Friday, March 19, 2010

49 Character Qualities of Ruth, Part 12

Hospitality vs. Loneliness
Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)-Bill Gothard's Characte Traits

The older I got, the more responsibilities I was given. When I last left my mother's list of progeny, she'd just had me (I think). In 1986, she had "Caleb". In 1988, she had twin boys, "Matthew" and "Luke". We called them the Dynamic Duo because they were never still and would go on to win the "most like to end up in the emergency room" award. After the twins were born, my father started travelling alot and my mother had a miscarriage, so it was three years before "Becca" was born, in 1991. All of the children after me were "my charges"/buddies.

1993 was a monumental year for my family...and for me.

Very early on in the year, one of my maternal grandparent's died. The other followed shortly after. We'd moved back to the South by that point and it fell to my mother to plan and host her parent's funerals. She, as it happened, was pregnant with Rachel. By default, the hospitality planning fell to me. Until now, I never realized just how bizarre it was for grown people to pass off the responsibility for hosting a wake to a nine year old child. I'd like to say that my parents must have been doing something right, or that I was preternaturally mature, because I pulled it off.

One of the training sessions that all girls attend in ATI camps involves hospitality. You learn the general rules of hospitality and meal planning for large groups. You learn how to "have a listening heart" and an "anticipating JOY-ful spirit". Translated: you learn how to listen for small clues regarding the needs of your guests and you try to stay one step ahead of them in providing for those needs. I flew around our house in full QF-Queen mode. I didn't even go to the graveside service because I was instructed to stay home and prep for the gathering that would follow.

My mother was devestated by the loss of her parents in such a short span of time. Between the bad blood of the past and my father's imposed distancing, she had limited contact with her parents. They, not wanting to walk away completely, decided to focus on forging relationships, as they could, with their grandchildren. I think they figured that, perhaps, they could help us where they couldn't help my mom. Their estate was given to my mother, who was supposed to divide it up for her children. In reality, they might as well have written my father's name on the will because he was the ultimate decision maker when it came to finances. The money was put into "dowry accounts" for us girls and put into "start up accounts" for the boys. I've never seen my dowry account. I've been told that my dad withdrew the money and put it into a business endeavor for my brother.

I digress. By the time I turned ten, I was capable of running the house. If we had visitors, which we often did, I could prepare all of the meals and prepare enough alternate bedding for us kids (our guests took our rooms). How did those visits shake down, you might wonder?

Usually, the other QF/ATI family would arrive and we'd immediately gather for prayers. One of the fathers would ask for God's blessing on the fellowship. As we all got older, the fathers would ask God to open our eyes to "His Plan". I may be way off, but the manner in which they said this always made me hear this as "open your hearts and listen to the Lord because he may be presenting you kids with 'the one'". However, after this prayer, the segregating of the sexes was almost immediate. The female children would head to the kitchen to prep a meal. The males would head outside or to the pool table. The adults would go to the formal living room (if there was one) to "fellowship".

As much as ATI families try to stay humble and gracious, you couldn't help be feel and hear the vanity and one-upping.
Parents A: Our Ruthie can run a home better than her mother. Teehee.
Parents B: That's wonderful! What a blessing she must be. She would pair nicely with our Janey! Janey can single-handedly clothe our entire family with ten yards of re-claimed fabric.
Parents A: A blessing indeed! Praise God for his wisdom. You know, our Eli is already saving wood to build his bride a home.
Parnets B: He should talk with our John! John is carving his marital bed out of a single piece of maple he bought at an auction.
You get the idea.
Fellowship indeed.


  1. Ok, aside from dumping a funeral on 9 year old...good grief...

    The one-upping comments of the "fellowshipping parents" are absolutely hysterical!!! I'm killing myself here!!


  2. Oh, and so you know you are not alone, my mother wrote me out of her will in favour of my brother IN FRONT OF MY FACE (save for a few bits of furniture I begged) when I was 16.

    Never mind. It's only stuff.


  3. The fellowshipping upsmanship IS hilarious!!! The rest of it... not so much. What a miserable existence.

  4. Wow. I've been readig this blog for a few weeks through NLQ and I just now am realizing we are the same age. I've been wanting to tell you for a while how much I like your blog, you have a great writing style and voice, your "Character Traits" posts are well written and concise, leaving the reader wanting more. Now I find we are the same age, and I'm dumbfounded. You write with such maturity and insight, I thought you were in your thirties or forties with a family of your own, looking back through the eyes of decades of life experience. I can't imagine how hard your life has been and how brave you've been to break away. I hope you don't think I'm being too foreward, but if you ever need someone to chat with or proof read your posts, feel free to email me: or Your stories are just amazing, and I really feel like you have a book here. My name is Fran, by the way.

  5. Good post, Ruth, I believe you 100%, unbelievable as it is to leave a 9 year-old child in charge of a wake!!!

    This post reminds me of the Duggar older girls who are bonafied teen-age moms/servants/au pairs. I can guarantee you that they are living the same buddy system as you did, perhaps not with all the abuse (which I think your father and othersl like him have injected their own mental illness into it), but nonetheless, the same "servant's heart" B.S.

    Apparently, there is no time to be a child in this "religion." Sure, it is good to teach children responsibilities gradually and age appropriately, but a child should NOT be a bonafied caterer at age 9. Oh, yes, I hear Daddy Darth already planning his attack on all of us evil and wicked hell-bound posters on this board. Heaven forbid that anyone question his "ways".

    It's pretty disgusting how your father took your grandparents money to use as he desired; that is NOT surprising at all. In all truthfullness, this happens in so many families, not just the fundie ones where women have to subsist on practically nothing, other than the few bones thrown to them. Still, the fact that you got nothing is not a surprise. Ruth, hear me when I say this, I promise you that you will have many, many good rewards coming to you through time, including financial ones. I can tell you this because something similiar happened to me with an inheritance. (I got nothing, while my brother got everything, not once, but twice). This had nothing to do with religion, it had to do with other extenuating circumstances that I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that I put myself through college (put my husband through college too), have raised children and am still raising children, have a good husband, good kids and a nice home, all through my own (and my husband's) hard work. You will have the same if that's what you want. You are capable of doing, being, anything that you want. You go for it! :)

    As far as your last paragraph with the dialogue between the parents, I hear you on that too. I can just imagine that the Duggars get the same all the time, how they're doing an awesome job "raising" their kids, while in reality the grunt work of raising a family and running a household (and ALL that it entails) is left to the older girls. The Duggar parents get all the glory, the older girls do all the work. Sounds fair to me. I wouldn't be surprised if down the road, one or more of the older girls starts their own blog and at least give an accounting of what it's REALLY LIKE vs. the sugar-coated version that TLC puts out.

    Ruth, I'm old enough (and have raised enough kids, my oldest being around your age) to know fact from fiction as it pertains to the workings of running a household, etc. YOU did an awesome job, you have done things that would send a grown person running for the hills. My goodness, some people call a hotline in order to find out how to roast a turkey.

    You are an incredible young woman. I love your blogging, even though at times, it is hard to read because our heart aches for you so much. Still, keep getting it out. We are all here for you to support you and cheer you on. Wishing you a happy week-end. :)

  6. Ruth, wow! I cannot imagine myself at 9 being able to do anything like that! I don't think there will be much that this old world can throw at you that you won't be able to tackle!

    Like the other posters, I was LOL at the oneupmanship being spewed in the kitchen!

    Take care, Jean

  7. Ruth, you and I are the same age, and when I think to who I was at 9, and what I was doing, my heart just breaks for you. My chores at 9, were helping with the dishes and doing my own laundry. At the same time, you were running a house. It's so insane. I'm sorry your childhood was taken from you.

  8. The warning here is that when making a will, leave the inheritance to each child, individually. Better yet, set up a trust for each child, with someone other than a parent to oversee it.

    As for the last dialog, precious! I sort of gagged on my corn flakes trying not to spew them all over the computer screen :0


  9. LOL at the one-upship. It's strange that people who pride themselves on being humble do that. But, I think all grownups do this....I've seen it everywhere regardless of background. I think it's a reflection of how competitive our society is-we always want to believe we are the best and someone else always wants to take credit for it (unless someone is an epic fail at something, then it's either their fault or someone else-anyone but them).

    You do have an amazing gift for writing. I can't wait for you to publish your first book, whatever the subject is, I will buy it.

  10. I'm another one who is laughing at your description of the one-upmanship. It's kind of like Christian gossip in the guise of prayer requests. (As in, "We need to make sure we pray for Mrs. Smith . . . What, you didn't hear? Her oldest son was caught drinking the other night."

  11. So what were the boys doing while all the girls were slaving away in the kitchen? That always got my goat when I was growing up, from the time I was five years old I was expected to spend family gatherings, including the entire time of a yearly weeklong summer vacation, cooking and tending children or elderly relatives while my male cousins played or watched television. What made me even angrier is that this was still expected when I was a guest at their house, even though they were older than me by several years and more than capable of doing work. The one year I finally complained that it wasn't fair that I was expected to both achieve perfect grades in school and work like a slave while on vacation, while the boys got to rest because "they worked hard at their studies and deserved a day off," my mother told me to shut up and stop being ungrateful (although she never said what I was supposed to be grateful for).
    Anyway, the point of this little tirade, beyond me venting my frustrating, is to point out that although the ATI group do take extremely sexist views, the rest of society, especially the conservative segment I grew up in, aren't much better. The one benefit I did receive from being a female in my family was a hope chest, something the boys didn't get, so when I finally moved out I had all the kitchen utensils a person could ever want, which I guess was nice.
    I still don't get it though, if a girl is so mature at 9 that she is left to plan a funeral, than why does she need to be under the direction of a man her whole life? After all, if the men are so smart than why wasn't one of Ruth's older brothers put in charge of it? Or was it to beneath their exalted status as a male....

  12. Boo male privilege! It is still pretty thick in way too much of life, even here in America.

    LOL at the parents bragging in their own humble ways!

    Ruth, you are awesome. Thanks for sharing your truth with us. Hope your life just keeps getting better and better.

    About the Duggars, I think the sequel tell-all series coming in the future will be a bigger hit than 18 and Counting ever was. The only real question in my mind is which child will it star? Or will it be more than one? Can't wait, personally. :p

  13. Marie Francis said:

    'I still don't get it though, if a girl is so mature at 9 that she is left to plan a funeral, than why does she need to be under the direction of a man her whole life? After all, if the men are so smart than why wasn't one of Ruth's older brothers put in charge of it? Or was it to beneath their exalted status as a male....'

    Very, very good point. I am not now and have never been a fundie, but let's see if I can guess... Planning a wake is a domestic activity, ideal training for wifedomhood even if you're nine. The men of the house have man-things to do, which just happen to currently take the form of playing outside and bragging about the eldest son's maple-carving skills. Do not question the man-things; you wouldn't understand. Although the little girl is doing the planning and organising, it is an act of service, not of leadership, so you couldn't expect the men to get involved (beyond exercising leadership and telling her to do it; wouldn't get off the ground otherwise). It's not as if Jesus ever performed an act of service.

    The sad thing, as many people have already pointed out, is that this stuff is still hanging around in some form in most cultures.

  14. Good grief. The Amazon banner ad is advertising Bill Gothard's Rebuilder's Guide. On the other hand, right beside it is Barney, a talking animal who celebrates nondenominational holidays. The mind boggles.


  15. Lolly said,

    "It's not as if Jesus ever performed an act of service."


  16. 'I still don't get it though, if a girl is so mature at 9 that she is left to plan a funeral, than why does she need to be under the direction of a man her whole life? After all, if the men are so smart than why wasn't one of Ruth's older brothers put in charge of it?

    For essentially the same reason that they're so obsessed about women covering up their bodies "so as not to tempt their brothers into sin" - because men are animalistic brutes incapable of controlling their base instincts, so women should defer to mens' judgment in all things.

    In other words, all the authority goes over here, and all the responsibility goes over there.

    You might have noticed this dynamic at work when Daddy Dearest came to the defense of his friend the child molester: in his mind either Ruth was lying or Martin "had a problem he had asked God for help with" (i.e. it was beyond his control). Yet notice how he held Ruth directly responsible for "taking advantage of a young brother". Yet in the same paragraph he says "The pantry could not have happened since your mother and her friends were in the kitchen the whole time." So the incident both never happened when it comes to Martin or Daddy's own indirect culpability, but it did happen as it concerns any wrongdoing on Ruth's part.

    I've been looking for a phrase to describe this sort of phenomenon, and now I think I have one: "Schrodinger's Pantry".

  17. Anon @ 8:27am

    The Duggars don't raise their children. They "train" them.

  18. DaveL, I've noticed the same sort of doublethink in Darth Daddy's posts, too. I mean, at one point, he admits something happens, and then totally denies it. It's really bizarre.

  19. LOL Ruth! Your last paragraph is like the fundie version of Monty Python's "Four Yorkshire Men".

  20. It could be that Ruth's dad was claiming that Ruth defrauded her younger brother elsewhere, and that the pantry incident still never happened. I'm saying this for the sake of accuracy - other than that, Schroedinger's Pantry is entirely appropriate. This idea that men can't be responsible for 'tempted' actions, yet should be the ones in charge, is insulting to everyone.

  21. Ruth,

    So sorry to be AWOL. I just had a girl's week and the hotel's wifi was not very good, though I forgive them because they delivered free juice and tea to my door every morning.

    Depression is something that can be very serious. However, I think you are just working through the ups and downs of a turbulent life. It takes a lot of work to admit you are angry, esp being from a background where you aren't really supposed to have or acknowledge such feelings. Just keep working with your counselor. You tend to go to darker places when you are searching for the light. It's okay to be angry and sad about your life.

    Second, if I had planned a wake at 9, there would have been nothing but oreos and kool-aid. WTF???? I guess the lesson here is that to cook well at 9 is a mistake. I had a job in college where the men folk would walk by and shout "coffee" at me. I don't drink the stuff and so I'd drop five of those little packages into the machine and after a few days no one ever asked me to make coffee again. I guess if you'd burnt everything, they wouldn't have given you so much responsibility.

    I love how much snarkiness these fundies have. I wish they could live with the Amish a few weeks and learn to truly be humble.

    When my friends and I watch the duggars and the other huge multi-kid shows, we play the "who will" game. Which one will end up on drugs. Who will end up being the stripper. Who writes the tell all book. It makes the shows bearable.

    Dave, I LOVE the Schrodinger's reference.

  22. It's kind of like Christian gossip in the guise of prayer requests. (As in, "We need to make sure we pray for Mrs. Smith . . . What, you didn't hear? Her oldest son was caught drinking the other night."

    Haha! I had a history prof say nearly the same thing once. I think we were talking about town gossip in the Middle Ages. She said this kind of gossip still goes on today, but we just call it "prayer requests".


  23. Ruth, your 'dialogue' at the end of this is so good. You could just write the anger out like you are doing, talking it out on the blog, but could you turn it into a book? Or a playscript/screen script?

    You can already use words so well. They seem to work for you as your way of channelling the anger and the pain, but could you write out the scenarios that hurt most? Maybe give the character that is you the voice you were never allowed to have, and have them say the things that you want to?

    And maybe write out the scenarios like the one you did above and that you can now see as funny as satires? Show the people who engage in them as ridiculous, as they really are, and make them less 'powerful' that way?

    I should think that the way you write and what you write will change as you process the anger, but as well as the more personal stuff that you might never want to publish, I bet you'd be left with something saleable. And that could give you the opportunity to do some of the things you've never had a chance to . . .

  24. As I've been reading your blog, something that strikes me is how really, the "character traits" ARE good traits we all should aspire too. But the way they were taught in your family is a complete perversion of God's word. I am a Christian stay-at-home mom, and I do think that it is my job to be hospitable. I can't see though where it becomes a child's responsibility to be hostess though! Where does that come in?? It boggles my mind.

  25. Wow, this gets scarier with each successive blog post. My situation was different (alcoholic mother) and I was planning everything since the age of 7. Thankfully, I only had one younger brother and plenty of accepting church and peer friends (although I didn't say much because I was so ashamed). Abuse is abuse. JoyAnna Duggar seems to be acting out now, realizing her older sisters won't be doing the heavy lifting for much longer and she will be picking up the slack for four girls not long from now (and has abour 4 years until Johannah takes on any future "buddies."

    It took me until I was 30 to process my pain, so be patient...I moved out at 18, so it takes a while and I rebelled big time...we all react differently and was dx'ed with clinical depression---YES, Daddy Darth, it is a CHEMICAL imbalance in the brain that is INHERITED genetically...Ruth's mom definitely suffers from it but has to put on the "sweet" face.

    This isn't sin; it's abuse and the recovery process.

    LMAO at the one-upmanship. I minor in education and work with first graders at a school with kids who are typically poor from seriously rough 'hoods (Oakland, CA). It's a Catholic school, but doctrine isn't the main issue: making these kids who have seen brothers, fathers and other family members and friends be shot, or have immigrated from war-torn Africa or south of the border, give me hope. These kids are joyful in the truest sense of the word, save a couple that may be ADHD or have "seen too much" as that 7 year old. Still, the smart ones were doing the one-up in class today and I made a big point of noting it in my field notes. Basically, your parents, and yuppie parents, brag as freely (and laughably) as 7 year olds. At least the 7 year olds are doing it in an academic setting; I've suspected for a while that the ATI breeding machines and who they marry are "competition."

    I guess your mother was an only child; a pity they passed just before Suzy Ormann hit the scene; I had my parents and my in-laws establish trusts and on my parents' side (now both deceased) went well, other than one (adoptive) sister who wanted everything, even MY dad's stuff that she wasn't raised with. I took about 5 items and shut my mouth, even though I could have taken my whole share. Money and a scrupulous accounting of everything makes for trouble, even in a trust. We did not get even shares of the house stuff. I didn't care; I took the few things that resonated with me and got no protest.

    My Dad gave more $$ to Focus on the Family than his 5 children (3 step) and 5 grandkids combined. Not a religious one amongst us (they turned us away with their extremism), that hurt. A lot. But it was their choice. They had 50 beneficiaries, most religiously related. Can you say IRONY? I knew you could? :)

    Love God, but read some John Donne devotional sonnets. His writings are awesome regarding self-flagellation, doubt and grace. Heck, I think I'm going to write a paper on them for a class. I may email you for perspective. :)


  26. Lol, the one-upping. Reminds me of the Duggars vs. the Bates! And I often wonder how people can stand to be around others who try to one up them like that. I've had "friends" like that before. We didn't stay friends for long (unless something changed). How hard it must be to have to pretend that everything is perfect, even among those who are supposed to be your support. No wonder it doesn't work out very well for everyone! I'm too honest to be a fundie anymore. ;) ;)

  27. Ruth, I forgot to tell you in my previous comment how you have a wonderful sense of humor that comes out in your writing. You truly have a gift in writing. I look forward to reading more. :) Wishing you a good week-end. :)

  28. I also find Gothard's dichotomies of character traits interesting. In placing two qualities in a black-and-white Manichean pairing, he denudes any nuance and substance out of both. 'Hospitality' and 'loneliness,' for example, are complex concepts with diverse meanings, implications and practical outcomes. Here they are flat and circumscribed. The use of the negative 'loneliness' forces the acceptance of whatever meaning of 'hospitality' is presented. After all, who wants to be 'lonely' in a negative sense? All other alternatives to loneliness are automatically rejected, as are the healthy and positive ways an individual can be or stand 'alone'. It's a pretty classic brainwashing technique meant to force a certain course of action by artificially eliminating any conceivable alternatives from the outset.

  29. << Lolly said,

    "It's not as if Jesus ever performed an act of service."


    Woah, hang on a second... did I miss something here? Jesus washed the disciples' feet and allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to bear the punishment for sins He never committed. If that isn't an act of service, I don't know what is. More to the point though, I see Jesus in Scripture treating women with honor. The patriocentric crowd seems to miss this on a regular basis while looking in the OT (where women were routinely treated like dirt)for their blueprints.

    I'm enjoying your blog Ruth - you rock.


    Jim K.

  30. Jim, it took me a couple times of re-reading to realize it, but I think those people were being tongue-in-cheek. I.E. they knew Jesus performed LOTS of acts of services, but it was there sarcastic way of pointing out why it's ridiculous for these Gothard men to not do a blank thing. They act like it's "christian" when Christ absolutely did not act in a do nothing way, but rather served and laid down his life.

  31. Sorry, it should be "their" not there.

  32. All I have to say is WOW. I can not imagine at 9 Years old having to do what you did after your grandparents passed away. I do wanted to add though, I thought it was hystical the conversation among the "fundy families" I am sure it happens often.

  33. Hi Rebekah -

    I believe you are correct and I should have caught that. Tounge-in-cheek is one of my favorite modes of expression and that one got right by me! :) In the words of the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson - D'Ohhhh!!

    Jim K.

  34. On the episode of '19 kids' which I didnt see but read about, Joy anna was throwing coat hangers
    I think Joyanna is acting out too like a poster mentioned. Yes chores are good but adults need to do adult work. She has much responsibility for someone her age. Then the girls had to remove the moldy onions, take down decorations and didnt expect the boys to clean anything. (eye roll) It makes me wonder about the Duggar assetts. The boys will likely get the bulk of the Duggar estate.

  35. At least when there is company over, parents usually have to behave themselves (no fighting with each other, no screaming, no smashing dishes/walls/furniture, no hitting kids) to keep up the public front of "one big happy family" -- a silver lining!

    --ex-QF before it was popular

  36. Ruth, what was the food? Did you do mostly rolls and cold cuts or cook? Either way, I'm still impressed. Either which way that was a lot on a 9yo.

  37. Heh! Jim K: if you read my original post (March 19, 2010 12:07 PM), you'll see that that line is part of a great heap of sarcasm, and most definitely not literal.

  38. Ruth, I hope it meets your approval that I am posting your hilarious QT/AFI one-upmanship dialog over at Free Jinger, in a thread I started as a repository for funny things when we need a break from the heartache and anger of watching all things AFI.

    I've given you credit, and if you prefer I not, I'll be happy to delete it.

    Thank you for your blog. As painful as it is to realize what you and countless other youngsters went through or are going thru, it's so important that you shine light on these abuses. People need to know the despicable things people are getting away with in the name of religion.

    Blessings to you!
    Mama Junebug

  39. What jumps out at me is you didn't get to experience the wakes & funerals yourself. You weren't given the opportunity to pay your respects and say your last words to your grandparents like the others. Part of that grieving process is coming together with family and friends and sharing stories about the deceased, sharing happy memories and funny anecdotes. Instead you were enslaved to organize an event that most adults would have trouble tackling. You should have been cuddled and loved and protected during this time. You were robbed of your childhood in so many ways and that breaks my heart Ruth. Keep sharing your story. I imagine it must be hard but I also imagine that with each post some of the burden is lifted from your shoulders.

    Hang in there!

  40. "The female children would head to the kitchen to prep a meal. The males would head outside or to the pool table. The adults would go to the formal living room (if there was one) to "fellowship". " should have been the adults preparing the meal and the kids playing outside.

  41. Yeesh. Hospitality training at the age of NINE should amount to being gracious at one's own birthday party and being a good host when friends come over, plus first steps in cookery and cleanup. The homeschool curriculum I'm using suggests that parents oversee occasional tea parties to give little kids a chance to play both host and guest with the gentle correction of a coach.

    What they made you do suggests that girls in ATI are not allowed to be children.

    Jenny Islander

  42. Ruth, I just caught up on the last few weeks today. I usually don't post, as others seem to already have said what I am thinking.

    However, I wanted to say that I'm so glad you are feeling better and are working on expressing your anger. Depression and anger can be tough emotions to handle; I'm glad that you are working with a therapist that is able to help you.

    One more thing: What does Jim Holt have to do with anything?


  43. Ruth, I just came across your blog today, and read all of your posts. Your story is so very moving. I was so sad to read that your maternal grandparents had died. I am sure they would be so pleased and so proud to see you starting the hard work of extricating yourself from the mess of your family of origin and seeking a healthier way forward. Thanks for writing - I hope the blog helps you. There are a lot of people rooting for you. Keep going - you're on the right track. (I think you should keep the tip jar on your site.)


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