Community, HOPE, Prayer

Moses’ kind of friendship [& Makenna’s Story]

So I have a theory on what real friendship looks like.

Deep, intimate, “closer than a brother” friendship.

This idea began as I studied the life of Moses. He was an impressive guy, of course. His life was miraculously preserved by his sister and a waterproof basket. He led the entire country of Israel to freedom from a hard-hearted Pharaoh. He was also entirely responsible for the country of Israel during their 40 year wanderings in the desert. He was a friend of God.

One little piece of Moses’ story jumped out to me this time as I read Exodus 17. Israel had been wandering for a good long time in the desert and they were getting picked on. An uneven battle began with a much larger country and Israel was at a serious disadvantage. But don’t worry, God was looking out for His people. God told Moses to stand on a hill and raise his staff. As long as Moses held the staff up high, the Israelites would win the battle. If the staff lowered, they would lose.

Well, that’s a lot of pressure on a guy, if you can imagine…

Moses’ brother Aaron went up the hill with Moses as did another man named Hur. The three of them watched the battle from above- no doubt interceding in prayer before the Lord on behalf of the army fighting below. And Moses raised his arms and had to keep them there. The Bible doesn’t say what time the battle started but it does say that it continued until sunset.

I bet Moses had some weary arms! But how could he give up? His arms had to stay lifted if he wanted his friends to live- if he wanted the nation to stay alive and his family to make it another day! He sat down on a rock. I’m sure that helped but the old arms can only take so much.

Enter: TRUE FRIENDSHIP!

Moses’ brother Aaron and this guy Hur actually held up Moses’ arms. They did the heavy lifting when Moses had nada for strength.

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How amazing is a true friend when you are in despair!? Friends stand in the gap for friends. They step in where there is a missing piece. Friends bring strength when muscle [aka: faith!] has weakened.

I had such a moment once. My sweet Makenna was born with Celiac disease. She was diagnosed when she was barely one year old. (It is extremely rare for this genetic disease to show up so early!) She was “failing to thrive” as the Dr’s put it and we were both a wreck. The diagnosis helped immensely in our everyday life. We knew the threat was gluten in every form and even the tiniest amount would put her in pain for days. With lots of effort we could keep her healthy but for such a young, fragile little lady it meant we had to isolate ourselves. Going anywhere that might be “contaminated” posed a huge risk to her life. Knowing her tiny insides were being torn apart from the gluten made it all worse. If exposure to gluten continued she would have severe complications in her future.

Boy, did we pray! Collin and I laid hands on her sick little body every night believing the Lord could heal her. We spent every moment speaking, praying and holding to the truth that our girl would live a long and “normal” life, God-willing. But you know what? Weariness set in. We were tired ourselves from sleepless nights and a screaming toddler. Years into this journey, we saw little improvement and our hope was dwindling…

Until a friend at church stopped me and said “I’m still praying for complete healing.” I kind of wanted to laugh. I suppose I was becoming a skeptic, but my heart was so empty of belief. Then I got an email from another friend “I think God is at work. She WILL be healed. I haven’t given up.”

These warrior women were holding up my arms and watching the battle be won.

I’m not going to lie, I could only halfheartedly continue to pray that God would answer. That’s when I felt a whisper from God.

“She’s already healed.”

Collin is the brave one who stepped out in faith to “check” Makenna’s healing. He bought us a “gluten pizza”, brought it home and cooked it in my (sterilized!!) oven. I prepped our sweet girl with all the faith I could muster “You don’t have to eat it just because Daddy’s cooking it. If you want Gluten-free pizza, we have that too.” (How little faith I had!)

And she ate it. (SHE had faith!) She didn’t get sick. And she’s eaten gluten ever since with no side effects! We have seen several doctors since who all cannot explain the change in her blood test and who all affirm her health from head to toe. She is a walking – no, she’s a DANCING- miracle!

I am so thankful for my “Aaron and Hur” friends who held up my hands and my faith until the battle was won! The bible says “[Moses’] hands remained steady until sunset.” Wow! Until the very end, the three men held up those hands together in faith and assurance that God would win the battle. And He did.

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My little lady all healed up at 3 1/2 years old!

So friends, I want to challenge you in your friendships. Whether you feel like a Moses or an Aaron/Hur. Openness about our struggles is required. Faith is required. Community is required. Our faith is stronger together. Let’s raise our hands together. Let’s stand in faith for one another. And let’s believe in miracles!

 

Dancing in our newfound freedom!!!

{Photo Cred: Nicole Marie Foster}

Can I add a little bonus thought?? I know this is already a long post, but I also want to add a plug for laying hands on our kiddos. My Makenna was prayed over at every prayer meeting and touched with anointing oil by our church family for YEARS and it was not wasted. Not only was she eventually healed (Yay miracle!) but she has always had the most sincere and deep devotion to Jesus. At 9 years old now, she can pray like a warrior and her wisdom is unmatched. I think those prayers have done more for her than I could ever imagine. What if we laid hands on all our kids whether we thought they “needed” it or not!? What if we dragged allll of our kids to prayer meetings and had our friends pray with us over them before bed? Just an honest thought… I’m going to try it out with the rest of my kiddos just in case. If I stop you and ask for prayer, it’s {probably} not a crisis, just an experiment of faith. Let’s lay our hands on the future generation and expect miracles AND warriors to come forth! We’re in this together.

Adoption, HOPE, Our Journey: Adopting from Africa

A Playlist To Worship While We Wait

Oh my sweet Elisee. He is so innocent. And so joyful. I have revelations of the Father’s heart every time I think of my little African treasure. Here’s his latest photo. ( And you can ignore that serious face, it’s a farce!)

My big 10 year old!

I can just imagine his bedtime thoughts as the world quiets and the day fades into peaceful darkness. “Where’s my mom & dad?” “Why haven’t they come yet?” “Why did God choose me and yet leave me here?”

Of course, I haven’t asked Elisee about these things. I’m sure I couldn’t bear to hear his little voice speak my own wonders. Yet here we wait: him and I on two different continents.

So I choose to praise the God who holds the sun and the moon and my Elisee.

I think God is amazing to have introduced us to Elisee in such a unique and divine way!

I am thankful that I have met and spent time with the son I prayed for, for so long! I’m thankful for every single kiss I planted on his round cheeks!

I am thankful Elisee has met his birth-mother and gets to see her occasionally.

I am thankful he can go to the very best English school and live with a  family who can show him love and relationship in new and beautiful ways.

I am thankful my son learned how to give and receive love during our 3 week stay with him. (Adoptive moms: Healthy attachment potential, yay!!)

I am thankful for God’s promises which stand strong despite my doubts and fears.

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God’s Literal Promise

I am thankful I have a Father who loves me enough to love my children even more than I could ever love them. And fulfill their needs before I even know them.

And so, for now I will worship. So many powerful songs have been written about the correlation between worship and waiting, I know I’m not the only one needing the encouragement. So here’s a few to inspire hope inside of you as you wait for your promises to be fulfilled 💕

Hillsong United – Stay and Wait

John Waller – While I’m Waiting

Kristene DiMarco – Take Courage & I Am No Victim

Brian & Jenn Johnson – You’re Gonna Be OK

Upper Room – Surrounded

Elevation Worship – Do It Again

Skillet – Stars

Elevation Worship – Nothing is wasted

Aaaaaand here’s the whole playlist on YouTube in case you want to listen to it all on repeat.

That’ll get you started 😜

Let’s lift our hands together!

HOPE, Simplifying

Rewriting Myself

I’m in a season of forming the new me.

I’m discovering the next season.

Perhaps I’m walking into the second half of the story. (Is it too soon to say I’ve had my mid-life crisis!?)

Well after a season of utter breakdown and now a year of rest, it’s time to evaluate. Before I move forward I want to make sure I don’t fall right back to where I started. I’ve learned that things must be different to be sustainable.

A year ago we pulled back. As a family we decided to “quit our lives”. Everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary for survival was pruned so we could flourish. Relationships were paused except for immediate family and bits of extended family, volunteering was forgone and church was scaled back to Sunday am only. Letters were sent to school to explain our need for absence and request for space. I also purged our house: furniture, decor, clothes, even food was cleared out to make room for SPACE. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing an open wall instead of clutter & frames gave me room to think, room to breathe. Looking at an open schedule and knowing there were zero commitments was like removing a noose from my neck. (I promise our commitments were all good things with good people!) But space was what we needed in this season, not busy.

Now space is scary. Many of us have our identity wrapped around the things that we do!

“I am a mom/dad/aunt/grandparent.”

“I work at ___________.”

“I help out __(insert amazing organization here)_.”

“My hobbies are ___(vast or non-existent?)___.”

What if these things were taken away? Who would you be? I’ll tell ya, you would be naked!

So there we sat: One naked family. It got a little ugly for a minute. We were suddenly forced to be together a LOT and let me tell you, my adorable kiddos do not always smile at each other sweetly…or at all. It took some time to rediscover who each other was! At first, we were so exhausted (and possibly stunned!?) I think we ate from the freezer and watched movies every night for a month. Then we came out of our coma and tried a few board games. Next came one on one dates and the most amazing conversations. I had been missing all this without realizing it!? How crazy to get to know my family again!!! 7 nights of family dinner every week and whole weekends of stillness or house projects TOGETHER brought us beautiful healing.

One thing I needed personally was healing. I had completely forgotten how to take care of myself and therefore I couldn’t very well care for my family & friends, no matter how badly I wanted to!  I used sweets to deal with emotion and busyness to cover my fears. Now it was time to face it all. Counseling made a world of difference (as it always does!) and endless time gave me space to think. I revamped our pantry and started meal planning again. I took note of what I needed and imagined what I wanted. I learned the value of being INTENTIONAL.

During this time I learned how to nap daily (which also required the kids to rest!). I let myself sleep in and go to bed early. When I felt tired? No more espresso! Another nap it is. Two naps in a day felt crazy, but let me tell you: Guilt is the enemy!! I also learned how to quiet my brain and give myself a mental break. I said no to many opportunities for which I was well qualified but I also said no to the monster inside me that says I was disappointing others or letting them down.  I learned to not regret sitting and reading when I “should” have been cleaning. Exercise became my friend again for the energy boost and strength I gained. I let myself take indecently long showers and go without makeup and eat whole bars of really good chocolate WITHOUT GUILT! It was a battle, sure, but sooooooo worth it!

Yes, I still have plenty that I say “no” to. I still have not opened the floodgates of what “used to be”. I’m praying more and asking God what to do/say/feel each day. I’m moving slowly. I now have tools that help me to keep things simple: capsule wardrobes for all of us, a rotating (yearly!) meal plan, newly built routines/habits and healthy boundaries and guidelines for anything and anyone that comes into our lives.

So here are my priorities: quality time with God, taking care of myself (body, mind and soul), my family – their needs, relationship time and tons of memory making (it’s now or never, the kids are only getting older). If something doesn’t have to do with these three things…in this season… the answer is no!

I’m moving forward. And forward is a place where:

naps are revitalizing

time is a necessity, not just a luxury

relationships are intentional

and food is life-giving.

Care to join me? Let’s invite a season of rest into our lives and the lives of our friends & family. Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to make space.

Community, HOPE

I’m Really Just A Chicken

Love For All To See…

Do I really want everyone to see?

Sometimes my life feels inside out. My heart and my feelings and all the tender things are all visible and exposed while they *should* be kept safe on the inside… Right?

I often feel like everyone can see me and I’m afraid. I am so afraid of what everyone thinks & sees and thinks about what they see! I spend too much time considering others when making decisions for myself. And not at all the kind of consideration I want to give them.

So I’ve lost my voice. Instead of speaking out, I overthink and instead of putting myself out there, I hold back. I’m hiding just like the chicken that I am.

That’s why I love ducks. They quack loud and proud when they see something moving. “Oh look! A friend! Come feed us your apple cores! Talk pretty to me!” (It’s not such a great idea when there’s a predator, but those ducks are happy and shaking their fat tail feathers anyway. They have such confidence!)

Perhaps we were meant to be ducks all along. God says we will meet resistance and disapproval. (People will choose fluffier, more trainable pets after all.) He promises hardships. He says point blank we will not be “normal”. So why do I still try to assimilate!? Why am I not loud and proud to speak truth and bare the inner me that I’m trying to keep safe?

I will not be afraid to be silly!

So here’s my truth for today: (and my apologies, but I have no idea where I first heard it!)

Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does!

And now I will commence to post all those blog posts I’ve written over the past year(s) but never posted due to my own fear and over-editing.

Adoption, Community, Fostering

How many kids do you have?

You guys! I recently joined a bible study and it brought so much refreshing to my soul! I am so honored to study the word of God with women who are HUNGRY. And I mean, these girls just won’t quit. They do not choose light-hearted, easy, breezy studies, let me tell you. (There is no time to fall behind on journaling & homework either!) God spoke it and these girls will study it.

It. Is. Awesome.

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I can now say that these women are dear and wise and some seriously amazing cheerleaders, but on my first day? Not so much.

I sat down at the table after a scrumptious [hot] breakfast where we were divided into small-ish groups, yet as the introductions traveled around the table I grew so anxious I was shaking and in tears when all eyes turned to me. What was I supposed to say? I was already dreading THE QUESTION. The leader prompted: “You don’t have to say much, maybe just tell us something about yourself? Do you have kids?”

That did it.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t use an ounce of restraint when I choked out “I don’t like that question!”

See, it’s complicated. Of course, there are 5 Schuiteboers who live at our address (for now). Each of us has friends who come to play or eat or sleep. (Yay for an open door community!) Then there’s fostering… Just fostering alone changes this number on a daily/monthly basis. The number of those who live with me changes and the number of how may are carried in my heart changes too.

Then there’s last summer… yup, as I entered this unsuspecting group of Jesus-chasers I had just barely survived a crazy season as a mom of 7. I loved it. I love them. Each kid was so beautifully brought to this house and this season of our lives. God’s promises were all over each one of them and He was doing such a good work! (I can say that now since I’ve had months of space & plenty of therapy to recuperate and heal.) Crazy enough, at the end of the summer I was down to only 3 kids to tuck in at night and I felt the void. I loved the now-missing kids and they will truly never leave my heart. They will be mine forever.

Then there is the mostly-adopted-but-not-present Elisee whose paperwork has seen no progress in a full year and sweet Chelsey who is growing up and moved out on her own for the first time. I’m just saying… I get to claim these two even when my “mothering” is mostly spent on my knees!

Seriously. I am undone.

So is my answer to this overwhelming question 3? How many kids I tuck in at night.

5? the number of kids who will *someday* be Schuiteboers and come home for Christmas.

9? The kids I have loved, smooched, and wiped away tears for when their own momma’s couldn’t. The ones I personally carry in my heart.

19? The number my girlfriends can amass at the nearest park on any given summer day, but also the number of kiddos I pray over, invest in and plan to talk to about all the things they don’t want to tell their own moms when hormones hit.

How about 143 million? The number of orphans out there whom I often pray for and cry over and desperately want to offer hope and security to- even if only for a moment.

Here’s the beautiful part: No matter how many kids I say I have, I actually have more than that. The kids that live in my house will always be my kids… ALWAYS… even when they leave someday (voluntarily or involuntarily). The kids in the foster care system- they’re all my kids. My friend’s kids- they’re mine too. The orphans around the world- they’re my kids. I am blessed with these kiddos to love, to pray over, to mourn for, and to lay at the feet of Jesus. This is KEY. Our children belong to Jesus. I’m just hanging with them a bit. I need to let go of the number and how it effects my identity as “a mom of ___”. Instead, I want to focus on loving each one well. Katie Davis from Amazima Ministries says:

 “I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person.”

Just one.. at a time… That’s all I can handle anyway. I want to truly invest in the one in front of me and love each one that passes through my arms & prayers well. I don’t need to claim anything to try to help the world understand this crazy way of living. I am the arms of Jesus and that’s enough identity for me.

And let’s be honest. When it comes down to it, I will actually claim a fake (higher) number in those moments I appear slightly crazed from having a “bunch” of kids!

Community

A little too much love!?

Boy, has it been a week. I’ve had increased stress, loss of sleep, trouble eating, and emotional trauma. (Not because of the kids this time, thank goodness!) This time it’s the ducks.

See, I’m trying to love the least of these… which really includes anyone and everyone… aaaand apparently it includes my duckies.

The struggle is REAL.

And now we have a duck in Carter’s bathtub. (The ultimate duck-lover’s sacrifice.)

I find myself at 3 in the morning hearing the quack of my feathered ladies outside the bedroom window (note to self: move the coop this summer!). It’s their cries of distress and I know it all too well. We are pretty much surrounded by woods and fields for miles and miles. Predators abound. We’ve lost our ladies to foxes, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and great horned owls so far.  But now that the coop is close enough to hear, I KNOW when it happens. I can’t sleep through that!

So on night no.1 I heard the quack of fear and ran outside in my pj’s and rain boots (PS It’s still below 30 degrees at night here in MI.) to find 2 of our 3 ladies quacking away and moving warily around the edge of their fence line. I opened their house to find the last duck with a raccoon’s paws around it’s neck. Poor thing! The coon ran out and climbed our tall fence (which I naively thought wouldn’t happen to us) and I realized our problems were only beginning. Those varmints are marauders. They destroy everything they touch, never mind that they leave a mess of their victims’ pieces- GROSS!  I waited and watched the woods as I hovered over the injured duckie for a half hour before feeling she was going to make it and all the ladies were safe. I reluctantly headed back to bed.

I awoke later (like 7:00) that morning to find that our victimized duckie had not made it through the night due to a return visit from the coon. (Special thanks to the hubs for cleaning up the mess of pieces I “couldn’t reach” under the coop!) And a hole had been dug right under the fence this time.

Night no.2 I literally woke up with anxiety attacks every hour or so. I flew to the window to peer into the night wondering if I had really heard their quacks or was I just dreaming? The whole darn day was spent counting heads out the window to make sure they were really safe. Lord knows I was NOT letting them out to roam the yard today!

Day no.3 I woke up at 3:30 am to the urgent  quacks and then silence. (Any mother of young children knows that silence is worse than noise.) This time Collin was ready. He had his gun by the bed. Fortunately/unfortunately he insisted on getting dressed to go out ‘coon huntin’ in the woods. (Really!? I heard silence. Hurry it up!!) He got his gear and headed out while I kept the dog quiet and watched out the window (& shout-whispered my two cents of course). Again, one duck was in the coop with blood on it’s neck while the other was hiding by the fence. He trod around the coop, scanned every single tree, and stalked the wood line but to no avail.  He returned 45 minutes later to close up the coop only to find the coon still hiding in the rafters of our duck house!! Thank goodness, he’s thorough because that rascal never got another breath. He’s buried behind the barn now with the opossum from last fall. VICTORY! (However momentary, it is still sweet.)

Moral of the story? I have none at the moment. Perhaps I was just wanting ya’ll to know love needs boundaries… I haven’t seemed to find healthy ones here, as poor Carter will be showering with a duck for a few days. Perhaps it is also important to choose where we invest our love. I’m sure there’s a whole sermon there.  Please feel free to comment below on your thoughts for a conclusion here. I know God speaks to me even through ducks!

** A quick update: Our injured lady has returned to the coop! She did lose an eye- quite a tragedy- however, she’s recovering well in every other way. Carter even re-named her after a family viewing of Finding Dory. While brushing his teeth and watching her swim in his tub he proclaimed she should now be called Becky.**

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One lonely lady waiting for the convalescent to return.

Exodus House Orphanage, HOPE, Our Journey: Adopting from Africa

It took a whole year, but we saw a “birthday” miracle!

I just had a great coffee date.

Nothing like a few hours and a good cuppa joe to bring clarity and passion back into life!

My darling-est friend sat across from me and reminded me of the beloved story of the loaves and fishes from the book of Matthew. Actually there are two similar stories there, which start out with a huge crowd of hungry people and both times Jesus was offered an inadequate amount of bread and fish to try to feed the masses. Both times thousands of people ended up fed from the meager offering.

IT WAS MULTIPLIED!

Our present-day loaves and fishes story began just over a year ago when our family had the idea to buy a fish tank for the orphanage our Elisee is from. The tank we had in mind holds over a hundred gallons of water and up to 400 North African Catfish. With this tank, the orphanage can raise enough fish to feed the kids AND enough to sell in the market. The money made would then restock the tank with new fish, buy grain or vegetables and the kids are eating for free! This cycle can replay up to 5 times a year per tank.

The amazing Patrice (our friend who runs the orphanage in Benin, Africa) has dreamed of this fish tank on the orphanage’s new property. While we were with her several years ago, she took us to a farm in another village to see one in operation. It was an unassuming cement well-sort-of-thing with a tin roof. The water inside was smooth until a loaf of stale bread was thrown on top. Then the water came alive with enormous fish surfacing, rolling and battling for bites of the bread. It was such a ruckus! I was astonished at the quantity and size of these fish.

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Our Elisee LOVED the picnic we ate at the Farm!
SO the Schuiteboer’s decided that giant stinky fish were our new family goal! It was Spring and we all had yet to celebrate our birthdays-or any holiday for that matter. We decided to use each celebration- for a whole year- as an opportunity to ask for or make donations toward “Elisee’s Fishtank.” The kids eagerly gave up the idea of birthday presents and experiences- opting for small parties at home with cake and ice cream- and our invitations asked for no gifts but money for the Fishtank instead.

And guess what??

Our friends and family BLEW US AWAY!!

I should have known… I mean these are some seriously generous, creative and passionate people. I knew that already but when the first party came around I sat down in the garden with a gaggle of 6&7 year old girls and a globe, their eyes came alive. Each girl was so thrilled to learn about Africa and Elisee and fish! They asked questions and shared their own ideas and then came an abundance of cleverly wrapped donations. Money was wrapped up in packages, cards, hand-drawn pictures, and folded into origami fish for goodness sakes! My sweet Makenna raised $77 on her 7th birthday for a brother she hasn’t met yet!!

Summer is our Birthday season. We have a June, a July, 2 Augusts and 2 Septembers. It’s sort of like a Marathon of Birthdays where we take off and build up speed for the finish line of Carter & Elisee who are one day apart. The glory of this particular birthday season was the jar we kept in our kitchen with “Elisee’s Fishtank” written on it. Each birthday brought another chance to fill it up and watch our collection grow. Each celebration brought a sense of pride and ownership to the person being celebrated who got to put their “presents” in the jar and dream of a hundred kids eating until their bellies were full.

Our jar filled and overflowed and we were sure it was getting close to the amount needed. After our crazy birthday season we knew Christmas was ahead of us. It was our one last hurrah before the end of the year and our goal was to have the money raised by Patrice’s birthday-to share our birthdays with her as a complete surprise just for her. I added up the money as the kids eagerly waited & sorted change. The atmosphere was sort of static as we waited to hear a big number.

HOWEVER, here’s the deal, this whole idea was a huge undertaking. The fish tank itself is darn expensive. It requires a backhoe and cement trucks and supplies that are not easily found in the African Bush. We were shooting for the stars. We have some seriously amazing people who gave and gave and the Schuiteboers saved every bit of change and allowance but we came up short. Like WAY short. We still needed $2000 for the tank plus a little extra for the fish and the cost of sending so much money across an ocean. We were more than a little discouraged, but isn’t it just like our God to hold out for the big finale!?

One week before Christmas I added my birthday money to the jar. I was glad to relinquish my annual new pair of shoes and pretty dishes in hopes that Patrice would have her dream come true in just days. I tallied the money again and prayed for God to provide a miracle and not just any miracle… A miracle of ABUNDANCE. Days later, over dinner, someone gave Collin a white envelope. Yep. You know… All good checks come in white envelopes. This incredible couple usually makes a big donation at the end of the year to an organization of their agreed choosing, but this year they decided to split the donation and send it out in chunks. The amount they gave to us was enough to send a fish tank’s worth of money to surprise Patrice for her Birthday AND pay off the kid’s school bill. What!? We didn’t even think to ask God for that yet! (So it was a little overdue…Prayer worthy? Not quite yet!)

Guys, God is a God of MULTIPLICATION! His abundance is far-reaching and SO MUCH MORE than we imagine! I have been blown away more than once, but let me tell you, this literal loaves and fishes story is one that will stick with me for a long time.

Where does God want to blow YOU away?

In what way is he planning to show you His ABUNDANCE?

Have you asked him yet?

HOPE

When you don’t know your favorite vacation destination!

Well, I’m sitting at Panera with my favorite other Megan and laughing as we fight our ridiculous first world problems together. My older-than-dirt computer is only responding about once every thirty seconds as I tap the keys and Megan is trying desperately to remember her “favorite vacation destination” as the answer to a security question to get to a website. Aaaaand Panera doesn’t want us freeloading off their internet anymore. We are cut off. We are StRuGgLiNg to say the least.

“Why doesn’t it listen to me!?”

“When did I set this up and WHERE on earth had I traveled recently?”

Our frustrations are growing and our stomachs are rumbling (again) and perspective comes into play.

I have been overwhelmed again, friends. I have returned to the place of hopelessness. It’s not pretty when I arrive but somehow I keep finding myself settling in. “So the computer needs fixing? One more straw on the camel’s back!” I’m guessing you’ve been there before too?

I’ve also recently had several amazing moments of looking back at a time of life and seeing God’s hand at work where I didn’t even realize it before. He was doing big things I could not have foreseen. Then I started thinking “How am I going to see this situation ‘after the fact’? That’s how I want to think about it now!!”

And that glimpse of a new perspective changed everything.

I started off thanking God for the things I hated BEFORE- the ones I thought I wouldn’t make it through. I thanked him for the outcome I can see now but couldn’t dream of then. I asked for a mental picture of my dreams and/or His promises that are still unfulfilled and I asked Him for scripture to back it up.  I want to celebrate that picture. I want to celebrate those promises… IN ADVANCE.

Part of my problem is that our stunning and billowy Michigan winter does not permit me much reprieve. I know this. The lack of sunshine and endless cold are definitely a mood-killer. Thank goodness GOD’S PROMISES ARE SO MUCH BRIGHTER! When I return to the woodcarver and ask for His perspective I come alive with anticipation of his promises.

Here are my promises for today:

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us AN ETERNAL GLORY that far outweighs them all”!! ~2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)

“Orphans won’t be orphans forever” ~ Psalm 10:14b (MSG) -Amen for my ELISEE!!-

“When doubts filled my mind, YOUR COMFORT gave me RENEWED HOPE and CHEER” ~Psalm 94:19 (NLT)

And my personal favorite of all God’s promises:

“I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the the things I’ll be doing for them- sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” ~Isaiah 42:16 (MSG)

Did I mention that Isaiah says God actually shouts this last promise? “He shouts, announcing his arrival; he takes charge and his enemies fall into line.” (v 13) And the NIV says it’s His “battle cry”. It’s a pretty powerful promise, my friend. Let’s take this one to the bank and cash it in for whatever battle you are facing. God is sticking with you, not leaving for a minute. Ask him for a mental picture of what your personal victory looks like. I bet it’s good. When our imaginations run wild, God can raise our expectations beyond what we could ever dream.

“God can do anything, you know- far more than you could ever ask or imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

… now let’s just hope that His promise is a trip to our favorite { & Sunny!} vacation destination…wherever that is!

HOPE

How we can hope when we’re not sure dreams really do come true

In case you’ve noticed, it’s true, I haven’t talked much about our little Mya. The truth is, love is hard.  There are days I have to work at loving this little lady. As with all children, she has her days; the ups & downs and ons & offs, the highs & lows- oh my! She is a girl of extremes sometimes.  So rest assured, I have not forgotten the littlest Schuiteboer, she is just in progress; and that is the most difficult of all things to share. Our Mya has so many stories and miracles to share and I fall more in love with her every day. And so finally, I have A Mya Story

My dream since I was a mere ten years old has been to adopt. It’s a lovely picture really. There are children all over our country and the world needing a family and a home and safety and love. I wanted to be that. I wanted to fill that need. Like so many other admirable persons, I wanted to change the world for just one… at a time. I wanted to make a difference and I still do!

The problem with a dream is this: It takes guts to reach it! AND it isn’t always dreamy. A dream doesn’t feel so dreamy when you’re ALMOST there. It’s not even dreamy when you finally “arrive.” Up close the reality of the dream can see pretty terrible even.  About 3 months after Mya came to us, I had such a moment. She was not doing well with the adjustment to a new family, our “honeymoon” period had passed. Mya was in no way attached to any of us, yet she demanded full attention at all times. She cried, screamed, hit other kids and threw things and NEVER SLEPT. I found myself looking at her with glazed eyes and thinking “This is it? This is that dream I’ve waited my whole life for?”

It seems obvious, I suppose, that to win a child back from an orphaned or abandoned spirit takes a lot of hard work and diligence, and certainly poor behavior and sleep issues should be expected. Of course I knew that, but  I’m afraid in that moment and with no reprieve in sight, I was hopeless. This was NOT, in fact, what I wanted! I did not want to fight ENDLESSLY to see joy in her little face. I did not want to guess wrong EVERY time as to her current need or comfort. I did not want her to feel like someone else’s child forever.  I was a puddle on the floor after three months, how many more years would this “season” last?

Then, of course there is progress. Moving forward. Leaving the old behind… Is that even possible? So many days we have celebrated one small victory; a 10 hour stretch at night, a smile after breakfast, a timeout without endless screeching, a giggle or a hug. Yay for victory! We feel so accomplished, we share with the whole family and jump for joy only to be brought down the next day. Not only have we lost this new skill or advancement but we’ve also lost everything else we’ve gained in the last 6 months! Aaaaaand she’s a one year old again refusing to speak or walk or sleep and she wants to be held while she’s crying. How can a dream be celebrated when it doesn’t seem like a dream anymore?

I know you feel it too. How can I celebrate victory over cancer when I may face it AGAIN? How can I celebrate a birthday when my child is STILL sick another year later? How can I celebrate God’s goodness when I see and feel so much pain?

I was worshiping at church just this morning and God showed me the change in seasons outside is just like the change in seasons for Mya and I. We have gone through a cool and unpredictable fall, and goodness, the intensity of winter was long! Now we are entering Spring. Just like in Michigan, we have to fight for spring. It does not come easily. New life and growth, hope and sunshine are just around the corner. Ugly and past-it’s-welcome Winter does it’s best to reappear, but I will fight for spring. I know Summer is on it’s way and I cling to that hope. I will not rest until I feel it’s warmth and breathe in it’s promises. Beach days and splashing in the sprinkler, climbing trees and sipping lemonade, open windows and fresh backyard produce: there is hope! I will embrace you once again. But in springtime I hold to the promise of a warm rain shower and daffodils poking up though the snow. It tells me there will come a day when everything will be green and the snow will finally stay gone. The dreary clouds WILL leave and the sun WILL come out.

Mya and I WILL play pretend someday and she WILL sleep at night every night. Her laugh WILL be sweet and silly and my tears will be of joy. I know the promise of a grown up, compassionate and caring little lady WILL come to fruition. She WILL be a sunflower turning her  face to Jesus and following His light day and night. I know she will do big things for the Kingdom and this fight we’re in IS worth it.

Can you look for a Springtime promise in the midst of your season?  Is there hope peaking through for you also?  My God is a God of dreams come true and I promise He has hope for your dreams!!

2015 Schuiteboer kidsShe may not be grinning, but she’s just as silly as the rest of us!

Exodus House Orphanage

Welcome! Bienvenue! Quabo!

I love to see a changed life.

There is nothing like a good transformation to inspire a soul.

And, of course, I love a good story. I love to hear people tell their stories and if it’s a transformation story – all the better!

So here it is : a powerful story of a changed life:

Welcome! Bienvenue! Quabo! Three languages, one word. Also the name of an amazing young man in Benin. He teased us for days with his name. We thought he didn’t understand English and he knew we didn’t understand Fon or French. We frequently saw Welcome hanging with the older boys as they practiced their soccer skills. We also saw him helping the little boys and speaking encouragement to the days’ cook. He was honestly sincere and respectful of each person. Finally, we had the chance to sit down in the shade and ask Welcome his story.

Welcome was from a poor family in the village. His mother and father worked very hard and barely made ends’ meet. They were gone more than they were home and Welcome and his siblings were left to figure life out on their own. His older siblings had become involved with drugs and alcohol, some were married, some had children, but none were happy. Welcome is an observer by nature, he saw all of this and he learned a lot from his siblings. He also saw his friends from Exodus House who had TRUE joy. Over 100 of them shared one Mama who was busy yet somehow still present and they shared a Papa God who loved them relentlessly and gave them wisdom beyond their years to make healthy decisions and live purposefully.

This true joy is what Welcome wanted more than anything! He asked Mama if he could be one of her children and her response was “You already are.” He came to Exodus House daily to learn from Mama and the children. He began attending school and church services, taking on regular responsibilities, and building relationships with the rest of Mama’s kids. He is a part of the family. There is nothing Welcome has that he does not share with his new family and vice versa. When we were sitting with him, he asked “Do you see the chickens here?” Of course we did, there were plenty pecking around our feet and crowing in the wee hours of the morning. “I bought those for Mama and the children. My brother sent me money for a new phone and I knew they needed food more than I needed the phone, so I bought chicks and surprised the children.” He had the biggest grin on his face! Between laughs and stories he would pull out his cell phone with a huge crack on the small screen, send a text or show us a photo of his nieces and nephews, then carefully re-tape the battery in place and put it back in his pocket.

Elisee & Chickens
Elisee with Welcome’s Chickens

Welcome had found true joy in becoming family, loving Jesus and now in giving this gift.

God has blessed Welcome. He is studying for the National Exam and plans to go to University next fall. He has bright hopes of coming back to his village and changing the world for one kid after another. “They are just like me,” he told us. “They feel lost but I know God sees them.”