Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 8

My sweet baby girl,

You are growing up so beautifully and (just as I’ve been warned) so quickly. I am cherishing your gummy grins while they last (for your teeth still haven’t decided to make an appearance). I am soaking in our moments in the rocking chair, nursing you before nap times and bedtimes (for I already see glimpses of their disappearance). I am trying to remain calm when you are shrieking like a banshee whether out of glee or anger (for I know eventually the days will come when you’d be mortified to have anyone witness such outbursts). I am loving your growing affinity for mama and daddy (for your love for friends…and Lord, help me, boys…will someday be upon us). I adore you bouncing gleefulness and your cheerful arm flapping (for I know you will be on the move before we know it and I really don’t mind your lack of mobility at the moment).
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first time exploring Lake Erie with mama

This month you have tried more foods that I could probably list, and you seem to love them all. Green beans, watermelon, peaches, zucchini, tomato, and all sorts of summer produce have graced your plate (and your face and arms and hair). It definitely appears that you are teething, but we don’t see anything poking through just yet. You gnaw on everything like your life depended on it. Beyond my better judgment you chewed on the edge of a table in the restaurant last week, mouth gaping and tongue waving in eagerness every time you began leaning forward to gnaw once again. It was hilarious and disgusting and adorable all at once.

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Like most kids, you seem to enjoy non-toys almost more than actual toys. The best way to keep you occupied and quiet in public is sitting you on the floor next to something like mom’s bag to just look at and poke at and grab and of course chew on. Paper and napkins and books are your favorite items, loving the crinkle and the texture. There is nothing that gets you more quickly angered than taking away a piece of paper you were chewing on. Wow, the wrath surfaces instantly. (But, Kirsten, my dear, we just really don’t want you to eat paper, that is gross and unhealthy.) And currently you are sitting on the kitchen floor joyously and inquisitively playing with a metal spoon and sauce pan. What fun!

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Aside from those items, you do have a few favorite toys.  Your puppy dog pacifier now goes everywhere with you. It is a must for bedtime and nap time, but also nice to have when we go out, keeping a pacifier from rolling tables away from us. (The Wubbanub is an incredible invention.) A couple weeks ago, you had your first encounter with your very own baby doll. She is a soft-sided Cabbage Patch handed down from your Zia (Aunt Ashley). You just light up when you see her. Blankets (especially their tags) remain a favorite and your crinkle book is a winner (we just happened to misplace it, unfortunately.)

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You are rolling over professionally now and getting close to pulling yourself to standing or rocking into a crawling position. You just seem a disinterested or perhaps fearful, or maybe a little of both. Like I said, I am content with your immobility at the moment, for it makes some things a little easier. I do really look forward to the day of walking hand in hand with you to the church, though, or having you crawl into my room just to find me. (Let it be known that I do not look forward to those eerily quiet moments when you are sure to be doing something mischievous, like climbing onto a bookshelf or getting into the Vaseline or plastering your body with my makeup.)

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You seemed to have adjusted to using the church nursery as your second bedroom, napping more readily most days of the week while we work or have worship practice or whatnot. I have constructed various baby monitors out of tech devices using Google hangouts. (Though your screams are heard throughout the church building if all is quiet.) There had been many times a poor unsuspecting parishioner entered the church for a meeting or a service project and woke you up without meaning to. They felt so terrible, and yes, I would love for you to sleep, so I made signs to hang in the hallway to ask people to be as quiet as possible, or at least warn them that you are asleep. It’s a little jankity but it works alright and we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do.

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cherished kisses from great grandma Mary Fish (93 years old)

We are still faithful users of the cloth diapers (you’ve avoided rashes for many months now). You still adore bath time (which happens most frequently in the kitchen sink). You go to sleep well, but you have slept through the night since sometime in the third month when you led me to believe we had won some infant parenting award. Nope. Not even close. You wake up yelling (yes, yelling) at least twice a night, sometimes three or four times. (I cannot even remember what it was like to get a full, undisturbed night of rest, which just blows my mind because it was of utmost importance less than a year ago. My, how times change.) During one twilight rendévous I typically change your diaper because it is pretty inevitable that you will spring a leak otherwise. But you will then go back to sleep after nursing, keeping me up for just about 15 minutes each time. Not bad, I suppose. (And thinking of my future self who will likely be laying wide awake in agony when you are experiencing some sort of high school crisis or deciding on college or staying out past 8pm with your friends, I will take these sweet innocent nighttime encounters any day.)

Kirsten, I love you, everything about you. You are crazy and intense, yes, but you are MY crazy and intense girl. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You know what you need, you have vast expressions that rival my own, and you have a smile that can instantly win over the sourest of moods.

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Keep being you, Kirsten Grace. We love you.

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Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 7

My sweet Kirsten,

Wow! What a joy it is to be your mother! Watching you grow and develop, experiencing the world’s sights and sounds through your perspective is so much fun. I am being transformed, daughter. Through mothering you, the Lord is opening my eyes to his grace in new ways. I am being tested, challenged…will I give mercy? Will I seek His grace? How will I respond when I’m frustrated and exhausted and everything seems to be going wrong? Will I take credit for the days that go smoothly…or will I find God’s gifts in those times? 

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I am thankful, sweet girl, that the Lord in his mercy waited to call me to motherhood. I am thankful because holysmokes I don’t think my spirit was ready for this crucible all those years ago. This is hard. Time is a bigger premium than I can describe. And I notice how selfish I still am. (How am I still so selfish?!) For all of the difficulties and pain and “opportunities for growth” that mothering you has allowed me, I am beyond thankful. Growth is sometimes painful. Crucibles don’t have comfortable connotations. But you are the most wonderful gift I could ever be given. You do give me countless opportunities to step deeper into my Christ-in-me identity. And you do bring more joy to life than I ever knew possible. (Have I mentioned how motherhood is a paradox?)

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You are just over Seven Months Old and I am loving this stage. With every passing day and week, you become more independent, more funny, more personable, more loving. Your smile is truly contagious (as Gramma says). Your expressions are boundless.

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love the big personality you have. There’s no doubt that intensity and a flair for the dramatic are hard-wired into your being, and with that extreme comes possibilities for deep, Christ-like compassion and true, Spirit-led love for others. You are a leader in the making, Kirsten Grace. I see your strength of personality, your unique combination of traces of me and traces of your dad. We pray that you will root your life deeply into Jesus and use your very evident gifts of passion and fierce tenacity for the Kingdom of God.

You are a gem, my girl, beautiful and unique and priceless.

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This month you’ve fallen in love with all sorts of new foods. You’re still loving butternut squash and sweet potato, and you’ve added apple, pear, avocado, banana, spinach, carrot, zucchini, mango, and chicken to the mix. The mesh feeder has been a fun and wonderful tool to introduce new foods. There were two pears on the counter that were super soft so I sliced them up and gave a piece to you in the feeder. After just a few minutes, you’d eaten both of those pears! You haven’t been too sure about banana, but a semi-frozen cube of banana in the mesh feeder was devoured. Carrot wasn’t high on your favorites, but in the mesh feeder, the puree was gone quickly! (Thanks, Amanda, for this great gift!)

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You’ve been sitting like a big girl in your high chair to eat. We could have put you in the high chair months ago, I think, but there was something very grown-up about the idea of you in a high chair that made me hold off. But you were ready for it and now we are too. It’s so much fun watching you experience our favorite foods in raw, real form. I love feeding you things that I can take bites of because they’re foods I love too!

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You’ve turned a corner this last month with Sunday mornings. I know how tiring and long Sundays are as a pastor, and I can imagine they feel even longer and more tiring when you don’t understand why you’re still at church and why can’t I just be with mommy and daddy? But this last month, you really seemed to start settling into this aspect of life as the pastors’ kid. Part of it is the time I’ve spent with you in the nursery during the week, nursing you and putting you down for a nap in the pack ‘n play. Being a mom and a pastor, I’ve continued to hone our church nursery into a place that is comfortable and clean, that provides for all the possible needs of babies and their parents. It’s a cool bonus gift from God, allowing me to step into a place of hospitality by way of motherhood.

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Anyways, Sunday mornings has brought a decent number of before-church naps which aids your nursery-time tremendously. God has also brought a growing number of new families with new babies to our congregation so our nursery is a fun-filled place for you to be. You seem to be a people-person through and through. When you’re in their alone, you tend to fuss. When there’s lots of friends around, you’re happy as a lark.

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You’ve started reaching for me, which I adore. If I’ve left you with daddy or a friend or family member for a while, you’ll have been peachy-keen-content for quite some time. But as soon as I walk into your line of site, you start fussing rather dramatically. I love that you love me so, and seem to have a crazy-desperate need to be with momma right now. But really, Child, you’re just fine. Take a deep breath. It’s all good.

As much FUN as it is watching you grow and become more whole YOU, it is a true privilege to call you ours. We love you, Kirsten Grace, and that is one thing that won’t ever change.

Always,
Mama

A few fun facts:

  • you love water bottles, almost more than any other toy
  • you started practicing with a sippy cup and you’re getting the hang of it
  • you are now consistently able to get a pacifier back in your mouth
  • you’re sitting up like an old pro
  • your hand dexterity seems to be strong: you’ve been passing toys back and forth from hand to hand since before your six month appointment
  • you have started mastering the grown-up, real-food poop. Holy cow. Poopy diapers have diminished from a few a day to about every 2 days. But wow, you are a CHAMP at poop. whew-whee.
  • your bedtime is between 7:30 and 8 and you let us know. I still nurse you every night before bed.
  • you sleep until 1 or 2am, nurse, then back to sleep until 5 or 6, nurse, then back to sleep until 7:30.
  • you’re not really consistent on any sort of daytime naps.
  • you love Tavie.
  • you love watching screens.
  • you flap your arms and bang on the table constantly; we think you might be our next cajon player on the worship team
  • you have powerful vocal chords and a crazy high falsetto
  • YOU FINALLY ROLLED OVER! A few times now we’ve found you on your tummy in your crib. Go, you!
  • you like taking rides in the stroller or on my back when we go bike riding
  • you are starting to play
  • you bounce when you get really excited
  • you fed yourself your own bottle for the first time

Kirsten Grace Month 7

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Jesus, Ministry

Camp with Middle Schoolers

This week I had the awesome privilege of being the evangelist for the Young Teen Campers at Somerset Beach. I cannot adequately describe what the Holy Spirit did at camp this week. Far beyond anything I asked or imagined, God was on the move, and lives (especially mine) were changed. More than any other year of camp-speaking, I connected with this group of young teenagers and young adults (the counselors and worship team).

Explorer Camp 2 / Young Teen Camp 2

Even though I didn’t have the chance to meet with every single person, it was the work of the Spirit binding us together in corporate worship and Scripture memory and the life-altering work that only God can do. Not only did I have a blast hanging out with them – dancing and singing, splashing in the water, waiting in line for meals – but I was completely blown away by their tender hearts, their receptivity to the Gospel of Jesus. And these kids are sharp. Like, WOAH. Their insightful questions truly impressed me. (I’m fairly certain our culture significantly underestimates the intelligence and the comprehension and the capabilities of 11-13 year olds. These students could easily rival college coeds or grown-ups in theological discussions.)

Explorer Camp 2 / Young Teen Camp 2

The overarching message of the week was The Image of God. We began Sunday night by a fun competition where cabins wrote down lists of adjectives that would describes someone’s image – the way they perceive themselves or believe others see them. Words such as weird, silly, jock, bully, perfectionist, athletic, skinny, fat, dumb, smart covered the pages.

By way of introducing myself I shared these very honest bullet-pointed insights into my own image:

  • I have been following Jesus as a Christian since I was 5 years old.
  • I am a pastor.
  • I am mom to 7 month old Kirsten.
  • I have been married to my husband Kevin for 8 years.
  • I am a runner & yoga instructor.
  • I am a worship leader & grad school student.
  • I love baking cookies & coffee dates & reading & taking walks.
  • I am good student & a responsible leader.
  • I am a trustworthy friend & I give honest advice.
  • I am a people person and feel other people’s emotions very deeply.
  • I struggle with perfectionism and negative body image.
  • I struggle to not overeat or overexercise.
  • I care too much about what people think and try too hard to make everyone happy with me.
  • I am indecisive and a roller coaster of emotions.
  • I have a quick temper and a bad attitude far too often.

I preached on the words from Genesis 1:27, looking many of them dead in the eye as I said,

You were made in the very image of GOD. Your life has incredible worth and you have a purpose.

Throughout the next seven gatherings of morning worship and evening vespers, we broke down unhealthy images and reconstructed our mindsets based on the Image of God.

  • Mean Girls & Bullies –>
    • God’s Chosen People (Colossians 2:14-15)
  • Self Harm, Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse –>
    • Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • Perfectionists & Cheaters –>
    • Obedience to God (Genesis 4:2-11 and I John 3:11-24)

Explorer Camp 2 / Young Teen Camp 2

On our final night together, I was prepared with responses to their really tough questions. My plan was then to move into a lesson and lead into an opportunity for salvation. The Lord had a much more beautiful plan than mine, however, for as soon as I was “done” with answering questions, hands began to raise left and right. I spent the next 20 minutes fielding deep, theological issues these young teens tossed my way.

  • Who wrote the Bible?
  • Did every story in the Bible really happen?
  • Are tattoos bad?
  • Can a Christian believe in evolution?
  • What happens if a baby is baptized and then dies – will they go to heaven or hell?
  • What happens to someone who commits suicide?
  • Is heaven and hell real?

And my favorite question of all:

  • How can I be saved?

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Throughout the week the lessons had progressed. We are made in God’s image. We become God’s chosen people by believing on the Lord Jesus. When we commit to following God we become Temples of the Holy Spirit and should live in Obedience to God’s commands. On this last night, I was thrilled to answer that question, the question that starts a life of pursuing God, of living in the very center of our chosen-ness, becoming fully who He created us to be.

Salvation is simple: Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

This is the first step and absolutely essential. This is a life-changing moment. But it doesn’t stop here. Every day it’s surrender, believing God has the best plan in store for you. It’s living in obedience to him and out of love for others.

After having an opportunity to pray, we worshiped and closed the session. Many students flocked to the counselors and Wellspring members and to me to talk more. These kids had further questions on the tough topics we’d discussed. And then there was one boy left, the quiet one who’d subtly passed me his piece of paper with the words, “How to be saved?” He came up to me with hardly an expression on his face but with the most tender heart and asked me to pray with him. I led him to Jesus right then and there and we hugged. I told him how thrilled I was for him and how exciting this moment one. I asked him if he had a church to go to and implored him to share this decision with his pastor and to get connected with someone who’s a step or two ahead of him in following Jesus.

This morning at our closing session, the kids were shouting out things they loved about camp. This meek young man said with the most enthusiasm I’d seen from him all week,

I accepted Christ!

The crowd cheered for him! Rejoice!

These students have memorized Scripture with joy and self-motivation. They have asked tough questions and processed tough answers. They have shown me that God’s spirit is alive and working in the lives of middle schoolers and the future leaders of the Church are being shaped and discipled right now. I have glorious hope for the next generation of Christ followers.

Thank you, Somerset Beach, for asked me to teach these young teens. What an eternal privilege it was.
Explorer Camp 2 / Young Teen Camp 2

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Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 6

Happy Half Year Birthday, Little Girl!Kirsten Grace Month 6

6 months already?! What the heck?! I’ve taken to saying, “She’ll be 19 years old tomorrow,” as a way of bracing myself for how quickly time will go. You are a such a gift; I’m treasuring every moment. I find myself stopping and just being present with you even while I’m in the middle of working or cooking or being busy with one thing or another. You’re becoming so great at being a part of our daily, working, traveling lives that it would be easy to miss the gift in the little mundane moments. But then I look at your and respond with this gigantic, eager grin from ear to ear and I can practically hear you saying, “I love you, momma” with those big blue eyes.

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I love you, sweet girl. I love you.

This past month has been tremendously developmental for you and subsequently tons of fun for your dad and me. Just this past week you started your first foods and loved it. You started grabbing the spoon and pulling it to your own mouth on the second round! I had planned to feed you pureed versions of the foods we love and so far it’s been a big hit. We did butternut squash mixed with breast milk for a week and then yesterday afternoon you had avocado mashed with a little breast milk. You did great with both!

I was surprised to discover – both from your cues and then from the info I looked up for some guidance – that you would still want to nurse just as much once starting purees. Apparently your calorie intake goes up and nursing stays the same. One book put it a way I really loved: Baby will continue nursing for the calories and start eating foods for the fun of it. Eventually, she’ll be eating foods for the health and calories and nursing for the joy of it. And then stop nursing altogether. Sounds like a nice progression for me.

I’m so proud of both of us for making it to 6 months exclusively breastfeeding. We did it, little one. I had read that “they” say breastfeeding through 6 months is ideal, but I just discovered this official scholarly article by the American Academy of Pediatrics that states in its abstract: The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

This month you’ve kicked up your laughter a notch (and we love it):

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You’ve been sitting up unassisted like an old pro for a couple weeks now and have really improved your standing ability, being up to stay upright for a few moments while holding on to something. (Not pulling yourself up yet and you’ve decided to not deal with rolling over…you just don’t care…)

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Kirsten & her friend Violet at church on June 26

You’ve been to a family wedding & sported a cute pinafore dress that I wore as a baby…

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…gone strawberry picking at Whittaker’s Strawberry Patch…

…hung out with Landon Loomis for mom & dad’s date night (we’re swapping date nights/babysitting with our Loomis friends!)…

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…improved your falsetto…

…spent an afternoon making a new friend – Selah May – and hanging out with friends of ours we hadn’t seen since their wedding in 2008…

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You have made tremendous strides in the church nursery, no longer crying the entire hour that you’re separated from momma. I love knowing you’re happy and just fine, and that you’re surrounded by a whole slew of people who love you to pieces (even if you do cry the entire time).

You’re developing more diverse facial expressions and experimenting with your vocal chords.

You really love mirrors and give me the biggest grin when you see my reflection next to yours.

You love being outside, you mostly love taking naps. You still love baths and being outdoors.

You went to your first Detroit Tigers baseball game in honor of our new Mother’s & Father’s Day tradition…

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and that same evening went to your weekly worship practice just like you’ve done since you were 5 days old…

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We’ve become more and more crazy about you with each passing day, Kirsten. You are gorgeous. You are smart. You are strong. You’re our girl. And we love you.

Happy Half Birthday! 

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