Food for a Family, Parenting, Simplifying

Dinner in a pinch

Picture this: You’re driving home with a vehicle full of hungry, irritable monsters. Today has been a long day. You have been a hundred places at once and your brain has done all the gymnastics it can handle. It might be the end of the world if you don’t get some food fast… Btw, is it illegal to leave minors on the side of the road or is it merely “encouraging” them to walk home?

Ok maybe this wasn’t very difficult for you to imagine. Sounds like a regular weeknight during any particular sports season for us! So as we enter yet another busy spring, what’s a mom to do? I bet most of us would admit that the goal is to eat budget-friendly and/or healthy meals and not just on the weekends… While these options are slightly more “processed” than I would prefer, it’s better than takeout or high-sodium frozen meals, so a partial win is good enough for this Momma!

Well I’ve been meaning to make this list for ages and now I’ve got it here in one place and I’m more than willing to share. I’ve rounded up my fave “in a pinch” dinners that please a crowd and don’t cost much. Also, I know how the pantry situation is: there is what there is, you are NOT going the store anytime soon and let’s be honest, you probably don’t have what’s required for the fancy recipe you originally planned back when you thought you had time, so these options are all customizable for what you’ve got on hand. No sweat.

#1 Turkey Cheddar Sliders: No recipe required but here’s my inspiration (and I must give credit where credit is due!) So take a pack (or three!) of Hawaiian Rolls and cut them right through the middle so every roll has a top and a bottom but they’re still in a “sheet”. Place the bottoms on a big piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Then layer the turkey, cheese, tomato, bacon (or meat &cheese of choice) on the bottoms. The thicker the better to fill up those hungry monsters! I like some extra sauciness so choose some mustard/mayo/cranberry jelly/pesto, etc. to slather on the “sheet” of tops and place it on top of the meat and cheese. A little melted butter brushed on the tops and sprinkled with parmesan makes it fancy if you have an extra minute. Wrap the foil over the tops and bake for 10 minutes at 350°. So satisfying…

#2 Sheetpan dinner: If you have any vegetables, chop them now. Start with potatoes/sweet potatoes if you have them. Toss the potatoes in oil and roast at 400 degrees until everything else is ready (they take 10-15 minutes longer to get good and crispy) Add your other veg: carrots, onion, peppers, zucchini, etc. and some protein. I like chunks of chicken if it’s on hand, chicken sausage is a great option and easy to keep on hand because of it’s longer shelf (refrigerator?) life, you can toss in chickpeas or beans for the last 5 minutes if you want a “Meatless Monday” option. Seasonings are completely customizable and honestly I’ve used only salt and set out a variety of condiments and my kids are happy to dip away. Roast the sheetpan full of goodness about 20-30 minutes until your protein is cooked through. Rice on the side is tasty, too.

#3 Quesadillas: Again, no real recipe required (although this is a fabulously simple recipe for BBQ Chicken and Peach quesadillas) Just fill tortillas with any desired protein and cheese combo, add some herbs to make it millennial-cafe-style. My faves include the above recipe for BBQ chicken and peaches OR goat cheese, mint and apple OR spicy black beans and corn with cheddar OR add a little tomato sauce to pepperoni and mozzarella and it’s pizza quesadilla night! We’ve fried them in a pan with a little butter, toasted a few at a time in the air fryer, lined them up in a row on the griddle or put them in the oven on broil to make a bunch at a time. The hardest part is choosing your fillings. You’ve got this.

#4 Dump Chili: This is a great vegetarian option since cutting out the meat saves a boatload of time. I grab a big pot and dump in 2 cans of stewed or diced tomatoes (with green chilis for some kick), a can of corn, two cans of beans and some taco seasoning or chili powder with a dash of Worcestershire. (Sorry, no measurements, I’m in a rush!) Sautéed garlic and onion are great additions, if a kid wants to help ol’ mom out by peeling/chopping. While the pot is heating up, it’s easy to slice some avocado or set out guac, sour cream and shredded cheese for toppings. If I have a few extra minutes, this is REALLY good over instant-pot baked potatoes.

#5 Eggs in a Basket: Definitely Makenna’s favorite quick meal, which means she’s always willing to help out! We grab a loaf of bread and a glass from the cupboard and start punching holes out the centers of each piece. I warm up the griddle and slather it in butter so Makenna can lay out the bread slices and centers in rows. I follow behind her cracking an egg in the center of each and let it cook a minute or two. Now comes the tricky part… I grab a flipper and lift each piece of bread (with the egg half-cooked in the middle) while Mae reaches underneath and butters the spot so I can flip. You could probably skip the extra butter but we love butter, so the more butter, the tastier! If we’ve thought ahead we might have bacon or sausage cooking in the oven while all this is happening and some fresh fruit on the side could make it feel more wholesome.

Now for the family conversation while you eat. It’s time to be friends again, not monsters. We’ve got a bowl of conversation starters from various places and the kids like to be the one to think of it first so that THEY get to ask the questions. Here’s a fun list for your school aged kiddos to get started: 29 ways to ask your kids “How was school today?”

Well there you have it. I’m sure it’s not nearly enough recipes since you could easily make all of these in one week, but the fact that it’s customizable makes it easy to put these babies on repeat. I hope it saves you a little time and sanity. I’m rooting for you, parents. Bring on the scheduling nightmares, we’ve got this!

Honesty, HOPE, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Gift of Observation

As I look back on photos and google/social media memories from 2020, I see a theme. It helps to look back over a year and see it from a slightly distant perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, I never seem to notice my kids growing until I get away from them for a weekend and I return to notice all the little changes that take place with a few extra inches, but this past year that changed for me.

Looking at all the photo reminders, I notice how much time we spent outdoors & deep in creation over the last 12 months and I’m so thankful! It may just be viewing our own highlights without showing all of the nitty gritty in-between moments, but as I look back at 2020 in history books someday, I want to remember these times above anything else. I want to remember that we took the time to observe everything!

I see the family walks and trips to Lake Michigan and working in the garden. I see so many trees, trails, flowers and sunsets, I see smiles and goofy faces {and a few angry glares from those not wanting to be photographed}. It takes me back to all those times that our family walked and talked and made memories out of the stillness – the unforeseen lack of structure, schedule and hurriedness that we experienced. Sure, it originally came as a shock, but as we settled, we spent hours and hours watching spring arrive, then burst into summer and fade into fall. I appreciate that our lives slowed down enough to notice the little things and I don’t want that to end.

My photos seem to transform from taking in the larger view of each hiking experience to focusing in on snapshots of tiny changes. We walked the same trails almost weekly for a season and happened to notice when the moss actually bloomed {did you know it does that!?}. We saw every leaf bud on it’s branch, grow into a vibrant green canopy and eventually burst into colors with time. It takes focused, detail-oriented observation to see all of that – no cell phone scrolling or daydreaming, just being present and observing. That practice was a true gift.

*little sprouting moss before it flowers*

It was a gift for me to notice the things my kids noticed. I am not usually very focused and I tend to want to get things done, so it took some intentionality for me to slow down my walk and stop thinking about raising my hear rate. I had to practice listening when the kids chatted on and on about another brown stick but then I noticed they’re not actually all the same. I don’t mind stopping to wait for a child, but entering in with them when they observed water trickling over rocks was a bit more difficult. I’ll tell you it helped when I crouched down to their eye level to see what they were pointing at. Sometimes I asked them a question to encourage them to keep talking and they started to light up. I learned a little bit more about what makes them tick as pre-adults forming their own opinions.

It was a gift to me to notice the little things God thought of when creating this planet. I marveled at God’s creativity when I finally noticed new little nuances that make nature so unique. Did you know worms don’t have lungs or stomachs, they have a gizzard and breathe through their skin! Did you know Cow Birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and let them raise their young until they can fly off? I wouldn’t have known if we didn’t keep finding nests with an odd colored egg inside. Did you know there are over 20 types of Pine cones, but only 5 types can be found in Michigan? That’s all so seriously creative.

It was a gift to me to see my husband flourish in teaching us all the things about the trails and the trees and the animals that come and go. It blessed my heart to join him in his hobbies, not just our family’s. One aspect I am still working on is entering into my husband’s world and considering WITH HIM all the things he is thinking about and learning. I appreciate my husband so much, but I tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of responsibility and trading off parental duties. If we sit down, it’s to talk strategy or even dream, but seldom is it me entering into the conversation just to listen. The kids do it so well, and I’m learning.

So I did a little search in the Bible for the word OBSERVE and I love how it’s paired with other actions:

  • Observe and have reverence {Leviticus 19:30/26:2}
  • Observe and obey {Deuteronomy 5:12, 8:6}
  • Consider and observe {Psalm 37:37}
  • Observe and you will see {Psalm 91:8}
  • Observe and celebrate {Exodus 31:16, Deuteronomy 16:1}

Seems like a mixture of instruction and promise, am I right?

I love Deuteronomy 26 which describes the Old Testament laws of being a good neighbor and putting others before ourselves. Then verse 16 says: “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; CAREFULLY OBSERVE THEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL.” Can you imagine what it takes to observe ANYthing with ALL of your heart and soul? That’s a lot of intentionality, a lot of slowing down and getting on the right eye-level to truly see what’s before you. And then a few verses later is one of my all-time favorite promises which I read over my children again and again: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised…” When we pay attention to God’s instruction, we are promised He will treasure us, His children. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but that’s a beautiful gift!

You are treasured.

As the good Dad that he is, he sets this amazing example for us:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 {MSG}

I don’t know about you, but I want to love like that. Love is what this life is about. We are here to love God and love others and I want to love extravagantly, not in order to get something but to GIVE. I’m spending time each day with my Father so I can observe and practice receiving his love… it’s so much better than my own!

There are so many valuable things to notice in this world, it’s worth every possible repercussion to slow down and practice observing it all. I promise, it’s absolutely worth the later bedtime to walk the neighborhood after dinner. It’s worth losing sleep to get up while it’s quiet and sit in God’s company. It’s worth the drive to find a good trail. It’s worth pursuing the ones you love even if they’re difficult to be with. It’s worth the sacrifice of the first few family walks full of poking and prodding and arguing to get to the fun ones of connecting, noticing and playing TOGETHER.

So is there something you wish you had time to observe? How can you slow down? What needs to be cleared off the schedule so there’s room to take a drive or walk? What can we do to change our perspective and see from someone else point of view? Perhaps from God’s point of view? How do you already take time for observation? What’s the best thing you’ve noticed lately?

Adoption, Community, Fostering, Raising Warriors, Self-Care

How to expand your family without going crazy (aka: receiving a child well)-For adoptive/foster families and their support systems!

(Whether you’re a parent, an adoptive parent, a foster parent or you know of such crazy folks, please take the time to read this!  It takes a village to raise a child and some kiddos just naturally require a bigger village. Please be the village for someone else!)

So you have a new kiddo on the way. Congrats! I’ve mentioned how difficult it is to make the HUGE decision to say yes or no to a phone call, so yay you! You’ve made one giant leap of faith into the unknown- or if it’s not your first rodeo: the slightly known with millions of variables!

If you are fostering, you most likely have minutes to prepare. If you’re lucky, you have a few hours to wrap your mind (& household!) around the transitions that are about to take place. If you’re adopting, you may have years to anticipate yet it still seems to catch you by surprise that the time is now. I’ve felt the eagerness to meet and love and protect a sweet soul while at the same time fearing my own limits and inability to “do it all.”

Friends, I’d like to propose to you that YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP. And here’s how!

How many people have told you “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”?? And you respond with a blank stare thinking “I’m not even sure I know what to do, but if I ever have the capacity to multitask AND delegate, I’ll let you know!” Well, here’s a few options for you to respond with:

1. “We eat food. Can you make food? Fine, can you order food?”
Now, I know you can do this yourself, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO! No matter who comes into your family (age, number, gender, length of stay) you & your family will still need to eat. This is one big thing off your to-do list when you have no idea what each day or moment will look like. Ask a friend to make a meal-train, let your mom/grandma/neighbor bring freezer meals, suggest that anyone- no EVERYONE- could order you take-out.

2. “Can I have your ID and Social Security Number?”
Are these kind folks free of a criminal background? Do they truly care about you and your kiddos? Every parent/couple needs a break once in a while – a moment to get away and take deep breaths or just to take another kid somewhere without siblings. Jump on the fact that this person just offered their help, send in some quick paperwork to the caseworker and TAKE ADVANTAGE of an extra set of hands… even if you’re not tired…yet. No doubt they would love to sit in your house during naptime and let you walk (or run!) around the block. Or perhaps you could drop your chilins’ off for an hour or two of grocery shopping WITHOUT HELP! If your placement is too old for a babysitter, a sort of mentor-ship or “godparent” relationship could be in order. They could spend time cooking or playing a sport or learning a trade together. I’m not above asking a friend to take my bio kids on a one-on-one date so they can refill their buckets, too. What if you even let a friend hang at your place for dinner & a movie with the fam and you stole a date night with the hubs!? *Gasp!* Put these kind folks on your respite caregivers list and refill your bucket before you reach dire straights.

3. “My stockpile is dwindling”
Foster or expecting parents often have the any-minute-a-kid-could-come-and-I-want-to-be-ready stash. At the last minute, you know the age & gender & hopefully most of the needs of your kiddo, but generally speaking I can always use a refill of toothbrushes, shampoo, Tylenol, water bottles/sippy cups, soft blankets, pre-packaged snacks, and miscellaneous clothes & shoes. These are tiny comforts I want to offer a child as a introductory peace-offering of sorts. If a kid can find some small sense of security just from having their own necessities right away, I want to bring it! Don’t hesitate to ask for these trivial purchases or more specific items if you can. I bet a friend wouldn’t think twice of grabbing a few extras next time they’re out and it will save you a midnight run!

4. “My family needs two of me, think you could be a clone?” or quite possibly: “Don’t leave me alone!”
There are plenty of days any parent feels isolated and half-crazed from overwhelming tasks and limited hours in the day. “Why do all of my kids need to talk all day and then still want stories at bedtime?” All the while the toilet is plugged and the sink is overflowing and by the way, “Kids, we’re having Pajama Day tomorrow since 2/3’s of you don’t have any clothes left.” (Let’s not even question why my darling boy hasn’t run out of underwear yet… or EVER.) How about some community in this moment!? How much could it hurt to have a friend wash dishes WITH you and then fold laundry. And what if we cooked dinner together or even ate together in the midst of our crazy? Honestly, the odds are that this friend wants to love you well but is feeling their own version of “half-baked” at the same time. Let’s DO life together!!

5. “I need encouragement.”
This may be the hardest one! Who wants to admit that they can’t do it all? It’s so hard to confess to someone that you may want to quit loving because it hurts or that you can’t face one more tantrum and come out the winner. PLEASE use this response with A FEW (more than one!) trusted friends/family members! You need someone who will see you crying in the back row at church and deliver a Venti Latte with a hug the next day! You need someone who will send a love note via snail mail that gets lost and finally arrives on JUST the day you need a pick-me-up. WE ALL need calls and texts saying we are being prayed over and believed in without prompting. We need to know our arms are being lifted when we can’t hold them up a moment longer.

Soooooo… You’re probably thinking of someone who’s asked this exact question recently. Go back and get them. Let them help! Really & truly. You’re allowing them the blessing of being a part of something miraculous and fulfilling in a way they maybe never would have been able to. Not everyone is able to welcome a precious child into their family right now but everyone IS called to love the orphan and the widow in their own way (James 1:27).

Creativity Unleashed, Going Zero Waste

Rescuing Beauty : My Favorite Trash-to-Treasures!

Does anyone else out there love to pick through the piles!? It’s a treasure hunt of grand proportion to scan heaps of castoffs and see what potential lies there unnoticed by the naked eye. Only a true beholder of beauty could see the recycle bin and think “That’s just what I’ve been looking for!” Only the slightly crazed will rummage through the leftover junk of an estate sale or the side of the road bulk pick-up and become so inspired with projects that all plans are forgotten and the kids are forced to fend for themselves for the next few meals.

However, I do understand those of you who see the results of such creativity and WANT to be so inspired. I hear you telling me you WISH you could find a diamond in the rough. I get it. I too, have felt the green eyed monster of jealousy when I see a glorious shabby chic garden gate hung on the wall as vintage art and realize it cost only the price of the nail it hangs on. I’ve been there.

Here’s my greatest lesson in this area: Imperfection is the the key to rescuing beauty! I used to see wonky furniture or broken-glassed window panes, items with cracks and holes and stains and think all was lost… until I looked closer through the green eyed monster to see that other’s “treasures” were also imperfect. They were just EMBRACED ANYWAY.

** Life application time ❤ How true this is about myself! I love imagining God who sees my chips, cracks and splotches and embraces me anyway. He designed each of us as we are ON PURPOSE- no mistakes! And He loves the PROCESS of our growth and redemption. Just as a broken gate can be celebrated and elevated as beauty, so can we. Life is a process of becoming more like Jesus and perfection is not the expectation. **

This is me practicing selfies because I am never satisfied… All I see are the chips and cracks, but God sees beauty!

Soooooo my fave trash to rescue on a regular basis?? Here’s a little list that can make a big impact on your home decor. Take it with you the next time you stop at a yard sale or run into the thrift store and I KNOW you’ll find some gems:

  • Small ceramics – seasonal animals, funky shaped vases, churches or small house shapes. These little things can be sprayed with $4/can high gloss paint and set in groupings or placed on a mantle. You won’t be disappointed.
  • Anything Wood – Shelves, boards, bowls, spoons, big ol’ baskets… all of these things are easily transformed by a smear of this fabulous spoon butter or with a quick coat of paint and some rough sanding for a shabby chic look.
  • Picture Frames – Ok, we’re talking seriously cheap art here: a collection of 8×10 frames (usually $1.99-3.99 each) -with all different scrollwork or lines but painted one uniform color- can make an incredible collage. If the glass is broken, staple some inexpensive chicken wire on the back. Then you can easily change out kid’s artwork or free printables to fill the frames with inspiring quotes, graphics or sweet designs!
  • Furniture with unique lines/legs – This is a bigger project if you’re feeling ambitious. Any fully functional piece of furniture can be stained or painted or even just sanded to feel like new. I upholstered the funky footstool below with scrap fabric and sanded the rust off the legs to paint them grey. I love mismatched chairs, dressers with new hardware or bookshelves in fun colors. You could remove a scratched laminate top from any 70’s kitchen table and replace it with palette wood for outside dining. Your imagination sets the limit in this arena!

So what if we made treasure hunting even more accessible for the average person by repurposing your recyclables? Here’s my top 3 *quite literal* trash turned treasures:

  • Glass – dressing bottles, spaghetti jars, uniquely shaped yogurt containers (sometimes it’s even worth forgoing a 10¢ refund because of a fun embossed logo, label or colored glass!) I love to use them for flowers & branches around the house or gifting bouquets to neighbors. You can buy soy wax pretty inexpensively and fill your jars with it, add a few drops of essential oil, then melt it all in a double boiler for fresh, clean burning candles. I have rolled several clear bottles with paint on the inside to add a splash of color on a bookshelf and I’ve even been known to set a variety of glass containers in it’s own vignette.
  • Lidded plastic containers – It’s the perfect thing for sharing my love of food! My fabulous and thrifty mother in law is always sending home leftovers in an ice cream bucket or butter tub. Why not gift our loved ones with dinner or just cookies more often!? I love to use washi tape or a swipe of chalk paint to label a cottage cheese container and make it pretty.
  • Tin – Well, I started with tea tins and have digressed to tin cans, including everything in between! I love the look of gritty old metal especially when mixed with wood. My favorite use for tin is plants. Pots are nice but often pricey and almost always breakable, so if I could plant everything in old farm buckets, I would! A nice compromise is the varying shapes and sizes of recycled tin cans (with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage).

I’m hoping you feel inspired. I’d be the happiest person in the world if you would all send me a quick selfie of your (upside down) self in the recycle bin finding treasures you didn’t even know you had! What are you going to pull out first? What’s your best trash-turned treasure!?

Community, Honesty, HOPE, Self-Care

Climbing out of a Season of Exhaustion

I’m so thankful to be coming out of “hiding” and seeing my people again! It has meant the world to me to have a few coffee dates, a few longer phone conversations and even a night out with my guuuurls. I have seriously missed the deeper connection that comes with quality time and I am declaring that that will change in this next season of my life! I am fully prepared too invite my whole village over one dinner / coffee date / playdate at a time. And I will not stop.

Coffee or Tea, makes no difference to me!

As I am blessed to spend time connecting, I’ve noticed a theme in conversation. Not only are we all so thankful just to be out of the house for a moment and in the presence of those who love and support us, I’m afraid we are still bearing the repercussions of a year of Corona, and we are not alone. If I were to think of one word that describes the majority of my friends’ outlooks at this moment in time I would say exhaustion is the word this season. We are coming out of an extremely long and arduous year of quarantine. Each of us has faced slightly different challenges but as a whole we are facing this beast of isolation and over-arching expectations upon us. And we are burnt out. I have heard over and over again that we have no more to give. We are done. We simply cannot adult another day / time / minute.

My heart hurts because I love each of you. I know you are so capable. You have done incredible things with your time and efforts these past 12 months. Your energy, love, and words are not wasted. Yet, we’ve run out of our own “muchness” because we cannot seem to refill the buckets that are constantly being emptied.

I completely understand this state of mind. Several times throughout the past year I have come to the same conclusion. Honestly though, Corona doesn’t feel any more exhausting to me than foster care or adoption or overwhelming seasons of over-committing or over-exerting. “Fortunately” for me I have hit this same wall before… and not just once. I have come to know what the symptoms of “too much life” are and can recognize them from a mile away. I even have a plan for myself to avoid the pitfalls of “too much-ness” and with a little accountability I can put my plan in place at any stage of going crazy and find my way back to my true self before falling off the cliffs of insanity. Today, I want to help you do the same.

When I had my first newborn, was one year into starting up my own business and was overcommitted at church I had a counselor who recommended a self-care routine. (Boy, did I need it!) They introduced the genius idea of finding things that refresh me and intentionally doing those things. Whoa. The goal was that if I got depleted I would know how I needed to refill and also keep the plan in place to hopefully prevent myself from coming back to emptiness again.

Let’s pause here and insert some biblical wisdom: I truly believe that Jesus is the only source of true refreshment. Without Him, any self-help is only that: “the blind self leading the blind self,” so to speak. We are not much help to ourselves or anyone else if we are only helping ourselves from a place of our own brokenness. I’m going to be bold enough to say that your “inner man” does not have the answers. Only the Creator of heaven and earth, the Creator of Y-O-U, holds those answers. It takes one simple prayer to start this relationship: “Jesus I need you. You are the source of refreshing and eternal life, and I am not. Please meet me here.” He will answer you, I promise. He gave his life out of love for you, on the cross so that death and despair could be defeated. Jesus alone holds the keys to freedom for each one of us.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Ephesians 2:8 (The Message Version)

Also, some of us need actual counseling. There is no shame in that. It often takes a wiser or even professional point of view to speak life into a truly dark place. There are so many great counseling options available both locally and virtually, please seek help from others if you need it!

Ok, I know I have shared these ideas with many of you before but I want to lay this out in a very simple manner so that we all actually create a self-care plan for ourselves and follow through. We can climb out of this exhaustion with Jesus and each other and take better care in the future.

Step 1: Buy a pretty journal. All good plans need to be visually pleasing, have a blank starting point and have potential to be continued and expanded.

A collection of my pretty journals from the past decade- I’m seeing a theme in color selection…

Step 2 : Find your fun pens…You know, the ones you’ve tried to hide from the kids / dog / spouse so they don’t get all used up! Crazy, I know, but I write better lists when it feels nice to put pen to paper and then I actually use my list when it looks pretty. This is all about you, so bring out a little aesthetic, it’s ok.

(Note: You can actually do steps 3-5 in any order, start wherever you feel most inspired to get the juices flowing!)

Step 3 : Write a list of THINGS that inspire you. Do you love to dance? Does certain music make you feel alive? Does coloring or painting put you in a restful state? Is Coffee your comfort object? Do Pandas make you swoon? Write these beauties down! No order necessary, don’t prioritize them, just write them out! I would start with 5 things. Remember we made this list with the intention of growing it- you’ve got a whole glorious notebook.

Step 4 : Write a list of PEOPLE who refill you. I’m not talking about the people you see the most or the ones who are always available to hang at a moment’s notice. (And it’s ok not to list your immediate family. While we all love our families, usually we need to get away from them to refresh our perspective and return to them with our best offerings.) This list is meant to REFILL you. Who sees your heart behind everything you do? Who speaks life or truth when you most need it. Whose presence do you leave feeling more alive than when you entered? Who knows the real you? These are your dearest people.

Step 5 : Write a list of places that make you feel like your best self. Think of places near and far. What view do you love more than anything? Where haven’t you gone that’s on your bucket list? What building inspires you? Write down the places with the best atmosphere- the sweetest sounds and greatest smells…maybe the places with the best memories.

Step 6 : Grab your calendar (and maybe a pencil). Now create a plan that includes these people, places and things at least once every WEEK, MONTH and then YEAR (maybe even every quarter?) We’re penciling it in, don’t worry. Once you talk it over with your spouse and call your village of amazing women to make plans, then we can make it official in pretty colors, but for now we’ll start off with minimal commitment.

Make those lists worth looking at over again and again!

Step 6 may feel overwhelming to you, but look at these three *lovely* little lists. They include the very best things in your life. Let’s make them a regular occurrence! What can you do each week to refill your bucket? A phone call with one of your refilling people? A dance party with your kids? Eating a meal that you didn’t have to cook or clean up after? Write it in every Friday at 5:00 and MAKE IT HAPPEN. What’s a bigger thing that you can add in but not quite so often? A trip to the beach? A worship night? Breakfast in the big city (without children)? Talk with your support system to reserve the first Saturday of the month for Y-O-U. What is something you can do every year just for your own sanity? For me this always includes travel of some sort. I find that I need to get away. I love to adventure with my family and we all need a new view so we make sure to get a family vacay in regularly. I ALSO need to get away without the fam, if you know what I mean… Call your friend in another state and book some plane tickets to go see her for a whole weekend uninterrupted. Make it as fancy or simple as you need to, but MAKE THE PLAN.

Let’s not forget that once you have Jesus and then make these lists, you have everything you need to find refreshment. When you realize you’re hiding in the closet for the 3rd time this week to empty the Nutella jar yet again, call one of your people. An hour on the phone with a truth-teller or compassionate ear may just clarify your view of what’s really going on.

Have you found yourself in conflict with that one hard-headed kiddo for the umpteenth time and you just want to scream? Go to your refreshing place. You know where it is and I am sure someone on your list can help you make it happen if you need a babysitter / sounding board / getaway car.

You have been equipped. Hopefully you’ve also been inspired. Show me your pretty journals and lovely lists. Let me know what plans you’ve made. Comment below and let us hold each other accountable on following through. Let’s celebrate our own incredible villages and pat each other on the back for being intentional!

50 States Before Graduation, Parenting, Traveling the US

A Last Minute Escape to Kentucky

It happened – ‘Rona made us more than a little stir-crazy. 7 weeks into Michigan’s original lockdown, we wanted out. We needed adventure. With 3 kids schooling from home and the hubs and I working on laptops, we realized there was nothing holding us back from taking off in our camper. So take off is what we did! One loooooong look on the world wide web told us there were only a few states with campgrounds open. Kentucky was a draw since it’s only a few hours away and it was still south (also read: WARM). We made a reservation for Memorial Day weekend and decided to take it one day at a time from there… And here’s where the adventure led us:

First Stop: Louisville… and she did NOT disappoint! It was a perfect launching point. We loved the walk along the Ohio River (especially on the Indiana side at the Falls of the Ohio State Park). Downtown was simply gorgeous – even the trash receptacles were pretty! The historic buildings and cheeky marketing of local businesses lured us in and it was a blast to “own” the town since many businesses were closed and people were scarce. Since we’re weird about strange monuments, a photo with the world’s largest baseball bat was a must. Another fun highlight (that we REALLY wish was open!!) was Churchill Downs. It’s magnificent from the outside of course, but a tour of the inside would have been fun since we have more than one horse-lover in the family! Don’t worry, we watched Secretariat to get us in the spirit for Kentucky Horse Racing.

Next we headed east toward Lexington and on the way, swung by the birthplace and childhood homes of Abraham Lincoln. The springs were nice and cool and walking the two properties did not take long. Unfortunately the visitor centers were closed for us, but there were still Park Rangers walking about answering questions and offering bits of trivia, they were worth every minute of eves-dropping and question-asking…these rangers know their stuff!

Landing in Lexington for a few days, we decided on the [free] walking tour of Mary Todd Lincoln’s early life. It was much less walking than we expected (which was welcome in the extreme heat!) but included lots of great info on the diversity of Kentucky’s stance during the Civil War. Did you know two of Mary Todd Lincoln’s brothers fought for the confederacy!? We landed in the center of town by the water fountains where we had a snack in the shade at some lovely tables while watching the locals rush about. Side note for learning about Mary Todd Lincoln: this website offered quite a bit of interesting info for us to read as we walked. I think it helped keep the kiddos engaged since once again, businesses and “official” tours were closed due to the virus. We also walked around the Kentucky Horse Park (oh my beautiful) and wished desperately that the barns & museums were open… Next time!

If you’re considering your own trip, I have to add here that before you leave the Lexington area you’ve GOT to stop at Sun Valley Farms which was about 20 minutes southwest in Versailles. Anyone who’s been to Kentucky knows it’s all about the horses and Sun Valley is a family owned thoroughbred horse nursery. They gave a very hands on (yay for petting baby race horses!) tour of the foal barn (masks required) and educated us on the process of raising and auctioning thoroughbreds for racing. The tour also included a walk around their 300 year old property and home as well as some race horse & auction videos in the nice cool garage. Just a drive through their pastures was enough to set our hearts ablaze for horses. If nothing else, follow them on Facebook and Brett will let you in on evening grazes by the creek and walks through the pasture to get to know the horses!

Visit their website : Sun Valley Farms

We continued east to Daniel Boone National Park. The road trip views changed from green grassy pastures and black wooden fence-rows to ambling limestone mountains and endless creeks. Here we had unlimited options as all the state and national parks were open! Grey Arch Rock hike was a perfect 4 mile length for this family of 5 (plus dogs). The views at the arch were incredible and the creeks and waterfall along the way were great photo opportunities. Red River Gorge had lots of swimming and splashing opportunities. Carter’s Caves held seriously a LOT of caves in every single hike. We loved comparing the different openings and how the water continued to carve the rocks away. (We did not get to tour the caves, much to Carter’s disappointment, but they do offer lots of regular tours which are open now.) Lastly, the tunnel drive was truly serene. It was a nice break amidst all the hiking we did. It took about an hour, but there were many photo-worthy stopping points. (PSA: we would NOT have enjoyed this drive in the least with the camper hooked up!) Narrow and winding roads are not our favorite driving conditions and Kentucky offered plenty of it, haha! If you want a good story, ask Collin about his favorite Kentucky road driving experience.

So here’s your bonus: (you know I always share more than you bargained for!) We headed for Kentucky but ended up in West Virginia! Of course we didn’t plan on going further, but after a week, we weren’t ready to head home just yet. I’m sure you understand. So we went just a little further into Charleston, West Virginia! None of us have ever even driven through West Virginia before… but let me tell you, it’s a “wild and wonderful” surprise! The state slogan is more than accurate. We could easily have spent a whole week in this mountainous state full of battlefields and artisans of every kind. Charleston has a whole website with maps of sculptures and murals galore! And if you drive through the city to the river, we found a fun park called Sun Carriage Trail with a hidden waterfall and gloriously shady hike up the mountain to a scenic overlook and historic mansion.

Our last minute finding of things to do around Charleston included several civil war battlefields, a salt mine tour, and Capitol Market – an old train station turned farmer’s market which was FULL of glorious begonias and the beginnings of any summer garden you would wish to plant. Now we were ready to go home. And doesn’t it always feel good to be home again!?

Have you toured Kentucky? Did you focus on horse racing or history? Or both!? I’d love to hear if anyone else has ventured into West Virginia (perhaps the northeast side of the state?). There were so many fun things I found, we’re itching to get back!

Hearing from God, Honesty

Looking For The Forest Not The Trees

Well friends, it’s been much too long. (And I’m a little embarrassed that a post named “Corona” has been at the top of this page for so darn long!) I’ve missed writing and I’ve missed our interactions and I’ve missed this whole blogging part of my life. Things are busy around here as usual, everyone off in their different directions and coming together for whirlwind dinners, ridiculous card games or family movies then off to the races again. I’m working more and more at my hubby’s office which leaves less and less time for “extras.” I continually attempt to prioritize our activities as each season changes, but some things never change.

At each new year I reflect and ask all the introspective questions about my life, purpose, and vision. This year, I seemed to hear the same thing over and over: I need to write and I need to share what God is doing. I feel called to do just that, so what am I waiting for?

I actually just read the Summer 2020 Magnolia Journal all about Risk. (It is not by chance that I just FINALLY got around to it, God’s timing is so perfect!) I was inspired to step forward in this new season without fear, so I asked myself what really is the worst thing that could happen? To be honest, as I wrote down what I imagined was the absolute worst case scenario for each risk I wanted to take, it surprised me. The worst wasn’t really that bad. It was laughable. And the possibly benefits of each risk was so much more valuable!

I was gently reminded that we all get honed in on the day-to-day decisions, the smallness of our own individual lives and we forget to step back and see the big picture of the whole world. An artist can’t look at a few inches of their painting and know that it tells the whole story, an explorer can’t look at one piece of a map and know where the road is heading, just as we can’t look at a few little decisions or moments in time and see all that God is doing. We need to step back and take in the wider view – God’s view. It’s like admiring the beauty of a perfectly-shaped green leaf, zooming out to see a tree full of those leaves, then noticing how the trees create paths or trails which lead to habitats for creatures great and small. Eventually the incredible landscape of acres of woodlands come into view and we realize that while a leaf is amazing, a leaf is nothing if you can’t see it’s function and collaboration in creating the forest.

Today, I choose to step back from the immediate and close up view that I have in my corner of the world. I’m asking God to place his rose-colored lenses over my eyes so I can see the potential in each risk and opportunity. I want to see from His perspective, to see His hand at work and His hope in every situation and I want to run forward, unafraid and risk what I have with hopes of so much MORE in the future.

As I walk this out, I ask for grace from all of you. My writing topics may be wide and varied, but it comes from my own life and I love variety! I’ve written multitudes of unpublished posts covering dozens of topics but never posted them because I feared I didn’t’ know enough, it didn’t “flow” with other recent posts or because it felt like too much or not enough, etc. I have often allowed fear, worry or unknowns stop me from taking risks – even seemingly insignificant risks. (I know I’m not alone here in listening to all the wrong voices in my head. It’s the story of this life. It’s an unseen battle!)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~Ephesians 6:12~

It’s a good thing God guaranteed us a victory of good over evil when He sent his son Jesus to overcome death. Without that victorious hope, it is easy to give up and give in to the voice of comfort, ease and safety… And so my goal this year is to attempt to post these seemingly random musings. To write confidently and perhaps even consistently (not my forte!). I appreciate your love and patience as we figure out where this blog is heading and where God is leading us as we grow together.

And while you extend that glorious grace toward me and the work God is doing, I would also love your feedback. What connects with you? What is God doing in your life? Let me know in the comments, on social media, or email me. And I love it when you share the posts that connect with your heart. Together, we are reaching people across the globe with hope and joy and Jesus as this blog comes to life!

Forest ::: Trees

Hearing from God, Honesty, HOPE

Corona…Ug

It seems everyone has a take on this pandemic. Everyone who’s anyone has spoken their piece. It’s all we’ve heard about for 5+ weeks. I’m going to be so real here: I’m tired of it. I’m exhausted with all of the conversations, questions and speculations, worries and doubts. My email box is full of “updates” and my IG feed is a bit redundant. I’m spent with committing to social distancing and wondering how much it really matters and quitting so I can go to the store then receiving guilt and speculation only to recommit again. I’ve had enough of it ALL!

Then I realize how outwardly I’m looking. It truly is exhausting to take in everyone else’s reactions. It really is too much to try to absorb and care about every take on this situation. It’s too much for any one person, really. And so I turn inward to hear the voice of my Father again. I need to hear His opinion and that’s it. I need to hear His perspective and take it on as my own. I need to be still and rest without letting my brain run away with me!

Time to “see the forest through the trees”!

“God is moving.” A theme I have heard over and over among the Christian crowd. He is doing an “unprecedented work”. I know… He is always moving and always amazing His people with new wonders and acts of kindness. That is who our God is! But in this moment, I need a specific word. One just for ME. I need a fresh perspective that narrows my outlook to take on each day – one at a time – and not a big picture that causes me to dream (and anyway, who can dream without being able to plan a darn thing!?). My brain usually works the other way around: I am not a detail person, I like dreaming. Now this time, I’m trading in my kaleidoscope for a magnifying glass. I want to see the details and hear the step by step instructions from the Creator of the universe, the One who made every molecule of this planet from nothing and mapped out a future full of good things for each one of us.

And so I am leaning in closer. I am hanging on His every word. I anticipate God’s very breath and listen closely for His heartbeat. I am chasing Jesus down with every fiber of my being. Prayer service? I’m there. 6 am? I’m up. Early to bed so I can rise? Yep. Bible reading WITH commentaries. All in. Good Sunday sermon? I’m listening again! What else could I possibly have that’s more important than this? What else do I want my family to know that I value most? And what else would I rather be doing WITH them? Sure we’re still eating family dinner and riding our bikes on every trail and reading alllllllll the books. And my goodness, are we ever enjoying turning our kitchen into a science lab!? (Follow along on FB for those posts.) But more than anything, I want this “break” to be about following Jesus. I want it to be about leaning into the Father and resting in His lap. I want our time to be fear-LESS and prayer-FULL. I want us all to remember WORSHIPING not worrying. I want to hear the voice of the One who calms the storm and not hear the raging sea of the media or the “masses”.

So what does it look like to lean in? Listening for God is actually something I seem to talk about it a lot, haha! It may be the single most important thing I’ve learned in my life. (And the thing that I need to practice the most!) So here’s a few previous posts on Love For All To See about LISTENING:

  • An Introduction to Hearing God: Learning more about HOW God speaks to each of us in different & unique ways.
  • Little Games I play with God Part A and Part B: Some simple ways to practice hearing from God on your own AND with the family!
  • Raising Up Prayer Warriors: More ways to pray with and FOR our kiddos and practicing hearing God’s thoughts about the future generation of warriors.
  • Learning to Listen: Prioritizing time in the new year for my resolution to LISTEN to God consistently and focusing on Him despite distraction.
  • And lastly, A Dream: A beautiful example to give us all hope that despite how much we do or don’t get the hang of listening, God still speaks… even in our dreams.

So let’s all dive in!! Please, oh please tell me what YOU hear God saying! A message meant for you might just as well speak to all of us❤❤❤

Parenting

Silly Crazy Science Fun For When You’re Staying Home

Welp, we’re “quarantined” to slow the spread of this virus and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about a season of turning inward and reconnecting as a family. I love winter for the fact that we get more reading, more fireside chats, more “just us” family dinners and a little more cozy all around. This, however, is even better because we get all that connection AND sunshine! The kids and I were dreaming of some fun activities to do as a family and of course camping came up, as did planting some indoor seeds for next summer’s garden… and so did making volcanoes!

We love getting messy and trying out all kinds of sensory/discovery/science experiments so I thought I’d pass along the list of fun ideas we have for the next few weeks and maybe you could join us and try a few yourselves! Let’s get messy and crazy and learn a little bit hands-on style!

So my goal was to use everyday kitchen ingredients and to appeal to my at-home kiddo’s age range of 6-13 years old. I will admit, many of these are a little basic for the oldest but he likes to play along and learn the technical side of the science behind it all!

**Disclaimer: These are not my ideas or my experiments. I found them all on my beloved Pinterest and I can’t wait to try them! HUGE shout out to the peeps who succeeded at these ideas, photographed them, and then blogged them so we could be inspired.**

This DIY Puffy Paint is the BEST!
DIY Puffy Paint
(We did this one last summer and while the kids had a BLAST, it didn’t stay put on our library bags like I hoped)

What are you looking forward to the most about your next few weeks!?

Honesty, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Single Greatest Parenting Question to Ask Yourself

Ok, I’ve got some kids… {You know how I hate to count them since our definition of family is far from normal!} But either way, parent guilt is for real. For every great decision we parents make, there are 10 other ways you could have done it and 100 other people who did it better and posted it on Instagram for you to see. Then there are 1,000 ways your kids will ruin the momentary celebration you considered for your own greatness and give you reason for yet another difficult decision.

I had the genius idea to have my kids compliment each other as a “consequence” for offending each other. Seems innocent enough (and difficult enough for some!) but of course after a day or so I had to start adding rules: #1. No repeat compliments #2. Compliment CHARACTER not just appearances (for the love!) #3. Say it like you mean it (with eye contact) You know how it goes… Now there are days where I bribe them to compliment each other before the arguing even starts! (Do a facebook search for “compliment cookies.” Yep, my name comes up. I. Am. Unashamed.)

These two get to give lots of compliments!

As for mom-guilt, Moms know there is always someone looking for our attention. Or even worse… hiding from it! {You KNOW when someone tries to stay off your mom-radar, it’s no good.} We have lists upon lists of things that we keep meaning to get to and goals we’ve set for ourselves or our family. We fiercely love the people around us and have all sorts of good intentions to live life with them well and show them the love we all know is there but lies dormant due to “schedules.” Ug… SO much to feel guilty about!

Confession: This may be TMI, but I also have a problem closing bathroom doors. {Hold on, I promise this will all tie together in a minute!} When I take the 5 seconds I need to run in and run out, there will inevitably be blood or tears or a scream from the farthest corner of the house that the dogs got out and are headed for the road. It just can’t wait 3 more seconds for me to turn the knob, amIright!? Plus, there is nothing worse than thinking you have a moment of alone time and being jolted back to reality with a vengeance and a door bursting open, so why even try? I resign myself from the start and leave that door wide open.

Well, this is a problem, my friends. When the mom-guilt precedes everyday necessities, it’s an all-time low. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say HERE’S YOUR SIGN! {Any Jeff Foxworthy fans in the room?} Time to say “Uncle” and change the way I’m thinking. Time to prioritize. No more needlessly sacrificing my own self-care. I say “No!” to the comparison-trap. No more second-guessing my gifts. Enough of the emotional overload of all the nothingness I allow into my brain space that will NEVER make a difference for eternity or the Kingdom of God. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

It is at these moments that I catch myself and ask the greatest question I’ve ever asked myself as a parent:

What do I want my kids to think is true when they grow up?

What will be their “normal” view of adulting/parenting? Do I want them to give up their own incredible selves to care for others until they have nothing left to give? Do I want them to be enslaved to my grandkids? Do I want them to have UTI’s because they can’t take a minute to pee?🤣 Do I want my kids to think “normal” parents don’t read because they don’t have time or to never take a moment (or a weekend!) for peace and rest? Do I want my kids to think it’s ok to sacrifice themselves at every turn because that’s what their Mom did? NO!

Now I don’t know my grandkids yet… And I’m pretty sure I will be the one wrapped around their sticky fingers and swayed by their chubby-cheeked smiles. But I am certain I will always love MY kids more. Perhaps because I will always have known them longer, perhaps because I was the one praying them into the Schuiteboer family. Whatever the reason, I will want my children to put on their own oxygen mask before helping with anyone else’s!

These are the faces that hold me most accountable!

I want the people I’m responsible for to know it’s ok to take a break from the needs of their families so they can come back refreshed and refilled. I want my kids to invest in their marriages and pursue their spouses instead of the whims of childhood accomplishment for their tiny protege’s. I want my kids to know the wonder of God and all that they can conquer because making time with Jesus is priority #1. And I want them to know these things because they see it in me! I want it to be their “normal”.

Two of my little Schuiteboers are morning people. As soon as my breathing shifts in the am, they will hear me rise no matter the hour of dawn and come to find me. No matter what room I’m in, whether I’m using a lamp or flashlight, whether I dared to make tea or painstakingly skipped every creaky floorboard in an attempt to fool them, SOMEHOW they know I’m up and they want to start the day with chatter. Honestly, as frustrated as I get with my early risers interrupting my “quiet time” in the morning, that not-so-quiet time is a valuable lesson that they are not more important to me than God. They get sent back to bed or set up with books and crayons {while constantly being shushed} and they learn what’s “normal” in our family. They see for themselves that 1. Time with God is a priority and 2. Mommas need a few minutes of quiet so they can be sweet the rest of the day.

These are my “Grace” earrings from Trades of Hope. When the little muffin in the back seat is talking and talking {or let’s be honest: screaming and shouting} and I struggle to give her my full attention, they remind me to give myself grace. I’m growing and learning just like my little lady. I {usually} have grace for her when she’s wrong, why don’t I have that grace for myself? My own self-talk will become the voice in her head someday. It’s a proven fact. I want my girlie to have grace for herself and her Momma! I want her to speak positively to others and herself and so I do the same.

I love being practical and I love lists so here is a list I made of things I value and I want my life to show it! I want my kids to have no doubts about what is important in life and so I am practicing SHOWING them how much I value these things:

  1. God is important {so having quality time in His word and prayer is the FIRST thing I do each day.}
  2. Reading causes growth for everyone {I actually try to read when my kiddos are around so they visibly see me read. I also joined the library summer program with them!}
  3. Our marriage is the most important relationship in the house {He gets first dibs on my time & attention}
  4. Exercise and fresh air are vital to our physical/emotional/spiritual health {we spend time outside DAILY together}
  5. God says to love others and be aware of those in need {We pray together for people in our city and across oceans and we volunteer together to show others love}

I’m curious. What would your list look like? What are your priorities? Do your kids know what they are? Have you sat down with pen and paper (and spouse) to decide whats most important in your heart/life/family? Our church offers this amazing experience called a “Marriage Vision Retreat” where you get away with your spouse for a weekend at a B&B on Lake Michigan to discuss all of these foundational questions. It’s really not difficult to do on your own. Get out a calendar and get away for 48 hours to talk, dig deep and set your values. When the kids were younger and I lost my identity between diapers, sleepless nights and playdates, I intentionally got out of town with friends to create my own personal vision too! It was so life-giving. Once you have values & vision in place all other decisions become easier: Does ________ line up with #1-5? Does it compromise any of the other values? Then you know it’s right/wrong for this season of your life.

Guys, these are the things our kids will value. We need to be intentional! They will think these priorities are “normal” and here’s to praying that their grown-up lives will reflect the same values some day. ❤