Author’s Note: All my sisters in Christ are Servant Girls, and we’ve all been given God’s stories to tell. I’m grateful to be able to write to you over the next few weeks about Susan. We sat at her home one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago and talked about how she met Jesus and some of the valleys He’s carried her through. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Susan Elder…
“It tickles me,” Susan grinned, “to look back and see where God gave His grace and where He answered my prayers. So, I keep a journal, and I write down dates and what I prayed for or what God showed me that day. Then, when a prayer is answered, I can look back and see when I prayed for it.”
We sat on the floral-patterned couch in the den of her home. The great room was still and quiet. The only light was from the big windows flanking the front door and the windows overlooking the back porch. The only sound was the soft whir of the fan as it steadily spun overhead.
My notebook sat on my lap, and I scribbled furiously as she told me the story of her life and her family’s walk with Jesus.
“I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee,” she told me. “My family was the trash of the neighborhood. I always knew we were bad. My dad was a violent alcoholic, and everybody knew it.”
Susan’s family included her parents and their five children.
“I always wanted to be good,” Susan said, matter-of-factly, “but we were trash. I was helpless. I knew a few Bible stories, but I didn’t know Jesus died for me.”
When her older brother was 17, he bought a car and started going to church with his girlfriend.
“When he invited me to go to church with them, I went!” She exclaimed. “I learned all sorts of things,” she said, more excited. “Most importantly, I learned Jesus died for me. I never knew that,” she told me again.
Susan described a Sunday morning church service when her brother made a profession of faith. She followed him and did the same. “I wanted to be saved,” she stressed, “but I didn’t understand how. The Bible says, ‘All that call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ I followed my brother, and I said I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t call on His name.”
She laughed a little, and I looked up. Her hand covered an embarrassed smile.
“I remember learning,” she began, “that the trump would sound and the Lord would come back.” She paused again, and her sheepish grin spread larger. She didn’t cover it this time.
“Well, one night, I was in bed, and a car horn went off out on the street somewhere in our neighborhood. It got stuck and just went on blaring. It scared me half to death. I thought the Lord was coming back,” she laughed. “I jumped out of bed, went down on my knees, and prayed! I begged, ‘Lord, please forgive me of my sins. Please save me.’ And I heard Him say, ‘I forgive you.’ And He saved me and forgave me of all my sins right then and there. See it wasn’t until I fell on my knees beside my bed that I actually called His name. That’s when I was truly saved.”
She laughed again to herself, no doubt remembering the car horn that heralded her arrival into the arms of the Lord.
Susan was 16 when she accepted Jesus as her Savior.
After that, her brother’s girlfriend gave her a Bible.
“I read it every night,” she breathed. “And I prayed, and I talked to God, and I went to church.”
It was in church youth group that she met Steve.
“I noticed his smile,” she confessed when I asked what got her attention at first.
“We started dating,” Susan explained, “and I prayed to God asking Him to show me ‘the right one.’ I always ask God what to do,” she added. “If you ask Him, He’ll tell you.”
Apparently, Steve was the right one. They married in 1972. Three daughters followed: Vicki in 1974, Jenny in 1978, and Stephanie in 1981.
Susan said of Steve, “His strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. He just thinks differently than me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
She didn’t even have to think before she clarified, “He is very detailed. He thinks in three dimensions. He’s extremely thorough, always thinking about the next step, and I just want to hurry up and get things done.” She laughed. Then she gestured at the room around us. “He drew up the plans for our house,” she continued. “He made sure there was no wasted space inside these walls. Our half bathroom and master bathroom,” she said, pointing toward the hall, “are back to back so that all the plumbing is in the same place.”
She told me about the family’s move to Monroe in 1992.
“We didn’t know much about the area, the schools, or the churches,” she clarified. “I remembered reading in Proverbs that you could flip a coin, and God would make the decision. So, we said, ‘Heads, Piedmont; tails, Sun Valley.’ We flipped the coin, and it was heads. It tickles me,” Susan gave a little giggle, “because Vicki, our oldest, wasn’t satisfied with how we made the decision. So, she grabbed the coin, flipped it three more times, and each time, it landed on heads. So we built our house in the Piedmont area of Union County, and all 3 of our girls graduated from Piedmont High School.”
The Lord guided their decision for a church to attend when they sought His will in prayer over that decision. They prayed for God to send people to their home who would invite them to church. It happened just as they prayed it would, and they attended that church for eleven years.
“Some strife arose there,” Susan reported, “so we prayed again that the Lord would show us where to go. We prayed and visited about 17 other churches in a 3-year span. We asked, ‘Lord, would you send someone to our house who’ll ask us to join their church?’ A few of the churches we visited sent people to our house, but no one actually invited us to join until the third visit from a member of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. He was sitting right where you’re sitting,” she pointed at me,” when he said, ‘we would like you to join our church.’ Well,” Susan stopped, grinning widely,” I looked at Steve, and Steve said, ‘did you hear what he said?’ It was exactly what we asked from God. So, we joined the church in 2006. Now, Steve and I enjoy teaching 4th graders in Sunday school, and you know I love singing in the choir,” she finished.
Bill and I started going to First Baptist of Indian Trail about the same time, and I met Susan around 2010 when she was a mentor mom in MOPS. When we met, we realized we sang in choir together, too.
“We love our life group and our church family at Indian Trail,” she beamed, but then somberly looked at her hands in her lap. “They stood with us and prayed with us through some terribly dark times.”