An Afternoon of Reading

The last few days have been busy for me. My son, daughter-in-law, and their three boys came out Wednesday to spend the day. We went swimming at a friend's house and then I made tacos for dinner; followed by ice cream and homemade hot fudge. It was a great day. Then, as they were loaing up the car, John told Rebecca and me something Joshua had said about "Someday when I spend the night with you..."

Rebecca explained that she has told Joshua he has to wait to be invited to spend the night, so he may have been hinting at an invitation. Which was all Grandma Shari needed to hear. He was already strapped into his car seat but, with Danny and Rebecca's blessing, I went over and whispered in his ear, "You can spend the night if you want to. You don't have to go home." Without hesitation, he said, "I want to stay!" Rebecca gave me pajamas and a change of clothes and the party started.

Joshua wound up staying two nights. My son drove out to meet us for lunch at Toot's, and I returned my oldest grandson to his dad. Then, after running a couple of quick errands, I returned to a quiet house, a little clean-up I hadn't gotten to this morning, and I have been reading ever since.

First, I needed to catch up on my Bible reading. My first week of pursuing more discipline in this area and I have already missed reading yesterday. But I am determined to resist my inate impulse to make everything -- including Bible reading -- about performance and the inclination to view it as something on a check list that makes me feel good about myself. I want to pursue discipline. I want to grow ever closer to God through His Word. I don't want to feed my perfectionism 'demon.'

Second, I continued reading a new book I just ordered (which came yesterday). I was already in the middle of three books. I'm reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist, and Putting Amazing Back into Grace. I usually read something every day and sometimes I read a little bit from all three, depending upon how much time I have to read. I cannot seem to limit myself to reading one book at a time because there are so many I can't wait to start reading (and I have a stack of books waiting to be read at all times).

I hadn't planned to start reading the new book until I had finished at least one of the three I'm currently reading. But when it came, I was too curious about it to put it aside. So after I put Joshua to bed last night, I got in the tub with my new purchase, Quivering Daughters, by Hillary McFarland. And then I had a hard time stopping once I started reading. I read until 10:30 and put the book down at the end of chapter four. After I finished a couple of days' worth of Bible reading this afternoon, I couldn't wait to pick it up again. I am now through chapter nine.

I know I will say more about this book in the days to come. I'm not even halfway through it yet. But I have already been so touched by this author's story. Hillary has left comments on my blog. We have become acquainted through a mutual online friend who maintains a blog called The Cult Next Door. She did a blog interview with each of us about our books. (Here is a link to the Blog Interview with Hillary McFarland.)

After reading the interview with Hillary, I wondered how much of her story would resonate with me. The details of our lives seemed so different. Her story is one of growing up in a large homeschooling family caught up in the Christian patriarchy movement. I am the oldest of three and I was not homeschooled. On the other hand, I am the product of a patriarchal religious system and family where males dominated. So I expected to relate to Hillary without our stories being carbon copies of one another. And I have related to her even more than I anticipated. The emotions are the same. The Scriptures quoted to support the spiritual abuses are the same. Her feelings of never being able to measure up or be good enough are so familiar. The feelings of being a disappointment to our mothers because we were not like them in so many ways; the same.

I not only felt that I didn't measure up in my parents' eyes, I always knew one of my brothers looked down on me and viewed me as the disappointing, "problematic" member of the family. I have carried that feeling of not being good enough as far back as I can remember. Whether it came first from my family or first from my church environment is like asking which came first; the chicken or the egg.

This paragraph from page 54 resonated deeply with me and was a different angle on "not measuring up." I read it from a daughter's perspective and then took it to heart also as a mother. I don't think my son feels like he has not been able to measure up to my expectations. I think he would say that he feels unconditionally loved and accepted by me. We talked today about how our relationship really began to blossom about the time he was starting high school. I know that's the exact opposite of a lot of parents with their children. I am probably a better mother to a grown son than I was to a very young son; primarily because I was such a young mother. The things I did right, I probably did right by accident (certainly not because I was reading books on parenting). Anyway, I hope I will be able to give an account as a parent with joy. As a daughter, I carry a lot of wounds.

From Quivering Daughters:
"Many of us struggle with feeling that we never measure up to the standards or expectations of our parents. But in reality, it's not a question about how we measure up as daughters, for in the end, our parents will be accountable to the Lord for how they measure up. They will answer to God. Just as 'Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people,' (Ps. 3:8) we as daughters are gifts from the Lord -- but we still belong to Him and will answer to Him alone at the end of our days. Salvation and faith may be taught and influenced by our parents, but just as they answer to God, we will answer to Him as well and are responsible for working out our own salvation with fear and trembling."

I found this paragraph extremely reassuring, Hillary. Thanks for investing yourself in this effort. I know how emotionally exhausting it is to write about your life; especially when the details involve our parents. I think this is the kind of book that a lot of women (raised in any kind of authoritarian legalism) would find helpful and healing. And I'm not even halfway through.


What a beautiful post, Shari!
I love being your mutual friend :)
Many hugs!

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