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And a Little Child Will Lead Them #elevat10n #superversary

The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6

My daughter was 13, still a child, when I decided we had to be back in church. You can check out earlier posts about my backstory as a Christian and our first day at Elevation Church.  On Easter of 2009, I finally got her to a church service that she liked. At the end of the Worship Experience, she turned to be and said “Can we come back?” It was the sweetest thing I had heard in quite some time!

After several years of not being in church, we had to develop new patterns and we didn’t come back immediately. But I kept up with the sermons and happenings online. In June, we had a family tradition of going to the Taste of Charlotte, an annual festival in Uptown Charlotte. We brought along Bailey’s best friend since Kindergarten, Kaila. That year, the festival was not as usual. The girls were bored out of the minds. It was Sunday afternoon, so I suggested we head out to Butler High School to the last Worship Experience at Elevation Church that weekend. Bailey quickly said “Yes!” and proceeded to tell Kaila how much she was going to love it. My heart skipped a beat as I heard my daughter proclaiming how great a church was to another 14 year old!

GOISSo we hopped the train back to the car and drove out there. It was June 7. It was the first day of a new series “God Is…”. It was also One Prayer day with Lifechurch. When Pastor came out in a red graphic tee, jeans and spiked hair I could tell the girls were intrigued. The first time we came, Easter, he was dressed like every other pastor they had ever seen. That day, he was dressed like ‘one of them’. Plus Pastor had illustrated carrying around burdens that are not ours by dragging a young boy around on his back. They were engaged in the sermon! The sermon was “God is…Not”. He spoke about the dysfunction of anxiety and how anxiety is not only a dysfunction, it’s a sin. For me, this is a lesson that hit me hard and I have gone back to that teaching over and over and taught it to others. It has become a basis for how I live my life and if I slip, my daughter now reminds me. God is not incompetent. God is not forgetful. God is not indifferent. It was a life-changing day for me and my family. Plus, the girls wanted to come back again!!!

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The next time we came back (about a month later – still trying to build some habits), it was the start of a new series, Cow Tipping. The sermon title was “My friend just got a divorce, and my brother is living with his new girlfriend. Are they going to hell?” Oh boy! Pastor Steven had asked people to tweet and email questions about Christianity. Things like drinking, smoking, cussing, lying, pre-marital sex, adultery. They ran the gambit and it was uncomfortable at times, but the girls were listening! And they wanted to come back every week! So we did! In my mind, a choir of angels was singing! My child was asking to come to church every week!!!

NSSUWe went to every week of that series. And the next ‘series’ was No Show Sunday. Little did I know how my life, and that of my daughter, would change because of that day. But the pattern was building. I wrote on my FaceBook page that morning I had to get a bunch of stuff done that day, because “the girls won’t forgive me if they miss Elevation”.

The premise for ‘No Show Sunday” was that the volunteers didn’t show up that day. There were still volunteers in the child care area, but there weren’t lyrics on the screen, ushers, greeters, people greeting us in the parking lot. We had only been coming regularly about a month but we were acutely aware something was different. And the point was made! As soon as the sermon was over, the girls were asking “Can we volunteer?”

I wasn’t sure. It was a huge commitment. Kaila lived in Gastonia. I would have to meet her parents with her every week and then drive to the Matthews Campus (which was about to open). It would mean hours of driving for me each week. They had never done anything like that before. They wanted to be Greeters. They were so excited! I couldn’t say no, so we signed up.  That night, I wrote on my FaceBook wall “God deserves my best and He has not gotten it for the last few months. It’s time to kick my service to Him up a notch and stop focusing on my wants. He’ll give me what I need in His time.”

Things had changed so much since we walked in that auditorium on Easter, just a couple of months earlier. I had no idea how much the rest of my life, and that of my daughter, was about to change in so many ways, especially in the next 18 months, both good and bad. But the things we were learning from Pastor Steven’s preaching and Elevation Church were going to remind us who was in charge for the rest of our lives, even when we felt like we were going through Hell.

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Bailey and Kaila Greeting at Matthews

 

Here is a post from FaceBook after our first day volunteering:bailey is getting baptized

 

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First Time at Elevation – Easter 2009 #elevat10n #superversary

“Broken and repaired. Damaged and restored. Sometimes, it’s not about what you can do. It’s about what’s already been done. This series, Healer, is about being made whole again.” – Elevation Church

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Sunday, April 12, 2009 – Easter

That was our first time at Elevation Church, at the Butler High School campus. Pastor was preaching at Uptown and it was the last of probably 5th or 6th sermon he had preached in 24 hours. Elevation didn’t have a permanent building yet, but the Matthews site was under construction. So how did we, a family that had been heavily involved in a formal Presbyterian church for over 10 years end up at this new type of worship we had never really heard of???

My daughter was 13 at the time. Despite growing up in the church, she was rebelling. Probably because if the door of the church was open, we were there. Right before Easter some junk came out of her mouth that she had picked up at school about there not being a God. Well, that wasn’t flying with me, so I was determined to find a church I could get her to attend. I knew I wasn’t getting her dressed in a dress, etc. for a church like we were used to so I started doing research. I found an article about Elevation in the Charlotte Observer, and while it sounded crazy to me, I could take her in jeans and a tee and that would at least keep the uproar at home to a minimum.

So Easter weekend that year, I gave her a choice. We were going to church, no matter what, but she could choose – get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and drive to Chimney Rock for a sunrise service or there was some church in Charlotte that we could go to that had a service at 6:00 PM AND she could wear jeans. She picked Elevation.

So we rolled into the parking lot at Butler High School late that afternoon. People were jumping around and waving at us. This was pretty cool! We got out and started walking up the walkway and everyone was welcoming us. We got inside and went into the auditorium and were seated about 3 or 4 rows back from the front.

This is the first thing we saw (actually this is the teaser, but you get the idea):

At that point I’m wondering what in the world?!?! We were definitely not at 1st Pres anymore! But I looked over at my daughter and she was no longer staring at the floor. She was staring at the screen! Then the music started and Mack Brock and the band came out on stage. She sat up. Then, a miracle started to form in front of my eyes as an artist came out and started painting on glass! Bailey was an art student at Northwest School of the Arts. While she is more into sculpture and photography, she appreciates anything artistic.  In my heart, I knew I had brought her to the right place at the right time and God had arranged that meeting. Here is what the painting looked like: (I know I saw a video of it at some point, but I can no longer find it)

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So the music ended and instead of her sulking back into her seat, she listened to Pastor Steven preach. So did I. I knew we were in the right place. We had been through some very rough times – unemployment, losing our home, illness, depression, anger, etc. We were broken. We were damaged. But that day, our lives shifted in a new direction. In the sermon, pastor says he hopes our world is turned upside down by his message from Isaiah 53:1-6. Our world definitely was!! I had never heard a pastor preach like that. He was honest, brutally so, about the horror of the Crucifixion. He was straight-forward in what it means to love God and esteem Him. At one point he said “I know a lot of you are first time guests and didn’t plan to get into all this, but if you didn’t want to get wet you shouldn’t have gotten near the boat”. When he said that Jesus “kicked the end out of a borrowed tomb” I was all in. Then he said said “Cut the crap! Give yourself to Jesus and be healed by His wounds! He suffered for you! And He loves you!” I was smacked in the face with the truth and I appreciated it. I knew if I was going to show my child the way of the Lord, we were in the place I was going to learn, and so would she, how to live as true Christians, not the ones that give lip service and live like hell.

As I was looking through things I said over the next few months, I see a change in my outlook on life. I was more positive but most importantly, I started relying on God to be there for me. I was no longer alone. My child was no longer locking herself in her room all the time. In fact, she invited her best friend Kaila to come with us to Elevation during Cow Tipping.

There is so much more to be thankful for, so the next step in our Elevation journey will be in my next post. But for this one, I am so thankful for that day in April 2009 that I decided that I was dragging my child to church and I’m thankful that the experience was life-changing. We still struggle. We don’t have it all together. But we have God in our lives constantly. No half-stepping as Pastor said that day. We are all in and can’t wait for the next 10 years and beyond!

 

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Conscious decisions….

When I made the choice to leave my daughter’s father while I was pregnant and eventually made the decision that, while I would never keep him from our child, I would never desire a relationship with him again and I did not want him in my life, I knew it would be hard. But I assumed that at some point, I would meet someone and start a new life. My Daddy was actually my step-father. I didn’t even like him at first, because when he married my mom, it meant we had to move from my beloved Granny’s house in the country to an apartment in Charlotte. But he became my Daddy, my best friend, my protector, my teacher, the one constant in my life. He adopted me and gave me his name. I was his Princess. Surely God would send someone like that into my life for Bailey.

That was over 16 years ago. I made another conscious decision to not date when Bailey was little. I would get so pissed at these single moms who left their kids with other people while they went out and had fun. How dare their child not be the center of their world?!? How selfish could they be? Becoming a mom meant you were no longer number one – your child takes that place. Boy, was I wrong!!!

At some point, probably when she was around 5 or 6, I should have made another conscious decision to begin dating again. I did go out on a date or two. One was an absolute disaster (he took me to a movie I specifically said I did not want to see). The other was sweet enough, but I could see he was not quite as stable in his life as I needed.

I should have kept looking, but things started getting hard raising Bailey, so I thought throwing myself whole-heartedly into being a mom would fix them. Bailey was diagnosed with ADD. So was I. It made so much sense looking back that if I had been diagnosed and treated when I was in high school, or even early college, I would have probably reached my goal of being a physician. But anyway, my way of dealing with it, not knowing I had it, was to work hard. I was driven to be the best at whatever I did, especially school.

Bailey also appeared to have some form of dyslexia. She was brilliant and could discuss anything with you and tell you everything she learned in class, but she could not get those thoughts on paper. Later, she would say it was like there was a door that had to be opened in order for her thoughts to get on the paper, and she didn’t have the key. How could my child be having so much trouble in school? I made straight A’s without trying. But I was driven to be perfect. That was the key to not getting in trouble, wasn’t it? Do what I was told how I was told to do it. I would do anything to not get in trouble, especially if it meant ticking my mom off. And I wanted my Daddy to be proud of me.

So I thought that’s how kids were. They did what they were told so they wouldn’t get in trouble. They wanted their parents to be proud of them. They cared what they thought. They never wanted to hurt them. Kids are a reflection of their parents and their family. I would never disgrace my Daddy or my Granny. I would never disappoint them. I couldn’t seem to make Mom happy no matter what, but they were always pleased with my accomplishments and I was so proud to show them what I could do.

Apparently that’s not how all kids are. Wish someone had told me that. I thought the more I begged and pleaded, it would show how much I was being hurt by Bailey not doing her schoolwork and not doing anything I asked. How could she continue to behave in a way that hurt me so? I’m her Momma. I would do anything for her. I’ve devoted my life to her since before she was here. Can’t she just try to do what I ask or what her teachers ask? They call it ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’. When we were growing up, it was being a brat and it got your butt tore up.

When Bailey was little, I made another conscious decision that I would never spank her. I would pop her if she was doing something that could hurt her or someone else, but I lived in fear of my Mom coming after me for the smallest infraction with a belt, so I refused to have my daughter fear me. Now I wonder if I had just let her know I was the boss, somehow, without beating the hell out of her, would we be where we are now?

Where are we? To me, it’s pretty close to Hell. I know other people have it much more difficult than I do. My child is sweet and respectful to most other adults, as long as they are not asking her to do anything. (She will actually volunteer to do things for other adults. She goes to her friend’s homes and washes dishes and picks up after herself, as well as asks what she can do to help out. Never happens at home.) She doesn’t do drugs or drink or engage in all those other behaviors that teenagers do that terrify parents. She told me  once she felt weird because she didn’t get high like her friends. I told her she was just smart.

So she’s a pretty good kid. But she’s almost 16. She will have to get a job one day. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she needs an education to get a good job. She hates school. She sees no value in it at all. I can’t get her to see that 10, or even 8 or 6 years from now, she will see that education is the key to getting a good job and being able to take care of herself.  She refuses to see that. She uses ‘n of 1’ reasoning constantly. Sure, there are people out there who quit school and became successful, but they are few and far between. By quitting school, unless she’s the ‘n of 1’, she’s guaranteeing she will never make enough money to live comfortably and not have to worry about financial disasters like broken cars or expensive medical problems or getting hurt and not being able to work at a physically demanding job, so no paycheck until she’s back at work. It breaks my heart when I think about her not graduating from high school, much less not going to college. What could I have done? What would have made a difference? How can I fix this? Right now, we’re going with the plan of not nagging her. It does appear to work some. She’s still not doing her schoolwork, but we’re not fighting. But I feel like even more of a failure as a mother by letting her do what she wants to do, even though she was doing that before, there was just more screaming and crying involved on my part. Now I just cry to myself as I watch her surf the internet, read novels, watch TV and ignore any homework and even classwork assignments. She’s counting the days until May 25th, when she turns 16. She wants to quit school then. It’s almost as if she already has. She stays home sick or she goes to school and reads her novel instead of doing her classwork. That I don’t get. We sure as hell did not get away with crap like that in high school. But the only discipline that the school seems to use is suspension. WTH?!?! That’s just a vacation!!!

So I don’t have a great track record with my conscious decisions. I tried so hard to do the right thing, only to get crappy results. Right now, I can only decide to pray everyday and have faith that God has a plan for all this. I wish He would let me in on it, but I guess that’s what faith is…knowing that He will take care of us, even when we don’t see a way out of the mess our decisions got us in. Free will…what a monumental responsibility.

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Slipping Through My Fingers…

Tomorrow is the first day of high school for my baby. I’ve been breaking into tears for at least the last six hours. I came across Mama Mia and began to watch it and it made me think about why I can’t stop crying. Hearing Meryl Streep sing how her daughter was slipping through her fingers brought out the body wracking sobs. But Dancing Queen did as well. Am I crying because I am losing my daughter as she grows up and away from me? Or am I crying because that 17-yr old Dancing Queen is growing older and I want her back?

I cry every year the night before school starts. I don’t get these moms that celebrate school being back in session. I would love to stay home and just watch her every day as she grows and learns. As much as a 15-yr old girl can infuriate you, and Bailey is an expert at this, I still would love to be with her every moment of the day. Several years ago a friend saw a home video of Bailey and I playing in a pool at the beach when she was about two. He commented ‘That’s what true love looks like’. And he was right. I truly and deeply love my daughter.

But on these nights before the school year starts, and I get weepy and sentimental, I wonder as much as I love her, am I a good enough mother to her? I’ve been so wrapped up in her that I don’t have much of a life outside of her. She told me tonight I needed a husband and another baby, or at the least a baby puppy – something else to love besides her. She’s so right. She shouldn’t feel pressure because I have made some unwise choices in the past.

The moon is full tonight. I just took the dogs for a walk and sobbed the entire time. But as I looked at the moon, I thought about all the beautiful full moons that my baby will someday see, and share with her kids and her future husband. Her life is just beginning. But that does not mean mine is ending or even close.

So as I drop her off in the morning for the first day of high school, I have new things to which to look forward. I pray she does well in her classes and we have success in evaluating her processing issues and working on them so that school is not such a painful burden to her and that she has a wonderful freshman year. But I also pray that I have a great year as well. It’s starting out different than any other. There are still weeks ahead dealing with the inventory of the things in the burned out house and hoping that mom’s brain damage heals from the smoke damage. But we are in a new home, even temporarily, and it’s more peaceful that we have ever had in all her school years. We have new challenges, but some old ones are gone.

It’s going to be a good year, for both of us.

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Almost halfway there…..

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It’s Tuesday, July 6. Bailey, my precious daughter, left on July 2 for the beach. She will be back on Sunday, July 11. This is the longest time I’ve ever been away from her since she was born, 15 years ago.

She is having a blast. She is with a friend who is competing in dance competitions this week. I have heard Bailey gush about her friend and the friend’s mom for months. I’m extremely grateful that they took her with them on their vacation. Bailey really doesn’t like going places with just me anymore. I know she loves me, she would just rather be with her friends. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

I have always tried to not be my daughter’s friend, but when you are a single mom, the lines get blurred sometimes. You are always the bad guy when there has to be one. You are also the favorite one, because you are the only one.

The one part of our lives where the friendship line blurred was away from home – doing things, going places. When Bailey was born, I chose to devote my life to her and forgo a social life of my own. BIG MISTAKE! But I did it and I can’t change the past. (More on that later – I’m sure)

So when it came time for festivals and fairs, sporting events and movies, day trips and vacations, where most people would go with their mate or a date, we went as a family – a two person family. I always thought it was great. As a single mom, I didn’t have anyone else I had to ‘check in’ with. If either of us wanted to take off for a day or so on the weekend, we did. Midnight movie premiers – we’re there. As long as it was in the budget, we did it.

Little did I know what I was doing. I was basically depending on my daughter to be my social life. Without applying, she had a job – my companion. I became lazy about trying to spend time with friends, because I had a built-in ‘friend’. It was easy…..until recently.

Bailey turned 15 in May. In a year, she will probably be driving. She starts high school in the fall. She has TONS of friends. She also doesn’t mince words. A few times now she has come right out and said “Mom, you need to go out with your friends” and “Mom, I want to spend time with my friends, not you” and with several movies “I want to go see that, but with my friends, Mom, not you”.

So, I’m almost halfway there to getting her back home. But things won’t be the same again. She’s growing up and I have to let her. I also have to learn to not depend on her for my social life. Many parents call their children their ‘heart’. Last Friday, I felt like I was leaving my heart on the other side of town. On the way to work this morning, I began to sob because I miss her so much. I felt like my heart was breaking. But then I realized, I need to grow up. It won’t be long before she heads off to college. As much as I push UNCC, she wants to go to Appalachian. I need to get off my butt and create a life of my own, so that when she does pack up and head off in the world, I won’t feel like my heart is leaving me and maybe, if it’s in God’s plan and if I put my mind to it, I won’t be alone when she leaves me.

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