Of Gardening

Do you have a green thumb? Good! I need some help with my tomatoes. I have constant trouble with weeds and I don’t even water them. I don’t know where they come from; I only know there must be weed seeds down under that I can’t see.

Our heart garden has similar character-istics. In our future, and our past, lie seeds of fear, anxiety and worry. We water and nurture them by agreeing with their proposition and affirming what they represent. Only faith and trust can frustrate their germination into an unwanted patch of thistles and briars.

These seeds of potential grief are in each of us. They are planted there by generations past of whom many existed but never really lived. Let me back up a bit.

Many of our fathers and mothers lived very difficult lives. Every day was a struggle to survive. Not all had this experience but very few in my social circle have always had lots of money. However, even those with means had challenges of character; we all have challenges of character. This is what the fruit of these seeds attack; our character. So really, I am not referring to an individual’s ability to buy happiness but the ability to live happy, fulfilled and faith-full lives, irrespective of the stuff.

How do these seeds present when they mature into full bloom? Many ways.

Because of fear and anxiety many of us never live into our God-inspired dreams. We fret, worry and live below and apart from the blessings, calling and provision for which we have been created.

Sometimes we may not be ready to step into our ultimate calling because we have not dealt with character issues in our own lives. We miss the life of Shalom because we cannot trust His Ways fully. (Remember, more than simply peace, Shalom means an environment that is welcoming of the Kingdom of God; a state of being.) So, we are afraid to believe in the process, or even fail to participate in the process of forming our character.

Have you ever faced a temptation and failed? Yeah, so have I. Ever have a “moment” where you recognized that you failed the same thing last time? Yup!

“Get to the point, doc!”

Well, what do you think is happening in these moments? God is trying to get us to pass the test of character so we can move on and into our calling. For me, I need to learn to avoid situations that weaken my resolve and dedication to my calling. These can bring doubt about my call, chase away Holy Spirit and blunt my effectiveness in prayer or ministry.

Another way we allow these seeds of unbelief to invade our garden is fear of provision. Other words, we don’t trust that God is in control and will supply all our needs. I’ve seen extreme examples that manifest in things like hoarding. This type of fear and worry attacks and destroys character.

The heart of man cannot hoard. His brain or his hand may gather into its box and hoard, but the moment the thing has passed into the box, the heart has lost it and is hungry again. If a man would have, it is the Giver he must have;…Therefore all that He makes must be free to come and go through the heart of His child; he can enjoy it only as it passes, can enjoy only its life, its soul, its vision, its meaning, not itself. – George McDonald

I need to trust His provision and that He will supply all my needs, even though I can’t see it. When I do trust, my character is purified because I refuse to let fear and anxiety grow into weeds that control me.

Another thing that these evil seeds feed is immediate gratification. Because we don’t trust God for our future we want to grasp and clutch everything we can for fear of missing out. There is a difference between living in the moment and living for the moment. The first may affirm a life lived in faith, the latter borders on Hedonism. Let me explain.

One of the most difficult things to be done in our culture is to enjoy each moment as it comes; to be present with life. Driving, working, doing laundry, helping with a child’s homework; all can be experienced and enjoyed more fully when we devote our attention to the task or event at hand. In my mind this is living in the moment.

Living for the moment may mean we mortgage the future for present consumption. The system of credit in our world has been devastating and been the cause of ruin to the character of many. Yes, it has enabled us to have and enjoy things we otherwise would not. It has also been the source of conflict in marriages, families and on a larger scale, national financial instability. Fear of missing out on something, anxiety and worry when the payments cannot be met . . . see those seeds sprouting?

There are many other fears and anxieties. The fear of loss of control, reputation, beauty, health, status, wealth; there is even the loss of eternal salvation from not being good enough.

Someone once told me, “Worry is grief by faith.” It also prevents us from entering into that place of greatest joy; God’s best.

It is faith that takes us through uncertainty by simply enabling us to live and accept God’s purpose and plan. Yes, it is the building of character through that exercise of faith that brings us into our destiny. Can we live in the dark existence of unknowing without allowing fear and worry to grow? Can we live in faith alone? Living with a faith that takes us into and through our existence of tension, turmoil and conflict develops within us the ability to accept our living so.

Now where did I put that Roundup?

Storied Past – 8

Stunned for a few moments, Becky finally gathered her presence of mind and sprang up. Tearing down the stairs to the street level she searched for Ramona. The streetlights had already been on for a while but they didn’t reveal which way the girl had gone.

“Oh, Ramona,” she wondered, “where did you go?” Heading back upstairs she tried to think what to do next. Maybe Ramona would go back home tonight. She might try to check online for a doctor there or maybe she could get a referral from her own doctor. What to do?

Her ringtone abruptly sounded. It was Jeremy, the staff member from City Reach.

“Hi Becky, how’s it going?”

“Not good. Remember the girl I brought with me to the soup kitchen?”

“Yeah, she seemed real shy. Nice though. What about her?”

Becky sighed, “Well, she is pregnant and I’m afraid she might end it; soon!”

“Are you serious right now? Isn’t she with you?

“Well, she was at my apartment until I got home from work. Then she had a meltdown and flew out the door threatening to find a doctor. I don’t know what I should do.”

Jeremy thought for a second. “Want me to meet you someplace? We should try to find her.”

Becky agreed. “I think she might go to her house. Meet me there; 1015 East Granite Street. I’ll be there in fifteen.”

 

Ramona hurriedly walked to the corner where she turned left. She didn’t know where she was going and didn’t really care. She was only cognizant of this anger and deep hurt that drove her to get away; just go someplace, anyplace but here in this Podunk, small-minded town.

That thought lodged in her consciousness with a speck of hope. Maybe she really should go someplace else: a new life in a new city where no one knew her. They wouldn’t know her past; wouldn’t judge her now and she could make her own future without church busybodies telling her how to live. She could find a doctor in a larger city, take care of her problem and start over.

First she had to go home and pack some things. Then she remembered: her purse! She was in such a hurry to leave Becky’s she left it in the front hallway!

Continuing around the block she headed back to the apartment.

 

Becky and Jeremy arrived about the same time at Ramona’s house. “Did you knock yet?” he asked.

“No, I was waiting until you arrived. I may need your moral support.” Becky said.

“No lights on,” Jeremy noted. They peered into the living room window. “And I don’t see any shadows moving around either.” He said.

“Great!” Becky sighed and moved back to the front door. She rang the doorbell. No answer. She rang again and then again.

“Well, what do we do now?” Becky looked at Jeremy.

“Where else do you think she might go?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve only known her for about a week, Jeremy. I saw her Dad at the mercantile store and then on the kitchen floor, unconscious. He is the only . . . oh, I know. Let’s call Pastor Marlowe. He would know lots of her friends and they could ask around; see if they can find her.”

“Great idea, Beck! I’ve wanted to meet him anyway.” Reaching for his phone he said, “I’ll search for his number.”

He found a Pastor Marlowe listed and handed the phone to Becky. She waited while it rang and then went to voicemail.

“Pastor Marlowe, this is Becky Moore, a friend of Ramona Beckett. I am wondering if you could help me find her. I think she may be a bit distraught and could be in danger. You can reach me at my number; 503.555.6162. Thank you.”

“Well, all we can do now is wait for him to call back. Other than that, I don’t have a clue where she could be,” Becky concluded.

It was now getting close to 9:30 pm. They caught a bus and headed toward downtown. Five or six minutes later they got off on Main. The streets were wet from a heavy mist. Diesel fumes from the departing bus mixed with the moist air in a familiar scent that describes most small to medium sized Northwest towns. The yellow/orange streetlights reflected off the dampness of every hard surface and magnified, leaving a glow that was both welcoming and mysterious.

Holy Grounds Coffee Company, Becky’s part time employer and the place she took Ramona after discovering her under the overpass last week, was in the next block.

“Jeremy, let’s go get some tea while we’re waiting for Pastor Marlowe to call back. I will tell you what I know about Ramona.”

“Right! Good call.” Jeremy agreed.

They ordered and sat down with mugs of steaming organic tea. Becky then related how she met Ramona just down the street a few blocks and everything up to when he called her a couple of hours before, including Ramona’s dream and today’s rant.

“Well, that is pretty sad,” Jeremy observed. “I have heard other people share similar stuff about that church. It will be interesting to meet the Pastor and see if he is really that . . . that harsh, I guess I might describe it.”

Becky’s phone interrupted their conversation. Pastor Marlowe’s voice asked, “Becky Moore?”

“Yes, Pastor? Thanks for calling back. I’m worried about Ramona.” She then gave a much shortened version of the last few hours.

“Well, what would you like me to do?” Marlowe asked.

“I was hoping you might check with some of her friends there in the church to see if they might know where she could be.” Becky suggested.

“You know, it’s hard to say. Ramona strayed from God and she’s gone into other friendships that her church friends probably wouldn’t know about. She could be anywhere. And I don’t want to get in the way of God’s disciplinary activities. What would that make me?”

Becky had a hard time with this last comment. She didn’t quite know how to respond.

“Well, I would be glad to call a couple of people if you could give me their names, Pastor.”

“If you want to call, that’s fine. I think she has made her bed though, and you can see what she did in it!”

“Yes, sir. Who can I call?”

Marlowe gave her three of Ramona’s friends from his church. Jeremy entered them into his phone as she repeated the names. Thanking the pastor, she hung up.

“You will never believe what he just said.” Becky was fuming. “I just can’t understand how a Pastor would write off someone and not even want to help.”

“There are those who believe that when you leave a church you leave God and His best ways,” Jeremy observed, “even if you don’t leave because of sinful activity. It’s like you can only serve God best in that church and by leaving it you have chosen to serve God at some lesser level, which is not acceptable once you have known a better way.”

“And what about Ramona? She didn’t leave because of that. She left because she felt like she couldn’t live up to the Pastor’s expectations, which she equated with God’s expectations. Oh! Excuse me. I need to call these friends before it gets too late.”

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 6

“What is it, Ramona?” Becky raced into the kitchen.

“My dad, he’s lying on the floor,” Ramona cried. They both stooped for a closer look at the man. He appeared to have fainted or something.

“I’ll call 911,” Becky exclaimed.

Ramona mumbled, “Dad, what happened? Dad! Oh, please don’t be dead. I need you!”

She could hear his slight breathing and uttered a silent prayer of thanks to God. “Don’t let him die, God. I couldn’t handle losing him, too. ”She heard the sirens now and Becky returned to the kitchen. “Is he . . . ?”

“He’s still alive, Becky. Thanks for calling.”

“Of course,” she replied, and then intoned, “Thank you Jesus, for letting us get here in time.” Ramona tightened up inside but didn’t say anything.

The next many minutes melted together into a nightmarish fiction at glacial speed. The paramedics told the two girls that Mr. Beckett had suffered a heart attack. Arriving at the hospital, they followed the gurney into Emergency. Becky had to go to work leaving Ramona to witness the medical staff scurrying around attending to her father. A few moments later the doctor on call stopped to give her an update.

“It was a heart attack, probably from high blood pressure,” he related. It was pretty high when he came in.”

“Has he been under a lot of stress lately, Miss Beckett?”

“Well, my Mom passed a couple of years ago. Would that have caused this kind of stress,” Ramona queried.

“It certainly could have contributed but generally this comes from chronic stress which exposes your body to elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Eventually, your body reacts to this unhealthy exposure in a sudden event, like a heart attack.”

“OK, thank you, sir. What are you going to do now?”

“Well, we are doing some testing now to check for coronary artery disease. We will know the results in a little while. I’ll keep you posted.”

Just then a tall, slender figure approached from her peripheral vision. “Ramona?” Pastor Marlowe asked. “Are you doing OK?”

“Oh, hello Pastor. Yeah, I guess. I’m still numb I think.”

“I heard about your father from a girl who called me this afternoon. Becky, I think she said? I figured I should come and see how he is.”

“They are running some tests right now. Looks like he had a heart attack; may be stress related.”

“He was pretty worried about you, Ramona. Thought you had run away when he couldn’t find you. Maybe that you had taken off with . . . well, no matter. You are here now. He was so hurt by . . . ; he felt like you had just gone over the edge.” Marlowe struggled to keep his own feelings and verbal communication in check. Ramona sensed he wanted to scold her himself but thought better of that idea.

“No, I just needed some space to think so I disappeared for a while.” She thought the less said to him, the better. No telling where that information would go. She recalled that other people’s issues often surfaced in private conversations disguised as “prayer requests” and she didn’t want to be the topic of church gossip any more than she already was.

“Well, I hope you take this situation to heart. Bad things often happen as a result of our own misguided actions. Who knows? Maybe your father was so distressed about you, thinking you left God forever, that his body just couldn’t handle it anymore. I believe God will forgive you when you come back to your faith.”

This last comment made Ramona seethe with anger. Why would she have anything to do with a heart attack? She wisely refrained from lashing out knowing it wouldn’t do any good anyway. She was glad to be away from such judgmental assessments like his. Maybe she would make this separation from church more permanent.

“Well, we will be praying for you, Ramona. I’ll get going but I hope you will come back to church soon.”

“Goodbye,” Ramona said. Under her breath she muttered, “. . . and good riddance.” Ohhh, she was feeling a bit wicked.

Pastor Marlowe’s absurd chastising reminded her of his weekly discourses to the congregation: Bible teachings that were explorations into how to be more consecrated and holy. They occasionally involved more esoteric excavations of ritual biblical practices like weekly fasting habits or Bible teaching topics of late 19th century holiness movements. The latter most often focused on women’s clothing. She recalled an instance where shoes with high heels were spotlighted and condemned because they caused the leg calf to be more pronounced and thereby seduce men. So it was the woman’s fault that men lusted, she assumed was the conclusion. Something there she needed to process more.

The nurse on duty approached. “Miss Beckett?” she inquired.

“Yes, I am.” Ramona replied.

“Your father is in a room now, 314. You can go sit with him until he wakes up, if you wish.”

“OK, thanks. I will.” She walked a few doors down finding the room the nurse indicated. Slowly she pushed the door open and parted the curtain around the bed. She stood there for a few minutes looking at him. Memories of when she was little crept out of hiding into her consciousness. Scenes of playing with her father on the backyard swing. He would come home from work tired but happy to see her. Standing in the driveway, he would call through the window for her to come out and play for a few minutes before supper. She wished she could see him happy like that again. She wished she could be happy like that again. Where had that closeness and joy gone?

She saw a bit of movement. “Dad? Are you awake? Can you hear me?” Mr. Beckett opened his eyes.

“Hi pumpkin.” It had been a long time since he called her that.

“Hi Dad.”

She bent over to give him a hug and squeeze his free hand. She felt a bit of wetness on his face and realized a tear had leaked out one corner of his left eye.

Ramona felt her own tear trail down over her makeup. “How do you feel?”

“Well, I don’t know. I remember I felt a horrible pain in my chest and then . . . what happened?”

“The doc said you had a heart attack. They are running some tests. I’m so glad you’re still with me.”

“Ramona, I . . . ; you don’t know how much I have been worried about you, leaving the church and all. I don’t want you to go to hell and split up our family.”

“Oh, Dad, I didn’t leave God or my faith. I just was having a hard time following all those rules. I don’t know how you and Mom could follow them but I felt like I had a chain on my ankle. I couldn’t even enjoy life. Do you know how hard it is to snowboard in a dress? Do you know how that made me feel when I was around friends who don’t go to that church? I’m sorry; I shouldn’t bring that stuff up when it’s you in the hospital.”

“It’s ok, pumpkin. Since your mom died, I tried to deal with it by being more involved at church and trying to live more holy. This whole thing about your having a baby just made me see how that trying to keep myself, and you, unspotted from the world is so hard and out of my control. I want to be perfect but I don’t know. I’m kind of confused. Maybe I need to get saved again.”

Storied Past – 5

“Ramona! What are you doing here?” her father repeated, this time more irritated. “Where have you been? I’ve looked all over for you. I haven’t seen you for two days and I’ve been worried. I called the police this morning after looking for you all last night. Where did you go?”

“I . . . I just had to leave for a while. I needed some space to . . . “

“Well, you coulda’ said something.” He interrupted. “You had me scared. You need to come home right now.” He seemed to be gaining speed, anger and volume all at once.

“Well, I think I am, no I know I’m OK and I will come home soon. I just need some space; to think and figure things out.”

“What’s to figure? You are pregnant, in trouble and in sin. You need to get saved,” he spat out. You’re lucky I haven’t thrown you out. I’m still your father and I say you need to come home.”

“No sir,” she countered. “I am staying with a friend and I will be just fine.”

Becky had observed the interaction from a few aisles away and felt like it had escalated more than necessary. She stepped up to the cash register. “Could you call 911 please? I hope everything will be OK but just in case.”

“Sure,” the cashier said.

As she returned to her previous position a safe distance away she saw Ramona’s father reach out and grab her arm. “I said, you need to come home, right now.” Ramona pulled back so fast she knocked over a display of windshield wiper fluid. A couple of bottles split open spreading bluish liquid over the surrounding area.

“Dad, I said I am just fine. I will be home soon. Now could you just leave me alone for a while? Please don’t cause a scene.”

“Well, I guess you already caused a scene, didn’t you, when you went out, got drunk and got all knocked up from some guy you didn’t even know. You’ve probably been sleeping around, too. You’re a whore and damned for Hell.”

Ramona started. She had never heard her father talk like that. But then the impact of what he had said infuriated her. “I was not sleeping around! I have been your perfect little girl all my life trying to please you and the church and now you call me that? I hate you, I hate you!”

Just then the squawk of a police radio coming in the front door demanded everyone’s attention.

“Hey, Hey,” the officer called out. “Let’s calm down and tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing, officer,” Ramona’s father replied. “I was just leaving. I’ll see you later little Miss sleep-around. Don’t think this is over.”

“Now wait a minute, mister,” the officer known as Riley demanded. “You are not leaving that soon. I want to talk to you first. Here, step outside for a minute. And you stay here in the store, young lady. I want to talk to you, too.”

Ramona looked over at Becky, her heart in her throat from fear. Where did that talk-back spunk come from? She never talked to her father that way before. She guessed she would be in trouble with him for weeks because of it. If Mom were still alive she would be disappointed but she knew Mom would be at least understanding and loving through all this.

Come to think of it, it started to make some sense. Since Mom died her father seemed to become more harsh and demanding. He went to church more like he was off to war or something. When they came home he was more rigid and mechanical around the house. “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything,” he kept saying, as if he were getting OCD or something. Structure, organization and perfect behavior were the most important values. No time for fun anymore.

Becky had walked over by this time and touched her elbow. “I’m so sorry, Ramona. Are you going to be OK? We can go. I still have a few more days until Saturday to find a scarf.”

“Probably should go. I feel weak in the knees. But the cop wants to talk to me first.”

After a short conversation with Officer Riley they headed back to Becky’s apartment. It was still cold out and Ramona clutched her coat closer. She did need to go home and get some clothes to wear. She really hadn’t planned on being gone long when she left yesterday. Now, with her father’s behavior, it made things more complicated. Should she just go on back home or stay with Becky a couple more days?

Turning to Becky she said, “If it’s OK with you Becky, I think I may need to stay with you a little longer but I need to get a change of clothes. Could you go with me? I’m not sure how my father will act when I get there.”

“Of course, Ramona. And yes, you may hang out with me until you get things straightened out with your dad.”

They caught a bus for the ride over to Ramona’s neighborhood. These colder days would eventually give way to the warm spring season but winter seemed to refuse to let go of its grip. Gray, cloudy skies and the accompanying rain squalls were the norm now and this afternoon was no exception. They seemed to overshadow Ramona and eerily prophesy that dark forces were in control of her destiny. The awful dream from last night stole back into her memory in an effort to confirm a hopeless feeling that had nagged her subconscious recently. Why had all this happened to her? What good could possibly await in her future now? What a mess this was.

The bus stopped at East Granite Street where she and Becky got off. Walking two blocks up brought them to a crème colored bungalow with chocolate brown trim where Ramona’s family lived; that is to say, where she and her father lived. Since mom died it hadn’t seemed much like a home. Oh, the place was clean and decently appointed, as it had always been but the warmth of her mother’s graceful spirit was missing, replaced by the drab clamminess of legalistic rule minding imposed by her father.

She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. She invited Becky to go in first. Suddenly a strange feeling came over her when she crossed the threshold. What was it? Walking through the living room into the kitchen she nearly tripped over her father’s shoe. Then a horrified scream vaulted past her brain and out of her mouth.

Storied Past

We, some of my friends and readers, have a shared past. After reading today’s post maybe some of the story will resonate with you, as well. The historical highway of Christianity is littered with wounded fellow travelers. A review of ancient Israel tells of abusive activities of the priests against the worshipers in the name of JHWH, the God of Israel. Recalling the account of Jerusalem during the time of the historical Jesus reveals that he, too, witnessed the religious sects of that day using the law and tradition to perpetrate and justify abuses. The priests of that era took advantage of those trying to meet the demands of a God who seemed full of His own harsh religiosity. Religious requirements detailing the worship activity, sacrifice, diet, tithing and other legal strictures belied and clouded God’s prophetic intent to point to covenant relationship, not rules.

Sadly, our institutional church landscape the last many years has not brought much improvement. There does seem to be an awakening from the importance of religious rule-minding and returning to our mission given by Jesus himself, and this is encouraging. We must not live in the past because . . . well, it is in the past. But there are a few friends who still struggle with the various stages of healing and some who have yet to begin the process.

My Doctoral dissertation is on the topic of spiritual abuse but it is an academic piece whose purpose is to meet certain university standards. If you wish to read it, it is at this link: http://catalog.georgefox.edu/search/?searchtype=X&searcharg=spiritual+abuse&searchgo=

With that preface, I offer this piece of fiction in my meager effort to promote healing. The characters do not exist but their story does. You may identify with their experiences, as well.

Storied Past

Coldly held tight by her memories and her guilt, Ramona crouched next to the damp concrete bridge abutment. The dark evening and rocky soil held no promise of comfortable accommodations. Why had she let him so close to her? Perhaps his affirming compliments about her features disarmed her usually impenetrable wall of protection. She didn’t particularly think of herself as beautiful but it did feel good to hear someone tell her nice things. Ramona’s father certainly couldn’t. All he ever did was demand obedience from her and make her feel like she wasn’t good enough. He did talk about love, a kind of detached, theoretical love, especially in church. But now she couldn’t recall ever seeing much of anything that sounded like the kind of love she wanted and needed.

Church! There was a joke if ever she heard one. The way most people acted there she didn’t care if she ever heard another “Amen!” or “Praise the Lord.” Take the worship leader, for instance. Randy was a nice guy and all but Ramona knew he was always hitting on Jenny, the main vocalist. Maybe that’s why she was the main vocalist. And the pastor seemed preoccupied with the Old Testament laws and rules and stuff and kept reminding everyone that God wanted us to be perfect like He was. He suggested that “real” Christians did stuff like fast and pray a lot and read their Bibles every morning. She tried for a while and liked that she was making God happy by obeying what the ministry said but she got tired of doing it and decided it was too much work. She had more fun hanging out with the kids at college. At least they knew how to party!

At first Ramona felt guilty. She recalled being warned that University would destroy her faith because she would be dragged down by sinners. But Ramona enjoyed her imperfect friends. The kids her age in the church would never go to the show or even be seen with their neighbors. The pastor said the evil in this would influence them and cause them to sin so they should stay away from worldly attractions and people who were not Christians.

So that was it. Ramona had tried to be a good girl, she really did. It did seem funny that very few others in church had the same problems with rules that she did. But how could she know? No one ever talked about any struggles they had—maybe they didn’t have any. Maybe she was the only one who couldn’t live like Pastor Marlowe demanded. So she quit going to church and put a wall up to anyone who seemed to be telling her what to do. It seemed like the only one who understood her was Paul. He was the guy across the bar from her who smiled kindly a few weeks ago. It was only the third or fourth time she had gone to The Rock Ness Bar and Grill. The music was fun and kind of like what she listened to anyway.

Paul asked her to dance. Not having much experience with dancing she declined so Paul sat down next to her. “What’s a nice girl like you . . . never mind. And yes, I say that to all the girls I meet.” Ramona laughed. He had a great smile and pretty teeth. A few minutes later they were speeding along on the way to a private party Paul had told her about.

Several hours later she slowly came to and felt something was terribly wrong. Her body hurt and her head still pounded like her blood pressure was going crazy. Where was that guy, what was his name, Paul? She slowly sat up and looked around now realizing she was on someone’s lawn; someone’s lawn she didn’t recognize. A few beer bottles were lying here and there. Pushing herself to her feet she went to the front door. She knocked several times but there was no answer.

What happened last night? Why didn’t she remember anything? But this nagging pain below was the scariest. Suddenly she knew what must have happened and a dreadful fear gripped her. Why had she been so stupid? Surely this is what Brother Marlowe predicted.

Now, here in the cold darkness the guilt seemed to smother any hope for a way back home. Her father had thrown her out of the house when he heard about the baby. He was embarrassed. She had made him look bad to the whole church. She deserved it. She was only trying to have fun, something no one in church would understand. But how could she explain that now.

What choices, what kind of life, if any, would there be for a 20 year old who was pregnant, didn’t know her baby’s father and worst of all, she had burned the only bridge of hope when she swore off the church and all those hardcore, hard-hearted perfectionists?

“Anyone here?” Ramona heard a voice. “I thought I heard someone crying. Are you OK?” She looked up as she saw a dim flashlight.

-To Be Continued-