Adoption, Community, Raising Warriors

Every girl needs her momma… or two… or three

My sweet Makenna is growing up. (Insert ugly-cry-mixed-with-celebration-and-awe here.) She’s on the brink of those tween/teen years and all the hormones and decisions that go with it. I think she’s maybe a little excited and a little scared but so am I! It takes guts to become a teenager. It takes even more guts to parent a teenager.

But it makes think “What did I need as a girl-growing-up? Isn’t middle school really the point in all of our lives when we begin to wonder who we are and who we want to become? And isn’t that when we flounder? or experiment? or do REALLY strange things that no one in their right mind would actually ever do, but we’re just running on emotion and FEELING and the world tells us that that’s what we should base our decisions on? {I know I did.} So how do I help my girls lead a different story?” These are my wonderings.

And then there’s this beautiful TRUTH from Shauna Niequist:

(I don’t even know if this is legal, but READ IT!)
Thanks for sharing, Shauna!

This is something akin to adopting family members, but kind of the opposite. This is being adopted by others… and adopting them as well, I suppose. We all need a few voices to speak over us and show us how it’s done. Our kids need to see different forms of truthful living for when hormones hit and MOM IS ALWAYS WRONG.

I am truly blessed when it comes to moms, because my own mom & mother-in-law love Jesus and love me and are a beautiful and consistent part of our family’s lives. I make a point to invite them into our daily lives and to pour into my kids and I because they have SO MUCH wisdom to share! Still, I came to a place about two years ago where I realized I was facing things my own moms had not faced and I needed wisdom and experience specific to the trial I was facing. God graciously sent me the gentlest Air B&B Host who shared her house and heart and Jesus in all the right ways to restore my faith and breath new life into my burdened heart.

{God literally blew fresh wind into my sails by surrounding me with “Momma Bev” AND these glorious windmills along the NW Michigan lakeshore. I could watch them spin for hours.}

In that season, I realized how glorious it is to have more than one Momma, so I came home and sought out more! I knew so many beautiful women who exemplified traits that I desired – women who were changing the world in some lovely way that was unique to them. And I asked them to “adopt” me! I asked for their prayers and their time (to meet somewhat regularly) and their covering over my life. THEN I did it for my daughters! I want to have women of faith and joy in place to speak to my girls WITH me and repeat the truths they need to hear. I want them to see Jesus from all sides and how He changes us all in different ways.

So here are your takeaways:

  1. Pursue the women in your life who are living out an image of who you want to become. Ask them to meet for coffee. Ask them for prayer! Make them a consistent part of your life.
  2. The women in your life who are already blowing fresh wind in your sails? Send them a thank you. They have lives too, but it’s so much more rewarding to share ❤
  3. Seek out women to pray/speak with you over your daughters. Maybe they’re the same women as the above #1, Maybe they’re different. I have one “Momma” for my girl who asked me to be her mentor/prayer covering years ago! Now she gets to repay the favor.

Family is just another word for living in REAL community. It’s all the same.
We’re sharing family, sharing homes, sharing dinner tables, sharing faith.

Who’s a Momma in your life that you’d like to send a shout out??

Adoption, Fostering, Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 3 -Raising Up Prayer Warriors

Our kids are seriously powerful. Their innocence and gargantuan faith are a perfect pair when it comes to experiencing and believing God! Things that we adults just dismiss or reason away, they are able to fully embrace. I’ve got a few examples of my kids’ prayers and I hope it will inspire you to have faith as big as theirs as well as speak that same faith into the kids in your life!

When Makenna was first healed I was shocked at how she OWNED her healing. She never once hesitated telling someone she was a miracle and God was the only one who could explain it. She also immediately started praying for her 3 year old friend Caroline and believing that God had the same healing for her too. They were both 3 and Makenna told me that she wanted to hold Caroline’s hand so she could pass the healing over to her while they walked. What!? A three year old version of laying hands <3<3 Caroline hasn’t been healed yet, but we haven’t given up hope!

As we started fostering kiddos, we knew we needed to be praying for each placement before receiving them. We wanted to be sure we were leaning into God and His plans, not our own. AND we wanted to know God’s heart for each child. As a family, we asked God for a word for each child and continuously declared it over them while they were in our home. It was so fun to do this with the “existing” kiddos! I was shocked how often our words/pictures lined up or complimented each other.

Our first placement (Insert Miss Mya here!) was a difficult beginning. She cried night & day and day & night. She screamed until she had completely lost her voice and continued squeaking with her mouth wide open. I remember Makenna looking into her eyes and saying “I think her heart hurts.” She felt the heart of God in that moment when all I wanted to do was send her outside for a moment of peace.

I cannot even grasp the beauty of these two sisters!!

Another time I needed encouragement in the Mya-arena was when she was 3 and REALLY butting heads with Carter. They are both genetically first-borns and it has been a constant struggle for the whole family. I was giving Carter the pep-talk and I was honestly out of words. “Nope it’s not fair.” “Yes, she was wrong and still refuses to apologize.” “Nope, it probably won’t change EVER I mean, anytime soon…” What else could I say?? And God gave me these words: “I know you see her as bossy and stubborn, but how does God see her??” We prayed right then and there and asked God to give us both a picture. Carter was super quiet and I was doubting his investment in this exercise. Then He looked up with such a peaceful face (all anger gone!) and described Mya all grown up but with the characteristics that he usually liked about her: “Poofy hair, loud laugh…” and God showed Carter a picture of Mya being successful and filled with compassion and grace. Needless to say, his heart changed for her that day and it is a moment we STILL refer back to when things get rough between them! (Truth: The battle of the firstborns is still a constant struggle in our household!)

Another example: when our Chelsey struck out on her own and started making grown up decisions. The others were praying for her. They ask me if she’s still praying or going to church and when will she ever wear a seat belt!? And I say: “Talk to God, I’m not sure.” Then our girl will come to a basketball game and she’ll mention “You know, I’ve been watching church online and I like the story about David.” One day she even called and said “I was in a car accident and the car is totaled, but tell Carter: I was wearing my seat belt so don’t worry about me!” I’ll be honest, I never prayed for the seat belt. (Somehow I seemed to have bigger worries, ha!) But God knew what a big deal it was to Carter because Carter was telling Him all about it and I love how God proved the strength of Carter’s prayers by answering them so clearly!

One last example: our family is praying specifically for a family of 5 kids aged 6-19 at Exodus House Orphanage. Mya has remembered every single night and prayed that “they could find their father if he’s alive or he could come back to life if he’s dead.” This blows me away because the rest of us never even had such hope. We’ve been asking for a family to adopt them or for the older kids to find good jobs and take care of the rest. But I’ll admit after hearing months of Mya’s prayer, I’ve started to ask for it too. Wouldn’t it be just like God to give the very best solution!?

So let’s look for opportunities to pray with our kids. Let’s pray for crazy and outlandish things! Let’s tell our kids that their prayers change the world. What if they believed that truth and lived accordingly!? What if WE did as adults?? What if we take the time to pray for bugs on the sidewalk so that when our kids grow up they use the same habits we’ve instilled in them to pray for friends or world events? I don’t know about you, but I’m believing my kids can hold on to their innocent faith and carry it into adulthood- trusting that God will both bring people back from the dead and inspire a teenager to wear a seat belt. I want my kids to surpass my faith and change the world with their prayers even more than I want to change the world with my own prayers! Their hearts literally multiply the effects of my heart (partially because there’s 5 of them, but also because of God’s power in their lives.)

These are my prayer warriors in our favorite place to pray!
(I’m pretty sure Lake Michigan is a little corner of heaven stretched down to earth)

Intentional Ways to Pray with Kids:

  • Pray together every day without fail! (before bed, during the drive to school, before dinner) Make it routine.
  • Ask God for a specific thing for your family to pray for each day/month (Sunday: Your Pastors/Church, Monday:
    Refugees, Tuesday: Their School/Teachers, etc) Or a theme for the year. Practice being intentional so prayer doesn’t become stale or repetitive
  • Practice Prayer Coloring: color a picture of your prayers or just doodle while listening to worship music
  • Have a dance party to Bethel Kids Radio or your fave worship list and everyone decide to pray/praise God for one thing while going crazy.
  • Start a family prayer journal to keep track of your prayers. We often include prayer coloring or thoughts/words we hear from God. Remember to date it so you can look back on how God has answered your prayers!
  • Declare together every day that “My/Your Prayers Change the World!” I declare this over my kiddos while they’re sleeping and I often remind them of this when they’re worrying or upset.

A note of simplicity and encouragement: Don’t try to do it all at once! We have prayed all of these ways at some point but never all in one season. If you already pray with your kiddos daily, try adding in a worship/dance party or declaration. Prayer is not about perfection. It’s a practice just like Yoga. Take a deep breath and keep moving forward. ❤

Adoption, Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 2 -Little Games to Play with God.

I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about Poweful Prayers, thank you all so much! Of course I’m writing for the therapy for myself and because I feel like God asked me to, but it really is encouraging to engage with all of you and hear how God has touched you or is working in your lives too!! Please keep commenting on and sharing these posts!

So now that we understand some of the basics of how God speaks, let’s practice hearing God! Let’s learn to dive into this two-way conversation and take advantage of the intimacy Jesus died to give us!

(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

Probably the simplest way to learn to hear God’s voice is with immediate affirmation.  The goal of these games is to have that so you can KNOW you’re hearing God.

Right now, I want you to invite God to speak you. Pray & ask Him to speak clearly and straight to your heart. Then think of a Bible verse (You’ll think of it just like the birthday song!) and look it up. Does it speak to you? Sometimes right away you’ll think “Awesome! This has everything to do with what’s on my heart!” You know God is speaking. Sometimes not. At this point, just ask God to keep speaking throughout the day. Chances are, by the end of the day, if you look back at that verse, you’ll think “Ohhhhh that’s what He meant.” It now applies to something you’ve experienced. If not, keep asking for clarification, write it down and come back to it, maybe tomorrow. I do this with Bible verses or chapters all the time. Scripture is the most powerful truth in the world and the greatest weapon against the enemy. {You simply cannot have too much BIBLE in your life!}

Another aspect of this same game is with a favorite devo. (That’s out-dated Christian speak for a book of short “devotional” thoughts or verses… Usually a-page-a-day type of book.) I have a few favorite authors whose writing consistently speak truth to me. (My current top 2: Come Away My Beloved by Frances J Roberts & Savor by Shauna Niequist) I ask the Lord for a page number and look it up. This is my “thought for the day”. I pray and ask God to speak more about it in my heart. Sometimes it’s a wise word about something I’ve been worrying over or if a big situation happens in my day, I have that encouragement in advance to help carry me through. (Bonus if the page # is a recipe in Shauna’s Savor! Aaaaaaand now I have a meal plan.)

board center chalk chalkboard

(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

So that game is full of little thoughts to you from God and you know you can trust them because it’s based in scripture. You can’t lose! However, the more you play, the more intimately God can speak and direct your heart. And the more YOU trust what you’re hearing, the more likely you are to ask specific questions.

~ Personal Experience~ I have asked God “Is my Elisee EVER going to come home!?” Honestly, I’ve doubted the word I heard from the Lord 10 years ago since it’s been so long and we’re not seeing movement or even hope. And the verses I received: John 14:18 “I will not leave you as Orphans. I will come for you”.  And Isaiah 43:5-7 “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. I’ll send orders north and south: ‘Send them back. Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places. I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child Whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.’” Well that’s pretty specific! I guess I’ll keep hoping, haha.

Back to our game: one more level up… Take this same idea and play with a friend! Do you know someone needing encouragement? Are you having a coffee date/playdate this week? Or just to show some love!! Ask God to speak a verse for someone else. I encourage you to pre-read the verse and check with your heart. Is this an encouraging word from the Lord for this person? Yes? Send it! Maybe/Maybe Not? Ask God to clarify – did you find the right verse? Or ask Him to give you a thought or picture to send with it.) Wouldn’t you love to receive a call or text like this out of the blue!?

Guys, this is not too hard. You don’t have to be crazy to hear voices. It’s a simple little game with exponential benefits. You’ve got nothing to lose. And don’t tell me you “just don’t have the gift.” God speaks to all of His children. What kind of parent would God be to only speak to some of His kids!? You’ll hear him. Trust your gut and have a little faith. God’s going to do big things in your heart this week!

Aaaaaaaand there’s another game coming soon… 🙂

Adoption, Community

How to obtain more extended family (the good kind!)

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a big family.

My mom always wanted a big family too.

I remember her once mentioning more siblings to me and I turned the tables on her with pros and cons charts and my 7 year old powers of persuasion. Poor Mom, she never knew what hit her! I think it was the time I blew out HER candles on HER birthday cake to wish for a baby sister that she realized she had a true problem on her hands!

I’ll admit that my Mom did… and now, even I have… purchased a dog to sway the kiddos and “buy” more time without another sibling. ***Let me tell you THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER.

So if traditionally growing your family is not the right option for you at this time: the good news is that, of course, children can be adopted. (I have traversed this terrain and intend on doing it again despite my better sense of judgment some days.)

But DID YOU KNOW!? Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents can be adopted too!

There are many ways to go about this venture and honestly, I would HIGHLY recommend it even before adopting a child. For this I have several reasons: #1 Less paperwork… Ok none. And the government doesn’t even need to know!  #2 It’s way easier considering that anyone over 18 probably doesn’t need help potty-training or sleeping through the night. Aaaaaaand bonus #3 If you adopt adults into your family first, then you have them to help out with future adoptees. Many hands make light(er) work! Win-Win!

So how does one go about finding these lovely folks and adopting them into your family? Allow me to tell you. (We have several honorary family members. We love them so fiercely, they could never get away even if they tried! (Mwa-ha-ha!))

Step 1: Notice those around you. Is there a co-worker with no holiday plans? A college student who’s family is all out of town? Empty-nesters in your small group? A friendly-looking Grandparent sitting one table over at your favorite cafe? Meet and greet those strangers, then invite them over or out for dinner. (Ok stranger danger, yes, just use your good judgement, geesh!)

Step 2: Set up a recurring time to spend together. Most likely these adopted family members will be reserved at first. Weekly family dinners or monthly movies nights will break down walls and open up conversation. Frequency is key. When you find something in common, jump on it and make it a new tradition. (Overwhelming them with love is a good thing!)

Step 3: Include your “new members” in family events and/or projects. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger. Birthday parties and Easter dinner are simply the best for those with out-of-town family or no current traditions of their own. Is this person handy? Plan a fun hands-on project with them. (We highly recommend building a deck. You never know when your newfound uncle will draw up legit blueprints for you WITH an itemized list of materials!)

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The amazing”Uncle B” may have been a HUGE part of building our deck, but he also just happened to be hanging out at the house the day Mya was dropped off in a rush. He voluntarily held her fussy little self while we figured out the logistics (aka ran out to find diapers and a crib!) and to this day he is her very favorite person!

I am a better person because of the people I have invited into my life. These family members love our family, mess and all. They listen like the sister I never had, celebrate milestones I can’t even see or measure and they mom-hug me when my mom is out of town. I need these people. Just yesterday I got a box of fluffy, sweet cinnamon rolls from an empty-nest momma who knew I’d had a hard week!

We Schuiteboers have “adopted” many and we seriously love our peeps! Our extended family keeps growing but so does our immediate family, so we need more people who have our backs and keep our best interest at heart just like we do theirs. Many are the folks who need to see and feel love on this planet. Not just any old greeting, but the up-close & personal love that only a family can give. We do life together and it’s so much sweeter this way!

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Why yes, we have even “adopted” a friend’s dog as our own periodically. (Pre-Buddy of course!)

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!

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!