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If I’ve struggled with anything in my life, I’ve struggled to believe these two things: I am smart and I am beautiful.

And even greater is the struggle to resist measuring my smartness and beautifulness against her smartness and beautifulness, which is so destructive because we all are, you know. In different ways and at different stages, but we all are so smart and so beautiful. Not one or the other, not not enough of either.

I wish I’d learned this earlier. I wish I’d spent less time worrying about tummy rolls and hairstyles and grade point averages, and more time laughing and living and having fun. I wish I’d grown up learning how to affirm instead of compare. I wish I’d been better at complimenting others and myself. I wish I’d loved better the other girls, instead of harbouring secret jealousies and fighting the demons of self-perceived inadequacies.

I wish we could all accept that we are both smart and beautiful, all the time. We are smart, you guys. We do remarkable things that take brains. We learn stuff and we apply these learned things in creative ways and we adapt to the changes that come with environment and years and we make important decisions and we do clever, important things every single day.

And we are beautiful. We really, really are. We should take such great pleasure in our loveliness. We were gorgeously made and adorned and yes it’s true, beauty comes from inside. It shines right out through our eyes and it’s in our giggles and we don’t even understand, usually, how adorable we are when we smile or when we stroke the dog or when we beat eggs into frothy glory in the chipped blue bowl that was a wedding gift all those years ago.

I look at women differently than I used to. I used to evaluate you, my friend. Isn’t that sad? I used to try to determine whether you were prettier than I or better educated or more happily married or thinner, and I’d feel better or worse about myself based on how I imagined we stacked up against each other.

I don’t do that anymore. I mean, there are lingering wisps of silliness because of how ingrained these measuring-up thoughts and behaviours have been, but I fight them. I try very hard now to use my Jesus eyes and to see you in all your gracefulness and loveliness and brainy-ness.

And guess what? The world has become a friendlier place.

In all the big and little ways of being happy, there are not many that equal coming home.

There’s something about walking into familiar, you know? Even if the boys have been on their own all weekend and the house can’t keep their messy secret, outing them by all the dirty dishes in the sink and the scattered this-es and thats.

Homecoming is the final gift of home-leaving.

I was away for the weekend, a road trip by myself. It’s been a long time, just the CBC and me, and the long prairie road. I drove by photographs I didn’t stop and take – the leaning hip-roofed barn, the wild turkeys, the hawk on the fence post – and I sang off-key and I thought mindless thoughts about things I don’t remember.

Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

I spent the weekend in the company of women, sharing writing dreams and listening to things said and not said, and tasting the rich chocolate of fellowship and homemade chilli and good bread and prayer on my tongue, with the words and the walks and the water.

I came home from it all to Sunday afternoon resting and eating and boy hugs and a husband and a nap on the couch, and even the Monday morning mountain of laundry can’t bitter the sweet of the time away, and of the return.

Last Tuesday, Dad wrote about women in honour of International Women’s Day, and he made a few points about what he respected and admired about them. He talked about women who lead, women who care, and women who overcome and succeed. It was a beautiful post. It made me think about some of the women who I know, and what it is that I love about them.

And it made me think about these women, and about myself, and about how women do things.

Most of the books I’ve read or seminars I’ve attended about things like leadership or spiritual formation or success (and I’m guessing it is the same for you) have been written by men. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just a reality.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get tired of theory and big words and this whole emphasis on new and different. New leadership techniques, new ideas about worship, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing. New words to describe the same basic ideas.

What I love about women, what I love at least about my women, is the enduring spirit that they hold deep within them. An endurance that accepts what is and that works at what needs to be done. I think that is kind of what Dad was talking about in his post last week.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m making something out of nothing. But for most of the women I know, it’s more about the cups of tea and the conversations than it is about any grand successes or accomplishments. Not that women haven’t had and shouldn’t work toward success or accomplishment. That is definitely not what I am saying. I’m just wondering if the working toward is different, in some basic womanly way, than it is for men. (Generalizations, I know. I’m just thinking out loud here.)

This past week I’ve spent some time online, looking for spiritually focused courses or workshops or programs on things like leadership or spiritual development or training, that are designed specifically for women. I found some good stuff. I read websites on training programs for people wanting to become life coaches or mentors or leaders within their organizations. But I didn’t find anything that was specific to or for or by women.

So what I’m thinking is that maybe there are too few resources for women out there. Not enough written or talked about when it comes to women and what matters to them in their lives. Not enough support or encouragement offered to women, in their womanly uniqueness, as they lead and care and overcome and succeed.

That’s what I am thinking. What about you?