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Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices
By Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Cynthia Ruchti
All rights reserved.
Call to Arms
"THE LIGHT'S PERFECT IN THAT ROOM."
Don rubbed his wife's back. "I know."
"It's why we bought this house."
Don's sigh matched hers. "Or so we thought."
Lila pulled away from his touch, tender as it was. "I'm not trying to be selfish. Of course, we'll do whatever we have to. But I think I need a minute or two to mourn."
That's what Don loved about her. He could trust her to do the right thing, even if it meant sacrificing her dream of twenty-five years—a place and a time to pick up her paint-brushes again.
He was the one with tears in his eyes when they opened the door to her studio, the room that had so recently been cleared of clutter after their last child left the nest.
"We'll have to rip down my work counter," she said, "in order to fit bunk beds along that wall."
He nodded and made notes on a scrap of paper.
"And change the French doors onto the patio to a more secure window. I wouldn't feel comfortable with the grandkids having such easy access to outside, or others having access to them."
Don read between her lines. Their daughter's probationary provisions allowed no contact between her and the children, but when had Meagan ever followed the rules? He made a note: safety windows and a security system. "That'll cost us."
Lila tilted her head to look at him. "It surprises you that Meagan's choices are costing us more than they already have?"
Don's "no" bounced off the untouched canvas on the untouched easel in the untouched corner of the fulfillment of his wife's dreams. They stood engrossed in the quiet that would soon end, a quiet they'd waited a long time to enjoy at this stage of life. A quiet they might not have for—he calculated the distance from the youngest grandchild to high school graduation—another sixteen years.
"Do you think she'll sign the papers?" Lila ran her hand along the shelf that held her color-coded baskets of art supplies.
"In a heartbeat."
"How could a mother surrender her children?" The last word caught in Lila's throat and came out half-formed. "That's not how we raised her, Don."
He addressed his scrap of paper again. "We'll need to call Jefferson Elementary and get the kids registered. And that means one of us will have to drive them every day."
"We'll need car seats for all of them."
Don looked up. "We'll need a bigger car, if we can afford it."
Lila pushed herself into his embrace. "First things first, love. You need a bigger piece of paper."
They stood that way, holding on to each other, as the perfect light disappeared behind the clouds.
"There's a positive side," Don whispered into her hair.
"We'll know they're safe. They'll know they're protected and provided for. They'll know someone loves them like they should be loved."
Lila put her hand over Don's heart. "They'll see what a real man is like."
"They'll eat well." Don rubbed his ample stomach.
Lila's smile broadened as if determined to lighten the moment. "Until we run out of grocery money."
"Do food pantries make allowances for people like us?"
"I guess we'll find out."
Groceries and car seats and bunk beds were minor list items compared to what Lila and Don would face in court battles and energy drains and shoulder-hunching concern for the motherless children.
The incidence of grandparents raising their grandchildren has risen profoundly, if what we see in our local community is reflective of what's happening in the nation. Parents in prison. Parents in rehab. Parents on parole.
Sounds like a preview of next season's reality shows, doesn't it?
Not all parents qualify to chaperone the class field trip. They can't pass the criminal background check or sex offender screening. What a world. What a world.
Many grandparents are left to pick up the pieces when the parent-child relationship is shattered by lousy choices, addictions, ugly circumstances, negligence, or—let's face it—stupidity.
The grandparents who handle it well embrace the children and the responsibility with grace. They adjust their schedules and modify their retirement plans—eliminating or postponing their dreams and inserting the needs of the children. They restructure their concept of "someday when ..." They take a deep breath and plunge wholeheartedly into the commitment to raise another batch of children, though the responsibility belongs to someone else.
The cost can be astronomical. The payoff, remarkable.
Investing in the lives of children, investing in their emotional and spiritual health, their safety, their security is always worth it.
But between investment and reward lies a long stretch of expenditure and exhaustion for those tasked with the responsibility of caring for someone else's child.
"I don't want you to think it was all heartache," Lila told me recently. "We loved having our grandchildren around. We loved the input we had. The kids added so much joy to life." She paused. "But, it was hard. A hard decade."
She made the statement as if looking back on a difficult labor, with a bright-eyed newborn in her arms softening the sharp edges of memory.
I listened for a litany of complaints about what they'd been through, what Lila and her husband had sacrificed while they watched their grown daughter ping-pong through rehab centers, treatment facilities, and crashes. None came.
"Interesting way to describe what it must have been like caring for your grandchildren while their mom dried out. 'That was a hard decade.' So much lurks behind those five words." I watched as her face took on a serenity like the rich patina that distinguishes genuine art from a reprint.
Lila drew a hitched breath, then exhaled a decade of concern. "Now it seems it couldn't have been that long. But it was. I wonder if I slept a full night any of those ten years."
She didn't rush through her story. I didn't press. Some pain takes as long to express as it does to experience. I waited for Lila to set the pace.
As she gathered her thoughts from wherever they'd wandered, I considered how much it must have cost Lila and her husband to take on the obligations of the newest grandchild who came to them with womb-born addictions, with tremors and screams and brain cramps she inherited from her mother.
Unable or unwilling—and did it really matter which?—their daughter didn't set aside her drugs when she discovered she was pregnant. Meagan upped her intake to cope with morning sickness, her bulging belly, the clawing contractions that told her the alien she'd carried was about to explode out of her.
When Branilyn slid from her, screaming and trembling, Meagan's addiction told her she'd been freed from the pressure of a flesh-eating tumor. Lila and Don stepped in, paid for another round of rehab, and wrapped the unhappy child in their arms.
"Mom, you keep her," their daughter begged when sane enough to know what she'd done. "I'm no good for her."
No argument there.
Nursing Branilyn through infant detox and its residual effects while caring for the older children and emotionally nursing their daughter through her adult version of detox exacted a high toll.
"I want you to understand," Lila said, leaning in, "that it wasn't all negative. Hard, yes." Her gaze drifted to some year's ago soul-squeezing midnight. "But our grandchildren were a gift to us. Unlike many grandparents, we had the opportunity to influence their lives every day. We loved on them like no one else could, including their mother, at the time. We lived life over again through their young eyes and saw what we'd missed in parenting the first time around."
My mind rehearsed what it would be like to have a parenting do-over.
"They infused us with joy so intense it pulled a protective covering over the reasons they were with us rather than with their mom."
"You and your husband are remarkable people."
"Far from it." Lila's shoulders curled forward. "Giving them back to our daughter took more courage than we'd needed in ten years of caring for them."
"Your daughter's doing better though?"
The silence between us dripped with concern. Hope still had a fight on its hands.
Lila's smile recaptured the serenity I'd seen earlier. "Don and I are learning to relinquish the need to control the outcome. We can't fix anything. The best we can do is love them, make a difference where we can, and give God a wide berth to do what only God can do."
"You should write a book," I said.
"You are, so I don't have to. Remind your readers to watch for the glory moments when life gets ugly. They'll find them."
Watch for the glory moments? It's far more natural to watch for the gory, the awful, the misery-producing moments. "And here's another thing we've had to give up! Another hardship we shouldn't have to bear."
That approach may be natural, even expected. But it drives us deeper into the grip of the crisis rather than lifting us above it.
Artists through the centuries have used canvas and oils to capture a particularly poignant scene from the Bible. Jesus invited His friend Peter to get out of the boat and walk to Him on top of the water in the middle of a windswept lake. Peter obeyed. For a few steps, he rose above the natural pull of gravity and the laws of nature. Then he looked around at the waves and realized what he was doing was impossible. That's when he began to sink.
Love reached out and caught him before he gulped lake water. The artists' minds and ours wonder what would have happened if Peter hadn't looked down.
A friend of mine confessed she wasn't just conscious of the waves of her family's challenging circumstances; she was counting them. "Here comes another one. That makes eleven."
It wasn't until she got her eyes off the waves that she began to walk on top of them again.
Lila and Don could have drowned. They chose to look for the glory moments.
What if the prodigal son in the Bible had been a single parent? Who would have taken care of his kids while he rolled around in the pig slop of life? Grandma and Grandpa. They would have put a wing on the tent or outfitted the rooftop with bunk beds, walls, and a ceiling. They would have set more places at the table and then bought or borrowed a bigger table. They'd rock the children to sleep and try to keep their little ears from hearing all the gossip about their daddy's dumb decisions.
A grandchild in need is a grandparent's call to arms—both a call to action and a call to the arms of their embrace. No matter the cost.
And the costs demand more than one scrap of paper.
* * *
1. It isn't surprising Lila and Don agreed to raise their grandchildren. What's startling is the grace with which they did it. They resisted the idea of becoming martyrs in order to love and serve with grace. Does that make your heart clench? What sacrifices are you making for someone you love, but sensing the taint of victimization?
2. Don and Lila are letting life and God educate them in the concept of giving up the need to control the outcome of their situation. How strong is your determination to manage the results? When you think of the word surrender as it applies to allowing God wide berth to do what only God can do, does that introduce a sense of serenity or resistance?
3. Loving grandchildren comes easily. Caring for them takes uncommon strength and courage. If you're a primary caregiver for your grandchildren, what have you built into your schedule to care for your own needs, to refresh you and rebuild your mental and physical energies?
If you know a Lila ...
Consider what it would mean to someone like Lila for you to be as persistent in loving her wayward daughter as she is. How much would it mean to the Lilas in this world if we stopped ragging about their children's sins and began treasuring the broken shards of pottery, the priceless though shattered people?
Do you know someone in the early days of a difficult assignment? Are you keeping your distance because you don't know what to say or do? Are you willing to ask God to reveal the role He'd like you to play, even if it costs you something?
Let your servants' children live safe, [Lord]; let your servants' descendants live secure in your presence.
Psalm 102:28CHAPTER 2
Spilling Coffee on Life's First Draft
HE LEFT ON CHRISTMAS EVE. JOY TO THE WORLD.
Seventeen miserable years of marriage and he chose to walk out on Christmas Eve and leave her with four kids, an impossible mortgage, too much turkey for the holiday meal, and a broken heart for her Christmas gift.
He could have left on December third. Or maybe December twenty-ninth. Neither would have stung as much as ripping such a joy-filled, holy night with such an unholy, gut-wrenching announcement: "I don't love you anymore. I'm not sure I ever did."
While others spent the holidays in Aruba or New York, at Grandma's, or at Aunt Marilyn's bed-and-breakfast, my friend Danielle spent the holidays curled like a dried carrot peel, muffling her sobs in her pillow, wondering how it could have come to that.
She'd found a marriage counselor they could afford. Her husband refused to go. She'd discovered a book that promised hope for relationships like theirs. He wouldn't read it. A marriage-in-crisis weekend retreat. Not on his life.
Those of us watching knew how toxic their relationship had become. We saw the disintegration. But none of us could have predicted he'd choose that day to move out. Even the completely heartless would either hang in there until the holidays were over or time their departure for a day with no family and holy significance.
In a twisted way, it fit his personality. Uncaring. Unfeeling. Unthinking.
I'm sure my friend wondered if she'd ever get over his abandonment. It's fifteen years later now. She's almost over it.
The consummate stay-at-home mom, she left much of what made her happy and dove back into the workforce in order to provide for her amputated family. The house she'd made into a haven became an albatross with faulty plumbing, too much lawn to mow, and leaky downspouts. She juggled exhaustion and her children's extracurricular activities. She explained until the words sounded rehearsed—No, Jack doesn't live here anymore.
When he filed for divorce, she dug deep into the couch cushions and borrowed from her parents for enough money to hire a lawyer. When she shopped for groceries after work, she bumped carts with the woman Jack chose over her.
"No, pardon me."
"Have a nice day."
Too many times, she apologized to little faces who asked why Daddy didn't show up for visitation.
Often when a man walks out, bitterness moves in to take his place. Danielle refused to let it.
She couldn't afford the upkeep.
That single decision, that counterpoint choice to his destructive decisions set their family on a path of healing. In divorce's game of chess, he checked by walking out. She checkmated by refusing to be bitter. Game over. Marriage dissolved. But she claimed an important victory.
Danielle's original design to create a warm, loving home for her children hadn't changed. She made revisions to her first draft and moved forward with those plans.
She refused to let exhaustion determine the tone in her home. (Author's note to self: great idea.)
Danielle prayed her way through her job and her single-parent duties. The distress that pressed her to cling to God for survival dovetailed with God's promise that He would in turn draw closer to her. "Come near to God, and he will come near to you," reads James 4:8. As Danielle tells it, God sat with her when loneliness hovered, coached her through decisions, embraced her when the wind howled and rattled the windows of her soul.
She refused to let her ex-husband's lousy choices dictate her health, her spiritual vitality, or her relationship with her children.
Was her future different than she'd hoped? Without question. Was it a future threaded with hope? Without question.
Not a neat and tidy hope, necessarily. Homespun, but elegant because of the mark of the Creator on it.
Her fists tightened around hope often in the early days of her crisis. Digging into its fabric reminded her that hope existed even when she doubted it would cover a scar that large.
Her husband was gone, but so was the toxicity in their home. The air cleared. She breathed in and out and kept moving forward.
Excerpted from Ragged Hope by Cynthia Ruchti. Copyright © 2013 Cynthia Ruchti. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Call to Arms—Lila,
2. Spilling Coffee on Life's First Draft—Danielle,
4. The Swaddling Effect—Olivia,
5. House Hunting ... and Hunting ... and Hunting—Sonya,
7. Siphoned Dry—Lorena,
8. A Thousand Bad Decisions—Max,
9. If Only I'd Known—Catherine,
10. Hope Hackers—Neil,
11. Rest Insured—Tia,
12. Baby, Don't Go—Alicia,
13. Truth Be Told—Deena,
14. Stop Saying Grace—Tamara,
15. My Sister's an Only Child—Maria,
16. She Loved to Dance—Cherise,
17. Out in the Cold—Dave,
18. Laid to Rest—Jeremiah,
19. Not a Whisper of Regret—Jayne,
20. Untouchable Scars—Marissa,
21. Dream Changer—Trey,
22. 'Til Death Do Us In—Tasha,
23. Tug of Family War—Jolee,
24. Dangerous Obsession—Jenni,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Words of hope. Words of grace. Words of encouragement. That’s what Cynthia Ruchti writes about in her book Ragged Hope. What do we do when someone else does something that destroys our world? What happens when that same something is completely out of our control? What if the consequences of that something continues to ripple through our lives over and over again? Do we give up hope? Become vengeful? Walk away? Become angry and bitter? Via stories of people (names changed) whose lives have been completely turned upside down by the actions of others, Cynthia Ruchti writes words of encouragement and grace pointing us to the God who is ever Hope. Always there. Always loving. Through Him healing comes, even in the face of the unchangeable actions of others. From the back cover, “There is grace and a future in every situation —even (and especially) in those we did not cause but now live”. Sometimes in the midst of our pain, reading about how others found hope in their journey, brings hope and healing to our own lives. Very well written, with great compassion, honesty and love. Highly recommend.
John Donne’s profound line, “No man is an island,” has become an almost trite acknowledgement that human beings’ actions affect each other. In Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices, Cynthia Ruchti, with masterful storytelling style, relates true examples of those who assume island-like autonomy. Often their lives erupt like volcanoes, spewing choking consequences that explode their loved ones’ worlds as well. With characteristic compassion and insight, Ruchti relates how God heals resulting wounds as His people cling to tattered but indestructible hope. A multi-published author and popular speaker, Ruchti not only has shared in these stories with friendship, counseling, and prayer, but has herself held fast to ragged hope in the face of personal tragedy and struggle. Her chapters ring with the authenticity of experience. As readers turn the pages of this book, they will not only apply its truths to their own challenges, but think of at least a dozen people who should read it. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review, but the opinions are my own.
The book is filled with short vignettes — 26 stories of the way life disappoints, doesn’t live up to expectations — and ways people have found hope in those terrible turns of destiny. Each story is written with an emotion and immediacy that took me deep into its folds. Then each ends with questions to reflect on and best of all suggestions for how to minister to those we may know walking each jagged, ragged journey. As someone who often wants to help, but frequently isn’t sure how to do so meaningfully, this was worth the book on its own. This is a book that will whisper hope to the broken. It will restore hope to the bruised. It will renew hope in those who long to sip its refreshing waters.
This book is a gem. The simple and honest title gives a hint of the gentle grace found within its pages. Although filled with heart-rending, real-life anecdotes of folks who are reaping the difficult and life-altering harvests that others have sowed, this book is not oppressive but will uplift, inspire, and encourage you. Those not personally experiencing challenges such as those described in the book will become more sensitive to ways they can come alongside and support those who are wearied by the trials assailing them. Each page pulses with compassion and tenderness, and even the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter are presented gently without chiding or condemnation. Ragged Hope can be used by individual or groups. (It would make a marvelous study for a ministry team). Don't miss this wonderful book! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Abingdon Press and Litfuse Publicity as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Impressive Hope! Ragged Hope is a collection of poignant personal stories of survivors who, by the grace of God, have endured and overcome the fallout from other people's destructive choices. The examples in Ragged Hope are lessons in reality. Dishonorable, selfish, inappropriate choices made by others have placed the victims in these stories into chaotic situations. Hope has set them free. Examples of abuse, neglect, abandonment, job loss, infidelity and financial disasters are only a fraction of the representations illustrating how God's steadfast love, mercy and grace helped these victims overcome painful and debilitating circumstances. These stories demonstrate that no matter what life throws our way God's unconditional love can restore peace to our lives. Each life story is followed by reflections for the reader to contemplate and examine, to assist in gleaning hope in spite of despair. An inspirational Bible verse appropriate to the situation regarding those who have survived life's most difficult challenges is a balm for the spirit. For those suffering the fallout of someone else's poor choices, Rugged Hope is exemplary in promoting healing from some of the most painful wounds inflicted on us, through the power and love of God. Cynthia Ruchti has presented several powerful examples of God's transformation of His children from ashes to beauty. These accounts of victims in despair, whose pain was inflicted on them by those closest to them, are written with sensitivity and compassion. The practical applications provided through these personal accounts are excellent points of reference for those involved in situations similar to the victims described in Ragged Hope. Ms. Ruchti writes with insight, discrimination, credibility and a sophistication that only experience yields. Incredible hope is the ground level approach throughout this book. This author provides impressive insight into the human condition, and the solutions delivered through Hope! Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are mine, and no monetary compensation was received as a result of this review.
Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices By Cynthia Ruchti When I purchased Ragged Hope, I assumed that I’d be reading stories that might help me as I am challenged by the pitfalls from the poor choices of the people around me. I’ve been there. Most likely, we all have. Instead, I learned how to better serve others who are in emotional, physical, and spiritual pain from the consequences of other people’s choices. The part of the book that I appreciated the most and prayed about even more, is the section after each story where she says, “If you know…”, where the author shares tips on ministering to those who need hope. I’ve never read a book like this that offers such good ideas on how to reach out to the hurting. Because her words brought the realities to life, I found myself praying for the people in the chapters. Cynthia shares stories of tragedy, pain, and rebellion. More than that she reaches into the heart and examines how the person survived. I love how she reckoned hope to a baby’s blanket, where the satin edges were worn and tattered, yet the blanket brought comfort and hope. Some stories brought tears while others called up empathy. But most of the testimonies sounded familiar. In fifty-six years, I’ve seen many of the same struggles and lived the same desperate cry for Jesus’ hope. This is a must read for anyone who ministers to others and wants to offer the hope of Jesus to a hurting world. Every church and public library should have this book on the shelf.
Starting Over – Inspiring Hope in the Aftermath of Heartache, Disillusionment, or Despair Cynthia Ruchti offers the reader hope and inspiration in her book “Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices.” Each of the twenty-six chapters relates a dramatic story of lives that have been forever changed as a result of another person’s choices. Whatever your own circumstances you will find lessons, application, and encouragement from these heart breaking stories of abandonment, divorce, unfulfilled dreams, or financial sacrifice. Ruchti’s writing elicits empathy through her use of word pictures as she describes “a toxic relationship ending in an amputated family,” or the feelings of a son’s suicide as “Hints of inexplicable peace lapping against the inexplicable pain.” She speaks of “tenacious joy” and of being “reverently responsive.” In addition to the thought provoking reflective questions at the end of each chapter Ruchti has included a unique feature which gives the reader helpful suggestions for consideration to reach out to family, friends, and acquaintances who may be going through a traumatic experience similar to the one described within the previous chapter. “Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices” is a book for survivors seeking answers to the question of how to find peace and purpose and the strength to rebuild and move on. It should also be read by Christian Counselors andPastors and made available to individuals and families in crisis. A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Released July 1st by Abingdon Press: Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices In the words of author Cynthia Ruchti, Ragged Hope:Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices, is "a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit, the courageous resolve of those determined to survive despite the fallout of other people's choices, and the exquisite redemptive power of the God who can wring beauty from ashes." Filled with story after story of western society's realities, it would be hard not to be aware of or personally affected by situations depicted in Ragged Hope. Job loss, lack of life insurance, HIV Aids from a loved one, pre-retirement redundancy, raising grandchildren,infidelity, post natal depression, only a shortlist. A practical book, providing thoughtful responses the reader can employ when confronted with just such situations and those personally affronted, challenges to complacency, and scriptures to guide our responses. Examples cover a wide range of losses experienced by so many in the world of our day. In mentioning the few I risk missing the one that may benefit your issue or area of struggle. I was impacted throughout the book's many examples, both personally and responsively. The overarching theme that God carries all such damaged and wounded people dear and near His heart, offering the only Hope that provides strength and inspirits with anticipation. "It's an expectation based on the belief that God cares and that He can reach through the fallout to redeem, revive, refresh, restore..." rather than living stymied by recycling regrets, resentment, and retribution. A book of Hope, courage and encouragement for the recipients of injustices and those who care. An eye opening call to compassion. A recommended reading resource. *Appreciation to Abingdon Press for an ecopy to read and review without obligation