Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Stay-At-Home Daughter

My daughter and I have both read the book by the Botkin sisters called So Much More. I must admit the first time through I was a little skeptical. It was three years ago when Lydia was only fifteen, and I could have never imagined what a wonderful influence it would have on her life.

The full reality of where we are now didn't really sink in until one night a few months ago at a fellowship gathering at our church. We had some special visitors with whom our family is well acquainted. The father of this family sat across from us and engaged our daughter in conversation.

"You have graduated now. Haven't you, Lydia?" He began innocently enough.

She affirmed that she had.

He then went on to ask her what she had been doing with herself since then.

She answered that she had been studying organic farming and herb gardening.

He let her know in a nice way that those interests wouldn't make her any money. (Someone needs to tell MaryJane Butters that!!!) He then went on to counsel her to pursue a college education which would give her some marketable skills.

"You probably plan on getting married some day. Right?" the interrogation continued.

Yes, she did.

Our friend let her know she didn't have that guarantee and that she may need to make money to support herself in case something happened. She couldn't depend on her parents to always be around.

My husband and I were sitting right there. Though I am best known as the mouth of the family, the Lord has worked His grace in me over these many years to learn when to keep my mouth shut. I was seething over my plate, however, waiting patiently for my husband to rise in her defense. But, alas, he was at a loss for words. The audacity of our friend was just so shocking he couldn't think of what to say.

Later, in the van on the way home, I spoke up.

"So, Lydia, did you get your gut full of feminist philosophy this evening?"

Her tongue was loosed. She was livid. Echoing the Botkin sisters, she responded, "Why should I spend four of the best years of my life preparing for the worst-case scenario?!"

There is "so much more" to Lydia than this fellow could have even imagined. On the outside, she appears to be a unassuming, little house maiden just biding her time until her beloved appears on the scene to whisk her away on a gallant, white steed. Wrong! (Well, not all wrong, but quite a bit wrong.) Getting married one day is definitely part of her hopes, dreams, and prayers for her future. But, that is not her motivation for staying home from full-time interests outside her home.

Lydia has learned she is a unique creation of God, created to be a woman. In the context of her womanhood, she knows she has a biblically protected place in our family. Our well-meaning friend assumes there may come a day when Lydia will be on her own, especially if something happens to her parents. What he doesn't realize is we have trained our sons, and they have the conviction themselves, to care for their sister if we are unable to do so. This isn't some safety net we've concocted to ensure her well-being. This is biblical truth applied to real-life scenarios of even the worst kind.

Yet, the question always crops up: What are you doing with your life after graduation? It is a legitimate question, and one which Lydia could have elaborated upon to our friend if she wasn't so modest. In the year and a half since Lydia graduated from high school, she has:
  • Learned pattern drafting
  • Created her own pattern and made her own modest swimsuit (at right)
  • Created a pattern for, constructed, and sold her own sewing belt online (below)
  • Studied and implemented many of the recipes and food preparation methods of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which include lacto-fermentation, pickling, and other methods of food preservation without canning or freezing
  • Studied and practiced food foraging in our local area
  • Created her own blog and Etsy store
  • Has been working on a wedding ring quilt (huge and intricate)
  • Studied and implemented organic and herb gardening in her own garden, producing fresh and delightful foods for our table
  • Continued self-learning to play the piano, advancing to more difficult pieces on her own
  • Studied card crafting and created lovely original cards and decorated journals for friends and loved ones
  • Studied digital photography (see lovely photos on her blog and below)
  • And, among other things, continued to fine-tune her housekeeping and cooking skills under the guidance and mentoring of her mother
Her volunteer work is done on an as-needed basis. As needs arise among our family and friends, Lydia is available and willing to meet those needs with grace and great skill. These include:
  • One family in our church has allowed Lydia to babysit and help with their children several times throughout the past year, namely for doctor appointments, midwife appointments, the birth of their youngest child, and the week after the baby's surgery for craniosynostosis. This family has no extended family near at hand and was very grateful Lydia was available and willing to meet these dire needs.
  • Helped a young Army wife with two young children get things arranged for her and the babies to move to be with her husband stationed in a foreign land
  • She, along with our son, Andrew, and I, has helped not less than three families and one clothing retail store move, including packing, cleaning, and the actual move itself.
  • She and I have both helped a computer illiterate single friend navigate the maze of finding new employment after getting an injury which kept her from working at her old job (one which she had trained for and had worked at for over 25 years -- so much for being prepared for the "worst-case scenario!")
  • Helped care for a precious woman in our church who was dying of cancer up until she was moved to a hospice home
Lydia does work part-time outside our home as a retail cashier for a few close friends from church, but the work is seasonal and gives her more than enough spending money to not only purchase books, hope chest goodies, and non-essentials, but to reinvest in her own business and educational endeavors.

Yet, all these things combined cannot equal the relationship Lydia has nurtured with her father, mother, and siblings. She took the Botkin sisters' advice to heart and actively pursued encouraging her brothers to godly manhood, assisting her mother in making our home a haven, doing all she could to further her father's vision for our home, and blessing her family by her many contributions. She does all these things without losing her identity as an individual, while growing and expanding who she is and what God has created her to be.

Since the time she and I first read So Much More, I have watched Lydia put the principles of this book into practice on a daily basis. It didn't all happen over night. I think that's what may be discouraging to some young women who first read it. What the Botkin girls envision seems more like an impossible dream to them. Yet, a girl with vision will take the task in hand by the grace of God in answer to prayer and make it a reality in her own life.

I didn't write this post to elevate our daughter to a height above measure, to inflate her ego, or boast of her accomplishments. My purpose is to encourage daughters and parents just like us that there really is so much more you can be and do when you surrender your future to God and choose to give up the illusory goals of college and university diplomas and careerism. You don't have to do all the things Lydia did to be successful at home. Daughters must pursue their own interests guided by their unique gifts and talents. They must communicate with their parents to discern the best way to help meet the needs of the family of which they were created to be an integral part.

It is my conviction that, rather than assuming all young women must leave home after high school graduation, parents and their daughters should keep the door open for self-directed studies, work-at-home and family business options, service opportunities within the family, church, and community, and preparations conducive to the roles of women in the home, church, and community.

If you have any questions or need encouragement, please respond in the comments below or email me.