Life

 

Some quotes that have been resonating with me lately ♥

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved, upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are. Can you believe that? Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot

 

“Until the will and affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone accept, His lordship.”

Elisabeth Elliot 

 

Stop beating yourself up for phantom achievements you were “supposed” to achieve.

Unknown

 

“Lord, I give up my own plans and purposes, all my own desires, hopes and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, for to me to live is Christ. Amen.”

Betty Stam

 

“Remember this. Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait., bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what  He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”

Elisabeth Elliot

 

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:20-22

 

“The supreme test of our confidence in God lies, perhaps, in those moments of complete inner darkness in which we feel as though we are forsaken by God. Our heart feels blunt; our prayers for strength and inspiration sound hollow… An impenetrable wall separates us from God.

An ardent belief in His love; a steadfast conviction that He is near to us even though we are, or imagine ourselves to be, far from Him; an unbroken awareness that ‘He hath first loved us’… these must carry us across the chasms of darkness and lend us strength to blindly let ourselves fall into His arms.”

Dietrich Von Hildebrand

 



Faith

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Some time ago I was reading in the New Testament about the blind man whom Christ heals in John 9. I really felt like God showed me something extraordinary in that chapter that I’d like to share here. This is for anyone who feels like they have no purpose, anyone who feels forgotten or useless.

In this chapter of John, Jesus is walking and sees a man who was blind since birth. His disciples saw who He was looking at and asked Him, “Master, who sinned, that he was born blind? Was it him or his parents?” (My paraphrasing.)

Jesus answers: “It wasn’t that this man sinned or his parents; he was born blind that God’s works should be manifested in him.”

This is the verse that stood out to me.

Jesus’ words, “…but that the works of God should be made manifest in him,” struck me in a way they never had before. Because in these words is the crux of every soul’s heart-cry: “What is my purpose? Do I even have one?”

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Take a moment and think about this blind man.

His story is hardly explored but we can learn a lot from the disciples’ question. They took one look at him and assumed that he was being punished for something he did wrong. How many people, do you think, looked at him over the course of his life and thought the same thing? How many people even told him to his face that he was accursed, that he or his parents deserved this affliction? Can you imagine how broken this man could have been? To think he was rejected of God and man, simply for being born?

He would have been a burden to his parents his whole life. It’s unlikely that he could work and it doesn’t seem like he had any family, outside of his parents, whom we meet a few verses down. We can imagine that this man’s life was probably a lonely one. We can assume that he must have felt terribly purposeless and useless at times.

He spent his whole life in a prison of darkness. Not knowing why. Not knowing what he had done that he should be afflicted so. I wonder if he ever cried out to God, begging Him, “why, God, why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why was I even born?”

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And then here comes Jesus.

Jesus, sent by God, walks past him, of all men, that day. I’m sure that he could have never forgotten that fact afterwards. Jesus walks by him and He stops and says this incredible thing: that God’s works were going to be manifested in him. Jesus anoints him and sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash, which he does.

When his eyes are opened, he sees.

And so this man who was once a burden, once the object of people’s censure and criticism becomes a living, walking miracle. The man who once had no purpose learns that God had one for him all along.

He is questioned and followed by the naysayers and the incredulous. He tells them all the same thing: “I was blind, but now I see.” He tells the Pharisees in verse 25 that, “Whether he (Jesus) be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

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The words of the beautiful hymn Amazing Grace came to my heart when I read those words. I was blind, but now I see. Not only do we find such an incredibly encouraging truth regarding God’s purpose for us who feel the most useless, but we see a beautiful analogy for how Jesus opens our eyes that we might see the light and be in darkness no more.

That’s why Jesus, after speaking of God’s works being manifested in the blind man, says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He is the light that reveals the darkness of our sin; after we are washed clean, our eyes are opened and we see what we have never seen before: the truth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

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This man recognized what had been done to him. He realized, in verse 33, that “if this man (Jesus) were not of God, he could do nothing.” And the Pharisees cast him out from their presence when he said those words, saying, “You were born in sin – and you think you can teach us?” What abominable pride – more than that, what blindness. It was they who were blind, and not that man.

But you know what? I don’t think he cared very much at that point.

Because when he was cast out, Jesus heard about it and He came and found him (how I love those words). And He asked him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

The once blind man answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?”

And Jesus said to him, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.”

And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. (10)

So much can be gleaned from every verse written in the Bible. There are a thousand more sermons that can be written on this chapter, but what the Lord showed me through it was exactly what my heart needed to hear. Not only can we see an incredible example of how God opens the eyes of sinners and washes them clean, causing them to “see the light,” but He has a purpose for each and every one of us, even those of us who feel the most useless, the most purposeless, and the most unworthy. And like this man, I do believe God has a time prepared for each of us when He reveals that purpose to us.

So hold on to that hope. You may not understand why right now (not very many of us do) but I truly believe you will someday. God had a purpose for you from the very beginning. You weren’t a mistake and you haven’t been forgotten. God’s works will be manifested in you, in the proper time. Wait for Jesus. He’s coming your way. ♥

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. (11)

Faith

elisabeth-elliot-quotes-inspiration

Today I thought I’d write about one of my favorite writers and greatest spiritual inspirations, Elisabeth Elliot.

For those of you who don’t know who she is, she was a well-known author and the widow of the beautiful and inspiring martyr, Jim Elliot, who died in 1956. She wrote such books as Let Me Be a Woman, Passion and Purity, Shadow of the Almighty, etc. All books which my sister and I have.

I don’t remember when I first learned about her, but I think it may have been sometime before her death (which was last year in the summer of 2015). My sister and I were reading some of Eric and Leslie Ludy’s books and she was mentioned in their writings. Soon after that, I heard about her death and I started to read more about her. Stumbling upon some of her quotes immediately captured my attention. There was such maturity in her words, such keen understanding, such wisdom – she wrote in a way that my feminine heart could identify with.

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I learned more about her and then bought her book Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. It was there that I learned about the death of her husband, how he was martyred, and the joy with which he went to his death. Through his letters and journal entries, I gained entrance into a heart that was sold out for Christ, a soul that was bent on sharing the gospel, and a mind that was so intensely human and yet so extraordinary in its spiritual maturity.

Time and time again, I return to Elisabeth’s writings and my soul gets fed on such quotes as:

“The secret is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances.”

“We never know what God has up His sleeve. You never know what might happen; you only know what you have to do now.”

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

“God has promised to supply our needs. What we don’t have now we don’t need now.”

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

“Freedom begins way back. It begins not with doing what you want but with doing what you ought. That is – with discipline.”

“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him.”

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.”

“The will of God is never exactly what you might expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end its going to be a lot bigger and a lot better.”

“Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all… But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.”

“Is it more important to understand than to obey? Is it more important to me to know than to believe?”

“When people are depressed, they are almost invariably angry, and the anger almost always leads to fear. Put your trust in God.”

“Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

“The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I’m a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.”

“We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom he has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.”

“When you don’t know what to do next, just do the thing in front of you.”

“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.”

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.”

“If your goal is purity of heart, be prepared to be thought very odd.”

“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.”

“He says no in order that He may, in some way we cannot imagine, say yes. All His ways with us are merciful. His meaning is always love.”

“Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.”

“You are loved with an everlasting love. And underneath are the everlasting arms.”

jim-elliot-quote-missruthelias-com

I hope these words bless you as much as they do me. Elisabeth Elliot, and her martyred husband, were truly a man and woman of a great God.

Uncategorized, Writing

declutter-your-mind-by-journaling-ruth-writer

I’ve written before about the joys of keeping a journal and how beneficial it can prove to be in your life.

I’m something of a procrastinator (*ahem*). I mean, if procrastinating was an art form, I’d be on the level of Picasso 😉 One of the many anti-joys produced by being a chronic procrastinator is that I often feel cluttered up in my mind with all the things I haven’t done, all the things I’ve yet to do. It leaves me feeling pretty overwhelmed and gives me a bad case of the “brain fog.” One of the ways I deal with this is by keeping a journal.

journaling-benefits

In times past, I’d religiously stick to one notebook, not moving into another until I’d finished that one. That hasn’t been the case as of late. Nowadays I write wherever –a scrap of paper, a napkin, my prayer journal, or a new Word doc. Whenever and wherever the need presents itself.

There’s a great quote by Joan Didion about how writing is her way of figuring out what it is she’s thinking, how she feels, what she fears, etc. It’s how we figure out what’s going on inside of our hearts and heads. You don’t have to be an excellent writer to do that. All you have to do is sit down and describe how you’re feeling, what you’re going through, what you’re learning, etc. You may be surprised at how free and relieved you feel afterwards.

writing-journaling

I haven’t been journaling as much as I used to so the other day when I was feeling overwhelmed, I decided to give it a whirl. And I’m really glad I did. I was able to unburden a lot of pent-up stuff there and just work out why I was feeling overwhelmed, and it inspired me to write this post. Because maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed too, and maybe you’re having a hard time figuring out why. Seeing it all written out in black and white might be the key you’re looking for. I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what I’m talking about. You may be surprised by what you find.

Another reason why I like to journal is because, in a way, it’s the memoir that nobody reads. It’s my way of remembering, of holding on to the pieces of me that may not exist someday. It’s my way of capturing the present. How priceless it will be one day to look back and be able to remember all the ins and outs of our lives; I think it will be like finding recorded footage of forgotten times. Wouldn’t that be amazing? So pull out a notebook; turn on your computer; rip out a piece of scrap paper – whatever. Just be sure to save your writing in a place it won’t be lost. You’ll be glad you did someday.

journaling-quotes-ruth-writer

Faith

discouraged-overwhelmed-no-inspiration

Once in awhile I get into a slump. It’s a period of time in which my creativity runs dry; exhaustion seems to seep out of me at every side; and my general energy and inspiration is nowhere to be found. I’ve been having one of those as of late (which would explain my absence) and I decided I’d try to sit down and write about it.

A slump can be caused by any number of things. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re going through a slow season, where God has you waiting on Him for some promises. Maybe you’re overwhelmed at a task you’ve been given or responsibilities you may have. Maybe your inspiration is low and you don’t know where to go next. For me, the reasons vary, but I guess you could say it’s some combination of these.

when-my-heart-is-overwhelmedlead-me-to-the-rock-that-is-higher-than-i

Sometimes I just have to wait the slump out. Other times, a good conversation with my mom can spark me back to life; most of the time, sitting down to journal for a bit proves to be an excellent help.

But where I find true freedom and deliverance is in quiet, consistent time spent in my secret closet with the Lord.

There, my energy is renewed. My eyes are refocused on what truly matters. I am strengthened and I walk away feeling that I have rediscovered my purpose.

But what about the daily grind, the times in-between our projects, the wearying routines of life that sap us of our inspiration?

Back in October, I decided I needed a good, purpose-driven project to keep me busy and give me back some of the pep in my step. I decided to start a fitness regimen. I’m really happy at how it’s been going so far and it’s definitely given me a little bit of something to look forward to. I think we all need some of that in our lives. Whether its fitness or some other worthy project, we all need something to work towards, a worthy occupation, a reason to keep going and to stay focused. Right now, fitness is doing that for me – in times past, finishing my book or working on a writing project produced a similar effect.

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Writing my second book hasn’t been that project for me, unfortunately. My family is at a place right now where working on it just proves to be just a little bit too painful. It’s regrettable, because it was my goal to work on it this year, but 2016 threw me for a loop. That’s okay. I know it will happen someday; maybe I just need to buckle down and work through the pain aspect. I’m not really sure. Either way, I rely on the Lord to lead me.

If you’re like me and you too go through these recurrent seasons of fatigue and weariness, know that you’re not alone. First of all, Jesus is the source of our joy and strength and He will renew it. He is also faithful to ensure that we are about His business, full to the brim with the calling He has placed on our lives. But in those in-between seasons, where we feel a little bit like sitting ducks, we need to be faithful stewards of the time given to us and keep ourselves from growing stagnant or complacent.

Here are a few ideas to spark your creativity, inspiration, and/or give you back some energy!

  • Take up a worthy hobby (gardening, fitness, writing, etc.)
  • Learn a new skill (cooking, knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, an instrument, a language, etc.)
  • Get outside often and/or go for long walks.
  • If you’re a writer like me, try doing some creative pieces or poetry.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Spend (a lot of) time with the Lord. Make it a goal of yours to grow closer to Him, to learn more about Him, to spend more time in His Word. The benefits are endless!

One last thing: remember that slumps are temporary. “For every time there is a season,” and seasons, praise the Lord, do pass. In the end, you and me are going to be just fine ♥

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Life

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I am so, so sorry for my ridiculously long absence! I’d intended to keep blogging as usual last month, but then I was transferring my site over to a new host and it was a little bit more time-consuming than I expected. I’ve also been working like a busy bee on a couple of other projects and my brain has shoved everything else to the back-burner, as usual. Multitasking is not one of my talents – let’s just leave it at that 😉

This year flew by so quickly, didn’t it?! I feel like it was just January and now we’re halfway through October. Seriously, how?!

The idea of time going by so quickly panics me just a bit. When I look back over this year, it saddens me to think that I didn’t accomplish all that I’d intended to. I believe in making every day count, and when I fail on that frontier, it’s easy to feel like everything else was a waste.

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However, if I look at this year through God’s eyes, it takes on a different colored hue. I might not understand or even know why things played out the way that they did, but I do know that He was in control all throughout and He was carrying out His works and purposes, even if it seems like I have little to show for it. 2016 was His year, after all, and my family asked God to do what He would in it.

Anyway, before getting back to posting in my Telling My Story series, I thought I’d do a bit of a life update and talk about some changes related to the blog!

personal + life

A couple of weeks ago Puerto Rico experienced a mass power outage – there was a huge explosion at our main power plant and millions of us lost electricity. CNN even covered the story! It felt like some kind of apocalyptic event, going out to purchase candles. It was stormy weather and the lights in the streets were off – there were police officers at every intersection, manning traffic. But, praise God, my family was only without lights for about thirty-odd hours; within a few days, everything was back to working order. Phew!

Another thing I’m so very grateful for is the fact that Hurricane Matthew completely bypassed Puerto Rico. Considering that it hit almost every other island in the Caribbean, this is remarkable. But my heart does go out to all those who were hit and who are being affected even now… my mother keeps me abreast of all the latest happenings on that frontier, and it breaks my heart to hear how Haiti and Jamaica have been affected. I pray that God would provide the help they need, and also that God would use this catastrophe to usher in more missionaries and preachers of His Word to those desperate people.

On a personal basis, I’ve been keeping myself busy. I’m working on a bunch of creative pieces and I’m also constantly brainstorming ideas for this blog. Starting this week, I’m embarking on yet another project, but I’ll share about that some other time 😉

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It’s so important to keep ourselves from getting bored and unproductive, don’t you think? Laziness breeds inactivity which breeds slothfulness, and having struggled with all three in the past, I try to stay on top of things and not let myself fall into old habits. It’s an uphill battle at times. It’s easy to get bored and unmotivated, especially at this stage of my life, and I definitely struggle BIG TIME with being a procrastinator. But I like meeting goals and I like having something to show for my labor. It’s like being your own boss. And while there are pros and cons to that concept, over-all I think it’s a really positive thing.

blog + theme

Blog-wise, I continue to have epiphanies. Like wanting to talk more about my walk with the Lord and provide encouraging messages for other girls my age, who may be struggling similarly with their current season. As always, my biggest challenge is simply narrowing down what it is I’m here for. A part of me wants to tell stories; another part wants to do life posts; another part wants to write about writing; and yet another part wants to scrap it all and revert to silence! Being indecisive doesn’t help matters. (And yeah, I’m horrendously indecisive. But I’m sure you’ve been able to figure that out by this point!)

If this is the first time you’re seeing the new blog since I changed hosts then welcome! It’s still subject to change (because when is it not?) but I like the way it’s looking right now. Switching over to wordpress.org has been great. Plug-ins are so addictive and so much fun, haha.

hope + holidays

On other fronts, I’m feeling hopeful and looking forward to the holidays. We’re praying we have a nice Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Last year’s was just very sad. Most of my siblings have been taking music lessons this year and a couple of them are taking choir, so I’m looking forward to Christmas concerts!

I’ll be back later this week with another post.

See you then, and God bless!

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Exposing CPS

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Stumbling across this story last week shattered my heart.

A young girl from Alabama, a rape victim, fell pregnant and gave birth to a little boy in June. With no court order, no warrant, and no emergency circumstances, Child Protective Services (or the “DHR” as they are known in Alabama) swooped in and kidnapped her two-day old baby.

Read this excerpt of the original article:

When Rodney Prince asked for a court order or warrant, Officer Edmunson told him:

“DHR does not need a court order or a warrant to take a child.”

However, the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution states clearly:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Does DHR of Shelby County somehow trump the Bill of Rights?

The answer is NO.

The next day, in an attempt to cover their tracks, they returned and took custody of both the girl and her twin brother.

The two were separated – the boy was placed in a foster home and the girl was placed in a group home with the baby.

They are just fourteen years old.

“Terrorism is an inadequate term to describe what CPS puts families through.”

Joe Churchwell, Arkansas Attorney

I can hardly bear it, reading this story. Every word is so achingly familiar – every emotion so painfully understood. The circumstances alone are different. In everything else…

This past week I found myself struggling once again with my message and what it is that I’m trying to do here. It is natural to want to forget when time numbs the wound and fades the scars. I am constantly wavering between the desire to bury the past and fill this space with brighter things and the urge to tell the untold story I bear within me. Finding a balance is something I will do and I need to do. But that doesn’t mean I will neglect any opportunity to speak the truth.

There are times when the past needs to be remembered. This family, these poor kids, are the proof of that. It’s for their sake that I tell my story. Its for the sake of my dead brothers. We cannot forget these crimes – not until we’ve secured justice.

I have witnessed such injustice and harm brought to these families that I am not sure if I even believe reform of the system is possible! The system cannot be trusted. It does not serve the people. It obliterates families and children simply because it has the power to do so. Children deserve better. Families deserve better. It’s time to pull back the curtain and set our children and families free.

– Senator Nancy Schaefer

I would encourage you to read the article, Alabama Child Protective Services Steals New-born Breastfeeding Baby from Rape Victim While Still at the Hospital and also, Alabama Child Protective Services Continues to Harass Alabama Family, and share it. The more we share it, the more we talk about it, the more likely it is that these kids will be freed. 

Like their Facebook page Save Baby Braelon.

And read updates to the family’s situation at Medical Kidnap.

Thank you.

My Story

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The second time that social workers turned up in my life, I was between the ages of seven and nine. I barely remember their visit except that they too surveyed the whole house and counted the beds. By this point, we had left Bayamon, the city in which we’d settled after moving to Puerto Rico, and had gone to Naguabo, a seaside town on the eastern side of the island.

Our family had grown in Bayamon. My siblings and I now numbered eight, and my father had a new wife too. B, as I’ll call her. She joined our family in 1999, sometime before that first visit from the social workers.

Our new home was beautiful. We called it the Green House. Our new neighborhood was beautiful, too – full of mansions and manicured lawns. Our neighbors were elitists, well-off, and clearly taken aback by the newcomers.

My father wasted no time setting up his ad boards – one for the front lawn, and a plethora of others for our car, a Ford minivan which we’d gotten in Bayamon just before moving. Our neighbors took offense at the ad boards and took it to the neighborhood council. They insisted he take them down. In the spirit of peacemaking, he did take down the one on the front lawn – but our car was another story. This was where much of our business came from, and my father was working to support a family of twelve.

Other complaints concerned the number of people he was allowed to have over at one time. Being both a salesman and a distributor, my father enjoyed hosting house meetings. This was soon outlawed as well.

We tried to make friends and succeeded in some cases. The couple across the street took a liking to us. The grandparents up the road had a granddaughter a couple of years older than us, and they allowed us to play with her. Another couple – a military family – was American. They had two daughters our age as well, and we quickly befriended them.

No matter how hard we tried, though, there was no softening the older couple that lived two houses up from ours. They didn’t want us there. And when their attempts at sabotaging our business didn’t go anywhere, they too called the Family Department.

I think its important to point out that the complaints these neighbors were making had nothing to do with suspected abuse. Every neighbor in that urbanization had the opportunity to observe us on a somewhat regular basis (we spent hours walking the neighborhood and riding our bikes) and no one was placing calls about bruises or broken bones. So what crimes were being committed? Was this not a free country?

At times, I think its necessary to take this kind of black and white approach, especially when we are confronted by things we don’t understand. Unfortunately, there are not many people who will prayerfully consider a matter according to the Bible’s standards, and these people should at least have the courtesy to remember that ours is a free land, where every man, woman, and child has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is not our job, nor is it our right, to determine the quality of our neighbor’s life based on our own uninformed prejudices. 

But back to the story.

The chief complaint, we suspected, was from the woman. She said that our lifestyle was affecting them so much so that her husband wanted another wife himself. Other complaints included our not attending school (no one seemed very familiar with the concept of homeschooling, unfortunately) and there not being enough beds. Having never been inside our house, they could have only hoped they guessed correctly.

They must have been very desperate for the Family Department to investigate.

The social workers came. They inspected our home. They counted a surplus of beds. They questioned my father. They left, coming to the same conclusion the other social workers had, that the complaints were unfounded.

“The children weren’t being mistreated or neglected and the Family Department could not take a position opposing the family’s religious beliefs: they were obligated to respect them.” This was the written conclusion of the third investigation that my family was subjected to.

Because there was a first, though I haven’t mentioned it. The first was when I was a baby, before we left New York. A former friend had called CPS when J’s pregnancy with my first half-sister became known. There were social workers involved, I am told, but I remember nothing of the event. I don’t usually count it since it didn’t take place in Puerto Rico.

The second was in Bayamon.

This was the third.

All three had come to the same conclusion.

All three would be ignored in the end.


Previous posts in this series:

» The Truth about the Family Department: Rescuers or Kidnappers?

» Moving to Puerto Rico

Exposing CPS, My Story

missruthelias.com | Ruth, Writer

To the untouched, a social worker may represent different things.

Social Work, as I’ve come to understand, is typically viewed as a noble profession and social workers are seen as selfless servers of the community. When this universally accepted perspective was first introduced to me, I was taken aback. It seemed so completely contrary to all that I had ever known or experienced. But I tried to allow for the benefit of doubt. After all, even logically one can surmise that social workers are people just like you and me, with families, beliefs, ideas, and feelings no less important than ours. Whatever their motives, one can’t be so arrogant as to imagine that they are all bad.

The difficult thing is this: the view that I have, based on the experiences I’ve had with the same, is quite different from everyone else’s.

My experience with social workers hasn’t been limited but it has been exclusive to a type: the Child Protective Services type. I can’t speak for any other kind, whatever their function or job description. Please understand I don’t wish to sound prejudiced or discriminatory. The crimes of a few can’t and shouldn’t represent the majority. It would be unfair to assume otherwise.

But as a child, I had no concept of laws, procedures, or statutes. I saw in black and white. Home was my security, my world, and the Family Department (as they are called in Puerto Rico) was the monster that stole me from it. Trying to humanize the monster, as a pensive adult, has proven difficult. My child’s mind was irrevocably stamped by the fear they evoked in me.

The first social workers I ever met did not leave me with any indelible memory. They were strangers in the night and while they seemed formidable, they didn’t do me any harm. They came to carry out an investigation, based on a neighbor’s complaints, and while taken aback by our peculiar lifestyle, they concluded that “the children” (my siblings and I) were healthy, happy, and well-educated. There was no sign of abuse or negligence.

I was four or five years old. And staring up at the social worker standing in my mother’s bedroom, I didn’t know what social workers had been licensed to do. I didn’t know about Act 177. I didn’t know anything about the system that would one day rob me of two brothers and leave me with permanent scars.

That night it was only a strange woman and a companion, a badge, a clipboard, and the relatively innocuous question: What is your name?

I was timid as a child and I don’t remember if I answered. My mother stood behind me, holding little Abigail, and I felt small and uncertain. I don’t know how we found ourselves in her room: I imagine now that they must have wanted to count the beds. They’d already looked into our fridge and surveyed the house.

The memory introduces a question I have often agonized over: Are we to forgive such gross intrusion upon our privacy in the name of simple investigation? Especially when it is purported to be for the sake of indefensible children?

I have not yet decided.

I spent ten months in a group home instituted for abused children when I was eleven years old. I hadn’t been abused but this is where we were placed nonetheless. However, the majority of the children I lived with had been abused – if the actuality of their removal (not a determining factor) and the testimony they claimed are to be the evidence, that is. It is these children I think of when I contemplate the harassment we underwent whenever a new neighbor decided they didn’t like us and called the Family Department on us. It wasn’t fair to us, and it wreaked horrible results in our lives, but what of the abused children this agency claims to be in the habit of rescuing? If my efforts were to obliterate the existence of this agency, of this system, wouldn’t children suffer for it?

It is a perplexing conundrum with no obvious answer.

My siblings and I suffered no abuse or negligence and yet a year of our lives was spent in the hands of governmental agents posing as rescuers: their actions proved them our kidnappers. Did they make an honest mistake? I don’t believe they can claim that defense. They were well-aware of the decisions they made and of the prejudice that inspired them. They were operating beneath the color of law and I’d be willing to bet that they knew it.

And what about these neighbors? What about this nasty trick of phoning in to an all-powerful agency that has the means of disassembling a family unit with a snap of their fingers? It is as easy as that, believe it or not. Obtaining a judge’s signature is a simple thing when you know what kinds of lies to tell.

Nowadays we have forums and comment sections for people to revile and condemn one another. But their threats are usually empty and their influence can only reach so far. What can someone do in real life when their opinions on how you live your life are so unyielding that they are moved to dismember it? They can call the Family Department. That is their weapon.

It is what they did to us.

It’s what they could do to you.

Any establishment that makes itself available to this kind of redirected harassment or wields this kind of cruel power is an establishment that demands scrutiny. It is an agency that should be investigated and kept under close watch. It is a system that is broken – and how many more families will be ruined before we attempt to fix it? How many more lives need to be shattered for this to become a pressing concern?

My family isn’t the only family to have been treated this way. Our story caught the interest of the press and the uncapping of our privacy was a double-edged sword that ultimately proved a blessing. We ended up surrounded by families that had suffered similarly – whose lives and homes had been shattered by the intrusions of an agency widely reputed for its restorative powers. The social workers I knew were bullies who treated my parents like criminals with absolutely no evidence that they even deserved such marked scrutiny. And I know of parents who were driven to madness by the “legal” kidnapping of their children, by the gross destruction of their dignity in the hands of ruthless aggressors.

The truth is, you are no longer a human being when you find yourself a target of this agency.

You are a case number.

Your assertions are ignored. Your concerns are disregarded. You have no say in what takes place once they get a hold of you. If you dare refuse their ministrations, that which is most precious to you will be used against you: they will dangle the imminent removal of your children before your eyes until you are too scared or too broken to resist. And you will be haunted forever by the sounds of your screaming children being torn away from you if they deem the situation an emergency. 

So what justifies the removal of your children if there is no sign or evidence of abuse? What laws are in place to protect you from an erroneous kidnapping of the precious lives God has entrusted you with?

It is too easy for them to write off the removal as necessary – to claim suspicion as their armor to protect their lies. And this is what should scare you. This is what should stir you up in righteous indignation.

Because suspicion is a nasty thing in human hands kept clean by laws left up to interpretation.


Previous posts in this series:

» Moving to Puerto Rico

My Story

Moving to Puerto Rico | telling my story series | Ruth, Writer missruthelias.com

In Latino communities, the term “gringo” isn’t necessarily derogatory….. It’s what they, the Latinos, call the Americans – the outsiders, the white folks with their bad Spanish accents.

It’s what they called us, when I finally got old enough to pay attention.

I was born in New York to a Latino father and an Irish-Italian mother. I already had an older sister, Esther, and two half-siblings from my father’s previous marriage. And another half-sister on the way.

My father’s simultaneous marriage with J, as we’ll call her, was what the world today calls polygamy. It’s the one topic I have avoided writing about on this blog and it’s one I am hesitant to address even now.

We are not Mormon – gather from that admission what you will. They – my parents and J – simply obeyed the call they felt the Lord was making on their lives. With this call – as with most calls the Lord makes, I would think – came the loss of man’s good opinion. It came with much persecution and censure. It came with much suffering. It is the undercurrent to nearly every event that has transpired in my life. Easily understood? Never. Of great responsibility? Always. But Jesus Christ has been the center and the mainstay.

I think when people first hear about my family, they might wonder what rock we climbed out of under. Do people outside of the openly Mormon Sister Wives still live like that? It seems both too strange and too antiquated of a concept to fit into today’s society. And I get it. I do. I will say this, however, that nothing about my family seemed strange to me until I got old enough to notice how strange it was to other people. This was around the same time that I caught on to the gringo label.

My younger half-sister and I would tell people we were twins when we were little – it saved us the difficult task of explaining that yes, we were only eight months apart, and yes, we had the same father, and yes, we grew up together, but no, we had different mothers… Being that my father was a distributor for a multilevel marketing company, we were always around people – but not everybody knew. Though a great deal suspected, I’m sure. The neighbors who would eventually wind up calling social services on us certainly did.

When we left New York to settle down in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, I was just under two years old. I don’t remember the snow-lined, sooty streets of New York City or the small, wallpapered apartment where I learned to take my first steps. But I remember the burning sun that baked the streets of our new neighborhood, the heat of the sidewalk beneath my bare toes, and the long walks to the supermarket to get our groceries before we could get a car.

Our life, in the late 90s and early 00s, was relatively normal. My childhood was idyllic compared to other kids – especially the kinds of kids I’d get to know as I got older. We were homeschooled. My dad worked from home. We weren’t well-off but we had enough to get by. My sisters and I shared a room; my mother had her own, which she shared with the little girl who came along soon after our arrival to Puerto Rico; J had her bedroom with her newborn boy; and my father had his own. We were a small but well-functioning family. Both my mother and J were in their twenties – young, bright-eyed, and intelligent. My mom handled the groceries; J supervised our preschooling. My father knew Spanish and my mother and “step-mother” picked up on enough of it to handle small talk. We played at the local playground and took plenty of walks to keep ourselves busy. We made a few friends in the neighborhood – one even undertook the task of teaching J how to make proper arroz con gandules.

As a kid, my world was full of books and games and movies and the occasional loud-mouthed child that raced through my house – ours to entertain while my father pitched healthcare products to their parents. Occasionally, that world contained business meetings in lavish hotels back-dropped by glittering casinos and scores of well-dressed customers. Other times it was not so glamorous – we went a month without electricity when I was about six because of a backed-up bill we’d been unable to pay.

Our neighborhood was suburban and jammed between another, fully crowded urbanization and the bustling, over-packed city of Bayamon. We lived next door to a well-to-do dentist and across the street from a middle-aged couple that gave us the kinds of sideway glares reserved for brothels. We got our fruit from street-side vendors and spent our spare quarters on limbers.

And yet, there was no doubt about it – we were the outsiders, the weird Americans, the gringos. And we weren’t like everybody else. We were a gaggle of little girls and a solitary boy – a sweet, wide-eyed, fragile tot – a dad, and two moms. And our incredulous neighbors weren’t having it.

And so, sometime in the middle of 1999, I met my first social workers.