Celebrating Fifty by Pam Durso

Fifty years ago, on November 30, 1961, I was born. So yes, today is my fiftieth birthday. In some ways, the number fifty shocks me. I can’t believe I have really been around that long. I feel so much younger than what I thought fifty would feel like, and some days I still don’t feel like a grown up.

But in other, more important ways, fifty thrills me.  I have lived for fifty years, and I have lived well for fifty years. I have fulfilled my dream of teaching and have had the blessing of teaching in two fine Baptist seminaries. I have had opportunity to know, love, and be loved by students. I have been published. Books and articles that I have written have actually been read (well, I am hoping some people read my books). Plus, I absolutely and completely love the work I do! I get out of bed every day excited about the possibilities of the day!

I have been to places I never thought I would see and fallen in love with traveling. I have had conversations with some of my Baptist heroes. I had multiple phone conversations with two pioneering Baptist women, Addie Davis and Ella Mitchell–before their deaths. I once had lunch with Leena Lavanya, our Baptist Mother Teresa who works for peace and justice in India. And just a few weeks ago, I met Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

In my fifty years, I have been connected with churches that have loved and cared for me, including my current church, Cornerstone Church in Grayson. I have also had a whole host of friends who have walked alongside me, friends who suffered through graduate school with me and who I now “talk to” on facebook. I have friends who have shared meals and wisdom with me; friends who have climbed mountains with me; and friends who have told their stories to me and listened to my stories.

At fifty, I am very much aware of the precious gift that is family. Parents and sisters, aunts and nieces, brother-in-laws and nephews–family becomes more and more important the older I get. And I have also have my a husband and two teenage children, who keep me sane and drive me crazy all at the same time. They have taught me and continue to teach me about trust and hope, kindness and forgiveness.

But perhaps most importantly, on this my fiftieth birthday, I remember that I have had a fifty-year faith journey. I was born into a family of strong faith–and my earliest memories are of a God who loved me unconditionally and who welcomed me into relationship.

Looking back at fifty years, my strongest feeling is of gratitude. I am thankful for family and friends, for communities of love and support, and for opportunities of service and ministry. I am thankful to God for fifty years! And today, on November 30, 2011, I am celebrating fifty!

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

Expecting by Kim Mason

Last Christmas we were expecting our first child, and it was hard not to put myself in Mary’s shoes. There was a new dimension of meaning for the season that can only come when you are expecting. What will he look like? Will he have my eyes or Nathan’s nose? How big will he be? What will his personality be like? Will he be healthy? I hoped he would get Nathan’s patience and I hoped he wouldn’t get my feet!

Our world was changed last year, and Luke hadn’t even been born yet. How we looked at the world somehow changed with the expectation of the child we would soon bring into our family. We weren’t just expecting a baby. We were expecting the responsibility that was to come. We were expecting the intense and immediate love that we were told we would feel at the first sight of our son. We were expecting our lives to change for the better because Luke entered our world.

It’s the same way with Christ. We’re expecting more than just a baby. We’re expecting the love that comes from knowing him. We’re expecting the responsibility that comes from a relationship with him. We’re expecting our lives to change for the better.

• What are you expecting this season?

• How are you expecting the birth Christ to enrich your life?

Kim Mason lives in Jasper, Georgia. She is married to Nathan and mother to Luke. She previously served as a children’s minister and now is a stay-at-home mom. Her Advent Devotions for 2011 can be found on the facebook page and the website of Heritage Baptist Fellowship, Canton, Georgia.

It’s the Little Things by Susan Rogers

Over the past year and a half, the list of things I am thankful for has changed and grown. When expressing thanks, I often find myself using the phrase “it’s the little things.” Those things that are often overlooked, often brushed past or unnoticed have felt like milestones in this church starting journey. I want to share a few of those things with you. . . .

  • When I hear someone at The Well say “our church” or “we need to . . . ” (reminds me that we are in this together, something I find very comforting!)
  • Hugs from friends who are glad to see me
  • The encouragement of those who follow this blog, and share their own insights through email, in person or by commenting
  • The sharing of fresh insights into the story of scripture (“I’ve never thought of it this way before, but…”)
  • The realization of what we can do if we each share a small amount (from great potluck dinners to providing for a neighbor in need)
  • A place to meet that immediately felt like “home” to us
  • People eager to partner and “plot goodness” with us
  • Words like “next year, we should…” (reminds me that a faith community has taken shape and is anticipating the future – thanks be to God!)
  • Countless impromptu conversations with strangers who quickly became friends
  • The helpful hands of family and friends (including parents who care for our children after school at least one afternoon every week!)
  • Kevin’s words when he gets home from work almost every single night: “I’m always glad to get home to my family.” (this time last year, he was still commuting from Atlanta!)
It’s all of these little things that add up to one big sense of awareness that God is with me/us on the journey. I pray for greater awareness of these not-so-small reminders, and for the wisdom to pause and give thanks.
Susan Rogers is pastor of The Well, a church plant in Jacksonville, Florida. This post is from her blog, “Losing and Finding.”

A Thanksgiving Story by Tammy Abee Blom

My Grandmother Abee was a bustling kitchen helper. She could be everywhere at once and suddenly right where you didn’t expect her. One Thanksgiving, Nancy asked me to slice the ham. The ham was hot from the oven and smelling like brown sugar and pineapple, so carefully, I placed the oven hot pan on the side counter. As was our habit, I placed a large wooden carving board over one side of the sink. I recognized that I was covering a pan full of hot soapy water, but dinner was minutes away, and I had a ham to slice. As I lifted that ten pound mass of goodness, my grandmother nudged my hip and reached around me to get the dishcloth from under the carving board. The board flipped and the ham dropped directly into the soapy dishwater. There was a gasp from the moms, sisters, and aunts as they witnessed the entrée plunge into the water. Undaunted, my grandmother continued to wipe counters and set up vegetable dishes. One brave sister asked, “What are you going do?” I said, “Pat it off and carve it. Don’t tell anybody and it will be fine.” Indeed that ham was fine. Even though it was dunked in soapy dishwater, the ham was a tasty and plentiful center for our Thanksgiving feast.

As I drove back to my home, I realized that my ham plunge was the key to a passage our Sunday school class had discussed. Matthew 6: 25 reads “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink . . . do not worry about what you will wear. . . . Strive first for the kingdom of God.”

Family gatherings can be stressful. The questions are endless. “Whose family’s feast do we attend? What dishes to prepare? Will the crazy aunt who comments endlessly on any perceived fault of mine be there? Is this mad running around worth it?” All the crazy chaos of getting together to offer thanksgiving can be mediated with “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or wear. Strive for the kingdom of God.”

Relationships are central to the kingdom of God. All in all, it doesn’t matter if there are two or zero sweet potato casseroles. What matters is that you show up and that you are kind to the people in your life. My family members have all my buttons on speed dial, but I don’t have to answer the call. I can smile, be gracious, and offer peace and love. I can remember the times my family has loved and sheltered me, and I can move from worrying about the menu, the choice of attire, the tacky centerpiece, or even a baptized ham. ThekingdomofGodis about people. In God’s kingdom, we are valued and welcomed at the table. This Thanksgiving, I am going to focus on welcoming people to the table with gracious kindness. For a moment, I want to experience the kingdom of God. That sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

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.

 

I Am a Minister and ______ by Tammy Abee Blom

Many of the female ministers I know have an “and” in their title. When I was the convener of women in ministry peer groups for Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I heard this story over and over again. I am a minister and . . . . I teach school . . . . I work retail . . . . I teach a class at the community college . . . . I am a mom. Female ministers, particularly Baptist ones, tend to be underemployed. My story reflects that.

I graduated seminary and was ordained in 1994. In the past seventeen years, I have worked in full time salaried ministry for four years. I have been employed in ministry full time for only 24 percent of my career. This leaves 76 percent of my career as a minister “and” a ______. I have served a church as a part time children’s minister and worked part time in retail. I served a church full time as a Minister of Education and Youth. I have worked for a temp agency. I worked professional part time with TN CBF for seven years and I was an on call chaplain. And for the past four years, I have been the at home parent as well as blog writer, pulpit supply preacher, Sunday school teacher, and school volunteer. Most of my career has not been what I expected upon graduation from seminary.

As a new minister, I envisioned working on church staff in education, children and youth. I expected to juggle kids, day care, and church programming. That has not been the case for me. But my story is not unique because full time, salaried ministry is not the norm for many women ministers. Female ministers tend to have an “and” ______ in their title. That is just the way it is.

We can embrace the “and” ______ because there is a rich tradition of bi-vocational ministry. Ministers who serve in positions outside of a church or ministry setting have a broader base of friends and life experiences. It is valuable to be “in the real world” because it connects you to your congregants. However, it is difficult to embrace being underemployed when you have the same degree and training as your male colleague who is in full time, salaried ministry. There is certainly an inequality there. I don’t like it, but this is reality.

So what if you (like me) are an underemployed minister? Well, first, value what you do and acknowledge it as ministry. I am the parent of two girls. I do laundry, help with homework, and shuttle kids to after school events. I teach Sunday School. I volunteer at the elementary school. And I write for BWIM. All of these roles embody ministry. I am not less valuable because I do not have a title or a paycheck. Coming to peace with the minister “and” ______ takes time. It has taken me four years. The second way I deal with being underemployed is I look for open doors. When Pam asked me to write for BWIM, I agreed. I get energy from being connected to other people in ministry. I grow my faith by writing about God in my life. I walked through the open door. And finally I have resolved not to despair over my underemployed status. I know my ministry will not look like this forever because the “and” _______ is constantly changing.

I don’t know what my ministry will look like next year or even in five years. As my kids get older, will I pastor a church? Will I complete my training as spiritual director and work with spiritual friends? I don’t know what the next open door will be but I do expect I will always be a minister “and” a ______.

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.