Generation Cedar

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It might seem like an odd trait to cultivate, but I’ve been thinking lately about how “softness” is missing in a lot of today’s women, why it’s a powerful trait, and why I’m purposing to become a softer woman.

The pursuit of equality has robbed us of more than it gave. With all the hear me roaring going on, and the clawing our way up the corporate ladder, proving that “anything you can do I can do better” to all the men who want to “hold us down”, we’ve become hard, tough, independent women, and in our own delusion, we applaud ourselves for these qualities instead of mourning the death of our naturally-powerful attributes.

Equal doesn’t have to be the same. That’s where we got sorely misguided. To become more like men doesn’t make us equal any more than wearing a wig makes them more able to bear children.

We are already equal. Just different. That difference is (was?) incredible! Femininity is a unique gift that only we were given. Our softness and all that encapsulates is a powerful force and it is a strength we already possess and don’t have to fight for.

I have found that even those of us who would never think of ourselves as trying to act like men, have still been subtly influenced and tempted to throw off our feminine traits in favor of tougher, more manly ones.

Realistically, and ironically, true femininity is strong. A woman can be soft and strong, tender and tough, deferring and dignified, all at the same time.

She can “laugh at the time to come”, live fearlessly, be in shape, be a sharp business woman, manage her home with wisdom and be her husband’s most trusted companion, all while seeking to be soft, feminine and lovely.

I think a woman’s countenance reflects her heart’s attention. That is, what she studies, reads, thinks about and seeks after is an innate part of her and will manifest itself even in her physical demeanor. In the way we dress, carry ourselves, the words we use and even in the volume of our voices.

Now for a bit of confession. I am writing this post to myself more than for anyone else, I’m just hoping it may resonate with you too. I struggle, and always have, with a reactionary personality, raising my voice and answering harshly. I overreact to things more than I should and do not choose gentleness when I should.

It is deeply rooted and I know each day when I get up I am fighting a battle against myself. One in which I will likely lose a couple of wars.

But just like weeding a garden, I will not stop pulling the weeds and cultivating the soil of my heart.

My aim is gentleness and softness. I want to be known as a woman who had “the law of kindness on her tongue.”

I want to be known as a woman who spoke well of others, honored others even if they weren’t present, found the beauty even when it was hidden, and inspired those around me to live more intentionally.

I want to be a steady mom, expecting much, forgiving much, leading my children into adulthood with firmness and resolve, love and laughter, determination and perseverance.

I want a constitution as strong as steel, and a demeanor as soft as a dove.

I’m thankful God didn’t make me the same as my husband. I can assure you, our husbands are thankful too.

Equal but vastly different. Praise Him.

36 Responses

  1. Some one recommended The Feminine Mystique to me recently. I looked on wikipedia to get an overview and it should have been titled The Big Fat Feminine Lie! It made women discontent being wives, mothers, and homemakers and cause them to want to be like men. Society has suffered so greatly since.

  2. Hi Kelly,

    What a wonderful piece you have written! It so reminds me of what Katherina said at the end of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. She speaks of physical softness, but aludes to a woman’s softness in other ways. Everytime I hear that speech I cry because not only is it so beautiful, but she brings such honor to her husband.

    I view your blog daily and am continually encouraged by it. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  3. So true Kelly, the inward reactions are key to our words. My goal is to silently, inwardly say “Yes, Lord.”, no matter what is happening, but especially when some irritation occurs. Submitting to God in every moment/circumstance is the basis for being controlled (gentle) in our reactions.

    On another note I’ve been thinking and practicing two other things that have to do with “softness/femininity”. One is keeping a soft countenance–visible to all and a reflection of our inner submissiveness. Do you remember “Lizzy” on the old (very LONG) version of Pride and Prejudice (A&E)? She always wore such a feminine expression on her face that was so attractive. Her mouth was always just slightly turned up at the corners as if she were just ready to smile and always full of joy and fun. If we practice we can “wear” joy on our faces-a new habit. (Joy is the best makeup!) The other practice which I’m trying to make habit is speaking softly/quietly in reply to others. It takes self control and causes me to be mindful not only of what I’m saying but how it is said. (“A “soft” answer turns away wrath.”) Soft=Peaceful=Feminine. (When you speak quietly, the children also have to listen and pay more attention to me which is good self-control practice for them!) Just some of my current thoughts…..

  4. I just need to print and cut and paste all that into my journal for my plans for 2014. Amen, sister! I love what C.S. Lewis said, “The best way to acquire a virtue is to pretend you already have it.” Loved the way you articulated focusing on the heart. I became dangerously preoccupied with the outward image of femininity, and that preoccupation (for me) led to a critical spirit. Thankfully, God’s grace was sufficient to heal, and my husband’s wisdom was a huge practical help.

  5. Your post *does* resonate with me, Kelly. I’ve always struggled to have a calm, gentle demeanor when I haven’t had enough sleep. I don’t have any more babies and toddlers, waking me up in the night anymore, so usually sleep deprivation is due to my own bad habits (like staying up too late on New Year’s Eve, ahem!) πŸ˜‰

    Yet those are the very times to best cultivate good character, when circumstances are less than ideal, whether we caused them or not.

    As far as men and women being different, I sure am glad God made us that way, and I’m very thankful to have a husband who recognizes that! Hubby and I like to take walks together, but this morning at 8:00 (I was still sleeping πŸ˜‰ ), he decided to let me sleep, and he took a walk by himself. When it was between 20 and 22 degrees below zero. With wind chills in the minus forties or fifties. For a whole hour and a half!

    What a blessing to be in a warm bed for 2/3 of that time, getting some much needed sleep, instead of outside braving the elements! Now there’s a manly man who loves his wife. πŸ™‚ I am blessed.

    Thanks for the post. Good reminders to celebrate our femininity with joy and gratitude.

    1. OK, C, we have to talk. It is a record low here in our state and at 9 degrees, just 15 minutes outside feels like my face will break. How on EARTH did you husband stand that temp for that long? (And why? πŸ˜› ) Yes, he is a good man to leave you in bed for that.

      1. LOL we have to talk! πŸ˜€

        I think my husband got himself a good dose of that “live life dangerously” maleness on this one! He came back home, his face all weather-beaten. I asked him if he wore one of the stocking hats with a built-in face mask. Nope, just an ordinary one. It took every ounce of self-control not to exclaim, “What??!! Have you not heard of frostbite?!” πŸ˜›

        But he had let me sleep through that, so I went easy on him. πŸ˜‰ And he didn’t get frost-bitten, either, amazingly.

        He did have a reason to go out — it was trash pick-up day, and he wanted to retrieve our garbage cans from the end of our road before the empty cans blew away. He didn’t want to bother starting up a vehicle in the cold, only to drive less than a mile round trip, so he walked out to get them instead.

        And then, of course, since it was such a nice day πŸ˜› after he brought the cans home he decided to walk in our woods (he enjoys trees) and up on our neighbors’ pasture land. Our neighbor is in his eighties and still farming by himself, but his vision is failing, so my husband looks for trees growing along the edges of his farmland that may have branches sticking out too far over his fields, or he looks for places in the fence line that need repair, where his cows might get out. Hubby then calls those things to our neighbor’s attention, and takes care of trimming or cutting down trees as needed, and fixing problems in the fence, per our neighbor’s request.

        What a guy my husband is, huh? He works second shift at his job, and has to be in and out of vehicles all evening, moving them around, plugging in some of them now, some later. (I think I’m describing that right.) Generally making sure the trucks will start in the morning when the next day’s deliveries go out.

        So he’s quite tough in the cold. πŸ™‚ But don’t ask about six or seven months from now, when our temperatures are in the upper eighties or nineties, and you’re well into three-digit-range…*you* will be the one asked, “How on EARTH…!” πŸ˜‰

        Stay warm, Kelly! We’re at a balmy -2 right now and might even get into the positive digits today! Come up here for a few days, and when you get home, it’ll feel like shorts and T-shirts weather. πŸ˜€ (You have permission to tease me when summer hits here!)

        Do be careful in the cold, though. Seriously.

        Love, C

  6. Love these thoughts Kelly. We have been watching the Little House series and I love watching Ma Ingalls the best. I like to see her reactions to her children. I know that sounds silly but it is hard to find such role models nowadays in “real” life. I enjoy seeing this practice in action.

      1. Bless your heart for taking the time to link up to that! I had never seen that and remember many of those episodes.

  7. Beautiful encouragement (kick in the rear). πŸ˜‰

    Need it as I too respond in kind instead of repaying evil with good.


  8. Thank you for this. This is a daily struggle for me. It is not that I am naturally a sharp-tongued woman to most people, but as a mother I have learned to be short with my children. I continue to work on it, but I am grateful for more encouragement!

  9. Dear Kelly, how much this resonates with me. I am a “young” mother and wife. My mom always worked. I got very good grades at school and I went to university. I was convinced a successful career was all I needed to achieve in life. Perhaps I would marry. But first I would ‘grow’ my attitude and nail it so I would become a very independent and successful business owner. After some very bad relationships(because of my distorted ideas of a relationship)I felt I would just “make it on my own”. So I was not interested at first when I met my future husband. However I fell in love, married this good hardworking ordinary man, I gave up my job to start doing his business admin from home and decided if not building my fortune I will focus on building ‘ours’.
    Then our business started crumbling, our first baby was born and did not stop crying, we closed down the business, almost losing everything financially, moved cross country to work with my parents and our second baby was born, also crying her first few months through. Unfortunately my husband was very unhappy working under my parents, I could not blame him, I knew the hardships.
    Then I came across Above Rubies, and through that somehow got to blogs and sites like Wise Women, yours and others.
    And I am very much the product of the society you describe. And it is breaking my heart, because it is breaking my marriage and keeps me from serving and bonding with my children. I lack warmth, I struggle to cuddle them, I am harsh and cold, expecting good behaviour, almost not allowing them to be children, I never laugh or enjoy them, they just make me angry, to clean up after them, discipline them, get it all done. No wonder my husband does not want any more children. It is a nightmare.
    And when I read your post and others, I start to see a picture of what is wrong and how fundamentally wrong my lifelong “desires” were and how my perceptions is keeping me from a happy and good life.
    Needless to say, growing up in a church going home and living a christian life, does not entail that I have submitted to God.
    The road before me is muddled and indeed I need to humble myself. And find truth. Because life is not what I was perceiving it to be. Life is so much more. It is not getting to the top of your class, the degree, the job, the worldly accomplishments,and the assets you build up.
    This is very hard to realize. And it is heartbreaking to witness the results of this faulty foundation. Because I have to admit, I still have to learn basics like how to run a smooth home, meals, laundry, hospitality. It all comes very hard without training πŸ™ And the hardest part is my anger and resentment, because I am so UNable, because my mom never bothered to learn me these things. I lack the perseverance and discipline to apply basic good habits,but most of all because I find it hard to love, my anger and resentment keeping me from connecting with my family. I just feel like if I could get it ‘right’ (the house and home keeping)we (I) would all feel and live better. But my lack of follow through to change my HEART is paying dividends I never foresee; I can see and hear how my anger is now coming from my children’s words and actions (at only 3 and 18 months).
    Needless to say it also steals from my marriage.
    It is so deep ingrained, that it initially feels like failure, to start giving in, to serve. How sad is that.
    And now I am learning a true and good wife, serves her family – with JOY. And softness. This is such a contradiction with my ideals and role models growing up with.
    I just wanted you to know how hard you hit home. And how true these things are that the Lord places on your heart to post about, and how much it means to me (and I believe others) to find your message and the grace that comes from it. I cannot say I will homeschool my children, or that I will start wearing dresses (I’ve grown up in jeans and shorts!)but I understand that God wants to renew and shape me to a new women, and that there is no shame in it, but glory. And that the words and actions we speak and do are crucial. Every single word. Every action. What you let into your heart, mind and home is shaping you. And your children. My mother was very mindful of this, keeping us from watching television, but by letting me believe education and work was the most important achievements, by putting her work before her home (although she was only trying to provide for us)she was teaching me something different along with the novels I read and the culture I engaged at school. It is very hard to break down these engrained believes – that my children are not a “bother” in my day of things that must be done. That they are what my day is about.
    You put the MISSION so well in the last part of your post. It is beautiful and worthy. And as someone noted should be printed, cut out and pasted into a journal, it is subtle (soft) but strong. Thank you.
    (You do not need to post all of this, I just wanted to tell the impact and appreciation and the words became to many.)

    1. Jana,

      I think we can all share in your struggle against ingrained beliefs and practices.

      But I have to say, it was completely wonderful to read such honesty and humility in your comment. There are so many women who have walked the road you describe, but remain obstinate and unwilling to admit their inefficiencies and even flawed worldviews that they embraced for so long. Half the journey is in your mind.

      I applaud your maturity and wisdom.

    2. Wow, Jana, your beautiful heart had me in tears.

      Do not judge yourself harshly about your failures. Be amazed that your failures have stilled allowed, thru God, to give you a heart desiring God’s will for you. It is a beautiful work of God, just your admission and desires. He is able to complete the good work He began in you. Leave it to Him, submit and don’t make it about your efforts, He loves to carry His children through the hard times to get them to a new glory, especially when they are eager for the transformation, too.
      Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
      2Cor 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

    3. Jana, I have found FlyLady ( to be a WONDERFUL resource in helping learn how to keep the house and establish routines to make things run more smoothly. Check her out, she’s very encouraging and kind and helpful.

  10. Kelly, you said you wrote this post for yourself. Well, you could have written it for me, too! I’ve had a hard time being “soft”. To me, soft always seemed to equate weak. In truth, for a woman to be soft is for her to show her strength, not weakness. It takes a lot more strength for me to be soft than tough! =) Thank you for this post.

  11. Dear Kelly, thank you for your honesty! I too struggle, much less now than before. Still i struggle with this. It is a defense tool for me as well, and i hate it. I have the scripture beside my computer in my kitchen Prov 31;26 She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. I have prayed this so many many times. Sanctification, the process is so hard. Knowing what is beautiful for us in the Lord and still struggling with our flesh to ,well flesh it out :-)!!! Thanks again for the precious reminder equal ,but very different. God’s grace fill you moment by moment precious woman.

  12. Kelly L, you must have prayed over me. The words “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (though in my mother tongue) entered my thoughts today. How wonderful the Spirit of the Lord is. There was a Spirit of gentleness in my day, so more noticeable, because this is not my standard state of being, and today should have been a hectic day, but it turned out much softer. Thank you, Kelly and Kelly L for taking the time to reply. And the grace you extend. The Lord is using you in a most extra ordinary way to impact a life across time zones and oceans. How amazing. He is real. He can change us. I also needed to hear that I need to “submit and don’t make it about my efforts”. I think He has been trying awhile to tell me it’s not about me, and what I should or should not be doing. It is about Him. I’m just to busy feeling overwhelmed to hear His voice. And I don’t make the time to listen. When you’ve never been interested in God’s plan for your life, you’ve not really prayed or truly read the Bible seeking His will. How will He then speak to you? But when He answers so divinely, you must stop. Realise the Lord is pursuing you. I am truly deeply touched. This is not a random encounter. This is the work of the Almighty.

  13. I have been a terrible example to my daughters in this area and am really trying to get it right before they leave my home. I, too, have always been reactionary, argumentative, and harsh. I am depending on the Holy Spirit to help me be an overcomer in this area in 2014.

  14. Thank you! You definitely wrote out my heart. I could in fact, have written out every word, what God has been working in me for years now and understanding and embracing my biblical role as a daughter of God has given me a heart for young moms and women in a way I didn’t have before. I fail daily but thank God, his faithfulness allows me to find hope in Him, that He will finish the work He began in me until the day off Jesus Christ. It’s so encouraging to know that we are in good company.

  15. Thank You! Thank you, Thank You! for this post. You stated my hearts cry, put my “dream” in black and white, and said it was your hearts cry, too. For Years, I have battled the weeds and tangles of roots.
    Would you, perhaps, prayerfully consider posting more about your journey in “Cultivating Softness”?

    So relieved to know I’m/we’re not the only ones out there fighting the weeds and roots of feminism in this area. Thank you again, and, if i may be so bold,- I’m praying for you/yours.

    grace, peace and strength in Messiah,

  16. When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the image of a user in his/her
    mind that how a user can understand it. So that’s why this post is amazing.

  17. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.”
    She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I
    had to tell someone!

  18. I know that you wrote this several years ago, but I have genuinely enjoyed this article and found it both uplifting and edifying.

  19. Thanks so much for your wise words. I’m 57 years old and just learning to be “softer”, and trying to undo a lot of worldly damage from the “hear me roar” mentality. This past weekend, I attended a one day womens retreat and was thinking about the hardness of the women. I don’t know any women in my age category who have a semblance of softness. Fortunately, I have been blessed to have contact with some 30ish year old women who do have this softer, gentler spirit and thoroughly enjoy being with them. They are awesome and I admire them!

  20. Kelly! I am in the New Year over here cleaning out my inbox and deciding who to unsubscribe to and I rediscovered your blog and was like β€œwait! who is this lady?” and found your books on Amazon and have been listening to your podcast this week and I just want to say as a mama of 7 from Tennessee, that I am so encouraged by your presence in this space. There’s no one really in my community β€œup ahead of me.…” Unfortunately, I have the biggest family at my church, and I’m looked upon us somewhat of an anomaly. I’m so grateful to find your blog and I look forward to learning from you.

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