Although she felt loved by her parents, Carlotta Leona Brooks had a difficult time fitting in outside her Nashville, Tennessee, home as the young daughter of an African American father and a white mother.
Her parents, Carl and Marian Thornton, both had attended church while growing up. However, as a married interracial couple, they struggled to find a congregation accepting of the whole family.
“We heard racial slurs in white and Black churches,” remembers Brooks, now 43. “Church can still be one of the most segregated places, even when the sermons are about loving your neighbor.” Subsequently, the Thorntons quit trying to find a church home.
Likewise, because of the dearth of biracial students at school, Carlotta felt as though she didn’t belong. She often was the only pupil in her class not invited to birthday parties.
Finally, in 8th grade, Carlotta thought she found someone who understood — a biracial classmate who shared her connection of feeling like an outcast. They began dating, but by 9th grade her boyfriend exhibited unpredictable flashes of verbal abuse and extreme controlling behavior. He also had access to a gun.
“He’d treat me like a princess one moment, then like dirt on the bottom of a shoe the next,” Carlotta recalls. “He didn’t want me to talk to anybody else.”
At 16, Carlotta had a baby growing inside her.
With her daughter’s relationship growing borderline abusive, Marian worried that Carlotta, as well as her future grandchild, would be beaten.
Carlotta’s parents accompanied her to an abortion facility, the only option the girl saw to her situation. The experience proved hurtful on various levels.
“I was in extreme physical pain,” Carlotta says. “I also experienced mental anguish as I saw a medical container filling up with parts of my baby.”
Brooks never discussed the traumatic event with anyone else. She hardened her heart.
“I felt I deserved to be punished in the worst way,” Brooks recalls. That entailed returning to the abusive relationship.
From all external appearances — including earning top marks at school and being part of the cheerleading squad — nothing seemed wrong. Inside she felt dead.
Although her parents kept no alcohol in the house, Carlotta’s consumption of vodka and tequila increased during her remaining teenage years. She also entered into other unhealthy relationships with males.
Carlotta met her future husband in 2001, when they both worked at UPS. George, an African American, persistently courted Carlotta until she relented to going on a date. They wed in July 2005. Carlotta told George about her abortion. Yet with no relationship with Jesus, she still felt wracked with guilt and insecurity. In the early going, the marriage took nasty turns at times.
“I still felt nobody could really love me,” she says.
TURNING A CORNER
By this time, Carlotta had landed a medical research job at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She repeatedly declined invitations from co-worker John C. Farley to attend Cornerstone, an Assemblies of God megachurch in the suburb of Madison. Only when Farley and his wife, Sarah, offered to pick the newlyweds up in their vehicle did she and George agree to go.
Although he worked well with Carlotta, Farley discerned that she needed an emotional breakthrough that only the Lord could provide.
“She had a huge wall surrounding her, and would never open up about her struggles,” says Farley, 44. Farley thinks how he and his wife handled the premature birth of their son Cason — born three months early and weighing just a pound a half — helped Carlotta see how God could help in a desperate situation, which included a three-month hospital stay.
Five months after marrying, Carlotta accompanied the Farleys to a Sunday School class, where the teacher spoke about forgiving yourself.
“I started crying,” Brooks says. “For the first time ever, I felt like I belonged somewhere. It felt like home, even though I’d never been there before.”
Healing occurred when Brooks went through a 12-week Bible study authored by Sheila Harper, founder of SaveOne, an AG-affiliated abortion recovery ministry. Carlotta found Harper’s teaching about inserting her name in Psalm 91 particularly restorative.
“It was a pivotal moment, being able to see God’s Word was personal for me,” Brooks says. “I needed to forgive myself fully. With a broken heart, a person’s ability to love is limited.”
Salvation and healing also helped Carlotta appreciate her husband.
“He is the first person besides my parents to offer me unconditional love,” Carlotta says. “He is the first person to let me be me.”
Although Farley now works at a software research company, he still sees Carlotta at Cornerstone.
“Once she got plugged in at church, she became a totally different person,” Farley says. “She grew leaps and bounds from someone who was hard-hearted and wouldn’t trust anyone.”
Carlotta and George have a 12-year-old daughter, Gabrielle; a 9-year-old son, George Jr.; and a 4-year-old daughter, Josie. Their faith sustained them five years ago through the death of daughter Victoria, who died 32 days after being born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.