Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Portrait of People Pleasing Me

Are you a people pleaser? Me, too. I mean, if you want me to be. :0)

I am always trying to allow the Lord to teach me to please Him only. It's difficult. I want to be liked.

This is a essay/poem/scene (I don't know what to call it) that I wrote a while back. I hope you like it. But if you don't, well, that's fine. Really. :0)

Portrait of People Pleasing Me

HE is a great painter. 

He sees my portrait,

even as the canvas is blank.
          He begins.

          I say, “Use red.”
          He says, “No, not red.”
          “But,” I say, “I like red.”
          “Okay.”  He paints with the red.
          I choose green as the next color.
          He says, “No green right now.”
          “But that writing magazine says green.  So does Publishers Weekly.”
          “Okay,” and he paints with the green.
          He chooses blue next.
        “No painter, no blue next.  That editor I met at the writing conference? She says it’s time for orange.”
          He shrugs and uses the orange.
          After a bit, I say, “My agent says brown.”
          Without a word, the painter takes the brown and paints.
          I decide to sneak a peak.
          “Wow, that’s me!” I say. 
          “Yes.”  He says.
          “It’s beautiful,” I say.  “You’re good, but something’s missing.  Don’t you think?”
          The painter looks at me and smiles.
          “Uh-huh.”  He says.
          “What is it?” I say.
          But I cut him off from answering.  I go and ask my husband, critique partners, writing group. They’ll know.
          I bring back three pints of white, pink and purple.
          He takes the paints and sets them down.  Then he hugs me.  He tells me he loves painting my picture.  He tells me I am beautiful.
          I blush and say, “Okay, but it’s still missing something, so use these colors.”
          He takes the white, pink and purple and he paints.
          I look at it again.
          “It’s nice.  It’s me.  But something’s missing.  I don’t know what.  Do you?”
          He doesn’t say anything.  I think He is waiting to see if I will answer my own question. 
          Finally he says, “I know what’s missing.”
          “You do?”
          He smiles gently, warmly and he says, “Me.”
          “What?”  I say.  “But you’re doing the painting.  You’re in control.”
          “Am I?”  He says.
          It occurs to me that it is time to let him pick the colors.
          It is time to please his vision.
          Not mine.
          Not anyone else’s.
          I say, “Paint, painter, do your thing.”
          A twinkle comes to his eye and he gets busy.
          It’s fun to watch.
          After a while, he calls me over and shows me the portrait.
          “Wow!” I say.
          The portrait is beautiful.  Nothing is missing.
          “That’s how you see me?”  I ask him.
          “That’s how you are. And are becoming.  And will be.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm a Horrible Mother!

(So it's not winter and there's no snow yet, but this picture
describes my emotions today.)

“Grace and peace to you, from God our Father.” Colossians 1:2

John Wooden, the late record-setting basketball coach of UCLA, defined success as peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

So what is it to be a successful mom?

This morning, my son Noah, who has asthma and has had pneumonia for the past few days, was able to go to school. In the silence of my home, I began to beat myself up.

If I was a good mom, he would not be sick so often.

If I was a good mom, Noah would have a clean home all the time.

If I was a good mom, I wouldn’t have gotten a second dog.

If I was a good mom, I would feed him only organics and eliminate the junk and never get angry and only show him Jesus’ love!

But I’m not and I don’t.

This afternoon I met with my Moms in Touch group. We pray for our kids at school. When asked what my prayer request was for my son, I burst out into tears. “I’m a horrible mother!”

I made a bit of a scene.

My friends did not coddle me, but instead told me truth that I needed to hear: There is a difference between being a perfect mom and a successful mom. One of them quoted Wooden.

John Wooden also said that in order to be successful, I must be the best ME I can be. So to be a successful mom, I need to be the best I can my talents and my deficiencies.

My parents taught me to respect God, laugh at life and be friendly. But they didn’t teach me much about money. In fact, I’ve had problems in that area. If John were writing this, he’d type, “Amen!”

Were my parents’ successful? Yes! As my dad often said, “We do the best we can.”

I want to be the mom that Noah needs. For me, that means accepting that I am not a clean freak, I allow him to have fast food and I can use words that are simply idiotic. It means realizing that I can get better in these areas, but I don’t need to beat myself up when he gets sick.

It means living out the Serenity Prayer by Francis of Assisi.

God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
(Noah’s health)
The courage to change the things I can,
(The things that God tells me to change)
and the wisdom to know the difference.
(And not beat myself up.)

Am I a good mom? A successful mom? Not always.

But I have peace of mind that today I have done my best to become the best mom I can be.

And that is God’s grace. And that is enough.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Discount Dog Gamble

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

We huddled in a small room, our eyes focused on a Chug, or a Pug Chihuahua. The pet store clerk came and I began asking questions, believing that the answers would tell me the idea of taking this pooch home was silly.

The Chug was skinny and sick with Kennel Cough, Giardia and maybe more. He had been in the store for three months and had been rejected time after time. The clerk took home his sister but couldn’t take him.

“Maybe he needs us.” I said, and looked at John who was obviously ready to drop this spontaneous idea and go home.

John, Noah and I talked it over. This would be a gamble. The little guy might not make it.

But I knew I wanted him. “John, he is on sale.” And then I played the ultimate wife card. “Honey, this could be my birthday present.”

A while later we were at the counter with another couple, also getting a puppy. Their dog looked perfect and cost $1200. Ours, a little sick thing, cost much less. But Noah and I were thrilled as we carried our new little five-month-old puppy to the car.

“What should we name him?” I asked.

“He looks like a Thor.” John said, kidding. But it stuck. Thor Reginald Iobst became our fifth family member.

Buyer’s remorse came quickly as I stayed up most of the night listening to this six pound baby hack every thirty minutes as if he’d been smoking three packs a day for years. He promptly pooped and peed everywhere but wouldn’t eat.

We took him to the vet and she prescribed him medicine, paid for by the pet store, and told us the beginnings of pneumonia were in his lungs. But there was hope.

As I’ve prayed for Thor, I’ve contemplated the value of life. And I’ve experienced gratitude.

We are all sick in our sin and desperately need someone who will take a chance on us. God stepped in and paid the ultimate price, Jesus’ life, to save us from a life of being caged in and rejected. Even if we poop and pee through life, making messes of our lives, He comes in and cleans up and holds us. :0)

At first I didn’t want fall in love with Thor. What if he died? But as I’ve watched him go from a hacking puppy to a scampering dog, his paws have scooted their way into my heart.

How much more does the Father cherish each of us?

We rescued Thor and I’m glad. Scooby, our Puggle isn’t. He looks at the new puppy as a nuisance in his life, like a fly that won’t go away. He will stare at us and I know he’s thinking, “Wasn’t I enough?” :0)

But in rescuing Thor, I have been given the gift of experiencing a tiny iota of what God might feel when He looks at us.

Unconditional love.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Maybe, Maybe Not

(The following is this week's Joy-votion, a devotional I write each week and send out through email. If you would like to get a Joy-votion through your email each week, just email me at robbieiobst@hotmail dot com and I will put you on the list. This week I have a guest writer - my incredible husband John!)

“And we know that in all things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes.”(NIV – Emphasis added) Romans 8:28

Back in Genesis 3 (the fall of man) Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Besides all the obvious consequences, (sin, death, and separation from God) I believe that tree had its own unique consequence for us all.

We “think” we are equipped to rightly judge good and evil. The problem is we lack the wisdom and perspective of God to know if something is truly good or evil.

I heard a story to illustrate the point. A poor farmer in a rural village had his only horse wander off and get lost. The people of the village came to lament the evil that had befallen the man. In response to them calling it evil, he said, “Maybe, maybe not.” Days later the horse returned followed by six wild horses and the people of the village came to proclaim the good that had come to the man and he said, “Maybe, maybe not.” Days later the man’s only son was trying to train one of the horses and fell breaking his back leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The people of the village came to lament the evil that had befallen the man and he said “Maybe, maybe not.” Sometime after that the army came and drafted all the young men of the village except the man’s son because he couldn’t walk. Shortly after that news came that a battle resulted in the death of every young man from that village. The people of the village came to lament the evil that had befallen them all but the man said, “Maybe, maybe not.”

Was this man wise beyond his years or did he simply understand he lacked the wisdom to judge good and evil rightly?

I am not arguing for a post-modern relativistic world view where everyone should pick the version of the truth that suits them. I am saying we judge all the time but lack the wisdom.

We live our lives judging people, places and circumstances as good or evil based on the simple criteria: Does this benefit me or not? As followers of Christ, we may extend the criteria of our judgment to include God’s Will as we understand it that day, but it is still our judgment.

Ten or twenty years ago, I would have believed that the greatest evil affecting my life was my addiction. Today I am convinced that in God’s hands it was and is the greatest good because apart from that pain, I would never have fully bent my knee to the Lord and been set free by His love and grace. Clearly I was wrong before and it is not completely clear that I am right now.

The next time you find yourself judging I hope you can let go of your right to judge and instead trust God to be the only Righteous Judge. Is this circumstance good? Is it evil?

Maybe, maybe not.