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?

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!

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

The Single Greatest Parenting Question to Ask Yourself

Ok, I’ve got some kids… {You know how I hate to count them since our definition of family is far from normal!} But either way, parent guilt is for real. For every great decision we parents make, there are 10 other ways you could have done it and 100 other people who did it better and posted it on Instagram for you to see. Then there are 1,000 ways your kids will ruin the momentary celebration you considered for your own greatness and give you reason for yet another difficult decision.

I had the genius idea to have my kids compliment each other as a “consequence” for offending each other. Seems innocent enough (and difficult enough for some!) but of course after a day or so I had to start adding rules: #1. No repeat compliments #2. Compliment CHARACTER not just appearances (for the love!) #3. Say it like you mean it (with eye contact) You know how it goes… Now there are days where I bribe them to compliment each other before the arguing even starts! (Do a facebook search for “compliment cookies.” Yep, my name comes up. I. Am. Unashamed.)

These two get to give lots of compliments!

As for mom-guilt, Moms know there is always someone looking for our attention. Or even worse… hiding from it! {You KNOW when someone tries to stay off your mom-radar, it’s no good.} We have lists upon lists of things that we keep meaning to get to and goals we’ve set for ourselves or our family. We fiercely love the people around us and have all sorts of good intentions to live life with them well and show them the love we all know is there but lies dormant due to “schedules.” Ug… SO much to feel guilty about!

Confession: This may be TMI, but I also have a problem closing bathroom doors. {Hold on, I promise this will all tie together in a minute!} When I take the 5 seconds I need to run in and run out, there will inevitably be blood or tears or a scream from the farthest corner of the house that the dogs got out and are headed for the road. It just can’t wait 3 more seconds for me to turn the knob, amIright!? Plus, there is nothing worse than thinking you have a moment of alone time and being jolted back to reality with a vengeance and a door bursting open, so why even try? I resign myself from the start and leave that door wide open.

Well, this is a problem, my friends. When the mom-guilt precedes everyday necessities, it’s an all-time low. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say HERE’S YOUR SIGN! {Any Jeff Foxworthy fans in the room?} Time to say “Uncle” and change the way I’m thinking. Time to prioritize. No more needlessly sacrificing my own self-care. I say “No!” to the comparison-trap. No more second-guessing my gifts. Enough of the emotional overload of all the nothingness I allow into my brain space that will NEVER make a difference for eternity or the Kingdom of God. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

It is at these moments that I catch myself and ask the greatest question I’ve ever asked myself as a parent:

What do I want my kids to think is true when they grow up?

What will be their “normal” view of adulting/parenting? Do I want them to give up their own incredible selves to care for others until they have nothing left to give? Do I want them to be enslaved to my grandkids? Do I want them to have UTI’s because they can’t take a minute to pee?🤣 Do I want my kids to think “normal” parents don’t read because they don’t have time or to never take a moment (or a weekend!) for peace and rest? Do I want my kids to think it’s ok to sacrifice themselves at every turn because that’s what their Mom did? NO!

Now I don’t know my grandkids yet… And I’m pretty sure I will be the one wrapped around their sticky fingers and swayed by their chubby-cheeked smiles. But I am certain I will always love MY kids more. Perhaps because I will always have known them longer, perhaps because I was the one praying them into the Schuiteboer family. Whatever the reason, I will want my children to put on their own oxygen mask before helping with anyone else’s!

These are the faces that hold me most accountable!

I want the people I’m responsible for to know it’s ok to take a break from the needs of their families so they can come back refreshed and refilled. I want my kids to invest in their marriages and pursue their spouses instead of the whims of childhood accomplishment for their tiny protege’s. I want my kids to know the wonder of God and all that they can conquer because making time with Jesus is priority #1. And I want them to know these things because they see it in me! I want it to be their “normal”.

Two of my little Schuiteboers are morning people. As soon as my breathing shifts in the am, they will hear me rise no matter the hour of dawn and come to find me. No matter what room I’m in, whether I’m using a lamp or flashlight, whether I dared to make tea or painstakingly skipped every creaky floorboard in an attempt to fool them, SOMEHOW they know I’m up and they want to start the day with chatter. Honestly, as frustrated as I get with my early risers interrupting my “quiet time” in the morning, that not-so-quiet time is a valuable lesson that they are not more important to me than God. They get sent back to bed or set up with books and crayons {while constantly being shushed} and they learn what’s “normal” in our family. They see for themselves that 1. Time with God is a priority and 2. Mommas need a few minutes of quiet so they can be sweet the rest of the day.

These are my “Grace” earrings from Trades of Hope. When the little muffin in the back seat is talking and talking {or let’s be honest: screaming and shouting} and I struggle to give her my full attention, they remind me to give myself grace. I’m growing and learning just like my little lady. I {usually} have grace for her when she’s wrong, why don’t I have that grace for myself? My own self-talk will become the voice in her head someday. It’s a proven fact. I want my girlie to have grace for herself and her Momma! I want her to speak positively to others and herself and so I do the same.

I love being practical and I love lists so here is a list I made of things I value and I want my life to show it! I want my kids to have no doubts about what is important in life and so I am practicing SHOWING them how much I value these things:

  1. God is important {so having quality time in His word and prayer is the FIRST thing I do each day.}
  2. Reading causes growth for everyone {I actually try to read when my kiddos are around so they visibly see me read. I also joined the library summer program with them!}
  3. Our marriage is the most important relationship in the house {He gets first dibs on my time & attention}
  4. Exercise and fresh air are vital to our physical/emotional/spiritual health {we spend time outside DAILY together}
  5. God says to love others and be aware of those in need {We pray together for people in our city and across oceans and we volunteer together to show others love}

I’m curious. What would your list look like? What are your priorities? Do your kids know what they are? Have you sat down with pen and paper (and spouse) to decide whats most important in your heart/life/family? Our church offers this amazing experience called a “Marriage Vision Retreat” where you get away with your spouse for a weekend at a B&B on Lake Michigan to discuss all of these foundational questions. It’s really not difficult to do on your own. Get out a calendar and get away for 48 hours to talk, dig deep and set your values. When the kids were younger and I lost my identity between diapers, sleepless nights and playdates, I intentionally got out of town with friends to create my own personal vision too! It was so life-giving. Once you have values & vision in place all other decisions become easier: Does ________ line up with #1-5? Does it compromise any of the other values? Then you know it’s right/wrong for this season of your life.

Guys, these are the things our kids will value. We need to be intentional! They will think these priorities are “normal” and here’s to praying that their grown-up lives will reflect the same values some day. ❤

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 ❤

Honesty, Prayer, Self-Care, Simplifying

A January-Inspired Reading List for Your Season of REST

This post contains affiliate links. (I’ve got a quick link to Amazon on each book title in case you want to grab it NOW – you’re welcome 😉)

I don’t know about you, but January is when TRUE winter starts around here. In Michigan we batten down the hatches, put a fire in the fireplace and watch the snowglobe happen outside while snuggled under blankets. I love January for it’s stillness, the time for introspection over the new year’s blank slate, and the ability to rest after the holiday’s craziness. I also love it because I finally get to read all those books I’ve been meaning to start [or finish]!

Well I’ve been in a season of rest for a while – longer than I planned, but I’m getting better at both physical and emotional rest each day- and it all became purposeful with these books. If you’re in need of true soul-deep rest, here is a reading list of incredibly inspirational books to help you pause, reflect, and become the intentional person you were meant to be!

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist – Shauna feels like the big sister who is always just a step ahead of me! She is insightful and honest and I glean so much wisdom from her thought-provoking honesty. She reached a point of burn-out both physically and emotionally and now she has overcome the chaos to live intentionally. I love how she noticed and celebrated every step of the journey. I read this beauty slowly and savored every page!

PS while you’re at it, you should definitely look at Shauna’s daily devo called Savor! One blip of introspection and Jesus for every day of the year ** with recipes thrown in for good measure**!

Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman (with exerpts from Shauna & Jen Hatmaker too!)- Oh to slow down and let time stand still in the midst of parenting! This is more of an interactive journal with quick devotional thoughts and beautiful pictures. I recommend this book for moments of respite when one busy day blurs into the next! It’s a sweet way to reflect on the beauty of motherhood and bring purposeful stillness in the moment ❤

Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen – Do you feel like you’re under constant pressure? Whether external or internal pressure, we sometimes realize we’ve been holding our breath and avoiding honesty. Jennie has been there. She admits “No one is ‘great’ all the time”, we all have things that we face that are bigger than we are and we need to let the air out of our lungs so we can breath deeply again. Jennie is the gentlest of souls to lead you down the road of openness, honesty, and God’s ability to relieve the pressure that building up inside.

**Jennie also has a bible/group study if you want to be brave and invite some friends along on your journey. I was forever changed by the honesty I was able to bring to the table when my woman’s group studied Proven.

Living From The Unseen by Wendy Backlund – This is actually my third time reading this one because Wendy is a person of JOY! She and her husband have an incredible ministry speaking life and declaring truth and this book is everything I needed to rejuvenate my exhausted spiritual life. Each time through it, I was refilled, challenged, and I walked away with new declarations  for my life and my identity that I never would have realized without Wendy’s direction.

Baptism Of Love by Leif Hetland – When you need to be reminded of your place in the Kingdom of God, this is the book for you. I so often come to God needing to be reminded that He is a good Father and that no matter what I do (or don’t do!) He loves me. Leif reminds us that there are no strings attached to God’s love for us. I could honestly read this book every year for the rest of my life and I would continue to experience God’s love in new and profound ways. It’s a thinker and a life-changer. Your heart will never be the same.

Of Mess & Moxie (And of course it’s Prequel: For the Love!) by Jen Hatmaker – Sometimes I just need to let go and laugh! Well if you know Jen at all, you know she has a way of mixing humor with truth and everyday circumstance. Jen Hatmaker is as real as real can be and her sense of humor made me laugh out loud and loosen up as well as seeing the world through new eyes.

The Practice Of The Presence Of God by Brother Lawrence – This age-old collection of timeless teachings was a gift I might never have found on my own. Of course, now that I’ve read it, I see it on book lists everywhere for the God-hungry. Brother Lawrence was a Friar in the 17th century who was experienced at communing with God and seeing His hand at work every minute of the day. He loved God so much, he would do every & any menial task for God’s glory, if only that were my perspective!

You Are The Girl For the Job by Jess Connolly – Girls, if you need a personal cheerleader, Jess is your girl! She’s sweet, southern and full of scripture to point you to the God who makes us capable. It’s not actually about us, after all… Jess adds stories of her life as an author, speaker & pastor’s wife that make me feel like maybe I can do this thing called life in my own way {without all the judgement or comparison!} and it’ll be ok.

You guys, life is not about busy-ness or even productivity or accomplishment. Life is about love. And I can certainly love better when I’m coming from a place of rest than anywhere else in the world! As I learn to trust instead of strive and practice saying “No” to the unnecessary, I find I have more of myself to invest in what I truly care about, I can connect more deeply with the people I love most and I have more time for the things I’m passionate about.

So what about you? What’s on your January reading list? And what is it that you may need to say “No” to, so that you can say yes to rest!?

P.S. One last book, because you KNOW how much I love community: Rythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons – Ok, I haven’t read this one yet. It’s in my Amazon cart along with the DVD and Study Guide. Read the description! It has the words “rest, restore, connect, and create” which are pretty much all of my new year’s resolutions. Who wants to read it together!? Let’s start an email book club and work our way through the rest, restoration, connection and creating that we were designed for! Sign up for my email list and I’ll get us a group together, if you’re in!