Fostering, Hearing from God, Honesty, Prayer, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

Defining the Season You’re In

I don’t know about you, but I often think of life as divided into ever-changing seasons just like my beloved Michigan. I love LoVe LOVE having all four seasons in *almost* equal parts. I love to see the new growth in spring with the hopes of warm weather and something {ANYthing} green. Summer and it’s sunshine blow me away with endless opportunities to be outdoors and do life with the people around me. Fall brings on the cozy, soul-food, fall sports weather and glorious colors. Then winter inspires me to be more whimsical and playful as the whole world turns white and crisp and enchanting with each snowfall.

Yet somehow, as much as I love change I also have a little trouble with it. I kinda don’t want where I am to end. I enjoy something new. I even seek it out- like anticipating the changes in weather every few months or calling my girl Marilee for spur-of-the-moment hair makeover. But when it comes to actually walking through a life change, I flounder. I look for affirmation that I’m moving in the right direction. Then I hold out for one more *something* from my previous season like a last summer bouquet in the fall… just in case. Am I alone here?

Here’s my real-life example of difficult change: Our family was a licensed foster family for several years. When our family closed our foster license it was a huge change in seasons. We had been working towards our license or taking placements for so many years! It was a vision that became a mission that became our everything. We ate, slept {or in our case DIDN’T sleep!} and breathed advocating for children in their hour of need. It was a trying, beautiful, and soul-shaping season for our whole family. Then it stopped. It was our decision, but that didn’t change the fact that I woke up wondering what I was going to do that day since I wasn’t “changing the world for one” anymore.

Obviously, we still had kiddos in our lives that needed us to change the world each day- both biological and adopted. And honestly, I still carry each one of those foster kiddos with me in my heart every single day! But the season had changed without me putting into words a vision for the next season.

Wishing it was Summer in South Haven but it’s Mid-December?

My dearest friend Megan tells me “The way you end one season is how you start another” and that’s true! We ended foster care stunned and aimless so we entered our season of rest {as we’ve now defined it!} the same way.

To say that we all floundered for a bit is an understatement. But after a little while, we were able to celebrate the accomplishment of that amazing season. We took a little trip and told each other “well-done!” We had set out to change the world for one and ended up with 6! Six kiddos that we got to love and hold and tuck in at night and pray for for the rest of our lives whether we ever see them again or not. Each of us also grew personally and in relationship with each other and with God. Those are pretty good reasons to celebrate! We let loose and got goofy and adventured in the wilderness all while eating really good food… and that was a true Schuiteboer-style party.

Our celebration was a turning point. We needed it to find closure and while we put our feet in post-summer Lake Superior, hiked the UP and camped without a toilet, we laughed and made new memories to build on. We redefined our idea of family from an open-door concept of inviting everyone in to a protective stance of caring for ourselves and letting God heal our hearts with lots of quiet and empty space. It’s not going to be that way forever, but for us and for a season, it was just right.

Each week after our original shift in seasons, our family would realize we needed to pull back from another commitment and that added boundaries and definition to our season. We trusted God to lead our decisions because we constantly put ourselves in His hands and offered Him our everything {and our nothing too}. At first guilt persistently knocked on my door and then comparison: “No one else seems to need rest.” “Look at all the fun they’re having.” “Everyone else is still changing the world.” {Lies! All lies!}

When I realized that what I NEEDED was rest -as essentially as the air I was breathing- and what my family needed was rest, it suddenly seemed permissible to do “nothing”. When I wrote a letter to school saying I couldn’t help in the classroom this year and we quit volunteering at church and I said no to every invite under the sun, we took all that time to breath and nap and connect with each other and do nothing. We had all sorts of space for our minds to wander and think. And we started to heal. It seemed like every time I took a step toward rest, God showed me so much more was possible! We slowly sank into a rhythm of relaxing and restoring and the season became even more sweet.

We all know change is necessary, but we still need help to do it. Supportive friends, healthy boundaries, and journaling words of definition help me to view these ever-changing seasons of life as beautiful. It also helps to look to my community to help answer the hard questions: What has my life looked like from the outside? What are my strengths & weaknesses? Do you see a theme in my life recently?

Of course no season lasts forever. It may feel like it at times, but it’s still a season and by definition must change. I think the key is to keep talking to God and then listening. Keep asking questions and hearing when He sends you answers – sometimes through a friend, a verse, an inkling or even the weather. That still, small voice that you hear in the back of your mind, it has power! God speaks specifically and strategically. He knows what we need and He knows how to communicate that need to us so we can live the journey He set before us.

The treasured perfectly shaped red leaf!

So how about you? Can you name the season you’re in? Ask God to talk to you about it and then share with us! I want to hear where you’re at and how God is moving ❤

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, 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!

Fostering, HOPE

Love Is Hard.

This whole love thing.

Man is it hard.

Actually, when I asked God what I should write about next I heard a cuss-word. Now I’m not saying God has a potty mouth. I’m saying my brain is so toasted that I often think in overly-descriptive words. (And the Conservative Christian in me cringes.) Oh well. I meant it when I thought it. This love thing is more difficult than it seems.

And some days I’m just over it.

Done.

Why does God’s call on a life seem so dreamy and full of roses and then… (oops, cuss-word again.) Then it isn’t. It gets hard. Of course, God never promises that it will be easy. This is an oft quoted truth that has lost it’s meaning to most of us. But how come that calling can’t be satiating at any (or most) moments of the day?

I have to say, I’ve come to my wits end more and more recently. I want to throw in the towel and say:

“Uncle!”

“I give up.”

“I’ve changed my mind.”

“Where is that dang easy button!?”

One can only pray that this is just a deeper understanding of myself and my limits, not the undoing of every last thread of sanity. Love is hard. Some days I don’t want to do it. Some days I just don’t do it. Some days I do the opposite. I’m not at all proud of those days. I WANT to want to love people! I want people to experience the freedom that I know exists. Complete freedom to be themselves. To live a life on purpose. Freedom to love and be loved; and in that love, to experience the Father. That’s what I want. I don’t want to forget that.

In case you think this is going to spiral any further, I have a solution. Eventually I make it to the same conclusion every single time I hit rock bottom. Every time I say “I can’t take another _______!” God reminds me so gently: “I miss you.” Oh yeah. I guess we haven’t talked in a while. Or even if we have, I need more conversation with Him! I guess I got too busy handling it all MYSELF and drowning MYSELF and loving people in MY OWN love, I forgot to look up and get refilled.

Have you ever read the book “You Are Special” by Max Lucado? I had a Math teacher in high school who used to postpone class once in a while and read to us. He made it a priority to remind us all of the value God sees in us. He would read us this story and pour into us the wisdom that he had gained from years of an intimacy with God. It’s an incredibly powerful book for so many reasons, and I have thought back on it hundreds of times throughout my life. This time I am reminded of the importance of visiting “the woodcarver” regularly.

Please take a minute (or 8 1/2) to listen to the story even if you’ve heard it before!!

I’m sad to admit that I haven’t been to visit the Woodcarver in much too long (of course, “too long” is defined differently for each of us and for each season we’re in…). I’ve been relying on myself without making the conscious decision to. I also know that when I am in the presence of my Papa (even for just the tiniest (or frequently interrupted) moment!) I am changed. The dots and stars (and cuss-words) of this world no longer stick and I am able to reflect onto others that very same freedom.

Thanks, God, for being so gentle with my burnt-out heart.

And Thanks for inviting me to spend time with you even after I’ve been away for a while.

Fostering

The Call

If you’re a foster parent or refugee caregiver, you know the call. “We have a _____year old child from ______ and we need to get him/her somewhere safe/secure by this weekend.”

What the heck am I supposed to say!?

Here’s my first thought: YES!!!!!

Here’s my next thought: My husband’s going to kill me for that. Or at least take away my phone and forbid me from receiving any future calls from ANYONE.

Now, this is not at all because he doesn’t love children, mind you. But more because he loves our “already” children so much that he’s protective. He considers how the shift in dynamics will change our current kid’s lives and hearts. This is why I need him SO desperately!! I want to rescue any and every single child I ever hear about. I love them so fiercely without needing a name or face. (This is obviously Jesus in me because it is NOT normal.) I picture them in a Foster Agency office, twiddling their thumbs wondering which bed they’ll sleep in tonight and with whom they’ll have breakfast.

How could I possibly say “No”?

Because they’re not just “my” kids. My husband’s hesitation gives me time to remember that they’re God’s children. I don’t have to rescue every kid who experiences trauma and fear, because I would most certainly fail. I simply can NOT take in every one. And even the ones I do take, I need Jesus every single minute to love them through their “stuff.” It’s not an easy task, my friends. Kids can be so innocent and sweet and adorable… but not every minute of every day. Oh no, they have ON buttons and OFF buttons with their cuteness. Then they discover MY buttons. Oh-my-lanta. (By the way, just a short time into this phase I go completely cukoo and Collin is required to step in and save the house before I burn it down cooking dinner while sobbing or fuming- either one is equally dangerous.)

No, I’m not capable of saving a single one of these children. But thank God, He is. He has the wind and the sea at his beck and call. He orchestrates families and parents and beds and breakfast tables. And he doesn’t stop there! God alone can deliver crazy nurturing capabilities in the middle of the night (16 times) and meals the next day to boot! He surrounds the orphan and their caregivers with love and support that can sustain them on the desert island of transitions…for years if need be!

He brings grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings who can love a kid they’ve never met before. Even shower them in Christmas gifts BEFORE they come into a house. God alone can put the lonely in families like mine who love so fiercely even when I want to “send ’em back”. Like that one time Missy Mya was completely shattering my dreams of children slumbering through the night in the van on the way to the best family vacation of all time. (For three weeks of roadtriping with three kids!? I need new dreams.) Makenna stopped my inner seething after 6+ hours of Mya’s screaming with “Mommy, do you think her heart hurts?” Yeah, even a 5 year old can love an orphan with Jesus’ love.

And it doesn’t have to be me. I don’t need to deliver that Jesus love. I don’t need to provide the bed. I can, but God doesn’t ask me to every time. A child’s life doesn’t fall apart if I say “no” because God holds them in HIS hands. Any other hands in the mix are just tending to the precious one as He protects them in the shadow of His wing. Think about that. It’s a beautiful picture! Actually, I want my “already” kids there too, so before I drop THEM off for foster care I’m going to place them there with all the other kids God loves and let my white knuckles take a rest. In the arms of the one who holds life and death and healing and trauma I’ll place each child I love and each child I hear about right into the very safety I long to provide for them. I’m not God and I don’t need to be. Thank you Jesus!

One last thought.,.

Of course the catalyst for this train of thought was one such phone call. I heard of a 4 year old babe who’s dad was dealing drugs from a condemned house while she lived in it with him. He run away with her after the situation was discovered by CPS but when they found her again she needed someplace safe and warm and away from Dad. He’s going to prison and Mom’s already there. This girl has nothing. And there’s bleak hope for her future. I received the call and knew this child wasn’t for our family in this season, but you know what I said? “YES!!! (just for the weekend of course…or forever?)” Yet with God’s orchestration, in less than an hour we got a call back that there was a mix up at the agency and another family had already been found for her. God didn’t need me to take her in, but maybe He just needed me to pray over her, to place her in the arms of the one who knows right where she belongs.