The Scent of Grandma’s House

Dear Gramma Mary,

I will always remember that patch of irises or “root beer flowers” you had in the back corner of the house. Any time I see these beautiful purple blooms I think of you and the many memories we made in that big back yard –

clean linens flapping on the line,

birds chirping near the feeder,

tire swing swaying from the montrous oak,

and the long wait for the charcoal grill to heat and cook our hamburgers.


I remember sitting in your Florida room watching Lawrence Welk as the summer breeze blew through the screened windows.

I remember you tossing us a whiffle ball and the time I hit a “home run” by breaking one of those glass panes. I learned about restitution.

I remember playing “fox and hound” in a foot of freshly fallen snow when I’d spend a snow day at your house.

I remember your clip-on earrings and your red carpet room and your pretty head scarves that you wore when it was windy.

So many things make me think of you – old fashioned pencil sharpeners, Archway windmill cookies, cabbage rolls, jade jewelry, aspen trees, rummy, gumdrops, and anything PBS.


Thanks for having Ash and I over every Friday night to eat McDonald’s and watch Jeopardy and TGIF (ok, that was mostly us, but I can’t forget that ancient 13 inch tv in your bedroom.) Thanks for letting us spend the night and snuggle with you in the double bed and telling us stories before we fell asleep. Thanks for teaching me how to do plastic canvas and letting me pretend to use your acrylic paints like Bob Ross. I’ll forgive you for snoring if you forgive me for getting water all over the place whenever I “helped” wash dishes. I always smile when I think of how you called Kevin your boyfriend and how proud you were when he became a pastor. I think I’ll start signing my name with xoxo just like you always did.


I’ll miss you, Grams, but I certainly won’t forget you. I’m forever grateful that you were willing to hang around for enough years to see your first great grandchild, and I promise I will tell her all about you.

 

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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Kirsten Grace – Month 2

Dear Kirsten Grace,
Sweet daughter of mine,

I am so thankful God chose to give me a gift I could never deserve. Each day His goodness keeps unfolding like a glorious flower, petal after petal, in the beauty of who you are. I pray I will never cease proclaiming His glory, never forget to live out eucharisteo joy over your life. He created you, knit you together in my womb, purposely piecing together every fiber of your being. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, sweet girl.

Jesus Christ is crazy about you. He loves you just as you are, not as you should be.

That quote from Brennan Manning’s All is Grace (by his friend, Brother Dominique) is shaping my perspective of my own life right at this moment. I pray you grow up knowing deep in the center of your being the truth of those words.

*Kirsten Grace 2 months old

This month has been so much fun. Your personality is forming and we are getting to know you more and more with every passing hour. The grins are real now. You stop in the middle of nursing sometimes and just gleam that gummy smile up at me, staring right into my eyes. It’s transformative, really. I can’t fathom the depth of the connection God has given us. I love you, Kirsten, and I tell that you that a million times a day. I pray you believe me, today and always.

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I have made a conscious effort to be present with you, soaking up our moments together, knowing time races by too quickly. I believe it when others tell me how quickly you will grow up. Spending five years waiting for you gave me five years to grow up a little more myself. Perhaps because of that time, I’ve developed a deepened sense of being, convicted that what people need most is the gift of presence. I don’t want to spend my time documenting your life as much as I want to be a part of your life. I apologize in advance if you’re disappointed that I don’t have every momentous occasion written on my calendar. But I do hope you’ll remember that mom and dad were with you, loving you, loving each other, doing life together.

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February 26

In your second month these are some noteworthy moments:

one. You have officially been to Panera more than most people ever have. Wendy and Megan know you by name and are excited every time we walk in. (Yes, we’re on first name basis with baristas too!) Want to know why you’ve been to Panera so much? Because your mom and dad do ministry in an every day place like Panera Bread. I have had three coffee meetings a week for the past three weeks with individuals who are willing to share their lives with me. That time together is totally worth a $2 cup of coffee. (Plus, I can drink coffee again…hooray for no acid reflux!) Depending on who I’m with, we talk about dating and marriage and music and Netflix and education and the Bible…and it’s real life discipleship as we seek to become more like Christ in those seemingly mundane moments.

two. You started sleeping in your cradle on Feb 18, just a couple days shy of 8 weeks. I wrap you up in your Halo swaddle sleeper after nursing you. You might be asleep, you might be awake, but it’s the same time every night and you just go to sleep. No crying. I won’t jinx myself by saying anything more about that little gift.

three. You don’t cry in your carseat anymore; it probably helped we loosened the straps on your shoulders. Yeah this parenting thing is figure it out as you go.

four. We have been exclusively cloth diapering and loving it! I can’t really express why, but your dad and I both are genuinely stoked about our decision to use cloth. (We use BumGeninus all-in-ones in case anyone’s wondering. And side note, a huge thank you to my Albion friends for asking what I really wanted off of our registry and actually going in on a group gift to buy all of our diapers – and a few extras. Seriously, thank you.) The clean up isn’t bad, thanks to your dad’s installation of the sprayer on our toilet, and I’ve gotten into a pretty good washer routine. Plus, your little bum is happy with it which is really the most important part.

five. You still love bath time! I take you right in the shower with me most every day and it works wonderfully. I leave you in the bouncer right outside the shower in just your diaper while I bath myself. Then, I dry off my hands and step out to bring you in with me. You love the warm water and don’t mind it running in your face. You started getting some baby acne during the couple days when I didn’t bath you so back to the routine that seems to work! You happily watch me do my hair and makeup when we’re done because you get to bask in the warmth of the overhead bathroom heater.

six. You’ve been staying in the nursery every Sunday morning while mommy and daddy lead the church service. Only once were you wailing so incessantly that I had to go rescue you before the end of the service, leaving the last hymn unsung. The congregation seemed to understand just fine. :) (And side note, special thanks to the long list of volunteers from MFMC who care so well for you each week. Second side note, thanks to the guys who ran HDMI all the way to the nursery so the workers could watch the service!)
seven. We’ve been going for lots of walks in carrier Lynne made. (She is a brilliant seamstress!) Sometimes you scream and struggle for a moment, but inevitably you fall to sleep all snuggled in next to my heartbeat. It’s good exercise and fresh air for us both (although I keep you covered up because it’s still a bit too nippy for you to be exposed.)

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February 1

eight. You ate from a bottle for the first time on February 23rd. I had been considering a bottle for a while but have no desire to rush it. We still plan to nurse exclusively, leaving the freezer stocked with momma’s milk for whenever Dad or someone else is home with you for a few hours if I need to be away. It’s a relief to know how easily you took the bottle – whether I was holding it or Daddy.

loved watching your Dad give you a bottle today. It was incredible to see him experience that connection for the first time. I couldn’t wipe that smile off of his face if I tried. We both think you were a little confused by the fact that mom is over there, but I’m eating. what the heck? But you didn’t let that stop you.

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February 26

nine.  You got to go with us on our first Family Valentine’s Pizza Date. Every year since college, your daddy and I go on a hunt for a new pizza place. We decided all those years ago that Valentine’s would be a family dinner date, so along you came. We ate a Nick & Nino’s and because we went at 4:30 like the old people that we are, we scored half price appetizers. Best chicken tenders ever, btdubs. We even saw Alisha – the receptionist from my chiropractor’s – and she was so excited to see you! She rushed over to give you a cuddle.


And here are a few more fun shots from this morning’s 2 month old photo shoot. We had a blast with you. I think you like the click of the camera!

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Your hair is long enough for a little spout!
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Big stretch! And WORTH THE WAIT. Amen. Thank you, Amanda, for this most thoughtful gift.

bonus footage from your second month:

January 30th
One of our many Panera trips

 

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Being a Pastor’s Kid means napping next to us while we plan worship services. (January 31)

 

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Sunday, February 7, hanging out with daddy after church.

 

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This was your first time in the Boppy, practicing your neck support (February 9)

 

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Sometimes you nap on my lap while your Daddy and I play chess on the couch and try to keep the cats from batting the pieces. It helps that they’re magnetic. (February 13)

 

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This is my view every night as you fall into sleep. February 16

 

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I love the intensity of your blue eyes. February 18

This particular Sunday (February 21) you had an inordinate amount of energy left after a long morning at church. We snapped some adorable photos of you in the sunlight of your bedroom. I can’t get over the red glints in your hair, your rosy lips, and those bright blue eyes. Plus, can we talk about that baby tunic-style top. I’d totally wear that. (You hit the nail on the head, Kenz.)

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that little tongue of yours. So cute.

And during your second month this has become your typical day:
nighttime
9:45pm In bed to nurse
10:30pm Asleep
3/4:00am Awake to nurse
4/5:00am Back to sleep

daytime
6/7:00am Awake to nurse and get up for the day
7-8:30am Spend time with momma in the living room, in my swing or on her lap, while she does devotions & then yoga.
8/9:00am Bath time with mom or dad. (Bathing is my favorite.)
10am Nurse and read my Jesus Storybook Bible with momma
10am-Noon is morning nap time, for at least an hour, maybe two. Sometimes I play for a bit.
12pm Nurse
1-3pm is afternoon nap time, for an hour or two. Sometimes I prefer to just chat for a while.
3pm Nurse
3-5pm awake and play or nap again
5pm Nurse
5:30-8:30pm Nap and play or Nap and fuss
8:30pm Nurse. Nap on momma’s lap until bedtime nursing.


 

And with that, dear child of mine, I leave you with this prayer from I Thessalonians 5:23-24

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus. He who called you is faithful and he will do this.”

Love,

Momma

Cease Striving

My dearest friends,

In the midst of the adoption, I was starting my 3rd round of Clomid post-surgery (first week of March). We were entering our 58th month of infertility, and Kevin and I made the decision to cease our focused efforts on conceiving. We looked each other in the eye and said, “We’re done.” I told him I was so done with artificial hormones and invasive doctor’s appointments and conversations about what step we’re going to take next. Kevin said, “The doctors have had their say, it’s time for God to have his.

Another cycle came and went. I wasn’t really all that disappointed. It was expected.

Over the next few days, I began resigning myself to childlessness. I wanted to transition my focus of emotional energy and time on this desire for children, when God has many ministry opportunities for me to turn my attention.

I am so thankful for each of you. You have bolstered me every step of the way, many of you from the beginning – June 2010. You remember me, you pursue me, you pray for me. I am so blessed.

On Sunday, April 26th, Kevin went to a extra community band rehearsal at the college and on a gut feeling I took a pregnancy test. (yes, 10 days after my supposed cycle). And instantly those two little strips lit up bright pink.

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Monday, Apri 27th I had blood work done, confirming the pregnancy (and having super high progesterone levels to sustain the pregnancy until the placenta takes over), and on Wednesday I had an ultrasound confirming that the pregnancy is in fact in the uterus and not in the tubes.

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Look at that cute little dot!

 

I AM PREGNANT! Kevin and I are going to have a baby and the due date is December 25th!

He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 113:9

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

Why So Quiet?

Dear Child of Mine,

I’ve thought of writing to you many times over the past two months. They’ve been very full weeks, traveling, making big decisions, spending time with people we love. But my absence isn’t due to my busy schedule. I easily could have carved out time to share my life with you. I think I’ve been avoiding our little correspondence due to my psychological efforts to convince myself that I am doing just fine without you.

I know I’ve confessed that at times in my life my need to have children had risen to an unhealthy level. Over the past few years, God has been revealing to me my worth as an individual, my value as his creation, my unique calling and contributions in this world. I’m certain these lessons will continue to transform me. I’m just so thankful to finally be listening to these messages from my Father.

Your dad and I have been up and down, back and forth on topics like infertility treatments, adoption and foster care. We’ve talked for hours trying to determine the “right” thing to do. Everyone has opinions and stories and advice to share. But in the end, it’s Kevin and Melanie who have to make the call. And thus far, no matter how much we really want to start a family, we have not heard the “yes” from God. So we continue to wait. We wait with hope while we go about the rest of our lives, knowing we can’t be inactive and unresponsive while we anticipate getting what we want (you!)

Wait Expectantly

Each day brings new thoughts and conversations, new prayers and stirring in our spirits. We’ve had conversations with someone one day only to be heard saying the exact opposite thing the next. Somehow both stories are true. Being content in our being means following what we discern to be God’s leading day by day by d a y by d a y. For a girl who just wants to make a plan and know it’s the right plan and then stick to the plan at all costs, this is gut-wrenchingly hard. To onlookers, I’m sure we seem indecisive and perhaps immature. At least that’s what I’m afraid people are thinking. I worry too much about what people are thinking.

To say yes to God’s call requires saying no to our own voice and sometimes to the voices of persons and things we love.

-Rueben P Job, Guide to Prayer

Some days I feel content with no children and think I could live forever just the two of us.

But other days I’m on the floor in a pile of tears and tissues, crying in anguish for what I may never have but so desperately desire.

How can these both be true? I have no idea. But they are.

I have attempted to capitalize on that feeling of peace and contentment, stomping down emotion and convincing myself that the reality is I don’t care whether or not I ever have children.

But that’s just not true.

Some days God gives me a grace, a break from the emotion, an other-worldly peace. I am so thankful for those days. But I’m coming to grips with the reality that this same good God has also placed a marker on my soul, calling me to motherhood. It’s ok to have these desires. It’s ok to not pursue any forms of child-bearing until we’re certain God’s okayed it. It’s ok, it’s beautiful even, to finally recognize that I can have two callings: motherhood and ministry.

I’ll have to give you the latest “ministry” update another time. But I just wanted you to know, Child, that we’re still waiting.

Come quickly,

Mama

 

Birthday Kitten

Dear Little One,

Last Monday, your Daddy celebrated his birthday. He turned 28. And we realized this is the 11th birthday we’ve celebrated together. How has time passed so quickly? 

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The day before his birthday – on his brother’s birthday – his whole family joined us for lunch out at Nick and Nino’s (coal fired pizza is totally amazing) and dessert. I made this Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake Cake and it was a big hit with everyone (a two layered chocolate cake from scratch, a cheesecake in between the layers, salted caramel frosting, and fudge ganache on top. Oh my, yes.) It was so nice to be together for the boys’ birthdays.

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Grandpa & Grandma Eccles (just a few days before they left for Florida!), Beth and Brian, Gordon and Linda, Grandma and Grandpa Arvidson, Kevin and Melanie

The next day I planned a scavenger hunt for Kevin. It turned out to be the perfect way to do our all-time favorite thing spend time together. Here are my silly clues.

1. To start out our venture, let’s not add an “S”
People in Michigan all seem to be obsessed
With clothing and movies and fish and the like
This place will surely have all your top favorite bites.

Answer: Meijer (I had already purchased a few of his favorite snacks and had them packed up in the trunk: specialty bottled ginger ale, tortilla jalapeno Combos, and Lindt dark chocolate truffles)

2. I’m pretty sure this beverage place means something in Spanish
My taste buds are hoping the roasting in man-ish
With “water” and “milk”
And sugar and cream
Surely we’ll find the right mug that will please.

Answer: Agua Dulce Cafe (A coffee shop downtown Monroe that we’d been wanting to try. Turns out I had the Spanish a little wrong, but he still got the hint.)

3. Let’s head to the place where the choices are unlimited
People drive from all over for snacks that should be prohibited
It’s not a long jaunt
Is your face looking gaunt?
All’s I know is the place’s quite smoky.

Answer: Beef Jerky Unlimited in Dundee (Another spot we’d talked about checking out for quite some time. Turns out they have amazing jerky and tons of great hot sauces. Kevin picked out Sweet and Spicy Jerky and Firehouse Jerky.)

4. By now in our journey we may be quite ravenous
I know of a place that’s cozy, not cavernous
Steak or soup
Potato or rye
This restaurant’s alone as a star in the sky.

Answer: Lone Star Steakhouse (What guy doesn’t love a steak dinner? We even had a $5 coupon that I found online earlier that day.)

5. There’s one place left, well, two if you’re specific
You will not believe your wife is this terrific
She wants you to have these cute little guys
To snuggle and play and annoy and surprise
You’ve never heard of the spot where we’re headed
So Melanie will drive and you’ll give her the credit.

Answer: Heritage Animal Hospital in Dundee (Kevin’s wanted a kitten for…oh…all the years we’ve been married. And every time we get a cat, I want an old, declawed, lazy thing. I finally figured a kitten would probably be a lot of fun, and just went for it. I found these cute black kittens on Pet Finder and after visiting with them, we opted to bring one home. We loved Heritage because they seemed clean and professional, and affordable – $85 includes all her shots and vacs, plus getting her fixed in February.)

 

MEET OCTAVIA. (We’ve taken to calling her “Tavie.” Your dad will have to explain why he chose the name Octavia.)

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Our little black fluff ball was 8 weeks and 4 days old last Monday, and we’ve absolutely loved every day with her since bringing her home Thursday. She is exactly what we needed right now – a little spark of joy. Tavie has reminded us to take pleasure in the good things God has filled our lives with, to laugh at the silly things, shrug off the mistakes, and shower love. 

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We’re looking forward to the spark of joy YOU will bring to our lives. We’re ready for you, Child. And we’re pretty sure you’ll love Tavie as much as we do. (Don’t worry, Willow kitty, we still love you, too. And you’ll love Tavie in a week or too once you figure out she’s really not that bad.)

 

In a Downpour of Love

Dear Little One,

I’m not sure what prompted me to share my very personal procedure with the “world” on Facebook yesterday. It’s a strange thing, sharing the private details of your life with so many. But there was something inside of me that knew the people who love me would want to know, would want to partner with me, would want to pray. So I clicked “share post” and walked away from the computer.

Over the past 24 hours I have received the most immense blessings. My heart is overflowing in a way I never anticipated. Friends and family, near and far, from childhood or high school, from this church or that church, from Bible Quizzing and friends of friends, from college or conferences, youth ministry years and blogging friends, known in decades past or just weeks ago – all of these have all been posting their support for me.

The only correlation I can find in past experiences is that epic walk down the aisle. As I approached my groom at the altar, arm linked with my father, I somehow found the ability to look out over the crowd. I saw a conglomeration of loved ones from every age and stage of my life, and I was completely and utterly overwhelmed by the love I’ve experienced.

Who knew I would know an even wider, deeper downpour through social media?

Thus, I’m using this letter to you, Child, to commemorate these gifts I’ve received, reminders of the many graces God has poured onto my life. That even in barrenness, there can come oasis


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And this afternoon, I responded:

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Going Under

Dear Child of Mine,

Tomorrow morning at 6:30, I’m going to try my best to think happy thoughts of you. I’m going to pray that what I’m about to do is successful and that God’s grace will pour out on us in the form of the pregnancy we’ve longed for.

You see, early in the morning, I will be arriving at the surgical institute for laparoscopic surgery. After the anesthesia knocks me out (which won’t take much), our wonderful new doctor will be exploring my abdominal cavity for any signs of endometriosis. Should she find scar tissue or adhesions on my organs, she’ll remove them during the procedure. If in fact I do have endometriosis, this could be the cause of my infertility – my missing you. This diagnosis would also bring enlightenment and proper treatment for my intense abdominal pain during my monthly cycle, as well as my consistent intestinal issues which have gone undiagnosed for years. If lesions of endometrial tissue are found on my colon or intestines or bowel, perhaps my “weak stomach” isn’t just weak.

As strange as it sounds, I hope I do have endometriosis. After years of questions and decades of suffering, I may have a cause, a reason behind my pain and (most importantly) my barren womb.

In addition to the laparoscopy, Doctor is going to do a hysteroscopy and D&C to clean out any possible scarring in my uterus. She will be testing the fluid of my egg follicles because she has a slight suspicion of poly cystic ovarian syndrome as well. My blood work came back normal – good thyroid and progesterone levels. The ultrasounds have been relatively clear, although two different sets of eyes have noted fluid around an ovary. (Possible sign of endometriosis again.) The ultrasound tech today did say multiple times, “Your anatomy is textbook perfect. It’s beautiful.” Why thank you. (I think?)

It occurred to me, just today, that this procedure…this surgery…may have an affect on my life beyond just tomorrow. I am praying for a speedy recovery, but I’m certainly aware of possible physical discomfort and limitations. I don’t like limitations, so resting and healing will prove a challenge for a fast-paced girl like me.

But, Child, I am thankful. I am thankful for a doctor and a nurse-friend who advocate for us. I’m thankful for the friends and family who put things like my surgery on their calendars to remind themselves to be with me in thought and prayer. I am thankful for my husband who’ll be by my side, take good care of me, and force me to rest, and maybe laugh a little when I’m totally groggy from the anesthesia. I’m beyond appreciative of the good insurance we have that is helping us finally get the answers we’ve needed.

And Dear Jesus, I’m thankful for these years of testing, of waiting and wondering, of pain and sadness; because they’ve drawn me into a deeper fellowship with you. Because of this struggle, I’ve seen your faithfulness. Because of my pain, I’m learning of my calling. Go with me tomorrow, Lord Jesus. Calm my nerves. Steady the doctor’s hands. Heal me well.

 

Home Away from Home

Dear Little One,

Your daddy and I can’t wait to have you with us at Family Camp.

You see, for the past ten years of our lives we’ve been in a constant state of flux. First it was off to college, then summers of working at camp, then two major moves across three states in our first six years of marriage. The one thing that has remained constant is Somerset Beach Camp.

Kevin has been attending Southern Michigan’s Free Methodist Family Camp since he was in utero; he’s only missed a few in recent years. I became an SBC girl during my first summer of working there. I was a youth camp counselor in 2005, then I returned in 2007 on the housekeeping staff, and after your dad and I were married we lived on the grounds in 2010 while I worked in the office and he worked programming. Regardless of the number of employment years we’ve spent at Somerset, there’s something about those dirt roads, the serene lake, the trusty buildings and the faithful people that whisper,

Welcome back. You’re safe here.

This past week the Eccles family (well, the Kevin Eccles family) reserved their very own campsite for Family Camp. We were just around the corner from Mom and Dad Eccles and Grandma and Grandpa Arvidson. The week was spent rekindling old friendships, recounting wonderful memories, and retiring around the campfire. The days were shockingly cool given mid-July averages. I wore jeans and a sweatshirt most days, and donned socks each night in bed. (That’s a major indicator of cold for me. I can never wear socks to bed.) I know a few people were very disappointed in the chillier temperatures, but your daddy and I were quite content. It was wonderful.

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We slept past our alarms each morning and plodded to the bathhouse with mussy hair for all (of the other early risers) to see. Coffee perked as I made up the blankets on our air mattress, and bowls of cereal sufficed for breakfast. I spent lengthy times in solitude with God, craving the peace and freshness that His Spirit brings. The outdoors, the stillness of the morning, the sacred gathering of kindred spirits opened my heart to the words of the Lord.

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Kevin was able to play tennis with his brother and go golfing with his dad, and I got to make many new friends at the Pastors’ Wives lunch. We had ice cream at Freddie’s Freeze with our dear friends Jeff and Ruth (Bradstreet) Tyson and played with their 5 month old, Jenna. Todd and Katrina Crouch showed up one afternoon and along with Kyle Anderson, your dad and I had a great time catching up with them. There were sweet conversations with dear friends such as the Andersons and the Wiards, the Lukes and the Rhodes,  and so many others who have watched your dad (and me) grow up.

Evening worship was refreshing. There’s something about having a group of people from across many different congregations coming together and singing praise to Jesus in one voice. The messages of the morning Bible Studies and marriage sessions contained threads of reminders I needed to hear. Your dad and I had lots of good conversations as we discussed our thoughts on the matters of Flag Page personalities and how they affect our marriage.

And you know what? That’s just a snippet of our week at Family Camp. Won’t it be wonderful to have you along for the week? You’ll love the kids worship each morning and the marshmallow roasting at night. I can’t wait to have you with us to bring that added excitement and energy, watching as you look eagerly at the big kids playing four square and the families swimming in the lake. I’m fairly certain having you along will mean a lot more work and focused attention, but I still can’t wait. I love knowing that we’re going to be following in the steps of Grandpa Eccles who wrote in his recent autobiography,

I was saved at Family Camp. That caused me to plan to have my children attend Family Camp just as I had done as a child.

Come quickly, Child.

Mama