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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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My Christian Backstory (or Where I Was Before Elevation Church) #elevat10n #superversary

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

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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

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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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When Life and Death Collide

Eighteen years ago right now. I was on my last Daddy – Daughter Date with my Daddy, Chester Helms. At least it was our last one without the Baby Princess. He took me out to eat at Champps Americana because we had never been there before and I didn’t think a sports bar would be the appropriate place to take a baby later. I can still remember it like it was yesterday, even what I ordered. Chicken Salad sandwich with pasta salad. And I couldn’t finish it because I was so nervous and I couldn’t take it with me because I couldn’t eat after midnight because I was being induced the next morning, May 24th, at 7:00 AM. Little did we know Bailey wouldn’t make her entrance until 9:05 AM on May 25th. I should have known then she was going to be a handful. 🙂 After 26 hours of labor she still put up a fight to come in her own time. LOL

But both nights, my Daddy was there for me. He and Mom stayed with me the entire time. My friend Nell joined us in the early morning hours before Bailey finally arrived. But when I watch the video, I still tear up when I see my Daddy, in his high-tech wheelchair, reclining as he sat with me the whole time. Mom was working the camera and fidgeting and such, but Daddy just sat there, and listened when I needed it, and was my calming steadfast rock. He always was.

I wish he had been around more for Bailey. Losing him when she was two was just too soon. It’s hard that her birthday always reminds me so much of what I lost when I lost Daddy, even though I gained so much when she was born. I may not have shared DNA with my Daddy, but I doubt any biological daughter could have been closer than he and I. He was my best friend and my therapist and my protector – my Daddy.

I get angry at him sometimes still. He promised me when I told him I was pregnant and scared, that he would be there for me. He would help me. I wouldn’t have to raise her alone. I thought “What could be better? He was the perfect Daddy, so surely he would be the perfect Grandpa”. I was pretty sure Bailey’s father would never be there for her or me, but I knew my Daddy would be. He adopted me a couple of years after he married Mom and he had been there for me since I was 9. I could raise her alone, as long as Daddy was there. And maybe God would bring me someone just like Daddy was for me for my precious baby girl. But Daddy died in April 1997 – not quite two months before Bailey turned 2. He broke his promise. He was supposed to help me raise her.

I told her father while I was pregnant the best gift my Mom ever gave me was a life without my biological father. I told him if he ever wanted to be in her life, that would be fine, but I didn’t want  him in my life anymore as anything other than her father. So glad I made that choice. Her biological father never made a motion to meet her. It took my aunt falling ill with cancer and us visiting her in AL for him to meet his daughter at a park – when she was 16. She knew she had siblings and she wanted to meet them. As I imagined, after some time he broke her heart as well. He married a woman and didn’t bother to tell her about 3 of his six children – the three that don’t live near him. Bailey was crushed that her own father basically dismissed her existence. I hope one day they can develop a relationship. Every daughter should see her Daddy as the perfect man. He should treat her with respect, care and dignity. He should show her how she deserves for any man to treat her. I have no doubt if more Daddy’s would treat their daughters and their daughter’s mothers with more respect, we would have a lot less social turmoil in our country. But that’s a blog for another time….

Tonight is about me and my Daddy. It was our last outing together just the two of us. After May 25th, 1995 it was the three of us. We went to parties, charity events, restaurants, movies, Charlotte Hornets games, anywhere we wanted to go Daddy was proud to show off his Princesses. Bailey charmed many a person, usually men, wherever we went with her big smile and lots of laughter and Daddy beamed. I really wish her birthday didn’t always remind me of the loss of him, but then again, it reminds me of how much he meant to me, gave to me, and taught me about being a good person, as well as a good parent.

I miss you Daddy!

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I am so grateful for Facebook

No matter what people say, I love FB. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through the last year since the house burned without my FB friends. In the last week, I’ve prayed for sick friends, hurting friends and friends who have lost people in their lives and families. I have also rejoiced in good news of births, weddings, and renewed health. This is a huge world we live in and FB allows us to be involved in others lives, even though life has scattered us all over, as if we are all still living in the same neighborhood or at least in the same town. For that, I am so grateful.

After Bailey was born, I was basically alone for about 14 years. Most of my family has passed on to a better place and those that remain are all over the country (or at least most of the South). 🙂 My world consisted of Bailey and work. Friends were a thing of the past. Unlike a certain mom in the news lately, my child was the most important thing in the world to me. My social life would have to wait until she was grown. Now I know that was a mistake, but that’s not the topic today.

Then Bailey got on Facebook and Mom told me I had to be on there to monitor her. (Mom actually got on Facebook before me!) I really didn’t want to. I was happy sitting at home alone playing Big Fish games on my computer in the evening. But I finally did and I am so glad I did.

Facebook has connected me with so many old friends, as well as my faraway family. I get to live vicariously through my world travelling cousins. I am the recipient of encouraging emails from friends who understand the things I face in life. I am able to keep up with the daily news of friends and family that are dealing with issues and need prayers and support. And I even get out of the house and do things with friends now!!! Not as much as I would like, due to dealing with the aftermath of the fire, but that’s almost over and hopefully soon I can take advantage of every invitation I receive and I can put some out there myself.

So yes, I probably do spend too much time on Frontierville (but that’s the competitive side of me – I HAVE to complete those missions!!!), but overall, my life is so much better because of Facebook and I hope, through my prayers and thoughts, it helps those I love as well.

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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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