A few weeks ago two women whom I consider friends went to be with Jesus. I met both of them in 1994 at the Mt. Hermon Writers Conference. At the time I was a twenty-two-year-old mommy, pregnant with my third baby. For years I felt ashamed to be a teen mom; I’d worried I’d ruined my future. But the amazing people at Mt. Hermon were there to encourage me. They didn’t worry about where I’d been. Instead, they helped me to see where God wanted to take me.
One of the women I met was Ethel Herr.
Ethel was the doting, wise, and godly older woman every woman wants to have in her life. I attended Mt. Hermon to learn how to write; Ethel reminded me to pray. I was extremely nervous about meeting professional authors and editors, and Ethel spoke to me—focusing her loving eyes on mine—and made me feel like the most important person in the room. Other workshops taught about writing techniques and the publication process, and Ethel ministered to the small group of us about the spiritual life of a writer. Sweet Ethel was exactly the type of mentor I needed at the time!
Our mutual friend Karen Ball also wrote about Ethel. This is what she had to say:
It was one of my first writers’ conferences, some twenty-five years ago. I knew what being there meant: that my job was to meet the needs of the writers who were attending. To help them on their journey, to give them what encouragement and counsel I could.
But on the first day there, I was approached by a slight woman whose halo of white hair framed a face that seemed wreathed in a perpetual, gentle smile. The crinkles at the corners of her eyes testified to years of laughter and delight. Her voice held the same grace and kindness as her smile, and when she asked me about myself, it was clear she really wanted to know. About me. Not what I could do for her. Not if I would critique her work. Not if I would acquire and publish her book.
She wanted to know about . . . me. My family. My passions. Even my beloved doggies. This was my introduction to the wondrous Ethel Herr.
You can read the rest of Karen’s blog here.
Ethel was a woman of influence. She reminded me to pray. She made me feel important. She pointed to the writer’s most important job: drawing close to Christ.
If Ethel was the gentle servant, then Barbara Curtis was God’s writer-warrior mommy. I met Barbara at a meal at Mt. Hermon. We were both new writers, both unsure about what God was calling us to do, but Barbara came with storehouses of wisdom with her.
Barbara was a self-proclaimed hippie-chick who was once vocal about women’s rights until God got a hold of her. Big time. When I met Barbara she was a mom of nine, including a son with Down syndrome. You’d think having nine kids would keep her busy enough, but Barbara had God-messages burning in her soul.
In 1995, Barbara and I took the same workshop on writing articles, and we both came back to the conference the next year with many articles under our belt. Barbara was excited for me. Thrilled! She was excited about the messages she was called to share, too. She was excited about God bringing more Downs boys into their family, and I was excited to know such an amazing woman. It’s been wonderful to see how God has used Barbara’s writing throughout the years. She wasn’t one to back down from hard truth, yet she shared it with passion and grace.
Barbara often wrote for World Magazine, and this is the obituary World Magazine wrote about her:
Barbara Curtis, 64, died suddenly on Tuesday after suffering a stroke. Last week she was one of 14 students at the World Journalism Institute’s weeklong mid-career training class in Asheville, N.C. We joked about WORLD’s long-running title for obituaries, “Man Knows Not His Time,” taken from a 1687 Puritan sermon.
Barbara leaves behind her husband, Tripp, and 12 children. The name of her blog, Mommy Life, and her use of megamommy12 in her long-time email address shows how she centered on motherhood—although recently she had changed her primary email handle to Barbarasaysso (and she was never reluctant to speak up with vigor). Titles of the nine books she wrote—including The Mommy Manual and Mommy, Teach Me—also show how she wore her heart on a book sleeve.
Her heart was big and strong enough to embrace nine children born to her, including one with Down syndrome, and then three more adopted children, all with Down syndrome.
You can read the rest of it here.
Barbara was a woman of influence. She modeled how to love your family well. She embraced “the least of these” beautifully. She showed me how to share a pained past in a way that would give God glory. She reminded me to speak up for truth boldly.
Two women, two influences, two mentors in my life. I’m thankful for them—for the lessons they taught. Mostly I’m thankful for the lives they lived well . . . for God’s glory above all.