From “Yes…But” to “But God”


“It’s finally spring!” I say brightly to the woman in the elevator. And for sure everything around me shouts this fact. The colors are God’s palette gone wild with greens of every shade, pinks, reds, purples. There are tulips and buds on trees. There is a lightness in the step and the face.

And she responded the way I hoped she wouldn’t “Yes-but….not for long.” “Yes, but….tomorrow it’s going to be 50 degrees.


How I hate those words. I hate them when others say them. I hate them even more when I say them. “Yes…but” because no good thing can possibly last. “Yes, but” because we dare not enjoy the now for fear that it will all be taken away.

It’s a cultural thing here, a social facilitator. But there’s a history to this I think. A history born of the hardy New England pioneers who saw so many die in the process of moving to this new world. It’s a natural pessimism that produced great artists and thinkers. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott. Perhaps it’s a sort of preservation, not getting your hopes up so they can never be dashed to the ground, broken and buried. And it doesn’t just happen with the weather. It’s an all around don’t get too excited about anything, Lord knows what tomorrow will bring.

But for me it’s defeating. For me it’s depressing. For me it’s alienating. 

And then, as I go through an inner diatribe about how much I hate this cultural expression, I am gently reminded about how often I say this to God. “Yes, but.”  As though no good thing that he brings about can possibly last. As though he is not good, he does not care and anything that is the least bit satisfying or happy will be taken from me. It strikes me that my “Yes, but.” needs to be changed to “But God.” Because scripture is full of “But God” moments where everything changes; where what was expected as bad was turned around for good.  I go back in time for a moment. Two years ago my friend Sophie who blogs at Little Gumnut wrote a piece called The But God Moments.” and I go and read what she wrote:

“The most powerful testimonies are the But God moments in our lives and so often we wish them away.  We wish he wouldn’t give us hard things to go through but if we didn’t, people wouldn’t see that he really makes a difference in the tough stuff.  We would get the credit and not him.  I’m not saying he creates awful situations, no, sometimes we do, sometimes its just a result of evil, but he rescues us, he turns the crappy into beautiful.  That’s who he is, his very nature, his core.  He takes up what humanity have screwed well and truely up and he rescues us, restores us, makes us new again.”

“He takes ashes and gives you a crown of beauty, he takes mourning and gives you oil of joy, unlimited and in abundance, he takes a spirit of despair and he gives you praise to wear instead.  It’s not just that the Great Exchange is your life for his, although that in itself is mind-blowing, but he totally transforms your life afterwards as well.” 

“I can’t stop thinking about that exchange.  He takes our ash, the thing no one else wants or values, and he exchanges it for beauty.  The ultimate But God moment.”- Sophie Blanc from Little Gumnut: I Think Therefore I blog

So the irritating “Yes, but” is turned into the glorious “But God.” 

My frustration with today’s elevator interaction dissipates, the “Yes, but” buried in the glorious truth of the But God Moments.

What about you? Do you suffer from the “yes,buts?”


Today’s muffins are an expression of an expat’s connection to both the world she is in now, and her passport country. They are “Star-Spangled Muffins. Strawberries for red, blueberries for blue and some pearl sugar sprinkles on top for white.” They are also a reminder to me that we can have loyalties to both sides of the globe! We hope the non-Americans reading will enjoy the colors if not the sentiment! Thank you Stacy!

Photo Credit: Stefanie Sevim Gardner

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7 thoughts on “From “Yes…But” to “But God”

  1. Marilyn, I appreciate what you say here! Yes, it’s so easy to get all pessimistic and doubt. Show (or even think) lack of faith. Your premise reminds me of my two-year experience doing comedy improv here in Chicago, in the 1990’s. My first teacher, Charna, pounded into our heads the saying, “Never ‘No, but . . .’ Always ‘Yes, and . . !'” If, in improv, I say “No, but . . . ” in a sketch, I’m putting on the breaks. Stop! Hold it! The sketch runs out of gas, FAST! However, if I say “Yes, and . . . ” then the sketch gains momentum! It has the potential to go to further, greater heights.

    I think you get where I’m going. This principle applies to everything! I really try to be a “Yes, and!” kind of person. Even though I’m world-weary and pessimistic now, I still pray for God to make me a “Yes, and!” kind of person. I encourage you to consider that, too! (I even wrote a blog post about this, just now! )


      1. Oh, Robynn, it gets better. Charna Halpern and Del Close were partners at Improv Olympic (now known as IO Theater), a comedy workshop and club that was started in the early 80’s. Del was a genius with comedy. He invented the long-form improv “Harold” and IO is known for that. (I learned how to do a Harold, and it was MARVELOUS when everyone in the team is in sync!) Del was director at Second City before he and a few others formed Improv Olympic in the early 80’s.

        I started classes in the late 90’s, only a few months after Del died. (A good friend of mine was a good friend of his, and he was really sad he didn’t get a chance to introduce me to Del.) Mike Myers and Amy Poehler were among the now-famous people who trained at Improv Olympic.

        Improv training certainly helped me do better at off-the-cuff speaking without notes. (I was great at physical comedy! I had an intuitive feel for what I could do with physicality that would make people laugh.) However, I still am not stellar at speaking without notes. I need a manuscript when I preach, even now. But my delivery is great!


      2. Marilyn, Robynn, I had several thoughts rolling around in my head yesterday. For my daily blog post in A Year of Being Kind, I used you and your post for part of my inspiration. I thought you might like to know!

        Here’s the status post from my FB page, A Year of Being Kind: Communicating? With computers, no less? Sure!


    1. I love the comment thread! I just left a comment on your blog – I too loved hearing more about Improv. I talked a bit about my daughter-in-law on your blog who does improv in Los Angeles now but started in Chicago at IO!!


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