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

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:
www.kevinandmelanie.wordpress.com

Days Like This

Dear Little Girl,

Our days together, in this intimate relationship of pregnancy, are drawing to a close. As difficult as it has been to carry you, I am certain that I will miss (even grieve) your nearness. Over these months I have described many times the challenges of being pregnant. It is a hard, hard thing that cannot be truly explained with words.

But it is so beautiful. Isn’t that the way of creation? The hardest challenges can reap the most wonderful gifts? It’s even the way of God. The gift of our salvation, our restoration to righteousness, came as a result of Christ taking on human flesh and bearing a cross.

So I am grateful to be a part of this difficult, beautiful creation – your life. I cannot wait to meet you.

And I am so surprised at how I feel these days. As big and huge as I am, as near to meeting face to face as we are, I feel more “myself” than at any point during this pregnancy. In fact I feel stronger and more confident. I have been able to practice yoga every single day since the week of Thanksgiving (a first in many months!) I have been walking about 3 miles most days, often with your Daddy. We love that time together; we can’t wait to add a stroller to the mix.

And despite a cold affecting my health and the nearness of delivery looming, I decided it would be a good time to cook up that turkey and have some friends over. So I’m hosting a big, delicious dinner tonight, complete with homemade pies and cranberry sauce. Oh, and I did I mention it’s 60+ degrees out today…on DECEMBER 12TH?! what???? I might just get my wish of walking the parking lot (or the park) during early labor!

Here’s to you, Little One! Come quickly.

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Advent Waiting: Mine and Mary’s

In December 2013, I wrote about Advent and shared my confession of our own season of waiting. I thought it appropriate to revisit that post as I await the birth of our long-awaited child.


From “Advent: a Reminder to Wake Up

The difficulty is in this time of liminal space (as described by Richard Rohr) in which we are no longer experiencing that which we are comfortable and oh so familiar; yet neither have we seen the resolution of the waiting, the answer, the direction, the everything-is-turning-out-fine moment. We are in the time of holding our breath, left to wait. We can choose to gasp for air, fight for our lives, flee the fearful expectancy. Or we can seek the Lord Jesus Christ in this uncertainty, looking for his movement, listening to his voice. Because even in the waiting, especially in the waiting, there is Jesus.

Dear One, I am waiting with an ever-increasing desire for your arrival. But this morning I prayed this prayer of confession –

Lord Jesus, As hard as this is to admit, I thank you for this long time of advent in my life. This journey of infertility may continue for many more years, I don’t know, but the grace, the blessing has come and is coming in the ways I’m learning to seek you. I imagine where my focus would be right now if I had gotten “my way” and it’s not likely to be totally on you. Teach me now how to keep company with Jesus, how to kindle communion with Him, that it may be an inextricable part of me in years to come.

I look forward to celebrating Advent with you in the years to come, teaching you about the birth of Jesus, the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, the obedience of the wise men and shepherds. I will walk you through the weeks leading up to the day we celebrate his incarnation, teaching you about the discipline of waiting and leading you to look for Jesus especially in those times when we hold our breath. In my hopeful waiting for you to become a part of my life, I pray I will become more and more connected to Jesus. I desire you deeply, but I want my Christ-seeking to always be at the forefront of pursuits. And I want you to know that about me.


I love how true all of those words still ring, two years later. Little Girl, you are my most treasured gift, the one for whom I’m prayed all my life. I have no idea why God chose to say “yes” after all these years, but we are rejoicing! And here I am, approaching the 3rd Sunday of Advent 38 weeks pregnant. Yes, I understand Mary’s journey a little more dearly. Yes, in some way, I am living the Advent. I am in the waiting and expectation of Christ Jesus’ birth; oh what cause for baited breath and celebration! And I am also smack dab in the middle of the waiting and expectation of your birth; not only the when will she arrive but how will Christ Jesus will use your life to change and sanctify me.

I am praying fervently for the labor and delivery work we’re going to do together, Child. I am praying for those moment to be holy, filled with the presence and peace of the Holy Spirit, beyond human understanding. And as I pray I find tears filling my eyes, for I recognize the great gift it is to partner with God in creation. To bring life into this world.

As we await Christmas and celebrate the birth of our Savior, I will share in Mary’s Song for the way the Lord has worked in my own life.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Luke 1:48b-49

Baby Girl’s Bedroom

Dear Baby Girl,

We are as prepared as we can be for your arrival. The task lists are completed, and we know that the next step is jumping into parenthood head first, ready or not. Before you join us on the outside, along with the sleepless, glorious, craziness that is sure to accompany you, I thought I’d share a sneak peak into your nursery.

I didn’t really want a “theme” room (elephants or Pooh or princess or whatnot). I just wanted a room that felt like you and me, together. So I chose a portrait as inspiration and went with the bright pink, mint, and burgundy color scheme. It sounds weird, but it works.

This first picture is as you walk in the door. It’s almost impossible for me to figure out how to properly set my camera to take into the bright light, so I apologize for the hazy/hack photo edit job.

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Curtains: Meijer
Rug: Aldi
Boppy Cover: garage sale find!

IMG_4684 Baby Girl, we hope you love to read as much as we do! You have a fantastic collection of books thanks to the many people who already love you! This shelf is mostly board books; there’s a large shelf in the closet with many more “bigger kid” books.

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Under the end table is this cutesy basket filled with all the toys and rattles and cuddly things you received (tags still attached at the moment).

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This incredible quilt was made by one of my mom’s longest friends, Peggy. The underside is a cozy flannel, and the quilting is just stunning. (Now I know what quilting is thanks to my friend, Tara.)

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The crib an Amazon find, a gift from my grandparents and parents. It was put together by your daddy; I mostly just watched and handed him things as needed. It’s a 3-in-1 convertible bed, so it can become a toddler bed and one day a headboard/footboard for a double bed.

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These are just a *few* of the MANY blankets you received. We have loads of muslin swaddle blankets, many hand-crocheted or knitted, and lots luxurious soft throws. There’s also a basket full of velcro swaddles and lots of spit rags (store bought and handmade, of every fabric you can imagine.)

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Your changing station is all set up! This picture doesn’t include the cute mint cover we received with an Amazon gift card. The drawers are filled with your littlest outfits, socks, hats, sleepers, and 16 BumGenius all in one cloth diapers.

The prints are online purchases, and the lovely fans match just right – they’re from my Monroe Shower decorations, thanks to Amanda.

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A few more decorations from the shower!  The pink afghan on top is one I made for you during General Conference in July.  The adorable owl tack quilt was made by Nancy Liedel from MFMC.

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See that set of prints over your bed? That’s from Meijer! It really pulled the colors together nicely.

The bag on the door is my hospital bag, mostly ready with your things and mine. It was a Thirty One purchase, embroidered with “Eccles” on the front, from my mom. It will be a perfect carry-on or overnight bag.

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And this print was designed by my good friend and amazing artist, Katrina. Three years ago I purchased some stationary from her Etsy shop and commented on that design, saying I hoped to one day have reason to buy it. She included it in my order as a gift, sending her prayers to cover us. I have saved it all those years and now proudly display it in your nursery, Little One.

For this child I have prayed.

1 Samuel 1:27