Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trust and Obey!

Today I am reminded that God gives certain opportunities for specific seasons. My responsibility is to simply obey Him and what He asked of me. As I go into these two surgeries, an opportunity  that God once gave me for a season will end. But I trust Him. 

I can remember when God spoke to me as I laid flat on the ground with my face in my open Bible as I wept. I had a 3 month old and had just found out I was pregnant again. In the midst of being a first-time mom, I was dealing with strong side-effects from medications because of a fracture that occurred in labor, I had been through a follow-up surgery and was experiencing post-partum depression.  Finding out I was pregnant was not good news. But God spoke to me.

The Lord asked me in that moment if I trusted Him. He said, “If you will give me your womb, I will give you the grace you need to have every baby I call you to have.” In gut-wrenching searching of the heart, I surrendered to the Lord His plans for our family. I wholeheartedly, tearfully answered Him, “I trust You and I give you my womb.” And He has given undeniable grace.

I went from not wanting more than one baby to being open to all God had for me. After six births and two miscarriages, today with this surgery, I will once again trust Him with my womb. In the next hour, I will be having a hysterectomy to remove a grapefruit-sized fibroid tumor that is inside my uterus. Then, I will have an additional internal repair surgery from some complications that were caused to the surrounding organs. 

I trust the Lord that my time to give birth is over. I am reminded of Job in the Bible and his trust of God. He says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” My window of opportunity to obey a specific call of God was only for a season. I am so thankful I obeyed Him without delay. My life is more blessed than I could have planned on          my own.

How about you? Is there any area of your life that God has called you to obey, right now, for this time? If so, don’t miss it. His call to have you obey in a specific area is something He has given you. He will give you this time and there will be a time He will take it away. 

If you follow Him, right now, with full surrender then you will experience more blessings than you can imagine. If you are living in obedience, you will experience His gifts for you at this time in your life before that season changes. More than anything, you can trust Him!  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No Summer Blues! A Guide to At-Home Days with Kids

     Do you have the summer motherhood "How will I handle my children home all day" blues? Having a plan is imperative! I don’t know about your family but when we are home without our typical school schedule or a plan, our family turn into lazy, mindless, visionless, whiny, messy, bored, complaining, tv-overloaded people who ask for food all day. It isn't pretty.
    The summer can be overwhelming if you aren't in a routine of children being home more.  But the summer doesn't have to be a bummer! I bring you good news! Happiness can be found! All you have to do is think through how you want the summer to look then make a plan.  I guarantee that everyone enjoys the day more when it isn’t aimless.
    The below schedule is what our days look like when we are home. If we are out part of the day then we just pick right back up when we get home. This is simply our personal example.
Adjust for what you need in your situation since some of you may have to go work or have other circumstances.  
8:00(ish) Get Ready: Wake Up, cartoons (or workout for older kids), breakfast, vitamins, clean kitchen, brush teeth, make beds, get dressed, do hair etc. Having the basics covered allows everyone to be ready for whatever may come for the day! And I feel relief knowing everyone is fed, kitchen is clean, beds are made, and everyone is presentable and yet the kids enjoyed seeing a show when they woke up. Since it’s more relaxed in the summer the thought would be that everyone is ready for the day by 9:30.
9:30ish This is a perfect time to do something fun, productive and perhaps new! Do the things children may not have time for during the school year. Gardening, shopping, working out, cleaning, baking, gift-making, visiting friends or running errands are some ideas to use during these couple of hours. Toddlers can do different activities such as art table, room toys, sibling play, video, snack or join you if it works.
 12:00 Lunch, Clean Kitchen, Free time. We eat then everyone does a kitchen job such as sweep floors, clean off and wipe counters, pull out chairs, and help mom with dishes. A little tip during meal time is to play a tape (or CD/IPOD/Phone)and listen to stories. We use older story tapes like GT and the Halo Express, Adventures in Odessy, Dan and Louie etc. with a tape player from Wal-Mart which is a novelty to them. Once eating and cleaning is finished, everyone can do whatever they like for a bit.
1:30 Read together (Little ones nap) We choose a book that is one of those “every kid should read books but they don’t unless I read it with them” books. We are currently on Pilgrims Progress kid version. Reading together makes my mama heart happy since I can’t seem to find time for as much reading together during the school year.  May also play more or have computer/electronics time for everyone.)
2:00 Chic Chat Chocolate This time is our Bible time with a theme every month. We sit on a comfy blanket and eat chocolate while talking about scripture and life. It’s my favorite time with the children because it’s all about their heart and walk with the Lord. Summer is a fabulous time to instill values and character while the kids aren’t distracted by school and extra-curricular activities. (Angel naps)
2:30 Rest Time This is my quiet time to do whatever I need to do! Woohoo. And yes, I do sometimes take naps…even when I am not pregnant. Bria and Allison quiet time on beds, Candice and Kelly have personal reading (little ones nap).This time gives everyone a breather from the playing and being together all day.
 3:30 Snack and Clean Bedrooms We get a food boost while watching a PBS show then clean bedrooms. This is a daily job to keep rooms from being overwhelming.
 4:30 Afternoon Work These jobs come from a house list such as clean out car, vacuum, dust, and bath rooms, depending on house needs and day of the week. And it’s a perfect time to teach how to clean if a child needs some training.
5:00 Free Time Because there has been some order to the day, this play time is fresh and they play better together when free time comes.
6:00 Dinner and Kitchen Cleanup
6:45 Free Time This is more time to play with neighbors, watch a family movie, play board games, go out for ice cream, or be outside as a family
8:30 Baths and Showers
9:00 Family Snuggle on our bed all together to pray and chat
9:30 Bedtime This time is later than normal but works great for summer.
     This basic system has caused our summers to be enjoyable on the days we are home because the kids are ready for the day, learning new things, keeping the house clean and yet we still have plenty of time for rest and playing. 

My hope is that you would feel the same as your family is productive while being refreshed without any summer motherhood blues!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mealtime Satisfaction

     It came on suddenly. Just ten days after my wedding reality hit: My husband wanted to eat every day AND he thought I would be providing the food! Me. Not his mama. Not the school cafeteria. Not the fast food places. The non-cooking girl who was so busy doing other things that she never learned how to cook is supposed to provide meals. The flash of shock was soon sobered when I realized that I was hungry too.

    And to add to the situation, we started having children before I truly conquered cooking so then I was dealing with not only what to make but also how to avoid chaos at the table. I had idealistic images in my mind of happy, thankful children gathered peacefully around the table while their parents shared life insights for 30 minutes. But all I saw in front of me were wriggly, talkative, complaining, fast-eating little people that made big messes and weren’t ready for meaningful conversation. This is not what I had envisioned with delicious meals and well-mannered children.
     So, I decided to do what any sensible woman would do...I cried a lot then I chose to conquer this thing called mealtime. In my journey to fight hunger and attain happiness in the home, there are two chicken nuggets of insight I want to pass on for those who need them:

1. Make a Simple Meal Plan with 10 Dinner Recipes. All you have to do is learn ten dinner meals to the best of your ability and use them over two weeks. Choose five categories and two meals for each category. For example, two meals that are American, two meals that are Italian, two meals that are Mexican, two meals that are crockpot, and two meals that are hearty soup/salad/bread. Voila. These will carry you for five nights a week for two weeks. The other two nights a week are for pizza, dates, or carryout. (And, of course, the ever-rewarding backup of “cereal night” is a lifesaver if you get in a pinch.)
     Pick whatever your heart desires! Choose according to 
your family's needs and time. Go online. Look at cooking 
books. Ask friends. Just focus on learning 10 main meals. Once you have this down, you are set. No need to think of 365 dinner plans. Just rotate 10. And when life changes and you are in another season with more time, you can add to your list. But for now, there is a set rotating plan with delicious food you made five nights a week.
     And what about breakfast, lunch, and snacks? These are easier to figure out. You can rotate those every week. For instance, every Monday for us is oatmeal and boiled eggs for breakfast. Cream cheese/jam wraps are for lunch with carrots and ranch, chips and applesauce. And snack is a granola bar. The same goes on for the other days of the week. Breakfast, lunch and snack are the same on certain days every week while dinner rotates every two weeks. After years of this plan, nobody has become bored and I can rest assured breakfast, lunch and dinner are covered!

2. Make Mealtime a Priority. Mealtime is primetime! One of my favorite poems is by family activist Nancy Campbell that implores, “Where can you communicate while you eat? Where can you enjoy real fellowship sweet? Where can you laugh with friends who are neat? At the table…Where can your children learn to sit still? Acquire eating habits that won’t make them ill? Be taught good manners of which some have nil? At the table…” All this and more unfolds at the table together.
     Once mealtime was determined to be an integral part of my family, the manners and methods followed. If there is school, work, or extra-curricular activities during dinner then we make plans for other meals such as lunch or breakfast together. At the very least, we look at the weekly calendar and find at least 3 mealtimes we are all together. It literally took our family a few years to conquer table time. But the optimistic side to that is while there isn’t perfection, we do enjoy meals now.
Some practical things we do to bring peace around the plates are as follows:

  1. Create a comfortable atmosphere with lighting, place settings, and music 
  2. Wait to eat until all have joined the table then give genuine thanks for the food
  3. Have adults make their plates first then have the older kids make the younger kids’ plates
  4. Consider having a minute or two of the silent game so everyone can calm down and prepare to eat peacefully
  5. Set the first few minutes for the adults to chat and the kids to listen while they eat
  6. Train for manners but do not use meals to lecture or bring up conflict (that would make anyone sick!)
  7. Ask meaningful conversation questions and have everyone listen to the answers
  8. Plan to have everyone stay at the table at least 20 minutes (although there are times I allow the toddler or baby to color or play so the rest can finish the meal).
  9. Make sure the seats are comfortable for little ones. This helps cut back on the wriggles.
  10. Have a dinner helper that gets up and down so mom doesn’t do all the work

     Yes, learning a simple meal plan and prioritizing dinner has warded off hunger and added happiness to the buffet of life in the Gibbons home.  So if you crave the same in your house, just take it one bite, or rather, one night at a time and soon you will be satisfied!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Teaching People Skills

     My oldest daughter Candice and I watched as two of my younger girls got out of the car and walked into the church. While holding the door, one of the pastors greeted them enthusiastically, "Hey Girls!" Much to my dismay, my girls didn't stop, make eye contact, speak up, or even thank him for holding the door. They simply mumbled, "Hi" and kept moving. AHHHHH! Mothering moment of hight blood pressure! That is when Candice (then age 9) expressed my exact thought, "People skills, people!" So when we came home, we went over how to interact with people once again.

     Your children may do the same thing...actually, I know they do the same thing because it is typical of most all children at some point. Even those that are well-trained have to be reminded from time to time. My biggest comfort was that at least one of my children noticed the lack of skills which proves they do know better. So how do we go about teaching interaction with people? For this first entry on this topic, lets start with the basics.

     1. Show them the value in others. If your children understand that each person is created by God then they will have respect to treat others as such. Have them think of every person as a handcrafted gift from God so that no matter what the person looks like or acts like or seems like, they are valued. 

Remind them of Ps. 139: 13-14 "For God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Or as Judy "The Manners Lady" states, "Pretend each person is wearing a star that says 'Make me feel special!' " It is not about how we feel but about how the other person needs to feel.

     2. Show them the value in themselves. When children know the above about themselves then they will also see the value in using their gift of life in response to others. For those children that claim its because they are shy, its actually more about having manners than about becoming a type-A person. I

t only takes a moment to smile, speak up, look at someone, and show respect. I have two girls that aren't outgoing, but we do build in them the confidence from the Lord to move beyond their hinderences. They can respond to others because they are strong in themselves.

     3. Show them how to do it. Practice!Practice! Practice! It will take years of consistent work. But you will see progress! We start the practice by talking through scenarios with the girls, then we see how they do in public. When they are younger than age 7, we may train them in front of people if they haven't had good manners in the moment. 

However, as they get older, we don't address them on the spot (unless we know the person extremely well) so as not to humiliate them, but we do address it first chance we are able for a better response next time.

     One of the ways we practice with the girls is by training at home in role-play. For instance, I may say, "Let's pretend you are about to meet an adult for the first time. Smile. Look at them. Extend a hand if necessary. Answer questions so people can hear you."

Another time we train, is in the car by going over what is expected before they go somewhere. "Alright, girls, what are some things to remember before you go into the store (or the church, school, bday party etc)?" Last, we train as watch others and evaluate the good and the bad. "Did anyone notice how the family you met today had a child that was rude by not answering when greeted? How did that look to you? How do you think the other person felt?"

     So if you have ever watched in dismay as your children don't respond respectfully with others, just start with some basics and practice! Before you know it, your child will see others and say, "PEOPLE SKILLS, PEOPLE!"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Leading Girls in Summer Ministry

(Picture is from summer 2015 at the Fine Arts for teens event with AG churches.) 

I can still feel the excitement of the arrival of summer when I was a teenager. The school load was lifting, the sun was shining and I was ready for whatever may come my way! I knew I had 12 weeks to use my time and energy for friends, sleeping, vacation and perhaps some place to make money. 

But most of all, I would look for a place to be involved that was beyond myself. I was ready to be a part of a mission’s trip, small group volunteering opportunity and church-wide outreach. Summer was a perfect time to do ministry!

The teens in your life most likely feel the same way. They are thrilled to enjoy the freedom of summer and yet are searching for a place to use their lives to help others through outreach. While this is a time for routines to be relaxed, it is also prime time for your students to get involved in ministry. Here are some ways to encourage your girls to be a part of all God has for them this summer:

1. Communicate with them 
Never assume the students know what is going on. Take time to let the girls know what is available with your girls group, youth group or church. A text, phone call, conversation in the hallway, email invite, or message on social media can be just what is needed for the girls to know what is happening and that they are invited to be a part of the ministry event. Sometimes teens need many reminders! 
As a teen, I could sit through a whole announcement and somehow my mind would be somewhere else and I missed what was going on. That extra communication from you will assure that the girls know the upcoming outreaches.

2. Cheer them on 
Just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t mean the girls will want to go. That’s where we come in as leaders to cheer them on! I can fondly remember my youth leader telling me, “I am counting on you being there, Casey! It won’t be the same without you.” 
It took my decision to go to a whole new level as I chose to be a part. Let girls know their participation is important for the ministry to be effective. Show them how their gift set can be used and why it’s beneficial for their growth in the Lord. They may also need some assistance in making the outreach a priority with their schedule. Cheering them on encourages them to see it as a valuable way to invest their time. 

3. Connect with them 
After the girls know what they can be involved in and are encouraged to help, having you there with them is the best part! There is something special about working together for a ministry project. The time, prayers, and hard work together-moments are things teens will never forget. 
My favorite memories are not only the tasks of ministry but the people who were a part of it with me. It deeply impacted my life to see my leaders not only lead up front but to also serve alongside of me in the details. And if you are unable to join them at all the events, connect with them afterwards to hear all about their experience. Just showing you care about what they did and how it went can be of value.

The next several weeks can be memorable for you and your girls to make an impact. Help teens embrace the opportunities to live beyond themselves in excitement and fun with some summer ministry!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Staying Connected with My Husband

"We just need more time together!" "There just isn't time to talk." "My husband and I are living two different schedules." "I love my husband but I am so busy with my job, children, and home there isn't a way to stay connected." Ever felt this way? I shouldn't even ask that because odds are we have all felt that way at some point.

     In the midst of parenting children all day, doing homeschool, housework, and leading in ministry, staying connected with my husband isn't always the easiest thing to do. In fact, there was a season a couple of years ago that we went through in our marriage where things just weren't alive and flourishing between us like it should have been. So we made some changes.

    One of the main things we do to stay connected is we have a strategy. If we just let life go with all its responsibilities and activities, time together just doesn't happen. So for our marriage, here are a few of the things we decided we needed to do have time together...but before you read this and roll your eyes because none of this is possible, just know that I understand you may not be able to do this all but I am just sharing our plan and perhaps you can get some ideas.

Daily: Put the girls to bed by 9:00 and go to bed to have time to be together by 9:30. This gives us up until 10:00 to chat and still get 8 hours of sleep.

Daily: Call or text throughout the day to touch base on what we are doing or how things are going or even just to say "I Love You"

Daily: At dinner after we pray, the girls make their plates and listen without talking to Scotty and I talk about our day. This allows the girls to make their plates and start eating while listening to us communicate. It is hard for the little ones to be quiet but they are learning and its better than all children talking!

Weekly: Date night is one night a week from 5-9:00. Sometimes we go out with a gift card or somewhere inexpensive and every now and then we spend a little more. Half the times, we actually just go up to Scotty's office and eat home food, chat, watch a movie.  

For the girls, we order pizza and the babysitter does the same routine with them every week so it is easy. Dinner, clean kitchen, take baths/showers, brush teeth, watch a movie and baby in bed at 8:00. And I know this won't be the case for everyone. But even a date twice a month or switch out with a friend for childcare or ask grandparents etc.

Weekly: We snag a thirty min window by occupying the girls with house work or school or play while we discuss the upcoming week calendar. This makes sure we are together on details of events and what is needed. This is a MUST!

Quarterly: Something we started this past year also is to pull away for two nights to be together alone. This is not for ministry trips or anything that requires working but simply to stay close in our marriage. We go to nearby Branson and we pay a trusted friend of the family to keep the home-front going. 

It takes a special person to help you while you are away but God will provide for you. I typically go crazy busy making sure the house, car, food, schedule is all laid out before I go but its worth being able to have 48 hrs. away. To save money while we are away, we mainly eat in and don't spend money other places during the month to save for these getaways.

     These basic strategies in my marriage have helped us tremendously. I used to view Scotty as another child to care for in life. However, I realized that is not God's plan. Staying connected is crucial and can make things so much less stressful for all the family. It may take time to get back on track, but I believe you can will do it as the Lord helps you.

(Re-posted from 2013) 

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to Like Other People's Children

Have you ever felt thought that you like your own children but not other people's children? I am sure you have at some point unless you are one of those people that naturally see ALL children as a gift. If so, I completely respect you. We should all be that way. But for those who just simply don't like other people's children or connect with them, I have been there. Thankfully I didn't stay there, but I do remember being there.

      You know how it is. Other people's children just don't seem the same as your own. They aren't as smart. They aren't as funny. And they certainly aren't as cute. There have been times a child that isn't mine can do the same thing my child would do but because it was someone else's child it bothered me! I didn't enjoy or tolerate those "other children".

      Then, God changed my heart when I read a book called Too Small To Ignore...Why Children are the Next Big Thing by Dr. Wes Stafford, CEO of Compassion International. Specifically, I learned that "every encounter with a child is divine." This was a radical shift for me that I believe was a divine encounter with this child of God. (Me).

      When I heard Wes talk about how the Lord allows us the privilege of time with His children to lead and influence either for good or bad, I began to see those encounters as an opportunity. When my heart was open to see that my time with other children is a chance to shape the heart and life of God's people, I changed dramatically. I embraced the Lord's heart for ALL children, I began to actually like other people's children.

      The Lord says firmly in Mark 10:14, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." If that is how the Lord sees them then that is how I want to see them. 

The transformation has taken time for me to be more like Christ, but since my perspective has changed, I have been completely blessed by other people's children. They are smart. They are funny. And they are actually cute...most of the time. Ha! And since I don't want you to miss out on this amazing experience, I have written three thoughts that have helped me through this journey.

1. Insight - Children are extremely valuable. They are not only made by God but they are who God uses to carry out His purposes now and in the future. The Lord makes people so His kingdom will be built! Our view of these little people and teens has to have the insight to see where they came from and why they are here.

     Moreover, our moments with them are impressionable. Highly impressionable. Every moment and encounter we have with a child should count towards the making of this person. Whether it is acknowlegding other children when they are standing beside their mother when I am talking to a friend, or coming into my home to play, or passing as a neighbor, or needing something at church, we must have the insight to see that the time and love invested in a child is divine and therefore, eternal.

2. Ownership - We are all responsible for the children in our circle of life. We must allow our hearts to have ownership of them. We have been given leadership over them because of age and position. All authority comes from God, meaning that He decided the layout of how things trickle down in headship, so the children in my life are for me to care for with ownership. We are appointed leaders to children. They are all ours. And when something is our own we care for it as such.

      A practical look at this view is to think to how we feel when riding in someone else's car. We don't really care as much about the details or needs. We don't appreciate the car because we don't have personal ownership in it. We have no investment in it. We don't think about it or care. The car is simply there and doing what it does. This is a natural response to something that isn't our own. But we must own the leadership God has given to us with children. Otherwise, we just see them as being there doing what they do. But this should not be. For children, we must own them. We must care about their details and their needs.

3. Understanding - I can recall telling someone that because we were youth pastors I wasn't sure how to relate to children. I was used to talking to teens about parental respect, boyfriends, temptations etc. but to talk to a 4 yr old was foreign to me. I may have well spoken Japanese when I came across a little one. Yes, I made the worst babysitter growing up. It was rough. I did not know what I was doing even though I took a babysitting class. I just didn't understand children. Which is bizarre to me because I used to be a child.

      Anyway, understanding how children think and act whether it be by age or personlity, makes a tremendous difference in our interaction with them. If we know how they think, feel, and do then we can get into their world. When we know where they have come from and what experiences they have had, we can relate to them. All of this and more can be learned by taking time with them. Ask questions. Listen well. Do life with them. When we know them, it is easier to embrace them.

     So those are my three main thoughts on how I have learned to like, even love, other people's children. They make the acronym "IOU" if you want to remember this post when the next little darling crosses your path and you start to slip into annoyance. 

As we have the insight to value them, we truly do owe it to children to lead with the authority God has given to us in understanding their world. Blessings to you as you start to enjoy some of the most amazing people on earth!
(Photo credit to my fun nephew Weston!)