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A Woman of Grace

By Michelle Lehnardt

This is the quote that has alternately inspired and frustrated me this summer:

You have met, or know, a woman like this: She brightens a room, can literally alter the energy before she opens her mouth. Her presence alone is uplifting, her warmth is genuine radiance, and her eye contact feels like a gift. Her compassion and confidence are unshakable. She knows herself well enough to be able to get to know you. She has no pretense about herself, has no need to hide because she lives in truth. She has no need to exalt or deprecate others or herself, and this allows others the freedom to be authentic in her company. She is the kind of woman who makes you check your posture, inside and out. She makes you want to think before you speak, not because you feel judged or compelled to impress her, but simply because she makes you want to be better. Her integrity draws others into the light. Her laughter is contagious. Her hugs feel so good you wonder how you can get another one without appearing needy. When she is happy, you want to celebrate with her. When she is struggling, you want to stand by her side. — Kristin Armstrong

Beautiful isn’t it? As I read it, the faces of graceful women flash before me– Carolyn, Lori, Cynthia, Marjorie, Liz, Melissa, Sharlee… These are women of grace and POWER. Becoming a woman of grace isn’t dependent upon lineage or accomplishments, but simply by developing true charity, Christlike love.

It’s easy to see the kind of influence women like this wield– a few words from Carolyn turns the tide of a school board meeting, our community has embraced Somalian refugees due to Cynthia’s example and leadership, Melissa has becoming a touchstone for families suffering from testimony shattering grief.

Forgive me for my vanity and naivete, but if I’d read this quote last summer, I might have felt that I was traveling on the road towards grace. Now, I am bitter and broken, fearful that the sticky agony in my heart will obstruct the woman that I was meant to be.

And yet, I can still be graceful in small doses– maybe just for this evening, or during the three hours at church. Can those slender tendrils of grace take root in the stony carcass of my heart?

Tell me- how does this quote strike you? Does it encourage or discourage you?

Do you know a woman of grace? Tell us about her.

How does grace equal power in our society? Where have you witnessed this?

How can I conquer heartbreak and betrayal to become the women I yearn to be?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

37 thoughts on “A Woman of Grace”

  1. This is the woman I wish to be, but so often I feel more the antithesis of this quote. And then I begin to wonder if it's truly possible to get to a point where anyone would describe me as such. Is it possible that such women are just born that way? That even if I become as Christlike as I can possibly hope to, that my innate self will never be quite as inviting and charming as I would like? I really can't separate fully in my mind which of my attributes are alterable to such a degree. I do believe that we can retrain our thought patterns and actually *change* the way that we react and think so that we truly become better over time, and I think that I can improve and develop charity and show my love for others, but that the parts of "me" that I wouldn't want to change, will forever keep me from being *that* woman.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but otherwise I have such a long way to go that it seems like I could work at this goal all my life before attaining it. Of course, maybe that's what I'm supposed to do, no matter how long it takes.

  2. A Woman of Grace. It seems to me that this is a difficult title to obtain. Perhaps it's something we are all striving for and unable to really get to in our state of imperfection. Or maybe all it takes is to be a good woman who is really trying to do her best with what life is (or others are) handing her.

    As for conquering heartbreak and betrayal, that is going to take time. There's really no escaping that fact. I'm currently trying to figure out how to reconcile love and distrust towards a family member. So far my only solution has been to remove them from my thoughts and everyday life to enable myself to live normal and feel things other than confusion. And then when I must interact, I do it with politeness and civility on the outside, while being all twisted up emotionally on the inside. But this is only because I'm still working out how I want to deal with them longterm. This might not be the way you deal though, so I really hesitate to suggest you try it. But sometimes the only way to get through something is to just deal with it however your survival instincts direct you, with a little bit of Christ's influence of course.

  3. In a former life (ten years or more ago) I would have been very discouraged by this quote because I lived under the assumption that such a state was not only attainable in this life but could be held continuously and I felt like I seldom got there. Now however I think of it differently. I think this is the ideal and I think it CAN be attained but not all the time and certainly not in this lifetime. I believe it exists and I hope to someday be there. But for now I have accepted the fact that I am an imperfect woman living in an imperfect world among imperfect people. I keep trying to be that woman with the belief that someday it will be permanent but with the self-permission not to be discouraged (too much anyway) when I'm not.

  4. Beautiful post, Michelle. Thank you. I needed to hear that quote for reasons I can't explain right now.

    But I love these words as well:

    "And yet, I can still be graceful in small doses– maybe just for this evening, or during the three hours at church. Can those slender tendrils of grace take root in the stony carcass of my heart?"

    This is my only hope for ever, EVER becoming like the woman in the quote.

    And despite what you might be feeling about yourself, (because, unfortunately, we all *go there* that place of discouragement and self-loathing; it's located right at the corner of Wit's End) in many, many areas, although I do not know you in real life, I find you to be a woman of grace. The words you've shared in so many of your posts support my opinion.

  5. I think that much of this woman's presence is just her inborn personality. She is an extrovert. She is a feeler. In Meyers-Briggs terms, she's probably an ENFJ or ENFP. While I think that many of these qualities would apply to *anyone* who's seeking to be Christlike and their best self, I don't think that this is the ideal for all people or all personalities.

    I do, however, want to be this woman. I don't know that it's in the cards. I am really just trying to find out and become who my best self is — what *my* path is. This quote (where's it from?) does inspire me. I hope that I can become more empathetic, warmer, kinder. I want to be powerful in the exact way that this woman is powerful. I have been researching power like this just this summer. But I don't know that my power will be manifest the same as hers — different personality types. And I don't think that God's ideal personality for wo/man is just one personality.

    I think, or hope, that everyone knows people, both men and women, like this. We are drawn to them like moths to a lightbulb. They are inspiring for all of us, as they are the type that give us a boost to keep us going, either by what they say or by how they are.

    It is my hope and confidence, that as we turn our lives over to Christ, that He will mold us into our highest selves, both now and through eternity, as that is how long it will take. Each trial and challenge that we pass through refines us more and prepares us for our Glory hereafter. Each hardship that we face has a lesson and a trait that it is helping us learn to become the Celestial people that we are meant to be.

  6. I'm conflicted about this. I don't believe that my future self is bound by a personality test, or by the events that happen in my life. I can be the woman of whom I dream, even if it seems beyond me now. It's a journey of a thousand miles and I take a step every day. It is comforting to look behind and see how far I've come.

    On the other hand, when I think about real live women I know who fit this bill I think it's because I don't know them very well. When I get to know a woman who I think is this she makes a comment that opens my eyes to her reality.

    Every person has imperfections and fallacies, it's just that we don't always get close enough to see what they are. I believe the quote describes qualities of several different women put together in a Frankenstein-like way. It is a surreal and unnatural depiction that just doesn't measure up to reality.

  7. I would agree that we all have the ability to be this woman, but that it is not something we can necessarily achieve in this life on an ongoing, day-to-day basis. I would guess that even the women you mention in your original post have their moments of pettiness and weakness. I think the purpose of this life journey, here and now, is to spend as many moments in that state of grace as we can – and to recognize when we've left it, and work to get back into it.

  8. This quote makes me feel discouraged, wishing that I could be like that woman. But I wonder if the different women that you mentioned in the post as being women of grace would also feel that they fall very short of the description. I think there is a lot more grace in all of us that we fail to recogize – we compare our worst to everyone else's best.

  9. "…And yet, I can still be graceful in small doses– maybe just for this evening, or during the three hours at church…"

    I think it is often during those 3 hours of church when we see the "grace" of someone else, that we compare our whole week to. I agree with Sally, we compare our worst to everyone else's best.

  10. I like how the quote reflects how someone else views the woman and not necessarily how the woman may view herself. I think it's something to aspire ourselves to become someday, but ultimately viewing the good nd amazing quality in others is what creates this beauty.

  11. Sally, thank you for this: "I think there is a lot more grace in all of us that we fail to recognize." I agree. I have seen glimpses of it in so many women.

    And my feeling is that this description describes a woman with Christ's image in her countenance. I don't believe any of us will achieve it through our own work, effort, natural tendencies and gifts. I think that it is, as you said, Michelle, Grace, pure and simple, a gift from God that allows Him to work through our weak and imperfect selves. Some women seem to have been purified through their lives to be in this state more often than others. And Michelle, you are being purified. You are in the refiner's fire, and it's horrible and terrible and I don't know why it has to be so hard. But I think you'll come through with more grace than you currently can imagine you'll have.

    And like Jenny, I agree that your words and images have been those of a woman with this gift in abundance. You may not see it right now, but you have possessed it (and I think you still do.)

  12. I think that this quote defines a woman of grace too narrowly. Not all women of grace have such an immediate and universally recognized effect on those who observe them. I have known wonderful women of grace whose grace is only apparent after long, quiet observation. They don't walk into the room and alter the energy before they open their mouths. Many of the ones I know slip quietly into rooms and barely make a ripple and quietly bless someone seated in the corner or across the room and no one notices at all. Some don't speak, they just do. Some don't speak very well what they know, but they live it. Some don't hug, they write letters or emails or smile across the room. Some never laugh, they just chuckle and their chuckles aren't contagious, just pleasant to hear.

    Certainly, there are some women of grace whose blessed, charismatic, personalities cause them to have the kind of powerful immediate noticeable influence mentioned in this quote, but I would hate for women to think that this kind of effect is the way to tell if a woman is approaching her best potential.

    There is, in the middle of this quote a good kernel of truth that I would embrace:

    "She knows herself well enough to be able to get to know you. She has no pretense about herself, has no need to hide because she lives in truth. She has no need to exalt or deprecate others or herself, and this allows others the freedom to be authentic in her company. "

    Knowing who you are and acting without pretense is what liberates a woman most to embrace, if she chooses, true repentance and charity and relay the latter to others around her. And that authentic loving is what a woman of grace does most profoundly.

    Not all women who do embody the love of God fit this "causes you to check your posture inside and out because they make you want to be your best self" persona. Many of them reflect that love in less immediately noticeable but still profound ways.

    So, this quote is one I don't agree with. It is too narrow in its definition of the ideal.

  13. After a difficult surgery I was lying in my hospital bed and heard high heels in the hallway. I looked at the nurse and said, "That's Charlotte." It was, I'd know those high heels anywhere. In she came with a gift from Quilters and Ladies Aid and a card of her own with a book mark that said – Best Friends.

    When the church doors open, Charlotte is there setting up communion, getting the refreshments ready, greeting everyone and finding out how they and all their extended family are doing. She sets up the mission work and is President of Ladies Aid. She remembers everyones Birthday and Quilts beside me.

    Charlotte just found out she has breast cancer. When the doctor appointment was during the time we put together the Newsline, and she wasn't there, we couldn't even figure out where the filters were to make coffee without her.

    At the doctor's office, the doctor was said to be visibly shaken at her cancer, so she consoled him. " The Lord promised us 70 years, I've had good healthy ones, I can't complain."

    Woman of Grace, and fortuantely my best friend. She makes me want to be more.

  14. Now, I am bitter and broken, fearful that the sticky agony in my heart will obstruct the woman that I was meant to be.

    Of everything in the OP, this is what stood out to me the most. I think you are on your way to grace. As you work through the refining fire of brokenness, you will come out whole, polished, more compassionate. You will better know how to succor. Christ was perfect to begin with, but He chose to experience all the yuckiness the earth has to offer so that he could empathize from experience. I think that is grace.

    I also think that most great women have been through experiences that break them to one extent or another. Think about that and then go back and read the quote again. If you know that the grace is born through trial, does it change your perspective at all? I don't picture a young, busy, perfectly polished and pressed woman. I picture an older wrinkled woman, wise from years of experience. You are on your way, Michelle. 😉

  15. Michelle, I echo Stephanie2. You are on your way to grace because, not in spite of, the heartbreak you are currently feeling. I have no doubt that even though you currently feel broken, you are becoming the woman you yearn to be.

    All of the women I know who have this quality of grace have faced very difficult trials and hardships. They may not always have endured their trials gracefully or serenely; they are imperfect like the rest of us. But going through those hard things shaped them into the beautiful, graceful women they are today. I think you will emerge from your current heartaches more compassionate, more wise, more Christlike—a woman of grace.

  16. What I think when I read that (brilliant) quote? That woman would not think you were talking about her. But she would be able to tell you of at least 3 women she knows who are as the quote describes.

    I know many women of grace. ALL of them deny their own powerful example, strength and goodness. Maybe the whole grace phenomenon can only be experienced secondhand, by seeing or receiving it in/from someone else.

    I've seen grace's power in society – when people use clean language, and discuss only certain things in the presence of grace automatically, without anything being said. The power of a woman of grace is evident in their friends lives, for the force of good and encouragement that they freely give.

    "How can I conquer heartbreak and betrayal to become the women I yearn to be?" By choosing – refusing – to let the heartbreak and betrayal define you. By choosing to be better IN SPITE of the pain, and not let it eat you alive. I know it's possible, Michelle, though it's only here and now (starting at the Segullah retreat, actually)that I can see that it was possible. I hoped it was possible in the heat of it all, but frankly didn't actually believe it until the day came when I looked around and thought "Wow! I'm here! So THIS is what the other side looks like!"

    You are becoming the woman you yearn to be, by trying and yearning. It will happen.

  17. When I read this quote, I know that inside of every single person on this earth is that potential. That is who people really are–not all the meanness and crudeness they've learned and picked up wherever else. I refuse to believe that people are anything other than their potential. I make the conscious choice as often as I possibly can to see, and not to forget, the divinity in every person's life. We have to realize what it means to be children of Heavenly Parents. When we truly understand that, we see people differently because we understand who they really are.

    The way I see it, no one's story is over until Christ says it's over. And until He says it's over, my job is to not only allow myself to be the happy and loving person described in that quote, but to encourage everyone I meet to be that happy and whole right beside me.

  18. What comes to mind is:

    1. Christ's grace. There is no other way.

    2. Grace for grace. It's a process. And it sometimes takes a lot more time than we think it would or should. I think patience is part of what it means to develop grace. Patience with the process and with our fallenness.

    3. Remember. I'm struck by how Moroni's promise — a key to tapping into the Spirit — is based really about pondering God's mercy, not just pondering the scriptures in general. As you remember moments — miracles — you have experienced (moments that still to this day take my breath away when I think about them), you can remember what happened to let light and grace and healing into your life. You may not know how to get there from here, from where you are, but at least you know what they feel and taste like, so when you catch glimpses, you can hold onto them and know from whence they come.

    I think you captured it well — you can try to tap into grace a moment at a time. Isn't that what we all really do? Is anyone ever always graceful? The story of the Fall and of redemption is sometimes a story that plays out dozens of times in one day.

    I think our part is to keep on trying. To look for light and do what we can to invite it. And to not give up on ourselves or others when it seems hopeless.

    Hang in there. I'm sorry things are so hard right now.

  19. I love your comments. My heart responds to every one of them.

    I agree, none of the gracious women I know would describe themselves that way, and yes, even the best of them will have mean and petty hours. I also loved your point Mary B., that not everyone will manifest grace in the same way. I know two sisters– one who is at the center of the room and one who is ministering in the corner; she is the hidden grace.

    But I love, oh I love the idea of stepping out of my own hurts and worries and succoring others. I am in pain (and am so grateful to those of you willing to mourn with me) but I look forward to not only being "the happy and loving person described in that quote, but to encourage everyone I meet to be that happy and whole right beside me." (thanks Paradox for lending me the perfect words)

  20. p.s. When I'm feeling discouraged, *your* blog is one that sometimes is like the quote above, where I feel I don't measure up. 😉

  21. As hard as it is to not be graceful, it is beautiful in the sense that it reminds us where grace comes from. Christ's Grace helps me become more graceful. My weaknesses bring me to my knees and closer to Him. And while the journey is rough and ugly, His refining process is beautiful.

  22. Beautiful, beautiful thoughts here in these comments. Michelle, I only know you through Segullah and through your family blog, but your goodness and purity come through so clearly. I admire you and would love to be more like you. I am so sorry that this time of your life is so painful.

    I think something that has helped me during painful periods of my life is to let go and allow myself some time to spin inward and FEEL things. The past several months, I have been going through a grieving process over some very painful family relationships, relationships that are so far from ideal. I have spent hours and hours crying, writing, thinking, reading scriptures, talking to friends and family, and just sitting and feeling things. I have had to spend a little less time serving anyone outside my family as I have done this, but somehow I have felt the Spirit confirming again and again that this is what I needed to do. It's almost been like a retreating into my own personal wilderness for a time. And, I feel myself emerging from it with greater clarity of perspective and more compassion. During this process, I've felt a multitude of things….anger, peace, irritation, sadness, fear, and hope.

    Wishing you the very, very best and hoping that you will feel grace in little moments here and there and feel Christ's healing in your life bit by bit.

  23. ah La Yen, your comment made me smile. YES.

    mom o' boys– I love your suggestion to just FEEL things. I stumbled across that yesterday afternoon after a week of trying to 'be OK' I completely broke down for a few hours. And I felt better. It seems crazy to take time just to cry but healing takes time. Thanks for reinforcing that truth.

    And I'm sorry this has become all about me– let's discuss more women of grace!

  24. Jesus, the epitome of grace, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In the New Testament we read of times when he needed to withdraw into the wilderness to be away with God, not ministering to the multitudes.

    Sometimes we think that to be a woman of grace we must also be constantly happy and whole, constantly giving and never needing or being weighed down, always available for anyone at any time or unflappable and positive in spite of anything. That is not correct.

    Sometimes being a woman of grace means fully feeling sorrow and pain and fear and trembling. Jesus was not exempt from those during his lifetime nor in Gethsemane. He was clear about his wish that his disciples stay and watch with him during that latter time. To be a person of grace does not mean that you do not need the ministering of others during times of sorrow, heartache, betrayal and pain. Jesus experienced all of those and through all of them he was grateful for the ministrations of fellow men and angels. His need for solace did not diminish the quality of his grace.

    Being in a time of sorrow, and receiving more than you are able to give at a particular time is not lack of grace. It is part of the process of grace. So are times when you need to be away from the neediness of others and commune with God.

    So my take on your last question: Embrace the learning and the solace. Travel through the sorrow and betrayal instead of masking it. Learn from it, articulate it, walk with God completely and honestly through it and seek his understanding of it at his pace. It is part of the whole. It is essential to grace.

  25. What a great post, Michelle. I couldn't help thinking of Kel at the retreat and how much I treasured her kindness toward me. She made me feel important and included. The photo of her is perfect for this quote.

    I also think of my friend, Camilla, who is like a magnet drawing everyone to her when she enters a room (or after Stake conference is over). She has lupus. She has diabetes. She has had multiple surgeries on her hands. She has suffered not being able to have children-but adopting two. Then going through the rebellion of one of them (and teenage pregnancy). Then that daughter returned to the church. Her granddaughter had cancer at three years old. Her list of trials is long. (Recently she fell down stairs and broke her back). But despite these challenges or maybe because of them, Camilla is a woman of grace who makes everyone feel loved and want to be better.

    Our trials are surely the path to grace as we seek the hand of the Lord to walk throug them.

  26. Such a woman must be the type President Kimball envisioned when he gave his famous quote on the numeric and spiritual growth of the church. "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different – in happy ways – from the women of the world."

    I agree that heartbreak, disappointment, poor health are just some of the refinements the heart and mind need to become such a woman. I do not have any additional advice except to say Carry On!

  27. This woman describes a few women I long to be closer to. I wonder if they would describe themselves as women of grace, and yet this articles describes how I feel about them in more eloquent terms than I can muster. One woman in particular, she is full of love and praise as she reaches out to others around her, and yet she has the most public heartbreak of any woman I know personally. Her genuine concern, bright smiles, and humor draw others to her. Her inspiring friendship gives her power in her struggles because so many people are behind her. When she calls for help people come filling in the ranks because of the love they share for her.

    This article is encouraging and inspiring to my heart. It can be misleading, because it speaks almost of just the moment you see her walk into the room, not of each breath she takes, those that may be sharp and painful, as well as those exhaled in giggles and laughter. We reach for this person, to become her, and yet our lives are just journeys. No woman is this woman in completion, none of us has arrived. Even the women we see who never stray from this model remain imperfect in this life, and they have their own private clouded moments.

    Healing is an important process, as well as developing Christ-like charity. It is hard to measure progress, especially of ourselves as a woman of grace, but much easier to apply a loving title to a person we respect and admire. Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, depression and discouragement are natural canyons in the landscape of our lives. As we seek the Lord daily we can find peace of conscience and joy in our lives, amidst the pain. A couple years ago I wouldn't have believed my pain could have been lessened, but that I would merely learn to deal with it day to day. Through grace, my Savior has healed my aching heart, and I feel whole. As we seek the Lord he will come to us.

  28. Oh Mary– thank you. And Stephanie and Paige and Bonnie and Sage and all of the Segullah community. I also thought of Pres. Kimball's quote when reading this Bonnie, and after reading all of your beautiful, inspiring comments I feel confident that the women of this generation are the women of whom he spoke.

    Paige– these words gave me immense comfort. "A couple years ago I wouldn’t have believed my pain could have been lessened, but that I would merely learn to deal with it day to day. Through grace, my Savior has healed my aching heart, and I feel whole."

    Again, I apologize for appearing (and perhaps being) self-centered with this post, but I find it important to be honest about my struggles. We all have them and we all need God's hand to become true women of grace.

  29. I love you, Michelle. You are a true woman of grace if ever I knew one.

    You speak for all of us as you write about your grief, your pain, the sickening disillusionment that comes when we are feeling "bitter and broken, fearful that the sticky agony in my heart will obstruct the woman that I was meant to be."

    I have learned so much and have felt such peace as I've read through all the comments here. You are all–every last one of you–women of grace.

  30. I think that women of Grace are powerful, because the transparency of all falsehoods simply cannot stand up to grace. The falsehoods and fake crumble when faced with the gentle, tender, nonjudgemental smile of a woman of grace.

    Beautiful thoughts. I personally have found this quote inspiring. I too, am feeling like I'm only graceful in patches. Here a little, and there a little.

    Thank you for sharing!

  31. The quote inspires me, as do the women it defines. What I notice about these women is that they are able to watch the lives of others and learn from them without any sense of competition or judgment. They have a "we are all in this together" mentality that reaches out and draws people in to their circle. They don't expect themselves to be perfect. Instead, they are content to do their best, and they assume that others are doing their best, too.



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