We Should Get Jerseys

’cause we make a good team
but yours would look better than mine
’cause you’re out of my league.
And I know that it’s so cliché
to tell you that every day
I spend with you is the new best day of my life.
And everyone watching us
just turns away with disgust
it’s jealousy; they can see that we’ve got it going on.

Must Have Done Something Right by Relient K

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Child,

I just wanted you to know that your Daddy and I really like each other. We made a covenant to love one another no matter what. But the cool thing is, we deeply, truly LIKE one another. Sure there are days when we get on each other’s nerves. There may even be moments of every single day when we annoy one another; at least momentarily. The truth of the matter is, Kevin Michael & Melanie Marie have a blast together. Whether it’s on a coffee date, watching the latest Netflix addiction, playing a game after dinner, or going on long trips, we’d rather be TOGETHER. 

This is reassurance that even if you catch us in a moment of frustration, it’ll pass. I hope and pray your dad and I will continue to exemplify true sacrificial love to you, but also convince you of our genuine LIKE for one another.

We’ll like you too. Come join us!

Mama

A Good Name

Dear Child of Mine,

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.

I’m fairly certain Solomon wasn’t referring a person’s actual name in Proverbs 22:1, but rather their reputation. Yet I also see Scripture painting a portrait of the worth of your given name. On many occasions, the Lord himself gives new names to his sons or daughters, presenting them with renewed purpose and calling. Names hold value. They can testify to the work of the Lord in one’s life. A name can proclaim Jehovah’s faithfulness or a family’s clinging to His great grace.

Many girls seem to spend hours of their life (both in childhood and adulthood) contemplating the perfect names for their children. The reasoning we use to pick any given name – whether it be for our Barbie doll or our newborn child – may vary from person to person, month to month. Sometimes we want to be hip or unique. Other times we crave rich family history or biblical roots.

I confess, I have a list. Back when your daddy and I started dating and it was moving toward marriage, I was contemplating what it would be like to raise children together. I started a word document complete with a spreadsheet of names and their meanings that drew my attention. The roots of a name have always been the most valuable to me. But a hopeful parent must also think of the flow of the name – how will this first name sound in conjunction with our last? We must consider what the initials will be and whether the name is likely to be misspelled or mispronounced. That’s a lot to consider, Child. I want your name to be your blessing.

Yesterday I was initiated into the world of nameberry.com. On this website you can create an account, search for names, discover their meanings, the popularity, spelling variations, middle name or sibling name ideas, and most intriguing for me create lists of your favorite names. Your dad and I are on the same page with 4 different names – 2 male, 2 female – including meanings and middle names.

I love my own name, I really do. I think it’s lovely sounding and it suits me well. (Thanks, mom and dad. Good choice, for real!) It’s just unfortunate that Melanie Marie means “dark and bitter.” Yikes. I shared this on Facebook yesterday and was surprised with the responses of my friends. Almost everyone shared one of two thoughts:

Melanie, you are the exact opposite – bright and sweet. 

OR

Kind of like dark chocolate or coffee – a beautiful thing!

. . . and if that’s the case, I’m totally ok with the meaning of my name. :)

I am eager for the moment when we can choose which name suits you best. Since I’ve been waiting for so long for your arrival, my desire to choose a name based on it’s meaning and connection to Christ has deepened. I want your name to reveal my heart and God’s work in your life even as we’ve waited. Come quickly, Child.

Love,

Mama

Someone You Admire

Dear Child of Mine,

I want to teach you, with my words and by my example, how important it is to surround yourself with people you admire. Lest you think I am implying that you ought to ogle over someone famous or uphold a person to the point of idolization, that is most definitely not my meaning. And I would certainly be honored to be one of your role models, but I’m not even talking about myself.

Each of us should always be on the lookout for someone who we can connect with, where friendship is the foundation. But the true gift is finding a friend you truly admire, someone you look up to, someone you can learn from, someone who accepts you right where you’re at, someone you’d love to be like one day. This person will likely be older than you (because experience certainly counts for something!), but age won’t matter to them. They won’t look down on your because you’re young. In fact, being in their presence you should feel free to be yourself and yet empowered to be better. It is from this person that you ought to be willing to receive loving reproof  and seek sage advice.

They should exhibit a spiritual depth and fervor which you crave. And go ahead, ask them about their walk with Jesus. learn how they pray, what spiritual disciplines they practice, how they share the goodness of the gospel with their corner of the world. This type of person will be willing to share their divine struggle and pitfalls, success and joy.

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Titus 2:3-5

And be aware of those who may be looking to YOU as their example. You’ll be surprised how many eyes are watching you, wondering how true your character is, if you’re really genuine. Opportunities will arise when you can teach someone younger than you. You will wonder, What do I have to offer? But what you have is time spent together, advice to give, experiences to share. Just be you. They will receive your gift with deep joy just as your are going to appreciate the influence of your mentors.

Choose wisely whose mark you would like left on your life. It will stand the test of time. 

Love,

Mama

Crochet: Ear Warmers

Dear Child of Mine,

You should know that your mother can  be crafty, but most of the time she chooses not to be.
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I have scrapbooked, made jewelry, learned rudimentary knitting in college (haven’t touched those needles since), and crocheted. My craftiness goes in spurts –which I attest to in my Occasional Crafter board on Pinterest — and the past few weeks have certainly been a crochet kick for me.
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Freshmen year of college, at least half of the girls on my dormitory floor could be found watching movies and crocheting at any given time. I was riveted by this newfound craft, having only worked with yarn in the context of plastic canvas with Grandma Mary. One of my friends taught me how to half double crochet and I was off on scarf after scarf. I lost stitches left and right, but eventually completed a few rectangular, pattern-less projects.
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I didn’t crochet much after that year. But 2 and 1/2 years ago, when I found out my friend, Debbie, was expecting a little one I got the urge to try my hand at a baby blanket pattern. I tried my darndest to follow the instructions but all of the abbreviations (dc, slst, sc, tr, hldc) were lost on me. When my mother-in-law was visiting that fall, I asked her for skilled assistance. She is a very accomplished crochet artist, and was more than willing to give me a hand.

IMG_0149Pretty quickly into our mentoring session, we discovered nearly every step of my crochet process was incorrect. I held the hook wrong, I held the yarn wrong, I didn’t yarn over correctly, and I had no idea how to read a pattern. Starting again from the very beginning was a very good thing, indeed. Within a few hours, I was improving my “crochet posture” (for lack of a better term), was using better tension, and felt increasingly confident in the rhythm of the craft.

I managed to complete that baby blanket in time for the birth of little Miss Hayleigh and though it wasn’t perfect, Debbie tells me it was a favorite of theirs. :)
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This brings me to present day. In the past week or two I have learned how to Front Post (and Back Post) Double Crochet, how to work an Adjustable Ring, and how to incorporate Double Crochet, Triple/Treble Crochet, FPDC/BPDC, and FPTB into a Cabling Pattern for this hat which I’m in the process of creating right now. I have also had a blast making five different Flowered Ear Warmers for a few special girls who made the request after seeing the one I had made for myself. I actually ended up combining two different patterns to create the end result (the band from this pattern and the flower from this one). I love these! I hope they do too!

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More than anything I love NOT BEING AFRAID of a pattern! It’s so exciting to learn and master new techniques and to watch the pattern take shape before your very eyes.
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Looking forward to crocheting lovely booties and blankets and hats for you, My Child, and one day teaching you this ever-evolving craft.

Always Learning,

Your Mama

Downsizing Lessons

Over the past five and a half years of marriage, we’ve lived in five different homes. Each one has had it’s own purpose, it’s own cost of living, it’s own quirks, it’s own redeeming qualities. Some of these moves have been necessitated by life’s circumstances, but we’ve learned lessons in each move.
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Immediately following our honeymoon in May 2008, we moved into a loft in the city of Detroit. Sounds rather fancy and romantic, doesn’t it? It was quite a nice apartment in a reasonably safe, gated complex, but it was in the heart of the city. And I was a naive girl from the suburbs.

Every day, your dad and I would haul our bikes down three flights of stairs and bike 4 miles to his chemistry building at Wayne State University. I would then turn around and bike home, at lightning speed and lock myself in my apartment for the next 9 hours.

I tried desperately to get a job, any job. But it was the summer of the stock market plummeting and even McDonald’s wouldn’t hire me. Perhaps my newly-earned Bachelor’s degree overqualified me. Or maybe I just didn’t fit in.

After paying for our pricey apartment, our health insurance, our car insurance, our Comcast (tv/cable), we had just enough money for the potatoes and rice we ate for most meals. I didn’t even buy milk – a childhood staple of mine – because it was $3.99 a gallon.

>>>Looking back, we now know we shouldn’t have picked the loft apartment. We easily could have lived in a smaller space, a more cost-effective space. Most of our belongings were unnecessary, quite frankly. Desirable, maybe, but it is not fiscally responsible to pay for a larger home in order to fit all of your stuff.

>>>We didn’t need  health insurance, at least with the state of finances at that time.

>>>We certainly should have done without the cable portion of our Comcast bill. Once again, this was a case of, “But I’ve always had cable my whole life so I simply can’t imagine living without it.” But that’s simply not true.

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When we moved into the Monroe FMC parsonage just five months later, our possessions suddenly seemed meager. This was a 2000 square foot, four bedroom, 2-1/2 bath, full basement home. OF COURSE we didn’t own enough to fill the space. But over the next 3 years, thanks to friends, family, garage sales and Craigslist, we managed to fill all of the rooms.

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It was nice, having 3 spare bedrooms and plenty of space to entertain a group of 28 for Thanksgiving. It was awesome, actually. But the cost to heat and cool, and electrify that home was extremely high. And again, when it came time to pack the moving truck in July 2011, we realized how much STUFF we had accumulated.

We sold a lot of excess furniture and other various possessions at a successful yard sale, but we still managed to require the LARGEST trailer UHaul offered. For two people, Child, that’s just ridiculous. Honestly, I’m kind of ashamed, looking back. The amount of STUFF (are you catching a theme, here?? stuff…) that I was positively convinced I could not live without was quite ridiculous.

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We arrived at our new dwelling in Albion, NY with our oversized  truck full of STUFF and as the church movers helped unload its contents, there were moments of panic. “There is no way we’re going to be able to fit everything in this house!

Front of Platt St. House

Now, mind you, this house was a tiny compared to most American’s standard of living, but it still had a decent sized bedroom and bathroom, a tiny guest room, another room I would use as a piano studio, yet another  room Kevin would make into his office, a dank basement with storage and washer/dryer, and a decent sized kitchen, dining room and living room. Nothing to complain about.

But it felt so tight compared to our sprawling ranch in Monroe.

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The next two years fell into a nice rhythm in our cozy, two story home. It did feel small when we had 15 teenagers squished into the living room or if we hosted friends or family. But most days it felt too big. After many conversations about our STUFF, I finally started realizing how much excess there really was in my life. Why was I unwilling to part with these items – particularly those that sat in storage for the past 2 years?

And so I began sorting through our basement boxes, brushing away cobwebs and discovering a few lost treasures. But mostly, I found things I simply didn’t need. I went through our closets and we both got rid of clothes that were too worn or too abundant or too infrequently used. (I definitely do not need to hoard clothes. I love Goodwill-ing every 3 months or so and refreshing my closet. Which leaves plenty of items up for grabs for someone else. It’s a beautiful thing and it only costs $30 or so.)

With that house up for sale by our landlord, we felt the need to find a new place to live before we were forced out. Completely by happenstance, it would seem, I stumbled upon an ad in the Pennysaver for a studio apartment with utilities included for $430 a month. WOAH. Now THAT would be worth downsizing…saving a good $350 each month on living expenses.

Feeling motivated and freed of my bondage to possessions that needn’t define my worth, we had yet another yard sale and gave the rest to anyone interested. I thought I would need to buy all sorts of storage or living devices to make this small space feasible for the two of us. We did lots of shopping and would you believe…we returned almost everything. All of our favorite pieces of furniture and personal possessions made the cut and we didn’t lose any money in the switch.

I believe God honored our conviction that our treasure-focus needed to be changed to an eternal mindset.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Matthew 6:18-20

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Yes, our home is tiny. Yes, it’s a little cramped when we have 15 teenagers over, or family gatherings. But we think it’s totally worth it. You see, it’s just your Dad and me 90% of the time, and we love sharing space. We really do. When I’m in the dining room and he’s in the living room, we’re still in the SAME ROOM. :D It might drive some people crazy to not have any privacy. And it really is like an upscale, expanded dorm room. But it’s exactly what we need.

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I love my STUFF. (After all, if I spend money on something, should it be something I really, truly LIKE?!) But I no longer feel attached to my STUFF. If God asked me to leave everything behind, I believe I could. And I definitely couldn’t have said that before. It certainly won’t be easy, but my mind is now ready to follow Jesus no possessions attached

The STUFF of life is an ebb and flow kind of thing, Child. There’s a time for gathering and holding and storing and collecting. And a time for cleaning and sorting and giving and ridding.

I hope you can learn, sooner than I did, that STUFF is not what life is about. Life is about being with the people you love, and being completely, totally willing to do what Jesus tells you to do, no matter the cost.

Love,

Mama

Stage Sisters

No, Child, I’m not referring to friendships I’ve made in the theater. (Although I would LOVE to be in another musical someday…but that’s another conversation for another time.) I want to tell you about the little community of sisters who surround me, envelope me in their love, bare their own needs, and share burdens. These girls do not know each other. They come from many different stages of my life. And just recently I realized what a precious gift I had been given by their presence in my life.

These are my infertility sisters. Three other girls between 28-30 years old, married for 6 or more years, loving Jesus, loving their husbands, and struggling with the painful reality of conception struggles. They are wishing for their own little ones, as I am for you. They dream of the kind of mothers they will be to their newborn, what that son or daughter will one day become. Their hearts ache when they see yet another pregnancy announcement by a good friend or a Facebook acquaintance. They attempt to guard themselves against those thoughtless comments and unknowing darts launched toward their wounds by inquiring minds. They have other friends and family members who love them and know of this struggle. They may even have a few people who have been there. There are plenty of success stories they could recount.

But WE are in this TOGETHER. Right here. Right now. These girls know exactly what I’m dealing with this month, because so are they. We each have words of advice – take this test, see this doctor, request this procedure. And we trust each other. There are emails, letters, texts, and Facebook notes exchanged on a weekly – or daily – basis. This support is constant. We know we’re not being burdensome or annoying. We aren’t afraid of the reaction of the recipient and we know we’ll take their response at face value, because we trust each other.

I thank God for the grace he has poured into my life by pulling these girls out of the framework of my experiences for this time and place. 

And I thank my dear girlfriends for clinging close to my heart. What a gift you are.

And Child, I tell you this, to lighten your burden a bit. I’m sure it’ll be hard for you know what pain your mom went through. If you have half the empathy of me, it’ll hurt your heart too. But know that I was not alone as I waited for you. I was well cared for. I hope you can meet these stage sisters of mine someday, and play with their kids. That’s my dream, and I know it is theirs as well.

God is Grace,

Mama

Valentine’s Tradition

 

Dear Child,

Years ago, probably our sophomore year of college, your dad and I decided that pizza would be our Valentine’s tradition. Rather than adding another holiday to the list of expenses and extravagant expressions of love, we thought we’d have fun exploring the local pizza joints – a new restaurant every year. This has given us something wonderful and DELICIOUS to look forward to and we honestly thought it would be a really fun tradition to continue once YOU join us (whenever you decide to join us. I’m feeling particularly impatient atthisverymoment.)

We enjoy the hunt for a new restaurant, deciding together on the style of pizza (New York style, Chicago style, Detroit style), picking out the perfect toppings (lots o’ meat, savory garlic, something fancy-pants), and boxing up the leftovers.

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Valentine’s is not the only time we eat pizza, though, don’t you fret.  Besides those bi-monthly-ish occasions when we splurge on a restaurant pie, every week or two, I make one from scratch. Sometimes I fail miserably – the crust isn’t cooked, I drop the whole pizza on the floor, the dough never rose. But most of the time, there’s crust, sauce, cheese pepperoni and garlic, and THAT makes us very happy.

You know you want a bite! Don’t worry, Child, we’ll save some for you!

Love,

Your Mama

Sacred Space

Dear Child of Mine,

I want you to know how important it is for me to be alone with God in my Sacred Space each day. This time apart from you and daddy, your brothers and sisters, isn’t because I don’t like you or I don’t want to be with. On the contrary! I am going to be intentional about communing with Jesus so that I am a better mommy, a better wife, a better friend.

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Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him. 

Henri Nouwen

During this time waiting for you, I have been led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit to wake up hours before sunrise, to light a lone candle, to climb the steps to a secluded landing, and to seek God each morning. Sometimes I pray, or read a daily devotional, oftentimes I participate in the Daily Prayer and read the daily office of lectionary Bible passages. Some days I write feverishly in my journal – confessing my sins, pouring out my pain or documenting a moment of clarity from Scripture. Some mornings are still, and when I seek his voice I only hear the bubbling of the fish tank. Other days my soul stirs with God’s whispers, promises or urgings or convictions.

Whether my devotional hour feels productive or not, I remind myself that God receives my offering of time, even if my mind wouldn’t stay silent enough to hear a revelatory message. It is a slow, calm, quiet start to my day, a gift I never allowed myself to experience before.

My confession is this: I have no way of knowing how this practice will look once you join us, and that fills me with angst. Having the responsibility of tending to your every need will change my life in ways I cannot fathom. Who knows what my days will become? (*deep breaths* trying not to stress. tomorrow has enough worries)

BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL. He is also merciful and patient. He won’t chastise me for not having my life in perfect order once I have other lives to care for night and day. He will grant me the time and space and wisdom to meet with him in our Sacred Space.

And if mommy has to put up a sign that says,

“Please do not disturb (unless you need medical attention). Meeting with God. You’ll thank me for this later.”

then goshdarnit I will.

ONE MORE THING, Child! If and when you feel led to create your own Sacred Space for time alone with God, please do so. Come tell me, “Mama, I’m going to have my God-time now” so I know better than to disturb you with menial tasks that can wait. Let me know if you have questions about this, tell me what your learning, share with me your need for direction or guidance. I will do my best to set an example, and I will do my best to answer your questions, and I will do my best to surround you with godly men or women who can join us in this journey toward Jesus.

Love,

Mama

Location Matters

Dear Child of Mine,

In August of 2007, your daddy led me out to the most romantic corner of our favorite place – “The Point” at Somerset Beach Campground. It was there he asked me to be his wife, committing to love and cherish me forever and ever. The look in his eyes, the sights and sounds of that quiet evening, every moment still rings vividly in my mind’s eye. I am so thankful I said, “Of course!” (Apparently a simple “yes” just wouldn’t do.)

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In October 2013, for his birthday, I purchased a set of these leather bracelets for each of us. I loved the concept that this creative Etsy shop had — commemorating that special place, where Forever Memories were made. And so, I zoomed into Google Maps to the precise location of our engagement, and VOILA! GPS coordinates. Sure, the bracelet could speak a message with words. But I married a NUMBERS GUY. And I knew he would resonate with this message.

Within a moment of the revealing of his gift, he had picked the point! He knew. That’s the place our love was truly committed, even before the altar and the pastor and our friends and family. We made a commitment and we’ve kept it.

Your daddy and I love each other, even more now than on that humid August night. And we look forward to expanding our love when you join us.

Come quickly, little one.

Mama

Craving Campfires

Dear Child of Mine,

As I look out from our cozy little apartment, I since inches upon inches of fluffy white snow. It’s beautiful, it really is. And I’m so thankful for the loveliness of each unique flake. It has been years since I last experienced a true WINTER – one filled with snow days and ice storms, snow plows and frightening roadways, knee-deep snow and crunchy sounding sidewalks. I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the excuse to drink way too much hot chocolate topped with far too many marshmallows. I love snuggling with my husband on cold nights, craving body heat and loving his nearness. I’m even a lover of winter runs, an activity most people would highly dislike. But if the morning is refreshingly brisk and the winds are low, there really is nothing like the calm, quiet, crunchy run of winter.

I say all this because I want you to know I REALLY DO LOVE WINTER. No joke. I can’t wait to teach you to downhill ski, to  take you sled riding every chance we get, to take picture of the epic snowmen you’re bound to build with your dad.

But I’m craving spring. I’m needing a moderately warm camping trip. I’d love to sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows (rather than watching them dissolve in my steaming mug of cocoa.) I want to eat a perfect s’more made by your daddy. I want to hear the crickets and see the fireflies.

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Maybe in a few months…

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But for now I’m choosing to be thankful for our toasty hobbit-hole. I’m thankful for all that cocoa. I’m thankful for bowl after bowl of homemade soup. I’m thankful for snuggles.

Waiting for spring. Waiting for you. Always.

Mama