Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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In which we get a mention

We got a mention in one of the fanciest magazines in the world of purity cults: Leslie Ludy’s Set Apart Girl (July/August issue, Article on page 27ff). Well, it’s not actually Leslie writing about this. It’s an “Anonymous Warrior Poet”, which is a Ludy term for a man who resembles King David, I believe.

The fact that this is written by an “anonymous” person is problematic to me. Now, I do not want to point fingers here, but… I read the set apart girl magazine every time a new issue comes out. I read all of Leslie’s articles. I read all of the “Warrior Poet” articles. The styles resemble each other strongly. I do not believe that this series of articles is written by a different person each time. I also think that Leslie’s writing and the Warrior Poet’s articles resemble each other in respect to style. Just throwing that out there.

Anyway. This months’ warrior poet (following “WP”) is concerned, very concerned. Why? Blogs. Let me quote him:

“And now – I have observed – many of my peers, who were once zealous advocates for purity, restraint, holiness, and waiting on God for their future spouse are now throwing in the towel on the whole idea. Numerous blogs have been written by young men and women who “believed the lie” of the whole “purity thing.” They rant to high heaven that all the purity rings and courtship lectures ruined their ability to interact with the opposite sex. They cross their arms in a teenage huff when they hear certain relationship books or authors mentioned. They write blogs expounding their angst and how they “removed their ring” because it was just a fuddy-duddy way of dealing with sexuality, and, with rolling eyes say, “it doesn’t work anyhow.”

What WP is doing here is far from an objective description of the ex-purity cult blogging scene. He uses several ways to label these bloggers as teenagers at mind. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s not a very “loving” thing to do for a christian. Labeling us teenagers is the equivalent of calling us unreasonable and immature – he blames the way we feel on the fact that our hormones are raging and we don’t know what’s good for us anyway. Teenagers! *eyeroll*

I don’t know how well-read you are when it comes to ex-purity cult blogs. Most bloggers are well past their 20s. Many are married and have children. Calling grown adults teenagers degrades us into a position in which we are considered to be unreliable, blabbling out of pure spite. Actually, the quote above denies us that our negative emotions towards the purity cult are reasonable.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being called unreasonable in such a flowery way when I complain about serious and real hurt. I don’t think my feelings about this issue come from one single experience.

By the way: Certain books and authors? Who could that be? But let’s move on:

“They make viral youtube videos that accentuate all the ridicoulousness our parents told us about these matters.”

He did it! He’s talking about the parents! What he’s basically doing here is telling all those good, pure girls “Look! These guys are making fun of YOUR parents and the values THEY believe in! You have to honor your parents! If you believe anything they say, you are one of these people who makes fun of YOUR parents!”.

“They say that it ruined their ability to have healthy guy/girl interaction.”

Here, he actually mentions an important aspect: Many feel that the purity teachings ruined their ability to interact with men/women. So far so good. But where is his argument against this? I read the article four times now, and I cannot find a single sentence in which he explains why this isn’t true. Please, go read it yourself and comment if you find it. It kind of feels like WP wants to make sure that his readers know this isn’t so, but he can’t go into detail. Why? Maybe because he himself has very little experience with women. Maybe because he doesn’t know how to relate to them. Maybe because the definition of “healthy” is very subjective – what is normal to me may be weird to you.

“I have a hunch that what is behind all this angst, and all this disgruntled blogging, and all this huffiness is an attitude of self-justification.”

The worst sin of all: Selfishness! Of course that’s what it is. We are selfish. We failed, and because we are selfish, we need a good reason for our selfishness. Everything we say is to justify our failures. Especially in Ludy-ism, selfishness is high up on the sin scale. Basically every sin is in some way based on a person’s selfishness (including, for example, homosexuality, masturbation, physical contact before marriage – I read the books and listened to the sermons).

“My concern, as a Warrior Poet in the making, is that a whole generation of young women will be led into a compromised and self-justifying lifestyle that is based wholly upon the sarcastic cynicism and bad experience of those around them.”

WP is in fact concerned that this pattern of relationships, which can be so convenient for men, will collapse due to women starting to think for themselves. The counter-culture the christian fundamentalists develop stands and falls with the participation of women. Ultimately, it is women who have to give up their entire identity in this pattern. If a woman refuses to become a mere extension of the man’s existence, none of the beliefs and patterns would fall into place anymore. The obsession to fix the problems people have, always have had, by following a certain pattern is very clear in this article.

In the end, I think the fact that our blogs got a mention in such a popular magazine among young conservatives is telling. There obviously has been some effect, some change, just something going on. Are they scared of us? No, probably not, but they feel they need to address the issue in some way, so I guess there is some progress.

Whatever it is, it seems as if the blogging scene is opening up to them as a new battleground for their “war of cultures”. Maybe we will see and hear some interesting articles and speeches about the blogging scene in the future. Let’s wait and see.


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Book Review: Brenda Weatherly: “Quiverfull: To Be Or Not To Be”

This and the following post are a review of “Quiverfull – To be or not to be” by Brenda Weatherly. Brenda approached me if I could review her book in exchange for a free e-copy. After making sure she had understood my own background and position, I agreed to write this review. Apart from the free copy, I did not receive any form of compensation. The review is my own, honest opinion.

You are probably wondering why I would review this book. Well, I’m still wondering myself. For some reason, I felt that it would be fun. I was eager to read a QF book at this point in my life, with my new ideas and convictions. I wanted to see what changed in my views. It seemed like a great opportunity to reflect myself. At the same time, Brenda is a lovely woman who approached me with so much kindness that I didn’t feel like I could possibly turn her down. Yet I was very hesitant. Why should I in particular review a book written by a quiverfull mother? What positive could possibly come from it?  She’d said that it is about quiverfull faith, contraception and valuing life. I imagined that it would be a rather technical book, and that I would feel terrible writing an honest review on it. I am still unsure whether I’m the right person for this review, nevertheless I will do my best to be objective and point out what I liked and didn’t like.

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Here is what Brenda says on her blog about the book:

“Quiverfull: To Be Or Not To Be” is a 50-page book that discusses a somewhat controversial topic, that of birth control in the Christian family. The first portion of the book is the story of my life and where the Lord has brought me, from teen mom to a mother of 7. The next portion of the book goes into a brief history of the birth control movement and what the Church’s views on contraception have been and how they have dramatically changed since Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, came onto the scene. Natural family planning is mentioned as a positive alternative to the conventional ‘wisdom’ most women typically have heard. I discuss sensitive issues such as mental and physical illness. The topic of abortion is covered in detail because it has personally affected the life of my family. Orphan care and adoption are covered in the final section of the book when I ask the question, ‘Which children are blessings?’

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The book is a relatively short read. There are 52 pages. However, Brenda doesn’t waste space on fancy layout, so these are full-text pages with an occasional family picture. I generally like Brenda’s style. I can’t quite figure out what to call it: Conversational? Blogger-style? Either way, it is fun to read, easy to access, and doesn’t feel “holier than thou”.

I believe that the title (and description) are slightly off. Yes, it is about all the technical issues (contraception and faith etc), but it is also a journey through Brenda’s life, especially the first half of the book.

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As mentioned, the first part of her book is pretty much her biography. Brenda comes from a christian background. Throughout her life, she went to several stages of christian beliefs. If you yourself come from any of the conservative christian movements throughout the US, you will likely be able to relate to numerous parts of her story and her experiences. From the perspective that traversing through different groups of christians offered up to Brenda, she describes the changes she went through concerning her beliefs in contraception.

I think what is particularly interesting in the first half of the book is the way in which these hardships changed Brenda’s views on family planning – I want to tell you right now that Brenda’s beliefs today would label her a heathen in the community I’m from. This doesn’t mean she isn’t conservative. I’m having a very hard time placing Brenda on the typical QF scales of believers and unbelievers. She doesn’t quite fit in.

If you like reading biographies of QF people, you will greatly enjoy this part. I really don’t want to quote here because I’m having a hard time reviewing it without revealing too much. But there are many problems Brenda faces and goes through: Relationships with parents (and her own children, of course), difficulties of life, job problems, financial problems, health problems, to name a few. In this sense, Brenda experiences many things all of us experience, and I applaud her bravery to talk about it so openly and to dissect her own choices she makes in those situations. Brenda is not afraid to talk about right and wrong choices, and she does a great job using her experience as means to explain how these shaped her beliefs.

Yes, that’s all I want to say. I think Brenda’s biography is worth reading, though it is short. I have encouraged her to add some more perspectives because I truly believe her life is worth telling a bit more extensively.

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The second part of the book is where it gets as “technical” as promised by the title. Brenda had mentioned a sort of essay on birth control she wrote in her biography already, and I tend to believe that this is what makes up the second part.

Now, the thing with the second part is that almost all of it was “already known” for me. But please remember that I grew up in these same beliefs, so it is only natural that I am familiar with it.

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The first section discusses the backgrounds of Planned Parenthood and “artificial” vs “natural” family planning. This is also the section which I criticize most. I used parenthesis because Brenda doesn’t quite clearly state the position of certain means of family planning – I’m talking condoms here. The section about Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be news to any insiders of QF, but nevertheless useful to newbies. I like that Brenda gives references to her sources.

However, I truly missed a connection back to the actual beliefs derived from the history of Planned Parenthood. I do not want to discuss Margret Sanger here – it’s not really important for the review – but I am wondering: If Sanger in fact had racist views on birth control (something not entirely proven), how does that influence modern Planned Parenthood? Sanger is long gone after all. I think the argument that the Planned Parenthood organisation must be rejected based on Sanger’s views is a bit like blaming others for mistakes they didn’t make. The churches likewise had difficult relationships to several nazi organisations, nevertheless I don’t see anyone condemning the churches today on the basis of that. That’s exactly the point here: It is ok to reject Planned Parenthood, but doing so on the basis of Sanger’s private ideology that is not the same as Planned Parenthood’s modern stances is a bit mushy to me – it doesn’t seem religiously correct to reject/judge.

Another chapter which receives almost the same criticism from me is the chapter about environment and population. While it is fine to have certain beliefs, I still miss the connection of the facts with the corresponding beliefs. I also would have wished for a more thorough investigation of this. One thing that struck me was the following:

Gene Edward Veith, of WORLD Magazine, writes, “In 1968,
Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, panicking the
world with dire predictions of a population explosion. By the
year 2000, he predicted, the world would be so crowded that
hundreds of millions would die of starvation. Although Mr.
Ehrlich’s prophecies have turned out to be almost comically
wrong […]. (p. 35)

I think the final sentence is quite off. Unfortunately, we do live in a world were millions – unfortunately most of them children – died of starvation or malnutrition since 2000. Whether this is due to overpopulation or not I do not want to discuss – I would have to do research. I think the issue is much more complex that just overpopulation yes or no. The issue is also that we are not willing to cut down on what we have, that we believe we deserve what we earn and if somebody else doesn’t earn the same, he or she probably doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think you can discuss overpopulation without keeping in mind that there is also the matter of distribution, or what we expect to get. Just an example: If we were to not eat meat, the world could feed more people with the resources we have than if everybody wanted meat at least twice a week. And in this sense, I do believe there is something like overpopulation, not to forget that we can’t simply use all land we have at our disposal to produce food. And this is only food, the list goes on. Either way, I had a problem with this part, simply because I do believe in limits population-wise and also because we certainly already hit a limit of some sort. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see all those children starve when we turn on the TV.

Both the criticism of Planned Parenthood as well as the criticism of environmental beliefs are collected under the hood of a “humanist” thinking. Humanists are believed to strive for a decrease of population and, ultimately, to a destruction of the human race, by furthering contraception and abortion. In these senses, this book is very much in line with core QF beliefs. And, just like every QF classic, this book too fails to tell me why exactly “humanists” would want to do these things that they are supposedly doing. Why would humanists want the human race to die out, or live in agony, or anything else? What is the agenda behind the “agenda” of abortion?

In my youth I was told by my parents that humanists worked for satan. This means that humanists are actually working for him – consciously or unconsciously – to win the “cultural war”. The underlying idea is that Christian are in a war against satan’s army. The army consists of more than just humanists, however: Anybody who is not a christian (muslims, Buddhists, atheists, you name it) is a member of satan’s army with the ultimate purpose to destroy God’s army. There are so many things about this ideology that bother me. The idea of a war of cultures is also what nurtures the christian idea of being different from “culture”, often by dress to make it obvious.

I think you get the point I’m trying to make here: The stance this book expresses on specifically these two issues is very much the same as you will find in the classics – and just like in the classics, there is very little reflection on the actual consequences for beliefs based on the facts. It is “This was a bad person, so don’t like the organisation”.

The idea of this group of “humanists” with some shady agenda to hurt humanity is troubling. I think it generally remains underspecified what is actually meant here, not just in this book but in pretty much every book on these issues.

Yes, these chapters were a drawback for me, the two reasons being 1) my familiarity with the rhetoric and therefore my unfulfilled hopes for “something new” and 2) the fact that I cannot agree with these parts. I simply can’t. Sorry.

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However, I agree with many things mentioned in the chapters on NFP and the general stance towards birth control. The chapters in which Brenda deals with the “tough” questions of QF are very interesting.

OF COURSE I heard these questions in my youth: “What should the family do if the woman is ill?” is just one of them. But the answers I got and believed in were different from the answers Brenda gives here. I like the way she deals with questions like illness (a mother’s or one of the children’s), severe financial problems and others.

While Brenda makes it obvious enough that she believes that children are blessings, she does not mindlessly press that a child is a blessing at all times. Something that struck me as very strange (for an evangelical, that is) was the fact that she quotes roman catholic stances on family planning extensively. That’s not a negative thing, actually, because she manages to make quite a point that despite children being a blessing in this mindset, she acknowledges that this may not be true at every point in a person’s life. Especially her opinions of delaying children in instances of illness struck me as unusual for Evangelic circles:

“For goodness’ sake, can there possibly be any judgment aimed at the desperate woman who fears for her own children’s safety because of mental issues? Certainly not!” (p. 28)

Brenda advocates family planning whenever another birth poses a threat to either the mother’s health or the other children’s health. This is also the major point in which I see potential shunning for Brenda’s attitude and bad critiques from the core QF movement: By their ideologies, she does not fully “trust the Lord”. Brenda justifies this ideology by saying that the intentions of the heart matter. If you are truly open to having more children, but are overcome with fears for a reason, that is theologically fine. I do not think that this is necessarily a bad position, but it is certainly a position which can be easily attacked by core QF believers. “God’s ways are best” is a traditional QF quote which typically goes a long way “exposing” people who think like Brenda as “unbelievers”. While I don’t agree with this logic, you will have to agree with me that in this aspect, it is unfortunately impossible to dispute the issue. There is always that all-knowing, loving God who does everything for a real good reason. Why not would he allow a physically ill woman to have another child? Why not

One of my favourites was the following quote:

I believe the Lord wants His children cared for… not just given birth to. (p. 43)

Here, Brenda adopts a rhetoric that is also used by liberals (christians and atheists alike) to point out that merely birthing children is not the point. IF you are pro-life, you cannot stand there and cry out against abortion and then lose interest as soon as the child is born (or, alternatively, pound on the idea that the mother should give her child up for adoption). Things aren’t black and white like some people want them to be. Children must be cared for. Some people need help. In some cases that may be adoption.

As a part of the discussion on caring for children, Brenda (of course) discusses orphans and foster parents. But within this chapter, I also find that she discusses state and welfare means to protect children in the US (not overseas). A general stance towards state intervention by the core QF groups is that it is an invasion of privacy and a threat to parental control over their families. Recently, Libby Anne has extensively discussed the fact that a home school organisation is greatly involved in cases of suspected child abuse, actually defending the abusive parents by advocating their rights to raise their own children. From a book written by a QF follower, I expect a similar position, but Brenda delivers quite a different comment:

State welfare emergency hotlines throughout the nation reportedly receive over 5 million calls each year of suspected child abuse or neglect. Of those calls, about one million meet the criteria for state intervention. What happens to the remaining four million families that don’t qualify for help? (p. 47-48)

Brenda correctly points out severe issues such a lack of funding and an overwhelmed structure of agencies. I think this is another point in which Brenda greatly deviates from core QF, and I think her points are  interesting. It was refreshing to see that a QF believer would actually speak out for help from welfare agencies. Some groups within the QF movement put a parent’s right far above the rights of a child to grow up unharmed, both physically and emotionally. The thing is: A child has rights. The fact that this is acknowledged here, and that child neglect and abuse calls must be checked, that they are not an inappropriate invasion of privacy but merely the best thing for children in a very difficult situation, astonished me.

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Summary

Overall, I get the feeling that Brenda is caught between worlds. It’s not that I feel she wants to please anyone with her book. I do think she bravely defends the points she known won’t get her praise in the evangelical circles. The thing is that Brenda switches back and forth between ideas that I consider deeply QF and almost liberal ideas how families should work.

At some points I was surprised by the liberal views, which in turn caused me to feel surprised when very conservative views showed up. I was constantly torn between really liking what Brenda writes and some very bad memories I connect with certain conservative teachings.

Would I recommend this book? Well, yes. I didn’t regret reading it. It didn’t feel like I was wasting my time. I think this book is interesting to people outside of QF, and helpful for people inside QF. There is very little “biblical” background to the core QF values, and I do think that this is beneficial for the book. Brenda repeatedly points out that there is no literal evidence that one must have as many kids as possible – she says that while children are a gift and you shouldn’t be so concerned about planning everything to detail (because planning doesn’t make much sense anyway, in my opinion!), you should still use your (god-given) brain to make good decisions. That is the core message of the book, and in my opinion, it is a refreshing one for QF – one that should be taken to heart!

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What I liked about this book:

– Brenda’s biography was a real “page turner” for me – there were some serious moments of suspense that had me thinking “Oh please do the right thing!”

– I liked reading a mother’s perspective instead of a daughter’s or young wife’s perspective

– Brenda’s story is not “core QF”, neither is it “ex-QF” – her story offers a very interesting middle ground; keep in mind that despite the fact Brenda considers herself QF (which is ok, no critique here!), she would still be considered an unbeliever by core QF

– Brenda can very pointedly reflect events in her life and how they changed her beliefs over and over

– It doesn’t blame women

– Brenda acknowledges the existence of mental illness, and points out how serious this issue is – she recommends not having children in cases of mental illness – this is NOT typical for QF at all. The ignorance towards mental illness has led to cases of mothers killing their children and I find it great how Brenda stresses the seriousness of this type of illness.

– Brenda offers genuinely good advice for QF families who find themselves in a difficult situation. She does not reject family planning and repeatedly points out that a large family is not the best way for everyone, while not being judgemental towards others.

What I didn’t like that much:

– It’s not that it’s bad or anything, but much of the ideology behind her beliefs in QF was known to me

– Sometimes I missed a deeper connection between facts and beliefs (this goes particularly for the Planned Parenthood section)

– I think it should be longer, specifically the biography. It is so interesting and I was genuinely sad when I had finished it so quickly – but this may be personal preference

To whom would I recommend this book?

– To anyone unfamiliar with the QF movement and the ideology behind it – you will find a widespread collection of beliefs in Brenda’s biography, while the actual QF part provides insights into pretty much all branches of the beliefs behind QF

– If you are interested to understand QF and don’t really know where to start, this will give you all basic information on a relatively short page count – definitely an advantage to reading 1001 blog posts without really knowing what’s going on

– If you are a christian and you are interested in QF beliefs for yourself. I would carefully recommend this book over the “classics” provided by Mary Pride because Brenda is not a mindless, vicious woman who doesn’t care about mothers. Brenda DOES care. Props to that.

– To anyone who needs condensed information about QF due to professional reasons: I know there are people who do research (e.g. thesis for university) on these issues because I do get emails and questionnaires occasionally. It is great for single use or as a supply to the classics mentioned above.

The e-book is available via amazon for $2.99.


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The army of stay-at-home-authors

I’m fascinated by a realisation I’ve made recently.

In order to ‘keep up’ with what’s going on and what’s new in the P/QF circles, I frequent a number of blogs to stay up to date. After all, I can’t sit here blogging about old news all day. I want to know what’s going on, and I want to be able to write about it.

I’m rather well-informed about the number of films, documentaries and books coming out, as well as blogs about new ideas in the VF/LAF/AR community, and on top of that, I like to know what’s going on in the SAHD circles. And I realized something –

The incredible obsession stay at home daughters have with writing books. I do not want to openly bash young women here, or put them down in any way, hence I’m not linking any of the young authors, but a little look around VF and similar insider pages will give you a good overview of what the young generation is doing – though I don’t think I can avoid naming the very popular names.

I find that there are two types of stay at home daughters. On one hand, there’s the daughters of large families, often lower class, whose parents have no significant higher education and who will never get higher education themselves. The working class QF. As a daughter of this social group, I grew up admiring those young ladies writing books. How did they do it? I had no time. I wouldn’t know what to write about in the first place. And even if I did,  had no skill, no idea, no anything. I simply couldn’t express what I wanted to express. I know many daughters like me, who felt writing was a dream so far out of reach that it seemed like a completely different world. But we were still involved in the young stay at home writers fad – we swallowed up those books, discussing them. They were written by young women like us, or so we thought, who went through the same problems.

This, however, was a major illusion, I can see that now. There are no books, literally, not a single one, written by a daughter who, cheerfully, goes through the same as young QF girls from very large families. They simply don’t have the time do write, or the skill. Those masses of books are written by a completely different society.

And that’s the second group of stay at home daughters – the ones from middle and upper class families, often with a significantly smaller number of children. These girls, and I’m not saying this in a negative way but rather in an observant way, have less to worry about. Their parents don’t have to struggle with finances, they don’t have to watch their 10 siblings all day, they are usually better educated or even take some college classes. Of course, some still come from very large families, but they are rare (take the Duggars). Their lives at home provide many options to learn, to observe, for example the Bauchams, who travel quite a bit, or the Botkins. Their parents are educated, providing a better home education. And at the same time, because there aren’t that many children the women have to take care of, they have much more time on their hands. Time they can use to think, to express, to write.

I’m getting the feeling that many of these stay at home daughters are actually bored with their lives. I feel like they’d love to change some things, they just can’t, being caught in an environment that tells them to spend their lonely days at home. They write not necessarily because they have something to say but because it is the only form of expression available, because they are unsatisfied with their calm lives which do not allow to go to a real college, so instead they talk about their lives and their struggles. Many of these books are about single years and how to cope with being single.

I don’t want to sound high and mighty, but the lower class daughters seem to struggle much less in this aspect. I’m not saying the desire isn’t there, but when your days are filled to the max, you simply do not have time to contemplate marriage and love all day. Some lower class daughters even fear getting married because they feel like they’d be abandoning their siblings, their parents, that they are so needed at home that everything will fall apart once they marry. In a situation like that you simply don’t spend your days dreaming of prince charming. You may spend a day dreaming of not scraping old food from the floor, though.

The fad, the dream of being an author, seems to provide something these rather educated young women desperately need: Recognition of their abilities, which they certainly have, a voice in a world that tells them they must be quiet, and outlet to make a difference when the only difference you’ll ever make is the number of children you’re able to bear. It’s a form of secret intellectuality, one that they’re not supposed to have, so they mask it with books about how to fill your empty days helping a parents who don’t really need your help.

And finally, I often feel like there is a lot of anger in those books. Sometimes, I feel like “I am miserable in my cage, so I’m explaining you how to make a cage like this yourself, so we can be miserable together” is written between the lines. The books are often full of radical, extremist views, doing nothing but putting down women who have chosen a different life, telling them how much God hates women who try to make things work by themselves.

Do we really need more books on singleness? More books on what to do with all that spare time? And, even more interesting, what does that say about a generation of young women?


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The (polished) lives of others

I remember dreaming about life the way I had seen it in those P/QF books and magazines and occasional home making blogs. It’s funny because it was never that way at our house. But I always thought that one day, I would live one of those beautiful lives.

I’d have a pantry filled with homemade juices and marmalade and sauces and relishes. I’d have a beautiful, antique and yet modern kitchen. I’d have a great view from my kitchen windows, and I’d wear a beautiful apron. I’d be… hm. One of those fairytale housewives, I guess.

My life would be quiet, relaxed. I’d be busy decorating a beautiful home, not really worrying about money and how to get by. My husband would be thrilled to see my newest crafty decoration idea and I’d have people come over for tea, who would praise my exquisite taste and the heavenly homemade biscuits.

My living room would have one of those open fire places and no TV in it, a beautiful sofa and a large bookshelf with old books – funny enough, that shelf was filled with books I wasn’t encouraged to read. But hey, who cares, they were only decoration anyway. They would show my guests how polished my education was, how knowledgable and ‘classical’ I was. After all, those classics are the center of a good education!

Yes, people would be impressed by my family and me. After tea, the female guests would offer to help me in the kitchen, but I’d say no. I’d offer them to come to the kitchen with me anyway, and then I would show them the many jars filled with strawberry-vanilla-lemon jelly and blackberry-cherry marmalade and tomato relish (my secret ingredient was a red, sweet apple). They’d look at the jars and go “How on earth do you manage?” and I would just smile and say “Oh, you know, I just can’t stand not using up the things we grow in our garden.” (just to point them to the fact that I had a rich garden). I would fill up the plates with more biscuits, different kinds, and gracefully fly back into the living room, or the dining room. There’d be fresh flowers everywhere. And the women would ask me where I got this and that, where my antique teacups were from, and I would have a different story about everything, an amazing, magical, filled with adventure story.

And yes, my kids. How well-behaved they were, and how clean and neat and obedient and whatnot. How tidy their rooms were, how tidy the house was, how lush the gardens! Yes, I was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

At the end of the day, my tall dark and handsome husband, who made assloads of money doing something real godly, would put his hands on my shoulders and gently kiss my neck and whisper that I was truly the wife of his dreams and no other even came close to me.

Yes, I would enjoy those moments that made me feel so superior to everybody else. I would brag about it, discreetly, a constant, charming smile on my face, my beautiful hair naturally falling perfectly on my shoulders, my dress so polished and modern. My beautiful husband and kids, my beautiful self, my beautiful home. Oh everything would be beauty. And I would walk past the other P/QF trailer trash and show them that if you REALLY had God in your life, you could be the same. No, they weren’t as godly as I was. They weren’t. I was the true picture of what God did for his followers. Yes, I was better. Better than all of them. I was more sacred, had more godly beauty, more blessed. And they would know, and they’d crawl back into their messy holes and beg God for forgiveness for whatever they had done to deserve less than me.

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Thinking back, this makes me despise myself. I always dreamed to be one of those women. You know them, they are in every church. Except, back then, I was the trailer trash girl, crawling back into her hole and into her messy life, wondering why God didn’t give us the money and space we needed, why it was always too much for us to do, why, no matter how hard we tried, we could never have the fancy china and the old books and the crafty ideas.

I was filled up with rage because God didn’t keep his promise. And then we were there, left in the dark, looking at those polished lives of the woman who were truly graceful and blessed.

We were the ones envying gardens and staring at the beautiful kitchens. We were the ones to be gifted that strawberry-vanilla-lemon jelly, with a pitying smile and a “I got more than we can eat!”, or that tomato relish, with a wink and a “A big, ripe, red apple is the secret ingredient!”.

I was the one of the sideline, knowing that they were better, and hoping that I’d join them one day.

It’s not just purity that’s turned into a contest. It’s all of it. Who’s the purest, who has the most godly, most proverbs-31 house with the beautiful stuff in it, who has the best husband, who has most blessings from god.

I was despicable. I’m happy I’m out of that pressure. I don’t have to despise anybody anymore – not the poor P/QF families who think that they don’t need all that stuff to be happy (but actually, they do), not the families who can boast with their blessings of beauty and craftiness and tidiness. I pity them, even. Because both sides are never satisfied. Both sides are striving to show everybody what God can do by hoarding up blessings, both in form of children and of possessions. They think they are beyond materialism, but they aren’t. In fact, they sell it as “Godly, beautiful, set apart feminine lifestyle”.

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As I am writing this, I’m sitting on my made bed, covered  in h&m sheets (I love them!), a room filled with stuff that was gifted to me, that I fixed up. That doesn’t quite fit, is always a little off. Now, I will go into my old but homely kitchen, take two cups out of the shelf – two different looking ones, because we do not have two cups of the same design on that shelf – and make a cup of coffee with my good old-fashioned coffee machine. One for me, one for my roommate. And then, who knows. Maybe we’ll just go shopping. Because, fortunately, we do not have a garden to harvest, jellies to cook, or cookies to bake. No, we are free of all those pressures – at least for today.

I hear the new cafe has amazing cookies. Maybe we’ll try those.


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why would someone want to keep their courtship secret?

As I went over my blog stats, I saw this question pop up in the search engine list. I thought it was kind of self-explanatory, but obviously not everybody understands why a courtship might be kept secret (in certain groups/families).

First off, not every girl (or family) feels the need to keep a courtship a secret. As you can imagine, some girls are so happy about being courted that they just can’t keep it to themselves. Openly talking about courtship is something you’ll see in the more “liberal” groups of the P/QF movement. It’s especially important to differentiate between P and QF here – strictly patriarchical families are more likely to keep it secret than families with a strong emphasis on the QF theologies.

And yes, there are families who aren’t patriarchical but live quiverfull. Others again are full-blown patriarchical families, but don’t believe in the quiverfull theologies (aka NFP and sometimes condoms are allowed, but it’s the man who decides when the wife will get pregnant).

The thing is simply that the patriarchs feel very much like they have to use the (successful) courtships of their daughters to show off how well they filtered potential suitors before hand. A failed courtship can imply that the father did not pick well and this might reflect back and his authority and leadership skills – at least in the public eye of the movements. Of course this isn’t true for every case, but the motto is usually “better safe than sorry”.

And it’s not just the fathers. In very strict groups, a girl turns into “damaged goods” faster than you might think. Even a failed courtship might label her as damaged goods and have a negative influence on the range of future suitors. It’s all about the “value of the bride”.

Imagine you’re in a store for soft pillows. The shelves are full of soft, handmade, expensive pillows. Lots of people come in to buy pillows. Now, some pillows might have attracted more customers in the past – they look a tiny bit “touched”, there might even be a little stain. They’ve never been slept on (no pun intended), but one or the other customer already picked it up to inspect it more closely. Now, if you do want a flawless pillow, you won’t even buy the “inspected” ones – you’ll go for the ones in the back, the ones nobody ever inspected, fresh from the storage room – if possible still wrapped in plastic.

It works very much like that in strict courtship movements. If a girl has one, or, even worse, more than one, failed courtships, there’s something “wrong” about her. A girl breaking off a courtship is something rather “wild”. The idea is that the girl will certainly like the man her dad picked out because, well, her dad knows her best. If you hear of broken courtships, the general idea that comes to mind is that the guy broke it off for some reason (or the dad, which then would be kept secret again because dad doesn’t pick “the wrong guy”). The girl’s value decreased with every courtship she goes through. She’ll be labelled damaged, easy to get, high maintenance and so forth. And simply because of that, it’s so much easier to keep courtships secret until the day of engagement.


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Preparing for marriage and kids

Much of the way girls are raised in the QF/P movements is to prepare them for married life. Of course, some families and communities support college for girls to ensure a well-rounded character (within the limits of that group or family, of course). You will typically see girls and young women taking online courses on things such as literature, culture, nursing and other medical classes, nutrition and so on. It’s easy to tell that all of this is things you can use at home, either to teach your own girls the beautiful girly things (literature), to be able to perform first aid and to cook a well-balanced meal. You’ll hardly ever see these girls taking classes like law, architecture or physics. It’s just not a useful thing to know as a wife and mother.

But among the most important preparations to be a wife is child-rearing. Of course there’s always children around. If the family doesn’t have enough children on their own the daughters will help other big families and perform ministries that prepare them for a lot of kids.

My family was lucky enough to have a big bunch of kids that I could prepare with. Except that I didn’t feel like I was being prepared at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love my siblings more than anything. I simply didn’t have the patience to take care of 4-6 kids at a time. If I had only one or two I was fine. That seemed easy to me. I was able to stay in relative control of the situation. But as soon as there were 3 or more, things got really messy. You know how kids are, they scream, run and tease each other. They fight. They might play nice for half an hour and suddenly one starts crying for one reason or another.

I had a completely different style of relating to my siblings than my mother did. My Mom was always a good Mom, but she was very much a hen. It started to upset me that she acted this way with the younger ones when I was in my teens, knowing that she would “ruin” what I had accomplished the day before. Whenever one of the kids got hurt – and you know they fall or hurt themselves a lot – she focused on the tiniest things. If one fell outside in the garden and barely even scratched his or her knee, she would swoon all over the little one, showering it with pity and hugs and kisses and sentences like “Oh it looks so bad. Does it hurt? My poor baby!”. I caught myself rolling my eyes more than once a day at that. It was barely a scratch! It didn’t bleed! She fell on the grass, it couldn’t possibly hurt that much! But no, my Mother had them sit on their lap for about 10 minutes, letting them cry, telling them how bad it is and so on. Whenever one fell when I was close, I grabbed them, sat them on the kitchen counter, checked their knees and cleaned them if necessary, told them it’s not bad at all and quickly changed to a cheerful conversation of what we had to do next. As long as Mom wasn’t close, they quickly forgot about their tiny hurts and started laughing again. But whenever Mom was in range, they’d scream my ears off and push me away so they could get Mom’s attention. I mean, I understand that this was partially because it meant individual time with Mom, but it upset me that I had to deal with a cranky little one for 30 minutes just because Mom had to put so much attention to tiny matters. Once the little one came back from Mom, it would stand a bit further away, hugging a teddy or a blanket, and when the other ones asked the little one to come back to play, they’d say something along the lines of “I can’t. I’m hurt badly.” Eye rolling from me.

On other occasions, I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer needs of the kids. I remember days where I had only 2 or 3 of them to watch, that wasn’t many kids at all! And yet I could be close to tears and feel so ashamed for being unable to deal with that little kids. I felt like I was going to make a terrible wife.

I remember one occasion where I had 2 of the boys and one of the smaller girls to watch. They played in the boy’s room while I was sorting through their closet. They jumped on the beds, played dragon and princess and screamed bloody hell. I was exhausted that day, I had gotten up even earlier than usual, got scolded by my parents for not doing some chores the day before (because I didn’t have time, just to add that) and had to those chores as well as the new ones. And the screaming of the kids made me incredibly angry. I stood there repeating over and over “Keep it down guys!” – “Be careful, don’t jump!” – “Don’t hit your sister with a stick!” – “Keep it DOWN!”. This went on for about 20 minutes and wouldn’t stop, so I turned around, grabbed them all by their arms, had them look at me and told them to either keep it down and play nice or to go outside. The oldest of the three, my brother, laughed at me and said “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not Mom!”. I grabbed his arm a bit harder and said, very seriously: “Mom told me to watch you. I CAN tell you what to do!” He kept laughing and wriggled his arm free. He them took his “sword” and yelled: “LISA IS THE DRAGON! ATTACK!” and all three of them started whacking at me with their swords, my little sister grabbed one too even. The other two were too small to really get it. Oh wow was I angry. I was feeling tears in my eyes and an incredible urge to – excuse me – beat my brother with anything I could find. Instead, I took his sword away, grabbed him by the arms and held him, yelled at the two small ones to sit down RIGHT NOW, dragged my brother to the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet and told him to stay there until I called him back in. He screamed and screamed at me, face red, kicked at me, the full show. The other two started crying because I had yelled at them, my brother ran off and screamed and cried and left me sitting in the bathroom. I locked myself in for half an hour to calm down and cry some.

I was so ashamed of being such a terrible mother. I couldn’t even control 3, how should I ever managed 10 or more? And this is just one example. This happened so often, me trying to be nice and not use any violence and ending up with something like that – me defeated, the kids winning and laughing at me. I would never make a good mother.

And then again, there were situations were I got upset at my sisters for doing what they were supposed to do. I remember one occasion where one of my smaller sisters, she was 5 or 6 at that time, played with the real small ones of another family. The little girl was just starting to walk and wanted to explore, of course. My little sister kept holding her hand and helping her around. But she wanted to play doll with that little girl, so she kept sitting the little one on her lap. The little one struggled to get away from my sister to play with the other kids, who were playing and running around on the grass. My sister kept holding her. When the little one started to wail because she couldn’t get away from my sister, my sister started to “console” the crying little one, sang songs and rocked it back and forth. She didn’t get the little one didn’t want to stay. The others ran over and asked my sister to come play but she replied “I can’t. I have the baby and she’s crying.”. I watched the scene and felt anger rise up in me. Why was she so insistent to keep the baby? The little one cried more and more, my sister looking all serious, asking what’s wrong, shhhing it, singing and looking like a little Mom, while watching the others play. And that was the point where I lost my patience. I went over to her and told her that the baby didn’t want to sit on her lap. She answered “Yes she doesn, she’s crying can’t you see?”. I told her the baby was crying because she was holding it. She let it go then and the baby quickly got to her feet and started walking away, now happy again. I turned around to go away, after a few steps looking back at the scene just to see my sister off to catch the baby again, forcing it on her lap, doing the same thing. NOW I was angry. I stomped over to her, took the baby away and yelled at her:

“Stop it! Quit acting like you’re a grown up! You’re a kid, go play! YOU’RE NOT A GROWN UP! You’re not supposed to play baby’s Mom!”

I can’t explain where that came from. She was supposed to do exactly that. But seeing it made me so angry. She started crying and ran inside. I let the baby down, the baby just being happy to be finally free. But I felt so bad. Had I just yelled at my sister for doing what we were trying to teach her? She ran to my parents and told them about it, my Dad coming outside to yell at me what I was thinking, that I did the wrong thing and I should let her play with the baby. I went inside, excusing myself, to cry about my weird behaviour. I didn’t get why I said that. I didn’t get why it made me so angry. Once again I felt ashamed for being such a terrible mother.

You see, while all of that was supposed to prepare me for married life and kids, it instead scared me. It made me feel inadequate and stupid. Until this day I feel like the only thing it taught me was that I neither want nor am able to have more than two kids myself. I feel like I have already raised enough kids in my life and doing it again doesn’t seem like something I want to do any time soon. The fact that I love my siblings doesn’t change that I don’t feel suited to raise kids. I keep wondering, if I didn’t have this many siblings, our family would’ve been so different, I might have never left, and might have gotten married, and might have ended up with 10 myself. I’d be thrown into the cold water just to realize that I’m not made for that. I guess I’m glad I could at least learn that.


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My quote of the day: Kids are pretty evil.

One of my favourite (cough) authors has done it again. She hit the nail on the head:

“Being a mother of four little kiddos constantly reminds me that foolishness (i.e. sin and selfishness) is bound up in the heart of every child.  There is no “goodness” in them, no matter how cute or sweet they might appear at first glance.  Screaming, whining, demanding, and bullying comes far more naturally to them than sharing, giving, blessing, and serving.”

(read the whole masterpiece here http://setapartgirl.com/blog/Entries/2012/2/27_Mamahood__A_Glimpse_of_What_God_Will_Do.html)

You know, just when I’m about to accept her as a good-hearted person, one who might be misunderstood (especially by me!), someone who has a good thing in mind when she talks, I read something like this.

Of course kids are screaming and demanding. Especially when they can’t put whatever it is they need into words yet. Of course they are whining. They are new to this scary huge world and need somebody to tell them what’s normal and what’s not. While all of the things she says about children’s behaviour are true, I still think it is a dangerous statement to say that kids have no goodness in them.

I don’t know, I don’t know what to make out of her anymore. It’s so sad that a woman who is fully aware of her influence on young girls and future mothers blurts out statements like that, with no foundation, no explanation, no other comment. It’s plain dangerous. Especially because it’s such a stand-alone statement, you’d be tempted to find a way how get that natural evilness out of your children. And what else could possibly pop up on the large christian internet community than the Pearls and their twisted ideas of training children to be good people?

Yeah, you get the point, why it annoys me so much.