Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Not a Bag of Snakes - Part 9, the final chapter, of "In His Arms"

Part 9 – It’s Not a Bag of Snakes

Just before the accident, I remember having a conversation with John about how blessed our life was.

“Our life is wonderful, John. I somehow feel like we are bound to have something bad happen soon.”

My wise husband responded. “God’s got us. He doesn’t give out bags of snakes.”

He was referring to Matthew 7:9-11:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Throughout the ordeal of John’s accident and recovery, I often reminded myself that our situation was NOT a bag of snakes. It was a gift. A gift that came in the shape of a trial. For me, I believe it was a test of my courage.

When Noah was six, I began a conscious effort to fight the fear that lie beneath every motivation and action. I sought counseling, I put on my armor and began a spiritual battle like nothing I’d ever done, and I began practicing courage.

Three years later, on December 28th, I took an exam. More like an internship really. A chance to live out the courage that I practiced.

Just two weeks ago, John told me, “You know Robbie, you’re fearless. It is simply amazing how much you’ve changed over the past few years.”

Fearless? Me?

I smile thinking of that. It is a 180 degree from where I used to live. Scared of everything, especially the future. Scared of death. Scared of really living like I wanted to. Scared that someone would declare me unworthy of living abundantly because of my weight. Scared I’d never be able to lose weight. Scared that I would never get over being scared.

My internship in living a courageous existence in the face of great fear, lasted a year, long after John went back to work full time. I found myself drained and empty. I fell into a depression. I found out that when someone tightens up their insides in order to stay calm for a duration, eventually the insides will exhale. And it will hurt.

In some ways, those days were more difficult for me than when John was in the hospital. I ate everything I could to not feel that mysterious pain. I didn’t take care of myself properly and my health took a downward turn. I made plenty of mistakes.

But I wasn’t living in a bag of snakes. I couldn’t see the good that would come, but God did.

Isaiah 41:10 became a staple for me to recite every day during John’s recovery and my own.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, yes I will help you. I will hold you in My righteous right hand.”

At times it felt as if John’s hospitalization would never end. And then it felt like he would never get to go back to work. And then it felt as if I would never be myself again. But I wasn’t sitting in a bag of snakes. I was smack dab in the middle of His Righteous Right Hand.

So was John. So was Noah.

I have chosen to take risks the last couple of years that I wouldn’t have taken before. It’s just a matter of choosing to believe God and His Word and to not believe the world. Easier said than done. John’s ministry, dealing with men and sexual integrity issues, has thrived and John has become this warrior and Godly man who I love more than ever before. Because of the accident, we have practiced believing God.

I still don’t know why it happened. Did God cause John to be thrown from the bike? Did God simply allow circumstances to happen? I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that pre-accident, during the accident and post-accident, God never changed. He loved us through it all.

We were then and we are now IN HIS ARMS.

Glory be to God for the things He has done!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Home and Healing - Part 8 of "In His Arms"

Part 8 – Home and Healing

The day John came home, almost a month after he’d left for a motorcycle ride, was a day of rejoicing…mostly. I was also scared to death. No doctors, no nurses. Just me to look after my man.

During the next few weeks, I changed his dressing on his icky leg wound, I made sure he took his myriad of pills, I took him to his outpatient rehab and I drove him to the doctor each and every morning to have his blood checked because of the blood thinner medication he was on.

We both believed God was in control, but it was a constant battle to rise above circumstances and keep a positive attitude. Doctor Doom was the one who checked his blood every day. (That’s not his real name.) Maybe he was having trouble in his marriage or maybe he was dealing with painful hemorrhoids, but he never, ever encouraged us. In fact, one day John and I went to his office feeling great. John’s numbers showed that his blood was too thin and Dr. Doom told John to be very, very careful because one tiny little wound could land him back in the hospital fighting for his life. No kidding. We went back to the car and sat there, shell shocked. It wasn’t a coincidence that my brother Phil texted us at that moment. He said something like “Don’t let the medical community dictate your future – God knows more than any doctor!”

We sat in the parking lot and prayed and cried and told God we leaned on Him, not Dr. Doom.

Although I did my best to change the leg wound dressing correctly, the wound got infected and all black. The day I changed it and smelled something gross, I ushered John into the car and we went to Dr. Doom who hemmed and hawed and then sent us to a wound specialist.

In one of the appointments to see the wound doctore, he used a huge needle to suck out 10 ccs of John’s blood clot under the wound. I’ve never seen John in such horrific pain. Right after, a nurse using a monotone voice asked, “Was your pain sharp, dull or throbbing?”

John and I glanced at each other and burst out laughing.

He replied through tears, “How about screaming like a little girl?”

John had to have leg surgery in March which brought more drugs and more recovery. After the surgery, the Wound Vac was introduced to us and we fell in love with this miracle device that brought healing quickly. The first time we were to use it, some home health care nurses with southern accents came to the house to show us. They didn’t seem to be experts at it.

I asked them if they’d ever hooked up a wound vac before. Silence. Then one said, “Not many.” She picked up the user’s manual and began reading.

Once again John and I exchanged glances. Two guttural noises arose. And then we laughed. About the time we quieted down, one of the nurses in an Alabama accent casually said, “Boy, they sure do have a lot of gadgets in this.”

After three hours and two tries, they succeeded.

One step forward, two steps back.

One of the leaps forward took place in February. We were just hanging out at the house and John was doing some puzzles that his outpatient cognitive therapist wanted him to work on. Remember, when he was in the hospital it took him an hour to finish one of these and even then he often got something wrong.

John finished his puzzles and said, “Robbie, come check this.”

I looked through the two puzzles and announced, “You got them all correct.”

My husband looked at me with a strange look and then smiled. “Guess how long it took me to do both of those.”

“I have no idea, honey.”

“Five minutes.”

The cognitive therapist had initially told John he would work with her 3 times a week for 6-8 weeks. After 2 weeks, John was deemed fine to go back to work part time.

God heals. Not always, but in John’s situation God said, YES.”

John’s accident was on December 28th.
He came home from rehab on January 22nd.

God healed his brain (at least we saw healing through the puzzles) on February 9th.

John went back to work part time on February 17th. We were in His arms.

John’s leg surgery was on March 4th – two more days in the hospital.

John went back to work full time on April 8th.

And through it all, every moment of uncertainty, pain, fear, joy and relief - we were IN HIS ARMS!

All glory to God for His healing and His mercy on our family!

(Come back, Tuesday, December 28th, the 2nd year anniversary of his accident with my final post in this series – “It’s Not a Bag of Snakes.”)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Whole New Kind of Pain: Rehab - Part 7 of "In His Arms"

Part 7 – A Whole New Kind of Pain: Rehab

After nine days in the ICU, John was transported by ambulance to Swedish Hospital in Denver for what they thought would be five days. John was there 19 days.

During that time, four challenges to recovery became obvious.

First was John’s pain level. As John woke up more and more, he felt every ache. The pain was excruciating at times. Because of that pain, John didn’t move as much as he was asked to move. And ergo, a pulmonary embolism or blood clot, developed in his lungs. This added many days to his stay in rehab and proved to be a complication he would have to deal with for the next six months.

Next, we quickly realized that John’s brain injury had caused memory loss. He had no memory of the accident at all and he couldn’t remember a list of three words for more than a half an hour. Deductive puzzles that John would normally finish quickly took him an hour to finish. And even then, he didn’t always get everything correct. Cognitive therapy proved to be extremely frustrating for John. At one point he told me, “You know, I’m used to being one of the smartest people in the room. Now…well, it’s obvious I’m not. Are they going to let me come back to work again? Will they put up with me?”

The third obvious effect of the crash was the personality change. John got angry very quickly. He cussed and ranted often. He noticed this change and at one time told me that he had lost “the ability to show grace.” This third challenge was the one that unnerved me the most. My usually gentle husband called everyone who worked in the hospital, “Crackheads.” He complained non-stop about everything. And he treated me at times, horribly.

Lastly, his leg developed an infection. When John was first placed in ICU, he had a bad bruise on his left calf, but it was one of the last priorities for the doctors. During rehab, we noticed it had scabbed over and then started to turn black. Wound specialists were called in and did their thing. Two months after John left rehab, this wound would become infected and demand surgery.

I hated every moment John spent in rehab. It wasn’t like ICU was a party, but the tyranny of the urgent prevailed. In my shock of “What just happened?” my responses and emotions were at a level of high adrenaline. Always. In ICU, John got constant care from the nurses. In rehab, he was expected to do a lot for himself. It was like going from a four star hotel to a Motel Six.

In rehab, John and I both realized this was going to be a long road. Adrenaline left and a committnment to the drudgery of recovery began. One step forward, two steps back. Over and over.

However, since I am married to a man with a wonderful sense of humor, there were some great moments. Our main doctor was a Russian woman, who spoke with a thick accent and sounded as if she smoked four packs a day. Think Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof" was a smoker's hack. She was often comic relief for us when she left the room. John's physical and cognitive therapists found my husband charming and funny. Developing relationships with these two ladies was a blessing.

Folks visited John often and sometimes they would leave and he would ask me “Who was that?” He honestly didn’t remember. At one point, John asked if we could put a sign on the door – “Traumatic Brain Injury Patient – Please introduce yourself.”

Although he was dealing with a blood clot that caused pain in his chest, some guy friends visited a couple of times and made John cry with laughter. I left the room when they came, knowing John was in good hands and also because I was scared that the laughter might cause some kind of rupture. :0)

God’s infinite grace became apparent to John and I while he was in rehab and we had some wonderful talks about how blessed we were. Not just because John was alive, but because of the presence of God so powerfully palpable in our lives. And John, who was already in this process of becoming a aggressive warrior-man for Christ, continued in his resolve that fear had no place in living for God.

In fact, one day after we talked about the concept of safety and motorcycle riding, John said the following. I thought this was so wonderful, coming from a man who almost lost his life, that I wrote it down verbatim.

“There is a faulty theology out there that minimizing risk is the only thing that honors me, others and God…There is nothing wrong with being safe. Safety takes work. Dozens of times every minute, you assess risk. To be safe is to effectively analyze and manage that risk…But Careful? Careful is a terrible way to live. Careful is to try to control and eliminate risks. People who try to live careful think they have the ability to manage their own lives. Careful people will be disappointed and eventually surprised. They might even end up blaming God. I don’t mind trying to be safe. But I never want to live a ‘careful’ life.”

(Come back Friday, December 24th for Part 8  "Home and Healing."

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Family of God During a Trial - Part 6 of "In His Arms"

Part 6 – The Family of God during a Trial

Just a couple of hours after I’d learned about John’s accident, I sat in an ICU waiting room with my brother Phil. We were going to see John for the first time in just a few minutes.

In walked Kay Day. I burst out crying as soon as I saw her. I stood and hugged her.

“You didn’t have to come.” I sobbed.

“Of course I did.” She replied.

Kay, as a former nurse, was invaluable to me to interpret medical jargon. She came back to the hospital many times in the next few days to just hang out with me or take me to lunch, despite her forty-five minute drive one way to reach me.

Kay is not only one of my best friends, she is also my sister in Christ. She, like many other folks in my family of followers of Jesus, came through for John and me over and over during those three months at the beginning of 2007.

I’ll never be able to repay all the countless kindnesses during that time. I’m not supposed to either. What I am called to do is look around for others who might need a kindness. Then, without hesitation, lend a hand.

At one point while John was in the ICU, my friend Jan wrote about me on her blog asking people to pray for me, in essence hold up my arms as Aaron and Hur had held up Moses’s during a battle. The same day my friend Michele called me and told me she was praying – she was holding up my arms. I said, “You read Jan’s blog?” She said, “No, why?” That night, my sister-in-law Kasey called me and said, “Robbie you don’t have to be the strongest person in the room. So many people are praying for you. They’re holding up your arms.” She doesn’t know Jan or Michele.

My family of God held up my arms and John’s arms and got us through.

I wrote an email update during those days about some of the kindnesses. I feel the best way to tell the story of the love for us during that horrible time is to just repeat what I wrote then.

• Someone loaned me a phone to call Colorado Highway Patrol when I got message on answering machine. (Our phones didn’t work!)

• Someone prayed with me immediately following that moment I received the news. That someone turned my focus toward God in the moment of my greatest fear.

• Someone stayed on the phone with me on the way to the hospital and prayed for me most of the way.

• Someone met me at the hospital and loved me. Purely with the love of Jesus.

• Someone surprised me at the hospital and stood beside me as I listened to the doctors. When all I heard was Waa, Waa, Waa John, she interpreted the medical terms.

• Someone called John’s boss and let his work know what happened.

• Someone sent me an email of support and encouragement. (There were MANY)

• Someone prayed that my beloved would be healed. (MANY!)

• Someone gave me strength on the phone. (MANY)

• Someone took care of my precious son when I had to be at the hospital.

• Someone told me about the John Zay house, a place I could stay for free, just across the street from the hospital.

• Someone laid his hand on John’s head and prayed for my husband, thanking God that John was a WARRIOR who would fight through this.

• Someone bought me dinner. Someone bought me lunch. Someone bought me dinner. Someone bought me lunch. Someone bought me…(You get the picture)

• Someone (a nurse) comforted me while John lay asleep on a ventilator.

• Someone (a nurse) told me that the hospital took in two other motorcycle accidents last Sunday. One died and one is in a coma with a severe, severe brain injury.

• Someone encouraged me to look to God and not the medical personnel.

• Someone encouraged me to peruse the traumatic brain injury pamphlets, lightly, and then put them AWAY.

• Someone visited me in the hospital with a goodie bag.

• Someone visited me and prayed with me and hugged me while I cried.

• Someone visited me and gave me gifts, including an envelope full of change for the vending machines.

• Someone visited me and asked what I needed. When I told them, they searched Colorado Springs for a Barnes and Noble and got me the exact book I wanted.

• Someone organized a play date for Noah and five of his friends.

• Someone drove my son up to see his Daddy.

• Someone emailed a friend who lived in Colorado Springs to pray for John and asked her to visit me.

• Someone, a woman I’d never met, and now a friend, visited me in the hospital.

• Someone encouraged me to go home and take care of myself for a while.

• Someone invited me to drink champagne with them for just a minute on New Years Eve, then prayed for John and toasted his healing.

• Someone took care of Scooby, my dog.

• Someone went with me to see John’s beat up motorcycle.

• Someone called me New Years Eve at 11:30 p.m waking me up. It turned out to be an incredible blessing as we talked and laughed and rang in the New Year together on the phone.

• Someone came to the hospital and made me laugh and laugh.

• Someone took initiative to get the paperwork for John’s time off and short term disability all fixed up.

• Someone brought me work papers to sign to start John’s short term disability at work.

• Someone used twitter and facebook to encourage me. (MANY)

• Someone organized a girls night out for me.

• Someone (5 beautiful women) drove to Colorado Springs and took me out for a girls night out.

• Someone offered to go pick up John’s mom.

• Someone picked up John’s mom from the airport and drove her to the hospital in a semi-blizzard.

• Someone went to my home to get my cell phone charger. (I left it there)

• Someone offered to buy me a new cell phone charger.

• Someone brought me and Noah gifts.

• Someone took my son to see a Nuggets game.

• Someone listened. And listened. And listened to me pour out my heart.

• Someone offered wisdom when I needed it.

• Someone rejoiced with me through emails and phone calls when John started to wake up, a little at a time. (MANY)

• Someone offered to pick up Noah from school next week and keep him until I get home. (Several neighborhood moms)

• Someone showed me that in a crisis, the family of God shows up to help. (MANY)

I’ll never be the same after being dipped, soaked and immersed in the love of God through my brothers and sisters.

(Come back Wednesday, December 22nd for Part 7 –"A whole new kind of pain – Rehab")

Friday, December 17, 2010

God Works in Mysterious Ways - Part 5 of "In His Arms"

Our family while John was in Rehab - Me, JoJo, Marriah,
Sarah, Hannah, Noah and John

Part 5 – God Works in Mysterious Ways

It’s been almost two years since John’s accident and as I look back I still don’t see exactly why it all happened. I think it’s human nature to ask “Why?” But as a Christian, I am called to also relinquish the need to understand God’s ways. At the same time, we Christians often feel it’s our duty to list the exact lessons we’ve learned through trials in order to figure out why God allows circumstances. That can be beautiful, but it also can be a subtle way to try to control.

So I look back and I can’t make a list of the many lessons God taught us, simply because He is still using that time to teach.

However, one mighty miracle began during that time. The miracle of healing a family’s bond.

JoJo, my mother-in-law, came to be with John a week after the accident. Seeing her was such a joy to me and Noah. She brought strength and practical wisdom. Having her sit at John’s bedside was comfort. John said his first understandable word to JoJo. On one of her calls on day 4, I held the phone up to John’s ear and he listened and said the word “Hi.” A mother’s voice is a powerful tool.

So it was a joy to see her. A partner in helping her son and my husband to heal.

And then, John’s three daughters called and said that they were coming on Monday, day 8. John and his daughters have had a rocky relationship for years. Up and down and sideways. Good moments and bad moments.

When I heard they were coming, my first reaction was fear. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. I was scared that as they visited John, awkwardness would interrupt John’s healing. I was SO wrong. Hannah, Sarah and Marriah came with hearts full of love and forgiveness. They just wanted to love on their dad.

While they were here, I had time to watch them and appreciate the goodness and individualism in each of them. The way they looked at their dad was so touching. And while they were here, he began to make huge strides in healing. JoJo came on Sunday and the girls came on Monday. On Tuesday, John was moved to a rehab hospital. A nurse pulled me aside before we left the ICU.

“Robbie, I just want you to know that it is incredibly rare for someone to go from ICU to rehab. Usually there are weeks of recovery in a regular room and then rehab. This is amazing.”

God is the one that heals. Did He use John's mom and daughters? I say yes.

While John was in rehab, the girls’ presence brought delight to my husband. The awkwardness of years of a rocky relationship did not vanquish, but seeds of healing were planted in everyone.

Before they came, their mother Annie, John’s ex-wife wrote me a long email full of love and prayers for John and Noah and me. I didn’t know what to do with it, because as is the case in many current and ex-wives’ relationships, we were not friends.

My sister-in-law advised me to write her back and be civil. I did, but I was terse and distant.

Fast forward a bit. After John recovered, we made a plan to bring JoJo, her sister Nanny and the girls to Denver in October for JoJo’s 70th birthday. We had a great time. More healing. More joy.

At the time, it was mentioned that Annie and her current husband might come. She was of course, close to JoJo. I said unequivocally NO. A decision out of fear.

A few months ago I was in a hotel room having a WAAWG – Weekend Almost Alone With God. I was walking around praying and God brought up my lovely stepdaughters. I asked Him, “How do I love them, God?” As clear as a bell, I heard the Lord in my heart say, “By loving their mother.”

I emailed Annie and thanked her for the long email of love I’d received a year and a half prior. I asked for forgiveness for being so curt and distant in my reply. I apologized for not inviting Annie and her husband to JoJo’s 70th birthday party. Her response was full of grace and wisdom. I cried at what God was doing in our family. I emailed back and mentioned wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday we all got together as a family. She responded with “Yes!”

I asked her to be my facebook friend and slowly we’ve forged a relationship. John likes this, but thinks it’s a little weird. :0)

AND THEN, Sarah, my middle stepdaughter told us she is pregnant. I will be a Grandma next summer! Woo Hoo! That means that of course, we will be visiting them in California more than once in the coming months. Sarah and her betrothed Erik, will visit us in January.

On Thanksgiving, we called and John and I both talked to each of the girls and we ended the call with me having a long conversation with Annie.

THIS is a miracle! This is healing! It’s far from perfect. No family is, but God used a horrible motorcycle accident to start the process of restoration and healing. I am moved even to tears as I write this, because of my sincere awe at the goodness of God.

There is an overused cliché. I’m a writer so I’m not supposed to use this. But I will now because it fits perfectly:


(Come back Monday for Part 6 – "The Family of God during a Trial")

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Noah and his Dad - Part 4 of "In His Arms"

Part 4 – Noah and his Dad

I made some mistakes in the way I handled John’s accident and recovery, but none larger than the one I made with my son Noah. I completely underestimated how this would affect him.

When I first told him the news and that he was going to stay with his aunt, uncle and cousin Hunter, he simply said, “Okay,” and then he packed his bag. This all happened on December 28th, three days after Christmas. Noah had received a Nintendo, his first hand held video game, and he was consumed with the joy of it. So I considered it a blessing for him to have this distraction.

I talked to Noah that night on the phone and once again I sensed no emotions. He asked how John was doing and I told him he was sedated. Noah’s response: “Well, at least he’s sleeping.”

My first clue that the accident really affected Noah was the first time I allowed him to see John. It was day 4 and John had ripped out his ventilator earlier that day. I didn’t want Noah to see his dad with that thing on his face because it made John look like a horribly sick Darth Vader.

I tried to prepare Noah for how John would look and act. I told him about all the machines and wires and that John had restraints on because his brain was making him angry and so he wanted to get out of bed but shouldn’t. I also told him his dad would probably sleep through Noah’s visit.

Noah went in the room and stood beside John, who was sleeping. Noah simply said, “Hi Dad.”

John’s crazy eyes opened and looked at Noah. Then John lifted his hands which were in restraints and said to his son, “Help. Help.” His throat was still affected by the intubation causing his voice to be gravelly and deep.

I told John, “Honey, you’re okay.” And he went right back to sleep.

Noah stood there looking at John in shock. I told him that it was so good that Daddy recognized his son’s voice. This was a good thing. Noah said nothing and I asked him if he wanted to leave.

He said, Yes,” and walked out. Once we were in the hospital hallway, Noah burst into tears. I told him he was very brave. He kept bawling. I told him I would like to know what he was feeling so I would guess and he could just nod yes or no.

“Are you scared?” He shook his head no.

“Are you angry?” He shook his head no.

For some reason I thought if I joked, it would help. “Are you happy?” He nodded yes.

I thought for a moment and asked him, “Noah, did you think Daddy was dead?” He said “Yes.”

I had no idea. I hugged my boy like I never had before. We talked a little after that from time to time because I wanted to make sure he was okay. But how could he be?

Soon, Noah went back to school. And though he didn’t miss one day, his grades plummeted. And it took the rest of fourth grade to get his feet back under him at school.

It was after all this happened that I realized my son felt so much more than I ever imagined. I regret with all my heart not trying to do something more for him. Even now, I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I’m sure there was something. I was so wrapped up in John and myself that Noah came a distant third.

In time, he recovered like John and I did. But now I know that a child’s heart is deep and fully capable of being hurt deeply, even when there are no outward signs.

I wrote a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul about Noah’s moment seeing his dad in the hospital. In it, I emphasized that Noah had taught me gratitude. I’d only been thinking about the future while he was grateful his dad was alive. When I found out the story was going to be published I read it to John and Noah for approval. They both cried. Tears are a part of healing.

And then Noah said, “So how much money do I get for that story?” :0)

(Come back Friday, December 17th for Part 5 - "God Works in Mysterious Ways")

Monday, December 13, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury - Part 3 of "In His Arms"

Part 3 – Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury

The first three days in the hospital went in slow motion for me. I walked through antiseptic jello, trying to comprehend what each doctor and nurse said. I think the moment that jarred me into reality was the moment on the second night that our nurse gave me some pamphlets entitled “Traumatic Brain Injuries.”

She gave me a look of pity and said, “It’s important to prepare yourself, Robbie.”

Lory stood beside me as this happened. When the nurse left, Lory suggested I look through them briefly and then put them away.

I now know that many folks who suffer a severe traumatic brain injury are changed forever. Their personality is different and depending on the person and the circumstances, life is never the same.

I saw a changed John the first few days in the ICU. When he did wake up for a couple of seconds at a time, he would often be angry and try to get up and pull out wires. His eyes were wild and crazed, like someone other than my husband. The doctors decided to put him in restraints. It was heart breaking to see him restrained in his bed like he was in some looney bin. But I understood. The man in that bed wanted to escape and in the process, possibly hurt himself or someone else.

Two moments gave me hope. The first one happened on day four when John was still on the ventilator. I was told they were going to extubate him that morning but after the rounds, the doctors decided he just wasn’t ready. Exhaustion, stress and disappointment exploded in me and I lost it. I left the hospital to have lunch with my friend Kay who often came and visited me.

When I came back, John was in his bed with no ventilator. I asked what happened, and a very upset nurse told me John had ripped out the ventilator. He extubated himself which is very dangerous. I laughed. The nurse told me again that he was lucky to be alive and he shouldn’t have done it. I laughed louder. To me, this was a sure sign that my warrior husband was still in there, craving his independence. He knew he didn’t need the ventilator and he was right. When I asked the nurse how he managed to do this while he was restrained she simply said, “I have no idea.”

She left the room as I howled in laughter.

The other moment that brought me hope and joy was on day eight. The night before, John's mother JoJo and I were discussing John’s progress. I told her that when John woke up he was either really angry or really funny. I told her I was praying that John would wake up as a gentle John.
The one that would look at me and smile and say “Hi sweetie” and melt my heart.

On day eight, JoJo and I walked up to John’s bed and said “Good morning, John.” He opened his eyes, smiled at me and said “Hi sweetie.” And then he went back to sleep. God answered my prayer.

I doubled over, crying. Hope for normalcy when abnormal circumstances prevail is a tremendous emotion.

As John was dealing with his severe traumatic brain injury, I was dealing with my own trauma. Was I going to have to get a job and support us? Was John going to be a different person? What did our future look like? These thoughts bombarded me.

But trauma came in another way, too. Have you ever been rear-ended in a car? I have and it feels jarring. After the hit, you think practically. Where is the insurance card? Do I need to call someone? Is everyone okay in their car?

Later on, the shock of the rear-ending descends and it’s as if your entire body starts reverberating with that one moment you endured.

My heart trauma worked that way. At first I was emotional, but extremely practical, thinking about what needed to be done. The reverberation of John’s accident would begin in me, months later in May, and it would take a little over a year for me to recover. (More about that later.)

Come back Wednesday when I share “Noah and his Dad.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Part 2 of "In His Arms"

John's bike after the Crash

Part 2 - "The Battle"

“Help John, Lord. Help me.”

This was my gut prayer as I listened to the Colorado Highway Patrol’s message about John’s accident. The officer didn’t know the extent of the injuries but he knew it was serious. I called the hospital and the trauma surgeon told me that John suffered a traumatic brain injury. He didn’t think it was life threatening, but surgery might be required depending if bleeding on the brain stopped or not.

Following Jesus requires practice. Since I’d practiced leaning on God so many times, calling out to Him was the natural step to take.

After I talked to the trauma surgeon I called Lory and Phil, my sis-in-law and brother. Before making a plan in which Lory would take Noah, she prayed for John and me over the phone. I told Noah and we packed overnight bags and then I did what I’d practiced. I chose to get help from my Christian brothers and sisters. I emailed several prayer warriors and asked them to pray. As I drove the hour to a Colorado Springs hospital, (John’s accident was near there) my sister Karen prayed for me over the phone.

When I arrived at the hospital, Phil was there. Ironically, he’d been driving his motorcycle near Colorado Springs also, separately from John. We went in to see John together. All sorts of wires were connected to him. He was completely asleep, under heavy sedation, due to his extremely high agitation that is often a symptom or result of a traumatic brain injury.

I’ll never forget watching my older brother put his hand on John’s forehead and pray, “Lord this is Your son and this man is a warrior. Help him fight through this battle.”

And a battle it was.

I don’t know why God does what He does. But I believe with all my heart that he is in ultimate control of all. I prayed fervently, desperately for my mother to be healed of lung cancer. God said no. But in his mercy and grace, God would come to heal John. In the meantime, saints across the country battled for my husband in prayer. Our prayer request was passed on to friends and churches. People I’ve never met prayed for John. Fellow soldiers in Christ and good friends came to the hospital, prayed over John and read Scripture.

Encouraged by my fantastic 6 syblings, I walked around John’s hospital bed praying and reading Scripture. Although all I saw was John lying on a bed, unmoving, I knew that unseen forces on both sides were at work.

Without a doubt, I know God heard all those prayers and said Yes. Why He said yes and not no, I’ll never know.

But He did tell me something about two months after it had happened.

Let me tell you first that as a family we have a habit that we pray every time we hear a siren be it an ambulance, police or fire. When Noah was little he would pray “God help the wheels on the fire truck be okay. “ :0)

So two months after John’s accident I was sitting quietly and praying. And God’s voice inside my heart told me that when the ambulance was coming for John, someone saw it and prayed for him. When he was being rushed to the emergency room, someone heard the siren or saw the ambulance and prayed.

Before I ever knew anything had happened, God sent prayer warriors to begin battling for my man. And then the Lord told me that some day in heaven, I will meet those folks.

And just like I would tell someone in the military today, I will thank those prayer warriors for their service to God and my family.

Come back Monday, December 13th, for Part 3 – “Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Part 1 of a 9 part series - "In His Arms"

A picture of Noah and John before Christmas - December 2008

Today I begin a 9 part Series, telling moments from a period of time, December 28th, 2008 to the end of March, 2009. It’s been two years since John skidded on “freeway kitty litter” (the gravel like substance placed on freeways in winter Colorado) hit the guardrail with his motorcycle, flew off and over the guardrail and smashed his head on the cold icy embankment. For a long time I haven’t been able to write about this, but now I feel the freedom. My purpose? To tell a great story and give all the glory to God, who carried us through a difficult, difficult time.

Part 1 - "Oblivious"

When I think back to December 28th, two years ago, the first thought I always have is “Why didn’t I feel something when it happened?”

I’ve heard of twins feeling each other’s pain even when they are apart. I’ve read stories of moms who know when something is wrong with their child, even when they aren’t in the same place. But the moment when John had his accident I felt nothing. I was putting up Christmas decorations at home while Noah played outside with a couple of friends. I had no moment of pause or an inkling that something was up. I was happy and busy with my task.

Then 2 o’clock came. The Broncos/Chargers football game was starting. No John. This is when I started wondering why he wasn’t home. He’d left at 10 a.m. after I urged him to take a ride. “It’s probably the last 50 degree day in a while, honey. Go.” I wanted to have an empty house to take down the decorations. He reluctantly went to his room but came out ready and excited to go, dressed as usual like Neil Armstrong. My husband believes in safety and he wore armored gear, a helmet, special pants and riding boots. Enough to protect him from most any accident. Most. He left me saying he’d be back by the game.

I told him, “Ride like the wind.”

So at 2:05 I hit record on the remote, thinking he would want to see the entirety of the game when he got home. I checked my cell phone. It wasn’t working. I decided to go into our bedroom and check the answering machine, the one we hardly ever listen to and the one we can’t hear unless we are in our bedroom.

One message. I hit play and my life changed in an instant.

My husband had left for a four hour motorcycle ride. He would come home 28 days later.

When Noah was little, occasionally he would bump into something or fall down. Our instinct, as parents, was to go to our son and pick him up and hold him. Maybe even carry him for a while.

In that moment that John went down, in the same moment that I was oblivious to my world changing, God picked up John and Noah and I and began to carry us.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 - "The Battle"

Friday, December 03, 2010

It's Time to Declare our Independence from Martha Stewart!

(I wrote this a couple of years ago, but I reread it each year and declare my independence each December!)

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.


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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top Twelve Reasons to Buy a 2011 Names of God Calendar as a Christmas present:

This photograph, taken by Tonya Vander, is December's photo,
along with the name of God, Jehovah Shammah, the LORD is here!

Top Twelve Reasons to Buy a 2011 Names of God Calendar as a Christmas present:
(I'm avoiding copyright infringement and there are 12 months :0) )

12)  You don't have to face crowded malls - Just click on Pay Pal.

11) A year full of my words - it will be like having me in your house! And I know you want that. :0)

10) You can buy the calendar and then mark your birthday on it, so your friend/family member will see it and buy you something.

9) My birthday is September 10th - you need a place to write that down.

8) Let's face it - no one can remember that many names of God without help.

7) There is a time for every purpose under heaven. You need some place to mark them down.

6) You feel sorry for me.

5) You don't feel sorry me, you just want a good looking calendar.

4) The photography, taken by my friend Tonya Vander, is outstanding!

3) The devotions, written by yours truly, will point your friend/family member to God.

2) This calendar has absolutely nothing to do with TSA screening.

And the number 1 reason for buying a 2011 Names of God calendar:

1) The name of God has power! Even in a calendar!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today is the Day to Give Yourself a Break!

Today is the day to give yourself a break!

You can't do it all.
So do what you can do
and then
Give yourself a break!

You can't please everyone
So please God and yourself
and then
Give yourself a break!

You can't be perfect
No one can. So do the best you can
and then
Give yourself a break!

You can't solve the world's problems,
But you can do your part.
So do it.
And then
Give yourself a break!

You can't save everyone,
But you can introduce them to THE Savior,
So love someone in Jesus' name,
and then
Give yourself a break!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Slow Down

Lately, I've experienced several interruptions to my schedule. Life happens, I know, but it is difficult when you have one plan and that agenda which you believe to be important gets shelved.

Today I experienced yet another interruption to my intentions for the day and the week. It forced me to sit
and do very little. As I sat there I picked up an old journal that was nearby and flipped open to something that I wrote a while back.

It reminded me to slow down. Even stop and relax. It occured to me that the interruptions that have happened lately are probably reminders from God to stop running, slow down and breathe. It is often in those moments that God's love is clear.

The following is what I wrote. I was at a retreat center hanging out with Jesus, sitting on a porch of a cabin named Shalom. Are you rushing? Take a minute. Slow down.

The Porch at Shalom

I'm bundled in a cocoon of warmth
Gazing up through the pine trees' arms.
It too lifts its branches in praise with
The azure blue sky hovering in grace.

It is good to get away and sit on the porch of Shalom.

Colorado forest, blueberry bushes, wild dandelions -
A committee of creativity, whispering Your Majesty.
It's time to watch nature and see Your face.
Just sit and watch on the porch of Shalom.

Restoration, a date with my King,
Time to listen to no one else.
He knows secrets to massaging my soul,
His love soothes the aches. He is the Balm of Gilead.
And He meets me and holds me close
Here on the porch of Shalom.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Voices in My Head

How do you know you're crazy? Insane? A lunatic? Demented?

I would think it'd be difficult to diagnose yourself. So I don't. And ergo, I have not made an appointment with anyone who might dare use those words with me.

I don't have an official mental disease and those that do have my empathy. Seriously.

But there are days that I take a minute or several and ponder my mental health. Often, I'm not that impressed. If you need an example, let me tell you about last night.

I made homemade potato soup and we ate it for dinner and it was delicious. The three of us watched "Kung Fu Panda" and laughed. A nice evening. Between 8:30 and 9:00 John and Noah went to bed, leaving me to watch my DVRed "Dancing with the Stars." They refuse to be in the same room when it's on.

So there I was, me, alone with myself watching dancing. I was happy. But then the voices started.

"I wonder if I should have eaten that soup. Way too many carbs."

"I don't feel really well."

"Am I dying?"

"What if I have a horrible disease?"

"I don't want to leave John and Noah."

Variations continued until 11 p.m. at which point I woke up John, crying.

"Please pray for me. I don't want to die."

John can be a saint, as he was at that moment. He woke up and said in that husband voice of his, "Ooooookay."

He prayed and made me laugh, bringing a little reality back into my world. And then he went back to sleep. Within seconds.

I woke up this morning and I was alive.

No voices today. At least not yet.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

52 days left 'til Christmas! Consider buying a calendar as a present!

Can you believe it's 52 days 'til Christmas? For the first time in my life, I've done some early shopping. Just a couple of presents, but I usually wait until December 10th to start. I feel...a little more adult, actually. :0)

The 2011 Names of God calendar (displayed on the right) would be an excellent gift for one of your friends or family members. Beautiful photography by my friend Tonya Vanders and each month includes a Joyvotion (devotional) by yours truly talking about one of twelve names of God. Great way to remind yourself or someone else about the character of God.

Contact me at robbie iobst at hotmail dot com you would like to order one and send me the money. Otherwise go to the Pay Pal button on the right and click away to pay with your credit/debit card.

And on another note, I now have a WEBSITE! Woo Hoo! Check it out - and let me know what you think! :0)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Family - Take it up with God!

This is my last week's Joyvotion. As always, if you want to sign up to get a free Joyvotion in your email once a week, email me at robbieiobst at hotmail dot com.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

John and I often look at our son and say, “Noah, we’re your parents. Take it up with God.”

I believe God uses all of life’s circumstances to build our character and draw us closer to Him. So it is logical that He would use our families to mold us into what He wants. Sometimes that means He allows us to go through difficult times with family. We all know, to different degrees, how that feels.

But I also believe that God uses the joy of family. This past week Noah and I travelled to Baxter Springs, Kansas to visit my Aunt Carol Jo and Uncle Henry. We also got to spend time with my cousin Bert and his family. We toured Baxter Springs, which didn’t take very long. We drove to Joplin, Missouri and ate and we took a stroll to Oklahoma. Uncle Henry spent some time teaching Noah about the Civil War history of Baxter Springs. My cousin Bert let Noah drive a tractor. Most of all, we visited and laughed. And I got to just be with my aunt whom I adore.

A wonderful time.

I have a “colorful” family. And I love the colors. My mom and dad were both raised in Texas, so many of my relatives have a southern twang when they speak. Add to that the language of many of my aunts and uncles and you get a unique group of folks. Profanity is used with the care of an artist’s brush. Nothing blasphemous, just…colorful. Plus, they use idioms that I feel are gems like: “He’s as worthless as spit in a puddle” or “Don’t go having a squealing worm fit.”

So visiting Carol Jo and Henry was a blast for me.

But I didn’t choose to be in this family. I didn’t ask to be in a family that makes me laugh so hard I cry or be in a family in which both my parents died before Noah was five. As that old saying goes we get to choose our friends but not our family.

God has taught me a lot through my family. Acceptance and honesty. Unconditional love. And of course, the joy of playing dominoes until late and visiting just for the sake of telling stories. I look at Noah and I hope he learns some good lessons from our family too. Time will tell.

Tonight, I was thinking about this Joyvotion and I asked Noah, “What is the best thing about our family, Noah?”

He answered, “The kindness. The love.”

Surprised, I asked him, “Are you being serious?”

Quick as a flash he said, “No. It’s the fact that we can afford video games.”

I’m Noah’s mom. I’ll take it up with God.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Trip to Kansas in Pictures

Last Friday John and Noah and I went to Kansas. John went to a conference in Wichita and Noah and I travelled on to Baxter Springs to see my Aunt Carol Jo and my Uncle Henry. On the way, we stopped at something I'd heard about. The largest Prairie Dog in the World! Turned out to be a bit of a zoo, sort of.

Noah feeding the sheep

John kidding around  - :0)

John and Noah with Biggest Prairie Dog and baby

Me and Noah with the Prairie Dogs

In Baxter Springs, we visited with my aunt and uncle and my cousin and his family.

Noah, Henry and Carol Jo at the Rainbow Bridge, the
only remaining Marsh Bridge on Route 66

In Baxter Springs, we visited the #2 national cemetary and looked
at some Civil War soldier's graves.

Uncle Henry went around the cemetary teaching
Noah some history.

Noah, Carol Jo, Me, and Henry

One night we had dinner over at my cousin's house.
Wonderful food and laughter!
My cousin Bert, his daughter Kelsey, Henry,
Bert's wife Lory, Carol Jo and Noah

What a sweet time! :0)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tweaking Time

I'm in a season of tweaking. Not tweeting. Tweaking.

It's one of those periods where I look at my life through the microscope of purpose. I dissect my motivations and my goals. And then I tweak my calendar so that my life aligns with my purpose.

This takes time and often a lot of thought. I have created a ministry called Joy Dance. But what does that mean? What is my purpose and am I truly adhering to that? Takes time to figure it out.

In the midst of my tweak-age, I decided to talk to one of my favorite people, my big brother Phil. I admire
the way he lives his life for the Lord. Not perfectly, but definitely with purpose. So I called him up and made an appointment for coffee. I told him it wouldn't be the usual let's-just-hang-out-and-catch-up meeting. I was going to interview him about his ministry Caleb's Heart.

In interviewing Phil, I felt I'd get some substantial direction on how to tweak my own ministry, my own life.
And I wasn't disappointed.

My first question for Phil was "What is the best thing about your ministry, Phil?"

I expected answers like "Meeting men's needs" or "Relationships I've built" or "Watching God work in me and others." But that wasn't what he said.

Phil took no time at all and answered, "The King is pleased."

With his words, the Spirit grabbed my heart.

"I guess that's what it's about isn't it, Phil?"


We went on to discuss specifics and strategies and the lessons he's learned through trial and error. But after I left, the main thing that God kept bringing to mind was his first answer, "The King is pleased."

I know God loves me unconditionally and He gets a kick out of my life, just as I enjoy watching Noah grow.
But is He pleased with my actions? Is He pleased with the purposes and intentions of who I am?

This is the best tweak I could ever make. Looking at my life, my year, today and asking myself, "Are you pleased, my King?"

I'm still in the season. Tweak-age is still going on.

But I wanted to encourage you, the person who happens to be reading this right now. You. Is the King pleased with your purpose? If so, what a delightful sense of satisfaction to be able to say aloud with conviction "The King is pleased."

And if not, well, maybe it's time for your own season of tweaking.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking Care of Me - By Breathing

Yesterday morning, I attended a Tai Chi class. A few weeks ago I was at a writer's conference and sat next to a lady that seemed nice. (Not all writers do, you know. :0) ) So I started up a conversation and discovered that she teaches Tai Chi. So I decided to try it a couple of weeks ago.

I love it.

Tai Chi is that slow type of martial arts looking movement that you might see in China at the park each morning. A slew of folks line up, (it’s a regimented practice) and move. The movements are deliberate and beautiful. And definitely not as easy as they look.

My teacher Diedre encourages us to not compare ourselves with anyone else in class and to go at our own pace. I rely on this.

One of our routines is to practice deep breathing. I love this. My Pop, Walker, taught me to breathe deeply years ago. He noticed that his youngest was the most dramatic of his four and along with that, the most likely to stress out about every little thing that interrupted the course of my day. So, he taught me to breathe.

“Pretend that when you’re blowing out you’re making tunnels of air. See them in your mind and make ‘em as perfect as you can. You do this, Cotton Top, (I used to be white blond) and with each breath out you’ll make that stress leak out of you.”

At 48 years of age, I finally know that dealing with stress is an essential part of taking care of my health. The world is so much more joyful a place to be if I learn to just LET IT GO. Breathing helps. Tai Chi helps.

Yesterday morning, I had to mail two letters. I hate to go to the post office but it was on my way back after Tai Chi, so I told myself it wouldn’t take but a minute to slip them into the outside box. When I pulled up to the box, I discovered that my letters had no stamps. Darn!

I parked and went in to find a long line. Just let it go. No biggie. I’m in no hurry.

When I got up to the front of the line (this took a while) the post office experienced a momentary power outage. After the lights came on, we were informed that it would take a “little while” for the computers to boot up again. I looked behind me and observed the level of stress this brought about to each person. One woman huffed and left the line, making sure she let the employees know of her dissatisfaction in the system. Two strangers started talking about it, both laughed and then they started talking about something else. A cameraderie formed in the midst of the post office line struggle. A man made a phone call and said loudly to whoever, “Well, it may be a while.”

As for me, I looked at the lady behind me and grinned and shrugged my shoulders. This is an international symbol for letting it go.

And then I breathed. In and out. It occurred to me that this was one of those moments in which I can add to the health and joy of my life, or I can squeeze my heart with stress. It’s a choice.

The lady behind me said tersely, “I have to be outta here to get back to my job in three minutes.”

I replied, “Why don’t you go next?”

“No, no, that’s not why I said that.”

“Please let me do this. I’m not working.”

“Okay. Thank you!”

At this point one of the employees waved her over. Then his computer failed to reboot correctly and he told her it’d be a while. She huffed and left. Oh well.

I’m not saying I’m all Yoda or the Dalai Lama or Jesus about life. I get impatient. Plenty.

But yesterday, I took care of me. I did it by breathing. By extending kindness. By letting it go.

I feel great.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Want More out of Life? Try this ONE THING...

“Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

Have you been alone with Christ this week? By that, I mean have you focused on God when no one else was around?

If not, then let me put it simply: You are missing out.

We get so busy with our lists of to-dos we forget to take time for the One who gives us guidance and strength to accomplish the to-do lists.

I’ve known Jesus since I was a young girl. My relationship with Him has had its ups and downs. I’ve ignored Him and adored Him. I’ve run to Him and away from Him. He’s let circumstances brought on by my actions humble me, sometimes painfully.

However, in the last five years my relationship with Jesus has changed dramatically. It’s deeper and richer and much more rewarding. Why?

It’s NOT because:

1) We joined a new church.

2) We moved to Colorado.

3) I joined a Bible Study.

4) I started writing Joyvotions.

5) I began speaking regularly.

6) John’s accident, the joys and trials of Noah or Scooby, my faithful dog.

7) Good or bad times in our marriage.

8) I have wonderful Christian friends.

So why has my relationship changed? It is because of ONE thing.

1) Time alone with my King

What used to be a quiet time of reading and praying has now become a lifestyle of making a PRIORITY to be with Jesus alone for an extended period of time. I regularly make an appointment to sit at Christ’s feet and listen to Him. Sometimes it’s for an afternoon; sometimes a day and sometimes I go to a cabin at a retreat center and seclude myself with Christ for a weekend. (These are called WAAGs – Weekends alone with God – a habit/behavior I learned from my brother Phil and his ministry Caleb’s Heart – )

It’s changed me. And why wouldn’t it? If we put aside the phone, internet, TV and people and hang out with God, of course, we will be changed for the better.

I encourage you to do this. MAKE TIME. If you need have no idea how to go about this, email me and I’ll give you the hints I’ve learned.

You want more from your life? Spend time alone with the King.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Have the blahs? How 'bout some Hope?

"Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant...
He's got high hopes! High apple pie in the sky hopes!"
Sammy Cahn from the song "High Hopes" sung by Frank Sinatra

Yesterday, my morning started like molasses dripping down the side of a jar. Slow. Sticky. Messy.

I woke up with that feeling many of us have from time to time. The blahs. One step away from slipping off the cliff into depression. Once my toe goes over that ledge, phrases like "Who cares? and Nothing matters anyway" slip out easily.

I recognized what was happening, but once in that particular state it's difficult to climb out of it. So I did what many of us would do. I went back to bed.

But then...

I prayed for God's strength to make my day count. Nothing wrong with naps. But I was more emotionally tired than physically drained. As I lay cocooned in a blankie, Scooby in a ball to my side, I heard a still, small voice: "Get up and go."

I chose to do it. I'm sure God's strength infused me. A Tai Chi class was starting and I'd told myself to try it. So off I went.

And you know what happened? Hope. Hope filled me up, followed closely by joy. When we choose to pray for His strength and then listen to His voice, wonderful things, supernatural things, happen.

My Tai Chi class was a blast. Energized by a bit of exercise and purpose, I made my day count as a day not wasted but one in which I lived and loved and laughed. And not lay in bed.

That little ant who tries to move the rubber tree plant? I betcha he asks God for strength before he starts moving ten times his weight. He prays. He listens. High hopes happen.

May you have a day of high hopes born of His strength! :0)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poor Dog, Dumb Dog

My dog almost died a few days ago.
He wasn't in an accident nor did he acquire some weird disease.
This is Scooby normally. Happy. Fun. Energetic.
Scooby got up on our dinner table when we were at
church and ate half a chocolate cake.
The next 24 hours were messy and painful.
Here is a picture of Scooby during that time.
He looks as miserable as he felt. Notice the bloated stomach?
I went between the sentiments
of "Poor Dog" to "Dumb Dog" back and forth.

Of course, part of me felt compassion for the puggle.
I've felt like this. :0)  Haven't you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


(This is something I wrote two and a half years ago. I was thinking about seasons this morning because it is officially fall, but still feels like summer. So I thought I would put this on my blog today.)


Seven inches of snow fell upon our lovely home of Centennial, Colorado last Sunday. Twenty-four hours earlier Noah and I were driving to Chucky Cheese and calling out all the different colors of the leaves on trees lining the streets as they sang songs of metamorphosis.

“Yellow. Red.”

“Orange. Brown.”

“Green. Dark purple.”


We drove down the same street to go to church. The trees and bushes now sang winter wonderland tunes, all in the key of white.

Seasons are new for me. We moved to Colorado last December from the sunny paradise of San Diego. In California, the calendar notified us of the changes of seasons with labels reading “First day of winter,” “First day of spring.” But the trees, the bushes, the sky sang nothing but a sweet song of sunshine. I liked that music, too. It was in my Ipod and made me walk faster when I exercised.

But variety in the weather and the feel of the air has brought pensive thoughts. No one has ever accused me of being a deep thinker but nature does that to a person. I think Colorado and its seasons have taught me the lesson of letting go. San Diego never could.

Moving is difficult. Ask anyone who has had to pack their belongings, turn off the utilities and say goodbye to their friends. It is a kind of chronic pain that stings like grief. At our going away party I began to cry at the very end and I felt this throbbing of my heart. At the airport when I hugged my friend Stacey goodbye my heart felt like it was torn, a scraped knee that only bled slightly but hurt badly. I thought those moments were the worst of it. I was wrong. The adjustment to a new home and place and people was excruciating and brought new pain sporadically. During the past ten months, I have had fleeting thoughts that my life in Colorado was a vacation. Soon, I would be back home under that glaring friend of mine, the sun.

Last winter was a shock to my system. Within a week of having all of our furniture moved into our new home, a blizzard hit Denver and we were surrounded by walls of snow. We couldn’t see our cars in the parking lot because they were literally buried. I wrote a lot and that saved me, plus the incredible love of my sister-in-law Lory and my brother Phil, Coloradoans for years. One day, the temperature was 0 degrees and Noah had to go to school. I called Lory.

“Lory it is 0 degrees. I can’t let Noah go out in this.”

“Robbie, calm down. He has a coat and gloves, right?”

“Yes, but it is 0 degrees! I can’t do it.”

“Keep him home. But listen, this can’t happen again. You are in Colorado. You have to keep living your life, even if it is cold.”

Eventually, I ventured out and the snow and ice became normal to me, like neighbors who might seem a little odd at first but after a while are no big deal.

Spring glided in and the beauty of the area we live in began to appear to me in little snapshots of life. I would go to the grocery store and witness colors of flowers and trees budding. We began to travel around Colorado as a family and I saw the beauty of Estes Park and Golden. After we toured Wild Bill Hickock’s museum and grave we stood on a mountainside with a breathtaking view. The three of us played a game to see who could see the farthest. I breathed easier in spring.

Summer was a party. Noah and I splashed at the pool almost every day. The warm days beckoned me to sit underneath my old friend and purr like a cat and take lazy naps. The sky began to call my name. I began to look up and I noticed that the sky seemed nearer here, closer, like it wanted to get to know me. It whispered my name so often I began to look up and just stare. The stars at night were so close. The expanse of the blue in the day was almost too blue.

Fall fell into my heart. This time I was looking for the change. Waiting for it, almost expectantly. I knew that the plants would talk to me as if I was the Dr. Doolittle of botany. They did. Walking Scooby around early in the morning became a delight and as I breathed in the air my lungs filled up with chill and my soul filled up with hope. The autumn leaves crunched beneath his little paws and my tennis shoes and the colors made me think we were walking on a Jackson Pollack painting.

So yesterday it snowed. Change again calls to me. But as I walk through the cold, grateful for my hat and scarf, I am no longer questioning and clinging to the things of the past. My California sun will always be a good friend. I cherish the time I scribbled in my journal sitting under those solar rays, watching the Pacific Ocean lap upon the sand beneath my feet, playing a game of water tag with my toes.

But I have let go.

The seasons offer a glimpse of the brevity of pain and joy. God, as He often does, offers a great lesson about living through these cycles of nature. Nothing lasts forever.

When I was in a very trying season with Noah in his second year of life, I would call my sister Karen and cry, “Give me some wisdom.”

She offered, “This, too, shall pass.”

It did. And so did those precious moments when he was a giggling four-year-old and then a shy kindergartener and a first time soccer player. It all passes.

I got sweet news the other day that a friend who has not worked in a while got a job. It has been a season of waiting for him. A painful one. I pray each day for another friend who is hurting. She wants to get pregnant so badly, but it hasn’t happened yet. A difficult season. My sister is doing quite well after battling breast cancer last year. She is living in a season of fresh gratitude.

I find myself in a season of growth. Right now I guess you might say my life is at that point where the seed is breaking through the soil trying to stretch out its little tendrils to reach for the sun. Tunneling through dirt gets messy.

But change only hurts if I refuse to welcome it. Refusing to accept the season that we find ourselves in is akin to closing our eyes and wishing that summer would come in the winter. It is pointless. We are not in control of the seasons of nature or life. God, the weaver of the intricate tapestry of life, is the ultimate Potentate.

God has used these Colorado seasons to teach me the sweet lesson of moving on. He gave me deep pleasure when I chose to embrace the Colorado sun and the cool spring air. I found laughter in the summer splashes of fun and hope in the autumn leaves splattering their colors on the ground. Now the white drops of winter bring no fear. Just change.