Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Been-Through To My Breakthrough


© 2011, Chantelle Henderson
  
Why am I still surprised at the fact that what starts out as a quote for my Facebook page turns into a blog because I couldn’t stop the flood of words from my heart to these pages?  It’s not the first time it’s happened and I don’t believe it will be the last.  The title stems from something I heard the other day that I was meditating on this morning during my quiet time.  There’s just so much to share.  I’ve asked the Lord to help me with shortening the lengths of my blogs, but so far it hasn’t happened and far be it from me to force it to happen.  So……I will write, just as I always have, humbly asking the Lord to allow my fingers on the keyboard simply to be an avenue through which I can share words, thoughts, and scriptures that it may offer hope, comfort, and encouragement to those who read.  Even if it’s just one person.

“Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7

Last week I was doing something I rarely do and that was watching Christian television.  The man speaking said something that caught my attention.  He was talking about David and the way in which he praised God in front of the people unashamedly and with reckless abandon.  The young minister then began sharing his thoughts about the way we choose to praise God.  Some choose to shout and dance - whether it's at home, church or our car.  Others will lift their hands to heaven to say "Thank You".  Then you have what you call your shouters.  They shout, "HALLELUJAH" and "AMEN".  Sometimes you're just in such awe of God that your tears of gratitude are the very definition of your praise.  I've been all these things during my times of praise.  For the sake of his sermon, he was talking about how we will look at others during praise and worship at church.  I heard him say something that will forever change the way I view someone else’s praise.  He said, "Don't judge my breakthrough until you've seen my been through."

You have no idea what people are going through.  You'd be amazed at what people are praising their way through.  Some people are smack dab in the middle of a storm behind closed doors and yet when you see them, it looks like they've been laying out on the beach in the sun soaking up rays.  Not everyone who is going through something is "obvious" about it.  They aren't wearing a t-shirt that says, "My life sucks really, really bad right now."  There are silent warriors, you know?  There are weary saints.  But you would not know it because of their praise. 

It rains on the just and the unjust.  As Christians we think we are entitled to a stress free life.  I submit to you that the Word Of God is clear that we will face trials and temptations, betrayal and persecution, sorrow and pain on THIS side of eternity.  Look at John 16:33 in the Amplified.  It doesn’t get any clearer than this:  “…In Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

Brothers and sisters, may we forsake one of the greatest temptations we face constantly, and that is judging others based on appearances.  I've been on both sides.  Being the judge and the judged and what it all boils down to is that neither one of those should have been taking place because I had no idea what was going on behind closed doors.

A personal example occurred about four weeks ago at church.  I will spare you the details, but amidst some severe storms in my life, the Lord has been an impenetrable shield about me.  Some of the things I’ve faced are loss- A LOT of loss, grief, betrayal and suffering that would cause some people to lose their mind.  But His joy has been my constant companion, and the peace He promised that passes my human understanding has given me the ability to abide and trust in His word and the promises in it.  I know I’m not the only one.  I know there are other people much worse off than I am, so I am no super Christian.  Do not feel sorry for me.  Despite my storm, I’m singin’ in the rain!  I’m just painting a picture of my outward circumstances so you can understand that four weeks ago when I found myself in church dancing, shouting, crying, jumping up and down and lifting my hands it let me know, the devil know, and others know that my God reigns….NO MATTER WHAT!  When you’ve been through some stuff you understand 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, HCSB, “Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 


Back to four weeks ago:  My head was bowed and I was listening to a music minister share his heart.  In transparency and a pure heart he testified of the Lord “bringing him through” some tremendous challenges.  This precious brother opened up about the storms he’d been facing when right in the middle he began to sang Marvin Sapp’s “Never Would Have Made It”.   I had never heard him sing before since we are new to the church.  His name was Seth Elbe.  As I listened to the words, tears of thanksgiving began to fall down my cheeks.  I was tasting my salty tears when the Holy Spirit graciously started to play a “movie” in my spirit of all the blessings in my life (from birth until now at the age of 40), of all the mess He has brought me through and is still taking me through.  He began to remind me that it’s all made me “Stronger, Wiser, and Better” and that “I Made It” as the lyrics of the song stated.  Before I knew it, my tears turned into lifting my hands in gratitude.  The magnitude of the revelation of just how big, and faithful, and loving, and sustaining my God is rose up in my spirit, I began to dance and shout.  I couldn’t help it and frankly didn’t want to.  My praise was an automatic response to God’s goodness and faithfulness.  I’m sure some would call it emotionalism.  Whatever it was, I don’t care, because in my own unique way, out of a cup overflowing with gratitude I expressed my thanksgiving to my Maker and King.  I’m sure some people were looking at me like I was crazy.  I even posted something to that effect for my Facebook status that day, noting that if I were wearing a weave, it would have flown across the room. (Here's the video by Marvin Sapp, but please do keep reading.)
When we pause and take inventory of all He has done in our lives, even on our worst day, we can’t help but to praise Him.  It makes me think of Psalm 34 where it says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Not just when everything is in place.  Not just when the bills are paid and the kids are acting right.  But at ALL times.  I’ve been a Christian since I was 9 years old and the past four years I have learned that it’s just as important to praise Him when I’m in the deepest valley as it is when I am on the highest mountain top.  Everytime, I mean EVERY time I choose praise over fear, my faith grows.   

Today I just want to encourage you.  When that person at your job snaps at you, or the cashier isn't moving as fast as she thinks she should, or that woman's skirt is too tight or short, or that man is overweight....maybe your boss is being rude and demanding.  Remember they have a boss too.  Remember that a serious injury or illness can impede a person’s ability to be active which can cause weight gain.  Remember that the cashier may be a single mother who worked in an office last week when she got her pink slip without notice and isn't used to working in retail just yet.  Keep in mind that the woman with the tight clothes on may have just gotten off the streets because she finally gained to courage to do so and that's all she has to wear until she finds other resources available to her.
  
Forgive me Lord for forgetting that many of us are still in our "been-through” or "going-through" phase, or maybe we have gotten our breakthrough but we're still waiting on some things to be finalized so things don't appear to be what they are.  Let us not become puffed up lest we forget that were it not for You we would have no breakthrough-no victory.  Give us hearts that are sensitive to others and what they are battling, whether it was just life happening or them bringing it on themselves.  At the end of the day may we all realize that we are a child of God, who without Your love, mercy, and grace available to us through the shed blood of our Savior Jesus Christ are absolutely nothing.  But because we are Your beloved children, you have made us priceless treasures and vessels of honor no matter what we have faced, are facing, or will face.  And whether we are in our going through or breakthrough, inscribe on the tablets of our heart the promise that You are causing it all to work together for our good and Your glory.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” – Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Because......

This is not a blog that I, Chantelle, am personally writing.  I came across this soliloquy and knew I HAD to share it utilizing as many of the platforms that are available to me in the way of social networking.  This is an excerpt from a Bible Study called “Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed”.  This particular “piece” is from Priscilla Shirer, Minister, Author, and Speaker.  The Bible study in it’s entirety is led by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore.  If you are looking for the curriculum, go to  www.lifeway.com.

No.  I don’t know any of these women personally.  I don’t work at Lifeway.  And I’m not trying to “plug” a study.  I just wanted to give credit where credit is due.  Bottom line…..I could not have access to what is below and not share it.  I am hoping it is just as much as an encouragement and blessing to you as it is to me.

C

Who Do You Belong To?
By Priscilla Shirer, © 2008

He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He’s the keeper of creation and the creator of all. He’s the architect of the universe and the manager of all time. He always was, always is, always will be unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone.

He was bruised but brought healing, He was pierced but eased pain, He was persecuted but brought freedom, He was dead and brings life. He is risen to bring power and He reigns to bring peace.

The world can’t understand Him, armies can’t defeat Him, schools can’t explain Him and leaders they can’t ignore Him. Herrod couldn’t kill Him, Nero couldn’t crush Him, the new age cannot replace Him and Oprah cannot explain Him away.

You remind yourself, that He is light, He is love, He is longevity and He is the Lord. He is goodness and kindness and faithfulness and He is God. He is holy and righteousness and powerful and pure.

His ways are right, His word eternal, His will unchanging and His mind is on us. He’s our Savior, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord and He rules our lives.

I serve Him because…His bond is love, His yoke is easy, His burden is light and His goal for us is abundant life. I follow Him because He’s the wisdom of the wise, the power of the powerful, the ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, the leader of all leaders. His goal is a relationship with me.

He’ll never leave you, never forsake you, never mislead you, never forget you, never overlook you, and never cancel your appointment in his appointment book.

When you fall He’ll lift you up. When you fail, He’ll forgive you. When you’re weak, He’s strong. When you’re lost, He’s your way. When you’re afraid, He’s your courage.

When you stumble, He will steady you. When you’re hurt He’s going to heal you. When you’re broken, He will mend you. When you’re blind, He will lead you. When you’re hungry, He will feed you. When you face trials, He’s with you. When I face persecution, He shields me. When I face problems, He will comfort me. When I face loss, He will provide for me. And when we face death, He will carry us all home to meet Him.

He is everything, for everybody, everywhere every time and in every way. He is your God. And that sisters, is who you belong to.




Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hello. My Name Is Chantelle And I've Been Affected By Mental Illness.

I wrote the following blog in 2008.  I am reposting it because it is Mental Health Awareness Week and I'm almost ashamed to admit that I haven't been bringing very much awareness as I have in the past.  So many things have changed since I first "came out" (actually in 2007) as a Christian who suffers with Bipolar I Disorder & PTSD.  For now I will simply say that the Lord has been faithful and there is healing and peace to be found in the midst of the mental illness storm.

I remember years ago being very discouraged because when it came to finding books or other sources of information specifically regarding Christians who suffer from mental disease there was VERY little and it pains me to say that while it has improved some there is still much more to that needs to be done.

My story is just one of many.  Between the time of my diagnosis in 2007 and now I have sat with many Christians who have some form of mental illness and they refuse to talk about it because of the stigma STILL attached to it, especially when you are a Christian.

Hollywood seems to have caught on.  It's not unusual at all now to watch prime time television and see a story line that has a main character with mental illness (especially Bipolar Disorder or PTSD).  We have celebrities like Catherine Zeta Jones, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Carrie Fisher, Jane Pauley, and Demi Lavato who are willing to talk about it publicly and I applaud them for being willing to do so.  They have to deal with their own type of "backlash".  However, if we, in the Christian community are being honest with ourselves and each other, there is something that a Christian with mental illness will face IN MOST CASES, not in all, and that is harsh judgment from the very people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are supposed to uphold us with their prayers, love and support when something like mental illness comes knocking at our door.  Some will ignorantly think that it's just something we've done to bring it upon ourselves, or that we should just be able to pray it away, or that it's a demon.  In some cases that is true but in most it is not.  It is a physical, chemical, mental disease that, like cancer, has chosen us.  We've not chosen it.  No one who suffers from any kind of illness would welcome it.

I have many updates to share about what the Lord has done in my life personally but I don't feel it is the time or the place right now.  For today, I wanted to share with you where I was, where many who face mental illness are right now.  When I wrote this it was because no one else was talking about it in the Christian community.  I knew that if I just shared it maybe, just maybe, someone who was suffering in silence would know they were not alone.  I guess I'm just crazy enough not to care what anyone thinks of the fact that I am a Christian with mental illness.  If it means that someone is reading this and saying, "Me too.  I'm not alone."  That makes it worth it.

If you or someone you know and love suffer from any form of mental illness, please embrace them.  Love them.  Have compassion towards them.  Be patient with them.  Don't give up on them and don't try to "fix" them.  Assist them in finding them a good team of therapist and doctors.  Would you not do that for a friend, family, or loved one who came to you and said, "I have cancer."? Well.  It's no different. 




Coming Out Of The Closet:  My Life As A Bipolar Christian
©2008 Chantelle Henderson

"..But the disease thrives on shame, and shame thrives on silence, and I've been silent long enough." Quote from Author Terri Cheney's Book, MANIC: A Memoir


Psalm 73:21-26 (NLT)
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, And I was all torn up inside. 

22 I was so foolish and ignorant
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.


23 Yet I still belong to you; You hold my right hand.


24 You guide me with your counsel, Leading me to a glorious destiny.  


25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.  


26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, But God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.  

Let me just start off by saying that Heavenly Papa makes me laugh. He makes me smile. He keeps me on my toes, tickles me, and knows how to show me that I may have my own plans, but He will have His way. I say this because thus far I've taken two out of town, scenic, quaint, quiet trips to work on my book, and twice I've walked away with NOTHING. Ironically, today, sitting in the carpool line in a noisy, not-so-private place waiting for my youngest to come out is where I started writing this. That's funny to me! I kept asking Him why now, and He showed me clearly that I need to approach this whole book writing thing with baby steps. As soon as the blinders were removed I knew I had to blog about something that is very deep and personal something that up until now I've only discussed with a few friends in my inner circle, my sister, best friend, pastor, and family. It's something I've been ashamed of and have kept hidden for fear of what the world would have to say on the subject. I guess from the title you can gather what this blog is going to be about. Yes, I am Bipolar and I am a Christian.

Not too long ago I emailed friends and family requesting a response to one question. "If you could describe me in ONE word, what would it be?" Well, they knew me well enough to be totally free and comfortable in being honest in their responses. Some of these folks I've known all my life, others for years, some are just mere acquaintances. I felt comfortable enough to ask. I was actually asking the question for the book, not realizing they would also be used in this blog also. These are just some of the responses I received:
Affectionate, angry, blue, broken, charming, cute, crazy, controlling, depressed, desperate, disconnected, downhearted, advocate, bold, creative, erratic, extrovert, outspoken, euphoric, exceptional, exotic, excessive, extravagant, extreme, frustrating, fun, funny, hilarious, honest, hysterical, impulsive, intense, introvert, intense, aggressive, leader, passive, irrational, loud, loving, loyal, melancholy, miserable, moody, nutty, obnoxious, obsessive, oppressed, organized, passionate, optimistic, real, seductive, sincere, special, spiritual, spoiled, strange, transparent, trustworthy, inhibited, unbalanced, unglued, unique, weird, unreasonable, unsettled, unstable, uplifting, exhorter, uptight, wild, sarcastic, sassy, raw, unpredictable. Then of course, there were those who couldn't stick to the one word rule and did some doubles. They were self-destructive, passive aggressive, over the top, strong willed, life of the party.
Now..before you start calling me Sybil or want refer me to deliverance ministries to cast out demons, let me tell you a small portion of why there are so many qualities and personality traits that I received on the feedback that are totally contradictory. I have written 3 key blogs since May of last year that have laid the foundation for this very blog. They are: "Beautifully Broken" (05/14/07), "How Forgiveness Taught Me To Love" (01/16/08), and "What's Your Cancer" (02/29/08). This blog is about my unfolding and coming to terms with being bipolar.
If you reference my blog from 05/14/07, you will see that I was in an inpatient treatment facility for 3 days as a result of coming off some medication I was taking for fibromyalgia. What I did not reveal at that time was that while there I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now I'm not one big on titles (especially ones that can produce a negative and adverse reaction), but I thought that was a bit too much. My therapist and I laugh about it now, but I literally asked her on every visit if she was certain I was bipolar. I refused to believe that I was. That was just such a foreign concept to me at the time. The PTSD I totally understood; but the bipolar thing, I'd never even heard of before. I just knew that most of my life I've had seasons of severe depression and seasons of extreme highs accompanied by reckless behavior....again.....see the book for details. As I went back over my life I could plainly see that from the top to the bottom of the list, I could check off every symptom of Bipolar I Disorder.

For those of you that don't know what Bipolar disorder is, it's exactly what it says, two opposite poles. Here is an excellent explanation found in the following link:
"According to the definition outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), bipolar I disorder, considered the most severe form of this mental illness, is "characterized by one or more Manic or Mixed Episodes, usually accompanied by Major Depressive Episodes."
In a major manic episode the patient may become delusional and even suffer from hallucinations, which are symptoms of psychosis. If this occurs, the condition is called bipolar I with psychotic features. Only bipolar I disorder, by definition, can include such psychotic features. Bipolar I can seriously impair day-to-day functioning.
Other symptoms and characteristics of mania include:
  •  Grandiosity
  •  Decreased need for sleep
  •  Pressured speech
  •  Racing thoughts
  •  Distractibility
  •  Tendency to engage in behavior that could have serious consequences, such as spending recklessly or inappropriate sexual encounters
  •  Excess energy
Symptoms and characteristics of major depression include:
  •  Decreased energy
  •  Severe withdrawal from normal activities
  •  Weight loss or gain
  •  Despair
  •  Irritability
  •  Uncontrollable crying
  •  Thoughts of or attempts at suicide
by Kimberly Read

I know that may be a lot to take in, just as it was (and at times still is) for me. The most difficult part of all this is reconciling how a Christian woman, born again and filled with the Spirit of God, could have such a major chemical imbalance that it would cause me to have this disease. It wasn't until I bought several books (which I will reference at the end of this just in case you or a loved one has been diagnosed) and became educated on the disorder that I was finally able to understand it and what the best plan of action would be for me and my family.  I'm not going to go into a long Biblical Theological argument here. I will just say that my husband & I have chosen the best treatment for me at this time is to take medication to manage and stabilize my moods at the advice of my medical team of doctors until I am healed and delivered from the disease and the havoc it has caused in the past and can cause now if I don't take my meds and cast down thoughts and imaginations that are not of God. What I can tell you is that I have learned that like Paul's thorn in the flesh, I've asked Daddy to remove it so many times, and every time His response to me has been, "MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT IN YOUR WEAKNESS".
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor.12:9)
The highs are highs and the lows are lows. He's been with me in the valley and He's been with me on top of the mountain. I do depend on my faith, but I also accompany it by works. For that, at this time, it means routinely going to my therapist and psychiatrist, being consistent in taking my medications daily, and being honest with those around me when I am at either extreme or even feel like I'm about to be.
By the way, I no longer fight with my therapist on my diagnosis. After much research and prayer and counsel, it's undeniable that I've had it probably since my childhood. If I look at past (or even recent) behaviors it makes perfect sense. I have Bipolar I Disorder. (Save the responses about the power of the tongue, please. I do speak healing over the situation and I don't deny I have the disease, but I do deny its right to exist in my life. Until the healing manifest, I have to follow the Lord and what He's given me peace to do while waiting.)
So what's the bottom line? Why am I sharing this? I want to encourage Christians (or anyone reading this blog) that when you have, know and/or love someone who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder (a chemical imbalance of the brain) or any mental illness, it is to be treated no different than if that person came to you and said I have cancer or a tumor. We still need your prayers and support. We still need you to walk through the journey with us. And may you forsake your temptation to judge and try to figure out what we did that "opened the door to the enemy" to bring this into our life. I so wish I could go into more detail, but it would be in bits and pieces and probably would confuse you more than anything. 
I no longer want or choose to be silent. I may be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Until this thorn in the flesh of mine is removed, I will continue to persevere knowing that He is my Daddy who loves me with an everlasting love.
Here are some great resources for you or someone you may know that will help you and them understand what bipolar disorder is and how you can manage it or be a help and support to someone who has it.  Don't just do nothing.....remember..."the disease thrives on shame".
The Holy Bible (Especially Psalms and Proverbs) by God
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies by Candida Fink and Joe Kraynak
*This was THE BEST book on educating me and my loved ones on the disorder ***2011 Update:  This has not changed.  This is still the best book I've read to date regarding Bipolar Disorder.***
Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney
*This is not a Christian book, but it is a great memoir that gives a clear picture of the life someone with bipolar disorder
Mood Swings by Paul Meier M.D., Stephen Arterburn, Frank Minirth M.D.
A Testimony Of God's Faithfulness To A Bipolar Christian: In The Pit by Nancy L. Hagerman
Who Switched Of My Brain?, Dr. Caroline Leaf
Here are some good links to articles also:




Also remember that laughter is GREAT medicine.  I found this picture and fell in love with it!  Hope it brings a smile to your face :-)