Counting On Season 8, Episode 2: Make Room for Baby

After the standard TLC montage of flashbacks showing us what we’ve already seen, then sneak peeks of what we’re about to see, the first actual scene opens at Joe and Kendra’s home, which is a log cabin-style house situated on Duggar property, only about six hundred yards from the main Duggar home. Joe explains that the house originally belonged to his grandmother (Mary Duggar), but when she decided to sell it, the buyer only wanted the land, so the decision was made to relocate the house basically into Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar’s backyard. According to Joe, “it worked out best for us to live here,” and at this point he (with some help) has been working on renovations for about seven months, although we don’t know yet how much time has passed since the previous episode, so it’s unclear where we are in the TV version of the Duggar family timeline.

The house definitely looks like it’s under construction, but Joe has obviously been hard at work because it looks a lot different from when we saw it last in this mini webisode, which aired around May 2017. While Joe, Kendra, Jana, Jessa, and baby Henry walk in and out of the various rooms, Joe tells us about the work he has done so far, which has basically involved tearing everything out and then replacing it, including new cabinets, countertops, and wood floors. There’s even a brand-new deck, which Kendra is excited about because she hadn’t anticipated the project being completed so quickly, and now she won’t have to keep the door locked for the kids- “or whenever we have kids,” she quickly corrects herself, but her comment doesn’t go unnoticed by Jessa, who jokes, “what about kids!?”

The group looks out over the deck with the main Duggar house in view as Jana tells us that it will be nice to have Joe and Kendra close by, and Jinger’s talking head chimes in to (rather unconvincingly) say that “there would be many positives to living close to the big house,” pointing out that Joe and Kendra will have lots of helpers if they need it. When asked what the drawbacks would be, Jinger cites “kids looking in the windows 24/7” as her main concern, and back to the log cabin, Joe tells us that he and Kendra plan to set some ground rules.

Moving back inside, Joe and Kendra usher Jana, Jessa and Henry into one of the bedrooms to share some momentous, but not at all surprising, news: theeeyyyy’re expecting! Jessa says “wow, don’t waste any time!” with a laugh, and extends her arm to give Kendra a side hug. Jana gives Joe a side hug, but surprisingly gives Kendra a full embrace, and Jessa exclaims, “so you DO need a nursery!”, which makes Jana light up at the prospect of a new interior design project.

Joe and Kendra tell us that this was a honeymoon baby, and that they weren’t “expecting to be expecting” this soon (seems like basic biology to me, though). Kendra shares that she is still struggling with morning sickness, but that it’s getting better, although it’s still unclear where we are in time or how far along she is. Kendra tells Jana and Jessa her idea for revealing the news to the rest of the family: she wants to set up the nursery and then reveal the baby’s room as a surprise, and of course Jana and Jessa are game to help. Kendra says that she wants to do this once the house is finished and everything is moved in, so that she can invite everyone over for a tour and include the reveal at the end, so apparently she and Joe don’t plan to share the news with the whole family quite yet, given the current state of the house.

Jana and Jessa (really just Jessa) remark that the honeymoon babies might be becoming a trend in their family, since Joe and Kendra’s news mirrors the timeline of Joy and Austin’s announcement several months ago. Then, we’re off to San Antonio, Texas, where Jinger and Jeremy are out shopping for pianos.

They’re greeted by Kevin, a friendly salesman who points them in the right direction, although I’m sure the section filled with pianos wasn’t too hard to spot. Jeremy explains that they’re looking for a piano to upgrade from the keyboard that Jinger is currently using, and we’re treated to a brief performance from Jinger- she really is quite good. A producer asks several Duggar siblings, “who in the Duggar family is the most musically talented?” and everyone answers Jinger, which is surprising to me, because I always thought Jana was the one who was labeled as the so-called “concert pianist.” However, we’re also treated to several flashbacks of Jinger playing the violin and the piano, and as someone who took nine years of piano lessons when I was growing up, I was super impressed by the shot of her playing two pianos at once. WHAT!? I didn’t even realize that was possible.

Anyways, Joe goes on to explain that he and Jinger started piano lessons at around the same time, when they were “6 and 7, or maybe even younger than that”- perhaps even closer to 5, which is the age that Michelle Duggar has cited in the past when discussing the children’s music lessons. Joe says that every year, Jinger would always get a lot better while he “barely moved up the scale.”

Jeremy interrupts Jinger’s performance to ask, “where’s the price tag?”, and although Jinger tells him not to look, Kevin helpfully informs him that the piano Jinger had just been playing cost about $14,000. “Oookay!!” Jeremy recoils, and retreats towards the cheaper models. Our friend Kevin tells him that pianos range from about $4,000 to $200,000, and Jeremy asks him where the pianos in the $200,000 range are located, “just so we know where not to go.” Jinger explains that she was turning the price tags around because she thought they were just window shopping, and she wanted to be able to enjoy it. She tries out an upright Yamaha piano next, and plays part of what I think is the song “Hosanna in the Highest,” which brings me way back to my church-going days. Jinger says that this piano is her favorite because of its sound, and Kevin, anticipating Jeremy’s reservations about the cost, tells them that they can also buy used, or even a remanufactured piano that has had its strings and pins replaced.

Jeremy’s talking head tells us that he wants to buy Jinger a piano as a surprise for their first anniversary, if he can find a deal. Meanwhile, at the music store he fools around with several guitars and then a nose flute (apparently that’s a thing), which prompts a producer to ask Jinger if she is ever embarrassed by Jeremy’s “antics.” Blushing, she insists that she isn’t, and her talking head adds the tongue-in-cheek comment that “he enjoys trying, but without lessons you have to give him some grace.”

Next we check in with Lauren and Josiah, who are planning to eat lunch together at the Duggar home. Josiah says that their courtship is going great so far, and that today he will be cooking a meal for Lauren for the very first time. He starts off by drizzling some oil into a pan and throwing in some onions, and tells us that his plan is to make some fajitas. This sounds appetizing at first, especially when Josiah starts to talk about how much he wants to impress Lauren, which would make you think that he’s about to pull out all the stops for her. Instead, he pulls out some leftover guacamole from the fridge, and asks his younger sister Johannah how to tell if guacamole is still good, which isn’t a promising sign.

Apparently, Josiah and Lauren’s lunch date is being chaperoned by three of the Duggar sisters: Johannah, Jennifer, and Jordan, and when asked how they ended up with the job, Johannah says, “Well, they can’t be alone together because, ummm….I don’t know, I think they purpose to have chaperones with them until they’re married.”

In the kitchen, Josiah once again consults with a sister about the guacamole, trusting Jordyn’s advice that “it should be good, if it has black on it, it’s bad.” Amusingly, this is interposed between claims from talking heads Jessa and Joe that Josiah is “really into” cooking. To his credit, we see that Josiah is making a special effort to accommodate Lauren’s gluten insensitivity, and- yay! it’s time for another round of “test the Duggars’ knowledge!” Ben, Jessa, Jason, and Kendra all fumble to describe what gluten is, and then Lauren helpfully fills in the rest.

Speaking of Lauren, when she arrives at the Duggar home, Josiah greets her with a side hug, giving the couple an opportunity to inform us that they, too, have set STANDARDS for their courtship, not bothering to elaborate because as Josiah says, “they’re all very similar to what all of our other siblings have done.” SHOCKING news, and I assume he means all of his siblings, because Lauren was the first in her family to enter into a courtship. Cue flashbacks to all of the other married couples (sans Josh & Anna and Jill & Derick, of course) describing their own courtship standards.

Josiah continues to rummage around in the kitchen, and any anticipation that he might actually be cooking a nice meal for Lauren is dashed when he pulls what looks like a restaurant carry-out box of leftovers out from the fridge and decides to throw them in. As he adds the food into the pan, Lauren tries some of the guacamole, and she doesn’t beat around the bush: “This tastes awful!” she tells Johannah, and to Josiah she says that it tastes like it had been in the fridge for a long time. Lauren scrapes the guac into the trash, but her taste buds are still in danger, because Josiah tries to feed her even MORE guacamole that he admits to “finding” in the fridge upon further questioning.

Fortunately for Josiah, Lauren seems amused rather than perturbed, and she tells us that food is Josiah’s love language, also mentioning that when he was growing up and his parents would go on a date, he would always ask them to bring him leftovers. Lauren assures viewers that she found Josiah’s gesture sweet, especially because he was trying to make the meal “authentic” for her, given that she is El Salvadorian.

While they eat, Josiah decides that they should ask each other some “getting to know each other” questions, pulling out a stack of index cards for each of them. The questions start out easy enough: Lauren chooses dogs over cats, and Josiah says he “wants” to be neat versus messy. Between city and country, Lauren easily picks country, and Josiah jokes that while he’d love to wake up early instead of sleep in, he “just can’t.” Things seem like they’re going to get a little more interesting when Lauren asks Josiah if he has a hidden talent, and if so, to please demonstrate- but his answer is scuba diving, and sadly we don’t get to see him act this out, which would have been the comedic relief that this lunch date desperately needed (Johannah in particular looks bored out of her mind).

TLC drops some foreshadowing when Josiah asks Lauren where she’d like to go on a getaway, but it almost seems like she goes off-script right here and surprises him by saying Israel instead of Austria, which Josiah says he was expecting because of how much Lauren enjoys The Sound of Music. I wonder if their honeymoon had already been booked at this point? Josiah makes a point to get Lauren to agree that Austria would be her second choice, which makes me think that her first response had him a little bit worried. Personally, I think Lauren should be more worried that Josiah’s response to her next question- “What makes us a good match for each other?” was “Oooof. What makes us perfect for each other? We’re perfect for each other, I really think that’s the only way you could put it.” Johannah rolling her eyes right here right here says it all.

We’re clearly getting into more serious territory here because Josiah’s next question to Lauren is about what she thinks of courtship. Not surprisingly, she talks about how “wonderful” it is to have her parents involved in their relationship and about the accountability that gives them, but it is interesting to note that Lauren doesn’t appear to be as familiar with this type of relationship as Josiah, who takes the opportunity to explain courtship for the umpteenth time in this show. He also gives us the top quote of the episode when he says, “Really cause what courtship is, basically just, it’s not just, it’s not just like dating for the purpose of just you know, a one-night shag.” Because that’s what all the rest of us are doing, obviously.

Wise Jessa and Ben talking heads briefly tell us about the early days of their relationship, which was long-distance. They spent a lot of time on the phone and video-chatting, and learned lots of interesting things about each other, according to Jessa. “Interesting” apparently includes the fact that Jessa doesn’t like coconut or olives, two of Ben’s favorite foods.

Back at the main Duggar home, Josiah’s final question for Lauren is “if someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?” Something tells me that he was not the one to come up with these questions. Lauren’s response was, “Well, if it had us on the front we’d just put ‘Our Story’ and probably someone would read it or something.” Okay Lauren, but what about the first 18 years of your life? Josiah, on the other hand, seemed to think it was brilliant.

Finally, the leftover lunch date comes to an end, and we join Austin and a very tired-looking Joy as they head into their midwife appointment to check up on the baby. The midwife asks them how they’re doing, and it’s Austin who answers and says he’s tired- the morning appointment was a bit much for him, apparently. Talking head Joy tells us that she wasn’t feeling well that day because she had a cold and hadn’t eaten yet.

Joy goes on to explain that their midwife, “Miss Lucy,” is someone local who she heard about by word of mouth. Today, Joy is there for a glucose test so the appointment begins with a finger prick, which Joy clearly isn’t thrilled about. Once she sees the needle, she mentions “that’s what the lady used at the other place,” although no word on who said lady or what said place was.

Then it’s time for another round of Quiz! The! Duggars! Neither Jinger, Kendra, Jeremy nor Joy know what “trypanophobia”- the fear of needles- is, but who knows something that random in the first place? Joy survives, probably thanks to Austin’s pep talk in which he tells his pregnant wife that “pain is temporary.” We find out that her iron level is good, but her glucose is a little high- it’s important, Austin tells us, to monitor this for mom and baby in order to watch out for gestational diabetes. It does seem like this may be a concern, as the midwife asks Joy if she has brought her “diet sheet” back.

A producer asks talking head Joy if any of her mom or sisters has had any glucose issues in the past and she answers no, but back at the appointment the midwife tells Joy that her diet “definitely” needs to improve. Joy sighs when she is told that she needs to eat more greens, acting more like a picky child than a parent-to-be. Austin blames this on “traveling a lot” (other than their honeymoon to Switzerland, where exactly are these guys going?), and Joy says “it’s hard to get away from chicken tenders.” Uh, what?

The midwife moves on to decision-making about the birth process, and asks Joy if she’s decided whether or not she wants to have a water birth. Joy says she wants to have “all the options available,” and Austin adds that while they are going to try for the home birth that they want, they’re not going to risk mom or baby’s life to get it. They begin discussing logistics, and Joy shares that while she has never been to a birth, she’s listened to a lot of her mother’s and sisters’ stories and advice in order to prepare for the unknown. Austin, on the other hand, has been to a lot of “half-births,” as he puts it, because of his work as an EMT, but he acknowledges that this this one will be much different.

Before the appointment ends, the midwife checks on the baby’s heartbeat, but not before Joy’s belly is, predictably, covered up with a modesty sheet. Her talking head shares that sometimes she feels ready and at other times she asks herself, “Why am I doing this!?”, but ultimately she says that she wants to have this baby “as soon as it’s ready to come out!” Baby’s heartbeat, just to test the validity of the old wives’ tale later on down the road, clocked in around 125 bpm.

As Joy and Austin finish up with the midwife, talking head Jessa thinks back to her own experiences with labor, describing the pain as feeling like “stubbing your toe every minute for 48 hours.” She says that Joy is a strong woman, but cautions that “even the strongest people realize that you can’t just do it on your own.” Thankfully, she ends on a lighter note and assures us that “on the other side, when you’ve got the baby in your arms, it’s FULLY worth it.” Joy and Austin hug the midwife goodbye and leave in good spirits with the knowledge that their baby is healthy, although Joy does seem a bit apprehensive about eating healthier and exercising more.

Back on Duggar soil, several Duggar siblings are gathered at Joe and Kendra’s house to begin moving in. Jessa appears to be in charge (shocking), and exclaims that “we have been waiting for this day for so long!” The plan is to move everything in and begin decorating over the next two days. Kendra also explains once again (as she writes her name in some dust with her finger) that she and Joe have asked Jana and Jessa to help share their baby news with the family by setting up a nursery that will be revealed when they show their families the finished house.

Jana and Jessa keep the boys busy bringing in furniture while they get to work in the nursery. The furniture is all coming from the Duggar warehouse up the hill, which Jana and Jessa tell us is a collection of all of the Duggars’ “junk” that they can pull from whenever they’re working on a project. Then, Jana joins the boys to begin working on landscaping (in a jean skirt, natch), and although I have an impossible time telling them apart, I believe we see Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Jason and Justin in this scene.

Jana apparently has a vision for where she wants a certain tree to go, so she hops in the tractor and very impressively operates the skid steer (I hope I’m using the right terminology!) to successfully put the tree in the right place. This gives talking head Jessa an opportunity to sing Jana’s praises, calling her a “Jane of all trades,” but just in case we started to think she was TOO masculine, Jana modestly assures us that there are things that she’s not very good at, like sports! Jessa semi-jokingly says that Jana’s wide range of abilities is what scares guys away, and in cause any potential beaux are watching she adds, “Don’t let that be a deterrant! She says it’s okay if the guy’s not as smart as her. Just come, and she might give you a chance.”

In the nursery, Jessa is hard at work getting everything into place, telling us about how excited she is for the reveal. Meanwhile, expectant mother Kendra explains that “Jana and Jessa have taken charge, pretty much, of the decorating,” which she says “takes a lot of the pressure off.” There are still things to worry about, of course- Jessa reminds Kendra that if the baby isn’t a girl, she’ll have to remove the pink pillow that’s currently in the room- but according to Kendra the help is a “blessing.”

It does sound like Jessa has put a lot of work into the project, including refurbishing furniture that actually didn’t come from the Duggar warehouse but was instead found at various consignment shops. Kendra and Joe are very pleased with the progress that has been made in just one day, and Kendra talks about how seeing the nursery makes things seem a little more real and exciting. Tomorrow, the plan is to get everything finished and have their families over for the big reveal.

The next day, a group of Duggar siblings meets once again at Joe and Kendra’s house to go over the list of remaining tasks. Because they made so much progress yesterday, there’s not much left to do before their 3PM deadline. Jana and the boys get to work outside planting trees, and Jessa finishes up with the decor indoors. Talking head Kendra tells us how nice it is to have so many hands that have been willing to help, and Jana shows off one of the final touches- a sign that says “Baby Duggar on the way.”

As Joe and Kendra point out the fact that this will be a new stage of life for both them as new parents, and Kendra’s parents as first-time grandparents, two huge vans pull up to the house signaling the arrival of their families. They (including Jessa) welcome everyone in, and Jim Bob makes sure the camera knows that he’s arrived as he proclaims “It looks amazing, y’all have done a pheNOMenal job!” and asks for a tour. We see before and after pictures as Joe and Kendra lead everyone into the master bedroom, and it wouldn’t be an episode of Counting On without someone cracking a joke about gender roles- in this case, Jim Bob asks whether Joe and Kendra made the bed and everyone guffaws over the thought of a MAN ever doing such a chore.

Everyone makes their way through the rest of the house- which has been arranged to include an entire room dedicated to a ping-pong table, which seems practical for a couple expecting their first child- as we see several more before and after photos, which are all pretty impressive! But just in case we’d forgotten who the house came from, Jim Bob and Michelle are briefly given a moment to reminisce about what it used to look like in the early days of their relationship- “It was gray on the outside, and now it’s gray on the inside!” observes Michelle.

Talking head Joy loves the contrast between the house’s log cabin style and its modern interior, although there’s a price to pay to live in such a cute home: noisy neighbors, points out Michelle! Fortunately, Joe doesn’t seem concerned, and explains that all of the Duggar children have been told that they need an invitation to come over.

Finally, it’s time to open the door to the last room, and in spite of Kendra’s nerves, everyone is excited over the news, although not necessarily surprised. Baby Duggar is due in June 2018, there are smiles all around, and Michelle and Jim Bob are just so happy that God has blessed Joe and Kendra with a precious little gift. Jim Bob insightfully says, “it seems like we’re having grand-babies faster than we had babies!”

Paul and Christina Caldwell (Kendra’s parents) are also excited, even if they “weren’t expecting them to be expecting so soon.” Next we get a reaction from Joy and Austin, who are looking forward to seeing each of their children grow up together as cousins.

Jim Bob asks Paul and Christina if they feel older already now that they’re about to be grandparents for the first time, and in an aside Christina says that they’ll have to think of some cute nicknames. Talking head Kendra says what we’re all thinking- that neither of her parents look old enough to be grandparents- but such is life in fundieland! Hopefully, Kendra says, she’ll take after them and look youthful for a long time, too.

As the episode comes to an end, Joe talks about how excited they are to see where the Lord leads them and jokes, “Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to fill up the house!”

Image Sources:

  1. Jinger (Duggar) Vuolo plays two pianos at once
  2. Jinger and Jeremey Vuolo at the music store
  3. Jordyn, Jennifer, and Johannah Duggar chaperone Josiah and Lauren’s lunch date
  4. Josiah reheats some leftovers for Lauren
  5. Joy and Austin Forsyth attend a midwife appointment
  6. Jessa (Duggar) Seewald helping decorate Joe and Kendra’s nursery
  7. Joe and Kendra Duggar in front of their home
  8. The Duggar and Caldwell families tour Joe and Kendra’s house
  9. Kendra and Joe Duggar’s nursery
  10. The reaction to Kendra and Joe’s big news
  11. Grandparents-to-be Christina and Paul Caldwell

Counting On Season 8, Episode 1: It’s All Greek to Me!

The episode opens with a voiceover from Jessa to remind us viewers exactly where we are in the TLC timeline. Life is busy, as always: Jinger and Jeremy are still living in Laredo, Joy and Austin are having a baby (Joy is 5 months along), Joe and Kendra are newlyweds about to embark on their honeymoon, Jana is “doing her own thing,” John-David spends lots of time flying, and it looks like it’s Josiah’s turn to court, because Jessa “has a feeling” that he is seeing a special someone. As for our narrator herself, Jessa takes the opportunity to firmly establish herself as the wise, married sister- after all, with Josh and Jill out of the running, and Jana and John-David still unmarried, Jessa and Ben’s three years of marriage, two children, and willingness to toe the party line make them the model standard for The Duggar Brand.

The first scene is at the main Duggar home, where twins Jeremiah and Jedediah inform us that Josiah has started to use more deodorant, which apparently is not just a matter of basic hygiene but rather a sign of his impending courtship. The camera watches Josiah groom himself in front of the mirror in the boys’ dorm for a moment, where we can see multiple sets of bunk beds in the background, and even a mattress on the floor. Now that even the youngest Duggar boy is a teenager, it must have been jam-packed in there, even with Josh and Joe already out of the house at the time (and maybe even John-David if the rumors are true). The photo frames next to the mirror are crooked, but Josiah doesn’t seem to care- his mind is on LAUREN.

Lauren Swanson is Josiah’s “special friend,” and today Josiah plans to ask her to court, which is !shocking! news for those of us who didn’t know that Josiah and Lauren are already married. Josiah explains that the Duggars have known the Swanson family for “about 7 or 8 years,” after meeting when the Swansons visited the Duggars’ home church. The Swansons’ visit to the Duggar home is documented in the 19KAC episode “Duggars Do Dinner,” which aired in September 2010, and Josiah also mentions that the Duggars have seen the Swanson family several times since then at “multiple other conferences.” It’s probably safe to assume that Josiah is referring to family conferences held by the IBLP, which the Duggars attend frequently, but for the cameras he keeps it vague.

Josiah tells us that he already secured permission from Lauren’s dad a few months ago. Dwain Swanson is the founder of a Christian men’s ministry, and rumor has it that he already knew Josiah quite well because Dwain has counseled him in some capacity. Josiah says that he waited several months because he wanted to take some time “to be friends, really,” which begs the question: was he not even friends with Lauren before deciding to court her (which in his world, is practically deciding who to marry right then and there)? While Josiah brushes his teeth (another new courting ritual?), Jana says that “Lauren has brought life into him in different ways that maybe hasn’t been there before,” and Jessa declares that Josiah and Lauren are already best friends because they have been talking nonstop for “quite awhile now.”

As Josiah heads down the TTH stairs, he shares his plan to surprise Lauren. He has asked some of his older sisters to help by taking Lauren out for a meal, and then he will show up at the end for dessert (which he loves, apparently!) and ask her to court. He’s “a little nervous,” and we are left in suspense as he heads out the door and the scene changes to the Swanson family’s Very Large, Very Nice home.

Lauren herself opens the door to welcome Jana, Jessa, Joy, and Kendra in- Jill of course, is nowhere in sight. Lauren introduces herself and reiterates what Josiah has already told us about their families having known each other for several years. She also mentions the fact that her family has coincidentally just moved to Arkansas, although she doesn’t give a clear reason for the move. At this point, Jessa the narrator jumps in to list the similarities between the Duggar and Swanson families- they both have lots of kids, and they homeschool. It probably also helps that they are both members of the same religious cult, but Jessa doesn’t really touch on that.

Jessa describes Lauren as a “sweetheart” and says that they already consider Lauren to be one of the sisters, which makes sense given that her marriage to Josiah has basically been a done deal since he spoke to her father. The girls wave goodbye to Dwain and Lauren’s sister, Lily, and then TV magic transports them directly to the Marketplace Grill, home of the infamous “chocolate mess.”

The group is already seated- water with lemon all around- and Lauren is not-so-discreetly positioned at the head of the table, where she gushes over how the Duggars have made her feel at home, and they gush right back and tell her how happy they are to have her there. Jessa makes the pointed remark that “one particular person especially is glad to have y’all closer” and Joy takes the opportunity to crack a joke: “That’s me!” she exclaims, and everyone titters, because of course it’s JOSIAH who is the happiest to have Lauren nearby.

As the food arrives, Josiah talks about what initially attracted him to Lauren: She has a “head on her shoulders,” she was in college (and apparently just graduated, although from this episode it’s unclear what type of degree she received), she likes to encourage others, she has a lot of character…and to remind us that this is the Duggars we’re watching, Josiah also lists the fact that she comes from a large family, “so she knows how to handle all that.”

Moving the conversation along, Jessa candidly asks Josiah and Lauren where they see themselves in the timeline of their relationship- so presumably, this “special friend” stage appears to count as part of their overall journey to the altar. Lauren says she feels like they are “ahead in their relationship more than what they are,” which doooesn’t really answer the question. Cut to Lauren’s talking head, where she tells us that she noticed Josiah’s interest in her when they were helping prepare for Joe and Kendra’s wedding, which TLC helpfully reminds us was in September 2017 (for reference, based on Joy being 5 months along at this point, this episode was probably filmed in October 2017).

Jessa asks Lauren if her and Josiah video chat, to which Lauren replies, “Yes, we did it for five hours one day.” Kendra erupts into giggles, and all Jessa can say is “wow.” Lauren, I think you win best line of the episode. Jessa’s talking head interjects for a moment to discuss her own courtship experience- apparently she preferred talking on the phone over video chatting, because her phone conversations with Ben were not chaperoned.

We learn that Lauren’s family has only been in Arkansas for two weeks, but it sounds like she and Josiah have managed to squeeze in lots of time together already. Joy’s talking head tells us that Lauren is levelheaded, she is not a drama queen, and that while she has a sense of humor, she can also be serious- cue more tittering as Lauren says that while she laughs at Josiah’s jokes, she tells him when they aren’t funny. Next, Jana gets a turn to describe Lauren: she’s organized, she tells it like it is, she likes to have fun, and again, she laughs at Josiah’s jokes.

Speaking of Josiah, it looks like he’ll be arriving any minute now, because Joy starts talking up the “chocolate mess,” even though Lauren says that she told herself not to have any sugar (another round of laughs ensues). Jessa explains that Lauren is very health conscious, which is ironic because Josiah has such a large sweet tooth. Impressively, Lauren sticks to her resolve and orders fruit, while the other girls split a chocolate mess and an apple tart. Meanwhile, Josiah is now en route to the restaurant, and the camera shows him walking up to the door as he explains that his biggest worry is that Lauren might just want to remain friends- although considering the fact that he is doing this on camera, I think it’s safe to say that he is fairly confident. Now inside, Josiah pulls up a chair and acts like he is a waiter to get Lauren to turn around- and just as a look of mild surprise crosses her face- BAM!- time for a preview of what’s coming up later in the episode to ramp up the “suspense.”

When the commercial break is over, Lauren is pleased to see Josiah, of course, and the girls tell him that they’ve been talking about him. Josiah takes the opportunity to jump right into the Big Question, and Lauren puts her hand to her mouth and  asks, “Are you serious?” with a smile and a giggle before extending her arm for a side hug and answering, “I would love to, Si!” Lauren tells the camera that she was very surprised, and that it doesn’t seem real yet. Josiah tells Lauren that he is going to enjoy learning more about her, and that he’s “kind of speechless right now.” As the group finishes their dessert, Josiah and Lauren look into each other’s eyes and they each tell each other “I’m so grateful for you.”

Next we get to hear “advice for courting” from Joe and Kendra, which turns out to be foreshadowing for the next segment of the episode. Kendra says “enjoy the moment” and Joe adds, “you only get to do it once, might as well enjoy it.” Kendra concludes with the prediction that while it’s a fun stage, she can see marriage around the corner pretty fast for Josiah and Lauren, punctuating her input with a giggle. This prompts Josiah to ask Lauren, “Do you think we’re gonna go fast or really slow?” to which she replies that it’s up to him! Josiah says that he wants to make sure they get to know each other “enough” and that when the time comes, they’ll know.

Now that the courtship proposal drama is over, the focus shifts to Joe and Kendra, who are embarking on their honeymoon. The destination? Greece! They hold hands in the car on the drive to the airport while talking head Joe explains that they decided not to go on their honeymoon right away, because they wanted time to recover from the wedding. They chose Greece because “they wanted to go somewhere where they could do fun activities, and also see some history and experience the Greek culture.”

As Joe and Kendra roll their bags into the airport, Joe states the obvious and says that this trip will be different than the other international trips he has been on, because this time he’s traveling alone with Kendra versus some or all of his family. Kendra says she’s never been this far from home, although she has been as far as Central America. And of course, they’ve certainly never traveled alone together- Kendra tells us that the first time they were alone together, it did feel strange, but they got used to it after a few days. Joe and Kendra board the plane, and they kiss as they settle in to what look like pretty nice seats. Kendra says that it’s been nice to practice kissing and “not just hold hands”- “the whole kit and kaboodle,” she says, giggling, as they give each other a meaningful glance. “We enjoy being married,” Joe agrees.

On their first day in Greece- specifically, Athens- Joe and Kendra begin their day by visiting Mars Hill, a biblically significant historical landmark. Kendra seems surprised that the inscription on the plaque is written in Greek, and Joe gets his first opportunity to say “it’s all Greek to me,” which apparently won’t be the last time, because TLC marks the statement with a “ding!” to let us know that they’d be counting. They take a selfie with the Acropolis in the background, and Kendra says that they take a lot of selfies now because they no longer have a chaperone with them to take their picture. A disembodied producer asks talking head Kendra if she ever misses having chaperones around, and she answers that while having a chaperone “can add a different dimension” to the relationship and “you can have a lot of fun with them,” it’s “super exciting and special” to be able to spend time together alone.

Next, Joe and Kendra head to lunch, and not just at any restaurant- they are having lunch in the sky, by way of a crane-powered contraption that lifts diners up as they eat. Apparently, neither of them are scared of heights; in fact, Kendra says it’s “thrilling.” (It definitely looks like an amazing experience, adding this to my bucket list now!) Their position in the air gives them a great view of Greece, and we are treated to another round of “TLC producer asks the Duggars a question that none of them know the answer to”- in this instance, Jeremy, at least, is able to name Zeus as one of the Greek gods, and Josiah throws out the name Hercules, but Ben really blows it out of the water and names five.

During the meal, Kendra begins to chat with the woman seated next to her, while Joe quietly chows down on her other side. He finishes off his soup and then some of Kendra’s, while she answers her seatmate’s questions about her future plans- “I’m just going to stay at home,” she says, and when the woman seems confused, Kendra adds that she’s going to help Joe with his “business.” The conversation moves on to kids (prompted by TLC, perhaps?), and Kendra delivers the Duggar party line: “We’re planning on having however many that the Lord gives us,” she recites, and follows up her statement by telling the woman how many siblings Joe has, as if to say “no really, we mean it!” She’s shocked, of course, but quips, ” Your dad? He’s still at home? Or he run away?”

Once lunch is over, the scene changes to Laredo, Texas, where Jinger and Jeremy are headed on a date to take an art class. Jinger says that she was really nervous, because she thought that she would be out of her comfort zone, and they certainly do hit the ground running with a challenging task: drawing each others’ faces! Boy, is TLC good at creating drama out of absolutely nothing. They stretch out the storyline even further by asking some of the Duggar siblings and spouses to draw portraits of each other on whiteboards, and hilarity ensues. The whiteboard drawings, predictably, are mostly various shades of awful, although Ben and Jessa did give it some effort. Jessa calls herself a cougar, and back in class, Jinger avoids critiquing Jeremy’s work. Do they have potential? Yes, says the art teacher, they just need to practice.

Back in Greece, it’s time for another meal, and this time Joe and Kendra are planning to take a walking food tour. They’re going to take the subway to get there, and they quickly run into a bit of a language barrier when they arrive at the station. The signs are in English, but it takes them a few minutes to figure out how to switch the language on the screen used for ordering tickets. Joe and Kendra evidently haven’t become tired of holding holds yet, and they stay firmly connected as they push through the turnstiles. Joe asks for directions- he’s not afraid to even though he’s a guy, he says!-  and a helpful gentleman shows them where they need to go. Kendra has never been on a subway before, and she says that she “hasn’t experienced a whole lot,” which is probably a lot more true than she realizes.

They arrive at the food market, and their personal tour guide materializes from the busy crowd. Introductions are exchanged, and then the group of three hits the pavement, starting their tour with breakfast food. Kendra says that “experiencing the local cuisine is definitely a good way to kind of get a look into the culture, and kind of experience the heart of the country, really,” but she hesitates to try the spinach pie, and shares that she’s not very adventurous with food because she’s averse to certain textures. Luckily Joe is there to polish it off, and he teases Kendra by telling her it had the right consistency to “slither right on down in there.” Okay, now Joe gets a point towards “best line of the episode.”

Next, their guide warns them that they are heading to “a vegetarian’s nightmare,” which elicits a giggle from Kendra. They head into a meat market, and it looks like the guide wasn’t kidding- there’s raw meat everywhere, and according to Kendra, the smell was “pretty rank.” The guide points out various types of meat, including tail, liver, brains, tongue and- !shocking word alert!- testicles, which makes Kendra giggle even more- that’s what this episode really needs to start counting! (We’ve only heard “it’s all Greek to me” three times so far, and the third was from a producer, not Joe).

From the meat market, they walk to the vegetable market, and this time Kendra is the more adventurous one. She tries an olive, and when Joe says that he’s never really liked them, it’s her turn to tease him by kissing him right afterwards. Their tour guide gives them a list of ingredients that they need to find to make a Greek salad, which they gather with her help, and then they head into what looks like a little shop to put it all together. The guide (I’m starting to feel bad about not getting her name, I just didn’t want to butcher it!) asks Joe and Kendra who does the cooking at home, which makes them laugh, because Kendra is the woman and of course SHE does it, duh! Joe says Kendra is the better cook, and when the guide suggests that now he might be able to help out in the kitchen, they just laugh again and Joe says, “oh my, I don’t know how I’d do there!” Aren’t fixed gender roles just so hilarious!?

To my delight, Kendra says the guide’s name again, giving me a chance to look up the spelling. I believe her name is Eirini, which means peace in Greek. We also learn that a Greek salad never has lettuce in it, which I did not know! Joe and Kendra mix the ingredients together with gloved hands (a very romantic thing to do on your honeymoon together, says Eirini), and then they dig in.

The honeymoon isn’t over yet, and in the next scene, Joe and Kendra are onboard a ferry on the way to Santorini, one of the Greek islands. Joe tells us that they opted to travel via boat versus plane because it’s part of the experience, and I have to agree- it looks beautiful. As they drink coffee and look out at the water, talking head Kendra shares what she has learned about Joe so far: he is a deep sleeper (okay, normal)…aaand that he likes to lick his plate when he finishes his food, which is not a fact I expected (or wanted) to learn. Kendra says she’s asked him not to do it in public, but it sounds like he still does so at home, because she tells Joe that he probably wants to start working on breaking the habit so that he doesn’t set a bad example for their future kids (foreshadowing, anyone?). With a sheepish smile, he defends himself by saying that he’s not the only one in his family that does it, and Kendra says, “I’m sure you’re not!” And who was the sibling who taught Joe to lick his plate? Jessa!

Now it’s Joe’s turn to tell us what he has learned about Kendra: she loves sharing food with him, and she is always “extra giggly” when she gets tired- according to Kendra, “things get exciting late at night.” Oh my! While Joe and Kendra (likely unknowingly) reenact the “I’m flying” scene from Titanic, we also get to hear from the other married couples: Joy learned that Austin can’t snuggle and sleep at the same time, Jeremy has been learning how “bubbly and humorous” Jinger is, and Jessa says that Ben is very meticulous- apparently he likes to iron. Back to Joe, he says that married life is great because he and Kendra can talk and grow closer every day, and that it’s amazing to have a “soulmate.”

As Joe and Kendra arrive in Santorini and settle into their resort, viewers are hurtled back to Jessa’s home in Arkansas for a Seewald family update. Ben is still in school with one year left (he takes classes online through the Moody Bible Institute), and Spurgeon and Henry are growing up, as children do. Ben walks in the door with some grocery bags, which we learn hold ingredients for a special dinner. It’s Ben and Jessa’s third anniversary, and Ben plans to cook dinner and watch the boys while Jessa goes out for a mani/pedi with her sisters. He also tells us that he has designed a necklace for Jessa for an additional surprise. Luckily for Ben, Spurgeon is down for a nap when Jessa heads out the door, but I sense some “dad’s watching the kids alone!” antics ahead.

Back in Greece, Joe and Kendra hop into a 4×4 to drive around, which I kind of suspect was more Joe’s idea than Kendra’s, but if her giggles were any indication, she enjoyed it, too. They stop at a beach to go paddle-boarding, and the sand is black- Joe has never seen anything like it, but Kendra knowledgeably explains that the sand is an exfoliant. Getting into the water, it is clear that Joe, and especially Kendra, are wearing very modest swim attire, but at least Kendra’s dress doesn’t look bulky like some of the “wholesome” swimwear we have seen the Duggars, etc. wear in the past. The windy ocean air creates lots of waves, which makes it difficult for them to stand up on their paddle-boards, and we see multiple shots of both Joe and Kendra falling into the water. They do sort of get the hang of it by the end, but they both agree that paddle-boarding would be easier on a lake.

Flip-flopping once again to Arkansas, the next scene opens at a nail salon, where Jana, Joy, and Jessa are getting pedicures as part of Ben’s anniversary gift to Jessa. They chat about how “crazy” it is that Ben and Jessa have already reached their third anniversary, and Jessa says it’s been a “whirlwind.” Joy asks Jessa, “Ben has both of the boys? AND he’s making supper?” as if Ben was out singlehandedly building a rocket ship and watching 100 children at the same time. Cut to the Seewald home, where adorable Henry scoots across the floor in the living room while Ben pokes around in the kitchen. Spurgeon is still napping, so Ben rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

For dinner, he is preparing a salad and cooking some quinoa and steak, but with Henry making his way into the kitchen and demanding attention, Ben says, “this is going to be a little harder than I thought!” Isn’t putting a man in the kitchen and asking him to watch his own child just SO wacky and hilarious!? Ben tries to distract Henry with the pack and play, but he isn’t having it, so next Ben tries putting Henry into his highchair, which seems to do the trick. After munching on some cereal, Henry’s eyes droop shut and he falls asleep right there at the table- and Ben carefully wedges a stuffed animal between Henry’s head and the chair next to him to make him comfortable without waking him up, which is genius. I don’t think Ben is as helpless around his children as TLC is trying to make us believe.

Meanwhile at the nail salon, the Duggar sisters are watching Joy’s belly move while they get their pedicures, which gives talking head Joy an opportunity to update us on her pregnancy. She hasn’t had any morning sickness or weird cravings, but she is tired a lot. Talking head Austin says that it’s slowly sinking in that he’s going to be a dad, but it hasn’t fully hit him yet. Jessa asks Joy about how she thinks Austin would handle keeping a baby on his own, and Joy says that he has only changed one diaper- talking head Joy chimes in to tell us that Austin’s only has one sibling who is older than him, which explains his lack of diapering experience. Jessa is clearly the one in charge of moving the conversation along, and as the girls leave the nail salon she also narrates, taking a moment to reflect on the passage of time.

At the Seewald house, both boys have woken up from their naps just in time for Jessa to arrive home. She tells us that while she’s not surprised that Ben was able to multi-task, she is surprised that Henry did so well, because he has a hard time being away from her. Everyone seems happy to see her, and they all sit down at the table to eat while talking head Ben lists some of the qualities that make Jessa a good mother: she has a lot of patience, she’s gentle, and she’s caring. Ben puts a cartoon on his phone for Spurgeon to watch, and then Joe and Kendra’s talking heads tell us that they admire Ben and Jessa because they put each other first and help each other out. Kendra makes a point to say “it’s not just mom doing everything,” and maybe it’s just me, but her comment appeared to make Joe a little nervous.

As Ben and Jessa eat their dinner, they briefly reminisce about the past three years, and the producers ask them the question, “How is marriage different than you thought it would be?” Ben responds that it isn’t all just butterflies and romance, but also “just doing life together”- there are ups and downs. Jessa chimes in to say that they have arguments that they have to work through, and she also mentions “everything my family walked through years ago,” which I assume is a reference to Josh. They briefly tease the possibility of having more kids, and Jessa talks about what having children has added to their relationship. “I’ve fallen in love with him even more than I could imagine was possible,” she says.

It’s finally time for Ben to surprise Jessa with the necklace that he designed for her, and he places a light blue box on the table in front of her. Jessa jokes, “Is this dessert?” as she opens the box, and either she had seen it already and her reaction was staged, or she didn’t actually like it, because she had seemed more excited earlier about the steak than she does now about the necklace. For Ben’s sake, I hope that my impression is wrong, because it really did seem like he put a lot of thought into the gift.

Across the ocean, Joe and Kendra’s Greek honeymoon is finally coming to an end. In their last scene, they are exploring the town of Thira when they run into a local theater group. Joe and Kendra stop to watch the singing and dancing and end up briefly getting swept into the performance, which wouldn’t be significant at all except for the fact that one of the female performers gave Joe several kisses on the cheek. Because this is the Duggars, this requires a quick explanation of Greek culture from Joe to assure us that no, he wasn’t unfaithful to Kendra. With the encouragement of the performers, Joe and Kendra smash some plates on the ground and shout “Opa!,” and just like that it’s time to start thinking about heading home and getting back to everyday life.

And what, exactly, does everyday life have in store for Joe and Kendra? “Do you guys think you’re gonna be having a baby soon?,” a producer asks, and Kendra says that she’s not pregnant right now, “that she knows of”- but only because she hasn’t taken a test. Guess we’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out the news that we already know!

Image Sources:

  1. Josiah grooming himself in the boys’ room mirror
  2. The Swanson family, taken in 2016
  3. Lauren sharing a meal with several of the Duggar sisters and spouses
  4. Josiah and Lauren enjoy video-chatting
  5. Joe and Kendra hold hands in the car on the way to the airport
  6. Kendra and Joe take “selfies” in Greece
  7. No, Jana can’t name any figures from Greek mythology
  8. Another person is shocked at the idea of 19 kids
  9. Joy and Austin share their drawings of each other
  10. Is it Jack and Rose? No, it’s Joe and Kendra Duggar!
  11. Kendra Duggar paddle-boarding on her honeymoon
  12. Joy and Jessa chatting while getting pedicures
  13. Ben wedges a stuffed animal under Henry’s head
  14. Ben and Jessa enjoy their anniversary dinner
  15. Joe Duggar receives several scandalous extramarital cheek kisses

I’m back!

Well, it’s been months since I’ve had a chance to sit down at the computer and even log in, but my “season of life” known as “kids home from summer vacation” is over for the year, and just like that I can hear myself think long enough to string together a complete sentence again! My blog is pretty dusty- the biographies that I’ve written so far are out of date now (John-David is engaged, whaaaat?!), and I feel like I’ve barely even gotten started on everything I want to cover- but rest assured my hypothetical readers, I’m about to start writing again. Stay tuned for:

-Updated existing biographies, plus new biographies (I’m currently working on Jessa!)

-Counting On Season 8 episode recaps

-Research into the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP)

In the meantime, thanks for visiting!

Biography: Jill Michelle (Duggar) Dillard

Jill Michelle Duggar was born on May 17, 1991 to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. She is the fourth out of their nineteen biological children, and their second oldest daughter. She was purposely given a name that starts with the letter J because her older siblings’ names all began with the same letter, and Michelle didn’t want the new baby to someday feel left out.  At the time of Jill’s birth, her family was living in a house at her parents’ car lot. Michelle describes Jill as an “easy” baby, which to her was a sign that God was rewarding the Duggars’ decision to not use birth control.

Jill herself uses the word “reserved” to describe her personality as a child. She enjoyed make-believe play, and often pretended to be either a mom or a nurse. She began taking piano lessons when she was five years old, adding the violin several years later at eleven, and eventually the harp.

When Jill’s oldest sibling was about eight- making her about five- her parents began to implement an early version of the “buddy system,” and although it isn’t clear who the older buddies were at this time, the first member of Jill’s eventual “buddy team” was her sister Joy-Anna, who was born when Jill was six years old. The exact nature of Jill’s responsibilities at this time are unknown, although she has stated in the past that she used to change Joy’s diapers.

When Jill was a child, she wanted a pink blanket that looked like the one Jana owned. The Duggars couldn’t afford to buy Jill another blanket when she already had one, so upon her mother’s suggestion, Jill decided to pray. Soon after, her father found a quilted pink blanket in a wrecked and abandoned car that he was about to send to the crusher, which became a symbol for Jill’s answered prayer.

When Jill was seven years old, her father decided to run for the Arkansas House of Representatives. During his campaign, she would frequently accompany her family as they went door-to-door talking to voters. After Jim Bob won the election, the Duggar family temporarily relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jill often went with her father to work. This inspired Jill to later become active in politics as a teen, including campaigning for Rick Santorum in his 2012 bid for President of the United States.

At age 12, Jill decided to become a Christian because she wanted to make sure that she would go to heaven after she died, and shortly after she was baptized by her father. Some of the reading material available at the Duggar family home included biographies of well-known Christian missionaries, which Jill greatly enjoyed.

In 2005, Jill attended the birth of her younger sister, Johannah Faith, and in 2008, she attended the birth of her sister Jordyn-Grace Makiya. She credits these two experiences for initially sparking her interest in midwifery. When Jill was 16 (sometime between May 2007 and May 2008), she attended twelve weeks of childbirth classes as the support person for a friend of hers who, at just 14 years old, was about to become a single mother.

As early as 2008, Jill begin participating in short-term mission trips with family and friends through SOS ministries. Several of these trips were documented on the show 19 Kids and Counting, and Jill’s experiences inspired her to start learning Spanish.

At the end of 2009 and through part of 2010, Jill spent a lot of time at a hospital after her youngest sister, Josie was born prematurely, and watching the nurses in action provided further inspiration. Jill, along with three of her sisters, completed neonatal resuscitation training around this time. In 2010, Jill and Jana also became certified first responders and joined the local volunteer fire department, following in their brother John-David‘s footsteps. In May 2011, Jill traveled to Joplin, Missouri along with Joshua, John-David, and Jana to assist in relief efforts after an F5 tornado destroyed much of the city.

In September 2011, Jill announced that she would be pursing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, however, she ended up choosing quite a different path. Around Christmas 2011, Jill met Derick Dillard for the first time when he came to her house with a church group of carolers- but just like the first time her mother met her father, Jill doesn’t really remember her first encounter with her future husband. Not long after their meeting, however, Derick asked Jim Bob to be his prayer partner as he embarked on a two-year mission trip to Nepal.

In the book Growing Up Duggar, which was published on March 4, 2014, Jill writes that “several years ago” she did some baby-sitting for a doula. Although she states that she wasn’t initially interested in entering the field herself, Jill began attending births with her doula friend, and eventually became her assistant. This experience put her into contact with a licensed midwife who moved to the area “last year” in relationship to when Jill was working on the book. She offered Jill an apprenticeship, and after Jill prayed and discussed it with her parents, by June 2012, Jill was listed as a lay midwife apprentice for Venessa Giron.

After assisting in a number of births, Jill decided to get officially certified. She enrolled as a distance learning student at a midwifery school in Texas, and although the program requirements included occasional on-site training and testing, Jill received most of her hands-on experience throughout her apprenticeship with Venessa.

Meanwhile, Jill’s father had been playing matchmaker between his prayer partner, Derick Dillard, and his daughter. He had been impressed by Derick’s “godly” character, and started to talk to each one about the other. After listening in on a few phone conversations without Derick’s knowledge, Jill had her first real conversation with Derick in March 2013.

They didn’t speak again until August, but at the end of the summer, Jim Bob provided Derick with Jill’s phone number, which allowed them to talk about their values and life goals- under supervision, of course. Over the next few months, Jill and Derick bonded over their similar beliefs and shared interest in international missions, and although at that point their budding relationship was completely long-distance, the miles between them didn’t stop Jill from falling in love.

In November 2013, Jill- accompanied by her father, Jim Bob- traveled to Nepal to meet Derick in person, which is shown in the 19 Kids and Counting episodes “Going the Distance for Love” and “The Big Question.” Jill spent two weeks in Nepal, and while she was there, Derick asked Jill to enter into a courtship.

Jill and Derick’s relationship was long-distance until Derick returned from his mission trip in January 2014. The next month, Derick asked Jim Bob for Jill’s hand in marriage, and he proposed in March 2014 using a song that he had asked someone to write just for the occasion. At the time, followers were hopeful that Derick might be slightly less extreme in his religious beliefs, especially because he attended college at a secular university.

Jill and Derick were married on June 21, 2014 in front of over a thousand people, with the TLC cameras rolling. By that time, Jill states that she had finished her clinical hours and had turned her focus towards studying for the certification exam. Jill and Derick agreed to a covenant marriage, which is an option in Arkansas and two other states that makes it harder for couples to divorce.

That August, Jill announced her first pregnancy, and from the start she planned to give birth at home. She went 11 days overdue, and when her water finally broke, she spent 48 hours in labor before noticing that her baby was in fetal distress and heading to the hospital. After declining Pitocin to speed things up, Jill labored for about 12 more hours before Israel David Dillard was born via c-section, about ten minutes before midnight on April 6, 2015.

In May 2015, Jill’s older brother, Joshua, became the center of a public scandal when a police report that had been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act was published by InTouch Weekly magazine, revealing that when he was a teenager, he had been accused of molesting five underage girls, four of whom were his sisters (his sisters later filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit over the release of the reports).

The next month, Jill and her sister Jessa identified themselves as two of Joshua’s victims when they participated in a television interview with former Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly. Both sisters defended their older brother, stating that they forgiven him long ago and that the release of the police report was “1,000 times worse” than Josh’s actions. However, the girls’ responses gave some viewers the impression that they were not speaking for themselves.

That same month, Jill’s husband left his job as an accountant for Walmart, which according to the Dillards was a decision made earlier that year. This became publicly known in early June, when an online gossip magazine sent an e-mail to Derick’s Walmart account and received an automated reply which stated that he was no longer with the company. On June 17, Derick and Jill registered a non-profit organization called Dillard Family Ministries, and a few weeks later, the Dillards announced that they would be embarking on a long-term mission trip the next month.

By July 5, they had traveled to an undisclosed location in Central America, news which they shared in a since-deleted blog post that also asked for donations to help fund their “family ministry.” The Dillards cited security concerns as the reason they did not share their exact location; however, it was later revealed that the Dillards had been participating in a short-term mission trip sponsored by SOS ministries.

 

Despite giving followers the impression that they would be overseas for an extended period of time, once the trip ended, the Dillards returned to the United States for a month-long respite from the mission field, including a trip to New York in mid-August to participate in the taping of a TLC documentary about sexual abuse, as well as a jaunt down to Tennessee to attend the wedding of family friend Michael(a/la) Bates on August 15. The next day, the Dillards returned to Central America, accompanied by Jill’s younger sister Joy-Anna and family friend Carlin Bates, who stayed for about two weeks.

On August 31, Jill published a blog post explaining that the trip to New York had been planned in advance, which also happened to coincide with the Bates wedding, and the very same day, the Dillards headed back to the United States for yet another wedding. By then, about half of their time as missionaries so far had been spent traveling, and they were widely criticized for spending money so extravagantly- which also prompted many people who donated to Dillard Family Ministries to question how the funds were being used.

At the beginning of September 2015, Derick claimed that the Dillards had been “commissioned” by their home church, implying the official support of a regulatory organization; however, without a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, neither he nor Jill had the necessary qualifications to be an appointed missionary (although on September 16, Jill became officially certified as a CPM, which Derick claimed would benefit their ministry). By the end of September, many angry donors were asking for their money back, and in spite of this, the Dillards attended a church fellowship event in their honor on October 3, where they continued to ask for financial support.

By the middle of the month, the Dillards’ website had been altered to allow previous donors to request refunds, possibly in light of a new source of income: at the end of September, TLC had announced the production of 2-3 television specials that would feature Jill and her sister Jessa, and promotion of the series began a few weeks later. Although TLC assured viewers that Josh Duggar would not appear in any future programming, many critics were unhappy that the Duggars were returning to television in any capacity.

Meanwhile, the Dillards returned to Central America on October 19, this time letting the public know that they were headed to El Salvador. Their departure was shown in the Jill & Jessa: Counting On episode  “Baby Shower & A New Home,” and after the conclusion of the original three-part special, the show continued to focus heavily on the Dillards’ life in El Salvador throughout its first full season.

Upon their return to Central America, Jill and Derick spent several weeks studying Spanish in Guatemala, and in January 2016, it was announced that they would once again be working with SOS ministries. While they were overseas, the Dillards were criticized for spending most of their time and donors’ money proselytizing to Catholics, especially in light of the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, which prompted a CDC recommendation that women in the area take measures to avoid becoming pregnant- something that Jill had no intention of doing.

Over the year, the Dillards frequently emphasized the dangers of their life overseas. Historically, Jill had been vocal about her passion for international missions, but her emotional reaction to a crash that occurred when a shower curtain rod fell in her El Salvador residence made many followers wonder if she was struggling with depression. In August 2016, amid rumors that Derick was struggling with his health, the Dillards returned to the United States, with plans to take Bible classes and do ministry work until returning to Central America the upcoming fall. Followers noted that Jill appeared noticeably more relaxed while she was home, although Derick’s sickly appearance continued to elicit concern.

By December 2016, the Dillards were still in the United States, but an announcement made just before the end of the year revealed a possible reason for the delay- Jill was pregnant with their second child. They didn’t end up leaving again until February 2017, although the couple stated ahead of time their plans to come back to the U.S. for the birth. By the end of the month, the Dillards were being criticized once again for soliciting donations, especially in light of their continued participation in the show Counting On (shortened from its original name the previous summer).

In the middle of May, Jill wrote a post on the Dillards’ website telling readers that a friend of theirs had been murdered in an El Salvadorian slum, and by the 21st, the Dillard family had returned to the United States, just ahead of Joy Anna Duggar’s wedding and the upcoming birth of the Dillards’ second son. In June, Jill and Derick took an anniversary/babymoon getaway to a bed-and-breakfast in Pennsylvania.

On July 8, 2017, Jill gave birth to Samuel Scott Dillard, and the announcement posted on the Dillard Family website- along with a photograph of Derick and his newborn son- immediately prompted many followers to begin asking questions. The information that Jill labored for forty hours and ended up delivering via another c-section, paired with the monitoring equipment visible in the photograph, prompted wild speculation about the details of Samuel’s birth, especially in the weeks following as the Dillards continued to be unusually silent on social media, at least regarding that particular topic.

At the beginning of August, a surprising distraction shifted focus away the mysterious birth, but not in a positive way for the Dillard family. On August 2, Derick lashed out at teenage reality star Jazz Jennings (whose show is also on TLC, and follows her life as a transgender individual) in a series of transphobic tweets, which sparked immediate outrage across social media. Amidst the harsh criticism, on August 10, the Dillards announced the discontinuation of Dillard Family Ministries, along with the news that they would not be returning to Central America.

Although the wording of the announcement gave the impression that the decision had been theirs, a report two days later suggested that Jill and Derick had actually been fired for coming up short as missionaries in numerous ways. But the Dillards rebounded quickly, and by August 16, they appeared to have shifted their focus to the college ministry at Cross Church- turning to their fans once again to ask for financial support, a need that was perhaps related to their notable absence from the latest promotions for the upcoming season of TLC’s Counting On. Not surprisingly, the request was not well received, and by September, the online fundraiser had been shuttered.

Up until this point, the Dillards had resided in housing provided by Jill’s father in between their stints as missionaries in Central America, but by the beginning of September 2017, they had moved, which sparked rumors of a rift between the Dillards and the Duggar patriarch. Even if the reality wasn’t quite so dramatic, it was clear that the Dillards were beginning to move in a new direction. Despite his fundraiser woes, Derick managed to enroll in the Cross Church School of Ministry for a year-long program, and Jill by default was coming along for the ride. It quickly became clear that their new ministry was slightly more liberal than the home church Jill had attended as a Duggar, and some followers wondered if Jill would benefit from being exposed to a more mainstream brand of Christianity.

On November 9, Derick posted another series of vitriolic tweets aimed at Jazz Jennings, and this time the public outcry drew a response from TLC. Although the statement was worded in a way that did not make it clear how the decision was made, they announced that Derick had not participated in the show Counting On for several months.

Quickly, the online chatter turned to the question of whether or not Jill would still appear on the series, and her surprising behavior over the next few weeks suggested that she was moving on from the Duggar brand. Just days after the news of her husband’s departure from Counting On was announced, she was photographed wearing pants, which was a big deal in light of the strict modesty rules she had followed up until then. Later that month, she also added a nose piercing to her look. In December 2017, Derick confirmed that Jill would no longer be participating in Counting On, which elicited some concerns from followers who understood that Jill herself likely didn’t have the final say in the matter.

Since leaving TLC, Jill has maintained a social media presence, although she often receives less positive feedback than she appears to be seeking due to the somewhat awkward nature of her posts, which often include over-the-top praise for Derick. Many have speculated that she is attempting to deflect from the antics of her increasingly unpopular husband, whose Twitter activity came to a head at the beginning of March, after a particularly offensive Tweet that took aim at survivors of the February 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The flood of responses to Derick’s post unleashed yet another storm of tweets from the raging ex-reality personality, which is described in excellent detail here and here, but in summary insinuated that neither he nor Jill had ever been paid by TLC (and also revealed that their son Samuel had spent two weeks in the NICU). Derick’s claims have raised many questions about the level of control Jim Bob has retained over the money from TLC; however, despite reports of a feud between the Duggars and the Dillards, a recent video of the Dillard family at the home of Jill’s parents suggests otherwise.

As 2018 ticks on and Jill adjusts to a life that is perhaps turning out to be different than she had imagined, she has spent her time tagging along on her husband’s school mission trips, attempting to revamp the Dillard family website, and continuing to attend home births with her former mentor, who lost her license several years ago. It is unclear what Jill’s plans are after Derick completes his ministry program later this year, although based on her latest social media activity, it’s relatively safe to say that they won’t involve a radical shift in her beliefs anytime soon.

If there is any information that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will update this biography accordingly. I try my best to be factual, but feel free to give me a heads up if you find a mistake and I will make the correction as soon as possible!

Image Sources:

  1. A recent photo of Jill (Duggar) Dillard
  2. The four oldest Duggar children
  3. Young Jill Duggar holds a baby
  4. Jill Duggar in Central America for a short-term mission trip
  5. Jill Duggar holding two newborn babies
  6. Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard in Nepal
  7. Derick Dillard proposing to Jill Duggar
  8. The wedding of Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard
  9. Derick, Jill, and Israel Dillard
  10. Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald on The Kelly File
  11. The Dillard family in Central America
  12. Jill & Derick Dillard traveling with Joy-Anna Duggar and Carlin Bates
  13. A promotional image for Jill & Jessa: Counting On
  14. Israel, Jill and Derick Dillard (as Pistol Pete) with Cathy Dillard
  15. Jill Dillard at a Cross Church college ministry event
  16. Jill Dillard wearing pants
  17. Jill Dillard excited to drink chocolate milk
  18. Jill Dillard attends a home birth with Venessa Giron

Biography: John-David Duggar

John-David Duggar was born on January 12, 1990, three minutes after his fraternal twin sister, Jana. They were born via emergency c-section after their mother developed preeclampsia. He is the third of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar‘s nineteen biological children. After the twins were born, Michelle took them, along with their older brother, to stay at her parents’ house for six weeks while she recovered from the birth. At the time, Jim Bob was working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

John-David began walking at twelve months old- four months later than his twin sister- which Michelle attributes to the fact that he was larger than her. They were both very rambunctious as toddlers. As a child, John-David operated a neighborhood bike repair business with his older brother, called “J & J Bike Sales.”

When John-David was twelve, he began assisting his father and his older brother Joshua in the construction of their family’s new home. He helped operate the crane when they put up the framework for the house, and has enjoyed operating heavy machinery ever since. Some of his other duties have also included cutting firewood for the family’s wood-burning furnace, maintaining the yard, and helping his father restore used vehicles.

John-David has spent lots of time working for his father, which often involves keeping up with the maintenance of Jim Bob’s various rental properties. Unlike his sisters, John-David and the rest of the Duggar boys have been expected to pay for their vehicles themselves. When John-David earned his driver’s license, he began driving the Duggar bus and pitching in with the family towing business. As a teenager, John-David also showed interest in video production and graphic design. When the Duggar house was being built, the boys decided to use the space that would have been their walk-in closet for a production studio.

In 2007, John David traveled to El Salvador with several family members to join a group called SOS Ministries for a short-term mission trip. This led him to participate in a number of other similar trips over the years, including a month-long trip to Southeast Asia in 2010. He is pictured here on a trip to the Philippines in 2014 with Lawson and Nathan Bates.

By 2008, John-David was in charge of operating the towing business. Around this time, he and his brother Joseph also traveled to Tennessee to help the Bates family with a home remodeling project.

While the Duggar family was temporarily living in Little Rock, Arkansas after the premature birth of youngest daughter Josie in 2009, John-David- along with Joseph- often helped keep up with the maintenance of the family’s Tontitown home.

In 2010, John-David became a certified first responder and also began volunteering at the local fire department. That November, he ran for Alderman of Tontitown, and lost by 60 votes. He ran again in 2012, and lost by only 12 votes. In January 2013, John-David began serving as a constable in Washington County, Arkansas, which is an unpaid position.

Around this time, John-David was also hard at work earning his pilot’s license. The April 2013 19 Kids and Counting episode, “Duggars Take Flight,” shows John-David logging some flight time by flying his younger brother Joseph to the ALERT academy in Texas. Although his parents purchased a plane for him around September 2014, John-David was still plugging away in October 2014, and he completed the requirements by January 2015. Since then, he has kept busy flying friends and family around the country, and he has also earned his instructor’s license. In the Counting On episode “Meet the Parents,” John-David gives his younger sister, Joy, a flying lesson.

Although John-David does not receive nearly the amount of attention as his twin sister Jana does for “still” being single, just like her, he remains a bit of a mystery because he does not use social media and he tends to stay out of the spotlight. John-David is often described as soft spoken and laid back, but he also has a dry sense of humor. In 2014, at his sister Jill’s wedding rehearsal, John-David made a joke about accepting applications for a wife, and he received calls from many interested ladies who took him seriously. In 2016, it was rumored that he was involved with Tabitha Paine, the Duggars’ former live-in tutor, but she denied the rumor and married someone else the next year.

John-David has owned a home since at least 2013, and although there have been rumors that he is living there, an interview that Michelle gave in 2013 stated that he was leasing it out for rental income, and as of 2018, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that he has moved out of the Duggar family home.

If there is any information that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will update this biography accordingly. I try my best to be factual, but feel free to give me a heads up if you find a mistake and I will make the correction as soon as possible!

Image Sources:

  1. A recent photo of John-David Duggar
  2. The Duggars as a family of five, with John-David in the middle
  3. John-David videotapes a construction project
  4. John-David Duggar in the Philippines with Lawson and Nathan Bates
  5. Campaign material for John-David Duggar’s race for town Alderman
  6. John-David Duggar in front of a plane

Biography: Jana Marie Duggar

Jana Marie Duggar was born on January 12, 1990, three minutes before her fraternal twin brother, John-David. That small margin makes her the second of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar‘s nineteen biological children, and she is also their eldest daughter. Although Jana as an adult is known for her quiet demeanor- which is often a source of intrigue– as a child she was described as “rowdy” and “outgoing.” She began walking at eight months old and according to her mother, she was quite a handful.

In the book The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America’s Largest Families- How They Do It, readers learn that the Duggars began enrolling their children in music lessons when their oldest son was six, and although it is unclear whether Jana began at the same time, music has undoubtedly been a significant part of her life. In addition to the piano and violin lessons that every Duggar child was enrolled in, Jana also really wanted to learn how to play the harp. She was able to begin taking lessons after the family received a harp as a gift, which they considered an answer to prayer.

As the family’s oldest daughter, Jana has been responsible for a significant portion of the childcare for her younger siblings. By the time the Duggar’s first television special aired in 2004, she already had several years of child-rearing under her belt: under her mother Michelle’s famous buddy system, Jana’s first official “buddy” was her younger brother Jason, who was born in the year 2000, when Jana was ten years old. However, Michelle’s response to a Facebook fan question suggests that the buddy system existed in some form at least four years before that, when oldest son Joshua was eight years old, and Jana was six.

When Jana was eight years old, she slept in the top level of a bunk bed that she shared with her younger sister Jessa, who was six. Their parents purposely put them in a room together because they hadn’t been getting along, and in the book Growing Up Duggar, Jana tells readers that Jessa used to repeatedly kick Jana’s mattress at night, which made Jana so annoyed that she began to avoid spending time with her sister. After feeling personally convicted by a nighttime family devotion (and additional prompting from her mother), Jana decided to give forgive Jessa, which she demonstrated by giving her a treasured pink jewelry box. Both of them credit this moment as the beginning of a genuine friendship.

In September 2009, Jana first attended Journey to the Heart, an IBLP program for young women. She was led by Anna (Keller) Duggar’s sister, Priscilla (Keller) Waller, and eventually she became a leader herself. In the book Growing Up Duggar, Jana describes Journey to the Heart like this:

Journey leads participants to study eighteen “heart conditions” described in the Bible, both good conditions (like a pure heart, humble heart, or forgiving heart, for example) and bad conditions (for example, a “murmuring heart” focused on negativity and complaining). This journey helps participants focus on getting their heart “right” with the Lord and understanding His heart’s desire for them. In addition, powerful video messages and testimonies help attendees understand who God is, and they learn how to trust Him more fully. As a Journey leader, I get to see God working in the hearts of these individuals, and there’s just no experience like it.

(The above excerpt is from Growing up Duggar by Jill Duggar, Jinger Duggar, Jessa Duggar, and Jana Duggar)

In 2010, Jana was inspired to join the local volunteer fire department after her twin brother, John-David began volunteering and she became interested in his work. The 19 Kids and Counting episode Duggars on Fire shows Jana, John-David and Jill at work, but was perhaps more memorable for the “fire skirts” created by their sister-in-law Anna for the purpose of protecting the girls’ modesty on the job. Jana and Jill did wear regular protective gear on site; however, in their book they make a point to mention that the girls generally ran the pumps on the fire trucks as opposed to entering burning buildings, a task they left to the men. Eventually, Jana decided to leave the fire department because of the demands of her involvement with Journey to the Heart.

Over the summer of 2010, Jana and her twin brother John-David went on a month-long mission trip to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. They both became sick while they were away. During the trip, Jana befriended Jonathan Hartono, who she was rumored to be in a relationship with several years later. That same year, a TLC interview with Michelle Duggar suggested that Jana might be pursuing a career in playing the harp; however, she has never received any formal musical training.

Jana attended Journey to the Heart again in June 2011, April 2012, June 2012, August 2012, and November 2012. The rather vague “About the Journey” section of the Journey to the Heart website markets the program as a relaxing retreat; however, it also includes a prison ministry component. A prerequisite for prisoners who wish to participate is successful completion of the IBLP “Basic Seminar.”

In 2012, Jana joined the rest of her family in their endorsement of Rick Santorum in his campaign for President of the United States, and she helped by driving the large family bus- which had been decked out in vinyl lettering for the campaign- and by providing childcare, both on the road and at home.

Over the years, Jana has continued to go on many short-term mission trips with family and friends. Pictured above is Jana with her father, Jim Bob Duggar, and four of her sisters, on a 2013 trip to Honduras.

That year, Jana continued to stay involved with the Journey to the Heart Program. She was an instructor at a Journey to the Heart seminar for inmates from a Florida prison, and she also promoted the program by participating in an IBLP-sponsored interview about Journey to the Heart, along with Erin Bates.

In a June 2013 TLC interview, Jana shared that she had been working as a midwife assistant while her sister Jill trained to become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Jana’s limited contribution to the interview- in comparison to Jill’s enthusiasm- made some readers wonder if Jana’s real job was to chaperone her younger sister. The next year, Jana, along with her younger sisters Jill, Jessa, and Jinger, wrote the book Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships, which was published on March 4, 2014. The four sisters also narrated the audiobook.

In a spring 2014 interview with Crown of Beauty Magazine, a Christian online magazine for girls, Jana is described as “quiet” and “reserved,” which is evident in the fact that she does not share much about herself in the interview, other than her favorite travel location (Israel). Readers also learn from Jill that Jana has good leadership skills.

Jana is known for being a talented seamstress, and by the age of 15 she already had a reputation for being quite skilled. Ahead of her sister Jill’s wedding in June 2014, Jana was put in charge of altering the bridesmaids dresses to fit the Duggars’ strict modesty standards, which is shown in the 19 Kids and Counting episode Duggars Girls Go Glam. In the episode, Jana is cited as the main family seamstress, although some viewers have wondered whether or not this role was her choice. She is often referred to as “CinderJana” because of how hard she works for her family, who sometimes appears to take her for granted.

In the summer of 2014, Jana accompanied her brother Joshua, his wife Anna, and their three children on an RV trip from Washington, DC to Chicago, Illinois. The trip is shown in the 19 Kids and Counting Episode DC Duggars Hit the Road; however, Joshua’s family appears to be traveling without any assistance, which led some viewers to believe that Jana had been purposely cut from the storyline. That fall, Jana traveled with her brother’s family once again on a “Stand for the Family” bus tour sponsored by the Family Research Council. Jana helped out by driving the bus.

Although by October 2014, Jana appeared to have stepped back from her work as a midwife assistant, since then she has been present for several family births, including the birth of her sister Jill’s first child in April 2015, the birth of her sister Jessa’s first child in October 2015, the birth of Jessa’s second child in February 2017, and the birth of her sister Joy’s first child in February 2018 (Jana has had varying degrees of involvement in these births because each one has required different levels of medical care).

Because Jana, who is now in her late twenties, is currently single in a culture that emphasizes the importance of becoming a wife and mother, there is a lot of (often wild) speculation about why she hasn’t gotten married yet:

Despite this fascination with her love life- or perhaps because of it- Jana has not yet publicly expressed romantic interest in anyone. However, she has stated in the past that she does want to get married, but that she is waiting for the right guy. In a 2016 episode of Counting On, Jana stated that she has had multiple suitors, but that so far none of them have been the right one. She also mentioned her preference for a guy with “dirt under his nails” versus a guy who works in an office. In a March 2017 Crown of Beauty magazine interview, Jana says,

I know how it feels to wait for ‘Prince Charming’ to come along. I’m still waiting. Waiting is not always easy. Especially in those times when all the married siblings are getting together and you can’t go along because your [sic] not part of ‘that group.’

When she is not busy helping her entire family stay organizedbaby-sitting for her younger siblings, or acting as a bridesmaid, Jana enjoys gardening, which she has a clear talent for. She also has an eye for interior design, and her projects have been featured several times on the show Counting On.

In April 2018, Jana traveled with a large group of family (and friend Laura DeMasie) to the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, TX.

Pictured below, Jana attends a baseball game with several friends and her younger sister, Johannah in May 2018:

Shopping for plants in June 2018:

In June 2018, Jana’s twin brother John-David announced his engagement to Abbie Burnett, who Jana reportedly has become close with. Not surprisingly, over the next several months Jana played a large role in helping to plan the couple’s wedding. It was a busy year for Jana, as she also attended the birth of sister Jinger (Duggar) Vuolo’s first child that July.

Jana dining with pal Laura DeMasie in October 2018:

Naturally, Jana also served as a bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding to Abbie on their big day in November 2018.

In big news for a Duggar daughter still living at home, Jana joined Instagram in January 2019. Her unexpected entry into social media may have been prompted in part by the news that her friend Laura, who lived with the Duggars for quite some time, would be moving out of the Duggar home to pursue career goals, which was announced that February. However, Jana hasn’t let the absence of her friend slow her down, and recently surprised her parents by remodeling their bedroom.

In April 2019, Jana addressed the rumor that she isn’t married because she is a lesbian by responding to a comment she received on Instagram, firmly saying:

“No, and I would like to stop that rumor. I have no interest in girls that way whatsoever.”

She also casually mentioned,

“I have ‘courted’ or ‘dated’ a few guys but so far nothing as gone into a serious relationship. Just continuing to wait and pray for the right guy to come along.”

If there is any information that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will update this biography accordingly. I try my best to be factual, but feel free to give me a heads up if you find a mistake and I will make the correction as soon as possible!

Image Sources:
  1. A recent picture of Jana Duggar
  2. Twins Jana and John-David Duggar with their dad and brother
  3. Jana Duggar playing the harp
  4. Young Jana Duggar feeding a baby
  5. Jana Duggar and Priscilla (Keller) Waller at Journey to the Heart
  6. Jana Duggar working as a volunteer firefighter
  7. Jana Duggar (5th from left) at Journey to the Heart
  8. Jana Duggar holding a child at a campaign event
  9. Jinger, Jill, Jim Bob, Jessa, Jana, and Joy Duggar in Honduras
  10. Jana Duggar at a Journey to the Heart prison ministry in Florida
  11. Jana Duggar altering her sister’s bridesmaids dresses
  12. Jana Duggar gardening
  13. Jana Duggar with family and friends on a trip to Waco, TX
  14. Jana attending a baseball game
  15. Jana Duggar shopping for plants
  16. Jana dining with pal Laura DeMasie
  17. Jana as a bridesmaid in brother John-David’s wedding

Biography: Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar

Jim Bob Duggar was born on July 18, 1965 in Springdale, Arkansas to Jimmy Lee and Mary Duggar. He writes in his first book, “I was born on a Sunday in 1965, and the next Sunday I was in church.” By the age of seven he had decided to become a Christian after attending a revival service with his mother. As a teenager, he began to doubt his salvation, which prompted him to recommit his life to God.

He has one older sibling, a sister named Deanna. His family was relatively poor growing up, although his parents still managed to send him to a private Christian high school that was affiliated with First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas (known today as Cross Church, the name it adopted in 2010). He was part of its first graduating class.

Michelle Annette Duggar (née Ruark) was born on September 13, 1966 in Springdale, Arkansas to Garrett and Ethel Ruark. She is the youngest of seven siblings, most of whom were significantly older than her. Their names are: Pam, Evelyn, Carol, Freda, Kathie, and Garrett, Jr. By the time Michelle was in elementary school, only her sister Carol was still living at home.

As a child Michelle did not attend church, and she did attend public school. Throughout junior high and most of high school she was a cheerleader and reportedly quite popular. However, despite spending several hours a day practicing both cheerleading and gymnastics, she struggled with body-image issues, and at the age of 14 Michelle began to show signs of bulimia.

At age 15, while continuing to battle these issues, Michelle became a born-again Christian after attending a church event with a friend. Soon after, she was introduced to her future husband when he visited her home with a friend of his, although she admits to not remembering their first meeting. It took about a year for their paths to cross again, when Michelle applied for a job at a yogurt shop that was managed by Jim Bob’s mother in the spring of 1983.

Jim Bob wasted no time asking Michelle to accompany him to his junior/senior banquet, and she wasted no time falling in love with him. They spent several hours talking about scripture, and by the end of the evening she claims that she was certain that Jim Bob was “the one.”

She was 16 when they began dating, and still bulimic, but Michelle confided in Jim Bob early on, because she didn’t want to keep secrets from the man she intended to marry. He became an accountability partner of sorts for her, and helped her get through the first six months of breaking the habit.

On Christmas Eve in 1983, Jim Bob proposed to Michelle in her parents’ living room. When she accepted, he began preparing for their life together by trading in his car to put a down payment on a house, as well as obtaining his real estate license. Three months after Jim Bob’s proposal, Michelle’s parents announced that they would be moving out of state, which prompted the couple to schedule their wedding that summer. They were married on July 21, 1984, at First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas. Michelle was 17, and Jim Bob had just turned 19.

After the wedding, they altered their honeymoon plans at the last minute because their first destination turned out to be a disappointment, but they still spent several nights at Mount Nebo State Park in Arkansas as planned. The honeymoon was cut short due to car troubles, so the couple returned home to the 900 square-foot fixer-upper that Jim Bob had been getting ready for Michelle, which was still a work in progress.

Michelle and Jim Bob decided not to have children right away, and Michelle began taking birth control pills. In the first year of marriage, they purposely did not have a television or any pets in their home. They both worked: Jim Bob at a grocery store where he had already been employed for several years, and Michelle as a substitute teacher. Although it is unclear exactly when, Michelle obtained her real estate license early on in their marriage, and they both obtained life insurance licenses, which they dabbled in for awhile before opening a used car lot. Jim Bob had been selling used cars that he repaired on his own, and he decided to pursue this full time in 1985. He stayed on at the grocery store for the first year, with significant help from Michelle at the car lot, and eventually they added a towing service to the business.

After several years of preventing pregnancy, Michelle stopped taking birth control pills when the couple decided that they were ready to start a family. By then they were living in a small house that was also the site of their used car business. Their first child, Joshua James, was born on March 3, 1988. After his birth, Michelle resumed taking birth control, and while she was still on the pill, she became pregnant again, but miscarried early on. Michelle and Jim Bob consulted with a Christian doctor, who told them it was the birth control that had caused them to miscarry. As a result, the couple decided not only to stop using oral birth control pills, but to eschew all forms of contraception in favor of leaving the size of their family “up to God.”

It didn’t take long for Michelle to become pregnant again, and this time with twins. Around the same time, Michelle and Jim Bob attended a religious seminar on financial freedom, which inspired them to live debt-free. At the time, they still held a mortgage on the house that Jim Bob had purchased before they got married, which they had been renting out. They decided to sell the home, and then they invested that money into the used car business. However, they still experienced financial hardship due to a failed business venture, as well as large hospital bills following the birth of Jana Marie and John-David on January 12, 1990 via emergency c-section.

Even so, Michelle and Jim Bob continued to stick to their position on family planning. Michelle became pregnant again later that year, by which time their eldest son was beginning to reach school age. They had decided to homeschool their children several years earlier, and when he was four, the Duggars attended their first Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschooling conference and began the curriculum.

Jill Michelle was born on May 17, 1991, and by the spring of 1992, Michelle and Jim Bob had saved up enough money to pay cash for a bigger house. However, because it was a repossessed home, it took about a year to make it move-in ready, during which time Michelle once again became pregnant. Jessa Lauren was born on November 4, 1992, while the Duggars were still living in their house at the car lot. They moved into the new house, located in Springdale, Arkansas, in March 1993. The house was located next door to First Baptist Church (a.k.a. Cross Church).

Despite having greater financial security as a family, Michelle cites this period as a particularly difficult time due to the challenges of raising so many young children at once. Jim Bob’s mother, Mary came by frequently to help out, but even with the extra set of hands Michelle was overwhelmed. In one of the Duggars’ books, Michelle recalls breaking down in tears during a 1:00 AM laundry session because of the exhaustion and stress. Nevertheless, Michelle’s next pregnancy was just around the corner, and this time around she opted for a home birth. Jinger Nicole arrived safely and uneventfully on December 21, 1993.

Due to the influence of the conferences that he and Michelle had been attending (held by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a non-denominational Christian organization), Jim Bob decided to sell the towing portion of the car lot business in order to make more time for his family. Michelle was pregnant once again, and they sold the towing company for a profit in June 1994, which they used to pay cash for a commercial real estate property. Then, they rented the property out, which not only partially replaced the lost income from the sold business, but also paved the way for several other successful real estate ventures.

Because Jinger’s birth had gone so well, Michelle decided to try for a home birth again. Although there were some complications, Joseph Garrett was born at home on January 20, 1995. Michelle and Jim Bob state that after Joseph’s arrival, they decided against the home birth route, and when Josiah Matthew arrived on August 28, 1996, he was born in a hospital, as was Joy-Anna Duggar, who was born on October 28, 1997.

Meanwhile, through a series of coincidences which Jim Bob attributes to God’s will, he began to feel called to become involved in politics. He decided to run for a position in the Arkansas House of Representatives, and in November 1998 he won the election. The next month, Michelle gave birth to Jedediah Robert and Jeremiah Robert several weeks earlier than expected, on December 30, 1998. They spent 11 days at the hospital before coming home, during which time Jim Bob was officially sworn in to the Arkansas House of Representatives. He represented the sixth district and served as the vice chair of the Judiciary House Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee.

Because Jim Bob would have to temporarily relocate to Little Rock, Arkansas to perform his duties, he decided to sell the car lot to a friend who had helped out with the business in the past. Jim Bob traded the business for a valuable car, which he sold along with the rest of his remaining inventory to prepare for the move.

Now that many of their children had reached Sunday School age, Michelle and Jim Bob decided that they did not want all of their family members to be separated into different classes every Sunday at church. After spending awhile attending a senior citizens’ Sunday School class together as a family, the Duggars eventually joined their friends Clark and Denise Wilson at their newly planted church, which met at an office trailer. The group later began to hold services in its’ members homes, and although the Duggars would have been away in Little Rock during some of this period, in A Love That Multiplies, they state that they have been worshipping in this type of setting since 1999.

The Duggars’ next child, Jason Michael was born on April 21, 2000, and that same year Jim Bob was re-elected to another term in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Michelle gave birth to James Andrew on July 7, 2001, and one month later the Duggars sold their Springdale house to First Baptist Church (a.k.a. Cross Church). Jim Bob had experienced another feeling of divine inspiration that persuaded him to run for the United States Senate, which he announced in April 2002 after his final term in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

He did not have the support of the Republican Party because the incumbent, Tim Hutchinson, was already a Republican, but Jim Bob was convinced that he was following God’s calling, and used a significant amount of money from the sale of the home to finance his campaign. On May 21, 2002 Jim Bob Duggar was defeated in the primary by Hutchinson, who ultimately lost to the Democratic candidate, Mark Pryor.

After Jim Bob’s failed Senate bid, the Duggars continued to live in the Springdale house, which was now owned by First Baptist Church (a.k.a. Cross Church). The church planned to tear down the house and use the land for an expansion, but they allowed the Duggars to stay until it was demolished, and according to Michelle and Jim Bob, they paid the church rent while they looked for a new place to live.

After being unable to find anything big enough within their budget, they decided to build a house by themselves, and in July 2002, after being unsuccessful once again in their search for land, they decided to build on the edge of one of the commercial properties they already owned. In August, they purchased a steel home kit as the framework for the house, and Jim Bob decided that he, Joshua and John-David would lead the family in doing most of the labor themselves to avoid paying for outside help as much as possible. On November 15, 2002, their fourteenth child, Justin Samuel, was born.

Meanwhile, the Duggars were beginning to experience media interest in their family, which they credit to the above photograph from the primary. It was taken at the polling place and ran in the New York Times, which led to an interview with Ladies’ Home Journal, although the magazine ended up deciding not to publish it. However, the interview eventually ran in Parents magazine in the spring of 2003*, which caught the eye of Eileen O’Neill, president of the Discovery Health Channel.

The Duggars were asked if they would like to participate in a documentary about their large family, which they agreed to do as long as their faith would not be edited out. Their first television special, 14 Children and Pregnant Again!, featured the birth of Michelle and Jim Bob’s fifteenth child, Jackson Levi, on May 23, 2004. It aired on the Discovery Health channel on September 6, 2004, and its success paved the way for several follow-up specials.

The Duggars next appeared on Raising 16 Children, which shows their March 2005 move to a rental house, where they lived while working on the construction of their new home as funds allowed. First Baptist Church had been forced to asked them to move because they could not push the demolition date of the house back any farther, and because their new house still wasn’t ready, they had to find somewhere else to stay in the meantime. Finding a rental had its own challenges due to the size of their family, and the Duggars ended up staying in a house that was scheduled to be torn down already, which is why the owners didn’t mind renting it out to a family with 15 kids.

This special also shows the Duggars attending an Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschooling conference in Big Sandy, Texas, although the nature of the event is presented in rather vague terms, which some suspect was one of many purposeful decisions to disguise the true nature of the Duggar family’s extreme beliefs. The episode ends with the October 11, 2005 birth of Johannah Faith, and it aired several months later on March 13, 2006.

Even with the whole family pitching in under the guise of “hands-on education,” the expertise and assistance of Michelle and Jim Bob’s former pastor Clark Wilson, who moved his family from Mississippi to Arkansas for an entire year to help oversee the project, and help from various unnamed “friends and family,” construction on the Duggars’ new home was very slow going, which viewers received a peak of on their next special, 16 Children and Moving In. The project ended up going three years past its original deadline, and a professional contractor was brought in to finish it up, along with plumbers, electricians, and an interior designer who were paid by The Discovery Channel.

The Duggar’s house, located in Tontitown, Arkansas, is noteworthy for its upstairs floor plan- instead of individual bedrooms, there are two large, dormitory-style bedrooms for the children: one for the boys, and one for the girls. Michelle and Jim Bob claim that their children requested this design, which is partially true, but it was eventually revealed that the parents also had a more serious reason for wanting to keep the boys and girls apart.

With all of the professional help, the rest of the house was completed quickly, and the Duggars moved in during the first month of 2006, footage of which is included in 16 Children and Moving In. The extra space allowed them to host extended family, including Michelle’s father, who had been in an accident involving a driver high on methamphetamine shortly before the house was finished.

The Duggars were also able to host financial seminars in their new home, now teaching the same exact principles that they had learned in the early years of their marriage. The program they used was endorsed by the IBLP, and created by Jim Sammons, a real estate developer who was on Bill Gothard’s Board of Directors. In addition, the Duggars held weekly home church services with around fifty attendees, which has fueled unsubstantiated rumors that they classify their home as a church for tax purposes.

By now, the Duggars had attracted worldwide attention with their first three television specials, in addition to numerous radio interviews and media appearances. They furthered their fame with two final stand-alone specials: On the Road with 16 Children, which aired on June 11, 2006,  and Duggars’ Big Family Album, which featured the August 2, 2007 arrival of Jennifer Danielle and aired on September 22, 2007.

Almost exactly one year later, the first episode of The Learning Channel’s show 17 Kids and Counting aired on September 29, 2008, amidst criticism of Jon & Kate Plus 8, another reality show on the same network. Some viewers were concerned about the damaging effects of putting children on reality television, but TLC marketed the Duggars as a wholesome Christian family, and many bought into the charade. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar published their first book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America’s Largest Families- How They Do It on December 2, 2008.

The first three seasons of 17 Kids and Counting (changed to 18 Kids and Counting in the middle of the second season, which aired in the first half of 2009, to reflect the birth of Jordyn-Grace Makiya on December 18, 2008, featured snapshots of the family’s ultra-conservative lifestyle, including moments both big and small. The show did feature the Duggars’ faith, as they had requested before signing on to participate in the original special, but even though TLC filmed the Duggars attending an ATI conference in a 2009 episode and were undoubtedly aware of criticism surrounding the family’s membership in the IBLP, their beliefs were generally presented in a positive light.

On December 10, 2009, the Duggar’s 19th child, Josie Brooklyn, was born via emergency c-section at just 25 weeks gestation, after Michelle was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and airlifted to a hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. She weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces at birth, and was in the hospital for about six months before going home. For most of that time, the entire Duggar family relocated to Little Rock and stayed in a five-bedroom rental home. Josie’s birth, hospital stay, and long-awaited arrival home are documented in the fourth season of the Duggars’ TLC show, which was now 19 Kids and Counting. The season aired over the course of 2010.

After the Duggars returned to their Tontitown home, they returned to “normal” family life, which for them included homeschoolingspeaking engagementsmedia appearances, and TLC-funded trips. Michelle and Jim Bob published a second book, A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it Work on June 7, 2011. The book covers Josie’s birth and the Duggars’ adjustment to life in the spotlight, and includes insight into their daily life as well advice on relationships. The book also includes a defense against the criticism Michelle received for protesting a nearby convenience store’s request for a beer license less than two weeks after giving birth to Josie, who was still in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the time.

On November 8, 2011, Michelle and Jim Bob, along with their children, announced on the Today Show that they were expecting their twentieth child, which received mixed reactions from the public. One month later, on December 8, 2011, a routine prenatal checkup revealed that Michelle had miscarried the baby. She had been in her second trimester and was close to halfway through the pregnancy. On December 14, 2011, the Duggars held a memorial service for their stillborn daughter, who they named Jubilee Shalom.

As the Duggars began to close in on almost a decade of being on television, they continued to make headlines for various controversies, usually related to their polarizing religious and political beliefs. In 2012, they endorsed Rick Santorum and participated in his presidential campaign; that same year, Michelle spoke at a Conservative Political Action Conference and criticized the Susan G. Komen Foundation for reversing their decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. That March, Michelle herself was criticized for calling overpopulation a “myth.”

In 2013, Michelle was in the news once again for comparing abortion to the Holocaust, which was offensive to many and elicited a response from the Jewish Journal, a weekly newspaper that serves the Jewish community in Los Angeles, California. In the summer of 2014, Michelle recorded a robocall asking residents to vote against an anti-discrimination measure that would strengthen protections for transgender individuals, a move which prompted many to sign an online petition asking TLC to take the Duggars off the air.

In November 2014, following the marriage of their daughter Jessa to Ben Seewald, Michelle and Jim Bob issued a “kissing challenge” to their fans. Jessa and Ben famously did not kiss at the altar; however, they later posted a picture of themselves kissing on Instagram. After the picture received negative feedback, Michelle and Jim Bob followed suit with their own snapshot that was posted on Facebook, where they encouraged other married couples to post similar pictures. However, followers quickly noticed that photos of same-sex couples were being deleted, which fueled the growing movement of people asking TLC to take the Duggars off television.

However, the final straw for TLC didn’t come until May 2015, when InTouch Weekly published a police report that had been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, detailing the Duggars’ oldest son Joshua’s molestation of five underage girls, four of whom were his younger sisters. Joshua quickly issued a public apology in a statement to People magazine, which included comments from both his wife, Anna, and his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle. But just a day later, after advertisers began pulling out of the show, TLC announced that 19 Kids and Counting had been canceled and that reruns would no longer appear on the air.

In the press and across social media, Michelle and Jim Bob were widely criticized for failing to take appropriate action when they claim to have first been made aware of Joshua’s behavior in March 2002, and for continuing to mishandle the situation after several subsequent incidents. Although Joshua’s statement mentioned counseling, further investigation revealed that his parents failed to get him proper treatment, and IBLP literature that has surfaced online suggests that any counseling his sisters received would have likely taught that sexual abuse is the victim’s fault. Michelle and Jim Bob were also criticized for over-emphasizing the concepts of modesty and purity, which some believe was a factor that contributed to Joshua’s actions.

In June, Michelle and Jim Bob agreed to an interview with Megyn Kelly, who at the time was the host of The Kelly File on Fox News. Many criticized Kelly for being overly sympathetic to the Duggars, who appeared to choose their words very carefully in what many viewed as an attempt to salvage their reputation.

In August 2015, a second scandal hit the Duggar family when the gossip blog Gawker announced that Joshua had a paid account on the adult website Ashley Madison, which had recently been hacked. This prompted him to enroll in a Christian rehab program, and although Jim Bob and Michelle took in his wife and children while he was away, Michelle wrote a blog post that October instructing wives to always be “joyfully available” for meeting their husbands’ sexual needs, which many interpreted as indirect criticism of Anna.

That same month, TLC released a trailer for a three-part television special called Jill and Jessa: Counting On, which addressed the past several months’ events and provided updates on Jill and Jessa’s lives. The series aired in December 2015, and in February 2016, TLC announced that it would be expanded into a full-fledged show, which premiered the following month and consisted of eleven episodes.

TLC dropped Jill and Jessa’s names from the show’s title ahead of its second full season, which premiered on August 23, 2016, likely because it primarily featured their sister Jinger’s courtship, engagement, and wedding. Although it was widely believed that the show would not feature Michelle and Jim Bob, they gradually began to make appearances as their daughter’s relationship progressed. Meanwhile, that September they opened up their home to Michelle’s 8-year old great-nephew, whose mother was unable to properly care for him. In November 2016, they became his legal guardians.

2017 was a busy year for Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, who saw two of their children get married within the span of four months. While Counting On’s third full season (generally referred to as Season 4) was still airing coverage of Jinger and Jeremy’s wedding preparations, daughter Joy-Anna was rapidly heading towards her own engagement and wedding planning, which provided plenty of excuses for her parents to show up on camera. After they gave away the bride, Michelle and Jim Bob continued to keep busy with a trip to Hawaii before getting back into wedding planning mode for their son Joseph’s marriage to Kendra Caldwell that September. They finished off the year with a child-free getaway to the Bahamas with their friends Gil and Kelly Jo Bates.

So far, 2018 has been business as usual for Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. In January they traveled to Australia with fourteen of their children for an IBLP speaking engagement, where Jim Bob was criticized for making an insensitive remark about his daughter, Jana. The next month the couple traveled alone to speak at a Valentine’s Day event at a church in Michigan. In March, son-in-law Derick Dillard posted claims on Twitter regarding his lack of compensation for his participation in Counting On, which sparked much speculation about how much control Jim Bob has over the Duggars’ earnings from TLC despite no longer being primarily featured on the family’s current show.

If there is any information that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will update this biography accordingly. I try my best to be factual, but feel free to give me a heads up if you find a mistake and I will make the correction as soon as possible!

*I have not yet been able to find a link to or copy of an article from the spring of 2003; however I did find this article from the September 2003 issue of Parents magazine. If anyone happens to have the original article or if my timeline is incorrect, please use the e-mail button to contact me and I will gladly credit you for finding the information!

Image Sources:

  1. Current picture of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar
  2. Michelle (Ruark) Duggar as a cheerleader in high school
  3. The young couple at Jim Bob’s junior/senior banquet
  4. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s wedding invitation
  5. Michelle Duggar holding newborns Jana and John-David Duggar
  6. The Duggars as a family of six
  7. The Duggars as a family of eight
  8. The Duggars as a family of ten
  9. The Duggars get political as a family of thirteen
  10. The Duggars make a Senate bid
  11. The Duggars vote in 2002
  12. The Duggars as a family of seventeen
  13. The Duggars as a family of eighteen
  14. The Duggars as a family of nineteen
  15. The Duggars as a family of twenty
  16. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar with their daughter, Josie
  17. Members of the Duggar family with Rick Santorum
  18. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar share a kiss
  19. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar speak with Megyn Kelly
  20. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar with Gil and Kelly Jo Bates