely loving and serving others. I am learning to live Loved.
Recovery is really about growing deeper with Christ. Letting go of hurts, hangups, and habits, becoming aware and bringing God into the process.
By intentionally working the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery, I am finally beginning to experience true peace and joy and the freedom in Christ offered to us all. My Recovery is equipping me with useful tools to navigate life one moment at a time. As I continue daily learning to live loved, I am privileged and grateful to serve in the Celebrate Recovery Ministry at Browncroft Community Church.
Here I have witnessed nearly 1000 people receive help and hope through God’s healing power. The positive impact on families is nothing short of miraculous. It’s exhilarating to meet each Tuesday night with the people God brings for the first time. I am able to champion and witness first steps of recovery from paralyzing hurts, hangups, and habits. We are a welcoming and safe community. A “church within the church” where we continue to reach the entire spectrum of hurting people with the healing Jesus taught and modeled.
“May His miracles have a deep and permanent effect on your lives. Tell your children and your grandchildren about the glorious miracles He did.” Deuteronomy4:9
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice…But delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on His laws and thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.” Psalm 1:1-2
Thank you for letting me share. To God be the Glory!
If you would like to be connected to Browncroft’s Celebrate Recovery program, please let me know.