Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014-2015

Going into 2014 my word was "Intention"; something I hadn't had for years. Like a wandering two year old left alone in a field of nothingness, I'd wandered for four years without aim and definitely without......intention. I knew that if I was going to break out of the 5 foot 6 inch wall I'd built around myself I would have to become a person of intention. Summed up, it simply meant letting my yes be yes and my no be no. There would be no more grey areas. There were certain times I throughout the years that I would be intentional, but then I would lose steam. 

The first place I got to put my intention into practice was a women's Bible study at our church. It was weekly for several weeks. I had to be intentional about going, showing up, and being present (participating) no matter how I felt. It meant saying no to my no. Little did I know that would be the birthing place for my next level of intention, allowing myself to FINALLY be planted, rooted, and grounded in a church. FOR ME, because of having to walk in intention about EVERYTHING, it meant no more "me-time" Wednesday nights at home. It meant being at church, fellowshipping, breaking bread, studying the word, and prayer with my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you know me then you would know what a miracle this truly is. The wall I'd built began to crumble to pieces as I became more and more intentional. Slowly I began to learn that another word for intentional was discipline. I became more disciplined than I had in years and the harvest it would yield was beyond 100 fold. My chains were breaking and I was being set free every single time I wanted to cancel plans but followed through anyway; every time I did want to stay in bed but got up for church anyway. I'm the one who got to walk away blessed and sharpened by another. Let me say, however, that it wasn't always easy.  I spent years bailing on plans, in isolation, safe in my own world. Especially between 2010-2014. I wasn't living at all. I was merely existing. There it is. The truth about my life as it had been until the beginning of 2014. 

I digress.  Our church began a building project and one of the hashtags that was created was ‪#‎heartforthehouse‬. For the first time in years, I could literally feel my stony heart becoming a heart of flesh and it melted away as I found joy, love, and compassion for the church once again. I TRULY had a heart for the house. We joined our beloved Brandon Assembly and it was family. We had ups, downs, and in-betweens, but always did life together, one for another. My heart was set ablaze once again with passion and purpose. 

Then came August 2014. For nearly four years all I did was kick and scream to leave Florida and return to Georgia and in the blink of an eye He gave me that desire of my heart. It wasn't even on our radar in August. By September 3rd we were officially Georgians again. I asked God to do one thing for me. I was so afraid of moving that I asked Him that if it was REALLY Him that He would allow me to take my hands off of the situation and show me an "ONLY GOD" moment in my life and He did. Every time I turned around during the transition from Florida to Georgia I could stand back and say, "ONLY GOD". If you take a look at my statuses from September 1-4th you will see exactly what I am talking about.
I learned so many things about myself, others, and God during my time in Florida. It was a dark time for me but I wouldn't recognize the brightest moments of my life as I do now were it not for our season there. One thing I learned was surrender. If I was going to continue to even survive, much less continue thriving in my intention, I had to surrender my dreams of moving back to Georgia to Him. It seems as if the moment I surrendered with pure hands and a clean heart, no hidden agenda or strings attached, Daddy said, "I'll take her back to Georgia now." Ry says that since moving back I've come back to life and quickly follows it up with, "I'm not joking." I suppose he's right. In my first month here I literally got out more than I did my entire four years in Florida, church included. That goes to show what a pitiful existence I was living. ONLY GOD in His infinite mercy brought me back. ONLY GOD. So 2014 was a year of intention and being true to the process of becoming a person of intention. 

2015?  My word is "BRAVE". 
I started to feel it around July 2014 and just sorta "tucked" it away, but as 2015 began to draw closer and closer what started out as a whisper has turned into a booming echo. I would be lying if I said I'm not dealing with a little bit of fear here. At first I was SUPER EXCITED. I envisioned myself as superwoman with a cape. I thought about being fierce and courageous and more bold for the causes and kingdom purposes that burn within me. But just as quickly as the excitement came, fear set in. Wait! Brave? What am I going to have to be brave about? Is something going to happen? I don't want to be brave. I don't want my word to be brave anymore. Then the Lord reminded me of Joshua 1:9, [Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”] You have to understand that generally speaking I'm not a person who is worrisome of fearful of much of anything. It's a two edged-sword at times. So this feeling of what is to come in 2015 is new to me but as I turn to His word to be comforted by His promises, I am reminded that He is with me wherever I go. And that whole strong and courageous thing isn't a suggestion. It's a command. Some people think having a "word for the year" is silly, and that's okay. But for me, it's always served as an anchor of sorts. When my soul is storm-tossed and confusion sets in and there's lack of direction I knew to be intentional and the year before that I knew to study the word "Grace". This year it's BRAVE. 

I pray, for you, that 2015 brings to you all that He has to give you and that you would make room to receive it and that when the challenging times come that you remember our blessed Savior also suffered everything we did and ever will. May you remember that you are never alone, believing that He will never leave you nor forsake you. I pray that you find him to be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace; the Lover Of Your Soul & Lifter Of Your Head, a Mighty Fortess and Strong Tower, Your Healer and Provider, Your Source Of Strength, and your very Foundation. 

I pray Ephesians 3:14-19 over you. [For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.] 

YOU are so incredibly unique and valuable and loved endlessly. 

Now, May The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. [Numbers 6:24-26] 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Mental Illness & Me



Hello. My Name Is Chantelle 
And I've Been Affected By Mental Illness.
©2008-2014


"It's amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there's no shame and stigma to it ... But if your brain breaks down, you're supposed to keep it a secret ... If your brain doesn't work right, why should you be ashamed of that?"
~ Rick Warren ~



I wrote this blog over a period of 2008 through 2014 and never posted it.  With news today, August 11, 2014, that Robin Williams took his own life, I came back to it and this time I am posting it because if it just touches one person’s life, I will have made a difference and brought about awareness on the subject of Mental illness.
~ ℂℍ ~

I am re-posting portions of a previous blog 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.  And let me be clear, this blog is not just about suicide.  It is about mental illness and removing the stigma attached to it.

___________________________________________________

  
*** UPDATE *****
©2013

In the past two years the number of suicides among celebrities or those in the “public eye” who have committed suicide have been more than I can remember in recent years.

  
Lee Thompson Young
Rizzoli & Isles actor Lee Thompson Young -- who rose to stardom on Disney's The Famous Jett Jackson -- was found dead of an apparent suicide on Aug. 19. He was 29. "Lee was more than just a brilliant young actor, he was a wonderful and gentle soul who will be truly missed," his publicist said at the time. It was later revealed he had a history with bipolar disorder and depression.



Gia Allemand
Bachelor alum Gia Allemand, who competed for Jake Pavelka's affection on the ABC show, was hospitalized in critical condition after attempting suicide on Aug. 12. She died two days later on Aug. 14. It was later revealed that the former reality star, 29, was on the phone with her mom at the time of her death and had been having problems with her boyfriend, NBA player Ryan Anderson, who found her hanging in her apartment.


Mindy McCready
The country music world reeled when McCready was found dead of an apparent suicide on Feb. 17, just one month after her boyfriend took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His death devastated the "Ten Thousand Angels" singer, who told Andrea Canning that "he was [her] life." She is survived by her two sons, Zander, 6, and Zayne, 9 months.


Jiah Khan
Bollywood actress Jiah Khan was found dead of apparent suicide on June 3. She was 25 years old. "Just can't believe that someone as young and so full of life is just dead," filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma tweeted of the New York-born star.



Matthew Warren
Matthew was the son of Megachurch Pastor and Author of the Best Seller, Purpose Driven Life book.  Matthew Warren, one of three children of Warren and his wife, Kay, killed himself Friday. He committed suicide killing himself with an unregistered gun he had bought online.  Kay described arriving at her son’s home the night of his death, knowing that something was very wrong. His lights were on, but Matthew didn’t respond when she knocked on the door and rang the bell — behavior that was out of his character.  “I had a pretty good sense that perhaps something catastrophic had happened,” And she was right.  "The reason we were quiet [about his lifelong battle with mental illness] was primarily to protect Matthew's dignity. It was his story to tell," Warren said. "We were always praying that either A, he would be healed miraculously, or B, will get treatment, therapy, medicine that helps him manage his disease for the rest of his life, and then he can tell this story.


Robin Williams
Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams apparently took his own life at his Northern California home Monday, law enforcement officials said. Williams was 63.  "He has been battling severe depression of late," his media representative Mara Buxbaum told CNN. "This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."  Coroner investigators suspect "the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia," according to a statement from the Marin County, California, Sheriff's office.


  ___________________________________________


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

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.

Who Switched Of My Brain?
Dr. Caroline Leaf

Here are some good links to articles also:













Sunday, August 3, 2014

J The Giant Slayer

Happy 15th Jeremy!
© 2014

Jeremy, sweet, funny, intelligent, talented, hilarious, unique, independent, 15 going on 50 child of mine. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I can’t believe you’re 15 today. 
You came into the world a fighter, having your chest cut open at only 1 day old. The doctors’ report said you’d be there for a while, but God had other plans. He used you to show them that miracles do still exist and you ended up going home with us. Even then you saved us money. J I can remember bringing you home and watching you so closely (stalker like-sorry ‘bout that) because I was afraid I would touch you or hold you the wrong way. I thought somehow you would break and I’d have to rush you back to NICU. But no. Even at days old, you were showing me and the world that you were and would continue to be a force to be reckoned with; unstoppable even in the midst of obstacles. At a little over two, I remember walking in the bathroom and you’d taken Lego blocks and stacked them perfectly and shaped them like a house. You talked and walked and displayed behavior years beyond the norm for your age. The funny thing is, you never needed help from me or your dad or brother. You always insisted (as you still do) that you figure it out on your own. One of the things I love most is that you are truly humble in your intelligence and wisdom. You are warm and compassionate and to know you is to love you, to laugh, and to leave more joyful than before coming in contact with you. You are a friend to the friendless and an ever-steady cheerleader for the underdog. You’re a good egg. As I watch you grow into a young man, I can’t help but to recall how you started out in this life – a warrior-a fighter-a giant slayer. You’ve not changed but rather continue to grow in those attributes. I know life has also brought you many challenges, adversities, and changes but you remain the epitome of a “Steady Eddie”. While I am proud of you because of your grades, your talents, your ability to make me laugh so hard I cry, and other external traits, I am blessed because there are so many other things about you that have nothing to do with what the human eye can see, hear, touch, or smell. As your mother, I get to see into your heart and feel the joy of your spirit – things that cannot be measured by the five senses. You, my son, are a priceless and rare treasure from God. I tell you constantly that God gave you breath to bring you glory; that you were put here to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. So whatever you do in this life and wherever you go never forget that everything you have and everything you are is because of Him…..EVERYTHING. In the meantime, extend your mama grace and mercy as I teach you how to drive. It’s one of the few times in life that you will willingly hear me say, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” And I tell you what……..when I take you to get your permit we’ll celebrate by buying you quirky, whimsical, bright, colorful socks since I know that’s one of your favorite things. J I love you J. I thank God for giving me a son like you. It’s my honor and an eternal gift. I pray you always feel that from me, but more importantly believe it with all your heart when you don’t. I love you! Mama. As always, I love you more, but HE loves you most! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 

Can I Have This Dance Forever?

A Birthday Tribute To My Christopher
© 2014
22 Years ago at 10:13 AM I gave birth to a 6 lb 11oz. miracle & gift of God. I named him Christopher. Who knew the years would go by so quickly or that I would be saying to myself what every mother does, "If only I knew then what I know now."? There are so many things I would do differently, changes that can't be undone. But as Garth Brook's song, The Dance goes, "I could have missed the pain but I'd have had to miss the dance." The dance of motherhood is often to the tune of lullabies and unbreakable hearts, but it can also be to songs with lyrics filled with what-if's, pain, and "I'm sorry". To me, it doesn't matter because I would not have missed the dance for anything. Christopher is my dance partner for life because there is an unbreakable bond filled with melodies that will echo throughout all of eternity that began the first time this mother heard his heartbeat and said, "God, I know I'm single, have no degrees or special skills, and by all accounts have no idea how I'm going to do this. But if You make a way, I choose to give life to this gift you have placed inside of me. I want him and I'm trusting You for the journey." In other words I was telling Him that I was choosing to dance. Don't get me wrong. I was no martyr in the situation; just a mom. Happy Birthday my beloved Chris~my dance partner since I even knew you. I love you to the moon and back. I love you more. But HE will always, always love you MOST. Mama (P.S. I will not be doing any Hip Hop or twerking during our lifelong dance.....ever. I promise.)


Sunday, January 19, 2014

He's Not Finished With Me Yet

© Chantelle Henderson

This is perhaps the most personal post I’ve put on both my personal and public Facebook page in a while.  It started out as a paragraph and morphed into this book-size blog.  If I had my own way, would NOT post this.  Like a person who’s injured their legs having to re-learn to walk, I’m wobbling my way back to obedience to the Lord instead of my comfortably numb disobedience.

If you know my testimony, then you know the Lord has brought me through sexual abuse, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol addiction, being a former adult entertainer, angry, hate-filled, bitter woman.  Even typing these things out at this very moment my heart is racing with fear.  Fear of what people may think or say.  The judgment of those who don’t understand.  And the gasps of those who do not understand why I will be transparent about the things I’ve gone through in my life. 

Years ago I could travel to different churches and share my testimony in front of a gathering of 30 or 300, but slowly, over the years I’ve chosen to silence myself.  Somewhere along the way these past few years I have decided that I need to put that part of my life on the shelf, in the basement of my soul, and nail the door to that sucker shut and not talk about it anymore-ever.  I figured the older I got, there were other things I needed to start speaking out about, such as mental illness, marriage, the importance of boundaries in relationships, and seasons of shifting and how to adjust.

Recently, through a series of EXTREMELY unexpected events I was invited to come out of the shadows and share “that” part of my life in a very public way.  I was in no way seeking a platform.  It began with me responding to an author’s blog she had written about childhood sexual abuse and how it affects us even as we grow into our 30’s and 40’s and beyond.  The next thing I know, I receive an email from the author.  She was incredibly kind and gentle; extremely sensitive and full of grace when she asked if I would be willing to participate in part of a campaign that is falling in line with the launch of her book release. We’re talking about in a way that thousands will see my face and my words.  Years ago, I would have accepted the invitation quickly and without hesitation.  But now……Now I had a decision to make.  Did I want to take that dusty box off the shelf of all that I wanted to forget and not talk about anymore and remain silent, or choose to re-open the very painful contents of so that other women may find healing. 

What came so naturally and easily to share in the past had now become something that I no longer wanted to talk about.  PERIOD. Why?  Because a few years ago something triggered painful and vivid details and memories of my childhood innocence lost.  Even in my sleep I cannot escape the sights, the sounds, and the receptiveness of what had happened to me and as a result the foolish decisions I’d made after getting out of the grips of my abuser.  I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago because of one bad episode of flashbacks, but something I don’t think I’ve ever shared is that for the last two years it has been triggered once again and it has been a fierce battle.  I have been suffering in silence and no one really knows that for months there are nights I wake up screaming with sweat pouring down my face and my husband has had to hold me as I wailed in frustration that I wish it would just all go away.  That my many nights of insomnia are sometimes due to me not wanting to fall asleep because I’m afraid of the nightmares.  Here’s an outright admission.  I am jealous and envious of women who have suffered the same things I have and have somehow been able to seemingly move forward as if it never happened to them.  Feelings of guilt engulf me as I ask myself, “Why am I still dealing with it?”  The quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” is no lie!  Let me interject here.  Please don’t judge.  I know as a Christian most people would say, you haven’t prayed about it enough.  You haven’t fasted because this wouldn’t be happening if you had.  You keep going over and over it. You just need deliverance.  You need to move on.  There’s nothing anyone can say that I haven’t thought of, heard, or done myself.  Do people not realize that when something so traumatic happens you are so desperate to be freed from the memories that you will do whatever it takes?  No matter how many times you speak peace and rest over your sleep, nightmares will find their way into reminding you of everything and anything you’d ever want erased from your memory.  I’ve finally reconciled myself to the fact that even in the midst of the pitch black dark of night, He is still with me and that His grace is sufficient.  That I don’t have to understand why or how the memories came back all these years later, but that I have to trust that He is my refuge and strength in my time of trouble.

Without notice, it’s as if shame and fear, and insecurity showed up at my door, and while I tried to close it, they forced their way in – through memories, nightmares, and triggers.  I found out something else too.  I have been prideful.  I would boldly proclaim that “I AM NOT A VICTIM.  I AM A VICTOR!”  And while I do believe and know that with every fiber of my being on a physical and spiritual level, I wasn’t saying it for the right reasons.  I was saying it because I did not want to be viewed as a weak woman in her 40’s still “hung up” on things from her early teens through her early twenties.   For years I have gone out of my way and yelled from the mountain tops that I am no one’s victim; that on the contrary I am a victor!!!!!!  Through the years my resolve was to shout even louder, “I AM NOT A VICTIM!”.  The nightmares and memories would say differently and there have been times that I have doubted those truths and therefore was trying to say it in a way of wanting to appear like Wonderwoman.  You see, It  [my proclamation of freedom from victimhood] was about me, me, me and not HIM.  The difference now is that when I proclaim it, it is not with the pride and arrogance of, “Look at me.  I’Mso “strong” that no one is going to hurt me ever again.  Rather, it’s in humility, at the foot of the cross, with thanksgiving and hands lifted high to the One who made the way for me to be victorious and to be an overcomer even on the days I do still feel like a victim.  At the cross there is no room for my pride and arrogance, thinking I overcame because of my own strength because the cross is a blaring reminder that were it not for Him, I would still be lost.

I digress.  Back to the decision to move forward with accepting the author’s invitation.  I responded......without counting the cost at the moment, that I would be honored to participate in her campaign.  I had a deadline of 5 days.  Every time I started preparations to do my part, I froze up.  My thoughts began to convince me that I should just leave that chapter of my life closed;  that it would only deepen the PTSD; that I’d spoken about it as much as I needed to for years and now it was time to just …..LEAVE. IT. ALONE. 

The deadline day came, and I emailed the author and told her I couldn’t get it done in time.  She shared that she would extend the deadline.  The word that went through my mind at that moment cannot be said here because I’m sure many would find it offensive.  I was BUSTED!  I realized I had ran out of excuses and just sat and cried.  I had to let go of my blanket of “I don’t have to do this so I won’t.”  I knew in my spirit what I had to do because the Lord had been dealing with me about it since the arrival of her initial email.  I just ignored Him because I didn’t want the memories and the nightmares to grow even stronger.  There at my desk I cried because I knew it would mean I would have to open my box and share it’s content, that only my husband and God were aware of that I was still dealing with.

What happened next is what I call “the peeling back of another layer of the onion” moment.  Well, actually it FELT more like taking a wound, slashing it open, and watching while blood spurt out all over the place.  That’s just one of the perks of being artistic.  You see things on a much more dramatic level than most.  Back to what I was saying…..I recalled two things.  One was Revelation 12:11 “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.  And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” I remembered writing a blog years ago based, not on the front end of the scripture, but the ending, “They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”  I penned that my testimony; what I went through, every single part of it, did not belong to me.  It belonged to God who purchased my freedom and deliverance by the blood of Jesus.  That meant I could no longer love myself (my reputation, people’s perception, my little private world) so much so that I was not willing to die to my flesh screaming, “REMAIN SILENT”.  I could not cling to loving my earthly life at the expense of sharing how He set me free so that others would be set free.  I had to die to self.

Secondly, it’s a scripture Christians proclaim, and speak, and know by heart.  It’s a part of every Christian’s calling without argument.  Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  So there it was.  I didn’t need a stone tablet to fall from Heaven with instructions as to what my responsibility was, for it was right there, written in the Word of God and inscribed on the tablet of my heart, one which has recently been hard and cold and selfish.

If you’re like me, the older you get, you feel that your best days of ministry are behind you and that you’ve made far too many mistakes to be used of God……ever again.  After all I’m approaching my mid 40’s.  Why would anyone need to hear about something that happened over 20+ years ago?  Yet again, the answers were in the word.  God does not put an age restriction on your testimony.  He doesn’t allow your current flaws and shortcomings interfere with His ability to open a door that you have nailed shut.  He does not look at me and say, “You’ve really been screwing up for the past few months or years so I’m not using you.”  NO!  He is God and God alone, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Creator of the universe, and who am I to tell HIM no? Who am I to decide that I will rob another man or woman of their deliverance because I refuse to share my own?  Joyce Meyer has a saying, “Do it afraid.”, meaning even if you are full of fear in stepping out and doing something God has clearly told you to do, be obedient and do it afraid. 

I wish I could tell you that these revelations snapped me out of my desire to send the author another email just declining the offer (which is NOT paid by the way).  It was enough for me to step out of my disobedience and say okay.  I MUST DO THIS.  My life does not belong to me.  It belongs to Him.  I’m always saying less of me and more of Him.  My heart’s cry is to see the broken restored and to have compassion for others and see them the way He does.  I could just see Him yanking wide open the one foot thick bolted and nailed door of the room that had my testimony box in it.  The fear had to go.  The selfishness had to go.  The shame I was dealing with had to go.  My insecurities had to go.  The fear of PTSD triggers had to go.  My lofty ideas and calculations about being too old to share the “same old story” had to go.  The lie of the enemy telling me to remain silent had to go.  I’m always encouraging others to be Brave, so here’s my chance to be brave.  Was I going to be a hypocrite?  Like the woman with the issue of blood who pushed through the crowd just to touch the hem of His garment having full faith that it would be enough to heal her, I pushed through my hesitation and excuses and inconsistencies and flaws knowing full well that if I just stepped out in my desperation to become unstuck and to be obedient, He would see my heart and perhaps continue healing me from my own recent struggles.

I will interject that we, as Christians have a propensity to act as if we’ve always been saved, set free, looking fine, and unblemished.  We pretend that the person we are today has nothing to do with who we were yesterday; that if we wear just the right clothes and shoes and makeup; that if we say “Amen” and raise our hands up to heaven in church at just the right time that we've arrived. 

We forget.

I forgot. 

I forgot the day I walked into a man’s office in Atlanta and took off my clothes so I could get a job at a premiere strip club.  I forgot the countless men I slept with so I would be the one in control.  I forgot the night that I was in the fetal position, high on cocaine and thinking I was going to die.  I forgot the times I was so drunk I blacked out.  I forgot that DUI.  I forgot all the pits he pulled me out of with his righteous right hand.  I forgot that he pulled me off the stage naked and ashamed and clothed me with His robe of righteousness.  That He delivered me from alcoholism and a 2 pack a day smoking habit.  I forgot that when I looked in the mirror and said, “Ugly”, He called me beautiful.  I forgot that he took a 25 year old Virgin named Ryan Henderson who had never been in the world and told him on our first date that this former stripper, alcoholic, druggie, promiscuous, hard-hearted, controlling, bitter, angry, and hateful woman and single mother would be his wife.  I forgot that when this same man left me, He was the very God who told him to return to me, his wife, and to never ever leave me again.  I forgot that he was the one who taught me to love my husband and gave me the revelation of what it would take to fall in love with a husband I did not love when I said, “I do.”.  I forgot that no matter how many times it looked like we were going to go without, He always had provision.  I forgot that were it not for a mentor who took a 20 year-old pregnant, soon-to-be single mother out to dinner every Friday during her pregnancy and then took her home and taught her how to pray the word of God over her life and that of her unborn son.  I forgot that He placed me in a body of believers who held a baby shower for me and blessed me so much that there was hardly enough room in my parent’s living room to hold it all.  I forgot that He healed both of my sons who had physical issues at birth that put them in the NICU.  Oh, I could go on and on and on.  My point is that we easily forget where we came from.  As Christians, whether intentionally or unintentionally slowly separate ourselves from the understanding that the things that happened to us yesterday shaped us into the man or woman of God we are today who God desires to use for His glory; that what the devil meant to harm us, kill us, steal from us, and destroy us are the very things God has turned around for our good and to His glory. 

We forget to be the mentor.  We forget to be the one who is so full of love that we cover the multitude of a person’s sin, rather than pointing them out and then have nerve enough to judge them.  We forget that someone had to be patient enough with us to stay with us and not give up on us so we should be that person to someone else.  We forget to stop gossiping about someone because someone stopped the gossip about us.  We forgot and then we forget.  We’d rather stand aloof in our arrogance and pride than be bothered with the inconvenience of actually taking off our masks so that someone else who is bound up can actually look at you and say, “You too?  I thought I was alone.”

And so it was with me.  I forgot all the people, places, things, circumstances, and seasons it took for Him to bring me from then to now.  Who am I that I have decided and outright refused to be that person or appointment for someone else?  Who am I that I should be so selfish with what He has done for me, to me, in me, and when He opens a door, through me?  Who knew that one email would lead to such deep convictions?  I will no longer subscribe to the thought process of “not looking back” ever.  No.  For me, I now know that it was for lack of me looking back and remembering all that the Lord has done that brought me to a self-centered universe where I decided what I would and would not do despite the instruction and leading of the Spirit Of God.  I don’t look back to get sad, and depressed, and to get a poor, pitiful me mindset.  I look back to say, “LOOK WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE!” 

There is a difference between looking back and going back. 

When we LOOK back it’s to observe and glean insight.  We learn lessons and gain wisdom because we see what we could have done differently or how we should have handled a particular situation.

When we GO back we end up “experiencing” it again.  We pitch a tent and try to live in the past attempting to “fix” it fully knowing that what’s done is done and there is absolutely nothing you or anybody else can do to change it.

We move forward based on the revelation of our observation [looking back], but we get stuck when we go back to the same thoughts and mindsets of the experience thinking we can hurt those who hurt us or remain full of unforgiveness.

Sorry I got off track for a minute.  Back to the opportunity……Afraid but full of faith I finished my portion of the project and pressed the send button.  I felt relieved and released of a burden I didn’t even realize I was carrying.  It still wasn't easy and my heart was still racing.  It still made me uncomfortable but it was also an opportunity to be brave and give other women hope.

What lead me to even begin this blog?  It was a confirmation of something that occurred earlier today.  I had my day planned with my coffee and Hulu Plus when I was looking something up on Youtube.  To the side there was a clip of Bishop T.D. Jakes and the name of the sermon, “The Plight Of The Scarlet Housewife”.  It sounded so very familiar.  Then it clicked.  About 8 years ago Ryan and I were watching one of his sermons on TV.  It was so profound and relatable to me on so many levels that I never forgot it.  For YEARS I had been googling trying to find this sermon.  Then today, two days after I pressed that send button for the world to see me without my mask, there was the sermon I’d be seeking to find.  For the next hour and a half I held on to every word that fell down like manna from Heaven.  It was me.  What he was saying was me.  It was talking to me! Who I was, am, and am becoming.  Even with my flaws, shortcomings, faults, and disobedience He still wants to use me in ways that I don’t know.  It encouraged me to get back to being about my Father’s business; to come out of my cave of isolation and anti-socialism; to acknowledge that I’ve made some pretty big spiritual screw-ups lately, but that it’s okay because His mercies are new EVERY morning.  The sermon is based on the book of Hosea.  Like Gomer, I’ve been a slave to my self-erected, deceptive wall of isolation and self-preservation.  But like Hosea, God is knocking down those walls and removing me from my self-imposed slavery and breaking the chains that I wrapped around myself with my actions, attitudes, and lies of the enemy.  He wants me to be His.  He longs to redeem all that is still broken within me and around me.  He calls me His beloved.  He wants to restore to me the joy of my salvation.  He wants me to get out of bed and gather with other believers.  He wants me to be whole and restored and free.  The question I found myself asking is, “Do I want for myself what He wants for me?”  The answer is a resounding “YES!”

If you have an hour and a half to watch this sermon which is the only reason I started this blog in the first place, please do.  While watching, forsake the tendency we all seem to have when seeing someone physically worship or preaching in a way we are not used to.  We don’t know what it took for them to get to the point of breaking free.  I am the first one to criticize the “emotionalism” and my perceived “lights, camera, action” disdain I have for the modern day church (which is one of the major things I have to work on).  I have been criticizing that which I do not understand and I suspect that as some of you watch this video you will end up doing the same, but don’t.  Don’t let your external views and beliefs rob you of what will become internal truths. 

My prayer is that even if you don’t watch Bishop Jake’s sermon, that something, somewhere, in the many words, run-on sentences, misspelled words, and improper use of grammar on this page has ministered to you in some way.  Usually I would care.  But today……well today I can’t.  I simply cannot afford to if I am going to walk in the freedom and liberty that I so desperately desire.  I must, YOU must, be a voice for those who are not ready or cannot speak for themselves right now.  We may not be perfect. We may still be wrestling with our ever-present, unrelenting thorn in the flesh, but that does not disqualify us from the calling of God on our lives.

In closing, can I ask a favor?  Pray for me.  I have much healing and restoration that needs to take place that I thought I didn’t need until last week.  It doesn’t have to be lofty, theological, long-winded prayer.  Just pray Ephesians 1:17-20.  Rarely do I use the Amplified version of the Bible when blogging, but this is serious business people.  J   So here it is.  Pray that, “Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),  And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places].”  There.  I will pray this for you and I would be honored if you would pray it for me. 

Lesson #1 in all of this.  I can’t do it alone anymore.  I need my brothers and sisters in the faith……I need prayer warriors and people who are able and willing to see past my many flaws, mistakes, shortcomings, and imperfections and stand with me as I am on my road to spiritual and mental recovery.  Would you please speak truth and life over my life?  Will you choose to see me through the eyes of the Father instead of your natural eyes? There is no such thing as an army of one.  I know there are other troops on the same battlefield of myself and they need you too.  

Thank you in advance for allowing me to share my story and the challenges I am facing in this season of my life. Thank you for not judging me.  Thank you for extending grace and mercy.  Thank you for loving me, if for no other reason than the fact that I am a child of God and that binds us together in the faith. Thank you for allowing me to BE BRAVE.

Much Love And Because Of Christ,
Chantelle







The actual link is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFiYP2QarUI