Redefined by Grace

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Redefined by Grace

Guest Blog by Faith Badders, Redefine & Living Grace Group Facilitator

While most of my fellow high school friends visited their soon-to-be college, went on summer vacations, and hung out with their friends, I found myself in desperate need of seeking help and surrendering control. I had spent the past six months of my senior year in emotional turmoil after a recent breakup and not measuring up to the standards I set for myself.

Everything I was once content with no longer satisfied what I thought I needed to become to feel good enough and valued as a human being. Simultaneously, I was dealing with severe food sensitivities, developed an unhealthy relationship with food, and lost a significant amount of weight. After months of trying to control something that had ultimately taken control over me, I became very honest with myself about my various struggles. I decided to begin a journey of hope and healing by agreeing to go to an inpatient eating disorder facility.

I spent 30 days in treatment restoring my body through eating a substantial well-rounded diet, participating in tai chi, equine and art therapy, individual and group counseling, and building unforgettable relationships with the staff and my beloved peers. On a deeper level, I learned how to renew my mind with truth, love, and grace, and I allowed the Lord to work in my life and give me the strength I needed each and every day.

Renewed Strength in Giving

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As my time in treatment came to an end, I felt confident in my recovery and ready to apply the tools I learned in the real world. My therapist and I talked about the importance of building a support system; however, I did not follow up with our plan. As soon as I got home and began to mentally prepare for college, it occurred to me that treatment was not what most freshmen experienced right before college. Instead of contacting a local counselor, dietician, and support group like I had planned with my therapist, I put on my “I can do this” face and was determined to make the most out of my college experience by involving myself in the church, a sorority, and campus activities, and by working hard to make good grades and lasting friendships.

"... my most significant prayer to God was for Him to use my story to help others."

Thankfully, I never slipped back into my old behaviors, and I found valuable support through my church and university. However, after all the healing and life changes, I battled immense anxiety and shame for the negative thought patterns I had allowed myself to develop before seeking treatment. To combat those feelings I continuously experienced, my most significant prayer to God was for Him to use my story to help others in need. He answered my prayers as I relentlessly shared my story with friends and individuals who had severe anxiety, depression, addiction, and health issues. I never found the opportunity to join a support group, but each time I shared my story, I was reminded of how much I had learned and grown from my past struggles and felt the urge to share my story with others who might benefit from hearing my journey of finding hope and freedom in recovery.

Redefining Grace for Students ... on campus!

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A few weeks before graduating, I discovered Grace Alliance while working on a community health resource project. As I scrolled through Grace Alliance's website, I found an article on better understanding biblical and clinical insights, navigating the mental health care system, and rebuilding a God-given meaningful life. I became excited because I knew people—including myself—who could benefit from adopting a whole-health approach to mental health difficulties.      

I immediately contacted the CEO, Joe Padilla, to learn how I could better educate myself and become involved with Grace Alliance. While talking to him about my journey and interest in Grace Alliance, he shared with me that in the past two years, our local university had a 68% increase of college students visiting the counseling center for anxiety/depression-related problems. With my growing passion for helping others going through difficult times, I instantly felt the desire to take action by training to become a Grace Group facilitator and in partnership with the university's counseling center, I started a group on campus.

After going through the training with a family friend in the mental health field, I had the opportunity to facilitate a pilot Redefine Grace Group, a new student-focused mental health small group the Grace Alliance is launching in Summer 2018.  We kicked the group off in the fall of 2017. As students continued to show up and take proactive steps towards (mental health) recovery, we saw students who once felt hopeless and unworthy of God’s grace become hope-filled individuals. They learned how to replace negative labels with truth labels, process through stressful events, develop positive coping strategies, identify thinking traps, create a balanced lifestyle and healthy goals, identify their recovery team, remain resilient when facing challenging circumstances, and finally, prepare for their next steps in recovery.

Students Redefine Grace and Resilience

The group of 5-7 students adopted a grace-filled approach to healing as they worked through their difficulties instead of trying to fight through their battles on their own.  

One student commented,

“I don't have to strive anymore to earn God’s grace; He has a plan for my life and will give me a renewal of hope and perspective. I don't have to do everything perfectly for God to love me. I can accept and love myself in the midst of my journey while challenging myself to grow. I can be like Mary in the Bible and rest at Jesus' feet.”
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They also passionately shared how Grace Group impacted their relationships with family and friends.

“My mom reminded me to apply what I learned in Grace Group instead of disregarding my feelings. I appreciate when my friends don’t tell me what I should do when I am struggling but reminded of the tools I have learned in group. Relationships are hard at times, but I am learning how to not compare myself to others and how to create healthy boundaries and expectations for myself and others.”

It was amazing to see college students learn how to work through their challenges in an environment where everyone felt safe to share their stories and to learn from their peers. For them, the Redefine Grace Group was family, and it provided fresh perspective on how they viewed God and how they viewed themselves in the midst of their mental health journey. As the group came to an end, challenges still occurred; however, they felt more empowered to work through difficulties while resting in God’s grace.

"There is so much hope in God’s plan for life transformation and for stigma and shame to be broken by creating an ongoing support structure and safe place for people to journey through their mental health challenges."

Living Grace through the Church

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The following semester, I decided to replicate the Baylor group as well as start a new group through a local church. As I observed similar feedback from the latest groups, I was stunned by how the Redefine Grace Group continued to have a positive impact on young adults. The power of being present with community and applying principles from the curriculum continued to help group members experience God and others in the midst of their pain and hardships.

As these young adults continue to show up and filter their difficulties through the lens of God’s grace, they are putting an end to the shame and stigma attached to mental health challenges. I believe there is power in telling your story, receiving ongoing support in a Christ-centered environment, and implementing the many practical skills and tools provided by Grace Groups.

Now, my biggest hope and prayer is that more and more young adult groups would be utilized on college campuses and throughout the local church. There is so much hope in God’s plan for life transformation and for stigma and shame to be broken by creating an ongoing support structure and safe place for people to journey through their mental health challenges. I am so very thankful for my personal journey and having the opportunity to partner with the Grace Alliance, the local church, and my alma mater.


 

Faith Badders grew up in small-town Nacogdoches, Texas and graduated from Baylor University in 2017 with a degree in Public Health. Faith currently works at the Yoga Pod and volunteers with Grace Alliance, a mental health support group that meets at Antioch Community Church; Unbound an anti-sex trafficking organization; and Grace House, a home for women in recovery. She recently became certified in Health Coaching and Holy Yoga and will attend UMHB’s counseling program in the fall.

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If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out more information about our new Redefine Grace Workbook.  You can order any of our workbooks for your own personal journey and/or to use in a small group (Redefine, Living or Family Grace Groups).  Subscribe to our email updates to stay informed with other blogs and exciting news.