When my mum finished secondary school, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. The school’s careers adviser apparently passed her an A-Z book of careers and told her to pick. She got as far as Ac – Accounting – and decided, I could do that.
In the UK in the 70s, not a lot of women were training to be accountants. Lectures were routinely 90% male so to say my mum was outnumbered is something of an understatement. I’ve always been proud that she chose that path, that she had the courage and belief in herself to walk into a hall where she stood out and say, I belong here. And then go on to be a successful business owner. Her drive and her leadership skills inspire me.
But perhaps my favourite story from those college years is one about a quilt.
Mum tells us that some lectures (like the ones on tax law) were information heavy and you spent the hour furiously scribbling notes. Others though, were less about note taking and more sitting and listening. My mum is not one for sitting still without something to do. If you put a blank notepad in front of her it will be full of doodles within ten minutes. She says it helps her to concentrate when her hands are busy.
And so she started bringing her quilting to class. Small bits of material from the dressmaking scraps of clothes my Granny was making at the time or old dresses of her own. One by one they were stitched into neat little hexagons ready to be sewn together once she got home that night.
I imagine her sitting in the lecture hall, the sound of Accounting terms drifting over her head as she carefully made those small stitches. I am inspired by her ability to be unapologetically her.
In that male-dominated space, she could have been told that she should act more masculine in order to be accepted, or at least hide any overtly feminine traits. It wouldn’t have been the first time that “advice” was offered. Instead she took her sewing to class. She embraced who she is–all of who she is, the woman who is both fascinated by tax law and the woman who loves to quilt. Unapologetically.
It’s the confidence of a woman who knows she is created in the image of God. It’s the confidence of a woman who knows these strengths, skills and interests are gifts from her Heavenly Father who delights in seeing her use them, stretching and growing into the woman she was always intended to be.
It’s that same confidence that allowed her to become a successful tax consultant to everyone—from the local shop owner to international ambassadors. It’s that confidence that gave her the vision to keep serving and working in her local church until the day they finally accepted women to preach and lead. It’s that same confidence that taught me to dream and even now gives me the courage to keep stepping into those dreams.
The story has a twist that I love. And this part comes from my Dad, who was sitting in those lectures with her, gradually falling in love. He says the young men were fascinated by her neat hexagons. So fascinated that she started handing out pieces of fabric and teaching them the stitches.
I love it. I look at the quilt now all those years later and I see her unabashed spirit. I believe more and more that when we embrace every part of who we are, when we are confident to be all of the person we were made to be—whether that fits everyone’s expectations or smashes them—we are drawing closer to the Creator who made us.
A quilt stitched together in an Accounting lecture reminds me of that.
It’s my mum’s birthday today (Happy Birthday!!) so it seems fitting that my monthly SheLoves post is a story about her, a story of one way she chose to embrace all of who she was, unapologetically. I’m telling it for her (coz even the strongest women need reminding of their worth) and also for you, for any woman who needs the reminder that you don’t have to quieten or hide any part of yourself in order to be acceptable.
We need you with all your beautiful contradictions, all your stereotype-defying qualities and interests, all your this-is-who-I-am boldness.
This story was originally published at She Loves Magazine.