I have always loved being a girl. It is fun to dress up and feel a fullness in physical beauty. It is equally fun to be tough and play in the mud and throw a baseball REALLY hard. I like my options. I like that I can be me in many categories. But somewhere along the way I started feeling less-than the boys. I wanted to be one of the guys; I wanted to hang out with my brothers friends; I wanted to have a front row seat to the mischief and adventure.

As I grew older, I wanted the freedom that guys seemed to always have (I'm not a dude, so I don't really know how they feel about themselves). I didn't date anyone because I didn't want to get married. I think somewhere in my gut I thought that if I "belonged" to a man in any form of relationship that he would be above me. I didn't know these were my beliefs when I did get married, but I shifted when the title "wife" became mine. I did what I didn't want to do. I put myself down. I thought I was supposed to be obedient, less myself, more concerned with Phil's dreams and needs. Phil never implied or made me act this way. He saw the shift and was confused. I legitimately thought I was second, that what I needed or wanted didn't count.

The title "mother" initially added more demise to my spirit. I was emptying out myself in the daily grind to everyone around me. I thought that's what we do, the mothers and the wives, but I was so wrong.

Keith Urban's new single, Female, has made me tear up and full on cry a couple times this week. I feel utterly validated and seen when I listen to the song. And I love that a man is singing it because I think women, being seen and treated and loved in all of their glory specifically by men is profound, partnering along side women feeling that same worth about themselves and each other. The darkness that can grow in our human nature is disheartening and can produce disgusting behavior, but we were all made to project the glory of God, men AND women. We cannot rise one gender up while tearing one down. We can blame men all day for sexual harassment and abuse of power, but they also need to know who they are and the good they hold.

I've been learning about de-humanizing and the awful repercussions that come from sectioning off a group of people as less or below. I believe this has been happening to women for generations, across cultures, since the beginning of humanity. It is sad and wrong and we're dealing with a sexual culture that has made a woman's body and sexuality seem like the most important, or the only thing she is good for, but we women have voices too. And we get to raise our babies (boys and girls) and we get to partner with our husbands, dads, brothers, and friends to show them, in love, who we really are.

My journey of finding strength as a woman has been grueling but essential and I like being a girl even more now. I am finding my voice and I've never felt more alive. I am finding my place and it feels wide open. I am praying Phil and I can use our platform as parents to raise children empowered to know their value and then give value to the people they encounter. This process is NOT cut and dry, black and white, or easy. But I believe if I respect and love myself, I can respect and love Phil and my kids, and the community God has graciously built around me. I cannot do it all, but I can do what I do deeply. I can do "female" well with lots of stumbling and growing. Oh, the freedom that can be found in knowing and living in the center of God's unwavering love for us ladies. And the dudes. And all the peoples. Amen.

The Shay ladies. We are here traditionally cheering on our boy playing hockey, but that doesn't mean we're not strong. 


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