Thursday, January 31, 2008


I have absolutely nothing to say today. But I am suppose to blog on Thursdays. Whenever I am blocked as a writer, I start typing and something usually happens. But not right now.


So, why not just borrow some words that always comfort me and settle me in, like a warm blanket and a cup of coffee?

This is out of Psalm 16 -

"Oh Lord, YOU are my portion and my cup,
You maintain my lot!
The lines have fallen to me in good places,
Yes, I have a good inheritance!"

Contentment. I don't always need to speak. Or blog. He is enough. Right now, His words are just plenty.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Boy

Being a writer, I jot down anecdotes about my son frequently. More often than not, God has used the boy, as I lovingly call him, to not only bring me laughter, but humble me, too. Over the course of almost nine years of life, Noah has been an instrument of the Creator of Joy and I am blessed.

Take the other day. I volunteer at Noah’s elementary as one of the parent helpers on the Wagon Wheel Press, the school’s newspaper. Noah is a photographer, but this semester each student has to be involved in writing a story also. Sheila, our fearless parent volunteer leader, asked me if I could teach a little lesson on writing.

“Sure. Absolutely.” I replied. I taught English and Drama for nineteen years. Teaching used to be my thing.

But it has been two and a half years since I have taught a group of kids. Nevertheless, I was up for the challenge.

Last Thursday I stood before 25ish kids and taught a lesson on asking questions, being curious in general, in order to write a story. I loved it! The joy of why I taught for all those years flooded me as I stood before my audience, getting them to laugh and participate and hopefully, learn.

The best part of teaching for me was performing in front of the kids. I loved taking them on a ride and making them laugh. Unfortunately, instruction is only a part of the profession. I wish I had been better at the other aspects.

But on Thursday I rocked. I was great! Every once in a while I would look over at Noah to see his reaction. To be honest, I was showing off a little bit for him. He had never seen me in this capacity. My boy sat, scarlet red, with a huge smile on his face. I took it he was proud.

So we get in the car to go home. I am all set to hear the gushing, the waterfall of complements from the back seat. I know that my boy is going to go on and on about how fabulous I was. In fact, I mentally write his script on the way to the car:

“Mom, I had no idea you were such a good teacher.”

“You were so funny. Everyone loved you!”

“I get to have you as a Mom. I GET to have you!”

“Mother, you changed my life. I have never been more proud!”

I am only using a tiny bit of hyperbole. I know, I know…

So we’re in the car and he doesn’t say anything. No big deal, he just needs a little prodding.

“That was fun today, wasn’t it?”


Once again I am reminded my boy is just like his father. Okay, I will get to the point.

“How was I, Noah?”

He laughs and then says, “Mom, you are so much more dramatic than I will ever be!” And he continues laughing.

That was it. His entire commentary.

Yep. Oh well. He is still my joy, as humbling as it is sometimes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pray for your Favorite Writer

My favorite novelist is Francine Rivers. Her books have given me so much enjoyment through the years. When I turn to the first page, I enter another world completely and I am swept away. The characters Francine creates become my best friends or mortal enemies for a time. When she has written in another time period, I am there!

Francine was a romance novelist with a very successful career when she became a Christian. Her first book after her conversion was Redeeming Love, an incredible love story with such symbolism to our relationship to God. It is still her best seller. She wrote a triology called the Mark of the Lion series that I could not get enough of. It was absolutely wonderful. Her books just don't fail me. Lolita's Garden, The Scarlet Thread, the Last Sin Eater (which was made into a movie)- all are worth the time to sit and be encouraged in Christ WHILE reading a great book.

Can you tell I'm a fan? I know I am gushing.

Last August, God led me to begin praying for Francine Rivers. So most every day I pray that she and her family would be blessed and that our Lord would annoint every word she writes. Her new book is a contemporary book about multigenerational relationships. Hmmm.... I CAN'T WAIT!

So, I just thought I would put out the word to pray for Francine as she writes or pray for your favorite writer as he/she sits at the computer pecking away. I know that when her new book comes out, I will be one of the first to buy it and I will feel a little part of the journey behind the book because I made the choice to cheer her on in prayer.

Francine's website is

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feeling for Pain

Today is day three of absolutely no pain whatsoever. That’s right, baby! NO PAIN, lots and lots of gain! I cleaned two bathrooms today and I mean cleaned them! Woo-hoo! I believe it is the first three days in a row with no pain since the second week of November. I am not trying to win a martyr award for pain. Absolutely not. It’s not like I went through child birth or dealt with rheumatoid arthritis or back pain.

Although I will tell you that a few times the past couple months, in the words of that great sage of my high school years, SNL’s Rosanne Rosanna Danna, “I thought I was gonna die!”

But I knew I would be okay. And I am. I am more than okay. I am grateful. Really, really grateful.

And another emotion, one that I am not altogether familiar with, is peeking at me behind the curtains of my heart.

“Come on out.” I tell it.

“I am. A little bit.”

I look closer at what I am feeling. Wow. It is compassion. This is a new addition to my repertoire. If you have known me for any time at all, you know I am a compassionate woman. I jump to judgment too soon or I fall into apathy lazily like it’s a comfy bean bag. I know how to encourage and exhort. But when I need to feel with people, I have often faltered. I’ve always wanted to be like my friend Susy who never lets anyone cry alone, but I can’t force the spillage when someone’s hurt. I am just not compassionate. Not really.

But here I am. The end of my stint with physical pain has brought me to a crossroads. I can choose short term memory or compassion.

Who wouldn’t want short term memory? I would love to put every one of those moments of discomfort and agony in a box and put them in a pick up truck heading for a landfill. I could act as if these past two months never really happened, and just file it under “funny organ removal” stories. It could be interesting at parties. Then I could just return to life as normal. Sounds good. Short term memory sounds great. More than that, it sounds easy.

Compassion would take more work. See, compassion usually leads to some sort of action of kindness. Lazy Robbie doesn’t have time to be Florence Nightingale, for goodness sake. I make people laugh and then I usually fade to black and let someone else REALLY listen or help. That’s my yob!

By the way, it isn’t a joy to announce that you know you’re a bit shallow. I am not flippant in admitting this. Even the honesty of it doesn’t make seem more honorable. Just is.

But this particular pain has served a purpose in my life. God, that wonderful all knowing majestic Deity, who happens to be my best friend and loves me no matter how deep or shallow a day I am having, has begun whispering. Not just words. Compassion. It’s like He is blowing it softly into my soul and waiting for it to whirl around within me and see if it lands and takes root…or flies away.

This is where I come in.

I get to choose.

I keep thinking about Marla. She lives in San Diego and I love her. She has been through a few surgeries, including gall bladder removal, and so she began giving me tips through emails. She was kind and always informative. Then after my surgery, Marla just came through for me in a really cool, unexpected way. Her compassion for me made me cry. Every email, which was almost every day after surgery, she encouraged me through my pain. It was like she could sense - no it was like she definitely knew, what I was feeling.

“Robbie, be kind to Robbie.” This was a familiar phrase.

“Take a gentle walk today, Robbie, and be kind to yourself.”

“It’s horrible, I know. Your pain is real.” I loved having someone validate me.

“Don’t hurry your recovery. Listen to your body.”

“Rent “Fried Green Tomatoes” and think TOWANDA!”

Marla made me cry and laugh and kept me courageous at the same time. That’s the power of compassion.

So today I see this new emotion, still peeking out from behind the curtains, and I decide to invite it to sit with me for a while. I begin thinking about the folks in my life who deal with pain on a regular basis. For the first time in my life, and I am not being dramatic about this, I find myself really FEELING for them.

I don’t know what to do with this. It’s not like I immediately go to the store and buy out all their Get Well cards and start sending them out. I am still no Florence Nightingale. I’m not a Marla.

But it’s a beginning. I asked someone at my church if they have a hospital visitation ministry. Maybe that’s where I start.

I don’t know.

But I have made my choice. I don’t want to forget. I want the adventure of taking whatever God has for me. I tell God this. I sense Him smiling. He will work out the details. I don’t need to force it. I didn’t drum up this compassion and I can’t just instantly make myself compassionate. God placed it in my heart.
But I can nurture it by asking it to stay. Maybe we will write a couple of emails together. Maybe watch “Fried Green Tomatoes.”


Thursday, January 17, 2008

One Wave at a Time

"You only need two loves in your life: for God, and for the person in front of you at any particular time. ---Rev. Elroy Cruz "

It is the most important commandment.

Love God with your whole heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

It is all encompassing.

It is massive.

It is an ocean of intent.

And it is difficult.

But Reverend Cruz's quote helped me.

He took the ocean of intent and broke it into waves of choice.

Each day.

Each moment.

It is simple.

With Christ, it IS doable.

Who is in front of me right now?

My son who needs an extra few minutes of attention?

My husband who needs a back rub?

An angry cashier?

A librarian with sore feet?

Simple waves of choice.

Who is in front of you right now?

(Desha, thank you for the quote)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Puppy Love

First a couple of house cleaning items:
1) I did not win Poet Laurete of Organ Verse for my last blog entry "Ode to a Gall Bladder." Seems there is a guy in Wisconsin whose poems about the pancreas make grown men weep and small children sit in awe. Whatever.

2) I did not blog yesterday, a Tuesday. Usually I am very dependable about blogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My explanation is included in today's Puppy Love story. But today, my husband John called me from work and told me that the wife of a friend of his, Elizabeth in California, was concerned because she went to read my blog yesterday and there was nothing new. Elizabeth, thank you! When John told me this, I felt so good. I have a readership! Okay, I have a reader! But hey, it may me feel really special to think that my readership, okay reader, was out there looking for me. THANK YOU!!!! And I apologize.

It has been six days since gall bladder surgery. I am off the hard stuff, thank God. While I was on the blessed pain medication I drifted in and out of consciousness and our living room. Enough of that. But I still have bouts of pain as to be expected. Monday night I felt good so I planned to attend my Words for the Journey Writing group the next day. I put out my clothes, made a plan and everything.

The next morning I awoke at 5 a.m. to horrible stomach pain. Gas. I laid on the couch and thought that after a while it would leave. It didn't and by 7:30 when my guys were leaving for work and school I was still on the couch.

"Scooby, take care of Robbie." John told our puggle before leaving.

At this point, I prayed big time for God to take away the pain so I could go to the 9:30 a.m. writing group. Sharen was teaching on proposals and I am writing a proposal for my new book. I needed to go!

God's answer, "Robbie, relax and listen to your body."

My body: "OUCH! I hurt! I want to sleep some more."

So I dozed off thinking that maybe I would feel better after an hour nap and then I would go.

I woke up at 9 a.m. still in pain. I am a big ole whiner. Just add cheese and I am good to go on most days. But today I wasn't just whining. I was upset. I looked at the clock and felt the moisture in my eyes. Then one tear drop. Then a deluge.

"Why God must I feel pain? Why can't I feel better? At least just good enough to go to my writing group? Why, Lord?"

It was a pretty pathetic scene, but an honest one. Sadness overwhelmed me. Dealing with pain, a heart procedure and a gall bladder surgery within two months all caught up.

This is when I felt such deep inner need for comfort. I ached, not just physically but emotionally.

And this is when I felt a wet little nose burrowing under my hand.

Scooby was on the couch with me and was inching his way up my side to my hand. I couldn't believe how careful he was being, as if he knew my stomach was in such pain. I looked down at the dog with blurred eyes and this is when he started licking my hand. Sweet wet licks. Not like he was sniffing for food or trying to scarf up any remnants of crumbs. Just love.

We have had Scooby for almost six months and if you have followed my journey with the dog, you know I am not a dog person. My dad, Walker, instilled in us that pets were to be enjoyed but never, ever invited into our hearts as family. This would only lead to pain.

I have followed Dad's philosophy. But in that moment, in a moment of pain where I NEEDED somebody, I believe our Father in heaven used a little dog to meet my need and give me comfort. Studies show that pets actually help people in grief or deep pain to feel better. My annoying, chewing, colon blowing, howling dog brought me a moment of real comfort that led to real joy.

The picture above is not a flattering one of me. In fact, I may come back in a couple of weeks and delete it and replace it with PICTURE NOT AVAILABLE like we used to have in yearbooks. But it is an honest picture of a woman having a really rough day and a picture of the vessel of joy God gave her to get through.

I gave in. I listened to my body and told myself the truth. I needed another day to let myself heal. I began to pet Scooby and I prayed a little prayer out loud right there.

"Father, thank You for Your comfort and Your joy that You bring in unexpected ways. Thank you for Scooby who is here to help me get through the pain."

"Let's go back to sleep, Scooby."

He understood and retreated back into his position of curling up next to my legs. My fur covered heating blanket, my Scooby, made me feel safe as I drifted off once again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pithy, How Pithy

In a few hours, I will have my gall bladder removed. As I ponder this, it feels right to take a moment and pay homage to a trusty organ who is no longer trustworthy.
I warn you, have a tissue nearby.

Ode to a Gall Bladder

a poem by Robbie Iobst

Of late, this pear-shaped organ has given me so much pain,

But after today I tell you, never again.

For years it's faithfully been my storage locker of bile,

But now it holds only stones; this is not its style.

So it's time to say good-bye to my little friend of 45 years,

But there will be no bon voyage party, no toasts, no tears.

Next week when its somewhere in a lab, sitting on a petri dish,

I will have moved on, to a restaurant that serves fish.

So let's just part quickly without a scene and with no hugs,

In fact, let's just hope and pray the hospital gives good drugs.

Ode to a Gall Bladder

A poem by Robbie Iobst

Feel free to memorize this and recite as led.

It is, after all, a lot less words than The Highwayman.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Vacation Chernobyl - I am glad to be back!

The sweatshirt I'm wearing was one of my favorite Christmas presents - Thanks Lory!

(My first blog of 08 is a little long but hey, it's been awhile!)

We make plans. God laughs. I don’t think He laughed AT me as I made my list for December 2008. More like chuckled with his sweet girl for being so, well, so wrong. And wrong I was. My December list included hours of Denver Christmas fun and hours of family time out in the snow. This was to be a holiday like no other. Yes, I had the camera all set. I couldn’t wait to blog about it all afterward. In fact, I closed my blog down in order to spend time writing my new book that was sure to be all finished come January 3rd.

As I write this, I can imagine the Lover of my soul and the Creator of all good things chuckling.

“Robbie, I am thinking of a different sort of December for you.”

Let me back up and fill you in with some pertinent info so you can get the whole picture.

My John, my wonderful husband, loves cooking. His favorite Food Network show is called Good Eats hosted by a bespeckled man named Alton. John loves the show because Alton doesn’t just talk about recipes; he discusses the science behind food. With that science comes experimenting. Ahhhh, this John loves. See, I am blessed to be married to a man who doesn’t use recipes but experiments. His creations are sumptuous and our dinner parties are known for lovely meals, gourmet-like. If you are wondering about my part, I shop for ingredients and I entertain while John is doing his thing.

Thanksgiving we were invited to my brother Phil’s house. My sister-in-law Lory asked John to bring the turkey. She told me she wanted to give him a “project” and she did. Dear John began researching ways to cook a turkey. It is actually a simple bird to cook but different chefs add their own flair.

Enter Good Eats and Alton. John just happened to catch the “turkey” show and he had a plan. I was asked to buy honey, apple cider and a box of kosher salt in order to brine the turkey. The result? Thanksgiving Day Phil’s home was filled with oohs and aahs from most every one of the four families invited. John’s turkey was a big hit. I, personally, had never tasted such a moist delicious bird.

So, December came and the same four families plus some extra folks decide to get together again on Christmas Day. This time at Susan and Michael’s house. Susan calls me and asks if John can make the turkey again.

“It was just SO delicious.” She adds.

I ask John and he agrees.

“No problem and I will eat whatever other meat they have.”

“What?” I ask. “Why?”

“Robbie, I hated that turkey.”

John goes on to confess that the splendor of our Thanksgiving meal was too gamey to him and he didn’t like it at all. I suggest that we call Susan and tell her that he didn’t like it and offer to bring something else.

“No, everybody loved it. I don’t mind at all.”

So, it’s off to the store to do my part. I felt good that day.

Allow me to interject in my tale that December was the most physically painful month I have had since I was pregnant. I began having chest pains in November and continued to have them plus stomach pains. On December 19th I went in for a heart stress test that I was told would last two hours. Five hours after I walked in I was rushed around with nurses whispering to each other. I ended up in the cardiologist’s office.

“We need to put a catheter into your heart. We think you are at high risk for a heart attack because of a blockage.”


He told his assistant to sign me up for Monday.

“That’s Christmas Eve.” She said.

“Well, then first thing day after Christmas. And Robbie, you need to take a daily aspirin and do nothing. No cleaning, no shopping, no vacuuming, nothing strenuous.”


“And Robbie, have a nice holiday.”


Fear came to our house for a visit but I put its little suitcase right back on the porch and told it to go find a Motel 6. John and I made a conscious decision, backed up by prayer and positive words that we would not worry. We didn’t.

But the pain seemed to get worse and worse. It came without warning and left without warning, like a bad guest.

On Christmas Eve I happened to be pain free. I was ecstatic. John’s turkey was being brined as we went to Phil’s house for dinner and games. It was truly a lovely evening. I had to cut it short though, because the pain was knocking on my stomach’s door.

When we returned, we all walked into a condo filled, and I mean filled, with a horrible aroma.

“What is that smell?” We all asked, almost simultaneously.

After some investigation, we discovered that it was the turkey-brining process. At Thanksgiving, the brining had occurred outside in a cooler. But since it was so cold and so snowy, John had put the cooler in one of our bathtubs.

“Did you smell this when you were brining the turkey at Thanksgiving?” I asked.

“Yep. From time to time.”

“Well, no wonder you didn’t like it. No way you could attach that smell to anything and eat it and like it.”

This is when I noticed the plate on the floor. The plate that had been on the dining room table full of cookies and treats.

“Oh no!” I cried. “That plate was full of cookies.”

Our three heads whipped to the right and saw our fatter than normal puggle Scooby (imagine Jabba the Hut from Star Wars) sitting in a chair licking himself.


We watched our dog closely that evening but he seemed fine. Very happy, of course, because he had discovered the treasure of Saint Nicholas atop a table within his reach. After Noah opened one present and we read the Christmas story, off to bed we all went.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. I heard my beloved dog presenting a Christmas gift to us all. The cookies had caught up. John walked him while I cleaned up the puggle’s presents. Scooby was shuddering after his walk from throwing up so much so we decided to stay up with him and watch episodes of Lost and just welcome Christmas that way. Each time either of us walked anywhere near the bathroom with the turkey brine, we would remark, “That smell is AWFUL.”

Noah joined us in the morning and discovered that once again Santa had come. We engaged in our tradition of Noah finding the hidden baby Jesus from our Nativity scene and then singing Happy Birthday to our Lord. Then of course, we threw ourselves into the carnage of materialism.

My pain came back somewhere between opening the pancake grill and my Barnes and Noble gift card. I enjoyed our family time, but as with every other time we had made a plan during December I offered up my sad resignation to John, “I just don’t feel like going today.”

But I wanted to. Thanksgiving was so much fun.

When we looked out the windows John offered, “Well I wonder if we CAN go with all this snow.”

Our Christmas day was to have 10 inches of snow fall.

Scooby was walked several times during the morning and we each took turns loving on him as he went through his sugar detox.

About 10:30, John called to me from the kitchen (I was laying down writhing) “Uh, Robbie, can you come look at something?”

I heave-hoed and made my way to our kitchen. “That smell is AWFUL, John.”

“I know. But look at the turkey. It’s only been in the oven for an hour.”

He opened the oven door and there was our foul smelling foul, completely obliterated. It was as if Scooby had jumped inside the hot stove and torn it limb from limb.

“What happened?”

“I have no idea.”

John asked me to try a little bite. It tasted like radioactive cardboard. At least what I think radioactive cardboard would taste like.

The two of us stood watching the bird, each lost in our own worlds of Turkey Gone Bad. John later told me he was wondering about how Alton’s science had gone so well once and so badly this time. Or maybe we had bought a bad bird.

I was wondering how we could go to the gathering with no meat to offer.

After a moment of silence I announced, “I bet you a store will be open today and we can just go buy Rotisserie Chickens.”

“I need to dispose of the corpse.” John commented.

John got rid of the nuclear accident, our Chernobyl turkey, while Noah stroked the Jones-ing dog and I attempted to finally get dressed to attend the party-pain, or no pain.

The phone rang.

“That was Phil.” John announced. “The get together has been cancelled due to the weather.”

I knew it must be bad, because my brother drives in any kind of weather.

I laid down on the bed and sighed. I was fine with it.

We make plans. God chuckles.

After four cans of air spray and windows opened despite the below freezing temperatures, the Chernobyl Turkey smell is just a slight memory which wafts up only occasionally. Scooby completed his rehab and is 9 days sober. We have learned to De-Scooby the place if we leave. As for me, I found out that my heart is fine but my gall bladder needs removing. I see the surgeon this Thursday and I cannot wait to go back to living pain-free!

We did very little storybook Christmas “stuff” this year and I have written next to nothing, but it’s all good. The Iobst family walked through fear, a nuclear turkey and a doggie acid trip and came out courageous and laughing. God knew. Now I chuckle with Him.