Saturday, December 6, 2014

More Stuff!

"What do you want for Christmas?" the Santa routinely asked my little girl. I abruptly piped in like only a parent could, "Nothing!!!! She doesn't want anything! She has all she needs and wants! Oh wait, I know what she can have....a professional organizer to help her deal with what she already has! The last thing she needs is MORE STUFF!!!!" 

      Yes, this really happened in my life. Well, I didn't say it out loud, but I certainly thought about it. For many families like ours, Christmas has meant two things: More and Stuff! Stuff for the closet! Stuff for the toy bin! Stuff for the TV hutch! Stuff the garage! Stuff for the areas...with stuff! As a mother of six children between 4mos-12 yrs. old, the last thing I need is more stuff on top of the stuff we have! After all the treats from the school party, costumes from the church performance, clothes and toys from the family-giving, I have felt as if I have a mall in my home entry room. All I can do in December is make a pile in the laundry room and deal with it all after New Years.

       Then there is the More Factor. The innocent children in our lives have this inward understanding that every year the gifts should be bigger and better! The bigger you get, the bigger the presents get. And it better be better, mom, so they think. I thought this as a child and I know my children have had these expectations Seriously, my oldest daughter made the comment a couple years ago of her Christmas gifts being more and more each year. "Just think, Mom! By the time I am 13 I will have a car!" No ho, ho,ho here...because truth is, she was right! There was this unsaid pattern we had been creating as a family every year that there were more gifts and more expensive gifts than the year before.

          Certainly, Christmas is a wonderful time to purchase and receive presents as we rejoice over the ultimate Gift given to the world. And I love it all! But the reality is that it can easily get out of control and our children can become consumed with consuming. And this can lead to frustration in the minds and the home of the parents. For us, we decided to pull the reins back a bit on the sleigh ride for our family so that we aren't overwhelmed with more stuff and yet still have the most wonderful time of the year. We took two easy steps that changed the direction of our whole season:

     1. Give away as much as you can this month before more comes in the door. Since it's a hectic time, don't even separate it yet into those resale/giveaway/trash piles. Just get a box and throw everything you can get rid of in there. Think in terms of clothes, toys, decor, books, DVDs etc. As you gather each item, you will feel a wave of holly jolly come over you, I guarantee. I typically have each of our children gather five legitimate things, not their sibling's items or a small piece of a broken toy, to share. For us, that is 25 items out of the way! Merry Christmas to me!

     2. Explain that each child is loved but the gifts are not always going to be more impressive than the year before. Some years may be a step up from the year before but some years may not, and that is okay. Share with them that the goal is to share the love not increase the greed. The atmosphere, tone and words we use in communicating these steps is for the children is crucial for them to understand and embrace. These changes may be harder for some hearts than others but it's beneficial for all.

      Here is glimpse at what we actually say to our children during December, "Hey it's the most wonderful time of the year! Who is ready to celebrate? Decorate? Bake? Shop? Give?! Go light-seeing?! Here is the plan, kids. First, we are going to start by making room for the blessings that are to come! This way, other children can use what we have had and it keeps the house from being overwhelmed with too much stuff. Secondly, let's keep things in perspective of appreciation for all you will be receiving this year. Each present is given because you are loved. However, every year they will not necessarily be bigger and better, okay? We are blessed and will enjoy this all to the fullest when we have the right heart of gratitude. Who is ready to start?!"

       So, gather your small and big elves around the fire, pass out marshmallows and share the family's merry way to celebrate! Keep it short and sweet answering all questions at the end, then implement all month long with expectations of less material chaos and fewer greedy hearts. Everyone can still decorate the house, eat delicious treats, go visit the brightest lights, turn up the Christmas tunes, make traditional crafts and do some shopping for others. But most of all, you will be able to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without everyone wanting more and your home overflowing with stuff.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time for Myself

     One of the things that shocked me about motherhood is that I am never off the clock. Its eternal. Seriously. Most things end but not mothering. School lets out for the summer and everyday at a certain time. A job has certain hours plus vacation days. But not being a mother. There is no time clock. There is no vacation. There is no stopping point. Ever.

      After much frustration, I have learned I can't compartmentalize my mothering. I literally would say "I am off the clock. Its past 8:00 pm and I am not responding." This didn't really work. First of all because Scotty said it was ridiculous and second of all because my girls didn't stop needing me at bedtime.

      So if you can't beat them, join them. That means that I am in it for life. I have decided that these little people are my new best friends. (Don't worry, I don't mean I won't lead them and fall into some crazy philosophy that children need us to be friends instead of parents.)When I became a parent I became a mother for LIFE. Plus, now that I have accepted the children as a part of life, I have much more joy enjoying them.  

Even though I am very "pro-motherhood" and "pro-be-with-children-more", I also have a plan to maintain some time alone:

     1. I get up before the children do so I can get a good attitude, eat, get dressed, read my Bible, stretch, go to the bathroom (a luxury once they are awake), and write out the schedule on the marker board. If I have a newborn then this plan is out the window and I let other things go in life so I can make it through the first three months.

     2. No one is allowed to get up before 8:00 unless they are capable of not talking, needing anything, and staying out of the way and it better be for a good reason. That is, of course, after I greet them lovingly (which isn't easy but this post may help... 
     Otherwise, when they get up before 8 I greet them and send them back to bed to read or play quietly until I come get them. For the toddler that gets up at 7:00, I change a diaper and give a drink while they stay in their bed and it buys me about 20 min. Then, I go in and turn on the light and turn off the noise maker and give books and toys, that buys me another 20 min, and then I send an older sibling in to play for  with them which buys me the last 20 min of time until 8:00. It isn't perfect but it works most of the time.

     3. Everyone takes an hour break in the middle of the day. It doesn't matter if you are 10 yrs old, we are all taking a break. Everyone goes to their own bed or if I am gracious some can rest in the living room with no talking. If you are 4 and under you must sleep. If you are 5 and older and can make it through the day without meltdowns then you can just have quiet time. Books, drawing pads (no markers or crayons), magnet boards, puzzles etc are allowed.

     4. Everyone goes with Daddy at 8:00 pm. Scotty takes over after I do after baths/showers/teeth for the girls. This allows me time alone until we get our couples time at 9:30 and he can bond with the children. There are exceptions like when he travels or has a message to write or is in a pastoring crisis but overall this is what we do.

     5. Date nights, nights at grandparents, and getaways are on our calendar.
(See post Staying Connected at

      These are all the ways I keep my mind and emotions from being overwhelmed and not having time alone. This is crucial especially for those that home school or have multiple little ones. Since you are in this mothering journey for LIFE, you must have a plan to stay fresh so you can be the best mama you can be.

      P.S. We also have a rule of no needing me while I use the restroom unless its an emergency (vomit, blood, danger) and no note-passing under bathroom door asking questions either (believe it or not this is a hard one to break for my girls).

     And if you only have small children then you may just need to plan your potty break around their naps or video time or just take the baby with you in there...they won't remember it. But I don't recommend you going to the bathroom while they are eating in the kitchen because seems like every time I do this someone ironically starts choking or it is so silent I think someone is choking the whole time I am away which leads to being tense while I am away and we all know that's not healthy.
      Yeah, being a mother takes some major planning even for the little things in life like using the restroom!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Killer Harvest Celebrations!

      In a local store, my little girl saw gory Halloween decor and said, "I don't like this place. Look at all the mean things." The checkout employee heard her and replied, "Oh, honey, its not real. It's just pretend." I could tell by the face she made to the clerk that my little girl wasn't buying it. So I answered my daughter and said, "The lady working is right, those actual items are not real but they DO represent things that are real." I could tell the clerk thought I wasn't for real.
      Now our family is all about the fall. We enjoy the cooler air, indulge in comfort foods, decorate with autumn colors, and participate in seasonal parties. But there is a darker side to this month that is a concern to me. Why are we rejoicing over blood, fear, knives, pain, chains, screams, death, terror, missing limbs and broken bones? Those are the very things that none (or, should I say, most of us) want to avoid in life. And yet, there is much effort and publicity to make it something we should all celebrate as if it's pretend. But I know from personal experience, those things are real and none of them seem like a fall festival.
BLOOD reminds me of the day my dad saved a man's life with his own neck tie in his workplace when a bomb went off from a box received in shipping.
FEAR reminds me of the night of the tornado that hit Joplin, MO where children and families are still in counseling over for post-tramatic stress syndrome
KNIVES remind me of the innocent landlord that was stabbed nearby after reaching out to help the family in need
PAIN reminds me of what my grandmother felt when dying in her last horrific stages of ovarian cancer

CHAINS remind me of a college-aged girl I know that miraculously escaped the American sex trade in which she was literally chained in a warehouse for over 4 years

SCREAMS remind me of a very young local foster girl I know that reported screaming from the pain she felt when being sexually abused.

DEATH reminds me of all the thousands of precious people who tragically lost their lives on 9-11

TERROR reminds me of how our troops, including my cousin, who have fought and are fighting in horrific circumstances to end the terrorist groups

MISSING LIMBS reminds me of the children I saw on a recent trip to Haiti in which street children have been tortured to the point of brutal loss in order to make them work as slaves

BONES remind me of when my husband and I visited a Holocost museum and saw pictures and video footage of piles of mutilated people's bones

      When it comes to much of what is advertised and celebrated in October, we can call it merchandise, entertainment, a tradition, or a holiday, but at the very least we need to call it what it is, REAL. Some of these items and events glorify harsh realities that are not worth celebrating. So what will I do with my daughter this month? We will break out the jackets, cider, decor, and costume parties and we will have a killer...I mean, a life-giving harvest season!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Not go Crazy with Everyone Else's Problems

     Being a pastor's wife, especially one that works with teenagers, means one thing: DRAMA. Well, it means more than that (miraculously amazing things) but it certainly includes dramatic life experiences expressed from others who are often in the lead role. You know, its when you become involved in lots of issues and situations that other people are dealing with in life. I think every woman can relate to hearing someone else's problems. I know I can. And I love it.

      It's not that I love drama (although I do have five young daughters, but its that I truly love people and their lives. Conversely, I am too overwhelmed with real life scenarios that I can no longer enjoy movies, books, tv shows with fake, fiction, never-did-this-happen stories because I am already carrying too many reality stories.

     So how should we handle all the things we hear without going crazy? I mean my personality carries every. single. thing. people share with me. It could be so remote from my life, yet because I know of their situation, I am now carrying it emotionally. This is honorable according to Galations 6:2 which says to "Carry each other's burdens...". However, I often fail to remember WHERE and to WHO I am carrying the burden. In fact, sometimes I forget completely to carry it at all so I just stand there in place becoming more weighed down by the minute. But God hasn't asked us to do that.
     As stated in Ps. 55:22, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you." We are to take our burdens to the Lord.  We are called to let them go to Him and then He sustains us with His power and strength. WHAT RELIEF! No longer do I have to keep all the emotions and mental weight driving me crazy from the situations others share with me! I can give them to the Lord and leave them there.

     So here is what you have to do when someone decides to trust you enough to share their problems with you: Listen then Leave. I don't mean listen then walk away but to listen sincerely then leave their problems with the Lord.

     1. Listen to them in love. Go there emotionally. Take time to understand. Give your undivided attention. Let their situation be as if it were yours.

     2. Leave it all with the Lord. Go there emotionally. Take time to explain to the Lord. Give your prayer undivided attention. Pray as if it were your situation.

     After countless desperate, tragic, horrific situations we have encountered hearing through the years, the listen and leave plan has kept us grounded and sound. So, when you experience first row tickets to the next drama of someone, all you have to do is love them and then go pray.

     P.S. And if there is something practical you can do then do that too but I am assuming that is understood. So, if you encounter a poor college students needing finances and you are a millionaire, go ahead and listen and pray, then cut them a check. Or whatever the situation may call for that may be a tangible expression of love to them.


Monday, September 1, 2014

I Am Not Miss American Teen Anymore...

          (Post from June 2013) As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

      Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown people celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year all going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

      Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And for me, I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

      Now, fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.

     My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't even been washed in four days, I haven't worn a single ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week. (Not to mention that I caught a stomach bug and have visited the bathroom more times than I checked the mirror in high school.)

      Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 (MSG) that challenges me. "Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

     There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

      Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

      So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength. I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.

P.S. Congrats to Miss USA Erin Brady from Connecticut...let's do coffee in 15 yrs.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teaching People Skills

     Candice and I watched as two of my girls got out of the van and walked into the church. While holding the door, one of the pastors greeted them enthusiastically, "Hey Girls!" Much to my dismay, they didn't stop, make eye contact, speak up, or thank him for holding the door. They simply mumbled, "Hi" and kept moving. AHHHHH! That is when Candice expressed my exact thought, "People skills, people!" So when we were 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. It 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!"