I guess there are many things that are signals that a “girl” has become a “woman”. Things like getting taller, breast development, and the start of menstruation. Some of us start being sexual, some of us become mothers.

We think we are no longer little girls, we think all of this means we have become a woman.

Personally, I do not use any of the indicators above to determine womanhood, not in myself, not in my daughters and not in the women that I mentor or teach…and certainly not in the women I meet and decide to make my personal friends.

I use one determining factor to decide if the female that sits across me is someone I want to trust with my heart, my feelings and sometimes my secrets.

I am not afraid of how abused someone has been, I am not scared of broken people at the end of their rope. I would never walk away from a sister who is swirling down the drain and questioning her own sanity or the world around her.

I have been all of those things, I have fallen into deep despair and I have been a babbling mess of emotions. I am forever grateful to the strong and powerful women that have scooped me up off the floor wiped my mascara stained face and reminded me of who I was and Who I belonged to.

It is not age,that turns a little girl into a woman, it is not life experience, pain, education or relationship. I have met 16 year old women… and 80 year old girls.

I listen and watch for one indicator only to determine if I am dealing with a woman or a little girl,

HOW DOES SHE TALK ABOUT OTHER WOMEN?

Leaving behind the silliness and immaturity of girlhood and stepping into womanhood, for me, is always a choice and it starts with how we use our words, and this ONE thing determines how effective our lives will be.

Women are created to be life-givers—not just in the natural sense of carrying a life in our wombs and expelling an infant into the world— but also in the spiritual sense of our natural nurturing of all life. Ask any man that was once lost and now found. More often than not, he will credit the presence of a woman that “saved his life”: his mom, his grandma, his aunt… or his wife.

It is what we were born to do.

When we are immature, insecure and unsure of what it means to be a woman, we act like little girls. Little girls charm, sweet talk and manipulate to get their way and throw tantrums when they don’t. Girls wear their wounds like loaded gun and shoot to kill anyone that threatens their fragile ego. From the playground to the sorority house we see all the pretty little girls acting like pretty little *mean* girls. They gang up, intimidate and say the cruelest things to other little girls. That, sadly, is just a common reality when you are born female. You learn to accept it as truth, and you tell your own daughters when they come to you in tears, “I am sorry honey, but you have to get used to it, girls are just mean.”

Everyday I look into the watery eyes of a fragile young lady sitting before me struggling to find healing for years of insults, put downs, and passive aggressive remarks from little girls and big girls who should know better.

We don’t become women when your boobs grow and we start bleeding. We become women when we choose to become what we were created to be: life-givers.

We need to teach our daughters (through example) to be kind and full of grace, or to say nothing at all. Then and only then will we become women raising an army of real women in the next generation.

When we start to celebrate other females, ones that are smarter, thinner, prettier and younger, ones that have a better career, a bigger house and more talented kids then we do… then and only then can we call ourselves women.

When we choose not to start every sentence with “you didn’t hear this from me but…” or “ I am not supposed to say anything so don’t repeat this but…did you know about her husband, have you heard what her son did?”

In my immaturity I have done these things, and I have deeply hurt people and caused my integrity to be questioned.

THEN I MADE A CHOICE, I decided I wanted to be the kind of woman my daughters can respect and I wanted to be the kind of woman others could trust.

I, like you, have been on the other side of vile gossip. In that world, nothing is sacred: not your dead husband or your dead son. People love to talk; maybe they are naive about the pain they cause with their words, but one day will all have to give an account.

When we start standing up for a woman that is being gossiped about by protecting her and refusing to join in on the cruelty… when we make a choice to be kind first, think the best first, and hold our judgment and our tongues… then and only then can we call ourselves GROWN WOMEN; live-givers with the ability to make weeds and dead plants look like the Garden of Eden.

My closest friends are *real* women that I trust, love and even more importantly-I respect. I am fierce in my protection of them, and I know they always have my back. I want all women to experience healthy female relationships in their life, but it will have to start with me and it has to start with you.

I challenge you to be different than what the media portrays, and the example we have been given, especially in the church. I challenge you to CHOOSE to grow up and be a woman, no matter how old you are.

I know you can do this!

I am already celebrating your success because I believe the very best of you.**