Monday, November 18, 2013

Find Your Swing

“…I have called you by name. You are mine…” Isaiah 43:1

I was next in line. My heart beat fast. I was about to meet one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott. I approached. She glanced at me and then looked down to write her name in my book.

“Hi Anne, I love your writing.”

“Thank you.” She completed her signature. The next person swooped in and I walked off.

She didn’t recognize me. How dare she not know me? I knew HER.

Fast forward a few years. I was in line to get the newest cookbook from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. My friend Molly had saved my place in line for 3 hours. We approached the table. My heart beat wildly.

“Hi! I love you and your cooking!!” Uh-oh. I think I yelled.

She looked at me with a tiny flash of fear. Was I a stalker? On drugs possibly?

Molly swooped in and told Ree that she, too, was from Oklahoma. They shared a brief but lovely conversation while I stood to the side.

The Pioneer Woman didn’t recognize me. In fact, I think I scared her. J

Last Friday night I was the author signing copies of my novel, Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance. The line was long, not like a famous author, but definitely thrilling for me. I knew 99% of everyone there, but those I just met, I made a special effort to greet.

But here is the deal that really surprised me. As much as I absolutely LOVED Friday night, it won’t be my “happy” place. I’m in counseling about food obsession and in one exercise we were asked to envision a place in our minds where we were perfectly happy and at peace. The first thought that came to mind was my swing outside on my balcony. Days I’ve sat there and been still have brought me such inner joy. When I swing there, Jesus is beside me. It’s the perfect place to just be and regroup and hang out with the Lord.

Fulfilling a life-long dream of having a book signing with a long line was fantastic. I thank Jesus for it all. But it’s not my “place.” It’s not where I find the ultimate joy. I thought it might be, but it wasn’t.

Publishing my first novel and all this attention that comes with it is temporary. I get that. And maybe that’s why it took me so long to get here. Maybe God was waiting for me to get the significance of the swing and the insignificance of the book signing. It’s the difference between seeking approval from others and finding approval from the One. He is truly what matters to me more than anything. Don’t get me wrong, I want all of you to buy several copies of my book and tell me you liked it. J But if you don’t, if no one buys this novel and it gets buried in a garage sale table, that is okay.

While someone digs through those books for a quarter each and picks up mine and thinks, “It looks okay for 25 cents,” I will be sitting on the swing with my Lord. And it will be enough because He always recognizes me.

He always recognizes you, too. Find your swing.

(If you want a signed copy of Cecilia Jackson’s Last Chance, order it through my website, Otherwise it is available on Amazon. It is a wonderful Christmas present.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It Always Starts with a Dream!

My first book

My latest book

I’ve always been a dreamer. Back in Van Horn, Texas, my family lived on Summer Street, which in the 70’s was called the New Addition. On Summer Street in front of my house, I would roller skate for hours up and down the sidewalks, dreaming. I had the roller skates that required a key. (Wish I'd kept them.)
In those dreams I was Robbie Walton, John Boy’s wife or Robbie Brady, the 7th of the bunch. I was the Jacks Champion of the World, when I had time to compete, because of course, I was also the Roller Skating Gold Medalist, narrowly beating the East German competitor.
My dreams were my friends and we hung out a lot.
In all those days, though, I never once dreamed of being a writer. (Speaking is another story – I think I’ve wanted to be a speaker since I was 8 years old.)
Writing was what I did in my diary – the most boring diary ever written, by the way. 

 February 16th - Nothing happened.

But I would write songs for Donny Osmond since I knew it was only a matter of time before he came to Van Horn and asked me to join the group. I’d be ready. Writing was also what I did in making up little skits for our Girls in Action group at church or later on, our youth group.
I just did it and continued to do it in my many, many journals and in writing skits and plays for church and school. But I never dreamed that it would BE anything.
Then came Noah.
I was blessed to be able to stay home with Noah for a while here and there during his early years, but as he grew up and started preschool, my heart starting hurting. I didn’t like him being at after school care for so long and my long rehearsals after school with drama got to be draining.
God was changing my mind and my heart about my chosen vocation – teaching.  During a high school chapel service led by Chapin Marsh, God called me to start dreaming…about writing.
I thought, well why not write a novel? Naively I thought it would be no big deal. I’d taught English for years. Noah was two.
Today Noah is fourteen and yesterday I received boxes of my first novel, the same one I began when he was two. I’ve rewritten it at least ten times and it’s been rejected somewhere around 20 times. And in the last twelve years, I’ve dreamed of opening that box thousands of times.
It all started with dreaming – God-called dreaming. Then came the choice to actually sit down and write. Next the choice, covered by lots of prayer, to endure and persevere, when editor after editor and editor said no.

Today as I looked through my novel, I prayed a prayer of gratitude to the Father. And my mind went back to that little girl on Summer Street. She didn’t dream of writing, but she dreamed. She exercised her imagination which was the foundation for every fiction story or book I’ll ever write.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Now That's a Knife!

My husband was raised three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Redondo Beach, California. He is not a surfer or a tree hugging liberal, but he is definitely a Californian through and through. Even though we now live in Colorado, we are still self-proclaimed weather wimps and the informal feel of shorts and a polo shirt could easily be John’s uniform of dress for the rest of his life.
When he married me, a Texan, he received some kidding from my siblings and especially my dad. 

“So you’re a Yankee?” My dad asked him with a hint of a smile.

“No, sir, I am from California.” John replied.

“Yankee.” Daddy stated this as if the matter were settled for all time.
At my father’s funeral, I am positive Daddy watched from heaven and let go that loud laugh of his. There was one particular moment at the funeral I am positive Daddy watched from heaven and let go that loud laugh of his. 

I have to back track for a minute.

We drove from San Diego, California to Van Horn, Texas for the funeral. On the way I drank Cherry Lime Sodas we had bought in San Diego and put into an ice chest.  I liked them poured over ice in a cup. To finish up this cocktail of choice I would squeeze a fresh lime on top and then put the cut up pieces of the lime into the drink. Just delicious! 

Round about Yuma, Arizona I decided to have my first Cherry Lime. However, we had no knife to cut up the limes. No problem, John indicated he would pick up a knife at the next gas stop.
And he did. He bought a 99 cent little pocket knife at a truck stop somewhere in Arizona. The little ¾ inch blade did the trick and I enjoyed my beverage of choice as we traveled through the desert.

Fast forward to the cemetery. We had just finished the short service and people were beginning to say goodbyes to those who had to leave immediately. Lots of hugs going around.

My stepmother asked a question about an arrangement someone had given. It was a welding helmet attached to flowers. (My dad was a welder.) “I would surely love to take the welding helmet home with me.  Let’s leave the flowers but I want to take the helmet home.”
A couple of folks proceeded to pick up the helmet. However, it was attached in some way to the big bouquet of flowers.

Loreen asked another question. “Does anyone have a knife to cut this?”
My husband is a servant. Of course he stepped up with five or six other men, and he proceeded to proudly pull out his 99 cent pocket knife to help out the poor widow.

As soon as he did, he noticed the other five or six knives. 

Not a 99 cent one in the bunch. Nope, these were knives three or four times larger than John’s lime slicing deluxe model.

Quickly as he could, John stepped back and as inconspicuously as possible slipped his knife back into his pocket.

From heaven above I am sure that my Daddy laughed. “Yankee.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Miraculous Arm of Walker Floyd

Daddy in his twenties. 

Mama and Pop

If my father were alive today to drive through a fast food joint with my son and me, he would shake his head in disgust. Noah can choose chicken strips or nuggets, hamburger or cheeseburger, usually with bacon, fries, onion rings or fruit cup, Sprite or Root Beer. He always orders no mustard, no onions and extra pickles.
When the Floyds drove through a Dairy Queen, we four kids would also inform Daddy of our choices:
“I want a cheeseburger and not a hamburger.”
“Can I have onion rings this time?”
“No onions on mine.”
“Let’s get Dilly Bars, too.”
Dad would glance at us as if listening and maybe even nod, but he wouldn’t say anything as we spouted our dining guidelines.
He’d then drive to the speaker and state in a low monotone, “We’ll have 6 burgers, 6 cokes.”
Lots of my memories of growing up in Texas occur in our 1969 Pontiac Catalina. Perry and Karen sat in the back by the doors, with Phil and me sitting in the middle and our parents up front. We drove two or three hours to see cousins or little weekend jaunts that centered on my dad and uncles making music. And we went grocery shopping in El Paso, two hours from Van Horn.
The four of us would often get in squabbles in the back seat and in midst of this, we’d witness a miracle.
            Daddy’s arm, of average length and build, would stretch in Gumby fashion, reaching back from the driver’s seat. He would then slap all four of our faces domino-style. The car never slowed down.
Sometimes Daddy’s arm was not “slap-ready” and he would inform us, not warn us, but inform us that he would pull the car over if our squabbling continued. We would comply, but after a few moments of silence, Phil or I would draw each other back into brother/sister torture. As Karen and Perry joined in and venom spewed from our mouths, we each, one by one, would notice that the Pontiac seemed to be slowing and veering to the shoulder of the freeway.
My siblings and I would immediately engage in a love-fest. We hugged each other and promised each other our first-born children. But the love-in was to no avail. The car stopped.
My father would then tell us to get out. We knew to assume the position. He would take off his belt and administer blows to our behinds, even as station wagons carrying other fighting siblings would roar by.
If the same scenario occurred today, the authorities would haul Daddy off for abuse. But it wasn’t abuse by any stretch of the imagination at the time. It was love. I never heard the term corporal punishment as a kid. But I knew Dad would “tan my hide” if I disobeyed.
He taught. I learned.

In my new novel, Cecilia Jackson's Last Chance, the character of Vern Jackson has that strong and gentle outlook my dad had. I was blessed to have him as a father.

What was discipline like for you as a child? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Don't Mess with My Texas - Memories!

A picture of my hometown's main drag. 

Van Horn,Texas is 697 miles away from my home here in Denver, Colorado but only a nano-second from hundreds of memories. 

In Van Horn, population 2800 in the 70's, my dad had a belt. When it come out, the four of us would promise each other our first born in order to show Pop how much we really loved each other. To no avail.
We were not abused.
We were disciplined. 

We didn't have cell phones, but we coud walk all around town in the dark with no fear. But if we got home after Mama said be home, well, we had plenty to be sceered of. 

I grew up on fried chicken, fried okra, fried squash, fried eggs, fried potatoes...and hamburger gravy. Yep, I've dealt with weight issues all of my life. Did kale exist in the 70's? 

Memories are colored with rosy shades of perspective and gray tones of fact. But as I look back on those years between the ages of 4 and 18 - the formative years they call them - my memories always paint a picture of gratitude. 

Van Horn was a wonderful place to grow up. 

I've written a novel set in Texas called Cecilia Jackson's Last Chance. In preparation for the book launch on November 15th, I'm going to tell some tales of my time in Texas. I invite you to read and maybe visit your own childhood. No matter where we're raised, many of us share the same characters and scenes. 

Tell me, were you raised in a small town or a city? Which would be better? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm on the Radio!

Angie Austin!

So excited to become a regular contributor to The Good News with Angie Austin a radio show on 810am and 670am here in Denver, Colorado. I have been a frequent guest on Angie's show for a while, but now I get to go on every Monday and talk about FAITH IN ACTION, a topic I am passionate about.

I'll be sharing my podcasts with you, but first I want to share with you a podcast from back in August where I talked about my book Joy Dance. I LOVE talking with Angie and we always have fun. Before my part in the show, Angie talks with some wonderful folks from Arc Thrift Stores, a wonderful organization that benefits mentally challenged folks. Part of that interview includes a friendship between two of the employees, a mentally challenged gal and a guy with Aspergers. Very cool. My part is from minute 32 to minute 52. 

Hope you click on and enjoy. I loved this conversation. 

This is it:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reacting to Missing Lobe Behavior

"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship." Job 1:20

Job is like a super star of reactionary worship to me. After all of the horrible things that happened in his life, he worshipped. I mean, sure he tore his robe and shaved his head, but he didn’t stop there. He didn’t curse God. He worshipped.


Do I react in worship? Do you?

Most of the time I probably don’t. But this week I’ve been thinking on this and so I’ve been trying to watch my reactions. Living with a fourteen-year-old young man gives me plenty of practice. I love Noah. He is a great kid.

However, scientifically Noah’s frontal lobe, like most young men his age, is not fully developed. This brings me a bit of hope for his future when said lobe will have kicked into high gear. For now, well, not so much.

Saturday he had a football game. In an effort to allow him to learn more individual responsibility I do not prepare everything for him. But I did quiz him.

Noah, are you ready to go?
Do you have everything?
Water and Albuterol? Uniform?
Yeah, yeah and yeah. My uniform is at school.

So I took him to his game and told him I’d be there for the game later after my Zumba class. I was extremely excited about the class since my main instructor would be back after a long time off due to a broken foot. I drove 15 minutes to his school and then 20 minutes back to the gym by our house. In the gym parking lot, the phone rang.

“Mom, I’m so sorry, but my football pants are in my backpack in my room.”

I tore my clothes and desperately looked for some scissors to shave my head.

Not exactly, but I reacted. I didn’t yell, but my blood began to boil as I told Noah I’d bring the pants to him. On the five minute drive back to our house, the Spirit of God reminded me of Job and reactionary worship. Now He did this as I was mumble-cussing (that’s what the Iobsts call it) under my breath.

I stopped. And even though I still felt anger I made the choice to worship.

God you are great. I praise your name for Noah. You are in charge of football pants and Zumba and You have this. Cause me to calm down.

As I pulled up to the house, I noticed John was home. He was supposed to be in a meeting but came home early. So he agreed to take the pants to the frontal-lobeless boy and I got to go to Zumba.

I challenge you to watch your reactions today. We are human and we are going to tear clothes and rip out our hair when things go wrong, be it huge circumstances like Job, or minor events like missing football pants.

But then we have a choice. Join me and let’s fall to the ground and worship our God who is worthy of all praise in every circumstance.

Even with our teenage boys who have no frontal lobes. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Spirit of Power Among Friends - a take on 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power,
 of love and of self-discipline." 
2 Timothy 1:7

The setting: Haciendas Colorado - an incredible tasty Mexican restaurant

The time: Last night

The characters: me and friends Michele, Melissa and Danica

The last few months, and I honestly can't remember when it started, I have gotten together with these three ladies at Haciendas. Last night we agreed to go again and toast Danica and Michele and cry in our drinks for Melissa, who is soon to move to Hollywood.

But I was in no mood to go. I was in pain. Why? I knew that I needed to say NO to flour tortillas, chile rellenos and a margerita. No, No, No. Denying myself is still not easy even after doing it often the past ten months. And to say no on a night with girlfriends? 

OUCH. I thought about my NOS throughout the day. I had a plan and I needed to stick to it. But I dreaded it and anxiety grew. 

So much so, that as I walked into the restaurant, Michele took one look at me and said, "Are you okay?" I'll never be a poker player. 

I brushed her off and the four of us sat down to dinner. Lots of laughter and perusing the menu ensued. The chips came, but that wasn't difficult for me. I told myself I would have exactly 10 and I did. But then the moment of truth. The waiter asked what we wanted to drink. Michele ordered a diet coke. WHAT? My ears perked up. As I said iced tea, it was easier than I thought. I wasn't the only one saying no. 

Later we ordered food. I thought I would have salmon, simply  because it sounds diet-ee. I didn't want to have salmon at a Mexican restaurant. 

Michele ordered first. She chose the California tacos. And then she said, "But I'd like to have them in lettuce cups." 

WHAT? Lettuce cups and not flour tortillas?? My ears and heart perked up. A new choice. A choice to be healthy and get something I liked! I ordered the grilled mahi-mahi tacos in lettuce cups. 

They were outstanding. 

After the waiter left, I was asked by Danica what was up. Knowing I was with good friends, the tears came. The pain from having to say NO so often is exhausting and on this night, I felt it intensely. 

My friends did something that was absolutely wonderful. They empathized. They reached out and touched my hands. They felt WITH me. The tears turned to giggles with Melissa declared, "It just sucks that you can't have cake." 

Yes, indeed it does. It's just for a season. But it still hurts. The pain I walked into Haciendas dissapated as my friends listened and cheered me on. It was as if they took little bits of my pain and tucked them into their purses so I didn't have to leave with any. 

2 Timothy 1:7 talks about the SPIRIT of POWER that God has given us. Last night I had none of it as I entered a restaurant to be with friends. But in the midst of my Jesus-loving sisters, they gave it to me. Just as they took bits of my pain, they reached into their hearts and gave me that power that is ours to have if we just ask and receive. 

The tacos in lettuce cups were amazing. But better than them, was the taste of God's sweet gift to me in friendship. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Brownies and that Boy I Love!!

My boy Noah

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

The text read:

We need more brownies!!

I’ve discovered I have a secret weapon in the form of a recipe for brownies. My friend Loretta passed this James Bond Sugar gadget on to me. God works in mysterious ways and today He made me giggle through the power of chocolate.

My fourteen-year-old, Noah, is on a mission trip this week in downtown Denver. His youth group is staying at a church that helps the community with a food bank, clothes distribution center and other projects for lower income and homeless folks. On his list of items to bring was a snack to share with his fellow workers. I asked him what he wanted to bring, thinking he would say chips.

He replied, “Brownies, of course.”

Noah loves them and so I’ve provided these chocolate delights to him, his friends and the youth group often. So he took brownies.

I’ve been missing him the last four days and so when I got the text from Amy, one of his youth directors, I jumped at the chance. This morning I hopped in the car, secret weapon in classy aluminum foil pan and headed off to provide culinary joy to a bunch of teenagers while getting a glimpse of that boy I love.

When I got there, Amy met me, took said brownies and led me to say hi to Noah. When we went into a large room in the basement, kids were everywhere. Young elementary age kids. They were all grouped in circles. I quickly deducted that they were giving prayer requests and then, praying. At first I didn’t see Noah, but when I noticed Amy tapping on the shoulder of a handsome young man, I smiled. He was focused on the five boys surrounding him and didn’t respond to the repeated taps. Finally Amy tugged his shirt back and he turned around. She pointed to me across the room.

To my glee, Noah jumped up and started my way. Then he stopped suddenly, held up his pointer finger to me (the universal sign of just a sec) and sat down with his charges, once again eagle-eyed on what they were saying. I watched across the room as my son, the boy who has never baby-sat or played with little kids, talked to his boys.

And then they prayed.

My heart leapt and tears, my easy companions, sprang forth. What a priceless moment to watch my son minister to little kids, two of which who were sporting mohawks.

See, I’ve prayed and will always pray for Noah to fall in love with Jesus and with serving God. The Father and John, in that order, have told me countless times to not expect Noah to have the same relationship with Jesus as I do. Noah is his own person and how and when he follows the Lord is between Noah and Jesus. I have no control over this. Noah is going to relate to God in ways I won’t ever be able to. Jesus will whisper things to His boy that I will never even think to utter. That’s just the way it is. John 12:32 says that Jesus, not the mothers, will draw men to Himself. But as moms, we so often want our children to have the same experience with God that we do. And as I watched Noah, I realized again, the desire to limit Noah’s relationship to mine is to limit God’s power in his life.

The boys said amen and Noah told them he’d be back. He sprang up and walked quickly into the hall to see me. And then he got all cool again and calmly said, “Hey.”

I giggled and said, “Noah, I brought brownies. Can I have a hug for that?”

For this simple act of service that included sugar and chocolate, my 6’1” boy jogged to me and hugged me.

I love brownies. I thank God for this delicious, secret weapon. He can definitely use anything to His glory.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Joy Set Before YOU

This is me beside a sculpture in Evergreen, Colorado entitled "Shout!" 
This is me choosing Joy! 

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

In the Message, part of Hebrews 12:2 reads “Study how He did it.”

Beth Moore tells of hiking with her eagle-eyed husband. They will be walking and he’ll point out an animal. But she can’t see it. So he’ll point and she’ll lean her head on his shoulder and look straight down his arm and pointing finger and spy the beautiful sight.

When I read Hebrews 12:2 this week I thought of Beth and her husband. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. But what is He looking at? As I lean on his shoulder and close one eye, I spy it: The joy set before him.

In studying how Jesus did life, I see he didn’t focus on the horror of the cross or the constant persecution He faced. He looked to the Joy.

This past week, I’ve experienced many moments of sadness, restlessness and trouble. And I could focus on that and sit and complain to you for hours over coffee. But I’m studying how Jesus did life and I don’t see Him sitting at a Starbucks with a friend whining.

“Oy vey! Why don’t those Pharisees like me? You won’t believe what people are saying about me? It hurts. And have I told you about the cross? The pain I’ll have to endure! Oy vey!”

No, he focused on the joy set before Him. So as I look at the past week, I focus on the joy-filled moments God gave me.

  •          I sat in a coffee shop and insecurity attacked. “Am I doing these Joyvotions right, God?” At that moment, a lady named Sarah Ritz came up and introduced herself and told me she reads these and loves them. That’s Joy from God.

  •     I got to visit with Wendy Berryhill on Friday and Joni and Vern Bosky on Saturday – three old friends from San Diego. The laughter and warmth from being with folks who play a part in my memories is Joy.

  •      I met with my editor and planned my first novel’s release in September and the book launch in October. Dreams are becoming reality. Sweet Joy.

  •      The questions about why I overeat are being answered. Painful, yes, but tremendous hope is born and that creates Joy.

  •      I watched Noah in his first high school football scrimmage. My little boy is growing up. Bittersweet joy.

  •       I celebrated my brother Phil’s birthday. I just love this man. And I got to see my nephew’s eighteen-year-old girlfriend, Natalie, who is beating leukemia. (Pray for her to deliver the final knockout blow.) To see the flesh and blood handiwork of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, is complete Joy!

Join me and study how Jesus did life. I believe that the joy that Jesus saw before Him included being present with God and folks from the disciples to you and me believing in His gift of salvation. I also think He saw the joy in us, that joy we get to have every day, because of Him.

What are you focusing on? I hope it’s Jesus and His sweet Joy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Writers: Stop Apologizing!

What if John gave me a beautiful ring and I showed it to you one day over coffee?

“Robbie, it’s lovely.”

“Thank you. It’s not a huge diamond, but I like it.”

“It’s gorgeous.”

“It didn’t cost that much because we can’t afford a lot and John had to save for a while to buy it, but I like it.”

“Sounds like he really wanted you to have it.”

“Well, I guess so. It’s not like your ring. That’s huge. But I like mine.”

Did I honor John? Did I honor his gift?

Nope. I apologized for it.

The Spirit has convicted me lately that I do the same thing with a gift God has given me – writing. And I need to stop. The enemy keeps having victory and it’s got to end.

Indulge me in another metaphor. A baseball player wants to be the best and play in the major leagues. But his path includes Triple-A. Maybe he moves up from there, maybe he doesn’t. But he doesn’t apologize. Can you imagine an announcement at the beginning of a Triple-A game?

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are so sorry that this is not a major league game. Do the best you can to have fun.”


And yet…

When I self-published a book of Joyvotions called Joy Dance, I always included the words “self-published” when I talked about it. “This is my book Joy Dance, (and apologetically,) it’s self-published. I apologized for a gift. And writing and publishing that book was a GIFT. I’ve had many, many comments from folks who’ve read it and heard from the Lord through it. What a GIFT!

In September, my first novel will be published through a small print on demand publisher. This is a GIFT from God to me.

And yet, the enemy keeps trying to steal the joy of that gift by whispering lies:

It’s not a big company like Tyndale, Robbie, so it’s not that great.

Your book may never even make it to a traditional bookstore.

Other writers can get contracts with the big companies. You just aren’t good enough, Robbie.

ENOUGH!!! When I dwell on these lies, insecurity happens and the apologies come forth. The best way to fight the lies of the enemy is with God’s truth:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

My gift is from HIM and it is a good gift!

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6

God establishes my boundaries and the path He has given me is delightful!

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

God knows the future and He is ultimately in charge. If I truly believe in His Sovereignty, then I can trust Him every step of the way.

When I wrote this, I thought it was just for me. But then it occurred to me that all writers deal with the comparison trap. As do every one of us, writers or not. What is the gift God has given you? No matter what it is, a wonderful way to honor God is to be grateful for the gift.

Writers, let’s stop apologizing!

Whether you are published or not,

Whether you are self-published or traditionally published,

Whether you are working for a Triple-A company or a major league company,

Whether you have tons of sales or a pile of books in your garage,


Let’s use our words to glorify the gift giver, not apologize for the gift.

Those diamonds He’s put in your heart and mine are priceless.

Let’s rewind. I just showed you the ring John gave me.

“Robbie, it’s lovely.”

“Isn’t it? Thank you. John loves me so much and he gave this to me and I absolutely LOVE IT! So grateful for my husband and this ring.” 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

He's There if You Look for Him

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15

Monday morning I decided to really look for God everywhere during my day. God is omnipresent, but sometimes we are not present to Him, meaning we don’t consciously seek Him. Takes practice and a simple choice to focus.

So I did. During the morning it was easy. I saw God in the tree outside a window, its green leaves shaking in the joy of a cool breeze. I saw Him in Noah’s silliness, the dog’s unconditional love and in a friend’s heart. I felt Him in the courage of trying something new.

But after lunch, the easiness ended.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to see a counselor who specializes in food issues. On the phone this lovely lady gave me directions to her office and told me that parking in the back of her building was free.

As I neared the area of the office, I discovered I’d forgotten my google directions. I called my counselor and she gave me to them again, once again pointing out that I could park in the back.

I met my counselor and it turns out she is 13 years old. At first I thought, “Great. The Doogie Howser of mental health will be trying to help my 50 year old brain?” But then I remembered that my medical doctor, Kelsey, is 12 and she pointed me to food allergy tests that stopped years of stomach pains. Youth can be a great thing. So I opened my heart.

We had a good session and I left, not wanting a cupcake to ease the discomfort of seeing a professional. This was a good sign to me.  I walked to the parking lot in back to find my car was not in its parking space.

Thoughts of God were nowhere. I went back in and told my counselor that my car might have been stolen. She began to freak out. We went back to the parking lot so I could show her where my car was not and on the way, a man who ran a business in the same building walked by. When told of my situation, he said, “I’m sure you were towed. That’s permit-only parking back there.”

Sweet young counselor almost had a heart attack and went into guilt mode and apologized over and over. I felt bad for her and began to comfort her. “It’s not a person, it’s just a car,” I said. “And if it was towed, well that’s much better than stolen.” She calmed down and told me she would reimburse me for the towing.

I phoned the towing company and they told me they couldn’t tell me if my car was towed. I had to call the Denver police first. I called the Denver police and they said yes, it was towed by that company so call them back. O-kay. A cupcake started to look pretty good.

I called them back. “Oh sure, we towed it. But you’ll have to wait before we can locate it.”

??  O-kay.

I waited the prescribed 30 minutes and called them again. “The driver hasn’t called you yet? Here’s his number.”

The driver, in an extremely rude tone, told me he’d be at a certain address in exactly one hour. I was to come with (get this) $209.56 in cash only with exact change. I wanted to ask him if I would get my car and cocaine, too. I didn’t. I just started to wonder about what kind of icing would be on that cupcake.

Enter my husband John. He picked me up delighted to help. Well, he wasn’t delighted, but he wasn’t angry. Just one of those things that happen, right?

I told him the story.

“So you’re not going to go back to this counselor, are you?”

“Actually I will. She may not be good with parking lot rules or a client’s possible stolen car, but I have a feeling she’s good with food issues.”

John’s turn to look at me and say, “0-kay.”

We arrived in the tow driver’s neighborhood and found we’d entered a part of Denver where they manufacture shivs. Okay, maybe not, but it felt that way. After asking a couple of people, we found the address. We sat in an alley outside his business. Yes, an honest to goodness alley.

I called Mr. Charming and told him we were there at the exact time he wanted.

“I’m held up in traffic. I’ll be there in just a minute.”

“How long is a minute?” I asked.

He knew exactly what I meant and answered, “Half an hour.”

I got angry and hung up. How dare he? Why are people rude? I ranted and my husband listened in silence.

After a bit, the Spirit tickled my heart, “Remember what we talked about this morning?”

I let out a humph and turned to John, “So let me ask you, where is God in this situation?”

John answered quickly and sincerely, “Maybe He’s answering the tow guy’s prayers for money for food for his family.”

It was not a moment of appreciating my husband’s Godly perspective.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked. “This guy is a jerk! What woman would marry him? I should buy her a cupcake! She probably needs it more than me!”

When the guy showed up, (it was longer than half an hour) I did not show him the love of Jesus. He did not apologize for being so late so I used my brusque voice and took my time inspecting my car for any tow damage. I gave him the exact amount of extortion money he asked for and he gave me a receipt. We parted.

After, in my car alone, my emotions got out of my way and I processed what had happened.

I’d run into a jerk. There are plenty of them in the world. And I have to confess that there are many times I am one of them. And even though I’d begun the day seeking God in everything, when discomfort entered my world I sought comfort or at times, revenge.

So where was God?

He was always there. He was in my counselor’s office, sitting with me and holding my heart that so wants to get better. He was in the parking lot, giving me perspective that a car is not people. He was in those moments of frustration offering humor and wisdom and peace, even when I didn’t accept them. He was in John, trying to give me balance as always. And He was in me, giving me the courage to not have a cupcake, because it wouldn’t have offered what I needed. Only His presence could offer that.

I didn’t seek Him in everything on Monday. No need to beat myself up. Each day is new.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Take a Hike!

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
Hosea 2:14-15

He didn’t lead me into the wilderness, but instead, Steamboat Springs. I woke up at a Holiday Inn and found I had the whole day to myself to do whatever I wanted. Glorious. And in such a pretty town.
At breakfast, a nearby lady was talking to a nearby couple about things she recommended to do in Steamboat Springs. “You have to ride the gondola up to the top of the mountain.”
Eavesdropping is not listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit in the Bible but if it was, I would have it. Later that morning, I headed for the gondola. It occurred to me as I got on and it revved up to climb the mountain, that I am not great with heights.

Thoughts like “Great time to remember that, Iobst” crossed my mind as I watched the ground beneath me get farther and farther away. The single cable that stood between the gondola and certain death for me seemed to make a strange noise. The only thing worse was when it got quiet. I mean, really quiet. Of course, my mind ridiculously ran through all the possible outcomes of a fall: broken leg, organs damaged with me in a hospital and ultimately the scene of me giving Jesus a big ole fist bump.

But courage came in and sat with me in the rocking gondola and I was overwhelmed with the Spirit of God. His presence reminded me to look around and SEE HIS beauty. I did. Joy.

At the top of the mountain, there was a restaurant with incredible views so I sat and had most of a hot dog and some watermelon and enjoyed. I read God’s Joyful Surprise by Sue Monk Kidd and became more inspired. In the middle of enjoying my time, I felt a nudge on my heart.

“Take a hike.”

 It wasn’t said like a gangster in a 50’s movie telling a kid to scram. It was a gentle suggestion of the Spirit.
“I’m not a hiker.” My response was firm. In fact, when I had asked for directions to the gondola from a Holiday Inn employee she had said there were many hiking trails up there if I was interested. I giggled, “I’m not a hiker.” She was a bit older than me and carried some girth with her and she giggled, too. An unspoken agreement between wise women who see no point in engaging in such activities.

But see, God knows my heart and He keeps showing me that I can do so much more than I think.

“Take a hike, Robbie.”

Ignoring the Spirit’ voice, I read more of Kidd’s book and came to this quote by Charles DuBois: “The important is to be willing at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we can become.”

Somewhere in the meal I decided to do it. Of course, as I made my decision I tacked on all sorts of addendums and requirements:

I’ll go for 15 - 20 minutes and then I will turn around. I will not jog. I will turn back at any time I feel I need to. I will wear my IPOD to distract me from the pain. I will stay at the bottom of the trails until I see someone going so I can follow them so I know that if I fall and have a heart attack, I can scream. I will hold my key in one hand so if a serial killer happens to be on the hiking trail and attacks me, I can plunge the key into his neck and limp away.

At this point, I would love to tell you that I am exaggerating. I’m not. (And how could I have a heart attack and scream?)  But the neurosis and fear that have plagued my personality still have remnants that jump up and shout any time I do something out of the ordinary.

I told God okay. We’ll do it Your way, Lord.

I didn’t time myself or hold onto my key. I did carry my purse, which I noticed no other folks seemed to have around that restaurant. Backpacks and fanny packs but no purse. Still I went. I didn’t see anyone near the trail I chose and I just took that trail cause it looked pretty. I wore no IPOD. This was a hike about me and God. Just walking. Just doing it.

Here’s what happened.

I found freedom on this wonderful path.

Beauty. I didn’t know how long I had walked at any time. I didn’t know where it would end or when it would end. Somewhere along the way, a strange man and I came to the same spot. I found myself smiling and talking to him like we were long lost friends, not some character from an evil TV show bent on hurting me. And best of all, God and I talked on our hike. It was one of the sweetest times I’ve ever had. I heard lovely things that are only between Him and me. I felt loved and I felt strengthened. My fear, my doubt in myself was completely suspended simply because I chose to put my feet in front of myself, one step at a time. 

I breathed hard and I almost slipped once. I kept going. I saw a little butterfly that seemed to follow me or lead me. I’m sure there were a million of them up there, but to me, I had one little butterfly leading the way.

Maybe the Spirit used that butterfly to encourage me. Why not?
I finished the hike covered in sweat. (My people don’t perspire. We sweat. I asked a lady near the restaurant to take my picture)

I was also covered in possibilities.

You and I just don’t know all we are capable of, until we say YES GOD. We just don’t. We assume because of our age, size, job, family situation, or everyday rut, that there are certain aspirations we cannot possibly complete. Every one of us has a fear that stands in the way of going for it. I know a hike is not a big deal to everyone, but to me it is a huge accomplishment. And I didn’t honestly know I could do this. I didn’t.

Not until I said, “Yes God, I will take a hike.”