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The Sanctuary of Life

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10

Life. A simple word pulsing with complexity. As you reflect, what images come to mind? Answers emerge from the day-portraits of our years—fun, stressful, challenging, hard, i-wish-i-were-dead, boring, exciting, an adventure, depressing—but I wonder: how often do we ever say, abundant?

And what is an abundant life?
I believe that it is full, when our every sense is alive with wonder, expectancy, and thankfulness for God's grace and mercy. When we awake with purpose and live our moments along undercurrents of joy, even when tears fall with frustration or sadness, when we fume over traffic or agonize over an aching child. For when we are full, we are free to feel. When we are full, knowing we will not be rejected but are welcome just as we are, with no effort of our own, we are free to blossom, free to live and taste what God has given us to enjoy.

With no effort of our own
. . .

Women acquainted with spiritual abuse know the depth, the burden of always trying. Of always doing, hoping to measure up one day and find approval within lined faces of austerity. Always darkness, there, for we are taught that it is the will of God to heed the voices which grieve us, which communicate that our best is never good enough.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11

These words of Jesus illustrate His heart for those burdened and exhausted from the law. Quite a contrast to the realities of our everyday agony while we stumble beneath the weight of  shoulds and oughts. These obligations shrill loudly, leaving us ashamed and guilty, as though fingers wag in our faces and declare aha! See, you are worthless! You are stupid! You can't do anything right!

Oh, dear friend! I know the torment of these obscenities! We could, each of us, list dozens of items which remind us we fall short.
  • I should read the Bible more
  • I should have dinner ready by now
  • I should exercise today
  • I should pray harder
  • I should wear dresses
  • I ought to speak more kindly
  • I ought to turn the other cheek
  • I ought to be happy
Don't truly good Christian women find these things easy? In and of themselves many of these things are good—however, all too often those of us raised in authoritarian environments consistently feel unacceptable, perpetually bearing the shame of disapproval. We are subtly taught we must perform or properly behave in order to receive love, affection, or attention, but even our hardest efforts leave us dry. It's confusing, overwhelming, and spiritually exhausting: why do the daily disciplines of godliness leave us feeling empty, drained, unloved? Why do we not feel rested as we kneel before the feet of Christ? 
To the contrary: we sink deeper into shame, proving to others and Jesus how weak, ungodly, and worthless we are.

Shame vs. guilt

It is important to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Healthy guilt produces repentance, restoration, and growth. However, shame drives us away from God, further from His healing rest. It enmeshes with our core until our very identity is toxic with lies—error that becomes the foundation of all we believe about ourselves.

To identify the roots of your feelings, it helps to ask:
Does this make me want to run to God? "Forgive me father, for I have sinned."
Does this make me want to run away from God?  "I am so wicked; God cannot look upon sin. I just need to go and die."

Guilt is feeling regret over a committed wrong, externalized, and within proper context. I did a bad thing and I regret what I did. Shame is an emotion of perceived wrong, but internalized: I am bad. I always do bad things so that means I am worthless, no good, and should have never been born.

It can be extremely difficult overcoming a lifetime of shoulds and oughts. By ourselves, it is impossible. But Jesus wants you to become free. No more formulas, no more works, no effort. You don't need to do one more thing to receive His love, His freedom, and grace. He says, Come. Drop everything you are doing, and rest. Let me give you what you need. Let Me be your source.

What would your life be like, if you simply stopped? If you answered His gentle beckoning? Consider His words an invitation to sanctuary. Let Him allure your tired and weary heart—and you will find rest for your souls.

A whole new life awaits.

This is an adaptation of an earlier post. 

"An End to Guilt" — Featured Article

Do you wake up and apologize for living? Do you struggle with guilt, shame, self-condemnation? This article will help you discover the truth of God's love.
An End to Guilt by Gregory Reid

Quiverfull Daughters: Little Mothers, Little Sisters

I’m having a bad day today. I’m just so tired! I’m so tired of working—there is always something that needs to be done and dad is never satisfied. I’m tired of being overwhelmed with everything. I’m tired of washing dishes every night, I wish that the house would stay clean for 2-3 days—the kids are always cutting up paper, getting out toys, splashing water all over the bathroom sink, getting mud and sand all over the bathroom floor. I’m tired of doing laundry—there are mountains of it daily and I am tired of putting clothes away. I’m tired of people not doing their jobs; I’m tired of my brother’s arguing and endless supply of unnecessary words (though he is sweet a lot and has been a lot today), my sister’s constant fits and defiance and screaming, I’m tired of getting mad at my brothers and sisters, I wish I were perfect. I absolutely abhor the thought that every idle word will be judged . . . lately I have been doing some self-analyzing, or examining—I’m trash . . . I’m sick of disappointing God.
This is a tiny excerpt from the journal I kept growing up. Outsiders look at words like these and quickly assume roots of laziness sprouted in me, but words cannot do justice to the constant extreme tiredness I felt, the heartache, the struggles, my guilt over impatience and failures, copious amounts of stress, even mental fatigue . . . even before I turned 14.

Admittedly, my  perspective is from one who became a little mother—a child compelled to adopt care-taking roles earlier than most, earlier than healthy. But the Quiverfull life doesn't only affect the oldest daughters. Younger siblings experienced the "bossiness" of my perfectionist self, my efforts to "help", to keep things efficient and under control, efforts to be obedient and pleasing to God and parents, and the pressure of trying to live up to expectations both I and others laid upon me.

Just as I received the frustrations of petulant brothers and sisters screaming "You're not the mom!" and "You're not the boss of me!", they felt the pressure of having not only a dad and mom telling them what to do, how to behave, what to think, and how they should perform, but an older sister who attempted awkwardly to carry out mom and dad's wishes within the family.

Quiverfull Parents

As numbers swelled with mommy's tummy, more and more household details rested on my shoulders. I am filled with sadness that instead of mom, many times my dear brothers and sisters suffered a surrogate "mom" who was often more frazzled and worn out than our real one.  And while my siblings never understood the angst inside, the internal war, nor heard my nightly secret sobs to "help me be loving and sweet and kind", they did hear the demands, the rages, the lack of sleep, the short-temper. They saw a red face, harsh mouth. They witnessed the public admonitions to be patient and to pray about my attitude. What influence did it have—on both of us? They did not deserve this injustice. The younger children needed quality parental attention just as much as the older ones. Their needs were just as important as mine.

In a Quiverfull family, everyone is affected, for good, for bad; in healthy ways, and unhealthy. Mothers devote body and womb to pregnancy and the effects of hormones while cultivating new life. Fathers receive new life to provide for, to raise, to hold before God. And the children born into this environment bring unique strengths, needs, desires, challenges, and personalities, all precious in the eyes of God.

Blessings, yes. But serious blessings.

We all sacrifice something. Those who adopt a Quiverfull life have the privilege of choice—cognizant awareness and deliberate, intentional selection of lifestyle based upon conviction.

I beseech Quiverfull parents to humbly remember that your children do not have the freedom to choose, as you have. Your children are unable to seek God's will, count the costs, and go forth with full knowledge of what lies ahead. Please have grace and mercy upon these little ones, who often sacrifice quality time with mom and dad because other needs arise, who often become hands and feet and shoulders while caring for others; who sometimes struggle in silence, trying to reconcile the true nature of God with what they see and hear on a daily basis. Ones who perpetuate the pressure they feel, and react to the demands presented them; ones perhaps never completely understood—children created with individuality, in Imago Dei.

I beg parents to put forth the effort to know your children individually, for just as God has blessed you, He has made them, singularly and unparalleled, with each soul relating to others, themselves, to God, and the world, in special, precious ways. It is destructive to blanket an entire family with the same parenting formula. Each child needs parenting based upon the uniqueness God has gifted them; it takes time, energy, and discipline—a challenge, even in smaller families—to attend offspring with such tenderness, but such is the responsibility of mothers and fathers.

Quiverfull Daughters

If you are firstborn, do you feel as though you've grown up too fast and lost your childhood? Are you burdened by unrelenting expectations? Are your parents too busy with the younger children to spend quality time with you? Do you feel as though they call you a "blessing" because of what you do, not who you are? Do you feel perpetually exhausted?

If you are middleborn, do you feel overlooked and overshadowed? Are you old enough to have a lot of chores, but too young to have certain privileges? Do you feel unnoticed, unimportant, insignificant? Too old to crawl into your mother's lap or enjoy playtime, but too young to do anything fun?

If you are last, do you feel that you have five other mothers telling you what to do? Do you feel you never have a break and that everyone tattles on you? Do you feel that you never do anything right, that you are compared to successful older sisters? Does it seem you pay for your older siblings' mistakes? Did their problems cause your parents to exercise more strictness or control?

These are mere samplings of the emotions and struggles experienced by daughters within a quiverfull household, for if there is imbalance within a family, all daughters will have pain. But I believe that as quiverfull daughters, our place in the family is distinctly chosen by God. He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our futures, hurts and sorrows.  Whether we are first, middle, or last within our family, our lives bear His handprint, His heartprint.

While we often feel lost in the shuffle, He who sees a sparrow fall knows your deepest dreams, hopes, and fears; He holds gently secret tears that water your pillow at night. Your exhaustion, performance, and service, the demands, pressure, and austerity you feel does not miss His eye. He knows your cries, your loneliness, your longing to matter to those you love, to feel important in their eyes, to feel special. To feel that you are a blessing.

God designed us to seek Him face to face, to discover His will for our lives. As children of the Perfect Father, sisters to a billion souls, we can rest, knowing He loves us individually; but until we truly believe in His love for us, we will experience difficulty understanding how we bear significance to God Himself—and wounds remain unhealed.
Dear Heavenly Father, You know the thoughts and dreams You have of us, to give us a hope and a future. You see the pain lurking with the hearts of quiverfull daughters; you see the pressures they feel and the expectations placed on them by others, in Your name. I beg You to make Yourself known to these precious sisters, to make Your love known in deep, significant ways, so that they see how truly You adore them and grieve for the hurts and sorrows that they feel. You created them, just as they are, and yet so many feel discouraged and selfish for having feelings, dreams, desires, and needs in the first place. Comfort these dear women, and lead them on a journey straight to You. Heal and restore them, I ask You; give them strength and wisdom as they go forth in life. Be glorified in them, dear Lord, and may their families see You in their daughter's life. Thank You that You love us and want to be known by us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Update (Updated 9 / 15!!)

 Update: Life is an adventure and as I mentioned here, sometimes I make plans and the Lord refines them for me. :-) In the past several days, I have had a schedule change, gone out of town, my husband's grandfather passed away, and numerous big and little events conspired against the deadline I gave myself. Perhaps in my zeal I spoke too hastily. This book has been commissioned from Him since the beginning, and the timing is in His hands. Thank you for understanding.

This is a very impromptu post today :-) . I am working feverishly on my book and hope and pray to be finished with writing within the next 6 to 8 weeks, Lord willing--then on to editing. I say that, knowing He has other plans sometimes. :-) I am also putting together a personal blog which will reflect a bit more personality, feature other topics, and not always address the heavy subjects found here on the Quivering Daughters blog.

My newsletter is in the works and you can always find me on Facebook. :-)

This book is very much a journey for me, complete with all of the joy and pain that comes from digging into wounds and exposing raw, deep places. Just today God re-shaped the ending into something that sent me to my face, weeping. My heartfelt desire is that all of my sisters in blood and spirit will know the absolute joy which comes from the power of God transforming heart and mind through His Spirit and truth! He heals, restores, and ministers in ways I never dreamed possible. No words can do justice to the beauty of His mercy, grace and love.

My posts may become a little more sporadic ;-) while I streamline my attention to this book. To all of my friends and readers--thank you for your patience. Thank all of you who have taken  time to send notes of encouragement and lift prayers to our Heavenly Father on my behalf and for this book. Although He has appointed me to carry, and to labor with these words, He is the breather and giver of life. May He be glorified.

I remain His handmaiden.