What brings you joy?
The presence of God bring me the most joy. Slowing down, taking in my surroundings. Breathing fresh air. Bodies of water. Traveling. Cooking and enjoying good food. Getting lost in a book. Music. Running. Writing. Connecting with someone who just gets "it" and gets me.
Renée's Mental Health Story:
"I was on a winter retreat with two friends a few years ago and I just felt like something was wrong with me. The point of the retreat was to get quiet and spend alone time with God. We did the same thing the year before and it was great, but this particular year, I was having trouble. I kept trying to hear God and to be still before Him, but all I felt was anxiety, fear, and confusion. I was scared. I couldn't relax. My friend recommended that I get counseling, and after that retreat I finally signed up. I knew that I had issues, but couldn't name them or face them. I also learned lots of self-destructive and medicating behaviors over the years.
For some reason, I thought that me becoming a Christian would automatically solve my mental health issues, and that if it didn't, there was something wrong with me. I was told by someone in my church's leadership that "depression doesn't exist for Christians." There were so many things going on in my heart and head and I didn't know where to turn for the answers. Anytime I was able to open up, I felt more shame. Counseling helped me pull back the layers and allowed me to be myself and heal, without shame and without the pressure I put on myself to appear to be the perfect Christian. I was able to deal with my childhood sexual abuse, rape, family of origin issues, and my ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression. I finally allowed myself to feel. I finally allowed myself to be imperfect. I finally let God into these wounds. I finally asked Him hard questions. I finally learned the art of being still. It was difficult.
I went through a serious dark season of depression and couldn't get out of bed on some days. There were days where I asked God to just end my life. But I made it. Through God's grace and the support of my therapist, I healed (and am still healing). I learned that grieving and healing are absolutely necessary and I didn't have to apologize for it. There is space to be a Christian and to wrestle with feelings of all kind. I learned that there is so much freedom in choosing joy and that with thanksgiving comes deliverance. I learned that it takes time and that some days are harder than others. I learned that God walks with me in the deepest of valleys and his love for me is deeply healing. I've learned to choose joy and to show grace to myself and others.
I still have lots of healing to do, but I am more at peace now that I have been in my entire life. I'm getting ready to go on that same winter retreat, and I no longer feel that same fear and condemnation; in fact, I look forward with excitement and am expecting an amazing time in the presence of my Heavenly Father."