Honesty, HOPE, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Gift of Observation

As I look back on photos and google/social media memories from 2020, I see a theme. It helps to look back over a year and see it from a slightly distant perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, I never seem to notice my kids growing until I get away from them for a weekend and I return to notice all the little changes that take place with a few extra inches, but this past year that changed for me.

Looking at all the photo reminders, I notice how much time we spent outdoors & deep in creation over the last 12 months and I’m so thankful! It may just be viewing our own highlights without showing all of the nitty gritty in-between moments, but as I look back at 2020 in history books someday, I want to remember these times above anything else. I want to remember that we took the time to observe everything!

I see the family walks and trips to Lake Michigan and working in the garden. I see so many trees, trails, flowers and sunsets, I see smiles and goofy faces {and a few angry glares from those not wanting to be photographed}. It takes me back to all those times that our family walked and talked and made memories out of the stillness – the unforeseen lack of structure, schedule and hurriedness that we experienced. Sure, it originally came as a shock, but as we settled, we spent hours and hours watching spring arrive, then burst into summer and fade into fall. I appreciate that our lives slowed down enough to notice the little things and I don’t want that to end.

My photos seem to transform from taking in the larger view of each hiking experience to focusing in on snapshots of tiny changes. We walked the same trails almost weekly for a season and happened to notice when the moss actually bloomed {did you know it does that!?}. We saw every leaf bud on it’s branch, grow into a vibrant green canopy and eventually burst into colors with time. It takes focused, detail-oriented observation to see all of that – no cell phone scrolling or daydreaming, just being present and observing. That practice was a true gift.

*little sprouting moss before it flowers*

It was a gift for me to notice the things my kids noticed. I am not usually very focused and I tend to want to get things done, so it took some intentionality for me to slow down my walk and stop thinking about raising my hear rate. I had to practice listening when the kids chatted on and on about another brown stick but then I noticed they’re not actually all the same. I don’t mind stopping to wait for a child, but entering in with them when they observed water trickling over rocks was a bit more difficult. I’ll tell you it helped when I crouched down to their eye level to see what they were pointing at. Sometimes I asked them a question to encourage them to keep talking and they started to light up. I learned a little bit more about what makes them tick as pre-adults forming their own opinions.

It was a gift to me to notice the little things God thought of when creating this planet. I marveled at God’s creativity when I finally noticed new little nuances that make nature so unique. Did you know worms don’t have lungs or stomachs, they have a gizzard and breathe through their skin! Did you know Cow Birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and let them raise their young until they can fly off? I wouldn’t have known if we didn’t keep finding nests with an odd colored egg inside. Did you know there are over 20 types of Pine cones, but only 5 types can be found in Michigan? That’s all so seriously creative.

It was a gift to me to see my husband flourish in teaching us all the things about the trails and the trees and the animals that come and go. It blessed my heart to join him in his hobbies, not just our family’s. One aspect I am still working on is entering into my husband’s world and considering WITH HIM all the things he is thinking about and learning. I appreciate my husband so much, but I tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of responsibility and trading off parental duties. If we sit down, it’s to talk strategy or even dream, but seldom is it me entering into the conversation just to listen. The kids do it so well, and I’m learning.

So I did a little search in the Bible for the word OBSERVE and I love how it’s paired with other actions:

  • Observe and have reverence {Leviticus 19:30/26:2}
  • Observe and obey {Deuteronomy 5:12, 8:6}
  • Consider and observe {Psalm 37:37}
  • Observe and you will see {Psalm 91:8}
  • Observe and celebrate {Exodus 31:16, Deuteronomy 16:1}

Seems like a mixture of instruction and promise, am I right?

I love Deuteronomy 26 which describes the Old Testament laws of being a good neighbor and putting others before ourselves. Then verse 16 says: “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; CAREFULLY OBSERVE THEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL.” Can you imagine what it takes to observe ANYthing with ALL of your heart and soul? That’s a lot of intentionality, a lot of slowing down and getting on the right eye-level to truly see what’s before you. And then a few verses later is one of my all-time favorite promises which I read over my children again and again: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised…” When we pay attention to God’s instruction, we are promised He will treasure us, His children. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but that’s a beautiful gift!

You are treasured.

As the good Dad that he is, he sets this amazing example for us:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 {MSG}

I don’t know about you, but I want to love like that. Love is what this life is about. We are here to love God and love others and I want to love extravagantly, not in order to get something but to GIVE. I’m spending time each day with my Father so I can observe and practice receiving his love… it’s so much better than my own!

There are so many valuable things to notice in this world, it’s worth every possible repercussion to slow down and practice observing it all. I promise, it’s absolutely worth the later bedtime to walk the neighborhood after dinner. It’s worth losing sleep to get up while it’s quiet and sit in God’s company. It’s worth the drive to find a good trail. It’s worth pursuing the ones you love even if they’re difficult to be with. It’s worth the sacrifice of the first few family walks full of poking and prodding and arguing to get to the fun ones of connecting, noticing and playing TOGETHER.

So is there something you wish you had time to observe? How can you slow down? What needs to be cleared off the schedule so there’s room to take a drive or walk? What can we do to change our perspective and see from someone else point of view? Perhaps from God’s point of view? How do you already take time for observation? What’s the best thing you’ve noticed lately?

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!

Hearing from God, Honesty, HOPE

Corona…Ug

It seems everyone has a take on this pandemic. Everyone who’s anyone has spoken their piece. It’s all we’ve heard about for 5+ weeks. I’m going to be so real here: I’m tired of it. I’m exhausted with all of the conversations, questions and speculations, worries and doubts. My email box is full of “updates” and my IG feed is a bit redundant. I’m spent with committing to social distancing and wondering how much it really matters and quitting so I can go to the store then receiving guilt and speculation only to recommit again. I’ve had enough of it ALL!

Then I realize how outwardly I’m looking. It truly is exhausting to take in everyone else’s reactions. It really is too much to try to absorb and care about every take on this situation. It’s too much for any one person, really. And so I turn inward to hear the voice of my Father again. I need to hear His opinion and that’s it. I need to hear His perspective and take it on as my own. I need to be still and rest without letting my brain run away with me!

Time to “see the forest through the trees”!

“God is moving.” A theme I have heard over and over among the Christian crowd. He is doing an “unprecedented work”. I know… He is always moving and always amazing His people with new wonders and acts of kindness. That is who our God is! But in this moment, I need a specific word. One just for ME. I need a fresh perspective that narrows my outlook to take on each day – one at a time – and not a big picture that causes me to dream (and anyway, who can dream without being able to plan a darn thing!?). My brain usually works the other way around: I am not a detail person, I like dreaming. Now this time, I’m trading in my kaleidoscope for a magnifying glass. I want to see the details and hear the step by step instructions from the Creator of the universe, the One who made every molecule of this planet from nothing and mapped out a future full of good things for each one of us.

And so I am leaning in closer. I am hanging on His every word. I anticipate God’s very breath and listen closely for His heartbeat. I am chasing Jesus down with every fiber of my being. Prayer service? I’m there. 6 am? I’m up. Early to bed so I can rise? Yep. Bible reading WITH commentaries. All in. Good Sunday sermon? I’m listening again! What else could I possibly have that’s more important than this? What else do I want my family to know that I value most? And what else would I rather be doing WITH them? Sure we’re still eating family dinner and riding our bikes on every trail and reading alllllllll the books. And my goodness, are we ever enjoying turning our kitchen into a science lab!? (Follow along on FB for those posts.) But more than anything, I want this “break” to be about following Jesus. I want it to be about leaning into the Father and resting in His lap. I want our time to be fear-LESS and prayer-FULL. I want us all to remember WORSHIPING not worrying. I want to hear the voice of the One who calms the storm and not hear the raging sea of the media or the “masses”.

So what does it look like to lean in? Listening for God is actually something I seem to talk about it a lot, haha! It may be the single most important thing I’ve learned in my life. (And the thing that I need to practice the most!) So here’s a few previous posts on Love For All To See about LISTENING:

  • An Introduction to Hearing God: Learning more about HOW God speaks to each of us in different & unique ways.
  • Little Games I play with God Part A and Part B: Some simple ways to practice hearing from God on your own AND with the family!
  • Raising Up Prayer Warriors: More ways to pray with and FOR our kiddos and practicing hearing God’s thoughts about the future generation of warriors.
  • Learning to Listen: Prioritizing time in the new year for my resolution to LISTEN to God consistently and focusing on Him despite distraction.
  • And lastly, A Dream: A beautiful example to give us all hope that despite how much we do or don’t get the hang of listening, God still speaks… even in our dreams.

So let’s all dive in!! Please, oh please tell me what YOU hear God saying! A message meant for you might just as well speak to all of us❤❤❤

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!!

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.

Megan & Makenna-439
My little lady all healed up at 3 1/2 years old!

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

 

Dancing in our newfound freedom!!!

{Photo Cred: Nicole Marie Foster}

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

Adoption, HOPE, Our Journey: Adopting from Africa

A Playlist To Worship While We Wait

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

My big 10 year old!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

orphans-john-14
God’s Literal Promise

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

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

Hillsong United – Stay and Wait

John Waller – While I’m Waiting

Kristene DiMarco – Take Courage & I Am No Victim

Brian & Jenn Johnson – You’re Gonna Be OK

Upper Room – Surrounded

Elevation Worship – Do It Again

Skillet – Stars

Elevation Worship – Nothing is wasted

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

That’ll get you started 😜

Let’s lift our hands together!

HOPE, Simplifying

Rewriting Myself

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

I’m discovering the next season.

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

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

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

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

“I am a mom/dad/aunt/grandparent.”

“I work at ___________.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

naps are revitalizing

time is a necessity, not just a luxury

relationships are intentional

and food is life-giving.

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

Community, HOPE

I’m Really Just A Chicken

Love For All To See…

Do I really want everyone to see?

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

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

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

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

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

I will not be afraid to be silly!

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

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

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

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

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

I just had a great coffee date.

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

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

IT WAS MULTIPLIED!

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

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

Africa 2015 4616

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

And guess what??

Our friends and family BLEW US AWAY!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does God want to blow YOU away?

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

Have you asked him yet?

HOPE

When you don’t know your favorite vacation destination!

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

“Why doesn’t it listen to me!?”

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

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

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

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

And that glimpse of a new perspective changed everything.

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

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

Here are my promises for today:

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

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

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

And my personal favorite of all God’s promises:

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

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

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

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