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, 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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Husband, Infertility, Letters to My Kids, Pregnancy

Her Name

Nearly a lifetime ago, a sauve 17 year old boy made his intentions clear. The girl was 18 and naive to the world of dating, but she was confident that this guy could be trusted. God was good to weave our stories together, teaching us how to love, how to argue, how to commit.

It was 2004 and we didn’t go on lots of fancy or “official” dates during our dating years. Neither of us had a car, and money was needed for school expenses. Thus, we spent much of our time just hanging out around campus with friends and homework and dining commons food. And we liked it just fine. After one evening walk around the “P” loop, that young boy walked me back to my dorm. Somehow the topic of children came up, and Kevin shared with me a beautiful secret that I instantly cherished.

He said, with a twinkle in his eye, “If I have a daughter one day, I am going to name her Kjiersten Sophia.” He proceeded to explain the Swedish spelling to me (with that pesky “j”) and the correct pronunciation of “keerstin.” (Kevin’s maternal lineage is Swedish.) He remembered this name from his mom’s list when she wondered if her second baby would be a girl. (Hi, Brian!)

I practically melted into a puddle of sentiment right in front of him. This boy I was learning to love already had thoughts of wanting to be a dad someday. He had thought about her name and confided in me. I was smitten.

Years later in 2008, we entered into a covenant marriage during a sacred ceremony with family and friends. And after years of grad school and six moves and new drivers’ licenses and ministry and infertility we found ourselves expecting our firstborn, a daughter.

With just 6 weeks left until we meet our long-desired little girl, the reality of her life continues to point to God’s grace. Many people said, “You deserved this” or “we knew this would happen.” But the thing is, we didn’t deserve this child. We did nothing to earn favor in God’s eyes in March 2015. We had done nothing to deserve the years of infertility either. Part of me had come so completely into contentment with our childlessness that I wanted to remain the couple that displayed the grace of God for all to see, even though we never bore the child our hearts’ desired.

But for whatever reason, beyond our control, beyond our behavior, beyond our desires, God said to us,

This. This is the moment. This. This is the child to be born into the world. You. You are to be her parents. Raise her to love me, to serve me, to serve my world.

And just as we said “yes” to the barrenness and “yes” to adoption, we said “yes” to the pregnancy.

We found out by week 11 that our child was a girl. (Thanks to Natera and their fancy new DNA tests.) Immediately I set out on a name hunt. I pulled up the lists I had been collecting over the years. I scoured the internet for meanings and pronunciations, for popularity and spellings. We both determined that the meaning of the name was of utmost importance to us. Thus, any names we loved but lacked meaning were crossed off. We narrowed down our options. And I piled on more possibilities. Finally, on a long road trip, I read through the names and had Kevin veto any he didn’t like. That left us with about 10 choices for first names and 3 for middle names.

We made our decision. And a few weeks later, I changed my mind again. And again. Kevin patiently waited as I brought up new options and waffled back and forth, back and forth. At some point I settled on our original choice and we haven’t looked back. I became so certain, I used a generous gift card from a dear friend to purchase a Lisa Leonard necklace with Baby Girl’s name stamped on it. We managed to keep our lips completely sealed for the past many months, and we’re pretty sure some of you are DYING to know.

It is with great joy that we introduce to you Kirsten Grace Eccles.

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Kirsten (“kur-stin”) = Follower of Christ, anointed
Grace = Free and unmerited favor of God
Eccles = English version of the Greek and Latin (ekklesia and ecclesia), meaning church or assembly. (Not that we chose her last name, but still a pretty sweet meaning.)

Her name is our prayer and our thanks. May our daughter be anointed as a follower of Christ by the grace of God. IMG_4957

And now for a few more notes of explanation. For simplicity’s sake, we opted for a variant of the Swedish spelling and pronunciation (Kjiersten) of Kirsten. Given this first name connection to Kevin’s side of the family, it’s fitting that the middle name is in my family’s lineage. My maternal Grandmother’s middle name is Grace. (Hi, Grams!) And some of you may know that one of our dear friends and former youth group member’s name is Kirsten. We thought long and hard about whether or not to choose this exact name (mostly because I don’t like being a “copy cat.”) But in all of our correspondence with Kirsten over the past two years, we have been nothing but convinced that our desire would be to have our daughter live a life much like this young woman’s. She is passionate and unashamed of her commitment to Christ. She is genuine and kind, intellectual and studious. She is proof that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). So while our daughter is not name after Kirsten L., we would be most pleased if she grows up to live that kind of life.

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Dear Daughter of Mine,
As I write this post from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Tim Horton’s, you seem to know I’m talking about you. You are squirming and kicking and bouncing, almost as if you’re excited to say hello to me face to face. I can tell you with every assurance that I am even more eager to meet you. I pray for our journey ahead, those hours where we’ll work together to bring your life into this world. Your dad and I pray consistently that God would anoint you with his grace even now, and that we would be prepared to let you serve him however He calls. It is with great joy that I tell the world of my love for you, Kirsten Grace.

Love,
Your mom IMG_4956

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Infertility, Marriage, Ministry

Christmas Newsletter 2015

For years we prayed for this moment. Our hearts ached, our minds questioned, and our spirits sought the Lord. Yet I’m not sure we ever dreamed that just days before Christmas 2015 Melanie would be 39 weeks pregnant.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love by which he loved us…showed us the immeasurable riches of his grace.
This excerpt from Ephesians 2 refers specifically to salvation, but we know that those same graces have been poured out onto our lives through the gift of this life, this little girl long-desired. She is our gift of grace, not by works so that we can’t boast. Please, friends, proclaim with us the graciousness of the Lord for bestowing on us this undeserved gift!

Let’s back up to the beginning of this year. As we look over my calendar there are dates speckled with doctor’s appointments and days to take fertility medication. We were nearing six months post-op (for endometriosis) and our chances of getting pregnant were dwindling. That crazy blizzard Sunday in February brought with it the possibility of adopting an unborn baby boy. We said yes and hit the ground running, completing a home study and securing a lawyer and buying a larger vehicle within about two week’s time. (In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s lightening-fast in the adoption world.) Despite all our efforts and the donations and support of our friends and family, the birth-mother made a different choice. The Lord picked us up from our disappointment and washed away our stunned sadness. Little did we know, just a couple weeks after that little boy was born, God had given us our own little girl.

And so, along with all of you, we wait with baited breath for the moment our grace-gift enters this world with lungs wailing praises to the Most High.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49)

In case you’re wondering if we’ve done anything else other than expect our Little Girl this year…

  • Kevin was reappointed as Senior Pastor of Monroe Free Methodist Church for his 2nd year
  • Melanie became a Local Ministerial Candidate and is pursuing ordination
  • Melanie completed a 225hr program to become a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor
  • Kevin quiz mastered at Bible Quiz Finals and is Southern Michigan conference coordinator
  • We attended Family Camp at Somerset Beach and FM General Conference in Orlando, FL
  • Melanie spoke at Young Teen Camp at SBC
  • We vacationed at Niagara-on-the-Lake in November and visited our WNY friends
  • Kevin threw Melanie a 30th Birthday Party (and for the record, she’s totally cool with 30)
  • We were privileged to participate in the work God is doing in our congregation. These stories could fill pages, but suffice it to say we love Monroe FMC and praise God for calling us here.

And with that we send you all our love and prayers,

Kevin & Melanie

For updates on our life, our ministry, and our family, keep reading along here:
http://www.kevinandmelanie.wordpress.com

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