Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Last Post until the 1st Tuesday in January



Dear You,

Thank you for reading my blog, whoever you are out there in blog-dom! It is nothing short of a thrill to put my insignificant yet God-given words out there in the web world. Because of the site meter I put on my blog, I have been able to see that I have gotten 1200 hits so far since I began blogging Tuesdays and Thursdays in September. THANK YOU! I have gotten over 2000 page views. If anyone knows the difference between a hit on my blog and a page view, can you let me know?

Also, I get to see the location of people reading. What a kick it has been to see that people all across the U.S. plus Argentina, Japan, Bulgaria, Russia, France, Spain and England have all hit the mouse to come check out what I have to say. Humbling and wonderful.

I need a break to work on some other things - (blogging can be addictive so I might join a recovery group - Hi, my name is Robbie and I blog)- so I am going to take some time off. I will be right back the first Tuesday of January so please come back and keep reading. I am SO GRATEFUL to each of you.

May the God of all goodness and gifts bless your Christmas with joy and true reflection!

Blessings and I'll see you in 08!

Robbie Iobst

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Gift We all get Christmas Morning!



Most of us are getting the same present Christmas morning.

Ipods? Nope. Socks and underwear. Thankfully, no. How about a brand new fruit cake? (Okay, maybe not brand new.) The answer again is no.

What do each of us get to have on Christmas morning? The ability to breathe!

I am not trying to be annoying clever; I am actually grateful for this extraordinary gift.

It started a few months ago.

In the middle of the night, Noah woke me up.

“Mommy, I think I need a puff.” He was gasping and I jumped to my feet.

We used the inhaler and he settled down, only to need it again a couple hours later. Off we went to the doctor. He told us that Noah needed a proactive treatment approach to his asthma using steroids, a nebulizer, inhaler and a peak flow monitor. The doctor also signed up Noah to the Denver Asthma Registry.

So began our long term journey to get my son’s asthma under control. We have created a rhythm of breathing tests and treatments, keeping all the results on charts so that Noah can have a full and active life breathing.

How many times a day do you think about breathing? Probably not many, if any at all. Taking air into the lungs and releasing it into the atmosphere is one of those wonderful little gifts God gives that most of us take for granted.

I thank God today for the gift of breathing. Not only has my son’s experience shown me the importance of lung function, but Brandy Fiske’s as well.

Brandy is a nineteen-year-old girl living in San Diego. I’ve never met her, but in the pictures I’ve looked at I’ve seen a young lady of hope and joy. But Brandy has Cystic Fibrosis which has manifested into a condition in which she can’t breathe normally. Oxygen tubes and tanks were her constant companions…at least until last month.

Joey Borgogna is a twenty-seven year old actor and creative artist. I taught high school drama for a while and Joey was one of my students. Throughout the years, Joey and I have become great friends. He emailed me a while back telling me that he had met a young girl named Brandy who needed a lung transplantation. The operation involved two donors giving up part of the lobes of their lungs to be put into Brandy’s body, therefore helping her breathe. He and his dad Mike had decided to be the donors.

August 23rd was the date. I began praying daily.

August 23rd came and the operation was cancelled. Mike, Joey’s dad, wasn’t given the go ahead medically. Disappointment fell on everyone concerned. Joey emailed a group of us again, asking for continued prayers.

I forwarded his prayer request on to a whole bunch of folks.

Enter Laura Engelberg, a fifty-ish mom and grandmom and my former vice principal. She knew Joey but didn’t know about the situation. When she got my forwarded email, the Spirit of God started talking to her. Laura, being Laura, (an incredible gal) got in touch with Joey and said she wanted to be the new donor.

Once again I, and so many other believers, began praying.

November 5th, Brandy, Joey and Laura all went under the knife. The result: Joey and Laura are in the midst of six weeks of recovery but are expected to live full lives of breathing, not even noticing some of their lobes are missing.

And Brandy? She walked a mile in the hospital for the first time in her
nineteen years of life.

I have wanted to write about this for a while, but I didn’t know how to put the value of what happened in words. I love words and the power of them, but I kept putting off using them because they didn’t seem to capture the essence of such an incredible event.

What a gift Joey and Laura gave! What an act of pure kindness. A true present that is better anything anyone might find in a Christmas sale.

As you read this, right now, take a breath, a deep one and give thanks. Brandy got what she wanted for Christmas, better than an Ipod or a new DVD. And in her gift and in Joey and Laura’s act of giving, you and I can receive as well. Gratitude for an involuntary act can open our eyes to the joy of the precious little things in life. When I watch Noah breathing normally, running and playing, I am so thankful. He is a gift. His lungs are a gift.

On Christmas morning this year, try to remember to breathe. Hey wait, you won’t have to will you? So try instead to thank the Giver of Life for this wonderful present! Joy will run through your heart when you take a moment for gratitude.

If you want to give a little money to help out Brandy’s family, please visit her website at www.brandyfiske.com

The picture above is Joey and Brandy in the hospital.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why not believe and risk?

What is your dream this Christmas? What do you want to accompish? Can it happen? WHY NOT? With all the pessimism in the world, let's be optimistic about the inklings God has given us and run with them. It takes belief and risk.

Paul Potts was a cellphone salesman who decided to take a chance and enter Britain's Got Talent. This took belief and risk! Watch the following video and be inspired. And by the way, he won the whole thing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Perfect Gifts



Scooby’s claws dug into my arm at 4:30 a.m. on the morning after Thanksgiving.

“Scooby, what?"

“I need to go outside.”

Our puggle doesn’t actually talk, but his communication skills are top notch.

“Okay.”

I dragged myself out of bed, walked the dog and decided to hop in the car and just do it. Black Friday was upon me! Why not do some Christmas shopping?

As I made my way through four different stores I noted that amongst the throng up at o’dark looking for deals, there existed three groups.

The Fed Up – These folks were here to attack, not shop. I don’t think any of them were normally morning people and their lack of social skills before noon made them angry pushers. When I spotted one, I went the other way, no matter what.

The Pied Up – This category had enjoyed a feast the day before and seemed groggy but happy. Like a sleepy toddler waddling off to find his toys, the pied up person was not to be feared but definitely someone I avoided standing behind. They were in no hurry whatsoever and were too full and foggy to notice the mob breathing down their necks.

The Prayed Up – Happily, I was in this category, though I must admit praying before shopping is not a habit for me. But it occurred to me that the morning didn’t have to be a frenzy, didn’t have to be purposeless and could be fun. So I prayed and went to work looking for gifts. That was the point of the day.

I was after the perfect gifts.

Each year at this time, I find myself trying to reconcile my checkbook with my heart. I want to give lavishly. It truly is more blessed to give than receive. Although the eight-year-old in me always hopes I will receive lavishly, too. So I go to sales and try to find deals so that my gifts show how much I care.

This year we’ve found ourselves having to really budget our Christmas. I sighed at the thought and took a moment to fantasize going into a department store carte-blanche style. The other day I watched Oprah and she gave away all these expensive gifts to folks from Macon, Georgia. Greed in all its fullness zapped me from the TV like a laser pinpointing its target. Ah, to get a refrigerator with a TV and DVD player imbedded in the front door. To give a basket of expensive skin care products to my sister.

But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. So what do I do? What gifts do I give?

Last night my husband and I attended a class at our church in which we took a spiritual gifts test. To my surprise the gifts I thought I possessed - hostility, paranoia and inappropriate humor- were not included in the list. But I found that God gave me an exquisitely wrapped box with a beautiful bow. In it? The gifts of hospitality and exhortation and teaching. Wow. How much is hospitality at 5:30 a.m. on Black Friday? Is it on sale?

It’s priceless.

I started thinking about the gifts God gives us, not just at Christmas but every day. Why is that we feel a gift must have a price tag to be an appropriate gift? Why does greed reign supreme this time of year? No offense to Oprah, but come on!

My pastor suggested doing something a little different this year with friends and family. How about giving something that money can’t buy? God gave me the gift of exhortation. It is a wonderful present that I use all the time and it doesn’t require batteries.

So what can I give this year? Don’t tell, but here is a peek in my closet where I have stacked up some gifts. (I wish I could list all of the wonderful people I know. I can’t.)

*To my husband, I will give a week of clear days and winding roads. He can ride his motorcycle with God’s words building him up in his heart while the sun beams down on his back.

*To my boy, I will give a buddy. A young man who loves Jesus and soccer and Pokemon.

*To my sister Karen, I will give doctor’s visits that always end with the phrase, “You’re healthy as a horse!”

*To my niece Grace, I will give the ability to dance everyday the rest of her life with no pain whatsoever.

*To my friend Desha, I will give a man who sees her for the incredible girl she is and who will treat her like a queen daily. He will be a geek, too, because she wants one.

*To my anonymous brother Bill, I will give a book deal so everyone in America can be as blessed as I am with his wisdom.

*To my friends at Words for the Journey, I will give baskets filled with moments of pure satisfaction and joy as they look at the words they’ve written.

*To Maxine, Carol Jo and Lucille – the aunts who mother me and love me unconditionally – I will give videos filled with all the moments that they have blessed me and my siblings. This way, they can get a tiny peek into the effect their wit and generosity of spirit has on Sally and Walker’s kids.

*To Jesus (it’s His birthday, isn’t it?) I will give my heart and friendship and a box of gratitude for all He’s done for me.

It will be a lavish Christmas, after all.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!



My friend Jan Parrish, at her blog Bold and Free asked fellow bloggers to come up with thirteen things for which they are thankful.
Here is my list:

1. My day to day personal relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

2. John Iobst, my man who loves me just the way I am

3. Noah Iobst, my gift from God

4. Marriah, Sarah and Hannah Iobst, my three step daughters whose emails lately have caused my heart to be fully happy

5. Six folks who always, always have my back in this life - Perry and Kasey Floyd, Karen and Paul Pratt, and Phil and Lory Floyd (my sibs and their spouses)

6. Stacey, Desha and Susy - my BFFs!

7. Scooby, my puggle - Yes, I am thankful for the family member who has inched his little paws into my heart

8. Lucy Jo and Nan Iobst, Joani and Mark Ortega - Noah's grandparents and good friends to me

9. Sharen Watson, Megan Dimaria and the Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild - They have given me the tools and encouragement to go from dreaming of being an author to being an author

10. Words and the joy of pecking away at the computer

11. The Denver sky - it has made me feel like Colorado is my home

12. Every person who reads my scribbling, from my stories to this blog - Writers can only have full joy when a reader is involved - Thank you for making this past year FULL OF JOY!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Day of Blessing at Tealeaves!



The day of my reading/signing had arrived and I was nervous! Would anyone come?



THEY CAME! In fact, thirty people crowded into the back room of Tealeaves!



My brother Phil and...



my son Noah kept adding chairs.



People I've never met came! I enjoyed meeting them.



Lynne, the owner of English Tealeaves, introduced me.



I talked a little bit about tea.



And then I read my story out of Chicken Soup. People laughed, cried, cheered and gave me money. Well, they sort of sniffled a little. Maybe next time they'll throw money.



I signed copies of the book. The tearoom sold out!



Afterwards, I took a picture with some gals from my Words for The Journey Christian Writers Guild group (and Noah who took most of the pictures)



I took a picture with my best friend and biggest supporter John.



After it was all over, I couldn't stop smiling. The Lord God has blessed me beyond measure! To live my dream is a gift I will not take for granted!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Garden of Words, Part 4 - (the final one)


In desperation I cried out to God, “Show me something, Lord.” I continued through sobs, “Please show me something to hang on to.”

Two hours earlier my friend Desha had gently said, “Of course,” when I called and asked her if I could stay the night. She knew something was up. My voice possessed no joy and I offered no wit when I phoned. Just one simple plea.

“Is Noah coming?” she asked.

“No. Just me.”

I needed time alone. I didn’t want my four-year-old to see Mommy’s tears. So I dropped him off at Gamma’s and drove to my friend’s condo.

Looking back at that night, one of the worst in my life, I love that Desha gave me space. She asked no questions, just offered me a hug and a place to sleep. I sat in front of her TV, completely numb for a while and then I excused myself to the bathroom. I took my Bible.

Lying down prostrate seemed the perfect thing to do. So in Desha’s bathroom, on a Wednesday night in February, I laid down and fell apart.

In the midst of my wailing I implored the King of all situations, “God, show me what You want me to remember.”

I took my Bible and let it open where it might. Now I don’t usually do this and I don’t believe the open-your-Bible-and-point-at-a-verse method works ordinarily, but I was desperate. And I knew that God shows up in special ways in desperate moments. He just does.

My Bible opened to Psalm 84. My eyes fell on this passage:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7

I took some deep breaths and let David’s words sink in. Set their hearts on pilgrimage. Set their hearts on pilgrimage.

Perseverance is not my strong suit. I get bored easily. So easily that completion is something I have to pray for daily. I have several projects unfinished at all times.

But this verse calls me to keep going. It is a call for me to commit, to set my heart on the journey. Not necessarily the end line or the finished project. But I am to commit, set my entire heart, on the pilgrimage.

I have never taken a vacation that I cut short because I was tired of traveling. The thought has crossed my mind, of course. But I’ve always finished my trips. It would take heaven and earth to get me to quit the pilgrimage of mothering. The journey is tough at times, but my heart is set on going all the way.

So why not my marriage? The reason I went to Desha’s was to get away from my husband. I had decided to leave him. In that bathroom, God called me to keep going. To set my heart on the pilgrimage that is marriage.

At first I just told God, “No!” like a little three-year-old who doesn’t want to go to bed. But His Words, the lovely garden He walked me through that evening, promised that I would be blessed. It didn’t promise constant joy and it didn’t promise reconciliation. In that garden there was no guarantee that I wasn’t going to get divorced. But there was a sweet, quiet assurance that God would be with me and that I would be blessed. I would walk through the Valley of Baca, (which is a dismal desert) but springs would come with autumn rains and moments of refreshment.

But I must set my heart on the journey. God whispered to me to not give up on the pilgrimage, even if all I saw around me was a lifeless and barren desert.

The lesson God taught me in Desha’s bathroom has grown into a call of my heart, not just in my marriage but also in my spirituality, in my relationships and in my writing. So many times I want to give up on scribbling. It is a solitary life, sitting at the computer pecking away. When the rejection letters come I often wonder what is the point of this? I will never be a Francine Rivers or a Jan Karon or an Anne Lamott.

But then that moment in the bathroom comes back to me. I recall that walk through God’s garden of words and I am reminded me that publication, fame or money – they are not the point. The call is not to be published. The call is to set my heart on the pilgrimage. To keep obeying God even if my writing world seems at times, the Valley of Baca.

Six months after the night in Desha’s bathroom, my husband John and I stood on a beach in San Diego, surrounded by friends (including Desha), and proclaimed our vows anew. It was a moment of restoration that only God, in His infinite power, could produce. Now, almost five years later, our marriage is better than ever.

On the invitation to our marriage renewal ceremony, I put Psalm 84:5. God’s promise to me was fulfilled. I am blessed beyond measure. The rains fall, the springs come up, I am refreshed. I go from strength to strength. The pilgrimage is filled with joy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You are Invited!

If you live anywhere near Parker, Colorado or if you happen to have a chartered airplane and can fly in easily, YOU ARE INVITED to my first ever reading and book signing. This Saturday I will go to English Tealeaves in Parker and read my story from Chicken Soup for the Tea Lovers soul. I wrote this story about this particular tearoom. If you can come, I would love to see you there.


Enjoy a spot of tea, a delicious scone
and a story from the new release,
Chicken Soup for the Tea Lovers Soul



written by local author, Robbie Iobst,
about a local tearoom, English Tealeaves.

November 17th, Saturday afternoon
2:00 to 4:00 – Robbie will read at 2:30
English Tealeaves –18551 Main Street –
Parker, near the movie theatre (720) 851-6099
Books, tea and other refreshments will be available for purchase

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Garden of Words, Part 3



SEEK ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33




"And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that
he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly
SEEK him.” Hebrews 11:6


Let me be up-front and honest about something I dislike extremely – the term “seeker sensitive churches.” It’s all semantics, but the phrase is unsettling to me. I get the meaning – a seeker sensitive church is one that desires to meet the needs of those folks who come through the door not really knowing if they want to cozy up to Jesus. They are “seeking” truth. Fair enough.

But this little label indirectly causes a division within the pews. Those who are “seekers” and those who are not. I will call this second category the “know-ers.” They are the lucky people who have made a decision to indeed, cozy up to Christ and live for Him. The “know-ers” come to church not seeking, but well, knowing.

See the problem with that? I have been a self-proclaimed “know-er” for most of my existence. I have spoken the following words many times:

“I know what the Bible says about that…”

“I know what I should be doing…”

“I know what God wants from me…”

“I know that verse, memorized it in college…”

“I know. I know. I know.”

Starts sounding a bit, well, arrogant, doesn’t it? Knowing about God is a good and valuable thing. I thank God for Mrs. Wright and all those Sunday school classes when I was little. Joann Goatcher was my Acteens leader at the First Baptist Church in Van Horn, Texas and taught me so much. My youth director Mary Carole Gentry made an amazing impact on my life. So many of God’s servants have taught me and poured their life into mine. Because of them and the wonderful garden that is God’s Word, I know a lot about Him and the Bible.

But so what? All my knowledge of God’s love will not do anything for me unless I seek it. Memorizing three verses about forgiveness will do nothing for me, until I seek forgiveness or I seek the strength to forgive.

A couple of years ago, I came to a crossroads in my spirituality. God gently led me to walk to my garbage can and dump everything I knew about Him and Christianity into the big brown container. He made sure I didn’t toss it into the blue recycle bin. I was to chunk it all. Why? Because “knowing” had led me to pride and a closed mind. “Knowing” had ended in a legalistic view of myself and others. “Knowing” had shut out the grace of God and so many wonderful new lessons He had for me.

So now I am no longer a “know-er.” Sure I can find Lamentations pretty quickly and I can share the stories of Jonah or Hannah to anyone who might ask. But what do I “know” about God’s plan for me? Nothing, except that today I get to seek Him. What do I “know” about the grace He has for me and others? Not much, but today I get to seek that grace and experience it anew. Christianity was once a list of rules and a way to categorize everyone around me. Now Christianity is an adventure of questioning, searching, finding and following. God and all He has for me is a mystery.

I seek. Sometimes I find. Sometimes I have to wait. But the looking is filled with joy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Garden of Words, Part 2



Lamentations 3:19-26

“I remember my afflictions and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast with me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore, I have great hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”


Yesterday it happened. The moment I had dreaded for two months. My little boy Noah said good-bye to his best buddy, Erik, before Erik’s family moved this morning to Virginia.

I decided to pick up Noah at his classroom and go to the book fair as a distraction. The bell rang and third-graders swarmed into the hall heading for their coats and backpacks before they clambered through the side door out to the playground. I stood against a wall watching the frenzy.

Noah spotted me and grinned.

“Hi Mom, why are you in here?”

“I thought we might go to the book fair.”

“Really?” His grin got wider.

I saw Erik coming out of the classroom next to Noah’s.

“Noah, do you want to say good-bye to Erik?”

He didn’t answer but turned and spied his friend through the throng. Erik spotted him, too.

Remember the movie “Reds” with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton? As I watched the two little boys fight through the mass of eight-year-olds to get to each other, I thought about that scene when Diane spots Warren after she thought he was one of the dead being unloaded from a train. I know I am a dramatic soul but my heart hurt. Really, really hurt when I saw the two little boys embrace and actually lay their heads on each other’s shoulders. My eyes were wet. I didn’t hear what they said, but I could tell Erik was a little choked up. Then other boys joined their hug and it became a joke.

Noah called “Bye” to Erik and then walked over to me. I thought he was fine and we started walking down another hall to the library for the book fair. Suddenly he stopped. I stopped and looked at him. He walked toward me and put this head on my chest.

It took every ounce of strength I have to not blubber and make a little scene. I stroked his hair and he looked up at me, tears in his eyes.

We didn’t say a word.

Some other kids came and Noah used his coat to block his face. It was time for me to step up and be strong for my boy.

“Let’s think about books, shall we?”

I ushered him into the library and greed and materialism took over. The distraction worked.

This morning I woke up sad and anxious, thinking about how difficult it is to be on this planet without a close buddy nearby. I have been there more than once in my life and the loneliness can be palpable. Noah had a best friend, Hunter, in California and it was so difficult to leave him. Now, less than a year later, he must once again say goodbye to someone he spent hours with every week.

So what did I do with these feelings? I had several options. I could’ve eaten. This is an easy way for me to numb any emotions or discomfort I am having. I didn’t. I could’ve taken it all out on John and Noah by snapping at them for whatever. I didn’t. I could’ve just laid down in bed and pulled up the covers, bought some balloons and dip for my pity party. I didn’t choose any of these, though the Lord knows I have in the past.

Today I decided to sit still and then take a walk through the garden that is Lamentations 3: 19-26. Among this patch of God-crop, there is such nourishment and comfort. Because of His love, I won’t be consumed. He has compassion for my situation. God feels for my pain. I love that. To think the Creator of emotions, feels for me and wants to help me even more than I want to help Noah.

In another book this morning, I read “Avoidance of pain stops growth cold.” I can’t erase the pain that Noah is about to endure, nor can I just wipe out my own. But I can remember these words when my soul is downcast. I can tell myself the truth of God’s love and therefore, have great hope.

Then I wait quietly. He comes. Sometimes He comforts in the truth of the big picture. Sometimes He comforts by sending me someone or something that gives me a boost. And sometimes He just sends me a garden of mercies that grow new every morning. Within the rows of growth, I can dance. Even with a bit of pain in my heart. In His garden of compassion, I am not consumed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Garden of Words, Part 1




My father, Walker Floyd, made his living through welding. He owned a little shop in our hometown and put up an iron sign that read “Walker’s Welding Service.” He was a master with the blowtorch, using his expertise, common sense and creativity to not only solve problems of metal, but also to create art. I still have an iron giraffe he made me when I was a little girl.

But Walker was not just a welder. He was a husband, pop, friend, fiddle-maker and player, voracious reader and a gardener. Some of my favorite memories of my dad are simple moments that we shared in our vegetable garden. Daddy took a piece of West Texas dirt, located thirty feet from an expanse of desert brush and weeds, and made it into a lush little patch of lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, carrots and onions. The two of us would spend time out there planting and watering and weeding. I especially loved pulling up green onions and eating them fresh with dinner. It made summer time sweet. Nothing like eating something you’ve grown yourself.

I loved that garden.

This past weekend I went to the Franciscan Retreat Center in Colorado Springs with five other women. The center is a beautiful campus located in the crook of some hills. Nuns run it and deer run wild throughout it. I loved the fellowship I shared with the gals over meals, but the rest of the time I spent alone, hanging out with the God of all, my father in heaven. Being alone and quiet is not natural for most of us, at least for hours on end. The moment I walked into my little room I automatically looked for the remote control. I didn’t see one. They didn’t even have a TV!

But the point of the weekend was to hang with Jesus and experience time alone with Him. The premise was simple:

If God had you alone and had your attention for 8 hours, what would He say to you?
What would you say to Him?

No speaker, no crafts, no camp eggs that taste like well…sawdust. Just Jesus.

This wonderful experience is called a WAAG, or Weekend Almost Alone with God. If you want to learn more about this concept, visit my brother Phil’s ministry web page at www.calebsheart.com

After I got over the TV withdrawal and began to settle into the relaxed pace and spirit of our purpose, I began to commune with my Father. In fact, it reminded me of those days in Texas when Daddy and I would hang out in the garden, working. Sometimes we talked. Sometimes we didn’t. But we enjoyed each other’s presence and He taught me how to grow veggies.

God and I hung out in a garden this weekend. Sometimes I talked. Sometimes He talked. Sometimes we just enjoyed each other. He taught me how to grow. Not veggies, but words. He spoke to me about His Word and how through it I can be nourished and strengthened. He pulled up Scriptures and showed them to me, like green onions. Nothing like having fresh scripture to chew on.

For the next couple of weeks, I want to share with you some of that Garden of Words. Just like displaying a prize cucumber, I want to show you a few Scriptures that nourish and strengthen me. I hope you enjoy reading this, but I also hope that you will take a moment to spend time alone with the God of all who adores you.

His garden is worth the visit.

Garden of Words, Part One

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

How can someone truly be still?

Growing up, Mama told me often, “Robbie, be still.”

It was a way to tell me to stop moving around like ants were in my pants and to also stop talking.

Just stop talking.

Maybe even listen.

I cannot count the number of times I have been in a conversation and couldn’t wait to add my two-cents worth. So much so I really wasn’t listening to the other person. Sure I got the gist of what they were talking about, but my addition to the conversation was the important part. They needed to hear me.

I have come to see this for what it is, plain and simple – love of self!

Mama isn’t saying it anymore.

But my Father in Heaven is now saying to me, ”Robbie, be still.”

Robbie, shut-eth up-eth.

Be still.

Not just quiet, but don’t move. Stop.

In our world, taking a few minutes each day to just stop and be quiet and sit before the God who made time and stillness and motion almost seems like an imposition. I don’t have time! I don’t see the point!

We are missing out.

The next part of Psalm 46:10 tells me and you to “know that I am God.”

He is God. I am not.

Be still for a while and just chew on that. I may think I am in control, but I am not. I may think that I can create my own destiny, but I cannot. I may think that I am just fine, thank you very much without Jesus in my life, but I am not.

Blaise Pascal, a mathematician and inventor said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

We each have this hole that only Jesus can fill.

Maybe that’s why it is hard for you and me to be still. Without distractions, without our to-do lists, we see that hole. And if Jesus isn’t filling it, we are more than likely trying to stuff it with something else. Whatever that may be, it is not getting the job done.

The hole is still there.

But then, why not take that time to get still, really take time to shut out the world and get filled up? The sweetest request would be to ask God to fill ‘er up, like we were at a Texaco station in the 70’s.

This past weekend I was still. I liked it so much I want to continue practicing it. I don’t have to go to a nun-run facility to sit before the Father. I just have to purpose to do it, knowing that it is more important than any single job, errand or occasion of fun.

Be still. Shut up and rid yourself of the ants. Sit before Him and know that He, only He is in control. In the silence you will hear music that will blow you away. The songs of peace and joy are found in those moments. Sweet notes that will restore your soul.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dream Come True

Years ago I sat at a Barnes and Noble in San Diego and dreamed a dream and breathed a prayer.

“God, I would love to sit in a bookstore that contained a book I wrote. Could this happen, Jesus? Can you help me?”

Last night I went to the Barnes and Noble on Willow Street in Denver, Colorado and saw Chicken Soup for the Tea Lovers Soul on the bookshelves. In it, a story written by me. Sure it’s not an entire book, but it’s a start. What a thrill, what complete joy to see a dream come true, a prayer answered. Thank you Jesus! I wanted to share with you guys on my blog what happened. Here’s a peek:



I went to Barnes and Noble



I found my book!






Go God!




Woo Hoo!




I read the book again. I laughed!



I cried!




Apparently, I made a scene. I was kicked out!




I will keep writing. Dreams do come true!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Sweetest Words



My son is at the wonderful age of eight. When I was eight, I found Jesus and John Boy Walton, (in that order) and decided I would be the world’s greatest roller skater. On Christmas Day, during my eighth year of life, my mother gave me a diary. It was then that I began writing and playing with words.

Noah is eight, but he is his only little person, with his only little dreams and personality and aspirations. Since I stopped teaching a couple of years ago, I made a rule that I was not going to be a volunteer for Noah’s school. Nineteen years in an educational facility is enough. But I was asked to help out this year on the Wagon Wheel Press, a little newspaper that Noah’s elementary school puts out four times a year. I asked Noah if he would want to work on the paper and he enthusiastically said yes. So I caved and told them I would help. At the first meeting the kids were asked to sign up for the job they wanted: Layout, Cartoons, Editor, Writing, Photography, etc. I watched Noah. This was to be a moment I wanted to remember. My son officially signing up to be a writer. But his little sneakers took him to another spot.

“I signed up to be a photo – grapher, Mom.” (That’s how he pronounced it.)

“Great. You’ll be wonderful.”

I put on the actress make up and hid my disappointment. He knew that I would be working with the writers. He knew that I love it when he writes anything. But he is his own little guy and he loves, absolutely loves taking pictures. Gamma Joani and Grandpa Mark gave him his own little camera right before we left California. He has made great use of it here in Colorado.

So I dealt with the blow and chalked it up to one of the many, many times in my life that Noah will choose to go his own way and not his Mommy’s. That’s good, I guess. I want to raise an independent warrior, not a Mama’s boy wimp.

I think I do.

Lately when I ask Noah questions (sometimes it sounds like grilling) my son answers “I don’t know” to most of my inquiries. I have begun telling him that he is too smart for “I don’t know.” But at the same time I try not to put so much pressure on him to answer everything.

My mom, Sally Ann Floyd, was a master at getting information out of the four of her children. We all agree that she was wily and cunning. We let her in on all sorts of secrets when we didn’t even know we were talking.

I want to be like that. But I am more of an in-your-face-tell-me-now mom. I need to work on wily.

Yesterday Noah was not in school because of fall break. I love it when he is home and we don’t have anything planned. The two of us are lazy cats, moving from one thing to the next, just taking it easy. He played legos while I wrote and I cleaned the kitchen while he stepped outside to have imaginary wars in the sun. Then we both found ourselves curled up in Dad’s chair with a blanket and Scooby watching “Little House on the Prairie.”

As we sat there, watching the show but not really wrapped up in it, we started chatting. No big deal talk. He told me about the differences between Transformer Decepticons and Autobahns and I explained to him why Laura was older and a teacher in the episode we were watching.

Somewhere in the comfort of family and love and a puggle on our laps, Noah opened up his little eight-year-old heart to me. He told me stuff about his school that I didn’t know and he told me about how he felt about a couple of things. I want to put down word for word what he said because it was so precious. But I won’t, for the exact same reason. And Noah wouldn’t want me to reveal our lazy cat conversation. Those words are locked in my heart. I wasn’t really wily, either. I just listened and cuddled up. Maybe that was Mom’s secret, too.

After a while, we decided to go to the library and hang out. I love teaching him the pure joy of public libraries. He is getting it, too. We spend time in the children’s fiction and then move to the videos and finish our time downstairs on the computers. As we were leaving, I showed him a flyer I am working on, advertising a reading that I am doing at a local tearoom.

“What do you think of this, Noah? Do you like the colors?”

“Yes.”

He paused, obviously in thought.

“Mom, you’re a famous writer, aren’t you?”

I giggled. “No, Noah, I am not famous at all.”

“Well, I think you are a great writer, Mom.”

The wind shifted and I became Mary Poppins, floating up into the sky. My heart filled up and I looked over at my boy.

“Thank you, Noah.”

I may never be famous or even have a book of my own published. I have goals and dreams, of course, and it would be lovely to have some of them come true. But no words I ever scribble, published or not, will ever mean more than those my eight-year-old boy gave me walking down the library steps.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Harriet




Today I feel anything but good. I feel crappy.

Unfortunately, when this "feeling" comes my dear husband and son don't always get the bubbly warm spontaneous love they might otherwise expect. Instead they get "Harriet," we'll call her. Dear Harriet stares a lot and expects anyone within a radius of two hundred yards to read her mind. This includes the mailman who is late, the drivers who seem to be clueless to the actual laws of the road and of course her soul mate John and son Noah. John, having lived with me for eleven years senses Harriet and often has meetings and other appointments when she visits. Noah is yet to learn but is on his way.

I am trying desperately not to console her with chocolate, but you know what, it seems to tame her like a piece of zebra helps out the lion's bad mood swings.

Yes, I guess I don't need to blog about her. She could remain a private part of me, unseen to the web world. Or to the four of you who consistently read this. But you know what? Joy is a state of mind. Joy is acceptance that God is in control of whatever, whenever. This includes dear, sweet, wanta-be serial killer Harriet. She is not me. But she is a part of my life that I have to deal with. So I try to keep her calm, insist she say nothing, never, ever, to store clerks of any kind. I try to be gentle with her when she looks in the mirror and decides to cash in John's insurance for every possible plastic surgery. I whisper to her that we do, indeed, love our son very much and do not want to adopt him out no matter how big a mess he made with his muddy shoes or how many times we have to call his name before he answers. Nor do we want to call John in the middle of his meeting and yell at the top of our lungs, "He is your son. Come get him!"

The most destructive aspect of Harriet is her incessant need to have the world revolve around her. She and I (are you following?) know that this is not a realistic or Godly expectation. But it still seems to be the prevailing truth, the slogan on Harriet's t-shirt, as she travels the land.

No one loves Harriet enough. No one emails her as often as she wants or tells her that she is destined to be a great, great writer. No one comments on her blog. No one cares. In fact, most people are out to get her or abandon her or both at the same time. Poor Harriet.

God gave me, yep He actually reached down from heaven and gave me...sort of...a poem that made me laugh and take Harriet a little less seriously.

The poem is by Phillip Lopate and I read it out of Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird.

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
frustration
discontent and
torture
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
association
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
is not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Come On People! A little ranting is good for the joyful soul!



My Take on the News:
• GO ROCKIES! I have waited since I was a little girl of nine years old, sitting with my dad at Coors Stadium, to see the day when my beloved Colorado Rockies would go to the World Series. Um..okay….that is completely false. We just moved to Denver last December. But the bandwagon here looks warm and inviting…Come on people, jump on!

• Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan – Come on people! How bout we just pray for them every time we hear their names. Then change the channel, turn the page…

• Did you see the Matt Lauer interview with Larry Craig, the Senator from Idaho who is wrapped up in this charge of gay solicitation in a Minneapolis airport? Come on People! I feel for the wife. I feel so much for her. She is in a lose/lose situation. I think she knows in her gut if he is telling the truth. If he is, then how horrible it must be to watch your beloved be accused and made fun of and basically tarred and feathered in public! What pain for a wife! If he isn’t, then how horrible it must be for her to be a part of his act while probably blaming herself and living in secret shame. What pain for a wife! I feel for the woman.

• A friend of mine (Thanks Tonya) sent me a link to a quiz on the internet that matches up your beliefs with the candidate who believes like you do. I took it and was extremely surprised.
Here is the link:
http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460
I need to do more studying about who I will vote for, but like most Americans I am going to really look at it the week before the election. Come on People! Niece Grace, if you read this, I admit it here and now - you know your stuff!

• So, if I get this right...Ellen Degeneres rescues a dog and gives it to her hairdresser, a lady with kids. The shelter, after a month, takes the dog back because Ellen gave it away and didn’t keep it for herself. Now, it is a big story. Ellen is crying on TV because her hairdresser’s kids are sad because they don’t have the puppy anymore. The shelter’s director is saying that she is getting death threats because they followed their policy even though Ellen is a celebrity. Iggy, the dog in question, is apparently at a new home. My opinion… Iggy-gate? Come on, People! Follow the rules or consequences happen. Even to Ellen! Poor Iggy, yes. Poor kids, yes. The shelter’s director is way too strict, yes. But come on people! Follow the rules!

• Richard Roberts of Oral Roberts University just stepped down among allegations that he and his wife used a lot of the school’s money on themselves. Come on People! It is official. You cannot be a rich Christian. Doesn’t work. Yes, I am being facetious but come on people! Power and lots of money corrupt more often than bring freedom. Of course, Richard is innocent until proven guilty. Yeah right. We wish, don’t we?

• Last night our family watched Kid Nation on TV. Interesting. My son liked it. The topic of the show was politics and the kids had an election. One girl said, “Look at George Bush. He is not smart at all and he is the president of the United States.” She was a ten year old girl. Her parents are apparent geniuses at teaching respect for authority, namely the highest ranking official in our country. Real Mensa members. Come on, People! Agree or disagree with the man, but show him respect. Last time I looked into it, calling your nations’ leader stupid is not showing respect. Come on People!

Well, I feel better...comments are welcome.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Rocky Mountain High



We human beings are a complex lot. So many components go into the mix that makes us the individuals we become. One ingredient in my life that shaped my personality was my torrid affair with John Denver.

Well, we actually never met. And before you start labeling me with words like stalker or obsessive, listen to my tale. You’ll understand that what Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (his real name) and I shared was real…kind of.

In the early seventies my best buddy Darla and I began to sing for fun and hire. In our tiny town of Van Horn Texas, people would pay us actual money, and sometimes dinner, to sing duets at banquets, weddings, etc. We sang at our church for free and we sang around our pianos just for the joy of it. She was a great harmonizer and I could carry my share of the melody. At the time, we were enamored with the beginnings of Christian rock. We loved Petra, Honeytree and the Imperials when Russ Taff was explosive on stage. These were our peeps. In the secular market, we ate up everything the Carpenters and Linda Ronstadt gave us.

And then I met John. Okay, once again I never actually met him. But when I heard his voice, a mixture of lilting sun and down home truth, I fell in love. I introduced him to Darla and we began practicing and practicing his songs. My piano teacher, Mrs. Lovelady, allowed me to learn some of his tunes as long as I kept up on the classical ones. No problem. I memorized “Grandma’s Feather Bed” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and felt complete joy as I let my fingers fly over the ivories.

“Sunshine on my Shoulders” took me to a place of haunting beauty, so sad and so piercingly bright. “Back Home Again,” one of my favorites, made me proud to be a small town Texas gal. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was the tune Darla and I did the most often and received the most praise for. My mom made me watch all the Jacque Cousteau specials on TV. I didn’t really enjoy them, until John sang “Ay Calypso.” I sat alone in my room and listened to “Like a Sad Song” and “Rhyme and Reason” and “Fly Away” over and over. I took hours and learned to play “This Old Guitar” on my dad’s Martin. It was a blissful time, hanging out with my best friend Darla and singing the songs of my adolescent love John.

John Denver followed me to college but life happened. When he and Annie, for whom he penned “Annie’s Song,” got a divorce, I was devastated. I always pictured the two of them together around a campfire up in the mountains of Colorado perfectly happy. And yes, sometimes in my fantasy I was sitting among their friends, John laughing easily with me and asking me to sing along with him.

But after the divorce, John changed. He became more political and less, well free. I guess we just kind of fell apart. I officially broke up with John after I went to one of his concerts in 1986 in Dallas, Texas. He wasn’t the young man who dared me to dream of freedom and love and joy. He was an adult who ranted about politics and the environment and EST – his form of spirituality, but who did it with an undertone of bitterness. And he had dropped those beloved round wire rim glasses and gotten contacts. The nerve.

After the concert I told him good-bye. I wasn’t angry. I was just hurt. And I still thanked him for the absolute joy he had given me every time I had sung or listened to his music.

Eleven years after that concert I was living in San Diego, California married and teaching. On October 13, 1997, I got up, dressed and drove to Horizon High School. A very normal Monday morning. But the radio gave me news that made the day anything but. John Denver had died the night before in a plane accident up the coast of California off Monterey.

In the parking lot of that high school, I sat and cried. Teacher’s meeting was about to begin but I couldn’t move. Honest to goodness real grief poured out. John Denver, a great memory and a part of what made me Robbie, was dead.

I felt silly crying over someone I had never actually conversed with, but at the same time I validated every feeling with a simple truth. His music and all those songs were the musical score to my junior high and high school existence. He made a difference in my life. With his twelve string guitar playing in the background, I learned to dream. Seriously.

My friend Darla was in a boating accident when she was twenty and suffered a horrible injury to her brain stem. She lost her memory. I have seen Darla several times over the years, but she never knows my name or who I am. But you know what? She remembers every single word to those John Denver songs we sang.

That says something.

This week is the tenth anniversary of his passing. I now live in Colorado and will some day make the three and half hour pilgrimage to Aspen and tour the John Denver Sanctuary. I’ll play his songs all the way there and I will allow myself the pleasure of simple nostalgia and real grief. Our torrid affair is long over, but the memories of him, like mental photographs of old loves, are sweet and clear like the Colorado night sky.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today, it's all about....me!

I have been asked by a couple of other blogger-babes to list the following, so here goes:

Eight Little Known Facts about Me:

1) I have finished the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle one time and come close three or four times. My dream - to be good enough to go to the National New York Times Crossword puzzle contest in Connecticut...some day, Auntie Em...

2) Jimmy Stewart once looked at me, in the eyes, and said "Have a wonderful night." This is extremely close to "Have a Wonderful Life." Extremely. If you don't know who Jimmy Stewart is, don't tell me. I will secretly disdain you for a long time.

3) In high school, I was beaten at regionals by the girl who would later become the State Winner of Tennis singles. My serve was incredibly strong and fast. Even though that was over twenty-five years ago, I still lie to myself and see myself as a great player. Until of course, I begin to run for a ball.

4) At Disneyland I saw Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg walking around. Yes, of course, I took the next hour to stalk them. Not a proud moment in my life, but one that was quite fun.

5) My tuna fish sandwich is known throughout the land as one of the finest creations any amateur sandwich maker has ever concocted. True. Absolutely true. My secret? Like I would actually put it out there so the four of you reading this would know.

6) I enjoy reality T.V. Don't start with the "It's all rubbish" or "It's the lowest form of entertainment." I find it intelectually stimulating as well as fodder for my deep prayer life. Okay, not really. It is rubbish and it is the lowest form of entertainment. But it can be fun.

7) I am the youngest of four. Perry, Karen and Phil - my syblings - are all extremely outgoing and fun and when we get together our families have a hoot! However, our parents, both deceased now, were quiet and introverted. Hmmmm. Those who know our family have often commented on this phenomena. See the Discovery Channel this November for more...

8) I'll end with a few bullets - I threw up on a guy on our first (and only) date - I spent six weeks in Russia as a missionary teaching English - I was put on probation and was almost fired my first year of teaching - AND - No matter what I do or don't do, Jesus loves hanging out with me. Yes, I ended on a spiritual note. I love my God!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Best Conversation




I was fifteen years old in a Baptist Church Wednesday night meeting. We youth sat in the back, waiting for the thing to be over. I fell asleep and then heard my name called by the preacher.

Startled, I opened my eyes and asked “What?”

“Will you pray for James?”

“Sure.”

My friend Darla was snickering beside me. The preacher said, “Let’s pray.”

I leaned over and whispered, “Darla, what’s with James?”

“He’s very sick, Robbie. He has to have a surgery.”

“Really?” I couldn’t believe our friend was hurt and I didn’t know.

Everyone in the small church remained silent for a long time. No one was praying. I sighed, martyr-like, and concluded that I would have to be the most spiritual person in the room. Again. I would begin praying. No one else was.

Out-loud I said, “Father please help James.” As I continued asking for help with the surgery, I heard the other teenagers around me giggling. I couldn’t believe how unspiritual and immature they were. “In Jesus name, Amen.”

The pastor rang out, “Yes, Amen.”

Everyone stood and started milling out chatting and laughing.

I looked at Darla. “What is your deal?”

She laughed and told me, “Two things. First James is on a trip. He is not sick at all. Second, Pastor King asked us to pray silently.”

I was furious and embarrassed and made my way out amongst the kidding of the other teens. At the door I ran into Mr. Thomas, a dad of one of my friends and a jokester himself.

“Robbie,” he said to me in a loud Texas accent, “If I thought praying out loud would’ve gotten us out of here quicker, I would’ve done it before you.”

Laughter erupted again among the church folk. I sulked.

I have been aware of the concept of prayer all my life. In elementary school, I learned the Lord’s Prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.” When we ever returned from a trip in the car, Daddy would always say, “Thank God for a safe trip.” He would pray before dinner sort of, in a passive way, saying, “Lord knows we’re thankful. Let’s eat.” In my teens and twenties, the legalistic years, I often prayed to show others how ultra-spiritual I was. (Like the story above.)

But sometime during the last fifteen years of my life, I have come to really understand that prayer is much more than reciting a memorized ditty or listing things to get or people to be blessed. It is a conversation between a person and the Best Friend anyone could ever have. So, for years I have worked hard on praying as unrehearsed as I could. Just pouring out my heart to the King of Kings. In doing so, God has developed in me such a love for Him. The kind of easy friendship you have with someone really close to you. During the time my mother struggled with cancer and then after she died, I remember yelling at the top of my lungs at my Father in heaven. I was so angry. He could handle it. After my son was born and struggled for life in the NICU, I remember sobbing and praying with moans. God held me tightly. When I met John and found that love would be a part of my life, I used to dance, literally dance in my room at night and pray thanksgiving to the Matchmaker of all. Prayers filled with my words have become a natural part of my existence.

But life is cyclical and at forty-five, I find myself enamored with prayers that others have written. I start every day with a prayer by John Stott that I have memorized. It seems to be all inclusive of praise. I have been part of a twelve step group for about five years and their 3rd step prayer is fabulous. Recently, I found a Celtic prayer that I love. (See below for all of these.)

I still pour out my heart to the Lord, as well as laugh with Him and plead to Him to take care of others. He is like this imaginary super hero that is not imaginary at all. Super God is worth talking to and listening to. Just takes practice and a bit of faith. Makes my life so much fuller. Do you know any great prayers that help you connect to the Father, Son or Holy Spirit? I would love to hear them. In the meantime, take a moment and read my three favorite prayers. The Joy Giver of All would love hearing from you.

Prayer by John Stott, a British evangelist: “Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship You, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship You, Sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in Your presence and please You more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow You. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day You will fill me with Yourself and cause Your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.”

3rd Step Prayer from 12 Step Groups: “God, I offer myself to You to do with me and build with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.”

From a Celtic Prayer: A Prayer in ‘The Middle Years’ of Opportunity
“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness, I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.”

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Yep, You!



Do you know how God sees you right now, this moment?

Kind of like my son saw himself after a karate lesson.

A while back, we enrolled our then six-year-old son Noah in a marshal arts course. For about six months Noah learned a few moves, but didn’t really enjoy the class. He found he wasn’t automatically going to be a Ninja or a Power Ranger. Then his instructor gave him a pair of plastic numchucks and attempted to teach him a routine using the fake weapons.

Watching Noah perform that routine was painful. He threw the numchucks this way and that way but never quite in the right direction. I felt I was watching one of those blooper shows where they show all the accidents.

More than once I uttered, “Oh!” while grimacing, hoping his performance would end.

On the ride home that night, I felt it was my job as a mother to rescue his ego and build up his bruised self esteem. I would be gentle and subtle and encouraging.

I began in somewhat of a vague fashion.

“Noah, you worked hard on your numchucks routine.”

My comment was non-committal, yet rang with optimism.

“Yes.”

He obviously knew it was bad.

“Noah, what did you think of your routine?”

I decided to ask him for the obvious answer and then I would begin my job to rebuild his little self image.

“Mom, I was fan-tastic!”

He was serious. He began recounting how his moves were fun and how he really enjoyed using the numchucks.

I laughed and listened with delight as my confident little boy went on and on about how he did his best and it was great.

So how does God see you right now? He is looking at you as you read this and He is saying, Beloved, you are fan-tastic! It doesn’t matter if you hit yourself in the head with numchucks. It doesn’t matter if you screwed up at work or with your family. He is the lover of your soul. Period. So much he gave up His Son to die for you.

Yep, you.

You are fan-tastic!

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kindness I have drawn you.”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Common "Scents" can be Dangerous



My good friend Joani gave me a gift card from Bath and Body Works for my birthday with a note that said, “Pamper yourself.” I do what Joani tells me to do. So, I headed to the mall and found the store, armed and ready for pampering.

I have been in Bath and Body Works twice, both times for just a moment or two. I never buy lotions because a) I always get them as gifts and b) my mom raised me in a Jergens only home, so I have never really used anything but your basic whatever-looks- like-Jergens-at-the-store brand.

But today was my day of pampering. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t.

After only a few moments in the store I felt overwhelmed. I was unprepared for the majesty, the pure extravagance, the mass quantities of lotions, body sprays, bath gels, and shower foams to just name a few. Three large walls housed families of different scents. Cherry blossom, sea cucumber, sugar vanilla and more. They all stared at me.

Non-shopper panic set in.

“Can I help you?” She looked twelve and was way too perky.

“Um, well...” I didn’t know where to start. “I guess I am trying to pamper myself.”

“Oh, like, good for you!” Once again, way too perky. “How can I help?”

The next question was born out of self-preservation. I didn’t know what to do, (Joani if you read this, I apologize) and I thought I should just run home. Ergo, I asked the tackiest question humanly possible.

“Do you buy back gift cards?”

Her perkiness disappeared, replaced with a teenage disgust used mainly for mothers and anyone with clashing outfits.

“Like, no.” She walked away.

I sighed. “Okay, Robbie, you can do this.”

I don’t know what I expected when I walked in, maybe a personal masseuse or a guide to scents who wasn’t dealing with, like, acne. But I set the expectations aside and set out to find something that would pamper me

Once I began sniffing and spraying, a sense of feminine power came over me. I am woman, hear me roar. Well, actually smell me…smell good. Anyway, everything smelled so nice that I couldn’t choose. I ended up selecting several little bottles of different scents.

At the counter, I was waited on by a woman closer to my age and much less perky.
“Congratulations! You bought some excellent products.”

“Thank you.” I wondered why she would congratulate me. It wasn’t as if I received a degree in scent-ology in the aisles of Bath and Body Works. It wasn’t like I passed some milestone in my life, having never shopped for lotions. Well, actually...

As I walked away, I started to feel woozy.

“Wow.” I thought. I smell…strong.

Then, and only then did I notice little white sheets of paper below all the scented lotions and sprays. Apparently, spraying those little pieces of paper helps the consumer distinguish between scents and saves the rest of the world from coming in contact with said consumer after having sprayed each and every scent upon her person.

Too late.

I walked out of Bath and Body Works with a Pig Pen cloud above me full of cherry blossom and sea cucumber and sugar vanilla and more.

The smell was so strong I felt a bit dizzy. I couldn’t figure out which way the food court was. I was completely disoriented.

“Excuse me, miss, do you need some help?” The voice had an accent.

I whirled around and saw a lovely young woman with huge teeth.

“Which way is the food court?”

“Give me your hand and I will tell you.”

“What?” I was in a scented fog.

“Give me your hand.”

She took it and began buffing a nail.

“I’m sorry…”

“The food court is that way, but first let me show you something.”

For the next few minutes I was completely in Shirley’s control. It was as if I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t do anything but listen to her dazzling sales speech about the Dead Sea Nail system. Shirley was from Israel. She knew the Dead Sea’s power.

She showed me the one nail she had buffed.

“Wow!” I was completely intoxicated. In my right mind, I would’ve said thank you, but no thank you and been on my way. But the scents, her powerful sales pitch, the glistening fingernail under the mall’s fluorescent lights. “Wow.”

“How much?” I couldn’t help myself.

“It is $99. But for you, only you, I make it $49.99.”

“I’m sorry, but I…”

“Do you have sister?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Her Israeli accent was strong as ever, but she ducked her head and whispered. “I give you one for $49.99 and a second one…” She paused for effect. I was completely with her and actually leaned in to hear what she would say next. “…free.”

“Wow.” Again, I felt drunk with the Bath and Body love and still dizzy. The food court was where I was headed, but at that moment, the Dead Sea Nail system was the most important thing in my life. Karen, my sister, and I could enjoy one strong shiny nail a piece. But then I saw John’s face, the keeper of the budget.

“I want to, Shirley. I do.” She was my best friend at this point. “But I can’t.”

“Fine,” she said and for a second I thought I had offended my new soul mate but then I saw her reach and get a Dead Sea Nail system and thrust it in my hands.

She turned her back on me as if the deal were done. “You take, $25.”

This is when I said something that completely proves how out of control my faculties were. “You would do that for me, Shirley?”

“Yes. How you pay?”

I took my stinky self with one shiny strong nail and stumbled into the food court, Bath and Body scents and Dead Sea Nail system in bags. I sat down with my Subway sandwich, two chairs away from a couple.

They got up and moved while twitching their noses.

I almost apologized to them, but at that point I trusted no one. They could’ve been Amway salespeople and I would’ve actually invited them over to my house to hear about an exciting opportunity.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Scooby, Middle Name Doo




Superman had Lex Luther; Sherlock Holmes had Moriarity. My current nemesis is Scooby, middle name Doo. The connection I have with our dog of two months is a classic love/hate relationship. When our puggle is sleeping, curled up somewhere, I love him. The moment his little bug eyes open, the affection decreases substantially.

I have tried. Lord knows I have tried. It has taken hours to train him and house- break him and convince him that we will not leave him chained up for hours at a time in a garage like his former owners. I have made the effort. At times I feel his little paws are inching into my heart. But then, he does something. Like the other day.

Noah was at school and John was at work. I walked into the living room and saw Scooby on top of our couch lying on a big cushion. This is a usual spot for him. But he seemed to be burrowing.

“Scooby, what are you doing?”

His head swiveled around quickly and he hopped down and ran to me. His eyes spoke.

“Hi, Robbie. I wasn’t doing anything. Food? Huh? Food? Do you have food?”

Something hung down from the corner of his mouth.

“Scooby, what is that?” I bent to get it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Robbie. Food? Huh? Anything?”

It was a piece of stuffing from a cushion. (See picture above - the white stuffing hanging from his mouth is evidence sample A)

“SCOOBY!”

The dog ran off and I went to inspect the scene of the crime. I have watched CSI so I looked at the hole in the corner of the cushion and I glanced over to inspect the size of the dog’s mouth as he sat cowering in the corner.

Perfect match.

“Scooby, no!”

I walked over to him and picked him up and took him to the hole in the cushion.

“No. No chewing, you freak!”

He hopped out of my arms and ran to the corner. I scowled at him and his eyes spoke words from the Bill Murray movie, “What about Bob?”

“Robbie, I need. I need. I need love….and food. Huh? Anything?”

I shook my head in disgust and decided what any slightly crazy woman would do at this point. I would give my dog the silent treatment. That would show him.

Ignoring Scooby was easy at first. When the two of us are alone at home, he is kind of like my stalker and this particular afternoon was no different. If I went to a different room, his little paws followed. But on this day I did not acknowledge the puggle. I really think it was getting to him. When I sat down to write, he assumed his usual position of curling up with his head on one of my feet.

I moved my foot. Yes, I definitely was letting him know what was what.

Scooby got the point. He looked up at me, his little eyes full of doggy sadness.

“Robbie…food?”

“I have nothing for you, you couch chewing, cushion eating freak.”

Scooby left the room and went outside on the patio.

I felt a bit victorious, but soon my passive aggressive craziness faded.

Forgiveness began. Scooby was sitting in the swing when I walked out on the porch. His head swiveled.

“Hi Robbie. I’m so glad you’re here. Food? Huh? Anything?”

I sat and down and we began to swing together, crazy dog owner and little puggle freak.

I remembered the moment when we first met Scooby at the Dumb Friends League. We were considering adopting him or one of two other puggles. Noah was set on Scooby the minute he saw the dog. I just didn’t know.

I sat in the little office where they put us to get to know Scooby and I prayed.

“God, please let me know if this is the dog for us. Or let him do something like bite Noah so I know it isn’t the dog for us.”

Yes, I am a little insane.

I watched Noah and the puggle together. They were both in perfect joy, playing with each other like two little boys, best friends already. Scooby suddenly looked at me for the first time. His eyes spoke.

“Hi, I’m Scooby…I like the boy. Do you want me? Do you have food? Huh? Anything?”

No lightning bolt or even a soft voice in the wind, but I knew that God answered my prayer when I saw the little freak’s eyes. Iknew God wanted to give Noah a gift of joy in a little puggle. Sometimes, I have to look hard to see the joy, but it is there, wagging its tail.

As we swung together, my hand found its way to Scooby’s head. I honestly hate this little mongrel.

His eyes closed as I petted his puggle head.

But sometimes, I love him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Shaking With Laughter

God has an incredible sense of humor. I bet His laugh is one of those great laughs that is so contagious when you hear it, you can’t help but grin. Then the giggle begins and before you know it you are in a semi-chuckle moments away from the full blown chortle which gives way to the guffaw. In my mind, heaven will be full of music and laughter. So why not warm up here on earth? Solomon gave us wisdom in Ecclesiastes when he told us that there is a time for everything. I believe it is important to laugh every day, just as it is important to put on deodorant. Without it, life kind of stinks.
Some of my best laughs are when I look at the silly things I do. Take last Friday night. Earlier that day, my wonderful husband gave me a birthday card with money in it. It was in my size and color, the perfect gift. For my birthday, I chose to take a trip with my sister-in-law Lory to a little mountain town in Colorado where we would gamble and shop and enjoy a quaint Victorian hotel.
John was more than generous and I thanked him and put the card in my purse.
Later than evening, he and I went to a banquet fundraiser with my brother and sister-in-law. The meal was lovely and the presentation was convicting. The organization reached out to teenagers and gave them hope in Christ. At the end of the banquet, my brother Phil, as our table leader, gave John and me an envelope. If we wanted to contribute to the organization, we could put money into it.
I am cheap, selfish and greedy. I also love Jesus and thank God for His mercy towards me – a cheap, selfish and greedy gal. As a teacher for nineteen years, I have been a part of countless fundraisers. So much so, I avoid most of them.
But this was truly a worthy cause. John and I began giving each other the man and wife look that says, “Well, how much?” During our negotiations, it occurred to me that I had money in my purse – my birthday gambling money.
My thoughts went very quickly at this point.
No, that is MY money.
John gave me a lot. I could give some.
No, that is MY money.
Are you a Christian? Are you a heartless witch?
No…but that is MY money.

I took a deep breath and whispered to John, “I can give part of my birthday money.”
I suggested an amount and John said he would match it. He put his money in the envelope and gave it to me to do the same.
I reached for my purse.
My thoughts:
I AM a Christian. I am not heartless witch.
Good for me. I am a giver!
It feels so good to give.
Maybe God will bless my gambling now.
(No, I did not go here. I know better.)
So feeling incredibly self-righteous, I opened my purse. The money was still in the card John gave me.
In order to understand my reaction to what happened next you must know that as I opened up the card, it was the “Just as I Am” moment of the banquet. “Just as I Am” is an old hymn that is played at the end of some church services, when it is very quiet in the room and everyone is pensive and dealing with the conviction of the Spirit.
You also need to know that John gave me one of those musical birthday cards that play a song when you open them.
In the quiet of the hotel banquet hall, feeling as if I was a great generous Christian, suddenly the Mother Teresa of fundraising or the Bill Gates of social causes, I opened my birthday card to get some money.
A song pealed out: “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”
Kenny Rogers’ voice scared me and I shut the card and purse. I ducked my head in gambler’s shame.
My thoughts:
AAAHHHHHH!
After my face flooded with humiliation, my giggling began. It was that wonderful silent laughter that causes the entire body to shake and tears well up in the eyes. I knew it was an inappropriate time for to laugh but I couldn’t help it. It was still quiet. The closing prayer began and I continued to shake.
John put his hand on my back. Later he told me that he thought he heard something but didn’t know what it was. He didn’t know if I was crying or laughing. Afterward Phil and Lory commented on my tears and red blowfish face.
I put the money in the envelope later when the milling of people began.
A silly goof, but a wonderful chance to laugh at myself. God once again humbled me – His cheap, selfish, greedy, wonderful beloved daughter – and showed me not to take myself so seriously. God laughed with me, I am sure. A wonderful contagious laugh that shook heaven, I bet you. Of course, I’m not literally betting on that.
His presence is full of joy…and sometimes shaking laughter.