Commencement

Dear Child of Ours,

On May 17th, 2014, exactly 6 years after graduating from Spring Arbor University, your father received his Masters of Arts in Theological Studies from Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College.

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I think he’s so handsome, don’t you?

It’s been a long educational journey, rooted in our following of God’s will. I don’t believe it was a mistake that Kevin received his Bachelor’s in Chemistry. God is the creator and sustainer of this universe, and our pursuit to understand it speaks to our desire to know God. This Sovereign One has certainly woven together the stories of science and ministry in the life of my husband, and I trust He will continue to do so.

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The Eccles: Melanie, Kevin, Gordon, Linda and Brian
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Receiving his diploma with President John Martin and Dean Doug Cullem
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Both sets of our parents: Dan & Karen Fish, Gordon & Linda Eccles

We were so thankful that both of our families could join us in this celebratory event. What a blessing that they were all willing and eager to make the lengthy road trips to New York. After the commencement ceremony, the seven of us carpooled to the nearest Ruby Tuesdays where we had a little more time together to talk and laugh and reminisce and notice the ways God has been working.

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The seminarian and his wife

Little One,
I want you to know how immensely proud of him of your Daddy. He did so well in his three years of intensive seminary classes, and I know he’s thrilled to be done with school! And can I just say how thankful I am for the way he lived during his time as a seminarian? Never once did I feel neglected or frustrated because of his coursework. He managed his time well and didn’t allow his class responsibilities to get in the way of loving me well. What a blessing! I have to admit, I oftentimes forget he was even in seminary because he was so good at keeping it relegated to a small corner of his life.

Thank you, Husband of mine. I love you and I’m so so SO happy for you!

Hope and Validation

Hope is a thing of extraordinary power. It feeds the soul. and yet it can torment it. It can be dashed. Yet it can show the way.

This beautiful quote from one of my favorite British dramas, Call the Midwife (Season 3, Episode 3).

Waiting for you, my Child, is a true test of my ability to hold onto hope. It’s the one thing that keeps me returning to the doctor, receiving one more injection, getting another ultrasound. Without hope, I’d be a piece of pottery dashed to thousands of pieces.

Our last appointment with the Reproductive Endocrinologist left us feeling a little nervous, but also filled with a tremendous amount of validation. As she was doing a routine ultrasound, she suddenly seemed concerned with what she as seeing. I am so thankful for the way she took her time, thoroughly examining the angles and images, and reading through all of the notes left by our other RE. She didn’t hide her concern from us, but talked us through her thought process. Though there have been no other concerning findings in my health prior to this date, she noticed fluid around one of my ovaries. “There shouldn’t be any fluid here,” she noted. “My advice would be to forego the third round of IUI and proceed with laparoscopic investigation with a possible diagnosis of endometriosis.” There’s no way to tell if someone has endometriosis without doing this minor surgery to see any scar tissue first hand.

Though this is a slightly unnerving possibility, there are many blessings in all of this. First of all, if I do in fact have endometriosis, they can treat it during the operation and my fertility problems may be solved just like that. (Not to mention my general health improvements!) Secondly, our Rochester RE says she went to med school with many doctors in our area of Michigan and can give us a great referral. Thirdly, if we pursue this treatment we will be doing so with full health insurance which will likely cover these expenses – something we certainly couldn’t afford to pay for out of pocket.

After discussing the endometriosis possibility, Dr. Hayes made a statement that has stuck with me.

“You are still so young, and the fact that you’ve been trying to conceive for 4 years (since you were 24 – the peak of fertility) is not normal. This puts you way out in left field, statistically.”

THANK YOU. I finally felt so validated in our struggle that I left the office with tears of joy and relief. No one has ever “poo-poo-ed” our infertility, but never before has a medical professional shown such concern and drive to find an answer. This is NOT normal. This shouldn’t just require more patience, more effort. This is just wrong.

2014-05-28 14.30.54I don’t believe infertility was a part of God’s plan for creation. LIFE is the very essence of God. He breathed life into Adam and Eve and told them to fill the earth with their offspring. His plan for salvation came in the form of human life, the infant Son of God. Jesus Christ came to bring us life to the full and life everlasting with the Almighty.

I am taking comfort believing that barrenness is not a direct consequence of my sin, but rather proof that Creation is not as it should be. God aches when we are sorrowful, broken, and in despair. He offers consolation through the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. And cling to Him I will. May my heart be buried deeply into my Lord, finding fulfillment because of Him alone and pouring out His goodness and love to you, My child.

I love you.

Mama

 

A Sacramental Celebration

Child of Ours,

Today your father and I celebrate 6 years of marriage! What a wonderful day it is. The weather seems to be smiling with us, bringing with it blue skies, 70 degree warmth, and a soothing breeze. Our perfect kind of day, really. (Plus, your Dad knew exactly what would bring sentimental tears to my eyes by writing this beautiful post.)

All those years ago I had been busy making wedding day plans, mailing invitations, finalizing the reception menu, picking up my dress, and getting blisters on my hands as I worked with my Dad to edge all of the landscaping. I was dreamy eyed and hopeful. I was naive and I was in love. I had expectations and assumptions that I wasn’t fully aware of.  For so many people, especially those who marry at tender ages of 21 and 22, the idea of being married is a wonderful one, but the reality of marriage is a rude (and painful) awakening.

Little One, I can honestly tell you that our marriage has far exceeds all of my expectations.

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Your Dad and I have our ups and downs, because we’re broken, imperfect creatures. We get moody. We act selfishly. We say things we wish we hadn’t. But that’s life. The TRUE LOVE, the wonder of our marriage comes in the unconditional forgiveness, the deep admiration for one another, the enjoyment of companionship, and mutual love and respect.

These past six years have been beyond incredible. We’ve grown deeply rooted in our faith, building a foundation of Christ alone. Our marriage is a sacrament – a visible sign of the sacred, inward grace of God. It is by His Grace that we are able to love so deeply, forgive the hurts, and see potential for restoration. We partner in our journey toward sanctification. And it is this spiritual basis for our marriage that has brought such abiding joy, passionate love, and incredible fun.

James 1:17-18

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

We’re just waiting for you to join us in this journey!

Come quickly, Child.

Kid, your mom is awesome.

By now, you’ve figured out that your mom is way better with written words and posting consistently than I am. She’s written you dozens of notes, and I wrote two at the beginning. (Now I’ve written three…maybe I’ll get to a full dozen someday!) Hers get lots of amazing comments and people are inspired by how she writes, and I forget to tell anyone I put something up. She’s thoughtful like that.

I don’t know if you’ll fully get this till you’re older, but your mom loves people. She instinctively knows the right thing to say, the right way to listen, and how to show someone she cares about them. She’s amazing like that. I learn so much about how to love people by watching her, because she does it effortlessly. Part of the reason I married her is that I want to be like her.

Your mom and I are very very different, and yet sometimes I feel like we’re the same person. When we first met (which is a story I’ve meant to put up here sometime…) I knew right away she was a special girl. I chased off other guys, crashed their dates, and was generally very persistent. It took her forever to realize how special I thought she was, but once we found each other we’ve never looked back.

See kid, sometimes you find something beautiful. Now, you’re mom is a beautiful woman…but that’s not all I’m talking about. Our marriage is a beautiful thing. It’s so special it was worth chasing her for months just to make sure we ended up dating. We care about one another, look out for one another, support one another, and most of all we have a *lot* of fun just hanging out together.

God gives good gifts, and our marriage is a gift to your mom and I from God. It’s beautiful. I’m thankful every day for what she’s done to help shape my life and make me more like Jesus. I try to do my best to help her do that, too. And when you get here, you bet we’re going to be doing everything we can to help you understand that God (and we) love you sooooo much.

That’s what I meant by finding something beautiful. Love is a beautiful thing. Not *just* romantic love, but the love a parent has for their child, the love a wife has for her husband, and the love that helps them enjoy spending time together, even if it’s just sitting on the couch.

Your mom and I have been married six years today, and even though we’ve got some “normal” and “boring” things planned today, I know that we’ll enjoy spending time together (and doing some special things too). Sharing our lives and encouraging one another in the normal and boring things is what love is.

I love your mom, and I can’t wait to show you.

Where To?

Dear Child of Mine,

We are really looking forward to you joining us in this next stage of our lives. The past 10 years of have been full of transitions. I graduated from high school and moved out of the only home I’d ever known to attend college in Spring Arbor, Michigan. During the summers, I worked at a camp in Somerset Center, Michigan. After your Dad and I got married, we lived in Detroit for 5 months where he attended grad school. Then we proceeded to live in Monroe, Michigan for 3 years as youth leaders at the Free Methodist Church. This led us to a nearly-three-year stint in Albion, New York, working, ministering, attending seminary.

And all of that brings us to the present.

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We’re less than one month away from one of the biggest moves yet. Your Daddy is going to be appointed as the Senior Pastor of the Free Methodist Church in Monroe, Michigan. What’s that you say?? Monroe? Didn’t you live there before? YES! And we’re moving back. Back into the same home – the parsonage. Back to the same church. Back to (many of) the same people.

The grieving process of leaving behind so many dear friends will be ongoing. We’ve made friends in Albion who’ve become deeply engrained in our hearts. I can’t remember a day when I didn’t know and love these people, and I plan to never “move on” from their friendships. 

In the other half of our hearts, we’re gearing up for moving back to Monroe. We’re honestly so excited! I never could have predicted our return to this congregation when we bid farewell three years ago and left for seminary. But God has brought our life full circle. When the opportunity for this full time ministry was brought to us, Kevin and I talked for an hour or two and by the end of the conversation we both smiled  and said, “Let’s do it.” I feel a peace deep within me, the Holy Spirit assuring me that THIS is our next step. We feel equipped. We feel called. We feel responsible.

I didn’t realize that these past 6 years I’ve been holding my breath, praying for the day when I can say, “I’m home.” And with this decision made, my heart feels relief. We’re believing Monroe is the place we’re going to be for a good, long time. (Not predictable, of course, but we’re going into this for the long haul.)

I have watched my husband become a pastor. God has shaped him, taught him, and used him. He has become my pastor – a reality I never anticipated. I love sitting in the front row, eagerly taking in the truths of Scripture from the teaching of my husband, Pastor Kevin. He interacts with individuals with such tenderness and genuine care, and the way little children flock to him speaks of his trustworthiness. He is gifted in administration – data, finances, policies – and does well preparing leaders for ministry. I am incredibly proud of him, and honored to be serving at his side. I will have the privilege of leading worship, planning and prayerfully preparing the songs of our people.

We look forward to engaging in the community. Connecting to the people around us – both inside and outside of the church – has proven to be essential. Since our natural instinct is to stay home and keep to ourselves, we made a conscious choice to connect when we moved to Albion. It’s a great feeling when I go just about anywhere and run into a friend or acquaintance. Having someone wave every time I’m out for a walk or stopping for a chat as I’m grocery shopping. This is real life. We’re going to be intentional to really know people, listen to their stories, be a part of their lives.

We have plans and hopes and dreams for Monroe. But our deepest cry remains,

God, go before us. 

Beyond all of our thoughts of ministry, our spirits remained focused on our desire to bring you and your siblings into our lives, Child. How wonderful would it be to enter into this ministerial transition with the blessed end to our barrenness?! Our new home has many bedrooms just waiting for you and your siblings, and there’s plenty of room to run and play and make believe. Come quickly, Child. We’re eager for you to join us!

Love,

Mama

 

A Small Goodbye

It’s begun:
Spending as much time as possible with as many friends as we can before we move.
Filling our one-room home with packing boxes.
Feeling sad. Feeling excited. Feeling confused.

Last Friday we had our last small group gathering. We call this bunch of people our Life Gwoup. (The W is on purpose. Inside joke.) Two of our regulars weren’t able to attend, but the rest of us met up at the local bowling alley for a couple hours of laughter, embarrassment and food. It was grand!IMG_1399

Anna and Tod’s three kids were super excited about their first time bowling and I’m ashamed to admit that their scores beat mine. Even with their bumpers and the guide ramp, it’s still bringing shame to my dad and grandpa’s legacy. Oh well. I was in it for the fun conversations and memory making more than anything.

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Side note. When I saw ^this picture^ my first thought was, “I actually look like an adult…” For the first time ever, I can picture myself with kids and it’s a totally believable image. I’ve always looked young for my age, even to myself, and I’m thankful that I’ve turned some sort of mental corner. Hopefully that change doesn’t come with wrinkles, though.

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The sweetest moment of the evening was, of course, with my little Amelia. I was holding her while talking to someone else and suddenly she grabbed my attention, looked me right in the eye and said:

I’m going to miss you really much.

To have a young girl, not even 3 years old, understand that I’ll be leaving soon and express the sadness in her spirit….what a tender memory. I’m going to miss you really much, too, Amelia. I’m going to miss our silly smile exchanges. I’m going to miss seeing you snuggling in Kevin’s lap. I’m going to miss the faithful hugs you bestow on me. I’m going to miss our precious little bond that we’ve had from the start. I hope you don’t forget me, my little Amelia. I certainly won’t forget you.

Not This Time

Oh, Child of Mine,

How could we have known that six years after I wiped that tear off your daddy’s cheek as we were exchanging our vows, that we would be soaking each other’s shoulders in tears shed over our barrenness?

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I wish I knew if God was trying to tell me a flat-out-NO or just please-wait-patiently. If I knew it was a NO, I’d be able to deal with that grief and stop wondering, month after month. If I knew it was wait (and I knew the when…), I could totally wait. All I know is that I am waiting. And I will just keep waiting. Even though I feel like collapsing, giving up, and throwing in the towel. 

We certainly didn’t go into marriage thinking, “I am assuming it will a challenge to get pregnant.” Nope. We figured, “When we want to get pregnant, we’ll just get pregnant.” And yet we are that couple we never even imagined the possibility of becoming. Infertile. Struggling to conceive. Incapable of reproducing, the most primal of human abilities.

And then we do our first round of fertility treatment. I take the pills. Get the injection. Have ultrasounds. Go through IUI. And we just assume, “There’s no reason this shouldn’t work. We’re making the effort. The pieces to the puzzle are all present and accounted for. This is totally going to work.” (Heck! The doctor even told me I had beautiful ovaries. That’s gotta count for something!)

HOW DID THIS NOT WORK? I hate to admit it, but my gut keeps shouting, “IT’S NOT FAIR” So immature, I know. But that’s the truth.

I kept hearing the phrase “hope does not disappoint” from some passage of Scripture I’d once memorized, and yet the words seemed ludicrous in my current state. I had hope. I am beyond disappointed. What gives, God?

So I went digging and found the 2011 NIV and the ESV both replace the word “disappoint” with “put us to shame” – terminology which makes a whole lot more sense.

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Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Endurance.
Character.
Hope.

And through it all, we won’t be put to shame…we can not be put to shame because we are filled to overflowing with the love of God in Christ, covered with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not unworthy. We are not deserving of ridicule. We are not crushed beyond repair.

The Same Saturday

Dear Child of Ours,

Six years ago, May 17th fell on a Saturday just as it will this weekend. On that sunny afternoon at Spring Arbor University, your Daddy and I each received a diploma awarding us Bachelor of Arts degrees. We’d done it, achieved the American dream of graduating from college. I’d spent two years studying the liberal arts – English, communications, computer science, chemistry, sociology, and psychology – then two more years focused on every Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical class I could fit into my schedule. The end result was a Philosophy/Religion degree. And I don’t regret a minute of it.
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Your father’s scientific mind steeped itself in chemical equations, complex mathematics, and molecular structures. I am so proud to be married to a man with a Chemistry degree. I really am. There aren’t too many pastors with actual science degrees, and he is often able to tutor teens in algebra or chemistry because he gets it. His excellence in the field of biophysics also paid the bills (and our remaining student loans) for the first 2 years we were married. (Thank you, Wayne State University Fellowship.) Can’t be mad about being debt free.

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It’s rather poignant timing for Northeastern Seminary to be presenting Kevin with a Master of Theology degree on the 6th anniversary of the commencement ceremony for our undergrad. This Saturday will remind us that we’re no longer bright-eyed babes, looking with longing and wonder at the days ahead of marital bliss and building our lives together. He just 21 years old, and I was 22. We were mature and made wise decisions, even looking back. But we were just babies. And there many lessons that only time can teach.

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This Saturday, I’ll look back with a smile. Because this let’s-get-married-and-be-a-family thing was the best idea ever. Our life together is far more fulfilling than I ever dreamed it could be. Seriously, Child. I’m not making this stuff up. The blinders are off. The honeymoon is long over. The reality of bills and home management and endless responsibility isn’t new and overwhelming. (Ok, still overwhelming, but definitely not new.) And I respect your Daddy deeper every day. I feel more loved by him with every passing minute. Even with the bickering. Even with the pain of waiting for you. Even with the future of uncertainties.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Last Day of School

Dear Child of Mine,

IMG_1381I want you to know how exciting today is. It may seem like any other mundane Monday, but No! This is your Daddy’s Last Day of Seminary! Can you believe it? After being in school for all but a few years of his life, he will finally be finished. I am so proud of his long, hard labor, for the way he never sacrificed time together for homework, for the way he lived a life of ministry all while writing and reading hundreds of pages. It’s done, husband! I’m so excited for you!

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This morning I baked Daddy a Lemon Meringue Pie to celebrate! Flaky crust. Lemony filling. Delicate meringue. All from scratch, baked with lots of love. We’ll grill some hamburgers and indulge in a slice or two of this spring pie, and breathe in the achievement of it.

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Anticipating Mother’s Day

 

 

For the first time in all these years of waiting for you, Child, I am anxious about tomorrow.

Mother’s Day.

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I adore this lone red tulip outside my door.

The past couple of holidays I wasn’t really thinking about me and my sadness. I was thinking about how GREAT moms are and how they deserve to be celebrated. Inevitably, however, there would be a moment when my reality would come crashing down on me. Perhaps it was during the church service when the pastor talks about the blessings of motherhood. Maybe it was that comment by an innocent acquaintance who says I would be a wonderful mom and wonders when we’ll have kids. Or it might come in numbly scrolling through Facebook, seeing image after beautiful image of my friends and their children.

I don’t think any of those circumstances should be altered just to accommodate the raw emotions of a girl in my shoes. Mothers and motherhood are meant to be celebrated. It’s Scriptural. Babies are beautiful. We’ve been married for just about 6 years and it’s totally normal to wonder if and when we’re going to have kids. And I’m really glad you think I’ll be a good mom.

But this year is different. Because I sit hear wondering if you, My Child, are taking up residence in my womb right this very moment. I am anxious to know if the procedure and the timing and the pills and the injection worked together to bring life where there has only been barrenness. And I don’t know if I can face all of the knowing glances, receive all of the heartfelt hugs, respond to all of the prayerful inquiries.

You are wanted, Child. Deeply desired. Prayed over by your daddy and me, by your grandparents and aunts and uncles, by a church family, and by far away friends who love us well.

Jesus, hold me

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.

Creator God,
send your Holy Spirit to renew this living world,
that the whole creation,
in its groaning and striving,
may know your loving purpose
and come to reflect your glory;
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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