It’s Not Just the Duggars (or large families… or christians… or homeschoolers… or…)

Baby Hand

It seems that everywhere I turn lately there is another article about Josh Duggar and his family.  Among them are plenty of articles like this one that seek to put the blame on the Duggar lifestyle… the fact that they have lots of kids, the fact that the older girls help with their younger siblings, the fact that they homeschool.  They say that Michelle Duggar wasn’t “physically or emotionally available” to her kids because she has so many, that she didn’t teach her kids sex education because she’s a conservative Christian.  The fact of the matter is that we have no idea what went on in their home to lead to such a tragic turn of events.  The best we have is speculation.  Unfortunately, I believe we’re speculating about all the wrong things.

This issue isn’t about how many children we have, or what our religious beliefs are.  The real issues aren’t being spoken about (or if they are, they’re not being spoken about nearly often enough by a populace which seems determined to paint the Duggar family lifestyle as the source of the problem.)  The heart of this issue isn’t about conservative Christian beliefs or “sex education” or homschooling or having lots of kids.  The heart of the problem lies in what we’re teaching our kids… or, rather, what we aren’t teaching them.

Children need to know what sexual abuse is, and they need to learn it from us.  They need a safe way to talk about it, a safe person to talk to and permission to ask questions.  More than anything, they need to know that abuse can happen to anyone, be caused by anyone and that it is never, ever their fault.

When I was very young, I spent the night with a friend whose much older sister coerced me into participating in sexual activities with her.  Then, around the age of 12, I was inappropriately touched by an older relative while in a room full of adults.  My mom had taught me about “molestation” when I was younger – she brought it up so much, in fact, that I was often nervous when spending the night in the homes of male relatives.  I knew that it happened, and I knew what to do about it.  And yet, in each of these circumstances, I never told anyone.  And nowhere, in any article I’ve read so far that has recently popped up about these issues – and even on most national child abuse prevention websites – have I seen a single mention of the thing that caused me to stay silent all those years.  The thing I’m loathe to mention even now, over 20 years past the experience.

No one ever taught me it might feel good.

I never told my parents – never told anyone – because I felt I’d been a willing participant.  The older sister made it seem “fun,” she made me feel like I was participating in something “adult” and the fact that she had sought me out to “play” with her made me feel special.  The older man knew exactly what he was doing to make a girl on the brink of sexual maturity feel (physically) good, even though it scared me and felt (emotionally) bad.  Looking back through the eyes of an adult, I can see the classic “grooming” behaviors that were going on and I know now that my body’s reaction was normal and that I wasn’t old enough to be a “willing participant” (and that they were way too old for me to be “participating” with.)  I know now that you can never be fully willing to participate in something you are manipulated into.  You can never be fully willing if your mind is screaming “no,” no matter what your body feels.

So I never told anyone because I convinced myself that I had, somehow, chosen to be molested.  I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and believed it was my fault.  It’s not having a large family or being a Christian or even the lack of “sex education” that allows abusers to abuse… it’s that children aren’t taught that no one should touch them sexually until they are adults and, I would go so far to say (you’ll have to excuse my Christian viewpoint here,) in a marital relationship.  They should be taught that abuse comes in many forms and that if it feels wrong – in any sense – it is wrong.

My children and I have been talking about this a lot in the last few days.  I thought I’d been doing a lot of things “right” in this regard, but what happened in the Duggar family caused me to dig deeper, evaluate my own past and figure out what it was that happened to me, and why I never told anyone.  As we’ve been talking, three more very important things came out that I thought were important enough to mention, publicly.

First – one of my daughters told me that she often feels uncomfortable hugging men – even close friends and relatives, because that is a form of physical contact she’d like to reserve for her husband (and no, we’ve never told her that hugging – in any form – is wrong.)  I asked her what she did when someone wanted to hug her, and she told me that she usually just “hugs anyway.”

She didn’t know it was okay to tell someone not to hug her. 

How had I missed this?!  In all the conversations we’ve had on the subject over the years and especially in the last few days, how is it that my daughter didn’t know she could refuse physical contact that wasn’t comfortable for her???!  And it got worse.  She went on to ask me if there were any people it would be inappropriate to abstain from hugging.  I wanted to see what my kids thought about this, so I asked them to answer, fully expecting them all to say “no.”  They didn’t.  Instead, they named three people they felt they should never say “no” to, regarding hugs.  The reasons they gave were telling:

“It would hurt her feelings”

“He might try to talk me into it”

“She doesn’t get to see us very often.”

In all of those circumstances, my children felt they should do something that felt physically uncomfortable for them, to spare someone else’s feelings.

I explained to them they should never allow anyone to touch them in a way that felt uncomfortable, and that they weren’t responsible for anyone’s feelings but their own.  That they should never do anything they didn’t feel comfortable doing, no matter how someone else felt about it.  I explained to them that anyone who tried to talk them into doing something they didn’t want to do was practicing evil, and to tell an adult right away if that ever happened.  We talked about things they could say if someone tried to hug them (they were all surprised that they could simply say “no” and didn’t need to be polite or give a reason,) and I asked them to let me know how they felt about other physical contact, so I could be sure to protect them from unwanted contact in the future, if needed.   Then a second issue came up as we discussed these things that was equally important:

I was explaining to them the need to listen to the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit.  I told them that if they ever felt someone was touching them inappropriately – even if it wasn’t on their “private” parts (and yes, my children know their names,) – they should tell someone they trust immediately.  I explained to them if someone touched their hand, or their knee, or even their nose and it “felt funny,” to treat that as a warning and tell someone they trust.  “Even if it’s me,” I said.  They objected: “YOU?!  But we know YOU would never do anything inappropriate!”  And that’s when I understood a second issue that can cause children to become victimized:

They’re certain that Uncle/Grandpa/Cousin/Friend So-and-So would “never.”

And they’re right, of course.  I would never intentionally do something to make them uncomfortable.  But that doesn’t mean I would never unintentionally do something that crossed a personal boundary.  I explained to them that it didn’t matter whether or not I was intentionally being inappropriate, it’s about whether or not something I was doing felt inappropriate to them.  I swear, I could almost see lightbulbs going off in their heads and I suddenly understood something else more fully:

A child who knows their perpetrator may believe that person would never do anything wrong.  So they convince themselves that what is happening isn’t wrong

I helped them to understand that “Uncle Bob” or dear friend “Joe” might not be doing something he feels is wrong (ie. hugging them) but that if it feels wrong to them, they need to tell an adult they trust, so that person knows not to do it anymore.  I explained that if they told an adult they trust, that adult can help the other person learn to stay within the boundaries of their personal comfort level.  I think understanding this took out any and all confusion on their part as to whether or not something is worthy of being “told.”

One other thing my husband and I did years ago that I don’t often see mentioned is that we  made arrangements with a few people our children trust, and our kids know they can talk to these people about anything they need to.

These people have our permission not to tell us whatever our children say to them, and our children know that anything they say to them will remain completely private, even from their parents.

These are all things that I rarely see mentioned in regards to child abuse – some things that (despite research on the subject) I never would have thought to bring up with my children (ie. hugging.)  The Duggars are being persecuted on a national level right now and I am sorry for their pain.  I pray that some day they will be open enough to publicly analyze what might have gone wrong in their family, so that others can learn from those mistakes. Until then, this situation has opened up the discussion on sexual abuse that has caused our family and many others to look more deeply into what contributes to sexual abuse.  For that, I am thankful.

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Related Articles:

That slumber party might not be worth it

 

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Increasing our Faith

In light of recent events (detailed, below) I thought this was a timely re-posting:

 

“Suppose a parcel came to us, and it should prove difficult to untie the knot, and you cannot cut it; then you should ask God to help you, even to untie the knot.”

– George Muller, Address to Young Converts

The majority of the life of a believer is made up of small circumstances and situations. Every small thing in our life presents us with another opportunity to draw closer to God, another opportunity to fellowship with Him. Each time I am faced with a new situation, or a difficult circumstance, I am presented with an opportunity for growth and a deeper relationship with God. If I have not experienced the joys of daily communication with God during the ordinary, it will become difficult to pray with faith in the day of crisis. If I have not experienced the blessings of God’s consistent answer to prayer in trivial matters, it becomes difficult to expect His answer in times of urgency.

Faith is not built so much during times of great personal struggle, but in commonplace day to day communication with Him. If we become accustomed to expecting and experiencing His help in little things, we will have laid a foundation that will give us the faith to expect and experience His help in the big things. When the bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” it doesn’t mean that we are to spend the entire day in our prayer closet, on our knees, it means that we are to take to Him each aspect of our every day lives. To live by the adage: “if it’s important to me, it’s important to God.” Bill Johnson once said: “Show me a man who prays when things are going well, and I will show you a man who knows how to handle a crisis when it comes” (paraphrase [1]). George Muller, in his address to young converts, wrote: “There is nothing too little to pray about. In the simplest things connected with our daily life and walk, we should give ourselves to prayer; and we shall have the living, loving Lord Jesus to help us. Even in the most trifling matters I give myself to prayer and often in the morning, even ere I leave my room, I have two or three answers to prayer in this way.” (2) It is not merely acceptable to ask for God’s help in finding our shoes or opening the jelly jar, it is absolutely essential. Our relationship with God will grow exponentially as we learn to take even the smallest matters to Him in prayer. Our faith will increase, our wisdom will multiply, and the Fruits of the Spirit will be further manifested in our lives.

“And truly, our partnership is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

1.) Bill Johnson, in a sermon entitled “Enduring Faith”

2.) George Muller, Address to Young Converts, printed in HeartCry Missionary Society, September – October 2005, pg 29.

 

Last night, our family sat down to pray because there were some things we desperately needed by TODAY.  I’ve been feeling God has been reminding me, lately, that “you have not because you ASK not” so our family all sat down to ask God for $100 (and then Jon, being funny, asked for $104, because I need to buy a hat for a wedding shower.) 30 minutes later, a lady contacted us to buy two of our goats and she wanted to pick them up today. Between that and some photos I just sold, we have $105!

In addition to asking God for $100 by today, we asked Him for another amount by next Friday for some other things we need to take care of. Jon just got a call from work, and they need him to come in and it’s ALL overtime pay! That takes care of almost all of what we still need, and I certainly don’t have any doubts that the rest will be here by then! Two of my daughters told us last night that they have a difficult time having faith for things they ask God for. I told them they need to start asking God to help them more often, so that they could experience answer to prayer more often. God is good!

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The Fix-It Brothers

My boys are awesome!  For the past two days they’ve been weed-eating the fence line because they wanted to (and I’m so glad they did, because it’s been needing it desperately!)  When I couldn’t figure out how to work the weed-eater, they figured it out on their own!  Then today, our washing machine was leaking and they’d been asking if they could fix it, so I finally decided to let them try after explaining all the safety precautions to take.  Sure enough, they found the problem and our washer is working again!  A few weeks ago, they fixed the sink drain and before that, they fixed the toilet.  They’ve been telling me that when they get older they want to go into business together – they already have their name picked out… “The Fix-it Brothers!”  I must say, it’s awfully nice to live with the Fix-it Brothers… they don’t charge their momma for their services.

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Let patience have it’s perfect work…

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I feel like the kids are all just being mean to each other, lately, and I know they’re getting it from me!  If I were on a TV show, I wouldn’t let the kids watch!

I said this to Jon just a few nights ago.  In the midst of the fifteen different kind of crazy we’ve had going on, lately, I’ve been impatient, easily frustrated, and just altogether grumpy.  And my kids, who’ve always gotten along so well, are starting to bicker and fight and complain.  Today, a friend told me that her daughter had been inspired by how “loving and patient” my children always are to each other, and I was truly humbled, because if there is anything we have not been lately, it’s loving and patient!

A long time ago, a wise older mom of many was telling me that during the first few years of her children’s lives, she’d struggled with her temper.  I couldn’t believe she’d ever struggled this way, but she assured me she had!  Often.  I asked her how she’d managed to raise such great kids despite this, and she told me that the most important thing she’d ever done was ask her kids for forgiveness whenever they saw her behaving in ungodly ways.  And so tonight I apologized to my kids, and I asked them to help me be better, and help each other be better.  I asked them to “turn me off” when they started hearing things from me that I wouldn’t allow them to watch on TV!  We all had a good laugh over that, but I meant it, too!  It’s easy to censor what you allow your kids to watch on the screen… much more difficult to censor what comes out of your own mouth.  Thankfully, I have pretty awesome kids who know the value of forgiveness.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  – Philippians 3:13

Thank God for second chances!  (And third, and fourth, and….)

Posted in Daybook, Discipline/Discipleship/Raising Godly Children, Parenting, PERSONAL, The Seven of 'em | Leave a comment

It’s a girl!!!

No no, we haven’t had another baby (I ought to be getting pregnant any time now, though.)  😉  It’s a girl kid.  Well, that doesn’t help, does it?  A baby girl GOAT.  Whew!

Mini Pearl gave birth today to three adorable babies, two bucklings and a little doe.  I’m super excited about the little doeling, as I was hoping keep a girl from Pearl this year.  Pearl is one of our best milk goats (she ranks a close second to Sudoku) and she was bred to our best buck (his lines include three ADGA top five most productive milk producers and two of them hold records for longest lactation, highest milk production.  His grandsire (Rosasharn’s Epic) brought a record price of $8,700 (no, I didn’t add an extra zero) at the 2011 ADGA National Convention Spotlight sale and is the highest selling buck in the ADGA Spotlight Sale for the past 15 years.  [To read about how we were blessed with this amazing guy, click HERE.])

If you’ll recall, out of over 10 (I can’t remember the number exactly) live births, we only had THREE doelings born last year and ALL of them were promised to others (although the family we promised two does to graciously accepted one of our bucklings, so we got to keep one of them (we’re breeding her right now!)  This year we have two promised already, so I’m going to need at least one of our other goats to give us another girl so I can keep this one, but we still have three more goats left to kid, so I’m hopeful.  :)

This is our cute little blue eyed buckling:

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A pretty cream colored buckling (he looks dark here for some reason, he’s pictured below and you can really see how light he is):

20150514-DSC_3036And our little girl:

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Her registry name will be Faithful w/Little JPL Emerald and we’ll call her “Emmie.”

(If you’re interested in knowing how we name our goats, “Faithful w/Little” is our registration name, “JPL” are the initials for her sire’s name [Jasper Pine Legacy] and we try to choose names have something to do with their dam’s name [Mini Pearl] and (if we can manage it) start with the registration letter corresponding to their birth year [this year is “E” – hence, “Emerald.”]  This makes it easier to remember who is who.  For instance, I’m registering another buckling whose owner wanted to name him Honey Boy.  His dam is named Scotch and his sire is Jasper Pine Genesis, so I’ll be registering him “Faithful w/Little JPG Highland Honey Boy” (though technically his name should start with a D, as he was born in 2013, it was just too difficult to come up with something that correlated to “Scotch” AND started with D!)  If either of these bucklings get registered, he’ll be named E. Haw (Mini Pearl?  E. Haw?  Get it?)  :)

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It’s that time again!

I haven’t talked much about the farm happenings, lately, mostly because there hasn’t been anything very interesting going on (unless you count the fact that every month or so our cow decides she wants to go out on a date with me.  I’m still not completely over my fear of cows, and her attempted love affair isn’t helping.  ;))  But kidding season is now upon us, and a few days ago, we came home to find that one of our goats had given birth, and another was in labor!  Interestingly, we couldn’t at first determine who had actually given birth, as two different goats were licking and “talking” to the babies, and the kids were even nursing on them both.  In fact, the goat we eventually decided couldn’t be the mom (no signs that she’d given birth) kept trying to keep the real mom away from the kids!  We were able to get it all sorted out, though, and we now have four baby goats to love on – three boys and a girl!  None of them are good enough to participate in the Milk Enough Project, so they’ll all be sold as pets soon (including one of the mommas, as we’re focusing hard on production this year,) but in the meantime, they sure are fun to have around!!!

Here are Peppy’s kids.  Peppy was the first little goat born on our farm (the one who, if you recall, used to let herself into the house any time the door was open!)  She’ll be sold with her doeling this year, (the bucks will be sold separately) and I know she’s going to make someone a great little pet!

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And this is Spats’s little boy:

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I love kidding season!!!

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A Faith Crisis

A freezer full of goats milk.  We were able to give many gallons of milk away last year, along with several goats to families in need thanks to the generosity of others!

A freezer full of goats milk. We were able to give milk and goats away last year, thanks to the generosity of others!

For a few years now, I’ve had a faith crisis of sorts slowly in the works and it all came to a head recently as we’ve been preparing for some changes in our lives.  Changes that, on paper, we can’t afford.  Although we can plan for Jon to work extra and for me to take on more photo shoots, the reality is that if something happened to make either Jon or I unable to earn the extra money (a time at work where the census was low, or a season where no one wants pictures, both of which happen pretty frequently) we would not be able to take care of things as we need to. My knee-jerk reaction to this has been to make plans for charging for our produce (as opposed to giving it away as we have been), increasing my photography prices and starting a savings account.  And that’s where the faith crisis comes in.

My husband and I have never had a savings account.  We’ve never wanted one.  We’ve always given away at least a tenth of our income and loved the ability to give away produce and discount (or sometimes give away) photography sessions or pictures.  We’ve always believed in the words of Jesus: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, crushed down, full and running over, they will give to you. For in the same measure as you give, it will be given to you again.”  (Luke 6:38.)  With a promise like that, why keep a savings account?!  We’ve always felt that if we had extra money or produce or resources, we should give it to those who are in need now, and trust God to handle our needs whenever they come up.  And He always has.  I could go on and on about the ways He has provided for us (I’ve mentioned a few of them here before,) often in miraculous ways.

And yet, here I sit, wanting for the first time in my life to keep a savings account.  I think there are two main reasons I’m struggling with this.  First, several years ago, Jon and I got into some trouble over credit cards.  Having never kept a credit card before, we signed up for one so that I could buy a camera (and then got a second one so that I could get a better camera and start a photography business.)  Whether that particular decision was right or wrong, what we did with it from there was – without question – irresponsible.  And it started me down a path of faithlessness and prayerlessness.  No longer was I trusting God to provide for all of my needs, it was just too easy to put some of them on the card!  Of course, God didn’t stop providing for our needs – in fact, he has blessed us abundantly over the last few years in completely unexpected ways.  And that has actually led to the second reason I’m struggling.  At some point over the last year or so, some really nasty thoughts entered my heart, and they go something like this:

“At what point are we going to grow up and stop needing help?  We’re being irresponsible, keeping goats and a cow, putting our kids in music lessons, etc. when we know we can’t afford it.  We’re putting other people (friends, family members) in the position of feeling like they need to help us.  (Nevermind the fact that we’ve never asked for the help and blessings we’ve been given, that doesn’t keep the thought from coming anyway.)

As I was sharing this with Jon today, he asked me a question:

“Do you think the Apostle Paul was a Godly man?”

He went on to remind me that although Paul had a job as a tent maker, he felt free to rely on his brothers and sisters in Christ to meet many of his needs.  In Philippians 4 he writes:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

In this, Paul is referencing the truths laid down in Luke 6:38… that in blessing, we will be blessed, and in receiving a blessing we open a door for others to be blessed in return.  In the course of this conversation, I realized something more fully.  If we choose to give money away in order to help those in need around us, if we don’t charge for our services or for the things we produce because we want to bless others with it, how else should God provide for us in our need, than to move on the hearts of those around us – to give away their money, not charge for their services, and freely give away what they produce?  If the early church members, filled with the holy spirit, sold all of their possessions to “have all things in common” and give to anyone in need (Acts 2:44), then there were obviously some on the receiving end as well as the giving end.  Sure, God could cause gold to rain down from the sky if He wanted to, but everything I understand in scripture points to the fact that God wants us to rely on each other.  And although He could bless anyone in any way He chose, the method He chooses most often is to bless through blessing.  And in my desire to be more “independent,” I am taking away an avenue both for God to bless us, and for God to bless others through their generosity toward us.

Of course, the world will tell us something different.  The world will tell us we should be “self sufficient,” that we shouldn’t be a “burden,” that keeping a savings account or a credit card or charging for everything we possibly can is the “responsible” thing to do.  The world will tell us everything I’ve been telling myself over the past few months.  But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and what doesn’t always make sense to me is perfectly understood by God.

So I guess in the end, the only thing for me to do is to cast my cares upon Him and trust Him to do what He’s always done – love, protect and provide for us.  Whether that be “irresponsible” or not.

“If few men have ever been permitted so to trace in the smallest matters God’s care over His children, it is partly because few have so completely abandoned themselves to that care” (AT Pierson, “George Muller of Bristol, His Life of Prayer and Faith”)

To all of those who have helped us over the years – thank you, once again.  Thank you for your kindness, your generosity, and thank you for presenting me with this struggle.  I will freely accept what you have freely given and I’ll no longer look at myself as a burden, or your giving as a curse.  May God meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

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Related Articles:

Let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity

Daily Bread

Testimony of Providence

Unless the Lord Builds the House

But God…

I was going to title this post “big changes on our little farm” but…

 

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