Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 1: Sincerity

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 1: Sincerity December 3, 2010

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
by Vyckie

Stacey McDonald, author of “Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters,” has set up a new website devoted to responding to Hillary McFarland’s “Quivering Daughters” book and website.

As one who embraced the idea of trusting the Lord with my family planning and devoted myself to raising up polished “arrows” fit for the Lord’s service ~ “Raising Maidens of Virtue” was a much-referenced book in my large collection of “biblical family” materials. I loved the title. The words “Feminine Loveliness” filled my imagination with visions of my five lovely daughters whom I wanted above all to be wholesome, carefree, healthy-minded, devoted, steadfast, and full of joy ~ secure in my love and in the love of the Lord.

The reason I was so enamored of Stacey’s writings is because, like Stacey, I had experienced a less-than-ideal childhood ~ a broken family, abuse, insecurity ~ and I wanted to spare my own children as much of that sort of pain as possible. I believe that’s the motivation for the majority of parents ~ and especially Christian parents who adopt the Quiverfull ideals ~ homeschooling, courtship, sheltering children, stay-at-home daughters, etc.

On her Steadfast Daughters site, Stacey shares some very painful memories of her own agonizing childhood ~ reading her account, my heart went out to Stacey. All those feelings of intensely desiring to protect my children from all the hurt, the uncertainty, the cruelty and the indifference of “this world” ~ my determination that things would be different for me and my children overwhelmed me and for a moment, I was back in my old Quiverfull reality.

So I will admit to feeling nostalgic and surprisingly sympathetic to the mother’s-heart senitment which I read on the Steadfast Daughters website. I believe Stacey and the other SD contributors when they repeatedly claim to love the Lord and their children ~ I believe as parents, they have the best of intentions ~ they are intelligent, kind-hearted, caring Christians who only desire to give their ALL for the sake of bringing up a quiver full of children for the glory of the Lord.

I think Hillary ~ whose Quivering Daughters outreach is proving to be a considerable challenge, bringing much-needed balance and perspective to the “Virtuous Daughters” ideal ~ would agree that Quiverfull mothers such as Stacey have noble motives. They certainly have not chosen these incredibly grand ideas and the demanding lifestyle for the sake of their own convenience or from lazy, ignorant, or selfish hearts. They’re not doing it because it’s fun ~ or because it is their first preference or only alternative. These moms are sincerely convinced that they are doing the Lord’s absolute best for their families. Hillary understands and recognizes that QF parents do love their children ~ and for that reason, the tone of her book is incredibly gentle and her accounts of abuse are often understated.

It’s a dilemma which all survivors wrestle with when we write about mental, emotional, and spritual abuse ~ certainly we want to expose the harm in order to warn others and provide refuge for those who are seeking support and comfort ~ but at the same time, we do not want to lash out in bitterness and anger against those who, despite our hurt and suffering, we know to be good people at heart.

That’s why most of the NLQ guest writers share their stories using a pseudonym ~ they leave out identifying details ~ they desire to protect the identity of their family. Quivering Daughters walk a fine line between honoring parents and telling the truth about their experience of the QF/P family life.

One theme which pervades the Steadfast Daughters website could be summarized this way:

We, your parents, mean well. We love God and we love our children. We strive to do our very best ~ but we are not perfect ~ sometimes we mess up and we unintentionally hurt our children. Please don’t let our mistakes lead you to bitterness and hatred ~ hold fast to the Lord ~ forgive and forebear.

What makes the Quiverfull teachings especially pernicious is the unlikely, but unmistakable combination of very good intentions and really, really bad ideas.

Since “waking up” from the Quiverfull dream world ~ I’ve spent a lot of time and brain power puzzling over this: Sincerity and good intentions should count for something.

How many times as a fundamentalist Believer did I hear a preacher or teacher say, “It’s possible to be sincerely wrong!!”?

I do not want that to be true.

Of all the teachings which I no longer believe ~ this is the one I’d most like to be a complete and total lie.

I haven’t been on speaking terms with God for quite a while ~ but if I were to have a conversation with The Big Guy ~ here’s the very first thing I’d like to know: How is it that my whole-hearted sincerity was not sufficient to protect me from horrible deception and from harming myself and my family? I mean, the Lord supposedly knows my heart ~ He knew that I was willing to do WHATEVER ~ even to the point of nearly losing my life ~ so why didn’t He honor my devotion by steering me clear of the craziness? Instead, I was absolutely certain that the Lord was leading our family to follow “the old paths” ~ Quiverfull was not my idea! Warren & I were finished ~ he had a vasectomy and we were DONE! But, God … He is the One who revealed these truths to me ~ and, “though He slay me” ~ I trusted in Him.

In my journey toward healing and wholeness, I’ve had to face some hard facts ~ and this one for me is the hardest of all ~ and yet, it’s inescapably true: Sincerity and good intentions do not make right.


Consider the mothers at Jonestown ~ do you honestly believe that none of those moms who put the cups filled with deadly Kool-aid to their babies’ lips actually loved their children? The effectiveness of the cyanide was in no way correlated to the motivations of Mommy’s heart.

With all my heart, I wish that our love, our sincerity, our intelligence, our diligence, our sold-out dedication, our blood, sweat and tears could somehow guarantee protection and justice for our children. Reality tells me ~ it isn’t so.

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the NLQ forum here ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World:

"Huh. It felt a bit more like brother in law went “Hannibal Lector” on me, ..."

Jesus Wants You to Set a ..."
"Anyhow, my husband’s brother, the one Christian started commenting on one of the Christmas songs, ..."

Jesus Wants You to Set a ..."
"They may believe that they believe, but "You will be able to tell them by ..."

Quiverfull Marriage is a Toxic Mess
"Once a year I want to do a fancy dinner, at Thanksgiving. I pulled out ..."

Jesus Wants You to Set a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Didi K.

    Vyckie – this is why I love you. *smile* you are so…. gracious without losing any of the poignant honesty. bravo.

    BTW, i was asking God that very question about you yesterday “Lord, if Vyckie was seeking you with her whole heart – like she thought she was – how did all of the crap happen?” and i was thinking about how limiting christians can be sometimes, the whole “if you were really a christian XYZ crap.” and obviously i am not God, and don’t know the future or all of the plans He has, but i had this thought (and i don’t mean to be offensive when i say it…) maybe in the long run He IS leading and guiding and protecting your family by getting you OUT of the lies (at least those lies in QF) and by no longer being under tyrrany and man-made rules and legalism your kids will someday be able to see a God who is loving and merciful and kind and not a God of rules and regulations and such.

    i do not want to be offensive or hurtful… but… I really believe in my heart of hearts Ms. V that one day He will open your heart back up to Him – not to all of the crap you were fed, maybe not even to any form of fundamental thinking – but to Him. That you will be able to see His love for you and not see Him as the one who caused all of this.

    I don’t know the answers in the slightest. I am going through questioning and doubting everyday, but I keep having to remind myself that I am not questioning and doubting God, but who I have been told He is. What I have been told He is like.

    *shrugs* I think about you everyday, and I do so respect you. :-]

  • Didi K.

    i also had the wrong email addy in the last reply – this is right 🙂

  • nikita

    Well said, Vyckie.

    I think this is one of the hardest parts of life for me – you’re born, you’re a kid, you grow up and start living your life the very best way you can and with all sincerity choose a path and way of being in the world, whatever it is. Then you have kids and suddenly it’s not just your life any more. Where does your life and desire for your own path end and your kids’ begin? How do you choose the hard way without dragging your kids along with you through the hard way too, without their advice or consent? It was at that juncture when I realized it wasn’t just my life any more, that it was theirs and that I was in danger of really messing theirs up that clarity came for me. But before that, I was totally that Jonestown mom, kool-aid and all. I loved my kids with all my heart and wanted what was best for them, but the enormity of it, of the responsibility, really punctured the cultic haze I was in. It wasn’t just my life any more, there were these children… When I saw that movie Mosquito Coast my heart fell to the floor – it hit way too close to home for me, and the destructive single-mindedness in that movie wasn’t even a religious one.

    As for God, I still believe and love Him. I think He gives us so much free will that we do get ourselves into things sometimes but He also gives us the grace to get out of them too. I think He got you out, as He did the rest of us. And that He honors the sincerity even if we do get off track, whatever that track happens to be. I certainly am not the judge of what anyone else’s track should be. I do think though that regardless of your belief or lack of belief, you have a great ministry here. It probably doesn’t fit the idea of ‘ministry’ that fundamentalism (or most religious types) would have for it, but it is for all practical purposes just that. You don’t have to be a believer of anything religious to have a calling.

    Really looking forward to this series. 🙂

  • nikita

    Oh, and when I say He got you out, that’s from my own perspective as a believer. I in no way think that you think that or that you should think that. I know you are coming from a different place and that’s cool. I totally respect the place you are in. I hope that is clear, but if it’s not, then I hope it’s clearer now. Or something. Words are not my friends today. 🙁

  • Didi & Nikita ~ thank you so much for your encouraging words. Please do not worry that I will be offended by the “God talk” ~ I am no longer a Believer ~ but I am certainly not antagonstic toward those who have managed to survive spiritual abuse with their faith intact. In fact, I admire you ~ and sometimes, I envy you because I do know that a strong faith can be extremely comforting and motivating ~ and I definitely do feel the that loss very profoundly at times. 🙁

  • Jennifer

    Oh Vyckie, I do wish I were more well-spoken. Maybe someone will read what I’m about to very quickly write (B4 picking up K child from school)…and will expand on it more articulately.

    Vyckie, the “Quiverfull Dream World” is thick and powerful and compelling and ever-deepening and once you’re sucked in, it’s SO HARD to pull your mind back and think rationally again!


    When you wonder, ” why didn’t He honor my devotion by steering me clear of the craziness? ”

    the first thing that pops in MY mind is,

    Because YOU had to go all the way INTO the craziness in order to break OUT of the craziness–and I’m not done yet–because someone like YOU (do you have ANY IDEA how well-written and well-spoken you are????????) was needed to help break OTHERS out of the craziness!

    I’ve said it elsewhere–if YOU hadn’t gone ALL THE F’-in’ WAY into the craziness, I personally would never have listened to you, and I might still be in the craziness myself. With my family. I keep picturing Moses when I think of you. You were like the prince of Egypt, sorta. I mean, you were like a Queen of the Crazy Quiverfull Dream. When the Queen goes all the way in, rises all the way to the top, and then GETS THE HELL OUTTA THERE…that makes you a Moses figure, methinks. Am I making any sense at all? I don’t know.

    If God led you that far, so that you could ultimately break your family free and BREAK LOTS OF OTHER FAMILIES FREE (or even a few families)–then I kinda thank God for that. I really do. At the same time, I hurt for you.

    Vyckie, you are appreciated.

  • Vicki,

    I feel a kindred spirit with you and identify with your journey in so many ways. Like you, I embraced QF. The mother of 8 arrows (plus 3 in heaven), I twisted myself into a pretzel attempting to submit to my husband in everything. The whole thing was a yoke too heavy to bear so I too dumped what I consider the deadly aspects of my theology (in my case, retaining the faith and the husband- who changed in important ways which made our marriage tolerable for me),

    Based on some rhetoric elsewhere, I really expected the SteadfastDaughters site to be finger wagging judgmental and legalistic, but it’s not and when they speak of their difficult childhoods, recovery from bitterness, difficult marriage etc., I find myself a kindred spirit with Stacy, James, and Abigail. To hear your understanding of their motives is VERY encouraging!

    May a respectful dialogue continue.

  • Kristen

    Oh Vyckie, though I was not in QF, I was in another fundamentalist cult and I also have asked God, “How could You let me be so led astray?” What I finally settled on, for myself, is that it doesn’t work the way some Christians teach– God is not a control-freak, painstakingly making sure those who trust Him are constantly led by the nose away from every danger, or giving us formulas to follow to guarantee results. Whatever being “led by the Spirit” is, it’s not that. I see God as One who Self-limits, purposely not hyper-controlling us but letting us be full adults who make mistakes and experience cause and effect. I think the sovereign God has also given “sovereignty” to humans, in the same way that one nation respects the sovereignty of another nation to govern its own affairs within its own boundaries. God respects boundaries. God is not dysfunctional or co-dependent, or power-driven. And the result is what you said– sincerity and good intentions do not make right. But the only way we can tell if the tree is good is by testing its fruit, and some of us taste more deeply of some trees than of others. You avoided name-it-and-claim it Christianity, and I didn’t. I avoided Quiverfull, and you didn’t. Both of us are still on our journeys. I believe all will be well for both of us in the end.

    Ephesians 4:13-14 does say that until we all attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, we are still able to be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunningness and craftiness of men.” God never promised that we would never be led astray in this world, but only, one day, to bring us home safe.

  • Thankful

    Sincerity and good intentions do not make right. This is such a key concept. Just because we want it to be right, doesn’t mean that it is.

    The Quiverful movement has bothered me for years because it always seemed based on assumptions and fear more than knowledge and love. I also noted that some of the strongest voices were people who seemed guilty, trying to somehow lesson a difficult past by how they run their family. And I’ve never liked the focus on a system — if you do things this way you’ll be happy and whole and X and Y.

    I can’t count the times that I’ve read and heard Quiverful people say — “I am raising my children this way because I don’t want them to be like I was when I was a teen/young adult.” Is that really healthy? I don’t think so. Those of us who are raising our children in any religious/non-religious home should be making our choices on the basis of what is right in a particular situation, not because we are caught in making up for the past. Hopefully my past makes me a wiser parent, but I shouldn’t feel like I have a debt to pay with my children because of that.

    And I just don’t get running your life as a system. I don’t think the Bible teaches that, and certainly anyone who is honest about life knows that sometimes babies have to be fed more than every three hours, that sometimes teens get rebelious in even the most loving of homes, and that sometimes wives and husbands are just plain cranky and awful to be around. A system may help sometimes, but sometimes you just have to make it up as you go. There are some lovely children that come from single parent homes, families where the Mom needs to work, families where the Dad is “not” the patriarch because of absences, health, or whatever. Really!


    Thank god some bloggers can write. My thanks for this writing!!!