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!?

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).

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!

Community, Honesty

Time to Grow!

So I was telling God the other day how I’m done writing. It takes effort. I’m tired. I have other things to do. The excuses go on. Then I felt a little nudge and the thought came that I’ve really put myself in a box here on Love For All To See. I’m here ranting about the big ideas in my head and asking God for intensive thoughts to share but truly what I like to talk about is the little things I chat about over coffee with a friend. I like to share what’s going on right now in my brain/life/family. I like to be a little too honest and I like to share a little more than you’re interested in hearing. And I like a little bit of everything!

I also like to do more than sit on a soapbox and perhaps that’s what I’ve done too much of. Perhaps that’s why this is beginning feel like work? Perhaps that’s why I only write seasonally? I have time for thoughts and depth in the winter when things are still and quiet but when summer is here, I hit the ground running full speed ahead, eyes wide open, embracing the things that make me feel alive! In the summer I’m much more interested in road trips, kids’ experiments, new recipes, quirky farmer’s market produce, attempting to go zero waste and making everything from scratch.

So here’s the deal: I’ll keep on writing if you don’t mind a little bit more. I’m hoping to share some recent vacay photos and maps, add in a few of my fave recipes and share some ways I’m attempting to save the planet – ya’ll knew I was kind of a hippie, right!?

In return, I’d like to ask a favor: Please respond! Blogging isn’t nearly as fun if it’s for my own sake. I REALLY appreciate all the shares and likes – keep ’em coming! And you can comment too! It’s like our daily conversation. I want to know what you like and what you want to hear more of. I also want ya’ll to get to know each other. It’s fun when you share your own thoughts and experiences on here with me and our other readers. Lastly, please subscribe/sign up for the email list. This is my way of letting you know about new posts and any future changes/ideas coming to the site. I promise not to hound you with junk!

Thanks for your extra grace, friends. I’m excited to see how we’ll all grow together in the next few months!

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??

Community, Hearing from God, HOPE, Prayer, Uncategorized

Powerful Prayer Part 4 ~ What To Do When Doubt Creeps In

Well now that you’re becoming a crazy prayer WARRIOR, you’ll undoubtedly join the ranks of those who’s faith has fallen and risen again and fallen and risen again. The truth of the matter is: The more you pray, the more likely you are to see miracles (yay!!) and the more likely you are to have questions, fears and doubt.

I love this quote from Shauna Niequist’s Savor:

“The  question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?”

We all have our moments of doubt. We start to think that maybe God doesn’t want to answer our prayer, or maybe He just won’t. Maybe it’s Him, maybe it’s us, but for some unknown and invisible reason, the answer is no. Honestly, the bigger your faith is, the bigger your questions will become – which is good! With questioning, and voicing our fears, comes a strengthening of our beliefs as we seek the word of God and our faith community for the answers. This actually deepens our resolve in what we believe and why – instead of just taking it at face value.

Buuuuuuut, what do we often do when faced with dissappointment, fear or doubt? We have a little temper tantrum. Yep, so often when I see my youngest lay herself down on the floor for a good scream or stamp that little foot and scrunch up her face into a pout, I think: I bet that’s what I look like when I hear “no” from God, haha!

So as I tell Miss Mya so often “Please, just use your words to tell me how you feel!” And I put on my big girl britches and “choose to grow”. I tell God my doubt and fear. Sometimes this process takes me days. The worries or anger oozes out of me from so many unknown places I never realized it had been building up so much! Sometimes it’s one good cry or shouting session and I can feel the release of my angst and put words to my fear to see it’s only that: fear. There’s no truth in it at all!

OK, but what if your fear and doubt is beyond words? What if those lies have run so deep that they’re mixed up with truth and experience and perhaps even trauma (eek!) and you have nowhere to begin and no way to start? What if you feel hopeless about a thing you hold so dear and it hurts to talk about it – even to God? What if you’re scared or lost or broken or fragile? I think we may all have such an area or season in our hearts if we are truly being honest. You are not the first, nor the last to enter this place.

This is where I have found 3 things to be helpful. (Hint: they all start with my own humility!) Essentially, I admit that I have nothing- not even the words to express my heart. I alone have no power to bring change to the world or my situation and I honestly cannot even change my beliefs. If you are still in the struggle and haven’t reached the bottom yet, this is a difficult thing! If you’re already at ground zero, it somehow seems a little easier. So, on to three things:

#1 : The Fake-It-‘Till-You-Make-It Approach

Maybe it’s not even faking anything, but just pressing forward in the direction you want to go whether you feel it or not! I surround myself with truth. I want to move toward faith so I listen to speakers of faith. I spend time with people who have big faith! I post scripture on every surface of my room/house/car/office and read or listen to TRUTH on auto-pilot until some of the thoughts I’ve chosen to “fake” become my own. (Does this qualify as self-brainwashing? If so, it works!)

#2 : Praying Scripture/Praying in the Spirit.

When I have no words, I have nothing to pray. I admit, I don’t have the answers or the solution and I get to a point where I don’t even know what I’m asking for anymore. This is where the Bible says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) These groanings of the Spirit can be so many things. Sometimes my creative side comes through and I can paint, draw or even dance. Sometimes praying in tongues is a way to allow the spirit to do the talking and my heart finds peace. Another way is to play some soaking music and allow the Lord to speak as you rest in His presence. Just allow yourself to be.

Praying scripture is the most powerful way to fight the enemy. There is nothing stronger (especially when I have no words) than the very word of God! Our pastor just gave an incredible sermon referencing this very thing and it might just be the truth you need to fake-till-you-can-make-it! Another great resource for Praying Scripture is Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word. Her book is an incredible list of scriptures organized by topic. If you want to pray for your marriage/anxiety/co-worker, she’s got God’s word ready for you to search and speak. I encourage you to seek the scripture and find a verse, story, or chapter that speaks to where you are right now and pray that! Our pastor gave Psalm 32 and 51 as launching points for prayer and it’s a great place to start.

#3 : Worship & Thankfulness

Worship while we’re waiting, of course! Worship fills my mind and the atmosphere around me with hope even when I’m not feeling it. It’s true that silence can be healing as well, but perhaps a balance of both is what you need?

Thankfulness is a practice of positivity. If I’ve been focusing on the negative, just naming three things I’m thankful for will switch my brain and change the focus from “Woe is me” to “Whoa, I’m blessed!” There is loads of actual research supporting this, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. Play the “Glad Game” you Pollyanna fans!

Now I have a choice, I’ve unloaded on God. (I often view it as a spew or vomit, but perhaps you’d prefer to see it as leaving baggage or burdens at the feet of a wise and capable King.) I’ve surrounded myself with what I WANT to believe and chosen to look for the good. So what next? I can leave His presence and I am truly better for the time I’ve spent. I feel lighter and less overcome already. OR I can stay there. I can choose to let Him speak truth over me. I can listen for the refreshing truth that replaces those ugly burdens. This practice can change the way my brain works to renounce those lies in the FUTURE too! I want to prevent myself from coming back to this place of doubt and despair.

Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…”

No matter which avenue you choose, (one or all three!) just keep moving forward. Do what needs to be done so that you are choosing to GROW. As long as we trust God and HIS plan, we will come out as victors- no matter how long it takes to get there and how much “faking” it takes to finally believe.

So what are you trusting God for? What fight are you holding out hope for? What brings you back from a place of doubt? Please share so we can all stand together in faith and even benefit from other’s great ideas!!

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!)

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.

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!