Derive Your Value From His Heart

I see her standing there, silent and calm, in the larger Swiss airport where chocolate lines shelves in the shops and little outfits hang to remind people of Heidi running the snow covered Alps.

Quebec was elegant with its French language and wine, but Switzerland is charming and peaceful. Even in the airports, one can pick out certain cultural qualities and appreciate them. But always, I notice the women.

Some are confident, marching along in slacks and brief cases for business. Others wear the exhausted look of a traveling mother. Some are clearly retired, with an older but carefree expression on relaxed countenances. For them, life was well lived, and now, enjoyed without work or pressure.

In Quebec, I headed to the wine bar for some Chardonnay, but in Switzerland, I head to a well covered nun to see if I can find something to relate to her with.

She’s shy, and immediately tries to cover her mouth with her hands as she speaks. I look past her fingers to yellow teeth and wide open gaps. She’s a dear, quiet soul who somehow has given her life to service—and I wonder, who will love her?

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Our plane lands in Tanzania where women live in poverty and cultural manners are distinctly different from America. The airline worker bumps into me on numerous occasions—and she, too, wears the dead pan look of a woman who’s deepest longings have long been lost.

The cook at the shack where we stop to purchase breakfast of soup and chapati is a prostitute. At night she sells her body and in the day she sells soup out of a smelly little shop looking more like a barn. Men with no integrity line her tables, and we choose a side spot to avoid stares.

I’m thinking back to the beautiful, smartly dressed woman in America who waited behind me in line at security. Confidence oozes from her persona, beauty emanates her being. She’s loved, admired, beautiful, and comfortable.

But what about the nun with silent longings and wide gaps between her teeth, who never feels beautiful and lives a hidden life of service to others? Is she less of a woman?

Or does God speak something of value that reaches every woman?

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Opportunity varies just as much as culture. Culture varies from one continent to the next, and a girl can’t choose her country any more than she can choose her parents. We are born where we are, and life begins, there.

How is it possible, then, to place greater dignity and value on one woman than another?

I’m wondering if Jesus weeps a little (or a lot) when he loves his daughter so passionately that he designs her in the womb with thought and detail, then she enters the world and never receives the slightest resemblance of love from those surrounding her.

The little African girl seated at my sister’s table with her own five kids eats quietly, gratefully. Just a few years back, she roamed her village while her mama ran off to live another life and her little brother and young uncle cared for her. She slept with them in a small mud shack, and basically survived.

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Today, because someone chose to love her, her eyes hold a little more light. But there is still the old-soul suffering in her young countenance as she silently chows down as much food as she’s allowed. If she wasn’t guided to stop, she’d get a tummy ache.

Do we know this little girl, sleeping in a mud hut with her little brother, is worth as much as the little girl dancing in the studios back home, face alight with happiness and body clothed in princess attire? That the color of her skin makes no difference to her worth, and her limited opportunity does not equate limited value?

And you, sister, who’s been rejected and left behind—do you know that in Christ, you are sought after and claimed? Just as opportunity and culture cannot determine a child’s value, so your circumstance cannot determine yours.

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What a culture says to you, or what a man gives (or doesn’t give) to you can in no way define your worth.

Many of the women in Africa walk about with life-less eyes. They are used by men rather than loved by one man. And they tell my sister, “Your man wants only you, only one? You are so lucky!”

If I knew Swahili, I’d make it my mission in the next two weeks to assure every single woman that her worth isn’t measured by a man, by her circumstance, by her house, food, clothing, or opportunities.

It’s unbelievably cool that in the eyes of God, the lady chanting loudly to sell her wares outside the compound is worth every bit as much as the lady standing behind me in the airport dressed in smart business attire. One may despise the other, but God loves both equally.

I chat quietly with the nun, wishing there was more to bridge the gap between us. I wave to the lady balancing a log atop her head while she swings her youngster onto her hips—without losing balance. I smile at people behind me in long, weary lines.

Because the people of God are called to live out the heart of God, called to love each person equally, called to value, honor, and cherish each individual life whose worth began when God decided to create that life.

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The nun with crooked teeth may know, just as well as the girl dancing in the studio, that she is loved with deeper love than she could ever imagine; a love not based on humanity but on a God from whom all humans owe their existence.

If you owe your existence to His handiwork, you may as well go one step further and derive your value from his heart!

Encourage with Life

Some of my friends are so encouraging I view my interactions with them as pure life. When I joined the worship team, I put school aside for a later hour each Monday morning just so I could sit and glean from them during our weekly meetings.

I felt like the baby of the bunch. Because some people are so well-rounded and whole that your own growth pales in light of overwhelming goodness. And your own insecurities and weaknesses squirm a little because dark can’t really thrive in the face of light.

It’s vital to hang out with people more mature than we are, ourselves. And hey, these people were so full of encouragement that they pulled every possible good thing in my life right out into the open.

When I said, “I really desire the gift of prophecy,” they said, “You already have it—but we’ll pray for more.” And they’d sit me in the center of the room while they gathered round and laid hands on my head, praying life giving prayers all the while.

I grew by hanging out with them. Grew like never before.

Because they operated in the authority of Christ, they brought the life of Christ. Sisters, did you know you are heaven sent with a mission to bring life in the face of death, to being truth in the face of lies, to turn evil into good merely by your presence because you are filled with a God who has all authority in heaven and earth?

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Some of you are smack dab in the center of the most traumatizing circumstances, and you’re left gasping for a single breath of air just to make it, much less inhale deeply. But, God has authority, and you only need to ensure you are breathing his air.

I can walk in God’s authority just as my friends do. The only reason they give me life is because they know life. They listen in to life. They walk in truth, refuse lies, and counter evil with good in mighty blows that leave the enemy reeling.

They’re not out to please people, sisters. They are out to walk in life, and that pleases GOD. They hold up my hands as they urge me to do the same, and my life changes over a course of time.

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Do you walk in so much life that you give out the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Sister, you are called by God to bring the authority of God to each hurting heart in your life today. You are called by God to invest the life of God into immature places, and fill them with heavenly graces, instead.

Give out all you have, and you will be given more. Because all authority has been given to Him, He now asks you, sister, to go forth and bring it to those around you. Abide in Him, and you abide in His unbending, unyielding, uncompromising, life-giving authority that always brings life. 

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“And Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18&19, ESV

Faces of Africa

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Today, as I’ve just returned from a remote village in Tanzania, I’d love to share a few photos with you! Sometimes, we learn a lot just by seeing more of the world………….

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People have much, much less than we do………..but they still smile more than many Americans. The greetings they call out of their humble abodes spread more joy than the silence of Americans living their individual lives. 

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Kids gratefully lick every last drop from a porridge kettle, dipping fingers into liquid food left over from our breakfast. In America, kids pout over whether they get to have Lucky Charms over Cheerios. 

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Young kids care for even younger kids…….girls wear babies on their backs while mamas hoist heavy sacks and buckets onto their heads. I can’t help but think of teens whose mothers have to ask them many times over to wash a few dishes……..

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Kids entertain themselves for hours at a time. They are starved for love, and happy to chow down each morsel of food they are given. In America, kids are celebrated and pampered—then, often turn around to complain for more. 

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People work hard for very little. A good year means there is lots of corn—not lots of potato chips or candy in the pantry. They give their best to us as guests–even if that means there’s goat intestines in the meat!  (I had to quickly spit out the rubbery texture and was grateful that custom has the host family wait elsewhere while guests eat!) 

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A mom of six walks one hour to get to a small church service……..In America, many moms run ragged (and late) to get into the car for an easy ten minute drive. Fellow sisters, how hungry are we for God? 

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Missionary kids don’t always have many toys or movies……..these boys are incredibly creative as a result, and even their smaller siblings pitch in with chores voluntarily–because nothing else is grabbing for their attention. They build anything and everything out of wood, and the smallest things hold creativity and excitement for them. American parents, could we move away from the screen a little so other things have a chance to hold their attention? 

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This downs syndrome child is trusting and grateful. He’s needy, with feet as tough as raw hide, needing a good hot soak to wash away days (perhaps weeks) worth of dirt. But his smile and his love as he grasped my hand and walked through town with me, a complete stranger, was contagious. Can we love like that? 

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In Tanzania, you get asked to wed a man who is holding your hand a bit too long as he exchanges greetings. “Give her to me! I want to marry her.” You walk away quickly, shuddering just a little. And you appreciate your brother in law even more. 

You might see a Black Mumba snake late at night, or have gigantic cock roaches creep your way as you use the latrine. Or, you’ll need to head into a pitch black night for the same purpose, thankful your phone is charged and has a flash light. 

You might be out of toilet paper and towels on the same night, and the make shift shower will be cold. Your feet will get grimy just getting from the shower house to your bed, which is a mattress on the floor under a mosquito net. 

If you’re very slender, you will get no compliments for beauty–but if you have a few more curves, you’ll be told that you have a “big” (when you’re actually tiny), beautiful body, and  look like you’re pregnant (even though you don’t–this is considered a great compliment!). A row of men will be laughing and happy over their assessment of  beauty while they drink home made liquor from a filthy shared bucket. You’ll look at their eyes and be so creeped out you’ll want to run–but for love’s sake, you stay. 

You’ll hear screams, and watch a man chase a child with a whip. You’ll want to run outside to intervene, and your emotions will go haywire. You end up doing push ups and listening to worship music because internet connects in one part of the house. 

You’ll hear drunks laugh loudly right beyond your bedroom wall, and it feels as if they are an inch away. 

You’ll meet the chief, steeped in Spiritism, who, after two years of Bible lessons decided the Bible is indeed true, but he can’t live accordingly. You’ll meet his oldest wife, who is one of five, and you’ll notice her eyes hold years of darkness and pain. Ironically, the young man leading worship at the Sunday service is his son. He’s clean, peaceful, and strong. What a contrast of light and darkness! 

 Cultures vary, but God’s Word speaks the same thing the world over. When these men get saved, they quit beating their wives and taking multiple wives. As a result, the women often end up happier even if they don’t accept Jesus. The gospel always liberates and values each individual heart. 

And the gospel is always true, in each place the world over. Culture cannot determine the gospel–rather, the gospel must permeate and determine the culture. 

Fellow Christians, we must be okay to be different, not only in Africa, but in our very own, comfortable America. Let God’s Word win, the world over! 

When God Heals

I walked into her small warehouse and looked over the shelves.

Impressed with this young mom who ran her own business besides running a house smoothly, I studied the bottles to see what was inside. All the ingredients were for healing purposes.

It’s awesome to run into a business that sells only healing products when so many American stores are loaded with cigarettes, preservatives, and sugar.

Here,” she says, “Take these to your sister.” She pulls open a small drawer and empties the contents into a bag.

I look at the label. “Healing Salve,” it says.

My sister smiles. “She says she will never change the recipe because God gave it to her.”

I’m throwing a few of those freebies into my own suitcase. I’ll rub them onto aching muscles and pray love and healing into aching hearts.

Truth is, I’ve been praying a lot on what to do or say (or not do or say) in a certain circumstance. I’ve asked counsel, and some of it varies. Always, I come back to the realization that God’s peace is powerful and only He can lead me right.

A book may give advice, but it is cut for your particular circumstance?

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A friend may speak into your life, but does she know all the ins and outs—and if she did, would she still say what she says?

A verse may speak to you—but is your application of it God’s heart for you?

Wounded sister, struggling to fight your battle and win—listen hard to the Lord. He may direct you to do what is crazy. Or, he may ask you to try something you’ve never done before, that is proven to help.

Walk closely to Jesus. He breathes life into the impossible and speaks promise to lies.

He knows each heart and knows where each difficulty began—sometimes, long before symptoms rose.

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He goes deep. He goes carefully. He goes lovingly.

He offers a hand, but you need to hold it.

He promises wisdom, but you need to receive it and apply it.

If you do, you can rest. No matter how difficult the wait or how grueling the climb, God walks beside you and holds your hand, promising to never, ever leave you alone.

His recipe mixes all ingredients of your life into one powerful, healing salve. And if you allow him, he will show you what to mix up for those around you.

Because all God’s daughters are called to bring life, healing, grace, and blessing. This is what your Father does, and this is what he gives you to pass along. In the areas where you see you haven’t done so, simply turn your heart and receive his grace all over again.

He won’t change his recipe for healing salve. Apply it gratefully, long before you know why. Because He cannot lie, ever, and his promises to you are yes, and amen. 

In the Presence of Trouble, We Rest

We all like to envision tables set before us, and most of the time, we think of a loaded table in an atmosphere of light and pleasantry. Overflowing cups and someone anointing our head seems to indicate a loving, safe, unusually grace-filled time.

But see this: “in the presence of my enemies.”

This means when all is wrong and nothing’s right and you want to sink into darkness because your world is heavy, shattered, and full of turmoil. When your enemies are still present, and their presence permeates your atmosphere and unsettles your heart and makes you want to cringe in fear or distress.

Here is where He prepares a table for you– right here.

Right in your enemies’ presence, He wants you to sit and be fed. He wants them to see your feasting, and know you are a child well cared for. He wants others in your life to see His goodness to you in the face of impossible odds.

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He’s glorified in the dark, friends. We crave ease, but if all were ease we would not need a Savior and He wouldn’t get to display His care in the presence of our enemies.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” [Psalm 34:5]

He says to you, friend who is in the trenches, friend who has a fatal illness, friend who doesn’t know what to do with her past, friend who has discovered an unfaithful spouse, He says to you, right to your heart, that if you look to Him your face will be radiant, and you will not be ashamed.

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You won’t bow your head in shame as you walk about town; your heart will not be dry because He’s preparing a table for you.

He even has a trickle of oil for your head, just to let you know you are loved.

We mustn’t be afraid of broken things. When the heart breaks open, it leaves a crack all the way to the core for Love to trickle in. If we were whole, competent, and satisfied, our hearts would not be as tender or receptive for the greatest Gift of all to saturate us all the way down.

That shattered place in your life that makes you want to cringe, run, or shut down— brave friend, will you embrace it today? Will you bravely say, “This is where I am, and I will not fight it?”

When you do that, Heaven comes to lead you right into the greatest grace you will ever know. Embrace your broken, for in doing so you embrace Grace. And that grace will prove to you a greater gift than if you were never shattered at all.

In that place, you become a testament of Love for the Love-Giver Who so wanted the world to see how strong love is, that He sent His one and only Son to walk among us, suffer, and die a cruel death in the hands of angry men– the very men He created.

He died, and then He rose gloriously. He wasn’t afraid of death because He knew He would rise. And you, friend, when you are no longer afraid of your own broken places, will rise with Him.

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup overflows.” [Psalm 23:5 ESV]

Father, thank you for feeding us right in the presence of our enemies. Thank you that Your love is known even more deeply when trouble surrounds us. Thank you that You triumph.

~Women of Purpose

A Better Yes

I watched him zip out the driveway on his resale-shopped bike, pack on his back and helmet protecting his face.

He was biking fast. And, away from home. 

My heart dripped a little. But I’d rather have a bit of a mournful heart than a boxed in child who resents the lack of liberty in his home, and can’t wait to cut free.

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Because in this world, we have to say no to a lot of things. Are we also saying yes to a lot of good?

Just the other night I came home to a group of teens in the rec room, eating junk food and watching a clean movie. My mothering instincts wanted to say, “Toss the junk food and eat salad. Turn off the screen and read an inspiring book, instead.” But I zipped my lips, said hi with a smile, and left the room.

I’m thinking back to the Garden of Eden, when God created all things wonderful. Perfection was laid before the two first humans ever to walk the face of the earth, and the only “wrong” thing not to have was in the midst of the garden.

God duly warned them not to eat of it, and told them that on the day they did, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). But first, he told them about all the wonderful things they could enjoy.

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Before he said no, he made certain they knew how blessed they were. He surrounded them with beauty, perfection, and life before he warned them of death.

Sometimes, I think we christian parents do the opposite. We warn much of death and don’t bring much life. The end result is unhappy kids who buck the law of our homes and often wreak havoc in others’ lives.

This is why my husband and I allow our twelve year old to bike away on a sunny day. Why we take our daughters to dance class.

This is why we bring home ice cream and drive the kids to the lake.

We want our kids to know that they are blessed, and life offers much good to enjoy. That when we say no, we also invite them to a better yes. 

Because God’s no to our hearts is never deprivation—it is an invitation to better things.

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All desire for forbidden things is rooted in a God-given capacity for good things. The devil takes the good and twists it into bad, but if you allow yourself the good, your heart will be full and won’t need the bad.

Your teens may desire dating, which you forbid until they are older. Teach them that this desire for relationship is God-given, then lead them to healthy, clean friendships and fun with others.

Teach them that purity now leads to blessing later. That saying no for a little while means they can say a better yes for a long while.

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Teach them that watching only certain things can help them have a greater capacity to enjoy much better things. Our appetites are trained.

Mothers, be wise! Your kids need you to lead them to a better yes.

When it comes to wisdom, Jesus asks us to be wise as serpents. But when it comes to evil, he asks us to be as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

He doesn’t just ask us to be harmless, he asks us to be full of wisdom, making the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16).

He doesn’t ask us only to die, he asks us to die so we can live abundantly (John 10:10).

See this—God always invites us to LIFE. And not only life, but abundant life.

He wants our joy to be full.

He promises that his yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30).

But we need to be all-out for him, fully engaged in Him. This doesn’t only look like denying ourselves, it means fully allowing ourselves to enjoy Himself and all His gifts. Most of all, enjoy Himself.

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                                                        Knowing Jesus is rich.

The son zooms away on his bike with all the strength of youth and vigor, and in my heart, I pray a shower of blessing over his head. Let him enjoy the blessings over his life, and then, let him walk in wisdom with a better yes so fully that the no becomes distant in light of better things.

Because God is all about our blessing. And he created a multitude of good trees in the garden.

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Feminism or Faith?

The girls and I walked out of Pike’s market and up the sidewalk. Seattle was teeming with people, as always, and we were loving our girl’s day out.

One of the girls shrieked just a little, and I looked her way. A statue-like figure, deathly unreal, but for the eyes—oh, so real! Blood shot but friendly, defying the stark, unnatural state of the rest of her form.

She reached out a hand, and my blood chilled. Then, she went silent and dropped her delicate head in silent repose, hand held gracefully to the side of her long Victorian attire.

I wonder how ladies used to work in such an elaborate display of fabric. She keeps to herself shyly, quietly, then suddenly reaches out to a passer-by, moving swiftly before resuming her bashful, silent pose. 

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I was simultaneously fascinated and creeped out by the artificial, yet real state of her being, but I loved the display of femininity in a city teeming with gay and transgender people.  

Just that morning, on our way to Seattle, I’d been chatting with my daughter about men needing both honor and strength from women. And as I observe our culture, I wonder where the need for male strength has gone?

I wonder if men turn more wimpy when women seem to need them less. Perhaps our culture’s women needs to take back a bit of the femininity of this Victorian lass.

We may not wear multiple yards of fabric, but ladies, are we feminine? Can those around us see that we wear our womanhood well?

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We may wear jeans, but do we refuse help from the men who would love to offer us their strength? What happens to a society when women no longer need men?

Men are born to protect. They are also born to lead and know honor on a daily basis. When we remove those attractive elements from our womanhood, what is there to call to the deepest heart of a man?

Watch your styles, girls. Keep no one guessing if you are male or female; rather, celebrate your femininity!

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My daughter is troubled by the growing amount of lesbian girls in town. Girls turning to girls means they no longer need men. Men no longer needed turn to each other for the same depraved desires. When we remove the best parts of us we also refuse to give the opposite sex what they need—and this goes both ways.

Men need us to be women. We have nothing to prove except prove that womanhood is a glorious thing.

If we were meant to be as strong as they, we’d be born with as much muscle.

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If we were meant to do all things they do, we’d be heading for the coal mines and the hottest lines of battle.

Why do the loudest feministic cries usually not lead them to battle in the most dangerous places? Why aren’t feminists the ones offering to die on sinking ships while men and children step onto life boats? The ones willingly giving their lives are, most often, still………men. 

They’ll stand there with brave repose as waters ooze in. They’ll watch their wives and kids with love as they sink lower to a salty grave. And they’ll do it on purpose. 

Men die for us, women. They do it all the time.

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Even on that day driving to Seattle, I had passed my husband coming home from Seattle. I was on my way for a fun day there with the girls, and he was on his way home from a dangerous night doing what I couldn’t have done in a million years.

I still can’t wrap my mind around what he does. It’s hero’s work, really.

I’m sipping a latte in a safe cafe because men like him are holding shields the night before and busting doors open to who-knows-what.

I haven’t seen many feminists join him. I wonder why.

These men would love it if we just rallied around them enjoying who we are rather than turning coarse, hard, and bossy. What is there for them to be attracted to? 

And we’d love it if they kept their strength. Guys, keep opening doors for us and offering to lift that fifty pound sack of feed in the grocery isle. We appreciate it, and we honor you for your strength. We need it.

If we all celebrate who God created us to be, if we honor each other, and love in tangible ways, this universe will keep spinning on its axle, well. If we don’t, society will turn even messier and girls like my daughter will have to wonder where the real women are, and how many guys are manly enough for the task of being there for her. 

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Guys, cultivate your strength, whether it be physically or spiritually. Us ladies need your spiritual and character strengths more than your muscle–so don’t pressure yourselves fit some kind of mold at the gym! 

Girls, cultivate your femininity—and know you can do so and still be strong! Show honor to men and let them know you appreciate them. Thank them for bringing home a pay check even if you do so as well. 

God created Adam, then created Eve out of Adam’s rib, close to his heart. Strength and feminity go hand in hand. This powerful word for help meet, Ezer, is also translated for God when he was needed as a Savior and protector for his people. 

Dare to Love Your Husband Well

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Keeping your femininity implies that you keep your strength. There is nothing feminine about a door mat or voiceless woman. But learn to use your voice WELL! 

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