Monday, October 26, 2009

A favorite piece of art, and some thoughts..

This piece of art, "Women Taking Tea", by the artist Albert Lynch, has been one of my favorite paintings for some time now. The colors and simplicity of the dresses, the lovely landscape just outside the door, the sense of friendship and amiable makes me think of a gentler, kinder time, when we women weren't a horde of harpies and fishwives (not that there is anything overtly wrong with being a fishwife--just when you act like a screeching termagent, that is the problem!). When we were brought up understanding that it isn't what we get out of life that matters, it is what we put into it. When a successful day isn't measured by how much we got done, or what business deals we made, but instead by how we bettered the lives around us...

A friend of mine, Diane, at her blog, Tomato Soup Cake, has a post up has to do with some vintage advice. I think it still holds's the advice (although you can certainly go over to her blog--she's in my blogroll!--and read the comments, etc...).

"Every woman owes it to herself to cultivate a pleasant manner. Genuine friendliness, interest, good manners, and a nice voice will do more to cultivate an impression of charm than beauty, good clothes, grooming, and any amount of intellectual power. Furthermore these qualities are well within the reach of any woman who is willing to make the effort to acquire them."
Excerpted from The Homemaker's Encyclopedia,Personal Beauty and Charm, 1954

I don't know how many women I've met that were just...horrible. Pretty on the outside, but because of their manners, tone of voice, or general attitude, came across as women I wouldn't want to be around for any length of time. As I've told my children, it doesn't take any more energy to slap a smile on your face, and be polite, than it does to be a rude sourpuss. It may require more of an act of the Will, but that is a matter of self-discipline than it is of destiny, Fortune, or Divine Providence.

I've had the great blessing to meet many women whom the world would not call beautiful, talented, or gifted. Indeed, most of them would be regarded as plain, or certainly 'wasting their gifts', by being at home with their family (and therefore, obviously not as intelligent as their run-about 'sisters' in society). But these women have an inner spark. Oh, they may be vivacious, or more quiet. But they all have this...glow. They make the world around them a better place for simply being in it. These women quietly make the people around them happy--and the best part is, the people around them are usually not as aware of it as they would be were they to go without.

Sometimes, especially these days, being at home seems to be a thankless task. Being a woman, in general, can be a rather...toilsome charge. But I think we discount that certain indefinable 'something' that a gentle, generous, happy woman adds to her family and friends, simply by being. There is no price that can be paid, for such an atmosphere. Putting others before ourselves, can wear on the soul, and certainly on the mind, when we forget that the impact we have, is not so much meant to be seen and commented on, but better yet, to be felt, and noticed, and enjoyed, without the fanfare, without the parades of self-congratulation.

I know that there are days when I feel as if no-one notices, or even cares. So much of my day-to-day life involves simply keeping the chaos at bay for one more day, and perhaps, maybe, making some headway in the long list of projects I have to do. So much is done just to maintain the status quo, and it is one of those Sisyphean tasks, never finished. I know, however, that if I stopped...if I went on one of those "strikes", demanding, by my inaction, a little notice, a little attention for the work I do put in, that it would cheapen me and my efforts. Yes, a little "thank you, honey" is very much appreciated. A day off every now and again, without worrying about coming home to a disaster, is needed for simple sanity. But love doesn't need a parade. And that, I think, is the key.

Love. As Christians, we know that of Faith, Hope, and Love, the greatest of these, is Love. And love is what must drive our actions. It isn't love of self, though, that should be our motivation, but instead, the love of others...of our vocations as women (in general), as wives, as mothers..God calls us to be be the very BEST (insert your name here) that you can be. He doesn't want us to be men, to ape them, to act like them, dress like them, talk like them, etc. He made us uniquely wonderful. In all of our various shapes and sizes, He wants us to love being a woman. He made us that way for a reason. Why do we have hormonal crying jags? Devour every Hershey bar in the bag of Halloween candy we bought two days ago (and leaving the KitKats!)? I don't know. But I know I've yet to see a man do that. God made us male and female. Different, yet alike in that He made us in His image. We are supposed to be different. To be a counterpart..the other half of the puzzle...the complement to each other...I know I wouldn't want my husband to be just like me, and I know he wouldn't like me to be just like him (although having someone to knowledgably discuss ham radio, Basic/C computer programming, and military "stuff" with, would undoubtedly be nice)...

Why are we, as women, so discontent with being uniquely, wonderfully, female? Why do we listen to the dis-satisfied women, unhappy with the blessing of womanhood that God has given them (some who deny God entirely), when they ply our ears with their sad tales of woe and misery as regards the lot of women the world we are handicapped by our very innate femaleness? Why oh why do we let these...sad, misdirected (directing?) women...why do we let them guide our minds, our lives, our culture? I know, we are busy caring for our own. But so many women do *not* agree with many of us out there, silently, go about our lives, serving families and others quite happily, whether it is in the home or the workplace...

We have an obligation, ladies, to take back the word woman. We have a job, one that can be done within our every day spheres, that will show the world at large that the word "lady" is not one of those taboo four letter words that should never be used. We have a hope, in that 'the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world'...we mold our children, boys and girls, with an understanding of what it means to be a Lady. What it really means to be a woman. That being a woman is not merely a 'defective man'. That a real woman is not one who chases after every masculine affectation, who seeks to blur the line between the two genders, but instead, is one who lives being a woman to the hilt. Who does, by her every day life, inspire and uplift, bring a greater understanding of the God-given joy and beauty that surrounds us every day.

I'll admit, there was a time when I thought (eons ago, in high school, in a galaxy far, far away) that it was better to dress/act more like a boy (and not a particularly good one, either). That was, I must say, after some rather traumatic experiences. Instead of demanding respect for me as a young woman, I let those experiences, for a time, shove my feminity back into the back corner, and cloaked it over with a drab masculine blanket. It took a while, but eventually I came to the conclusion that the Good Lord didn't make me a woman for no reason, and it was obvious HE had a plan, even if I didn't know what it was. So I'd better play along til I figured out what it was. Now I am not playing along, but making my way down the road He has laid out for me, trying to stay within the very nicely placed guard rails...wide enough apart to allow freedom, but knowing that while the views over the rail may be very pretty, outside of the rails lies danger, not only physical, but to my very soul...

I suppose what I am trying to get at, is that we as women have a rather sacred obligation, a calling, to be a woman. I would suggest that we all remember how wonderfully He made us. Male and female. Together, we make a whole, but yet, we are whole, in and of ourselves. And isn't that wonderful? That alone, we are whole, and yet, when two are made one, we make a whole new creation, something lovely and beautiful and totally different than either of the two alone, before. Why are we trying to be something we are not, when we have already been given a beautiful wonderful gift in our femininity? Why not find some way to take back a piece of your femininity, to grab a moment to do something selfless and beautiful, born out of love? It may be something as simple as a bunch of fall leaves on branches, in the middle of the table, a ribbon in your hair, a small basket with some baked breads for a neighbor or a co-worker...

Be glad of your womanhood. Be grateful for the feminine. And enjoy the day!

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