Goodness on the good days, the best days, and the hard days too

“This is the bestest day  I’ve ever had.”

We took a day during spring break to visit the aquarium.  It took as an hour-and-a-half to get there, the tickets were expensive, and when we arrived, the line to get in stretched outside.

I almost left, just turned around and found some other place to visit for the day.

But we stuck it out and in the end, it was one of those days where everything turns out just right.  We stood at the otter exhibit just as a museum volunteer walked over and announced we could watch them feed the otters.  Later we walked by the huge shark exhibit just as another keeper told the crowd it was time for a “shark talk.” Sharks are my sons super-favorite.

So, when my son declared it was the “bestest day” ever in his entire four-year-old life, I figured he must have forgotten the trip to Disney, but yeah this was a pretty great day.

But then the next day was his bestest day ever, too.  We played mini-golf and ate scoops of ice cream, so I nodded knowingly . Yes, it was a good day.

Then came Monday morning and the end of spring break.  We rushed right back into school and activities, but that hadn’t changed his perspective.  That was “the bestest day” he had ever had also.

Cleaning and errands and hanging out at home?  This is the bestest day?

Now every day is the best day, whether he heads to preschool in the morning or stays home, whether we visit the post office or the library, whether we run errands or take a walk, whether it’s the weekend or a rushed and busy weekday.

“What makes the best day?”  I finally ask him.

“When people are nice to you,” he says.   A few nice words, a sweet smile, a pleasant encounter and that’s a great day.  Not just a great day, but the best day.

Of course, people aren’t always nice.  Sometimes we have hard days or even difficult seasons.  We know it’sure doesn’t feel like “the best day ever.”  Maybe instead it’s disappointing or long, rushed and breathless, stressful and tense or simply and deeply sad.

On those days, when crawling back into bed sounds like the way to go, we rely on something more.  It’s got to be more than trips to the aquarium or ice cream night or simply the kindness of a friend that helps us hold onto hope and trust in God’s love and His plans for us.

We believe in His goodness.  That He will not  abandon us.  That He is not out to harm us or to arbitrarily or  apathetically watch us suffer.  He is with us in the pain and in the hard days and He is helping us and holding us.

The Psalmist said:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!  (Psalm 31:19 ESV).   

David wasn’t really having a great day.  He was tormented by enemies. In this same Psalm, he said,

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.

Sorrow, distress, grief, anguish, groaning, affliction, and weakness– and yet David declared the abundant goodness of God and trusted that God had a plan for his future.

I consider Abraham.  How God had promised him descendants that would outnumber the stars and, not jut that, but a land of promise, a place to call home.

But the very first time Abraham arrived in Canaan and set foot on the Promised Land,there was famine.  He had to head onto Egypt in order to survive.

And the very first land Abraham ever owned in Canaan was the burial plot he purchased for his wife, Sarah.

This was the Promised Land?  This was what he had journeyed for? Famine and mourning?

Still he trusted and still he praised, because God’s goodness never changes.  His loyal love for us remains steadfast.

We just keep looking up.

Abraham looked to God for fulfillment rather than in the promise itself.  David looked to God for strength when His enemies surrounded him.  We also can look up, seeking Jesus and His goodness.

It may not be the bestest day ever in our life, but the day of trouble does not change the goodness of God.  His goodness is our refuge., our safe place, every single day.

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in a day of distress;
he cares for those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7)

Clash of the Agenda

Clash of the Agenda or I could call it an Agenda Conflict (capital letters for emphasis). That’s what it was.

My plan: Get my family dressed and presentable QUICKLY and then run out to register kids for swim lessons QUICKLY, then rush home, accomplish a million things and leave for other to-do list items shortly thereafter.

My daughters’ plan: Enjoy the full benefits of a summer morning.  Fight over a television show and insist that each child choose one entire program to watch before eating breakfast.  Arrive at the breakfast table one….at……a……time.  Carry around clothes for the day rather than actually putting them on and generally move through the morning at a slow and easy pace.

It wasn’t just them, of course, sabotaging my agenda.  Unexpected phone calls and email messages sidetracked and distracted me.  Finally, I decided we simply needed to leave so we drove to swim lesson registration leaving behind unwashed dishes, a pile of pajamas on the sofa, unfolded laundry on the loveseat, and general mess.

I even tried not to stress over my daughters’ hair being combed with fingers and not arranged into ribbons, bows, barrettes and headbands, but I gave in and swept their hair into whatever hair accessories were floating around my Mom Bag before actually going inside to register.

Agenda Conflict is a fact of life.  We can’t plan out every detail of every day of every life season and expect success.

Especially as moms.

It’s a stressor, a reason for my heart to race as I try to balance accomplishing my goals and remaining relatively sane while negotiating life with people whose agendas conflict with mine.

But it’s also a flex-or.  It’s a way for God to gently or even not-so-gently nudge us out of the driver’s seat of our lives once again.  And it seems a perpetual process for me, this becoming flexible enough to hand over control even to a Trustworthy God.

Because I’m not a go-with-the-flow person.  I’m not an arrive-whenever and do-whatever-works, leave-the-dishes-in-the-sink and change-direction-when-necessary kind of girl.  At least not naturally.  Not unless God demands it.

Which He does.

Because He alone can be God of our lives.  He has the prerogative to interrupt plans and redirect our course.  He has the option of taking the three-year-plan and deciding He’s ready to move here and now, this moment!  Or, He could choose to abandon the plan all together, crumple it up, toss it and maybe even leave us without an agenda at all as He whispers, “Trust me and that is Psalm 31enough.”

We can’t pray super-spiritual prayers of devotion to God and promises to submit to His will and then throw a stressed-out tantrum when the phone rings, the email comes, and the kids drag their feet on a busy morning.

Instead, those prayers for His Lordship in our lives require that we mean it in the everyday frustrations of Agenda Conflict and the unexpected U-turns in life that leave us hanging on breathless.

We must pray with the Psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15 NIV) and “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).

We could press our agenda, of course, determined not to abandon the plan for anyone or anything.  We could demand it make sense on paper and make decisions on statistics, facts, and appearances alone.

But we could miss out on God’s blessing.

When Abraham began his journey to the Promised Land, he traveled with his nephew Lot until their shepherds began battling over prime grass and watering holes.  Finally, they knew they had to separate and travel in two different directions.

Abraham was on a God-directed mission to a land of promise, and as the senior member of their relationship he could have demanded “first dibs.”

Instead, he trusted God enough to leave the direction and the timing of his journey in God’s hands.  He allowed Lot to choose first, saying simply, “Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:9 NIV).

At best, that seems like a coin toss to me, a fifty/fifty chance of getting the blessing.

At its worst, it feels like trusting your future to a fallible human, a selfish one at that.

But surely Abraham’s life, times and future were in God’s capable hands regardless of Lot’s choice.

Had Abraham pressed his own agenda for his own benefit, maybe he would have chosen as Lot did, to pitch his tents outside of Sodom.  Instead, God led Abraham on to blessing, all because he ceded the right to decide, to direct, to lead, to push, and to stress and left the agenda and itinerary up to God.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King