Community, Going Zero Waste, Simplifying

5 Easy-Peasy Zero Waste Steps With BIG Impact

So you want to save the planet or maybe just a few sea turtles? Are you a Zero-Waster, or at least thinking about it? I like the term “Going Zero” because honestly, who’s “arrived” at zero waste!? There are not very many actual people {never mind FAMILIES} who can keep their year’s trash in a mason jar. In a consumer-based culture, it’s really all about our effort to move toward using less and keeping the landfills {& beaches!} emptier than if we never tried. This is, after all, the planet our kids will inherit!

As you may know, our family spent the summer a few years ago “Going Zero.” We made it our goal to buy less, share more {aka: clean house & donate!}, and change our habits for 3 months. It was an eye-opening experience. Now to be honest, we are pretty Dutch around here and if it saves a little moolah, then we are all-in. Therefore, we had already made several HUGE steps toward “Going Zero” including capsule wardrobes for the whole family, buying certain foods in bulk and/or from local farmers and growing/picking/making quite a few things ourselves. Still, we have a long ways to go and the summer was a great launching point for us to do a little more to preserve this planet that God gave us.

I thought ya’ll might be interested in a little recap from our summer and perhaps a few tips & tricks to try yourselves. Our strength lies in numbers when it comes to changing the world – both physically and spiritually, so lets link arms and do this thing together!

Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

Philippians 1:27 b MSG

Now that I’ve made my point that Going Zero is clearly biblical *wink, wink* let’s get started! Going Zero is about creating less waste and a lovely byproduct will be the simplifying of your house and life! Less is more, my friends!

#1. Clean House: And I mean clear it alllllll out! A grand purge of all things cluttering my view helped me to start our journey. I have been simplifying and buying less over the past few years in an attempt to become Minimalist. I don’t think I’ve attained any sort of Marie Kondo status, but it sure feels good to have less “stuff” to pick up at the end of the day and more time to relax. I did another round of purging before summer started and let me tell you, our summer was MUCH more refreshing without the extra toys, clothes and clutter; less fighting, less chores, less cleaning, more visual space, more motivation to get outside. I even did my best to use up all those plastic bottles and partial boxes of processed foods in the fridge and pantry, so we could start with a clean slate. {My aesthetic eye was so happy to see the ugly mis-matched packaging traded for these 1/2 gallon Ball jars! Haha!}

#2. Make More: One thing I seriously love to do to create less waste is make my own. I figure if I can make my own version of something in less than a 1/2 hour, then why not? With a bread machine, I can measure and dump the ingredients in about 5 minutes then press go {0 plastic bags involved}. With lotion/chapstick/laundry soap I can melt, mix and pour in 15-20 minutes {the ingredients -which also last FOREVER- all come in paper/cardboard or minimal/reusable packaging}. If crafting is your jam: gift and home decor ideas are endless {bulk or zero packaging and no shopping bags}.

#3. Buy Bulk: When it comes to food, our goal is to consume “whole foods” anyway, so buying those whole foods in bulk is practical because each ingredient gets used in a dozen different recipes. There are millions of recipes out there to make your own of just about anything. We’ve tried granola bars, nut butters, from-scratch brownies, cake & frosting, vanilla/mint extracts, condiments & dressings, jam, even making your own chex mix is saving a little plastic from entering the planet since you can buy bulk pretzels, butter/coconut oil & spices and package it in your own containers. My fave bulk shopping places near Kalamazoo: Bloomingdale Bulk Food & Bent-N-Dent {speaking of bent-n-dents we have several close to Kalamazoo that are keeping literal TONS of food from becoming waste and saving people loads of money. You might want to scope them out!} the People’s Food Co-op {no membership required}, Sawall’s, and the Natural Health Food Store.

#4. Plant something! Indoors or outdoors, a few plants will help the environment in so many ways! Indoor plants add beauty without plastic or clutter and clean the air in your house. When you want to redecorate, just move them round or trade with someone! A seasonal outdoor garden can supply you with fruits and veggies, herbs, tea, sweet-smelling decor and a hobby that gets you fresh air and exercise! {Don’t even get me started on the natural habitats you’re providing and the power of plants to literally save our atmosphere.} I promise it’s not difficult to plant and harvest a few things to last you all year. Start with one plant and you’ll be hooked.

#5. Buy a few staples: Here are 5 of my “family necessities” for using less single use plastic. {We’re going to assume you already have a million Mason jars, because that is the most obvious #1 necessity 😆}

  • Silicone Ziplocks in every size {they’re great for everything from school snacks to freezing summer produce to use all year}
  • Snack sized tupperware for school {yes, they are totally plastic, but I’m sure not going to trust my 7 year old with glass in a backpack! We have enough for three kids’ lunches & snacks for a week and I fill them on Sunday afternoons with our chex mix, homemade muffins, produce and bulk snacks}
  • Food Processor {I promise it will be worth it’s weight in gold if you make your own nut butters or granola bars or even shredding/slicing/chopping produce since you’re buying/growing it all whole now. This tool is a game-changer/time saver}
  • A fun bag to carry your water bottle, travel mug, reusable shopping bag, stainless steel straws and utensil pack {I know these are all total hippy things. I’m sorry. But there is serious waste that happens when we are out & about and impulsively stop for something to eat/drink/buy. A cute bag helps you to be prepared for anything and hides/accents that hippy vibe depending on your personal taste. Haha!}
  • Small tins for homemade beauty goodies. {I use them when I make lotion bars to take in my purse, make my own lip gloss/toothpaste/deodorant, travel with shampoo bars or diy face wash, and these are the perfect carry-all for odds and ends like vitamins, bobby pins, buttons – you name it!}

I’m so glad we spent the summer experimenting to find out what we were capable of. Some of the things we tried and completely stuck with it while some things are more seasonal {I bake my own muffins WAY more in the summer/fall but tend to slack off once winter hits}. I’m also glad we splurged and bought a few items to make Going Zero a little easier and sometimes a little prettier too ❤ We’re set up for success whenever the inspiration comes to try something else new! Now tell me, what have you done already that kept a little trash out of our oceans? What are your fave tips & tricks to use less plastic? And what are you going to try next!?

Food for a Family, Parenting, Simplifying

Dinner in a pinch

Picture this: You’re driving home with a vehicle full of hungry, irritable monsters. Today has been a long day. You have been a hundred places at once and your brain has done all the gymnastics it can handle. It might be the end of the world if you don’t get some food fast… Btw, is it illegal to leave minors on the side of the road or is it merely “encouraging” them to walk home?

Ok maybe this wasn’t very difficult for you to imagine. Sounds like a regular weeknight during any particular sports season for us! So as we enter yet another busy spring, what’s a mom to do? I bet most of us would admit that the goal is to eat budget-friendly and/or healthy meals and not just on the weekends… While these options are slightly more “processed” than I would prefer, it’s better than takeout or high-sodium frozen meals, so a partial win is good enough for this Momma!

Well I’ve been meaning to make this list for ages and now I’ve got it here in one place and I’m more than willing to share. I’ve rounded up my fave “in a pinch” dinners that please a crowd and don’t cost much. Also, I know how the pantry situation is: there is what there is, you are NOT going the store anytime soon and let’s be honest, you probably don’t have what’s required for the fancy recipe you originally planned back when you thought you had time, so these options are all customizable for what you’ve got on hand. No sweat.

#1 Turkey Cheddar Sliders: No recipe required but here’s my inspiration (and I must give credit where credit is due!) So take a pack (or three!) of Hawaiian Rolls and cut them right through the middle so every roll has a top and a bottom but they’re still in a “sheet”. Place the bottoms on a big piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Then layer the turkey, cheese, tomato, bacon (or meat &cheese of choice) on the bottoms. The thicker the better to fill up those hungry monsters! I like some extra sauciness so choose some mustard/mayo/cranberry jelly/pesto, etc. to slather on the “sheet” of tops and place it on top of the meat and cheese. A little melted butter brushed on the tops and sprinkled with parmesan makes it fancy if you have an extra minute. Wrap the foil over the tops and bake for 10 minutes at 350°. So satisfying…

#2 Sheetpan dinner: If you have any vegetables, chop them now. Start with potatoes/sweet potatoes if you have them. Toss the potatoes in oil and roast at 400 degrees until everything else is ready (they take 10-15 minutes longer to get good and crispy) Add your other veg: carrots, onion, peppers, zucchini, etc. and some protein. I like chunks of chicken if it’s on hand, chicken sausage is a great option and easy to keep on hand because of it’s longer shelf (refrigerator?) life, you can toss in chickpeas or beans for the last 5 minutes if you want a “Meatless Monday” option. Seasonings are completely customizable and honestly I’ve used only salt and set out a variety of condiments and my kids are happy to dip away. Roast the sheetpan full of goodness about 20-30 minutes until your protein is cooked through. Rice on the side is tasty, too.

#3 Quesadillas: Again, no real recipe required (although this is a fabulously simple recipe for BBQ Chicken and Peach quesadillas) Just fill tortillas with any desired protein and cheese combo, add some herbs to make it millennial-cafe-style. My faves include the above recipe for BBQ chicken and peaches OR goat cheese, mint and apple OR spicy black beans and corn with cheddar OR add a little tomato sauce to pepperoni and mozzarella and it’s pizza quesadilla night! We’ve fried them in a pan with a little butter, toasted a few at a time in the air fryer, lined them up in a row on the griddle or put them in the oven on broil to make a bunch at a time. The hardest part is choosing your fillings. You’ve got this.

#4 Dump Chili: This is a great vegetarian option since cutting out the meat saves a boatload of time. I grab a big pot and dump in 2 cans of stewed or diced tomatoes (with green chilis for some kick), a can of corn, two cans of beans and some taco seasoning or chili powder with a dash of Worcestershire. (Sorry, no measurements, I’m in a rush!) Sautéed garlic and onion are great additions, if a kid wants to help ol’ mom out by peeling/chopping. While the pot is heating up, it’s easy to slice some avocado or set out guac, sour cream and shredded cheese for toppings. If I have a few extra minutes, this is REALLY good over instant-pot baked potatoes.

#5 Eggs in a Basket: Definitely Makenna’s favorite quick meal, which means she’s always willing to help out! We grab a loaf of bread and a glass from the cupboard and start punching holes out the centers of each piece. I warm up the griddle and slather it in butter so Makenna can lay out the bread slices and centers in rows. I follow behind her cracking an egg in the center of each and let it cook a minute or two. Now comes the tricky part… I grab a flipper and lift each piece of bread (with the egg half-cooked in the middle) while Mae reaches underneath and butters the spot so I can flip. You could probably skip the extra butter but we love butter, so the more butter, the tastier! If we’ve thought ahead we might have bacon or sausage cooking in the oven while all this is happening and some fresh fruit on the side could make it feel more wholesome.

Now for the family conversation while you eat. It’s time to be friends again, not monsters. We’ve got a bowl of conversation starters from various places and the kids like to be the one to think of it first so that THEY get to ask the questions. Here’s a fun list for your school aged kiddos to get started: 29 ways to ask your kids “How was school today?”

Well there you have it. I’m sure it’s not nearly enough recipes since you could easily make all of these in one week, but the fact that it’s customizable makes it easy to put these babies on repeat. I hope it saves you a little time and sanity. I’m rooting for you, parents. Bring on the scheduling nightmares, we’ve got this!

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?

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. ❤

Hearing from God, Honesty, Prayer, Simplifying

Learning to Listen

We’re officially one month into 2020. It’s safe to say if you decided to do something new, you know by now whether or not you will actually be doing it for a year. Haha! Who here got a gym membership for the year and used it for a week? {Guilty!} Fortunately, I’ve got a ACTUAL new year’s resolution. One that so far I have followed through on: I committed to a practice of listening to God. This is what it looks like:

  • Spending daily time in God’s word & prayer
  • Thinking before I speak
  • Listening more than I talk {to others}
  • Listening more than I talk to God {My prayer life is getting better and better, but hearing what God has to say takes practice (& patience)!}
  • When I do have a prompting from the Holy Spirit….actually DOing it
  • Bravely speaking when I feel a word from God for others

So how’s it going? It’s hard. I have spent a bit of time avoiding the quiet. It’s much easier to talk than listen! It’s easier to hear your own voice or the voice of the real live people next to you. It’s also very easy to doubt that still, small voice.

Have you read the story of Elijah recently? He has such a unique experience hearing God.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 

I Kings 19:11&12

I love how God chooses to speak to Elijah. God can certainly speak in a fire or wind or earthquake. God often speaks in nature and beauty. God speaks through other people ALL the TIME. But when God speaks through that still small voice, it’s so perfectly attuned to your heart and what you need to hear… it’s worth the work of being still and patiently waiting.

When I read the book of Revelation in the Message version of the Bible, one phrase jumps off the page over and over. John is sending 7 letters to 7 churches and he ends every letter the same. He says 7 times: “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” I love the invitation to listen! And the fact that God repeats himself 7 times is no coincidence. In Hebrew, the number 7 is perfect, completion, heavenly – all reflecting back to God’s creation. Seven times God reminds us that He is always speaking. He is speaking in that still small voice through people and circumstances and everyday occurrences.

Each day I listen for what God has to say, and I act on what I hear. It’s should be as simple as that! Unfortunately, I struggle mostly with my own ideas and inhibitions. I fight myself at every turn. It’s my sin nature. I doubt and question and second-guess but it’s getting easier. I’m getting braver and God’s voice is getting louder. {Either that or it’s just more familiar! You know how a loved one’s voice can stand out over a crowd? You know when they says your name, even if dozens of other people are talking. I want God’s voice to be familiar like that! I want to hear it over a crowd. I want to know what he means when he says something because of all the time we’ve spent together practicing the same language.}

Well, friends. What was your new year’s resolution? Have you followed through? What’s the hardest part of listening for you? And how do you practice listening to God?

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!

Going Zero Waste, Simplifying

Top Five 20 Minute Zero Waste Staple Recipes For the Family (Plus a delish coffee lover’s bonus!)

Time to roll up your sleeves, my friends! We’re going to do a little work- and I mean just a little! Here are my tried and true 20 minute or less Zero Waste staple recipes! Each delicious recipe will eliminate trash and/or recycling and won’t take you any time at all.

This is me being real. It’s my unedited pantry shelf. You can see we’re not completely plastic free yet, and I’m reusing all sorts of jars & lids instead of buying a cute set. But there is my homemade strawberry chia seed jam in the front and that almost empty jar in the back? Well, it’s time to make more pancake mix!

DIY Chicken/Veggie/Bone Broth – Definitely the simplest and least amount of effort here! (**I’m labeling this one as 20 minutes of overall effort – if that!**) Save any and all meat & veggie scraps from your regular cooking. Your leftovers determine your type of broth! Onion skins, chicken bones, pepper tops, celery leaves, herb stems and carrot ends all make yummy additions. Throw them in a big container in the freezer as you have them. When the container is full and contains a variety of goodness, put it in a crockpot and cover with water then simmer for the day. It will cook down a bit and become a nice rich color. Pour it through a strainer into recycled jars or even plastic lunchmeat or yogurt containers and freeze for future use. I keep several large containers on hand in the fall & winter for soups & chilis, then 1 or 2 cup size containers for regular dinner recipes. Broth lasts a loooooong time in the deep freeze. (& Here’s a more detailed recipe if you need more info with alternative methods.)

Pancake Mix – Who doesn’t love a big ol’ Saturday morning breakfast!? Collin & I get some bacon frying in the oven and whip up a double batch of these ‘cakes with blueberries and the kids wake up magically full of joy and eager to do their weekend chores. (Yes we shamelessly hold breakfast hostage until they’re done.) Unfortunately for the planet, the ease of a boxed pancake mix is undeniable, so make this mix ahead of time and measure it out as needed! 4 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep = super quick pancakes anytime you want ’em.

From Scratch Muffins – Going zero waste is absolutely more difficult if you have kids because kids love to snack and snack foods always equal individual wrapping and tons of single use plastic! Enter: the homemade muffin! I got the original red-checkered Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for our wedding (Eeeek! 15 years ago!) and this basic muffin recipe has been a fave ever since. The website has all sorts of variations but use your imagination! Cinnamon apple and banana chocolate chip are my kid’s faves! We bake a batch twice a week or double it and make it once. It’s a good snack for on the go and always pairs well with coffee when friends are coming over. (Make the streusel topping at the bottom of the page and people will think you’re real fancy! hahaha)

Chia Seed Jam – No pectin required! Only 3 ingredients, freezable or can-able (Is that a word?) and perfect for Healthy PB&J’s: Yum-O! I have made this exact recipe with Blueberries, Strawberries and Raspberries, all with grandiose success!

Easy Peasy Oat Milk – Here is a simple and quick recipe for easy oat milk. All you need is a blender and a strainer. I know many people have actual nut milk bags, but I like to minimize my kitchen gadgets and a simple mesh strainer works for any alternative milk recipe just as well!

***BONUS***Coffee Creamer – Now that you have some freshly made sweet and creamy oat milk, use two cups of it for some incredible chemical-free creamer! I’ve used this recipe for YEARS and although it calls for half & half, I have used every variety of store-bought or homemade milks and every natural/old-fashioned sweetener and it still turns out! It’s a great balance of not-too-sweetness and lovely froth when you shake the jar before pouring it into your coffee. It’s refreshing in your afternoon pick-me-up cold brew and soothing in a hot cuppa Joe before the kids are up. Try making it with some local maple syrup and your fresh oat milk and I promise angels will sing.

…sooooo creeeeeeaamy!

Chef’s Note: Hopefully you are buying your flour and nuts in the big bag, which is great, because you’ll use them up in no time. To go one step further, find a local bulk food store and take your biggest Mason jar to fill up. Also, any leftovers or mess from baking can be thrown into your compost bowl. You’ve got one of those right? NOW you literally have ZERO waste!

For the skeptics: I will admit the flavors of home made are different from store bought (SOoo much FRESHER!!) but if you have a house full of kiddos, maybe make them one recipe at a time to test them out or tweak them as needed. I often sneak a little extra sweetness in a recipe at first then taper off each time I make it. OR my other sneaky strategy for introducing new flavors is to make just enough for me and allow the fam only a taste of what I’m eating. Then they want a little more and they’ll just have to wait for the next batch. (Insert evil mom-laugh for using reverse psychology FTW once again!)

OK, start the conversation, folks. Which recipe are you going to try? Do you already have a fave recipe that reduces kitchen trash!? (Who’s got a “bottom of the jar” recipe from Rachel Ray for us!?)

Going Zero Waste, Simplifying

Tiny Garbage Bins Are In

Well if you’ve been to my house, you know I have a tiny garbage bin. I always have. It’s a little bitty one that a grocery store bag fits in perfectly and it only holds a day’s worth of trash so we have the extra motivation to take it out at night and our cupboard never gets stinky.

I have endured some teasing for said garbage bin (when I used paper plates at a party and only two fit in the bin before the bag needs to be replaced) and I even attempted to upgrade it to a lidded version (when Buddy learned how to open the cupboard and help herself to a trashy little snack… the lid did NOT help this situation) but this tiny bin has been with me since we got married and moved into our first little pink house (don’t tell the hubs! We refer to it as “Salmon” when he’s around!). Needless to say, I like my tiny garbage.

I like how a tiny bin creates an awareness of what’s going in the trash (and eventually to the dump!). There isn’t room to put just anything in there and so we often have to consider other options. Could this “trash” go in the recycling instead? What if I flattened/took apart or repurposed this item? And why did I even end up with this trash? Could I have made a different purchase to avoid it ending up here?

Perhaps this is more thoughts about trash than you’d like to hear. (I promised to say a little too much, remember!?) But it leads me to the confession that I’ve always been a “zero-waster”, and now there is finally a cute name for it! So let’s be honest, no one can possibly create “zero waste” (If my garbage ever actually fits in a mason jar, I’ll let you know. At this point we’re FAR from it!!) but it’s really about the process of lessening our impact on the earth and creating a life of LESS stuff/ MORE experiences. This philosophy flows so beautifully with my dreams of the simple life and natural remedies and hand-making everything so that I KNOW what’s in it!

And so I’m continually on a journey to simplify the things that enter our house and use/waste less. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the beginning steps (who else watched Captain Planet and stuck around long enough to hear the planet saving tips at the end!?) but perhaps you’d like to try (or try again!?) a few of them?

  1. Fabric Shopping Bags ~ Duh! It’s kind of old news by now. We all have them, It’s remembering them that’s hard! And have you tried the mesh produce bags yet? They actually do keep your food fresher longer!
  2. Less Paper Products ~ All those pretty plates someone bought off your wedding registry? Use them! Old towels/dish clothes you recently replaced? Use those instead of paper towels for messes. Bring your own coffee cup/stainless tumbler when you go out.
  3. Buy Bulk~ Of course you can find a good bulk food store and bring your own containers. (It’s not that hard, it just FEELS like an extra step…and maybe requires some forethought.) But it also makes sense to buy one large PB rather than two small ones (I promise it won’t go bad before the kids can consume it!). Or you could get the bigger bag of fresh fruit/veggies and freeze some for smoothies rather than buying yet another plastic bag of pre-frozen produce.
  4. Make your own!~ Do you have a favorite thing that you buy all too often and it comes in a non-recyclable container? Go Straight to Pinterest and find a recipe to MAKE IT. Yes, you can do it. I’ve tried it all: Almond/Rice/Soy/Oat Milk, nut butter (EVERY kind!), granola bars, lotion, facewash, sunscreen, bathroom cleaner, dog shampoo- the options are endless! For some tried and true recipes check out my Pinterest board “Going Zero.” And there are millions of more ideas out there. Sure you may fail, but you’re closer to zero waste than you were before the attempt. And usually whatever ingredients you used come with plenty extra to make several batches, so try again!

So crazy enough, my family of 5 has commited to not buying plastic this summer! We’re giving it a go for 3 months to see what we can change and learn and what kind of a difference we can make. To give you an idea of how it’s going I’ll just smile and forget to mention that my first shopping trip contained enough ball jars of ingredients to make my own bread, mustard, protein bars, nut butter and 5 dinners worth of meat wrapped in paper… PLUS a slip-n-slide…. Oops! But we’re learning and making changes and hopefully I won’t get suckered in by the kiddos after an exhausting 4-store shopping trip where my brain did Yoga trying to figure out how to buy things in different packages again!

Now which steps have you conquered and which are you going to try? (And how big is your garbage bin??)

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.