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!