5 Things I’m Learning in This Dance With My Strong-Willed Daughters

I see the anger before I feel it. Her fists clench at her side and her dark eyes flash.

I brace myself because I know what’s coming.

Some times it happens when I say the word no or when I say you can’t.

Her passion erupts and she fights hard for what she wants.

She’s not the only one.

I take deep breaths and try to remain calm, controlled.

But she pushes. And I push back.

Words and attitude can be daggers to a heart.

Hers and mine.

I take the bait.

We battle.

I have two daughters, both strong-willed. Both like me.


Wavy hair. Olive skin. Dark brown eyes. Same nose. We even share identical birthmarks.

But our similarities run much deeper. We are short-tempered. Passionate. We want life to be fair and just. We are fighters. We want our way. We long for control.

And in those strong-willed moments–when daughters demand their way–their strength amplifies my weakness.

Some days we laugh and push through the tough moments. Other days are filled with harsh words and regret.

And I know as I certain as I stand in my kitchen arguing with one of my strong-willed daughters, there will be no winners.

In moments like these when we fight for what we want, we both lose.

When we put our will above all else. we leave a wake of casualties.

Battle-weary, we find a place of peace and talk through the damage of our words. We say our “I’m sorry’s” and we end up stronger in our weakness. I am not her captain or her companion, I am her cavalier, her company and we are on the same side. We are not enemies. It is not my way or hers.

I’m not a teacher on this strong-willed dance floor. I’m a student. Here’s what I’m learning:

  1. Not everything is a battle–but it can be if we make it one. If we are in constant battle about the same things–messy rooms, laundry and attitude, we might win a few, but it might cost us a relationship. Leave the small things, small. That’s not to say we let them have their way all the time, instead we focus on what really matters.
  2. Not everything is personal–but it can be if we take offense. That eye roll or audible sigh–it’s normal. That doesn’t make it right or less frustrating. But most words flung are coming from a hurt or misunderstood place. If we choose to be offended by every word or action, we are choosing something much bigger. Look past the words and get to the heart of the hurt.
  3. Not everything can be won–and if we try to win it all, we will ultimately lose. We are raising, unique, one-of-a-kind girls who will surprise and satisfy us. We have to step back and let them learn and grow and mess up. Most of all, we have to help them find the beauty in every place, especially the hard ones.
  4. Not everything is eternal–but everything is significant. Things in her world might seem small to us. And they probably are–that zit, that boy, that mean girl, that first B on her report card. But if we make what’s important to her insignificant to us, we wound.
  5. Not everything is understood and that’s why listening is the best gift. We may not always understand the drama, the emotion, the passion over the trivial. And that’s okay. We can offer them what they really want and need–it’s not a fix to their problem, it’s a listening ear. Some times the best thing we can do is close our mouth and let them talk.

I’m raising strong-willed daughters. And I’m discovering their passion and determination are the very things that carry them through their toughest times. I’m watching them deflect the world, stand against cultural norms and leave a mark on those they impact. They shine.

And more than ever, I need to remember what the fight is really about.

The Truth About Religion

I am a church child of the 80′s.

I wore this pin, remember?

I did all the stuff Christians do.

And then a few years ago, I realized I was spiritually fat.

I was well-fed, plump on a lot of religion, but lacking obedience.


Faith has always been a huge part of my life. I guess I would characterize myself as full of faith but lacking in obedience. I believed everything Jesus said; I just didn’t always do what He told me.

But when I began to say yes in my mess, that’s when I started to slim down.

Getting fit is uncomfortable. It can be painful and stretch us further then we thought possible.

It makes us stronger.


When we started rescuing young pregnant girls in Kenya, many orphaned, we hired young and old widows as housemothers to help us help them.  And somewhere in the mix of helping orphans and widows, I discovered the truth about religion.

It’s not so much about what we believe, it’s also about what we do.



We can’t really separate the two. One without the other is dead.

And when we find a way-some way in our busy lives and busy world- to serve the least of these, we find God. Every time.

When we step out of our comfort zone and serve another human, it’s a spiritual act of worship.

Religion is so much more than a check in a box. It’s being the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s about fulfilling what we were created to do. It’s about focusing on what matters. It’s about bringing God glory.

Faithful widows like Jessica, Winfred and Judy spend their days serving the least of these.


“Thank you for helping these girls,” Judy grasped both my hands last week in Kenya.

“You’re helping us, too. We love our job and we need it,” Jessica hugged me tight.


My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7


As I watched widowed women love orphaned girls and fatherless babies, I saw Jesus.

I found true religion in an unlikely place.

And I’ve never seen a more beautiful site.


WFMW: Say Yes to Your God-Sized Adventure Today


I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kari for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Twenty-two years ago, I didn’t have a clue how to say yes.

For me, life was all about maintaining a well-organized home, driving a new minivan, enjoying the perks of being a stay-at-home mom, vacationing to beautiful places, and trying my best to make my children happy all. of. the. time. I loved providing them with the pleasures of a comfortable life with the best toys, activities, and experiences.

But, if you peeled back the layers you would have found a mom who was self-centered, overly busy, stressed, and unhappy. I was messy on the inside. I wasn’t feeling satisfied. I didn’t feel adequate in any area of my life. But, I was too embarrassed to admit I was a mess, even to myself.

During this season, I delivered my son at 21 weeks gestation, who took his last breath in my arms and with his death, I lost all the hopes and dreams I had for him and my family. I found myself depressed without a purpose in my life. I was lost in my sorrow. I felt like I was failing miserably as a wife and mom.

“God uses our brokenness for His purpose. What He puts back together heals stronger.” #RhinestoneJesus

As God started healing my heart, He started to challenge me in ways I had never experienced before. To my surprise, He put in my heart a desire to adopt. My focus started to shift from people, places, and things to surrendering my heart. As we began to say yes to God as a couple, our dreams began to change for our family. In 2008, we adopted the most beautiful baby girl, Zoie Senait from Ethiopia.

However, it was unnerving feeling unsatisfied living the “yuppy” lifestyle. How was this possible? We had already shared 16 comfortable years in our marriage, but God started to convict us to fully surrender to Him.

It was a tough battle and I fought it every step of the way. I questioned God. We already adopted our daughter from Ethiopia…what more could you possibly want from us? (What a dangerously stupid thing to ask God)

“Hardships in life shape us, struggles define us, and both ultimately prepare us for the future God is calling us to.” Kristen Welch

God was faithful and He started prying every single one of my fingers off the stuff I was clinging so tightly to. But, I still wasn’t willing to say yes with full abandonment.

  • I didn’t want to let go of my home.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my comfort.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my husband’s salary.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my stuff.

When you surrender fully to God’s calling, you must be willing to give up your lifestyle, your reputation, your everything. When you give God control, He must take ALL of it. You have to give Him your mess.

As my hubby and I started sayings yes, God started us off on a new adventure. We spent the next 5 years leading mission teams to love big on orphans. We built up our ministries, Simply Love and Man Up and Go. Our passion was living out-loud James 1:27. But, He wanted more from us.

If God asks you to let it go– do it! Be obedient. Do good. In 1 Timothy 6:18 Jesus requires us to be rich in good works, be generous, and ready to serve.

We said yes again, and sold our home, quit our day job, sold our stuff, and started on a radical God-sized adventure that transformed our family forever.

We lived in three 3rd world countries for 15 months. First, we served in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia serving a slum community and leper colony. Next, we spent 2 months in rural Haiti living in an orphanage and sharing the gospel to the lost and caring for the sick. Finally, we headed to Nicaragua hosting mission teams, loving big at a re-nutritional orphanage, and building homes in the poorest communities.

Honestly, our time living abroad were some of the best days and some of the messiest days of my life. I felt vulnerable at every turn.

We are now back living in the states, and my husband has a new job with a bigger platform than we could have ever imagined to reach men, women, and families world-wide to live for Jesus. Together, we are sharing our story to encourage others to serve the Great Commission, be lovers of Jesus, and loving people.


So, how do you say yes to a God-sized dream?

Here Are 7 Ways to Say Yes…Today:

  1. Pray Through: Pray like your whole life depends on it. Start asking God to transform your heart to be a lover of Him and prepare for God to change everything, your dreams, hopes, desires, and passions. If you ask, He will be faithful. There is nothing He won’t provide for you to live the purpose He created for your life. Remember, prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading. You don’t want to head off in the wrong direction.
  2. Commit to Fasting: This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare you soul, mind, and heart to say yes. When you take the time to give up something (like food) and focus with prayer and fasting, God WILL reveal his power and miracles to you.
  3. Make Sacrifices: What are you willing to give up? It doesn’t mean you have to sell your home and give away all your stuff, but it does mean you will make sacrifices to say yes. It does mean you will live obediently, no matter what the cost may be. Watch out! When you are willing to give everything up to serve and love Him, God will change everything.
  4. Take Action: Real action takes movement and when it’s time to move forward, DO IT AFRAID and move! If we aren’t willing to jump in the adventure with both feet, we miss out on the plans He sets in motion for us. If we move too slow, we find ourselves slacking back into old habits, old fears, and old living.
  5. Remember His Grace: Here’s the thing, we will always be messy. We are sinful by nature and will constantly, consistently, and miserably fail. Grace is the gift of favor and love from Jesus because we don’t deserve His love. We don’t deserve His undeserving redemption. I don’t know about you, but that takes the pressure off all our big fat failures.
  6. Remember the Battle: Satan wants to discourage us, make us feel like failures. He kills our dreams, steals our ambitions, and destroys our spirits. It’s not God that’s not putting us back in the game, it’s us allowing satan to keep us out of the game through what he does in our minds, filling our thoughts with despair, guilt, shame, loneliness, and failure. Take every thought captive! (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  7. Make Jesus Famous: Give Him full control of your life. Say YES right now– today to follow Him the rest of your life. Full surrender. Complete obedience. Every adventure will be different. Look different. But, it will be a God-sized adventure. Nothing is better than loving and knowing Jesus.

Sisters, our “stuff” was never designed to make us happy. Our joy does not come from materialistic things. True joy comes from saying YES to serving and loving and caring and blessing and helping others with your gifts, talents, and passions.


unnamed-1Bio: Kari Gibson is the proud daughter of marriage and parenting guru, Gary Smalley. She learned at an early age how to dream big and pray bold and love people. She is the author of four children’s books, Mookie’s Secret, The Very Scary Cave, Mookie and the Too-Proud Peacock, and Mookie the Berry Bandit.

She has spent the past 6 years leading mission teams to Haiti, Uganda, and Ethiopia mobilizing others to go and love and serve big. She married her high school sweetheart, Roger, who is the senior director of adult and family ministries for Assemblies of God. Roger & Kari live in Springfield, MO with their three super-kids Michael, Hannah, and Zoie.

Kari blogs at My Crazy Adoption and writes about everyday life–marriage, family, parenting, faith, adoption, orphan care, and all the other things that celebrate the craziness of life and loving big.

The Real Threat to Marriage

Frustrated. Irritable. Tired.

I blamed it on jet lag and dirty hair. And rightly so.

But still. It’s always’s something. We can always find a reason for an interruption in happiness. Even when we are rested on the best hair day.

We stood at an airport in between time zones on the other side of the globe and in a hot minute, my soulmate was hinging on becoming my arch enemy.

Ah, love.


There’s no guarantee we’ll be happy in marriage.

As a matter of fact, most days we can find a hundred reasons not to be.

And I’m not really talking about the big things like financial ruin, pornography, adultery and differences we can’t reconcile.

I understand marriages end every day with good reason. I understand the choice isn’t always ours.

But if we’re keeping track and letting the small things add up –those dirty socks on the floor, that burned dinner, the lack of romance, the mood swings– our marriage could be in danger.

Big or small–we can conquer all of these with God’s help.

I’ve seen marriages overcome the worst. And I’ve witnessed them end over insignificant irritations.

Because maybe the biggest threat of all is when we simply stop trying.

When we give up.


Stop participating. Stop communicating.

When we refuse to forgive the small stuff, bury our feelings, give our spouse the cold shoulder and punish them with the silent treatment–

We always, always lose.

I read an article about a couple who on their 20 year anniversary dinner reminisced about their lives together and then when they got to dessert, they talked about who got the house and who got the kids.

There wasn’t a big reason for the split. They were growing in different directions, didn’t feel connected or happy anymore.

And while it may sound surprising to give up over so little, I think the threat is all too real. Leaving is often easier than staying.

I’ve been there:

We would falter and fail and taste brokenness like we couldn’t imagine. My solid marriage would be unrecognizable, a lot like the pieces scattered around me.- from Chapter 3, the testimony of my marriage in Rhinestone Jesus.

Here’s the thing–no marriage is perfect. Not your neighbors or your pastors. Not mine or yours. How could it be with all that humanity? Some days we don’t feel happy, or loved, or loving.

But we fight. We love. We keep forgiving.  We keep working on our marriage.

Because struggling means we are both trying.

And that beats quitting any day.

Coming Soon

There is an amazing story—and invitation behind these pictures.

It starts in a slum at the base of the hills where our new home is located.


SBP_2093s SBP_2105s




I can’t wait to tell you.


Here’s a hint: It includes fair trade, shopping, and empowering another dozen young mothers in the slum with hope, opportunity and Jesus.


Coming soon!