Category Archives: Ordinary Miracles 2015

Jenny F. Call: Ordinary Miracles: Grace Upon Grace

Of the many words that could be used to describe me, “graceful” would not be at the top of the list.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the most common usage is a way of moving or behaving that is controlled, smooth, and attractive. This is not my gift. I have often bemoaned the fact that I didn’t take dance lessons as a child, which surely is to blame for my clumsiness and poor posture. But perhaps it’s innate as years of (somewhat sporadic) yoga practice and chiropractic visits have not remedied the problem.

I’m also not so good at showing grace (in terms of offering mercy) in my family life. I’m quick to judge and find fault and can hold on to a small slight for years (just ask my husband). It is difficult for me to accept things as they are in reality when I have already envisioned how it “should” be in my head.

I’ve held on to scars from spiritual hurts as well. There’s the church were we worshipped for some time whose tagline “a place of grace” makes me cringe. I’m still healing from some of the wounds that were inflicted there.

But grace keeps inserting itself into my life.

First it was a friend, a spiritual sister from Jamaica, whom I met last summer in my D.Min. cohort. Grace is not her given name, but is the perfect chosen name for one who is so full of spirit and so full of God’s hope. Her words and the way she carries herself are such pictures of God’s favor. She is a reminder to me to trust in God to be my strength and salvation.

Then there’s the new “member” of our family, an American Girl doll named Grace Thomas, who reminds me of how my daughter is learning this virtue of grace as she navigates her way through relationships and becoming who she was created to be. While I see dollar signs and more clutter when I look at this Grace, the doll is a companion that my Maryn favors, one that enlivens her imagination and allows her to dream about who she will be.

Maryn loves nothing more than when we are drawing pictures of Grace Thomas together or creating recipes like the ones that Grace would make in her bakery (sold separately, $500). Styling the doll’s hair gives us time to sit together and just be, to talk about whatever is on our minds. That is a grace that I don’t indulge as often as I would like.

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Last night at bedtime, I was running out of energy and patience. After a long day of work, household chores, and wrangling two kids hopped up on the energy of a school-free summer, I didn’t have much left to give.

But Maryn found me in my bed where I was hiding out until it was time to get them upstairs to bed. She asked in her sweet voice, “Want to read me a book?” That mini-me knows the way to my heart.

I looked at her selections and smiled, wondering at her emotional intelligence and insight. Perhaps it was unintentional, but regardless, it was grace. They were good reminders for me and for the one who follows in my footsteps.

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In these encounters, I’m learning more about the other dimension of grace as unmerited divine assistance, a virtue coming from God, or, as I learned in church growing up, an undeserved gift. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

It is easy for me to think of what I lack (patience, time) and hard for me to remember the gifts I receive in grace every day. For these ordinary days are full of demands and mess, frustrations and disappointments.

But they are so full of beauty as well. Perhaps grace is not being delivered from the things that stress us, but it is receiving them with gratitude, understanding that the grace is in the mess of our daily lives.

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Jenny Frazier Call is wife to John, mom to Brady and Maryn, and university chaplain at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She is working on her D.Min. in Educational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, and when she has time, enjoys writing at www.hopecalls.blogspot.com.

Ka’thy Gore Chappell: Ordinary Miracles, Call and Real Life

I came late to the combination of “ministry & motherhood!”

While I have served in full-time ministry as a vocational calling since the age of 24, my husband and I dated when I was in my late 30’s and married when I was 41. One year later–on our first wedding anniversary–I was 7 months pregnant.

So at the age of 42, I gave birth to our daughter. She was healthy & beautiful!

Even though we were older parents, we were still “new” parents. It took us 10 minutes (not exaggerating) to get her in her car seat when we left the hospital to go home. (We have a video to prove it!) And I am always quick to say that our daughter would not have received a bath the first week of her life if it had not been for my mother who stayed with us that very important first week.

To this day, I still reflect on how quickly one’s life can change and sometimes joke that I am still catching up.

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From the first weeks of her life, our daughter–who is an only child–grew up “with” me and my husband. She was present where we were. She participated in college cook-outs, weekend retreats and mission trips. She worshipped God at church, on campuses and at state and national assemblies. She picked up trash with “Adopt-A-Highway” saying she “wanted to help change the world.”

She attended so many weddings of college students, she knew at age 4 how to find the family place cards at wedding receptions. She fell in love with Sunday School classes and the people in them. She experienced staff members as her dearest friends and called them by their first names.

She knew when times were tough with church. She noticed things. She heard things. She experienced the joys and the sorrows of church life. She mourned the passing of those who died and experienced the pain and struggle when life was not right at church.

While my husband and I were always intentional in how we loved, communicated and nurtured our daughter, we did become concerned that perhaps, she knew too much about church life. I was anxious that she would never want to be active in church as a young person or college student or adult. And of course, I thought she would never want to work or serve in ministry.

We underestimate our children, don’t we?

Imagine my surprise, when our daughter came to us to say that she thought she was being called to ministry. Part of me was not certain that I wanted that for her. Then, I experienced a God moment.

We underestimate the power of God’s call, don’t we?

Real life provided the space for God to call and for her to respond. Today, our daughter has graduated from college and is now pursuing a Master of Divinity while serving a local church congregation in ministry.

When did that happen? When did she grow up to be old enough and mature enough to have her own youth group? And how did God’s call on her life penetrate the good and the not-so-good parts of ministry that she experienced with me, our family and church?

The answer is that God’s call is greater!

From Isaiah 6:1-8, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God’s glory. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'”

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Ka’thy Gore Chappell is the Leadership Development Coordinator with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Prior to service with CBFNC, Ka’thy was the Associate Dean of  at BTSR in Richmond and served North Carolina Baptist churches for over 30 years.

Starlette McNeill: Ordinary Miracles: “He Speaks”

We knew that it was coming. This was the reason why we had begun reading to our son John in the womb.

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He had a bookshelf and a personal library before he could hold up his head, much less turn a page. I purchased flash cards before he could walk. I asked people to talk to him using real words. No baby talk.

So, that last one might have been a bit of overkill but I was serious. OK. Full disclosure. I still am.

Words are important to me. I know how powerful they are. So when I took my then three month-old son to daycare after returning to work, I would say all of the good words that I could think of.

“You are an intelligent man, a righteous man, a kind and compassionate man, an honest man, a faithful man, a gentleman.” I wanted him to know how much I loved him and believed in him. I shared how proud I was to be his mother and how thankful I was to have him as a son.

Some would argue that he couldn’t have understood what I was saying, that it was a waste of time. But the affirmations continue.

And while at the park one day, I overheard my now two year-old son introducing himself to a new friend by pointing to himself and saying, “Hi. I genius.” He told his teacher, Miss Heather, the same thing and she now calls him “Genius John.”

Yes, I told him that he was a genius. But now he speaks for himself.

His first word was mama. I jumped out of bed when I heard it. I knew that it was coming. Every child says it unless deformity or disability prevents it. It is predictable and to be expected.

Still, It was no less a miracle for me. I had been speaking to him and now he speaks to me. I was speaking for him and now he speaks for himself.

It was a holy moment. Selah.

But, not only do I have a speaking son but I am in relationship with the speaking God, the Word-God. Sure, we know that God has spoken, that God has messengers. We have a personal library, sixty-six books to prove it.

But, we are quite surprised when He speaks—present tense—and more so, when God speaks to us directly. God doesn’t call me “Mama” though.

When the God that we have been speaking to speaks back to us, we might just jump out of bed like I did when my son said his first word. It is in these moments that we become aware that we are living epistles, that God is not only talking to us but writing on us, that we are being touched by the finger of God and becoming Word-people.

I knew that God’s word was coming but I might have only been prepared for baby talk, not the pure and righteous words that He spoke over me.

“You are a blessed woman, a highly favored woman, a holy woman, a called woman, a priestly woman.”

I am discovering more and more that it is in God’s speaking that I am revealed. Like my relationship with my son, what God says about me discloses who I am. So, I only repeat after God in my introductions, confident that He speaks for me.

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Reverend Starlette McNeill serves as the Associate Pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland. She is a wife, a lover of reading, writing and Starbucks and the mother of one amazing son, John.