Friday, February 28, 2014

Be There!

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you…” Isaiah 43:5

If you asked me right now to take a piece of paper out and make a list of every single person who came to my mother’s funeral, I could do it. And Mama died twenty years ago.

A funeral is one thing, but what about something a little less traumatic, like when John was in the hospital after his motorcycle wreck? I could tell you every person who came to the hospital to visit me, drop off something for us, take care of Noah or sit and pray for John.

Every. One.

Why? Because in times of need, or hurt, or grief, being there is the thing that counts the most.

Yesterday a friend of mine was waiting for the results to a biopsy. It was my honor to hang out with her for a bit. Another friend is going through a divorce. Best thing I can do for her, besides pray, is to take her out for coffee and listen. I don’t try to give her advice or counsel, unless she asks for it. I am just there.

In the world of Christianity, we often think that because we are honored to follow Jesus, we have the responsibility to fix others and their problems. But many times, we get in the Spirit’s way in an effort to be spiritual.

Hurting folks just want to be WITH someone. Not always. Some folks need to be alone, but they want to be offered the chance of someone’s presence.

When a person’s physical presence is impossible, an email, phone call or text goes a long way.

I have walked through much hurt and pain and over and over again, it is the people who just SHOW UP that ease my suffering. They don’t have to say magic spiritual words. They just need to let me know they care and they are there.

It is just like God to be the One who thought this up in the first place. Being there. He assures us  in His Word that He is with us. He will never leave us. Ever. When we are going through pain, God is there. When we are scared out of our minds in an ER room, God is there. When we feel hopeless and alone, God is there.

Today ask the Father to show you someone who needs a little of your presence. Be there for someone. It’s like offering a cool glass of ice water to someone who’s just run a marathon. Being there soothes, eases, helps and heals.

Thank you, God, that being there for us with Your unconditional love is the essence of who You are.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Not a Romantic Comedy Love Story - BETTER!!

John and I Two Years Ago

Everyone has a love story – some of us have many.

It might be a story of a love lost or an unrequited love. Maybe it’s a love of deep friendship that covered us like a home sewn quilt on a chilly night.

But every one of us have experienced love of some sort.

The deepest love story of my life is the story of John Iobst and myself. It’s an unlikely story. We met and married 17 ½ years ago. We’ve talked about that time in our lives and both of us agree that we each wanted to find someone so badly. Desperation colored our love story in hues of rush and foolishness. At the time we didn’t care but celebrated that we found someone.

After we married, life changed. Our love story surfaced surprising truth and ugliness. We both lied to each other in an attempt to replay those months of pre-wedding joy. We lied to try and hide the truth of who we really were. The lies bloomed into quiet denial and buried anger.

For the first 7 years of our marriage, our patterns grew furrows in our lives. Well worn paths of hurt, fights, tears and denial continued until they were our regular routes in dealing with anything. Noah came in year 3 and for a while we pledged to be those parents – the ones who raise children in the love of Christ – simple and clean and honest. But the roads of communication were already paved in unflinching asphalt.

11 years ago, tomorrow, I left John. I took Noah and I dropped him off at Gamma Joani’s house, a woman who’d become an adopted grandma to Noah and a true friend to me. I then went to my friend Desha’s house and fell apart. The word divorce surrounded me with its neon letters blinding me.

But then….

But God….

The Father whose sovereignty baffles me, saw John and me, knowing the kind of marriage we’d built, and reached down with His mercy and grace. He gently gave us both a choice. Work with Him and those He sent to us and repave our lives or divorce. Take our love story to a different, new level that we’d never experienced or leave each other. The work would be difficult and painful. SO PAINFUL.

In the same kind of desperation that began our love story, we both, individually, said “Yes God!” We worked hard to dig ourselves out of those deeply engrained furrows of denial and lies. We worked hard to make new paths that honored God and each other.

And then…

And God…

A new chapter in our love story was written. Honest love came. A deep friendship and passion was born.
11 years ago.

I have moments that I wish I’d had a different love story. One of those where two young kids find each other and grow at the same pace for the rest of their lives. Or one of those like in a romantic comedy where the frustration with each other magically turns to love, complete with music in the background.

God had other plans for me. He led me to a divorced man with three girls. He led me to a man that was in the same place I was. So desperate to not be alone that we made foolish choices. Was it foolish for us to get married? We both agree that it was not God’s best. But that’s the thing about God and His baffling sovereignty. He saw John and me and He loved us completely. Enough that He allowed our desperate, foolish choices, knowing that we would be desperate again for Him to save our marriage.

He did.

I love John Iobst more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life. Last night I woke him up at midnight because I was burdened with something. We spoke in whispers and then ended up shaking in laughter.  A few moments with a man who is my soul mate and I am his. Didn’t start out that way. But God knew that if we let Him be Lord of our marriage, He would give us a gift that we tried to manufacture but could not. The gift of a love story.

11 years ago, we let Him take His rightful place. It’s a wonderful anniversary to us.  

The anniversary of our love story. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Sentimental Trip Home to Texas through a Phone Call

This is Ray Shotwell and me. I believe I was a senior in high school. 

I am not a phone person. Never been the kind of gal who likes to sit and talk for a long time without being able to see someone. I don’t know why. So many times I’ve heard my friends say things like, “Were you angry on the phone? You sounded sick when I called. You don’t like talking on the phone, do you?”

The last positive comment I remember about me and the phone was a long time ago when a roommate told me, “We always know when you are talking to your folks, Robbie. You laugh and laugh. And sometimes you cry.”

My mom died 20 years ago. My dad 11 years ago. I miss those phone calls.

But this weekend, God gave me a gift through a phone call.

If you’ve read my book, Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance, you may remember two characters named Mark and Cathy Kildwell. Mark was the mortician of Boots, Texas. Well, those two folks are the only characters based 100% on real people.

Ray and Carol Shotwell moved into my hometown of Van Horn, Texas, when I was 15. I immediately liked Ray. He was extremely funny and playful and his wife Carol was always kind and a definite straight-woman to Ray’s joking personality. Looking back, I can’t believe I only lived in the same town with them for 3 years. It feels as if I’ve known them forever.

Ray and Joe King, our pastor, were the recipients of several practical jokes at the hands of our youth group. They gave back, too. The water balloon incident I tell in my novel is completely true. Instead of Cecelia locking the door to keep me and my friends out, it was Mom. When I told them about my book, Carol asked if I included the time my friend Darla and I broke into Ray and Carol's house and sewed up the legs of Ray's bermuda shorts. I didn't. :) We got in so much trouble for that. 

I emailed Carol and Ray last week and asked them if they liked my novel. In response, they called me.

During our over-an-hour chat, I sat back in a chair and got comfy, as if I was going to watch a long movie. Even as I did it, I thought, “This is new. For a phone call?”

But oh my goodness, hearing their Texas twangy accents, listening to them tell stories and laugh and catch me up on everything, took me home. Home like sitting in the kitchen while Mama worked on hamburger gravy for supper. Home like watching Daddy varnish fiddles and smelling the sweet tang as my eyes followed his hands of expertise. Home like I felt when I got on the phone with my folks, laughing and crying.


Ray and Carol aren’t old enough to be my parents, but they talk to me as if I was theirs. They’ve never had kids, but they’ve parented and guided many, including me. At one point in the conversation I said, “I think I’m on Facebook too much.” Carol immediately said, “Yes, you are, Robbie.”

I laughed so hard. It sounded exactly like what Sally Ann Floyd would say to me.

They loved my book and ended our conversation telling me they loved me like I was their own. I hung up and started bawling. I miss my folks, but I wasn’t crying out of grief. The tears fell because with one phone call I’d travelled home. It was a time of teenage angst and pranks, of dreaming and teaming up with my cohorts. A time when I discovered the joy of Jesus. Ray and Carol played a major role back then and so to hear their voices took me back, like a certain smell will remind me of our old house on Summer Street or a Bee Gee’s song will take me back to the Van Horn Community Center.

I told John about it all and we are going to take a trip sometime to Humble, Texas where Ray and Carol now live. I want to reconnect in person and hug their necks. I also want them to meet my boy, 15 year old Noah. I will present him to them like I’m showing my report card with all A’s to my folks. He and Ray will be fast friends, I’m sure. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

That Man O'Mine and His Part in Cecelia Jackson's Last Chance

These two pictures are of my husband John Iobst handling the sales/money at the book launch of my first novel, Cecelia Jackson's Last Chance. 

Thirteen years ago, I was teaching at a Christian high school. Noah was 2 and I wanted to somehow find a way to not work and stay at home with him. I am qualified to teach. But what else could I do?

"John, I think I might write a novel."

"About what?"

"Three girls who grew up together reunite."

"Sounds good. Go for it."

And Cecelia Jackson was born. When I began I thought, well, I'll write this in a year, and then it will be published and I will earn tons of money and quit my job to do Barnes and Noble book signings and Oprah.

If you are a writer, that made you smile. Does. Not. Work that way.

Here I am, thirteen years later and Cecelia is out there in the read-o-sphere and my cup runneth over.

But I want you to know something that I haven't spoke of often. And that is the fact that John Iobst is much of the reason that my book made the trip from my brain to Amazon.

Here's how:

1st year of writing it:  "John, this is more difficult than I thought. Will you listen to me as I read this?"
"Sure." And he did, night after night, suggesting plot points.

2nd through 4th years: "John, this is not great. I need help. They have something called writing conferences."
"Okay, let me send you to a couple as a gift."

5th year: "Everyone has rejected it that I've sent it to."
"Keep trying, Robbie. It's a good book."

6th year: "What would you think if I quit my job to write and speak full time?"
"I just got a huge raise. Do it!"

Years 7 and 8:  "That novel went nowhere. I'm going to write nonfiction for a while."
"Okay, you'll be great. But don't forget about Cecelia. It's good."

Years 9 -11: "John, I got an agent."
"Everyone has rejected my nonfiction book."
"I'm sorry, Robbie, but don't stop."
"Why am I doing this?"
"God has called you to do this, right?"
"My agent dumped me."
"I'm sorry, honey. But keep going."
"I should get a real job."
 "Why get another job if God has called you to do this? Don't worry about money, let me do that. Do what God is telling you to do."

Year 11 and 12: "Maybe I'll write fiction."
"Why not go back to Cecelia? That's a great book."
"It keeps getting rejected, John."
"Robbie, keep trying."
"John, the Christian publishers don't think it's Christian enough. They want me to rewrite it."
"What do YOU think God wants you to do?"
"Hang in there with it."
"There you go."

Year 12: "John, Written World wants to publish it!!"
"Of course they do, honey! Way to go!"

I am the first girl to say I have a gift in John Iobst. He would say that in the first years of our marriage, he was no gift at all. But I wasn't either. John has been the kind of husband most women dream about having. I dreamed about having. He is Godly and supportive and loving and strong.

And he is the one who kept telling me to keep writing when I wanted to quit - over and over.

That man o'mine is pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be Your Own Valentine!

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!” Psalm 139:13-15 (The Message)

If you look up the origins of Valentine’s Day, you will find several stories and legends. One is based on Saint Valentine of Rome who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers and for ministering to Christians. According to this legend, in prison he healed the daughter of his jailer. Before his death, Saint Valentine wrote this girl a letter and signed it, “Your Valentine.”

This Valentine’s Day I am looking at the holiday in a new way. I love Jesus and I love my husband so much. But this year, my Valentine is going to be….


I am making myself a Valentine and writing myself a letter, telling Robbie all the cool things I love about her.

If you find this arrogant, let me explain. For years, I have been the victim of my own self condemnation. I’m not good enough, I’m not thin enough, blah, blah, blah.

In December I went to a Sozo meeting and two ladies prayed for me and guided me to pray. It was an incredible experience. One of the many things that happened is I had this vision of me standing surrounded by a wall of bricks. One of the bricks was labeled SELF CONDEMNATION. Jesus was standing with me and handed me a sledge hammer. I obeyed and whacked the wall and a couple of tiny pieces fell down. I looked to Jesus and He grinned and put His big toe on the wall and Kapoweee! The wall was obliterated. 

I have seen the evidence of that vision/healing in my life the last couple of months. The enemy gets very little victory in my life in the area of beating up on Robbie by Robbie.

Ergo, this week and my Valentine.

I started writing my letter the other day. Part of it says:

“Robbie, I love your humor and the way you are able to see the funny, even when it is hidden in the corners during the difficult moments.”

It’s counter-intuitive. But after so many years of making me, God’s creation, less than I am by demeaning myself, IT IS TIME!

So Joyvotion reader, here’s a suggestion. If you put yourself down a lot, give this a try. Ask God to guide you in finding the cool, wonderful aspects of yourself that HE created. And then celebrate this week of love by loving yourself. Jesus will cheer you on!

My Own Valentine,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Wise Mind

I go to counseling, without shame or embarrassment, to get help for my eating issues. It’s been a difficult and wonderful journey. Currently I am in a group where we learn DBT skills. (Look that up if you are interested.)

One of the skills we are learning is how to make decisions from our “wise mind.” The wise mind is that place where the emotional mind and the logical mind intersect. It’s where I make a choice, not just using emotion or logic but both. Put together in perfect balance. The result is usually a tremendous sense of peace. Nothing wrong with emotions or logic, but often I make decisions solely based on one or the other. I’m learning to STOP. And then pray and wait. As I contemplate, my intuition kicks in and the Holy Spirit guides me to the wise mind.

For example, I have an argument with John. He leaves to go to work and I am sitting in the house alone. Emotionally, this is where I usually turn to food for comfort. I will make myself pancakes and all will be well. Logically, I sit and try to understand why we fought. I make a list of pros and cons and walk through the fight. I make assumptions based on what I believe to be true.

Both of these responses are human.

But now I am learning to STOP. Wait and pray. Then I try to combine the emotional and logical. I give heed to my emotions because they often communicate something I need to know. I listen to the logical side of events, too. AND THEN: I pray and try to lean on intuition. What happened and why? What would be a healthy choice for me at this moment? What would the consequences be?

As I practice this, the wise mind comes easier and quicker.

Why is this something I thought I would share on my blog? Many of you, like me, are emotional eaters. We have an emotion and we eat. Cause and effect. A little road of neuron synapses fire up with this pattern and the groove is well worn in our brains.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. (This is a 12 step saying.)

So I am trying to change. Just saying no doesn’t work with me. I have to teach myself new skills and finding my wise mind is one of them. If you, like me, are an emotional eater, google wise mind and read up on it and start practicing. It works.

Have you ever heard of this or tried it? 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Are You Tired of People Pleasing?

I am so tired, weary in fact, of living my life based on group decisions.

It’s the heart of a people pleaser to please. It’s also the curse.

I am the last of four kids – the baby, the brat. But I am also the one that wanted desperately to please my parents and everyone else. I was a good girl, a straight A student, president of the student council, most friendly in high school. I was extremely good at pleasing. So much so that the desire became part of everything.

I’m 51 now. I’m a wife, mom, stepmom and grandma. I’m an ex-teacher, speaker, writer. But the title that has come to the forefront of my life is lately is People Pleaser.

I’ve seen this title at work in two ways – even though I’ve fought it for years:

1)  If I can agree with you to make you like me, I will.
This is also part of hating conflict. I’ve noticed it lately and so I’ve begun to speak up in disagreement if I feel the need. You don’t like me? Fine.

2)  If by being weaker than you, you will like me, I will do it.
I am a strong woman and I have talents that GOD has given me. But I find myself becoming less in the presence of those that I have an inkling would be intimidated or offended by my strength. And if that could lead to them not liking me, well, then I will be just a little weaker – or dumber – or less talented. No more. It is time to stand up in my strength and uniqueness the way God has made me.

No more group decisions. I’m not blaming ANYONE else – I’m the one who asks for a vote over and over. But now, well, now it’s me and the Lord.

Do you deal with people pleasing? If so, what do you do to NOT do it? I'd love to hear how you deal with it. Not that I will do anything you suggest.... :)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

What Do Philip Seymour Hoffman and I Have in Common?


On Super Bowl Sunday, my heart fell and I cried. It had nothing to do with the beating the Denver Broncos took at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. I don’t care about football. It was that moment when I glanced on Facebook and saw that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. I remember clicking over to news sites and reading two horrible words: drug overdose. I said aloud, “Oh no.”

I really enjoyed him in “Capote” as well as “Doubt.” His talent had a certain depth that I recognized as different from many actors. My heart hurt to hear of his passing. But not because of his artistic talent but because of his killer. At the hands of addiction, another person lost his life.

So what do Philip Seymour Hoffman and I have in common?

Of course it’s not fame or money. I am a normal gal living in a suburb of Denver. No entourage or fast paced schedule. But just like Philip Seymour Hoffman, I am an addict.

I’ve never done drugs. I drink, but rarely. My drug of choice is overeating food or sugar.

The comparison might be dramatic to you, but it’s not to me. I think that’s why I cried on Sunday. I feel for Mr. Hoffman. See, I know what it is like to compulsively do something that is inherently bad for you. I know that feeling of being controlled by a desire.

A difference between Hoffman and myself is that his drug can kill quickly. Addiction to food/sugar kills but often it takes years. So although the murderer uses different methods, it is still lethal. Addiction kills. James Gandolfini, another wonderful actor, died last year of heart disease caused by obesity. Please hear me - not all obese folks are food addicts. I don't believe that. But I do believe addiction often leads to obesity. Addiction kills. 

I am in the process of desperately trying (and have been for a couple of years) to find a new way of living that doesn't involve overindulging in food or sugar. I don't have a lot of answers. My husband is a recovering addict, so I've seen firsthand the freedom one can have in recovery. It is possible. And I know the only way out is reliance on God. 

It’s ironic that most addicts like myself, have a stubborn strict that says, “We will not be controlled.” God, the One who loves each of us no matter if we are addicts or not, truly will not be controlled. But as addicts, instead of choosing to rely on God for freedom, we choose our drug of choice, which in fact, does control us.

I’m not talking about diets or weight loss plans. I’m talking about allowing the love of Jesus to fill that empty space that we all deal with most every day.

Philip Seymour Hoffman filled that space with drugs and died. I am so sorry for his death.

Today I have the choice to fill that empty space in me with food or Jesus’s grace and love. What will I do? I don’t know. But I hope, I so hope, I’ll choose God’s help.

I wish, I so wish, Mr. Hoffman had made that choice.