Confessions, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 11

Dear Kirsten,

Oh goodness, sweet girl, I missed your 10th month post completely. I saw it coming, I saw it fly right past me, and I consciously decided not to chase it down. It’s hard for your mom to let stuff go…to say “I need some margin in my life and I have none right now.” So last month that is exactly what I did, I let it go. And somehow, I am certain you still love me and if you ever read these letters when you’re a little older, I think you’ll smile and say, “Oh mom, why would you worry about that? Of course it’s ok!”
Kirsten Grace Month 11

Baby, you are my absolute favorite person in the whole world. These past two months have brought more wonders to our lives than I imagined. Man, those first few months are just tough. The nursing, the teething, the (no) sleeping. But we got through it together and now I feel like we’re having more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. At least once a day you and I get in these laughing fits…I do something that makes you laugh, or you do something that cracks me up…and off we go! It’s hysterical and so life-giving.

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You have learned to wave and point! Every morning when I pick you up from your crib you want to go to the window, open the drapes and we have “Hi, Outside!” Something out there really gets you excited. You love riding in your k’tan under my umbrella over to church, hearing the raindrops. You have come around to loving walks. I look forward to you asking me to take you for a stroller ride. I just love those times together.
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You love feeding yourself graham crackers, peanut butter toast, and cheerios. You drink with skill from your sippy cup and are trying to use a spoon. Most of the time you demand food from mom and dad’s plates rather than something separate for you. You like curried potatoes, chili, and pizza. You have shown some dislike for bananas and don’t seem interested in my chicken noodle soup, though you eat every other soup I make. Maybe it’s the black pepper?

Your body fought a cold for about 2 weeks in November and finally the doctor gave you your first prescription for Amoxicillin. It never slowed you down, though. Kirsten, you do not sit still. You are a little investigator, always going, going, going. I’ve tried to snuggle with you, but it never works. That’s ok. You’re a learner and an independent spirit. And I don’t think anyone doubts that you love your momma, even if you don’t love snuggling.

We’re still breastfeeding, though I think we’re both working towards weaning. You normally nurse when you wake up in the morning, once before a nap, and once before bed. And all glory to God in the highest….you are SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT! The past week we decided it was time for sleep training. I was still getting up once or twice a night with you, plus nursing you at 5 or 6am when I woke up and then laying you back down. It was torture, sheer torture, letting you scream in your bed for somewhere around 45 minutes. Our hearts were racing, and it took intense will power to stay in our bed. (It was more sleep training for me, I think, honestly.) Seeing you in the morning no worse for the wear, made the decision a lot easier. After the third night, I would hear you now and again, but I could go back to sleep and ignore you for the most part. And now, for the last three nights, I haven’t heard one peep from you (or at the most it lasts for 20 seconds!) You sleep from 7pm to 8am. Holy moly! After 11 months, I am finally catching up on sleep!

IMG_8905This shift in lifestyle is making me feel slightly more comfortable with the idea of being gone for 8 days in January (for my Master’s degree residency). Little girl, please know that leaving you is the hardest thing I think I’ve done. I’m not looking forward to it, but knowing you don’t need me during the night is comforting. You do wonderfully with your daddy during every other part of the day, so by then, I know the two of you will have a blast!

 

For as much as you are a momma’s girl, you are a daddy’s girl too! You still get all bouncy and kicky and grin spreading ear to ear when you see either of us.

 

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You love books more than any other toy. You love playing the drums (on boxes or whatever). You love playing the big piano and smile with such pride up at me.

You clap enthusiastically when I cheer “yay!” You gently pluck mom or dad’s guitar strings. And the only time you sit still is when daddy sits by you, playing guitar. You have an affinity for animals that is tough to rival. Wow, you might actually love dogs more more than mom and dad based on the flapping you do. Landon is one of your favorite friends, and you get (a little too) excited whenever you play with him. (He’s had a few scratches on the face from you talon-fingernails and all the love you’re trying to shower on him.)

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You crawl like lighting and stand up with ease, letting go now and then.  You walk along tables or chairs holding on. We’re waiting for the big moment of first steps any day!

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and your dad and I are looking forward to reading our Advent Devotional together and lighting our own Advent wreath. We’re going to do stockings on St. Nicholas Day and exchange three gifts for each person – something spiritual, something practical, and something extravagant. 

We love you, Kirsten Grace. Oh my word, do we ever love you.

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Confessions, Ministry

Pastor

I have been living my calling for as long as I can remember, but I’m only now saying ‘YES’ to that call.

It was those words I began to share my call to pastoral ministry with the Annual Conference.* I have been a leader in church ministries from the time I was a young girl. Heading off to college, I knew I would continue to be involved in ministry, but I didn’t know in what capacity. I didn’t think I wanted to be a “professional” or a “working woman” (so why in the world was I going to college anyways?), nor did I believe that woman should serve as pastors. I was so strong in this stance, in fact, that I once wrote a paper against the idea of women in lead pastoral ministry. My professor, also a mentor of mine, wrote a page long rebuttal and continued to prod me into my calling with every course and conversation. Many other men and women have joined in the efforts of gently and lovingly calling out my gifts and graces for ministry, some of them so subtly that I found myself agreeing without realizing it.

Exhibit A:

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I became the youth pastor at Monroe Free Methodist Church in 2008, but preferred to ignore the “pastor” part of the job title for fear of its implications. I continued in volunteer ministries during our time in Albion (NY), stepping up as a worship leader and youth leader. I have served as a youth camp speaker on multiple occasions and have taught and prayed and led from behind the microphone countless times.

But I was afraid. Not of addressing the crowd or holding a microphone in my hand or praying in front of people. No, I’m thankful that those tasks come naturally to me. I was afraid of the implications of “preaching” and “pastor.” If I said “yes” to either of those calls it would be stepping out of safety, making the decision to “paint with bold colors” rather than the pastels I’d been using, sticking out in ways I’d rather not. I’ve preferred to stay behind my husband, the pastor, rather than beside him. He’s the pastor, I’m just the worship leader. Sure, some Sundays I get to preaching in my worship leading and I sit down as he stands up and mouth the words, “Sorry, I took all of your sermon time.” But nooo, I’m not called to preach. I’m not supposed to pastor. I’ll just stand over here in the shadows not making any waves, thankyouverymuch. 

God has had different plans for me all along. And I’m saying “yes” in a big and bold and all-in sort of way. My gifts and passions are finally making sense to me, coalescing in the context of Pastor. I’m starting to “get it.” (Sorry, Lord, I’m a little slow.)

By God’s grace I went to a Free Methodist College and completed a Philosophy/Religion degree (which is only really “good” for graduate work or…you guessed…the ministry). I have become a member of a denomination that advocates for women in ministry. I have a husband who not only sees my gifts and identifies my calling (long before I do…), but he insists I step out, sometimes even in front of him. He won’t settle for me shirking into the shadows and being _______(insert specific ministry here) pastor. He waited for me to say it, to believe it, and then he said, “Yes, I want you to pastor with me. Co-pastors.”

So I took the FM History and Polity course. I loved it, loved studying the Book of Discipline and learning the reasons behind why we operate as we do. It solidified my love of the Free Methodist denomination. I completed a year and a half as a Local Ministerial Candidate, having been confirmed by my local church as gifted for pastoral ministry. (Note that this was about a year before I confirmed my call to be a pastor.) The MEG board (Ministerial Education and Guidance Board) “vetted” me and voted on my acceptance as a Conference Ministerial Candidate and then last Thursday the Annual Conference voted to receive the MEG board’s recommendation that I be admitted as a CMC.

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The MAC (Ministerial Appointments Committee) also voted to appoint me to Monroe Free Methodist Church, meaning I am now actually and officially a pastorProcess-wise, I will serve three years in full time ministry and complete any education requirements the MEG deems necessary, and prayerfully in 2019, I will become an ordained Elder, which is the final step in ordination in the Free Methodist Church. 

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This Sunday I will be preaching my first “official” sermon as Associate Pastor of Monroe FMC. Not much else will change in the ways Kevin and I function; like I said, I was doing the work of a pastor before I said “yes” to being a pastor. But I feel different. I feel more alive. I feel appointed and called and in the center of God’s will for my life. 

And so with the wise guidance of a pastoral mentor of mine, I enter into this preparation prayerful and with the words of Paul at the forefront:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

I Corinthians 2:1-5

For more information on the Free Methodist Church’s stance on Women in Ministry click HERE

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About Me, Confessions, Friends, Ministry

Freshman Year of College

I’m in many “sandwiched” friendships. I’m close friends with women in their 40s who are getting ready to send their kids off to college for the first time. I’m also friends with those 16-20 year old kids of theirs. It’s a really fun dynamic.

Many of our conversations are centered around the topic of college and I’ve been feeling rather sentimental about my own experience.


Let it be known that when I left for college in 2004, I was equipped with exactly zero computers.  I may have stashed my TI-83 calculator in my bookbag for good luck, but basically I had a pile of ruled notebooks. Oh, and I had a stack of floppy discs for saving my work on the library computers. (No flash drives, no google drive or dropbox, not even re-writable cds. Kevin would tell you I was completely behind the times, and I was a tiny bit, but this was how my high school had taught me.) A few months into school, I bought Kevin’s old laptop off of him so he could buy the iBook4 (which had 60 gbs of memory).

My school email address was my first ever and it was a doozy:  mf230298@arbor.edu. Kevin taught me how to AIM instant messenger and I chatted online with my college friends as “arborfish19.” (My maiden name was “Fish.”) I had a Xanga blog (which I tried to find just now and it has been archived because it hasn’t been used in 5 years …or 10).

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please note: these photos were scanned onto my computer. They were taken with film cameras. I didn’t get a digital camera until junior year. 

I didn’t get a cell phone until the end of my sophomore year and it was a Motorola flip phone with…get this…an antenna you had to pull out to make a call. There was no text messaging.  Each dorm room had a land line phone with an extension and you could call for free from across campus. To make phone calls home, I was loaded with a 1000 minute calling card. You’d better believe I had those 16 digits and a pin memorized.

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Facebook was just getting started my freshman year, and I boycotted this up-and-coming internet-thingy for one and a half school years until I succumbed to the madness. There were no games or chats or even pokes on FB. It was just faces and short statuses that all began with the prompt: “Melanie is…”

I say all this as a way of confessing that I am a bit behind the times, but also to tell you that while technology changes, the disciplines with which you choose to live your life do not need to change. 


To you, sweet girl, going off to college,

What you are about to do is most definitely a big deal. It’s a big deal for you and a big deal for your family. I remember thinking to myself, “Everything is about to change. Nothing will ever be the way it was before.” And while that’s a bit overly dramatic, it’s basically true.

But here’s the bigger truth – You are at a most exciting precipice of life, getting to step more fully into the you God created you to be.

You are going to be met with many new influences – friends, professors, employers, books, theologies, pastors – and you’re going to be forming your own individual worldview. You will take what you’ve been taught by your family, your teachers, your childhood friends, and your church and you’ll add to that foundation a broader view of life.

It’ll be a bit scary at first. You might feel like you’re questioning everything you’ve ever known. (Your parents might freak out a bit too.) But it’s good to question. Questions lead to well-developed answers, answers that you’ve researched and debated and talked to death with your friends in the wee hours of the night. And those answers will transform you. You will come out the other side stronger and more confident, firmer in your faith in Christ. Don’t fear the questions; God isn’t afraid of your questionsBecause in all that searching the Truth will come out and the Truth always sets you free.

You’re going to do a lot of growing up in the next four years. It’s a beautiful time of transition, a gracious movement into adulthood. Why? Well, you’re getting a taste of independence while still having the backing (perhaps even financial backing) of your family back home. Win-Win. But here’s the thing with independence – it must be used wisely. You can survive college on energy drinks and all-nighters and last-minute study sessions and leftover pizza; tons of people do that and do “just fine.” But the thing of it is, God has called you to live a full life, a life honoring to him. I challenge you to make each of your decisions – big and small – with this mindset (Colossians 3:23)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

With that foundation, here are my bullet-pointed list of goals for you:

  1. Go to bed. For the love of all that is holy go to bed at a decent hour. Like 10 or 11pm. You can stay up ridiculously late on Friday night if you want, but you’re in college for a reason and you have a job to do. Getting a decent night’s sleep is absolutely essential to living with excellence.
  2. Eat Well. The “freshman 15” is real and is sometimes more like the “freshman 30.” This phenomenon occurs because you have an unlimited buffet at every meal and no one to tell you to stop eating. So try the soft serve ice cream, but decide to limit yourself. Eat the fancy-pants, sugary cereal that your mom never bought you, but limit yourself. Indulge in the delicious French fries and the fountain pop, but limit yourself. Go ahead and buy a pizza or a burger at ten o’clock at night, but only every once in a while. (The fourth-meal syndrome is a big problem and is often solved by going to bed at a decent hour forthelove.) Choose to try vegetables you used to despise and get to know that salad bar. Maybe even have a salad for one meal a day (not with tons of ranch or caesar dressing… that kind of defeats the purpose). Eat whole fruit once or twice a day. Go out to Denny’s at 1am with your friends, but not every week.
  3. Exercise.  This one is really tough for even the best students. Getting up early to work out or run sounds like cruel torture, but it is totally worth it. Waking up an hour early is not too difficult if you’re going to bed at a decent hour and the time alone with your thoughts (often before everyone else gets up) is priceless. You’ll be energized for your day and fight off those extra pounds with ease.
  4. Create a daily routine for yourself. All of the above kind of work into this one. You may not have class until 12:30pm, but perhaps the wise thing to do with your independence is to get up around 7am, go workout, shower, eat breakfast (I know, I’m asking a lot here), and have time in quiet with the Lord.
  5. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for private devotion with Jesus. This may be in a corner of your dorm room before your roommate wakes up or while she’s at class. It may be in a prayer chapel or under a certain tree you love or on the quiet floor of the library. But get alone with God. Pray. Listen. Journal. Read. Study. I’ll list a bunch of my favorite spiritual discipline resources at the bottom. (And I’d love to have a conversation with you about this topic if you need some guidance.)
  6. Friends. Make lots of friends. Be brave. Go up to that girl and introduce yourself. She feels just as awkward and uncomfortable as you do. Every one of you is leaving the home you’ve always known and having to live with people you’ve never met. It’s going to be hard and your going to feel out of place sometimes. But know you’re not alone. And you’re probably about to make some the greatest friendships. Living with people will do that. :)
  7. Roommates. I highly recommend leaving your freshman-year-roommates up to fate. I’ve known too many people who choose their roommate based on a high school friendship or meeting someone at registration day and then it goes horribly wrong and you lose a friend. Just let Admissions do their job the first time around. And live in a community dorm at least your freshman year. It forces you to share space with others with whom you might successfully ignore if you have a private suite-style room. It’ll be good for you, I swear.
  8. Boys. This could easily be another series of posts. I don’t have succinct advice on this one. But I will say that I made some of my best guy-friends during college and I found my husband during college. So pray a lot. Don’t give in to the pressure to get  “ring by spring.” And enjoy your friendships with guys. If you want to talk more, I’m listening.
  9. Your major. It’s ok to switch your major a million times. I don’t know how anyone expects an 18 year old to know what they’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. I’m 30 years old and only now figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up. While you have the space in your academic schedule take a class or two that interest you, just for fun. But be sure to have that 4 year academic plan nailed down as soon as you can so you don’t have to tack on a 5th year (especially if you’re going into education.)
  10. Classes. Go to them. Get to class on time, be prepared. Take that syllabus (the whole semester’s plan) on day one and write down all assignments in a planner of some sort. By doing this for all of your classes you’ll know when your weeks are going to be heavy and when they’ll be light. Maybe, just maybe, you can plan to work ahead in one class when you have a ton of stuff due for another class on the same week. Just an idea. For the most part, no professor is going to tell you what’s due and when it’s due. The syllabus was created for that reason and you’re expected to follow it on your own …or get left behind. Sometimes readings are assigned and you’ll never hear them mentioned or even referenced in class…but then there’s stuff on the exams from that material. So follow the plan.

Ok, well, it’s past my grown-up bedtime, so I think I’ll close with this:

I love you. I believe in you. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and challenge you and help you become more fully the person God intended you to be.

 

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Confessions, Contentment, Dear God, Infertility, Jesus, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

The Dance of Grace & Trust

As my daughter creeps closer and closer to six months old, I get more excited and more freaked out. You see, I had a goal of having her solely breastfed for her first six months. In those early weeks I thought, “there is no way in heck I can survive this for SIX MONTHS.” But a wise friend told me (even before I had my baby girl), “It’s hard, just take it a day at a time. Don’t set up big goals, set tiny ones. I’m going to nurse her this week.” Nursing got easier and easier as I developed the procedures that worked for us and as I figured out what accessories I needed or didn’t need. And here we are….the end of full-time breastfeeding is in sight.

I can NOT wait until her daddy can feed her and I’m not her only source of sustenance and we can watch her experience new foods and sit at the table with us. I have a freezer full of pumped breastmilk and we taught her to use a bottle around 8 weeks. I kept offering to Kevin that I could share the feeding with him and a bottle. But he knew how well things were going and how much I had desired this gift. So he waited.

And I’m so stoked that we made it. But I am sad to see this special season of breastfeeding intimacy transition to something new. It’s been so sweet; most of the time I take it for granted. Lord Jesus, I am so thankful for this gift that was not a given. Thank you for bringing in my milk and allowing her the skill the nurse well and plumping her right up. I am so thankful.

Another paradox of motherhood, right? 

But here’s the real confession: I’m freaked out by what may or may not happen once I ease back on nursing.

I know my fertility will (maybe, probably, perhaps, who knows…) return once I’m not breastfeeding ’round the clock. I know I could conceivably get pregnant (…conceivably….ha. that’s punny…) in the coming months. And part of me thinks, “FOR THE LOVE, I just want to be normal again! I don’t want to be pregnant or nursing or a storehouse of uncontrollable hormones!” (I suppose that last one happens regardless…) I can’t fathom going through that whole ordeal again, so soon. Pregnancy was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Pregnancy is no joke.

But the other part of me thinks, “What if I can’t get pregnant? I’m not getting any younger and I have endometriosis and a whole bunch of other fertility issues and time is of the essence. And what if?” How long do we wait this next time before calling it quits?

So yeah, I want to get pregnant like right now…in the next few months. I would love to have babies close in age. And we always said that once we started a family, we wouldn’t prevent pregnancies until we’re “done.” I don’t want to live once again in the fear of monthly cycles and wondering and waiting and trying to not get all wrapped up in the hope and expectation for the future.

It’s hard to believe that I could move from one worry to another so quickly, despite the glorious answer to prayer dozing in her crib down the hall. 

And so I pray:

Holy Father, giver and sustainer of life, grant that I may know your perfect peace and trust in your infinite wisdom. Keep my mind fixed on the work of your kingdom and content with the gift of “today.”

Amen.

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