*Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed (here and in other posts) regarding churches I attended are only opinions. My recounting of experiences is only as I remember them and should not be taken as the only possible experience someone had. My home life was not dictated by anyone other than the people in my home. This may have come from misinterpretation of teachings or other sources. It is not meant to be a reflection of the churches themselves as a whole and should not be taken as such.
These two grew up in different worlds; Mary from a Christian household and an only child. She was not the most popular girl but not an outcast either. She preferred reading books or participating in band to other activities. This was true throughout college where she lived in a scholarship hall, played French horn in the band, participated in KU Navigators, and various drama endeavors. It was in a musical put on by Navigators that Mary and Marty met. He was from a very liberal “hippie” family having one younger sister. He was popular and athletic throughout school and generally well liked, though he did have some conflict with coaches and others in authority. He also had a bad boy side growing up, with participation in a rowdier group of boys calling themselves the “Barker street gang”. He became a Christian in high school when he was interested in a girl who dated only Christians.
I do not know exactly how they fell in love or how long they dated. I do not know what they thought when they first met each other or even how exactly they were introduced. These are questions I was not able to ask them both. I do know they married in 1979 after graduating from KU. They experienced what I assume to be a rather happy first decade of marriage before having their first child in 1990. That was me. I was the first born and showed every sign of it. I showed up a month earlier than on July 10 rather than August 30 and at a convenient 2:50 in the morning. Apparently, I was ready to conquer the world. Two years later they had my brother and only sibling. He showed up two weeks late on September 13 and a little less confident about his place in the world. I was my father’s daughter; charismatic, charming, loud, and athletic. I did get blessed with my mother’s musical ability and enjoyed singing and acting while growing up. I thoroughly enjoyed bossing around my little brother who was more apt to wander around outside building railroad tracks in his imagination than kicking around a soccer ball. He had my mother’s brilliant, soft spirit. We both enjoyed reading and playing with neighborhood friends, though our responsibilities at home were very different.
As we got older I excelled socially, in school, music, athletics, leadership, and in general being the first-born golden child my parents loved. My dad particularly seemed to revel in my “successfulness” and paid special attention to me. My mom was happy I was happy. Matthew had friends, though they were not exactly the “cool” crowd. He started off going to a special Montessori-style school and doing well though he had trouble paying attention. He was not too keen on sports, though he did possess athletic ability, and he struggled to stand still during choir practice though he was not un-talented. He seemed to always be trying to get more attention from my dad but enjoying every minute he got with my mom. In the eyes of many it was a perfect match-up for a family; each parent related with a particular child in a “special” way. It seemed, at the time we had a rather pleasant childhood. I did notice we lived a little differently than some, but never realized how bizarre the world I grew up in was until I came to college.
To the eyes of many in the outside world we had an ideal American family. A two parent, two income household with two children. My mom worked at Watson Library on the KU campus and my dad owned his own woodworking shop. He hated to call it a carpenter’s shop because he saw himself as an artist and not a distributor of simple cabinetry. He named his business The Carpenter’s shop. Mind you, the apostrophe in carpenter made all the difference. Jesus was a carpenter and it was really His shop. It was still not the shop of a carpenter though. Makes absolute sense, I know. That’s the other thing about our family. We were religious. We were members of the same church for the first 12 years of my life. Let me paint a picture for you, of the environment we grew up in, spiritually speaking. We attended a conservative church in Lawrence that I later learned, is considered a cult (or close to it) by many in the community. Some highlights of my Christian upbringing in this church were women always in head coverings and a dress or skirt. The only place women participated was in teaching Sunday School and cooking meals. Men were the head of the household and the church did not get involved. There was a typical church service on Sunday mornings and we would come back on Sunday night for the breaking of the bread. There was no pastor, only a board of elders who rotated giving sermons. We did not believe in the production of music so we sang only hymns with the accompaniment of a piano or children’s songs with a guitar. I did not realize the rigid thinking and emphasis on some old testament ideals and rules was strange because I knew nothing else.
Nobody, including me, realized what went on in our house. I did not realize the way I was spoken to and treated constituted emotional and spiritual abuse at times. I did not realize the way my mom was spoken to and treated was manipulation and emotional abuse. The same was true for my brother who experienced these as well as physical aggression (even if in the form of over-enthusiastic spanking) from my dad. I though being responsible for my parent’s bookkeeping and the majority of the household chores was a norm, though I still did so grudgingly. I knew the strict eating habits we kept were strange but did not notice the over-arching sense of control in our household as unusual. The countless rules about food and clothing were absurd, even if well intentioned at times.
Some Miller Household Rules:
No shorts before the thermometer reads 70 degrees
No sugar or artificial sweeteners (natural flavoring only)
Potato Chips only on Sundays during football
Brown rice, vegetables, and protein (fish, eggs, turkey) for breakfast
No dairy (soy and rice products only)
No red meat or pork
Breakfast must be finished before the timer goes off (I waited out everyone finishing breakfast and threw away what I did not want to eat, hiding it in the trash can or flushing it down the toilet).
I think the idea is there. There were many rules and they were taken to a different level than that of a “healthy” household. There was a chart and we earned “tokens”, known to the rest of the heathenistic world as poker chips and obviously in turn, a sinful gambling piece. Thank goodness our innocent minds were sheltered from that knowledge.