Community, Fostering, Uncategorized

Spotlight on the Mommas : Keeping Siblings Together

Guys, you will LoVe Becky. She is the real deal. There is nothing coming out of this woman that is less than 1000%. She lives in the present and celebrates the little things like it’s going out of style. She is Momma to 4 kiddos, a compassionate IR nurse and wife to the mailman. She may look like the nice neighbor next door, but there is FIRE in her!

Becky’s pretty darn cool and not just because of the snow or serious adventuring with her first born

How did you decide you wanted to foster to adopt? (Were you and your hubby always on the same page?) Ryan and I always wanted a large family (we’re both 1 of 5 kids – he’s the oldest and I’m the youngest of our families) but pregnancies were HARD. We had a difficult time getting pregnant, and then with our oldest I was in bedrest from 18-34 weeks due to a subchorionic hemorrhage (bleeding behind the placenta which threatened the pregnancy). The second one I was also on bedrest for a complete placenta previa (the placenta was over my cervix) and then she developed heart problems and passed away in utero, her delivery was precarious and we were advised that I’d most likely die during delivery…niiiiiiiice. Did I mention she delivered our anniversary? Ha! We know how to do things! Our third was also bedrest from 10 -24 weeks and then we had a crash c-section during delivery at 37 weeks because I had a concealed abruption and Cy (our son) nearly bled out in utero. Our fourth pregnancy we miscarried at 10 weeks. All of this to say, I had a dysfunctional uterus, it was a miracle ANYTHING survived me gestating it, and after our pregnancies we knew we were DONE trying for bio kids. BUT we also knew we needed time to heal. So, after after a SEEK fast at Radiant Church, God brought adoption back to our hearts individually. We ended up talking about it, and it was amazing that God had laid adoption on both of our hearts during that same season. We considered foreign adoption, domestic adoption but NEVER infant adoption. (Ha! We were DONE with diapers!) After praying longer about it, we realized were being led to adopt from foster care. Honestly, that first info meeting about foster care, we were surprised. (I think we were the only ones in the room that didn’t know you received a monthly stipend to care for the kids you fostered! Like shocked!). We entered foster care intending to take in kiddos that needed a forever family, and the first two kids placed with us did become ours after a LONG year and a half.

How did you decide to foster/decide what ages and how many at a time? We wanted siblings that were younger than our oldest child (preserving birth order). So at the time that meant any sibling set of 1-3 kids, ages 4-9, boys or girls. We knew the older kids were harder to place and much harder to place together and we wanted to be able to keep siblings together.

How was the licensing process? How long did it take? What helped you during all the inspections/ paperwork? The licensing process for us was HORRIBLE! They lost our total volume of paperwork…like ALL of it… not once but TWICE! Ryan and I agree that we think they lost it a third time but then found it. We were so done with it all that I had taken forty days to pray about it, and then called the agency to tell them we were out. It was that phone call that changed everything and kept us “in the game”. It must have been a Holy Spirit led conversation on the other end because I found myself saying we’d stay in it to get licensed when I had been adamant that we would not continue the process before the phone call took place. I’m so glad we prayed. I’m so glad He moved!

How do your bio kids feel about fostering/adopting? (How do they help? What’s hard? Where do each of you shine?) Our bio kids…hmm. They’ve taken it well, but it’s been hard. A lot of sacrifice involved. I’m not sure how to explain what they’ve gone through other than it takes a lot of dying to yourself to make room for others to occupy your home and family and lives and not swing through all of the emotions. I think all four of them now just treat one another like siblings….it’s becoming blissfully normal…and I am thankful. Recently I took our new teenager on a surprise trip to Colorado for her birthday. She just needed that one on one time to be appreciated and loved on without the pressure of everyone and everything. I didn’t realized how much she’d need that until we were gone together. Intentionally. I’ve realized how intentional we’ve needed to be to make each kid feel seen and loved. We plan on more of that coming along.

And what no one tells you about foster care and adoption is how much it takes for a family to recover. It’s been a year and a half since we adopted, and we’re just now hitting our stride and coming up for air. Normalcy takes time. Healing from trauma (our adopted kids, our bio kids, our’s) it takes time. And when you invite trauma into your home, you ALL walk through it together, you all die a little together, and it’s hard. It’s beautiful. It’s good. But you feel like you’re drowning for awhile. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We wouldn’t change a thing. But is it hard? Harder than anything we could have conceived. But again, is it worth it? Always. A year and a half, and we feel like we’re just coming back to finding ourselves. It’s new, it’s better, it’s hard, but it’s good. AND it takes grace. Grace for ourselves, and grace from others.

Why yes, they are REAL children who make faces at the camera and don’t always get along. They’re true siblings.

How do you stay connected in your marriage and as a family? Praise be to JESUS we don’t need a babysitter anymore! Ryan and I have reinstated date night once a week and it has been a game changer! We need that time away together, and to reconnect. And the thing that helps us grow as a family, honestly, is going to church together, having dinner together and praying as a family. Psalm 126 seems to be the story of our family AND the cry of our hearts.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126 : 1-6

Do you have a family photo to share? Well we have two! The first Gotcha Day photo is ours, and the second is from our kiddos Little sister’s Gotcha Day. So our story takes an odd turn in that there are three kiddos from the sibling set, but Angel went into foster care with another family. When we got the phone call about Genesis and Breanna we were told there were only two, but then a couple of days later we found out that there was a third. She was 7 months old when she went into foster care, and the caseworker said she could be ours too, if we wanted her. So we prayed about it and asked questions about the other family and how well bonded she was. We found out that Angel was doing well and THRIVING with them and that the other family had bonded with her also – it just didn’t set right with us to rip her out of their arms. God had a different story. And we love it! So instead of adopting her to keep her with her biological siblings, both of our families adopted each other! All four of my kids call Angel’s parents “Aunt” and “Uncle” and call the other kids their cousins (except for Angel who G and Bre obviously call their sister). Angel’s adoption day was also the day they got her baptized and they asked Ryan to be her Godfather. So, we all become one big family and see each other as much as we can. Talk about being grafted into one another! God is so incredible.

Ya’ll! I love how separate families in the same community can connect to make one big family, because it takes a village and sometimes even TWO villages to raise a child!! These kiddos have double the love, double the birthday presents and double the siblings because one family was willing to listen to God and hear HIS ideas for their story and not just what made sense or felt “right.” I’m so thankful for Becky so generously sharing all these pieces of her heart and her story. I love how God is using her story to inspire others and encourage us all to lean in and hear God speak!

Adoption, orphan prevention, Raising Warriors

Spotlight on the Mommas: Caring for the Unborn and Their Moms

Well, I told you I was going to introduce you to some fierce women. I can’t wait for you to meet this gem. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known myself, that’s for sure! I love Stephanie like the sister I’ve always wanted and her story is full of hope and anticipation. Her life is not simple or easy as a the wife of an Army Chaplain and mom to 3 kiddos, but I love where God is leading her sweet family.

You are going to love this woman, and not just because she loves cinnamon rolls as much as I do!

As adamant pro-lifers the Kersey’s are adopting an infant as means of tangible support to an unexpectedly pregnant mom. They’ve recently been chosen for a possible “placement” due in September and I love celebrating with them and praying for the expecting momma with them. Their love for the mom is just as fierce as their love for this unborn child.

I asked Stephanie a series of questions and I want you to hear her own powerful words, so here it ALLLLLL is interview style:

How did you decide you wanted to adopt? (Were you and Dan always on the same page?) I remember the very first time Dan brought up adoption back when we were dating. He shared with me that the idea of adoption deeply resonated with him because of how it tangibly demonstrates the gospel. When we are saved we are chosen by God and invited into his family as a son or daughter with the full rights of a natural born child. He does this not because of anything we did but because of his grace. So after that conversation I always kept the idea of adoption in the back of my mind. When we got married, I was very sick with Ulcerative Colitis and ended up having 3 major surgeries after all other options failed. My doctor was upfront about what it could do to our chances of conceiving naturally, so we had to face the real possibility we wouldn’t have biological children. But God miraculously and graciously gave us 3 amazing kids we did not expect to have. Even still, adoption was something we talked about and prayed for God to move if it was his will for our family. 

How did you decide to adopt an infant? About 6 years ago one of the major news headlines was about a man named David Daleiden who uncovered Planned Parenthood’s illegal selling of aborted baby tissue. Once a week for several weeks he would release new video footage. Footage that rocked me to my core. I couldn’t stop watching every new video or reading every news article on the topic. I couldn’t stop crying. And though I tried, I couldn’t forget it. I second-guessed my reaction thinking I would snap out of it, but I didn’t. Then my thoughts shifted: Maybe this was the Lord. So I prayed. I asked God that if this was the Holy Spirit moving that we would listen. So that’s when Dan and I started praying intentionally together about abortion and how we should respond. We had no idea what obedience looked like in specifics but what we did know is that we wanted to be a part of the solution. With becoming more active in the pro-life movement, we had a growing conviction to care specifically for women in unplanned pregnancies and their unborn children by becoming an adoptive family. We started seeing first hand the need to put conviction into action by becoming an adoptive family. But adoption isn’t easy and may or may not be the best choice for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, we believe it should be a last resort after a woman has exhausted all her resources.

For those women who choose to make an adoption plan, we want to be there as an option.  

Stephanie Kersey

How do your bio kids feel about the adoption so far? (What have you told them? Do they know other adopted kids?) Our kids are very excited to bring into the family another sibling! We have shared with them that there is a mother out there who has chosen us to be the parents of her baby.  But they’re still pretty young and don’t always understand how this all works. But what really helps is that they have seen adoption with their cousin Jack. We’ve been able to talk about “tummy mommies” and how special and brave they are for placing their baby in an adoptive family.  

How has the process of adoption been different from adding bio kids to a family? Strangely, I think many of the fears are the same. When you’re pregnant they give you all these tests to find out if the baby has any sort of abnormalities or diagnoses that need to be addressed. So it’s like right off the bat you’re worried for them and whether or not you can handle whatever bad thing might happen. And then the baby comes and you don’t stop worrying about them. Like, will I bond with them? Are they eating enough? WHY WON’T THEY EAT?!  What if I mess up and totally ruin their lives? What if they have crippling disorders? So even though I’m not growing a baby in my womb, I find myself worrying about all sorts of things that could happen. Whether it’s my biological child or adoptive, I will need the Lord’s strength in letting go of my right to decide my kids life and future. I have to remind myself every day that my children belong to God for His glory and not mine. 

What has helped you to wait during all the paperwork, then waiting to be selected and now waiting for the due date? I can’t speak for Dan on this one but for me, I think the hardest part about waiting wasn’t the paperwork process but playing the comparison game with other hopeful adoptive families. When I see other hopeful adoptive families bringing their babies home it is hard not to think, why not us?  I had to really check those thoughts and pray to have a heart for God’s plan for our family, not my own. I find that when I get ahead of God with my desires, things go badly for me in my spirit. So Dan and I work on being open-handed toward God with our plans by praying together. And I think praying together as a couple is huge. It gives us the chance to be vulnerable with each other about our fears which only makes us stronger as a couple. 

Isn’t Stephanie incredible? She brings us such a lovely balance of authentic hope and real truth. I love that. Her strength comes from being rooted in the True Vine and it shows!

I am the Vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Let’s take this challenge to remain connected to the True Vine so that the fruit we bear will be lasting despite the ups and downs and challenges we face. May our fruit change the world for one person, one child, one at a time. And let’s join together in praying for the Kersey family and the baby they love already. Let’s all be praying for the expecting Momma who is making hard decisions right now. We believe the best for her and her child and the GOOD future we know God has for them.

Thanks for openly and generously sharing your story with us, Kersey Family!!

Adoption, Fostering, Parenting

Intro to a New Series: Spotlight on the Mommas

Whether you’re new here or we’ve been together for years, I’m sure you have noticed I have a heart for adoption and foster care. Loving kids like Jesus would is our calling as believers and decent human beings. I know you know this. There are kiddos all over the world who are not tucked in at night with a hug and a story. There are kiddos who don’t get food every day… and many of them live in your home town. There are kiddos fighting for survival, seeking out acceptance, looking for hope and lost in the meantime.

This breaks my heart.

It keeps me awake at night.

It’s not ok.

Fortunately, we have the power to change their destiny.

“The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.”

― Katie J. Davis, Author or Kisses from Katie

I want you to know that you don’t have to do or be anything especially great to change the life of a child. You don’t need to have your life all put together and you sure as heck don’t have to have all the answers. What kiddos need is nurture and structure and with a little help from your community, church, caseworkers and a few therapists, you can offer that and so much more!

Can you cook mac and cheese? Do you know how to read a book? Are you good at Go-Fish? (If the answer to that one is no, that’s actually better in this case.) Kids will love you. Sign up for Foster Care or Refugee Care to love on some kiddos in your own home or seek out a foster family you know and do their laundry. Notice the kids in your own kids’ school that fall on the outskirts or utilize the free lunch program and invite them to a playdate. (Supporting other families is called ORPHAN PREVENTION, America needs this!)

This month I’ve got a spotlight on some seriously amazing Mommas. They have graciously agreed to share their own stories of unconventional motherhood and I’m telling you: they have MOTHERED WELL because they were willing to show up. They have held little hands, wiped away big tears, made crazy amounts of food, played games, learned new math and woke up at ungodly hours of the night. Some of them have signed piles of paperwork, went to courtrooms, faced fears, said goodbye and some of them (like me) are still waiting for their kiddos to make it home. What they have all done, however, is said YES. They have all taken risks and stepped out in faith and I am so honored to share these beautiful, wild and crazy women with you.

So today I have a reading list for you to stir up the Holy Spirit in your hearts and create awareness. Here’s a few of my favorite books to open up your mind and heart and learn more about the needs of children in the US and around the world:

Dozens of people have written summaries of these amazing books, I won’t even try. I’ll just tell you to read them. I have found several at the library or on Hoopla, Libby, and Audiobooks. Trust me, they will change your life!

  • No Greater Love By Levi Benkert
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick (Honestly, only read this one if you are very brave.)
  • Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
  • Too Small to Ignore Wess Stafford (Former CEO of Compassion International)
  • Small Town, Big Miracle by W.C. Martin
  • No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohannan

Are you ready to change the world? It doesn’t have to be all at once, just one sweet little broken spirit… one at a time.

Community, Going Zero Waste, Simplifying

5 Easy-Peasy Zero Waste Steps With BIG Impact

So you want to save the planet or maybe just a few sea turtles? Are you a Zero-Waster, or at least thinking about it? I like the term “Going Zero” because honestly, who’s “arrived” at zero waste!? There are not very many actual people {never mind FAMILIES} who can keep their year’s trash in a mason jar. In a consumer-based culture, it’s really all about our effort to move toward using less and keeping the landfills {& beaches!} emptier than if we never tried. This is, after all, the planet our kids will inherit!

As you may know, our family spent the summer a few years ago “Going Zero.” We made it our goal to buy less, share more {aka: clean house & donate!}, and change our habits for 3 months. It was an eye-opening experience. Now to be honest, we are pretty Dutch around here and if it saves a little moolah, then we are all-in. Therefore, we had already made several HUGE steps toward “Going Zero” including capsule wardrobes for the whole family, buying certain foods in bulk and/or from local farmers and growing/picking/making quite a few things ourselves. Still, we have a long ways to go and the summer was a great launching point for us to do a little more to preserve this planet that God gave us.

I thought ya’ll might be interested in a little recap from our summer and perhaps a few tips & tricks to try yourselves. Our strength lies in numbers when it comes to changing the world – both physically and spiritually, so lets link arms and do this thing together!

Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

Philippians 1:27 b MSG

Now that I’ve made my point that Going Zero is clearly biblical *wink, wink* let’s get started! Going Zero is about creating less waste and a lovely byproduct will be the simplifying of your house and life! Less is more, my friends!

#1. Clean House: And I mean clear it alllllll out! A grand purge of all things cluttering my view helped me to start our journey. I have been simplifying and buying less over the past few years in an attempt to become Minimalist. I don’t think I’ve attained any sort of Marie Kondo status, but it sure feels good to have less “stuff” to pick up at the end of the day and more time to relax. I did another round of purging before summer started and let me tell you, our summer was MUCH more refreshing without the extra toys, clothes and clutter; less fighting, less chores, less cleaning, more visual space, more motivation to get outside. I even did my best to use up all those plastic bottles and partial boxes of processed foods in the fridge and pantry, so we could start with a clean slate. {My aesthetic eye was so happy to see the ugly mis-matched packaging traded for these 1/2 gallon Ball jars! Haha!}

#2. Make More: One thing I seriously love to do to create less waste is make my own. I figure if I can make my own version of something in less than a 1/2 hour, then why not? With a bread machine, I can measure and dump the ingredients in about 5 minutes then press go {0 plastic bags involved}. With lotion/chapstick/laundry soap I can melt, mix and pour in 15-20 minutes {the ingredients -which also last FOREVER- all come in paper/cardboard or minimal/reusable packaging}. If crafting is your jam: gift and home decor ideas are endless {bulk or zero packaging and no shopping bags}.

#3. Buy Bulk: When it comes to food, our goal is to consume “whole foods” anyway, so buying those whole foods in bulk is practical because each ingredient gets used in a dozen different recipes. There are millions of recipes out there to make your own of just about anything. We’ve tried granola bars, nut butters, from-scratch brownies, cake & frosting, vanilla/mint extracts, condiments & dressings, jam, even making your own chex mix is saving a little plastic from entering the planet since you can buy bulk pretzels, butter/coconut oil & spices and package it in your own containers. My fave bulk shopping places near Kalamazoo: Bloomingdale Bulk Food & Bent-N-Dent {speaking of bent-n-dents we have several close to Kalamazoo that are keeping literal TONS of food from becoming waste and saving people loads of money. You might want to scope them out!} the People’s Food Co-op {no membership required}, Sawall’s, and the Natural Health Food Store.

#4. Plant something! Indoors or outdoors, a few plants will help the environment in so many ways! Indoor plants add beauty without plastic or clutter and clean the air in your house. When you want to redecorate, just move them round or trade with someone! A seasonal outdoor garden can supply you with fruits and veggies, herbs, tea, sweet-smelling decor and a hobby that gets you fresh air and exercise! {Don’t even get me started on the natural habitats you’re providing and the power of plants to literally save our atmosphere.} I promise it’s not difficult to plant and harvest a few things to last you all year. Start with one plant and you’ll be hooked.

#5. Buy a few staples: Here are 5 of my “family necessities” for using less single use plastic. {We’re going to assume you already have a million Mason jars, because that is the most obvious #1 necessity 😆}

  • Silicone Ziplocks in every size {they’re great for everything from school snacks to freezing summer produce to use all year}
  • Snack sized tupperware for school {yes, they are totally plastic, but I’m sure not going to trust my 7 year old with glass in a backpack! We have enough for three kids’ lunches & snacks for a week and I fill them on Sunday afternoons with our chex mix, homemade muffins, produce and bulk snacks}
  • Food Processor {I promise it will be worth it’s weight in gold if you make your own nut butters or granola bars or even shredding/slicing/chopping produce since you’re buying/growing it all whole now. This tool is a game-changer/time saver}
  • A fun bag to carry your water bottle, travel mug, reusable shopping bag, stainless steel straws and utensil pack {I know these are all total hippy things. I’m sorry. But there is serious waste that happens when we are out & about and impulsively stop for something to eat/drink/buy. A cute bag helps you to be prepared for anything and hides/accents that hippy vibe depending on your personal taste. Haha!}
  • Small tins for homemade beauty goodies. {I use them when I make lotion bars to take in my purse, make my own lip gloss/toothpaste/deodorant, travel with shampoo bars or diy face wash, and these are the perfect carry-all for odds and ends like vitamins, bobby pins, buttons – you name it!}

I’m so glad we spent the summer experimenting to find out what we were capable of. Some of the things we tried and completely stuck with it while some things are more seasonal {I bake my own muffins WAY more in the summer/fall but tend to slack off once winter hits}. I’m also glad we splurged and bought a few items to make Going Zero a little easier and sometimes a little prettier too ❤ We’re set up for success whenever the inspiration comes to try something else new! Now tell me, what have you done already that kept a little trash out of our oceans? What are your fave tips & tricks to use less plastic? And what are you going to try next!?

Creativity Unleashed, Food for a Family, Going Zero Waste, Never Enough House Plants

Food-Scrap Gardening

Ok, ya’ll know I married a dutchman, right? So FREE is a word we Schuiteboers love. {Also, we love to eat.} Also, if I’m doing my best to not create waste, then I’m going to use what I have to the very last little bit, am I right? Put these seemingly random concepts together and you have a food scrap garden! I’m afraid to admit, this theory fills me with ecstasy!

I have experimented for years with crazy plant ideas that I find on the internet around midnight and “save for a rainy day.” Never mind the fact that I constantly try to grow things {especially FREE things} despite my black thumbs. You’ll notice in the following photos that there are an endless supply of seeds and pods on my window sill drying only to be germinated in water and/or stuck in a pot and watered {mostly to no avail}. I just HAVE to try… I can’t not try… If you could see my mother’s breathtaking gardens you’d understand I have a lot of inspiration and absolutely none of her gardening organization or follow-through. But I find my own ways to grow and nurture the things around me.

So here are some of my most successful attempts at Food Scrap Gardening. I would love nothing more than to hear your attempts, trade a few secret {or not-so-secret} tips and all of us can buy/throw away a few less items in the process.

Avocado Tree:

We’ve all tried it. I know you have too. It’s really a 50/50 venture. If I’m going to try it at all, I will try it with all the pits I’ve got because along the way a few will fail. It’s not difficult to start a root. I found this little tip recently: start them off in a baggie with a damp cloth on a cool dark shelf, check it after a few days and add water if necessary to keep it moist. When a root sprouts you can either put it directly in dirt {somewhat successful} or let it grow half submerged in water a bit first {more frequently successful} until you see a green sprout on the top. The roots grow pretty long so a big jar and even bigger pot are required…remember it’s a TREE. And no I don’t have a pretty photo of a successful tree for you. Mine just died without documentation {hence the attempts to grow a new one, haha!}.

Basil:

Yum-O! I love pesto… On sandwiches, pasta, pizza, chicken, toast, in a vinagrette. I love pesto. We also add fresh basil to cheesey party dips, egg scrambles, summer salads and sangria. You understand how we can’t keep enough of it in the house? Basil is easily grown from seed but did you know you can also grow a whole bushy plant from the stems at the grocery store? And if you purchase a little plant at the garden center, you can easily multiply it to have a whole row of basil in your garden this summer. Trim the basil stem just above a set of leaves. You can see the photo on the left has little “stumps” where I hacked it off. Then stick the stems in water and wait a few days. The roots grow out like little hairs all over the stem {these babies are quick and prolific} and when they get a solid half inch or so long you can stick them in the ground or a pot and voila! You have more *freeeee* basil plants. Keep trimming the tops and your plants will get full and bushy with endless tender leaves.

Onions:

I know, onions are no fun. They’re just so normal. But the truth is: they’re a staple. We are going to use them and quite often we buy a big bag and half of them sprout or go soft. Here’s how to save the onion AND produce more onions when you see a sprout. As soon as you can, cut off the outer layer of the onion while carefully not cutting the center. It helps to slice a side of the onion and peel the outer layers until you get to the center. It’s a little more difficult to cut up the outer layers for cooking now because they’ve been peeled, so a food processor is probably best to chop those pieces. There may be a layer or two that has started to soften so throw those in the freezer for veggie broth later and chop the good stuff for your weeknight dinners. The lovely little centers with roots still intact {pictured below} can now be planted! I have planted them in the spring for summer harvest, in the middle of the summer for a smaller-sized fall harvest {still totally worth it!} or in the fall and they keep growing once spring comes again. I’ve tried every size, color and variety, organic and non-organic, they all grow. You can even see some of the onions below were sprouting all winter and already had pretty decent roots growing up inside the onion layers.

Tops and Greens:

You know the veggies where we eat the root and discard the top? Well the top is actually super nutritious! Just like spinach or kale or whatever greens you would usually put in a salad or chop up for soups and stews, these greens are packed with vitamins A & C, magnesium, calcium, iron, and believe it or not, protein too! Well, here is what amazes me even more: They don’t need the full root to grow! This is not an endlessly sustainable plant like the onions, but a second and even third harvest are no problem for these veggie tops. When you buy full carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, etc use those greens if they’re still attached. Then whether there is green already or just a nub, cut off the tops of your root veggie and place it in a shallow bowl {or jar lid, like me!} and keep just enough water in it. Those tops will keep on growing and you’ll have extra garnish for your fancy dinners, a variety of textures in your salads and loads of free vitamins for your smoothies.

Pineapple Tops:

I apologize in advance, this one is not edible. {Sorry if I made you cry.} But it is pretty… AND free! I love the look of pineapple tops. I may or may not have been accused of buying pineapple weekly just for decor… {I tell the fam it’s our extra vitamin C to boost our immune systems, but now you know the truth.} The green/grey foliage and spikey layers just make me swoon and it’s easy peasy to grow them in water or soil. Cut the top of your pineapple right off with the green and then you can easily peel the yellow/brown away and you’re left with just a stalk of leaves. Sometime you will already see some little white roots growing along the leaves. I usually peel the lowest few leaves off and find more roots. Then you rest the top in a jar half filled with water so there is no water touching the stalk. {If the water gets on the stalk bottom or in the leaves it will just rot and turn into a stinky, soggy mess.} Just like the basil, you can plant these pretty little diddy’s in a pot once you see a good half inch of roots. Be careful to only give it a few teaspoons of water each week. Pineapple plants do not like to be wet. The roots will rot quickly if you overwater.

Those brown tips often happen when starting a new plant. More sun/less water, please!

Citrus Trees:

One more non-edible house plant. Some people SAY you can force citrus trees to produce in MI, but I’m not buying it… Either way, I love the smell of these citrus-y leaves and the ability to prune the little trees into fun shapes. Like avocados, I save all the seeds I can find in a fruit and attempt to sprout them all. Moment of truth: I have a little tin of dirt that I keep hidden on the counter and press seeds into it frequently to see if they’ll germinate. I know it’s not truly scientific, but experimenting makes me happy. Harvest those seeds. {I’ve sprouted limes, lemons, grapefruit, and oranges.} Let them dry out completely then tuck into some good soil and water weekly. The soil should not be wet & soggy. Now if you google this topic you’ll see some very extensive instructions to get these little gems to germinate. You can try it. I never have. I just dry ’em and put ’em in dirt. Take note: they are slow growing plants at first, it takes about 2 weeks to get a sprout, so keep watering and watching.

This little Blood Orange tree is almost a year old.

Ok, give me some feedback! Who out there has tried to grow some scrappy little plants!? What have you seen on Pinterest that you’ve been meaning to try? What are you going to stick in water/soil and try to grow next??

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!