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.


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

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!