It's when you came up behind me and put your arms around me in the kitchen last night while I was making food for your Dad.
The way you laid your head on my shoulder and you held me, mama in the daughter arms after all these years.
I reached up and laid my hand on your cheek, and it only takes a moment and mother and a daughter aren't far apart anymore.
You know we come from a long line of women who have struggled in their own skin, right?
Girl, you've come from this long line of women —
Women who shunned anything silk or feminine because they never wanted a man to notice them because men did things you didn't want them to and took things that weren't theirs to take.
Women who wore bulky sweaters and baggy pants and walked around hoping a lot of yardage might make their souls invisible and avoided mirrors like an allergy that might make it hard to breathe.
Why is it that any reflective surface makes a woman see pounds and deflating ugly?
Did I ever tell you that I once followed a recipe in Seventeen Magazine for DIY mousse? And went around with this sticky mess of hair that had sugar shaking out of it all day like a medical emergency case of dandruff.
And all the years the other girls were jaunting about in pink jelly shoes?
I had to wear black orthopedic shoes for an aching spine and have you ever tried to make black orthopedic shoes look right with white shorts? Numbers on tags have seemed like undeniable proof of ugliness.
And standing in a room full of primped women can make the self-hate gnaw right up your blushing insides.
Swim suits can taunt mean and clothes can mock loud and I've stood in front of mirrors and looked right in those eyes and whispered it out louder: Loser.
The boys always called me barn-board straight Annie.
Being a woman every day can be this mind field in self-maiming thoughts.
I've cut my skin with glass and blades and words and hated myself enough to write down a plan to die.
Remember that part in that book you read, our Hope-girl? When Annie told us how she'd yelled at herself in the mirror that she hated her and she found a roll of duct tape and tried to tape herself thin?
And she wound all those sticky expectations and the tape so tight around her middle that she couldn't breathe?
Every woman should breathe peaceful in her own beautiful skin.
I'm seeing it in you — how you are being brave and laugh easy in who you are and no glossy, media-induced, photoshopped lies can steal away your God-given joy in being you.
The way you've been going around here smiling, you make me think this, daughter of mine, that women could be this to each other:
We'll tell our daughters at the sink and at the mirror and at the door, that your Father made you fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely and you are the perfect-sized you for a God-sized plan.
And we'll say it in the dressing rooms and to the shaming thoughts behind closed doors and we'll say it to every woman who hides: that God's daughters fit in any swim suit, dress suit, shimmering suits, because they are suited up in the armour of Christ — and no arrows from the media or the past or ourselves can harm us.
We will be sisters to each other and we won't ever judge another sister and we will see each woman's face as pure God-masterpiece because it's the truth and we'll tell each other what every woman needs to hear: You have the prettiest eyes.
Because it's always first the eyes, always first the perspective and the way we see, and if the eyes have light, the whole body is full of light. We have to help our sisters see who they are in light of Christ — so radiant.
So we'll say it a dozen time a day, to every woman who we meet because it's the truth and she needs to hear it and no matter if she has a man saying it, she has sisters speaking into her scraped and bleeding places: You are so beautiful — so soul beautiful.
And we'll watch our sisters' eyes light — always first the eyes.
And we won't ever let one of our sisters ever forget and we won't leave even one woman behind:
The curve of a smile is a woman's most perfect curve — and the only tag that matters is the one that says Robed in the Righteousness of Christ.
It may not be easy to be a woman in this world. But it is always perfect to be a woman in His hand.
Hope-girl? When we held on to each other late in the kitchen last night?
We are the women who let go all the woman-baggage that came behind and hold onto each other and affirm in the firm grip of Christ and did you hear me stand there in the kitchen and whisper to you what I heard the Father whisper about you?
It's the last thing I thought of last night after you grinned and hugged me good night and I turned the lights out — how when a woman smiles she shatters the dark.
While the money goal has been reached, there is room for more women to help take God's word to women in biblically impoverished parts of the world. One of our favorite efforts at Heartlight, and one of Ann's favorite projects, is called The Esther Initiative. Take a look and choose to help make a difference!
All pictures courtesy of Ann Voskamp.
Ann's teaching, writing, speaking, and photography have blessed thousands.