“The opposite of a ‘nice girl’, I learned is a ‘good woman.’ Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness. It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood…A good woman knows she cannot be all things to all people, and she may, in fact, displease those who think she should just be nice. She is not strident or petty or demanding, but she does live according to conviction.”

“I was thirty-nine years old when I walked into my counselor’s office and said, ‘I’ve been working so hard to keep everybody else happy, but I’m so miserable I want to die.’ I spent the decade of my forties digging out of that hole. Now, nearly midway through my fifties, I’ve discovered that growing up is an ongoing process – I have not yet arrived. Still, I have learned some things on the journey to becoming a good woman.” – from ‘nice girls don’t change the world’ by Lynne Hybels

Sunny morning brunch - and the first day of the rest of Grace and Jim's life together...congrats!

I was in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend for a very good friend’s wedding and had the opportunity to spend some quality time with college girlfriends whom I never quite realize how much I miss until I see them again. From them I get the comfort of family, but also the encouragement and wisdom of a sisterhood that I easily forget I need as I go about the busy-ness of my daily life. Similar to the Spice-sisterhood, but of an older vintage, which also means I’ve drifted from them a bit further in time and distance. But not in spirit and love. It was such a lovely time. And an amazing wedding. I cherish weddings in general, but most especially those of people I have seen grow through the awkwardness of all the relationships that came before “the one”.

I stayed an extra day for time to myself and this morning, I wandered into the bookstore of one of those mega-churches – I was a few minutes too late to attend service, but looked around at the books and tapes to see if anything caught my eye. I’ve lately been thinking a bit about what I’d like to do about the spiritual and religious aspect of my life, so it was rather timely and appropriate. I ended up picking up a book by Tim Keller, whose sermons I remember fondly from when I attended his Manhattan church in the mid-90s. I was surprised to read the bio on the backflap to find that he had started Redeemer in 1989, just a few years before I attended my first service there in 1994. And now, they have thousands of congregants, five services weekly, and several spin-off churches! I look forward to reading his thoughts as I always enjoyed his direct, logical, and meaningful messages.

The other book I picked up was from the “women’s section”. A short and sweet book by Lynne Hybels, the wife of another mega-church pastor. I read it all within 20 minutes during my flight back to Chicago. The first quote above sums up the basic idea. About growing from people-pleasing to being true to yourself. In Lynne’s case, being true to herself is all about following God’s will. Maybe it is for me, too, in a way – or maybe it’s something slightly different. Either way, it’s a hard thing to remember and understand for many women – that being good doesn’t always mean being nice. From that I extrapolate a little and would also say, sometimes being a good woman might make you a bit of a b*tch in some people’s eyes. So, if I’m committed to being good and true to myself, I can’t keep stressing about being that other thing that offends some in society.

The second paragraph I included, too, because it reminds me that as much as I sometimes regret the youthful years that are so far behind me, there still really is so much ahead. And Lynne’s journey that came at a stage in her life further along than I have even yet reached, reminds me that – the best is yet to come. We learn more, grow wiser, and our lives become better, richer and more rewarding. I will try to remember to look forward to that! Even as I know I’ll still occasionally look back to the lighter years of youth. I realize now that the reason I can now look back and value the simplicity with which my younger self viewed life and, yes, regress a little and try to recapture it’s essence through pop music and young adult blogs, is that I am looking at that era through my older eyes. Older eyes that only now recognize how truly lovely girlhood and it’s promise of the unknown future really is. But it doesn’t mean I want to go back, if going back means losing all that I have experienced and learned since.