I Am Enough, You Are Enough by Brittany Riddle

Brittany Riddle notesEvery once in a while I bring out my memory box. Usually the box comes out on a dreary, rainy day when I’m feeling a little bit down and need a reminder that I am not alone on my journey of life and ministry. After a week of rain and flooding last week, I had one of those days, so I pulled the box off my shelf. Just opening it made me smile.

My memory box is just a simple plastic container filled with notes and cards, dating all the way back to my days in middle school. I tend to throw things away—I am probably the opposite of a hoarder—but I have kept these notes through moves to different schools, states, and places of ministry because they remind me of so many people who have shaped and formed me—people who have encouraged me and walked with me through the most joyous and difficult moments of life.

Some of these cards are store bought. Some of the notes are hand-made. Some are from people I know personally. Some are from those I only know by name. Some are from children. Some are from adults. Some are in perfect script. Others are barely legible. Some are thank you notes. Some are welcome and good-bye notes that I received as I have transitioned to new places of service. Some are “blessing” notes written when I was ordained, and others were written just because.

As I sat with the box last week, I opened up one note from a mentor and minister friend and read, “Blessings on your life, your ministry to be, your joy and your hope, remembering that you bring enough to the table and God will make a way for you.”  I’m so thankful for these words of encouragement, even more so now than the day I received this note. I bring enough to the table and God will make a way for me. This is a reminder I need every single day. I am enough. You are enough.

Brittany Riddle note of welcomeOn good days, I can muster up confidence, productivity, and stability. On less than good days, I still may appear confident, but I feel like I’m falling apart inside and messages about why I am not enough come creeping back in. Why would God call me to be a minister?  I am too young, too female, and too introverted. The messages start by creeping in slowly, and then they begin to pour until I am flooded with uncertainty about who I am and who God is calling me to be. Before long, I’m absolutely sure that I am not, and never will be, good enough. Thank goodness for friends and mentors who remind me that I bring enough to the table and who help me continue to claim that truth for myself. I am enough. Not because of a successful trip. Not because of a sermon preached. Not because of a balanced budget. Not because of an eighty-hour work week. I am enough and you are enough simply because we are children of God created in God’s image.

As we live out our faith and minister alongside each other, I pray that we can encourage one another with our words, our notes, our conversations, and our lives so that, together, with God’s help, we may live into this truth and our callings with confidence. What I bring to the table is enough. What you bring to the table is enough. Thanks be to God.

Brittany Riddle is minister to adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.

Giving Up? by Tammy Abee Blom

Nancy SehestedThe doors opening onto dark, empty rooms told me, “We will not all persevere here.” Returning from winter break after my first semester of seminary, I was greeted by empty rooms on the hall where I lived. As my neighbors returned, we gathered in the hallway asking, “Did you know S was not coming back? I heard M returned to Africa. I think her scholarship was up. Do you know about K?” My neighbors and I were humbled to know that some of us had decided that this was not the right place at the right time and had quit.

Up until that moment, I had not known quitting was an option. I was riding the adrenaline rush of getting accepted to seminary and then managing the first semester of academics. I thought we were safely on our way, but the empty rooms told me we were not.

There were other days that presented good opportunities for quitting. In our senior year, we were interviewing for ministry positions. Pam BWIM 30thAt the lunch table, a friend shared about her experience with a search committee. She began with “I don’t think I got the job. I was downright rude when the elderly gentleman asked me, ‘Who is minding your children so you could be at this meeting tonight?’” Her hung head made me wonder, “Are we going to make it?”

Last month, at the meetings of Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the theme, “Never Give Up” seemed to run through all the sermons. As I joined over 1,000 attendees, I listened to Pam Durso, executive director of BWIM, welcome us to the organization’s Thirtieth Anniversary Gathering. What ran through my mind was, “I am so glad she never gave up.” Not that Pam has ever shared that she may have considered quitting, but I know that she has had many roles in her career as professor, mother, historian, and author. I know she must have endured roadblocks and detours on her journey. And I am glad she has not given up her voice for women in ministry.

Anne Thomas Neil and RebaDuring a luncheon at the CBF General Assembly, I sat by a fellow woman in ministry. She has had a long and rich career. I asked her what had kept her going over the years, and she said, “I always just did what needed doing. I didn’t listen to the people who told me that I didn’t belong. I found a place of need and worked there.” I thought, “Thank God she did not give up on her call.”

As I listened to the words preached by Nancy Sehested and Wendell Griffen about the enduring courage of those who have come before us and about our continual call to carry on the Good News, I found myself thanking God for ministers who did not give up. Familiar faces of mentors, colleagues, and friends came to mind, and I kept praying, “Thank you, God. Thank you.” I am thankful for all those who did what needed doing and kept on keeping on even when giving up was an option.

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.

A Fellowship of Joy by Brittany Riddle

Brittany Riddle
Do you hear the women sing? Singing the song of sacred friends.

It is a melody of grace-with-strength to lift, to heal, to send.

When the beating of your heart echoes the need for justice done,

There is a fellowship of joy when tomorrow comes.

As I cleaned my apartment on Monday afternoon, I found myself singing these words, which were written by Suzii Paynter for the BWIM 30th anniversary worship service held on Wednesday, June 26, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Singing these words by myself with the vacuum cleaner and washing machine as background music did not quite have the same effect as it did when my voice joined over 1,200 women, men, and children in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, but the words ring just as true now as they did then.

As people poured into the sanctuary on that Wednesday night, I could not help but reflect on my own journey into ministry. Long before I discerned my calling to ministry, I remember admiring the work of ministers. I knew a few women ministers personally, but I had read and heard about so many others and silently wondered if I could ever do such work. At that time, I could not envision myself in a pulpit speaking or see myself standing in front of a congregation and serving communion.  At that time, I had no idea how much some women and men had put on the line to fight for women to be able to use their God-given gifts in ministry. All I knew at that time was that something was nudging me to pay attention to their work.

Fast forward twelve or so years, and there I stood last Wednesday night.  I stood next to a good friend who is a “founding mother” of BWIM, and we served the body of Christ to hundreds of people who had gathered to worship and to celebrate women in ministry.  I stood “singing the song of sacred friends” with the people who had encouraged me, taught me, and ordained me—true sacred friends.  I stood with women I admired from a distance as I was growing up and discerning a calling to ministry—women who are now friends and colleagues.  I stood with the Holy Spirit, confident in my calling and thankful for so many who supported me and paved the way to allow me to follow God’s calling in my life.

I came away from this BWIM worship and from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly that followed feeling inspired, encouraged, and hopeful. This was one of the first CBF meetings during which I did not feel like a “token” young person. People of all ages gathered together in Greensboro to create a vibrant sense of community.  I played peek-a-boo with my new nine-month old friend, gave high fives to some preschool friends, sat next to children at meals, shared ministry experiences with other new ministers, caught up with mentors who helped shape and mold me into the minister I am today, and reflected with retired ministers about their experiences and hopes for the future of CBF and Baptist Women in Ministry.  A truly intergenerational experience.

The spirit of hope at the General Assembly reminded me that I am proud to be a CBF minister. I am proud to be a Baptist woman in ministry, as together we continue to live and sing “a melody of grace-with-strength to lift, to heal, to send.” I am encouraged to be a part of the CBF family as we work together to live into our God-given mission. Tomorrow has come. We are not alone on our journey. We have a “fellowship of joy” that will nourish, support, and sustain us in the days ahead. For this I say, Thanks be to God.

Brittany Riddle is minister to adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.