Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Your Femininity

Leslie Basham: Mary Kassian says a lot of women fear that embracing biblical womanhood means losing their personality.

Mary Kassian: “ . . . that if I’m a strong-willed, opinionated, outgoing extrovert, that I have to change, and that’s simply not true.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, June 1.

“Sugar and spice and everything nice . . .” A children’s rhyme used to define femininity that way. I doubt most women would embrace that definition in our day. The important thing to understand is, not what nursery rhymes say, and not what the swirl of voices around us says. What matters is what God’s Word says.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian have written a workbook that explores a biblical definition of womanhood. It’s called True Woman 101: Divine Design. They’ve invited some friends to discuss chapter three of that book. It’s called Sugar and Spice.

Yesterday we heard part one of the conversation between Nancy, Mary, Kim Wagner, Holly Elliff, and Dannah Gresh. Nancy will pick things back up, talking about nesting.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The desire to create a space to nurture relationships. We see that in Scripture, the challenge for women to have a heart for home. Domesticity is the old-fashioned word . . . “domestic.” You hardly hear that word anymore, but that is part of what’s at the core of womanhood—that nesting instinct.

Holly Elliff: We have spent so long now denying that, telling our girls, telling women that being domestic, being in your home is not important, that it doesn’t matter.

Nancy: We've really devalued that calling.

Holly: We've devalued that calling as though it were not something critical to our life as women.

Mary: And yet the Bible lists having a heart for your home as one of the top ten things that women need to learn and need to be mentored in, in Titus chapter 2.

Nancy: A great True Woman passage.

Mary: Exactly . . . having that heart for the home. I think often we think this is just for married women who have children. But I think that it is about womanhood overall. It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life a woman is in, it is about creating that space that’s welcoming and that nurtures life. It doesn’t matter if you’re married, doesn’t matter if you have children. It’s high time that we start valuing the home and start telling women that their homes are important.

Nancy: And I want to emphasize that all of these core values at the heart of womanhood are not just for married women—and I’ll be the advocate for single women here—and say that it really is a joy and a privilege to create in my home a space that is welcoming. In fact, Mary, you’ve been camped out at my house for the last couple of weeks. It’s to welcome somebody into my home, to create an environment  that’s conducive to growth and nurture and caring. That’s part of what fulfills who God made me to be.

Kim Wagner: I think that a heart of hospitality really comes from the heart of God. He prepared the garden; He prepared a beautiful place.

Nancy: Isn’t that what the gospel is all about? It’s Christ on the cross extending His arms, saying, “Come to my home. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and I want to receive you there.”

So when we show hospitality, we show the open arms of the gospel. We show the welcoming heart of God. As women, that’s a way we model and make the gospel attractive.

Mary: And we model really what the church does here on earth, in terms of creating a place where life can happen, where community can happen, where connectedness can happen, where you see life and growth.

Really, that’s what the church does for Christ, and that’s what women model in terms of who we are as women, to create those spaces for our girlfriends, for our families if we happen to be married, or just to have that life-giving space. You don’t need to be a married woman to be able to do that.

Dannah Gresh: I saw a really neat blog just this week. A single woman was talking about how she had this hope chest and this beautiful, fine china that one day she would eat on with her husband.

God spoke to her and said, “Take the china out. You’re a nurturer now; you’re a homemaker now.” So when her girlfriends come over they eat on the most beautiful china with the most beautiful crystal. She said, “This is just my obedience to the Lord, that I’m a nurturer now.”

Holly: I love, in the study, that that is the attitude in these first few lessons we’ve looked at. It’s not about putting on a certain outfit, or conforming to any set of rules. It’s about the heart that says, “I understand who God created me to be,” and giving ourselves permission to step back a little bit, get God’s perspective on our lives, and understand that being soft, that creating those environments is part of what God has built into me if I will tap into it.

I love in the study that we’re looking at stepping back, getting big-picture concepts of what our womanhood is about, and that it’s okay.

Kim: Let me ask you this, though, because the rubber meets the road . . . “God, help me with the laundry.” This is the real deal. Packing lunches has been something the Lord’s had to transform my heart with. How do you make this attitude of softness and nurturing roll over into, “Alright, in the next fifteen minutes I have to pack some lunches and get the laundry out.”

Holly: For me, it has been a process of surrender to God’s will for my life rather than my own agenda, and seeing even those things that God has called me to as part of His big-picture calling on my life.

Nancy: And now you’re not only doing it with children and grandchildren, you’re doing it with an elderly mother with Alzheimer’s.

Holly: I’m pretty much doing every season of life right now, which, knowing who I was at twenty is pretty amazing. It’s a good thing God did not give me a road map at twenty because I would have been running the other direction. But what God did was grow me up into those things.

I think it’s about realizing that even those mundane things that I’m not a fan of, are part of the big picture of raising sons and daughters who will have that concept when they leave my home.

Nancy: And they matter, they matter to those family members, they really do matter. It makes a difference.

Mary: I think we need to be careful, though, to explain that we’re not talking about a stereotype, about who does what. It’s really just cultivating that heart, that womanly disposition, that propensity to nurture and to line our nest with feathers and to create that environment that is conducive to life.

It’s keeping in mind those big-picture things.

Kim: That’s the deal for me, big-picture. If I’m folding laundry it’s real easy for me to grumble, ‘cause I just did it yesterday, and I’ll do it again tomorrow. So, big-picture for me is praying over my children while I fold their laundry.

Mary: That’s what I used to do, actually. Every time I matched a pair of socks, I would pray for the person whose feet were going to be in those socks the next day.

Kim: Right, otherwise it’s overwhelmingly monotonous for me, those kinds of tasks.

Holly: And I think even as we are talking about single women, what I’ve seen God do in you, Nancy, in the last couple of decades is change your heart toward the things that God has called us to as women. So it’s okay if you want to decorate your home or cook a meal.

There’s an understanding that it’s not either/or. That softness in any environment is part of living out God’s message, whether you’re teaching a Bible study, or you’re having guests in your home and wanting them to be comfortable.

Nancy: Again, it comes back to the attitude of the heart, so when we think back over those five core aspects of womanhood that we’ve looked at in this week’s lesson . . . Let me just tick, them off here: softness; forming deep relational bonds; having a welcoming, responsive spirit; creating a place to beget and nurture life; and then one we didn’t get to in this discussion, but we did in the study this week, being a helper and realizing this is not an inferior role, this is a vital role to men.

As you think about those aspects of womanhood, is there any particular one that you have found most difficult or challenging?

Dannah: To be a helper without being a controller. I’ve shared with you how I looked at the helper role, “Oh good, this is where I get to fix my husband. I’m helping him improve.”  

To step back from that and see that the helper role is actually encouraging him and empowering him to be the man that God has called him to be. That can be done in many different ways.

Mary: It’s not really about helping him, he’s not the end point of that. As soon as you lose sight of the big picture, you start taking missteps, I think, in terms of attitude or heart, or in terms of just deciding what it should look like.

I think if we have the big picture in mind, that really gives us guidance. I know that for me, sometimes forming those deep relational bonds is challenging because I have a limited capacity in terms of how many people I can relate deeply to.

Nancy: We all do. With social media and technology there’s a demand put on us. With Facebook you have about six gazillion friends but they are pseudo relationships.

Mary: But I look at my girlfriends who seem to have so much bigger capacity in that area. They’re very good at remembering birthdays and anniversaries and relating very well. Well, it’s not that I don’t want to, I just . . . I forgot my anniversary one year. My sweet husband shows up with a gift, and I say, “Oh, I forgot.” That’s a challenge for me.

I’ve made it up to him, but there’s so much joy and so much fulfillment. It’s almost like when I’m intentional about that part, it pours life into me. I become more of who God created me to be. So I think it is important to be intentional about realizing, instead of just saying, “Oh well, that’s not me,” saying “Well, God created woman with this capacity, and maybe I ought to go there and try it out a little bit.”

Holly: I think for me, having a responsive spirit was probably the biggest challenge and still is, because my tendency is to want to focus on myself. I have to get my eyes off myself, and look big picture. Like you said, Dannah, the softness thing didn’t come naturally to me. Knowing that it is something God desires to do through me. It’s not something I have to create; it’s something I have to rest in, and allow God to do through me as He grows me up. For sure, that was a struggle for me, that responsiveness.

Kim: My struggle would be nurturing. And you wouldn’t look at me and say, “What an awful mom, what an awful wife.” As long as it was creative and outside the box . . .

I was writing Bible study curriculum for my mom and dad when I was seven years old. “TBFF,” The Barker Family Fellowship meets here every Tuesday. So if I was being creative with my kids, crafting things, writing Bible studies, reading the Bible with them, taking them for hikes, great.

But, laundry, grocery store (I love cooking, but don’t like the grocery store), packing lunches. And here’s where the Lord really got me years ago with the verse, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

“I am not packing lunches with my might Lord. I am barely getting that done.” My kids even grumbled and complained about the soggy sandwiches. “Did you make these peanut butter sandwiches at the beginning of the week?!”

I got creative with that. Since I’m not good with routine, I get creative with routine. I say, “Lord, how can I get creative with lunches?” And so my kids don’t get the standard lunch—sandwich, chips, apple—they’re getting leftovers.

Mary: Are you trying to convict the rest of us? (laughter)

Kim: No, and they’re not getting the organic shaved carrot sandwiches that some of my girlfriends send to school, because I’m not a morning person. So, I plan my meals out with lunches in mind so that I can put them in little containers and they can just microwave them at school.

They have phenomenal beef stew one day, chili with toppings the next day, and for me it’s easier and it’s creative. So I’ve found that I can submit, I just have to find how God created my personality to work so that I can nurture.

Holly: And like you said, it doesn’t have to look like the other mom who’s shaving carrots into her sandwich.

Kim: Right, too crazy!

Holly: Be who God has called you to be.

Nancy: Let’s talk a minute about how this nurturing, responsive, welcoming heart attitude can play out outside the home, in our relationships with men in general. Just think about what that looks like: married, single. How does the gospel play out in our womanhood as we, in the workplace (a number of us travel), what does that look like?

Mary: I have a travel story. One time, when I got on the plane, and I’m schlepping—that’s the good German word, schlepping—a little suitcase down the aisle, my little, heavy suitcase. A gentleman stands up and offers to put it in the overhead for me. I say, “No thanks, that’s alright, I can manage it myself.” And I sat down, and God’s Spirit convicted me. I thought, “I just missed an opportunity to allow him to bring his strength into my life to minister to me as a woman.”

Nancy: To let him be a gentleman.

Mary: Yes, to let him be a gentleman, and me to be a soft and responsive as a woman. And certainly, women are not be responsive to sin, and we’re not talking about violating boundaries or going the wrong way. But just this attitude of receptivity and blessing who our brothers are as men, even if they’re not believers, and  interacting with them out of the focus of being a woman, interacting with them in a womanly way.

There was another gentleman on a plane that I sat next to once who basically said to me, and this was not a believer, “Women have no idea of the power of their femininity. When I encounter a womanly woman, a feminine woman, it makes me want to rise up and serve her.” It’s just an amazing thing.

Holly: It can be as simple as a smile on your face, greeting the person next to you, so you find out all about Deloris’ life, or whoever it is . . . just a warm receptive spirit that opens the door to be able to share the life of Christ.

Dannah: Giving out a lot of “thank yous,” demonstrating gratitude in your home to the family members, doing that often. Just to say, “Thank you. I appreciate you.” Communicating to them often what you think in your mind (and you think they know that). “They know they did a good job; they know I think highly of them.”  But if we don’t verbalize that, they really don’t.

Nancy: And to the gentleman who opens the door so that you can go through, to have a grateful spirit. I’ve read the articles of some of these guys feeling they’re going to get their hand cut off if they treat us in a womanly way. I think we’ve created some terror there. But to be another kind of woman who says, “Thank you so much, I appreciate that.”

Kim: I’ve found one of the cool things that God has allowed me to do is to speak words of affirmation to people like my brother, my dad, my husband, and there are some other men in leadership in my ministry.

It means a lot when I take time to say, “I saw your strength in that decision that you made,” or “I appreciated the leadership that you exemplified in that really difficult conversation.” Just writing an email or a handwritten note can go such a long way in giving them the courage to continue to lead.

Dannah: And affirming them in front of others, to speak that in front of other people.

Nancy: Okay, I’ve got to tell you one of my pet peeves, and it fits in here with this whole thing of women being responsive. Take it out of marriage and out of the home. I’ve seen so many times when there’s a gathering, we’re having prayer time (or a testimony time), and there are men and women (I saw this last week). The women just dove into the pile to pray, and because we do tend to be more naturally verbal, the guys they’re being gentlemen, they’re letting you through the door, and just waiting.

I hear so many women say, “I wish men would be more expressive, more responsive, take more spiritual leadership,” but sometimes you think, just practically, do we even give them a chance to step in?

One of the things I try to do—I’m in a lot of meetings with mostly men—and it’s to give the guys a chance to verbalize. They will. They’ve got deep hearts, so many of them do. I thank the Lord for so many of the men I work with. They really do, and they love the Lord, and they love His Word. But if we’re going to fill all the holes, all the silence with our words, we’re not going to give them a chance.

I say to women sometimes, “Just back off a little bit.” Let him have a chance to say what’s on his heart. That’s being responsive. It’s in a quiet sort of way, giving them the chance to be men, to take the initiative and to provide leadership.

Mary: I wholeheartedly agree. Womanhood is such a critical topic, because it ties into our identity and who God created us to be. I think that it’s not an easy topic to talk about in this culture, it hasn’t been easy for me.

Holly: I don’t think it is for any of us, necessarily.

Mary: I think the fear sometimes is that God’s going to change our personalities, or violate our personalities. If I’m a strong-minded, opinionated, outgoing, extrovert, that I have to change. That’s simply not true.

I think that God can take these characteristics that we’ve talked about and pour them into any woman, any personality type, and she’s going to end up looking like “her.” You’re going to become more “you.” Your personality will shine out more as it’s redeemed by the gospel, and as God teaches you who it means to be a woman. A true woman, a godly woman.

Holly: You become the woman that God had in his mind when He created us, when Jeremiah talks about God creating us in the womb, that we fully become the woman that God had in his mind when He created us—instead of part of that, or a misshapen representation of that. We are able to more and more look like Christ throughout our life in a feminine way.

Leslie: That’s Holly Elliff. We also heard from Kim Wagner and Dannah Gresh. They’ve been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian, co-authors of the workbook True Woman 101: Divine Design. We’ve been hearing a discussion of chapter three in that book. The chapter is called "Sugar and Spice."

When you walk through a topic like this with Mary and Nancy, you’ll have many chances to reflect on what you’re studying. You’ll identify practical ways that you can incorporate this study of biblical womanhood into your life. The workbook will help you take this discussion from something you think about to something you’re living. We’ll send you True Woman 101: Divine Design when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Ask for the workbook when you call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. And if you have a small group in your home or at church, I hope you’ll consider True Woman 101. Each woman in your group can walk through the workbook, then come together to watch the video. You’ll watch a conversation like the one we heard today, then your group can discuss this topic for themselves.

Angela Yuan met with her son one day and heard the words, “I’m gay.” She decided to take her own life because of the shame she felt, but God intervened in her plans. Hear the story starting Monday on Revive Our Hearts. Now Nancy’s back to wrap up today’s discussion on biblical womanhood.

Nancy: Well, this discussion has been so interesting, and I know it’s been helpful to me. I hope it’s been to you as well. Our world programs us to devalue so many of the things that God values about womanhood, but here’s the thing. The world’s model of womanhood misses out on the beauty of who God created us to be, and we want to remind ourselves that God’s creation, God’s divine design for womanhood is beautiful. It’s good.

That’s why I love at the end of Genesis 1, after God creates every other day of creation, He looks at what He’s made and says it’s good. But then God creates the male and the female, and in verse 31 of Genesis 1, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.”

Not just good, but very good. So as we think about our created divine design, let’s remind ourselves that what God has made is good. As we embrace that, we’re going to experience God’s blessings, His fullness, the fulfillment of all that we were created to be.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

 

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