The selfless love and enduring lessons given by a mother, sister, teacher, friend, or mentor are priceless. Here, our readers share stories about the wonderful women who have inspired them most.
My mother, Carolyn Jean, has always told me to “Go with your love.” This was and is her mantra, and I have followed that advice. Today, I am an artist who is living her heart’s calling.
My mother always encouraged my creativity. Although many of my college classmates were not allowed to major in studio art (as it was deemed impractical), my mother was just the opposite. She hung my paintings all around the house and took me to art museums. Those glorious visits, which are among my fondest memories, go back to the very beginning. When she was pregnant with me, my mother had read somewhere that exposing your baby in utero to the arts would lead to a healthy and enlightened infant. And so, she made the rounds of the various galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, always returning to the French Impressionists.
Years later, I walk those very same halls, looking, sketching, and savoring every step. I even studied painting in France, and, yes, I continue to have a long-standing love affair with French Impressionism!
LINDA HAMPTON SMITH
My aunt, Mrs. Sheliah Crain, a gracious, Southern belle, is a woman who influenced me deeply. My earliest memories are of watching her make beautiful dresses in her sewing room that was filled with sequins, pearls, lace, gorgeous fabrics, and lots of laughter. Aunt Sheliah encouraged me to create from an early age and always made me feel pretty, even during my awkward years. She whipped up meals from her garden that were a feast for both the eyes and the mouth! She had three lovely daughters, and of course I wanted to spend every waking minute with them. I always returned home from a visit there feeling creative and confident.
My aunt has raised successful children and grandchildren, as well as inspired a host of family and friends. I owe so much of who I am to her—my self-esteem, my love of beauty, my compassion for others. I feel so blessed to have her in my life.
For me, the person with the most influence on my life was Elisabeth Elliot. She wrote the book Through Gates of Splendor about the period of time she and her missionary husband and a small group of other young missionary couples spent working with native tribes in the upper Amazon. Tragically, the men were all killed by the tribesmen there, but the women survived and had to continue their lives.
I met Elisabeth at a missionary conference in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. She came to speak to our prayer group of about six or eight high-school girls. Elisabeth talked about listening to your heart to determine the path you should follow in your everyday life. “If you feel you should write a letter, write that letter, make that phone call, follow your instincts,” she advised. World travel had interested me since childhood, but how could a girl from a small town in western Pennsylvania achieve that dream?
By following Elisabeth’s example, “writing that letter,” and “making that phone call,” I have traveled to almost one hundred countries and lived in twelve, including Egypt for twenty-seven years. I became the first woman ever certified to teach scuba diving there. I have climbed the Great Wall of China and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Thank you, Elisabeth, for being such a wonderful mentor! My life would have been very different without having met you.
Growing up, I was blessed with three remarkable role models. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt were all intelligent, educated women who were unafraid to speak their minds. Nellie Bonsall Plack, my grandmother, had a brief career as a hat designer in the 1920s until she became a wife, mother, and homemaker. She demonstrated for me the importance of beauty and grace in a woman’s life. She also showed me how to stand up for my beliefs and to persist until a wrong has been righted. My mother, Nell Rebecca Plack, graduated from Shippensburg State Teachers College at a time when most women weren’t expected to aspire to any education above the high-school level. Her first teaching job was an hour from her home, so over the weekend before school started, she learned to drive a car. My mother’s motto was always: “If I have to, I can.” Following her lead, I became a successful teacher, artist, gallery owner, and businesswoman. Annabelle Ruth Plack, my aunt, provided a compassionate shoulder upon which I would often lean. Lovely and kind, she taught me the importance of community service and of staying true to one’s values and principles, as well as the joy of loving the Lord.
My grandmother, mother, and aunt all gave me the strength to live my life to the fullest and provided great examples of how to do it with style and grace. They are responsible for the woman I am today.