In Honor of My Spiritual Mother

   Often the overview of what a person’s life has meant is published in a newspaper after their death. My friend and spiritual mother, Ethel Herr, is spending her last days here with us, and I’d rather write what her life has meant to me before she walks into Jesus’ arms.
   I first met Ethel in the early ’80s at Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I was petrified my first time there, even though most people I met were kind. I had only thought perhaps, maybe, dreamy, wishy, I could write – and I was among published authors, editors and agents. People understood words I didn’t: pitch, query, simultaneous submissions – I could go on. But there was this one lady, unassuming, shining blue eyes, who seemed to smile all the time. When she spoke, I felt like I was watching and  listening to Moses just down from Sinai. Her name was Ethel Herr. She had written a book called Introduction to Christian Writing. I quickly snapped it up at the book store.
   Then I saw her walking under the dogwoods. I introduced myself and told her how I was feeling. She encouraged me, and I learned that she hosted a writer’s group at her home. She invited me to come with a book I had in mind. She invited me to come. She always invites people to come, sometimes to her home, sometimes to the Lord, sometimes into her arms and her heart. That’s who she is. And with that, she became my other mother, my spiritual mother.
  The book I wrote was wrenching for me, and she walked with me through that valley, every step. She taught me to let Jesus do what Jesus does, and not try to do His job for Him. She taught me to be content with little or much. She taught me to turn to God, always turn to God. She taught me to follow, not lead Him. She taught me to love the Psalms. While I studied at Ethel’s table, we named her group Parts of Speech, POS for short, and I met some of the finest women I’ve ever known. When that book was published, I didn’t go to Ethel’s writing group for a while, but I saw her at conferences and we kept in touch.
   Then God set me on the trail of another book that was different than those I’d written so far, and I said, “Can I come again?”
   “Of course, there’s always room for you at my table.” Did God speak right through her mouth? It is my belief that He did, and the welcome warmed me to the marrow of my bones. We struggled through this book for years, turning it one way and then another. Ethel told me she could see that my writing had grown since last we worked together. For me, that’s the Pulitzer.
   When Ethel got cancer, I wept. But she didn’t. She turned a brave face to us, and said, “God has a plan.” She stood, through chemo and surgery, telling the people she met that she was walking this walk with God. And that He loved them. She told us during this time that because her mom was a missionary she’d always been clothed out of missionary barrels and never learned to apply makeup. She wanted to  learn, and she began, and even wore dangly earrings. I began to look forward to them each time we gathered at her house. We got to meet one of her friends, Ellen, who Ethel’s way had drawn into her circle at another writer’s conference. Ethel and Ellen are thick. They dance on the rim on the box.
   I’ve come to now. I want to love Ethel perfectly as she finishes this life, and I don’t want to make a mistake. She told me long ago to Write on, and so, perhaps, this is loving her. I hope so.

3 thoughts on “In Honor of My Spiritual Mother”

  1. Jane, you've honored Ethel well here! I've only had the privilege of interacting with her about a dozen times and each time, she was just as you portray her here: loving, kind, generous with her words and trusting God's plan for her.

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