Growing up, I had pink wallpaper in my room. But that was the extent of my girliness.

I have a picture of me as a three-year old, and I’m wearing a pantsuit. No bows, no dresses, just a simple haircut with blunt bangs and a pantsuit. My heroes growing up were Luke Skywalker, Geronimo, and Laura Ingalls. No princesses for me. My mother never embraced stereotypically feminine play, dress, or demeanor, and she raised me to be the same.

The message ingrained in me was that I needed to be strong and independent. This led me to choose engineering as a field of study. I didn’t particularly care for engineering, but that was never a consideration. I wanted a career that would earn me respect and the ability to support myself.

I never thought about, nor did anyone ask me, what it was that I enjoyed doing. I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question.

So I ended up in a college major and then an industry dominated by men. The majority of my interactions with men were positive and supportive.

But it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that a man I was dating encouraged me to be more girly. It was such a foreign concept to me. I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t girly.

When I started being girlier, I realized what I was missing. I started out benignly, getting my nails done and wearing a somewhat sexy dress. I began to embrace a whole new way of seeing the soft and beautiful side of being a woman.

It wasn’t a fast transformation. It slowly unfolded over the years. But through the healing power of Jesus I began to see how powerful, beautiful, and worthy the feminine is.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)

Throughout the Bible I see how the strength, courage, and beauty of women has changed the landscape of our world and faith.

An obvious example is Mary, mother of Jesus. She willingly gave up her reputation, and faithfully waited to see how God would fulfill his promises to the world through her.

Esther’s beauty was used to place her in a place of prominence and influence, which helped save the lives of her people. She chose to be courageous and put her life at risk by challenging the planned persecution of her people (Esther 1-7).

Even at a young age, Moses’ sister Miriam is courageous and wise as she and her mother defy the authorities and conspire to hide baby Moses, saving him from a mandated death sentence. Miriam, a slave girl, dares to speak to one of the Egyptian princesses, ensuring the safety and care of her brother. Once Moses returns to Egypt, she becomes a prophet alongside him and helps to lead their people out of slavery (Exodus).

A woman living a life of sin washed, embraced, and perfumed Jesus’ feet, an act of hospitality, service, and love. Her tender care and honor of Jesus was commended by him, as he points out to the men in the room their lack of the same (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus also credits Mary, sister of Martha, for choosing to sit, listen, and be present to him (Luke 10:38-41).

There is much to value, celebrate, and love about women. They are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. Just as men bring their uniqueness and value to the world, we bring ours. Life cannot go on without us. We create, nurture, and beautify life. We can also be courageous, strong, and wise. We are knit together in wonderful ways, ways too lofty for us to understand.

I will continue to seek to grow in my understanding and gratitude for the way I am created. But equally importantly, I need to do this for my two daughters. My goal is to help them uncover how God created them to be unique, and to love the way they are made. In that knowledge, they hopefully will find the peace and joy of living as God intended them to be.

“You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are.”
— Shauna Niequist, author and blogger