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 ❤

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??)

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.