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

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

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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.

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. ❤

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.

Adoption, Community, Fostering

How many kids do you have?

You guys! I recently joined a bible study and it brought so much refreshing to my soul! I am so honored to study the word of God with women who are HUNGRY. And I mean, these girls just won’t quit. They do not choose light-hearted, easy, breezy studies, let me tell you. (There is no time to fall behind on journaling & homework either!) God spoke it and these girls will study it.

It. Is. Awesome.

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I can now say that these women are dear and wise and some seriously amazing cheerleaders, but on my first day? Not so much.

I sat down at the table after a scrumptious [hot] breakfast where we were divided into small-ish groups, yet as the introductions traveled around the table I grew so anxious I was shaking and in tears when all eyes turned to me. What was I supposed to say? I was already dreading THE QUESTION. The leader prompted: “You don’t have to say much, maybe just tell us something about yourself? Do you have kids?”

That did it.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t use an ounce of restraint when I choked out “I don’t like that question!”

See, it’s complicated. Of course, there are 5 Schuiteboers who live at our address (for now). Each of us has friends who come to play or eat or sleep. (Yay for an open door community!) Then there’s fostering… Just fostering alone changes this number on a daily/monthly basis. The number of those who live with me changes and the number of how may are carried in my heart changes too.

Then there’s last summer… yup, as I entered this unsuspecting group of Jesus-chasers I had just barely survived a crazy season as a mom of 7. I loved it. I love them. Each kid was so beautifully brought to this house and this season of our lives. God’s promises were all over each one of them and He was doing such a good work! (I can say that now since I’ve had months of space & plenty of therapy to recuperate and heal.) Crazy enough, at the end of the summer I was down to only 3 kids to tuck in at night and I felt the void. I loved the now-missing kids and they will truly never leave my heart. They will be mine forever.

Then there is the mostly-adopted-but-not-present Elisee whose paperwork has seen no progress in a full year and sweet Chelsey who is growing up and moved out on her own for the first time. I’m just saying… I get to claim these two even when my “mothering” is mostly spent on my knees!

Seriously. I am undone.

So is my answer to this overwhelming question 3? How many kids I tuck in at night.

5? the number of kids who will *someday* be Schuiteboers and come home for Christmas.

9? The kids I have loved, smooched, and wiped away tears for when their own momma’s couldn’t. The ones I personally carry in my heart.

19? The number my girlfriends can amass at the nearest park on any given summer day, but also the number of kiddos I pray over, invest in and plan to talk to about all the things they don’t want to tell their own moms when hormones hit.

How about 143 million? The number of orphans out there whom I often pray for and cry over and desperately want to offer hope and security to- even if only for a moment.

Here’s the beautiful part: No matter how many kids I say I have, I actually have more than that. The kids that live in my house will always be my kids… ALWAYS… even when they leave someday (voluntarily or involuntarily). The kids in the foster care system- they’re all my kids. My friend’s kids- they’re mine too. The orphans around the world- they’re my kids. I am blessed with these kiddos to love, to pray over, to mourn for, and to lay at the feet of Jesus. This is KEY. Our children belong to Jesus. I’m just hanging with them a bit. I need to let go of the number and how it effects my identity as “a mom of ___”. Instead, I want to focus on loving each one well. Katie Davis from Amazima Ministries says:

 “I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person.”

Just one.. at a time… That’s all I can handle anyway. I want to truly invest in the one in front of me and love each one that passes through my arms & prayers well. I don’t need to claim anything to try to help the world understand this crazy way of living. I am the arms of Jesus and that’s enough identity for me.

And let’s be honest. When it comes down to it, I will actually claim a fake (higher) number in those moments I appear slightly crazed from having a “bunch” of kids!