I have always been in church. My Granny took me every week when I was a little girl in Heath Springs, SC. She made me watch Billy Graham every time he was on TV. I remember being a little girl of 5 or 6 standing next to Granny in a pew at Flint Ridge Baptist Church and crying as we sang “Just As I Am” in church. How could someone love me so much that He would allow His Son to die for me? I didn’t quite understand it all, but I felt it all.
Me with my Granny and my Uncle Bert after church Easter 1970
So I grew up in church. I sang in the choir. I was in GA’s. My mom re-married when I was 9 and we moved to Charlotte. We started attending Thomasboro Baptist Church, the home church of my new Daddy. When I was 14, I publicly answered the alter call. I was baptized not long afterward. It wasn’t all it should have been. You can see that story at an earlier post when I was celebrating my choice to be baptized again at Elevation Church Lake Norman in 2014.
As I said before, we had always been a church family. I fell away as a teenager because I worked every Sunday and while I was in college I never made it a priority and my first career out of college again I worked every Sunday. I never forgot my relationship with God, but I sure didn’t prioritize it. The birth of my daughter changed things. I knew I had to raise her in the church, like I had been. Being the child of a single mom was going to be tough enough, so I needed to nurture a love of Christ in her so she would always have Him to lean on. We were members at a Presbyterian Church. If the door was open, we were there. I was a Sunday School teacher for 2 year olds, I served in the nursery during preaching, I led the 4 and 5-year-old Cherub Choir, and I coached softball and soccer. Seriously, if the door was open, we were there starting when my daughter was about two years old. By the time she was 7 or so, she would throw tantrums about going to church. At around 8, I stopped all the volunteering but it was hard to get her to church just once a week or so. When she was 9, I lost my job and we lost our home. We had to move back to Charlotte with my mom. I was suffering from severe, crippling depression. It was a dark and dangerous time in our lives.
But like He always does, He brought me out of it. One night I just broke down at a stop light and sobbed. I confessed that I was clueless about what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I obviously had no idea what to do to take care of my family. I was coming up on being out of work for a year. I had finally broken down and applied for food stamps and Medicaid for my daughter. I pleaded with God to show me where He wanted me, where I belonged. I knew He had plans for me. I was still alive when at a point I had felt I shouldn’t be. I admitted I was weak and He was strong and wherever He led me, I would go.
When I got home and checked my email, there was an email about an office manager position at a management consulting firm. Management consulting was what I wanted to do when I graduated! I had degrees in Business and Psychology in preparation for that career, but I let life and hard-headedness get in the way and followed money into the restaurant business. But there was more. The name of the company was Peter Rock Consulting. I would find out later that, yes, the company was named after the disciple Peter. The principle felt that the greatest stories of leadership in our history are located in the Bible and the greatest leader of all times was Jesus. Yes – God had placed me exactly where I needed to be. It was my new boss that pressed me to find a new church, one that Bailey would attend. After the year I had, you would think I would run to the church for some peace and comfort. But I was still overwhelmed with all that had happened and getting back into the swing of working full-time and my daughter started having more trouble than ever in school. It was always something. Sunday was the day I slept all day long. I was totally exhausted physically and mentally. Our living conditions were still not great. Grown women with children should not live with their mother. I’ll just leave it at that.
I thrived at Peter Rock Consulting. The psychologist I worked with had gotten his start working with adolescent and pre-adolescent girls with serious issues in a residential facility. With a growing daughter that was angry at the world for everything, again, God had me right where I needed to be. My Daddy was a psychologist. He promised me while I was pregnant that he would be there to help me raise my daughter. Unfortunately, he went to Heaven right before her 2nd birthday, followed soon after by my uncle, my Granny and my Grandaddy. But the time my daughter was 5 she was so comfortable at funerals she ran up to my Granny’s casket and exclaimed, “Look how pretty she is!” I dearly needed help as she started into the teen years. Nothing seemed to bring her joy other than drawing and animals. School was an argument every day. My boss gently suggested that my daughter needed to be in church, with like-minded people and children. He urged me to keep visiting churches. He knew eventually I would find one that fit.
So Christmas came and went in 2008 and I still had not found a church. It was almost Easter. There was no way we weren’t going to be in a church somewhere on Easter!!! I prayed for guidance and I surfed the internet. I visited churches alone. I knew the right place for my daughter was there somewhere. You can’t swing a cat in Charlotte without hitting a church. It was there. I knew it.
During my research I came across an article about Elevation Church. It was about to celebrate Easter for the 4th year. They had done some crazy egg drop the first year – which was referenced in the article. It said the music was loud and the preacher engaging. That’s what we needed. Bailey was all about music by the time she hit 12 or 13. Emo music. My Chemical Romance is the main band I remember. Hopefully the Elevation Church music would come close. She had started coming home from school swearing there was no such thing as God and I was crazy if I thought He would take care of us. None of her friends’ families had to go to church. It sounded like some of the most blasphemous, hippy crap I had ever heard and it was coming out of my child’s mouth, a child who I drug to church over and over again, and I wasn’t having it!!!
I gave her an ultimatum the day before Easter: We are Christians. We go to church. We dang sure go to church on Easter. So pick a sunrise service at Chimney Rock or this church here in town called Elevation where she could wear jeans and a tee shirt and the last service was at 6:00 PM on Easter Sunday. She said “That one” begrudgingly. Hallelujah! I was getting somewhere.
She got to wear her black leopard print jeans and her tennis shoes. She went in without a fuss. She sat down and stared at the floor. I prayed she would at least politely sit there and listen. We were three or four rows from the front of the auditorium at Butler High School. We had been smiled at, waved at and welcomed since we hit the parking lot. I prayed this was it. This was where we needed to be. That this was going to be home.
Check out my previous post to see more about that first day on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. It was just as I hoped. We were home and our lives were about to change in ways I never thought possible.
Sneak Peek at Coming Posts
Bailey’s First Day as an eTL
Heart and Soul at the Lake
Bailey and Kaila Greeting at Matthews
Bailey after her Baptism
Love Week 2015 at the Warehouse