Oh the People You Will Meet by Tammy Abee Blom

One cold winter evening I was serving as an on-call chaplain for a local hospital. When I entered the family area of the emergency room, I met a very young, possibly teenaged, couple. The woman was greatly pregnant. She and her husband told me about driving her mom from a remote rural area to the emergency room, and they didn’t know how they were going to pay for her care or when they would get back home. My heart ached as I heard their story of needing to be home. I carried their story for several days and shared it with my spiritual director. She noted, “How was it to meet Mary and Joseph?” The thought had never entered my mind, but once she mentioned it the association was obvious. Since that night, I have kept my eyes open for the biblical characters that bring their stories literally into my life. I have been delighted by the people I have met.

Just this week I met someone else. As I pumped gas, Audrey, my five-year-old daughter, knocked on the car window. Expecting a complaint, I asked with annoyance, “What?!” She pointed to the front of the car and said, “There’s a lot of smoke up there.” Indeed, there was smoke billowing from under the hood of my car. I raised the hood and wondered, “What? Why? What do I do?”

An African American man called to me from the next pump, “Did you blow a hose?” I answered, “I have no idea. I think it’s overheated.” He came over and showed me that the coolant was full so the car could not be overheating. So what was causing the cloud of white smoke?  He asked, “Do you mind if I check the oil?”  He assessed that I needed a quart of oil and that the car should go to my mechanic. Kindly, he asked, “Do you have far to go?” And I replied, “Only three or four miles.” He thinks my car can make it that far. I thank him for his compassion help.

As I smile my appreciation, an image of God flashes through my mind. I have this moment of visualizing this fifty-year-old African American man as God and his help as grace offered freely. I find myself thinking, “How merciful is it that his man was the presence of God to me today?” Just when I was driving the girls to the library and not expecting anything, especially a smoking car, God shows up. How amazing is that?

I imagine that you have met a Paul, a Mary, and Joseph, or even God in your daily routine of life. Did you recognize them? Give yourself permission to see who God brings to you. Listen to what they say. Pay attention to how they embody the presence of God. Ask, “Is this person’s faith story one that I recognize from the Bible?” You will be surprised by the people you meet. He/she may even offer you grace when you feel overwhelmed by a smoking car.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Motherhood and Ministry by LeAnn Gunter Johns

In July, I spent four Sundays as the interim pastor for the church where we are members. My pastor was on a month long sabbatical leave. I was nervous and excited as the month approached. Will I have enough time to prepare sermons? Will my son feel neglected? Will I feel guilty about not spending more time with him?

I have chosen to stay home with my son for the this time in his life. It is an intentional decision based on many different things. I have loved it (most of the time) and found out more about myself through this process. However, I also know that I love ministry. I want to continue to be a minister while I am a mother to my son. For years, I have told women they could do both. I have witnessed some great models in motherhood and ministry. But, when the time came for me to do it myself, I had doubts.

As I reflect upon the month, I realize July zipped by so quickly. It was a fun month of preaching and getting to know a congregation I am already learning to love. I was humbled by how quickly folks shared their stories with me. I loved how God used each worship service in unique ways to help us think about rest and renewal in our lives. I enjoyed walking with this congregation as we prayed for our pastor’s time away.

The really fun part was watching my son. He had no idea that his mom had accepted more responsibilities at church. What he did learn was that there were a whole hosts of people ready to play with him on Sunday mornings. He loved having extra play dates with everyone from the preschool minister to the building supervisor. One of my favorite memories was of one morning at staff meeting when I didn’t have childcare for him. We brought a walker up from the nursery and he played but decided that during prayer time. He laughed and called out while we were bringing our requests before God. Momentarily I was slightly embarrassed, but two of the ministers graciously said, “This isn’t the first time children have been with us for staff meeting and it makes it more fun!” At the end of prayer time, our staff was dismissed while the ministers stayed to discuss Sunday’s service, the building supervisor held out his arms and my son jumped into them. Mr. Charlie took Parker for a tour of the church, to play with the ladies in the office, and to find some extra toys. They all took turns playing with him and he didn’t seem to miss me for a moment. He came back to me with a smile across his face.

While I was pastoring the congregation, my son had a chance to see what God looks like– in all the people who helped me care for him. He saw love, laughter, kindness, creativity, and fun. All a few of my favorite parts of the Divine.

I don’t know what the future holds for us but, I am grateful for the moments we had to learn something new in July. May my son and I both continue to be amazed at the ways God reveals God self to us each day. Amen.

LeAnn Gunter Johns has served on church staffs in Georgia and California. Now living in Macon, Georgia, she is busy writing, preaching, and enjoying her husband, Barry, and son, Parker. (This post is from LeAnn’s blog “Waking Up Somewhere Else.”

When is Enough, Enough? by Tammy Abee Blom

I sit at my computer with copious notes, a cup of coffee and focused attention. The phone rings. Hoping that the caller is someone who can wait, I glance at the Caller ID and see the number for the preschool. Soon I am back at home with an eight-month-old baby who has a low grade fever. No other symptoms. Just a low grade fever. I bounce sweet Eve on my hip and debate, “Stick her in the play yard and write my sermon?” or “Give her my undivided attention?” While the mental gymnastics ensue, I give her a snack and a dose of Tylenol. I decide that if this is the beginning of her being sick that I should take advantage of her good humor and write that sermon.

Happily, Eve sits in her play yard with a pacifier, blocks and stuffed animals. She coos and chews as I write a manuscript for that Sunday’s sermon. As I ride my rolling chair between the computer desk and Eve’s play yard, I wonder, “Is the church getting enough from me? Is Eve being shortchanged? Am I doing the right thing by supervising a sick child while writing a sermon? Is this enough?”

I think ministers ask this question daily, particularly ministers who are parents. How do you faithfully nurture a child while nurturing a congregation as well? Who comes first and how often? If there’s guilt over being less prepared for a committee meeting or missing a child’s ballgame, how do you find peace? I am eight years into my ministry journey as a parent. I have asked these questions of myself repeatedly because I want to be responsible and faithful to my family as well as to my faith community.

Recently, I sat in worship wondering, “Why am I wrestling two kids while trying to participate in worship?” As I listened to the sermon, I heard the story of the little boy who had “five loaves of barley bread and two little fish.” Jesus had families to feed and just the beginning of an appetizer. As the sermon unfolded, I realized that the little boy took what he had and gave it to Jesus. The disciples placed value on the gift deeming it too small. But neither Jesus nor the boy worried about the size of the gift.  Jesus took what was offered and made it enough. This serious intention of giving what I have coupled with Jesus’ miracle of making a small gift enough give me hope for my role as minister and parent.  In the weeks since, I have tried to stop judging the size of the gift in my hands. I have tried to stop worrying over waiting until I have more time, more money, or more energy. I am attempting to open my hands and offer my gift and then BELIEVE that Jesus will make it enough.

The duality of genuinely offering your giftedness as a person created in the image of God and the faithful belief that Jesus can perform miracles stimulates hope. Hope that I can nurture both my family and my faith community and release the tension of “Is it enough?” The answer is, “Yes, you are enough.” Open your hands and offer your gift.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.