The day before my twenty-fifth birthday, my husband drove me to a tattoo parlor and said, “It’s time.”
I walked out about thirty minutes later with the nose ring I had long desired. It took two years for someone to email me about that ring, which is a bit of a record, since, as both a pastor’s kid and a young adult blogger, I have had my fair share of people being annoyed, intrigued, and outraged by the things I choose to do.
“You didn’t have a nose ring in Return of the Daughters,” the commenter bemoaned, “so why do you have one now?”
Her frustration is a familiar refrain and a subject that I have been hesitant to write about until now. Because I’m obviously not the same girl, I was when I appeared in Return of the Daughters — but not in any way that’s worth a tell-all expose. This is just a post to help you reconcile the old and new me.
Ten years ago, I appeared in a documentary about stay-at-home daughters: young women who chose to forgo the typical college experience to stay home and serve in a family context until marriage (the perfect preparation for being a stay at home wife).
[clickToTweet tweet=”This is just a post to help you reconcile the old and new me.” quote=”This is just a post to help you reconcile the old and new me.”]
At seventeen, I was the youngest girl featured. I remember my heart hammering with anxiety as I sat in front of the camera, bright lights shining on my face, and spoke passionately about the value of the Christian family and my place therein. Five years later, I would write a book on the same topic, a decision that I’ve alternately regretted and resigned myself to.
Most of the material for my book was written when I was nineteen, and whenever I read it, it feels a bit like hearing myself on a recording: “Is that my voice? Do I sound like that? Oh man, that’s cheesy!”
If I had to do it again, I’d just write a book encouraging young Christian girls from all walks of life. Because, as I said my book itself, the at-home daughter thing (always hated that term) isn’t preferable or possible for all young women. And that’s okay. I believed that then, and I believe it even more so now.
The Old and New Me
Since that documentary and my early blogging days, a lot of people aren’t quite sure what to do with me. They have a hard time reconciling the old and new me.
This makes sense because I’m a twentysomething, and I’ve grown and changed over the years — like most twentysomethings. I didn’t have a nose ring at seventeen because I didn’t want one then. Much like the clothes in my closet and the way I wear my hair, my style has changed, and it will probably continue to change.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Some aren’t quite sure what to do with me. They have a hard time reconciling the old and new me.” quote=”A lot of people aren’t quite sure what to do with me. They have a hard time reconciling the old and new me.”]
Much like the girl who used to view the years between graduation and marriage as “in-between” years but now sees every year as something that should be lived, not as a transition, but as an opportunity to live life fully, to the glory of God. My views have matured and will continue to evolve.
There’s no dramatic story — no road to Damascus moment or family drama to tell. There’s nothing to see here. I lived at home until I got married at twenty-four. I held down a job, completed my undergrad. I made some headway on a masters degree and enjoyed my family before they moved thousands of miles away to serve in Africa. If I had it to do again, I might do some things differently — and I might not.
And that disappoints some people.
The Great Homeschool Hope
When your dad is a popular pastor, and your face gets plastered on a documentary about daughterhood when you’re a teenager, people start to pin all kinds of things on you — like hope.
And, unfortunately, in the decade since the documentary and the seven years since I turned in my manuscript, some people’s hopes have been disappointed.
We all want good examples for our kids. We want homeschoolers who have turned out well, courtship stories that end in blissful marriages, and ideologies that fit our comfortable views of the world. We want to be able to say, “See? So-and-so turned out so well! We can do this!”
Honestly, I get it, especially as a pastor’s kid. I get emails and messages from people who act as they own me, scolding me like they’re my mother, wagging their finger and groaning, “What would your father think?”
My father and I are close. He tells me exactly what he thinks. And I categorize those thoughts safely down the priority list, after what God thinks, what my husband thinks, and what my immediate community thinks. What his fans and followers think is way further down the list. Like, if we’re alphabetizing it, think Z.
That’s not an insult, either! I’m just learning that real-life community is a lot bigger than my online persona, and what others think of it.
The Great Dramatic Hope
While some people are pinning their hopes on me, other people pin accusations of brainwashing and Stockholm Syndrome (real email I received).
There are comment threads upon comment threads online about my family and me, and a recurring theme was hope that I was smart enough to escape the cult I was clearly raised in. “Someday, she’ll break free!”
When I posted my reading list online one summer, they were bewildered that I was “allowed” (I was in my twenties at the time) to read “The Color Purple.” When I started working at a local school, they were flabbergasted. When I began my masters degree, they were bowled over.
I used to worry about setting those thoughts at ease and assuring people that my parents were on board with my choices, but these days, I’ve learned that people’s thirst for drama tends to outweigh reasonableness in these instances. People were so caught up in what they thought I believed about women and their place, that they didn’t bother to find out what I did believe. And when I acted in ways that were in accordance with my actual beliefs, they short-circuited and looked for some juicy drama.
Sorry, folks. I’m about as boring as they come. I have a great relationship with my parents, and my husband likes to keep his boots on the floor and not on my neck.
The Gospel Hope
In our culture, we are obsessed with defining ourselves. We want the perfect label for exactly what we believe, and we want our crowd to perfectly reflect those beliefs. We organize ourselves into neat little camps with our neat little codes of conduct and our neat little buzzwords.
I’m learning, though, that there is freedom in the gray areas.
By gray areas, I don’t mean that we can’t know and teach absolute truth. Rather, I mean that absolute truth is usually not as easily discovered as toeing a single party line. And as we are conformed more and more to the image of Christ, our ideas change; they grow; they nuance. That doesn’t make us hypocrites — it just makes us human beings — especially when we’re in our twenties.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Real-life community is a lot bigger than our online persona, and what others think of it.” quote=”I’m learning that real-life community is a lot bigger than my online persona, and what others think of it.”]
So. Yes. I have changed in the last ten years. I dare you to find a millennial who hasn’t, or to dig up your yearbook and see if you are the same person you were in your senior picture. No, there will not be a dramatic, tell-all essay released about my abusive past, because it doesn’t exist. But also, no, I am not and never was part of some sacred stay at home cult. I’ll raise my daughters to do what God is calling them to do, vocation-wise, marriage-wise, ministry-wise, at-home wise, or away-wise.
And I’ll do it with a nose ring because I like them. And if that surprises you, it’s because you don’t know me because the old and new me aren’t really that different. The false intimacy of the Internet allows you to see glimpses here and there, but your time will be much better spent learning the women in your community and serving them well by encouraging them in Christ. I would love for this blog to help you do that.