Thursday, August 23, 2018

Religion Or Relationship: You Do Get To Choose





© 2018 Chantelle Henderson




 Let me clarify. I am not religious. I hate religion.  I love God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit.

My Heavenly Father is God. Jesus died on the cross for my sin and rose again. He is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my Comforter. I'm just one of God's girls trying to be the best Christian I can be. That means no rules or religion.

I have exchanged my control issues and needing to know every little detail for faith that He promises me that ALL things are working together for my good and His glory. He has given me a future and a hope. I have learned that nothing I have done or will ever do can separate me from His love.

I forgive much because I have been forgiven much. I am compassionate because He is compassionate. I extend grace because I've been given grace. I want what breaks His heart to break mine and whatever brings Him joy to bring me joy.  My greatest heart's desire is to point people to Him, not despite of, but because of this crazy, weird, sometimes loud, and unique individual He has created me to be. I've always said, "Don't think out of the box. Think like there is no box." I am forever evolving and learning and growing and it doesn't look anything like what I thought it was "supposed" to look like at 47. I don't necessarily believe things I was taught all my life about being a disciple of Jesus through books, preaching, teaching, or church. Everyday my prayer is that He would lead and guide me into all truth. THAT is my mission; not to go along with the crowd, or care about men, or trying to live up to the weight of fearing man. I don't fear any man. I am His and He is sovereign. I think everyone has questions and even doubts about life we will never understand when things don't go the way we thought they would. That's when I can't lean unto my own understanding but instead try my very best to trust in the Lord with all my heart. I fail often trying to do so.  I was put here to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. That means I don't get to pick and choose. I love the way Pastor and Author Carolos Rodriguez summed it up.  I am to love "My homeless neighbor, Muslim neighbor, black neighbor, gay neighbor, immigrant neighbor, Jewish neighbor, Christian neighbor, atheist neighbor, or addicted neighbor".  Truth be told, there are endless "types" of neighbors and we don't get to pick and choose which ones we will (are supposed to) love.

Summed up-love God. Love people.

We are all meant for amazing things. None of us are a mistake or defined by how our lives begin and end or how we handle the messy middles - not as far as God is concerned. Man does judge you by your mistakes and shortcomings for every day you are alive. They will label you and put you in the prison of their opinion of you, but the only Man that matters is Papa God. We need only be concerned with an Audience Of One.  Even on our worst day, He loves us as if it were our best.

Did you know that He is ever mindful of you?  That He sees you as His masterpiece, uniquely created by His very hand?  He doesn’t want you bound up in the rules and rituals of a religion.  He wants relationship with you, not because you have to, but because you want to.  He’s gentle and won’t push Himself on anyone.  You are an amazing person just the way you are, not who you pretend to be.  You can take off your masks and lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross.  You can say no and let it be a complete sentence.  You can have boundaries.  And sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.  Self-care is not a bad word, or two actually.  It’s a requirement that is vital if you are to live life fully, fulfill your purpose, and walk in your mission.  You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of you.  If you try to do so you will be burnt out, exhausted, overwhelmed, and sometimes even depressed or anxious.  

Lately, I have gotten in the habit of writing my own Psalms, just like the Psalms in the Bible.  You may want to try it yourself.  If not, that’s okay too.  A Psalm is defined as, 

“A sacred song, poem, or hymn.”  Just that simple.  I love that word, “sacred”.  Merriam-Webster defines sacred as, “cherished, divine, solemn, set apart, and pure.”

It’s love letters to Him-just between the two of you.  It’s telling Him your frustrations and your greatest joys; your deepest disappointments, and your victories won.  It is thanking Him for His faithfulness, or even asking him the why’s and how’s of life.  He can take it.  It doesn’t have to be elegant words.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  You really should try it if you, but no pressure.  No one has to read them.  It is strictly between you and Him.  If you want to share, then great, go for it!   In other words, I'm saying, don't write them thinking that someone will see or read them.  You don’t have to get all the correct punctuation or grammar, or even hold back the depth of your feelings.  Just be raw.  Let the tablet of your heart bleed onto the pages. What you will find is that they are the sum total of the various seasons of your life.  Sometimes things are great and you rejoice.  Other times you may feel lost and wonder where He is in the middle of your brokenness.  He’s there for it all.  When you write it, you can go back to it at a later date and say, “Oh, He did fix this.  I didn’t think I’d get through that but I did.  Thank you Lord for your faithfulness when I doubted it.”  You don’t have to be a “writer” to write your own Psalms.

Listen. 

His mercy extends to the deepest places of your soul.  His grace gives you the permission to slow down and let Him take charge of your schedule and fill it for what He has for you.  And on the days that you think you can't go on, you can.  You’ve made it this far and just as long as you are breathing, your time on this side of eternity is not over.  Allow His love to engulf and overtake you and find a new freedom that you've never experienced before. Be at peace.  Let your soul be at rest.  You do not, under any circumstances, have to be a part of “An organized system or institution of belief based upon the traditions of men instead of the pursuit of friendship with God.  You don’t have to play church, exchanging internal truths for external performance; substitute spiritual realities with rituals.”

Read Psalm 139 from The Passion Translation of the Bible below so you don’t have to look it up.

So yea, religion sucks and Jesus rules. ~ Tae

Psalms 139:1-18, 23-24 TPT

Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.

You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me. This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible! Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength. Where could I go from your Spirit? Where could I run and hide from your face? If I go up to heaven, you’re there! If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too! If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there! If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting! Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me. It’s impossible to disappear from you or to ask the darkness to hide me, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There is no such thing as darkness with you. The night, to you, is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two. You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book. Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore! When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— the path that brings me back to you.”



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

SOL = Statute Of Limitations


© 2018, 8/16/2018 Chantelle Henderson


Freakin’ statute of limitations. Let's see.  I was abused from 14-18 by a man I babysat for.  It screwed me up in my 20's.  In my 30's I started getting help through therapy and writing my abuser a very detailed 7 page letter.  In my 40's I began to feel empowered as a survivor and overcomer.  And yet the SOLs (Statute Of Limitations) make me lose my faith in our justice system time and time again.  Why?  If you're abused, assaulted, molested, raped, whatever you want to call it, as a child of ANY age, the fact of the matter is that unless a miracle happens, you're not going to get “physical – see, hear, touch, feel” closure after years of silence.  For MANY survivors it does in fact take years, and others, an entire lifetime, if at all. 
*
First you have to learn that it wasn't your fault and that can take an entire life time.  Then you begin your journey of healing after you realize that. I am 47. Yes, I sent a letter to my abuser in 2007, but this year I felt emboldened by my soul sister survivors who have come forth out of the shadows to say, “ME TOO”.  In them and their stories, I learned that I could still tell mine.  I have seen with my own eyes that giving my abuser’s real name is not just for me.  It’s for others who have been or potentially will be violated in the future.
*
Very recently, I called and confronted my abuser on the phone in 3 separate phone calls. In all of them he denied any wrong doing. When Ry grabbed the phone and asked him if he knew Chantelle Thomas, at first he said no, so Ry asked him again and he says, "Oh. The babysitter?" So then my abuser keeps saying, "I don't know what you're talking about." In all 3 phone calls he kept asking repeatedly, "What do you want from me?" My one and only response every time he asked was, "An apology." It was at least 10 times if not more of the back and forth. His wife had the nerve to grab the phone and starts yelling AT ME. Not her pedophile husband, but ME.  I strongly believe she knew what was going on when it was taking place.  Tell me if this makes sense.  So word on the street is that your husband was being made to look like “Chester the molester” and it’s because of you.  So you’re FORCED to apologize to her and him for “lying” even though it was the truth.  Logic tells me that I should not let that same girl within a million mile radius of me or my husband or my kids.  Well, a month to two months later, guess what?  She started using me again as a babysitter.  Something is very wrong about that, wouldn’t you agree?  I digress.  I felt even more empowered after the third call.  I simply gave up any hope that he would actually own what he did and apologize. It was time for me to accept the saying, “Sometimes you have to accept the apology you never got”.
*
KNOWING that the SOLs in Georgia were not on my side, I was resolute in my pursuit of justice at any level.  Sometimes it does come in a courtroom, with a gavel and robe, surrounded by 12 strangers who might vote guilty, not guilty, or no verdict at all.  That being the case, I filed an official police report. The police officer who took my call, in the beginning, kept reminding me of the SOLs. "Are you planning on doing anything like a lawsuit or civil suit? You know the statute of limitations is up. Why do you want to do it?" My response, "Because it is a part of my closure." "Well mam", he says, “I don't think I can do that, but let me check with my Sargent and call you back.". Much to my surprise he did call me back and took the report. He pissed me off, though, because he sounded EXTREMELY unsympathetic and almost arrogant.  If I didn't know any better, I would have guessed he just got out of diapers the day prior. That's okay though, because I got the report done. It's officially on record. It's public. Anyone can go and get a copy. In my upcoming article about my "ME TOO" story, I will include a copy of it. 


*
You see, all these years later, despite the “ME TOO” and “TIME’S UP” movement you still come in contact with ass hats like the policeman who could care less that your childhood innocence was violated and taken from you against your own will. Don't ask me why it's taken so long for me to come forward (with more detail), or any victim for that matter. For me, it was never uncomfortable for me to say, “I was sexually abused from 14-18.”  I said it very matter-of-factly, with little or no feeling.  It had just become a part of my life story.  It never occurred to me that it was okay to say his name, share details of what happened, or even to disclosed that I confided in no less than 3 adults at that time what was going on who chose not to come forward.  I just assumed that because they didn’t say anything that it was no big deal, so why should I care.  In fact, by that time I was so groomed by my abuser that I began to look forward to seeing him.  My own body betrayed me.  Puberty was happening and his abuse only added to the raging hormones going on in my 14 year-old body.  It got to the point that I thought I was falling in love with him and that he would leave his wife and kids for me (around 16’ish).  “Why didn’t you tell your parents?”  That’s a question I get asked a lot.  Well, for starters I was way too embarrassed.  I was convinced that it was my fault because I was “allowing” it to happen.  I thought it would get him in trouble, which I didn’t want.  I believed that I wouldn’t be able to see him again. Do you now understand what goes through the mind of a childhood sexual abuse victim?  It’s like a cult.  You don’t realize you were in one until you get out and see things as they really are.  There’s no more blurry vision; only 20/20.  Just don't ask why one of the victims on a laundry list of accusers took so long to report it. In the latest uncovering of priest abusing children, one man has waited SEVEN DECADES. SEVENTY YEARS, to come forward and say, "ME TOO." (https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/15/us/pennsylvania-catholic-church-victims/index.html). 
*
Unless you have suffered abuse of any kind, at any age, you do not have the right to have an opinion that does not support victims of sexual assault and abuse. You may have them, but you have not paid the price to do so.  You’re nothing but noise.  You do not get to judge how a survivor and overcomer has dealt with or is dealing with how they choose to share their story and do whatever it is they need to in order to move on. You have not earned the right to say that Bill Cosby (charged), Harvey Weinstein (admitted), Larry Nassar (charged), Priests (found guilty), or others in a position of authority who have been found guilty, are really innocent.
*
I was surprised earlier this year when I simply posted a status that read, "Victim blaming must stop." And you know what? People disagreed with me citing that it's interesting how "all these women have come out of the woodwork for their 15 minutes of fame." Well listen to me and hear me good, when you say stupid s*%t like that, you are re-abusing the victim. You are causing him or her to go back into hiding. You are communicating to them that they should stop going down their avenue(s) of healing-no matter what it looks like-because, "Nobody will believe me." IT DOES NOT MATTER WHEN THE ABUSE HAPPENED. THE FACT IS THAT IT HAPPENED AND THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH. I have always said that I would rather believe a victim and be wrong, than doubt the victim and be right.
*
Truthfully, there is a majority of us that never get closure.  We just learn to move on from “it” as best we can.  It doesn't matter if it was just yesterday or seventy years ago, we do not have the luxury of forgetting. You see, we have paid a price to give voice to our abuse, pain, lost innocence, and suffering as a result of a rapist, child molester, pedophile, or any other predators that I have failed to mention.  I make no apologies nor am I hesitating to expose and publicly name the man who molested me from 1985-1989. His time is up. People say, "Aren't you afraid he will come after you?" Hell no! I can take a polygraph and put all doubt to rest, just as he can and should if he really thinks he didn’t or has amnesia.  And if there is still a way for him to make my life miserable, I can and will keep talking louder and more passionate because one thing he did not take from me is my voice and my ability to call him out and stand up for justice, not just for me, but for all of my "ME TOO" sisters.
*
Wow!  This was (is) supposed to be about the statute of limitations, but it appears I needed to get out some other things.  Going back to my initial intent in beginning this post, I am asking that you PLEASE FIND OUT WHAT YOUR STATE'S STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ARE AND BECOME ACTIVE IN HAVING THEM OVERTURNED OR RADICALLY CHANGED OR EVEN BETTER, THAT THERE AREN'T ANY.  At the very least, expand the time frame, even if it’s only by a year.  You’d be surprised how that can change the entire trajectory of a survivor’s journey to help bring peace to her or himself, and give others permission to do the same.  Please visit http://www.ncnewsonline.com/news/local-lawmakers-support-bill-that-would-extend-statute-of-limitations/article_180d3a72-a030-11e8-a1b8-f3ec6bc1b242.html to find out how you can help.



Monday, August 6, 2018

Friendship Day 2018


© 2018, 8/5/2018 Chantelle Henderson


Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the following as a friend. Right after that is a list of synonyms, also from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
~
Friend:
A person who has a strong liking for and trust in another really close friends who like to do everything together and are always sharing secrets.
~
Synonyms:
Alter ego, amigo, buddy, chum, compadre, comrade, confidant, confidante, crony, familiar, intimate, mate [chiefly British], musketeer, pal.
When I woke up, I had no idea was National Friendship Day! The moment I found out, I went to a place in my heart that holds precious and sacred memories of those who have supported me in the past, the present, and Lord willing, the future. It’s interesting because two of those slots that are taken would have been filled by two people who are no longer a part of my life-at all. But I do not grieve. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that it didn’t affect me. I just knew I had to let go if I wanted there to be room for the ones I have now. Amongst the obvious smile and laughter is a stranger who is now one of my best friends. I’ve only known her for a little bit over a year. But when your heart connects to someone else’s heart, you just know. Three of these women I have known for 24 years and one for 30! I say that, to say this-true friendship, (meaning a real tribe of women who have your back and you have their’s) knows no space or time. It only knows love, joy, laughter, and dancing. Your bond is also forged in the furnace of the afflictions we face in life. It’s the result of countless tears from pain and soul crushing seasons. Sisterhood is also found in the ocean of laughter, sometimes so hard that your side hurts, tears from laughing so hard turn your face beet red, or you’re drinking something and they say something so hilarious that you spit your drink out all over them and yourself.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. I have yet to hear a story about a real friendship that hasn’t experienced misunderstandings, hurts, or even being pissed off at each other. When all is said and done, it all comes back full circle. You both say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Can you forgive me? What can I do to make it up to you? What do WE need to do to move forward and on to better and bigger things? Let’s make this right because we’re in this thing called life forever! You’re one of my four quarters.” Many times people have asked me, “Tae Tae. What is this four quarters business you always speak of?” Well, there’s a quote about friendship by an unknown author. “I would rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.” Years ago I really enjoyed 100 pennies. It was a blessed and fulfilled season in my life. As I grew older and wiser I became keenly aware that boundaries are important, if not vital, to a successful friendship. I learned through experience (both good and challenging) what is healthy in relationships and what is not (for me personally); what I am willing to accept, or let go of. I came to the conclusion and acceptance that 4 quarters really is all I need. When I say 4 quarters, I don’t mean just four friends. It’s a metaphor. I also love my acquaintances. They too are a part of my tribe in their own right and I need them in my life too! They are not an afterthought or “spare” friend. They have great meaning in my life and heart as well.
When Jesus was nearing the Garden Of Gethsemane He left other disciples behind and only chose to take three Apostles: Peter, John, and James. There are moments and seasons when you are in a place of great suffering, uncertainty, and deep, personal, life altering circumstances. That’s when you take your Peters, James’, and Johns with you. The others were not “left behind” because they didn’t matter. They just were not meant to go with Him to the garden. They were not assigned to travel the treacherous, winding, sacred, and secret place that was a part of Him enduring the greatest suffering known only to our risen Savior. Even Peter, James, and John did not comprehend the eternal consequences of their prayers or lack thereof. Jesus came out from the garden and found them sleeping THREE TIMES! I say that to say this: Give grace to those people in your life who are “sleeping”during your battles. What any friend WANTS to do, desires to do, is to join you in the fellowship of your suffering through prayers, words of encouragement, and to be with you in your greatest time of need. That’s great in theory, but in reality they may be too tired or are living through their own garden experience. Just say to them, “Sleep on.” Don’t get mad at them. Love them with the same strength you would as if they were awake. Also, when someone is facing a giant in their lives and they don’t share it with you until after everything is said and done, don’t take it personally. Don’t allow jealousy and envy to take root because you weren’t invited to the “garden party”. It’s not about you. It is about them. Your role may be that of a “bouncer”. You are in Jesus’ tribe for sure, but instead of going into the garden, you have been assigned to guard the entrance to ensure that it is not breached and remains closed so others can’t enter. Maybe your purpose in any given situation is to pray, fast, and intercede for your friend. You don’t have to know every single detail of their storm to do that. Just be on shore when their ship comes in. No matter what “level” of friendship with someone, just remain loyal. Don’t lie. Be honest. Be real. Be transparent. Be a safe person. Be a keeper of their secrets. Be available as you are able. Make sure you are giving as much as you are taking. Have realistic, healthy boundaries and communicate them to each other. Don’t set high expectations on the other person that are impossible for them to live up to. Make allowances for each other’s faults. Don’t say anything about them to anyone that you would not say to their face. Tell each other, “I love you!” every single opportunity you get. Let them know they make a difference in your life. Shower them with hugs. Cry with them. Laugh with them. And sometimes, just sometimes, sit in silence with them. Don’t try to fix whatever is “broken” in the situation. Just be there.
I’ll leave you with this example. About 4 years ago we relocated back to Georgia from Florida I was super excited!!! FINALLY we were back home! Once the excitement of arriving wore off I looked around and there were boxes all over the place. The unpacking and the tasks involved in it was too much. Because I have severe lower back issues, I couldn’t do anything and that was very frustrating in and of itself. I was in a deep hole of depression and isolation - very deep. Through a friend I went to high school with, I became great friends with his wife. Beyond great. We met for dinner with them less than a month after relocating back to Georgia. We had an extremely obvious heart connection on the phone but especially when we met face to face. You know how you tell people, “If there is anything you need, don’t hesitate to call me!”? What is the usual response?, “Oh. I will let you know! I promise.” We said that to each other often and meant it. Most people don’t think they’ll have to use the “I promise. I’ll let you know!” card. The day came when I so desperately needed it. I just could not get out of bed because I didn’t want to live life that day-literally. I decided to swallow my pride and actually reached out to her, my lifeline. I took this precious sister of mine up on her offer. I was very honest about my anxiety and depression. Without any hesitation whatsoever she asked, “Okay, what can I do? Tell me.” Through tears and hyperventilating so much because of them, I asked if she could pick Jeremy up from school for me and bring him home (30 minutes each way- bringing him home then going back to her home). She did not hesitate to say “YEP!”. When she dropped J off she sat with me for a bit just hugging and loving on me. I WILL NEVER EVER forget it.
Unfortunately, my depression lasted for days which turned into weeks. One afternoon my best friend and nephew came over (without me asking) and she told me to “get my ass out of bed”. I whined and complained, telling her I could not do anything. She let me lay there for a few minutes in the bed, blankets up to my neck, but then said, “Okay. GET UP! Physically you cannot do anything. However, you can get out of bed, sit on the sofa, and tell us where to put everything as we unpack boxes.” So that’s what I did. Before she left, just about everything was in its’ place. There were little things here and there but nothing I could not have managed to do on my own.
Those are two examples that were defining moments in my personal relationship with them and eventually others.
I want to encourage you to take the time to reach out to your tribe, one by one, whether it’s a hundred pennies or four quarters, and be intentional and heartfelt about telling them what an amazing gift they and their friendship and sisterhood or brotherhood means to you. Tell them specific qualities they possess that endear them to you. Speak out loud the ways they make your life richer and fuller. Sometimes we need to hear it-not just on World Friendship Day, but every opportunity you get.
HAPPY FRIENDSHIP DAY.
💚 ; Tae Tae