Tag Archives: pregnancy

Chansin Esparza: I Know I Love the Church; I Think I Will Love My Kids

I know I love the Church. I think I will love my kids.

My call to the Church has been just as strong … if not stronger … than my call to motherhood. And so I’ve waited. I put off having kids. I know a lot of young people don’t feel the urgency and are waiting to have kids, too. But my waiting has truly been all about the Church.

You see, I already know I love the Church. The people who have been the Church to me have taught me about God, have shown me how to live meaningfully, have affirmed my value, have fought injustice around them, and have lived in true community.

And I love what God thinks of the Church – it’s his bride, the hands and feet of Jesus, the hope of the world. I’ve been hurt enough times by church people to get mad now and again, but I’ve always kept those episodes separate from the greater Church – the true Church –  in my mind. And so I am just overwhelmed with passion for the people of God.

I got married pretty young. I was 22. And I’ve always known I’d want a family eventually. But my husband and I set our eyes on seminary and becoming better equipped to serve the world by serving the church. Kids could wait.

My mother knew from the moment she was married she wanted to build a family. She wasted no time getting started. But I waited seven years. Several of those years were spent earning my Master of Divinity.

And then after all that hard work, I couldn’t imagine not giving my complete devotion to a local church for at least a little while. I needed to work as a minister full-time for at least a year, I decided. But then finding that full-time position as a woman in a new town proved difficult initially. So the timeline was pushed back a bit more.

I was loving the church; I was loving my life. But I was nearing 30, knew I’d eventually want more than one child, and there were biological factors to consider.

So I scheduled it. I was plenty busy serving a church at this point, but the timeline had to be considered, and so I believed God would make a way.

Pregnant chansin in church

I haven’t known many mother-ministers. I figured it would be hard. It didn’t help that – in the midst of me quietly trying to get pregnant – my lead pastor told me not to get pregnant. It was a completely inappropriate comment. I knew he should never have said it. He didn’t have to elaborate for me to know he believed that I couldn’t give my all to the ministry objectives I shared if I had a baby in tow.

And while it made me angry that he would make such a pronouncement, it also voiced the inward fear I’d been harboring for years. Could I be effective in reaching people for Christ, in making disciples of new Christians, in equipping leaders to take Jesus into their workplaces – if I was preoccupied with a little one who was completely dependent on me?

Pregnant chansin church work day

Thankfully, I am now serving in a church where the lead pastor believes I can still be effective with a child. She hired me as her associate pastor with full knowledge of my pregnancy. She sees I am determined to serve. She believes I can be both mother and minister. She did it. She knows it’s possible.

So her beautiful budding church – only a year old – hired me when I was 30 weeks pregnant. They call me their Pastor of Multiplication. The plan is that in a few years my husband and I will plant a second church – an offshoot of this church. My pregnancy gives them fodder for jokes about multiplication … when it comes to their church and when it comes to my family, and I love it all.

They let me preach my first Sunday with them. The pastor sees me as her partner, not her assistant. The church is excited for my expanding family. Barely having served the church for two months, they threw me a baby shower. They are giving me paid maternity leave. Their open arms and all of their generosity only makes me love the Church more.

Pregnant Chansin baby shower

And so when I say that I know I love the Church and I think I will love my kids, I mean it.

I’ve never been a baby person. Kids make it harder to schedule meetings or parties or ministry events. I hear about how exhausted I will be, and I’ve witnessed the struggle of parenting rambunctious, rebellious little ones. But parents say it’s worth it. They say it’s the hardest-greatest joy one could experience. I’m told it will make my ministry deeper in ways I haven’t experienced yet.

Scripture says children are a heritage – a blessing – from the Lord. I am truly looking forward to teaching my son about Jesus. I look forward to growing the Church in this very personal way. And with the confidence of my church community – who believes I can serve both them and a child – as well as the example of my lead pastor and the friends and women who write for this blog – my faith is strengthened.

So here I am, writing this on my due date – truly believing that God equips those whom God calls. God makes us complete in everything good so we can do God’s will. God has prepared us to do good works, and God will see it through. It’s all for the glory of Jesus, after all, and not for me.

I waited to get pregnant. I put off having kids. It looks like my baby is now making me wait a little longer for him to come into the world. Perhaps greater patience is one of the first things God is going to teach me through this new experience of motherhood.

And I will take whatever lessons I learn from God through this baby and pass them along to my congregation. Because I love the Church. And I will love my kids.

Pregnant Chansin maternity

Chansin Esparza is the Pastor of Multiplication at Life In The City in Austin, Texas. She has served in connection ministry, young adult ministry, and youth ministry. She and her husband both have Master of Divinity degrees from Baylor’s Truett Seminary. Their first child is due in January 2016.

Hannah Coe: Pregnant with Hope

Luke 1:78-79:

By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Christmas Eve worship, 2014. I was pregnant and uncomfortable. I sat, facing the congregation, belly bulging under my robe. I wondered, “How could I possibly have to use the bathroom again?” I lumbered into the pulpit and read Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Song of Praise.

Christmas Eve 2014

A moment I will not forget. A text full of faith, Mary’s faith. A belly full with the hope and promise of new life, my daughter’s life. A congregation full of love and grace, colleagues and family and friends worshiping together.

Yet, I felt uncertain, a little sad, even. My husband and I were in the final stages of discerning a call to a new place and a new season of ministry. As I mentioned before–uncomfortable. In a matter of weeks, my family moving across the country, newborn and all. Christmas Eve 2015 would look different, but how?

In Luke 1, Mary and Zechariah are on their own Advent journey. When Gabriel visits Zechariah in the temple, Zechariah is overwhelmed with fear. At times on this 2015 journey, I have been like Zechariah—fearful, ready to quiz God, unable to believe what’s right in front of me.

When Gabriel visits Mary, she responds by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant.” At times on this 2015 journey, I have been like Mary—faithful, pondering what God is doing, open to what’s next.

Though their journeys are quite different, Luke 1 ends with both Mary and Zechariah praising God.   Praise from the willing servant, Mary. Praise from the unbeliever-turned-believer, Zechariah.

Transition has, indeed, been our family’s primary experience this year. Master’s degrees completed, new jobs begun, a new baby, a cross-country move—a blur. Yet, as Christmas Eve 2015 comes into focus, I am profoundly and humbly grateful. As God did in Zechariah’s heart, God has turned my unbelief into praise and gratitude. As God did in Zechariah’s heart, God has turned my fear into faith.

May praise, gratitude, and faith find you on your Advent journey.

Tender and Merciful Lord, fill our hearts with praise. When we are fearful. When we are faithful. Turn our eyes to the horizon where Christ’s light breaks upon us, from which Christ’s light breaks through darkness and death. Turn our feet, O Lord, toward the pathway of Peace. Amen.


A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Hannah Coe serves as Associate Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Hannah and her husband, David, are parents to Katherine and Annalina. They enjoy playing, eating, and the occasional nap.

LeAnn Gardner: Advent Mom

Four years ago, in the throes of Advent season, I was 41 weeks, 6 days pregnant and my eldest would soon be served his eviction notice.

During this time, I went to our local abbey, Mepkin Abbey, where a group of Trappist monks live their lives counterculturally, sustaining themselves in every way. I was walking on the grounds when one of the monks spotted me and said in a knowing way, “The time is ripe for you.” Believe me, I had heard many comments up until then- almost everyone stopped to marvel at the “ripeness” of my belly.

But these words came from a man who was living the Advent experience and whose life was finely tuned to God’s time. There was a knowing, a connection there, of his understanding that the gestation of life reflected the gestation of God’s liturgical time. At that moment, I felt emotionally and unequivocally connected to my Lifesource and the rhythms of God’s time.

The very next day, I delivered that red headed bundle and tomorrow we celebrate his 4th birthday.


Last week, on Advent Eve, before we were all fully awake he asked, “Mama, when is God going to come and take away the world?”

This question floored me on so many levels; we are not an “end times” kind of family, but more of a “God loves you, God made everything, God is good” etc. When I recounted this to others, they chalked it up to having heard something on TV.

But my intuition tells me that children have a deep sense of knowing and in his little, but wise soul, he is already starting to grasp the enormity of our lives. And maybe even Advent.

Perhaps what he is asking is “When will the pain be gone?” Admittedly, he has not experienced much pain at all (thank God), but maybe just simply being human is a reminder that all is not right (yet) with the world.

Maybe even red headed 4 year olds long for the making of all things right.

If I’m honest, I also know that the Advent of 2011 was my own personal Advent of being transformed into a mother. The exit out of the labyrinth of labor/delivery and into postpartum was one of the most difficult, yet profound of my life.

I am still becoming, still learning what it means to help usher another human being (now two) into becoming empathic, kind, Jesus loving humans. We all have our Advents of sorts, ways in which the Divine molds us, refines us and all the while reminds us that we are not alone.

In the throes of details, transitions and meeting basic needs, I need these “God rhythms” to remind me of my true purpose, whose I am and what time I follow. My prayer this Advent is that I can sit still in the waiting, in the longing, while at the same time embracing the hope that Christ’s birth and promise gives me.


LeAnn Gardner is a right brained social worker and minister married to a left brained engineer. Together they (sometimes) compose a full brain. They have two boys, ages 4 and 1.

Merianna Harrelson: On Cooler Breezes and Bigger Bellies

As I let the dogs out this morning, my bare feet encountered cold kitchen tiles. I knew even before I opened the door that the weather outside was going to smell different and fell different. It was going to feel like fall. I smiled as I opened the door and was met with the cool breeze of a fall morning. My soul breathed a sigh of relief that the hot, sticky Columbia summer was coming to an end.


Then, I remembered that with the change of this season, it meant the change from being a family of four to being a family of five in just 8 short weeks. This weekend, we celebrated Baby H with our Emmanuel Church family as well as friends in Columbia. What a fun time for our worlds to collide as we anticipate Baby H’s arrival and yet another reminder that life as we have known it is changing.

Fall has always been a time of transition for me. As a teacher, it meant a new challenge in a new grade level (I never taught the same grade two years in a row) or a new country. When I started seminary, it meant the change from teacher to student with a full load of classes that would ask me to challenge what I had always known and who I always believed I was. At the end of seminary, it meant the change from pulpit supply preacher to pastor and from girlfriend to wife and stepmom. Fall has always been a time of new beginnings for me.

It’s getting harder and harder to ignore my growing belly and to ignore the fact life is going to change. I am going to change. As I organize onesies and diapers of varying sizes, it’s easy for me to pretend that after walking this road with siblings and friends, I have a good idea how life will change and then, I wake up from a dream in panic because in my dream I have forgotten to feed the baby and realize there’s no way to know for certain what lies ahead.

Although I am tempted to panic over all the unknowns, I breathe the cool breeze and remember every change in the previous falls has brought me here to this place. This place of partnering with the man of my dreams. This place of being who I was created to be. This place of laughing and crying and loving two beautiful girls. This place of walking with two huge pups who can’t help but be excited about the new smells of fall.

This place of the beautiful now that if I’m not careful I’ll miss if I don’t stop and savor.

Heather Mustain: Ordinary Miracles: First Pregnancy

“Being pregnant is not for sissies,” a phrase my husband Chad has heard me say more than once over the last six months. As our baby girl continues to grow, and I with her, I find myself wanting to grumble and complain. Complaining seems a lot easier than being filled with gratitude for the healthy baby growing within me.


Instead of complaining I remind myself every day that growth, albeit painful, is a gift from God. Every ache, every pain, every tear, every jab, every stretch mark, every trip to the bathroom, every night spent tossing and turning trying to find the perfect sleeping position has been entrusted to me by a God that desires my participation in co-creating life.

Erin Robinson Hall introduced this holy idea during last month’s conference call hosted by Baptist Women in Ministry. As she discussed the privilege women enter into during the nine, but really ten, months of pregnancy, my eyes swelled with tears as I realized for the first time the opportunity set before me. Being pregnant is not just a means to an end; it’s a holy process that invites a messy and broken person, like myself, to participate in the creation of life.

Any woman who has endured the trying months of pregnancy, not to mention labor and delivery, knows that this privilege isn’t all roses. Each has her horror story and many willingly share these with starry-eyed first time mothers, bringing them back to the reality that pain will ultimately find you.

But if you listen long enough to the chorus of these brave and courageous women, the hearer will find each story concludes the same way: “but I would do it all over again, because [s]he is worth it.” Ultimately these stories remind me that I am not alone, that others have gone before me, and that it’s worth it.

So as I roll out of bed, literally, three times a night, I find myself thanking God. Participating in creating life requires growth and commitment and ultimately pain will accompany it. Some days are better than others, but on the really hard days I hear the chorus cheering me on, asking me to join them in remembering that although pain is inevitable, it’s worth it.

Although pregnancy has taught me this valuable lesson, each of our days are filled with “pregnant” opportunities to embark on the journey of co-creation. So as God invites you to participate in co-creating life here on earth, don’t forget that it’s not for sissies!


Heather Mustain serves as minister of missions at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. An advocate for global missions, Heather graduated from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work.  This post originally appeared as an article in Wilshire Baptist Church’s newsletter.

Starlette McNeill: My Flesh and Blood

“My flesh and blood.”

I looked at my son as he lay sleeping one morning and those words came to mind. More than my next of kin, John is the closest person to me because he is the closest to being me.

I am not merely talking about resemblance and certainly not gender, but he is my flesh and my blood. We have shared a body and he has walked in my shoes before he took his first step. He knows what it is to be me because he came from me. I am his entrance into the world, his mother-door.

McNeill 22

While I understood the phrase “my flesh and blood” before becoming a mother, it became more evident after having a child. I was clear on the fact that my womb would become his first room and my ribs his bed. I accepted that I would share my food and drink, that his vote would become the majority when determining my taste buds, moods and sleeping patterns.

But, when he was born and I looked into his eyes and saw mine, I realized that I had given much more.

And as much as I am attempting to capture this realization with words, the alphabet does not possess enough manpower to catch the enigma. These characters fall short of explaining the revelation. They are inadequate to express the mystery because it is a deep knowing, a certainty shared with one who was tied to me by navel string.

My son knows me in a way that no one else ever will.

Sure, he knows which buttons to push and how to get his way but there’s more to it than that. A veiled knowledge, I can’t even tell you all that he knows. We have shared an experience that cannot be taken away from us. You would have to be my flesh and blood to understand it.

And so it is with Christ.

We are spiritually carried and reborn through the womb of baptism. Born again, Jesus is our Door. How amazing that he would make room for us in his body–that no one has to scoot over, that we don’t have to share, but that God has a place for each of us.

How remarkable that Christ, who is the living water and the bread of heaven, would share the divine delicacy of his word with us. We do eat from the very mouth of God. Growing in the Body of Christ, we are his flesh and blood.

How incredible that we are an expression of his flesh that was crucified and his blood that was shed for humanity. When Jesus, the Savior of the world, looks at us, he sees his next of kin.

This relationship is not one of fans or even followers. We are not in the stands cheering him on or standing in line to shake his hand or walking behind him but seated at the table with him. We are family members and the fact that we resemble him at all is a miracle.

I looked at my son and said, “My flesh and blood.” How utterly confounding that Christ looks at his Church, that Christ looks at you and me, and says, “My flesh and blood.” What amazing grace. Amen.


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.

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).

dog 1

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.