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Emmanuel

“And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”
Ezekiel 16:6

“Just wait till you live in the real world,” they said, trampling my Jesus-heart. “The real world. You will change. You’ll see.”

Idyllic eyes flickered; shuddering breath pleaded that I won’t change: please God, so that others will know You through me . . .

A common epithet flung against those who live non-mainstream lifestyles, “the real world” is a phrase rarely used with loving intention. For conservative, patriocentric families who also live agrarian lives and who follow beliefs to be separate from the world, these words casually dismiss years of carefully assembled conviction and creed. While I grieve at the lack of grace which generally prompts this sentiment, I also recognize the factors that give many the occasion to speak them.

However, it can be an ambiguous statement. The real world? Why are these words so potent, and uttered from all sides with unusual fervor? “Real” to whom, for we all dwell within different realities and perceive elements uniquely. And is this the world spoken of by Jesus: I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one . . . ? Why then do so many try to do just that . . . flee “the world”?

Responsible parents naturally want to shelter their offspring from the ravages of evil. When concern metamorphoses into fear, however, an imbalanced and ungodly element becomes introduced into the family dynamic.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” says the writer of Proverbs 3.

The fruits gleaned from a lack of faith do not provide sustenance or strength. It is all too common to see family leaders who claim to be motivated by trust in God, yet who control through fear. What ramifications does this have upon women who do at last encounter this tragedy we call earth?

I know that there are many positive elements of living a life withdrawn from modern culture and I hope deeply that my words are not cast as a judgment favorable towards society. I do think that there is a common misapplication, therefore a distinction, between worldliness and what many, including Jesus, refer to as “the world”. I will save the practical factors for perhaps a future article but at the moment I want to address something that is close to my heart.

I lived a life that was not considered “the real world”.

Therefore I was not truly prepared for the genuine pain of others.

I am sure that we all can agree that we have heard trite response in our lives as some attempt of assuaging agony: “just pray” “this too shall pass” “hang in there” “don’t give up” “let go, let God”, etc. I myself have said these things. And yet . . .

And yet.

There is so much pain in this world.

For those who love Jesus, and for those who do not yet.

Within strictly-controlled, biblical homes, many of us are taught that pain comes from sin, that God exacts judgments upon others, and if someone is experiencing deep recurring pain then they are either running from God, not walking in obedience or faith, or some other merciless response. Some of these things may indeed be true at times, but within our sheltered realms we can grow to have a skewed perception of the true woundedness of others, and be ill-equipped to help.

True, our amazing God is mighty enough to use any of our humble offerings, and anything in His creation, to help those who labor, those who mourn. He is the answer for all cries of the heart, for all seemingly endless pain, for unbearable grief.

And yet.

We are created to be in relationship. We are called to weep with those who weep. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ . . . the same Jesus whose ministry it is to heal the broken hearted, and to bind up their wounds.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2Corinthians 1:3-4

Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for
enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer.
Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6

My heart breaks and weeps for those who struggle to survive even from one day to the next, for those who have seemingly endless torment and never find relief despite their pleas to God. I feel inadequate, for I am but a broken woman clinging to the mercy and grace and presence of God in my own life. In dark moments I feel something akin to survivor’s guilt . . . thankful, yes, that God has brought me to life and continues to comfort the aching places, and yet there are moments when I almost wish I could trade all He has done for me with the pulsing wounds that others bear, if only to give them a moment’s rest. A kiss of relief. A bit of clarity, comfort, and sustenance.

Because there is so much pain.

Loving God, and seeking to walk in obedience, does not make one immune; propensity for our own sin does not make us necessarily a brighter target. We are all affected, each of us, by this tragedy we call earth, by the nature we call fallen. May we learn to be genuine, to exhibit the mercy of Jesus as we sojourn in this land. May we not be unaware of the sorrow and the grief that walks around us, that lies buried and even dormant in the hearts of those created in the image of He who is eternal.

May we learn to be vulnerable, learn to be a light in the darkness, a safe place for those who hunger, so that they will be drawn to the One who is in us. May we dare to step beyond the comfortable places, the protected places, the shelter . . . and follow the Shepherd who went to seek and save, to comfort and to heal. To the ones who lie struggling in blood, let us be His hands, His feet, His arms, His heart . . .

May we be willing to walk in the steps
of the One who passed by,
who was not afraid to come alongside
and give life.

33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

Emmanuel.

God is with us.


For the Journey

These are some of the resources that proved invaluable along my journey. Although I may not agree with everything within these books or websites, they have been used by the Lord in myriad ways. Please use discernment and weigh what you read according to Scripture and the revealed heart of God, and may you find something here that will continue to help bring you to wholeness.

Books


The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen


Websites and Blogs


Overcoming Botkin Syndrome
Cindy Kunsman’s exhaustive resource regarding
patriocentric family relationships.


study in brown
Tonia’s grace-filled approach to parenting and life.

thatmom.com
real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

thatmom.com
Karen Campbell’s gracious reflections on motherhood
and homeschooling. Don’t miss her fantastic podcast series
on patriarchy and patriocentricity . . .
The Patriarchy Series

Freedom of Mind
Excellent resource for discovering the elements of
mind control and recognizing the hallmarks
of aberrant religious groups.


Spiritwatch Ministries
Excellent information regarding mind control
and spiritual abuse.

Under Much Grace
Cindy Kunsman, RN, BSN, MMin, ND, presents a wealth
of information regarding spiritual abuse, cults, and mind control.

adventures in mercy

becoming…and becoming again…

Blogger Molly writes lively and vivid accounts from leaving a
patriocentric and abusive lifestyle. Check the archives
for many excellent posts and thought-provoking comment threads.

Articles

Fear and Guilt: Recovering From Performance-Based Relationships

Toxic Shame **not a Christian resource; read with discernment**

Addressing the Legalist

Ten Mind Control Distinctives

Warning Signs

Articles on Cults

The Signs of Spiritual Abuse


Vulnerable

This evening I am stepping away briefly from the general theme of this blog to reveal an intimate vignette from my recent journal that bears significance to the course of my journey.

Perhaps you might find a glimpse of yourself, reflected.

I am resisting the urge to issue disclaimers for balance, discernment, accountability, and truth. We know these things. I think that they have been emphasized greatly unto us.

Peace, dear sisters.

_______________________

Twilight.

Not the book, but the moment when day slips into her negligee, and the world nestles down for sleep.

I stand on my balcony.

The air is cool and I breathe deeply, refreshed as the sweet breath of dusk envelopes my skin. Spring’s lush fingertips have painted a living masterpiece of greenery; recent rains have swept along gnarled roots, planting secret creatures among the twisted knots rising from the creek bed.

Suspended, it seems, miles in air, I watch a trio of brightly finned goldfish drift beneath me, a huge lazy turtle who paddles happily, slowly, and four growing ducklings who find an island of displaced wood which storms have lodged in the midst of our creek. Beavers have been spotted, and as always, the nightly cacophony of frogs lift their chorus to the darkening skies.

Peace, serenity.

As I drink the sensual cocoon of coming night, I realize that I cannot not enjoy it, for if I do, it will be taken away.

I cannot allow myself to revel in the lusciousness of soft evening breath, swirling across my face with the tender aroma of freshly mown grass. I cannot afford to pause a moment and savor, for it would only end, and the pain of life take over once more. I cannot exhale with the deliciousness of husband, creeping up behind, and wrapping arms around my waist.

I cannot enjoy it, for it will be taken away.

The little girl said that, speaking from her secret sanctum. There is wisdom cradled in her being—yet she holds it closely, dearly, and fiercely; she knows the inner mysteries that remain elusive despite my frantic seeking, yet speaks up only when I least expect. She tugs on my skirt, this wee one, and opens her mouth to whisper softly, briefly. Perhaps she waits to see if I will listen, to see if I am safe, to see if I can be trusted with the enigmatic messages she keeps locked away.

I cannot enjoy it, for it will be taken away.

That’s enough, they say, and remove the pleasure, the fun, the savored morsels, the pretty things, the light things, the relief. That’s enough relief. They are distracting from things more important: the necessary things in life.

Die to the flesh; die die die.

Loving something is to curse it, for loving is an element subject to rigorous discipline and scrutiny. We must not love the wrong things, or love even the right things too much. Doing so might prove that we are, in fact, absorbed by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Liking something too much means that it is material for sacrifice; we are to hold loosely to that which we find dear, to that which brings solace. If something appeals, it is automatically suspect.

Therefore, much like a friend held at arm’s length, we must keep these things away from ourselves and not feel too much. Feeling too much means that there is undue focus on temporal things, which takes our mind off of the Lord. We must be sober and temperate, not given to the exuberance of living, not feeling with much passion—rather, be self-controlled and not given to foolishness. Feeling too much, loving the wrong things, having interest in unnecessary things welcomes pain through the door; it welcomes criticism, opportunities for chastisement, an invitation to die.

What do I say to the little girl?

The true God knows how to give good things to His children.
The true God delights in bringing joy to the hearts of those made in His likeness; it is not for nothing that He appealed to all senses in His glorious work.

Pushing these things away, in the name of godliness, denies His goodness. His blessings. He wants us to feel. He wants us to love, to savor, to live, knowing that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” James 1

If we were not meant to feel, why would He have gifted the sense of touch?
If we were not meant to see, why would He have set our eyes, like jewels?
If we were not meant to hear, why would He have fashioned our ears, and sound, to meet them?
If we were not meant to taste, why would He have unleashed myriad flavors upon our tongues?
If we were not meant to smell, why would He have lavished us with fragrance?

He has given me my very own set of eyes, to see for myself—not for another to see for me.

He has given me my very own mind, so that I may think and reason, for myself and not for another to stomp upon and tell me what to think.

I have these ears, to listen, discern, and channel, for me and not for another. I am wholly individual and unique, created fully for the pleasure of He who is eternal. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

God knows that all I have, all I am, belongs to Him. It is His will that I use, that I enjoy, and that I glorify Him with what He has given.

But how does the little girl know that loving something makes it go away?


Mom

My birth was the event that launched her into motherhood.

As Mother’s Day draws near, I reflect on the one who carried me the womb. I always send a card or gift, but it is with trepidation. My family does not celebrate holidays (except for Thanksgiving) or birthdays, for “most holidays are worldly or materialistic”, and the Bible says that the day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth. And yet, I cannot bear to let the day go unacknowledged—and so I continue, hoping that these gestures bring a happy smile to the heart of my mom.

I love my mother. The lines of a hard life are etched on her face, which still bears a youthful glow despite years of laborious toil, which include approximately fifteen pregnancies. After 35 years, she still adores my father. Her admiring eyes are always fixed upon his face, whether he is reading aloud, directing chores, or in the middle of a fierce debate.

She will faithfully pray for anyone, and would drop anything to help the needy, even when it requires her to go without.

When we were sick, without complaining she would lovingly prepare herbal remedies in an effort to relieve our distress. By the time an average cold passed down the ranks, the first one (yours truly) generally was sick again, and thus the cycle continued.

My hair bears more {carefully concealed} gray than her long tresses; even when they appear, she sports them as a badge of honor.

Eschewing the convenience and expense of Pampers, she diapered nearly all 11 of us with soft, cotton cloth which needed to be routinely cleaned by hand. We girls disdained this chore, and I can still see my servant-hearted mother bent in the field, rinsing them out with a hose before placing them in the washer.

When I managed to sprain my ankles repeatedly, she prepared poultices of comfrey to wrap around my swollen, aching joints.

Using a steel mixing bowl, gargantuan enough to bathe small children, my mother taught us how to bake loaves of whole wheat bread in batches of 24. That same bowl cradled the spill of blood which nearly cost her life during childbirth over twenty-five years ago—long before the idea of Quiverfull living was even an inkling in her mind.

Bright-eyed and idealistic, she bundled up my little sisters and I, following my father for a home unknown—miles away from friends and family, to an agrarian life in the country.

Like Abraham.

“Well, it needs to be done,” she would say, while we children grimaced as she hunted tomato worms in the garden. Or when she fearlessly tended to putrid wounds on our dogs, who were frequently bitten by snakes as they rummaged through the woods.

I wonder what she would have thought as a young woman, looking forward to the now—to her life. I could not have done all that she has, or continues to do. She remains one of the strongest people I know, and without fail is kept quite close to my heart.

________________________________

In the blogosphere there is another mother who refreshes me with her grace. Tonia from a Study in Brown is a sanctuary for me. She recently did an interview which I believe that you will find to be a special treat.

For all the mothers and mothers-in-waiting, I pray that your days are blessed.

__________
Edited to add:
This post was unusually difficult for me. It has taken several days to complete, and I ask your grace in overlooking any strangely constructed sentences or anything which lacks clarity.
Thank you.