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Quiverfull Daughters —The Aching of Esau

You never show us what you write.” Mom looked disappointed.
“I will!” I assured her. But what? My young mind riffled through notebooks, scanning titles, stories, songs. I always felt too shy, embarrassed to reveal my scribblings. Despite me “telling,” a sister already derived ecstatic glee over long, flowy descriptions of self-deprecation, crushes, and struggles in the journal I tried to keep private; I wasn't about to draw more attention to myself. What did I have that was safe enough to show?
With that look moms give when they tell you what is good for you, she raised her brows and nodded. “You should.”

I found courage one night at bedtime, while mom and dad stole a few solo moments together at the grocery store, leaving me in charge. I hovered over the kitchen table and arranged a poem so they'd see it when they arrived. They will like this, I thought, excited. I took time to make it right; every syllable, every nuance flowed perfectly. I crept off to bed, leaving the door cracked slightly to hear their response—happy to have something, finally, worthy in content and structure, to reveal.

I heard them, from my bed—our old green and brown station wagon, whirring up the driveway, the soft thud of front door, groceries unloaded in the kitchen. My mother’s voice. “Hey, what is this?”

I shivered with anticipation. They are reading it! I waited, clutching moments, silence screaming in my ears.

“What is she trying to tell us?” Her voice startled the night. Not a hint of praise or approval.

Dad’s quiet, thoughtful reply came after.“I don’t know . . .”

Quietness again. I knew that kind. My heart stopped. I could just see them, paused, world frozen in black and white, the paper I'd written and re-written pulsing with flashing red lights, alarms. My face burned in darkness. I couldn’t breathe. Light-headed and dizzy, I wanted to dash to the kitchen and snatch away my poetry. Hot tears slid to my pillow. I shouldn’t have shown them, my mind tormented, the little girl inside shrinking with shame. Why do they always think I am trying to “tell them” something? This is why I don’t want anyone to read what I write. It probably isn’t good, anyway. This is what I get for feeling proud, for wanting them to like it.

I could hear no more. Turning over, I let tears claim me before drifting into troubled sleep.

The hunger
We read much of Jacob throughout the Bible. But we don’t often hear about Esau, his older brother, who sold his birthright and by doing so, possibly stepped out of the lineage of Jesus. Betrayed before his dying father by Jacob and their deceptive mother, bereft of his blessing as a firstborn, and alienated from his family, this dwindling man grew to know the depths of sorrow.
When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me—me also, O my father!” Gen 27:34
It is a cry which rebounds for a thousand years, reverberates, and continues from soul to aching soul. We all hunger—we like Esau, yearning for approval, for blessing. Have you not reserved a blessing for me? (v. 36) We crave acceptance and approval from those who brought us forth, who gave us life. If left unmet, this emptiness becomes an agonizing undercurrent which shapes the heart. It is a hunger which, at its core, is the hunger for love.  

And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. (v.38)
Sometimes that is all a little girl can do, too.


Bless me, me also, oh my father!

How can I be special or loved when there are so many other children? Am I not good enough? Why don’t you have time for me? Subconscious or spoken, these are real concerns even when little girls are re-assured that they are blessings, that they are loved and wanted—which are foundational concepts of the quiverfull movement.

But how many daughters truly feel they are a blessing in their parents’ eyes? The desire for approval and blessing is often re-interpreted as pride, self-promotion, an opportunity to learn humility. Only the Lord knows the heart. But I suspect that in most cases of my quiverfull daughter-sisters, confusion rises and souls ache as they seek resolution within this place of sorrow. It is rare-to-never that I have met genuine, sincere women who seem at risk for debilitating pride-versus-parental approval issues; most beseech the Lord daily for forgiveness and mercy regarding sin, and often behold the mistakes in their lives to be way worse than they actually are. To take these tender longings and ascribe selfish aspirations is to trample delicate, precious hearts yearning for something essential to health and growth—and in turn, to trample Christ.

The confusing 'God'

All women need these things from parents. Regardless of family size, each child requires unconditional love bestowed in their own one-of-a-kind language, tailored specifically to personality, needs, perceptions. What makes this unique within large families is sheer logistics. Parents become overwhelmed and controlling; the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few. As my father told me, he didn't have time to "sugar-coat" things just so my feelings wouldn't get hurt. I love him deeply, and know the stress and burdens that raising a large family in this world places on a parent who wants to do what's right. But when daughters feel they are a blessing only when they produce "correct" behavior, agree with their parents, and perform as they require or demand, how can they understand the love, grace, and mercy of God?

A child’s first inkling of God is instilled in the form of her parents. Daughters tenderly nurtured generally see God as tender and nurturing. But this bears grave ramifications for women raised with distant or abusive parents, who controlled through fear, thought-reform, or other performance-based methods. The God revealed through daily synergy often looks more concerned with behavior than heart, with principles than person-hood. He is never satisfied; we are never good enough in his eyes.

As we mature, it's extremely difficult to heal this little-girl view of life, family, and God. It remains rooted in the core of our existence. This core develops protective shields around hurts and pain, trapping the inner child in darkness and embedding lies into the nucleus of our being. Our feelings, our wrong beliefs, remain hidden, stuck—therefore uncorrected and unhealed—upon the old way. As the Holy Spirit woos us, longing for us to know the true God, old messages fight against His voice, for it is quiet, and tender, and beckons us to rest—significant contrast to the god we discovered in our youth!

As a result, many quiverfull daughters remain exhausted. A lifetime of doing and trying wears upon the body and soul. Within this battle, we are left with bruises so complex and confusing that it seems easier to bury them away and pretend they aren’t real; worse, that they don’t matter. May I whisper to you that they do matter? The wounds you enshroud, the hidden longings of your heart are all dear and precious in the sight of God. Your feelings, your thoughts, your dreams, your tears, and your struggles all bear significance. If you were to replace the lies within with this truth, what difference would it make in your life? 

Our Father God demonstrated His own blessing and approval to Jesus, even before the Lord began His ministry on earth. In the example of God we see what should be in our relationships, in our families. Please understand that my purpose is not to crucify parents for our upbringing and training, or to place blame, or glorify mistakes of others. We are all tainted by the fall. However, in order to heal we must acknowledge the very real wounds caused by sinful beings and expose the roots of pain we suffer. When we allow the love and light of God to infuse our beings, He can correct our wrong views and replace them with Truth. This is how we are made whole. This is how we bought back to life.

Reflection

What impact does this statement have on your heart?

"This is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased."


Pause and let this settle into your spirit. Beyond the words, reflect upon the message of this declaration. Have you ever heard your parents speak these words, or communicate this to you? How would you feel if you heard it now? What would it mean to you?

What if you hear, instead, "This is my beloved daughter, but . . ."

Parents, in humility I ask, which message do you send your children?

(a portion of this is adapted from Quivering Daughters)

Feel free to leave a comment, anonymously if you wish, about the impact of these statements.

__________________________

I wholeheartedly recommend "Tired of Trying to Measure Up" by Jeff VanVonderen to my quiverfull daughter-sisters. I read this book 3 times in a row and filled my copy with dozens of notes. Mr. VanVonderen adroitly pinpoints precise issues pertaining to spiritual exhaustion, lack of feeling "good enough" and lack of approval. It remains one of my favorite books, and one which influenced me the most in a reading-journey to healing

Product description:
Are you always trying hard, but feel like it's never good enough? Tired of Trying to Measure Up is written for Christians who live under a deeply ingrained code of expectations and rules that shame them and drain them of spiritual strength. Do you wonder: * Why do I feel so guilty? * Why is it so hard to rest, even when I know I need to? * Why does my religious activity leave me unfulfilled? * Where's the "abundant life" God promised? If these questions sound familiar, this book is for you. It won't teach you how to change your behavior or try harder. If trying hard was the key to the victorious Christian life, you'd probably be in the hall of fame by now, don't you think? This is a message to help you unmask the lies that keep you on the works treadmill and to help you discover the liberation of the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ and the rest that comes through the cross. When there's more emphasis on doing right than knowing God and His grace, this book points the way to freedom.

4 comments:

  1. Wow. What a powerful post. Having been on the daughter side (oldest of 7) and now the mother side (mother of 8), I can relate to BOTH sides. I am afraid that I am guilty of reading "too much" into things, though I try to give my kids their space. They are welcome to share with me if they want to, but it's ok if they don't. I can attest to the fact that it's really hard to let them grow into their own individual selves, but it's necessary.

    Maybe it's music that they like, and I read way into it, when really it has a great guitar solo or chord progression or whatever...I think "Oh no! My child is trying to tell me he/she is depressed/angry!" and they just like the band because it's fun. Or a facebook status. It is a daily/hourly/moment by moment struggle not to read negative motive into things. I wish that I could just be fun.

    I live the struggle of trying to love each child for who they are and not what they do. To have time for them. To see them as individuals. To hurt because I am a part of their brokenness and their redemptive story. To love unconditionally. To ask forgiveness. To feel nothing but gratefulness for the body of Christ who comes alongside of us in a healthy way to help us bear the load. We cannot do it alone. It is a lie to think that we can.

    Just my humble thoughts. It is tough to be working through daughter stuff when you are ALSO the mom ;-) One thing that it does is helps me to give my parents more grace, as I walk in those uncomfortable shoes.

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  2. I never could understand why one of my authorities always wanted to read my journals. And why they always assumed that I was complaining about them in it. I wasn't. I always thought that was really weird. But it did wind up keeping me from being totally honest in what I wrote. It was another layer of protection - I knew I wasn't really allowed to feel anything negative on those pages unless those negative feelings were resolved.

    Thankfully, my authorities never read them. I have heard of parents being told by their pastor that they needed to read their children's private journals in order to know what they were thinking. That is a total abuse of privacy.

    Thanks for being so transparent here, Hillary! You are right. We daughters (and sons) do need our parents approval. We need them to be proud of us. My parents have done that for me in many areas. I am so grateful!

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  3. Wow! You have a deep on line journaling place here. This will take some time to digest.

    I do hear you. I do. I'm not at the same path which you are on, at present. But I do so hear you. I hear "RULES" and it makes me be so glad to have found the strength to have broken free. To have given myself permission, to have done so.

    I'll come back, with more time. To read more here...

    Meanwhile...

    Gentle hugs to you,
    Aunt Amelia

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  4. Still my all-time favorite.
    SO real, and touching, and tender..

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