When my siblings and I were quite young, and even before we were born, my parents started studying the Scriptures for instruction on how to raise a family. They made some decisions that went against what the world calls normal. In some ways, we lived a very sheltered lifestyle, and by saying that I mean that my parents were very careful about the influences in our lives. We met all sorts of people with all manner of theology, ideologies, worldviews, etc. In fact, we were recently discussing some of the most unusual and odd characters that we had come in contact with over the years, and we had to laugh about the fact that some people think we are too sheltered or have not been exposed to people who are not just like us!
One of these decisions was that my mother would not work a regular job, but would be a keeper at home. My mother has been “at home” since before I was born and as a young girl, I also decided to be a wife and mother and keeper at home one day. It seemed so simple – it was what women were created to do! My father always told people that my mother worked much harder than he did, even though she only worked at home! He honored her (and still does!) for her devotion to her family’s welfare and as I grew up, I was convinced that being a homemaker was the best and most important thing a woman could possibly do.
When I was eight years old, we moved into a community of plain people. These are what most of us would refer to as Amish or Mennonite, but our neighbors did not use those titles because they had left their Amish and Mennonite churches. We were able to get some property there and my father built our home off grid. We lived there for six years and it was a wonderful experience.
Being in that community helped to form and shape the values that I grew up with. We were surrounded by families … mainly large families. The fathers worked, sometimes in the fields, sometimes in their shops, or on construction crews. The mothers took care of their homes and families. It seemed a normal way of life and it made sense! The children, for the most part, lived with their families until they were married.
We moved away from there when I was fourteen but as I entered my upper teens and neared the end of my homeschooling days, I never dreamed of leaving home and going out on my own. It seemed like such a crazy idea! In fact, I remember the night before I turned sixteen we were visiting with some friends. The father of the family, who is a strong supporter of daughters staying at home with their families, heard that I was turning sixteen, and he said, “You have to move out now! Get your own apartment! Get a job! Be independent!”
And we all laughed because … it was laughable! Maybe it was the influence of the people in the plain community, but I just could not understand how parents could send their sixteen year old … or eighteen year old … or twenty-one year old daughters off to face the world on their own, instead of letting them stay at home and be part of the family. At that point in time, I really had not given much consideration to what I would do after graduating – I guess I assumed that I would continue on as a part of the family, and perhaps just have more time for some extra projects or studies.
It was also right about then that I was going through a time period that I really wanted to be married. That was kind of laughable too, seeing that I was barely sixteen! But nevertheless, I was struggling with contentment. I remember reading an Above Rubies magazine that was full of suggestions for ways that women could bless their husbands and children, and as much as I enjoyed reading all of the thoughts and ideas, I was really discouraged because none of them applied to me. So I thought to myself how I wished there was a resource that could encourage unmarried young ladies – those who really wanted to be married and have their own families, but who were trying to wait patiently and be content in the meantime.
It was out of that desire, that the idea for Shining Stars Magazine was born and about one year later, we published our first issue. During that year, I had begun to realize that my perceptions of what unmarried daughterhood was supposed to look like were very different than most people in our world. I realized that once a girl graduated, she was expected to enroll in college, to move into her own place … even if she lived at home, she was supposed to get a job and start making some income. I found that girls who just wanted to be wives and mommies and keepers at home were looked down on and condemned. I learned that women were expected to prepare for a career, even if they did want to be homemakers, because they might have to provide for themselves one day. If you didn’t get a college degree now before you got married, then what would happen if your husband died or was seriously injured or ran off with someone else? How would you provide for yourself?
I found that the biggest struggle most young ladies were facing was not that of pining away for their Prince Charming, but rather trying to figure out what to do during this in-between time, after school and before marriage. And I realized that I didn’t really know why I believed it was right to stay at home and serve my family, other than it just seemed like the best thing to do! So I had to study and learn and be able to defend my actions with Scripture. There were several resources that were very helpful to me, but what I want to share next are some of the things that I learned from the Bible about a young woman’s role and how these things convinced me of my duty and responsibility as a daughter of King.
(stay tuned for Part Two: Biblical Reasons For Being At Home)