Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Can't Stop Dancing



I love this picture. Doesn't have a lot to do with my blog today, except that I know that John, my beloved, is safely in God's hands. So am I. And Noah. And you...

My husband John was in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. If you know John and I haven't told you, I am sorry. Please email me and I will send you updates if you want. Right now he is the hospital on a ventilator with a severe head injury. He had a brain hemmorrage which disappeared (Thank you Jesus) and he has no broken bones (Thank you Jesus!) The next step for him is waking up calmly enough (He is very agitated when he opens his eyes) for them to take out the ventilator and then they can assess his brain function. We are praying against any frontal lobe brain damage.

So it's been a heck of a week so far. People asked what I needed and I told them blatantly 1) Pray and 2) Encourage me with an email. Wow. I have gotten such incredible emails. I am going to print them all out someday and show John and keep them as a precious reminder of how the family of God can strengthen each other during battles.

This blog is called Joy Dance. I started it a year and a half ago. I believe in joy deeply. My life has been full of joy. People often call me joyful. And now? What about now as I go each day watching my best friend with tubes everywhere and not knowing where he is? Let me tell you the honest to God truth. YES. More than ever, I have joy now.

See, joy is not a feeling of happiness. Joy is this deep faith that God is in control and I don't have to run around angry or stressed. Joy is the essence of my dance with God. I've danced with Him through those great moments of this year - watching Noah grow and laugh and learn. Being published and getting an agent and sitting at the laptop. Experiencing life with John and watching him live his life to the fullest. (By the way, if he wants to get back on a motorcycle after all this, I will say you go for it, buddy. Live your life!)

I also dance with God during the not so great moments. Like now.

My friend Ralph in Ohio sent me an email with some song lyrics. Like many of the emails, it made me cry because it touched that part of me that needs just a little bit of encouragement to keep going with my head held high, trusting God.

The lyrics are from those fabulous Poet Laureats of the 70s Captain and Tenille. Their words are a bit corny, (but hey, how can you not listen to people who opened up the world of Muskrat Love) but they tell my story the past few days. Music is the feeling of happiness. Joy is the dance.

Can't stop dancing
Just because the music's gone
You can't stop dancing, no
Just because the band has
Packed up and gone home

You know you can't stop dancing
Just because the musics gone
Cause if you keep on dancing
If you keep on dancing If you keep on dancing
You're gonna turn The music back on


Amen. And Amen. Happy New Year everyone! If God asks you to dance, take his hand.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sign up to Receive Free Joy-Votionals!



This is my only blog for this week because of Christmas.

Beginning in January, I will be sending out a free Joy-votion each Wednesday.
Joy-votions are short devotionals pointing out the joy each of us can experience while following Jesus.

If you would like to receive a weekly Joy-votion, you need to be on my mailing list. To sign up, just email me. My email is on the sidebar of this blog. The Joy-votion will be completely separate from my blog. I will still blog each Tuesday and Thursday.

Here is my first Joy-votion. Have a wonderful Christmas. May our Lord bless your socks off, then leave you a new pair under the tree!


Joy-votion #1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1,2 and 14

I am a talker. Some would call me an extrovert, although as I’ve gotten older I am more introverted. I don’t know if that means:

a) I am a deeper and more mature person, or

b) I sometimes know when to shut up.

Uh…well…the answer is b.

But I still enjoy words. I like to read them, write them, listen to them and especially bring them up through the vocal chords and share them. I am a talker.

John pointed out something to me the other night that I am contemplating, but still not completely understanding. Don’t know if I ever will.

Here’s the thing.

Jesus, who is called The Word of Life, gave up His right to words when He came to earth. Have you ever thought of that?

He was born as a baby in a manger. For the first couple years of His life, communication would be crying and cooing. That’s it. No words. No conversations. No meaningful talks about deep spiritual truths with Mary or Joseph over diaper changes.

The sacrifice Jesus made for us is unending. He came so that our sins could be forgiven and we could live abundant, joyful lives with the Father. He was persecuted and crucified. He experienced a moment of separation from God. Why? For me. For you.

But He also gave up the glory of Heaven and the immediate presence of God. And He, The Word, gave up words. For a while. Can you imagine giving up who you are, your essence, for two years just so a bunch of knuckleheaded sinners can know your Dad?

Join me in thanking Jesus for coming so that each of us can live in hope and joy! We thank you Christ for demonstrating through the sacrifice of Your life (and even Your Words) that each of us is loved beyond anything we will ever, ever, ever comprehend!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's His Birthday, isn't it?



The baby in the manger.

A little bundle of crying and cooing and joyful humanity. And yet fully God.

He came to dwell among us. He came to provide a link back to right standing with the Father. He came to live abundantly and die terribly. He came to be the miracle of resurrection.

He came to save me. And you.

I love Christmas. I love the tree, the lights, the movies. I love the decorations and the parties. I love the exchange of presents. I love the music.

But I hurt for that baby. It’s His birthday and he gets ignored so much.

Last night we went to Noah’s Holiday choir concert at school. He was wonderful. The best, in my opinion.

But it hurt, too. They sang songs about Santa, about winter weather, even about Hanukkah. In the program there was a poem about Kwanzaa. But not about Jesus. They used the word Christmas as in We wish you a Merry Christmas and that line during Silver Bells “It’s Christmas time in the city.” But no Christ. No mention of that baby. Nothing.

I’ve heard all the hullabaloo about taking Christ out of Christmas. When I hear someone say to me “Happy Holidays” I respond with “Merry Christmas.” Just to keep the King of all in on His party.

But last night, it really hit home. It tore me up that my boy couldn’t sing about that baby. Yes, I will write a letter and I am going to talk to the principal and the choir teacher. But I have to tell you, I don’t know that it will change much. And maybe I should be angry and all up in arms and storm into that public school and give them a piece of my mind.

But I’m not angry. Just incredibly sad. Not just for Noah. He knows whose birthday it is. We teach him and he knows. He knows that the school has certain policies that make no sense. He knows that people, so many people, are frightened of the power of the name of Christ, because it is a name that in itself is POWER.

So I’m not sad for him.

I’m sad for that baby. The one who loves us all, no matter what we celebrate or how we celebrate. He is so Big and so Loving, He loves us even if we forget it’s HIS BIRTHDAY!

Happy Birthday Jesus. I’m sorry about last night. I’m sorry about all the times that I do the same thing, in different ways. I am going to sing an extra song every day just for that baby this season. A tiny gesture, but it's from the heart.

Let's all remember whose birthday it is instead of having our own "Holiday concert" and forgetting to sing to Him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Robbie vs Roberta!



Every once in a while we all revert back to our child-like selfishness. (Some more than others.) I was an especially self-centered little girl who turned into a self-centered teenager and then blossomed into a self-centered adult. For the past decade, I have consciously tried to “grow up” and put those childish ways behind me.

But every once in a while, SHE comes back. My family has called HER Roberta. When Roberta appears, it is usually unexpected. Like on Saturday.

Last year I took a job as a substitute lunch lady to make a few extra dollars to help fund a writing conference. This year I have decided to try to get a job as a census taker. It is a part-time flexible hours position. The first step to employment is a basic skills test.

Saturday morning I arrived at the library on time and ready to go. I entered a small room quickly filling up with an assortment of people. I filled out my forms and listened to the instructions for the test. No big deal. I felt completely at peace.

But then…

The teacher, a young African American woman with a bright smile and eager eyes, said, “You will have 30 minutes for the test. Please do not open it until I tell you.”

Roberta arrived full force.

The following is our conversation. Yes, it was all in my mind. I’m not that crazy. Well…

But I bet every single one of you have a Roberta, too.

Roberta: “I need to be the best. I will finish first. I will ace this test. Everyone here will be jealous of my intellect. Failure is not an option. I will be victorious!!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a big deal. 28 questions are on this test and I only need to get 10 correct. This is a job to write down address numbers of homes, not to get accepted at Yale. Go away Roberta!”

The lady told us to begin and I opened my packet.

Roberta glanced around and canvassed her competition. Two older men in their sixties. A few women in their 40s dotted the room. Several younger folks sat here and there. One couple, obviously together and perky about life, sat in the back smiling.

Roberta: “Yes, I can take them. I can take all of them. Especially that young girl sitting in the front. She’s probably only 19 or 20. I bet she wore all that jewelry and make up to make up for her lack of brains.”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a competition. Go away! Just do your best, Robbie.”


I started the test, answering as accurately as I could, but trying to go quickly, too. I wanted to finish.

After I answered number 28, Roberta returned and looked around.

Roberta: “I am the first finished!! Now how do I announce this? Should I yell ‘DONE’ like elementary kids? That would show them!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta, stop it!”

Roberta: “How about just slamming down my pencil so they know I am the fastest in the west?”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Just lay the pencil down and be quiet. Roberta, go away!”

I sat quietly for the next four minutes until time was up.

The nice lady told us she could grade our tests and tell us our scores individually, or we could leave and then call an 800 number and find out in a few days.

Roberta: “What? Who would want to leave now and NOT KNOW that I was the best?”

Several of my fellow testers got up to leave, including the smiley, happy couple.

Roberta: “Idiots! Poor schmucks know that I beat them. Of course they need to leave. Why stay and be humiliated!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Maybe they have a lunch to go to. Or maybe they’re going to feed the poor or give blood to the indigent!”

Roberta: “Yeah, right.”

The nice lady began scoring the tests. When she finished the first one, she called the name of one of the men I sat near. He walked up and she discreetly showed him the score. He smiled, nodded and left.

Roberta: “What? Are you kidding me? You’re not going to announce it out loud! How will everyone know I won?”

Robbie: “She is doing the right thing. Go away Roberta!”

Roberta: “When she calls me, I will go up and ‘accidentally’ read the number out loud!!”

Robbie: “Go away, Roberta!”

The nice lady called everyone up one by one. As it turned out, I was the last one. No one around could hear my score.

Roberta: “You’ve got to be kidding me!!”

I walked up and the kind lady showed me my score. I received 27 out of 28.

Robbie: “Thank you.” I turned to leave.

Roberta: “Are you out of your living mind, Robbie? Ask her which one! Ask her which one! She is wrong! Argue the answer. She is wrong!!”

Robbie: “I am now going. It doesn’t matter which one.”

Roberta: “Of course it does!!! You are crazy, Robbie! Crazy!”

As soon as I left the library, Roberta disappeared.

Before you use the words schizophrenic, nuts, insane or whacked about me, look at the mirror. You have a Roberta, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life!



I was not a rebellious kid. More of a goody-two-shoes with an edge. Well, that’s how I saw myself. But I did engage in one act of pure disobedience. It made me feel naughty and deliciously sneaky.

Drugs? Sex? Rock and Roll?

Nope. I got out of bed, snuck into the living room and watched old movies. I know, I was a wild child.

Once, when I was 12 years old, I turned on the TV at midnight and began watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the first time. I was hooked. It’s been my favorite movie ever since. So many wonderful lines. Remember at the very first when the Head Angel is giving Clarence his assignment? Clarence is told that he needs to help George Bailey.

“Is he sick?” Clarence asks.

“No, it’s worse.” replies the Head Angel, “He’s discouraged.”

My 12-year-old heart filled up that night and of course, I cried at the end, just as I have every time I’ve seen it since.

Out of that experience I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart. I even met him once. My sister Karen was visiting me in San Diego and we drove to Beverly Hills and used a Star Map to see celebrity’s homes. In front of his house, Jimmy was walking his golden retrievers. After hyper-ventilating and almost passing out, I opened the window of the car and yelled, “Can we take a picture of you, Mr. Stewart?” He said yes and we took one and told him how much we loved him. As we drove off, he called to us, “Have a wonderful night.” Yes, he almost said wonderful life!

In our haste, we took a picture that was a bit blurry, but Karen and I could totally recognize Jimmy. When we showed the picture to our two brothers, they were in unison.

“This is fake. You guys got some old man to pose with a couple of dogs. Kind of shameful.”

Brothers. Whatever.

Last night, my church held a women’s dessert extravaganza. The special speaker was Karolyn Grimes, who played ZuZu Bailey, George’s youngest. What a wonderful evening of celebrating a movie that has touched so many people. What an incredible treat to hear one of the actors tell us some of the behind the scenes scoop. And what a touching moment when she used the movie to point each of us to dependence on God!

If for some reason unknown to mankind you have NOT seen this movie, take time and watch it. It is more relevant now than ever, due to the economic woes of nowadays.

Michal, my friend from my Mothers in Touch group took some pictures from last night:



I got a little wound up with giddiness when we got there. I love the movie and I was maybe a bit too excited!



Michal took my picture with Karolyn Grimes (ZuZu.) When I get overly nervous, my face gets red and I say stupid things. Right before Michal took the picture, I said “I am an “It’s A Wonderful Life Stalker.” Karolyn and the women around us laughed, but right after this picture, she gave me an “Okay, you can go now” look.

On the tables, we each received a bell with the note “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”



Karolyn spoke of the movie, Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart, and her life. The behind the scenes trivia was fascinating to me! A couple of examples:

This movie was the first to use silent snow not painted cornflakes that crackled when stepped on. But they used Ivory Soap flakes so when it melted it looked like soap bubbles. Watch the movie and you can see soap suds on cars.

When the bank run happens, George looks at his dad’s picture. Below it a sign that read, “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” Then George proceeds to go into the Bailey Building and Loan and give away his honeymoon money.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was Jim Henson’s (creator of the Muppets) favorite movie.He named the Muppets Bert and Ernie after the cop and taxi driver in this movie.



Karolyn Grimes also played Debbie in "The Bishop's Wife." If you want to read more about her or order some really cool movie memorabilia go to her site at www.zuzu.net

Karolyn's favorite scene in the movie is when George Bailey is at the bridge desperately wanting his life back. He says, “Please Clarence! I want to live again.” And then he puts his head in his hands and says, “Oh God help me.” The moment he says God, snow falls and his old, wonderful life is given back to him.

Isn't that cool? In a subtle way, this movie points out a powerful truth. God is the way to a restored life!

Now, go get the movie and watch it!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Perfection of Christmas!



Last night, the three of us (plus dog) sat in our living room all snuggled under blankets. Snow was falling lightly outside glistening in the moonlight. Inside, our fire blazed, the Christmas tree lights twinkled. We were watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A perfect winter wonderland moment.

“Noah, this show was made in 1965. I was only three-years-old.”

“This show is THAT old, Mom?”

Okay, it was almost a perfect moment.

I started thinking about that concept of “perfection” that so many of us strive for this time of year. It would be so sweet to have the perfect party, the perfect calendar, the perfect holiday.

Doesn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. It won’t happen.

I have declared my independence from having a Martha Stewart Christmas! (See my post on Saturday, November 15th) But that desire for perfection still lurks around my house. Like a fruitcake from an aunt, I can’t digest it and I can’t seem to throw it away.

We hosted a Christmas party on Sunday night with John’s BOB (Band of Brothers) and their families. Wonderful evening. But not perfect. My polka dot carpet (thanks to dear Scooby) made perfection impossible. My attitude? “So what?”

I have purposely and consciously slashed expectations left and right this Christmas in order to have joy and peace reign in my heart. Not greed and or an insane need to attend every social function. I remember a time in my life where I would look at my December calendar and measure my worth and my joy in who I was solely based on how many events I attended. Even when I was able to flip my blond hair back and say casually, oh so casually, “I am so busy. So many parties,” my heart did not experience satisfaction. Only longing that maybe one more party would make my Christmas perfect.

Despite my resolve I still hear that old Robbie whispering, “Look - you don’t have anything going on December 17th!! Call somebody! Fill it up!”

Nope. Not gonna. It won’t make the season perfect. Just make me tired.

So what can make the perfect holiday? In a word, nothing.

I remember clearly the carnage of early Christmas mornings back in Van Horn, Texas. I would tear apart each package and experience a mixture of surprise (presents that Santa had brought the night before) and anti-climatic semi-joy (presents I’d already unwrapped and rewrapped after sneaking peaks in Mama and Daddy's closet. They were not clever hiders.) And then, I’d utter that phrase. A phrase I’m sure ripped a little piece of my mother’s heart out.

“That’s all?”

Yep, Robbie. That’s all.

Now, at age 46 and counting, I understand a little bit more than that bratty girl. God doesn’t want me to be satisfied with Christmas. He doesn’t want me to look at this holiday as THE season that will bring joy like nothing else. If I do then I will start worshipping Christmas. I will put all my eggs into this basket. (Isn’t that a horribly mixed metaphor? :0) )

A wonderful pastor once said, “Enjoy all that God has given you. But get your satisfaction from nothing else but Him.”

Amen, Mike Burns!

So last night, as we turned off the TV and prayed, I thanked God for a wonderful evening in which we could enjoy an old TV show (not THAT old, Noah!) and in which we could enjoy our family and the warmth of our home.

Wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t meant to satisfy me. Christmas isn’t meant to satisfy me.

Perfection will enter my soul ONLY when I see my Creator and Lord face to face.

For now, the satisfaction you and I can experience comes from making God our priority. Invite Him in to sit with you on a cold night and watch Charlie Brown. Invite Him to every party and every shopping trip. Invite Him to clear your calendar and teach you the truth about Christmas.

He will show up. Perfectly.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Silly Christmas Video!

WARNING: The following video could change your life!

I hesitated posting this because

a) The camera adds 25-100 pounds - this is scientific fact, people!

b) I sang this at my Words for the Journey Christian Writers party - so many of you writers have already seen this.

c) I am not a singer. Does the internet world really need another sad reject of American Idol?

I post this because

a) My silliness is cause for a laugh. And since I won't be watching you watch this, I will not be able to hear if it is a real laugh or a pathetic "what was she thinking" laugh.

b) I have a secret longing to be Kareoke Champion of the World!

c) If you can't laugh at yourself and invite people to join you, ulcers come. I don't want any ulcers.

So enjoy :0)


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hug a Stranger? Yeah, right...



I don’t mind hugging.

I like to hug and be hugged. My hugs, like my hair-dos and shoe styles, have evolved.

Kid hugs meant hugging with no inhibition. I took hold and hung on to my Mama or Daddy’s neck, knowing that in their arms I found the safest place possible.

Teenage hugs meant either obligation, friendship or possibility. Obligation hugs were half-hearted attempts to appease any relative’s wish to give me some good ‘ole family loving. Yep, I grew up in Texas. Friendship hugs were soft embraces between my two best girlfriends and me. Those hugs said, “Don’t worry, he might ask you,” “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” or “Yay! He asked you!” Possibility hugs were tentative with a great deal of emotion attached. These hugs were explorations of what might be and rehearsals for what never came.

Adult hugs are even more complex and varied. When I hug my husband, it is love, friendship and Oh baby! all mixed in one. When I hug my boy, it is all tenderness and even captivity. I know that hugging him will evolve too. So while he enters my arms freely, I enjoy every moment, remembering the feel of his back with my hands and the smell of his hair and neck.

I love hugging my woman friends, showing them that I NEED them in my life. The older I get, the more I know that connecting to other people is vital, like, well…air.

The side hug entered my life as a teacher. Hugging students can be dangerous in this world of evil and deceit. It’s just how it is. So, the side hug. It is also part of church life. I don’t full on hug men; no need unless I am related to them or they are husbands of my best friends. But side hugging is a way to say “Hey I like you,” with nothing else whispered.

So all this to say, I don’t mind hugging. I am all for it.

But at Thanksgiving, my dear brother Phil suggested I do something I have rarely done. Hug a stranger.

We, nine of us, sat around the Thanksgiving table and ate our turkey and told funny stories. Phil likes to do things to give holidays special meanings. Last year, we all were given verses to read and then we toasted our thanks. This year, we answered questions like “I am thankful for my parents because…” After everyone had answered, we all toasted our parents. Pretty cool. At times, very moving.

When we finished going around the table several times, he added, “And I have one more suggestion for you. In the next 24 hours, hug a stranger.”

He told us that we each need human contact. We need hugs. Too many people go without.

I registered my objections, the biggest being: What if the stranger happens to be a serial killer who is waiting to kill the next stranger who asks for a hug? You get my point.

Phil said, “This is just a suggestion. There will be no hugging police following you.”

I tried to dismiss it. Silly brother. Hugs are for family.

But I couldn’t. That sillier Holy Spirit kept bringing it to mind. When I went to a movie theater later that day, I looked around and thought I might go for a teenage girl who was about to clean our theater. I didn’t. The crowd around me made that impossible. Yep, that sounds good enough. Outside the movie theater I saw an old woman with her husband. But it was cold. Yep, too cold. That’s the ticket.

The next day John, Noah and I went to Fuddruckers to eat lunch before doing some shopping. We were eating burgers and chatting and John noticed that a man next to us was wearing a firearm. (This is legal in Colorado.) I immediately dismissed the armed man from possible hugging for obvious reasons. Remember my objection?

But God kept turning my head to a table near the corner of the restaurant. Two women, probably in their fifties, were enjoying a wonderful visit and lunch. They ate and laughed. Then laughed and ate. One of them was in a wheelchair and couldn’t feed herself for some reason. The other woman obliged and fed her friend a bite and then herself. Then of course, they’d talk and giggle.

It moved me. I sensed no obligation to serve. I sensed no resentment or self pity. Just two girlfriends, having a good time. Okay, God, I said. But which one?

When one friend got up to go get a carry out container, I excused myself and went to the counter, too. When she got her styrofoam dish, I fumbled out words.

“I couldn’t help but notice how you are serving your friend. It is really moving to me.”

“Well, thank you. We’ve been friends for thirty-five years.” Her smile filled up her face.

“Can I give you a hug? I appreciate seeing service in action like that.” My eyes were filling, despite myself.

“I would love a hug!” She said.

We embraced. A simple gesture. She thanked me and we said our good-byes. I went back to my table and John and Noah were standing ready to go. As we walked out, I looked back to the women. They were staring at me, both smiling, and my "huggee" waved
at me.

I like hugging. And maybe like my hair-dos and my shoe styles, my hugs will continue to evolve. See, I received a greater gift from that woman than she did me. I got the chance to obey a little tug of the Spirit. A chance to take some action, where normally I would dismiss the idea of it as silly and a bit inane.

I still avoid strangers with guns on their hips. A girl has got to have standards. But the next time that silly Spirit moves me, hopefully I will remember the tears that filled my eyes and the smiles that filled their faces.

So now, I spread the challenge. I dare you. Hug a stranger in the next 24 hours. Listen to that silly Spirit.

But avoid men with guns.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I finished!!!



I am Snoopy dancing! Why? I finished my book. Yay!!!!

After a long while of thinking, planning, mapping, outlining, researching, writing and rewriting, I am finished! Woo Hoo!

Please pray that it sells. In this market and with a first time author like me, it is a longshot! But God is the God of my words and He knows if it is just for me and my loved ones (heirloom for Noah) or if it is for the general public. We'll see. Plus, if I do sell it I will need to rewrite parts and edit it more. Editors' suggestions will make it better.

So it's a long uncertain road.

But today, I celebrate! I thank God for the creativity and joy He gives me when I sit down at my laptop. I thank Him for the process of following my dreams - what an adventure!

If you ever prayed for me or my writing, THANK YOU! Don't stop. Who knows? Well, God does, but He's not telling! :0)

What's next?

Next week, I will be back to posting on my blog Tuesdays and Thursdays!

I have joined Facebook - if you are on, please befriend me!

I am already mapping out my next book! Yay!

I am booked for 8 speaking events the next four months!

In January I am starting a once a week "Joy-votion" called Steps of Joy. If you want to receive it, you need to be added to my mailing list, so email me.

But today? Parte'!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Graces



As kids, my siblings and I would fight over the turkey wishbone. It was a treat to offer one end to my sister while I pulled on the other. The wishbone would break and whoever got the biggest portion got to make a wish that was sure to come true.

Tomorrow is another wishbone day. But this year, I won't dive across the table and fight my son or my nephew for it. I'm much too grown up for that...sort of.

This year I have dreams as always, but I am putting the wishes aside to such say THANKS. Thanks, Jesus, for all You've given me.

I ran across a great quote:

Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as especial favors. If you remember the dignity of the Giver, no gift will seem small or mean, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the Most High God.
Thomas a' Kempis 1380-1471

I am thankful for John and Noah. I am so blessed by my family and friends.

But right now I want to take a moment and be thankful for the simple graces, the little gifts in my life that add to my existence.

A huge bathtub
People magazine
Coffee in the morning
Blueberry Blossom tea at Starbucks
The Colorado Sky
Books, books, books
An author I just discovered that cracks me up - David Sedaris
The Sunday New York Times Crossword
Facebook
My car
New Appliances that work - Yay!
A cell phone I still haven't lost
My condo
Pillows that are not too soft or too hard - Yep Goldilocks pillows!
Panera
Good conversations - the ones that make me think or feel
The absolute joy of creativity and writing
Kleenex
That thing that holds drinks in cars
Candles that smell good but don't overpower
Reading glasses
Dancing with the Stars
Lost
The Academy Awards
AMC weekend matinees that only cost $5
Barnes and Noble
Pain that grows me (um...yea...I am thankful)

Thank you Jesus!

Do you have any you want to add that you are thankful for? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad Appliances, Good Friends



Here's what happened:

My friend Loretta came over and wrote with me today. Appliances were going to be delivered so she was going to be with me when a strange man came in with a washer/dryer and stove.

I couldn't sleep last night and so today I was cranky. Then I got a call that the stove we ordered was incorrectly entered into a computer so they were going to deliver two washer and dryers. "They" fixed that. However when washer/dryer came it didn't work.

AARRGGHHH!!

Cranky, almost in tears, surrounded by bad appliances, undercooked food and stinky laundry.

This is when my friend Loretta said, "Hey, can I read you my blog I am going to post?"

It's as if Jesus himself came into my house, saw my bad appliances and cranky heart and gave me good comfort and fresh perspective. Loretta's words offered truth.

So if you have any sense and especially if you are at all cranky, go to Loretta's blog called Complementary Thoughts at www.lorettaoakes.blogspot.com

I get a brand new stove and washer/dryer next Tuesday...oh well!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Join me and Declare your Independence!



Martha Stewart is not from this planet!

Well, she’s not. I don’t ever watch Martha Stewart’s TV show. I don’t ever read her magazine. I pretty much ignore her. I mean, why read an alien’s how-to book?

But this time of year, every year, I feel the need to buy her Christmas issue. Something in me, and it ain’t the Christmas Spirit, my friend, possesses me with this insane hope. This fantasy that this year, yes this year, I will transform my simple condo into a holiday spa, complete with Jesus Jingle Bells made from sea shells, ribbon and walnuts to a simple centerpiece made of twine, cranberries, candles, garland and a glue gun.

The fantasy is intricate. I see myself opening my front door greeting guests wearing the dress Rosemary Clooney wore in the final scene of "White Christmas". It is a floor length velvet red dress with white fur trimmings. I look spectacular and seasonal. My teeth are extra white just from the glow of Christmas joy, ready and waiting with a smile that brings good tidings to even the grumpiest of souls. Guests may enter glumly or stressed, but one moment in my Christmas kingdom brings sighs of relief and happiness.

The oohs and aahs begin.

Then questions:

“Oh, Robbie, how did you ever make that?”

“Is that your homemade plum pudding I smell?”

“How did you manage to cut down such a tall and perfectly symmetrical tree?”

The flattery pours forth soon after.

“Robbie, your decorations…well…they aren’t gaudy or too simplistic…they’re exquisite.”

“I have never smelled such a perfect blend of potpourri in my life.”

“Robbie, I need to get saved again right now. Just because of your home.”

Like a reoccurring nightmare, the same scene unfolds in my mind every year.
And every year, the reality is a just a teensy bit different.

I open the door wearing whatever will fit me after the Thanksgiving season. Usually a baggy sweater and pants with an elastic band.

My teeth are accented not by their brightness, but my ever present gap, a gift from dear old Mom. Guests who enter my home glum or stressed are encouraged with “Lighten up. You’re having free food.”

Questions come.

“Robbie, is there any room to put my coat down?”

“Have you tried Resolve Carpet Cleaner?”

“Can you make your dog stop humping my leg?”

And the comments follow:

“Robbie, I love the dollar store, too.”

“Your home makes me grateful to God for mine.”

“I think something is burning.”

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But it sure isn’t like the fantasy. So every January as I pack up the decorations and breathe in the peaceful air, sadness and a little depression gets mixed in.

I know why, too. It’s Martha. And all the other Marthas of the world who offer up 5 Ways to make your House smell like a Good Memory and 8 Simple Dessert Recipes and 7 Easy to do Christmas Crafts.

THEY LIE!

Maybe not for everyone. My sister Karen is an exception. Give her a bobby pin, some scrap cloth, a couple of pecans and some dried cherries and she comes up with a three-foot beautiful wreath everyone thinks was bought from Michaels. She is the MacGyver of crafts.

But not me. Give me the same materials and ask me to make something and I will brainstorm for five minutes and then run away screaming.

So, what to do?

This is the year, my friends. This is the year I claim my independence from that part of society that lies to me and tells me I must make my home a holiday retreat in order to enjoy celebrating my Saviour's birth. I am now independent of Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, (30 minute meals? Yeah, if you have a sous chef in your refrigerator!) Good Housekeeping and all the rest of them that tells me I can do it.

To twist an Obama phrase, “No I Can’t!”

And I am fine with that! I think I can still say Happy Birthday to Jesus without firing up my own manger scene at a ceramic store. I can still give gifts that say I love you without learning to knit in two weeks or creating a fabulous scrapbook in a month (each night staying up until 3 a.m.) I can still entertain my friends and let them know they are special to me. In fact, my party plan this year does not involve homemade centerpieces and three course meals.

My plan? Enjoy the people I love and serve whatever is on sale at King Soopers!

Aaahhh…I feel good.

And may God bless us, everyone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are you an Advocate?



On Tuesday, I went to my nine-year-old’s parent-teacher conference. He is in fourth grade and his teacher is a young woman – just adorable. I graced the classroom for nineteen years and I know that a conference is a time to encourage parents first and then hit them with the truth about their dear little ones.

So, she told me everything wonderful about Noah. And there’s a lot. Yes, I’m biased. And then she said, “But there is something I would like Noah to work on.”

Okay, I thought. Here it comes.

“First of all, I want you to know that I appreciate that Noah is an advocate for his education.”

What? When I was a teacher, we went to parent-teacher conferences armed with euphemisms to soften the blow of truth. For example, I would tell the parents that Johnny was very social. What I meant was Johnny won’t shut up in class. If I told the parents that Johnny uses creative problem solving techniques, I meant that he often punches or pushes when he disagreed with anyone.

But I had never heard “advocate for education.”

Then Miss Adorable explained to me that my dear son likes to ask questions. Many, many, many questions. I started giggling, knowing exactly what she meant. Yep, my boy is an advocate for his education all right. He hounds his teacher about details.

When I told John, we had a good laugh. We talked to Noah about it and he said he would work on it. I hope he knew we were serious, but I couldn’t help giggle as we talked.

The next day as I prayed for my little advocate, God brought something to my mind. About me. Am I an advocate for my education? Do I ask questions? When I pondered what this meant, it occurred to me that God was leading me to a time of self-examination. It totally disappoints. :0)

But how can I learn if not by asking the tough questions about myself? Complacency is death to growth. I want to become the woman I am meant to be. I want to get better. In order to do that, I can’t ignore the dusty corners of my heart full of bad habits and patterns of sin. So I must ask God to help me. He takes my hand over to the corners and we start the examination. Questions are asked. Hard answers are given.

It’s tough and painful and messy. But it is my next step in my dangerous and fulfilling journey with Jesus.

Psalm 139: 23-24 says
“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
Then guide me on the road to eternal life.” (The Message)

Join me. Let’s be advocates for our growth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Relationship



I met him years ago when I was a kid. He seemed kind and fun and we became friends. For a long time, I only saw him every once in a while, usually on Sundays at church. We sat near each other. In the pews of my Baptist church with their mustard yellow cushions, I thought about him. I watched him.

In high school, we attended the same youth camp. It was in that West Texas camp that I really started talking to him. I found him so funny and adventurous. My crush bloomed and I started hanging out with him all I could. My friends saw a difference in me. When I returned to the hallways of my school, I talked about him. A lot.

In college, I decided I wanted to not only be around him every day, but I wanted to spend my life helping him with his cause. He wanted to save the world. An idealist for sure. But his fire, his passion ignited something in me. I joined the movement.

In my early twenties, I decided to marry. He wanted to be a part of the decision, but I didn't think it was really his concern. I mean, I told him about the guy, but he wanted to offer his advice. No thank you. Tragically I faced rejection and not marriage. My world collapsed. I blamed him. I don't know why. I decided to go my own way and leave the movement.

Even though I didn't want him to, he followed me. I told him to stop stalking me but at the same time I wanted him to be with me. I needed him.

For years, our relationship looked like two friends who say hello once a day and have dinner twice a week. But our meals consisted of me talking. He listened and occaisionally tried to give me his own take on life. I ignored him. I interrupted him. I treated him badly. He didn't leave. Once I asked him why he stayed my friend when I treated him so badly. He just smiled. I melted.

He introduced me to John. He was the first to visit at the hospital when I gave birth to Noah. He started calling every day asking me to hang out with him more.
I told him our occasional get togethers were enough.

But they weren't. Not really. But it would take such effort to put him into my busy schedule. So I didn't.

Then.

My marriage fell apart. The woman I thought I was, the woman I thought I was supposed to be, disappeared.

In my despair, I remembered that he always said he would come if I needed him. I called. He showed up immediately.

For the first time in my life I experienced something I'd never felt. Complete desperation. I knew He possessed the strength, the wisdom, the joy I needed. He would guide me if I let Him.

My desperation led me to a new kind of relationship with God.

I gave up control. I told Him to lead.

We started getting together every day. At first our times together were short, but more meaningful than ever. As my marraige healed, the three of us made a point of hanging out together. Then Noah joined us. John and I asked our friend to became a part of the family. A central part.

Today I cannot imagine life without Him. I cannot imagine experiencing the pain of life without Him to hold me and guide me and give me joy. I cannot imagine enjoying the incredible marriage I do without Him being the glue that keeps us committed and passionate. I cannot imagine raising a son without His wisdom and principles to guide how we teach and love our boy.

I cannot imagine.

I look back at the years and I see that His consistent love and presence has poured lavish grace on my life. And since I choose to live in His presence daily, moment by moment, that lavish grace runs deep in my life. It grows my faith and gives me laughter. It spurs me on to keep writing and follow the adventures He has for me.

The times we have alone are so precious to me. Our relationship has grown into a joyful and dangerous love. It is worth the choices I must make each day. He never forces Himself into my life. I must invite Him.

So I do. Every day.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I laughed out loud!



Last night after church, my husband, son and I engaged in our weekly "Where should we eat?" discussion. This week it was my turn to list three places and then John and Noah could pick.

My list was not acceptable, so we continued our "discussion" as we drove around. John came to a busy intersection to turn left, but just missed the last of the yellow arrow, so stopped completely.

Noah, from the backseat commented on this traffic occurence, "That sucks."

"What?" I said.

"That sucks that we have to wait."

"Noah, when did we say it was okay for you to use the term "sucks?"

John concurred. "It is not okay to use that word."

"I'm sorry." Noah added.

"Use another word, like disappoints." I offered.

"That disappoints." He tried it out.

"Exactly."

We still couldn't agree on a collective taste bud decision, so when John saw a Mexican Food restaurant, he pulled in.

"We haven't been here before." He suggested.

"Sounds good." I added. "It's fun to try something new."

From the backseat Noah commented, "Mexican Food? That totally disappoints."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to pop popcorn...



One of those days. You know the kind. We all have them.

You wake up startled but believing that everything will be okay. Then you sit at your computer right before sundown. Terrified.

Mine started this morning at 5:45 a.m.

I was in the sort of deep sleep that only happens every once in a while. The kind that must be interrupted by loud children. I think there is a law.

"Mom?"

"Huh? What? What is it?" Sensing the gifts of Mr. Sandman, I blinked my eyes steadily.

"Mom? Are you awake?"

"What?" I wake up ignorant of any relationships I might have, including my one and only son. I stared at the boy in question, wondering who he was and how he got into my home.

"Mom, I can't sleep."

Consciousness descended.

"What's wrong, Noah?"

"I can't sleep because of the water."

"What water?"

"One of my Star Wars posters is dripping and the noise is keeping me awake."

My eyes opened completely. He didn't look like he was sleep walking. In fact, his eyes communicated he was alert, cognizant, and full of clarity.

That made one of us.

"Did you say your Star Wars poster?"

After inspecting the scene, I concluded that Noah's Star Wars poster was, in fact, dripping. Uh-oh. I woke John and we deduced that our upstairs neighbor must have some kind of plumbling problem. We woke her up and she discovered that her hot water heater had busted.

I distributed towels and pans and decided to call a flood damage guy later in the day.

Later in the day I thought I would put a load in the dryer before calling the flood damage guy.

We inherited our dryer when we moved in. From day one I have understood that this particular dryer is either a)charming and quaint b)incredibly old or c)possessed by an appliance demon.

He (yes I feel he is male, and not female - let's not have that discussion)
doesn't just dry clothes like any old dryer. He must be cajoled and soothed and talked through the process. His door must be taped shut, (he only likes packaging tape - duct tape and masking tape result in the silent treatment with no drying) and his button must be pushed firmly but not too firmly. Said button must remain pushed for a few seconds. If I let go too soon, the dryer becomes mute again and gives me dirty looks.

We've lived here almost two years. Just in the past three months have my dryer and I come to terms with one another.

Today, the dryer rebelled. I let the button go too soon and it stopped. But this time he decided to whine about it. A low hum emanated. This has happened before and I knew that it was time to caress my charming, old and possessed friend. I reached in and turned the walls of the dryer while pushing the button. Voila'! The dryer started up and all was well.

But then, it stopped again. Suddenly, with a whimper one might make stubbing a toe or running into the corner of a table. This sound was new and I turned sharply and startled toward the dryer. (I've seen that Stephen King movie about the car that kills people.)

Silence. Then a smell wafted toward me. Burning. Not the delicious kind like at a BBQ joint or a movie theatre. This was violent burning. Carnage.

I opened the door tentatively. Smoke greeted me as if I'd walked into a 1940s Humphrey Bogart bar. The kind where all the men wear dark hats and all the women speak in low raspy voices.

I opened our back door and began fanning the smoke out.

Eventually, it stopped. No sparks. No fire.

After a couple of hours rest, I tried the dryer again. Apparently, he felt better and was ready to do his job once more.

Now I sit wondering what will happen next. And it will happen. These things always occur in threes. Somehow I've entered one of those horror movies and know that a masked appliance will do me harm after the sun goes down.

If only I could hear the audience yell to me later "Robbie, for the love of God, don't open that microwave!"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope is a Good Thing!



Yesterday morning, my husband started our day with, "Well, it's 8:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Should we turn on the TV and see if they've called it?"

I laughed. His comment symbolizes the cynicsm we both share for politics.

But this year, being a divided couple - one Democrat and one Republican, we have shared some serious discussions about our country and its future. We have always agreed on the bottom line. No matter who wins, God is in control of our family and our lives.

Last night, as Obama won, I felt hopeful yet skeptical. My cynicism runs deep. But while watching and listening to his acceptance speech, it occured to me that hope is a good thing. (Remember that line from "The Shawshank Redemption?") Hope calls us to a positive outlook on the future. Hope lines our paths with blossoming flowers, not withering weeds. Hope fills faces with the possibility of success. Hope filled the screen last night as I saw African Americans crying for joy and Americans of all backgrounds shouting in happiness.

Hope is good.

But misplaced hope crumbles and never satisfies over the long run. So although I feel hopeful in our new phase of government, I season that hope with my heart felt cynicism. The mixture creates realistic optimism. My ultimate hope cannot be in Barack Obama. If it is, disappointment is inevitable. My hope lies securely in God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son Jesus.

Because of my hope in THE ultimate rulers, peace is mine.

Today I begin praying regularly for the presidency of Barack Obama. I pray that he will submit to God as he leads.

This morning on Twitter, Max Lucado cited Proverbs 21:1 -
"The Lord can control a king's mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases."

Amen.

I hope for change that is beneficial and fruitful for our country. I hope for a time when we won't be at war. I hope for an upturn in the financial woes so many are facing.

I hope.

Most of all, I hope that God will be merciful to our country and that we, as individuals and as a nation, will bow our knees to the authority of Him.

Hope is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

He's #1 on my List!



"Darn it!"

My husband heard my frustration this morning. "What's wrong, Robbie?"

"I entered this contest on an agent's blog."

"Your agent?"

"No, another one. She announced the top 6 the other day and I didn't make it."

"I'm sorry."

"Well, it really was okay, but today she announced 3 Honorable Mentions. I didn't even make Honorable Mention. Shoot!"

"How many entries were there?"

"Around 88."

"And she picked the top 9?"

"Yes." My shoulders slumped.

"Well, Robbie," John offered, "Can't you be satisfied with being #10? You know every year when People Magazine lists the 50 sexiest men, I have to deal with being #51."

I love my husband.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I recommend Out of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria!



I love good books that take me away and plop me down in a different world. Reading can be like a sweet vacation without the traveling stress or exhaustion. I just returned from such a trip. A few minutes ago, I finished Megan DiMaria’s Out of Her Hands.

When I started the book, a sequel to Searching for Spice, I experienced a bit of trouble getting into it. Like so many books, the beginning just didn’t grab me. But then, oh wow. The Revere home became my home. I traveled with Linda Revere to work everyday. Every time I picked up the book I joined her in travailing the emotional storm of change. Change in family and in expectations. The kind of change we can all relate to.

I found myself ingrained in what would happen next. This is the stuff that makes great novels. Megan accomplished a feat. I, as the reader, began to really care about what happened to the Reveres.

And then the plot twists. I loved them. I can’t be specific without giving the book away, but I really enjoyed the curves. The scenery was interesting and made me take a second and third look, seeing if I could predict the next twist.

Speaking of the scenery, one of the crafts that Megan brought to the table with this novel was her use of description. I really love a good British movie that is set in the 1800s. The opulence and the exquisite details take me to a place of loveliness. What woman doesn’t like to be surrounded by such beauty? Out of Her Hands took me to that same place. No, I wasn’t in the 1800s in England. But the gorgeous scenes in Colorado, coupled with the details of a fabulous home, caused me to breathe in elegance. Only a great book can do this.

So, in closing, LOVED IT! I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading Out of Her Hands MORE than Searching for Spice. And I really enjoyed Searching for Spice.

If you want to take a vacation without using Price Line or dealing with traffic, brew a nice cup of hot tea, get comfy in your favorite chair and read Out of Her Hands. You’ll have a wonderful time!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Changes



This morning I drove the boys to school (car pool) and we got stuck in a line of cars for about thirty seconds. During that time, the tree next to us decided to unload many leaves. What a wonderful feeling to be in the middle of a leaf storm.

“It’s raining leaves, Mom!” Noah commented.

The boys were enthralled and giggled and commented on all the leaves landing on my Camry.

I love the Fall. This is my second Autumn in Colorado. Living in San Diego did not provide the richness of change that Denver gives me. I love, absolutely love, walking Scooby at night with a deep blue sky and chilly weather, making our way through leaves like we are walking on a Jackson Pollack painting.

After all my years of fighting change, any kind of change, the Denver seasons have taught me to accept it. Even enjoy it. So I do. I am. Well, I’m at least trying.

Here are some examples:

• Noah – my son is growing up and with time comes growth and growth means change. Good and not so good. He is so long, almost five feet and that little boy who could easily cuddle on my lap has become a young man who just doesn’t fit anymore. But he still sits beside me, beneath a blanket. Oh, I hope that never changes.

• Things Noah wants to do – Tonight we are going to Chucky Cheese. Pizza Rat is what John and I call it. His soccer team party is there. He still loves it, but has mentioned that Dave and Busters is more his style these days. Pizza Rat has been good to us through the years. I don’t know Dave and this Buster guy sounds kind of strange. Oh well.

• My writing – I love to write. Love it! But this blog thing still confuses me. What exactly is the point? I ask myself this often. So I have been thinking about some changes for my web presence. My book is almost finished. I have a great feeling about it. Who knows? God does and He is not telling. If you read my blog regularly, I am sorry I have not been regular lately. Contemplating and working on…yep, you guessed it, change!

• My speaking – I love to speak. Love it! This year I have many speaking gigs lined up and it truly honors and humbles me that God is using my offbeat point of view and demented humor to show others that Jesus is the Way. But He is also whispering that word – change. So this Sunday I am going to go to Colorado Springs to a speaking workshop – Dynamic Communicators Workshop – for five days. I get to stay at Glen Eyrie, this awesome castle, and learn how to be better at the art of public speaking. It will mean change, but I am ready!

• John – My husband is getting more and more confident in who he is and who God made him to be. Every day I marvel at his growth. And yet he is still goofy and makes me laugh like no one else in the world. The change in him makes me want to be better. Isn’t that a recipe for a great marriage?

• Scooby – Our puggle has not had a colon blow in a long time. Thank you Jesus! :0) In fact, we are de-crating him finally and so far he has done extremely well. When I come home the only thing he has ever gotten into is pulling one of John’s shoes onto the couch with him. It’s never chewed on, he just sleeps with it. Kind of like a teddy bear. Except it’s not. It is smelly and big. But then again, so is Scooby.

• The world – I thank God for the peace I have in Him. So many people are freaking out in fear. It will be okay. There will be change, but God will hold us. I know this. I read the Van Horn Advocate this morning and in it is a column each week by Dawn Simpson. Van Horn, by the way, is my hometown in Texas. Population 2,899. She put two things in her column that I am going to reprint here.

Did you realize that the government is releasing a new dollar - but in coin form? Well, the switch has begun, because guess what has been left off. That’s right, ‘In God We Trust’ is gone! So, let’s boycott against them and together we can force them out of circulation. When you are presented one as change, ask for a dollar bill instead. Won’t you help out - I think our world is in enough trouble as it is!

Have you had enough of politics yet? Haven’t we all, but I’m such a news ‘junkie’ that I go home and the first thing I do is turn on the news! So in the midst of the frustration that I’m feeling over the election, the following email was refreshing.......
10 Predictions No Matter Who Wins The Election
1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessing upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.
Isn’t it great to know who is still in control?


Thanks Dawn! And let us all follow her lead in boycotting this new dollar bill.

Some change is just wrong. But God is still in control!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dancing with the Stars...and crying, too!



I am highly emotional. Are you? If you are, I hope you don't apologize for it. God made some of us with short paths from our hearts to our tear ducts. Just the way we are.

I am a cry baby. But I love it. I used to think it was some kind of shortcoming, a fault or a negative. Not anymore. I just see my loud laughter and easy tears as part of who makes me, ME.

I bring this up because I just found myself crying after watching Dancing with the Stars. Kind of silly, right? I mean, it's just a TV show. And a reality show at that!
But I couldn't help the joy, the emotion that came forth after watching two of the dances.

The first was Maurice and Cheryl's jive. When they introduced the dance, I thought I would just fast forward (I taped the show from last night.) This couple is not one of my favorites and I didn't think it would be that good. But then the music started, "Rock around the Clock" and the two burst out in energy. It was mesmerizing. Watching fun is contagious. I smiled and then giggled and then came tears. See, I get a kick from life. I like seeing joy. I saw it all over their jive.

The second time I cried was when Brooke and Derek did the Vianeese Waltz. Just beautiful. The song, I don't know the title, had a line "Mothers be good to your daughters." At the end of the smooth, gorgeous waltzing Brooke went to her daughter in the crowd and kissed her. Lovely. My tears came as expressions of delight in seeing love, (all be it, choreagraphed) in action.

So I'm a sap. I admit it. But I also celebrate it in me and others. My friend Susy from Chicago has the most tender heart I know. She won't let anyone cry alone. I love that about her. My sister Karen laughs with people in a way that is akin to giving them a hug. It is a good thing to look around and FEEL with others.

In Romans 12 there is a verse that says "Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn." God knows we need each other. Sometimes we need others to feel what we are feeling. This simple action validates, encourages and comforts.

Okay, so I rejoiced with people who are on TV, folks I don't know and will probably never meet. But hey, maybe if I practice with them, I will be able to do it more freely with those I know.

And one more thing about Dancing with the Stars. It is time for Cloris to go. My son Noah says things every once in a while that are absolutely hysterical. John and I laugh and laugh. But then he says it again and again, hoping for the same reaction. We are teaching him that at first something may be very funny, but not so funny the second time and then, well it gets annoying.

Cloris was hysterical at first. She is truly an inspiration. But now, well, Cloris...

By the way, if you are wondering what the picture of cows has to do with this post, well, I thought it was quite moooving. I know.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ode to a Wise Man



I watched the vice presidential debate last night, as well as all the pundit spinning afterward. (We have digital cable now, so I jumped around from CNN to Fox News to MNBC – Whee!)

One of the interesting points a couple of journalists made was that during the debate one moment received a huge positive reaction from Americans, be they Republicans, Democrats or Undecided. When Sarah Palin talked about personal responsibility with regard to personal finances, most of those watching reacted positively. She called us all to do our part to not let this kind of financial crisis happen again, but simply living within our means.

My heart and mind is filled with gratitude this morning as I recall that moment. Not because I am a Sarah Palin fan, but because I live with a man who has made that choice for our family – to live within our means.

When we married, we were in our thirties and selfish and stupid. Both of us admit this. Part of our growth as a couple and as individuals was making some big money mistakes, based solely on greed. Time passed. We learned.

Almost two years ago, we moved to Denver from San Diego. In California, we had never been able to buy a home. Because our maturity (or I should say John’s :0)) led us to start saying NO to things we couldn’t afford, we found ourselves in a position to buy a home in Colorado.

John talked to our mortgage guy and discovered that we could get a substantial loan. I am talking enough to buy a nice house! I was beside myself with joy. Initially, we discussed that we could probably only afford a condo. Now we could get a house!

John thought about it and prayed about it. He made a decision to get a loan for the amount we could afford. No more.

What? I “discussed” with him the dreams of having our own home. We could do such ministry in a big house, John. We could dedicate it to Jesus!

I remember John grinning at me and saying, “We should buy something we can’t afford so God will bless it?”

Whatever.

John told our realtor the amount of money we wanted to spend. Our realtor, a very nice guy, lined up all sorts of places for us to see. As we drove from one place to the next, it became clear to us that every home, townhouse or condo he showed us was OVER our spending limit. Later on, I was to discover that this is a regular practice of many real estate agents.

I’ll be honest and say I was fine with it. I wanted something good. The mortgage company was going to loan us whatever we needed so why not?

Again, my wise husband said no. He took a deep breath and told our real estate agent in no uncertain terms that we only wanted to see places that were at or below the amount he had stipulated.

We found a lovely condo that is our home today.

These days, I look back on the integrity of my husband and I am so grateful. We could’ve easily been in the same spot so many Americans are in today. We could be caught up in possible foreclosure simply because our greed caught up with us.

Thank you God, for telling my husband to say NO to greed and to say YES to living within our means.

Thank you John, for listening.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Does God Dance?



Last night Kim Cardashian was voted off the island of Dancing with the Stars. Poor girl just didn't know how to dance with abandon. The judges kept telling her she had the look but not the moves.

I am not a Kim Cardashian fan, but I feel for her. I, like Kim, (and I am pretty sure this is all we have in common) DO dance with abandon. But on the inside. :0)

Remember Robin Williams line in The Birdcage? "You do an eclectic celebration of the dance! You do Fosse Fosse Fosse Fosse Fosse! You do Martha Graham Martha Graham Martha Graham, or Twyla Twyla Twyla, or Michael Kidde Michael Kidde Michael Kidde Michael Kidde, or Madonna Madonna Madonna Madonna... but you keep it all inside."

That's me. It's on the inside. :0) I do not claim to be a great dancer. Oh, but if you could see me on the dance floor of my imagination you would be in awe. I have unbelievable moves! :0) And ones that don't injure me either.

I guess it helps that I have this great dance teacher. God. Have you ever thought about God dancing? He does. One of His names is Elohim, the Creator. He created our bodies and movement. He created music and that connection we all have to music. I serve a God who boogies.

Is that sacrilegious? Is it making God smaller to ascribe an attribute to Him that we usually reserve for the Fred Astaires, the Paula Abduls or children? Absolutely not. List the people you know who dance and you will find yourself listing people from every race, creed or gender. Dancing is a universal joy. Of course, Elohim of joy dances!

So how does God dance? If I said all He does is waltz, that would be putting him in a box. If I said I don't think God knows how to do the worm or the mashed potato, again a box.

See God knows them all. And one of the joys of my life is that He wants me to dance with Him in every situation, no matter the style. He just wants to be with me. He yearns for the intimacy of hanging with his daughter. With you, too.

Today God wants to dance with you. Right where you are. If you are miserable and crying, let Him hold you. Put your feet on His feet.

If you are happy, try standing up and putting your nose in the air like Snoopy and do the Charlie Brown dance. Imagine Jesus right beside you. You just might end up laughing out loud.

If you are bored, put on any kind of music and close your eyes. Let the Spirit move you to the beat.

If you really want a jolt of joy, get up and imitate something you've seen on TV or the movies - the Tango or the Paso Doble.

Try this and see what happens. If you do it more than once, you will find that the movements you make somehow cause you to move toward God. I don't know how this happens. Just does. It's a God thing.

And if for some reason you are in a place you can't move or you don't want to move, imagine yourself moving. We use our imaginations for all sorts of silly, vain and lustful things. How 'bout we try to use our God given brains to SEE our Lord dancing with us?

Lots of people talk about how heaven might be streets of gold, huge choirs and unending joy at being with our King. I don't disagree with that.

But when I get there, one of the first things I'll ask: "All right Jesus, where's the dance floor?"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catching Up and Dancing



As of today I have been sick for three weeks. I have been to the doctor twice and now understand that I have bronchitis. Thank you Jesus for good drugs. Today I woke up feeling good. Not 100%, but good.

So allow me to ramble about what’s going on and end with my Dancing with the Stars spiel!

When you are sick, everything is grayer and muddier. This is my excuse. Lately, I have returned very few emails or phone calls. The couch and my blanket have been my closest friends. And of course, the best dog in the world – Scooby Doo Iobst!

Crack Cocaine Cable continues to be both my newest joy and the source of my greatest angst. We discovered our VCR was useless with digital cable. So we ordered DVR. The sneaky corporate cable czars win again. But what else could I do? Heroes, John’s favorite show, is on at the same time as Dancing with the Stars. TV schedulers do vex me!

And by the way, I have now reduced the time it takes to turn on the TV from five to two minutes. What is the deal with AUX, TV, CABLE, POWER and ALL ON BUTTONS?
What am I, a TV engineer?

The stock market and proposed bailout seemed like a world away to me, but then Washington Mutual, our bank, fell and was bought by J P Morgan Chase. When I heard the news I went to the bank expecting to see Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) telling Jimmy Stewart she only needed $14 to hang on. (That’s a scene about a bank run from It’s a Wonderful Life) But everything was calm and fine. My dear husband John offers sanity when I start to panic.

And speaking of panic, did you see all the TV news channels yesterday and how they kept broadcasting fear and doom and fear and doom? Once again, I called John, explaining to him that the sky was falling. He calmly asked me to look down by my feet. He was correct. Just like Chicken Little, it was only an acorn.

Saturday I felt good so I went to my son’s soccer game (his team is undefeated!) and then my nephew’s football game (he seems so big in a football uniform) and then over to some friend’s house for chili. It was the hottest chili I have ever eaten in my life. Ever. I am from Texas. This was hotter than anything I have even taste-tested. But it was SOOO good. Thank you Aaron! My pancreas, unfortunately, is still charred.

Yesterday after my doctor’s appointment I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to spend a gift card I received for my birthday. Thanks Joani! Wow. Have you been to this store? They have everything. I was a little overwhelmed but very happy.

And now to my take on Dancing with the Stars last night. Each couple danced either the Rumba, a romantic slow dance full of passion or the Paso Doble, an aggressive intense dance, full of drama.

My favorites were Warren Sapp and Susan Lucci. He is this big ole football player who is incredibly light on his feet. His Paso Doble was fantastic. Susan Lucci danced a beautiful Rumba, very graceful and light.

I love watching dancing. Movement and music is an ethereal mix that crushes negative energy. It just does. Part of my get healthier scheme is dancing. I bought a Dancing with the Stars DVD. Pros from the show teach you how to do different dances. Max taught me how to do the Paso Doble, of at least sort of. It sure feels good to pretend I am a bull fighter and a graceful one at that. Of course, after I learned it I thought I should show my skills to John and Noah.

“Hold on, you guys. Watch this.”

I put some music on and danced for my beloved husband and son.

Their reactions? Well, I guess you could say it was somewhere between shock and confusion.

Oh well. :0)

As for tonight’s results show, I predict Rocco or Kim will go home. Although my favorite Cloris was at the bottom of the scores again, I still voted for her several times. She wasn’t at her best last night, but we need to give her more chances. She is so entertaining!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Decades of my Gap, Glory and All!

I saw this on Kay's blog and just had to have a laugh at myself, too. You can yearbook yourself at www.yearbookyourself.com.

This is me in 1952.




This is me in 1954. I am a dead ringer for a picture I've seen of my aunt Carol Jo.




In 1960 I was quite a looker.




In 1966 I was actually four years old.




This is 1980 - I actually had this hairstyle sometime in the 80s.




And finally, this is 1996, the year I was married. How could John resist?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dancing with the Stars



The first results show of Dancing with the Stars held good news and bad news.

Bad news: Poor Ted McGinley got booted off the island. He worked very hard to learn the dances and to me, looked handsome and elegant. He just doesn’t have the fan base to remain. But at least he didn’t kill the show, right?

Have you heard of the term “Jumping the Shark?” It refers to the scene in Happy Days in which Fonzie strapped on a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. This was one of the last episodes of Happy Days and the Fonzie stunt has come to symbolize the ending of a show. The time when series seem to be on their way out and attempt some crazy things to try to keep the show alive. Remember Robbie on The Brady Bunch? Classic jumping the shark. Anytime you hear the words “Tune in for a special episode
of...” start looking for a shark.

Well, Ted McGinley has been on a few series (Happy Days is one of them) toward the end of its run. So much so, he kind of signifies jumping the shark. In fact, when ABC announced that Ted McGinley would be part of Dancing with the Stars 7th season, some wondered if this meant the end of the show. Time will tell, but I don’t think so. Ted added class. No sharks in sight.

Good news: Cloris Leachman lives to dance another week! Yay!! I got an email from a Texas friend of mine (Hi Linda) who told me her 82-year-old mother loves Dancing, and in fact used to be a dancer. To her, Cloris Leachman is an inspiration, a hoot and a breath of fresh aired hope. Her mom doesn’t dance anymore, but sits on the edge of her nursing home bed and watches Dancing, cheering for Cloris. Linda thanked me for voting for Cloris. I did it because I love to watch this woman in action, but will keep doing it for the wonderful folks like Linda’s mom who are inspired by seeing someone their age give the young un’s a taste of real entertainment!

Who knows what Cloris will do next week? I for one, will tune it and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dancing with the Stars!



You know if you look for it, you can see the glory of God, the joy of God’s creation and the exquisite complexity of God in most any art form. I see His humor and His inspiration when I watch Dancing with the Stars.

Last night, I saw the beauty of God in her.

She is wild, she is funny and she is 82 years old. She’s Cloris Leachman!

Christians, don't get all legalistic on me. I'm not saying she is a Christian or not. I have no idea. What I'm saying is that God the creator of all and the Master Dance Teacher made Cloris Leachman and gave her an incredible gift to entertain. When she exercises her gift from God, how can I not see Him? And last night, well she used her gift.

Last night on Dancing with the Stars this incredible woman did a mambo like no other. It was kind of a cross between Carmen Miranda swaying with a fruit basket on her head and Lucille Ball in the smashing grapes skit on “I Love Lucy.” I laughed out loud!

But she got the lowest score. Why? Well, she doesn’t have a body that can wiggle as fast as the mambo should go. Her osteoporosis doesn’t allow for a lot of hip shaking and chest shimmying.

You know what I say? So what! Ms. Leachman was by far the most entertaining of any of the 12 couples. (Jeffrey Ross got eliminated. I saw that one coming, poor guy.) Cloris knows how to connect with an audience and her sense of confidence and humor are absolutely delightful.

She is a true performer. Leachman has one 8 Emmys, 2 Golden Globes and 1 Oscar. She knows what makes an audience pay attention. I went to see the movie “The Women” with my sister a couple of weeks ago. It was okay. But she stood out as a housekeeper with a background supporting role. Every scene she was in, she stole.

So why not let her steal the show again and again this season on “Dancing with the Stars?” I say keep this unbelievable role model for women and let the youngest kid go. Of course he has all those Hannah Montana fans and they know how to text votes. And fast!

I voted for Cloris Leachman and my fingers were tired from hitting redial after only 3 times. But hey, Cloris, I tried.

We’ll find out the results tomorrow. I hope she gets to stay another week. Her charisma lights up the dance floor and the show.

I am 46 as of a couple weeks ago. Watching her gives me hope that age is not the ultimate dictator of what a person can or can’t do. In the pre-dance interview Cloris’s professional partner Corky (not the guy from “Waiting for Guffman” :0)) told her the Mambo originated in Cuba in the 40’s.

Cloris’s response, “So I am older than this dance?”

Maybe in years, Cloris. But in attitude, your mambo moves are all young. And fabulous! Go Cloris!

And thanks God.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dancing with the Stars!



Last night. I couldn’t help but giggle when 82 year-old Cloris Leachman hoisted her leg up on the desk to show off while Bruno, a judge described her dancing as floating on the Battleship Geriatric.

I felt so bad for Susan Lucci, aka Erica Kane of All My Children, when she danced like a stiff robot, obviously terrified – not Erica-ish at all.

What was I watching?

Dancing with the Stars, the 7th season, debuted last night!

For those of you who might be high-minded and have those silly standards against reality TV...well you just click away right now and go read some Jane Eyre. Or have some Earl Grey tea...and learn some new fancy words.

For the rest of you, here's my dishing on the whole shebang last night!

First of all, I love the attitude of the show. It’s just fun! I didn't know everyone, including Cody somebody from Hannah Montana, and Maurice, a track star or Kim Kardashian, apparently a reality TV star on some cable show. But the ones I did recognize I really enjoyed watching. I just love the show!
.
Maybe it’s the romantic fantasy of dancing like Cinderella at the ball. All eyes on you as you captivate the Prince’s heart.

Maybe it’s because I get to watch people who don’t know how to dance go through the process of learning. If they can do it, maybe I can?

It’s probably because of the inherent joy in dancing. A quality of energy and hopeful expectancy exists with movement to music.

As I watched last night, it occurred to me that the two stars who did the best displayed a quality lacking in the others. Lance Bass of InSync fame and Warren Bass, a professional football player both walked onto the dance floor with an attitude of “going for it.” They hid their fear and truly seemed to enjoy every step.

The other stars, each to a certain extent, began this journey with obvious fear. The steps of the Cha-Cha or the Fox Trot were exacted with a seriousness and compulsive need for perfection. No room for just fun.



I couldn’t help but wonder about the parallels to our dance with God. I know I find myself at times thinking I have to be perfect. I have to get the steps right. I need to take this Christian walk of mine seriously, seriously, seriously.

But you know what? When that happens, I seem to squish out the joy! I worry so much about being Miss Perfect Christian that doing the Cha-Cha with my Savior becomes an exercise in getting my footwork right and standing up straight. Is that the point of the dance? No.

The point of the dance is to connect with joy to God and to the music. That is the point of my Christian walk. Or is it?

As we go through our own Dancing with the Morning Star, are we in it for a disco ball award? Or are we in it for the joy of the moment, the relationship with our ultimate Dance Teacher.

Last night, the best dances were the ones that we watched with joy because the dancers were joyful.

Is my dance with God joyful? Is yours? Or are we so busy looking at our footwork, are we missing seeing His eyes?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why not try this?



In the past few months, my plans for getting away by myself to just hang out with Jesus have been thwarted 3 times. Last Thursday I said to John, “I have to go! If it’s okay with you, I am going to go on Saturday no matter what.”

John wholeheartedly supported me, so Saturday morning I got in the car and drove to Benet Pines Retreat Center, a wonderful place run by nuns. The only cabin available for me was a four bedroom home, spacious, comfortable but huge. Last time I stayed there I got freaked out at night. It is located by itself in the middle of a forest. When you go outside at night, it is dead black. No lights. Nothing. I’ve seen too many horror movies. So this time, I asked a few people to pray for me at night. God helped me have no fear this time.

In a nut shell, it was wonderful. Being alone and not talking for 24 hours is fabulous, but strange. This was my fourth time to do this, so it was easier than before. No phones, no internet, no TV, no Digital Cable. Just silence. Except for birds and wind and occasional music I played on my boom box.

Someone asked me what in the world I did, so I thought I would give you the highlights and encourage you to try this. It is a vital practice to my sanity and spiritual growth, especially because I am on a journey that involves a lot of risk and rejection.

I always start by taking a nap. A long restful nap. So many times when you travel, getting there is exhausting. The retreat center I go to is only forty-five minutes from my home, but the planning and packing and going takes energy, mostly mental. So I make sure to take a wonderful nap first and foremost.

If I feel sleepy at anytime, I rest. Freedom is vital. I don’t get away so I can complete some sort of religious checklist. I go to hang out with God and get restored in a way that solitude can accomplish better than most anything else.

Some of the other things I do or have done:

• Walk around and pray.

• Read. I try to take at least one book with me that will challenge my spirituality or encourage me to growth with God. I have taken Joyce Meyer’s Battle of the Mind, St John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul and Lost in Wonder by Esther De Waal to name three.

• I journal and write. Of course, I do this. I love to talk to God through writing.

• I sit and listen. Some of the best moments I have are when I just sit and listen to the sounds of nature. If I get antsy, I have discovered that deep breathing and reading poetry help me to settle down again. Then I just sit and listen again.

• I sit and stare at the stars. Every time I go, I bundle up and sit outside and look up at the beautiful dark wonder of God, sprinkled with shining diamonds. I used to do this a lot as a kid, so this practice always relaxes me and makes me happy.

• I sing. No one minds because I am alone. :0)

• I dance. There is something absolutely sacred about dancing for the Lord in the midst of a candle lit room. Alone. Uninhibited.

• I meditate on Scriptures. My brother Phil, who is my teacher and inspiration in getting away on these retreats, (His ministry Caleb’s Heart encourages these kind of retreats called WAAWGs-Weekends almost alone with God) taught me the practice of lectivo divina, a Benedictine ritual of just reading Scripture and taking time to let it really soak in.

• I fix myself good food.

• I drink hot tea.

• I do what I feel I need. My sister in law Lory gave me a Dean Martin CD for my birthday. I love, love, love Dean Martin’s voice. So on my 24 hour retreat, I took a very long bubble bath while listening to my favorite crooner.

The most important thing is to just connect with God and let Him love me. He wants to. He wants to love you, too. He loves me and you through our busy schedules. But I believe He yearns to have dates with us, be them short or long. But taking 24 hours to just be with Him has become something of a need for me. It’s like when you discover a great hair dresser who makes you feel good and look good, too. You naturally want to go back and experience that joy again. God is better than the best hairdresser. :0)

If you stumble onto this blog, or you are a regular reader, I know that it is not a coincidence that you are reading this. Take a minute and think about trying to get away by yourself for 24 hours. Away from family, friends, media. Many books are in your library that will help you figure out what to do during the time. Retreat centers are located near you. You just have to purpose yourself to do this. If you want my help or prayer email me robbieiobst at hotmail.com and it would be my HONOR to answer questions or pray for you as you go.

My 24 hours away didn’t change my life. I am not on some spiritual high or feel I need to go to the mall and preach in the food court. In fact, after 10 days of feeling poorly, I am still sick with a cold, hacking away.

But you know what? My soul is at peace. I am content. I am rested. And I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God loves me right now, just as I am.

I know because I gave Him a chance to tell me over and over. And over.