An Unexpected Turn in Conversation

The brilliant moon invites an uncomfortable turn in conversation via @blestbutstrest



The weight of the full moon seems to slow its journey and it takes longer than usual for the light of the sunset to fade from the sky. The girls in the van chatter eagerly about the volleyball game and their surprise victory.

The girl who called shotgun arranges phone chargers for the girls in the back seat, and occasionally joins in the conversation. “I love the full moon,” I tell her, “in the morning the moon is so bright that when I look out my window I think it’s snowed the night before.” I find small talk difficult. What do I, a middle-aged chaperone, have in common with teenage girls?

I hear the phrase ‘of mice and men’ from somewhere in the back. That’s more like it! “Of mice and men!” I exclaim. “That’s a line from one of my favorite poems by Robert Burns.”

Polite giggles meet my pronouncement. I continue my conversational gambit. “You know, ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.’”

“You’re funny, Mrs. Ojeda!” someone exclaims. “It’s a group.” The darkness hides my blush. Pop culture holds no lure for me. I don’t watch the news or read about it. I figure if it’s really important, it will show up on my Facebook or Twitter newsfeed.

The darkness cocoons us until suddenly, the conversation takes an unexpected turn.

“I’ve thought the same thing,” my shotgun companion tells me, “about the moonlight and snow. My brother beat me up one night and I ran away from home. The moon helped me see my way.”

I gulp and pit of dread grows in my stomach. The cocoon of darkness shrinks…I hope. Her matter-of-fact words don’t come out in hushed whispers of confidence. I detect no differentiation between the degree of importance she places on one event (the state of the moon’s brilliance) and her brother giving her two black eyes because she doesn’t ‘listen to him.’

I feel hopeless and inadequate and launch a prayer heavenward. I want to ask more, to know the who, what, why, where and when; to call the police and demand justice. But I don’t. I don’t know how many other girls have tuned out our conversation and how many listen. I don’t want to break the fragile thread of trust she has thrown out into the inky blackness.

And so I listen. I murmur inadequate words. More stories pour forth. She doesn’t live at home right now, so I know she is safe. For now. My mind screams against the injustice of man’s inhumanity to man and clicks through all I must do to make sure the right people know about her situation.

We arrive at our destination and she hops out of the van. The gaggle of girls grab their belongings and head out to waiting cars. She steps up and gives me a hug. “Thanks for driving us, Mrs. Ojeda. I had a good time today,” and runs into the moonlit darkness.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Such a real, engaging, and well-crafted post. You had me on the edge of my seat… praying for that girl with you. Thanks for sharing this creative take on the prompt. Loved this!
    Karen Brown recently posted…TurnMy Profile

    • Thank you for your prayers, dear friend. There are hundreds and thousands of girls just like her who need our prayers, our listening ears and our tender hearts.

  • I’m with Karen, your words kept me waiting for more, wanting more and the unexpected turn grabbed my heart for the girl and you. The sadness of knowing only pain can make one speak of the moon in the same way they speak of abuse. Prayers for her to know a safe place. She found one in you.
    Debby recently posted…Five-Minute Friday {turn}My Profile

    • Debby: “The sadness of knowing only pain can make one speak of the moon in the same way they speak of abuse. ”
      Makes my heart break.
      Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday – turnMy Profile

    • Your words are spot-on, Debby. As someone from a very sheltered life, I think the ‘moon and abuse’ aspect is the most difficult for me. I’d be screaming from the rooftops that someone hit me–not mentioning it in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. The first time a student confided in me, I wasn’t sure if they were serious.

  • A very moving story.

    In the past, before I became ill, my method would have been to debrief the victim, ascertain the whereabouts of the perpetrator, and ensure through a zero-dark-thirty personal visit that he would be functionally incapable of ever doing such a thing again. This falls within the purview of my professional training, and I’m quite good at it.

    It may not be the best way; it may be better to light a candle of hope in the darkness, than to emerge from that darkness and bring terror to those who would bring fear.

    It’s a hot-button issue for me, as you might have guessed. I’ve seen what abuse can do, one too many times. One too many lives ruined.

    It’s a weird way to interpret the prayer of St. Francis – let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

    But what else can one do?
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Where Shalt Thou Turn? – Five Minute FridayMy Profile

    • Ah, I’d love to have a justice department that really sought justice for victims ;). I’m hoping that just knowing that people are outraged by outrageous behavior might help light the candle of hope for the suffering. We so often fall into a subtle blame-the-victim trap (especially in cases of sexual abuse or sex trafficking). We need to snap out of our desensitized, sanitized world and take a look around us–who needs a candle of hope lit today?

  • THAT was certainly a turn, to attention. Kids today face things you & I can’t even fathom. Oh how they need (” What do I, a middle-aged chaperone” ) YOU, ME, US. Great post.
    Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday – turnMy Profile

    • Thanks, Susan. Yes, kids need godly people in their lives to show be vulnerable and show how God can work through even the worst messes to make something beautiful. If we don’t have a ‘messed-up-life’ background, kids just need to know that we’ll listen and we care and we’ll advocate for them!

  • I’m glad you were there for her, even just to listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard and believed. I hope that she sees your trustworthiness and knows that she can come to you if she does need help.

    I really like this post. So well said.
    Melissa recently posted…Turning It Beautiful – Five Minute FridayMy Profile

    • I’m learning to be a better listening. Sometime what I hear is so heavy though.

  • Powerful… and such an honor to chaperone Grace! Love this, my friend!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…31 Days… The Wrap Up of What I Learned…My Profile

    • Thank you, Karrilee. I know I SHOULD know what young people read/listen to/watch etc., but I just. can’t. make. myself. On the other hand, kids come and tell me when they see cool birds now ;). Maybe I’ll turn them into birders instead of Beliebers!

  • Thats heartbreaking. I’m glad she confided in you, if nothing else she now has a lot of people lifting her up in prayer.
    Melissa recently posted…Coffee: To Drink Or Not To DrinkMy Profile

  • How awful for her…I wonder what the parents were like.
    paula recently posted…WORKMy Profile

    • So often, family violence is a never-ending cycle. It’s hard to know how to break the cycle and fashion a new future.

  • Thank you for sharing your story in the FMF word Turn…such a scary thing for that young girl to have to deal with; and I know she was in the right place at the right time for you to be able to listen as she shared. And not only that but for you to KNOW! Prayers for all in her family and especially for her safety.
    Barbara London recently posted…FMF – TURNMy Profile

    • If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about teenagers in twenty-odd years of teaching, it’s that they often don’t disclose all the information to any one person. It’s more like they let different adults in their life see one puzzle piece to see if the adult will find another adult and inquire about any puzzle pieces in the hope someone, anyone, will put the pieces together and get the whole picture of the secret they’re trying to share.

    • Thank you for your prayers! There are so many hurting people in this world. Just imagine if every Christian made a commitment to pray for a hurting child every day!

  • I love that when we are weak and are sure that we are missing ministry opportunities, but have no idea what to do about it, God shows His power and ministers through our frailty. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s amazing how he works things out (even for middle-aged fuddy-duddies 🙂 ).

  • That is so sad, but what an opportunity you have to show love to hurting people. Thanks for sharing.
    Jenn recently posted…Bountiful Homeschooling On a BudgetMy Profile

    • The loving is easy–changing the behaviors of adults I have no control over? I don’t even know where to begin :(.

  • Oh, Anita. I am just heartbroken for that sweet girl. But what a blessing in God’s timing and provision. You were placed there just for her.
    Kristin recently posted…Five Minute Friday: TurnMy Profile

  • Love and warm hugs can bring healing to even the deepest of wounds. I am earnestly praying for this young girl. May I suggest, asking a school counselor if they are aware of the circumstances, or if she has even shared this information with anyone else. While I understand the need to gain and keep her trust my heart aches to know she is safe and intervention is on the way. Praying for wisdom, and discernment to continue to operate in your life and give you clear direction on how to handle this information she shared.

    • Over the years, I’ve learned that kids reveal small pieces of the picture of their life and they desperately want an adult to uncover the rest. Sometimes, we really are dense and don’t get the subtlety of what they’re trying to tell us. I’m getting better at listening, understanding the sub context and acting on the information they share with me. The acting on the information is so important!

      • Beautiful post. As a teenager I feel I could have very easily been your “shotgun” companion, though never bold enough to open up. I do remember seeking out “mother figures” through out life though, and being able to recognize who was “safe”. But it is so so true that as kids (in bad situations) we are desperate for someone else to uncover them.

        • OH, I’m so sorry that you can so easily identify, Kelly! I hope that you are now the safe person for others. I wish I knew better how to ‘uncover’ stories and bring hope to girls who need it but don’t feel bold enough to speak.

  • Oh WOW I can’t imagine the heart stopping moment that you must have felt hearing such a revelation. God clearly placed her in your car that night for a purpose and used you to do a work in her heart and I pray that He continues to do so.
    Sarah Travis recently posted…Five Minute Friday and a ***GIVEAWAY***My Profile

    • the longer I live and the closer God draws me to him, the more I realize there are no chance encounters–he arranges them and our duty is to be prepared for the meetings.

  • wow. I hope you can continue to build the trust she has on you. and maybe you can be like the moonlight and be a shining light for her.
    Amanda recently posted…Motherhood: It is my turnMy Profile

  • Moon, Of Mice and Men (I actually thought of the book by John Steinbeck), and Monster (one who is abusive)! Glad to know that she is safe! I’m sure your kindness and listening ears mean a lot to her.
    Urailak (Fruit Bearer on FB) recently posted…Friday’s Fave Five #101My Profile

    • I think it is also the title of a book by Steinbeck–but he probably got it from the poem (which really is one of my favorite poems–that and “To a Louse”). Learning to listen is hard–but oh so important!

  • I read this last night. I can relate to the generation gap, but so thankful you were able to connect anyway. Praying you can be a light into her world.
    Martha recently posted…How I Met My HusbandMy Profile

    • I’m reminded time and time again, that love overcomes generation gaps ;). If I act in love, the fact that I don’t know the names of the latest groups is ok (well, if I act in love and invite kids over for cookies 😉 ).

  • Wow, just wow. Anita, I absolutely love your writing, your perspective, your “realness.” Girl, God has gifted you, and I’m so glad I get to reap the benefits of your obedience in following the call to write. You bless me each time I stop by. Thank you for sharing this story. God is using you, friend. Using you mightily. Much love to you today!
    Julie Lefebure recently posted…Five Minute Friday – TurnMy Profile

    • Thank you, once again, for your sweet words of encouragement, Julie. I’m trying to be obedient to the call (and hoping he has a call for photographs, too 😉 ).

  • Oh. My. Goodness. This is one of the most beautiful posts, if not THE most beautiful post, you’ve ever written. The moon’s mood and metaphor, the girl’s fragile trust…this is excellent, heartfelt, thoughtful writing. I’m praying for that girl and all the others who have pasts and pains like that. And also for you, their dear mentor.
    Laura Melchor recently posted…Why I Don’t Like Stuck in LoveMy Profile

    • Thank you for you kind words, sweet daughter!

  • Oh my word!! What a post! God had you there in that moment for that precious girl. Praying you are able to speak into her life in amazing ways.

    BTW, just checking to make sure you received my email on the 1st. It had my post attached to it. If not, please let me know and I will re-send.
    Leah Adams recently posted…Five Minute Friday ~ TurnMy Profile

    • Amen! I love it when you know that God has you where he wants you :). (I just emailed you ;)).