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!"


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Parenting Teens Back to School



    The excitement I had for going back to school changed dramatically after elementary. The joys of a new lunch box, meeting my teacher, discovering how much recess time was allotted and hoping friends noticed that I had lost a baby tooth were soon replaced by thoughts in the mind of a blossoming teenager. I looked forward to the status of being in an older grade, the fun of electives, seeing friends every day, and showing the world how much I had matured through the summer. But I also had other no-so-exciting emotions. I wondered if my clothes would be cool enough, what classes to take for college preparation, how to manage the endless social dramas, and if I was going to make the JV or Varsity basketball team. Back to school had certainly changed.

     Certainly, if you are in the midst of raising a teen, then you know students are the only ones feeling the change. What used to be a fun trip hand-in-hand to Wal-Mart for a pack of d├ęcor pencils has turned into a Mall trip with much discussion of what is or isn’t allowed. It’s a time of change for the parents as much as the student. So what are some insights into making the best of school preparation with your teenage child?
1. Keep It Fun! Teens are still tender at heart! While they long to be grown, there are parts that are still enjoying childhood joys.  So, create a celebration of the back to school days! Make a countdown chart in the kitchen, take them for a fresh haircut, leave a note of funny things you remember from being their age and/or hopes you have them this year. Some more ideas are to visit the school before it starts just to say hello to staff for a pre-school connection, make shopping day fun by planning out what is needed and the best places to look then enjoy stopping for a treat as you chat about how your child feels about the year, or have some close friends over for a back to school hang out time or dinner out. Their tender teen hearts may or may not express how much all this means but they will enjoy, appreciate, and remember all you have done.


2. Keep It Simple! With all the changes during those teen years, simplicity is a gift that some teens aren’t sure how to acquire. Everywhere they go, there are options and decisions for them to be involved in something. Whether it’s more classes, afterschool clubs, sports, church activities, community events, friendships, homework, home jobs or even a workplace job, there is much to be done! If you can help them narrow down their choices and responsibilities with logical reasoning it will help them not be overwhelmed. Think through their natural abilities, personal interest (not just because someone else wants them to do it), weekly schedule, daily schedule, cost, responsibilities and necessity to do what is offered. As you move through a time of investigation and discussion, you will both learn what will be the best for all involved. This will keep things simple which helps the teen and the whole family.  

3. Keep It Close! While these years are a time to offer more freedom and growth, this is also a critical time to stay close to their heart. They may or may not seem interested or may not be home as much but they do still need you! It will take some planning and patience on your part but keeping them close is a must. As you go into the school year, have a conversation about your love for them and desire to stay connected. Then go into the fall with plans for meals as a family, set weeknight or weekend outings, leave notes of encouragement as well as be willing to stay up for those late-night chat times, attend their activities, create time to know their friends, and do whatever it takes to get into their world. In return, having a close relationship that makes an effort to be together gives more opportunity to discuss the realities of teen pressures, friend issues, personal struggles, and deeper emotions. Going into the school year with the support of a parent that works to stay close gives incredible stability for the developing teen and endless rewards for you as the parent!

  These days may be different than years before but it can be a meaningful and enjoyable time in the journey of parenting as your teen goes back to school!

 *Article used as published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine August 2014  by Casey Gibbons

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

EMERGENCY BROADCAST ANNOUNCEMENT FOR HOMESCHOOL MOMS

BEEP BEEP BEEP...THIS IS NOT A TEST...ALERT! ATTENTION! CALLING ALL HOMESCHOOL MOTHERS! THIS IS A WARNING! THIS IS A WARNING! THIS IS A WARNING! WE INTERRUPT ALL LIFE ADVENTURES FOR THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION!

     Please stop all tasks and take heed! Please step away from the google search of every method and mindset. Drop the debit/credit cards and do not buy another piece of curriculum. Put the home schedule revision # 7 back in the cabinet. Stop laying awake at night in a panic as you revisit all the details of what needs to be done. Erase the plans you have drawn out to ban all co-ops due to resentment that you can't leave your children there while you get things done. Ignore all fears that you can't do this.

     Go ahead and cry. Let out your emotions. Scream out "I AM OVERWHELMED" at the top of your lungs in front of all your neighbors and friends if need be. Write your nay-sayers and acknowledge you know they don't think you can do this. Admit to your spouse that, although you do love the children, you have repeated thoughts of the old days where children were sent off to boarding school...and seemed to turn out fine, right? Right?

     You are not alone. This is universal! It's called "BACK TO SCHOOL". Also known as "the time of the year when mothers are trying to do what they feel is right for their family but it's hard and overwhelming and mindboggling and you second guess if just putting them on the bus wouldn't be such a bad idea after all..."

     Take a deep breath and repeat after me "IT IS OKAY. ALL HOMESCHOOL MOTHERS FEEL THIS.(Yes, I mean 100%. I mean, I haven't taken an international survey but I just know). I AM NOT ALONE. THIS IS NORMAL. NOTHING WORTH HAVING IS CHEAP. THIS IS COSTING ME SOMETHING BUT IT'S WORTH IT. I TRULY WANT THIS (If you can't say that one with confidence just go ahead and say it in faith.) IF GOD WANTS THIS FOR ME THEN I CAN DO IT! YES, THIS IS HARD BUT IT'S NOT THE FIRST THING I HAVE CONQUERED! I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT WITH GOD'S HELP!"

     Now then. How are you? Still second guessing yourself? Wondering how all this works? Think God picked the wrong family? In all seriousness, it's okay. I believe those who have gone before you have been there. I am in my 7th year of homeschooling and I feel this way every year we start. Even more so, sometimes I feel this in the middle of the year. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That doesn't mean I should give up. And you shouldn't either.

     "If God is for you, who can be against you?" Romans 8:31. No matter how you feel or what you are facing with the school year, you have nothing to worry about. Fighting for what you know God has for you isn't easy but He is with you. He is the One Who will give you supernatural guidance on what to do and what not to do as well as the when, how, and why answers. He is the source of life physically but also mentally as you make your way through the maze.

     There is peace. There is clarity. There is favor. There is wisdom. There is patience. There is joy. All of these are readily available to you from the Lord. I have personally experienced them all in my life with schooling my girls. There comes a point where you will settle in and get in a groove. It may take time (for some, lots of time...as in years) but you will with God's help.

     My first year I was a professional researcher spending most of my time meeting with ladies and asking questions but it did end up helping . My second year I revamped all I had tried the first year and felt better. My third year I realized a person doesn't need to buy a lot of extra bells and whistles to teach, so that saved money. My fourth year I accepted that maybe I do need a co-op, which relieved stress. My fifth year I admitted that teaching a true ADHD child was difficult so investing in a tutor didn't mean I was a failure. My sixth year I was clueless on the new English curriculum despite my college degree, so I worked as hard as my 4th grader only to discover we knew what we were doing by the second semester. My seventh year I realized how fast the years are going so I need to stay focused. And now we will begin our new year of school in about a week or two. But Every year gets better! I am loving it because I know there are challenges but God is for me and always, always, always helps me.

     As we have taken this journey, I have grown tremendously in my walk with the Lord. The challenges have caused me to truly seek Him. We have not regretted our decision to home educate. We understand it's not for all families and yet feel blessed it is for us. The results of our endurance and hard work has paid off 10x over in more areas than we could have imagined.

     So, as we end this emergency interruption...just know, you are okay, dear friend. God is with you.

     BEEP BEEP BEEP ... we now return to our regular scheduled life of adventure!