Tag Archives: motherhood

The Dance of Ministry and Motherhood

Some days motherhood and ministry collide and some days they dance together, reminding me why I chose this journey.  As a mother, I find it extremely difficult NOT to mother the children and youth who walk into my life.  And I think that’s exactly the way God intended life to be.

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One of my favorite times of the day at Touching Miami with Love, the urban ministry I serve as Assistant Director, is the late afternoon.  It’s when our high school students who volunteer at TML come in from school to volunteer with our children’s program.  Their energy and enthusiasm is always such a welcome treat with their fun, jovial ways.  One by one or in small clusters, they pop their head into my office and call out, “Hey Ms. Pittman.”  I enjoy seeing them, many of whom I’ve known since they were young kids in our program.  We chat about school, their classes, and what’s going on in life.  I find it’s pretty hard to turn off my mothering skills and it’s not uncommon for me to playfully tell a teen he needs a haircut or a young woman she needs to show less cleavage.  Apparently, two of our boys were thinking of this and called out, “Hey Momma Pittman!” as they entered TML.

“What’s that about?”  I asked chuckling.

“That’s your new name,” one of them said.

“Oh, okay.  I like it.”  I replied. Just then my husband Jason popped out of his office.  Seeing him the other boy called out, “We should call Mr. Jason, ‘Pastor Jason.’” 

“Yeah, Momma Pittman and Pastor Jason” said the first boy, laughing at the catchy new nicknames they created as they headed off to volunteer with the children.  Jason and I caught each other’s eye and smiled.  It was the best compliment they could have ever paid us.

Picking up my oldest son from high school an hour later, we were chatting when my cell phone rang.  I answered on speaker phone. It was our program director calling, distraught, after a conversation with one of our youth whose family has been struggling with homelessness.  The mom had been saying they were living in a motel room, but today the teenage daughter admitted they were really living in a warehouse–with sleeping bags on the floor and only cold water. This young girl, fearing her parent’s anger at revealing their secret, finally had to let someone know because she’s been in in-school suspension for several days for not having the mandatory school uniforms for in Miami-Dade County public schools. Hearing the news, I immediately thought of the resources and connections we had. Together, we started to develop a plan of action.  When I finally got off the phone, I apologized to my son for having our conversation interrupted.  “It’s okay Mom,” he said “That was really important.”  We talked about trying to go to high school in those conditions and I’m grateful I didn’t shield him from such harsh realities.

Back home I retrieved my younger son from my next door neighbors’ house. As the homework routine settled in, I opened up my laptop to answer a few more e-mails before dinner prep.  This particular night quickly picked up pace.  After putting dinner in the oven, I high-fived my husband on my way out and his way in the door, calling, “Tag you’re it!” I was headed to our son’s PTA meeting.  The situation was reversed an hour later as he left for Scouts with my older son and I picked up our younger son and  headed to Target.

On our way I asked my nine year old son if he knew why we needed to go to Target. I explained, “Well, one of our boys in middle school has shoes that are falling apart and his mom said she can’t afford to buy them.  A church has agreed to buy him shoes and we need to pick out a pair.”  I shared that this growing boy wore a size 11 shoe and had asked them to be “colorful.”  While we were there, I told him we were also going to grab some uniform clothes for the young lady from the phone call earlier.  It was encouraging to see that he was up to the challenge and we had sweet conversation on our way to the store.  Lucas usually hates shopping, even if it’s for him, so I was thrilled when he not only happily joined in the challenge of shopping, but insisted that we check the surrounding stores to find the most colorful pair of shoes. 

In the checkout line, my phone began to ring.  It was Sherry, an older adult I’ve been connected to since my very first month in ministry in 1995.  Her first phone call nearly 20 years ago to the ministry offices where I worked led to six years of bonding over shopping trips, doctor visits, and pick-ups from the ER.  Even after moving to Detroit and now to Miami, Sherry calls regularly to keep me abreast of her mounting health concerns and issues with her neighbors.  Hating to be on the phone during checkout and ignoring Lucas, I assured Sherry that she wouldn’t get evicted from her apartment just because a neighbor spread lies about her when Sherry got her new motorized wheelchair before the neighbor did.

Hanging up as we walked out of Target, I found myself apologizing to my other son for the call interrupting our time.  As he reached out for my hand he said, “I know, Mommy. You have a lot of people to help.”  My heart swelled as I thought back to two other boys I love at TML calling me “Momma Pittman.” And I breathed out a prayer of thanks for the Lord allowing motherhood and ministry to dance together today.

 

A graduate of Baylor University, Angel Pittman serves as Assistant Director alongside her college-sweetheart husband, Jason, at Touching Miami with Love, an urban ministry in the historic African-American neighborhood Overtown (www.touchingmiamiwithlove.org).  Angel’s education background shaped afterschool programs in Texas, Detroit and at TML as Children’s Director, creating the ToMorrow’s Leaders Program. Her passions are reading and writing about racial reconciliation, government policies and the poor, suburban and urban realities and raising children in the inner city. The Pittmans have two sons, Isaac and Lucas.

 

 

 

Permanence

by Nikki Finkelstein-Blair

In the interest of transparency–because we’re all seeking a place where we can be vulnerable, honest, fully Known–I want to begin by admitting that I watch “The Waltons.”

The Waltons

A lot.

Sometimes while knitting.

I’m very aware that this may be an unlikely occupation for a progressive, modern woman. Let’s just say that I’m not the target demographic for the advertisers whose commercials air during the episodes. But since the day a few months ago when I accidentally caught part of an episode, I have found myself peeking in on the life of that 1930s (by way of the 1970s) family. More than forty years after the show began, I’ve learned all the kids’ names: JohnBoyJasonMaryEllenBenErinJimBobandElizabeth. Forty years too late, I let tears roll when Grandma and Grandpa Walton died. Forty years–and more than eighty years since the pre-WWII setting of the stories–and I’m continually amazed by how contemporary the issues are. The relationship between races. The roles of women. The ethics of work. The stability of home. The practice of hospitality. The tensions and tendernesses among siblings; in fact, all the tensions and tendernesses of children learning to grow up and to love and to grieve and to let go.

And, especially, the life of the mother. Especially that.

There’s much about Olivia Walton’s life I can’t begin to identify with, owing to her rural setting and to her Depression-era context. But as a mother, there’s so much that resonates with me, it sometimes catches me off-guard.

Like, for example, the episode when Olivia was restless. Restless in the way I feel when the routines have become too… routine. She was crabby, the way I get crabby when every day feels like a broken record of school lunches, lost shoes, reading logs, arguments over tooth brushing and piano practice, doing dishes, eating dinner and thereby dirtying more dishes, and don’t forget to wash behind your ears, and “just one more story?” And forty/eighty years later, I am right there with her, restless and crabby and unable to explain it to anyone and just needing something–anything–to be new.

Olivia Walton, restless and crabby and just needing something to be new, got a perm.

A really, really bad perm.

Such a bad perm that when she came home, she tried to hide it. Unsuccessfully. And when the various Walton children saw it, each of them, in turn, burst into laughter.

And then, when Olivia Walton wept, so did I.

I know that feeling so well: the impossibility of explaining to those around us how any small change would at least be something different–even if it went wrong. The cognitive dissonance of focusing attention on ourselves, when the callings of our everydays are oriented to others–all the John Boys and the Mary Ellens of our lives, all the school lunches and dirty dishes and bedtime stories. And all the potlucks and parish council meetings, the hospital visitations, the pastoral prayers–the routines and traditions of life together in our faith families, too.

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Rev. 21:5) When I am unsettled and fidgety in my days, I yearn for that renewal. I know I need to toss away the outgrown, ill-fitting, uninspired habits I put on thoughtlessly every day. I need to rethink my choices, responses, routes and routines. I need to try on new looks, new colors; I need to taste new words in my mouth and let new thoughts roll around in my head; I need to break the chronic patterns of my days and of my mindset.

God, show me the new ways you would have me go; grant me bravery to take risks, especially those that may end badly; let me show my children–and my church–that it is blessed even to try.

Because not much is permanent, anyway. Hair grows out (thanks be to God!). Routines shift and morph as children grow older, as we accommodate loves and losses, follow callings and shape habits. The litanies of our days, once rote, may become the zones of comfort that we desperately crave, and from there we can safely reach out, seeking not just change for change’s sake, but the newness of life to which we are called. Together we can try, and fail, and try again. Then we can put our restlessness into words so that we can share in the tears that come when we feel most alone, and in the laughter that comes when we see ourselves as we truly are: badly permed, reborn, and beloved.

Nicole Finkelstein-Blair became a U.S. Navy spouse in 2000, graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2001, and became “Mom!” in 2004. She finds ministry wherever the military and motherhood lead: in four states and two countries (so far), as a parishioner and a pulpit-supplier, as a sometime blogger and devotional writer, and at countless dinner tables and bedtimes. She’s enjoying now… and looking forward to what’s next. Her essay “A Time for Every Purpose” can be found in A Divine Duet: Ministry and Motherhood (www.helwys.com).