My Book

 
 My book has been edited.   Some of you may recall that I posted this  back in 2007 on my old blog. I had originally wrote it as 3rd person. The editor changed that part of it. 

Names have been changed for Privacy reasons.

SUMMARY:

This is a story of two very different families and how the Light of Jesus overflowed from one to the other. It is also a story about feeling rejected and very alone, when one family decided to end the friendship with the other. Time heals all wounds though, or so they say…..

“Toxic Friendship, Abundant Blessing”

By: ShellyC

Copyright © 2007 ShellyC

Chapter 1 The Model of a Christian Woman

I have always been known as a free spirit, an extrovert; I see life as an adventure. I made friends very easily and always attracted all different kinds of people. That was before I became a Christian, though. Something happened to me which no one saw coming, not even me.
One morning while at church, I met Cecilia, Cecilia was everything that I desired in my heart to be. Cecilia was very Christ-like and obviously very well discipled. She seemed to me to be the model of a Christian woman. Cecilia had it all in my eyes; a great marriage and many loving and obedient children who loved serving the Lord just as much as their mom and dad did. Cecilia was modest beyond words and perfect in speech too! She never appeared to need to raise her voice to get anyone to hear her. People listened when she spoke. She also had a meek and quiet spirit about everything, even if she disagreed with something. She seemed so pure and fresh, the kind of woman who never felt out of place. However, I never really knew what Cecilia thought of me, until the friendship fizzled out.
We only knew each other for two years. I did not realize it at the time, but Cecilia was silently teaching me many things about being a faithful servant for the Lord. I felt like I was clueless about so many things because I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home. The only religious instruction I ever got growing up, was an occasional word from one of my aunts. I really had no clue what having a real relationship with Christ was all about. I had actually hated religion with a passion for many years. It seemed so meaningless and mundane to me. My husband was the first one to ever clearly explain the bible to me and I got saved at twenty-three years of age.
I was curious on so many levels about everything that came out of Cecilia’s mouth, but to my dismay she never shared very much detail. This bothered me in many ways, and actually kept me awake many nights wondering if Cecilia had some secret hidden past that she too, was ashamed of. She introduced me to the Quiverful movement and the belief that children are the Lords blessings from Psalms 127. I was very surprised that I was not barren and unfruitful, because I had lived so far from God for so many years. I decided the Lord had a plan for me later in my life.
I’m not even sure how many years Cecilia had been a Christian, but her life illuminated everything I thought “TRUE” Christianity stood for. Secretly, I was very intimidated by Cecilia when we were together, but I never let on how I felt to anyone, not even my husband. I just remained my bubbly self when we were together.
I remember the day that I first met Cecilia and her family. They just showed up one day at my Independent Fundamental New England church. It was about five Sundays later when I decided to introduce myself to this woman who seemed like a Christ-like vessel. I think I was intimidated by that first encounter. There was lots of talk within the church about this new family who seemed so different from the rest of the church members. I was all for different, because I had always been considered different. I was drawn to this family from the
get go and wanted to know everything about them.

Later on Cecilia confided to me that I was the only one who ever reached out to her family and tried to get to know them personally. Cecilia was not blind and deaf; she heard the whispers as her family walked in and out of the pews, she also felt the stares of the congregation as a whole. When she confided this to me, I felt extra special.

I was very drawn to this family and could not figure out why everyone else was not inviting them over to their homes. One look at Cecilia’s family and I knew that I wanted to know and learn everything about them. I wanted to transform my average family into something extra special, like Cecilia’s family.

I started out learning more about Cecilia and her family by extending a dinner invitation after church to them. I did not expect them to accept and was overjoyed when they did. From that day forward a whole chain of things took place between our families.

 

Chapter 2
 
 It was a beautiful vision of faith to me
 
 The night before my dinner engagement was a nervous one. I wanted everything to be extra perfect for my get together the following day. I stayed up praying that evening. Morning came and I felt more at ease. After church service Cecilia’s family followed my family home and for the next 4 hours we talked and joked as if we had been friends for years. I seemed to connect really well with Cecilia even though I had nothing much in common with her. Cecilia was ultra conservative, modest beyond words. She was a skirts only, tailored neckline type of woman. She never bared her arms, or wore color on her face or hair. She was prim and proper in every way. Her voice was soft spoken and delicate. She always wore a smile regardless of how she felt.
Cecilia’s children seemed delighted to be spending the afternoon playing with my two children. Occasionally they would come back around their mother and listen to her intently as she conversed with me. Cecilia appeared to have so much patience with all her children, always right on top of each of them with loving correction. At least this is how it appeared to me at the time.
Nothing got past Cecilia. She always had a smile on her face when disciplining her children. She knew how to discipline them with love, mercy and grace, or so seemed. I envied Cecilia so much. I felt guilty of envying anyone and later would ask the Lord for forgiveness. How could someone so average, like me, ever amount to anything extra special like Cecilia? I felt amazingly worthless.
Weeks passed, and I found out I was expecting a child. It would be my third. Cecilia also found out that she too was expecting, her tenth child. The church we both attended decided it would be lovely to throw us a baby shower together. I was ecstatic because I wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Cecilia.
I thought it was a great idea to bond with her in a baby shower atmosphere. Most of all, I wanted to learn parenting skills from her. Cecilia taught me different ways to do things. At the shower she taught me about goat’s milk, and the benefits it had for young ones. I enjoyed this baby shower more then any I had in the past and I received many sweet things for my new baby.

I remember asking Cecilia at the shower if she knew the sex of her baby. Cecilia told me that they choose to always to be surprised. I thought that was odd and later that day pulled Cecilia aside and asked her why she did not want to find out the sex of her child. It was then that I learned something new about Cecilia and her family. Cecilia gave birth to all her children in the privacy of her own bedroom, no medical assistants. Just her and her husband delivering their babies. I remember thinking to myself, some carpenter he was! I guess he really was a handy man!

Even having diabetes and not being in prime health, Cecilia trusted the Lord in everything, including the birth of her little ones. It was a beautiful vision of faith to me.

Both of our babies were due around the same time. There was something extra special about being pregnant at the same time as my new friend. I felt as if we would grow together, in a sisterhood sort of way.

Several more weeks passed after the baby shower. We got a call one day for an invitation to Cecilia’s house after church. I accepted, and left the phone literally screaming and jumping up and down, like a child who got invited to a birthday party!

Folks at church began noticing us chatting before and after each service. They began questioning me; probing me for details about Cecilia’s family. Ladies began asking me questions such as what Cecilia’s husband did for a living and why did they have so many children? The truth was, I really did not know much about Cecilia’s family. I just knew I was drawn to them like a magnet.

The Sunday lunch with Cecilia’s family came upon us quickly. My children were excited about having so many other children to play with for that afternoon. After church we followed Cecilia’s family over to their house, which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere.

It was actually a little over a hour away; the town only had a population of five-hundred, I later found out. We arrived at a very humble looking old white farm house with acres as far as the eye could see. Cecilia’s husband smiled and said there were 500 to be exact,. We came in and got settled, and shared a terrific lunch together.

I got to learn the ropes of being a great host and extending loving hospitality. Even my husband was having a great time, learning about turn of the century rifles and civil war guns that they no longer make. Cecilia’s husband collected old guns. My husband got to shoot his first gun that day; the old fashioned way, with gun powder.

Meanwhile, my children were having the time of their lives, playing out in the old barn; tea party, and dressing up in old pioneer costumes. They later all came inside and one of Cecilia’s older daughters played the piano..All the children sang a beautiful song to us. It was beautiful! I never witnessed anything so perfect. Cecilia’s children were well mannered, well dressed, and were so helpful to their parents. I found it so odd listening to them beg their mother to clean up and do the dishes.

Meanwhile, Cecilia’s husband started telling my husband and I the importance of having children play a musical instrument. At the time, I was taking notes in my head. I have never been very musically inclined and my children were not very interested in instruments. I remember wondering how I was going to change that.

Fellowship was sweet and fulfilling that afternoon, despite the lack of TV in their house, which I thought odd. I never knew anyone who did not have a TV set in their home. My family had a three of them at the time!

Regardless, fellowship had never been sweeter. It was probably the best my family had ever experienced and we were social butterflies within our church group. We always had dinner parties and get togethers with other families on a weekly basis, yet nothing like this kind of sweet fellowship. Something was very different with this family.I continued to make it my mission to find out what that was. I was definitely being affected.

Both of our families started to get together more and more frequently after that afternoon. Many things began to unravel right in front of my very own eyes….

 
Chapter 3
My Very Own Titus 2 Friend
 
 

 

 
I drew closer to Christ through my relationship with Cecilia; there was no doubt about it. The more time I spent with her, the more I opened my bible to see if all the things I was learning, matched up with the word of God.
I was learning so much from her. Some good things, and some things that really made me scratch my chin in dismay. I learned that if you were a real Christian, then you were to only home school your children. However, My church taught us that we could also send our children to a Christian school. That was acceptable too. This really confused me.
I also learned that certain colors were more acceptable for modest dress, and that the way you wore your hair, and the color of it, affected the way people perceived you. I learned that you should not speak unless spoken too, and depending on how many rhymes and rhythms were in a music song, determined if it was a REAL Christian song, worthy of listening too.
I learned that the medical field was not my friend. I was taught all things natural, and that God gave to us the seeds of the fields to use as medicine. Per (Genesis 1:29) I was taught that you should never leave your children alone with anyone without your, or your older children’s presence. The mother, father, or oldest sibling were to be with their younger siblings at all times. We, the parents, were also to be our children’s only teachers, per (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
The one thing that still stands out in my mind, was the story of the popcorn kernel, that Cecilia shared with me one evening. Evidently, one of Cecilia’s sons put a popcorn seed in his ear when he was three years old. The popcorn seed stayed in the ear until the boy was a teen and it worked its way out naturally. This is a story that one just does not forget easily. It sounded very strange to me at the time, but I guess if there was no pain in the child’s ear, so be it.

Cecilia had almost a dozen kids, I had only two, what did I know about parenting?

There was also the story of the crooked tooth. Evidently, if you feel that braces may be needed for one of your children, you can actually start slowly to push the tooth, or teeth in question each day, towards their rightful place, and sooner or later the teeth will fix themselves and become straight. No braces or medical treatment needed at all! In fact, several of Cecilia’s children fixed their own teeth in this manner.

I learned that everything is to be handled at home in a family environment, no outsiders were allowed into any private areas of your life. One of Cecilia’s sons broke an arm once, falling down the stairs, and he had to go to the hospital, but that was it. The boy was never left alone while at the hospital either, not even once. The family stayed with him at all times.

Other than this one occasion, none of Cecilia’s perfect children had ever been to a doctor’s office. I was amazed, and still am to this day, thinking of the dozen times each year that my children have to go to the doctor’s office. Stomachaches, ear infections, UTI’s, fevers, and the like. Why was it that God saw fit to bless Cecilia in all areas of her life, but not me?

What was I doing so wrong? Was there a sin that I had forgotten to confess?

These are just a few of the many questions that I would start asking myself throughout the coming months.

That all said, I made it a point to not judge this family’s ways. I yearned to learn more from them with each visit we had with one another.

I was intrigued by all the Faith that my new friend shared with me. For the first time in my life, I was inspired! Inspired to do the right thing, in all areas of my life. For a time, I was living with blinders on, it was becoming very clear as days passed, the blinders were coming off, or were they? Was this all an illusion? Was I becoming closer to Christ?

I began dropping to my knees each night, praying asking God to show me the truth. Convict me in ways like never before! I began asking God to spiritually clean my home from head to toe, as well as every area in my life. I too, wanted to become fruitful, and have God bless my life with the most excellent marriage and a quiverful of sweet adoring children.

With so much going on in my new life; a life of searching for truth, love and acceptance, some other things started to arise. Some very sad things, that I wish I could undo nowadays.

My current friends would call me, asking me to go here or there, but I was just too consumed with Cecilia and her family to entertain my old friends anymore. I began to decline all the invitations to go to scrapbook parties, or out to the mall shopping.

I wanted to leave my date book open, in case Cecilia would call me for a last minute get together. Soon my friends stopped calling me altogether. I would occasionally get together with them, but when I would casually bring up natural home remedies or modesty issues to them, they would look at me weird and change the subject. I began to feel unaccepted by them, and begin to cling more and more on my new friendship, a friendship that I hoped would last forever. I wanted so badly to have a sister growing up. Cecilia was filling that void in me.

I grew up having no sisters at home and only had one female cousin that was considerably younger than me, so I really felt that I had no real sisterhood in my life.

My husband also began bonding with Cecilia’s husband and this made me very happy to witness. My husband grew up in a big family with many brothers, but was never close to any of them. I guess large families do not always guarantee close family ties, once you all reach adulthood.

I wanted to make things different for my own children, and felt that by having my children around Cecilia’s ‘model’ children, things would all fall into place. Cecilia’s children were the perfect role models for my children. They all became fast friends. I was very happy about this. After all, who needs a dozen friends? By now, our families were getting together every few days and I was super excited to finally have someone in my life to be a good role model to me. My very own Titus 2 friend! It felt so good!!!

As the old saying goes, The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Many days would pass, and I started feeling a sense of loss, and uncertainty, but could not figure out what it was. There were certain things that I was silently questioning myself. Like, “Why would having a Cabbage Patch doll in ones home cause a mother to have a miscarriage”? And, “Why was it that, if you had any of those 1980’s troll dolls in your home, it meant that Satan was presently active, and you would become barren”?

These things that Cecilia would sometimes mention to me during our frequent visits, seemed a bit crazy, to say the least, but I had no plans of ever questioning Miss. Perfect.

Time would soon be unraveling itself, I just had to patient…

 

Chaper 4

Everything Was So Confusing to Me Now

Getting back to the Cabbage Doll story. Let me explain. In the eighties, a very well known Evangelist that Cecilia’s family was personally taught under, taught that Cabbage Patch Dolls were causing strange and destructive behaviors in children. They could only be alleviated when the dolls were removed from the household, or better yet, destroyed completely!

There were some reports claiming… ladies were miscarrying while having these dolls in their homes. It was explained to me that when you got a Cabbage Patch Doll, they come with birth certificates and user agreement for you to sign. You were signing that you would LOVE the doll, and that was a violation of the First Commandment.

Hearing all this made me think about my own Cabbage patch doll, Laura Lee. I’d had it for years, and hated the thought of having to part from it. It was one of the only things that I had left that my Grandmother had given me as a child. I spent many days thinking about this. I had two healthy children already and the doll was packed away in the basement. Maybe it would be OK, I thought to myself. I could just dig up the user agreement that I remembered signing almost 20 years before, and burn it. I did not mention any of this to Cecilia.

Concerning the 1980’s Troll Dolls-

I remembered having collected these trolls as a child. I also remember having repeated nightmares about them, so was very interested on what Cecilia had to say about them… Evidently, trolls lead to difficulties in conceiving, and giving birth to a child. If you happen to have a troll doll in your home during the time of conception, you will have a very hard labor, or not get pregnant at all! I thought about this immensely. I did not know of any troll dolls in my home. I guess it was a good thing too.

That said, the following weekend, we went to some yard sales and one of my daughters stumbled on a toy troll doll at the bottom of a box. It had lime green hair, and was attached to a pen. She asked me if she could have a quarter to buy it, and I rather abruptly said, “No Way”! Whether these things have any biblical foundation though, was yet to be determined.

It seemed like every time I opened my mouth in front of Cecilia, I said the wrong thing and got so embarrassed. I started once again feeling so inadequate around her. I began missing the days when I could just be myself with my old friends, who accepted me as I was.

Our conversations were never boring. One day I brought up the topic of adoption with Cecilia. I mentioned that my husband and I might adopt from a foreign country. That it was something we were praying about. It was during a casual conversation, but as soon as I mentioned it, I saw Cecilia’s eyes grow big, while her hand went up to her mouth in a Gasp!

I remember instantly regretting my words, wishing that I could take them back. What did I say? I thought to myself. Cecilia took her hand off her mouth and asked me point blank, “Why would you ever want to adopt a child”? That obviously, I was fully capable of having children.

I told Cecilia that it was just the thought of giving a child who did not have a place to call home, a real loving chance. Cecilia then explained to me that adopted children are affected by the sins of their natural parents; their forefathers. The bible clearly teaches this, she told me. I needed to be careful because these sins are usually very severe, and that if my husband and I were to adopt, The Lord would strike our family like never before! Cecilia shared Jeremiah 14:20 and Exodus 20:5 with me, to back these claims up.

I did not know the bible the way Cecilia did. I really thought Cecilia knew what she was talking about. I later told my husband about all this, and he laughed once more. I was beginning to feel more and more insecure about everything in my life, including myself. Several days passed and I invited Cecilia over again while our husbands were at work.

For me, our conversations seemed to be one long Christian college course. On this occasion our conversation turned to female issues, and I mentioned the *T* word to Cecilia. (Tampon) I never thought that a simple question about brand names of Tampons would lead to such an intense discussion on sex; but it did. You see, sex between a married Christian couple had many, many biblical restrictions. I had no idea about any of these things.

For example, couples were to abstain from SEX:

1. During the wife’s menstrual cycle.
2. Seven days after the cycle.
3. 40 days after the birth of a son.
4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter.
5. The evening before worship.

I had heard about number one before, from a church service, but I had no idea about the other four restrictions. Cecilia then shared scripture to back all this up, as always. Isaiah 53:4-5 to be exact.

I was also told that the use of tampons was a sin. In fact, anything foreign was never to be inserted into a ladies private area. She shared that our husbands should be the ones to keep track of their wives menstrual cycle each month. Using it as a reminder of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.

Everything was so confusing to me now. I wanted to lock myself up in the bathroom and scream!

As I prayed later that evening, I felt more frustrated then ever. About everything. I looked up to Cecilia so much, and admired her dearly. I was mad at myself for being so emotional. I should have been more grateful that Cecilia was taking the time to teach me so much about the bible. In my mind, I thought Cecilia was everything a Titus 2 woman should be. I would soon find myself feeling so guilty for even questioning Cecilia’s teachings and asked the Lord to forgive me.

October came, and we both gave birth. I had a son, and Cecilia had another daughter. I had a hospital birth and Cecilia had another daughter in the privacy of her own bedroom, having her wonderfully perfect husband deliver yet another, “perfect child”.

We talked on the phone briefly during the time of recovery from our births. I shared the details of my birth at the hospital with her, and she shared about her pain-free candle-lit bedroom birth. I wanted so badly to be happy that she had such a perfect birth. But deep down, I was resenting the fact that her birth was so perfect.

While she was being served freshly cooked whole foods from her husband and children, I was ringing the bell a dozen times trying to get some cheese and crackers after my very painful hospital birth! It just didn’t seem fair to me.  I remember Cecilia asking me, “Didn’t you take that special tea that I gave you”?

I told her, “YES! I took all of it”, and my labor was still very painful. I felt like a utter failure once more.

During this time I learned one more thing. I learned that having a Cesarean birth was a big time sin. Not that I ever had one, but I wanted to hear the details about this. I had known so many ladies that had them.

I asked why it was a sin, and was told that it simply was not the Lord’s way. I was told that children born in this manner would not properly receive the Lord’s blessings in later life, if the mother had a cesarean birth. Cecilia said, The Lord opens the womb when it is time, and releases his children in like manner, and the medical field was against God’s ways, and each time they insisted on a lady to have a Cesarean, they were taking the Lord’s future blessings from generations to come. This made me cry so much, as I thought about everyone I knew that had Cesarean births. Was this really true?

I had so much more to learn. I felt like I was invisible to everyone – everyone, except Cecilia. And if I thought my ship, that I called life, was about to remain on shore, I was sadly mistaken, because the waves were about ready to rock….

Chaper 5

A Leap of Faith

Our family was planning an out of state move soon. My husband had been praying about our life up North. For him, everything seemed mundane, so he started praying that if the Lord had more for us, he would have to shake things up a bit. For me, I felt that everything had already been shaken up enough.

As always, the Lord answered my husband’s prayer almost instantly. The job that he thought he was going to have until retirement became very stressful for him. When folks at work found out that he was a believer, they started playing little tricks on him. One day my husband went to work and there were tiny tacks all over his desk chair. Another time, someone complained about my husband’s Christian screen-saver on his monitor, yet another time, he got written up for listening to Christian music in his office. It was time to move on, my husband told me.

We stepped out in a leap of faith, and placed our house on the market. It was sold within three days and we had 30 days to be out.

I spent weeks trying to convince Cecilia and her family to move down South with us, but Cecilia assured me that they would visit frequently. They were not in a position to move right now.

Having turned my womb over to the Lord, I had just given birth once again. I had become pregnant when my son was only 12 weeks old. I had another daughter this time, and was very emotional and confused. I was tired and cranky all the time it seemed. I had no idea who I was anymore. I felt as if I was just going through the motions of my life.

We told our church of the past four years that we were planning a move soon. The congregation was very negative towards this news. Everyone had something negative to say to me, and there was no one offering to help my family with any of the details either. No one except Cecilia’s family, that is. They were there for us, right up until the end.

Cecilia’s family seemed to be the only ones that cared in my sleep deprived puffy eyes. One day, Cecilia showed up unexpectedly at my house while my husband was at work. She insisted that I go take a long hot shower and nap while she watched my four kids, as well has her own ten. I was so thankful.

The house remained so peaceful and silent too. I remember lying in bed not hearing a single word, wondering how she managed to keep fourteen children so quiet. I barely was able to manage keeping my four children entertained and quiet. My children were 8yrs, 6yrs, 16 months, and 4 months old at the time.

I awoke a few hours later to feed my little one, and to my surprise, during the time I was sleeping, Cecilia managed to clean the whole house and order pizzas for supper. She was such a GEM! She was super mom, super friend, super everything!!! It was genuine love. Real sisterhood friendship, something I spent many years craving for.

Cecilia’s family continued to come over every night to help us pack. She spent many hours helping me go through our basement, which was filled with years of shopping sprees.

Looking back, I would not have been able to do it on my own. My husband worked till evening hours, and when he got home, he was too tired to help with anything. I was responsible to get it all taken care of, and now with 4 children in tow, it was sucking the life out of me. I had no family in the state that we lived, and now, the only friendship that I had, was Cecilia, and now we were going to be moving soon to a state where neither one of us knew a soul. I just had to stay focused. I had to trust God, and know that he would make it all turn out right.

Feeling physically and emotionally drained, having turned my womb over to the Lord, I began waiting for the Lord’s blessings to come pouring down on my life. I still very much wanted what Cecilia had!

My life went from a smooth sailing lifestyle, dressing my two kids in designer clothing to now having double the workload; All in less than 2 years.

Although it was hard, I was convinced that I was getting closer to what Cecilia had. I too, would start getting blessed, and would earn God’s love and favor! Maybe I would never be “just” like Cecilia, but at least I was going in the right direction now, or so I thought…

That said, some nights I would lay awake in bed thinking about my old friends. I had one very close friend Margaret, who used to be there for me, but she had recently gone back into the work force and was just too busy to check in with me anymore. I had two other friends who I used to go here and there with, but once I started focusing on having more children and staying home, these friends began inviting other ladies to go out, for those girl’s night out evenings. I felt so out of the loop, and began to fall into a deep depression.

One day while chatting with Cecilia on the phone, I asked her if she had very many friends. Cecilia said that she had friends in nearly every state. Man, I envied this! Was there not one negative area in Cecilia’s life? Evidently not! She was obviously loved by many, and a saint too!

She once mentioned this family called, “The Duggers”. They had a TV program called, “14 Children and Pregnant Again.” I had actually seen this program before, I told her, and was amazed that Cecilia knew them personally. They first met at a seminar in Texas one year, she told me. Cecilia’s family did a lot of traveling, and knew many Quiverfull families. They would spend certain weeks throughout the year traveling from state to state fellow-shipping with other like-minded families. How cool is that!

Massive amounts of envy started filling my heart once more; I was only human! As I listened to Cecilia tell me all these stories about their road trips, I began to recall the certain weeks in the past couple years that I hadn’t been able to reach Cecilia by phone. I did not understand why she didn’t mention these road trips to me before now. It upset me, and made me sad. I shared everything with her! She was my confidante, my personal Titus 2 friend.

On another occasion I asked Cecilia if her family had ever got together with anyone else from our church. After all, it had been well over a year now, and surely out of two hundred church members, they had to have gotten together with some of the other families too.

Cecilia told me that they were not like the other church members. That once our family moved away, they were going to stop going to our church all together. I found that odd at the time. I asked if they had another church that they planned to attend. She said no. She did mention that all their other friends, in all the other states, home churched, all except one family in Pennsylvania that they visited.

There was a very nice church in Pennsylvania that they visited the previous year with some friends. It was very exclusive Cecilia told me. I began wondering what made the church so exclusive. Cecilia then explained to me, that in order to become a member, you had to home school your children, and be of like manner.

The church was very Titus 2, she said. I asked what she meant exactly…. Cecilia shared that the ladies were not allowed to work outside their homes. That this went against scripture and would lead to a family being shunned out of the congregation had anyone disobeyed. They were also agreeing to let the Lord plan their family size. The members agreed to be Quiverfull. If you agreed to these few things, you were entitled membership.

I remained silent for a minute, and then asked how big the church was. Cecilia said it was about twenty to thirty families, and close to two hundred children. I remember trying to do the math in my head, and asked if it was a Baptist church. Cecilia said that it was, and very conservative. In fact, it was much more conservative then our IFB church we were both attending at the time. I asked Cecilia how she managed to have friends in so many states. I just had to find out! How cool would that be? To be able to take road trips around the USA, fellow-shipping with so many like-minded families.

Cecilia then mentioned her little secret in more detail

Chaper 6

 Cecelia’s Secret

The secret was “ATI”, which stands for, “Advanced Training Institute.” This was a word of mouth ultra-conservative home school program Cecilia told me about. It taught “Character First.” It made children obedient, God fearing individuals, Cecilia explained to me. Cecilia shared examples of how much more obedient children were who were taught with this style of curriculum. How these children differed from other children.

I was intrigued, and wanted to find out more about it. This was what I have been waiting to hear. If Cecilia’s children were walking, talking, examples, of how ATI worked, then I needed to get my hands on this “Character First” curriculum at once. I had just started homeschooling my children, with the encouragement that I got from Cecilia. No one from my church was encouraging me. In fact, they were all discouraging me. They saw me as a traitor, having taken my children out of the church’s private school.

I did find it odd that Cecilia never mentioned ATI to me before though. “Why now?” I thought to myself. Was she witnessing me doing something wrong with my children? I mean, I know she did not approve of my daughters’ Bratz doll posters that were hanging in their bedroom. I remember the first time their family came over to visit us, one of Cecilia’s daughters came out of my daughters’ bedroom to mention to their mother that my girls had one of “those” kind of posters on their wall. I remember Cecilia smiling at her daughter, ever so politely, telling her, that it was fine.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if my daughters’ bedroom was used as an example of how an ungodly bedroom might look like.

The week before our move finally arrived. Cecilia’s family came over every day to help us with the details. Her husband even spent that last week updating the bathroom, per the new owners’ request. It was also that same week that her husband slipped, and mentioned to me, they were expecting once more! He came early each morning to work on the bathroom, and she would come later with all the kids to visit me. I am still left wondering why she did not tell me she was expecting. Why did I have to hear it from her husband? He also asked me, if we were expecting again? I remember letting out a belly size laugh, knowing he would not approve of such an un-ladylike outburst.

But seriously, I just had 2 babies in less then 2 years, was this turning into some sort of competition? When Cecilia arrived later that afternoon, her husband told her that he told me, “The News”. She smiled, and said, yes, another is on the way. She then asked me the same thing her husband had asked. Was I expecting yet?

I don’t know why the question surprised me so much, but it did. I found myself praying that the Lord would wait to bless me again, at least until I lost this extra 50lbs, that I was lugging around. Of course that was not an issue with Cecilia, she seemed to be right back to her pre-pregnancy clothing the day after she gave birth! Despite all the weird things that Cecilia had shared with me in the past couple years, I still felt that she was a gift from God!

A few nights before we moved, Cecilia and her husband took us out to dinner to a really cool restaurant that was on a train. It was one of their favorite places to eat, they mentioned to us. Cecilia’s oldest daughter sat with all the children at our house. She had just turned 16, and was equally perfect, just as her mother. It was an amazing dinner. Sure, I stuck my foot in my mouth several times, during that evening. I just started becoming nervous around Cecilia, and her husband. I started feeling like they were secretly judging me.

Once, while my husband was talking that evening, I interrupted him mid-sentence. Cecilia’s husband gave me a look that was sharp enough to cut through ice. I remember instantly feeling the embarrassment of my rudeness. Things like this never bothered me before.

Cecilia never interrupted conversations, especially ones with her husband. Instead, she’d looked at him with her sparkling blue eyes, hanging to his every word, with earnest interest, casually rubbing his back, each time they sat together. Why did she have to be so darn perfect?

Another time during our dinner date, I was digging in my purse for a mint when a little bag fell out onto the middle of our table. It had bright orange earplugs in it.

Cecilia and her husband instantly took notice, and before I could think of something appropriate to say, Cecilia asked me what the earplugs were for? I had no choice, but to be honest; with another baby in the house, My husband and I were taking turns getting up with the baby. This was something new, I tried explaining to them, because I was feeling so overwhelmed. I hated admitting my weakness in front of either of them. I further explained that during the times when my husband would get up with the baby, I would have the earplugs in my ears to get a couple solid hours of sleep. I was one of those mothers who would hear every little thing, and go crazy lying awake each night waiting for the baby to wake up.

I shared all of this with Cecilia and her husband at the dinner table that night. I mentioned that the earplugs were choking hazards, so I always kept them in my purse. The earplugs worked out great! I assured them, while letting out a giggle.

Evidently, neither found it very amusing. Thankfully, My husband knew me well enough to know, that I was feeling embarrassed and ashamed for not wanting to hear my sweet babies sounds all night… He gave my hand a gentle squeeze under the table, for encouragement.

There was an awkward period of silence and we all finished up our meals and left to go back to the house. When we arrived back home, everyone was sitting in a perfect row in our living room, while Cecilia’s daughter was holding my baby, and reading a story. What a vision… witnessing Cecilia’s daughter reading a story to all fourteen children, holding a book in one hand, and a sleeping baby in the other. I was amazed at the stillness, the utmost obedience that this young sixteen-year-old had from so many children.

Up until now, I felt like I would never be able to hold a candle to Cecilia, and now, witnessing how well her sixteen year old daughter was able to handle fourteen kids, with such ease, it made me feel more unworthy to hold the title of, “Mother”.

Immediately, my oldest daughter, who was only eight at the time, started asking me if I could go some place else for a couple more hours, that they were all having so much fun with Cecilia’s daughter, and didn’t want the fun to end, now that we were back home.

I let out a laugh, to cover up the tears that were forming inside me, and Cecilia told her children to get ready to go home. They lived over an hour away and it was nearly ten at night. I was always amazed at the cheerful spirit all these children had. Not one child, moaned, or complained about having to leave. All the children got up off the floor and began to put their shoes and coats on with perfect little smiles, thanking my husband and I, for having them over, before they headed out the front door, in perfect school line form, youngest to oldest. AMAZING! I thought to myself.

At what age did they teach their kids to enter, and leave in such a perfect, graceful manner?

After they all left, I must have sounded like a broken record to my husband. I spent the next hour fawning about how perfect Cecilia’s family was and how delightful their children were to have around. I also mentioned that I did not understand how it was that Cecilia never looked tired, or over worked. She was always so well groomed and fresh looking. I think my husband was only half listening to me. He told me that I was fine, and he loved me very much, and then he went off to bed.

I remember looking down at my outfit that evening. I felt frumpy. My eyes noticed the small snag in my sweater and the slight baby vomit stain near the hemline. My denim skirt just kind of hung there. I walked over to the bathroom mirror, noticing the dark circles around my eyes and all the extra weight I had put on. I did not recognize myself at all. It was a hard night. I stayed up late, praying and crying.

Why was I so unworthy? What was wrong with me? Cecilia made me want to be a better Christian, a better mother! I did not know where to start though, and now I was moving away! I had already turned in my comfy, yet frumpy jogging suits, for dresses, sweaters and skirts. I still felt frumpy though. I did not feel lady-like. I did not feel desirable either. I also hated the comments that my husband and I were now getting, having four kids.

My husband’s buddies, thought he was “one lucky man”. For me, ladies would say, “I do not know how you do it”!

The truth was, I wasn’t doing it! I wanted to, but had no clue what I was doing!

I guess things were changing in me. Maybe this was what the Lord’s blessings felt like. I began reading my bible daily, instead of weekly. I was praying morning, noon, and night. I had taken Cecilia’s advice and pulled my children out from our Christian church school. I was a home-school mom now, and I really enjoyed having them home with me full time. Little things started bothering me though; like when I spent time on my much loved hobbies, I began feeling guilty because that was time I could be devoting to prayer, or reading the bible more. If God was to be my all, why was I investing time doing things that did not involve him?

The night before our move finally arrived and Cecilia’s family was right there, packing up our U-Haul for us. She handed me a love offering, and gift certificate for my favorite coffee shop. I started to cry, and felt like a schoolgirl who was losing her best friend, due to an out of state move.

Cecilia even let out a few tears, and this was the first time that I felt loved by her. Maybe she really valued our friendship too. I never saw much emotion from her, so I thought this was some sort of verification of her feelings for me, and yes, it excited me, in a weird sort of way.

Even though it was getting late, Cecilia’s husband asked my husband if we wanted to go to the local diner to have some food and talk. He said, their oldest daughter would sit with all the children once more. My husband and I looked at each other, and accepted the invitation. This was the last evening that we would have together.

I was sad, yet excited to be able to spend a bit more time with Cecilia. My kids were thrilled to have one more night with Cecilia’s daughter baby sitting them too. That night she had crafts, and treats with her. I don’t remember either of my daughters even telling me good-bye, as they hurried along following Cecilia’s daughter, who was busy spreading out a blanket on the bare floor, getting all her craft stuff out.

Cecilia’s husband had a whole lot to say to my husband that night…

As for me, by the time we got home, I felt like hiding under a rock, permanently!

 

Chapter 7

 A Godly, God-Fearing Man

The night that Cecilia and her husband took us out to the local diner started out great. We all shared kind words with one another, reminiscing about the last two years we had all spent together.

It was beginning to get late though, and out of the blue, Cecilia’s husband asked my husband, if we would like to take a trip with them the following year. I instantly formed a mental image of a week-long trip together, maybe to the beach, or mountains. All our kids frolicking on hikes…Sounded great to me! Reality struck hard, when I let out a great big, “That sounds great”!

“Which month”? Cecilia’s husband looked a bit annoyed with me, making eye contact with my husband, awaiting his answer.

My husband asked what kind of trip did he have in mind? Cecilia’s husband said it was a yearly parenting course that followed with a marriage course. Evidently, once a year in Texas, like-minded families around the USA would travel to Texas for a week-long trip.

My bubbly expression faded, as I began wondering why Cecilia’s husband wanted my family to seek marriage support, and parenting courses too. I had already had a perfect marriage, and couldn’t remember the last time we had so much as a disagreement about anything.

In fact, folks from our church were always telling us how well suited we were for each other. Even more so, I was a great parent, and was always having compliments thrown my way in that area too. Of course I did not always feel great around Cecilia, but all in all, I didn’t think anything in our life warranted counseling.

I tried to remain silent for the rest of our husbands’ conversation. Cecilia was quiet the whole time, just smiling at her husband, while rubbing his back at our booth. I used that time, to think about things in depth a bit more. I came to the conclusion that Cecilia never gave me any compliments about anything, not that I was looking for any. It was more of an observation. Maybe I did need some outside help; I thought to myself.

I was feeling inadequate as a wife and mother lately, but had no clue why. Maybe it was because Cecilia called her husband Sir, and was always hanging on his every word. This had been making me nervous for a while now.

I remember asking her about it one day and she only shared, that Sarah called Abraham “Lord.” It was a matter of respect.

I took a moment, trying to imagine myself, calling my husband Lord, or even Sir. I could not help but chuckle each time I said it to myself. Is this something that a Godly wife was suppose to do? Should I be asking my husband if he would prefer I call him Lord, or Sir?

I have always been a laid back sort of wife and mother. My husband never complained about anything. We were both genuinely happy, and so were our four children. I tried hard not to butt in, as our husbands continued speaking. Cecilia’s husband continued to share the details, of this so-called trip, with my husband.

I kept hearing Cecilia’s husband repeating himself that we “REALLY” needed to go to one of these week-long marriage and parenting conventions. That it would change our life. It kept sounding amplified in my ears… I knew my husband though, and knew he was already feeling red flags with this sudden rash conversation. I could feel it, and see it in his eyes.

I silently thought once more, while thinking about the details. What if my husband accepted this invitation, to this weeklong marriage and parenting convention down in Texas? Where would our four children go during this trip?

Before I could give it another thought, Cecilia’s husband said, “And don’t worry about your children, our oldest will be more then happy to watch them all.” Oh, figures… I thought to myself. This guy has all the answers!

Cecilia’s husband continued to elaborate on the marriage course, and how encouraging the classes were and that they really touched up on leadership in the home. He then talked about the parenting courses, and how they mold children into quiet, obedient, God fearing children. This followed up on the teaching; do not speak, unless spoken too, and not sparing the Rod.

I really did not like any of this, and was waiting for Cecilia to speak up, on my behalf. She already knew how hard it was, each time I witnessed her husband take one of their little ones to our bathroom, or back yard for a spanking. It did not happen too often, but had happened on three occasions, that I could clearly recall. I did not want to be judgmental, but I had heard enough! I couldn’t control my silence any longer, so I blurted out, “Who teaches these courses?” Cecilia’s husband offered nothing more to my sudden outburst except, “A really Godly, God-fearing Man”.

I then asked Cecilia’s husband how many children this really great Godly man had? Cecilia’s husband said that he had never been married, so therefore did not have any kids of his own. I then chuckled, as I replied, “So this guy who has never been married, nor has any children of his own, teaches other married couples, how to have perfect marriages and perfect children”?

I think Cecilia’s husband sensed my sarcasm, and was not entirely taken with it. He then looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “He is able to teach through the Lord’s revelations, like Paul of the New Testament.”

My husband remained quiet during this time, and I began thinking that maybe he was feeling intimidated too, by all this. Cecilia’s husband had a very strong personality. He then continued his conversation with my husband, as Cecilia remained quiet and submissive, hanging on his every word. It kind of felt like she was not there at all.

I am not sure why, but the topic changed to church related issues next. Cecilia’s husband was now asking my husband about his church background. I thought we had already been through all that before, but maybe not. My husband mentioned that he grew up in a very legalistic church. Cecilia’s husband asked, “How so?” I sensed my husband’s discomfort on being questioned about this. So, I butted in once more, with the details that my husband had shared with me in the past. I mentioned that the church in which my husband grew up would not allow any ladies in the door who had pants on, or wore jewelry, make up, etc. And that the men and boys had to all have suits on within the church doors. No television or radios were allowed in the homes either.

Cecilia’s husband looked at me, and said, “So, it was a biblical church then”? My husband then broke into the conversation, and said that the church made him fall very far away from the Lord in his teen years, and then my husband changed the topic. I was pleased with my husband’s answer!

Cecilia’s husband then brought the conversation back to the trip, this time mentioning the name of this Godly man who never married, or had any children. I made sure to take note, in fact I excused myself to the bathroom just so I could write the name down, so I wouldn’t forget. When I returned to the table, all was quiet, and they all got up to check out and go back to our house.

We arrived back home, and said our final good-byes. Cecilia hugged me, and promised to visit us real soon. She even mentioned for me to keep in touch, by phone, telling her how great it was down South. If I did, she said, then maybe they’d move down South in a couple years. I remember thinking how that was an odd thing to say. Perhaps she was just making small talk, or joking around though.

The next morning arrived and my family took off for a whole new life of unexpected possibilities. We moved down to the Bible Belt.

A few weeks passed by, and I picked up the phone to call Cecilia, but there was no answer. I left a message for her to call me back, but never received any call back. I decided to try again after a few more weeks passed. No answer that time either, so I left another message for her to call me back.

I never got any callbacks from her. This made me feel very sad and very much alone again. I tried to remain optimistic, and thought that perhaps, Cecilia was not getting my messages. Or was she? Maybe one of her children erased them, by accident of course.
I mentioned this to my husband, me trying to phone her, and having to leave messages, and getting no calls back from her. My husband told me, that I would not be hearing back from her, probably ever again. These words shook and disturbed me. I asked him to explain such a statement. My husband told me that it was just a feeling he had. One that he had been having ever since the night we left the North.

A couple months had passed by now, and I tried phoning her once more, this time Cecilia’s voice was on the other end. I was so excited, Finally! I asked her how they have been, then I mentioned about the two previous phone calls.

Cecilia said that she had just been busy, and she was actually too busy at the moment to talk with me. I was a bit disappointed, but said all right, offering her our new phone number. Cecilia told me that she had it on the caller ID, and that she would call me back, later that evening. I said OK, and hung up.

Evening came but the phone never rang. I really wanted to reconnect with her, so I called her back. This time, one of her polite children answered the phone. I was always amazed at how they would answer the phone, and often tried to teach my own children to answer phone calls, in like manner.

Cecilia’s children always answered the phone like this:

“Hello, this is Jennie speaking; whom may you wish to correspond with”? I had never met a group of kids that had better manners than this. However, when I would call, I would try to make small chat with whichever child answered the phone, but would never get anywhere.

These were not Cecilia’s younger children either. They were her teens. Often times, I would say, “Hey Jennie, how are you doing? This is Shelly. Is your mom there?” I would get nothing more then a “HOLD PLEASE” never a personal answer, or a, “Hi Shelly!” I always thought that was odd. Why were all the children so robotic? Where were each of their personalities?

Cecilia did end up coming to the phone that evening. I also heard Cecilia’s husband in the background asking, who it was. I did not hear what Cecilia answered though. Cecilia came to the phone, and asked me how I had been. Well, I was excited, and began to tell Cecilia how great it was down South, sharing all the details. Cecilia sounded surprised, which added more confusion to my plate.

I mentioned that my husband had just got a rifle the other day, and wanted to speak to Cecilia’s husband about it, since he collected rifles. Cecilia paused, and said that her husband was not home. I thought that was odd, given that I heard his voice when I first called her. I kept that to myself though, and told Cecilia to have her husband call mine, when he had some free time. She then told me rather firmly, her husband was a very busy man, and comes home tired, and did not have time to chitchat on the telephone. I felt like she smacked me across the face with that comment, and tone of voice. Why was she so abrupt with me? Did I do, or say something wrong?

I remained quiet, and she told me that they would drive down to visit us real soon.
Before hanging up with me, she brought up the convention in Texas. She asked me if we had given any more thought to whether or not we wanted to attend the trip with them. I told her that it was up to my husband. Her husband would have to contact my husband about it. I certainly did not want to get into this over the phone with her. I began wondering if her coldness had anything to do with us not being tickled pink to attend this convention with them. I guess only time would tell.

In ending our conversation, she mentioned that all we would need to attend the convention, is about four hundred dollars. I thought she was joking, and laughed. She then told me that she needed to go, and we would chat soon.

When I got off the phone, my husband asked me why Cecilia’s husband did not come to the phone to talk with him. I explained to my husband how our conversation went, and began to cry, wondering what I had done to obviously offend Cecilia in some way. My husband comforted me, and asked me to not call Cecilia anymore, just wait, and let her call me from now on.

Months passed by, and Christmas arrived. One day while checking my mail, I pulled out a small envelope post marked with Cecilia’s address on it. I could not believe it! It didn’t say much, but it did have a picture enclosed of their new baby. I had not even known that Cecilia was pregnant again. This prompted me to call her later that evening. I wanted to congratulate them, on yet, another blessing.

No one picked up the phone, as usual, so I just left another message. Then I hung up and went into my bedroom to cry! Afterward, I dried up my tears and prayed. I asked the Lord why I was being treated this way?

My oldest daughters did not understand either, and were asking me questions. Evidently, Cecilia’s daughters, the ones that were my daughters’ ages, said they were going to keep in touch with them, and phone them. My daughters never heard from them since we left, and they were feeling hurt too!

I decided to take action. I dug through a bunch of old papers in my bedroom closet, trying to find the name of the guy who was giving those yearly conventions down in Texas. I thought maybe, if I Googled the man’s name, something would come up, and it might help me understand Cecilia and her family a little better.

After just a few minutes of digging, I found it! Rather wrinkly, I uncrumpled the small piece of paper that I had scribbled on that last night we were all together. I looked down at my handwriting, and read the name to myself, “Bill Gothard” I knew it was Bill something, but had forgotten the last name. I was so scatter brained still.

I took the piece of paper over to my computer and decided that it was time to do some Googling…

 

Chapter 8 

Cecilia’s children seemed delighted to be spending the afternoon playing with my two children. Occasionally they would come back around their mother and listen to her intently as she conversed with me. Cecilia appeared to have so much patience with all her children, always right on top of each of them with loving correction. At least this is how it appeared to me at the time.
Nothing got past Cecilia. She always had a smile on her face when disciplining her children. She knew how to discipline them with love, mercy and grace, or so seemed. I envied Cecilia so much. I felt guilty of envying anyone and later would ask the Lord for forgiveness. How could someone so average, like me, ever amount to anything extra special like Cecilia? I felt amazingly worthless.
Weeks passed, and I found out I was expecting a child. It would be my third. Cecilia also found out that she too was expecting, her tenth child. The church we both attended decided it would be lovely to throw us a baby shower together. I was ecstatic because I wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Cecilia.
I thought it was a great idea to bond with her in a baby shower atmosphere. Most of all, I wanted to learn parenting skills from her. Cecilia taught me different ways to do things. At the shower she taught me about goat’s milk, and the benefits it had for young ones. I enjoyed this baby shower more then any I had in the past and I received many sweet things for my new baby.
I remember asking Cecilia at the shower if she knew the sex of her baby. Cecilia told me that they choose to always to be surprised. I thought that was odd and later that day pulled Cecilia aside and asked her why she did not want to find out the sex of her child. It was then that I learned something new about Cecilia and her family. Cecilia gave birth to all her children in the privacy of her own bedroom, no medical assistants. Just her and her husband delivering their babies. I remember thinking to myself, some carpenter he was! I guess he really was a handy man!

Even having diabetes and not being in prime health, Cecilia trusted the Lord in everything, including the birth of her little ones. It was a beautiful vision of faith to me.

Both of our babies were due around the same time. There was something extra special about being pregnant at the same time as my new friend. I felt as if we would grow together, in a sisterhood sort of way.

Several more weeks passed after the baby shower. We got a call one day for an invitation to Cecilia’s house after church. I accepted, and left the phone literally screaming and jumping up and down, like a child who got invited to a birthday party!

Folks at church began noticing us chatting before and after each service. They began questioning me; probing me for details about Cecilia’s family. Ladies began asking me questions such as what Cecilia’s husband did for a living and why did they have so many children? The truth was, I really did not know much about Cecilia’s family. I just knew I was drawn to them like a magnet.

The Sunday lunch with Cecilia’s family came upon us quickly. My children were excited about having so many other children to play with for that afternoon. After church we followed Cecilia’s family over to their house, which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere.

It was actually a little over a hour away; the town only had a population of five-hundred, I later found out. We arrived at a very humble looking old white farm house with acres as far as the eye could see. Cecilia’s husband smiled and said there were 500 to be exact,. We came in and got settled, and shared a terrific lunch together.

I got to learn the ropes of being a great host and extending loving hospitality. Even my husband was having a great time, learning about turn of the century rifles and civil war guns that they no longer make. Cecilia’s husband collected old guns. My husband got to shoot his first gun that day; the old fashioned way, with gun powder.

Meanwhile, my children were having the time of their lives, playing out in the old barn; tea party, and dressing up in old pioneer costumes. They later all came inside and one of Cecilia’s older daughters played the piano..All the children sang a beautiful song to us. It was beautiful! I never witnessed anything so perfect. Cecilia’s children were well mannered, well dressed, and were so helpful to their parents. I found it so odd listening to them beg their mother to clean up and do the dishes.

Meanwhile, Cecilia’s husband started telling my husband and I the importance of having children play a musical instrument. At the time, I was taking notes in my head. I have never been very musically inclined and my children were not very interested in instruments. I remember wondering how I was going to change that.

Fellowship was sweet and fulfilling that afternoon, despite the lack of TV in their house, which I thought odd. I never knew anyone who did not have a TV set in their home. My family had a three of them at the time!

Regardless, fellowship had never been sweeter. It was probably the best my family had ever experienced and we were social butterflies within our church group. We always had dinner parties and get togethers with other families on a weekly basis, yet nothing like this kind of sweet fellowship. Something was very different with this family.I continued to make it my mission to find out what that was. I was definitely being affected.

Both of our families started to get together more and more frequently after that afternoon. Many things began to unravel right in front of my very own eyes….

 
Chapter 3
My Very Own Titus 2 Friend
 
 

 

 
I drew closer to Christ through my relationship with Cecilia; there was no doubt about it. The more time I spent with her, the more I opened my bible to see if all the things I was learning, matched up with the word of God.
I was learning so much from her. Some good things, and some things that really made me scratch my chin in dismay. I learned that if you were a real Christian, then you were to only home school your children. However, My church taught us that we could also send our children to a Christian school. That was acceptable too. This really confused me.
I also learned that certain colors were more acceptable for modest dress, and that the way you wore your hair, and the color of it, affected the way people perceived you. I learned that you should not speak unless spoken too, and depending on how many rhymes and rhythms were in a music song, determined if it was a REAL Christian song, worthy of listening too.
I learned that the medical field was not my friend. I was taught all things natural, and that God gave to us the seeds of the fields to use as medicine. Per (Genesis 1:29) I was taught that you should never leave your children alone with anyone without your, or your older children’s presence. The mother, father, or oldest sibling were to be with their younger siblings at all times. We, the parents, were also to be our children’s only teachers, per (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
The one thing that still stands out in my mind, was the story of the popcorn kernel, that Cecilia shared with me one evening. Evidently, one of Cecilia’s sons put a popcorn seed in his ear when he was three years old. The popcorn seed stayed in the ear until the boy was a teen and it worked its way out naturally. This is a story that one just does not forget easily. It sounded very strange to me at the time, but I guess if there was no pain in the child’s ear, so be it.

Cecilia had almost a dozen kids, I had only two, what did I know about parenting?

There was also the story of the crooked tooth. Evidently, if you feel that braces may be needed for one of your children, you can actually start slowly to push the tooth, or teeth in question each day, towards their rightful place, and sooner or later the teeth will fix themselves and become straight. No braces or medical treatment needed at all! In fact, several of Cecilia’s children fixed their own teeth in this manner.

I learned that everything is to be handled at home in a family environment, no outsiders were allowed into any private areas of your life. One of Cecilia’s sons broke an arm once, falling down the stairs, and he had to go to the hospital, but that was it. The boy was never left alone while at the hospital either, not even once. The family stayed with him at all times.

Other than this one occasion, none of Cecilia’s perfect children had ever been to a doctor’s office. I was amazed, and still am to this day, thinking of the dozen times each year that my children have to go to the doctor’s office. Stomachaches, ear infections, UTI’s, fevers, and the like. Why was it that God saw fit to bless Cecilia in all areas of her life, but not me?

What was I doing so wrong? Was there a sin that I had forgotten to confess?

These are just a few of the many questions that I would start asking myself throughout the coming months.

That all said, I made it a point to not judge this family’s ways. I yearned to learn more from them with each visit we had with one another.

I was intrigued by all the Faith that my new friend shared with me. For the first time in my life, I was inspired! Inspired to do the right thing, in all areas of my life. For a time, I was living with blinders on, it was becoming very clear as days passed, the blinders were coming off, or were they? Was this all an illusion? Was I becoming closer to Christ?

I began dropping to my knees each night, praying asking God to show me the truth. Convict me in ways like never before! I began asking God to spiritually clean my home from head to toe, as well as every area in my life. I too, wanted to become fruitful, and have God bless my life with the most excellent marriage and a quiverful of sweet adoring children.

With so much going on in my new life; a life of searching for truth, love and acceptance, some other things started to arise. Some very sad things, that I wish I could undo nowadays.

My current friends would call me, asking me to go here or there, but I was just too consumed with Cecilia and her family to entertain my old friends anymore. I began to decline all the invitations to go to scrapbook parties, or out to the mall shopping.

I wanted to leave my date book open, in case Cecilia would call me for a last minute get together. Soon my friends stopped calling me altogether. I would occasionally get together with them, but when I would casually bring up natural home remedies or modesty issues to them, they would look at me weird and change the subject. I began to feel unaccepted by them, and begin to cling more and more on my new friendship, a friendship that I hoped would last forever. I wanted so badly to have a sister growing up. Cecilia was filling that void in me.

I grew up having no sisters at home and only had one female cousin that was considerably younger than me, so I really felt that I had no real sisterhood in my life.

My husband also began bonding with Cecilia’s husband and this made me very happy to witness. My husband grew up in a big family, with many brothers, but was never close to any of them. I guess large families do not always guarantee close family ties, once you all reach adulthood.

I wanted to make things different for my own children, and felt that by having my children around Cecilia’s “model” children, things would all fall into place. Cecilia’s children were the perfect role models for my children. They all became fast friends. I was very happy about this. After all, who needs a dozen friends? By now, our families were getting together every few days and I was super excited to finally have someone in my life to be a good role model to me. My very own Titus 2 friend! It felt so good!!!

As the old saying goes, The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Many days would pass, and I started feeling a sense of loss, and uncertainty, but could not figure out what it was. There were certain things that I was silently questioning myself. Like, “Why would having a Cabbage Patch doll in ones home cause a mother to have a miscarriage”? And, “Why was it that, if you had any of those 1980’s troll dolls in your home, it meant that Satan was presently active, and you would become barren”?

These things that Cecilia would sometimes mention to me during our frequent visits, seemed a bit crazy, to say the least, but I had no plans of ever questioning Miss. Perfect.

Time would soon be unraveling itself, I just had to patient…

 

Chaper 4 Everything Was So Confusing to Me Now

Getting back to the Cabbage Doll story. Let me explain. In the eighties, a very well known Evangelist that Cecilia’s family was personally taught under, taught that Cabbage Patch Dolls were causing strange and destructive behaviors in children. They could only be alleviated when the dolls were removed from the household, or better yet, destroyed completely!

There were some reports claiming… ladies were miscarrying while having these dolls in their homes. It was explained to me that when you got a Cabbage Patch Doll, they come with birth certificates and user agreement for you to sign. You were signing that you would LOVE the doll, and that was a violation of the First Commandment.

Hearing all this made me think about my own Cabbage patch doll, Laura Lee. I’d had it for years, and hated the thought of having to part from it. It was one of the only things that I had left that my Grandmother had given me as a child. I spent many days thinking about this. I had two healthy children already and the doll was packed away in the basement. Maybe it would be OK, I thought to myself. I could just dig up the user agreement that I remembered signing almost 20 years before, and burn it. I did not mention any of this to Cecilia.

Concerning the 1980’s Troll Dolls-

I remembered having collected these trolls as a child. I also remember having repeated nightmares about them, so was very interested on what Cecilia had to say about them… Evidently, trolls lead to difficulties in conceiving, and giving birth to a child. If you happen to have a troll doll in your home during the time of conception, you will have a very hard labor, or not get pregnant at all! I thought about this immensely. I did not know of any troll dolls in my home. I guess it was a good thing too.

That said, the following weekend, we went to some yard sales and one of my daughters stumbled on a toy troll doll at the bottom of a box. It had lime green hair, and was attached to a pen. She asked me if she could have a quarter to buy it, and I rather abruptly said, “No Way”! Whether these things have any biblical foundation though, was yet to be determined.

It seemed like every time I opened my mouth in front of Cecilia, I said the wrong thing and got so embarrassed. I started once again feeling so inadequate around her. I began missing the days when I could just be myself with my old friends, who accepted me as I was.

Our conversations were never boring. One day I brought up the topic of adoption with Cecilia. I mentioned that my husband and I might adopt from a foreign country. That it was something we were praying about. It was during a casual conversation, but as soon as I mentioned it, I saw Cecilia’s eyes grow big, while her hand went up to her mouth in a Gasp!

I remember instantly regretting my words, wishing that I could take them back. What did I say? I thought to myself. Cecilia took her hand off her mouth and asked me point blank, “Why would you ever want to adopt a child”? That obviously, I was fully capable of having children.

I told Cecilia that it was just the thought of giving a child who did not have a place to call home, a real loving chance. Cecilia then explained to me that adopted children are affected by the sins of their natural parents; their forefathers. The bible clearly teaches this, she told me. I needed to be careful because these sins are usually very severe, and that if my husband and I were to adopt, The Lord would strike our family like never before! Cecilia shared Jeremiah 14:20 and Exodus 20:5 with me, to back these claims up.

I did not know the bible the way Cecilia did. I really thought Cecilia knew what she was talking about. I later told my husband about all this, and he laughed once more. I was beginning to feel more and more insecure about everything in my life, including myself. Several days passed and I invited Cecilia over again while our husbands were at work.

For me, our conversations seemed to be one long Christian college course. On this occasion our conversation turned to female issues, and I mentioned the *T* word to Cecilia. (Tampon) I never thought that a simple question about brand names of Tampons would lead to such an intense discussion on sex; but it did. You see, sex between a married Christian couple had many, many biblical restrictions. I had no idea about any of these things.

For example, couples were to abstain from SEX:

1. During the wife’s menstrual cycle.
2. Seven days after the cycle.
3. 40 days after the birth of a son.
4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter.
5. The evening before worship.

I had heard about number one before, from a church service, but I had no idea about the other four restrictions. Cecilia then shared scripture to back all this up, as always. Isaiah 53:4-5 to be exact.

I was also told that the use of tampons was a sin. In fact, anything foreign was never to be inserted into a ladies private area. She shared that our husbands should be the ones to keep track of their wives menstrual cycle each month. Using it as a reminder of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.

Everything was so confusing to me now. I wanted to lock myself up in the bathroom and scream!

As I prayed later that evening, I felt more frustrated then ever. About everything. I looked up to Cecilia so much, and admired her dearly. I was mad at myself for being so emotional. I should have been more grateful that Cecilia was taking the time to teach me so much about the bible. In my mind, I thought Cecilia was everything a Titus 2 woman should be. I would soon find myself feeling so guilty for even questioning Cecilia’s teachings and asked the Lord to forgive me.

October came, and we both gave birth. I had a son, and Cecilia had another daughter. I had a hospital birth and Cecilia had another daughter in the privacy of her own bedroom, having her wonderfully perfect husband deliver yet another, “perfect child”.

We talked on the phone briefly during the time of recovery from our births. I shared the details of my birth at the hospital with her, and she shared about her pain-free candle-lit bedroom birth. I wanted so badly to be happy that she had such a perfect birth. But deep down, I was resenting the fact that her birth was so perfect.

While she was being served freshly cooked whole foods, from her husband and children, I was ringing the bell a dozen times, trying to get some cheese and crackers after my very painful hospital birth! I remember Cecilia asking me, “Didn’t you take that special tea that I gave you”?

I told her, “YES! I took all of it”, and my labor was still very painful. I felt like a failure once more.

During this time I learned one more thing. I learned that having a Cesarean birth was a big time sin. Not that I ever had one, but I wanted to hear the details about this. I had known so many ladies that had them.

I asked why it was a sin, and was told that it simply was not the Lord’s way. I was told that children born in this manner would not properly receive the Lord’s blessings in later life, if the mother had a cesarean birth. Cecilia said, The Lord opens the womb when it is time, and releases his children in like manner, and the medical field was against God’s ways, and each time they insisted on a lady to have a Cesarean, they were taking the Lord’s future blessings from generations to come. This made me cry so much, as I thought about everyone I knew that had Cesarean births. Was this really true?

I had so much more to learn. I felt like I was invisible to everyone – everyone, except Cecilia. And if I thought my ship, that I called life, was about to remain on shore, I was sadly mistaken, because the waves were about ready to rock….

Chaper 5 A Leap of Faith

Our family was planning an out of state move soon. My husband had been praying about our life up North. For him, everything seemed mundane, so he started praying that if the Lord had more for us, he would have to shake things up a bit. For me, I felt that everything had already been shaken up enough.

As always, the Lord answered my husband’s prayer almost instantly. The job that he thought he was going to have until retirement became very stressful for him. When folks at work found out that he was a believer, they started playing little tricks on him. One day my husband went to work and there were tiny tacks all over his desk chair. Another time, someone complained about my husband’s Christian screen-saver on his monitor, yet another time, he got written up for listening to Christian music in his office. It was time to move on, my husband told me.

We stepped out in a leap of faith, and placed our house on the market. It was sold within three days and we had 30 days to be out.

I spent weeks trying to convince Cecilia and her family to move down South with us, but Cecilia assured me that they would visit frequently. They were not in a position to move right now.

Having turned my womb over to the Lord, I had just given birth once again. I had become pregnant when my son was only 12 weeks old. I had another daughter this time, and was very emotional and confused. I was tired and cranky all the time it seemed. I had no idea who I was anymore. I felt as if I was just going through the motions of my life.

We told our church of the past four years that we were planning a move soon. The congregation was very negative towards this news. Everyone had something negative to say to me, and there was no one offering to help my family with any of the details either. No one except Cecilia’s family, that is. They were there for us, right up until the end.

Cecilia’s family seemed to be the only ones that cared in my sleep deprived puffy eyes. One day, Cecilia showed up unexpectedly at my house while my husband was at work. She insisted that I go take a long hot shower and nap while she watched my four kids, as well has her own ten. I was so thankful.

The house remained so peaceful and silent too. I remember lying in bed not hearing a single word, wondering how she managed to keep fourteen children so quiet. I barely was able to manage keeping my four children entertained and quiet. My children were 8yrs, 6yrs, 16 months, and 4 months old at the time.

I awoke a few hours later to feed my little one, and to my surprise, during the time I was sleeping, Cecilia managed to clean the whole house and order pizzas for supper. She was such a GEM! She was super mom, super friend, super everything!!! It was genuine love. Real sisterhood friendship, something I spent many years craving for.

Cecilia’s family continued to come over every night to help us pack. She spent many hours helping me go through our basement, which was filled with years of shopping sprees.

Looking back, I would not have been able to do it on my own. My husband worked till evening hours, and when he got home, he was too tired to help with anything. I was responsible to get it all taken care of, and now with 4 children in tow, it was sucking the life out of me. I had no family in the state that we lived, and now, the only friendship that I had, was Cecilia, and now we were going to be moving soon to a state where neither one of us knew a soul. I just had to stay focused. I had to trust God, and know that he would make it all turn out right.

Feeling physically and emotionally drained, having turned my womb over to the Lord, I began waiting for the Lord’s blessings to come pouring down on my life. I still very much wanted what Cecilia had!

My life went from a smooth sailing lifestyle, dressing my two kids in designer clothing, to now having double the workload; All in less than 2 years.

Although it was hard, I was convinced that I was getting closer to what Cecilia had. I too, would start getting blessed, and would earn God’s love and favor! Maybe I would never be “just” like Cecilia, but at least I was going in the right direction now, or so I thought…

That said, some nights I would lay awake in bed thinking about my old friends. I had one very close friend Margaret, who used to be there for me, but she had recently gone back into the work force and was just too busy to check in with me anymore. I had two other friends who I used to go here and there with, but once I started focusing on having more children and staying home, these friends began inviting other ladies to go out, for those girl’s night out evenings. I felt so out of the loop, and began to fall into a deep depression.

One day while chatting with Cecilia on the phone, I asked her if she had very many friends. Cecilia said that she had friends in nearly every state. Man, I envied this! Was there not one negative area in Cecilia’s life? Evidently not! She was obviously loved by many, and a saint too!

She once mentioned this family called, “The Duggers”. They had a TV program called, “14 Children and Pregnant Again.” I had actually seen this program before, I told her, and was amazed that Cecilia knew them personally. They first met at a seminar in Texas one year, she told me. Cecilia’s family did a lot of traveling, and knew many Quiverfull families. They would spend certain weeks throughout the year traveling from state to state fellow-shipping with other like-minded families. How cool is that!

Massive amounts of envy started filling my heart once more; I was only human! As I listened to Cecilia tell me all these stories about their road trips, I began to recall the certain weeks in the past couple years that I hadn’t been able to reach Cecilia by phone. I did not understand why she didn’t mention these road trips to me before now. It upset me, and made me sad. I shared everything with her! She was my confidante, my personal Titus 2 friend.

On another occasion, I asked Cecilia if her family had ever got together with anyone else from our church. After all, it had been well over a year now, and surely out of two hundred church members, they had to have gotten together with some of the other families too.

Cecilia told me that they were not like the other church members. That once our family moved away, they were going to stop going to our church all together. I found that odd at the time. I asked if they had another church that they planned to attend. She said no. She did mention that all their other friends, in all the other states, home churched, all except one family in Pennsylvania that they visited.

There was a very nice church in Pennsylvania that they visited the previous year with some friends. It was very exclusive Cecilia told me. I began wondering what made the church so exclusive. Cecilia then explained to me, that in order to become a member, you had to home school your children, and be of like manner.

The church was very Titus 2, she said. I asked what she meant exactly…. Cecilia shared that the ladies were not allowed to work outside their homes. That this went against scripture and would lead to a family being shunned out of the congregation had anyone disobeyed. They were also agreeing to let the Lord plan their family size. The members agreed to be Quiverfull. If you agreed to these few things, you were entitled membership.

I remained silent for a minute, and then asked how big the church was. Cecilia said it was about twenty to thirty families, and close to two hundred children. I remember trying to do the math in my head, and asked if it was a Baptist church. Cecilia said that it was, and very conservative. In fact, it was much more conservative then our IFB church we were both attending at the time. I asked Cecilia how she managed to have friends in so many states. I just had to find out! How cool would that be? To be able to take road trips around the USA, fellow-shipping with so many like-minded families.

Cecilia then mentioned her little secret in more detail

Chaper 6 Cecelia’s Secret

The secret was “ATI”, which stands for, “Advanced Training Institute.” This was a word of mouth ultra-conservative home school program Cecilia told me about. It taught “Character First.” It made children obedient, God fearing individuals, Cecilia explained to me. Cecilia shared examples of how much more obedient children were who were taught with this style of curriculum. How these children differed from other children.

I was intrigued, and wanted to find out more about it. This was what I have been waiting to hear. If Cecilia’s children were walking, talking, examples, of how ATI worked, then I needed to get my hands on this “Character First” curriculum at once. I had just started homeschooling my children, with the encouragement that I got from Cecilia. No one from my church was encouraging me. In fact, they were all discouraging me. They saw me as a traitor, having taken my children out of the church’s private school.

I did find it odd that Cecilia never mentioned ATI to me before though. “Why now?” I thought to myself. Was she witnessing me doing something wrong with my children? I mean, I know she did not approve of my daughters’ Bratz doll posters that were hanging in their bedroom. I remember the first time their family came over to visit us, one of Cecilia’s daughters came out of my daughters’ bedroom to mention to their mother that my girls had one of “those” kind of posters on their wall. I remember Cecilia smiling at her daughter, ever so politely, telling her, that it was fine.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if my daughters’ bedroom was used as an example of how an ungodly bedroom might look like.

The week before our move finally arrived. Cecilia’s family came over every day to help us with the details. Her husband even spent that last week updating the bathroom, per the new owners’ request. It was also that same week that her husband slipped, and mentioned to me, they were expecting once more! He came early each morning to work on the bathroom, and she would come later with all the kids to visit me. I am still left wondering why she did not tell me she was expecting. Why did I have to hear it from her husband? He also asked me, if we were expecting again? I remember letting out a belly size laugh, knowing he would not approve of such an un-ladylike outburst.

But seriously, I just had 2 babies in less then 2 years, was this turning into some sort of competition? When Cecilia arrived later that afternoon, her husband told her that he told me, “The News”. She smiled, and said, yes, another is on the way. She then asked me the same thing her husband had asked. Was I expecting yet?

I don’t know why the question surprised me so much, but it did. I found myself praying that the Lord would wait to bless me again, at least until I lost this extra 50lbs, that I was lugging around. Of course that was not an issue with Cecilia, she seemed to be right back to her pre-pregnancy clothing the day after she gave birth! Despite all the weird things that Cecilia had shared with me in the past couple years, I still felt that she was a gift from God!

A few nights before we moved, Cecilia and her husband took us out to dinner to a really cool restaurant that was on a train. It was one of their favorite places to eat, they mentioned to us. Cecilia’s oldest daughter sat with all the children at our house. She had just turned 16, and was equally perfect, just as her mother. It was an amazing dinner. Sure, I stuck my foot in my mouth several times, during that evening. I just started becoming nervous around Cecilia, and her husband. I started feeling like they were secretly judging me.

Once, while my husband was talking that evening, I interrupted him mid-sentence. Cecilia’s husband gave me a look that was sharp enough to cut through ice. I remember instantly feeling the embarrassment of my rudeness. Things like this never bothered me before.

Cecilia never interrupted conversations, especially ones with her husband. Instead, she’d looked at him with her sparkling blue eyes, hanging to his every word, with earnest interest, casually rubbing his back, each time they sat together. Why did she have to be so darn perfect?

Another time during our dinner date, I was digging in my purse for a mint when a little bag fell out onto the middle of our table. It had bright orange earplugs in it.

Cecilia and her husband instantly took notice, and before I could think of something appropriate to say, Cecilia asked me what the earplugs were for? I had no choice, but to be honest; with another baby in the house, My husband and I were taking turns getting up with the baby. This was something new, I tried explaining to them, because I was feeling so overwhelmed. I hated admitting my weakness in front of either of them. I further explained that during the times when my husband would get up with the baby, I would have the earplugs in my ears to get a couple solid hours of sleep. I was one of those mothers who would hear every little thing, and go crazy lying awake each night waiting for the baby to wake up.

I shared all of this with Cecilia and her husband at the dinner table that night. I mentioned that the earplugs were choking hazards, so I always kept them in my purse. The earplugs worked out great! I assured them, while letting out a giggle.

Evidently, neither found it very amusing. Thankfully, My husband knew me well enough to know, that I was feeling embarrassed and ashamed for not wanting to hear my sweet babies sounds all night… He gave my hand a gentle squeeze under the table, for encouragement.

There was an awkward period of silence and we all finished up our meals and left to go back to the house. When we arrived back home, everyone was sitting in a perfect row in our living room, while Cecilia’s daughter was holding my baby, and reading a story. What a vision… witnessing Cecilia’s daughter reading a story to all fourteen children, holding a book in one hand, and a sleeping baby in the other. I was amazed at the stillness, the utmost obedience that this young sixteen-year-old had from so many children.

Up until now, I felt like I would never be able to hold a candle to Cecilia, and now, witnessing how well her sixteen year old daughter was able to handle fourteen kids, with such ease, it made me feel more unworthy to hold the title of, “Mother”.

Immediately, my oldest daughter, who was only eight at the time, started asking me if I could go some place else for a couple more hours, that they were all having so much fun with Cecilia’s daughter, and didn’t want the fun to end, now that we were back home.

I let out a laugh, to cover up the tears that were forming inside me, and Cecilia told her children to get ready to go home. They lived over an hour away and it was nearly ten at night. I was always amazed at the cheerful spirit all these children had. Not one child, moaned, or complained about having to leave. All the children got up off the floor and began to put their shoes and coats on with perfect little smiles, thanking my husband and I, for having them over, before they headed out the front door, in perfect school line form, youngest to oldest. AMAZING! I thought to myself.

At what age did they teach their kids to enter, and leave in such a perfect, graceful manner?

After they all left, I must have sounded like a broken record to my husband. I spent the next hour fawning about how perfect Cecilia’s family was and how delightful their children were to have around. I also mentioned that I did not understand how it was that Cecilia never looked tired, or over worked. She was always so well groomed and fresh looking. I think my husband was only half listening to me. He told me that I was fine, and he loved me very much, and then he went off to bed.

I remember looking down at my outfit that evening. I felt frumpy. My eyes noticed the small snag in my sweater and the slight baby vomit stain near the hemline. My denim skirt just kind of hung there. I walked over to the bathroom mirror, noticing the dark circles around my eyes and all the extra weight I had put on. I did not recognize myself at all. It was a hard night. I stayed up late, praying and crying.

Why was I so unworthy? What was wrong with me? Cecilia made me want to be a better Christian, a better mother! I did not know where to start though, and now I was moving away! I had already turned in my comfy, yet frumpy jogging suits, for dresses, sweaters and skirts. I still felt frumpy though. I did not feel lady-like. I did not feel desirable either. I also hated the comments that my husband and I were now getting, having four kids.

My husband’s buddies, thought he was “one lucky man”. For me, ladies would say, “I do not know how you do it”!

The truth was, I wasn’t doing it! I wanted to, but had no clue what I was doing!

I guess things were changing in me. Maybe this was what the Lord’s blessings felt like. I began reading my bible daily, instead of weekly. I was praying morning, noon, and night. I had taken Cecilia’s advice and pulled my children out from our Christian church school. I was a home-school mom now, and I really enjoyed having them home with me full time. Little things started bothering me though; like when I spent time on my much loved hobbies, I began feeling guilty because that was time I could be devoting to prayer, or reading the bible more. If God was to be my all, why was I investing time doing things that did not involve him?

The night before our move finally arrived and Cecilia’s family was right there, packing up our U-Haul for us. She handed me a love offering, and gift certificate for my favorite coffee shop. I started to cry, and felt like a schoolgirl who was losing her best friend, due to an out of state move.

Cecilia even let out a few tears, and this was the first time that I felt loved by her. Maybe she really valued our friendship too. I never saw much emotion from her, so I thought this was some sort of verification of her feelings for me, and yes, it excited me, in a weird sort of way.

Even though it was getting late, Cecilia’s husband asked my husband if we wanted to go to the local diner to have some food and talk. He said, their oldest daughter would sit with all the children once more. My husband and I looked at each other, and accepted the invitation. This was the last evening that we would have together.

I was sad, yet excited to be able to spend a bit more time with Cecilia. My kids were thrilled to have one more night with Cecilia’s daughter baby sitting them too. That night she had crafts, and treats with her. I don’t remember either of my daughters even telling me good-bye, as they hurried along following Cecilia’s daughter, who was busy spreading out a blanket on the bare floor, getting all her craft stuff out.

Cecilia’s husband had a whole lot to say to my husband that night…

As for me, by the time we got home, I felt like hiding under a rock, permanently!

 

Chapter 7

 A Godly, God-Fearing Man

The night that Cecilia and her husband took us out to the local diner started out great. We all shared kind words with one another, reminiscing about the last two years we had all spent together.

It was beginning to get late though, and out of the blue, Cecilia’s husband asked my husband, if we would like to take a trip with them the following year. I instantly formed a mental image of a week-long trip together, maybe to the beach, or mountains. All our kids frolicking on hikes…Sounded great to me! Reality struck hard, when I let out a great big, “That sounds great”!

“Which month”? Cecilia’s husband looked a bit annoyed with me, making eye contact with my husband, awaiting his answer.

My husband asked what kind of trip did he have in mind? Cecilia’s husband said it was a yearly parenting course that followed with a marriage course. Evidently, once a year in Texas, like-minded families around the USA would travel to Texas for a week-long trip.

My bubbly expression faded, as I began wondering why Cecilia’s husband wanted my family to seek marriage support, and parenting courses too. I had already had a perfect marriage, and couldn’t remember the last time we had so much as a disagreement about anything.

In fact, folks from our church were always telling us how well suited we were for each other. Even more so, I was a great parent, and was always having compliments thrown my way in that area too. Of course I did not always feel great around Cecilia, but all in all, I didn’t think anything in our life warranted counseling.

I tried to remain silent for the rest of our husbands’ conversation. Cecilia was quiet the whole time, just smiling at her husband, while rubbing his back at our booth. I used that time, to think about things in depth a bit more. I came to the conclusion that Cecilia never gave me any compliments about anything, not that I was looking for any. It was more of an observation. Maybe I did need some outside help; I thought to myself.

I was feeling inadequate as a wife and mother lately, but had no clue why. Maybe it was because Cecilia called her husband Sir, and was always hanging on his every word. This had been making me nervous for a while now.

I remember asking her about it one day and she only shared, that Sarah called Abraham “Lord.” It was a matter of respect.

I took a moment, trying to imagine myself, calling my husband Lord, or even Sir. I could not help but chuckle each time I said it to myself. Is this something that a Godly wife was suppose to do? Should I be asking my husband if he would prefer I call him Lord, or Sir?

I have always been a laid back sort of wife and mother. My husband never complained about anything. We were both genuinely happy, and so were our four children. I tried hard not to butt in, as our husbands continued speaking. Cecilia’s husband continued to share the details, of this so-called trip, with my husband.

I kept hearing Cecilia’s husband repeating himself that we “REALLY” needed to go to one of these week-long marriage and parenting conventions. That it would change our life. It kept sounding amplified in my ears… I knew my husband though, and knew he was already feeling red flags with this sudden rash conversation. I could feel it, and see it in his eyes.

I silently thought once more, while thinking about the details. What if my husband accepted this invitation, to this weeklong marriage and parenting convention down in Texas? Where would our four children go during this trip?

Before I could give it another thought, Cecilia’s husband said, “And don’t worry about your children, our oldest will be more then happy to watch them all.” Oh, figures… I thought to myself. This guy has all the answers!

Cecilia’s husband continued to elaborate on the marriage course, and how encouraging the classes were and that they really touched up on leadership in the home. He then talked about the parenting courses, and how they mold children into quiet, obedient, God fearing children. This followed up on the teaching; do not speak, unless spoken too, and not sparing the Rod.

I really did not like any of this, and was waiting for Cecilia to speak up, on my behalf. She already knew how hard it was, each time I witnessed her husband take one of their little ones to our bathroom, or back yard for a spanking. It did not happen too often, but had happened on three occasions, that I could clearly recall. I did not want to be judgmental, but I had heard enough! I couldn’t control my silence any longer, so I blurted out, “Who teaches these courses?” Cecilia’s husband offered nothing more to my sudden outburst except, “A really Godly, God-fearing Man”.

I then asked Cecilia’s husband how many children this really great Godly man had? Cecilia’s husband said that he had never been married, so therefore did not have any kids of his own. I then chuckled, as I replied, “So this guy who has never been married, nor has any children of his own, teaches other married couples, how to have perfect marriages and perfect children”?

I think Cecilia’s husband sensed my sarcasm, and was not entirely taken with it. He then looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “He is able to teach through the Lord’s revelations, like Paul of the New Testament.”

My husband remained quiet during this time, and I began thinking that maybe he was feeling intimidated too, by all this. Cecilia’s husband had a very strong personality. He then continued his conversation with my husband, as Cecilia remained quiet and submissive, hanging on his every word. It kind of felt like she was not there at all.

I am not sure why, but the topic changed to church related issues next. Cecilia’s husband was now asking my husband about his church background. I thought we had already been through all that before, but maybe not. My husband mentioned that he grew up in a very legalistic church. Cecilia’s husband asked, “How so?” I sensed my husband’s discomfort on being questioned about this. So, I butted in once more, with the details that my husband had shared with me in the past. I mentioned that the church in which my husband grew up would not allow any ladies in the door who had pants on, or wore jewelry, make up, etc. And that the men and boys had to all have suits on within the church doors. No television or radios were allowed in the homes either.

Cecilia’s husband looked at me, and said, “So, it was a biblical church then”? My husband then broke into the conversation, and said that the church made him fall very far away from the Lord in his teen years, and then my husband changed the topic. I was pleased with my husband’s answer!

Cecilia’s husband then brought the conversation back to the trip, this time mentioning the name of this Godly man who never married, or had any children. I made sure to take note, in fact I excused myself to the bathroom just so I could write the name down, so I wouldn’t forget. When I returned to the table, all was quiet, and they all got up to check out and go back to our house.

We arrived back home, and said our final good-byes. Cecilia hugged me, and promised to visit us real soon. She even mentioned for me to keep in touch, by phone, telling her how great it was down South. If I did, she said, then maybe they’d move down South in a couple years. I remember thinking how that was an odd thing to say. Perhaps she was just making small talk, or joking around though.

The next morning arrived and my family took off for a whole new life of unexpected possibilities. We moved down to the Bible Belt.

A few weeks passed by, and I picked up the phone to call Cecilia, but there was no answer. I left a message for her to call me back, but never received any call back. I decided to try again after a few more weeks passed. No answer that time either, so I left another message for her to call me back.

I never got any callbacks from her. This made me feel very sad and very much alone again. I tried to remain optimistic, and thought that perhaps, Cecilia was not getting my messages. Or was she? Maybe one of her children erased them, by accident of course.
I mentioned this to my husband, me trying to phone her, and having to leave messages, and getting no calls back from her. My husband told me, that I would not be hearing back from her, probably ever again. These words shook and disturbed me. I asked him to explain such a statement. My husband told me that it was just a feeling he had. One that he had been having ever since the night we left the North.

A couple months had passed by now, and I tried phoning her once more, this time Cecilia’s voice was on the other end. I was so excited, Finally! I asked her how they have been, then I mentioned about the two previous phone calls.

Cecilia said that she had just been busy, and she was actually too busy at the moment to talk with me. I was a bit disappointed, but said all right, offering her our new phone number. Cecilia told me that she had it on the caller ID, and that she would call me back, later that evening. I said OK, and hung up.

Evening came but the phone never rang. I really wanted to reconnect with her, so I called her back. This time, one of her polite children answered the phone. I was always amazed at how they would answer the phone, and often tried to teach my own children to answer phone calls, in like manner.

Cecilia’s children always answered the phone like this:

“Hello, this is Jennie speaking; whom may you wish to correspond with”? I had never met a group of kids that had better manners than this. However, when I would call, I would try to make small chat with whichever child answered the phone, but would never get anywhere.

These were not Cecilia’s younger children either. They were her teens. Often times, I would say, “Hey Jennie, how are you doing? This is Shelly. Is your mom there?” I would get nothing more then a “HOLD PLEASE” never a personal answer, or a, “Hi Shelly!” I always thought that was odd. Why were all the children so robotic? Where were each of their personalities?

Cecilia did end up coming to the phone that evening. I also heard Cecilia’s husband in the background asking, who it was. I did not hear what Cecilia answered though. Cecilia came to the phone, and asked me how I had been. Well, I was excited, and began to tell Cecilia how great it was down South, sharing all the details. Cecilia sounded surprised, which added more confusion to my plate.

I mentioned that my husband had just got a rifle the other day, and wanted to speak to Cecilia’s husband about it, since he collected rifles. Cecilia paused, and said that her husband was not home. I thought that was odd, given that I heard his voice when I first called her. I kept that to myself though, and told Cecilia to have her husband call mine, when he had some free time. She then told me rather firmly, her husband was a very busy man, and comes home tired, and did not have time to chitchat on the telephone. I felt like she smacked me across the face with that comment, and tone of voice. Why was she so abrupt with me? Did I do, or say something wrong?

I remained quiet, and she told me that they would drive down to visit us real soon.
Before hanging up with me, she brought up the convention in Texas. She asked me if we had given any more thought to whether or not we wanted to attend the trip with them. I told her that it was up to my husband. Her husband would have to contact my husband about it. I certainly did not want to get into this over the phone with her. I began wondering if her coldness had anything to do with us not being tickled pink to attend this convention with them. I guess only time would tell.

In ending our conversation, she mentioned that all we would need to attend the convention, is about four hundred dollars. I thought she was joking, and laughed. She then told me that she needed to go, and we would chat soon.

When I got off the phone, my husband asked me why Cecilia’s husband did not come to the phone to talk with him. I explained to my husband how our conversation went, and began to cry, wondering what I had done to obviously offend Cecilia in some way. My husband comforted me, and asked me to not call Cecilia anymore, just wait, and let her call me from now on.

Months passed by, and Christmas arrived. One day while checking my mail, I pulled out a small envelope post marked with Cecilia’s address on it. I could not believe it! It didn’t say much, but it did have a picture enclosed of their new baby. I had not even known that Cecilia was pregnant again. This prompted me to call her later that evening. I wanted to congratulate them, on yet, another blessing.

No one picked up the phone, as usual, so I just left another message. Then I hung up and went into my bedroom to cry! Afterward, I dried up my tears and prayed. I asked the Lord why I was being treated this way?

My oldest daughters did not understand either, and were asking me questions. Evidently, Cecilia’s daughters, the ones that were my daughters’ ages, said they were going to keep in touch with them, and phone them. My daughters never heard from them since we left, and they were feeling hurt too!

I decided to take action. I dug through a bunch of old papers in my bedroom closet, trying to find the name of the guy who was giving those yearly conventions down in Texas. I thought maybe, if I Googled the man’s name, something would come up, and it might help me understand Cecilia and her family a little better.

After just a few minutes of digging, I found it! Rather wrinkly, I uncrumpled the small piece of paper that I had scribbled on that last night we were all together. I looked down at my handwriting, and read the name to myself, “Bill Gothard” I knew it was Bill something, but had forgotten the last name. I was so scatter brained still.

I took the piece of paper over to my computer and decided that it was time to do some Googling…

Somehow I Lost My Entire Identity

Chapter 8 

There was so much to read about this man; I didn’t even know where to begin. I stumbled across a message board that had a whole bunch of people who grew up following his teachings. They were adults now. The thing that perplexed me the most, was that these folks were calling him a religious cult leader, and that did not seem right to me.

Cecilia and her family were very strong, mature Christians. They would never get involved with something cultish, would they? The time I spent reading about this man, seemed so déjà vu to me. Everything I was reading from these strangers, was stuff I had heard before, from Cecilia herself, and it all began making sense.

Some of the things I was reading were things that I had no idea about. Things such as: there were 100+ chosen ones that were taught under this man back in the early 70’s. They signed up voluntarily, and some paid a small sum of money and were ministered too. They were given books, and literature to take home and study with their children. This was the first generation of Bill Gothard followers.

A lot of these former followers were very anti-Christian nowadays. Some were even atheists! This did not make any sense to me. Some were confused, and just strayed from religion altogether, yet some, managed to find their way back to the Lord, and were ministering to the ones that left the warped teachings of this man.

I could not spend more then several minutes at a time reading all this. I kept taking breaks, and then would go back and read some more. My heart wept so much while reading the stories. These poor helpless children had been taught that God was harsh and unloving. Who would ever want to worship a God that demanded such harshness? Who would want to remain faithful to a God that was just waiting for his children to mess up, so that he could punish them?

I was still somewhat confused myself, on what a true, God loving Christian ought to look, and act like. To me, Cecilia’s family still fit the mold of Christian perfection. They seemed so righteous, and holy. They were so set in their ways, so uncompromising to the world’s corrupt, “Hollywood standards”. I still managed to admire them.

Night after night I turned to Gods word, praying fervently, asking God to show me the truth. Each night I returned on-line to read more about Bill Gothard, trying to understand how Cecilia’s family operated, and why they did things the way that they did.

I was more confused than ever. Was I seeing legalism in it’s worst form? Or was it just righteous Christianity? There was so much scripture, diagrams, and illustrations to back up everything this man taught. I was no Bible scholar, how would I know what was true and what was false?

For a while, I decided to try to conform to Cecilia’s ways, just to see how it felt. I tried different things, but nothing ever felt right to me. So I stripped away every thing that I ever enjoyed doing. I stopped all my hobbies, fasted, prayed throughout my day, and placed scripture cards throughout our house. I purchased a couple of Bill Gothard’s red books on-line, as well as the three big brown “Character” sketch books, to use for Bible for the kids. I began teaching my oldest girls, everything that I was learning. I showed them all the diagrams, and illustrations in these books. One page even had a layout of how a Christian lady should style her hair. Pictures on how to wear scarves in a modest way. It showed different skirt lengths. How to act in different situations. How to look even!

I was strictly skirts only now. Not just any skirts either, floor length ones, that I sewed myself. I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts, and even short sleeve shirts. I wanted my new name to be “Modesty”. I gave all my pants and shorts to Goodwill. I even began wearing a head covering full time, insisting that my oldest daughters do the same. I told them that we needed to set the example. I packed all my jewelry away, even my favorite pearl earrings. I took my wedding ring off, because I felt that it was too worldly to wear anything gold. My girls were also following suit. They were both becoming mini-mes. We got attention wherever we went. People would stop us at Wal-Mart to ask me what my religion was?

One morning while at our new church, I had a lady come over to me and whisper in my ear, that if I wanted to make any friends at the church, then I best remove the cloth on top of my head, as well as my daughters’ heads. She told me that she looked just like me a couple years ago, and was just recently released from the Religious bondage.

I took a deep breath, and told her, “What a pity, but I am not looking to please anyone but God.”

She was right though. I was the outcast. No one said much to my family during the 6 months that we were there.

Months passed, and nothing seemed to change. I started getting impatient, feeling depressed and emotionally drained. I would share all this with my husband, and he felt helpless, he would tell me. He did not know how to help me. He told me to just be myself. The truth of the matter was though, I did not know who I was anymore. Somehow, I lost my entire identity. Being Religious, is hard work. I was so miserable. I hated who I’d become. I finally earned Cecilia’s friendship. I was just like her now! Wouldn’t she be proud of me!

A couple years of utter torture passed by, and one morning, I woke up from it all. I can not even remember the exact day it happened. I was praying and felt the Lord himself, tell me that it was all going to be all right. That he loved me regardless, and it did not matter how I looked, or whether I was in pants, or a skirt, had make up on, or off. It even did not matter if I had jewelry on, much less, my wedding ring. He loved me just the way I was. He created me in fact!

And it was by me being myself again, that the Lord began to work his power within me. I needed to do nothing at all, just trust the Lord. The Lord would work in my heart at his time, not mine. I did not need to do anything to earn God’s favor. Nothing I could do would make God love me any more then He already did.

 
Chapter 9
Draw Near To God
 
It was not until a period of distance was placed between my family and Cecilia’s, that I began to see the blessing that Cecilia gave me. It was an ABUNDANT blessing in disguise! At the time, I felt sad, lonely, depressed and even angry with her and with her whole family. I felt that Cecilia divorced our friendship, and I had no idea why.
I went from being a babe in Christ, to a woman, desiring nothing more, than to love my Savior Jesus. God was changing me little by little each day. I began to pray for specific things, and within weeks, sometimes days, prayers were being answered.

As I spent time in prayer, I started hearing the Lord speak directly to me. I became sensitive to hearing his voice. Good things began happening in my life. It felt amazing! I felt on fire for the Lord, and wanted to scream it from the rooftops! I felt that I had been lost, walking around in limbo for so long, but now I was found.

I clung to this verse: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

I also went about my days, repeating…. “I Can Do All Things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippines 4:13)

The Lord started redirecting all my negative thoughts. I did not have to try to act a certain way anymore or anything like that. The Lord himself molded me, just like the potter and the clay. Me, a former mall-rat, was now more interested in tending to my flock at home, than shopping at the mall till midnight with friends.

I had no desire to paint my face with all the latest cosmetics, or keep up with the latest trends.

I once paid over two hundred dollars for a pair of Chanel sandals, which had the cutest CC logo on them. They made me feel so special. I remember showing my expensive sandals to Cecilia one day at church, along with my new Dooney & Burke bag. Cecilia just remained silent. God only knows what she was thinking, but who cares now!

I began to realize that buying frivolous things, such as very expensive shoes and expensive handbags, was not using my money wisely. I even traded in my much loved, Burberry coat, for a practical barn jacket. I became very frugal and wise with the money the Lord blessed my family with.

God was transforming me at last!!

These changes did not happen over night, but within a three-year stance. I firmly believe that God allows us to go through certain things, at certain times in our lives, to help us mature, and grow spiritually. If you have never been through any hard times in your life, why would you ever need the Lord to lean on? If everything has always been fine in your life, you would never realize the need for a higher power, which is Christ our Lord!

It is when you are at your lowest, that you reach up, with tear filled eyes… tired, confused, and feeling like anything would be better than the situation that you are in at that moment.

You call out to God, begging him to help you through it. You feel so weak, and realize that you can not do anything on your own. You want to close your eyes, and pretend it is all a dream!

That is when the Lord, reaches his hand to you, promising, that you will never be alone again. You dry your tears, now feeling an amazing inner strength that has just over taken you. And you just know that everything is going to be OK.

This was the way it was for me many nights.

Family will fail us, Friends will fail us too, but the Lord will never leave us, or forsake us.

I could not be happier nowadays. I have an awesome marriage. My husband is hard working and an amazing provider, who loves and treats me like the gem I am. As for my four children, they are happy and thriving. I just want them each to be the person that God has created each of them to be. I do not want to have robotic children, who have exquisite manners, but no personalities of their own.

That said, it is still hard for me to be around families like Cecilia’s. There have been a couple of families like that, who have passed our way. I do not want to shun anyone, but I can still see that I could possibly be lured back into something ugly.

Unless you have experienced this kind of situation, it may be hard to understand what I am saying. And I’ll be honest, oftentimes, I still think about Cecilia and her family. It is amazing how much of an impact one family can have on another. I often wonder how other families view my own family?

Does Cecilia have any idea what I have been through these past few years? Probably not, and despite all that has happened, I would not want her to feel bad about anything that happened. I am an adult, and take full responsibility of my own actions and emotions.

Where is Cecilia now? Well, just a few weeks ago, while cleaning out my bedroom closet, I came across a phone number, which read, Cecilia xxx-xxxx (call anytime)

Anytime huh? That is not even funny! I thought to myself.

I instantly had a flashback of this little yellow Post-it Note, which was given to me almost 5 years ago, by Cecilia herself. I turned the Post-it over, feeling the slight stickiness that it still had left to it. I walked over to the refrigerator, pressing it hard on the front door.

Silly as it sounds, I said to myself; if it is still stuck there by morning, I will pick up the phone after lunch tomorrow and call her. If it falls to the kitchen floor, I will pick it up and toss it in the trash, leaving well enough alone….

The next morning arrived, and guess what? It was still stuck to the refrigerator. I said a prayer, and headed over, and picked up the phone

 
It’s in the Lord’s Hands
Chapter 10:
I walked over to the phone, and dialed Cecilia’s number. My first thought was that it would possibly be disconnected, but who knows, maybe they finally moved. Cecilia always talked about how the time would come, and their house would be demolished, and then they would have to move. They were living rent-free in an old farmhouse. Someone had blessed them years ago with a property. They had to care for it, and in return they could live there for free, but once the owner passed away, they’d have to move.
They were even given a 15-passenger van as a blessing too! Regardless of their ways, the Lord always saw fit to bless them, in abundance, too. Oftentimes, I wonder why all the big families always get so many blessings? If being Quiverfull, is an Old Testament mandate, why does it seem like extra-large families always get extra-large blessings?
I have seen this in church many times, the family with the 8+ kids, receive box loads of children’s clothing for their children. They get free food dropped to their doorsteps, their mortgage paid for them, or they get a blessing of not having any mortgage at all. Do people feel sorry for them, or are they really the “chosen ones”? I know I should not be questioning these things, but sometimes I do. It seems, to me, like the most legalistic people I know are the ones who get enormous blessings.

Anyway, the phone rang three times, and then someone picked up, “Hello, whom may you wish to correspond with please?”

Nervously, I paused for a moment, froze really. This must be one of Cecilia’s delightfully robotic daughters. “Yes, this is Shelly.” I managed to let out.

I then heard once more, “Whom may you wish to correspond with please?”

I then said as usual, “Hi, this is Shelly, is your mom there?”

“One moment please.”

As usual, there was nothing personal about the way Cecilia’s daughter answered the phone. It was very cold, not particularly friendly, and I thought for a moment whether I should just hang up.

But before I could think another moment, I heard a familiar voice. “Oh Shelly, How have you been? We have been thinking about you so much lately.”

I tried to remain optimistic, and told Cecilia how much I too, had been thinking about her family. I tried not to do too much talking, really wanting to listen to all she had to say to me. She asked me how my children were doing, so I brought her up to date. I told her that I was expecting again – number five!

Cecilia seemed very happy to hear about my growing family, and told me that her family was also expecting once again, number thirteen now! Wow, it looked like there was still a slight competition going. Of course this could all still be in my head, and probably was.

I asked when her baby was due, and Cecilia said, “Any day now.” She then asked me for my address and phone number. Not that it had changed, I thought to myself.

I was feeling slightly hopeful though. Perhaps Cecilia would start writing, or calling me on a regular basis. Maybe with an explanation on why she had given me the cold-shoulder for these past few years. She asked me how we liked living down South. I told her I did not like it at all, and longed to be back home.

I told her at first, things were great, but now I did not like the area. There is a lot of prejudice, the whole Yankee verses Rebels thing. And, for being in the Bible Belt, it was very hard to find a good church.

Cecilia then said something that I could not quite figure out. She told me that she knew we would not be happy once we left the North. She then began to tell me everything that was wrong with the South, particularly, the state in which we lived.

Strange as all this was sounding, everything that Cecilia mentioned to me, was indeed, all true. I started getting somewhat annoyed by all this. Why was she sharing all this with me now? It was beyond me. Why didn’t Cecilia ever speak up before this? This seemed terribly rude of her!

I immediately changed the topic, and asked her how their house was holding up. It was a very old farmhouse, which was set on a 500-acre farm. All they had to do, was maintain it, and in exchange for maintaining it, they got to live there for free. Such a huge blessing to not worry about rent, or mortgage. And yes, I am envying it a bit more now.

Cecilia then mentioned that they were in the mist of praying on where the Lord would have them move. I asked why, and she told me that the owner finally passed away, and because the property was being sold to developers, it would soon be demolished, and they have to be out in a few months.

They had lived there for so many years, and I couldn’t help but feel sad for them. I told her how nice it would be, to go back up there, and help them all pack, just as they were so helpful to us when our family moved.

Just as I was going to mention that we too, were praying about a move. Cecilia told me, that they were praying about a possible move to Pennsylvania. I burst out with a very inappropriate Shelly-belly laugh! Leave it to me to always stick both feet in my mouth. Some things never change, I guess.

I told her that we too, were planning a move, and that move was to Pennsylvania!!!

Cecilia did not make much of a comment, but did mention a particular area in Pennsylvania that had a great church. She had mentioned this to me in the past too. A church where everyone home-schooled their children and ladies were not allowed to work outside their homes, per Titus 2.

I asked her if that would be the area that they would consider moving to, and she said they would move to wherever the Lord would have them go. I then mentioned the area in Pennsylvania where our family was planning on moving to. Cecilia delicately chuckled, and told me that maybe we would be seeing each other again soon.

We both shared a laugh, and she mentioned again, how much her family missed fellow-shipping with mine. For that moment, it all came crashing back, I missed her! What was with me? I thought I was over this? And with that, she told me that she needed to go and thanked me for calling her.

I hung up the phone and sat down on the sofa for a while. I thought about the possibility of reconnecting with Cecilia’s family. I also thought, what a coincidence it would be, if both our families ended up in the same state, once again…

It has been a month since we spoke on the phone that afternoon. I just received a picture card in the mail with Cecilia’s family, including her new bundle of joy! I looked at the picture, noticing that Cecilia had another boy. There was no letter, no personal note, just the one picture of Cecilia’s growing family. I took the picture, and placed it on the mantle, if nothing more, then to remember the good times that my family shared with hers, and as a way to remember to pray for them.

And who knows, it is in the Lord’s hands, to whether we will ever cross paths again with one another. One thing is sure though; I will be wearing the full armor of God, and will NOT be deceived into thinking that following a bunch of man made rules, will lead to righteous holiness.

The Lord himself will convict me it is all in his time…

As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

Draw closer to God and he will draw closer to you. (James 4:8)
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Somehow I Lost My Entire Identity

There was so much to read about this man; I didn’t even know where to begin. I stumbled across a message board that had a whole bunch of people who grew up following his teachings. They were adults now. The thing that perplexed me the most, was that these folks were calling him a religious cult leader, and that did not seem right to me.

Cecilia and her family were very strong, mature Christians. They would never get involved with something cultish, would they? The time I spent reading about this man, seemed so déjà vu to me. Everything I was reading from these strangers, was stuff I had heard before, from Cecilia herself, and it all began making sense.

Some of the things I was reading were things that I had no idea about. Things such as: there were 100+ chosen ones that were taught under this man back in the early 70’s. They signed up voluntarily, and some paid a small sum of money and were ministered too. They were given books, and literature to take home and study with their children. This was the first generation of Bill Gothard followers.

A lot of these former followers were very anti-Christian nowadays. Some were even atheists! This did not make any sense to me. Some were confused, and just strayed from religion altogether, yet some, managed to find their way back to the Lord, and were ministering to the ones that left the warped teachings of this man.

I could not spend more then several minutes at a time reading all this. I kept taking breaks, and then would go back and read some more. My heart wept so much while reading the stories. These poor helpless children had been taught that God was harsh and unloving. Who would ever want to worship a God that demanded such harshness? Who would want to remain faithful to a God that was just waiting for his children to mess up, so that he could punish them?

I was still somewhat confused myself, on what a true, God loving Christian ought to look, and act like. To me, Cecilia’s family still fit the mold of Christian perfection. They seemed so righteous, and holy. They were so set in their ways, so uncompromising to the world’s corrupt, “Hollywood standards”. I still managed to admire them.

Night after night I turned to Gods word, praying fervently, asking God to show me the truth. Each night I returned on-line to read more about Bill Gothard, trying to understand how Cecilia’s family operated, and why they did things the way that they did.

I was more confused than ever. Was I seeing legalism in it’s worst form? Or was it just righteous Christianity? There was so much scripture, diagrams, and illustrations to back up everything this man taught. I was no Bible scholar, how would I know what was true and what was false?

For a while, I decided to try to conform to Cecilia’s ways, just to see how it felt. I tried different things, but nothing ever felt right to me. So I stripped away every thing that I ever enjoyed doing. I stopped all my hobbies, fasted, prayed throughout my day, and placed scripture cards throughout our house. I purchased a couple of Bill Gothard’s red books on-line, as well as the three big brown “Character” sketch books, to use for Bible for the kids. I began teaching my oldest girls, everything that I was learning. I showed them all the diagrams, and illustrations in these books. One page even had a layout of how a Christian lady should style her hair. Pictures on how to wear scarves in a modest way. It showed different skirt lengths. How to act in different situations. How to look even!

I was strictly skirts only now. Not just any skirts either, floor length ones, that I sewed myself. I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts, and even short sleeve shirts. I wanted my new name to be “Modesty”. I gave all my pants and shorts to Goodwill. I even began wearing a head covering full time, insisting that my oldest daughters do the same. I told them that we needed to set the example. I packed all my jewelry away, even my favorite pearl earrings. I took my wedding ring off, because I felt that it was too worldly to wear anything gold. My girls were also following suit. They were both becoming mini-mes. We got attention wherever we went. People would stop us at Wal-Mart to ask me what my religion was?

One morning while at our new church, I had a lady come over to me and whisper in my ear, that if I wanted to make any friends at the church, then I best remove the cloth on top of my head, as well as my daughters’ heads. She told me that she looked just like me a couple years ago, and was just recently released from the Religious bondage.

I took a deep breath, and told her, “What a pity, but I am not looking to please anyone but God.”

She was right though. I was the outcast. No one said much to my family during the 6 months that we were there.

Months passed, and nothing seemed to change. I started getting impatient, feeling depressed and emotionally drained. I would share all this with my husband, and he felt helpless, he would tell me. He did not know how to help me. He told me to just be myself. The truth of the matter was though, I did not know who I was anymore. Somehow, I lost my entire identity. Being Religious, is hard work. I was so miserable. I hated who I’d become. I finally earned Cecilia’s friendship. I was just like her now! Wouldn’t she be proud of me!

A couple years of utter torture passed by, and one morning, I woke up from it all. I can not even remember the exact day it happened. I was praying and felt the Lord himself, tell me that it was all going to be all right. That he loved me regardless, and it did not matter how I looked, or whether I was in pants, or a skirt, had make up on, or off. It even did not matter if I had jewelry on, much less, my wedding ring. He loved me just the way I was. He created me in fact!

And it was by me being myself again, that the Lord began to work his power within me. I needed to do nothing at all, just trust the Lord. The Lord would work in my heart at his time, not mine. I did not need to do anything to earn God’s favor. Nothing I could do would make God love me any more then He already did.

 
Chapter 9
Draw Near To God
 
It was not until a period of distance was placed between my family and Cecilia’s, that I began to see the blessing that Cecilia gave me. It was an ABUNDANT blessing in disguise! At the time, I felt sad, lonely, depressed and even angry with her and with her whole family. I felt that Cecilia divorced our friendship, and I had no idea why.
I went from being a babe in Christ, to a woman, desiring nothing more, than to love my Savior Jesus. God was changing me little by little each day. I began to pray for specific things, and within weeks, sometimes days, prayers were being answered.

 

 

As I spent time in prayer, I started hearing the Lord speak directly to me. I became sensitive to hearing his voice. Good things began happening in my life. It felt amazing! I felt on fire for the Lord, and wanted to scream it from the rooftops! I felt that I had been lost, walking around in limbo for so long, but now I was found.

I clung to this verse: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

I also went about my days, repeating…. “I Can Do All Things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippines 4:13)

The Lord started redirecting all my negative thoughts. I did not have to try to act a certain way anymore or anything like that. The Lord himself molded me, just like the potter and the clay. Me, a former mall-rat, was now more interested in tending to my flock at home, than shopping at the mall till midnight with friends.

I had no desire to paint my face with all the latest cosmetics, or keep up with the latest trends.

I once paid over two hundred dollars for a pair of Chanel sandals, which had the cutest CC logo on them. They made me feel so special. I remember showing my expensive sandals to Cecilia one day at church, along with my new Dooney & Burke bag. Cecilia just remained silent. God only knows what she was thinking, but who cares now!

I began to realize that buying frivolous things, such as very expensive shoes and expensive handbags, was not using my money wisely. I even traded in my much loved, Burberry coat, for a practical barn jacket. I became very frugal and wise with the money the Lord blessed my family with.

God was transforming me at last!!

These changes did not happen over night, but within a three-year stance. I firmly believe that God allows us to go through certain things, at certain times in our lives, to help us mature, and grow spiritually. If you have never been through any hard times in your life, why would you ever need the Lord to lean on? If everything has always been fine in your life, you would never realize the need for a higher power, which is Christ our Lord!

It is when you are at your lowest, that you reach up, with tear filled eyes… tired, confused, and feeling like anything would be better than the situation that you are in at that moment.

You call out to God, begging him to help you through it. You feel so weak, and realize that you can not do anything on your own. You want to close your eyes, and pretend it is all a dream!

That is when the Lord, reaches his hand to you, promising, that you will never be alone again. You dry your tears, now feeling an amazing inner strength that has just over taken you. And you just know that everything is going to be OK.

This was the way it was for me many nights.

Family will fail us, Friends will fail us too, but the Lord will never leave us, or forsake us.

I could not be happier nowadays. I have an awesome marriage. My husband is hard working and an amazing provider, who loves and treats me like the gem I am. As for my four children, they are happy and thriving. I just want them each to be the person that God has created each of them to be. I do not want to have robotic children, who have exquisite manners, but no personalities of their own.

That said, it is still hard for me to be around families like Cecilia’s. There have been a couple of families like that, who have passed our way. I do not want to shun anyone, but I can still see that I could possibly be lured back into something ugly.

Unless you have experienced this kind of situation, it may be hard to understand what I am saying. And I’ll be honest, oftentimes, I still think about Cecilia and her family. It is amazing how much of an impact one family can have on another. I often wonder how other families view my own family?

Does Cecilia have any idea what I have been through these past few years? Probably not, and despite all that has happened, I would not want her to feel bad about anything that happened. I am an adult, and take full responsibility of my own actions and emotions.

Where is Cecilia now? Well, just a few weeks ago, while cleaning out my bedroom closet, I came across a phone number, which read, Cecilia xxx-xxxx (call anytime)

Anytime huh? That is not even funny! I thought to myself.

I instantly had a flashback of this little yellow Post-it Note, which was given to me almost 5 years ago, by Cecilia herself. I turned the Post-it over, feeling the slight stickiness that it still had left to it. I walked over to the refrigerator, pressing it hard on the front door.

Silly as it sounds, I said to myself; if it is still stuck there by morning, I will pick up the phone after lunch tomorrow and call her. If it falls to the kitchen floor, I will pick it up and toss it in the trash, leaving well enough alone….

The next morning arrived, and guess what? It was still stuck to the refrigerator. I said a prayer, and headed over, and picked up the phone

 
It’s in the Lord’s Hands
Chapter 10:
I walked over to the phone, and dialed Cecilia’s number. My first thought was that it would possibly be disconnected, but who knows, maybe they finally moved. Cecilia always talked about how the time would come, and their house would be demolished, and then they would have to move. They were living rent-free in an old farmhouse. Someone had blessed them years ago with a property. They had to care for it, and in return they could live there for free, but once the owner passed away, they’d have to move.
They were even given a 15-passenger van as a blessing too! Regardless of their ways, the Lord always saw fit to bless them, in abundance, too. Oftentimes, I wonder why all the big families always get so many blessings? If being Quiverfull, is an Old Testament mandate, why does it seem like extra-large families always get extra-large blessings?
I have seen this in church many times, the family with the 8+ kids, receive box loads of children’s clothing for their children. They get free food dropped to their doorsteps, their mortgage paid for them, or they get a blessing of not having any mortgage at all. Do people feel sorry for them, or are they really the “chosen ones”? I know I should not be questioning these things, but sometimes I do. It seems, to me, like the most legalistic people I know are the ones who get enormous blessings.

Anyway, the phone rang three times, and then someone picked up, “Hello, whom may you wish to correspond with please?”

Nervously, I paused for a moment, froze really. This must be one of Cecilia’s delightfully robotic daughters. “Yes, this is Shelly.” I managed to let out.

I then heard once more, “Whom may you wish to correspond with please?”

I then said as usual, “Hi, this is Shelly, is your mom there?”

“One moment please.”

As usual, there was nothing personal about the way Cecilia’s daughter answered the phone. It was very cold, not particularly friendly, and I thought for a moment whether I should just hang up.

But before I could think another moment, I heard a familiar voice. “Oh Shelly, How have you been? We have been thinking about you so much lately.”

I tried to remain optimistic, and told Cecilia how much I too, had been thinking about her family. I tried not to do too much talking, really wanting to listen to all she had to say to me. She asked me how my children were doing, so I brought her up to date. I told her that I was expecting again – number five!

Cecilia seemed very happy to hear about my growing family, and told me that her family was also expecting once again, number thirteen now! Wow, it looked like there was still a slight competition going. Of course this could all still be in my head, and probably was.

I asked when her baby was due, and Cecilia said, “Any day now.” She then asked me for my address and phone number. Not that it had changed, I thought to myself.

I was feeling slightly hopeful though. Perhaps Cecilia would start writing, or calling me on a regular basis. Maybe with an explanation on why she had given me the cold-shoulder for these past few years. She asked me how we liked living down South. I told her I did not like it at all, and longed to be back home.

I told her at first, things were great, but now I did not like the area. There is a lot of prejudice, the whole Yankee verses Rebels thing. And, for being in the Bible Belt, it was very hard to find a good church.

Cecilia then said something that I could not quite figure out. She told me that she knew we would not be happy once we left the North. She then began to tell me everything that was wrong with the South, particularly, the state in which we lived.

Strange as all this was sounding, everything that Cecilia mentioned to me, was indeed, all true. I started getting somewhat annoyed by all this. Why was she sharing all this with me now? It was beyond me. Why didn’t Cecilia ever speak up before this? This seemed terribly rude of her!

I immediately changed the topic, and asked her how their house was holding up. It was a very old farmhouse, which was set on a 500-acre farm. All they had to do, was maintain it, and in exchange for maintaining it, they got to live there for free. Such a huge blessing to not worry about rent, or mortgage. And yes, I am envying it a bit more now.

Cecilia then mentioned that they were in the mist of praying on where the Lord would have them move. I asked why, and she told me that the owner finally passed away, and because the property was being sold to developers, it would soon be demolished, and they have to be out in a few months.

They had lived there for so many years, and I couldn’t help but feel sad for them. I told her how nice it would be, to go back up there, and help them all pack, just as they were so helpful to us when our family moved.

Just as I was going to mention that we too, were praying about a move. Cecilia told me, that they were praying about a possible move to Pennsylvania. I burst out with a very inappropriate Shelly-belly laugh! Leave it to me to always stick both feet in my mouth. Some things never change, I guess.

I told her that we too, were planning a move, and that move was to Pennsylvania!!!

Cecilia did not make much of a comment, but did mention a particular area in Pennsylvania that had a great church. She had mentioned this to me in the past too. A church where everyone home-schooled their children and ladies were not allowed to work outside their homes, per Titus 2.

I asked her if that would be the area that they would consider moving to, and she said they would move to wherever the Lord would have them go. I then mentioned the area in Pennsylvania where our family was planning on moving to. Cecilia delicately chuckled, and told me that maybe we would be seeing each other again soon.

We both shared a laugh, and she mentioned again, how much her family missed fellow-shipping with mine. For that moment, it all came crashing back, I missed her! What was with me? I thought I was over this? And with that, she told me that she needed to go and thanked me for calling her.

I hung up the phone and sat down on the sofa for a while. I thought about the possibility of reconnecting with Cecilia’s family. I also thought, what a coincidence it would be, if both our families ended up in the same state, once again…

It has been a month since we spoke on the phone that afternoon. I just received a picture card in the mail with Cecilia’s family, including her new bundle of joy! I looked at the picture, noticing that Cecilia had another boy. There was no letter, no personal note, just the one picture of Cecilia’s growing family. I took the picture, and placed it on the mantle, if nothing more, then to remember the good times that my family shared with hers, and as a way to remember to pray for them.

And who knows, it is in the Lord’s hands, to whether we will ever cross paths again with one another. One thing is sure though; I will be wearing the full armor of God, and will NOT be deceived into thinking that following a bunch of man made rules, will lead to righteous holiness.

The Lord himself will convict me it is all in his time…

As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

Draw closer to God and he will draw closer to you. (James 4:8)
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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