“You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand-new ending.”-James Sherman
Starting over at 45 years old as a single mom of five children was incredibly daunting. While I had tremendous support from my family, friends, and church—I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was out there on my own. The decisions I made were deeply impacting my kids spiritually, emotionally, and financially. Where were we going to live? How was I going to pay the bills or cover for the unexpected? Would I ever trust to love again? There was no map for starting over…it was one faith step at a time. I held on to the belief that God had a plan and purpose for me starting over.
The book of Ruth has been always been a love story for me. However, the more I read it—I realized that it was also about starting over and trusting God one moment at a time. When I needed to start over, I had to completely focus on God and fully surrender to His will for my life just like Ruth. And as it was for her, God’s plan and purpose for my life is being fulfilled and nothing can stop it.
The Tale – Ruby’s Story
Ruby pressed the last of her clothing into the medium sized suitcase, she felt the pressure of her last few years coming down upon her inner being. A wave of grief suddenly washed over her insides and she had to immediately sit down on the bed. How much bad luck can one family endure? First her father-in-law has a fatal heart attack right in front of his wife, sons, and their wives on what was supposed to be a normal Sunday family dinner. Three months later, her brother-in-law, Mason, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and even though he’d never smoked a cigarette in his life—died quickly before chemotherapy could even make a difference.
And then two weeks later her biggest heartbreak when the love of her life, Charles, was killed in a freak construction accident. Ruby felt in her heart that the pressure and demands of his widowed mother, Nancy, and grief-stricken sister-in-law, Olive, weighed heavily on his shoulders. He was sleep deprived, weakened by sadness, and unfocused even though his work demanded all of it.
Within a year, both Ruby and Olive moved into Nancy’s apartment to share in the expense of living and sorting out their new life. If the angels walked the bedroom hallways, they would hear the silent weeping of all three women every single night. Day after day Olive and Ruby would mindlessly maneuver through the crowded New York subway to their office jobs in the city.
All Ruby ever felt was the enduring pressure of emptiness that filled her heart and soul. She could only find solace in the Bible Nancy gave to her last Christmas. In a tragic way, Ruby was drawn to the Psalms because of the chapters that didn’t attempt to cover or explain pain. The writers poured out their souls to God even if they felt He had abandoned them. She soaked in every word that clung to her unrest and questioned God’s love for her and this family.
In the midst of this struggle, her mother-in-law, Nancy, mentally broke down and couldn’t bear living in the city anymore. In spite of putting her trust in God, she became a bitter woman who deeply regretted moving from Iowa to New York city. Nancy heard from relatives back home that the farming business was doing well and she was ready to go back.
“Daughters, I’ve been blessed by you both. I wished a thousand times to wither and die from this grief. If it wasn’t for your love and grace, I would be dead myself. Please go home to be near your families. Don’t make Eli’s and my mistake of moving so far away and finding little solace in unfamiliar places,” said Nancy.
Ruby and Olive had grown to love Nancy as if she was their biological mother in spite of her bitterness. They begged to let them move with her. Yet Nancy was steadfast in her refusal to allow them to come. As a result, Ruby finished packing her one suitcase as she owned only a few material things. She was accustomed to Nancy and her faith so much that it was unbearable to think of going back to her own family. Yet, she knew it was useless to talk to Nancy for the thousandth time about going with her. Ruby hadn’t even told her family that she was coming home. She’d deal with that drama when she arrived.
Within a month, the three women gathered at the train station where they cried and hugged each other. People stared in wonder of their shared agony of grief and separation. Olive’s family sent a cab for her and she was gone. Ruby sat with Nancy until her train arrived and then she would jump on the subway towards Brooklyn.
Sitting there, Ruby felt jealous of Nancy’s choice to escape the traffic, noise, and the overall coldness of crowded humanity. She reminisced Nancy’s farm life stories—how difficult, yet fulfilling it was due to the restoring quietness and unexpected beauty of nature. Ruby wasn’t one to make rash decisions on the fly. However, while sitting next to Nancy, she was made the sudden choice to move from the city and to Iowa whether Nancy wanted her to come or not. She excused herself as if she was going to the restroom and went to the desk to purchase her train ticket to Iowa.
When the train arrived, Nancy sighed and pulled Ruby into a hug, “Good bye my love. I asked the Lord to bless you and keep you. You are a good woman who deserves a good man who will love you as Christ loves His church. Please, please keep in touch for my heart will always be connected to yours.”
Ruby returned the hug and picked up her bag as well. Nancy walked over to the train and looked back to wave goodbye one last time. She was startled to see Ruby was standing right behind her.
“Wha…what are you doing dear? I need to leave now,” said Nancy.
“I know. I’m leaving with you Nancy. Like it or not—you’ve been more like family to me than my own family. I love your God and want to serve Him. I don’t know your family back home, but I already love them through you. I’m not leaving your side—you are my mother. God forbid if only death ever separates us. And that’s that,” said Ruby not budging back.
Nancy shook her head in amazement and seeing that Ruby was bound and determined to come, “Well then…let’s do this. I’m ready to go home.” The two women quickly found their seats and settled in for the long trip across the country. Ruby closed her eyes and for the first time in her life felt God’s peace and presence well up within her heart as she was starting over.
The train ride was a full 24-hour trip, but it felt like months with Nancy constantly reiterating how she really never wanted to move to New York in the first place. It was Eli, her husband, who made the decision due to the overwhelming economic recession that made it difficult to make ends meet at that time. He sold the family farm to a cousin and moved to work as an agricultural engineer for a major corporation. Eli’s fatal heart attack was hardly a surprise as he was always under pressure at work. Although Ruby was tired of the venting, she knew it was going to be difficult and deeply humbling for the Nancy’s return back home with no one, but Ruby and her thick Brooklyn accent.
At their last stop, Nancy and Ruby met her cousin, Abigail, who drove them four hours to the rural community of Fort Dodge. The older woman was friendly towards Ruby, but spent the entire ride only talking to Nancy. Ruby sat in the back quiet and reflective. She had never seen so much open space in her entire life. It felt breathtaking and empty all at the same time. For a moment, she wondered how in the world she was going to fit in such a different place. Ruby prayed that God would give her strength to do whatever it takes in starting over.
It was late in the evening when they arrived at a small farmhouse rented to Nancy from one of her relatives. Their new home was small, clean, and furnished. Family members had also stocked food in the kitchen. Before Abigail drove off, she suggested that Ruby come visit the family farm as there was work available. Ruby readily accepted and asked if someone could give her a ride. Both women were too exhausted to do much of anything but make their beds and fall asleep.
Ruby was jerked awake by the house phone that rang angrily in the kitchen downstairs. She answered with a groggy hello and was told that a van would be at the house in 15 minutes to pick her up for work. Ruby looked up at the kitchen clock which was nearing 3:15 in the morning. She quickly ran upstairs, shared the news with Nancy, and got dressed. Ruby rushed to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich before running out the door.
She was outside as they pulled up and took a seat amongst a vanload of people who were half awake. It was full of mostly young men and a few women. No one talked or even looked at her. Ruby sat in the quiet darkness wondering where she was going and what she was going to do.
Eventually they made it through the darkness to an open dirt space in the middle of a lit formation of grain silos. Everyone lined out of the van and made their way to a table with bags. A man introduced himself as the supervisor and explained the process of tasseling corn. Even though Nancy attempted to explain the work last night, Ruby was too tired to take it all in. As the sun began to peak up over the horizon, they were once again loaded into the van and driven to a cornfield. Ruby was determined to work hard and earn as much as she could to take care of Nancy and herself.
At the end of the day, Ruby was thoroughly exhausted, but at the same time she felt good about working. She continued day after day until weeks went by and the group was no longer needed. Ruby wondered what she was going to do next. It was then she noticed the owner, Beau, who popped in every so often and asked how the group was doing. She was surprised when he came up right up to her.
“Ruby, with this work coming to an end—would you be interested in assisting in a farm store? I have a friend who’s looking for a salesperson. The pay is decent and it’s not as labor intensive as tasseling.”
Ruby nodded her head and thanked him. “I…I just don’t have enough saved for a car yet. So, I’ll need to figure out a way to get to the store.”
“You know, I have an old truck that’s just sitting at my house. You can use it. The family is grateful for how you’ve watched out for Nancy during her mourning while still dealing with your own grief.”
“Thank you…that is very generous.”
Beau smiled, “Tell you what…I’ll give you a ride to pick up the truck. It will give me a chance to learn a little more about you and how you ended up in our small town.”
On the way to Beau’s home, Ruby learned that he was a third cousin removed from her Charles and Beau was at least fifteen years her senior. He was interesting, engaging, and conversational. Ruby was quickly put at ease in his presence even though he was the boss.
When she arrived home later in the old red pickup truck, Nancy came out smiling. “I heard from Abigail of your next job! She’s been working at the store for years and can bring you up to speed. I’m so happy that you’ve hit it off with Beau. He’s a good man.”
Ruby unexpectedly blushed at Nancy’s words. “Well…I’m just trying to figure things out as I go.”
“It’s alright dear,” said Nancy, “one faith step at a time. For some reason, I sense God has a greater purpose in all of this for you.”
The next day Ruby started as a sales clerk in the country store. While she enjoyed working indoors instead of the outdoor work, it was a struggle to understand all the intricates of farm equipment, the customers who frequented the store, and everything in between. Ruby prayed and asked God to broaden her ability to understand the work and the people. She asked a lot of questions and used her organizational skillset from her old job. Within a year, she was able to manage the store and bring in more substantial income to support Nancy and herself.
At first, Beau would visit occasionally and check to see how she was adjusting to the new work. However, every week he seemed to visit more frequently and he always wanted to talk about what was going on with Nancy and her. One evening over dinner, Ruby brought up their conversations to Nancy.
“Ruby, it seems like Beau may be interested in you,” said Nancy, “are you open to getting to know him better?”
“Why would Beau be interested in someone like me? He’s a pretty big deal in this community and I still feel like a stranger.”
“Oh, he’s definitely interested dear. I just wanted to know if you were…if so, I’ll be praying for you both. The Corn Festival is just around the corner, might be a good time for you both to get together outside of work.”
“Thanks Nancy…I just want what God wants for me.”
Ruby and Nancy arrived at the Corn Festival early to assist Abigail with the setup of her Christmas ornament table. Although Abigail was friendlier than she was initially with Ruby, she couldn’t help feel there was an unspoken distance between them. At first, she thought Abigail was uncomfortable with Nancy bringing a stranger into the family fold. However, Nancy shared one evening that Beau and Abigail’s daughter were once close to being engaged, but he suddenly broke it off. Ruby was convinced that his repeated visits to the store probably were disconcerting for Abigail so she attempted to keep their conversations as low key as possible.
Truth was that Ruby herself was a little thrown off with Beau. He was kind and conversational, but never direct concerning his intentions with her. She couldn’t tell if he was being a friend, big brother, or possibly interested in her romantically. It was much different with her first husband, Charles, who was outgoing and immediately expressive with his love for Ruby early in the relationship. He made it easy for her and she wasn’t constantly questioning where she stood with Charles.
Ruby tried not to overthink her relationship with Beau or compare him to Charles. However, it became a bit of a struggle when she would start to look forward to his visits and found herself disappointed when she didn’t see him for days at a time. She scolded herself for entertaining the thought that they were building an actual relationship. Ruby understood the enormity of his responsibilities as a farmer over a substantial acreage with a large employee base in the community. Yet, at times, she selfishly wanted him to be more attentive to her. Ruby constantly prayed that God would help her guard her heart with wisdom.
As Nancy and Ruby finished hanging up the last of the ornaments, Nancy noticed Beau standing at another booth across from them. He seemed to be lingering as if waiting for their attention.
“Ruby, there’s Beau,” Nancy whispered, “you go over and talk to him…I’ll finish up here.” Nancy gently nudged her in his direction.
Beau looked up at Ruby walking towards him with a brightened smile. “So glad to see you here Ruby…want to explore the best that an old-fashioned Iowan festival has to offer?”
Ruby nodded and walked with him through the aisles of booths. They picked up conversation easily with each other. It was evident they were becoming the talk of the town as almost everyone glanced over at their way. Some smiled. Some looked away quickly. In spite of their stares, Ruby just wanted to enjoy the evening as much as possible. Whether or not this was becoming a relationship—she wasn’t going to worry about it at the moment. If she learned anything from her past heartbreaks, life was too short and making the most of her time was valuable.
With the fireworks marking the end of the evening, Beau walked her up to the truck and continued their conversation for a while longer. Ruby kept wondering if he was finally going to kiss her, but instead he wished her good night and made his way to his car. Nancy came up right afterwards and asked if he had kissed her. Ruby shook her head.
“Oh brother, Ruby, the man is so reserved when it comes to matters of the heart,” said Nancy, “you may have to be the one to initiate it with him.”
Ruby started up the truck, “I don’t know Nancy…maybe he’s just not that into me. I don’t want to set myself up for another disappointment. I’m just grateful to God to have a good job and that we are doing so much better than when we arrived.”
“Oh, he’s into you dear,” said Nancy. “And I have some ideas…”
Ruby looked over at Nancy and wondered if she should be concerned.
The next day after church service was over, Ruby looked in amazement as Nancy quickly moved out of her pew making a beeline straight to Beau. “Oh Jesus, help me…”
They made their way towards her at the back of the church, and Nancy was out of breath, “Oh Ruby, I hope you don’t mind if Beau gives you a ride home. I need to use the truck to run some errands.”
Before Ruby could ask what errands, Nancy grabbed the truck keys out of her hand and gave her a sly wink before rushing out the door.
“Want to pick up lunch?” asked Beau.
They enjoyed a meal outside of a quaint diner near the church. Again, their conversations were casual, but meaningful. Finally, Ruby said, “Beau, I hope you don’t think of me being too forward…I’ve lost a lot in my life and I’m not one to assume or guess what appears to be happening with us. I definitely like you and enjoy our company, but…”
“Um, are you breaking up with me?” asked Beau.
“No, actually I…I was just trying to figure out what we’re doing.”
Beau nodded and sat back in his chair. “Truth is Ruby…I’m very careful in this because I’m also trying to figure it out. You’re much younger than me and there’s a dozen men in this small town who would love an opportunity to know you better. I am old-fashioned and didn’t want to push you in a direction that makes you feel uncomfortable.”
“I’m good Beau. I’m not uncomfortable at all.”
“I’ve watched you. Ruby, you are a beautiful woman inside and out. You work harder than anyone I know. No one really knew why you came with Nancy, but everyone can attest to your love and devotion to her. It’s admirable seeing how God has used you to bring her back to life.”
“Actually, it was Nancy who brought life to me by showing me the way to Christ. It was her faithfulness to God that brought me to this place,” said Ruby. “Getting to know you better has also helped open my heart to possibilities that were dead to me since Charles’s death.”
Beau reached over and took her hand, “Ruby, I would be honored to grow in a relationship with you.”
Ruby returned the gentle squeeze of his hand and smiled.
“Just so you know and have been forewarned…I will be kissing you goodbye this time,” said Beau, “thank Nancy for me when you see her.”
The Truth – Bible Study/Discussion
Ruby’s story is similar to Ruth’s story in the Bible. Ruth gave up her familiar hometown surroundings to start over with Naomi and their united faith in God. It’s difficult being a widow in this present time; however, in Ruth’s culture—being a widow without the protection of family was certain destitution and vulnerability. Ruth honored Naomi in spite of her mother-in-law’s bitterness and grief, she worked hard to make sure they were taken care of, and she followed Naomi’s wise advice about Boaz. Ruth’s decision to step out in faith was a part of God’s plan not only to provide for both women, but also to provide the kingly descendants leading to the birth of Christ.
Read book of Ruth - 4 chapters
a. What do you observe about Ruth and Naomi’s relationship? (1:14-18, 3:5)
b. When Ruth arrived at Bethlehem, she immediately started working, what does this reveal to us about how she approached starting over?
i. Ruth 2:7
ii. Ruth 2:11-12
iii. Ruth 3:10-11
c. Boaz immediately noticed Ruth and learned more about her work ethic and loyalty. What do we learn about Boaz?
i. Ruth 2:1
ii. Ruth 2: 8
iii. Ruth 2:11
iv. Ruth 2:14-16
v. Ruth 2:20
vi. Ruth 3:18
vii. Ruth 4:9
d. After Ruth’s proposal, Boaz wasted no time to work on making their marriage happen. He’s noted to be a redeemer that allowed Naomi’s family name and line to continue. What was necessary for him to do this in Ruth 3:12, 18; 4:1-11?
e. Boaz’s intervention as redeemer gives us insight into how Jesus Christ is our Redeemer for those who put their faith in Him. How do the following scriptures reveal this transfer on our behalf?
i. Galatians 3:13-14
ii. Titus 2:13-14
iii. Hebrews 9:15
f. Neither Ruth or Naomi had any idea of the turn of events for them when they arrived in Bethlehem. Yet, God had a plan in place for their starting over. How can we know that God has a plan for us when we are starting over even when we have no idea what we’re going to do?
i. Psalm 37:23-24
ii. Jeremiah 29:11
iii. Proverbs 16:3, 9
The Podcast – Meet “Ms. Starting Over” (In Progess)
1. What were the circumstances that caused you to have to start over?
2. What were your emotions at that time? Did you feel ready?
3. What is like to take one faith step at a time? Was it difficult or easy for you?
4. Did you sense God’s hand over you? How did you know?
5. Looking back, would you have done anything differently?