Family, Husband, Marriage

8 Years of Marriage

Today we celebrate the exchange of our wedding vows, the day we entered into the holy covenant of marriage. By the grace of God, our marriage has endured and is stronger and more lovely with each year.  And last night as we crawled into bed, we reminisced about our wedding day. It was a joyous occasion, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. As much as I loved us then – the 21 and 22 year old versions of ourselves, newly graduated from college, completely naïve to marriage, full of excitement and hope and young love – I like “us” even better now. I love who we’ve become, as a married couple, as a ministry couple, as unique and ever-evolving individuals.

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We have grown up together, Kevin and me. From those first days of college, 17 and 18 years old, we have come a long way. Our strong personalities are opposites on the Myers-Briggs (ESFJ and INTP) and we’re both first-borns. It seems we may have “broken” all of the rules about how to marry someone with whom you’re most compatible. But this marriage is a God-thing. Each of us is a strong personality, with fiery passions and peculiarities that hardly overlap. But it is because of those differences that we grow. We balance one another out in a way no one else could.

It is because of our marriage that I often ask dating or engaged couples, “How does he/she make you a better a person?” We were not created to be static beings. Rather, we should always be in pursuit of the holiness of God and to discover more deeply the person He made us to be, living out our unique skills and giftedness with passion and fervency.

As Kevin’s wife I have become more fully me. He calls out the best in me and sees gifts I try to shut down out of fear. He is not afraid to let me lead or to insist I develop a personal opinion (when I’d rather say, “whatever you want…” in the most non-committal sort of way).

I know he would list the ways I’ve helped him to grow, as well. It’s no secret that we’re a rather intense couple (in fact, some people get a kick out of watching us interact!), but we wouldn’t want it any other way. And we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that our little daughter is already a fiery individual. She will give us a run for our money, but she’ll stand on her own two feet in this world and prayerfully bring God’s Kingdom truths to those around her.

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So today, on our 8th anniversary, I reflect on the charge given us during our marriage ceremony.


Kevin and Melanie, I charge you both as you stand in the presence of God to remember that only a covenant of love will avail as the foundation for an enduring household. Let Christ, in his perfect love, be your example. If you keep this steadfast love ever before you and, remaining faithful to each other, resolutely endeavor to fulfill the vows you now make, God’s blessing will be upon you, and the home you establish will endure through life’s every change.


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God’s blessing has surely been upon us, in sickness and in health, in infertility and in childbearing, in joy and in sorrow, in ministry and in marriage. Our lives have endured many changes in just a few short years, but surely this home shall stand firm on the covenant made before God and upon the foundation of Christ our Lord.

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Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 4

My dear girl,

I’m already behind in your monthly posts, but let it be known that my tardiness is no reflection of my love for you. I can’t even come up with a specific excuse; I’ve had this post on my to do list for days now. Perhaps it’s being too busy or too stressed or too much of something. But in some corner of my mind I had decided to let myself off the hook of my own expectations, to give myself grace.

I pray you learn the art of grace-filled living. I have much to learn from you.

This past month has been so much fun with you, Kirsten. Your dad and I are constantly taking turns saying, “She is so cute!” Your personality, your squirminess and screeches, your eyebrow raises and big gummy grins have us just smitten.

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It’s no secret that you’re well-nourished, my dear. Those chubby cheeks are just irresistibly kissable, and each time someone comments on them I am thankful all over again for the success we’ve had in breastfeeding. I still complain about the crazy strong let-down and over-filling I have to deal with, yes four months in…, but I realized the other day that this is a precise answer to my prayers. I prayed specifically for a few aspects of labor and delivery and for a healthy breastfeeding relationship with you. Not all of my desires were met, but this one has…let’s say…exceeded my expectations. So, thanks God.

It has just occurred to us that may, in fact, be an intense baby. We’ve never thought of you as colicky or high needs, but maybe we just didn’t know any better. We’re getting to be around other babies your age and hearing other friends’ stories and holy smokes I think we’ve had ourselves a strong, fierce, headstrong little girl. At first I think, “Oh man this is going to be difficult parenting a strong willed child.” And yes, it will be, I’m sure. But then I think, “We prayed for our child to be bold and confident, to be a force for the Kingdom of God, and gosh darn it I think that’s exactly what we got!” (Plus, how could we expect any less from the offspring of two first born, type A, strong willed individuals?)

You are loud, so loud. You have a voice and you know how to use it, for better and for worse.

Your smile is glorious and your pouty lip is powerful.

You live on a rather rigid, self-regulated schedule and we love knowing your rhythms.

You are such a people person and quite the charmer when you’re in a happy mood.

You get over-stimulated and over-tired rather easily so watch out.

We adore you, Kirsten – every quirk, every peculiarity, with all of your passion and joy, and despite those glimpses of a sin nature already peaking out. You are so loved, by us and by so many.

This month’s milestones:

  1. Slept in your big crib in your own bedroom for the first time on April 29th, just a couple days after your 3rd month birthday. You’ve done beautifully in there ever since. (Mom survived her personal nervousness thanks to the video baby monitor.)
  2. Started attempting to roll over on April 1st. You still have not rolled, and I think it’s because you just don’t really see the need for it yet.
  3. Fought your first cold on April 6th. It was so sad hearing your congested breathing. It was scary to discover your first low-grade temperature. Thankfully, one dose of Tylenol, and a few days of saline drops and nose-suctioning did the trick. We now keep the humidifier going in your room.
  4. Sat up unassisted for the first time on April 25th – just a day shy of your 4 month birthday. It was so exciting!
  5. You’ve been actively grabbing at the dangling toys on the activity mat since mid-April and have since expanded to grabbing clumps of my hair, my glasses, and every piece of fabric you can get your hands on.
  6. You seem to be teething, but no signs of teeth yet. You are gnawing on things like your life depends on it.
  7. You’ve gotten good at self-soothing, only occasionally sucking on your thumb (which is adorable), and doing well with keeping the pacifier in your mouth (when you’re not screeching for the *fun* of it.)
  8. On May 5th you had your 4 month appointment with Dr. Aza. She still says you’re beautiful and in perfect health – what more could we ask for!? You and I both survived your second round of immunizations.
    1. 14 pounds 7 oz (65%) up from 7lbs at birth
    2. 24 inches (only gained an inch this month putting you in the 32%)
    3. And that head circumference of yours is in the 83% – wow!
  9. You’ve been working on “happy baby” pose the past week and today you actually got your toes into your mouth!
  10. Baths are still your favorite thing!
  11. You’ve shown some signs of being ticklish, giggling like crazy for brief moments.

Kirsten Grace Month 4

We love you, Kirsten Grace. Keep on growing in grace and knowledge, in flexibility and tenacity.

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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.

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

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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.)

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headband made by Andrea Ortell

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

 

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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.

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“I know, isn’t a great book?!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Your hair is long enough for a little spout!

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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)

 

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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.)

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that little tongue of yours. So cute.


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

daytime
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.”

Love,

Momma

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