How Painful Will the Best Be?

“We’re not necessarily doubting
that God will do the best for us;
We are wondering how painful
the best will turn out to be.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I don’t remember where I ran across this quote a while back, but I do remember relating to it immediately.

I thought of it again not long ago when a friend and I were discussing the “pat answers” people sometimes give to those going through hard times…

“Don’t worry; God is in control.”
“God is working everything out for good.”
“God will protect them.”

There is nothing wrong with those phrases. They are very true. And sometimes they are actually encouraging.:-) The trouble is, as some have experienced, despite the fact that they are *true*, there are times when they aren’t necessarily *comforting*…at least at first glance.

From childhood, one of my favorite verses was Romans 8:28:

“And we know that God causes
all things to work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose.”

It is still one of my favorite verses. But over the years, I have realized that God’s definition of “good” and mine are not always the same. In fact, they are often *very* different.

As a child, I blithely believed that that verse meant that although I might be unhappy about the circumstances of the moment, God would give a happy ending. As I got older, I developed at least a head knowledge that those endings wouldn’t always necessarily be happy, although they would be good for us.

Three years ago this week, we encountered a situation that I couldn’t see as good in ANY way, shape, or form. After the initial shock subsided a bit, I began to argue with God…to throw verses about His sovereignty, His goodness, His protection, and His love back in His face. I struggled with everything I had ever been taught, with everything that three years ago *today* I would have said I believed with all my heart.

I still have a hard time labeling that situation as “good”. And yet, as I posted here, God has taught me all over again, in a much deeper, more certain way, that what His word says is TRUE…no matter how hard it is to understand sometimes. I have learned to see that what Satan intends for evil, God intends for good. (Gen. 50:20) I have learned that no matter HOW painful the situation, God’s plan is still “best” for us.

I can truly say that I am thankful for that “best” even when that “best” comes nowhere close to the “happy endings” I imagined as a child. I wouldn't give up the things God has taught me about Himself and His Word through this situation for anything. The deeper, more intimate relationship with Him...not only for us, but that we are beginning to see in our children...is worth all of the pain of the last three years.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this quote in the comments!

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In "Other" Words...Coming Soon!!

If you are here this morning looking for this week's In "Other" Words post, it will be up shortly. It was almost ready to post last night...just needed to finalize a few things and I would have it posted by 6. I wasn't counting on a child being up most of the night, and my sweet husband deciding I needed to sleep in this morning, since I had actually just gone to sleep when the alarm went off. :-D I *am* thankful for the *extra* sleep (very), but now running a bit behind! I apologize for any inconvenience...please check back in a bit!


In "Other" Words...Tuesday's Quote


I'm so excited to be guest hosting (hostessing? hmmm...) next week's In "Other" Words. I can't wait to read others' thoughts on Tuesday's quote, and I hope that some of you who haven't participated in In "Other" Words before will jump in and share your thoughts, too!

Tuesday's quote is a recent favorite of mine from C. S. Lewis:

“We’re not necessarily
that God will do the best for us;
we are wondering how
the best will turn out to be.”
~ C.S. Lewis

To participate in In "Other" Words, share your thoughts about the quote on your blog on Tuesday, and come back here to leave the link to your post. Then visit other IOW participants for their take on the quote. You do not have to have participated before to post...and if you don't have a blog and would like to share, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments on Tuesday's In "Other" Words post.

Many thanks to Loni at Writing Canvas for giving me the opportunity to guest hostess and for organizing In "Other" Words each week! Visit her blog for more information on In "Other" Words, and while you are there, be sure to check out her give-away for the book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner (as well as her review of the book!) I loved last week's quote from the book, and can't wait to read the whole thing.


VBS Musings…

This is one of those posts I composed in my mind weeks ago and then never had a chance to actually sit down and type.  It is also one of those posts that I think God has prevented me from having time to type out because He knew that I needed to be thinking on these thoughts *today*…and that if I had already posted them, they would more than likely be “out of sight, out of mind”. 


Several weeks ago, during a VBS training session, Lyndel asked us to share VBS memories, either from our own childhoods, or from our experiences as adults as teachers and workers.  I didn’t share, because I couldn’t….I literally had an explosion of VBS memories invade my mind, and had to really focus on just staying “composed”.


My VBS experiences as a child were incredible.  Our church didn’t use a canned “curriculum”…or if they did, it was completely unrecognizable as one by the time they finished with it. :)  My friend Susan’s mom was *the* most creative mom and amazing teacher anywhere…so we always had the *best* VBS classes. :)


The year I remember most vividly was the year we studied the tabernacle.  My dad worked for a corrugated box company at the time, and we had individual corrugated tabernacles, mounted on cardboard bases, for each child.  During the week, as we learned about each part of the tabernacle, we “decorated” our tabernacle…making various pieces out of small boxes, clay, or other materials and carefully positioning them in just the right spots.  We also had a huge “to scale” tabernacle model (also made of corrugated cardboard) in one of the hallways, which we could actually walk through.  I still remember being so awed…that VBS made such an impact on my view of the holiness and glory of God.   I cannot imagine the hours Jenny Oliver, my parents, and several others put into making that week happen. 


My thoughts then jumped to VBS memories as an adult.  *Lots* of memories of things I learned (as a teacher :)) from the character curriculum we used to use.  And then the memory that always pushes its way in when I begin to get stressed about VBS…


When I was growing up, my mom almost always taught in VBS, but my dad, while he was often very involved in the preparation for VBS (i.e. the building of the tabernacle), was always working during the actual week.  When they moved to Fort Smith and joined Oak Cliff, however, he was retired, and one of the things he enjoyed the most was being able to work in VBS each summer, and he worked until he literally could no longer get out of his chair and go.


The year before he died, I was at Mother and Daddy’s house one day, and was at that point when my VBS “to do” list was completely overwhelming.  I was fussing and fuming about all I had to do for VBS, when my dad very quietly said, “I wish I could work in VBS this year.”    I felt like I had been hit between the eyes with a 2x4.   I realized that what I had been looking at as a drudgery…just another thing to eat up my already limited time and energy…was actually a privilege and blessing, and that there are many…those with health issues, like my dad, and working parents…who would love to be able to work in VBS but can’t.  It changed my attitude about VBS that year really quickly.


I was then almost assaulted by another VBS memory…this one a few years later.  It was an odd memory, in that I actually remember almost nothing about that year’s VBS.  A few random things stick out in my mind, but for the most part, that year is a blur.  The week before VBS that year was literally the worst week of my entire life.   An extended family situation had blown up and the fallout had become intensely horrific and personal.  I remember telling a friend “There is no way I can do VBS this year.  How in the world can I go teach Bible School when I can barely function well enough to get out of bed in the morning and make sure everyone has food three times a day?”


But…at that late date, I really had no choice, and I knew that the best thing for the kids was to keep things as normal as possible.  That was the week I literally lived Romans 8:26-27.  I couldn’t pray…I couldn’t form coherent thoughts.  I knew that a couple of close friends were praying for me, but all I could manage was “I can’t do this God…I can’t do it.”  And while I remember very little from that week, I do know this…I got through it.  God carried me through every moment of that week.  My children had a wonderful week of Bible School, and I didn’t once have a meltdown in front of my class (one of my big worries). 


As I sat in that meeting a few weeks ago, I thought of all the things that were worrying me about this year’s VBS…the fact that neither of the two people I usually depend on most are going to be there this year, the rather weak crafts curriculum and my own current creative slump, etc….and suddenly realized God was saying, “I carried you through VBS 2006, don’t you think I can get you through this year as well??”


I started this post days ago, was interrupted, and never got back to it.  Again…I think that was Divine Interruption.  Unfinished posts tend to nag at me, meaning that this post has been on my mind all week.  And again…I needed to be pondering these things.  Over the weekend a health issue I thought was resolved reappeared, knocking me off my feet physically and emotionally.  How in the world would I manage prep day on Saturday…much less a week of VBS??  Monday we were faced with the prospect of no AC in our classroom (and others).  ACK…with 110 heat index predicted??!!


God has shown me throughout this week, again, the truth of 2 Cor. 12:9-10:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Despite much that has not been smooth “behind the scenes”, my experience in VBS this year has been one of the smoothest ever so far.  I am thankful (most of the time :)) for the opportunity to work in VBS.  I am very thankful for all those who have worked and are working so hard this week to make this an exciting, meaningful experience for my children.   I am extremely thankful for my husband (who volunteered to take over the cooking all week!) and for all the ways he picks  up the slack during weeks like this.  And I am most thankful that God *always* shows Himself faithful to provide *all* that we need for what He has called us to do. 


In Other Words…

“There was a time when [you fill in] defined my life and left me physically void, cocooned in a prison of fear.  It stole my every hope and dream.  But God’s love and His Word set my heart free. I learned that within the confines  of God’s story, nothing had been stolen from me, rather everything was given to me. My life, which felt so out of control, was in reality in complete control – God’s control.”

~Wendy Blight


As I was waiting for a load of laundry to finish earlier tonight, I decided to pop over to “Writing Canvas” and peek at today’s In “Other” Words quote.  I don’t participate in IOWs as often as I’d like…it seems that often there is a quote about which I’d love to write, but I don’t have the time or mental energy, or I have time to write, but I don’t relate to the quote…but today’s quote resonated deeply with me. 


We’re just a few weeks away from the anniversary of the hardest week our family has ever experienced.  It’s been on my mind a lot lately, because in those days, our VBS was later in the summer…so that that week was the week before VBS.  As we prepared for VBS last week, and during the first couple of days of this year’s VBS this week, memories have come flooding back.  During those weeks, and for months afterward, I felt exactly what Wendy Blight describes above.  Physically void…just going through the motions and doing what “had to be done”.  Cocooned in a prison of fear…I’ve never been known as a particularly brave person, and I had been through some pretty scary circumstances before that time, but suddenly I knew fear like I’d never known before.  Hope…the word was  no longer even part of my vocabulary. 


And don’t even get me started on control.  I had always known that there were many things Billy and I could not protect our family from.  We had learned *vivid* lessons on that score when Ammah Grace was born at 30 weeks and spent 6 weeks in NICU.  But this was a loss of control on a whole new level…in a whole new sphere. 


In the difficult years since those awful weeks, I have experienced the rest of Wendy’s quote.  My faith was shaken to the core; for the first time ever, I questioned God’s love, His goodness, and the truth and solidity of His Word. 


In the agony and questioning that followed, God proved Himself amazingly, incredibly patient and faithful.  He met every question and doubt with rock-solid truth, and gave me a whole new assurance in His Word and His sovereignty. 


I am so looking forward to reading Wendy Blight’s new book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner.  Loni at “Writing Canvas” has reviewed it in detail and is giving away a copy this week (which I would love to win :)).  Visit her to enter, and to see others thoughts on this week’s quote. 


First Harvest!

We have lived in this house for almost twelve years.  Numerous times during those years, we have attempted to grow what could never really be called a garden, but some type of produce or another.  For various reasons (neighborhood animals, not enough sun in our yard, and our own black thumbs, for starters :)), we have never managed to grow anything actually edible, other than a few container herbs.  

So this morning we had an historic occasion.  Last night we harvested what we hope will be the first of many cucumbers from our “sidewalk garden”.  And this morning I chopped up the biggest of the bunch and made cucumber salad for Billy’s lunch.  Yum!  

Random after camp 09 053

Now I’m really wishing I had bought some tomatoes last night…although the thought of storebought tomatoes with our homegrown cucumbers somehow doesn’t quite fit. :)  Maybe the kids and I will make it to the farmers’ market tomorrow morning on our way to  VBS prep day.   I also came very close to buying feta cheese at Sam’s last night…now I’m thinking I need to pick some up this afternoon.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, feta cheese and vinaigrette dressing…mmmm!   Sounds like a “finer thing” for sure!

For more Food on Fridays, visit Ann here.  For more Finer Things Fridays, visit Amy here .  

 finer_things_friday   fof


Simple Woman's Daybook..Home Again!

For Today...June 15, 2009

Outside my window... cloudy..the sky appears to be making up its mind about whether to rain...

I am thinking... My thoughts have been bombarded recently with the "hugeness" of God, and the way we try to "shrink" Him into something we can understand, when there is no way we could ever *begin* to understand Him. During the camp presentation last night, we were presented over and over again with the awesomeness of God, as we looked at the immensity of the universe, and then realized that God breathed the galaxies into existence with a word. And yet...we were also reminded that not a sparrow falls that He doesn't see. His power is so far beyond what we can comprehend, and He cares about the minutest details of our lives.

From the learning rooms...Continuing our camp/VBS break this week, although I may put some "fun stuff" in the workboxes the rest of this week. The week after VBS is "deep clean" week at our house, and the next week we'll hit school again. :)

I am thankful for... an incredible week at camp last week, safety during Friday's storm, a great worship service last night, my wonderful husband, and my precious children.

From the kitchen... Good question! ;-) Actually, I do have a vague plan, it just isn't on paper yet. I think tonight will be BBQ Beef, potatoes, green beans, and salad. And then I really need to get a roast out of the freezer to thaw for tomorrow.

I am wearing... Our fabulous 2009 camp tee shirt :-) , denim capris, and jeweled flip flops.

I am reading... the book of Isaiah, during my Bible Study time. I realized recently that while many of my favorite scripture passages are from Isaiah, I've never actually read the whole book! I'm excited about studying it now.

Also reading Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, for a book review in a couple of weeks, and *hoping* Tour De Force comes today, as I'm supposed to review it by Friday! :)

If I ever locate my missing camp notebook, I plan to spend some time this week going back over my notes in it. I have everyone's but mine!

I am hoping... for no more rainy weather this week!

I am creating... I am at that "desperate need to create" stage right now, and hoping to have some time to tackle a creative project or two this week. Mostly right now, I'm creating clean
laundry from dirty camp laundry, and final prep for VBS crafts. :)

I am praying... for friends going through difficult days this week, for all who went to camp as we live out in the "real world" what we learned last week, for my hu
sband as he goes back to work after a week off.

Around the house... Trying to get everything back in order from being away for a week before we go into VBS mode next week. :)

One of my favorite things... my husband's sensitivity to people's needs, and his willingness to meet those needs without being asked. Every time I thought I was not going to be able to take another step last week at camp, he showed up with a cold drink and an offer to carry my bag. I couldn't have made it through camp without him!!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Taking the kids to the Nature Center, a library trip, *hopefully* a movie at the library on Thursday, final shopping for VBS supplies, and going to hear Michelle Duggar speak at our monthly homeschool moms' RENEW!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

So many camp photos, so little time to post! :) After I get the rest of my camp photos uploaded to Facebook, I'll get a camp post up here. This morning I'm really missing the beauty and fellowship of last week. (And the super-cold air in our dorm that Anita and I tried to turn off but couldn't. :))

For more Daybook entries, visit Peggy's blog.


Worth Reading...

Home from church this morning with a sick Bay...hoping the extra rest after a super-busy week will have her ready to go to the "Camp Report" service tonight! As much as I hated missing this morning, it has been nice to have a bit of quiet time to study, read, and reflect (in between switching loads of laundry...STILL. :)) I thought I'd share a few articles and posts I've run across this morning that are well worth reading (several are from links shared by Ann at A Holy Experience; I'm not sure what rabbit trails led to the others...)

Ann's series on Journaling is timely for me, as I'm trying to get back into this discipline. This post is much more than "how tos"...it motivated me to actually grab my dusty journal off the shelf and start writing! Also love this one on journaling as part of family worship.

I just found Brad Ruggles blog, and wow! I've been bookmarking posts left and right. This one so expresses what's been on my heart lately. God has spent the last two and a half years teaching me the truth that our lives are not meant to be safe or comfortable...I love Brad's "adapted quote" here.

The Prison of Thanklessness is another great post from Ruggles's blog, Learning How to Live. Very convicting.

I've seen The Girls from Ames at the library and the bookstore and thought it looked like an interesting "someday" read. After reading this article, I just reserved it at the library. I thought this comment was particularly interesting..."As we age, friendships can be crucial to our health and even our sanity. In fact, a host of scientific studies show that having a close group of friends helps people sleep better, improve their immune systems, stave off dementia and live longer."

I've noticed recently that many of the verses that speak the most to me these days are from the book of Isaiah. Bro. Kent's worship series (which I am unhappily missing this morning!) has been from Isaiah 6. Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible...packed with incredible verses. And ever since I was a little girl, Isaiah 53 has been one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible to me. For the past year or so, God has been immersing me in the topic of His Holiness...which seems to be a major theme of the book of Isaiah. So, while we were at camp last week, I decided to start a verse-by-verse study of Isaiah. This morning as I was preparing to begin that tomorrow, I ran across this guide to inductive Bible Study by Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries.

I may have posted a link to the Habit List before, but I've pulled it back out to use for a while again...for me *and* for the kids. More on that later...

The church-goers are home and it's time to finish fixing lunch! So..."more later" from me as well. :)


Sunday Night Snippets...

I have wanted to post all week. I have planned to post all week. But...it has not been a blog-friendly week around here. :) Camp preparations have taken over every nook and cranny of the schedule. In lieu of all the posts I wanted to make this week, I'm going to do a quick post with a few highlights:

1) Conversation lately at our house, at least among the kids, has been about 85% camp-related. After tonight's camper/parent meeting, the percentage has gone up even higher. :) I asked Ammah Grace what her favorite thing about camp was last year. Her reply was quick, and not terribly surprising: swimming. :) Then I asked what her next two favorites were. I *was* a little surprised by these. Second runner up? Taking showers. (We live in a very old house with no shower...just a bathtub. :)) And her third favorite thing about camp? Pulling her suitcase out from under her bed to get her clothes. :-D It doesn't take much to excite my kids...no sir! ;-)

2) We sang my favorite verse of one of my favorite hymns tonight in church! That is noteworthy, because over the years, I've noticed that this particular verse of this particular song is very often skipped. Maybe because there are five verses as opposed to four? At one point several years ago, I made a special request of Lyndel that we sing the 4th verse of "He Keeps Me Singing" the next time we sang it, because we had sung it *several* times in a row omitting the 4th verse. He made it a special point the next time. :) I was so glad to sing the whole hymn tonight!

  1. There’s within my heart a melody
    Jesus whispers sweet and low,
    Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
    In all of life’s ebb and flow.
    • Refrain:
      Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
      Sweetest Name I know,
      Fills my every longing,
      Keeps me singing as I go.
  2. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
    Discord filled my heart with pain,
    Jesus swept across the broken strings,
    Stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
  3. Feasting on the riches of His grace,
    Resting ’neath His shelt’ring wing,
    Always looking on His smiling face,
    That is why I shout and sing.
  4. Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
    Trials fall across the way,
    Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
    See His footprints all the way.
  5. Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
    Far beyond the starry sky;
    I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
    I shall reign with Him on high.
  6. ~ Luther B. Bridgers

3) Ammah Grace has just been making me laugh in all kinds of ways this week. Today we were on our way home from lunch, and there were a bunch of (big, orange) OG & E (power company) trucks on the road. Billy said, "What's going on here?" to which Gracie replied, "Tennessee Vols, Dad, Tennessee Vols!!" At which point, she and Emlyn began to cheer. How in the world did I (and more to the point, my dad and my Granny Marks???) end up with 2 children who are Tennessee Volunteer fans like their dad?? At least Peter and Bayley are red-blooded hog fans through and through. Hmph.

4) I am *so* loving the series Bro. Kent is doing right now on Sunday mornings on the topic of "Worship" from Isaiah 6. At some point I have a whole blog post (or two or three) I'd like to do on it. I am so thankful for a church where "worship" is truly still worship. I am thankful for a church with a high view of the Bible and of worship, with high standards for worship music, and with a commitment to expository preaching. This morning the choir sang "Praise Ye the Lord of Hosts" by Camille Saint-Saens. What a gorgeous piece. Saint-Saens is a favorite composer of mine, probably because he was a favorite composer of my dad's. :) I remember listening to his "Carnival of the Animals" over and over and over again with my dad. To this day, I can still remember his comments at various spots. Good memories...

There is so much more I could type...but it's time to get back to work on this list! Hope everyone has a great week. :)aint-Saens


Make-Do Menu Monday

Somehow, summer snuck up on me this year.  It's hard to believe that a week from tomorrow, we leave for camp!   This week is going to be a flurry of making lists, shopping for craft supplies and last minute necessities, finalizing crafts prep, packing, and arranging for pets, mail, etc. 

In the interests of time, money, and using things up before we leave, the plan this week is a "Make Do" menu from the freezer and the pantry.  Other than milk and bread (and the buns/chili Billy is picking up after work for the chili-cheese burgers/dogs he is planning to cook tonight :)), I'm going to *try* to make do on what is in the kitchen/deep freeze right now.   I tried to lay things out according to what would work best when, but the specific order is subject to change without notice. :)

Breakfast:  cereal
Lunch:  meatballs/noodles, fruit
Supper:  Chili-Cheese burgers/dogs, salad

Breakfast:  Banana Bread w/cream cheese
Lunch:  macaroni & cheese, carrots w/ ranch
Supper:  Lasagna, green beans, garlic bread

Lunch:  Soup, salad, crackers
Supper:  Roast, potatoes, carrots

Breakfast:  yogurt w/fruit & nuts
Lunch:  Chimichangas

Breakfast:  Breakfast McBiscuits
Lunch:  Leftovers
Supper:  Tacos (or taco salad), rice

Breakfast:  Breakfast Burritos
Lunch:  Frozen Pizza
Supper:  Saloon Beef Sandwiches, wilted spinach salad

Breakfast:  Peanut Butter Toast or Cheese Toast
Lunch:  Breakfast for dinner
Supper:  mac & cheese

Breakfast:  Scones
Lunch:  Grilled Cheese and tomato soup
Supper:  Spaghetti, Salad, veggies

No more cooking (or dishes!!!) until Friday night...yay!!!

To see how others are "making do", visit Ann Kroeker's Make Do Mondays.
For more menu plans, visit Orgjunkie's Menu Plan Mondays.