Today, International Womens Day, is not usually a holiday I particularly pay attention to, mainly because it’s not a day off! I didn’t remember about it until I was driving and it was mentioned on the radio. Instead, the thought of the morning was the time my mother told me about a question someone asked her: how she had raised three women who were focused on their careers instead of having families.
The funny part is that we grew up in a culture where having a family was honored and a good thing. For most of my sisters and me, I think that was something that we actually desired. God just had different plans in that we would find it later in life and would spend the most valuable years of our lives (when we’re able to do anything!) to focus on serving others with the freedom of singleness.
And we owe that strong and independent spirit, which was willing to not chase a desire and let it come naturally, to our amazing mother. She is a woman who models that same fierce spirit, yet with love, faith, and grace. She gave up a career to do something counter-cultural at the time – stay home with her kids and teach them herself. While this is more “popular” now-a-days, back then it was not and she caught some flak for it. Yet she was supported by our dad and she became a known name in the emerging homeschool community. (People knew us because of our mom. “Oh, you’re an Elam” was a common statement, an almost “Ohhhh that’s why…” – in the very good sense.)
What I love about my mom….ok, just one thing I love about her….is that she fostered in all of us a love of learning, creativity, and encouraged us to use our giftings and skills to make a difference. In pioneering, she created pioneers of us as well and gave us the ability to explore the world around us. There was never a moment that was not a “teachable moment,” even on vacation we were constantly learning – and we enjoyed it!
She is also the mom who was out climbing trees with us when we were playing hide-and-seek with friends. Both our parents would be out playing kick-the-can in the street with us and the neighborhood kids. We were the crazy family running outside in a downpour, grabbing whatever bucket we could to have a water fight in the pouring rain. Dad never passed up an opportunity to “make memories” it seemed!
Through all our experiences, and being allowed to be us and learn in our own ways (imagine teaching kids that each have a different learning style!), we all found careers that allowed us to explore and chase our dreams – a fighter pilot, a fashion designer, a world traveler, and a linguist. We may all be moving on from our first dream to find a second dream/career, but we still are choosing jobs that make a difference and are fun and challenging.
Eventually, my sisters and I also found strong men who could put up with strong and independent women, because we were also filled with grace. I’d say we were also filled with a side of crazy, but I’ve been told that we’re definitely not crazy and some of the most non-drama women ever. Maybe we just found “our kind of crazy” men! We learned not to settle, not to fill that longing with a relationship but with God, and in the end we found some pretty amazing men.
My sisters and I are all that we are, who we are, as strong and fierce as we are, all with a side of faith, love, and grace because of one amazing and fierce woman of faith (who was backed by a pretty amazing man).
So, mom, to you I raise a glass and salute you! I rise up and call you “blessed.” Thank you for being an amazing example to whom I can look and follow, to whom others can look and follow.