My mouth gets dry, my knees shake, my stomach flutters, and I sweat.
What is it, you ask? Heights? Public speaking? Tight spaces? Flying? Snakes?
Now, I’m not talking about the casual get-togethers or coffee dates with good friends. What brings on this angst is when I’m supposed to dress up, get cute, and act…
…like a girl.
Let me explain more by describing a couple of the worst times…
One was a big ladies’ event at my child’s school. A sweet friend invited me and I wanted to be with her, so I accepted. I had never been to this particular event, but I had heard about it and I could feel the pressure. When the day arrived, my poor husband was subjected to the routine:
Me: I don’t think I’m going to go.
Him: Why? You should go! You love those women.
Me: Yes, I do. But…(I gulp, embarrassed), I don’t know what to wear.
Him: Oh, sweetie. (trying to hide the eye roll) That doesn’t matter. You always look great to me.
Me: You don’t understand. At my age, women dress for other women. Not their husbands.
Him: (with a puzzled and hurt look) Just be comfortable and you’ll have fun.
Me: Yeah. You’re right. I’m being silly. (fake smile)
I go back to my bedroom and stare at my closet. And mumble, “Yeah right. I’m comfortable in my hoodie and sneakers…I should have thought about this sooner.” Then, after thirty minutes or so, my room looks like GoodWill exploded in it. I’m tired, frazzled, and near tears. Finally, I settle on an outfit, ask my daughters for approval, throw on some make-up, fluff my hair, grab my purse, kiss my man, and head to the car. On the way, I try to convince myself that it’s not important, that I’m being superficial. I drive, pray that my outfit is right, and sweat.
Same routine every time.
Now, if you know me, you might find this hard to believe. People usually describe me as confident and fairly easy-going. In most situations, that’s an accurate description. But in this area of life, believe it or not, this is me. Unfortunately.
On that particular ladies’ night, I arrived at the school a little late and scrambled to find my group while everyone else was already chatting. Immediately, my poor fashion judgement was evident. Looking down first, I saw that the whole room had strappy heels and pedicures. I wore flats with trouser socks.
Them: cute skirts
Me: black slacks with dorky material
Them: frilly tops
Me: shirt with jacket from six seasons ago
Them: jewelry and fingernail polish
Me: oh, snap, why didn’t my daughters remind me?!!
Them: relaxed and having fun
Me: trying to decide whether to make a quick getaway, or steal the chocolates from the dessert tray and crawl under the table
Seriously, in my anxiety, I couldn’t even concentrate on the conversations or on the speaker’s message. I just sat there, the whole night, beating myself up again, “Why can’t I get a handle on this “girl” thing? It’s not rocket science. I’m a loser, and I’m never going out again.”
The second stand-out girl failure was this: I wore capris to an evening concert. Yes. You heard me, girlfriend. Capris. I’ll say no more…
Looking back, I’ve never been a good “girl”. My mom jokes about how she would cringe when I went out the door to play in corderoy pants under a sundress. Of course, I wasn’t heading out to hopscotch or dolls. My best friend, John, and I spent hours in the dirt between our houses playing “trucks” and “army”. When I got a little older, I was the lone chic on the football field with the boys at recess. In high school and college, other girls were, appropriately, getting up-dos and manicures, I was in sweat pants. Back then it never bothered me, really.
Maybe it was because I was too busy playing sports to notice. Maybe it was because I have a mom and a sister who have above-average style sense and like to shop. In my teenage years, my mom would pick up something from the mall and say, “I thought you could wear this to (insert name of upcoming event where I couldn’t wear sweats). “Great! Thanks, Mom!” I would say. Then go back to chewing my nails and playing ball. Not much thought. No anxiety. Lots of fun.
Now that I’m off the playing field, my girlish deficiency has shown up in many more ways and causes stress. I still have no clue about fashion. I’m often found rummaging around a thrift store, in a panic, hours before a function, for something passable. When I call them for help, my mom and sister still show up and step up my game for big events, but my own instincts are way off base. I’ve landed in the roles of wife and mother, but I don’t have much interest in decorating and I hate to cook. The contrast bothers me. I feel immature and embarrassed when I listen to other moms discuss their recipes, hair salons, decorating projects, and jewelry shows. I go through seasons where I try really hard. I hang a picture or two, let my daughters paint my nails, and wander around the mall to get caught up on fashion. Then, after a week or so, I shake off the pretense, and climb, exhausted, back into my sweats.
I love my girlfriends, but I want to lose the drama and the routine of angst within. I really don’t want to feel distracted and insecure about how I look. I want to be confident in these areas. I want to have fun.
I wonder, much too late, what God thinks about all of this. Does He care about these feelings? I invite Him in…
For the first time, I lay before Him about all of the girly things that distract me. Clothes, jewelry, shoes, hairstyles, decorations, cooking, manicures. They seem so shallow and insignificant in His presence. Is God telling me to shake the dust of these things from my un-pedicured feet and move on? Should I just embrace my dated clothes and neglected hair cut?
He points to His word. I turn to the first place that comes to mind, Proverbs 31. I read the section title with fresh eyes, “The Woman Who Fears the Lord”. The Living Word meets me there.
The word grabs me: Woman …not “Girl Who Fears the Lord”. As I let that soak in, He reminds me that I’m no longer a child. Girls, by definition, are immature…not fully grown. Girls obsess about jewelry and fingernails. Girls are tossed and turned by trends and fads. Girls find their value in hairstyles and shoes. Girls compare and tell themselves lies.
His Graceful Truth seeps in and changes the posture of my heart. So I can hear Him…
All along, You’ve been striving to be a girl when I’m calling you to be a woman.
I read on from Proverbs. From what I read, that chapter 31 gal is a real woman. She dresses herself with a smile, strength, and confidence… but also with fine fabrics.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
She is out in the world and up on current events (fashion, included, I believe).
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
I envision her to be stylish, but not a slave to the trends. She’s not vain, but puts effort into looking attractive for the sake of her husband, her business, and His glory. She’s a homemaker, but not stuck at home. She works diligently, thinks hard, and looks outward. She plans ahead and accommodates for her weaknesses.
Nothing girly here.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
It’s time for me to grow up.
And growing has begun…slowly. I’ve made a few womanly changes as of late. With the help of my Mom and sister, and some of my favorite second-hand stores, I have collected a few stylish, classic staples for my wardrobe. I’ve asked my girls to do my nails, and I’ve set an alert on my calendar for when it’s time to get a haircut. I force myself to plan outfits in advance for fancy events, including jewelry. I vow to update my shoes regularly. I don’t worry about being a chef, but I ask my cooking friends for some recipes. I’ve given up hopes of redecorating our house, but I strive to make our home lovely and comfortable. And it all feels so different now.
These things, with a girlish mindset, are shallow and insignificant. But to a woman who fears the Lord, they are a sign of outward focus. God is not calling me to be someone I’m not, but by being the best self I can be, on the outside and inside, I can glorify Him.
Growing up so that others may know him. It sounds so womanly. It also sounds like Jesus.
On the next “Ladies’ Night”, I’ll grab my “go-to” outfit, have my daughters do my nails and jewelry, call my mom for advice about shoes, and look to my husband’s eyes for assurance. Then, on the way, I’ll pray…
…not as a girl, asking that my outfit will be right, but as a woman. Asking to be the kind of friend who is not distracted, but who points others to Him. Trusting in His Grace to grow me.
Oh, sure, you will still find me in my sweatpants, at times. I still chew my nails and my shoes are dorky. But fewer bombs are going off in my bedroom, my cooking is improving, and I bought a bracelet the other day. My husband is seeing less of an anxious, girly wife and more of a confident, womanly one. Even when my shoes are wrong.
I know many of you can’t relate. Your outfits are adorable and your nails are beautiful. I admire your gift. But you may be stuck in girlhood in other areas. Invite God’s Grace in to help you grow. It’s way more fun.
I’ve never been a good girl, but in His Grace, I just might grow into a pretty decent woman.