Simple List

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Take This Chance to Miss an Opportunity @ StoryWarren

We will miss some of these opportunities, too. Maybe to grocery shopping, or maybe to our own shortcomings. But they are endless, because mercy is endless, and grace follows hard behind. Just grab the next one.

Emerson on What Beauty Really Means, How to Cultivate Its True Hallmarks, and Why It Bewitches the Human Imagination @ Brain Pickings

What makes something beautiful? Emerson may have skirted around the true Nature of beauty – God Himself – but his ideas about beauty remind me of my own thoughts toward God.

Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful. This is the reason why beauty is still escaping out of all analysis. It is not yet possessed, it cannot be handled… It is properly not in the form, but in the mind. It instantly deserts possession, and flies to an object in the horizon. If I could put my hand on the north star, would it be as beautiful? The sea is lovely, but when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. For the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the same time.

“‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

That Still, Small Voice @ Three Way Light

I want to get back to listening for that still, small voice of Jesus, to bend in close and hear what He is saying and what He wants me to say to you.
If it’s not beautiful or encouraging or uplifting…….well, I’ll keep it to myself.
So–I’m going to pull back from posting, lessen the pressure (self-imposed) of coming up with something each week to say (because I always have something to say.)
Instead, I want to focus on whatever is true, beautiful, noble and of good report.

Have a great weekend, friends. Let’s look for the true, the beautiful, the noble and the things worth talking about together.

When life makes you wait

If you time it just right, you can get to our sleepy little town before everyone is out and get your errands and shopping done without the crowds.

Monday was not such a day. Floods of people had all decided it was the best day to be in town and our tiny little infrastructure was just not made for so many. Traffic jams, long lines, flustered clerks and impatient patrons.

I found myself at the edge of crowds everywhere I went.

My daughter and I sat in the lobby of the community college welcome center on Monday, which just happened to be the first day of summer term. Which just happens to be crazy.


Sitting and waiting your turn can be torturous. Clock ticking, phone buzzing, time slipping by unused. Waiting is a discipline.

A woman came in to sign her kids up for summer swim lessons at the college pool. Two tiny twin girls in a double stroller, one toddler strapped to mom’s back, and one big sister, about 5, retrieving the blanket from under the stroller for mom and politely spelling her name and giving her birthdate to the clerk.

Just imagine how long it took that mom to get from the car to this lobby, I whispered to my daughter.

Get out the double stroller. Strap on the baby carrier. 

Put the toddler in the pack first? Or the twins in the stroller?

Does her 5 year old unbuckle her own car seat yet? Does she wait patiently? Try to “help”?  

What happens when someone needs the restroom? 

Mom was tired and burdened and strapped, literally, with children. When she was ready to leave, registration complete, two different people raced to open the door for her. We all had observed her life for just a moment and gained a respect, and opening the door seemed like the best way to honor her patience and the herculean task of getting back to her car.

At the feed store later I parked next to one of those big conversion-type vans. Not a mini-van, by any stretch. The driver must have been 15 or 16, must have had his mom and 2 younger brothers along, must have been navigating town for the first time with all his jitters and nervous head-swinging and one billion other town-goers.

The poor kid had to drive that monster of a vehicle on a blazing summer day, in a town with too little parking and too many people in a hurry.

He began to back out of his spot just as I was ready to leave and I watched him in the mirror. I saw him cut too sharp, saw his mom’s arm waving in front of him, saw his shoulders go up and his face grimace in the cup of his own hands.

I smiled politely, the way I hoped others would when my own child is behind the wheel.

He has to learn and this is the only way to do it – in a crowded place. He has to practice in tight spots with people watching. He needs to stress a little to get the importance of the maneuvers and the life-and-death seriousness of driving that hunk of metal down the road with a billion other souls whizzing by.

He made it out unscathed and my mini-van untouched.

On the freeway, the young are learning what’s safe and how much pressure they can take and the elderly are forgetting turn signals and speed limits and traffic laws. I’m not old and I’m not young but I’m in between them all and practicing patience, being extra aware, trying to make up for their lack of experience or observation.

I’m on the far end of that mom with 4 in tow, with no sleep and a crazy hormonal circus and strangers offering discount-advice.

I’m at the edge of the middle-aged man signing up for community college classes because his life flipped right over and he is going to start again with a younger crowd, fresh from the high school, with cares that only extend to the weekend.

While I’m waiting my turn, I’m trying to see everyone’s story.

Somedays I’m too busy too hurried too self-absorbed and too flustered by the crowd. But sometimes life offers me a seat on the edge and a wait, and when there is no choice but to be an observer, I see people’s stories better and I can be more patient.


Simple List {Father’s Day edition}


“There has always been a sliver of panic in him, deeply buried, when it comes to his daughter: a fear that he is no good as a father, that he is doing everything wrong. That he never quite understood the rules. All those Parisian mothers pushing buggies through the Jardin des Plantes or holding up cardigans in department stores – it seemed to him that those women nodded to each other as they passed, as though each possessed some secret knowledge that he did not. How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing?” – from All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (emphasis mine).

Don’t Just Wait Until They’re Teenagers @ The Gospel Coalition

What parent of small children hasn’t been warned, “Just wait until they’re teenagers”? But this is precisely the problem: too many parents wait until the teenage years to realize the importance of civility, understanding its value only as we watch it walk out the door.

How Lloyd-Jones Makes Me a Better Dad @ The Gospel Coalition

He took all his loved ones seriously. He entered into their world and their enjoyments from their earliest age. He loved what they loved because he loved them. And they never forgot it. Perhaps he knew the best way to increase his happiness is by entering into the happiness of another.

The morning after we indulged in those peanut buster parfaits and salt and vinegar chips for dinner, my husband and I both woke up feeling *awful*. Hmmmm. Go figure.

I’m feeling like maybe possibly I need to cut out sugar and experiment with this further – not a full fledged Whole30 – but a definite fast from my drug of choice for awhile.

I can still have coffee, so I should be fine. In the meantime, there’s this:

How to teach your kids about sugar @ The Washington Post

This article is dedicated to all of the kids out there who think the orange juice they drink at breakfast, the cookies they eat after lunch, the candy they trade at school and the Gatorade they chug after practice are no big deal. In other words, all kids across America. And also to their parents who believe the same thing: that daily intake of sugar is harmless and just a function of childhood.

How to make it work

We said “I do” on red shag carpet in the A-frame church down the road. It was a thrown-together wedding on the Saturday after I graduated from community college, and I was not one of those brides who had to have everything perfect. I didn’t know there were fairy tale weddings and professional planners and rules for decor and decorum.

I didn’t even know what to expect out of marriage. There was no list of qualities or any serious thought about the chance that we might be incompatible and this might not work.

I was shaped by what came rather than by my expectations of what should be, and God gave me everything I was too naive to know I wanted or needed.

I was simply in love.

Nobody really knew if we would – if our I do would be the kind that happens everyday or the past tense of when we did and now we don’t. You can never know those things. You can never be sure that an I do will last. You can only pray that those kids will find who they are together and wrap themselves tight in a grace that’s beyond them.

The only sure way is the narrow one and my husband always says that two people committed to Christ can make it work, no matter what.

PayneFamily2014(89).jpg*** PayneFamily2014(90)

Yesterday we celebrated 19 years and someone still said we were just kids.

Less than two decades. Less than half my life. More than I could have ever planned for.

I am happy to be just a kid in love all this time and these years and those kids of our own. Happy to learn how we grow together and who we are together and whose grace keeps it all together.

Everyone wants to have the best plan and do the most important things right.

My husband was saying yesterday how it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. I have it easy then, I said, because I’m so funny. He agreed with me, because he also knows how important it is to let your spouse be right.

It’s important to take the day off of regular Monday life once in awhile, to tell your wife as she’s making your lunch in the morning that there’s no need – you’ll be home in a couple hours to spend the day with her and take her out to lunch.

It’s important to make sacrifices, and just as important to notice and be thankful for the sacrifice of others.

Knowing who God made your spouse to be is important. It helps when you realize that he responds to your fears with logic, not because he doesn’t care, but because God has made him to see solutions and subtleties that you miss in your desire for everyone to just be happy. (Taking that personality test your wife has been bugging you about can be important, too.)

We capped off our day together with peanut buster parfaits and a bag of salt and vinegar chips, because it’s important to skip the fancy dinners everyone expects, and indulge in what you know you really want instead.

In nineteen years we have enjoyed many more mundane moments than spectacular ones, and being able to appreciate the day-to-day beauty of life together is more important than planning grand celebrations or having all our needs met in one person.

When all your needs are met in the person of Christ, you can let everyone else off the hook. That’s how we make it work.


The Simple List {links and what-not}

It’s been a week of deep thinking and great discussions at the Classical Conversations’ practicum and tutor training.

I enjoyed the training and I’m also grateful to be home and thankful to find that the rest of the family survived quite well, and even kept the garden alive. They could have left it to fend for itself, like I did to them.


In keeping with the practicum theme (Science: The art of wonder and inquiry), I can see that we’ll need to be making those bouncy balls Ethan is asking for and that I need to do a better job of answering his numerous questions.

I’ve started an Evernote file on my phone titled “Ethan’s Questions”.  Things to google later, basically.

These are the types of things that can send me over the edge. Flubber and borax and glue and one million questions…I’m pretty sure I’m not cut out for this job. I’m pretty sure God uses this mother-life to whittle me down and build me up again and again.

We’ll make bouncy balls, using this tutorial or this one. We’ll clean up the mess, get out the science books or google the inevitable questions, and then move on.

Speaking of inquiry, this was a great and convicting read:

Pearls Before Breakfast @ Story Warren

“The lesson, of course, is one we know, but routinely ignore. We are too numbed by our frantic busy pace to recognize beauty. Even when it is loudly echoing around the chambers in our usual subway stop, even when our children are begging us to stop, we blaze through, hellbent on completing whatever task or errand we might see as essential at that time.”

And things that make me crazy:

9 Ever-Present Distractions That Keep Us From Fully Living @ Becoming Minimalist

“When we endure our days only for the sake of tomorrow (the weekend, the vacation, or the retirement), we miss out on the full beauty and potential of the present.”

Internet Outrage, Public Shaming, and Modern-Day Pharisees @ Relevant Magazine

“What if instead of condemnation, we became known for giving benediction? What if instead of being on the hunt to catch people doing wrong, we went on the hunt to catch people doing right? What if instead of looking for someone to curse, we started looking for someone to bless? What if instead of naming people according to their worst behaviors and features, we named them according to their best and most God-reflecting ones?”

My best advice for parenting and marriage and life

There’s a fine line we walk with those we love, those who receive the brunt of our bad moods, poor decisions, crazy whims and morning breath.

The line is hyper-vigilant on one side, lazy and uncaring on the other.

This is love: going around the sun again and again with the same people who could ruin your reputation with one Facebook post or phone call or Sunday morning announcement. The people who put up with us who put up with them who continue to drive home to one another and make love and war and a home and scattered bits of a beautiful life.

Following them around with the chore chart and honey-do list does not = love.

My family puts up with so much from me and still, I am tempted at each turn to point out every sharp edge – the shoes by the door, the dishes in the sink, the wet laundry sitting in the washer and the math books on the table.

The kitchen knife stuck in the fencepost?


I’m writing this from a hotel room with my youngest son. We are away for 3 days of Classical Conversations tutor training and science camp, and the three teens and my husband are home, four hours away, with no dinner plan.

This is me, smiling sheepishly and apologizing and also realizing that they are big people who can handle this. They could do tacos. There are burgers in the freezer. They are pretty good with quesadillas.

I gave a few instructions but mainly – put some spinach in your smoothies and let’s call it good.

I also left them in the lurch for transport to and from too many activities, left them to figure out how to make the final two gallons of milk last and who is going to get food for the lamb.


I am graceless and also I don’t always plan well and I expect that when I get home Wednesday night, they might give me a little grief over all that. But not too much.

I want to be prepared and well-planned and the do-it-all mother and wife of my dreams, but I’m just not.

Sometimes the shoes by the door are mine. Sometimes I leave my coffee cup in the living room. For days. Sometimes I leave my family with no groceries or casseroles or back-up plans, and no one follows me around with lists of things I already know I’m supposed to do.

It’s good to make mistakes I suppose. It helps me remember that my offspring are the same kind of human, the same falling short and in need of discipling type of people, as their mother. And their father.

This reminds me of two things:

1. People don’t need constant correcting.

I have grammar-police tendencies. It’s hard for me to read billboards and store displays and Facebook posts and not just cry inside.

Because God is just, every once in awhile I post something like your’s instead of yours, which is already possessive and requires no apostrophe. I do this by accident and for all the world to see because that’s the best way to make mistakes that humble me, and I’m thankful when nobody calls me out.

We know when we screw up. We know right and wrong, and sometimes we know we are just being lazy.

I can let you tell the story wrong because you forgot some detail or see some event differently from me. I can overlook the fact that we agreed to meet at 3pm but you showed up at 3:30. I can even choose to believe that you didn’t mean to be rude, to believe the best about you and your intentions, instead of calling you out and Matthew 18-ing you.

I can give you more grace than I deserve.

2. People who depend on you should be encouraged not to depend too much on you.

I think we should be people of our word and if we say I’m gonna do something we should do that thing we said, when we said, how we said. People ought to be able to depend on us.

But maybe we need to say fewer words. Commit to fewer things. Give our children swords.

After plenty of training and listing and chore-charting, maybe we need to leave the kids to figure out dinner and transportation and moderation and how to limit their own obligations and activities.

We can watch from a safe distance, counsel and forewarn.

We can also follow people around too much and trust too little that they are going to learn many good lessons in the same hard way we did – by making mistakes.

This is what I’m often telling my do-it-all husband, in the gentle way I do: say no. Give people two feet and the tools for the job, but don’t walk the whole way for them.

So, in the gentle way I do, I’m giving him an example by leaving him with three teens and no casseroles.



Linking up with the #TellHisStory gang

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