Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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A Lesson from Penguins

I’m in England, right?  So what did I do last night?  I watched the film March of the Penguins.  What an awesome film!

I watched in awe as the penguins made their miles long march to the place where for thousands of years penguins before them have gone for the winter.  Then they perform their annual ritual of finding a mate. Being somewhat monogamous they only have one mate per season. After they’ve found their mate for the season the female produces a single egg.  Then the female balances this one single egg on top of her feet and underneath a flap of skin on her belly to protect it from the elements.  Only a few seconds of exposure in the harsh winter conditions of the Antartic and the egg freezes.

After a couple of months of this careful balance and no food the female very carefully transfers the egg to the male.  Some of them don’t make it.  Then the female heads back for a seventy plus mile journey to the sea for food.  The male protects the egg through the harshest part of the winter.  Through the winter storms, the -80 degree temperatures, and winds of over 100 miles an hour.  For three months of this, with no food, loosing over half of their body wieght and nearing starvation.  Finally if the male penguin makes it through all of that and the chick actually hatches he has to give up some of the food he has in his reserve for this little, tiny chick to survive until the mother returns to feed it and protect it.  Then they switch places and the father goes on that long journey back to the sea for food.  Some of them make it, some don’t. As the harsh winter continues some of the chicks are lost.  The mothers grieve.  They cry and moan over the loss.  It almost seems human.  Some of the mothers try to steal a chick from another. 

Spring comes and the ice begins to melt so the journey to the edge of the sea gets shorter.  Slowly it gets shorter and the mother and father take turns making the journey to feed so they have enough food for the chick  they’ve produced.  They do this until the chicks are strong enough and then they all make the journey back to the sea.  After they’ve suffered the harsh winter the threat of scavengers takes some of the chicks.

Every year they repeat this journey.  The march is amazing.  In single file thousands and thousands of penguins making their way to the same spot year after year.  All of this to find a mate. All of this for the chance to have one little baby chick, they only get one shot at it. The penguins are so sweet together.  They are affectionate and loving.  It was enlightening to watch the little penguin family together.  As the chicks become stronger the mothers and fathers go back to the sea and leave the chicks behind to find their own way to the sea when they are ready.

Is this what intelligent design is?  Surely if there were an intelligent designer He could have come up with a better plan than this.  A better plan than for sweet, loving penguins to travel many miles over frozen, barren land to battle the elements and the scavengers for the chance at love for a season and one offspring.  A better plan than multiple trips over that barren land to keep themselves and that one thing, that one little baby chick, that is the purpose of their journey alive. This designer who is supposed to be concerned when one sparrow falls from the sky made it so that these lovely creatures would have to work so hard to mate and procreate?  Somehow this doesn’t seem very intelligent.  In fact it seems downright unintelligent and evolutionary.

These animals know nothing of a God or a Creator or a Cross.  They just know what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. They have a natural instinct for it.


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Churches of England

When I went to England in September I was simply blown away by all the architecture. On just about every corner in the villages and sprinkled what seemed every few miles in the countryside was a Church.  The pubs were just as frequent.  We’d be driving along in the middle of nowhere and boom…a pub…and a Church.  We’re not talking a little old wooden church in the woods.  Every one is made of stone with large wooden doors hundreds of years old.

I only spent five days there though I could have stayed five weeks.  It was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.  Having stayed through a Sunday I did go to Mass at an Anglican Church that belongs to the Church of England.  This is the one that I went to.

St. John the Baptiste Church, Midsomer Norton

It was the first liturgical service I’d ever attended.  The vicar was very sing-songy while reciting his part of the liturgy.  Having never participated in a service of this kind, I was lost until a woman in front of me showed me the prayer and liturgy book.  Even then I was still a bit confused because depending on what the vicar recited there were two or three options that the congregants were to respond with.  Just call me blonder than I pay to be.*grin* We sang some hymns and though the words were familiar, the tunes were completely different and no music was played.  The acapella hymns echoed off the hard surfaces of the stone carved interior.  At the time I thought I didn’t really care for the service.  It seemed so formal and rigid.  Reflecting later, though, I realize just how much I really did enjoy it.  Though I felt like a fish out of water I saw beauty in the tradition and  reverence, awe and purpose for each implement.  When the time came for the Eucharist people slowly filed out of each pew and down to the front to kneel at the prayer bench.  Even if there was no intent to partake of the Eucharist one could simply cross their arms and receive a blessing from the vicar.  I stayed quietly in my seat.

The next day was a full day of sightseeing.  I had my own personal tour guide.  We drove to a car park and caught a bus into Bath.

Bath Abbey originally founded in 675 AD as a monastery.  The detail on the stone carvings is unbelievable.
Bath Abbey, Bath England
Bath Abbey, Bath, England
Nave, Bath Abbey

Bath is only a short distance from Midsomer Norton.  It’s absolutely breathtaking!

The stained glass is something to behold.  Vibrant colors all telling a story of saints and angels and Christ.

Stained Glass, Bath Abbey

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more.  Up 217 steps of narrow, steep spiral staircase to get to the top of the spire at Bath Abbey.  In every direction as far as I could see there are church spires reaching up toward the sky.

My trip was certainly an eyeopening experience. The people there were lovely and didn’t seem hung up on a lot of the things we are here.  They didn’t appear to be sizing me up by what religion, political party or race I belong to.  They embraced me for who I am, I didn’t have to put on any airs.  Just me, and that was good enough.

Oh, I thought I’d be going back in September of 2011, but I just can’t wait that long.  So I’m leaving Friday on a jet plane…..


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What Do I Do With This?

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.    ~ 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.    ~ Matthew 5:32

 


 

 

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”“What did Moses command you?” he replied.They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”  ~Mark 10:2-10

 

Every time I think I’m about to shake all this religious dogma all this comes flooding right back into my mind.  I’ve read every view imaginable from John Piper to David Instone-Brewer to Craig S. Keener.  It’s unbelievable the amount of controversy there is over this issue within Christian circles.  I went to my pastor and this is what he said:

 

“You didn’t have a “biblical” reason for divorce.  So you may not remarry unless your ex-husband does.  At that time you will be released from him because you can’t remarry him since he has married another, even if he got divorced or his new wife dies. Divorcing your husband was a sin.  Have you repented?”

My reply was kind, but not what he expected.  I’m sorry for a lot of  things.  I’m sorry my marriage didn’t work, I’m sorry I couldn’t want it enough for two people, I’m sorry I didn’t walk away from him the day I met him when he was wearing the Peanut Comic Strip sweatshirt.  I’m sorry we are divorced, but I’m not sorry I divorced him.  If God is all knowing, won’t he know it if I’m lying when I repent for something I’m not sorry for?

 

I’ve been told everything from I should be standing in the gap, praying that my husband would repent, and then welcome him back with open arms to go and do what I want and walk in God’s grace.  I’ve been told I can never remarry and that I can remarry under certain conditions.  It all gets very muddy.  I’ve tried very hard to understand every view available.  The problem is, I do understand where each person gets their view when looking at scripture.

 

When I began researching this topic on my own I went to the New Testament first, then worked back into the Old Testament.  As I was reading the Old Testament laws what really struck me was all the care and detail given to treatment of slaves:

“And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth.”    ~Exodus 21:27

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money. ~Exodus 21:7-11

Hardly any mention is made at all about treatment of wives.  What am I to make of all of this?  I am supposed to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus.  I’m supposed to give up my desire for a loving relationship and children, children I was denied in my first marriage. How can I possibly drag someone else into adultery? All of this because remarriage is considered adultery and we all know adulterers don’t inherit the Kingdom of God.

 

I have such inner conflict about all of this.  I’m not even sure there is a God, but what if there is?  Do I deny myself?  What if there isn’t?  I deny myself for nothing.  I fear being alone, and I fear judgement otherwise.  If you really want an eye opener go to cadz dot net.  (I won’t link directly because I don’t want to invite trollers).

 

I spent quite a lot of my married life praying.  Mostly praying to be everything God wanted me to be, praying to be a good wife, praying for God to change me and mold me into Christ-likeness.  I prayed the armor of God onto both myself and my husband.  I prayed that we’d both have a desire to grow in knowledge of God and His character and righteousness.  I prayed for God to give me a heart for my husband and his best interest.  I don’t remember ever praying to be “delivered”.

 

All of this is the reason I stayed in my marriage for so long.  I stayed because according to scripture it was the will of God. Then I was told by a friend the other day that God had delivered me from my marriage.  That’s not the way I look at it at all.  I delivered myself from that marriage by going against what “the word of God” says, for which I’ve heaped condemnation onto myself.  I’ve even considered going back to my husband for this very reason, but I’ve talked myself out of it.  That’s a ridiculous thought to me at this point.  I thought I could never leave and now I know I can never go back.

 

Do I try to pursue a fulfilling life without a significant other?  I know it’s possible.  This is what fundamentalism does to people.  It paralyzes them.

 

I’m also quite well aware that this post may come across as whining.  It is absolutely not intended that way.  This just adds to my confusion and doubt that something so critical would not be crystal clear.  Yet there will be some who feel that it is.  The question here is not how many views are there, it’s how do I know which one is right?


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Fairy Tales Shattered (Conclusion)

Denial is a funny thing.  As long as she kept her head buried in the sand she could pretend that there wouldn’t be a next time.  She could tell herself that Charles really loved her and that he didn’t really mean to hurt her.  She could go on in a false hope that if she just did this thing or that just right she would be enough to satisfy him.  But once she started to wake up to the reality that it wasn’t her, it was him, she couldn’t paddle her little boat up that river anymore.  She was tired, exhausted in fact.

Things continued to go downhill.  If she was five minutes later getting home than usual Charles accused her of having an affair, demanded to know where she had been and who she was with. He was constantly asking her who she was giving her “stuff” to.  Was it the guys in the shop?  She always reassured him that he was the only one for her.  She literally had no time to herself, not even to take a bath.    He would call her at work several times a day because she needed to calm him down over some perceived  wrong he’d suffered on his job.

Despite the fact that Ruth had stopped seeing the therapist she came to the conclusion eventually that she had been right.  Ruth was going to have to make some changes if she wanted the crazy-making to stop and this marriage to survive.  No matter how afraid she was she would have to be more assertive and she would have to learn to be proactive and less reactive, regardless of the consequences. Why it took her seventeen years to figure out that giving in to his demands and catering to him was like having a two year old she will never know.  The more she gave in the more demanding he became.  Even then she wasn’t ready to do what was necessary, she wasn’t exactly sure how to.

Charles and Ruth had bought a house to flip just before the bottom fell out of the market.  It was a cute little bungalow in the historic district and they got it for a fantastic price.  They had figured out how much the remodeling would cost and how much of the work they’d do themselves.  About half way through the project Charles decided it was just too much for him.  He would “help” her do the work, but he didn’t want to make anymore decisions.  He told her to just do it and let him know how he could help.  So she did.  Ruth loved doing this, it was her niche.  It was something she could be in control of.  Ruth took the bull by the horns and contracted out the demo work, the drywall, the carpet, the hardwood floor refinishing, the rewiring, the plumbing, and the new kitchen cabinets.

She made arrangements to meet the cabinet maker, Mr.Robinson, at the house on Saturday and she asked Charles if he wanted to go along.  He did, he wanted to see the progress.  The drywallers were there working away.  Ruth and Mr. Robinson began discussing things and he asked her a question she wasn’t sure how to answer so she deferred to Charles.  She simply asked him what he thought, he didn’t even acknowledge her.  Embarrassed, she turned back to Mr. Robinson and said, “I guess he doesn’t have an opinion, so lets figure this out”.  Charles came unglued.  He shouted at her in front of everyone there, “You haven’t asked my opinion about a fucking thing on this house, I don’t know why you would want to know now”.  Oh my.  She was caught like deer in headlights.  How would she respond to this? She pretended it didn’t happen and finished her business with Mr. Robinson.

After they left he continued his tirade cursing and yelling at her all the way home.  She went into the other room to escape it and think about how she would handle it.  He commenced his usual silent treatment.  When they went to bed she asked if they could talk about what happened.  He didn’t say a word.  She began by reminding him that he hadn’t wanted to make any decisions.  He broke his silence at that point. He jumped out of bed and yelling again he said, “That’s my money you’re dealing with, I’m the head of this household and you’ll do what I want”.  Ruth fired back “Yeah, right.  Yes sir, daddy”.  He sailed across the bed, grabbing her by the throat with one hand and by the hair with the other.  He slammed her head against the headboard a few times and screamed in her face, “let me tell you one thing, bitch, I’ll kill you”.   Ruth looked him dead in those crazy eyes and calmly said, “take your hands off of me”. He stared her down for another minute and then let her go.  He said, “I’m going to sleep in the other room! No, wait, this is my house, this is my bed, you go sleep in the other room.  Get out of my sight, I don’t even wanna look at you”.  Ruth got out of bed, put her clothes on, grabbed her purse and started out the door.  Charles said, “If you go out that door don’t bother coming back”.

Ruth had nowhere to go so she drove around town for about an hour.  She called to tell Charles that she was alright, but that she wouldn’t be home that night and that she loved him.  He warned her again that if she didn’t come home now not to bother.  Charles’ mother was out of town for the weekend so she let herself into her house and spent the night on her sofa.  She waited until she knew Charles would have already left for church to go home and get ready herself.  Then she went to church and sat next to him in their couple’s Sunday School class and then in the sound booth during worship service.  She and Charles had obligated themselves to operate the sound and video equipment for the services.  They didn’t speak a word to each other the whole time.

After church they went home and Charles summoned her into the living room where he was watching tv.  “That’s the most inconsiderate thing you have ever done to me.  How could you make me lie there all night wondering where you were and who you were with?”  Ruth spoke and said, “For your information I spent the night on your mother’s couch, alone.  Now let me ask you something.  Sam is married now, she’s your daughter.  If she came to you and told you Mack had done to her what you did to me last night, what would you think she should do?”  He thought for a minute and said, “I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be that.”   Ruth replied, “Bullshit, you know exactly what you’d tell her to do.”  Charles retorted, “I want a divorce.  I’m not gonna live like this, I’m not gonna lay in bed at night wondering where you are”.  Ruth replied, “If that’s what you want, you got it.  I’ll get some things be out of here in an hour.  I’m not gonna walk around here on eggshells anymore.”  Charles said, “I wasn’t aware you ever had any problem saying what was on your mind.  And no, I changed my mind.  I don’t want a divorce, you aren’t going anywhere”.

The silent treatments increased, the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse continued and intensified, but Ruth thought she’d finally at least gotten through to him about the physical abuse.  A year and a half went by and there had been none.  Now  she had to contend with the fact that Charles had established rules for sex.  She had to initiate and if she didn’t he would chide her about it.  Not only did she have to initiate, but she had to initiate in the way that he had envisioned it in his mind.  Today one thing, tomorrow something different.  And all of this had to be done before the nine p.m. “deadline”.   Then there was that fixation he had.  She had given in on that before, but she decided she wouldn’t do that anymore either. He brought it up in everyday conversation, picked at it like a sore.

She stupidly thought that she could explain to him how it made her feel and because he loved her he would have compassion on her and drop it.  She told him how it made her feel violated, how it made her cry and feel the need to shower afterwords, how the mere mention of it made her blood run cold, and how it made her have irrational thoughts. He had brought it up one morning before she left for work and on her way she briefly considered wrecking her car in a ravine to make it appear to be an accident.  She fleetingly thought that if she were dead she’d never have to hear that again, nor would she have to do it.  He didn’t even ask her what irrational thoughts.  It only made him angry that she would have the audacity to tell him no.  His response:  “If I ever bring that up again I’ll shoot myself.  But I don’t see how it can be right for you to tell me no to anything I want.  You know, your body is not your own and the marriage bed is undefiled”.  With that he got out of bed and slept on the couch.  Not even two weeks passed by and he was picking at the sore again.

Shortly after that he got angry about something and lost his temper again,  pulling her hair out by the roots, and telling her she was lucky he didn’t knock her goddamn head off.  Then one day she was walking through the living room in her bath robe when he stopped her, put his arms lovingly around her and sweetly said, “You have got the perfect body, it’s fantastic.  It’s just a damn shame you’ve got something wrong between your ears because you don’t have a clue what to do with it.”  As crazy as it sounds that was the moment Ruth knew she would divorce him.  All this time, for nineteen and a half years, she thought he didn’t get it. She was the one who didn’t get it.  This man didn’t love her, he couldn’t possibly.  He wasn’t capable of it.

She tried to get past that feeling.  She had been able to before.  But now she was fully out of denial and there was no going back.  She had once sworn that Satan couldn’t have her marriage.  Suddenly she realized he already did.  When she confronted him with her feelings, she gently told him that she thought he had a problem and that he needed help.  If there was any hope for their marriage they would need counseling.  They tried to muddle through.  They even went for some couples counseling with the Methodist Pastor.  He begged her not tell anyone at their church, this was all so embarrassing.  Meanwhile he went to their pastor and told him he thought she was having an affair.   For two months they went for counseling with the Methodist minister and he tried to teach them some communication techniques.  Charles thought they were silly, so he didn’t fully participate.  The Methodist minister helped Ruth establish some boundaries which Charles barreled through like a wrecking ball.

His idea of an apology was this:

Charles:  “I know I’ve done some stupid things, but I didn’t know I was hurting you that bad.  You never told me.  And all the sex stuff was for you.  I didn’t get anything out of it, it was all for you.  I just don’t know what I did so bad that I can’t get a second chance.”

Ruth:  “Let me get this straight. You think it’s okay to hurt me a little, as long as it’s not too bad.  Who gets to determine what hurts too bad?  Why would you want to hurt me at all?  And as far as the sex stuff, what of that did I EVER ask for?  The really sad thing here is you really believe that. You’ve lied to yourself for so long you don’t even know the truth anymore.”

Charles:  “I don’t know what comes over me.  You make me angry and I loose it, but I never hit you.”

Ruth:  “Which is it, Charles?  Are you in control or not?  Either you are saying you loose control and may not know where to draw the line, or you know exactly what you’re doing and  are deliberately choosing to hurt me if for no other reason than to intimidate me.  Either way isn’t a real comfort to me.”

Charles:  “So are you saying you want a divorce?”

Ruth:  “Yes, I think I do.”

Charles:  “You never loved me, did you?”

Ruth:  “I don’t know how you can make your mouth form those words after everything I’ve put up with just to be with you. Who does that?  Who subjects themselves to this kind of treatment for nineteen and a half years for anything short of love?  But if that’s what it takes for you to feel better about it, if that’s what it takes for you to not be at fault, if that’s what it takes for you to be able to sleep at night, then you think what you need to.”

Charles:  “What happened to ’til death do us part’?”

Ruth:  “What happened to ‘to love and cherish, to protect and to honor’? That was what was supposed to be ’til death do us part’.”

Charles:  “But what did I do that was so bad?  Didn’t we have some good times too, you’re forgetting about those.  Don’t I deserve a second chance?”

Ruth:  “We’ve been over this and over this.  I don’t see how you can’t understand what you’ve done here.  I’m not forgetting about the good times, but they don’t excuse the bad ones.  You’ve had a thousand second chances, do you honestly think one more mulligan will make the difference?”

Charles:  “There IS someone else, isn’t there?”

Ruth:  “As a matter of fact, Charles, there is.  Her name is Ruth and I’m leaving you for her.”

Charles and Ruth separated on November 28, 2009.  On January 4th, 2010 Ruth filed for divorce and it was final on April 12, 2010.


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Fairy Tales Shattered (Part 8)

Charles’ family were deeply devout Christians.  His grandparents were salt of the earth, his granddad a WWII veteran and his grandmother a devoted wife and mother to four children.  His mother was loving and giving and his dad was a piece of work, arrogant and self absorbed.  They divorced when he was sixteen.  His mother had never remarried, his dad married the object of his affair.  And that’s exactly how he treated her…like an object.  Ruth was shielded from that before she and Charles were married.  Charles didn’t have much of a relationship with his dad.

Charles mother, aunts and uncle, and grandparents took Ruth in as part of their family, a fairly large family.  Saying they were clannish would be an understatement, it was more like the Christian Mafia.  But it felt good to have a family since Ruth’s had pretty much been decimated.  They treated her like she was a blood relative.  Ruth loved them, too.  As much as if they were her own family.

During those first years of their marriage Ruth considered herself to be a Christian, though certainly not faithful to church.  She and Charles went only sporadically on Sunday mornings to the First Baptist Church he’d grown up in. But then a friend invited her to a Bible study.  It was a Beth Moore Bible study, Breaking Free.  She doesn’t remember much about the study itself, it was so long ago, except that one of the weeks was specifically about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Not just to convict, but to exhort and comfort, to guide and to teach and so much more.  He was the helper Jesus sent us when He ascended into heaven.  During that time Ruth had also started to listen to the local Christian radio station, too.  Dr. Woodrow Kroll had a series on the Holy Spirit during that same week.  Couldn’t be a coincidence and he was teaching the same thing.  Ruth didn’t think she had that.  In fact, she was positive she didn’t.  She guessed that swim she took in the baptismal pool in her childhood church didn’t take, she must have done it wrong.  She wasn’t really saved.  So she prayed that prayer on her way to work with Dr. Kroll and asked Jesus into her heart again.

She must not have had the Holy Spirit. If she did she wouldn’t be thinking about leaving Charles.  They’d had another episode.  They were moving an armoire.  Yes, there’s a pattern here, but Ruth is stubborn.   It’s Ruth’s worst quality, and it’s also her best.  They had wrapped a rubber band around the knobs on the doors to keep them from falling open.  Charles was on the ground and Ruth was in the back of the truck.  When they tilted the armoire for Charles to lower it to the ground, the rubber band popped and the doors flew open pinching his fingers.  He was furious.  Ruth didn’t know whether to try to pull the armoire back up or keep lowering it to the ground.  She obviously picked wrong.

When they got the armoire down, Charles started yelling at her and she gave him the wrong look, again. She knew better than to say anything.  He grabbed the top over her hair and started pulling and screaming in her face.  She pulled away and ran to the bedroom, but she couldn’t get the door closed and locked in time.  He pushed his way in, shoved her down onto the bed, put both of his hands on her face and started grinding her head into the bed as hard as he could, pressing down on her face.  She has a chipped tooth to this day from that and she had a bald spot on the top of her head.  It took a good two years for it to grow back.  She lied and told people she had alopecia.  Charles made up a story about the door falling open and hitting her, chipping her tooth.  Ruth wouldn’t have the tooth repaired because every time she smiled she thought it would remind him of what he’d done that day.

Ruth told herself each time it happened, “if this happens again, I’m out the door, I’m gone”.  But each time it happened it was just as shocking as if it were the first time.  She was always caught off guard.  But now with the Holy Spirit as her “helper” she could endure.  She would endure.  She would love her husband with the love of Christ and maybe he would change, but even if he didn’t she could count it all gain for the cause of Christ.  Ruth had known she was supposed to be submissive to her husband, but clearly she was doing something wrong.  Now she could be submissive enough.  Ruth wanted to be the Proverbs 31 woman and she frequently read and repeated 1 Peter 3:1-6 to herself.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

Ruth decided then and there that divorce was not an option.  Satan could not have her marriage.  It was Christ’s command not to divorce.   She and Charles would not be a divorce statistic so frequently spouted out from the pulpit.  They started attending church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Ruth prayed and read her Bible every morning.  She devoted herself to a “quiet time” with the Lord and took every Bible study that came along.  Charles was elected to serve as a Deacon, and Ruth became discipleship training director and leader.  It all looked so perfect from the outside.

Nothing had changed at home, though.  Well….yes they had.  Things became decidedly worse.  The physical violence stayed the same, but slowly and steadily over time emotional, mental, sexual, and spiritual abuse were added into the mix. Charles began to call Ruth names, goody-two-shoes, little miss perfect.  Bitch and slut were his pet names for her. If she let on that her feelings were hurt or she was the least bit miffed, he would tell her she couldn’t take a joke. Charles was like a big black hole. Nothing was ever enough for him, the void couldn’t be filled.  No amount of praise or compliments or servitude was ever enough.  He just sucked the life out of everything around him.

Charles knew how to press Ruth’s buttons.  He was a master manipulator and an expert at mind games.  Ruth didn’t think that way.  It’s just not how her mind works, so she was constantly on edge and trying to figure out what he wanted.  Today it would be one thing, but tomorrow that same thing wouldn’t be right or enough.  He envisioned entire scenes and how they should play out.  He would say things to incite a specific response or a certain reaction and when Ruth’s end of the conversation didn’t live up to the expectation he had, he then told her what she should have said or what her response should have been.  This was especially true in the bedroom.  Charles had…shall we say…a fixation on a certain thing, a certain thing he knew Ruth loathed.  That made it all the more enticing for him.  Not only did he want her to at least pretend to enjoy it, but he wanted her to ask for it.  Charles would say things he knew would hurt Ruth’s feelings because he knew it would challenge her to try harder to please him in the bedroom and out.

Ruth wondered if this was normal of other marriages, but she couldn’t ask anyone.  She would never speak negatively about Charles to anyone – never.  Sure she heard other women complaining about how their husbands left their socks rolled up in a ball on the floor or how they squeezed the toothpaste in the wrong place, or put the toilet paper on wrong.  In her mind the whole time she was listening she’d be thinking, “if that’s the least of your troubles you should just be thankful and shut up”.   But she never joined in.  Instead she read self-help books.  A Marriage Without Regrets, Love and Respect, The Five Love Languages, Intimate Issues, Red Hot Monogamy, Sheet Music, and the list could go on and on.  Maybe if Ruth would just show a little more respect, a little more love, be a little more adventurous she could be a good enough, but nothing worked. Stupid self help books!

One day Ruth decided to just google some Charles’ behaviors.  She just listed in the google search engine specific examples.  What came back over and over again scared her.  Now Ruth realizes she’s not a psychiatrist, but Narcissism pretty aptly describes Charles to a tee.  Now her self help books are in a completely different realm – Codependent No More, Boundaries in Marriage, You Don’t Have to Take it Anymore.   She set up an appointment with a Christian therapist and went a couple of times.  The therapist was advising her in ways she wasn’t too sure about and ways that she certainly knew could get her killed.  But the therapist said, if she insisted on staying with Charles, she was going to have to change and become more assertive.  She needed to have a bag packed and if he assaulted her, she needed to leave.  Ruth could never do that, she could never leave.  So Ruth stopped seeing the therapist.


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Fairy Tales Shattered (Part 7)

Karen, her husband, Matt, Jackson and MaryBeth moved into the house after Ray moved out. The plan was for Karen and Matt to buy the family house.  Karen and Ruth agreed on a conservative price – it was fair all the way around and it seemed like a good plan.  Now Ruth and Karen would also be responsible for Ray’s share of the debt on the funeral bill, because he made it very clear that he wasn’t going to pay it,  and the taxes which hadn’t been paid.  They made arrangements with both to hold off on foreclosure.  So when Karen and Matt purchased the house all of that would be taken care of. Each of the kids would pay a part and have a nice little bit of money left over and Ray and Malachi would be paid for their one-sixth of one-fifth.

But when Karen and Matt lost their jobs it made that impossible for them at the time.  Karen went out and found a job. All Matt had ever wanted to be was a sheriff’s deputy, so sadly he was in no hurry to find another job.  His family was well off and they helped them financially. He did take a part time job as a quail hunting guide.  Unfortunately they couldn’t secure a mortgage in that state.  Several months went by and the collectors began to force the issue again.

She and Matt went to Ruth and Charles to try to develop a plan.  They asked Ruth and Charles if it would be possible for them to pay the taxes and Ray’s part of the expenses, just until they got back on their feet and could purchase the house.  Ruth and Charles owed half anyway and Karen and Matt would repay them.  Without even discussing it, Charles flatly refused.  He suggested that if Karen and Matt couldn’t get a mortgage they should move out and he and Ruth would buy the house.

Now Charles and Ruth were in a position financially to borrow the money to pay the bit of debt and let Karen and Matt remain in the house.  But Charles didn’t see the fairness in that.  Matt was a lazy bum, and he told them as much. “How long would it take Matt to get a job? He wasn’t about to finance this and get nothing in return”.  With that the proverbial “shit hit the fan” and a large argument ensued.  Charles asked them to leave.  Cue Tammy Wynette, “Stand by Your Man“.   Even though Ruth didn’t agree with Charles she didn’t say so in the heat of the moment.  She would wait until things cooled to tell him how she felt.  Charles’ explosive episodes were infrequent, but the damage had been done. Ruth knew he was capable and it was always an underlying fear.  He had accomplished just what he wanted.  He was in control and Ruth wouldn’t dare go against him.

A few days passed and Ruth picked her timing.  She told Charles that she would rather make Karen and Matt the loan.  They were raising Jackson and MaryBeth so they were getting the benefit of the house.  She couldn’t stand the thought of making them move out.  They were the only family she had left and she’d rather be out the money, even if they never paid it back, than to loose them over this.  They’d all been through a really hard time she wanted to help them get back on their feet.  This all seemed very greedy and selfish to her.

None of that made any difference, Charles’ mind was made up.  Fortunately Matt’s wealthy aunt made a house she owned available to them indefinitely. Karen and Matt moved out, Charles and Ruth secured a mortgage to pay the debt and buy out the rest.  With that Charles had managed to successfully drive a deep wedge between Karen and Ruth.  Karen wouldn’t speak to Ruth except when it was absolutely necessary for business.  Ruth couldn’t even look Karen in they eye.  It was official.  Ruth had nobody now but Charles and his family.  She’d thrown what little family she had left away over a lousy few thousand dollars.


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Fairy Tales Shattered (Part 6)

A year had taught all of them a lot.  Turns out God’s not so much in the business of dropping Prince Charming on lonely widow’s doorsteps out of the blue.  Nope, Annie had gotten a big fat frog.  Instead of tithing on the inheritance she’d received Annie bought the church a nice used fifteen passenger van to replace the bus that they’d been using since the days when they came to pick up Ruth and Karen.  Ray grumbled about it, but she did it anyway.  Between the kitchen remodel, the van purchase, and Ray’s propensity to buy toys and trinkets the money had long since been blown through.  Ray wasn’t quite the loving and doting husband he was at first in spite of Annie’s medical situation.  He’d throw barbs her way and she would just grit her teeth.

On Malachi’s first birthday Annie hosted the typical one year old’s birthday party.  She gathered friends and family to celebrate.  She baked two cakes – one for Malachi to dig into and and one for anybody else who didn’t want a piece of cake that had been christened with Malachi’s entire face and dirty little fingers.  They video taped the entire event.  Jackson, MaryBeth and Renee were crazy about Malachi.  By that time Karen and her husband had gotten divorced. She’d moved back to town and gotten remarried herself.   The whole family was back together.

Twelve days after Malachi’s birthday and just two days before Ruth’s nineteenth birthday she and Charles were having their usual Sunday morning breakfast when the phone rang.  Charles answered the phone.  It was Ray and Charles’ end of the conversation was cryptic with one word answers of yes and no and then finally, “we’ll be dressed and over in twenty minutes”.  He hung up the phone and Ruth knew by the tone in his voice and the look on his face, Annie was gone.  She’d been fine the day before.  In fact, for the first time in the year since Ruth and Charles had gotten married Ruth and Annie had spent the entire day together.  Ray said she’d been fine when they went to bed that night.  But in the morning she was gone.  He couldn’t wake her.

Ruth was devastated and in shock.  It just didn’t seem real.  They got dressed and went to Ray and Annie’s.  There were so many people already there, the house was abuzz with activity.  Jackson, MaryBeth and Renee had huddled up in the tree house and Sam climbed up there with them.  They all had a good cry together.  Ruth felt like she was having an out-of-body experience.  It was like she was floating on the outside, just watching everything that was going on, not really there.  Was this a nightmare?  Wake up Ruth, wake up!  But it was real and it would only get worse from there.  She really doesn’t remember much about the wake or the funeral. She was in a stupor for days.

When J.L. died he didn’t have a will.  The house was paid for so when Annie probated the estate, the house, which was their only real asset, was divided equally five ways between Annie and the four children.  She had asked both Karen and Ruth after they turned eighteen about the possibility of signing over their part, which they would have gladly done – it was her house, but she never followed through with it.  She’d considered consolidating the entire thing back into just her name, but she decided against it.  Later we found out that she was afraid Ray would pressure her into borrowing against it so it was just easier to tell him it couldn’t be done.

But the fiasco that was left behind when J.L. died had prompted her to have a will drawn up for herself.  Just one little problem: she’d had that done before her remarriage and before Malachi was born.  Annie had no idea that invalidated her will.  She had told Ruth herself just a few weeks before she died she intended for that will to stand, leaving her sister as guardian of the children, including Malachi.  Annie was concerned with Ray’s line of work as a sheriff’s deputy and with crazy hours he wouldn’t be able to handle four small children. She also had no life insurance because she and Ray had let it lapse while she was pregnant with the intention of applying for new insurance after Malachi was born.  With her diagnosis soon after no insurance company would touch her with a ten foot pole and her former company declined to reinstate her.

A few weeks after Annie’s funeral Ray called a family meeting.  He’d asked a woman from the church to move in to be a nanny to the children.  Ruth asked about the will and about guardianship of the children.  Ray was furious that she’d even bring it up.  He loved the children like they were his own and he wasn’t about to split them up from Renee.  He said he’d attempted to probate the will but that it was invalid.  This seemed fairly reasonable, so Ruth let it drop.  But what about guardianship?  He was taking care of all of that, no need to worry.  He’d would petition the court for guardianship.  Then there was the matter of paying for Annie’s funeral.  Ray didn’t have the money.  So at the dining room table of their childhood home both Karen and Ruth agreed to pay for one third of the bill.  Ray also showed them pictures of the granite headstone and slab he’d picked out that he needed help to pay for.  All together it came to about $12,000.  Charles was incensed that Ray would ask such a thing but he and Ruth borrowed their part from the bank and the funeral home agreed to accept payments from Ray and Karen.

Within months everything spiraled downward.  Ray hadn’t paid the taxes like he agreed to on the property, nor was he making his payments to the funeral home.  They were both filing liens against the property and calling for foreclosure.  Karen and Ruth started to check into things and he hadn’t probated any will, nor her estate. He hadn’t petitioned the courts for guardianship.  Jackson and MaryBeth were unprotected minors.  He hadn’t reported her death to the social security administration.  He was still collecting Annie’s social security disability check and J.L.’s death benefit for the children.  The sweet woman from the church…she had the children calling her mama and was walking around half dressed in front of them and Ray.  It was all quite cozy.  She informed Karen and Ruth that she would ask Ray to marry her on Sadie Hawkins Day.  Was she out of her mind?!?  She already had a husband, he was working out of town!  When confronted with this Ray moved her out, but within a few more months he had proposed to yet another woman from church.

Karen and Ruth had to do the unthinkable.  They filed a petition for guardianship of the children and probated Annie’s estate. Her one fifth of the house was now divided six ways between Ray and the five children.  What a mess!  Jackson and MaryBeth went to live with Karen and her husband.  Ray married the woman from the church and she adopted Malachi.  The only way to get him out of the house was to serve him with an eviction notice and buy out his and Malachi’s share.  Karen and her husband both also worked for the sheriff’s department and in the malaise the three of them were fired from their jobs.

The silver lining in all of this was that though Ray had convinced his new wife that Ruth and Karen were doing all of this because of her, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  Malachi was only a year old and he would never remember Annie.  Linda was a precious person and they couldn’t have chosen a more suitable mother for him.  Ray had found a Godly, lonely, vulnerable woman once again.