Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I’ve been thinking about divorce a lot lately. No, not me. But, yes, close family members and friends…more than one couple that we know are going through it now and/or have recently gone through it and are still dealing with the ramifications. And these aren’t my “secular” friends either. These are people of faith…believers…church people.

Sometimes it’s undeniable who’s at fault, isn’t it? I mean, if a spouse cheats, that’s a relatively indisputable indictment. If there’s abandonment or abuse, it’s pretty clear who to blame. But then there’s that ever-broad, most common reason that so many couples offer: Irreconcilable Differences–which is a fancy way of saying We just don’t get along or I’m just not happy. [The entire premise that one should always be happy in marriage, or that your happiness is in any way a condition of staying married, is a complete puzzlement to me, but that’s another can of worms for another post.]

So, setting aside the victims (those that are cheated on, abused, or abandoned–you’re off the hook here) as well as our secular, unbelieving friends who are not followers of Christ (because there’s really no point in holding them up to a standard they don’t believe in), let’s address the issue of Irreconcilable Differences within the community of faith.

I recently read Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions to Adulthood by Lisa Damour. (Excellent read for parents of tween/teen girls, BTW!) In the book, she compares conflict to the common cold in terms of relationships. Conflict is unavoidable, unpleasant, and there’s no cure for it. You can, however, manage the symptoms, provide some relief, and avoid germy situations. But, bottom line, people disagree. And often continue to disagree. That is conflict. You should probably just make your peace with it now, ’cause it’s a fact of life. But it isn’t deadly…not like pneumonia or any other number of infectious diseases. It’s manageable.

So…if conflict is unavoidable, because people are always going to disagree, we need to learn to deal with it. How? That’s going to depend on the situation, but you know the basics: talking, listening, compromising, prioritizing…honestly, you can Google and get a million tips for conflict resolution. But none of them are going to work unless you get your heart in the right place first.

Let’s start with Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This little oft-quoted verse is in the midst of one of the most wisdom-dense chapters in the Bible. (Seriously, read Romans 12 right now and meet me back here. You won’t be sorry.) It’s a miniature treatise on inter-personal relations. And guess what the key is? Humility and sacrifice.

I lost a few of you there, didn’t I? Nobody wants to hear that. But, follow the logic: If we claim to be followers of Christ, our goal is to become like Him. And, well, no one exhibits humility and sacrifice quite like Jesus. So if the Bible tells us–no, commands us–to do everything possible to get along, and that the key is to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves, well, we’d better be humble and sacrificial, right?

Which brings me to this: I’m convinced that the bulk of marital dissention is a byproduct of pride and selfishness (the opposite of humility and sacrifice). We worship at the church of ME. My needs. My wants. ME-OH-MY! We want it to be fair. Actually, what we want is for it to feel fair (regardless of the actual balance of fairness). We’re approaching the whole thing wrong.

I know this is a bit of an over-simplification. I don’t like it when I feel like I’m doing more than my share…or when I think I’m making more effort than my husband. (And, truly, there are some jerks out there who aren’t doing their share and aren’t valuing their spouses.) But I also know that when I step back and honestly examine a situation, I’m often perceiving it through my own unique “ME” filter. Sometimes, yes, I think too highly of myself. And all too often I put my own needs first. I am irritable and irrational. I occasionally worship at the church of ME. When I have a moment of clarity, I surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. (He’s a way better Lord than me. Not irritable or irrational at all.)

So, there’s that loaded phrase in Romans 12:18, “as far as it depends on you.” How far? Well, there is that whole seventy times seven thing about forgiveness (Matthew 18:22). And then there’s that turn the other cheek thing too (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29). Oh, and let’s not forget that bit about noticing the speck of dust in your brother’s eye when there’s a log in your own. It seems the Bible is full of instruction and examples of  how we’re supposed to be gracious when we see fault in others, realizing that we’re no angels ourselves.

It was a long trip, but we’ve arrived back at Irreconcilable Differences. And I’ve come to the conclusion that no differences are irreconcilable for two believers who are following the example and commands of Jesus. (There are a few qualifiers in that statement, so make sure you catch them all.) Messy? Yes! Hard? You bet! Heartbreaking…arduous…downright hellish? Sometimes. But stay in it! Conflict is life. If you don’t learn to deal with it in your current relationship, you’re sure to face it again in the next. As a follower of Jesus, don’t be the leaver. Don’t be the quitter. Don’t be the first to take off your ring, to use the D word. Just. Don’t. As Romans 12 starts, “I urge you…” Stay in it, pray, fight. It will get different.

 

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My Ibotta Obsession

If you’re one of my five regular readers (Hi, Mom!), you’ve probably noticed that there’s no real agenda or theme to this blog. If I had to nail it down, I guess the theme would be “Stuff I Like and Think About.” Sometimes that stuff is pretty deep (see my last post if that’s what you’re looking for) and other times, well, NOT. This is one of the NOT posts.

OK, on to my latest obsession: Ibotta (which sounds like “I bought a”–get it?). Basically, Ibotta is an app that gives you rebates, in the form of gift cards or a PayPal or Venmo deposit, for groceries and other various items. You pre-select rebates for items you intend to purchase, then verify your purchases, and get credit on the app within minutes typically. All you need is a smart phone. I know there are other apps with similar objectives (which I intend to look into one of these days), but Ibotta is so simple that it’s my go-to for now.

Some rebates are store specific, but many are available at multiple stores. (Be sure to check before you purchase.) To “unlock” rebates, you typically have to answer a question or watch a very short video (15-30 seconds). You’re supposed to do this before you shop–which I usually do at home on my PC–but I’ve unlocked rebates while shopping and never had a problem redeeming them. Another great feature on the app is the ability to scan a product bar code in the store to confirm that the item matches the rebate–avoiding the frustration of being denied later.

When you get home from shopping, simply click “verify purchases” and the app will lead you through the process of scanning bar codes of eligible products. Then you snap a quick pic of your receipt and within minutes your rebates are verified and credited to your account. When you reach a certain dollar amount ($20 for PayPal or Venmo; $25 for a gift card), you can transfer funds or purchase cards.

Ibotta is an especially useful app if you’re a Walmart grocery shopper (I’m not), but I do pretty well with Publix and Kroger too. There are also bonuses for specific products or for verifying a certain number of purchases. You can also add teammates to help multiply your bonus potential. (More on that below.)

Part of the fun of Ibotta is that you can watch your savings accrue. Even though I could have “cashed out” long ago, I’m letting my savings build up so I can use my PalPal cash for something fun!

Right now, I’m pretty much going solo on Ibotta. have a few teammates who’ve signed on, but they haven’t started actually using the app. So I could use some actual shoppers so we can help boost each other’s savings. When you use my link, you will get a $10 bonus when you verify your first purchase–that’s halfway toward a PayPal deposit. (FYI, I made it to $20 with just three shopping trips–and I wasn’t even trying very hard!) So, if you’re ready to save digitally with little effort and absolutely nothing to lose, click here to share in my Ibotta obsession.

 

A Cautionary Trail: Social Media & the De-Construction of Relationships

This past week, country music artist Joey Feek lost her battle with cancer. I had never heard of Joey Feek until a few months ago and likely still wouldn’t know her were it not for a widespread social media campaign surrounding her illness. I struggle for a better word, because campaign sounds so strategic and exploitive. But it’s clear that her husband, Rory, was both transparent and intentional about sharing their struggles and victories. A jaded media professional might see this openness as an attempt to sell records, to garner fame. But I believe it was a grieving husband’s desire to see his bride encouraged, celebrated, and, yes, healed. Joey Feek lived her last months well. Her struggle was painful, beautiful, and inspirational. Her husband’s love and attention, noble. She leaves a legacy that the public is allowed to share in because of the power of social media.

But this post isn’t really about Joey Feek. It’s about the power–and pitfalls–of social media. We’re all aware that social media allows us to paint the sort of picture we choose, realistic or not. I have no reason to believe what we witnessed in the Feeks was anything but genuine. Their love was real, but hard. And if I’m being honest, I would rather read light-hearted, funny, or even–dare I say–bumptious posts from my social media friends. Whether it’s gushing over a child’s achievement or sharing photos from a picture-perfect romantic getaway, I’m a sucker for a positive spin.

But there’s a darker side to social media. It’s often where we first learn that our favorite celebrity has died. Or we’re made aware of someone’s suffering, as in the case of Joey Feek. And sometimes, it’s where we have a front row seat for the destruction–or “de-construction”–of a relationship.

It can take on many forms, this cautionary digital trail. Maybe a sudden uptick in posts linking to articles on marriage. A few extra “Girls Night Out” photos. Cryptic posts about love, trust, betrayal. Selfies of Dad and the kids, minus Mom. Urgent requests for prayer with little or no explanation. A sudden decline in mention of husband or wife. Perhaps even silence. Or, most telling, a change in relationship status.

Please understand that I don’t mean to be flippant about this. Rather, this post is a call to action. Recently, our pastor was speaking from Philippians 2, and expanding on what it means to encourage one another and look out for the interests of others. He made a bold, poignant statement: “Be nosy for the right reasons.” Yes. This.

When you see something troubling or amiss on social media, step up and speak out. Show your concern. Offer a friendly ear. Not so that you can get fodder for gossip. Not so you can live vicariously through someone else’s drama (’cause we all know someone who thrives on drama, am I right?). But so that we can encourage each other, carry each other’s burdens, and yes even hold each other accountable.

I recently learned of the death of one of my high school classmates. It would be an exaggeration to say we were friends, as I hadn’t seen or spoken to her–other than on Facebook–in over 25 years. She didn’t leave a decipherable trail of digital clues…only a few posts over the last year or so…growing concern over her father’s failing health. Nothing too telling. But it does make a person wonder…Did anyone reach out? Take an interest, shown concern? Did anyone know the depths to which she was sinking? I certainly didn’t.

Don’t ignore the cautionary digital trail. Let’s all start being nosy for the right reasons. Let’s follow up and check in with our friends, maybe even face-to-face (novel idea, I know!). Let’s encourage one another, spur one another on. Ask the tough questions, point each other to the Scriptures. And let’s remind each other that now matter what we’re facing today…it will get different.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” –Philippians 2:1-4

 

 

Why You Should Have a “Way to Go!” File

Motivated by the impending invasion of middle school girls that will be upon us tomorrow, I spent the morning de-cluttering the room where said girls will be sleeping this weekend. (It’s not as treacherous as it sounds. We will be hosting a sweet group of girls from our church for an in-town discipleship weekend.) When one begins the task of stripping away weeks, or perhaps months, even years of clutter, one finds that she might have dug herself into a deeper hole than expected! One might also discover a few hidden treasures.

I’m not gonna lie, there were a LOT of very old files that could be classified as basically useless–remainders from my years in publishing from an industry that doesn’t play by the same rules it once did (e-books, texting, social media…none of that existed when I was writing press releases and keeping paper files of everything). But one benefit of this never-ending paper trail is that I also have a hefty file of notes, articles, and printed emails from an array of sources that I like to call my “Way to go!” file.

Whether it’s a hand-written note from a member of my church choir, thanking me for “leading with excellence,” or a third-party email via an author’s agent, praising me for the jacket copy that “might be better than the book,” these scraps of paper are a reminder that I have skills…that I am talented…that I have done and can continue to do worthy work.

So why is that so important? Perhaps it’s a weakness, this incessant need for approval, but I believe it’s a weakness we all share to some extent, and perhaps no one more than the no-longer-working-outside-the-home mother. We need to know that we are more. More than the mother of our children. More than the sum of their accomplishments and accolades. More than the woman behind the other people. You see, most of us have been in the workforce at one time or another. We had a past, a job, a career. And most of us, at a time defined only as someday, will need or want to return. And that, my friend, is a daunting realization for this SAHM.

When I force myself to answer the big question of my hypothetical future, it creates anxiety and leads to more questions than answers. If I had to go back to work tomorrow, what sort of work would I do? Would I even be qualified? Would anyone hire me with no recent experience? But this. This “Way to go!” file reminds me that I am capable of doing great things. It shuts down the naysaying voices and empowers me. It says that I am accomplished. And so, I think that maybe I can accomplish a few more things in my life.

So gather those slips of paper. Don’t be afraid to print out an email that pays a compliment. Save that text that thanks you for being a stellar friend. You might not need the encouraging word today when you’re living the dream. But someday…well…yep…it will get different.

P.S. Be an encourager too! It only takes a little extra effort to let someone know when they’ve done something with excellence. And your compliment might be more needed than you’ll ever know.

My Life in Hashtags

So, over 2 months have passed since my last post. (OK, closer to 3.) I had high hopes for blogging, but just like scrapbooking and lesson planning, it seems destined to be a neglected art for me. In light of my busy schedule and general lack of free time, let me share what has been going on in my life, in the form of recent twitter hashtags. No, this is not a comprehensive review, but rather a snapshot.

June 3 #guessihavemyanswer

June 8 #somebodydvrthetonysforme

June 10 #sorrynotsorry #calledatdinner

June 13 #CentriKid #campdetox

June 17 #imightbeacitygirlafterall

June 24 #ilovetravelwriting

June 26 #toomanydecisions #kitchenredo

June 30 #DiagonAlleyPreview #UniversalOrlando

July 2 #clearance #BOGO #iloveabargain

July 4 #Lowes #HomeDepot #freefood #parkinglotcookout

July 6 #Orlandoisatenhourdrive #couldbetherebybedtime

July 11 #openingnight #behindthemirror

July 18 #somethinghastogo #butnotmydisneyvacation

July 21 #scoliosis #grateful

July 23 #notastechsavvyasithink #applestore

July 28 #worthit #stillwantacupcake

August 3 #dilemma #piewins

August 4 #stillinpjs #hairnotcombed #homeschool #firstday #3rdgrade #6thgrade

August 7 #pinkhair #yolo

August 10 #prayforthepersecutedchurch

August 16 #obsessivelyweighingmyself #8poundsdown

August 20 #awesomeness

That should about cover it. Follow me @ValerieBGibbs to get the whole picture.

Vacation Backlog

OK, so we just returned from a glorious week on the Carolina Coast (more specifically, Wilmington, NC and the area beaches), and I’m completely overwhelmed. Since my vacation was partially a work trip (reviewing resorts, attractions, and restaurants for Trekaroo.com), I now have to “pay” for my trip by writing said reviews. Also on deck for this week is prep for my 7-year-old’s Lego birthday party on Saturday and packing (and purchasing anything we don’t yet have) for my 10-year-old to leave for CentriKid church camp on Monday. So…you won’t be hearing from me for a few days. But, if you want to know what I’ve been up to, you can read about my experiences in the form of travel reviews. I’ll be posting more later, so check my “Passport” to see the most recent. (While you’re there, you might want to check out some of my older reviews too…or explore any of the destinations on Trekaroo!)

Adios for now. See ya in about a week.

My Life in 140 Characters

I’ve only been on Twitter for about nine months. (Follow me at ValerieBGibbs !) Honestly, I started tweeting because it was a required part of my “job” as a travel reviewer to live tweet from the locations I was reviewing. I’m slowly warming up to the whole thing. (OK, I might be just a little addicted to long, complicated hashtags…they make me happy.) For someone like me, who adores–ne, cherishes–words (if you don’t believe me, check out this post, in which I use 1048 words to talk about coffee–yes, I did a word count), encapsulating life events into 140 characters is difficult. Laborious, even. Next to impossible. (And now I have the soundtrack from Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Cinderella playing in my head. Does that give you an idea of what it’s like to be me?)

Just for fun, I did a review of sorts, scanning through all my tweets since September. (BTW, at the writing of this post, I had exactly 387 tweets.) I thought I’d share a few of my favorites–funny, clever, odd, poignant–from oldest to newer. A snapshot of my life, if you will, in 140 characters or less.

Sep 7 Presley finally pulled the tooth that has been dangling for days. Had video but decided it was too graphic to post.

Sep 11 Sad to come home…until I saw that these had arrived!

Sep 17 Luke 12:2-3 is on my mind this morning.

Sep 17 I served flounder at dinner tonight. This did not go over well with my Disney-loving girls.