The Simple List {7.31.15}

The Simple List is my way of pointing you to something redeeming on the webs, something thought provoking or eye-catching or soul-refreshing. I can’t keep up with all the good words out there but I try to curate a few things every now and then that might be of help.

I hope these links are reminders of the simplest things that make a good life: truth, goodness, beauty.

TheSimple list (4)

Truth ||

When the Spirit Convicts  by Shannon Martin @ (in)Courage

I am not an Airplane @ Amongst Lovely Things

I love/need this reminder that the sky is not really the limit unless you are, indeed, an airplane. I’m not the go-getter that Sarah is, but that’s also kinda the point: I am not made to do everything I want to do, everything someone else is doing, or everything I think everyone else wants me to do.

Goodness ||

Two big-picture concepts that help me plan my days/weeks/months @ Modern Mrs. Darcy

The Benefits of Being an Introverted Parent by Kristen Howerton @ Queit Rev

“I wasn’t always cool with being an introverted parent. I wanted to be one of those moms who thrived among children—the mom who’s always on, always available emotionally;  the mom who invites all the neighborhood kids over for snacks every day. But that’s just not me. I love my kids, but there’s a reason I’m always suggesting we play hide-and-seek. (There’s something about a dark closet…)”

Beauty ||

I go back and forth with blogging. Enamored. Annoyed. Energized. Compelled. None of it’s necessary and all of it could take a flying leap most days and I’d live just fine, like we did pre-1999. We lived, remember? We put our pictures in albums and our words in journals and the world spun, just the same. Or better?

Still, I love words and the stretch that comes with their writing and reading. This week a friend linked to a blog that refreshed me and reminded me that we can do this thing in whatever way we choose. It doesn’t have to be short and pithy and fragmented for the sake of readers’ attention-less spans. Words formed the world through the power of Christ and they still form worlds in us, through Him. I want to be that kind of person – one whose words explore unknown frontiers and also reveal the ground right at your feet, however long that takes.

I want to be like Rebecca Reynolds when I grow up, basically. I’ve read her words before and knew her name was familiar from the Rabbit Room and Story Warren sites, but now I’ve found her blog, thanks to a friend, and I hope you like it there too. I like what she has to say, even if it takes me two or three sittings to digest it all.

Sunday, Late July  @ Thistle and Toad

“Every penny in my pocket says “In God We Trust,” but the older I get, the more I see how often we don’t, neither the atheists nor the religious people like me who freak out and yell that everybody needs to trust Jesus and stop ruining my country. I need to learn to believe more, fight smarter, and fear less.

Besides all this, my oldest son is leaving for college in a few weeks, and the countdown makes every word we speak in our house feel so strange. I keep waking up at night with a feeling like he’s two-years-old and lost in a department store. He’s tall, muscular, wise. He’s ready, but I’m not sure I am. Like everything with the first kid, I’m letting this become too big of a deal. He told me a few days ago, “Mom, do you realize you are bringing every conversation back to the dangers of substance abuse?”



When you just want answers

We all want an answer to the questions burning down our ability to make plans.

Which step next? Which project, plan, purpose, prayer should I attempt now?

When your future is uncertain, it feels like the decision you make now could unhinge the whole timeline of God’s purpose. As if that were even possible.

Can we mess up God’s will?


We spent the evening with a friend needing answers and hearing only the loud silence of too many opinions, too many options. The purpose of her life is the center of a wheel and in every direction, it seems, the choices fanned out like spokes.

Can we really mess things up? Make a choice from a heart of good intentions that would thwart the plan of God for us?

We feel like there must be perfect steps to take toward our real future, but maybe we don’t make any perfect choices other than choosing to lay all the options down at His mercy. Maybe every spoke of the wheel leads to the same continuous ending, once we’ve chosen Christ and acknowledge our own chosen-ness dripping down the cross. All the rubber hits the road the same. Maybe.

Maybe we make decision-making too hard. I know I do, and all my maybes are indictments against my own ability to choose.

What’s lacking is a confidence that God can and will direct us when our heart is set to please Him. The half-dozen options laid out before our friend didn’t make her feel free, but stuck and confused and worried that what if? 

What if I choose wrong and blow the whole plan?

What if I jeopardize other people with a careless choice?


Life is anchored with non-negotiables which ought to make our decisions easier. The things that must be done are most essential, and weeding out the unnecessary helps us determine those things that are worth making the framework for our days, our lives.

The rhythm of retreat and return needs anchors. Every season brings different anchors, or essentials, but when I can identify the most important parts of life and stick to a schedule that treats them as such, life goes much smoother.

Every choice is weighed in light of how it fits or doesn’t fit in the framework of my life.

But after it’s all been sifted and filtered and concentrated down to the most essential, after all the anchors have been set, we still are left with choices. Not deciding is not an option, because immobility is choosing the stagnant now of a perceived safety; if I just do nothing, we are tempted to think, then I can’t make a mistake.

Life is moving and rolling and constantly swelling us upward with delight and spiraling us downward with despair. Fear of decisions doesn’t bring us stability.We choose and sometimes we’re wrong but we live and our hearts are set toward God.


So she made a decision, our friend. She has a lot of experience making huge leaps and tiny steps of faith. She made a simple, next-step decision that fit with her anchors and her bigger goals and that moved her forward.

What is so hard about making decisions?

Sometimes we think we would just like that still small voice to say right or left, but God wants our attention, our seeking, our commitment to Him. That’s what we would miss if all the answers spelled themselves out for us.

When we can settle in our hearts that seeking God is the best decision, He gives grace for every good intention and freedom to let our yes be yes, our no, no.




The Simple List || 7.10.15

TheSimple list (4)

Truth ||

Why Little Kids Need Big Biblical Words @ The Gospel Coalition

I have been guilty of trying to find the smallest words to explain something to children, but kids aren’t afraid of big, new words. Better to introduce them to words like “repentance” and “atonement” when they’re young and their imaginations are big. Also, the three-year rotation of this Bible curriculum is right up my classical education alley.

This article was a good reminder that we can set the bar high enough to stretch over, rather than low enough to trip on.

On the Hard Parts of Writing and Mothering @ Stacey Thacker

“My life is a crazy mix of mundane and beautiful. Laundry? Mundane. Girls who tell you they love you? Beautiful. I don’t do the mundane well and at times I mishandle the beautiful, too. Frustrating. Mothering is hard.  Also, frustrating.”

Just true.

Goodness ||

Do Less and Live More @ Becoming Minimalist

“It’s hard to be the person you want to be if your days leave no room for contemplating who that person even is.”

Beauty ||

How Drawing Trains You to See the World More Clearly and to Live with a Deeper Sense of Presence @ Brain Pickings

“It’s a beautiful meditation triply timely today, in an age when we — having succumbed to the “aesthetic consumerism” of photography — are likelier to view the world through our camera phones and likelier still to point those at ourselves rather than at nature’s infinite and infinitely overlooked enchantments. To draw today is to reclaim the dignity and private joy of seeing amid a culture obsessed with looking in public.”

I think there are great points here but as a non-sketcher and past un-observer, I feel like photography has given me a better eye on the world. Still, I know I would benefit from the disciplined art of drawing and grow in the joy of seeing rather than just looking.


“As far as I can see, the reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian.”

~ Madeleine L’Engle

Retreat and Return

The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea

Our days are made for rhythm.

Rhythm brings beauty, an ebb and flow, a pulse. The alternative is to wrestle the day onto paper as static, rigid, unmovable chunks of time, making for stiff necks and unmet demands. But it looks good on paper.


I’m trying to teach our children about work and it’s place in our lives, how God intended us to view it and how our culture distorts that.

Some work we enjoy. Other work we loathe, and the bills and those hard discussions often find themselves a back burner to simmer on while we bury ourselves in despotic urgencies.

There is satisfaction in work only when we put it in its proper light.

Work is a return from retreat. Work is what fills in after retreat has filled up.

The satisfying thing about work is that it leads to rest, and the satisfying thing about rest is that it leads to work. This is why retirees find part-time jobs or volunteer (I’m guessing). This is why our vacations sometimes feel too long. The physical need for rest after a long period of work is one reason God gifted us with Sabbath, and vice versa.

Our souls need a Sabbath.

This is the mind set I’d like to have and the rhythm I’d like to smooth my days over with. Retreat and return. Retreat and return.

Both are sacred. retreat2

I made two columns in my bullet journal – one for the returning and one for the retreats. I didn’t worry about giving equal space to each, didn’t care about too much of one or the other.

I simply put each item in the column I felt like it belonged to.

“Clean the floors” went in the return column, because this week cleaning the floors was just work. Just living. Just returning from a moment of retreat to find satisfaction in vinegar and water and peppermint oil and citrus. Slosh and sway.

Sometimes the weeks are full of sticky ice tea spills and dog prints and cobwebs growing in the corners and dry, dead grass from the field; the kind of week where you leave your shoes on inside.

I think I would put “clean the floors” under retreat on those weeks – because doesn’t it feel like rest sometimes? To clean the trappings of living off the surfaces and make a clean slate for more sometimes feels like an indulgence – we get to start fresh. 

That’s the Sabbath at work, ironically.

We get to start again but it takes work but maybe it’s rest, after all.

In the retreat column go things like “exercise” and “water the garden”.

Exercise, because seeing it as retreat is essential to getting it done. Retreating to solitude and mind-time and a good, hard sweating-out of the garbage I have been feeding myself.

Water the garden, because simple chores like that are free excuses to daydream and scheme and pray your life into God’s plan.

Tiny tasks like paying a bill, organizing a drawer, and making a phone call become a return to the responsibilities of taking care of a household and stewarding the things. Alternating them with reading a chapter or organizing pictures on the computer layers a day in the rough burlap of work and the soft velvet of pleasure. Folded in like butter. Staggered like the rest between exercises in the weight room.

Heavy and light, work and rest, return and retreat.

Habits form our lives, our homes, our character. Good habits of a few simple things connect our day with the rhythm of created things – time, space, beauty, sweat.

Nothing is sustained in hurry. Everything comes in time.

For awhile now I’ve tried to front-load my days with all the retreat I can get. A slow morning, all the solitary things I love, all the quiet and stillness of the day crammed into wee hours, and by mid-morning I have nothing but work left in the day.

The real struggle between work and rest is that neither is completed when we separate the two. We think we have to stop working to rest and stop resting to work.

Retreat and return seem like a more natural approach and I thank God I have the freedom to choose this way for now. When the lines between retreat and return get blurry, when work looks like rest looks like work – then I know the Sabbath of Christ in me is working.

Come to Me, and He doesn’t say all will be retreat.

All you who labor and are heavy ladencome find your work in Me, and I will give you rest.

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.


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