If God is Good Then Why do Bad Things Happen?

Why do we think “God’s Goodness” and “hard times” are mutually exclusive? I know so many people who have recently had BAD things happen.  Not like a flat tire on your vacation bad – more like brain tumors in a mom of 3, sickness with no cure in sight, job loss with no new job on the horizon.  Maybe multiple smaller problems feel like they are slowly tearing you down.  Where is God in all the bad? Does He care?

Here is what I am reminding myself: sin brought death.  God’s best plan was not death and hurt.  God’s plan was no sin and no hurt.  We messed up.  That means sin and death resulted when Adam and Eve thought they had a better way.  God was not taken by surprise when they chose to follow their own way.  God had a fix for the bad choice, and it was, and is, and always has been JESUS!  God sent Jesus, his only son, to fix our mistake.  Here is the Big Idea: We humans sinned and brought all of this hurt on ourselves.  Even though we messed up, God still sent His Son to fix our mess-up.

So, why do we think hard times mean God is not good?  God should be saying to us – “Why did you humans cause all of this bad?  You brought pain into my perfect world that should have been pain free.  Why are you still sinning?  Are you listening my children?  Turn back to my perfect plan!  There is a better way.  Accept Jesus as your savior and get free from your sin and shame.”

“God is Good” and “Life is Hard”.  These terms are not mutually exclusive, but instead these facts work together.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Take heart friends, this life is hard but guess what?  God is good in the hard!  God is good in the midst of the deadline, the delay, the debt, the diagnosis, and even in death.

Are you asking yourself, “why me”?  God is asking you, “Why won’t you trust me?  Trust me with your life and I will give you more life than you can ever imagine.”  Maybe God’s goodness actually equals hard times.  Maybe God is using the hard times to draw you closer to Him.  Let me be clear: God is not the creator of bad – only good.  Satan is the father of lies and sin.  The sin leads to death and hurt, but that is actually what the scripture means when it says that God will work all things unto your good.  It may not feel good, and it may not be good yet.  But God can draw out good from the bad.  God can use the very worst circumstance to bring about the good.

What if right now, God is using the death of a dream to bring you Him?  What if God is using this hard time in your life to bring good – not just good things, but the Best thing – even more than you can ever imagine.

Brave Notes

Brave Notes of Scripture Fight Anxiety

     Anxiety is one of the most common problems children face.  One of the best tools I used as a School Counselor was to have the child use positive self-talk. For example, if the child is nervous they would practice thinking, "I am strong and brave".  Scripture self-talk is even better than traditional self-talk.  If your child is struggling with doubt, anxiety or fears then work together to find a Bible Verse that is his or her special verse. Read and memorize the child's Bible Verse each morning and night.

     I love these Napkids. I found these at my local Kroger, but you can use any plain napkin or paper towel. Write a message that reminds your child of their verse, or for younger children just a few key words from their special verse. My 5 year old is not able to read his message, so I read it to him before we go to school. I always loved my lunch notes as a kid, and this is a great way to give your child the tools to fight anxiety with scripture.

Quit Looking For Snakes

The woods were cool, the air was crisp, and the smells hinted that Fall was around the corner.  My friend Jennifer and I were taking a walk in the trails at a park near our home.  She had been telling me about how sick her father-in-law had been, and how her husband had been gone for 21 days straight to help care for his dad.  I wanted to have the right words to say, and I felt the weight of her burden.  

Suddenly, I saw a neon green snake on the trail. I screamed for Jennifer to stop, but it was so day-glo-green that I assumed it must be a kid’s toy. We approached slowly to make sure it was indeed a toy, when Jennifer declared it was real – she saw it move.  We tested the “alive factor” the only way mature, adult women do; we threw a small rock close to the snake.  Again, I declared it was a toy because the snake did not budge.  I said, “Girl, I have seen lots of snakes and this has to be a toy.  I have never seen one that is glowing green and does not move.”  Jennifer was brave and apparently more ready than I to continue our walk, so she got a big stick and decided to move the snake off the path.  As soon as she lifted the snake’s body we knew, day-glo snakes live in the woods and apparently can lay perfectly still in the presence of a hysterical woman – that would be me not Jennifer. 

            As we hiked the next hour, I jumped at every stick on the path and even gasped at a butterfly that landed near my foot.  I was not enjoying God’s creation and nature.  All I was concentrating on was watching out for more snakes.  I cannot tell you if there were any wildflowers or any beautiful views on the trail.  I saw only the dirt in front of me as I was concentrating on spotting what I feared.

            This morning, I opened a new book Spiritual Warfare for Women by Leighann McCoy and read this question that Dr. Neil Anderson had asked her, “Wouldn’t it make sense that we truly worship that which we most fear?” Leighann McCoy goes on to say that our fear drives us to adjust our behavior so that we honor the object of our fear.

            I felt like I had been hit over the head with a rubber snake.  That is exactly what I tend to do in my life.  I am walking along in the dirt looking for the thing I fear instead of looking to the God of this universe.  Think of all the moments of peace and beauty I am missing by looking down at the ground for “snakes”.  I tend to worry about money, the healthy of my family, and being good enough.  Those are my gods because that is where my thoughts and worries lie.  I have honored the fear of loosing those things, and as a result, have made those things idols in my heart.

            How can I change Lord?  I don’t want to be ruled by fear.  I don’t want to spend more time thinking about my fears than I do thinking about my blessings.  I thought back to the conversation I had with Jennifer right before we saw the snake. It felt like God was not answering her prayers.  Her husband was starting his 4th week away from home, and his dad was still sick. The problems feel really big sometimes, but maybe that is the exact moment that God wants us to look at HIM and not our fears.   Today I want to turn my fears over to God.  I want to start looking up to praise God instead of looking down at my problems in fear.  How about you?  What fear do you need to give God today?

Need a FAST Workout with no Equipment? Try this!

CrossFit, High Intensity Interval Training, Tabata Training…. Those words may be Greek to you, or maybe they are in your vocabulary every day.  Here is a new one for me: EMOM.  When my hubs came home telling me I needed to try this EMOM training, I thought it was a lady online making up workouts.  EMOM stands for “Every Minute on the Minute”.  The idea is to perform an exercise at about 80% of your capacity and then get a little rest before the next minute begins.  Think of each minute as individual time blocks.  So, pick an exercise, or two, and begin the first exercise at the start of every minute.  Do enough reps of the first exercise during that minute to finish in about 45 seconds.  Use the remaining 15 seconds to recover before the next minute begins.  Perform another exercise at the beginning of the second minute, followed by another rest period.  Try to repeat for a total of 20 minutes (or 15 if you are dying like I usually am J).  Push yourself!  I love this workout method for my busy, school-just-started, Fall-seems-busier-every-year, life!  

I end all of the EMOM workouts feeling absolutely exhausted, and you will too if you push yourself.  This is a form of High Intensity Interval Training.  Studies suggest that 10 minutes of this style workout can burn more calories than 30 minutes on a treadmill.  I like those stats, and I have found that Interval Training gives great results for me personally.  It seems too simple to be that good, but it really works.

I use the stopwatch on my phone to time my rounds. Hit start and try this workout! Do the reps that allow you to work hard for 45 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds.

EMOM Workout
Minute 1: 20 air squats
Minute 2: 15 push-ups
Repeat for a total of 20 minutes

Please Don't Judge Me By My Milk…. or Gorilla Boots

We had one hour. One hour to go to the grocery store, buy some necessities, return to our home to unload, and make it to Jujitsu on time.  Mission: Quick Grocery Store Trip is not always a success, but today I had a good feeling about the trip.  I had a plan.  We would go to Aldi, the smallest store nearest our home.  We only needed a few items, and I had faith the mission would not fail.

The trip was going great. We were nearing the end and I could see the finish line.  I noticed in my peripheral another shopper.  She was shopping alone (wouldn’t that be nice), a little older, and she was staring at my two children.  My kiddos are not those kids that are running in the store, but they are also not always aware of personal space. I immediately apologized, “So sorry if we are in your way”.  She approached my cart.  She had an awkward smile on her face.  What she said took me completely by surprise, “You really should be buying organic whole milk for you and your family. It is much healthier and will actually help your family loose weight.”  I must have looked dumbfounded because she continued telling me about a “milk blog” I should read.  I finally remembered how to speak, and I spouted out that I did not think our family needed to loose weight!  I replied that milk was very controversial and that many people think all milk is bad, but we still drink it.  Yes, I am sure organic is best, but my grocery budget was lower at the end of the month, hence our choice. This stranger continued to tell me how she wished she had made better choices when her sons were young, and I really should consider making room for it in my budget – for the health of my young children.  I finally smiled tightly, said thank you, and walked away with my poisonous milk loaded in my cart. I was fuming.  When planning a trip to Aldi, I don’t expect to be judged.  Let’s be honest.  Aldi is not a “high on the hog” establishment and that is one reason I shop there.  What has happened to our world where a perfect stranger feels that they should judge my milk choice?  Are there not more important issues like poverty, sex trafficking, world hunger, and who Kanye West insulted this week? (I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

I realized a few days later that I was as guilty as my grocery store friend. I was scrolling through my pictures on my phone and found a picture I had snapped of a stranger in a mall. She had tight purple cheetah print leggings and furry black boots that reminded me of a gorilla. I quickly sent the image in a text to Matt. All I wrote was “Roar”. Now, I have a sense of humor, and in truth I may still be laughing a little about those boots. But the take away is this: I am no better than the woman at Aldi.  I judge quickly, harshly and unfairly.  Maybe we all need to take a deep breath, open our minds and just love.  Love like Jesus loves.  Jesus sat with the woman at the well, he talked to the worst sinners, and he had dinner with thieves (I bet Zacchaeus served organic milk).  Today, I am going to stop my judgments and try to love more.  Because maybe, just maybe there is more to a person than the milk they choose or the clothes they wear.

The Journey Does not have to be Perfect to be Wonderful

The Virginia Creeper Trail
An Adventure for all Ages

One broken truck air conditioner + one overflowing toilet + one dead mouse + one lost bike helmet + one power outage + 11 bike fixes + 3 bike wrecks = one perfectly imperfect weekend!

Matt texted on Thursday, one day before we left for our Virginia Creeper Trail Adventure, “AC in truck is broken”!!  We were planning to leave for a trip that would take more than 5 hours the very next day, and it had been in the 90’s all week.  That sounded hot and maybe a bit impossible with two young children.  Our faithful mechanic could not work on our truck until after our trip.  Do we cancel or press on?  After praying, checking the weather, and my mother reminding me that our family went to Florida with no AC when I was young (unspoken memo: toughen up kiddo), we decided to roll down the windows and press on.

I had shopped, cooked, and packed for two days.  Then, as I began loading on Friday morning I saw IT!  The little black pellets that told me a small “friend” had taken up residence in our camper. YUCK!!!  That is the best adjective I have. I cleaned and searched to make sure the critter was nowhere in sight. My fingers were crossed that maybe it was already dead, or had left the camper.

I had finished packing; we were ready to hop in the truck when Ava yelled “Mom” with such fierceness that I knew it was something urgent.  Yes, our toilet had overflowed.  She was standing in toilet water, Matt was yelling to get towels, and Noah stood in the mess to be part of the action.  Finally, we cleaned up our mess and loaded up in the truck.  I needed a vacation!

Our journey to the Virginia Creeper Trail was unexpectedly cool.  I had prayed before we left that God would help us to tolerate the heat, and honestly it felt like He reached down and sent cooler weather our way.  Our trip up to Virginia was filled with cooler temperatures, beautiful views, and a mysteriously vanishing bike helmet.  Ava shed a few tears when we realized her bike helmet had blown out of our truck bed, but she cheered right up when we went shopping for a new one!

Greyson Highlands State Park in Virginia

Finally, after hauling our rig up a winding mountain with switchback turns and eight percent grades, we arrived at our campground.  We set up camp and drove 15 minutes to Grayson Highlands State Park. Imagine walking up a hill with wild flowers growing and wild ponies munching happily – this is Grayson Highlands State Park.   The Rhododendron Trail has wild ponies along the trail that are friendly.  As we walked up the trail, my children climbed on boulders and low tree limbs along the way.  About one mile in, we saw two giant rocks at the peak of the mountain.  We spent the rest of the hike climbing these boulders.  Ava announced that rock climbing was her new passion!

Greyson Highlands State Park 
Back at camp, we set mousetraps that night for our little friend.  Shortly after we went to bed we heard the telling “whap”.  Matt jumped up and cheered like he had scored a touchdown.  My kids had to hop out of bed and see the poor fella.  I was glad seeing a dead mouse did not gross them out as much as it did me.  I was feeling cleaner already!

Our Picnic Spot on the Virginia Creeper Trail

The next morning we started the Virginia Creeper Trail at Whitetop, VA.  The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 35 mile railway bed in southwestern Virginia.  We had planned to do the trail that runs about 20 miles downhill from Whitetop, VA to Damascus, VA.  The trail was picturesque, and I found myself admiring the former railway bridges and train stations along the trail.  The Green Cove General Store had items on display that would have been sold in the 1900’s when the railroad was in its prime.  I was far more interested in the artifacts in the General Store than my children who only wanted to play on the playground next door.  The trail runs along a wide river with places to wade and picnic.  We hiked down to the river and had lunch on a flat rock that overlooked a small waterfall.  The trail is not paved, but the crushed rock is easy to ride.  Noah’s bike was the only bike that had problems.  His chain came off about once every mile.  Rachel, at the Shuttle Shack in Damascus, told me that smaller bikes often derail their chains on the trail.  We took some tools, but we did not have the correct tool to move his wheel back to tighten the chain.  Learn from our mistake and make sure to plan for that problem on your child’s bike.  Noah wrecked three times, but he is so tough.  He just hopped right back on his bike.  We coaxed our kids to peddle hard with the promise of celebratory ice cream in Damascus!

General Store in Green Cove Station

I had arranged for a shuttle service, Shuttle Shack, to take us and our bikes back to our campground up on top of the mountain.  Rachel, who runs the Shuttle Shack with her family, was very helpful.  She and her father, Junior, were from the area, and provided us with many tips. Junior was our bus driver, and I enjoyed talking with him on the drive up the mountain.  He told me about the history of the area and great camping spots to check out next time.  I highly recommend Shuttle Shack if you want to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail; they will take you to the top and let you ride down, or haul you back to the top if you start from up there.  Shuttle Shack also offers bike rentals.  They were great to work with and made our trip easy!

We finished the day with s’mores over the fire, and watched our children run through the woods.  We were tired and energized at the same time.  Being in God’s creation seems to recharge and reconnect our family.  While Matt and I were sitting by the fire, we heard an odd scratching sound.  I said, “I hear another mouse”.  Matt said, “No we just lost power. That was our gas turning on for back-up”.  We were staying at a rustic campground, so we thought the power would come back on quickly. Of course, it stayed off all night.  We had a choice, a cold shower with low water pressure in the camper, or a cold shower at the bathhouse in the dark with good water pressure.  We chose the bathhouse and we laughed and squealed while taking the fastest showers in the coldest water I have ever felt!  Ava said, “Mom, we have had such bad luck. What else is going to go wrong?”  I don’t always have the right answers to questions like that, but somehow I heard myself say, “We have had a lot of things go wrong, but that is ok.  We have still had a wonderful trip.”

This trip had several “bumps” in the road, both literal and figurative.  I had prayed that God would give us discernment about pressing on with our plans once our AC died, and I am so glad we did.  We laughed and refreshed in honestly some of the most beautiful land that I have ever seen.  There is a bond that forms when your family plays together that cannot be bought.  It is fun to be entertained, but going on an adventure as a family cannot be duplicated.

Our mishaps and hardships on this trip remind me of life. Sometimes the hard stuff makes the best memories, teaches us the most, and creates true “grit” in our family.  The hard is what makes us a little tougher and a little more reliant on God.  I laughed more in that cold shower than I had laughed in a week.  Maybe the blessings are in the hard more than on the mountaintops.  Maybe things in this life truly don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!

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