Last year I read an article regarding Key Women by Ann Voskamp. If you don’t know Ann, she’s the New York Times bestselling author of One Thousand Gifts, her first book. I read the book at a poignant time in life, after Hudson’s birth and surprise diagnosis with Down syndrome. Almost five years ago now, when my world was rocked.
Key Women by allie taylor
So a dear friend, closely walking that journey alongside me, gives me One Thousand Gifts. I skim the author bio on the book flap. Ann’s a pig farmer’s wife. Grows corn. Lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband and six children. They homeschool. (These are her author credentials.) I quietly set the book back on the coffee table, don’t open it for months.
Finally I pick up One Thousand Gifts again, when the time must be right. Slowly, I digest Ann’s wisdom words over a number of tearful reads. So glad. It’s a profound book, deeply affects how I live my life today. (So don’t judge a book by its cover. Ha. Or an author by her husband’s occupation.)
So Ann, the hog farmer’s wife, also has a blog. Not a hog blog, but A Holy Experience. Last year I devoured her article How Women Can Stop Judging Each Other: A Movement of Key Women.
I resonated with much she had to say. Here’s a few “Ann” quotes from the article.
“Perfectionism is a slow death to self. Perfectionism will kill your skill, your spark, your art, your soul.”
“And I have no idea… why the women down the street and across the table keep holding each other to a standard of perfection instead of letting us all be held by the arms of grace.”
“Judging others is a blindfold. Judging others is a blindfold that blinds us to our own grime and blinds us to the grace which others are as eligible and entitled to as we are. If I have loved breathing in grace for me, how can I deny you the same oxygen?”
“We need Key Women in our lives who emancipate us from crushing expectations… who unlock the courtrooms where we’re judged and assessed and weighed in these scales that feel like millstones around our necks. Key Women who believe that we can change, things can change, kids can change, minds can change, the world can change.”
“There could be this rising of Key Women who are soul abolitionists, who end the enslavement of women to the self-appointed judges, Key Women who unlock and unleash (other) women to transform into their own unique calling and giftedness.”
Wouldn’t it be an amazingly different world if the judging (and being judged) among women stopped?
I’ve drunk long and deep from an amazing cup called grace, incredibly blessed to have multiple Key Women in my life. There was a time I thought I had to be perfect before letting others in. Into my home, my life or my heart. No more. I say from experience: the prison of perfection is a very lonely place of residence. Grace was extended to me by kind and loving women I respect. I’m deeply indebted for the grace, also the time and effort spent passing it through the prison bars to one oblivious to her need: me. And in gratitude, I aspire to pay it forward. To be a key woman for others, a cup of grace.
So several weeks after reading the article last year, How Women Can Stop Judging Each Other: A Movement of Key Women, a knock on my door. I don’t hear it. My house, a pit. But Jon lets her in. No makeup (me), in the bathroom, head hung low, blowdrying. I come up for air, find her standing there. Cheerful, smiling… a beautifully wrapped package extended to me. Not my birthday, not even Christmas. She passes it to me, yet another brimming cup of grace, and I hesitantly reach with both hands to accept. Our hands, eyes, hearts meet somewhere in the middle.
“For you,” she says. And I open it.
“I want you to know I pledge to be a Key Woman in your life. I won’t judge you for how you look (or don’t). What stuff you have (or don’t). I won’t talk about you. And I won’t let others talk about you in my presence. I won’t judge you for your house cleaning (or lack). Or how you school your children. Whether you eat organic, or how you spend your money. How often you go to the gym. Or how high the laundry stacks in your chute.” (Thank God, the last one especially.)
The language was familiar, sweet. She’d also read Ann’s article. I already knew in my heart of hearts she’d never do any of the things she promised not to. But it was a freeing, affirming gift just the same.
She also designed this, gave it to me. (Ain’t she clever?) Yeah, it’s water-stained and loved now. (I did that.)
There’s no way to repay such a gift. Except to pay it forward.
I have other Key Women in my life. They’ve not necessarily verbalized a pledge, they just live it. Two more girlfriends. Both successful in their fields, professional women I respect. At the time, Through Her Looking Glass, merely twinkle in my eye. I hesitantly e-mail one.
“I’m thinking about launching a blog. Here’s my ideas. Any thoughts? Do you think I could even do this?”
The first reply, short and sweet.
“You’d rock a blog. How can I help?”
So a few weeks later I muster up courage again, compose an e-mail to the second, timidly press send.
The second reply: “You’ll do awesome. Let me know how I can help! I’ll spread the word.”
You know, they could’ve said a lot of other things, asked a lot of real questions. Like, “This is really hard work. Are you prepared to work hard?” Or “Have you done any real writing before?” Or “When’s the last time you worked in a real job with deadlines?” Or “Do you have any qualifications, any formal training for this?” Yes, they could’ve asked those questions, and many more. (And would’ve been justified.) But they didn’t. Grace. And had their replies to my questions been different, I might’ve never picked up my pen, chased this heart dream of mine.
Many Key Women in my life through the years. Women not just affirming with words, but actively living out that support, believing in me. I’m blessed and beyond thankful.
Women: we need each other.
Let’s apply the Golden Rule. In the same way we yearn to receive that love, acceptance and grace ourselves, let’s dole out generous helpings to others. We can hurt or bless with our words, also with silence. Our words (or silence) can curse. You’ve felt the sting of words, the silence, the disapproving glance. Or all three. Me too. Regretfully, I’ve been on the giving and receiving ends. So have you.
Words: they’re powerful.
Words: they’re free, won’t cost you a dime.
Words: use them liberally to build and affirm those around you.
Not only do “we need key women in our lives who emancipate us from crushing expectations,” we need to be key women who emancipate others from crushing expectations. Be a key woman in someone’s life today, a key of grace that might just unlock their world. The world’s a better place for all of us as we encourage the women around us to use their gifts and creativity to their fullest potential.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. –Proverbs 3:27
This post lovingly dedicated to Julie and the many wonderful Key Women God has graciously placed in my life through the years, sprinkled here and around the country. Thanks for the grace.
My body of a sudden blazed,
And twenty minutes more or less,
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
Related posts: She Picked Up Her Pen
Best blog post yet, Allie! Thank you!
Oh friend…what is there to say except that anything I have been to you, you have returned multiplied! God knew we women would need one another…and so the gift of “key women.” Thanks for the inspiration to continue being one…and the reminder of the blessing of experiencing them. xoxo
Great words of wisdom!
So beautifully said and much to strive for!
Nancy Hammettj says
Thank you for this post.
Aunt J says
Well said Allie! One Thousands Gifts was a blessing to me and I now love hearing about the article by Ann V. about Key Women. An inspiring post……..Thank you!
Needed this today as I had to leave my uncleaned house for an appt. knowing that my husband was bringing co-workers home @ lunch….house wasn’t cleaned, but at least the lunch was made. Thanks for another encouraging post.
Love this and so thankful for the Key Women in my life.
Tracy Costa says
“The prison of perfection” Hmmm….. I learn so much from you! You my friend…. Are definitely a cup of grace! So glad to have you as one of my key women.
Loved this!! What a wonderful writer you are!!!!
Barbara B. says
How i loved and needed this message!! I am one of those perfectionists that could drive myself into a frenzy, but I have a found a wonderful friend in YOU, and truly cherish your love and inspiring words. I know they are true and strive to love everyone for who they are, and not what I THINK THEY SHOULD BE! It’s a continuing, daily commitment, that the Lord must help me with each day, but that is what life is about, like Barnabas was, an encourager, to all he met along the path he walked. Who am I to judge anyone when I need so much forgiveness each day and have the greatest FRIEND who says each day “my mercy is new every morning to whomsoever will”….He forgives totally, TO ALL THAT ASK, and I dare not forget to HUMBLY seek His FACE, only He knowS MY many weaknesses and failings, yet tenderly embraces me and tells me He knows I am but dust, but HIS love for me is everlasting, and for that I rejoice. You are a loyal and trusted friend to me and I want to be a Barnabas to you in every way I can. I truly love you and THANK GOD for bringing us together! XOXOXO
I haven’t read “One Thousand Gifts” yet, but ironically it was just mentioned at a women’s ministry get together at our church recently. I guess a second mention is a hint that I need to read it. =) I do remember when Julia was a baby and I was a mess, my house was a mess, and I would feel so ashamed if someone dropped by unannounced and saw me and my house looking the way we did. It bothered me for years, but as I grew older and hopefully matured, I realized that it didn’t matter and I needed to get over worrying about what others thought of me. It’s freeing when we can let go of certain things and enjoy the things that matter most. Great piece!
Wonderful, Allie! Thank you for extending grace to me countless times! I love you!
Sallie Eisengrein says
What a beautifully written article on God’s grace! We as women have the wonderful opportunity to exhibit God’s grace to each other! I will share your article with many friends! So encouraging!
Allie Taylor says
My grace journey began in 1994 in Easley, South Carolina. So thankful for the many grace-filled Covenant women who quietly taught me by example, slowly, over many years loved me out of my “prison of perfection.” Thank you dear friends. XO
nancy mcmahan says
Thank you for this . I so enjoy your blog.
Christy Smith says
How I long to be a Key Woman….full of grace first for myself and then out of the wellspring of the gift God gives me, extend the gift of grace to others, even wayward children, who perhaps need it the most. It is a beautiful concept but a way that brings life not death to my spirit, blessing and not cursing. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that lives are messy, people are broken and God is in the business of redemption…grace unmerited but paid for and waiting to be exercised!
Aunt pinkie achor says
Oh, Allie – just had the privilege of reading this – it is beautifully done and right on! Am so glad you have this blog and hope many others subscribe to it! It’s worth it!!! 🙂
Barbara child says
So needed in all of us! Somehow missed this last week–it’s not on my desktop computer, but found it on iPad.
Thanks for telling me about it this am. Truly, key women ARE a great blessing, and I want to be that encourager rather than critic too! Life is hard enough, and without help and encouragement, we all wilt under the stress and strain of life. Thanks for so beautifully reminding us of this! Love you!
I had wanted to read Ann’s book and finally did last year. Her blog has been really helpful – being reminded to live by grace and to be gracious, to keep remembering how belssed I am – to try to figure out how to live the way God intended. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
It took me a while to get into this book, but once I was open to it, wow! I love hearing your stories as well as reading them! This book is on my need to reread list!
bettie p says
I really know so little about blogging but I went from reading “going thru it” “joy robbers’ to this post. I have always thought you were so beautiful and gifted. You are such an inspiration. I can hardly write thus because my eyes are so full of tears. Its truly a blessing to see through your looking Glass. .
Oh Bettie, I miss you. Some day we’ll do lunch or something fun, instead of crying thru church on Easter with poor Ron stuck in the middle. Ha. It was still nice to see you. Thanks for the love across the miles. I feel it, have always felt it. Thanks for being a key woman in my life. (We have an understanding.) Here’s a little post I did about about our trip south, just click this link: http://throughherlookingglass.com/?p=7486. (or you might have to paste it in your browser.) Love you Bettie, and all your boys. Thank you for the prayers. XO
Bettie p says
And ,darling girl, your blog is bringing so many prayers your way. I know there must be days when you think you are alone…not so!!!