Continuing our study of Emilie Barnes book (Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home), chapter three's topic is The Secret of Femininity and in it we read of the many ways she found for nurturing femininity in her own life, and the lives of other women.
As before, I will write Emilie's words/thoughts in italics and my own thoughts in normal text. :-)
Emilie poses a few questions in the opening page of chapter three...
What better antidote for an impersonal and violent society than warm, gentle, feminine strength? What better cure for urban sprawl and trashed-out countrysides than a love of beauty and a confidence in one's ability to make things lovely? What better hope for the future than a nurturing mother's heart that is more concerned for the next generation than for it's own selfish desires? All these qualities - gentle strength, love of beauty, care and nurturing - are part of femininity.
The questions she wrote for us to consider, were in response to her own concern that this type of femininity had lost its value in the world of today. She wrote this book thirty years ago, and from my own observations today, I'd say yes, in many ways the world of 2022 almost shows disdain for true femininity.
She adds her belief that in the heart of us is a little girl who longs to be a lady.
This made me think of my own little ladies, granddaughters 4yo Rafaella and 6yo Cully May, who love nothing more than to dress up as princesses, or to walk around in Mummy's shoes with a bag and scarf and lovely long beads. They set their 'table' and have pretend tea parties using the best of their manners...all the while pretending they are Mummy and me.
Emilie expounds on the privilege of being a woman, a gift from God, and how we can use our femininity to transform an environment to make it comfortable and inviting. She goes on to remind us that there is no cookie-cutter woman, for we each of us express our femininity in unique ways, even in how we dress. For some it's tailored attire, whilst others will wear more relaxed and casual clothing...but both can express an air of gentleness and sensitivity.
Personally, I love to wear dresses and do so at all times of the year, whether it be going out to the store for groceries, visiting a friend, scrubbing the bathroom or tending the garden. Dresses make me feel feminine, and though I have some casual linen pants and tops in my wardrobe, they are rarely worn, and in fact last year I wore dresses every day.
And that's the key here, I think...when you consider what makes *you* feel good as a woman, and then make it part of your everyday life (if possible), it seems to naturally feed into how you behave and respond in day to day living. When I discovered during the early days of the pandemic that I was most comfortable at home in my pretty and rarely worn dresses, even though we were in lockdown and no-one would see me (before that I only wore them if going out for something special) it was as though a whole new world opened up and I 're-discovered' something I'd loved but forgotten over time. It gives me such delight each morning to choose a dress to wear! Some days I even use my perfume.
For you, femininity (with regards to clothing) may be something completely different, so I highly recommend you discover (or re-assess) how you can delightfully elevate your own expression of personal femininity in what you wear.
Emilie goes on to talk about other ways we can add femininity to our lives - such as perfume, bath oils, flowers in a vase, a hanky instead of tissues..."whatever awakens a calm and gentle spirit within you will nurture beauty in your life." Then she encourages things such as bringing our senses alive throughout the home with lavender sachets in drawers, adding a spray of cologne to notepaper or a card before posting, burning oils or simmering spices on the stove to fill the house with inviting fragrance. She encourages us to have music in the background - lively tunes for doing housework, and make sure you dance before the Lord too. Change cushions around, freshen dull spaces, and experiment with recipes...there's nothing self-indulgent about such small pleasures when we approach them with a spirit of gratitude because God's gifts help us to go about our tasks.
Self care, with regards to a healthy lifestyle also feature in Emilie's approach to inviting femininity into her life.
But above all else, Emilie draws our attention to the most important way we can express femininity - from the inside.
"True femininity comes from the heart, and I nurture it when I pay attention to what is really important in life." No interior decorating scheme (and no dress) can give it to me. (1 Peter 3:3-5)
Femininity is so much more than lace and flowers. A feminine woman is a woman with a teachable heart - a heart that can forgive, protect and respect...a heart of praise.
Highlighting strong feminine women of the Bible, world history, and her own life - Queen Esther, the Proverbs 31 woman, the evangelist Jonathon Edwards' wife Sarah, and Emilie's own mother, she writes that beautiful women of all ages have shaped the world with the power of their femininity.
It seems fitting for me today to write about our beloved Queen Elizabeth 11. During her 96 years of life, 70 of them as Monarch, and in a position which required more strength of character and fortitude than we will ever need or know, was always, without a doubt, feminine. Not one to don a power suit and wield her authority over man...she was taught by her parents to be humble, to bow before the true King, Jesus, and to have a servant heart. She kept her word, she gave more than I can imagine to the Commonwealth, and every night (until too feeble) knelt at her bedside to pray.
There are many women we can name who had strength, courage and faith, and still carried the genuine and gentle air of femininity with them for others to see. Women such as Elisabeth Elliot, Susannah Wesley, Ruth, Mary the mother of Jesus, my Nana...and probably yours.
Emilie ends this chapter with an encouragement for all women to pass the feminine spirit on to our daughters, and all young women in our lives.
"We do it when we teach girls the secrets of caring for themselves and others. We do it when we share our pride and skills in such classic "domestic arts" as cooking, sewing, knitting, crochet and embroidery...passing on the heritage of femininity is most of all a process of teaching values - caring for ourselves and others, shaping a godly and welcoming atmosphere in our homes and our lives, and working hard to affirm life, making the spirit of loveliness a priority."
This inspiring chapter ends with a prayer from Emilie...