A Touching Post From the Seewalds to the Duggars

This was so touching that I simply had to share. Mr. Michael Seewald expresses beautifully the forgiveness that the Lord extends to those who seek after Him. Please take a moment to read.

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Public Acknowledgment

In case you have been under a rock this past week, InTouch magazine broke the story revealing that Josh Duggar had fondled several underage girls twelve years ago when he was a young teenager. Since that story was published the internet and media have exploded with stories and blogs many of them lining up to throw stones at Josh and the whole family. While Josh Duggar had owned up to his sins years ago with the people that it concerned, he has now publicly acknowledged them with grief and regret, and resigned his position as Executive Director of Family Research Council Action.

Why Am I Weighing In?

I would rather not discuss something of this nature on my blog, especially since it is dredging up past sins that have been painfully grieved over once already by all involved. It pains me to see that they are now having to relive the nightmare that had been laid to rest well over a decade ago with Josh’s repentance and reformation, but I feel compelled to bring some context and reason to the bloodletting that many are engaging in and to come to the aid of our dear friends and family.

Repentance

I am not going to talk much about the criminal aspect of Josh’s actions or if the authorities acted appropriately with the knowledge of what happened. That ball rests in their court. As it stands criminal charges were not brought against Josh but I believe that Josh’s parents acted in a way that godly parents should. They did not turn a blind eye, but earnestly sought help from the church, counselors, and eventually the police. Maybe they didn’t do it in a way that pleases everyone, but they acted decisively to confront the sin, to call a penitent son back from his errors, and to seek to aid the hurting victims. In the end Josh sought forgiveness from those he wronged, repented of his sins, and came to trust Christ as his Savior. He has to the present day attested to the reality of his repentance and faith by living above reproach. In their efforts to salvage the wreckage that these transgressions brought, and bring healing to all involved, Jim Bob and Michelle are to be commended.

People Were Affected

The victims of Josh’s actions should not be lost in all of this. Sadly, this type of thing is all too common. Victims of sexual abuse of any kind often suffer greatly for many years as a result of these sins. We should not downplay the seriousness of these offenses particularly, nor gloss over the pain and confusion they often bring, sometimes for a lifetime.

Sorry Your Honor, The Cat Is Already Out Of The Bag

Some people act as if it was the Duggar’s responsibility to have made this sad episode in their family public knowledge. They are to be praised for not hiding this from the appropriate parties and eventually the police, but they owed it to no one else to publicize the sins of a minor child and the court agrees with that assessment, the judge now ordering that the police report be destroyed. But the cat is already out of the bag. How many of you would broadcast the sins of your children to the whole world? Would you be willing to publicize your own darkest moments? It is miserable indeed that someone was willing to illegally obtain a police investigation involving minor children and publish it for whatever nefarious purpose they had in mind.

Please click here to continue reading.

Breaking the Silence, Part 2

This is the story of my escape from domestic violence. If you have not yet read part one, please click here to read the story to learn how this all began.

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My Story (Continued): Sleeping With the Enemy

I moved in soon after, and I immediately began to see the problems I had been trying my best to ignore. He did find another job quickly, as he told me he would. However, I came across termination paperwork from his previous job. He didn’t quit; he was fired. I asked him why he lied, but he got angry at me for questioning him. He said that he really did quit, but that the manager was a friend and keyed it in as a termination so that he could collect unemployment benefits. Once again, I believed him. I wish I could tell you that lying to me was the extent of his abuse, but then I would be the liar. No, it was much worse. He began limiting my contact with the outside world. He was allowed to have friends, but I was not. I had a cell phone because I had one from before the marriage, but he would not allow a home phone or internet service. I wasn’t allowed to make friends at work or in the neighborhood. He never once allowed me to find a new church, despite all his promises that he would. When grocery shopping needed to be done, we did it together or he went out to do it on his own. When we would argue, I was never allowed to storm out, but he would leave and disappear for hours on end. Sometimes he would stay gone until the next day, but I was never permitted to know where he was. I believed he was cheating on me, but I did not have the proof to back up those suspicions. He abused his dog. I witnessed him punch and kick her when he was angry. I once watched him grow so violently angry at the dog for eating the cat’s food that he choked her, then held her by the neck and beat her head against the bedroom wall. In my fear, I did nothing to protect that poor animal. At this time he had not yet put his hands on me in a harmful way, but he put his fists through walls and cupboards, slammed doors, threw things, and would scream at me and say things I would never dream of repeating. His favorite attack was against my Christianity. “You call yourself a Christian, but a good Christian wife would never ______.” (Fill in the blank with anything I ever did that displeased him, such as suggest something for dinner that he did not want, come home 3 minutes late from work, call my aunt on the phone and tell her about something he had done, etc.) I believe he liked to use that attack on me because it would reduce me to tears every time. He seemed to enjoy breaking my spirit.

It did not end there. In addition to everything else, he also did drugs, smoked and drank alcohol. One afternoon I had to stop by home during the middle of my work shift, which was not something I commonly did. I arrived and found him with a bag of drugs on the coffee table (I think it was marijuana, but I don’t know enough about drugs to know for sure). He was alone, but insisted had had a friend over, and the friend must have gone left it behind. He swore up and down that the drugs were not his, thought it certainly appeared that he was caught red handed. I often smelled cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana on him when he would return from spending time with his friend.

Another way he managed to control me was through our finances. Money would disappear and bills would go unpaid. We had our water shut off more than once due to non payment. One one occasion, after getting an eviction notice, my aunt ended up paying our rent that was very behind (though I was never told how far behind it was). I was never allowed to know where the money was going, and that included my own paychecks. I was no longer believing his lies, but I was trapped. I was too scared to leave. Not only was I scared of the violent anger I had witnessed in this man, but I also thought I had nowhere to go. I was an adult, and had entered the marriage of my own free will. How could I turn and run away just because things weren’t going as I had planned? I also had my marriage vows to consider. I wanted so much to work through the problems and just be a normal, happy, newly-married couple.

The last way in which he abused me is the part that’s hardest for me to talk about. He was sexually abusive. He was obsessed with pornography. He also seemed to get a certain enjoyment out of forcing situations upon me which were demeaning and made me horribly unhappy. As a very conservative Christian woman, I cannot bring myself to go into a great deal of detail on this, but suffice it to say that sexual abuse/control was a powerful weapon at his disposal, and he had no qualms about using it.

Changing of the Tides

It didn’t take long for me to become pregnant. That news came as quite a shock to me because I had been actively trying to avoid it. I was so scared that he would be angry that I threw the pregnancy test out in the apartment complex dumpster where he would never find it. I didn’t know how I was going to tell him. Little did I know that the opportunity was going to present itself that very night. Once again we were fighting, but that night he became angrier than ever before. He pulled off his wedding ring, threw it at me, and told me to leave. (The fight was because I had pleaded with him to work on his anger.) He told me to pack my things and get out. I am not sure if he actually would have let me go when it came to it, but in that moment I genuinely believed I was being kicked out of my home and had nowhere to go. Frightened though I was, I told him about the pregnancy. Wow, what a change I saw in him in an instant. He suddenly became so gentle and loving. He told me how sorry he was and assured me that everything would be okay. Here was the man I had known before we were married. He was finally back, and all it took was having a child together! I was blissfully happy, and so was he. Everything was becoming just as I had dreamed it would.

Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived. Within a matter of days he was back to his old self. I had become so sure he was cheating on me, but I needed proof. I did something that was not in my nature to do. I picked up his phone and called his voicemail, and there it was; I had been right all along. All the pieces of the puzzle were coming together, and I realized I no longer trusted anything my husband told me. After that, I got up the courage and called his ex-wife and asked her what had really happened in their marriage. I needed to know the truth, once and for all. She told me everything, and the story was so much like my own. Not surprisingly, it was nothing like the lies he told me about the crazy ex-wife who kept his son from him by telling all sorts of untrue stories about him to a judge who bought it hook, line and sinker. My worst fear of all was realized when she told me that although he did not start out as physically abusive, in time he had begun hitting her. I knew then and there that any man who was capable of hurting a helpless dog and a woman pregnant with his own child was capable of harming anyone. I became so scared for myself and the new life that was growing inside me. That was the day I began plotting my escape. I was not going to stand by and allow this man to hurt my child. Protectiveness of my baby began to give me strength that I had not had before. I called credit card companies and had him removed from my credit cards. I tried to put some money aside in the hopes that he would not notice. My plan was to return to my aunt. (I knew then she would help me, especially since I was pregnant.) I tried to leave him once but I went back – as is common for domestic violence victims. It’s not easy to work up the courage to leave and stay gone.

The day I left for good stands out in my memory as one of the most frightening days of my life. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember clearly that he became more violently angry that day than he had ever been before. He grabbed anything within his reach to throw at me: a box of soda cans, unopened cans of soda, shoes, even the coffee table. He tried to force me into the bedroom to keep me from leaving, but I fought back and tried to get away from him. He tried to slam the door on me and the doorknob hit my pregnant stomach so hard that it actually left a bruise. I ran into the closet and hid to call 911. I had just long enough to give them our address and beg for help before he was back in the bedroom again.

His demeanor had changed. Here was the tender and loving husband again, begging me to come out of the closet. I did as he asked, but I was in tears and scared half to death. He took me to the bed and sat me down, asking me why I was so upset. It was as though the man sitting next to me had no idea what had happened a few minutes before. He was forcing me to kiss him, demanding me to calm down and trust that he loved me and everything would be okay. I asked him to stop, but he kept going. The next thing I knew, he had me pinned down on the bed and was forcing himself on me, completely deaf to my hysterical pleadings for him to stop. I thank the Lord above that the police knocked on the door before he was able to fully undress me. He answered the door perfectly cool and calm, and tried to convince the two officers that it was all a big misunderstanding. Looking back, I wish I had showed them the marks on my stomach and insisted that the police arrest him then and there, but at the time I was a frightened 22-year-old who wanted nothing more than to escape. I let the officers leave without filing a report, but I did at least have the foresight to ask them to escort me to my car so that I could get safely away. I didn’t care about fighting back or making sure he got what he rightfully deserved; all I cared about was protecting myself and the baby. I left with my car, my cat, and all the clothing I could carry in my arms. I drove straight to my aunt’s home a couple of hours away. I was able to return a week or so later with my aunt and a police officer to retrieve some of my belongings, but I had to leave my job behind (which also meant that I lost my health insurance while pregnant) and I lost the majority of everything I had worked for in my young life.

Even after all of that, I still tried to fix our marriage. I did everything I could to honor the marriage vows I had taken with him. I told him that I would stay married to him if he agreed to go to counseling, but I refused to move back in with him again until I felt safe. He went to exactly one counseling session. The pastor of the church I had grown up in asked me to step out of the room while he spoke with my ex-husband before beginning the counseling session. A little while later, my ex stormed out the church and refused to ever return to counseling again. To this day, I still have no idea what was said that made him so angry. I finally filed for divorce when I realized it was over.

It did not end there, however.

Click here for the last post in this series where I share how the story ended, and to learn about where my life is today.

Breaking the Silence, Part 1

Many people do not know that I was married once before – and of those who do know, fewer still know much about the marriage other than the fact that it was short. I do not avoid speaking about that year of my life because it causes me pain to do so; I avoid talking about it because I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. It’s been nearly a decade since it all happened, and as the years have passed I have witnessed far too many around me go through similar or far worse experiences. The time has come to break the silence. I apologize in advance if this post makes you uncomfortable, but perhaps we all need to be made uncomfortable from time to time in order to wake us up to what is going on all around us. It should not be taboo. It should be talked about not in whispers, but in shouts loud enough for the whole world to hear. Today, once and for all, I am screaming:

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My Story: The Cycle of Abuse Begins

I suppose it all began long before I met my ex-husband. In hindsight, I realize that it probably began when I was a very little girl. I was raised in an abusive home. I can remember abuse from as far back as my earliest memories. My father abused my mother. He controlled her every move. He would not allow her to have friends. He limited her contact with the outside world. He hit her, and far worse. He also abused me, as well as my older brother (fortunately for my brother, he doesn’t remember much, if anything). My father abused everyone around him, really. I know he had enemies who were looking for him. I remember a time when we had to crawl past the windows of the house and couldn’t have any lights on because we were hiding from one of the many people looking for him. I couldn’t have been much older than 3 or 4 when that happened. I remember times when I heard my mother crying after he had hurt her. I remember screaming and shouting. There are also lots of things I don’t remember, but that have left their mark nonetheless. Thirty years later, I still bear a scar across my nose and one eye from the time that he threw me across the room and I fell onto a cup that had been left on the floor. It broke, and I had glass shards in my eye. I have been told it’s a miracle that I even have vision in that eye. I was two when it happened. He hurt me sexually, too. Eventually, he ended up in prison for attempted murder after he shot his friend in the back while the man stood in his garage, unaware that my father was there. I still remember the night he was arrested. I was sent to the neighbor’s house and she closed her curtains, but I peeked outside and saw cop cars all around. I was very confused and frightened.

Unfortunately, the abuse did not end there, but it did change a little. It came from other family members, and it became more verbal. I remember being told I was ugly, that my hair was a rat’s nest, that I was stupid and that I would never amount to anything. I was abandoned and left with family who really didn’t want the responsibility of raising another generation of children. And in time, more physical abuse came. I was beaten with a wooden paddle with holes drilled to reduce wind resistance thereby increasing pain. I remember a time when I actually had welts on my bottom from that paddle and it was painful to sit. I won’t say I was an easy child or undeserving of discipline, but who can expect an angel of a child after all I had been through?

When I was 10, I moved in with my aunt who never once lifted a hand to me. I thank God every day for sending me to her. Unfortunately, for all her love and patience with me, she could not protect me from my own past. It took a very long time for me to heal, and during that healing time my father was released from prison and for a time came back into my life. I witnessed and experienced more abuse from him, and to this day I believe he is responsible for my grandfather’s rapid decline in health and subsequent death after my father punched him in a fit of rage. I had been told more than once not to speak when he was like that, but one day he demanded answers from me. I do not recall now what he was asking me, but I was trying to remain silent as I had been told. He picked me up off the couch by my shirt and violently shook me, screaming at me that I answer him. My grandfather stepped in to defend me, and my father turned on him and hit him, hard. My grandpa was already weak from emphysema. He was on oxygen 24/7, and it didn’t take much to tire him. Being attacked by my father was too much for him, and he was hospitalized after the attack. He never made it out of the hospital, and even though it’s been 17 years since he died I still miss him more than words can say.

At 14 years old, I was finally free from abuse. I healed and forgave – or at least I thought I did. I was pretty much a normal, happy teenager, except for the whole looking-for-love-from-boys-because-I-never-knew-the-love-of-a-father part. I bounced from one relationship to another, never going long without a boyfriend because I could not bear to be without that attention I craved so desperately. I didn’t understand it then; all I knew was that I needed the affirmation that came from having a male love me (or, what I thought was love).

Ignoring the Red Flags

Given my history, it’s not surprising that I ended up marrying the first guy who hinted at the idea, especially after I had been previously engaged to another young man who cheated on me. All I wanted was someone who was going to love me and not hurt me. When I met my ex-husband, I fell immediately for his charms. He somehow managed to always say exactly what I wanted to hear. I said I was a Christian, and he stated he was raised Catholic but that he identified more with Christianity. He liked baseball, but when I said I was a NASCAR fan, suddenly he announced that he was a NASCAR fan too and gave up his Yankees obsession. I wanted a family, and he was a family man. I believed every lie he told me about himself, probably because I wanted to believe him. I wanted someone who was family-oriented, who would give me the life I had always dreamed of but had never known. I wanted to be a wife and a mother and to give them everything I never had as a child. He said he wanted a wife and children. It was perfection. Okay, so he was married before. No biggie, we all have a past, right? He said his ex was crazy and made up all sorts of lies to take his son (who was then just 7 years old) away from him. I believed it. I mean, there are lots of guys out there with crazy exes. He had recently moved from New York to be closer to his son, so obviously he was a stellar dad, and wasn’t that just what I was looking for?

Just weeks after meeting, I was talking to him on the phone and told him that I had had a dream where he proposed and I said yes, which I told him was crazy because we had only known one another such a short time! His response? He suggested that we should do just what I had dreamed. I fought the idea at first, but he pushed and kept at it until I agreed, and honestly it didn’t take much cajoling because I was already desperately longing to fill the huge hole left in my heart by my own parents. We were married immediately after. I should have trusted my gut when I had a panic attack the night before the wedding. I called and asked him to wait and give me some more time, but he cried and told me how much he needed me and he couldn’t bear life without me. This should have been a huge red flag, but I felt so guilty for making him feel that way. Clearly, it was my fault. I had allowed him to hope for marriage, and there I was on the eve of the wedding trying to call it off and shattering his dreams. I agreed to go on with the wedding as planned. He was happy, so I was happy.

Looking back, another red flag leading up to the wedding was that he suddenly announced that he had quit his job. How on earth could I marry someone who was unemployed? My retail salary couldn’t get us by! (And better yet, why would he quit his job knowing he was about to take on the responsibility of a wife? Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to ask that question.) He assured me it was okay, that he always found a job quickly, and that he had a little money put away that would help us get by. I trusted him when he told me everything would be okay. Because of job circumstances and getting married so quickly, I was unable to move in with him right away. I had to get a job transfer and that took a little while to make happen. While waiting, I drove down to visit him (at the time he lived in San Diego and I lived in the LA area). When I was gone, he would be very moody. He would yell and become abusively angry, saying the most horrendous things to me. He would always apologize afterward. He told me it was because he couldn’t handle having his wife so far away from him, and promised that things would get better once I moved in.

Click here to continue reading the story.

10 Reasons I Could Never Homeschool My Kids

“If I can do it, anybody can!”

That’s a catchphrase that’s used a lot nowadays, to the point where no one really believes it anymore. But, trust me when I say that if there was ever a time when it was true, it’s here! Without a drop of irony or sarcasm, I can honestly say that if I can homeschool my kids, anybody can. Seriously. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a handy little list for you of just a few of my many shortcomings. These are all popular reasons not to homeschool, and every one of these is 100% applicable to me.

  1. I am by nature extremely lazy and unmotivated.
  2. I have a bad temper, and I butt heads with my kids all the time.
  3. I lack the ability to create and stick with a clearly defined schedule; I much prefer to wing it.
  4. I’m embarrassingly disorganized.
  5. I’m too busy! I have 4 kids under 7, and a husband, and a house to clean, and the same responsibilities as every other parent! May days are maxed out.
  6. I’m painfully forgetful.
  7. I am the Queen of Procrastination.
  8. I’m not the smartest person in the world. I have a pretty firm grasp of language and history, but I’m really, really bad at math.
  9. I lack any qualifications to teach. I graduated high school, and when my oldest was a baby I graduated from a technical school as a Certified Medical Assistant, but I never attended college or earned a degree.
  10. We can’t afford it. With a family of 6 in this economy, it’s very difficult to find extra money to invest in a good curriculum.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. None of these attributes make for a very successful homeschooler, am I right? And yet somehow, despite my (numerous) shortcomings, I have been able to do this for 4 years now! Let me share a bit of my story with you.

I remember very clearly the day I was first convicted to homeschool. My oldest child was about 18 months old at the time. A story came on the news about a local school district where junior highers had been caught performing sexual acts on one another on the school bus, on the way to school.

Junior highers. On the school bus. Right out in the open.

I knew right then and there that I would *never* put my child into a public school where such acts were happening – not if I had any say in the matter. I have continued to become more and more deeply convicted about the need to homeschool, for more reasons than just that. The Lord is always reminding me of what an important task he has given me.

My oldest was 3 when I started homeschooling her, and we loved doing preschool together! It was fun, and very easy! We had some Pre-K workbooks that we did, but mostly we played a lot, went to the library, read books, made crafts, and went on many exploring adventures. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t really “real” yet, and I had no clue what I was getting myself into! A few days before my oldest turned 4, I gave birth to my second child. Then 3 months later, I surprisingly became pregnant again. So there I was, trying to teach my 4 year old with a new baby to care for, and another baby in the belly! Oh, and did I mention that I was also running a business from home? Yeah. To say I was overwhelmed would be a gross understatement. There were days when we wouldn’t do any lessons or go anywhere at all because I was too sick from morning sickness, too exhausted from chasing kids all day and keeping up with customer orders, or just plain too cranky to fight with my kid over doing her lessons! What I kept telling myself was that this was just practice, and we didn’t have to have an official schedule until she was 6. We still had time. That became my mantra! In hindsight I realize that what I really needed at that time was support and encouragement, but I found very little of that in those around me. Mostly, family and friends told me repeatedly that I couldn’t do it, and it felt like I was being discouraged at every turn. I felt very alone.

I had my third child, and 9 months later, conceived again. As time passed I became less overwhelmed by life and kids and I decided to step back from my business and put my family first. However, I still didn’t really feel like I knew what I was doing with regard to homeschooling, and my daughter’s 6th birthday was rapidly approaching – the time when I knew it was going to have to be official. I had very little understanding of the homeschool laws, and I had absolutely no idea which formal curriculum to use. They all seemed good to me! How did one go about choosing? At that time I had a couple of friends who homeschooled, but they did so “under the radar” (meaning they weren’t in compliance with state laws), so they weren’t really a source of guidance for me. I was determined to make sure I was within the laws, crossing every t and dotting every i. After some research, I found a local “Homeschooling 101” seminar and signed up to go with my husband. How glad I was that we did that! The classes really helped break down the laws into understandable terms, and they outlined in depth how to go about getting started. It gave me the knowledge and confidence boost I needed to get started.

Newly equipped with a better understanding, I set about deciding on a curriculum. I have since made some changes here and there to switch to curricula that are better suited to my child’s style of learning, but it was a great starting point. I have learned a lot in the last 4 years, and I am happy to share these some of what I have learned with you!

  • Pray. Lean on the Lord. Trust Him. And pray some more. When God calls us, he WILL provide what we need to accomplish the calling. It’s okay to be scared, but trust Him!
  • There’s no one “right” way to do it. Every parent is different, and every child is different. One child may be auditory, while another is more tactile. Cater your teaching to your child’s style, not to what the public schools are doing, or even to what other homeschoolers are doing!
  • Give yourself some grace. There are always going to be rough days when we’re parents, even for non-homeschoolers. It’s okay to have crappy days, or crappy weeks, or crappy months. It doesn’t mean you’re failing; it just means you’re human, and so is your child!
  • No one knows your child as well as you, and no one is better equipped to teach her. Having a teaching credential is not a requirement for homeschooling! Just keep reminding yourself that you’ve been teaching that precious child from the moment she entered the world! Teaching her to read is no different than teaching her to walk, or tie her shoes.
  • Find a source of support and encouragement. There are going to be naysayers, and they might even be the people you most want to support you (like family members, or your best friend). It’s easier said than done, but ignore them. You CAN do it, and it will help you immensely to find someone who believes in you to encourage you when you need uplifting.
  • If you’re struggling financially, there are still ways to make homeschooling happen. There are free curricula out there, such as Easy Peasy and K12. Many public school districts will provide you with material for free if you agree to teach your child their chosen curriculum.
  • Practice makes perfect. Okay, maybe not perfect, but practice will make your better, anyway! Just like anything, you get better at it as you go along. You’ll learn how to schedule and organize your day, and how to make everything you need to do fit into your day.
  • Learn to let some things go. Giving your child the education he deserves may mean sacrificing having the perfectly spotless home you desire, but that’s okay! Investing in your child’s future is WAY more important than having a shiny kitchen sink and perfect vacuum lines in the carpet.

If you’re considering homeschooling but sitting on the fence about it still, I hope that these words will encourage you. Please comment with any thoughts, questions, concerns, or prayer requests. I would love to pray for you, and likewise, I ask that you pray for me as I continue to homeschool! I still struggle sometimes, and I need the Lord’s grace every single day! May God bless you on your wonderful, home-educating adventure!

My Testimony

It has been on my heart for some time now that I should take some time to write out my personal testimony, and how I came to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not easy to write these things down, to see in writing the mistakes I’ve made. It’s been such a long journey, and there are so many choices I’ve made that I am not the least bit proud of; but truth be told, I wouldn’t change any of it if I had the chance, because the mess I made of my life is what led me to my complete and utter dependence on the Lord.

So, here goes.

I suppose that the best place to begin is at the beginning. I was born in, shall we say, less than ideal conditions. My father was abusive and addicted to God only knows what kinds of drugs and alcohol. My mother was terrified of him, and so she stayed there with us kids. We moved around a lot, and there were even times when we were homeless. When I was 4, my father shot a man and was imprisoned for attempted murder. Not long after, my mother had an emotional breakdown, and left my brothers and myself with our grandparents. I was bounced around between family members and the physical and emotional abuse continued until I was 10, when I moved in with my father’s sister. Looking back, I can see that was the first point in my life when God began planting seeds in my heart. My aunt had never married and never had any children of her own, so she was able to focus her time and energy on helping me begin to heal from my childhood. She is a strong Christian woman, and immediately began taking me to church with her. Shortly after, I accepted the Lord into my heart and was baptized. (I was to learn later that there is a difference between being saved, and being surrendered!)

After moving in with my aunt, life really settled down for me and became somewhat “normal” for the first time in my life. In addition to my aunt, I also had my paternal grandparents nearby to help her raise me, and how they spoiled me! I truly felt loved and wanted – though I needed many years to heal and become a normal child. With the Lord’s grace that did eventually happen; however, some scars are never truly healed, and when certain things are done to a child, they have a permanent impact that often are not seen until the child is older. Of the many forms of abuse I suffered, one was molestation at the hands of my father. That, along with his sudden departure from my life led to me being obsessed with acceptance from males. I didn’t recognize it at the time, of course. I just thought I was a bit “boy crazy.” In high school, I could never go any length of time without a boyfriend. In my freshman year, I was particularly smitten with a rather popular boy. He knew this, and he knew that I was not among the more popular kids. He wooed me, and then led me to do physical acts with him that I am now very ashamed of. He never did ask me to be his girlfriend; he just used me and moved right along. I was crushed, and it further caused me to desperately seek after a guy who would actually stick around. In that attempt, I dated many boys, and gave pieces of my heart to every single one of them. I also gave too much of myself physically, because I truly believed that those were the sorts of things that boys wanted from girls if they were going to stay together.

My life went on like this for years, with me repeatedly offering my heart to boys, and it always ending in heartache. I had three back-to-back long term relationships (one, two and three years, respectively). The last and longest relationship was with someone I was actually engaged to, but we had grown apart, and it ended very badly after discovering he was cheating on me.  At 22 years old, I was a completely broken mess. What I had learned from life at that point was that no one could be trusted. Everyone I loved and took a chance on (with the exception of my aunt) had walked out on me. I became even more desperate to FINALLY find someone and fulfill that dream life where I would have a wonderful husband who loved me, someone with whom I could have children and a happy home. It was at this point that I was introduced to my first husband. He walked into my life and completely swept me off my feet with promises of never ending love and a picture-perfect future. With everything I had been through, it’s not hard to understand why I fell for it so easily. Just 6 weeks after meeting him, we were married. The honeymoon was short-lived, sadly. Immediately after the wedding (which was held in the middle of the week at a courthouse, dressed in regular clothes, with no friends or family in attendance) he began to show his true colors. He was violently angry and abused me emotionally, physically and sexually. A couple of months into the marriage, I discovered that I was pregnant, even though we had been on birth control to prevent it. When I told him, he made promises that he would change, but it did not last long. By the time I was 3 months pregnant, I knew I had to leave. Any man who could put his hands on his pregnant wife and violently beat his dog was a man who was capable of harming his baby. When he discovered my plans to leave, he trapped me in the house and attempted to rape me. Thankfully, I had been able to call 911, and with the help of the police I was able to escape. My aunt, who had raised me, once again took me into her home in my hour of need. My then-husband was not going to let me go so easily though, and he ceaselessly harassed me and made all kinds of threats, including threatening to take our unborn child from me. I naively believed it could happen, and I was terrified.

There I was, broken and empty and at rock bottom. I had lost everything I had worked for when I hurriedly left my husband. I was pregnant, alone, and scared for my life. I finally had the meltdown that had been building for 22 years. When I looked at my life, I clearly saw the mess I had made of things. I repeatedly ignored the Lord’s tugs at my heart. I insisted of having control of my life and making all my own decisions. It was clear to me that whenever I was behind the wheel, it always ended in me crashing and burning. Finally, 12 years after asking the Lord into my heart, I became a surrendered Christian. I cried to the Lord to help me fix the mess I had made of things, for the sake of my child. And did He ever come through! The first answer to prayer was that the courts awarded me full custody with no visitation to my ex-husband, as well as a restraining order – and this was all done and finalized before my daughter was even born. I was able to breathe a sign of relief knowing that she would be safe. My aunt helped me raise her, and we were quite happy. I still had a bit of the boy-crazy bug, but it slowly went away. I finally gave up searching for someone to complete me, and gave that desire over to the Lord. I asked that God would give me a good man who would be a father to my daughter, but I was at peace with the idea that it may never happen. I focused on being happy as a single mom, and I knew joy and contentment as I had never known it before.

And then, the Lord answered my prayers once again. He put a friend into my life, who eventually began to mean more to me than just a friend. I fell in love again; but this time I knew it was for all the right reasons. God gave me a wonderful treasure in that man, and when my daughter was 2.5 I married again, knowing that this time it would be for keeps. The following year he adopted my daughter. It was not a perfect marriage, and we had (and still have) our struggles, but we have both been 100% committed to making it work.

One of the biggest trials for us early on was infertility. I desperately longed to have another baby, but month after month we were unsuccessful. We saw an infertility specialist, and after many tests were performed, we were told that we would never be able to have children naturally. We prayed about it, but we knew that IVF and IUI were not an option for us, so we left it in God’s hands. Shortly after that, we were overjoyed to discover that we were pregnant! God is full of surprises, however, and we ended up having three babies in less than 2.5 years! God has continued to bless us and work on our hearts. We have been convicted on a number of issues from trusting the Lord with our fertility, to the importance of modesty, down to the entertainment in our home. We live very conservative lives now. We homeschool for the emotional protection of our children, and we will be encouraging them to consider courtship when they are grown. It is my prayer that my daughters will be able to avoid the heartaches I endured as I gave my heart away again and again. I will encourage them to keep themselves pure and to save themselves for their husbands, because I know firsthand the pain caused by giving yourself to men who do not love you and will not treasure that special gift. I hope to impart wisdom on my children, and that they will learn from the mistakes I made. I pray that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength, and that they will allow Him to guide their paths. I am still healing from my past, but I know that God is in control. There are still days when I am overcome by shame for the choices I have made, but I remind myself that God has forgiven me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made those mistakes and been allowed to learn from them. I have peace and joy, and I am excited to see where the Lord will lead my family in the years to come.

Why Skirts?

One question I get a lot is, “Why do you and your daughters only wear skirts and dresses??” The way we dress tends to bring us a lot of attention when we’re out (well, that, and the fact that we’re a larger than average family), and at times people can be outright rude. (Though, mostly, people are very sweet, and we often get compliments on how beautiful all the girls are!) It seems that, to some, our values are a little offensive, and are perhaps a symbol of female oppression… but, no matter! We’re very happy with our decision, and we love dressing modestly! Since some people are a bit uncomfortable to ask, fearing that they might offend us by asking outright, I thought I’d take a chance to explain the story behind why we decided to dress the way we do.

About 3 years ago, the Lord began laying on my heart the desire to dress more modestly. I didn’t start out intending to wear nothing but skirts and dresses, rather simply to try to wear things that covered me more. It all started when I was reading a book called Raising Maidens of Virtue. This book (which is amazing, by the way!) greatly stresses the importance of dressing modestly, in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves in a sexually enticing manner. I was deeply convicted that I needed to dress in a way that was more respectful; not only to me, but to my husband, and to other men as well. While I am not responsible for the lustful thoughts of other men, I am responsible for the way I present myself. If I am intentionally dressing in a way that would cause men to stumble, I am not following God’s will. It’s also disrespectful to the wives and future wives of these men of God. I remember reading a quote on Facebook once, which said something along the lines of “Dress the way you would want other women to dress around your husband.” How convicting that was! I certainly don’t want women flaunting themselves around my husband, so I should be respectful enough of others to refrain from flaunting myself in a similar manner, no?

So, I began to dress in clothes that had higher necklines and not too snug, and I made sure the bottoms I wore were not too tight and came at least to the knee. As the Lord continued to transform my heart, I began to see the value in dressing more femininely as well. Our culture has really blurred the gender lines, and sometimes it can be very difficult to tell men from women, and vice versa! The traditional role of women has been so devalued, and with wave after wave of feminist movements, it seems that it’s now very prevalent in our society for women to want to be, well, men! But I believe that God designed a very special role for women, as wives and mothers, and it’s something we should treasure and be proud of! I no longer desired the things that “feminists” desire. The more God worked within my heart, the more I have began to love being a wife, a mother, a woman. With this newfound joy, I realized that I wanted to dress in a way that was not only modest, but also celebrates my femininity. And so, I began to wear skirts and dresses! It’s been about 2 years now since I made the switch, and I have never looked back, and I do not miss wearing pants at all! I love how comfortable and flowing my skirts are. I love when my children tug gently at my skirts to get my attention, or when they are sleepy and snuggle into the folds of my skirts. I especially love that my husband admires me every single day for the way I dress. He has told me more that once that it’s such a treat for the eyes to see me dressed so nicely every day – which is so funny, because even my “around the house” skirts, which seem so frumpy to me, still seem to appealing to him!

I’m sure that to some I may seem completely crazy. I’m okay with that, as it probably is at least partly true! 😉 The way we choose to dress is a very personal decision, and for many people, it’s not a spiritual issue the way it has been for me. I respect that we all must dress in the manner which seems appropriate to us. But if you have ever been on the fence about this issue, let me be the first to say, nothing feels more wonderful than to be shown the amount of respect I have been since we began dressing more modestly! I began to feel for the first time in my life that people (read: men) were finally seeing me for who I was, and not just the cleavage I had exposed, or the form-fitting clothes which left very little to the imagination. It’s a wonderful thing to have a conversation with someone who looks you right in the eyes, not glancing down at your chest, or legs, or whatever else is showing. I have doors opened for me, and young men calling me “ma’am” and show a level of respect I never knew before. It’s amazing, the difference! And all because God put it on my heart to clothe myself in a way that would be honoring to Him. These are the principles I have been instilling in my daughters, and will continue to impress upon them as they grow and reach the age when they will be torn between wanting to please the Lord, and also wanting to keep up with their peers. I pray that they will respect themselves and their bodies, and choose to clothe themselves in a way that brings honor and glory to the Lord. Amen!

Another Lesson in Trust

After making the decision to become Quiverfull in our beliefs, my husband and I decided it would be best to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), even though I had 3 previous c-sections (all of which, I feel, were medically unnecessary – but that’s a post for another day). Since we didn’t know how many more children God had in mind for us, we felt this was the best way to ensure that we could safely have more. I found a great midwife who was willing to let me try for a VBA3C (vaginal birth after three cesareans) here at home. I understood the risks involved, but I also understood that my risk of complications with c-sections goes up significantly with each one I have, so much so that I am at a higher risk of complications to have a fourth c-section than I am to try for a natural birth after three c-sections.

So far my pregnancy has been a breeze, but way in the back of my mind, an unnamed fear always whispered to me. My response has always been to pray. I constantly asked the Lord to reveal to me whether or not I was meant to do a homebirth. I never, ever want to jeopardize myself or the baby, so I asked God that He would make it unmistakably clear to me if I was safer in a hospital with a c-section.

Now fast forward to this past week. I had just turned 31 weeks pregnant and had not had any pregnancy complications. In fact, this has been my easiest pregnancy of them all! I became very ill with what I believed was strep throat. I went to the urgent care and after various tests were performed, I was told it was viral. They advised me if I had trouble swallowing to head to the ER. Sure enough, the next morning I was unable to swallow Jello or even take Tylenol due to the severity of the swelling in my throat. I went to the ER and was given medication to help. As part of their routine protocol when seeing pregnant women, they sent me up to L&D (labor and delivery) for monitoring. Everything looked great with the baby, but the nurse started asking a lot of questions and seemed concerned about my risks for something called “accreta.”For the most part I blew her off, but she kept pushing me to have an ultrasound. I wasn’t even in the hospital for pregnancy-related complaints. I couldn’t understand what she was so concerned about; I had never had any issues with that pregnancy! However, since I hadn’t had a “real” ultrasound (only one to determine the baby’s gender) because my midwife doesn’t do them, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a peek at the baby, so I finally agreed. After a very long ultrasound and lots of looking at my sweet girl on the monitors, the ultrasound that confirmed I do in fact have placenta accreta. A high risk OB was immediately called in to speak to me. She explained to me that my placenta is growing across the previous c-section incision, and is now actually growing through the incision and into the uterus itself. This rare complication means that the placenta cannot detach at the time of birth; the only solution is to perform a hysterectomy after safely delivering the baby. There’s roughly a 10% chance of misdiagnosis, but that means there’s about a 90% chance that this baby will be my last. At first I didn’t believe the doctor and brushed her off. She finally got right in my face and told me that if I attempted a home birth, that I would end up bleeding out before I could even make it to the hospital. Finally, it sunk it. Understandable, I was initially devastated at the sudden loss of my fertility; however, the truly scary part is that if this had been missed (which was very likely, had I not been to the hospital for that illness), I would have bled to death in childbirth here at home. (The doctor informed me that it takes only 30 minutes to bleed out through the uterus, which is nowhere near enough time to get to the hospital and into surgery.) I must admit that in hindsight, I’m actually incredibly thankful that I became as sick as I did, as this virus may very well have saved my life.

Even in times like these when I am having to come to terms with not being able to have anymore children, I can’t help but see the Lord’s power and protection. I had prayed without ceasing that God would make it abundantly clear to me if I was meant to have a home birth or not, and there was my answer plain as day. My prayer was always that He would make is so very obvious that I would not question it, and boy, did He ever! You can’t really get anymore obvious than being told to have a c-section or face certain death, you know? God is so good, He really is.

Another lesson learned from all this is that He exercises sovereignty when we allow Him to. When we decided to leave our fertility in His hands, we were also leaving it up to Him to decide when we had reached the perfect number. Truth be told, I pictured myself with at least one or two more beyond this baby I am carrying now, but clearly God knows that four is the perfect number for us. While I am deeply saddened that this will be the last time I get to experience pregnancy and having a new baby, I trust the Lord’s plan for our lives. I also realize that now this opens up a possibility for adoption, which has always been something my husband and I planned. I do not know what the future holds for our family, but I know the Lord has wonderful plans and will do great things with our lives. Of this I am certain:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Click here to read my Placenta Accreta birth story. To learn more about Placenta Accreta and find support, please see the Hope for Accreta website.

Overcoming Fear

One of the biggest hurdles my husband and I have faced since we decided to put our fertility in God’s hands is overcoming fear. While I love being a mother, I have my fair share of doubts about what I can handle. My husband, being the provider for our family, has fears about whether or not we will have enough money, food, clothing and other such essentials for our growing family. We often wonder just how many children God has in store for us!

One verse I came across recently that directly addresses our concerns is Isaiah 41:10. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Another passage is Matthew 6:25-34, when Jesus speaks directly to us about our anxiety:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That last one is so straightforward, so honest, and so in-your-face with truth, it is enough to take our fears and throw them right out the window! And how true is it, that tomorrow has its own set of fears? There’s no need to fear about what may or may not happen tomorrow; we have our hands full enough just dealing with today!

It’s amazing to see how God’s promises to provide have been put into action. I have not posted in a while, so the announcement was never made here that I am expecting again! Another beautiful baby girl (this will be number four!) due in May. My older three were all born in December; so, while we have plenty of clothes for the baby-to-be, we do not have much for a baby born in the summer! I prayed about this and asked the Lord to provide some clothing for her. I have been checking Craigslist and thrift stores to find deals, but have yet to come across much of anything for a newborn that is summer-appropriate. Then, just a few days ago, a very sweet mother in my church said she was looking to give away all of her daughter’s baby clothes – her daughter who was born in the summer! She offered everything to me! While I know I should not have been surprised, I admit that I was to an extent. I always find it pleasantly surprising to see how God comes through for us when we trust in Him.

Another example happened just today. Two days ago our shower broke. We only have one shower/bathtub in our home, so you can see how this would be problematic! Rather than worry about the cost of a plumber, I immediately went to prayer and asked for the Lord to provide a solution. It was put on my heart that my husband should call his father, who lives nearby and is very good at household repairs and such, and ask for his help and guidance. I immediately contacted my husband and told him what God put on my heart. He called his father, who came over today, and they looked at the problem. Amazingly, it was very minor and they were able to fix it with a part that cost less than one dollar! I’m sure that, had I not listened to what God put on my heart and we called a plumber instead, it would probably would have cost us the better part of a hundred dollars or more!

I am thankful beyond words at just how God meets our needs as they come up. Truly, He knows what our needs are. He knows what problems will arise long before we ever see them coming, and He has already figured out a solution. What we need to do is work on trusting Him more, and waiting on His answers in His perfect time!