Like the crack head who had an epiphany while breaking into her parent’s home, to steal a television—to pay for her next fix—Alicia realized just how badly she’d messed up her life when she began NOT to notice the quiet of her home. Not only had she destroyed her marriage, but when word leaked out about her extramarital activities, it resulted in a cascade of downward spiraling consequences that caused her mind to close in on itself. Her character came under so much scrutiny she lost her position in church. Young ladies who once looked up to her, as someone to model their life after, were now laughing and pointing fingers at her. Older women, whom she once considered close acquaintances, kept their distance…not trusting her around their husband. But the accusing stares are what cut deepest. To escape the stares, she became a hermit…locking herself in her house for long stretches, hoping for an “out-of-site, out-of-mind” kind of reaction from a not-so-caring public. The six month sabbatical she had been putting off, became a welcomed source of relief…allowing her to hibernate, undisturbed, for months at a time. Adding an additional two months—personal absence time—meant she didn’t have to resurface ‘til spring. When the walls started to close in on her, she went to the only place that would welcome her, no matter what the circumstances—home…to Momma. She told her mother everything—concerning what she had done, and how Ivory found out about it. She told her about her deteriorating standing in the community…as well as the church. When she was done, she waited for a mother’s scorn to come. But this scorn was only meant to educate…to refocus an errant child. Not to tear down…or to belittle in any way. But the manner in which it came surprised her. “Baby,” she began. “You know…God don’t like ugly. And what you did was a grotesque thing.” She paused…seemingly searching for the right words. Then, unexpectedly, she rose from the table and walked away. When she returned, she had two bibles. Together, they read selected verses, and discussed their application. Throughout the night, they talked about God’s view of her actions. Not once did her mother offer her thoughts on the situation. What God thought was all that mattered. The next day, Alicia woke with renewed confidence. For the first time since her world collapsed, she knew things would get better. With some of her burden lifted, she visited relatives and childhood friends. She did things that made her feel good about life—things that helped her to get through her ordeal. But everywhere she went, eventually, the clouds came. Soon after, the rains followed. Throughout her self-imposed seclusion, Alicia never set foot inside a church house. For the first time in her life, she had been away from God’s house, for months. She had disappointed Him, she thought. She didn’t want to face the congregants, she admitted. She couldn’t stomach not being able to perform her role in church. A role she had worked so hard to establish. But her mother, who was a wise and kind woman, deeply rooted in the bible, told her that the first step in the recovery process was to take responsibility for her actions. So, she did. On Sunday morning—six months after her ordeal began—she marched into her church…her head held high. No, she wasn’t prideful. This was God’s house, and He didn’t play that. But she refused to continue to allow others to dictate how she would serve her Him. The minister’s talk, which changed as she entered the hall, centered on adultery—she believed, intentionally, at her expense. Still, she remained strong…understanding that the devil comes in all shapes and forms. When it was time for alter call, she marched right up there, and asked the minister if she could address the congregation. Her confession became a sermon but her sermon mirrored the Word. She confessed her sins. She asked their forgiveness—having asked God’s forgiveness long ago. She quoted scriptures, reminding them of her imperfections…housed in the skin and bones of a frail, human existence, who gave in to the weaknesses of the flesh. As she talked, she could feel the spirit of God at work: mending her wounds, reestablishing her bond with Him, restoring the sanctity of His house. Healing the heart of those who had wished her ill will. At the end of her talk, she prayed. She prayed a prayer so powerful the congregation wept…her detractors raised their hands heavenward, and the minister shouted, “Hallelujah!” When she was done, so, too, were the finger pointing; the whisperings; and the accusing stares. She had regained their respect, with a message from God: let he who is without fault cast the first stone. When she returned home—from church—she went through the months of mail that had accumulated in her absence. Among the many letters, was a petition for divorce, from her husband’s lawyer. She read it over and over, throughout the night. Her marriage was over, she had accepted that. As much as it pained her to do so, when morning came, she signed it…and hand delivered it to the lawyer’s office. God had given her husband the right to divorce her, based on her actions. It wasn’t her place to argue the validity of it. She had wronged him…not the other way around—another thing her mother had told her. After informing the lawyer that she would accept whatever terms her husband deemed appropriate—knowing that even under these circumstances, he was a fair man—she returned to the seclusion of her home where, again, the clouds came. Soon after, the rains followed.