I’ve decided I’m going to share a secret.

I’m not a woman.

No.  I’m a mom.    And teacher.   And, by the ever increasing grace of God, a writer.  Mostly, though, I’m a mom.  A very, very BUSY mom.   I homeschool, which means that I’m with my girls 24/7.   I cook,   I clean,  I act as referee.   Every night, I come up with the next day’s “schedule.”  It’s not set in stone but it makes sure that we use the most of every hour in every day.    Some people think it’s easy for me to come up with unique ideas to keep the girls occupied.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes it’s really hard.  Being a mom means that, when I go to the playgrounds,  I play.    The mother of a child I mentored once told me that she wasn’t sure who got the dirtiest during our outings–her five year old son, or me.  One of our favorite things to do is enjoy Picasso Days, where we dress in swimsuits and basically paint our entire bodies.  I make a fool of myself on a regular basis because it makes them laugh.  And when I’m not dancing around like a chicken with her head cut off,  I’m more interested in what’s going on in the recesses of my eight year old daughter’s mind than I am in … pretty much anything else.  In short, my world evolves around children.  Entirely.  Which is exactly how I want it.

Until I see other women.

Now, don’t get me wrong.   I  KNOW that they’re stressed out, even if they don’t look it.  I  KNOW that they really aren’t endowed with magic powers that makes them beautifully feminine and Supermom at the same time.  I also KNOW that it’s ridiculous to compare myself with people who are undoubtedly comparing THEMselves to someone else.  I don’t have any secret desire to be one of them because their lives don’t include my girls, or the children with whom I work, and I wouldn’t trade the children in my world for anything at all.  Truly.  When I am surrounded by happy children,  my heart sings.  When I am able to embrace a hurting one and believe that my hug makes a positive difference…. I feel God Himself smiling down on me.  Not even writing compares to the joy I take from trumpeting around the house like an elephant, or in having great sleepovers or in listening as one of the children I work with tells me about problems she’s having with a school bully.  There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be the person I am today, I would not be fulfilled or happy, without the innocence and the joy and the sheer precious-ness of children.  They are why I am here.   Also, as mentioned above, I already know that looks can be deceptive and that even the most feminine woman on the planet has complicated issues beneath the surface, probably ones I wouldn’t handle so well.   So, I don’t see other women and think,  “Man, I wish I was her.”  Sometimes, though, I do see other women and think,  “Man,  I wonder what it feels like to feel … pretty, feminine, womanly.”    In my world, most of the time, I feel clumsy, awkward and inept.  Unless you’re under three feet tall, I’m not fun to be around.  I may appear to have it all together, as I have been told, but all you have to do to shatter that illusion islook… at my totally messed up feet or the paint that can, on any given day, be found somewhere on my body.  I laugh a lot.  I smile a lot.  But I do so because I’m usually in a leading position.  I’m usually teaching, or mentoring, or being Mommy or speaking at a conference.  Leaders have a knack for appearing strong and confident.  And I totally am those things.   But…

Here’s the truth.

I dream of being asked to dance in the rain.  Sometimes I read Judith McNaught or Elizabeth Lowell or even some of my own books just so I can pretend someone thinks I’m a princess too.  Even though I understand that it’s not really “real”,  the dream-like dates on shows such as “The Bachelor” make me sigh.  Tell you the truth, I don’t dream much of physical intimacy, not the type most adults do.  I don’t know how.  But I DO dream of being held.   Hugs mean something to me.   Real ones, the kind that makes you feel enveloped in warmth,  the kind that seems to speak words of reassurance and comfort.  I do dream of those type of hugs, stubbornly holding to the belief that they aren’t just things of fairy tales.   The idea that someone might care enough to overlook the “broken glass” that surrounds much of my heart, or might actually want to know what’s behind the smile without any ulterior motives…  that appeals to me.  Survival breeds strength… when you survive tragedy of any kind, you inevitably come out stronger.  You pick up the pieces and you move on.  Despite what many think,  I am actually quite strong—and it’s a trait I generally like about myself.  In my world, though, strength has almost always equaled loneliness.  See… God created women not to be a female version of Hercules but to be delicate and tender.  I’ve fought most of my life to hold on to those characteristics in myself…   undoubtedly, I have walls.  Thick, heavy, TALL walls that are hard to climb.  Looking into the depths of my heart is not a pleasant thing to do and I know it, so I have a tendency to assume that no one even wants to.  Too often, I fail to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Marilyn Monroe once said that a wise girl leaves before she is left…. It’s better to be alone by choice than to be alone because no one wants you.  You see… people look up to me.  I know that sounds arrogant and self-righteous, and I wish it didn’t, but it’s the truth.  They do.  They want me to lead, they want me to teach, they want me to write, they want me to speak.  They admire me.  But all of the things that they seek are just behaviors…. behaviors that anyone, anywhere, could do themselves if they would but try.  It isn’t hard to find ideas for children.  It just takes a little time.  It isn’t hard to write.  All you gotta do is jot down the thoughts you have in a day.  It isn’t hard to speak in front of hundreds of people…. not if you’re speaking on a subject about which you truly care.   It really isn’t hard to do the things I do.  People admire and respect the things I do.  Do you know I do those things because I have an intense fear of being forgotten?    They don’t want me.

And, on normal days, when I’m lounging around the house or covered up to my elbows in mud…. I can’t say as I really blame them.  I don’t know if I’d take the time to try and know me either.   But…

What comes to mind right now is a group of girls I teach at church every Wednesday night.  Recently, we completed a unit on Health.  During the unit, we talked about how we take care of our bodies, and why.  We talked about how our bodies are temples for the living God.  I asked them why they thought God would want to be their friend… I was trying to coax affirmations from them.  Without intending to, I said,  “You know…  God sees the things we do wrong.  He sees the dirt.  But, unlike the people around us, He sees something else.   He sees the edge of something sparkly and glittery lying beneath the dirt.  Like an excavator, He wants to get to the glittery, sparkly part of us.  He wants to get to the pure part… so, when everyone else might just cast us off as sinful or bad,  He digs through the dirt, pushing it away, until He reaches the beautiful part of us.  And then He polishes it and makes it shine so brightly that others start to notice it too.”   Talking to the girls, my own eyes filled with tears.  It made me remember that crying is okay.  It made me remember that  it isn’t betraying my daughters to sometimes long for a heartfelt and meaningful adult conversation.  It doesn’t make me less to need a real hug from someone who wants more from me than something physical.  Longing to see someone’s eyes light up when they talk to me doesn’t make me selfish, it makes me human.  Seeing other women and then wishing I was pretty too doesn’t make me weak.  Being feminine doesn’t mean being weak, it means reveling in being the creature I was meant to be.

A woman is a beautiful thing.   She’s gentle and nurturing,  smaller and more delicate.   Words can make her melt faster than a hundred touches.   She wants to be playful and carefree, but can’t ignore the seriousness of her thoughts or the cries of her heart to take action.   She’s a provider, but she needs support.   She’s stronger than steel, but she needs a safe place to cry.   Dolly Parton has a song that comes to mind that says it all perfectly.

She’s been there, God knows, she’s been there
She has seen and done it all
She’s a woman, she know how to
Dish it out or take it all
Her heart’s as soft as feathers
Still she weathers stormy skies
And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies

A kaleidoscope of colors
You can toss her around and round
You can keep her in you vision
But you’ll never keep her down
She’s a lover, she’s a mother
She’s a friend and she’s a wife
And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies

Gentle as the sweet magnolia
Strong as steel, her faith and pride
She’s an everlasting shoulder
She’s the leaning post of life
She hurts deep and when she weeps
She’s just as fragile as a child
And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies

She’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies
Oh, bless her, Lord
She’s an eagle when she flies

(lyrics and song by Dolly Parton)

Today, a lady I don’t really know asked me for my autograph.  It reminded me that God’s dream for my writing has come true— even if I still sometimes feel like I’m running in place.   My daughters were laughing hysterically before bed.  And my eldest and I talked for a long time today about the stories SHE writes.  They are healthy, safe and happy.  I want them to grow up believing in themselves.  I want them to grow up taking pride in who they are, and knowing that they are remarkable creatures.  In order for that to happen, though, they must see me embracing the same truths about myself.

And so I’ll try not to feel guilty if I open up a book and delight in the trials and triumphs of a fictional couple’s romance.  I’ll try not to feel ridiculous if I still grab the nearest pillow to hug at night.  I’ll try to remember that God sees something sparkly and glittery somewhere in ME too… He must, as He’s been granting me the deepest desires of my heart for eight years now.    I’ll try to remember to give myself permission to embrace instead of apologize for the sentimental and emotional side of me.   And,  I’ll dream.