Tag Archives: Mary

LeAnne Spruill Ryan: Death and Life and a New Mom at Lent

My Lenten journey through the wilderness is different this year than ever before. I am not engaging in any fasts of any kind. I try to contemplate Christ’s suffering and death, but the life bubbling within me makes this a difficult task

I am pregnant. 35 weeks pregnant to be more exact. My first born is a boy and he is due the week after Easter. I feel absolved because the Pope grants pregnant women exemption from fasting from any food (I wonder if the Pope will also absolve me for not being Catholic?).

But I am still asked to dedicate myself to prayer and to serving others. I am still called to engage in reflection of Christ’s affliction and death which brings the world new life. From ashes I came and to ashes I will return.

35 weeks

But there is life inside me. Life that jabs with his elbows and feet, stretching my stomach further; life that gets the hiccups; life that presses on my bladder; life that continually engenders my mind to wonder with excitement, expectation, and pure joy.

I can’t help but think of Mary holding her little boy in her womb all that time. Did she worry about swollen ankles? Did she prop extra pillows around her at night just to sleep? Did she send Joseph to fetch weird food cravings?

What excitement she must have felt knowing that God with us was growing inside her! There she could keep him safe. There she could keep him warm and well fed. There she could protect him from the world and from suffering.

In the womb, she could protect him from the cross.

As a minister, I know it is our calling as Jesus-followers to die to self. It is every Christian pilgrim’s duty to take up their cross and follow Jesus. I have taught and preached that the way of Christ is often the way of suffering. This means putting yourself at risk for the sake of others. It means leaving the comfortable and the safe in order to venture into potentially dangerous terrain where God leads you.

As a minister, I know Scripture and I know my own experience with the Lord. I know that we will not always feel God’s presence. I know that life is not fair and that the honest, the innocent, and the faithful do not always see justice in this world. I know that bad things happen to good people and that darkness and depression threaten to dim the light of the righteous.

One of this week’s lectionary texts is Psalm 22. The opening verse of that psalm reads: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” (NRSV, v. 1).

The Psalmist begins with words of groaning and cries of anguish because he feels abandoned. As the Psalm continues, he is bullied by others who taunt him and his God saying, “Commit your cause to the Lord, let him deliver…” (v. 8)

You can hear the sheer desperation of the Psalmist who maintains faith in God as he cries out, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones” (v. 14-17).


Did Mary know that her son would cry out as the Psalmist when she was pregnant? Did she allow herself to contemplate the suffering her son would go through as he was tucked safely in her womb? After she gave birth, did she hold her tiny infant, pray he would breastfeed well, and secretly hope that God would find another way than to let her baby die?

My son is not Jesus, but he will still be called to take up his cross and follow the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He will still be asked to go to uncomfortable places and to put others needs before his own safety and security. He will live in an unjust world with people who will treat him unfairly. Bad things will happen to him whether he causes them or not and I cannot protect my son from everything. There may even be a time when he feels God has abandoned him and his anguish is that of the Psalmist.

I became a mother 35 weeks ago when I became pregnant. As I continue through this Lenten season with the excitement of the life of my son to come, I remember that being a mother also means teaching my son to take up his own cross. It means to teach my son that the ashes on his forehead remind him that he came from the dust and to dust he will return. It means standing by him when the world is unfair and I cannot protect him. It means allowing him to go when God calls him to the uncomfortable or far away.

Oh Lord, teach me to be a good mother! Teach me to offer my son and his life to you.

“To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it” (Psalm 22:29-31).

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Rev. LeAnne Spruill Ryan lives in Hewitt, TX with her husband Scott who is pursuing his PhD in New Testament at Baylor University. LeAnne enjoys working for Baylor and volunteers through Dayspring Baptist Church in Waco to lead Sunday worship services for their neighbors at Ridgecrest Retirement Center. They have a labradoodle named Jubilee and will soon welcome their first child into the world, Asher David Ryan.

Jeanell Cox: Birthing Baby Jesus

I birthed baby Jesus three times. But before you move on to the next Christmas Eve post citing heresy, please bear with me. I have three boys who were each invited in turn to portray the infant Jesus in church Christmas pageants in two different congregations.

I have a distinct memory of being asked the first time. I was terrified as a first time mother at the thought of handing over my weeks old baby to the teenage girl who was playing the part of Mary. What if he was fussy? Hungry? Just wanted his Mom or Dad? What if she had never held a newborn before? Or, more honestly, what if I simply wasn’t willing to let someone else hold him?

I was at the very beginning of figuring out who this little baby was and how to respond to his cries. I had no intention of giving him to someone else for an hour. But I did, swallowing down my anxieties about the whole thing. And it wasn’t long before I figured out why.

As the young woman clothed in blue began to slowly walk down the candle-illumined aisle, my heart welled up and tears fell down my cheeks. There was my boy snuggled up in white muslin blankets, bright-eyed and cooing at the beauty of the lights against the darkened room. I was transformed in that moment.

Suddenly the fear was gone, and a renewed sense of the importance of Jesus’ arrival as a tiny infant filled me. The world needed an infant to see the love of God so mystically expressed in bright big eyes, round cheeks and snuggles. My sweet baby boy ended up quietly asleep in the arms of his caregiver for the rest of the pageant.

And the second and third times I handed my baby boys to the teen portraying Mary, the fear was gone, but the transformative tears remained.

Bearing babies into the world is hard work, whether they come by fostering, adoption, marriage, or otherwise. Bearing Jesus into the world is sometimes painstaking work.

It may require relinquishing the things that we most fear. It may ask of us things that we never thought possible. It may require working to manage the demands of ministry and the deep desire to care for one’s spouse, child, pet, or self.

It may sometimes require more energy or investment than we think we can muster. It may feel futile, even when God is most at work. It may feel like a risky adventure in uncharted waters. But in our persistence and our willingness to face the fears that come, we are transformed.

Yet we have the opportunity to discover that each and every time we bear Jesus into the world once more, he is also born anew in us.

Perhaps Meister Eckhart says it best:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

Go forth, and may Jesus be born in you and in the world once more this Christmas.


Jeanell Cox is a mother of three boys and a Board Certified Chaplain. She is currently a CPE Supervisory Education Student at Duke Hospital in Durham, NC.