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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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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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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Adoption, Family, Friends, Infertility, Letters to My Kids, Marriage

Sowing and Reaping

02_04_15 Sow in Tears

Dear Child of Ours,

Sometimes there are so many swirling thoughts, countless circumstances being juggled, it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s easy to feel paralyzed by the options and opinions. Deep breath. One thing at a time.

I’m a future-planner. A get-all-my-ducks-in-a-row kind of person. Thus, I am so thankful for your Daddy, the guy who speaks truth and peace into my harried lifestyle. He empowers me to accomplish one task, well. Then we’ll move on to the next. Because of him, I haven’t had to do any brown-paper-bag breathing. (Thanks, dear.)

You see, Child, for the first time in nearly five years of barrenness, we are beginning to see a glimmer of hope, that perhaps you are going to join us. And before I go any further let me tell you how much I love you already. I don’t even know you yet, but you, Child, are loved a hundred times over. And not just by your Daddy and me, but by countless people who have treaded this path with us. They, too, have dreamed about this day, prayed for you to join our family. You are widely and richly loved.

Sunday, February 1st dawned cold and snowy. The flakes fell hard and fast, covering the path behind us even as we shoveled. Your Dad and I got to church at 7:30am and readied the sanctuary for the brave souls who might venture out in this weather. The service was undeniably small – 27 people compared to our usual 60 – but the warmth and intimacy was felt by everyone in the room. We worshiped together as friends.

But just before the service started our good friend, Cathy, dropped an incredible opportunity in our laps. In her practice as a nurse midwife, she had begun caring for a young woman who was 34 weeks pregnant and had another baby at home already. (I will not be sharing the details of her story, as it’s not mine to tell.)  In the flow of conversation, the idea of adoption came up and Cathy’s mind instantly fled to “Kevin and Melanie.” She cautiously broached the subject, not wanting to scare this delicate girl away. The response from the birth mother was positive, wanting to know more about us and the adoption process.

So here we are, Sunday morning, getting ready to do what we do – lead a church service together – when suddenly we realize we might be parents in a month! Instantly we said yes, but weren’t very optimistic that this was actually going to happen. We were afraid to breathe.

At the end of the service, I felt led to tell our entire congregation about this adoption possibility. We need our church family, side by side, shouldering this with us. And they responded so wonderfully. The whole group came forward and laid hands on us as we prayed – for this unborn baby, for this birth mother and her family, and for us. May the name of the Lord be praised.

In the 13 days since this announcement we have hit the ground running. I literally had not stopped working on this adoption in all my waking hours until last night around 6pm. There was so much to be done. Thankfully, God had been preparing for the speed of this process as we prepared an application for another agency back in August. A few months ago, we had put the adoption app on hold, feeling like we just needed to wait on God’s “yes.”

God’s “Yes” came with neon, flashing lights, and the speed and intensity of the Top Thrill Dragster! We have filled out applications. We have received letters of recommendation from three references (thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, friends). We compiled our official documents – birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, social security cards, marriage license (one copy for the social worker, one for the lawyer). We have been fingerprinted. (This is the longest part of the process – pray that the government works miraculously fast on our background checks.) We typed 12 pages detailing our personal history. Thanks to Cathy, our messenger, we shared our “Dear Birth Mother” scrapbook with the birth mother and her family. (Shutterfly scrapbooks are an A+ in my book, and a beautiful way to introduce to this unborn baby’s family in a heartfelt, but hands-off way.)

We learned that the baby – a BOY! –  is healthy, measuring now at 36 weeks. The final key to all of this is the birth father. We learned on Monday that he has agreed to sign off on the adoption. Praise be to God! Birth mother has repeatedly told Cathy of her certainty that we are the right family for her baby and that she is absolutely going through with the adoption. Her family and the birth father’s family are all supportive as well. We are as certain as we can be until the baby is born and both mother and father sign their names.

Oh right, we found an incredible adoption agency to do our home study in an expedited fashion, and we found a lawyer right in town who can very easily facilitate our adoption. We have met with both the social worker and the lawyer, filled out the necessary paperwork – pages and pages, and paid both in full. The home study will be finalized next week, followed by the lawyer drawing up his papers for the court.

And we bought a baby-mobile! It’s a 2009 Mazda 5 – described as a minivan crossed with a station wagon. It’s got sliding doors, two bucket seats, and a two seater bench in the back. We love it! The gas mileage is a bit frustrating given our history of 38mpg cars, but totally worth it for the ease and safety of this vehicle. Our little beloved blueberry – a 2008 Toyota Yaris – just wasn’t the right vehicle to bring home baby. We’re selling it if anyone is interested.

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The #BabyEccles Mobile

 

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For Sale! Click on the image for the complete listing.

 

Child, we are readying a room just for you. We have been given clothes and bottles and swings and carriers from friends who want to help us prepare. I wasn’t expecting to have to compress 10 months worth of preparations into 10 days, but we are totally ok with this. I started out feeling fearful, struggling to be excited because we’ve been disappointed time and time again. But one of my friend counseled me by saying “the joy of anticipation now is greater than what the sorrow of disappointment would be.” And truly I believe God will hold our hearts through this, as He has over the past many years. We want to eagerly anticipate the arrival of you – our firstborn son – not live in skepticism and fear.

And so we wait with open arms and hearts full of love.

Eagerly praying,

Mama


Dear Readers,

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for following our journey. It has been completely overwhelming to discover the number of people who care deeply about our story, having read my entries from the beginning. I first shared this struggle 31 months into our infertility – January 2013. In December 2013, I began to write Letters to my Future Children, a venture which allowed me to share my life, my thoughts, and my dreams with the little ones who I prayed would join our family. Thank you for being faithful to pray for us, for telling me of your joy and excitement over this announcement.

My deepest desire is that the name of the Lord be praised. Our God does great things.

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Believing that many of you would want to help us in some way, we started a YouCaring fundraising page. Again, we are blown away by the generous investment in our family. Thank you for contributing to the finances of this adoption. It’s come fast and furious, and our hearts rest easier as we watch God provide through your donations.

Love,
Kevin and Mel

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