here’s to you, girl

There’s a lady applying lipstick next to me at the bathroom counter. She looks old enough to be my grandmother and I know nothing else about her except that she shares the female experience, and here we are, together in the mirror. I smile at her, and she smiles back, and it starts me thinking about all the reasons I love being a woman…

I love the way womanhood is instinctively oriented to complexity. It comes out in every day moments, speaking from a recent experience in the makeup aisle, when a middle-aged man hesitantly approached me, two lipsticks in his hand and immeasurable bewilderment on his face. He asked if I could please help him find fuschia. I sent him on his way with the object of his quest and a new understanding of the spectrum of pink.

(Really, among it’s other grievances, a world without women would be a world with a tragically tiny color wheel.) 

I love the way women create community readily and rapidly.  It’s why we can always find a friend in a fitting room and why we can form lifelong friendships in the ladies’ room line. To paraphrase a dear sister of mine–“every time I try on a great pair of jeans there will always be a girl I don’t know there to tell me that my legs look long”.  It’s true, speaking from my last experience trying on jeans and assuring a girl I’d never met that she looked amazing. Women empower each other through shared experience, we find community in the way we create beauty and inhabit beauty, and we express it equally through shampoo recommendations and heart-to-heart conversations.

I love the female affinity for care-taking. It’s reflected in a child’s instinct to run to a woman nearby when they’re lost in a crowd and it’s inborn in a woman’s instinct to nurture her environment. It’s the affinity that ties a child to her mother, and women carry it intrinsically, proving the necessity of mothers. It all starts with mothers. My own young adult experience is additional proof, compelled to keep my mom abreast of any and every development in my life. So, mom gets the important update texts, the how-do-I-fold-a-fitted-sheet-again texts and the look-at-this-salad-I-just-ate texts. 

I love knowing I’m not alone in my longing to be seen and known and cherished. The hallmark of femininity is the desire to be desired. I’m thankful for women who show how to cultivate this in a healthy way, whose lives point to the Source that gave us our identity and fills our need. The longing to be desired finds fulfillment in our origin; when God had everything else, He was not content. He desired us. 

I love the ease with which women establish emotional support networks. I’m still finding scattered pieces from a heart-shattering breakup last year. One of the greatest treasures in that season was the surrounding that I felt, especially by women in my life. Through my own heartbreak, I learned stories of others’ heartbreak. I’m grateful for the women who showed up as shoulders to cry on, as advisers and comforters and friends. That experience opened my eyes to the solidarity I have in so many women, whose hearts have been broken, who bear the scars of their triumphs and their tragedies with stunning strength.

I love the spectrum that women inhabit, the unity we find despite distinction. Women who grew up fatherless and women who grew up as daddy’s girls. Women who overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve success and stability, women who haven’t had to try as hard, women who still face obstacles. Women who hold degrees and careers and women who make a career of holding their children and a household together. Women who have found forever love, women who have loved and lost, women who wear the crown of singleness with radiance and grace. Women who have had many children, women who have lost children, women who have had none. Our experiences are innumerable and we’re all united in womanhood. 

I love the way that women naturally assume the role of helping. “Women helping women” is a slogan I’ve seen come to life in countless ways. I’ve seen it on a dorm floor, living life and sharing hairspray. I’ve experienced it being on both the giving and receiving end of emergency Midol. I’ve witnessed it watching moms swap kid-watching responsibilities with the eagerness of a middle-school clothes swap. I’ve learned it in the arms of a friend with a great gash down the middle of my heart.

We carry each other–and not just that. We carry children, we carry careers, we carry reputations. We carry burdens and households and paperwork. We’re the only ones who can simultaneously carry a baby and hold a degree. Women help so well and so uniquely–it’s instilled in our identity and evident in our ability to serve and lead sacrificially and selflessly. 

Our hands are full and our shoulders are loaded, but the weight that can make us feel undervalued really only adds weight to our resumes. Find a person in the world that wouldn’t cite a woman as a contributing factor to their success or identity. The fight for recognition meets its end at the beginning–when Creator cried incomplete at a woman-less world. 

We have nothing to prove, because the proof is in the lives we’re living–as friends, teachers, lovers, writers, thinkers, mothers, artists, housewives, scholars. The every day that we inhabit testifies that we are necessary.  And more than needed, we’re wanted. We’re the crown of creation, the thing that finally sealed the deal on “very good”.

So here’s to the women– image0

My life is rich with them: women who inspire me with their strength and their softness, their care and their courage, their happiness and their heartbreak. Women who live with an authenticity reflective of their worth and value, who have shown me God’s heart toward women and God’s heart toward me. Women who amaze me by their hard work and their talent, by the words they speak and the words they write, by the way they love and the way they live beloved, by the way they soak in the Word and speak from it freely. 

Women empowering the women, men, and children in their lives as sisters, friends, wives, mothers; women encouraging their own hearts and others with the courage of their created identity; women enriching each other and the world around them. Women–wanted, needed, needing one another.

Here’s to you, girl–today and every day.

With extra special acknowledgement to the following women, for the various roles they have played in my life– influencing me, inspiring me, teaching me, encouraging me; who have been friends and counselors, who have prayed for me and walked with me, who have shown me what it means to be a woman and have made me glad to be one. Thank you —

Erica Graf, Maureen Graf, Brandi Veit, Kay Carrothers, Tracey Siedenburg, Megan Tribe, Alison Davidson, Kerry O’Connor, Kristie Amsberry, Heidi Grant, Karen Siedenburg, Jennifer Graf, Sarah Siedenburg, Teena Welch, Tricia Anderson, Michelle Newell, Alexis DeVore, Val Bachert, Courtney Bachert, Helen Vanderwerff, Vicki Berg, Zoe Thornton, Karen Potteiger, Nina Francis, Cheryl Perron, Ali Anderson, Holly Hernandez, Annie Redd, Haley Lembke, Janel Klingsheim, Holly Hesselgrave, Jessica Larsen, Stephanie Tribble, Kathy LaRocque, Gaby Gutierrez, Ellie Hettinga, Kylie Payne, Katie McAllister, Tiffany Rogers.

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