Husband, Jesus, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Marriage, Ministry, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 3

My dear sweet Kirsten Grace,

Happy 3rd Month Birthday! This has been such a fun month with you. When people ask “how’s the baby” I find myself saying, “She is so much fun!” The first few weeks were just about surviving…how to feed you, how to soothe you, how to sleep with one eye open. But as we’ve learned a new sort of normal, the true joy is settling over our home and into the depths of our spirits. You are growing and learning and developing such a sweet personality and it is truly so much fun. Kirsten Grace Month 3

My favorite moment of each day is walking into the room where you’re started to wake, leaning over the edge of your cradle and saying, “Good morning, baby girl!”…and watching the world’s biggest grin cover your face. There is no feeling like that love.

And it got me thinking about our gracious God and how he must feel about us, his children. It doesn’t matter how much we fuss and cry and wrestle with our sin natures the day before, his mercies are new every morning! I believe He cannot wait to see us when we wake. He is thrilled to see if we’ll smile back at him, to watch what new thing we’ll do that day.

Your daddy and I just adore doing life with you, Kirsten. It’s a crazy dance we do, this life as parents, in full time ministry, in marriage. No two days look the same. I have come to accept that my time alone with the Lord may not (read: almost never) come first thing in the morning with my cup of tea and the rising sun. Rather than feeling frustrated by the fact that my schedule is no longer my own, I am learning to seek the Lord at any available interval. She’s asleep and the laundry’s going and it’s 11am? Prayer. She’s content and I have time for yoga and worship? Yes, please. Daddy is home and willing to stick around so I can get in a run? Thankful for the open air devotions.

Sweet girl, if there’s one thing you know about your momma I pray you know how much I love Jesus.

Speaking of your faith, the most momentous event of your third month was your baptism and dedication on Palm Sunday, March 20th. In the Free Methodist Church, we believe in infant baptism as a sacrament, an act of God’s grace in which we are participants. Parents can also choose to dedicate their child, allowing them to select their own baptism as adults, but after much prayer and consideration, we decided we would baptize you. There is a spiritual, mysterious element to any sacrament (i.e. baptism, communion). We show up, we partake, we receive. But the work is done by God’s Spirit.

Thus, we wanted to invite the sanctifying of the Spirit to begin now, putting action to the meaning of your name Follower of Christ by the grace of God. When you are old enough to make a personal commitment to follow Jesus, you will get to participate in an affirmation of your baptism. This will allow you to assume responsibility for the vows we made on your behalf: that your life be lived in consecration and dedication to the Almighty God.

We invited Brian Kono to perform your baptism and dedication ceremony. Brian is a ministry professor at Spring Arbor and was a mentor for both your dad and me during our college days. He is a playing a large part in guiding me through my path to ordination, and he and his wife Angel have become our good friends. Superintendent Bruce & Jerilynn Rhodes were there for this service, along with our church family, five friends (representing many) from Albion, New York, and a portion of our family. We know that those who couldn’t attend – both family and friends – were there with us in spirit, standing in solidarity with the congregation’s affirmation to partner in your spiritual growth.




Arvidson Great Grandparents, Eccles Grandparents, Mom & Dad & Kirsten, Uncle Brian and Beth


Tara Thom, Kirsten Liddle, Eccles, Catherine Thom, Ashlyn & Sheryl LeBaron

This month Kirsten Grace Eccles:

  • make wonderful eye contact, following us all around the room.
  • loves light & screens (tvs, computers)…oh boy
  • smiles so big! (Her left eye squints in the cutest fashion!)
  • has become quite vocal, giggling, gurgling, and screeching on purpose
  • sometimes stop in the middle of nursing to look up and chat with momma
  • continues to be a star at Panera during many discipleship coffee meetings
  • does really well wearing cloth diapers (mommy & daddy love them too!)
  • seems to be keeping a full head of hair and bright blue eyes (like her Uncle Brian & Aunt Ashley)
  • sings along during church
  • is in a bit of a “momma-attachment” phase
  • enjoys car rides
  • is staying steadily strong and healthy with exclusive breastfeeding (momma is so thankful!)
  • has taken many walks along the River Raisin her carrier or the stroller (can’t wait for warmer days)
  • still loves her baths
  • has slept through the night (7 or 8 hours) on a couple occasions, but mostly keeps a consistent 15-20 minute nursing around 3am and then again at 6am, going back to sleep until 8:30am. (Glory!)

Now for a month’s worth of sweet moments caught on camera:

These first few photos were captured a few minutes before her second church board meeting last night. The sunlight was streaming in the bedroom window and momma just couldn’t resist. (Yes, she was a few minutes late for the meeting. worth it.)


headband made by Andrea Ortell



loves sucking on her fist, hasn’t consistently favored any fingers or thumb



Spent all of month 3 sleeping soundly in the cradle made by Great Grandpa Arvidson for Daddy in 1986. And thanks to Amanda Loomis, our neighbor and dear friend for the lovely quilt. 


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Waiting for Dr. Aza Khaghany at her 2nd Month Appointment on March 3rd. She HATED the immunizations, but we all survived. (Mommy didn’t even cry!) Kirsten was 23 inches (up from 19.5″) and weighed 11lb 7oz (up from 7lb). Yay!


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We visited with the Shepherds a few times. Anastasia is her new friend, and now a big sister to Zoe (born just two days ago!)

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Kirsten goes to work with momma and daddy quite frequently. Here she studies St. Athanasius

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We voted in the Presidential Primaries on March 8th and then walked in the 70 degree temps.


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With Mom & Dad at worship practice

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Family Photo on Kirsten’s 3rd Month Birthday

After today’s photo shoot, Daddy read Kirsten his favorite childhood book: If I Had a Little Airplane. She really loved it.


“I know, isn’t a great book?!”

Family, Husband, Jesus, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Love, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 2

Dear Kirsten Grace,
Sweet daughter of mine,

I am so thankful God chose to give me a gift I could never deserve. Each day His goodness keeps unfolding like a glorious flower, petal after petal, in the beauty of who you are. I pray I will never cease proclaiming His glory, never forget to live out eucharisteo joy over your life. He created you, knit you together in my womb, purposely piecing together every fiber of your being. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, sweet girl.

Jesus Christ is crazy about you. He loves you just as you are, not as you should be.

That quote from Brennan Manning’s All is Grace (by his friend, Brother Dominique) is shaping my perspective of my own life right at this moment. I pray you grow up knowing deep in the center of your being the truth of those words.

*Kirsten Grace 2 months old

This month has been so much fun. Your personality is forming and we are getting to know you more and more with every passing hour. The grins are real now. You stop in the middle of nursing sometimes and just gleam that gummy smile up at me, staring right into my eyes. It’s transformative, really. I can’t fathom the depth of the connection God has given us. I love you, Kirsten, and I tell that you that a million times a day. I pray you believe me, today and always.


I have made a conscious effort to be present with you, soaking up our moments together, knowing time races by too quickly. I believe it when others tell me how quickly you will grow up. Spending five years waiting for you gave me five years to grow up a little more myself. Perhaps because of that time, I’ve developed a deepened sense of being, convicted that what people need most is the gift of presence. I don’t want to spend my time documenting your life as much as I want to be a part of your life. I apologize in advance if you’re disappointed that I don’t have every momentous occasion written on my calendar. But I do hope you’ll remember that mom and dad were with you, loving you, loving each other, doing life together.


February 26

In your second month these are some noteworthy moments:

one. You have officially been to Panera more than most people ever have. Wendy and Megan know you by name and are excited every time we walk in. (Yes, we’re on first name basis with baristas too!) Want to know why you’ve been to Panera so much? Because your mom and dad do ministry in an every day place like Panera Bread. I have had three coffee meetings a week for the past three weeks with individuals who are willing to share their lives with me. That time together is totally worth a $2 cup of coffee. (Plus, I can drink coffee again…hooray for no acid reflux!) Depending on who I’m with, we talk about dating and marriage and music and Netflix and education and the Bible…and it’s real life discipleship as we seek to become more like Christ in those seemingly mundane moments.

two. You started sleeping in your cradle on Feb 18, just a couple days shy of 8 weeks. I wrap you up in your Halo swaddle sleeper after nursing you. You might be asleep, you might be awake, but it’s the same time every night and you just go to sleep. No crying. I won’t jinx myself by saying anything more about that little gift.

three. You don’t cry in your carseat anymore; it probably helped we loosened the straps on your shoulders. Yeah this parenting thing is figure it out as you go.

four. We have been exclusively cloth diapering and loving it! I can’t really express why, but your dad and I both are genuinely stoked about our decision to use cloth. (We use BumGeninus all-in-ones in case anyone’s wondering. And side note, a huge thank you to my Albion friends for asking what I really wanted off of our registry and actually going in on a group gift to buy all of our diapers – and a few extras. Seriously, thank you.) The clean up isn’t bad, thanks to your dad’s installation of the sprayer on our toilet, and I’ve gotten into a pretty good washer routine. Plus, your little bum is happy with it which is really the most important part.

five. You still love bath time! I take you right in the shower with me most every day and it works wonderfully. I leave you in the bouncer right outside the shower in just your diaper while I bath myself. Then, I dry off my hands and step out to bring you in with me. You love the warm water and don’t mind it running in your face. You started getting some baby acne during the couple days when I didn’t bath you so back to the routine that seems to work! You happily watch me do my hair and makeup when we’re done because you get to bask in the warmth of the overhead bathroom heater.

six. You’ve been staying in the nursery every Sunday morning while mommy and daddy lead the church service. Only once were you wailing so incessantly that I had to go rescue you before the end of the service, leaving the last hymn unsung. The congregation seemed to understand just fine. :) (And side note, special thanks to the long list of volunteers from MFMC who care so well for you each week. Second side note, thanks to the guys who ran HDMI all the way to the nursery so the workers could watch the service!)
seven. We’ve been going for lots of walks in carrier Lynne made. (She is a brilliant seamstress!) Sometimes you scream and struggle for a moment, but inevitably you fall to sleep all snuggled in next to my heartbeat. It’s good exercise and fresh air for us both (although I keep you covered up because it’s still a bit too nippy for you to be exposed.)

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February 1

eight. You ate from a bottle for the first time on February 23rd. I had been considering a bottle for a while but have no desire to rush it. We still plan to nurse exclusively, leaving the freezer stocked with momma’s milk for whenever Dad or someone else is home with you for a few hours if I need to be away. It’s a relief to know how easily you took the bottle – whether I was holding it or Daddy.

loved watching your Dad give you a bottle today. It was incredible to see him experience that connection for the first time. I couldn’t wipe that smile off of his face if I tried. We both think you were a little confused by the fact that mom is over there, but I’m eating. what the heck? But you didn’t let that stop you.

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February 26

nine.  You got to go with us on our first Family Valentine’s Pizza Date. Every year since college, your daddy and I go on a hunt for a new pizza place. We decided all those years ago that Valentine’s would be a family dinner date, so along you came. We ate a Nick & Nino’s and because we went at 4:30 like the old people that we are, we scored half price appetizers. Best chicken tenders ever, btdubs. We even saw Alisha – the receptionist from my chiropractor’s – and she was so excited to see you! She rushed over to give you a cuddle.

And here are a few more fun shots from this morning’s 2 month old photo shoot. We had a blast with you. I think you like the click of the camera!




Your hair is long enough for a little spout!


Big stretch! And WORTH THE WAIT. Amen. Thank you, Amanda, for this most thoughtful gift.

bonus footage from your second month:

January 30th

One of our many Panera trips


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Being a Pastor’s Kid means napping next to us while we plan worship services. (January 31)



Sunday, February 7, hanging out with daddy after church.


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This was your first time in the Boppy, practicing your neck support (February 9)


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Sometimes you nap on my lap while your Daddy and I play chess on the couch and try to keep the cats from batting the pieces. It helps that they’re magnetic. (February 13)


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This is my view every night as you fall into sleep. February 16


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I love the intensity of your blue eyes. February 18

This particular Sunday (February 21) you had an inordinate amount of energy left after a long morning at church. We snapped some adorable photos of you in the sunlight of your bedroom. I can’t get over the red glints in your hair, your rosy lips, and those bright blue eyes. Plus, can we talk about that baby tunic-style top. I’d totally wear that. (You hit the nail on the head, Kenz.)




that little tongue of yours. So cute.

And during your second month this has become your typical day:
9:45pm In bed to nurse
10:30pm Asleep
3/4:00am Awake to nurse
4/5:00am Back to sleep

6/7:00am Awake to nurse and get up for the day
7-8:30am Spend time with momma in the living room, in my swing or on her lap, while she does devotions & then yoga.
8/9:00am Bath time with mom or dad. (Bathing is my favorite.)
10am Nurse and read my Jesus Storybook Bible with momma
10am-Noon is morning nap time, for at least an hour, maybe two. Sometimes I play for a bit.
12pm Nurse
1-3pm is afternoon nap time, for an hour or two. Sometimes I prefer to just chat for a while.
3pm Nurse
3-5pm awake and play or nap again
5pm Nurse
5:30-8:30pm Nap and play or Nap and fuss
8:30pm Nurse. Nap on momma’s lap until bedtime nursing.


And with that, dear child of mine, I leave you with this prayer from I Thessalonians 5:23-24

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus. He who called you is faithful and he will do this.”



Confessions, Infertility, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Writings of a New Mom

No matter how many blogs you read or books you scour, despite the advice and assistance of other mom friends, nothing can prepare you for new motherhood except new motherhood. You dive in face first, splash around in the most undignified sort of way, bob to the surface for a gasp of fresh air, and flounder a few more times. Rinse and repeat. The pattern grows a bit more graceful as the days pass…

…but if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my four weeks of being a mom it’s that motherhood is not about mastery. Motherhood is a practice. Motherhood is a spiritual discipline. God will use this new role to transform you and sanctify you. There will be times of peace and contentment, feeling confident and mature, closer to His likeness. Through frustration and angst, sadness and tears, He will draw you nearer to himself. All of this is grace.

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As I shared my journey of infertility I learned what healing and strength could come through honest accounts of life and hearts. Friendships are formed, barriers are broken, open wounds become beautiful scars to remind us of our journey.

And so I write. I endeavor to write truth, to share honest accounts of life and transformation, to preach words my own heart needs to hear. I will post pictures and snippets of our days that may seem a little too perfect. Those are my efforts to search for God’s grace, a hunt for goodness and gifts in the everyday mundane of life. I will talk about the moments that bring me to tears or that cause me to shutter at my flesh. And I call this out in each of you, friends. Solidarity is healing.

Today our little family ventured back to our favorite date spot. Kirsten was a little star, one of the employees even got to snuggle her. #kirstengraceeccles

It is like those disciples walking the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) who chose to share the real, raw stuff of life. They were still in the middle of their grief over Christ’s crucifixion. Anger and tears and confusion flooded their minds as their words attempted to process their devastating weekend. And in the midst of this truest sort of community, the risen Jesus himself appeared. 

In the same way our own spiritual journeys are not meant to traversed alone. Community. We choose to walk the road with others, to get through the tough things in life and help one another invite Christ into our midst. I want to be a part of a transforming community – 

men and women gathered around the presence of Christ for the purpose of being transformed in Christ’s presence so they can discern and do the will of God.

(Ideas and quote from Ruth Haley Barton’s Life Together in Christ.)

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Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids

Kirsten Grace – Month 1

Dear Kirsten Grace,

It has been one month since we met face to face, and what a life changing introduction it has been. In many ways, our lives are completely different and can never look the same again. But in a mysterious work of the Divine, you fit so flawlessly into our family it’s hard to notice those differences. We feel like we’ve known you forever and can’t imagine life without you.

Kirsten Grace Month 1

On Friday (January 22), you seemed to have a dramatic growth spurt. Gramma Fish was visiting and she commented on the way you were both soothing yourself and focusing your eyes for the first time. Later that day you came with us on an epic Salvation Army excursion. (Seriously, we were there forever and had great success). I had to take you to the car to nurse you and after you had been fed, burped and changed you wouldn’t stop crying. I tried swaddling you and I tried wearing you in the K’tan but you hated everything all of a sudden. Plus, you seemed super long in the K’tan. Did you seriously grow inches a day?! As I was beginning to see my wits end, I laid you on my lap and you stopped crying. You just wanted to look around and see the world. This was a major first for you. You were noticing things and wanted to participate. I told your gramma that she might be right – we need to bring along an interactive toy for you already! What in the?! 

As Gramma carried you around the store while your Mama hunted for new (to her) clothes, you just wanted to look out, locking your eyes on the newness. This is such a quick change in your development and so much fun. When we got home to your daddy, you were crying in your swing which was unusual. He laid you on his lap and you were fixated, instantly content by hearing his voice and looking at his face. He spent the next hour or so interacting with you on our bed, singing Veggie Tales songs and tickling your tummy. You’re not quite to the point of responses, but you were very engaged. Suddenly we realized that we’re quickly entering the world of interaction with our child. So exciting!


We spent the first two weeks figuring out how to take care of you and how to take care of ourselves. Your daddy and I worked together surprisingly well in those early days, subconsciously realizing we absolutely needed to be on a team. Together we learned how to change your diaper and how ironic it is always your mama who ends up being the recipient of the spraying pee or exploding poop or leaking diapers. Super fun, thanks. (Most of the time I just laugh, though.) We have had fun watching your involuntary expressions, learning what your cries sound like, and listening to your little adorable grunts as your pooping. Yes, we think that’s cute. (And for the record, the “uhhh wah, uhhh wahh” cry is when you’re hungry. The shrieking scream and expression of pain means you’ve got some serious gas.)

We gave you many sponge baths and were quickly thankful for the overhead heater in our bathroom. You love to be warm almost as much as you love to be fed. However, let it be known that you are a little furnace just like your mom. I often over do it with the blankets or layers and you end up sweating like you’ve been working out. Speaking of working out, mama had you home alone Thursday morning so daddy wasn’t around to watch you while I exercised. I took you with me to the carpeted basement, turned a heater in the direction of your bouncy seat and had at it. Part way through I realized what an early example I was setting for you. I am so glad to teach you that taking care of your body is important. And maybe someday you’ll want to exercise with me!


Your umbilical cord stump fell off around day 12 and it was strangely bittersweet for me. Throwing away that last little reminder of our intimate, womb connection was a bit sad. But it also meant you were safe and in my arms and here to stay. We gave you your first bath on January 14 and I’m not gonna lie I was kind of afraid. I was afraid you would hate it and scream, and I was afraid of dropping you or hurting your slippery self by accident. I was pleasantly surprised (actually, I was ecstatic) when you absolutely loved your bath! It was like a baby spa for you. You relaxed into that warm water (which daddy drew at the perfect temperature) and let us pour water over your hair and lather soap all over. You were so content and your face told us you were loving every minute. In fact, I hated taking you out. Since then, we’ve given you a few more tub baths and oftentimes have been taking you into the shower with us. Again, you surprised me by loving the shower, not the least bit upset as the water streamed down your head or even splashed in your face. Adorable. We have decided that a Y membership and family swims are in our near future.


Although most people think you look just like your daddy (which I can agree with), I see a lot of my mannerisms in you. Your little tongue hangs out of your mouth most of the time, just like mine did as a baby. (I have already apologized to you if I’ve passed on my tongue thrust and lisp. Also, I drool a lot even now. Sorry about that.) You are very predictable in your daily routine, just like your plan-loving mother. You seem to love physical touch and closeness, quickly becoming content if I curl up next to you. I hope you always love to snuggle me. Your big toe curls up like a little elf toe just like mine. I’m especially in love with that feature for some reason.


Random bonus material:

Right now your eyes are a beautiful dark blue and I’m wondering what color they will settle on.

You’re still wearing newborn clothes, though we can fit you into some 0-3 months clothes as well.

You love movement: in the swing, in the bouncer, in the car, in the stroller. Always keep moving.

I love that you haven’t lost any of your rather thick hair. (The same head of hair that made me shout during a moment of pushing desperation, “Can’t you just grab her by the hair and pull her out?!

You seem to enjoy moderate amounts of tummy time, whether on my lap or my shoulder or the bed.

Your neck is already gaining a lot of strength, holding up your head with regularity.

Places you have been in your first month: 

Monroe Free Methodist Church – as early 4 days old, going with mama to do some office work. You were in church for the first time Sunday, January 3rd and stayed in the nursery without mom or dad on January 17th (Aunt Cathy Brownell and Amanda Loomis were there with you.)

Grandma & Grandpa Eccles house – for your newborn photo session with Sara Luke on January 2nd.

JRs restaurant in Milan – for Grandpa Eccles’ birthday dinner on January 10th.

Josh & Amanda Kraus’s house – just for fun on January 15th (you blew out your diaper on my lap and we had to take you home naked. I am so sorry.)

Somerset Beach Campground – for WMI craft & chat and a visit with Caitlin Koppelman and Baby Shiloh on January 16th.

The Henry Ford Museum – with Grandma and Grandpa Eccles, Uncle Brian, Beth and Sam on Martin Luther King Jr Day January 18th.

plus…Mama’s Chiropractor appointment (where you screamed for an hour), Mom’s 4 week follow up appointment with Cathy, and your 10 day visit with Dr. Aza. Also, Meijer & Aldi and the mall and Salvation Army and Panera Bread, and Agora Chorale.

You’ve had lots of visitors at the house too. There are so many more friends & family who are dying to meet you…if only we didn’t live far away. 

Grandma & Grandpa Fish
Grandma & Grandpa Eccles
Aunt Ashley & Uncle Randy Long
Great Grams & Chuck Simmons
Great Grandma & Grandpa Arvidson
Kellyanne & Dave Morgan
Cathy & Michaela Brownell
Jodi Schnieder
Kyle & Amanda Loomis
Bri Morgan
Nancy & Mike Liedel
The Longenbargers
Amanda Kraus
Brittney & Shane Everett
Ruth & Jenna Tyson
Randi & Anastasia Shepherd
Mark Thornton
Cousins Scott & Ana Coulter
Taylor St. Andre

At your 30 day check up with Dr. Aza Khaghany we were thrilled with your growth and health. You weighed 9 pounds (up from 7lbs at birth!) and gained an inch and a quarter in length (20-3/4 inches). The abrasion on the back of your head (from being wedged in my pelvis…sorry) is all but completely healed. The doctor and nurse both loved how much you were filling out (don’t worry, we won’t comment on you “filling out” when you’re grown up!) and how you were following us with your eyes and being so happy and alert. You are doing wonderfully! Your next appointment is in one month and I’m already bracing myself for the emotional turmoil of immunizations.


photo by Sara Luke

So, sweet girl, let it be known that we are in love with you. There is nothing you could ever do that would make us love you less. (shout out to a Rob Bell Nooma video from a decade ago…) As you grow and learn and experience the world around you, may you continually encounter the grace and goodness of God.

All our love,

Mama & Daddy


photo by Sara Luke