Nicolette Garlington, standing in front of the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, which she describes as her “sanctuary,” recently published an e-book of spiritual poetry, entitled, “Psalms of Me: The Journey of a Believer.” (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
The words are raw, heartfelt messages of thankfulness and love entwined with pleadings of help and rescue. Reading Nicolette Garlington’s book of psalms gives the reader a sense of almost listening in on the Conyers author as she prays.
Such an intrusion could be unsettling for the woman who calls herself an introvert and who is private and shy. In fact, she said it is an amazing gift from God that she ever found the ability to write and share her work because she has long suffered from a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
Garlington has just debuted her first work, “Psalms of Me: The Journey of a Believer” as an e-book available at Amazon.com. Dedicated to her mother, Rozetta Garlington, whom she calls her “rock,” the book reveals the heart of a woman who has experienced family tragedy, personal loss and deep troubles, yet seeks the direction and solace that only God can provide.
In one entry titled “The Test,” Garlington writes: “Life is funny to me sometimes. I seem never to learn to trust in you, God until I am on the break of collapse. Why must I be in the fire to call upon you? Is this why sometimes you put me into situations so I can finally call upon you for help? I know you are the creator of all things. I must anger you a lot at times when I try to do things on my own…
“I finally realize it now. You are my strength and not I. Therefore, the test is life and with you, I will pass it.”
Born in Fulton County, Garlington was a child when her family moved to Conyers. She grew up singing in the church choir at Bald Rock Baptist Church and enjoyed playing on the basketball team at school.
“My life was mostly normal to me until I was about 9 years old and that’s when I had my dream of my father in a difficult position,” Garlington said. “I didn’t understand it. I didn’t realize that a few years later he was going to commit suicide.
“That was a realization when it came back to me and I had actually had the dream of his actual suicide and I didn’t know it…I didn’t know how to explain it as a child. I’m pretty sure I carried guilt. You know something, but you don’t know it. His death took a toll on the family.”
Garlington was 11 when her father Michael committed suicide. His death left her mother with two young daughters, one of whom was handicapped.
“We had to live with family members,” Garlington recalls. “It wasn’t a good time. We didn’t have a lot.”
She said her mother encouraged her to stay busy and join in sports and she made the basketball team at Rockdale County High School.
Her biggest responsibility — and joy — was caring for her younger sister. Garlington was 7 when Lavonda was born. The family called the little one “Pooh,” and Garlington said she loved the child more as a mother than an older sister. Lavonda had Down syndrome and health issues and lived until 2005, when she died at the age of 26.
Garlington was heartbroken and those days remain a painful experience for her. She writes about such times in her life in “Psalms of Me” as she explores her feelings and the need for God to intervene. In the entry “My Promise,” Garlington holds nothing back.
“Screaming at the one I love because the pressure is too great,” she writes. “I am praying so hard for forgiveness and not hate. Bills are piling up around and there is not enough money to pay. Lord, I have put up a brave front, but all I want to do is escape.
“I have kept my promise as best as I could. I did all I could for Pooh, my little sister. I was almost a mother rather than a sister. Now God, she is with you. Mother is here with me and I am doing all I can to keep the little we have. A run down, two-bedroom mobile home in a not-so-safe haven surrounded by filthy running water and washed up dreams…”
Garlington goes on to write, “I have been praying to you for so long, but I do not see a change in my life. I am so tired and weary of my disappointments, failures and yes, at times my promise. God, I used to hate my father for what he left for me to bear. I hope he is with you somewhere in your kingdom and his demons and torture are no more.
“Please watch over me and keep me strong so I can keep my promise and not run away. Most important Lord, do not let me give up as he did.”
Her difficult childhood left Garlington with low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, she said, adding that those feelings are what kept her from trying to get on the basketball team at Georgia Southern University. She didn’t get a basketball scholarship and said she lacked the confidence to try out for the team, so for several years she worked as a manager for the team.
Garlington graduated from Georgia Southern with a degree in justice studies, but said she never found “something that fits.” She said she didn’t want to pursue a job in her field, so she got a job with Publix and worked in the store’s management for six years. She decided to lessen her stress and became a baker for the Publix grocery store near Rockdale Medical Center and that is where she works today.
Happy with her work, Garlington said she still wanted more. She began asking God if there wasn’t something more to life than just work.
“There has to be a goal, a purpose in life for me,” she said. “I began to pray. My writing came to me and is a release. The book is a release of all those hard times I was going through. I didn’t know that by writing, it would be beneficial for myself.
“Then when I looked at all the work, I realized it could be beneficial for other people because of the path I was on. The things I went through helped me and could help other people too.”
Early on, she shared “Psalms of Me: The Journey of a Believer” with some of her friends and family.
“They said they didn’t know I could write poetry like that,” she said. “…It’s just me. Everything I was going through in childhood, losing my sister, my mom having to do everything, trying to figure out who God is and what does He want me to do.
“I figure I’m not the only one going through a journey trying to figure out who they are. Maybe this will help them. It helped me.”
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.