How Dark Can It Get? by Tammy Abee Blom

We don’t always know where our efforts will be used. In worship, our pastors blessed three prayer shawls created by loving hands in our church. I expected the shawls to go to people outside our church whom I had never met. Then the pastor wrapped one of the shawls around the shoulders of a newly widowed woman in our church family and prayed, “When you wear this, may you be wrapped in love.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. It was only a week ago that the church gathered to commemorate the life of this woman’s husband. The grief was raw and palpable in the church family. Not only had I walked the journey of this untimely death, but the front page of the newspaper cried with sadness for the loss of lives from Japan’s recent earthquake. Then our local paper featured the funeral of a woman and her two young children. Her estranged boyfriend had taken out his pain on them. I caught myself begging, “Mercy! Mercy Lord!”  I fretted and worried, “How can these hurts be healed? How long will those who lost their loves suffer? How dark can it get?”

In Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, author Helen Simonson describes the gathering for a meal after a funeral. A motley crew of old, young, traditional, and eccentric has gathered to remember Pettigrew’s brother. In the moment, words of comfort are spoken awkwardly. Pettigrew comments, “They were saying what they could at a time when even the finest poetry must fail to comfort.”

In reading those words, I remembered something vital to my faith. The community of faith through their physical expression of God’s presence brings light to darkness. The church family through prayer shawls, casseroles, and flowers bring comfort in the time of grief. I had forgotten that mercy comes hand in hand with those who represent God. I had twisted myself into the darkness and forgotten that the light is as close as a friend in faith.

Often people say, “I never know what to say at a time like this.” Or sometimes, “I can’t do much but I can crochet prayer shawls.” We don’t realize that our efforts to comfort and care can be multiplied like loaves and fish. We just have to show up bearing the light of God’s love.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

My Journey as a PRISSY Preacher: Part Three of a Three-Blog Series By Mary Alice Birdwhistell

 

In the fall of 2009, I moved away from everyone and everything I knew in Kentucky to begin studying for my Master of Divinity degree at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. Before moving, I had applied to be the children’s minister at Calvary Baptist Church, also in Waco.  I actually assumed the church would want someone older and more experienced, so I didn’t seriously think that I would get the position. I moved to Waco on a Saturday, visited Calvary on Sunday, interviewed on Tuesday, and was offered the position on Thursday.

Obviously, I was blown away. Learning to navigate a completely new life at a brand new school and in a new part of the country was overwhelming, and now I was also going to add a new job at a new church, all within less than a week of moving to the hundred degree heat of Waco. The more I learned about the church, however, the more I felt God calling me there. I learned that Calvary was the one of the first Baptist churches in the state of Texas to have a female senior pastor. Although she was no longer serving there when I arrived, Julie Pennington-Russell had left quite a legacy at that church, and affirming women in ministry is still important to Calvary today. I also I learned that Calvary sees all of its ministerial staff as pastors who are involved in worship planning, preaching, leading the Lord’s Supper, and ministering in various areas of the life of the church. The idea both scared and thrilled me at the same time. By the next week, I had accepted the position.

On my first Sunday to preach at Calvary, the church was blown away when I told them that this would be my first time to officially “preach” in a Baptist church. But I was so relieved that that my desire to preach wasn’t something I would have to hide at Calvary; preaching was a part of my life that I could finally publically acknowledge and pursue. After that first sermon, I was moved to tears and so thankful and amazed that God had brought me into this incredible community of faith.

In the winter of 2010 I participated in the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville, Kentucky, an initiative led by my mentor and professor Dwight Moody. I was one of nineteen women to preach at the festival out of the ninety-two 92 young preachers from different traditions and denominations participating in the event. A pastor came up to me one day during the festival and said, “Of all the sermons I’ve heard today, I will remember yours.” His words stuck with me. I realized that God was starting to use other people to affirm me as a preacher. Preaching wasn’t something hidden or secret about me anymore. In a sense, I was coming out of the closet as a preacher, a prissy preacher, and I liked it.

Currently, I’m in my fourth semester at Truett Seminary. I’m taking my first course in preaching, and as you can probably imagine, I love it. Each day, God speaks to me in new ways and encourages me in my calling. This preaching class has definitely led me into a season of discerning God’s calling on my life, and I’m so thankful for the ministers, professors, family members, and friends who are walking alongside me in this process.

At this point, I can say a few things with certainty: I’m open to God’s calling on my life and am fervently praying about it. I know that God could very well be calling me to be a preacher. When I preach, I’m reminded that I’m doing at least part of what God has created me to do. I also know that I love the Baptist tradition, and I’m committed to it. I am not willing to leave the Baptist church in order to preach.

I do believe with all my heart that God DOES call women to be preachers. And we don’t need to try to be like men in order to do that. Sometimes, God can even use a petite, red-headed girl who wears pearls and dresses to preach his Word. I feel called to preach with the unique voice that God has given me, and I believe the feminine voice is one that the church desperately needs to hear, along with a diversity of other beautiful voices from within the community of faith.

So I am continuing to pray, humbled to preach, and excited to see where God leads me on my journey as a “prissy” preacher.

 

Mary Alice Birdwhistell is a student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and minister to children at Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

My Journey as a PRISSY Preacher: Part Two of a Three-Blog Series By Mary Alice Birdwhistell

I remember the first time I heard a woman preach. I was a freshman at Georgetown College. To be quite honest, I didn’t really like her. Based on what I’d been taught growing up and the male models I had seen as preachers, I felt that she was trying to be something that she was clearly not called by God to be. After all, God didn’t call women to be preachers. This woman preacher had a short, masculine hair-cut, wore a dark pant-suit, and even tried to talk in the low voice of a man. Secretly, I was thankful that God would never call me to be a preacher, because it simply wasn’t at all part of who I was to talk and dress so masculinely.

During my junior year, I took a class called “Women in the Christian Tradition” taught by Sheila Klopfer. We looked in-depth at what the Bible does (and does not) say about women, and I learned that there is such diversity, even within the biblical text, about the role of women in the church. I learned about women who were serving in leadership roles in the early church, and I was amazed at the way Jesus treated women compared to how they were treated by others within that culture. Granted, I was also not oblivious to other verses in the New Testament that seem to limit the participation of women in worship and in church leadership. However, I did learn that the issue was definitely not as “black and white” as I had been led to believe growing up. I left this class with more questions than answers—not only questions about the Bible, but questions about who God is and who God could be calling me to be.

While taking this class, I was approached by our associate campus minister, Bryan Langlands, who asked if I would be willing to preach at a nearby Methodist church. I looked at him in shock and said, “You want me to preach? In the pulpit? On a Sunday morning?” Bryan looked back at me in shock and responded, “You mean you’ve never done that before?” I explained to him that I had “shared my testimony” at my church back home. I had “spoken” at our campus worship service at Georgetown. I had “taught” Bible studies to campus groups. But I had never preached, in a pulpit, on a Sunday morning. I accepted the offer with hesitation. I secretly wondered if I could be disobeying God by going to preach at a Methodist church, but I prayed and asked God to guide me in this decision. I never felt like God was saying “no.” I was honestly was surprised when I felt at peace about my decision to preach.

So I did it.

I preached.

In the pulpit.

On a Sunday morning.

And I loved it!

When I was preaching, a surreal sense of joy overcame me. I felt like I was using my gifts and abilities, doing exactly what God wanted me to do. But I also remember feeling even more torn after this experience. How could God call me to do something that God didn’t call women to do? Would friends and family members ever understand or accept this calling? Would a Baptist church ever hire me as a woman preacher? Overwhelmed by such questions, I continued putting preaching on the back burner, trying to convince myself that I was more suited for another type of ministry.

My mentor and campus minister, Cynthia Insko, didn’t let me forget about my call to preaching. I so appreciate the time she devoted to guiding me in my spiritual journey. Cynthia had a gift for asking “soul questions” that made me pause to reflect on what I felt God was saying and doing in my life. I remember saying to her on several occasions, “But Cynthia, I just don’t think women are supposed to preach!”  She would smile back at me and patiently continued to encourage me as a minister . . . and preacher.

That spring, I had the opportunity to “give my testimony” during worship at my home church on Baptist Women’s Day. (This is the one Sunday of the year that they let women take up the offering and hand out bulletins and visitor cards during the service.)  Granted, the church didn’t call it “preaching” and they moved away the pulpit and gave me a small music stand to use instead, but I didn’t care. It was such an encouraging experience for me to be able to share with my church a piece of my ministry, and of myself, that they had never seen before. Again, I was overwhelmed with joy and fear at the feeling that I was doing exactly what God had created me to do.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell is a student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and minister to children at Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

My Journey as a PRISSY Preacher: A Three-Blog Series By Mary Alice Birdwhistell

My brother has always called me “Little Miss Priss.” While growing up, he would usually play outside in the creek behind our house, collecting buckets full of slimy little creatures, and I would play inside with my perfectly-dressed and accessorized Barbie dolls or paint my nails with sparkly purple nail polish. When he wanted to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I wanted to watch The Little Mermaid, dreaming that one day I too would become a real-life Disney princess.

Over time, “Little Miss Priss” shortened to “Prissy,” and for some reason, this nickname that I consider to be a term of endearment has stuck with me. Granted, it probably doesn’t hurt that I still love the color purple, that every DVD I own happens to be a chick-flick, and that I have enough dresses in my closet to wear a different one every day of the month. Even at the age of twenty-three, many of my “prissy” tendencies, for better or for worse, are now part of my identity.

Another much more important facet of my core identity is God’s calling on my life to ministry. I experienced this call at Cedarmore Baptist Camp in Bagdad, Kentucky, when I was in sixth grade. And this calling wasn’t just an idea that popped into my head during an invitation time; I truly heard God’s voice and understood that God wanted me to commit my life to serving him.

Thankfully, I had a youth minister who encouraged me in this calling and allowed me to use my gifts to serve in our youth group. I developed a love for studying and teaching God’s Word, and sometimes our youth minister let me speak at our youth-led worship service, although he did teach me that women were not supposed to teach or to have authority over men. For some reason, this principle didn’t apply to the youth group, and I was okay with that.

By this point in my life, had I been a male, everyone would have identified me as a new up-and-coming preacher. After all, that’s exactly what they told the boys who were leaders in the youth group and who taught Bible studies or spoke in worship. I remember wondering why God couldn’t just call me to be a preacher too. I felt like so many of my gifts and interests matched up with those required to serve in this role. However, I had never seen a woman preacher and had always been taught that God did not call women to be preachers. I wasn’t at all bitter or upset by this fact; it was just the way things were.

I do remember asking someone at church why women couldn’t be preachers, and she told me that we were simply too emotional for the job. She just didn’t think women were wired to do the funerals, hospital visits, and counseling sessions that pastors are required to do. The thought of doing a funeral didn’t sound too appealing to me anyway, so I dismissed the idea altogether that God could call me to be a preacher.

I didn’t know of any women whose ministries matched what I felt God was calling me to do until the popular women’s minister Beth Moore came on the scene. The first time I heard her speak at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I was mesmerized. When Beth spoke, I heard something I hadn’t heard before: a woman’s voice. I saw a woman dedicated to learning and enthusiastically communicating God’s Word to others. In her, I saw myself. Before long, people began telling me that I was destined to become the next Beth Moore, and I believed them.

Although my church and denomination did not encourage me to be a preacher, I do not want to imply that they did not encourage me as a female in ministry. I served on staff as a ministry intern for several summers and led in various areas of children’s, youth, and music ministries. So much of what I have learned about church ministry, I owe to this incredible faith family, and I am forever grateful for the ways in which they have affirmed and equipped me as a minister.

I am also thankful that I had the support and love of my pastor’s wife, who served as the children’s director at my church. Because of her influence in my life I developed a love for children and a joy to see them learn what it means to follow Jesus, a passion I still have today.

Without the encouragement of my church family, I would not have pursued the call to ministry at all. Although I couldn’t articulate what that call was at the time, I continued to trust in God and looked forward to seeing His calling unfold in my life.

 

Mary Alice Birdwhistell is a student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and minister to children at Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

Listen, Listen by LeAnn Gunter Johns

Peter and two other disciples traveled with Jesus to the top of a mountain. There on the mountain they experienced an event known to us as the Transfiguration. Jesus was transformed before their eyes, his face shone brightly, and his clothes were sparkling white. Elijah and Moses appeared before them and had a conversation with Jesus. The unimaginable happened for Peter and the other disciples. These great men of faith, men whom they talked about and quoted, actually appeared in their presence.

Peter’s awe and excitement about what he had seen led him to proclaim how good it was for them to be there and how they needed to build three booths or tabernacles–one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. The insinuation was that Peter wanted to honor the experience and never leave. Just a few verses before this scripture passage, Peter answered Jesus’ questions about his identity. Peter might have offered the correct answer to the questions, but he did not yet understood its meaning. He wanted to live in this place forever. He wanted to memorialize the event rather than follow Jesus in his future and coming departure.

While he was speaking, Peter was interrupted by a bright cloud and a loud voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

I’ve always known there’s a difference in hearing and listening, but as a new parent I’m learning about that difference in a whole new way. I hear noises all around me throughout the day. I hear the news on television and hear conversations with my husband about his day at work. However, just hearing my son’s cries is not discerning enough to know how to respond to him. I have learned that I must listen to distinguish his cries from hunger from his cries of exhaustion. As caregivers of children know, standing at the foot of the bed or the side of the crib listening to the patterns of your child’s breathing is one of the most intense moments before being able to relax and drift off into your own sleep. Listening requires us to practice stillness and give attention to what is happening or being said in the moment.

God commanded the disciples to listen to Jesus. Not to just hear him saying words but to intently listen to the message behind what he was saying. It was important because there was a message for them in what he was saying. They were invited to follow Jesus. They were invited to intersect their lives with his life.

God’s message to the disciples on the mountain was to listen, listen and pay close attention to Jesus in the days to come. God’s message to us is the same—listen, listen and pay close attention to Jesus in the days to come.

LeAnn Gunter Johns is a Baptist minister. She has served churches in Georgia and California and now spends much of her time listening to the sounds made by her amazing four-month-old son.

Look Where You’re Going by Tammy Abee Blom

Near sunset two friends set up easels on the beach. They prepared paints and brushes and waited for the light and color show of the sun setting over the water. The first friend began to paint hurriedly. Grabbing the colors as they appeared and working to get them just right. The other friend just held her brush and watched. Soon the second friend barked, “For heaven’s sake, look up! You’re missing it.” The first friend continued to paint and then proudly turned her canvas and said, “I got it.” The second friend muttered under her breath, “I don’t think so.”

Last week I was hurriedly grabbing colors from the world of motherhood and ministry and slapping them onto canvas. I wanted to accomplish my tasks and mark them off the ever present, ever growing “to do” list. One evening I was reading Robert Wicks’ Simple Changes, and his words caught my attention. “How practical is it to run as fast as you can without taking time to lift up your head and see where you are going?” Since I’d been running blindly for a while, I decided to assess the lay of the land.

I looked up and realized the Christian church is moving into Lent. We’ve walked the journey of new life in Advent, new hope in Jesus’ ministry, and now we’re moving toward the cross. I was struck by how many times the gospels note that “Jesus turned his head toward Jerusalem” or that Jesus reminds his disciples that there will come a time when he will no longer be with them. In the midst of the healing, teaching, and developing disciples, Jesus got his head up and looked for the next part of his ministry. Rather than become trapped in the present, Jesus had a sense of moving into the future.

Often our Lenten disciplines focus on sacrifice. We give something up so that we may embrace the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. However, what if we looked up this Lent? What if we questioned, “Is this the right place of ministry for me? Are my skills being used? Am I banging my head against a brick wall? Am I being called to a different place of service?” You may look up and find yourself surrounded by beauty. Or you may wonder, “How did I get here? This wasn’t what I had planned.”

Either way Lent is a great time to emulate Jesus’ pattern of looking up to see what comes next and where God is leading us.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Iglesia Bill Harrod by Linda C. Wilkerson

I’ve had the remarkable privilege to serve as one of two senior pastors. Mark Grace, my husband, is my co-pastor at Bill Harrod Memorial Baptist Church—Iglesia Bill Harrod—for almost five years now. Our church is in Dallas, Texas, and we work as bivocational ministers and together provide a mere twenty hours (well, most weeks it stays that low!) of ministry per week.

In many ways my ministry is a dream come true. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Carson-Newman College and working eight years as an industrial engineer in Virginia and South Carolina, I dedicated my life to full-time ministry and left my career to enroll in the Master of Divinity degree program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I studied with, among many wonderful professors, Molly Marshall. After seminary, I was ordained in 1988 by First Southern Baptist Church of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and trained as a hospital chaplain and an educator of chaplains and ministers through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. I have served more than twenty years as a hospital chaplain and pastoral educator and director of pastoral care at four hospitals in Pennsylvania and Texas.

I was called to minister among the believers at Iglesia Bill Harrod because the women and men of this church took a courageous stand to invite women to fill their pulpit. They have loved and supported me every step of the way. I believe that the foundation for my ministry was laid back in the forties, fifties, and sixties through the work of Juanita Bailey. That foundation continues to be built upon to this time through the ministry of strong women, including Benita Villa and our church administrator Elsa Cadena. There are so many other women I could name who have stepped forward to do the work of Christ here in West Dallas that it is impossible to include them all! They and their families were transformed by the power and grace of Christ in the most difficult of circumstances and now they are helping others to find Christ’s transforming love.

I am deeply humbled to share in the lives of the wonderful folk who live in West Dallas and to have them share in mine. Mark and I recently moved from our home in a suburb south of Dallas into a home we built in West Dallas because we have fallen in love with the people of this congregation. Although the area we now live is the 11th poorest zip code in the country, our church’s strong tradition is one of active outreach and fulfills in so many ways the dream that Cesar Chavez articulated when he was asked what was needed from churches: “We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts . . . . We ask the church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.”

I don’t think I could say it better than we say it on our website when we talk about who we are as a congregation. “We are a bilingual, multiracial and multicultural community of Bible believers who affirm the biblical equality of all those who follow Christ. We support the full partnership of women and men in ministry. We believe that the abundant life Jesus promised is for every human being, for there is “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, free nor slave,” (Galatians 3:28) documented nor undocumented, no West Dallas nor the rest of Dallas, no rich nor poor, for we are all one in Christ. We affirm the truth that we are all equally sinful, equally broken and equally in need of God’s grace given to us through Christ to save us from sin.”

Linda C. Wilkerson is pastor of Iglesia Bill Harrod, Dallas, Texas.

Finding Voice by Allison Hicks

In The King’s Speech, King George VI struggles, stutters, and stammers his way through speaking of any kind. With the help of a speech coach, Lionel Logue, the king slowly begins to find confidence in his ability to speak without a stammer. In one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, as the king is becoming increasingly irritated in an exchange between the two men, Logue says matter-of-factly, “Why should anyone listen to you?” And the king responds defiantly, “Because I have a voice!”

Much of my story thus far has been about learning to find my unique voice, and then, trust the voice I find. While taking a preaching class during my last semester of seminary, I developed a familiar cadence in my voice. After finishing a sermon preached for my class, my professor said, “You sound like Barack Obama.” I looked at him with a half-grin, ready to say “thank you,” when I realized there was more to what he was saying. Then he said slowly, as if to let each word linger in the air, “I wonder what Allison’s voice sounds like.” His simple comment ushered me into a new understanding of what it means to speak with my voice, to know my voice, and to use my voice.

Similar to the seminary class experience, I recently had opportunity to explore again the call of God on my life and the voice unique to who I am becoming. In January I participated in the Second Annual National Festival of Young Preachers hosted by the Academy of Preachers. In Louisville, Kentucky, 126 young preachers (ranging in age from 14 to 29) gathered for a festival of encouragement, inspiration, affirmation, and ecumenism.  The festival was opportunity to speak with my own unique voice and also to hear the many tones, sounds, and volumes of the work and word of God among us as young people called to gospel preaching. From the festival and from my peers, I gained further confidence in the timbre of my own voice and affirmation of the call of God on my life as a young Baptist woman called to preach. It was truly a celebration of voice and calling!

At the festival, we were all different—with different backgrounds, in different places in life, from different parts of the country, growing in different callings, using different voices, but we all had a voice. We were all united in the call to gospel preaching and all united by a God whose diversity was alive among us during the festival.

Wherever we find ourselves today, may we all be open to the ways in which God speaks in and through us as we lend the timbre of our voice to the proclamation of God’s good news.

Allison M. Hicks is associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Middlesboro, Kentucky, and a reserve chaplain in the United States Air Force.

Practicing Fearlessness by Jennifer Harris Dault

“Hi. I’m Jennifer. And I feel called to be a pastor.” Funny how ministry discernment can feel like the intro to an AA meeting (or at least how they are portrayed in movies and TV).

Last week I flew to Atlanta to meet with other Baptist Women in Ministry leaders. In order to fit the occasion, I put on my aqua “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt. And I wore it to the airport. It wasn’t until I hit airport security that I realized I was practicing fearlessness. Who wants to be stuck on a plane with a self-proclaimed preacher? It was too warm for a jacket, so I had nothing to hide behind. I stepped up to the metal detectors with a smile, assuming I was a walking TSA target.

I passed through security with no issues, but ended up in several conversations at the gate. “So you are a preacher?” one woman asked. She was curious to hear about the sort of classes people take in seminary. The woman scanning tickets read my shirt aloud and seemed a bit perplexed–“interesting . . . ” she said, pausing for a moment. “We’re glad to have you.”

On the plane, I ended up sitting next to a woman who was on her way to speak at a Christian conference. While her theology seemed rather different from mine, she encouraged me and even gave me a copy of a book she co-wrote with her daughter.

In Atlanta, I had a fantastic time sharing stories with women who minister in a variety of wonderful ways. We all shared struggles of following our callings–from growing up in churches that taught God does not call women to death threats from communities who were afraid of women in leadership roles. There were also stories of great hope–from a church sharing hot food and company with folks stranded in an ice storm to helping college students explore their own sense of calling.

I returned home full of hope and encouragement for the church and for my own crazy ministry journey.

This weekend, I wore my “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” shirt again for the first day of preaching class (granted, covered by a sweatshirt–it was cold!). Allyn and I attended a lecture given by one of our heroes–Walter Brueggemann. Allyn convinced me to take off my sweatshirt and show off my T-shirt. I had a group of (non-Baptist) students ask where they could get their own.

While wearing a T-shirt hardly seems a great act of bravery, it has played a strangely significant role in my journey of calling. Growing up in a tradition where women are not allowed to preach, admitting that not only does God call women, but that God has called me is huge. And scary. Just today I admitted to a minister friend that I’m not sure I have what it takes. She was wise enough to remind me that none of us do. And isn’t that an amazing act of grace?

Jennifer Harris Dault is a student at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and is the organizer of Baptist Women in Ministry of Missouri. This post is from her blog.

Mixing Motherhood and Seminary by Christy Foldenauer

When I decided to enroll in seminary, it was with some trepidation. I wasn’t concerned so much about the academic requirements, or how I would manage biblical languages and exegesis. I was concerned for my ability to manage seminary with kids.

My husband and I have three children, ages six, four, and two. I reminded God as I moved through the application process at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond of the three little ones counting on my kisses and love, my presence. Could I really add seminary, even part time, into the mix?

I have encouraging news: Moms can not only survive, but thrive in seminary. Here are three reasons women with children should not wait for an empty nest to pursue a seminary education:

1.) Multi-tasking is already second nature. When the syllabus is distributed in class, I know that I will juggle it alongside a full life. In my first semester of seminary, my youngest battled prolonged stomach woes, my middle child broke her arm, and my oldest ventured into first grade and had homework that required my attention. It was tough! I’ve learned to start early on my own assignments, so that I am assured of finishing on time no matter what comes my way. Seminary isn’t my whole life, it is one part of my life, and ultimately that brings a healthy balance.

2.) Moms appreciate seminary as an opportunity to pursue a personal passion. Let’s face it, moms spend hours pursuing the things that are important to their children, from ballet to basketball. Moms are there because their children are important to them, and so they purposefully enter their children’s world. For me, seminary is an opportunity to enter a world that is mine. Because it is a passion, learning gives me great joy. In turn, I am a better mother.

3.) A mother’s presence will challenge, and even change, peer perceptions. My laptop screen saver rotates through pictures of my kids. Occasionally, the pictures scroll at seminary. It never fails that I am approached by someone following the class who asks, “How many kids do you have again?” and then, “And you’re here, doing this?” I have become aware through these conversations that my presence in the classroom is shifting the paradigm of many soon-to-be-ministers.  I am helping to shape the way they will relate to moms in ministry. It motivates me not only to continue, but to bring my best every day.

So to all the moms out there, let me encourage you to follow God’s call, wherever God leads. I’ve heard it said, “God calls us in spite of our circumstances.” I would tweak that a bit: God calls us because of our circumstances. God is well aware of our situation and demands. If God calls you to seminary, God will sustain you there. What a promise!

Christy Foldenauer is a speaker for retreats and services and a student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn about her ministry and read her blog.