I read this article written by Karen Swallow Prior.

“Write about being a woman,” she said.

So I will.

It means something, this being a woman.

It is something bodily, yet beyond biology.

There is something of earth in it, and something heavenly, too.

It is something that can be understood, yet is not easily captured in words.

It brings forth a sense of sisterhood among the women I’ve met in places across the world, from Malawi to Morocco, from Guatemala to Ireland, from Puerto Rico to England, from Tennessee to Chicago.

And among the women I’ve never met, too, except through their words: Teresa, Flannery, Edith, Emily, Charlotte, Jane, Hannah, Julian, and so many more.

It means something that transcends age, time, place, race, class, and creed.

Yet, there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women.

When I think about being a woman, I think most about the women I come from.

I think about my grandmother, my mother’s mother, strong, stoic, and brusque, with an edge about her, both familiar and strange. She was never like other people’s grandmothers.

She was not a cookie-baking, cheek-pinching, ooh-aahing Grandma. She showed more affection for her goats, chickens, and hothouse flowers than she did to her children and grandchildren. But though she didn’t stoop to enter our world, we were always welcome to join her in hers.

My grandmother resented her whole life the fact she wasn’t born a man. This is something I could but couldn’t understand.

Born in rural Maine in 1914, my grandmother, like all women did (and do), faced many obstacles.

Yet, a rough-and-tumble woman, she seemed able to do just about everything a man could.

She competed in math against the boys in school.

She accompanied my grandfather on the piano while he played trombone in a dance hall band.

She helped him tend their 140 acres, planting, weeding, haying, reaping, feeding, milking, and selling what they produced from that land.

She stood with him waist deep in cold northern streams, fly fishing for the trout they’d fry up in an iron skillet in butter she’d churned herself in a big wooden barrel.

She birthed their two girls at home, the younger in the one room cabin she’d helped my grandfather build by hand.

She went to a Methodist church where she sat under a woman preacher.

She was stubborn, scrappy, opinionated, intense, and independent to a fault.

Anchored to a wheelchair these days, she is a bit less so. But not much.

There are women who are elegant, sophisticated, and refined. This is not what I think of when I think of being a woman. These are not the kind of women I come from.

I think about my mother, soft and shy.

My mother who loves little children and has taught them in Sunday School most of her life.

My mother for whom my father is the center of her universe, the sun to her moon.

She has made and served my father three meals a day nearly every single day of more than 50 years of marriage. She has loved (nearly) every minute of it.

She is never happier than when she is with my dad. It doesn’t matter what they are doing. Except for their love of gardens, animals, and church, my mother and her mother are not much alike.

I never saw my grandmother and grandfather display affection toward each another (save the kind of affection I suppose there is in an ongoing mutual competition). But I have watched my mother and father kiss one another good morning, good-bye, and hello each and every day.

My mom loves being a woman. Mostly, I think, because she loves being the wife of my father. I know that next to God, I owe to my parents and their example the goodness of my own marriage, different as it is from theirs.

I am somewhere in between these two, bearing the image and likeness of both of them whose bearing brought me into the world. An average yield of two generations (or more) of women.

We are three women who could not be more different from one another—and yet we share so much of each other.

We are three women who could not be more different from one another—and yet we share so much of each other.

I am who I am because of these women.

My grandmother’s gift to me was her toughness. My mother’s, her gentleness.

“Write about being a woman,” she said.

So I did.

In writing, we call this a prompt: the provision of a topic and directions for a writer to follow in a given assignment. Following the set rules allows creativity to flourish in ways it never would or could with no restraints or limits. It’s the paradox of the prompt.

One can fight against the rules of the prompt. One can also just follow them limply along. Or one can press into the limits until truth, goodness, and beauty are squeezed out and burst into the world.

“Be a woman,” God said, as He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 “Be a woman neither sweet nor hard. Be short like your mother and your grandmother, tending a little toward stout.

Have thick, lumpy hair, neither curly nor straight. Be left-handed. Love logic and words but be tone-deaf. 

Be a woman who sees and speaks but who needs more patience, delicacy, and reserve. 

Be a woman born here in this place, not that one, at this time, not another. Be born from these people and among those.”

And even before He had made me, He called me to Himself.

This was my prompt.

I press into it in hopes I will, by the grace of God, flourish.


I loved this article, because it made me think about where I came from….made me think about the people who have come before me….and those who have come (and will be coming) after me!

This article made me think of my parents, my grandparents and great-grandparents and so on.  Made me think about all that I do know about them, but there is so much more that I don’t know. All of that, all of who they are, known and unknown, has made me.

Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth.Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

My point is…when we think about our heritage, where we’ve come from, we have been placed, where we are, when we are, from whom we are, it is for a purpose.  It has been purposeful…

Acts 17:26 says, “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.”

God KNEW exactly where He wanted each of us, and each of us have a reason for being.

And ultimately, those who are coming after us, whether from our own womb or someone else’s, we are helping shape who they are.

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