My mother, Louzelle, was the clearest and earliest manifestation of God for me. She was spiritually and physically present in her quiet, strong love, which never stopped even when our paths diverged. She taught me, by being herself, to see “unseen” things like intentions, the heart of a person, beauty, God’s love.
Mom was the youngest of six children. Her father was a Welsh immigrant who became a County Judge in Oklahoma and traveled the “circuit”, hearing cases. He was known for his fairness to Native Americans. Her mother was known for her ability to stop a small herd of stampeding boys simply by glaring into their eyes. Some Cherokee women came to my grandmother’s house to quilt and formed a circle of lasting friendships.
In 1934, mom graduated with a college degree in accounting and married my dad, who had just graduated from law school. Shortly after their second son was born, God “called” my dad to the ministry. I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, where my father was attending seminary.
Then dad (and God) decided to go to California, so mom and we three kids went along. It was here that I saw who my mom really was. Over time, I saw that mother was actually a minister herself in the sense that she brought her life, intelligence, heart, and abilities to the community.
Through my mom’s way of being, I learned about God.
One of the oldest memories I have of my mother is seeing her when I got up in the early morning sitting at her desk with her Bible open reading or praying quietly. The “air” was so still and quiet and full. I could actually feel the prayer in the air.
Mom just brought herself to being present. For example, Margaret was a woman in our church who had severe cerebral palsy that affected her whole body and voice. People couldn’t understand her, so they just said hello. My mom began greeting her, then they began having conversations. I noticed and went to stand by mom. At first, I couldn’t understand what Margaret was saying, but I was determined and continued to try. As I began to understand her speech, I realized that mom and Margaret were having deeply spiritual and emotional conversations, and this knowledge went deeply into my heart and mind. I realize it informs foundationally and spiritually my life work.
This led me as a 16-year-old to learn sign language from a woman in our church who interpreted for the deaf so they could understand and participate fully. She took me under her wing and generously taught me. This opened my body, mind and heart to how God communicates.
Also in our church, there was a Japanese “war bride” and her American husband. My mom had noticed the isolation of Japanese women in town and started a Sunday School class for them. The word went out, and soon there were 20-30 Japanese wives coming regularly. After a while, these quiet, shy women became the loudest class in the building.
I am so grateful to have had this mother who so humbly opened this awareness in me. My career as a therapist is directly related to what my mother taught me about listening deeply in myself and in others.