Party for a Birthday!, Raising Warriors, Traveling the US

An Adventure to the Dakotas – Told in Photos! {Part One}

If you’ve been following along, you know that our Sweet Makenna got to plan her 10 year old adventure this year! She spent a minimum of 12 months planning and dreaming and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder to prepare and it was definitely a trip that celebrated the very core of who our girl is and who she is becoming!

So how do you share a two-week adventure of a lifetime in one post!? (OK, you don’t. I just started a part two!!!!) But honestly, I could easily write every day for two weeks about each place that we stopped and all that we did on our trip to the Dakotas but photos & highlights, I suppose, is the best way to start!

Makenna’s goals were simple: Avenue of Flags (aka: Mount Rushmore) and camping. Makenna was born on flag day and has owned that persona her whole life! Patriotism and red, white & blue flow through her veins. Also, Makenna loves her family something fierce and camping is how we do family time. So our extended family (all 13 of us!) loaded up/rented campers and we headed west.

Our first stop was at the Wisconsin Dells aka: Water Park Capitol of the World. We thoroughly enjoyed the scenic Upper Dells River Boat Tour which included a magical hike through Witches Gulch and endless glorious formations of sandstone and glacial carving. Then of course, on the actual day of Makenna’s “1-0” we went to America’s largest water park: Noah’s Ark. (It was totally worth all the hype and we had NO LINES since we were early in the season!)

Next we drove into Minnesota where we saw an extremely authentic replica of a sod house. It was incredibly hand’s on. The sod-house replica is a family run operation in the backyard of the creator’s farmhouse. The creator was a man who had a dream of recreating an authentic prairie and sod house with is wife and kids. He successfully did so, learned the hard way how to do it better, and made another even better sod house… then a barn, outhouse and trapper’s cabin all on the same authentically restored prairie. The kids loved signing the guest book alongside people from all over the world as well as the dress up costumes & variety of historic toys all ready to be played with and enjoyed.

Traveling North through Minnesota was uneventful except for the GIANT roadside art we always seem to find thanks to Roadtrippers “points of interest” map!

Two nights were spent in Minnesota’s lovely state parks – both of which had newly renovated bathrooms (yay!). Our favorite by far was Buffalo River State Park in the Northwest corner of MN. They had miles and miles and miles of trails through forests, prairies, and along the winding Buffalo River with lots of signs pointing out different historic spots, as well as plant and animal life to look for. Miss Makenna is a treasure hunter in any and every situation, so this fueled us onward and her love of seeking out beauty was so highlighted to my Momma heart ❤

Buffalo River State Park was also close to the N Dakota border where the National Buffalo Museum is. The Museum was super educational – telling the life of a buffalo and their significance in US history with beautiful exhibits and life-sized replicas – but it is also a whole western TOWN with stage coaches, the World’s Largest Buffalo statue, and tons of shops & historic buildings to visit. We could have spent a whole day if we’d only known!

Heading west into North Dakota felt freeing as the sky opened up to it’s glorious unending bright blue. I soaked up every minute of the drive with my eyes wide open and sippin’ on my Cuppa Joe – Aaaaaaah sweet bliss! The kids on the other hand enjoyed an audio book since the view “never changed” and there was “nothing to see…” Ridiculous Notions!

And then we saw it. The glorious Painted Canyon is like a southern gateway into Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is so breathtaking, you almost have to stop to take it all in or die craning your neck and not watching the road. The ground just drops off into this spectacular view with striations of every color, the rise and fall of buttes and mesas with a sprinkling of grasses and scrub brush. (My photos simply do it no justice.)

On Day 4, we officially arrived at my new favorite place ever: Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the south unit). “Teddy’s Park” as we’ll call it is over 70,000 acres of preserved land. It is full of history and beauty and herds of every kind of prairie and western animal. We went from one jaw-dropping moment to another as we ran into animals so close we could touch them and then hiked trails that led to incredible vistas. My silly, crazy girl was stunned to silence when a herd of wild horses visited us over and over as we drove through the park- it felt like a little smile from God on our birthday girl. And the history buff in both of us was completely fulfilled by a visit to the Visitor Center where we learned a TON about ranching in the early days and Teddy Roosevelt himself! I have thousands of photos and just as many comments about our time in Teddy’s Park, but I promise you, if you visit, you will NOT be disappointed!

While in Medora N Dakota, we stayed at the Medora Campground which was clean as a whistle and had super cheap (& clean) laundry facilities (phew!) Here is our jaw-dropping view straight out the front door of our camper:

Just down the road from our campground, we visited Medora Stables where the Horses have FREE REIGN of acres and acres of Badlands to roam all night and miles of trails to ride all day. Makenna’s tender heart was so happy seeing how spoiled these horses were and the ranch hands even got to bring their dogs to work… which filled up the void in our lives without our own four-legged family members!

One more quirky Schuiteboer-style stop was a day trip down the Enchanted Highway. If you want to feel lost in the expanse of North Dakota countryside this is your journey! Some members of the family *might* have felt a little panicky at the aimless meandering through the countryside… The kids and I, however loved the adventure of not knowing what was ahead or how far the endless country road would take us! So the idea of the Enchanted Highway is that at various points along the road, a dozen or more giant roadside masterpieces are placed in fields and pastures with play structures & picnic shelters built right in for the family. I was in awe of the creativity and the stories behind each piece of art. They were inspired by a local man wanting to draw tourists to his home town and everyone in town chipped in to help. Now it’s a lovely jaunt into the town of Regent where there is an “Enchanted” Castle/Hotel & Tavern as the grand finale. The passion of all people involved was so fun to experience and the owner of the Castle was happy to give a full-on tour to our dragon-loving boy!

Our halfway point of the trip was a gloriously delicious and surprisingly exciting stop at The Mercantile in Crow Buttes, just over the border into South Dakota. It is a diner/convenience store/gas station on the side of the highway run by a husband and wife. Our fun for the day was the fact that our group of 13 and another camper-full from Medora stopped for lunch at the same time while one of the owners had run out for a gallon of milk to feed the kittens they found on the morning hay-delivery wagon. The sweet wife took down 25+ orders and went to work in the kitchen all by herself while we shopped and laughed and harassed the poor husband when he finally showed up with the milk. We laughed for the rest of the day over the things that spin our normal hum-drum lives into chaos- like surprise kittens in a hay wagon!

Well, this has to be the pause button for now, I have more incredible stops to share with you, but I’m sure you have a real life calling and so do I. To be continued, my friends! And for now, I’m praying you feel inspired to plan your own epic adventure. Let’s make a point to get out there and see our crazy planet. It’s full of beauty and inspiration. Which stop do you think you’ll add to your own bucket list??

Party for a Birthday!, Raising Warriors, Traveling the US

Double Digit Birthdays : Celebrating who our kids are and who they are becoming

This post contains affiliate links.

Have you read Bob Goff’s Love Does!? If not, BUY IT NOW! (Better yet, read it with a group and use the Study Guide  and read it to your kids with Love Does for Kids!) It’s an inspiring read. His whole book is truly easy to read, full of laughter and so thought-provoking. It caused me to re-look at my life and evaluate the intentionality of my actions. One big take-away that Collin and I implemented after reading Love Does was planning a 10 year old adventure for our kids.

Bob Goff’s version of the 10 year old adventure was a one-on-one trip with his kiddos when they turned 10. It was an opportunity to celebrate their childhood and encourage them to become more of who they were already. I just love that! First of all, I love to celebrate. (period.) Don’t get me started on birthdays… But to celebrate who my children are!? I can definitely do that! After reading Love Does, I wanted to celebrate each of my kids and the things that make them unique: where they’ve been and how they’ve gotten to where they are. I also wanted to help direct their future selves to become confident and brave and adventurous.

Now we’ve had the goal of visiting all 50 states with our kids since our very first kiddo was born. (To be overly honest, we decided to visit all the “boring states” first – the breadbasket- and found out that they are not nearly as lame as we thought!) And as our firstborn enters 7th grade this year, I can happily say we’ve visited 27 states- we’re over half way – woot woot! I say all of this to give you the understanding that Schuiteboers are always up for an adventure as well as the fact that I have ulterior motives to letting my kids plan a roadtrip, haha!

And soooooo: the Schuiteboer Family’s version of the 10 Year Old Adventure began!

Our first adventure was Carter’s and it was a perfect celebration of him. He’s a Pixar Cars kid all the way. This boy wore Lightning McQueen shoes until the tires fell off quite literally! (And then I taped them in his baby journal to remember forever because he just has my heart.) He lives and breathes speed and humor and friendships all at once. Naturally, his adventure took us down Route 66, he’s such a sweet old soul in a “Generation Z” body. This trip perfectly set the precedence to find quirky things that make us laugh and celebrate every stop of the journey. (You can also read that sentence as “This is the trip that made us fall in love with random roadside attractions! See exhibit A) It also taught us so much about celebrating the good ol’ American roadtrip! If you’re interested, I can post the trip itinerary sometime because it was EPIC!

{Exhibit A : The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, IL}

Now this year was Makenna’s turn. She turned 10 in June and the girl KNEW what she wanted. Our Makenna Mae is patriotism to the core. Her birthday happens to also be flag day and she has owned that fact since she learned of it – Red, White and Blue are her favorite colors, flag are her favorite decoration, and history is her favorite subject in school (thank you Mrs Janke!!). Makenna’s big trip destination was the little known “Avenue of Flags” located at a destination other people might actually aim for: Mount Rushmore. She wanted to walk that lane and admire, read about, and watch the flags of our 50 magnificent states fly.

So here’s how we do this thing: The 10 year old picks a destination meaningful to them, then I use the amazing Roadtrippers App to find the best route and/or points of interest along the way and the child chooses from that list the places they want to stop. This sort of defines the length of our trip and places we will stay. Mommas, you know some of their stops may need to be “adjusted” (for the love!) but the planning of the trip is all them and me. We do every bit of it together. I’ve loved the process of dreaming and researching with my kids. It has brought about so many fun conversations and we’ve learned a ton about our country along the way! (Some days I think planning may even be the best part, shhhh don’t tell!)

Man oh man, did Makenna plan an awesome trip. I have a photo itinerary I’ll post next, but if I could sit down with every single one of you and tell you the stories, I’d do my best to convince you to take this exact trip. It was full of breathtaking views and endless vistas. Honestly, once you get west of Chicago and into the open prairies of the breadbasket, a girl can BREATHE! I felt the same way as we headed into Texas on Route 66, aaaaahhhhhhh…

Laura Ingalls Homestead: Desmet, South Dakota

One thing I love most about our 10 year old adventures is when something is epic. A view that takes our breath away or the end of a crazy long but amazing day and we’re all sitting around the dinner table/campfire sighing with joy and exhaustion and someone looks at the 10-year-old to say “Good choice! I can’t believe you found that gem.” The pride on their face is priceless! The ownership they take in that success is a foundation stone for future leadership. This kid has led a group of family members (truly similar to a herd of cats!) and created joyful memories for everyone for years to come. Whoa.

I also love pouring into my kids throughout all of the decision making and planning. I see so much of their passion/interests come forth! Then with the execution of those plans, I see what an incredible adult they will become someday. Those little glimpses into the future give me direction as I pray over their future, too. We learn each others weaknesses and strengths, we learn how to work as a team, we have certainly experienced failure and setback and moved through it as a family. (Hello, car break-in in St Louis!) But where else can my kids learn these IMPERATIVE life skills in such a safe way? To me, this is invaluable! And all along the way, I can speak life into the heart of my family. The strengths I see, get called out; where there is weakness, we can all come together to declare the opposite and Collin & I can coach them in how to change. We pray over the trip together, make crazy family rules and plan special stops to honor each other or an upcoming holiday. And of course, the quantity of time away from “the daily grind” is also so healing and unifying.

You guys: TAKE A FAMILY VACATION! 10 year old or not, find a reason to celebrate and GO!

Ok, here’s your food for thought (& conversation! Comment below and get that convo started!):

What milestones do you celebrate with your family? How do you make it big and wonderful? What memories do you want to make with your kiddos before they move out? What is it about each of your kiddos that you would like to celebrate? Maybe start with what you love most about them and find inspiration from there.

Going Zero Waste, Simplifying, Uncategorized

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.

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. 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??)

Community, Honesty

Time to Grow!

So I was telling God the other day how I’m done writing. It takes effort. I’m tired. I have other things to do. The excuses go on. Then I felt a little nudge and the thought came that I’ve really put myself in a box here on Love For All To See. I’m here ranting about the big ideas in my head and asking God for intensive thoughts to share but truly what I like to talk about is the little things I chat about over coffee with a friend. I like to share what’s going on right now in my brain/life/family. I like to be a little too honest and I like to share a little more than you’re interested in hearing. And I like a little bit of everything!

I also like to do more than sit on a soapbox and perhaps that’s what I’ve done too much of. Perhaps that’s why this is beginning feel like work? Perhaps that’s why I only write seasonally? I have time for thoughts and depth in the winter when things are still and quiet but when summer is here, I hit the ground running full speed ahead, eyes wide open, embracing the things that make me feel alive! In the summer I’m much more interested in road trips, kids’ experiments, new recipes, quirky farmer’s market produce, attempting to go zero waste and making everything from scratch.

So here’s the deal: I’ll keep on writing if you don’t mind a little bit more. I’m hoping to share some recent vacay photos and maps, add in a few of my fave recipes and share some ways I’m attempting to save the planet – ya’ll knew I was kind of a hippie, right!?

In return, I’d like to ask a favor: Please respond! Blogging isn’t nearly as fun if it’s for my own sake. I REALLY appreciate all the shares and likes – keep ’em coming! And you can comment too! It’s like our daily conversation. I want to know what you like and what you want to hear more of. I also want ya’ll to get to know each other. It’s fun when you share your own thoughts and experiences on here with me and our other readers. Lastly, please subscribe/sign up for the email list. This is my way of letting you know about new posts and any future changes/ideas coming to the site. I promise not to hound you with junk!

Thanks for your extra grace, friends. I’m excited to see how we’ll all grow together in the next few months!

Adoption, Community, Raising Warriors

Every girl needs her momma… or two… or three

My sweet Makenna is growing up. (Insert ugly-cry-mixed-with-celebration-and-awe here.) She’s on the brink of those tween/teen years and all the hormones and decisions that go with it. I think she’s maybe a little excited and a little scared but so am I! It takes guts to become a teenager. It takes even more guts to parent a teenager.

But it makes think “What did I need as a girl-growing-up? Isn’t middle school really the point in all of our lives when we begin to wonder who we are and who we want to become? And isn’t that when we flounder? or experiment? or do REALLY strange things that no one in their right mind would actually ever do, but we’re just running on emotion and FEELING and the world tells us that that’s what we should base our decisions on? {I know I did.} So how do I help my girls lead a different story?” These are my wonderings.

And then there’s this beautiful TRUTH from Shauna Niequist:

(I don’t even know if this is legal, but READ IT!)
Thanks for sharing, Shauna!

This is something akin to adopting family members, but kind of the opposite. This is being adopted by others… and adopting them as well, I suppose. We all need a few voices to speak over us and show us how it’s done. Our kids need to see different forms of truthful living for when hormones hit and MOM IS ALWAYS WRONG.

I am truly blessed when it comes to moms, because my own mom & mother-in-law love Jesus and love me and are a beautiful and consistent part of our family’s lives. I make a point to invite them into our daily lives and to pour into my kids and I because they have SO MUCH wisdom to share! Still, I came to a place about two years ago where I realized I was facing things my own moms had not faced and I needed wisdom and experience specific to the trial I was facing. God graciously sent me the gentlest Air B&B Host who shared her house and heart and Jesus in all the right ways to restore my faith and breath new life into my burdened heart.

{God literally blew fresh wind into my sails by surrounding me with “Momma Bev” AND these glorious windmills along the NW Michigan lakeshore. I could watch them spin for hours.}

In that season, I realized how glorious it is to have more than one Momma, so I came home and sought out more! I knew so many beautiful women who exemplified traits that I desired – women who were changing the world in some lovely way that was unique to them. And I asked them to “adopt” me! I asked for their prayers and their time (to meet somewhat regularly) and their covering over my life. THEN I did it for my daughters! I want to have women of faith and joy in place to speak to my girls WITH me and repeat the truths they need to hear. I want them to see Jesus from all sides and how He changes us all in different ways.

So here are your takeaways:

  1. Pursue the women in your life who are living out an image of who you want to become. Ask them to meet for coffee. Ask them for prayer! Make them a consistent part of your life.
  2. The women in your life who are already blowing fresh wind in your sails? Send them a thank you. They have lives too, but it’s so much more rewarding to share ❤
  3. Seek out women to pray/speak with you over your daughters. Maybe they’re the same women as the above #1, Maybe they’re different. I have one “Momma” for my girl who asked me to be her mentor/prayer covering years ago! Now she gets to repay the favor.

Family is just another word for living in REAL community. It’s all the same.
We’re sharing family, sharing homes, sharing dinner tables, sharing faith.

Who’s a Momma in your life that you’d like to send a shout out??

Community, Hearing from God, HOPE, Prayer, Uncategorized

Powerful Prayer Part 4 ~ What To Do When Doubt Creeps In

Well now that you’re becoming a crazy prayer WARRIOR, you’ll undoubtedly join the ranks of those who’s faith has fallen and risen again and fallen and risen again. The truth of the matter is: The more you pray, the more likely you are to see miracles (yay!!) and the more likely you are to have questions, fears and doubt.

I love this quote from Shauna Niequist’s Savor:

“The  question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?”

We all have our moments of doubt. We start to think that maybe God doesn’t want to answer our prayer, or maybe He just won’t. Maybe it’s Him, maybe it’s us, but for some unknown and invisible reason, the answer is no. Honestly, the bigger your faith is, the bigger your questions will become – which is good! With questioning, and voicing our fears, comes a strengthening of our beliefs as we seek the word of God and our faith community for the answers. This actually deepens our resolve in what we believe and why – instead of just taking it at face value.

Buuuuuuut, what do we often do when faced with dissappointment, fear or doubt? We have a little temper tantrum. Yep, so often when I see my youngest lay herself down on the floor for a good scream or stamp that little foot and scrunch up her face into a pout, I think: I bet that’s what I look like when I hear “no” from God, haha!

So as I tell Miss Mya so often “Please, just use your words to tell me how you feel!” And I put on my big girl britches and “choose to grow”. I tell God my doubt and fear. Sometimes this process takes me days. The worries or anger oozes out of me from so many unknown places I never realized it had been building up so much! Sometimes it’s one good cry or shouting session and I can feel the release of my angst and put words to my fear to see it’s only that: fear. There’s no truth in it at all!

OK, but what if your fear and doubt is beyond words? What if those lies have run so deep that they’re mixed up with truth and experience and perhaps even trauma (eek!) and you have nowhere to begin and no way to start? What if you feel hopeless about a thing you hold so dear and it hurts to talk about it – even to God? What if you’re scared or lost or broken or fragile? I think we may all have such an area or season in our hearts if we are truly being honest. You are not the first, nor the last to enter this place.

This is where I have found 3 things to be helpful. (Hint: they all start with my own humility!) Essentially, I admit that I have nothing- not even the words to express my heart. I alone have no power to bring change to the world or my situation and I honestly cannot even change my beliefs. If you are still in the struggle and haven’t reached the bottom yet, this is a difficult thing! If you’re already at ground zero, it somehow seems a little easier. So, on to three things:

#1 : The Fake-It-‘Till-You-Make-It Approach

Maybe it’s not even faking anything, but just pressing forward in the direction you want to go whether you feel it or not! I surround myself with truth. I want to move toward faith so I listen to speakers of faith. I spend time with people who have big faith! I post scripture on every surface of my room/house/car/office and read or listen to TRUTH on auto-pilot until some of the thoughts I’ve chosen to “fake” become my own. (Does this qualify as self-brainwashing? If so, it works!)

#2 : Praying Scripture/Praying in the Spirit.

When I have no words, I have nothing to pray. I admit, I don’t have the answers or the solution and I get to a point where I don’t even know what I’m asking for anymore. This is where the Bible says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) These groanings of the Spirit can be so many things. Sometimes my creative side comes through and I can paint, draw or even dance. Sometimes praying in tongues is a way to allow the spirit to do the talking and my heart finds peace. Another way is to play some soaking music and allow the Lord to speak as you rest in His presence. Just allow yourself to be.

Praying scripture is the most powerful way to fight the enemy. There is nothing stronger (especially when I have no words) than the very word of God! Our pastor just gave an incredible sermon referencing this very thing and it might just be the truth you need to fake-till-you-can-make-it! Another great resource for Praying Scripture is Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word. Her book is an incredible list of scriptures organized by topic. If you want to pray for your marriage/anxiety/co-worker, she’s got God’s word ready for you to search and speak. I encourage you to seek the scripture and find a verse, story, or chapter that speaks to where you are right now and pray that! Our pastor gave Psalm 32 and 51 as launching points for prayer and it’s a great place to start.

#3 : Worship & Thankfulness

Worship while we’re waiting, of course! Worship fills my mind and the atmosphere around me with hope even when I’m not feeling it. It’s true that silence can be healing as well, but perhaps a balance of both is what you need?

Thankfulness is a practice of positivity. If I’ve been focusing on the negative, just naming three things I’m thankful for will switch my brain and change the focus from “Woe is me” to “Whoa, I’m blessed!” There is loads of actual research supporting this, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. Play the “Glad Game” you Pollyanna fans!

Now I have a choice, I’ve unloaded on God. (I often view it as a spew or vomit, but perhaps you’d prefer to see it as leaving baggage or burdens at the feet of a wise and capable King.) I’ve surrounded myself with what I WANT to believe and chosen to look for the good. So what next? I can leave His presence and I am truly better for the time I’ve spent. I feel lighter and less overcome already. OR I can stay there. I can choose to let Him speak truth over me. I can listen for the refreshing truth that replaces those ugly burdens. This practice can change the way my brain works to renounce those lies in the FUTURE too! I want to prevent myself from coming back to this place of doubt and despair.

Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…”

No matter which avenue you choose, (one or all three!) just keep moving forward. Do what needs to be done so that you are choosing to GROW. As long as we trust God and HIS plan, we will come out as victors- no matter how long it takes to get there and how much “faking” it takes to finally believe.

So what are you trusting God for? What fight are you holding out hope for? What brings you back from a place of doubt? Please share so we can all stand together in faith and even benefit from other’s great ideas!!

Adoption, Fostering, Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 3 -Raising Up Prayer Warriors

Our kids are seriously powerful. Their innocence and gargantuan faith are a perfect pair when it comes to experiencing and believing God! Things that we adults just dismiss or reason away, they are able to fully embrace. I’ve got a few examples of my kids’ prayers and I hope it will inspire you to have faith as big as theirs as well as speak that same faith into the kids in your life!

When Makenna was first healed I was shocked at how she OWNED her healing. She never once hesitated telling someone she was a miracle and God was the only one who could explain it. She also immediately started praying for her 3 year old friend Caroline and believing that God had the same healing for her too. They were both 3 and Makenna told me that she wanted to hold Caroline’s hand so she could pass the healing over to her while they walked. What!? A three year old version of laying hands <3<3 Caroline hasn’t been healed yet, but we haven’t given up hope!

As we started fostering kiddos, we knew we needed to be praying for each placement before receiving them. We wanted to be sure we were leaning into God and His plans, not our own. AND we wanted to know God’s heart for each child. As a family, we asked God for a word for each child and continuously declared it over them while they were in our home. It was so fun to do this with the “existing” kiddos! I was shocked how often our words/pictures lined up or complimented each other.

Our first placement (Insert Miss Mya here!) was a difficult beginning. She cried night & day and day & night. She screamed until she had completely lost her voice and continued squeaking with her mouth wide open. I remember Makenna looking into her eyes and saying “I think her heart hurts.” She felt the heart of God in that moment when all I wanted to do was send her outside for a moment of peace.

I cannot even grasp the beauty of these two sisters!!

Another time I needed encouragement in the Mya-arena was when she was 3 and REALLY butting heads with Carter. They are both genetically first-borns and it has been a constant struggle for the whole family. I was giving Carter the pep-talk and I was honestly out of words. “Nope it’s not fair.” “Yes, she was wrong and still refuses to apologize.” “Nope, it probably won’t change EVER I mean, anytime soon…” What else could I say?? And God gave me these words: “I know you see her as bossy and stubborn, but how does God see her??” We prayed right then and there and asked God to give us both a picture. Carter was super quiet and I was doubting his investment in this exercise. Then He looked up with such a peaceful face (all anger gone!) and described Mya all grown up but with the characteristics that he usually liked about her: “Poofy hair, loud laugh…” and God showed Carter a picture of Mya being successful and filled with compassion and grace. Needless to say, his heart changed for her that day and it is a moment we STILL refer back to when things get rough between them! (Truth: The battle of the firstborns is still a constant struggle in our household!)

Another example: when our Chelsey struck out on her own and started making grown up decisions. The others were praying for her. They ask me if she’s still praying or going to church and when will she ever wear a seat belt!? And I say: “Talk to God, I’m not sure.” Then our girl will come to a basketball game and she’ll mention “You know, I’ve been watching church online and I like the story about David.” One day she even called and said “I was in a car accident and the car is totaled, but tell Carter: I was wearing my seat belt so don’t worry about me!” I’ll be honest, I never prayed for the seat belt. (Somehow I seemed to have bigger worries, ha!) But God knew what a big deal it was to Carter because Carter was telling Him all about it and I love how God proved the strength of Carter’s prayers by answering them so clearly!

One last example: our family is praying specifically for a family of 5 kids aged 6-19 at Exodus House Orphanage. Mya has remembered every single night and prayed that “they could find their father if he’s alive or he could come back to life if he’s dead.” This blows me away because the rest of us never even had such hope. We’ve been asking for a family to adopt them or for the older kids to find good jobs and take care of the rest. But I’ll admit after hearing months of Mya’s prayer, I’ve started to ask for it too. Wouldn’t it be just like God to give the very best solution!?

So let’s look for opportunities to pray with our kids. Let’s pray for crazy and outlandish things! Let’s tell our kids that their prayers change the world. What if they believed that truth and lived accordingly!? What if WE did as adults?? What if we take the time to pray for bugs on the sidewalk so that when our kids grow up they use the same habits we’ve instilled in them to pray for friends or world events? I don’t know about you, but I’m believing my kids can hold on to their innocent faith and carry it into adulthood- trusting that God will both bring people back from the dead and inspire a teenager to wear a seat belt. I want my kids to surpass my faith and change the world with their prayers even more than I want to change the world with my own prayers! Their hearts literally multiply the effects of my heart (partially because there’s 5 of them, but also because of God’s power in their lives.)

These are my prayer warriors in our favorite place to pray!
(I’m pretty sure Lake Michigan is a little corner of heaven stretched down to earth)

Intentional Ways to Pray with Kids:

  • Pray together every day without fail! (before bed, during the drive to school, before dinner) Make it routine.
  • Ask God for a specific thing for your family to pray for each day/month (Sunday: Your Pastors/Church, Monday:
    Refugees, Tuesday: Their School/Teachers, etc) Or a theme for the year. Practice being intentional so prayer doesn’t become stale or repetitive
  • Practice Prayer Coloring: color a picture of your prayers or just doodle while listening to worship music
  • Have a dance party to Bethel Kids Radio or your fave worship list and everyone decide to pray/praise God for one thing while going crazy.
  • Start a family prayer journal to keep track of your prayers. We often include prayer coloring or thoughts/words we hear from God. Remember to date it so you can look back on how God has answered your prayers!
  • Declare together every day that “My/Your Prayers Change the World!” I declare this over my kiddos while they’re sleeping and I often remind them of this when they’re worrying or upset.

A note of simplicity and encouragement: Don’t try to do it all at once! We have prayed all of these ways at some point but never all in one season. If you already pray with your kiddos daily, try adding in a worship/dance party or declaration. Prayer is not about perfection. It’s a practice just like Yoga. Take a deep breath and keep moving forward. ❤

Adoption, Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 2 -Little Games to Play with God.

I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about Poweful Prayers, thank you all so much! Of course I’m writing for the therapy for myself and because I feel like God asked me to, but it really is encouraging to engage with all of you and hear how God has touched you or is working in your lives too!! Please keep commenting on and sharing these posts!

So now that we understand some of the basics of how God speaks, let’s practice hearing God! Let’s learn to dive into this two-way conversation and take advantage of the intimacy Jesus died to give us!

(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

Probably the simplest way to learn to hear God’s voice is with immediate affirmation.  The goal of these games is to have that so you can KNOW you’re hearing God.

Right now, I want you to invite God to speak you. Pray & ask Him to speak clearly and straight to your heart. Then think of a Bible verse (You’ll think of it just like the birthday song!) and look it up. Does it speak to you? Sometimes right away you’ll think “Awesome! This has everything to do with what’s on my heart!” You know God is speaking. Sometimes not. At this point, just ask God to keep speaking throughout the day. Chances are, by the end of the day, if you look back at that verse, you’ll think “Ohhhhh that’s what He meant.” It now applies to something you’ve experienced. If not, keep asking for clarification, write it down and come back to it, maybe tomorrow. I do this with Bible verses or chapters all the time. Scripture is the most powerful truth in the world and the greatest weapon against the enemy. {You simply cannot have too much BIBLE in your life!}

Another aspect of this same game is with a favorite devo. (That’s out-dated Christian speak for a book of short “devotional” thoughts or verses… Usually a-page-a-day type of book.) I have a few favorite authors whose writing consistently speak truth to me. (My current top 2: Come Away My Beloved by Frances J Roberts & Savor by Shauna Niequist) I ask the Lord for a page number and look it up. This is my “thought for the day”. I pray and ask God to speak more about it in my heart. Sometimes it’s a wise word about something I’ve been worrying over or if a big situation happens in my day, I have that encouragement in advance to help carry me through. (Bonus if the page # is a recipe in Shauna’s Savor! Aaaaaaand now I have a meal plan.)

board center chalk chalkboard

(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

So that game is full of little thoughts to you from God and you know you can trust them because it’s based in scripture. You can’t lose! However, the more you play, the more intimately God can speak and direct your heart. And the more YOU trust what you’re hearing, the more likely you are to ask specific questions.

~ Personal Experience~ I have asked God “Is my Elisee EVER going to come home!?” Honestly, I’ve doubted the word I heard from the Lord 10 years ago since it’s been so long and we’re not seeing movement or even hope. And the verses I received: John 14:18 “I will not leave you as Orphans. I will come for you”.  And Isaiah 43:5-7 “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. I’ll send orders north and south: ‘Send them back. Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places. I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child Whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.’” Well that’s pretty specific! I guess I’ll keep hoping, haha.

Back to our game: one more level up… Take this same idea and play with a friend! Do you know someone needing encouragement? Are you having a coffee date/playdate this week? Or just to show some love!! Ask God to speak a verse for someone else. I encourage you to pre-read the verse and check with your heart. Is this an encouraging word from the Lord for this person? Yes? Send it! Maybe/Maybe Not? Ask God to clarify – did you find the right verse? Or ask Him to give you a thought or picture to send with it.) Wouldn’t you love to receive a call or text like this out of the blue!?

Guys, this is not too hard. You don’t have to be crazy to hear voices. It’s a simple little game with exponential benefits. You’ve got nothing to lose. And don’t tell me you “just don’t have the gift.” God speaks to all of His children. What kind of parent would God be to only speak to some of His kids!? You’ll hear him. Trust your gut and have a little faith. God’s going to do big things in your heart this week!

Aaaaaaaand there’s another game coming soon… 🙂

Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 2b -Little Games I Play with God



Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

I have another fun game: Treasure Hunting! This is a fun way to activate your “holy imagination” or the mental pictures that God speaks with. It could take a few minutes or a few hours for the whole exercise, so make sure you have a little extra time or some leeway in your schedule to stop if you find your treasure.

Start off by asking God for a picture of something in your mind. Sometimes a description is just as good: an orange rock, a red raincoat, a certain intersection on your drive to work. Ask for more details to be sure you’re not looking for just any old rock or tree or person. Imagine it, then ask God for a message. This may seem more difficult, but if you saw a tall woman in a red raincoat, then what would God want to say to that person? If you imagined that busy street corner downtown, what would God want you to pray for in that place? If you saw a pair of earrings, who made them or who would God want you to gift them to and why?

Next, put it on paper! The picture/description AND the message. (The very best part is when you come back after your treasure hunt and see how specific God is!!)

Now you get to hunt. Go throughout your day or head out on the adventure (this is so fun with a friend!) and keep and eye out for that person/thing/place you saw in your mind. When you find it, act on it!

The rest is up to God. Don’t expect to have the opportunity to share the Romans’ Road every time you find a treasured person and you don’t have to have an earth shattering revelation every time you pray in a new place. You are hearing God and discovering His treasure. That’s enough. Be prepared for the miraculous, of course, but know that just aligning your mind with that of Christ is the gift of a treasure hunt.

Photo by N. on Unsplash


{ Introverts!! Here is your pep talk: You’ve got guts, this is not scary. You are brave. Speak that truth to someone, give them the note, pray in that place, give the gift. Nothing bad can come of this: You are delivering God’s love to that treasure. How amazing to be God’s hands and feet! }

Need a few more simple game ideas? Write down a word or verse for each day of the week or month of the year and check in on occasion to see if God is speaking something in your heart that lines up with that word. Ask God for a word for each of your neighbors or a few of your friends. Now pray about that word in their lives. A fun follow up to this is calling those peeps and asking “Hey, what’s God doing in your life lately?” *wink*wink* Sometimes I’ll color or doodle words while I pray and send the picture to whomever I’m praying for. This is also amazing to do if you’ve got kiddos. My kids and I will pray & color together then mail out a whole packet of prayer drawings to someone. It’s like a rainbow-crayon-bomb of God’s love!

**True story: One time we all ended up drawing birds of some sort and writing something about flying and freedom. Crazy enough the person we sent the pictures to called right when she got them and said she had a dream the night before about God releasing a cage full of doves! The combination really affirmed what God was teaching her about being a voice of freedom to people who were enslaved by fear. How incredible to call out a person’s true identity in Christ!!**

So the whole idea of playing games with God is to learn how to hear God’s voice more clearly. I want to press in and learn what His heart is saying and what His hands are doing, don’t you? We want to join Him in building His Kingdom on Earth and the more frequently we listen, the more easily we hear Him, and the more we’ll be on the same page with Him! Guys, I have so many more games, I could write forever but I know this is a stolen moment where you get a break from the daily crazy to read and breathe, so I’ll keep it short. Honestly the sky is the limit!

Use your holy imagination and run wild!!