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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Confessions, Contentment, Friends, Letters to My Kids, Ministry

Our Church

One of my friends sent me a birthday text that included encouragement of what I’d “accomplished” in my 30 years. She listed “several flourished ministries” and I stopped dead in my tracks, thanking God for the privilege of being a part of his Kingdom Work.

Last Sunday we were excited to attend our former church family in Albion, New York. It was so glorious to be back in the presence of friends-turned-family, to feel the love and knowingness that hadn’t faded because of time or space. Being in that town makes me smile. Eating at that Tim Horton’s, walking down Main Street and waving to passers-by, walking through the halls of that familiar church building. I loved every minute, every conversation, every hug.

And I have to be completely honest when I say I expected to feel some discontentment rising up in my heart during that weekend. For we loved that place and those people fiercely and it was terribly hard to leave. The last year and a half in full time, lead-pastoral ministry has been intense for the Eccles. It’s a big job with a steep learning curve. I thought I’d want to quit and go back to my “happy place.”

But even as I braced myself for the ride home when I might cry wishing I could stay in My Albion, I found that the Lord had already laid seeds in my heart for something totally unexpected – deep contentment, true joy, and resonating peace. As we drive those many turnpike miles, Kevin and I could hardly stop talking about all the things we love about our church, Our Monroe. We had truly missed worshiping with our congregation that Sunday. We realized we truly love everything about Monroe FMC.

And I was somehow surprised that God had done this work. I was surprised that I still felt all the love and affection for my New York church while feeling eagerness and deep connection with my Michigan church. It’s hard for a pastor’s wife to feel truly safe among her congregation. There’s this unspoken expectation that our family should be better and holier than others, that we should have everything all together. It’s hard to know who to trust and who to talk to because your church people are somehow supposed to be those under your shepherding leadership, but also those with whom you share life authentically. It’s a tricky situation. So to have prayer gatherings where tears are shed, life’s hard stories are shared, meaningful hugs are exchanged…it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air. It’s what Church is supposed to be. And I get to be a part of a growing congregation that is learning this true-life kind of Christianity.

These people know me. I mean, for Pete’s sake I received peanut butter M&Ms, Reese’s cups, Chai Tea, a Nintendo 64, music note earrings, and KALE for my birthday. Those are my favorite things ever. To be known is every heart’s desire. And to be known by the congregation to which you were called to shepherd…THAT is a true blessing. 

 

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Confessions, Contentment, Letters to My Kids, Pregnancy

Always Aware

My dear, sweet girl,

There is so much about pregnancy that no amount of research or real-talk with friends can prepare you for. I knew you would kick and squirm now and then. I had seen pictures or videos of the baby’s movements in mother’s belly. But I never imagined how incredible your motions would feel inside of me. It’s absolutely indescribable. It’s a holy thing, really. God…creating life…knitting you together…plumping you up…choosing me to keep you safe all these months. 

As your movements get super intense (to the point of you startling me now and then) I wish I could share the experience with others…especially with your dad. No one gets to see your kicks or feel you move or anticipate your turns like I do. But this journey is just for you and me, Little Girl. It’s a beautiful, quiet journey…a sort of sweet loneliness.

And I’ve finally come to a place of acceptance with the physical changes in my body. Things have “balanced” out as you’ve made your presence known to all who look at me. I appear decidedly pregnant and not awkwardly chubby. I like that. And even now God is refining my own self-image, preparing me for what my appearance may or may not be after giving birth. He is teaching me grace. The beauty of freedom and peace and confidence.

So I will carry you with confidence.  I will carry you with joy. 

We have just 8 (ish) weeks left in this intimate setting, Child. A part of me cannot wait for next step – meeting you face to face, holding you in my arms. But the other part of me knows I will never get this opportunity again; this chance of intimacy between you and I; this knowing and feeling of you in my inmost being. So I will cherish the next weeks, for they will certainly go by too quickly. Even as my belly (and ankles) swell with you, Child, as positions get uncomfortable and complaints lengthen…I will remember. I will choose joy. I will be a vessel worthy of carrying you until the Lord says, Now.

All my love,

Your mama

 

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Contentment, Husband, Infertility, Letters to My Kids

Teaching Years

Dear Child of Ours,

I’ve been quiet lately, at a loss for words. Two months have passed since the adoption fell through. I had been waiting for my breaking point, waiting for the deluge of tears, waiting to collapse into a deep depression. I braced myself for this heartbreak. And it was was heartbreaking. We questioned God, wondering what in the world He was up to, why would He bring us through this situation and seemingly leave us in the dust? So many people who’ve been in this with us (for years now) were just as broken. They, too, wanted to know God’s end-game.

And just as He’s used these last five years of infertility to transform me, God has used this adoption loss to draw me closer to Him. The breaking point never came. The Holy One was lifting me up, holding me close, granting me divine comfort. My heart turned towards that young mother and the heartbreak she was experiencing. The attitude I was developing was not of my own will. My humanness wanted to be angry, bitter, depressed, and despondent. But God’s Spirit invaded my own and developed peace, contentment, prayer, and trust. That is NOT me. All the glory be to God!

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6

And it took a friend’s comment and counselor’s insight to make me realize what God was doing in my life.  I am so thankful for the wisdom of caring people in my life who have continually spoken truth to me. Through this journey, and in particular over the last few months, I have been showered with sincere love, deep concern, honest discernment, and steadfast prayers. Let me just say to each one of those people – thank you.

And to you, Child, I want you to know that I am thankful for the years of infertility. Yes, thankful. I am thankful for 7 years of marriage, for 5 years of barren hopefulness. I am thankful for the steadfast spiritual disciplines God has developed in me out of the intense need for His presence. I am thankful for the new-found confidence I’ve rooted in Christ. I’m thankful to be following God’s call to ordained ministry, pursuing Holy Yoga training, believing He is leading me to the fulfillment of His great purpose. The Lord has been faithful, showering me with grace. He has shown me a glimpse of the me He created me to be, and He has so much more for me than I ever imagined for myself. These years have given me the time to become.

I still don’t know what the future holds, Child.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Philippians 4:12-13 (The Message)

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