My family is kind of big on nicknames. For Nathan and me both, nicknames can indicate fondness, and so our immediate family members have many nicknames. I would say that each of our children has at least 10 nicknames that we regularly refer to them by. Some of them you’ve probably heard, but many of them are names that are not used outside of our little family or that we don’t say within earshot of anyone else. This is because some nicknames are personal and intimate information privy to only our family. Nicknames can be real terms of endearment.

See, I believe there are different levels of nicknames. For example, the name Samuel has a generic nickname of Sam. This is a low-level nickname, because it has little to do with his actual person and it is used by basically everyone. We call Lydia Bid.  This is a mid-level nickname, because I don’t mind telling you about it and we call her that in front of extended family and close friends. As many of our nicknames do, this name evolved. Lydia>Lyddie>Litty Bitty>Bid. Something like that. We prefer it as a two-syllable nickname. Sam does it the best. Beee–udd. Now I’ll give you an example of a high-level nickname. This is a name that we only use at home and I don’t believe anyone outside our family has heard it before. (And by the way, you can’t use this nickname. You should just feel honored that I’m telling you about it at all.) Nathan calls Abby Four. This will be tricky to explain. He calls Lydia Princess, because she’s the baby and she likes it. He then called Sam Princess #2 as a joke. And because Abby is our middle child and we want to give her even more of a complex about that than she already has, he couldn’t even make her Princess #3. He gave the dog that honor and named her Princess #4. So now, that name evolved to just Four. And while this sounds crazy or possibly even a little unkind to you, you’ll just have to believe me that there is more love and connection behind this nickname than I can explain.

This year I am studying Revelation and I especially loved reading in Revelation 2:17 that we will receive a “nickname” from God. Hey, God loves to give nicknames to his children too!  It says that each of us will receive a new name that only we will understand. Think about the level of a relationship like that, and the love and intimate knowledge that this represents. This is definitely a high-level nickname that we’re gonna get. Perhaps a name that developed over the years through the experiences and conversations that God and I had together.  Or perhaps it evolved in God’s mind over time just like some of our nicknames for our kids do.  Do you know that the first time Nathan called Abby Four, she knew exactly that it was her name and she understood it? There are names that you call those that you love that no one else knows about. And even if someone else heard you say the name, they wouldn’t understand or know who you meant. Can you imagine the name that God will call you that you will understand even though you’ve never heard it? I am in awe thinking about how God has a name for me that will only be known to the two of us. To be that close to him, and to feel that loved.  It is unfathomable to me.


Island Life: When God is All You Have

This is a story about the most difficult time of my life. I’ve wanted to write it down for a long while, but I put it off because I knew it would be hard.  I pray that God will be glorified as I tell of his faithfulness to my family.

Several years ago, God asked us to pack up and move our family of four to a small  island in the West Indies. On the second day” on our own” in St. Vincent, Abby got sick. She was just two years old at the time, having celebrated her second birthday the month before we left. She had a pretty decent fever that morning of 102.5 or so. My kids have always gotten really high fevers, like over 104, so I wasn’t really alarmed. Our landlord came by that morning to check on us and saw that Abby was sick. Her fever was probably over 103 now, but we were trying to manage it with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. These fever reducers nauseate her, so she was throwing up too. He was very concerned and insisted on driving us to a doctor about half an hour away. I thought that was really unnecessary. But he was being very kind and trying to help, so we agreed.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that in our new living situation, a fever like that is a problem. First of all, we had no air conditioning to help regulate and cool down her body. Secondly, we lived an hour and a half from town and had no vehicle of our own. If we needed medical care very quickly, we wouldn’t be able to get to it. There was a bus that we could ride into town at two different times in the day, but that was all. Also, our bodies needed us to drink extra in this climate to stay hydrated, and this was hard to explain to toddlers.  These were just factors I wasn’t used to considering and hadn’t had time to think about yet since we’d just arrived.

That doctor we saw told us that he thought we should quickly get her to town (an hour and a half away) to see a doctor there, and he gave us a doctor’s name. So we rode back to our village house and started figuring how we would get to town. The bus came by that afternoon and we could ride it to town. We hadn’t ridden the bus to town yet, so this would be yet another new experience. I packed a small backpack with changes of clothes for each of us, because you always carry extra clothes for a 2 and 3 year old, and because parents holding sick kids may get barfed on.

We caught the bus for the long and windy ride to town. You haven’t been hot until you’ve held a lethargic 2-year-old with a 104 fever in your lap on a bus when it’s 90 degrees and you’re crammed up against neighbors on both sides. More and more people kept getting on the bus and we pretty much couldn’t moved. My arm went numb from holding it up to support Abby’s head, and we were both completely drenched in sweat. I just kept praying that she wouldn’t throw up on the bus, and thankfully she didn’t.

We saw a doctor that ended up being lovely and kind, who we visited again later on a few occasions. She was very concerned about Abby. As shocked as I was that we had even gone to the first doctor that morning, the real shock came next when she told us that Abby needed to be checked in to the hospital to be treated for dehydration. At that point, everything started happening in slow motion. The bus had left us near the doctor’s office. The hospital was very nearby. I will never ever forget our little family of four walking to the hospital to check Abby in. Nathan carried her while I held Sam’s hand. It felt like the longest, scariest and most unreal walk of my life. I was in complete shock that this was happening, and that everything was so completely out of my control.

You see, as far as moving my family to St. Vincent, I had done my homework. Several months before this adventure, Nathan and I had come to St. Vincent on a scouting trip. We stayed in the village where we would be living. I knew what it would be like. I knew what kind of shoes to bring for the kids, and to bring peanut butter and as many disposable pull-ups as possible. I had mentally prepared and thought through scenarios. I knew how we could live creatively and what we’d have to do without. We were prepared for this in every way that we could be, and we were backed with lots of prayer. Health was one of the few things that I couldn’t control, and a hit to our youngest would challenge and test our faith the most.

Keep in mind that we didn’t have a vehicle, a phone, or internet connection. We didn’t have a place to stay or know where to get food or water. We could barely communicate because only some people spoke some English. We were in an unfamiliar new place and we were all alone in a hospital. We now had to fully depend on God, because he was basically all we had.

They have socialized healthcare on the island, and the hospital was a far cry from the healthcare we were used to. The room they took us to had rows of beds with plain white sheets. It was a big room with a courtyard in the middle that had opened doors and windows. It looked like a scene from the  TV show MASH. The staff at the hospital didn’t smile or seem to show compassion. In hindsight, a lot of the problem was us not understanding the culture and language, and part of it was just that the staff thought we didn’t belong there.  I walked outside to a little shop with Sam where I managed to purchase a cold bottle of Sprite and Coke. These shops didn’t have bottled water, and we really needed to drink something.

It felt urgent to me to tell someone that this was happening. I needed the people that loved us and cared about us to know our situation so that they could pray, and so that I could feel not so completely far away and alone. There was a payphone in the hospital, so I bought a calling card when I bought the drinks. I could not figure out how to use it or how to work the phone. For several years before this day, I’d had a recurring dream where I was trying to dial a number to make a really important call and I messed up a number every time and got a recording. In my dream, it was so urgent to make the call that I was panicked. On that day, my recurring dream happened in real life.  I tried and tried to make that call. I finally figured out how to call collect, but I could not get an answer from any of our parents. And I couldn’t leave a message because it was a collect call. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I knew that all my friends in Texas were about to go to church. I had to call numbers I knew, because  I had no phone or stored numbers. I finally called my dear friend Kim. I remember the relief I felt in hearing a familiar voice, and how I struggled to get the words out. I told her to please tell everyone at church to pray, and to please call my dad until he answered. It was so difficult to figure out how to call her that I had no idea when I could call anyone again.

Pretty soon we were told that only one person was allowed to stay the night with Abby in the hospital. Nathan had the phone number of a pastor that lived in town that we had gotten to know a little. We called him to tell him our situation, and he came to the hospital. He then contacted another couple that lived nearby, a sweet older couple also from the states that helped print some materials for his church. The couple said that Sam and I could stay with them for the night. As far as Abby’s comfort, she might have chosen me to stay the night with her. But I was scared to death and we knew it needed to be Nathan. He was so good about watching to make sure that everything was sterile and came out of a package, and he held our precious girl absolutely all night long and kept her from pulling out her IV that she kept tugging on. I can’t imagine how he felt, how exhausted he was and how hard it was to watch our baby so scared and hurting. I found out later that she would cry and ask for me in the night, and it broke his heart that I couldn’t be there.

I had never met this couple, and now I was being welcomed into their home on the hardest day of my life. Before we left the hospital, I was getting a migraine and Sam was refusing drink. He didn’t like carbonated drinks when he was little, and we hadn’t had access to clean water or any juice. I was just about in a panic about him not drinking, thinking that he could end up dehydrated as well. I was in horrible headache pain, trying to discreetly be sick in the bathroom of this couple’s home without them knowing. I remember sitting in their living room drinking their clean filtered water and getting Sam to drink while trying to make some type of decent conversation. I have probably never been more mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted in my life. I just kept thinking how I had to get through this. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was in such pain myself, and all I could think about was Nathan and Abby, wondering what was happening and how she was. It all still felt like a nightmare, and I just lay there asking God what he was doing with us.

The next morning I was so anxious to get back to the hospital but dependent on our hosts to take us. She wanted to cook us breakfast, and all I could think was that we just needed to leave. By this point, Nathan  hadn’t eaten for almost 24 hours, so I quickly made him 2 tuna sandwiches to take with us. At about 7 am, he called their house. When I answered he said abruptly ” When are you coming?” I knew I had to get there fast.  I believe it was the hardest night for him ever.

At the hospital that morning we waited a long time for the doctor  that we had visited in her office the day before to come by and check on Abby. This finally happened about midday. The doctor said that Abby was definitely getting better, but she wanted  her to stay another night in the hospital. Nathan immediately protested. The doctor explained that she didn’t feel good about us going back to our home in the village so far away from town when Abby was in this condition. Nathan quickly asked if she could be discharged from the hospital if we would stay there in town for a couple of nights. The doctor agreed for us to do that, and to come back and visit her office before we headed back to the village in a couple of days.

There was a guesthouse in town where we’d stayed just about a week before that with our colleagues to do some training together. We knew how to get there on the bus, so we headed there and got checked in. We were able to spend some time there sort of  recovering from this experience. The people who worked there were kind, and there was a small store on the first level where we could get food and drinks. There were even phones in the rooms that we already knew how to make calls from, so we could call home to those who were anxiously waiting to hear news.   Nathan also used this time in town to figure out how to get some of the things that we now knew we definitely needed, like a cell phone and our own vehicle.  We saw the doctor and Abby was cleared to go back to the village. And after being “thrown into the fire” with this initial experience, we went back to our village house and started trying to figure out how to function and make it our home.

I would like to end this story by telling you that eleven years later, I see clearly what God was doing and why this happened. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. There are parts of this that are still unresolved for me and maybe always will be. I think that God allowed us to be tested. I know that the enemy did not want the people of St. Vincent to have God’s story in their language. I wonder if he thought that he could discourage us or plant enough doubt to make us give up and come home. I’m not sure about all that, but I do know this: God wanted to make it completely clear to us that he was in control. He knew there were a lot of things that we could control on our own, and he wanted to teach us to rely on him even for the little things we thought we could manage without him.  And all I can figure is that he had to take away all our control in order to do this.  And once we got past this first experience, we knew we were going to make it on the island. Because even the hard days later were all easier than those first ones.

The Father’s Love

The relationship between a daddy and daughter is something pretty special. This youngest girl of ours is so much like her daddy. Their minds work a lot alike. He listens to her and understands her in a way that I can’t. They sure have a lot of adventures together building, playing, and thinking.

These two have a very specific bedtime routine each evening. Our girl has struggled with fear a lot at night, so the bedtime routine is very important to her. After they talk and pray together, she asks her daddy which of her stuffed animals he loves. She has a bazillion stuffed animals, but the one that daddy loves the most that day will be assured a spot in her bed to cuddle with her that night. She also asks him, “What should I think about?” He tells her some really random and interesting idea to consider, to give her mind something to do and keep it off of scary things. What amazes me is the details that Nathan knows. He knows the crazy names of all these stuffed animals. He understands how her brain works, and what things she likes to think about. I’ve tried a couple of times to fill in for him when he’s gone. I’m really bad at it. I’m also tired and more impatient at bedtime, and I can’t make the kind of connections with her that he can. Our conversation goes something like:

“Mommy, who do you love?”

“Um, Pinky. Is that someone? ”

“No, that’s not one of my animals. What should I think about?”

“Ummm, blankets.” (Cause I saw a blanket.)

See, pretty bad. So because of this, when Nathan is gone, he leaves Lydia a list like this:


This list has a special spot beside Lydia’s bed, and it brings her so much comfort each night. And let me just clarify that some of the questions you have in your mind after seeing this list are questions that I can’t even answer. These two have their own special communication, and some of this is completely out of my realm. But this beautiful and unique aspect of their father/daughter relationship has so many parallels to our relationship with our heavenly father. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • He pays attention to little details simply because they are important to you, his child.
  • He gives you the very specific things you need to make you feel secure.
  • He knows the unique way that your mind works. He can speak things to you that only make sense to the two of you.
  • He loves you so much that no matter what other important tasks or work he has to do, your needs are a priority. 

May you be encouraged today and reminded that your heavenly father loves you and understands you like no one else can. Through that intimate knowledge of your person, he speaks to you and acts on your behalf. The Father’s love is the greatest gift.




Nathan Payne’s Eating Rules


The following is given to you with full permission from my favorite husband, Nathan Payne. He sent these rules to me straight from his computer, where they are stored for safe keeping. My instructions from him were to “not be mean”. The fact that I am writing and posting this while he is out of the country is purely coincidental I’m sure. 

My husband Nathan lived in the Amazon jungle with his parents and two brothers until the year he started high school. He can out-eat just about anybody, which you understand if you’ve shared a meal with us. He does not waste food and will eat anything. He has rules that he follows when he eats. He would really like those closest to him to follow his rules as well, but that doesn’t always happen.

Several years ago he started calling out members of our extended family that were breaking “his rules” when we ate together. After ongoing dialogue, arguing and some definite mocking,  I believe he first wrote down his rules at his brother’s request. Because it was hard for us all to keep up with how he wanted us to eat, so we really needed it in writing to be able to accurately make fun of—I mean,  understand it. One day he decided to post the list in our dining room so the kids would be clear on what was expected. I allowed the list to stay posted for a good long while, but it looked tacky and I finally removed it. However, there is no question that our kids know these rules and are not going to break them at least in front of Nathan!

Nate’s Eating Rules  (plus entertaining explanations and  commentary) 

  1. You may only have one piece of meat per tortilla when eating fajitas. (Technically, never two meats beside each other if the pieces are short.) This is because he can eat so much that when he orders fajitas, he rations the meat to fill as many tortillas as possible. 
  2. You may not eat hot dogs or hamburgers without buns.  He used to get really unhappy after a big meal when he noticed that there were more buns left than meat. He would start looking for the person who didn’t eat their bun and ask them why they did that and what they thought we were going to do with these extra buns. I am pretty sure his brothers did it on purpose. 
  3. You have to eat the pizza crust unless it’s a buffet.  This is one of the most widely enforced food rules that I can basically support. We have generally incorporated this at home. Note my use of the words “basically” and “generally”. 
  4. You may only have one slice of pear preserves per pancake. I’m pretty sure this was passed down from his grandfather,  who wanted to make the homemade preserves last as long as possible. We don’t really have pear preserves so much, but I think this rule is included because he was so excited that someone else actually had a food rule.
  5. You have to string the string cheese. This is just dumb. I’ll eat my cheese however I want and right in front of him to be aggravating.  If I had time to string it, I’d have time to make and eat a snack that wasn’t prepackaged. 
  6. You may not leave meat at restaurants unless it’s a buffet. This means that he wants to eat the meat left on the plate of anyone in our extended family. Really, if you’re not related to us he wants to eat your meat too rather than let it be wasted, but thankfully he has some type of social boundary here.  I’m sure this has come as a bit of an awkward shock to new sister-in-laws on various occasions. No meat left behind.
  7. You can’t dislike something you haven’t tried. I am good with this rule. If you are unwilling to try something, you shouldn’t say that you don’t like it. 
  8. You can’t give food to animals unless no human within shouting distance wants the food. (Even if the human doesn’t want to eat the food then but would save it to eat later.) I know lots of y’all feed your fur babies, and we’ve never really had an inside dog for this to be a big point of contention. Basically, Nathan wants to eat anything that you would feed your dog other than dog food. 
  9. On a road trip, you must eat all non-snack food in the car before you stop at a restaurant. (And it’s strongly encouraged to take food on the trip.) Nathan and I maybe don’t have the same definition of “non-snack food”.  A particular story comes to mind where there were a dozen giant cinnamon rolls from Ikea in the car and we were apparently supposed to all eat those instead of stopping for lunch. Let’s just say it didn’t make for a lovely drive.  Also worth noting: “Take food on the trip” actually means that it’s ideal if your wife gets up even earlier and makes tons and tons of sandwiches for the road. The amount of food that Nathan can eat when bored on a road trip is a whole other thing.  And it might be a little hard to find motivation to make sandwiches if not making them means that we get to stop at a restaurant. Yea, his plan has some flaws. 

I am sharing these rules with you because it gives you a fun glimpse of my husband and our little adventures together. Nathan still adamantly follows these rules and probably always will. Looking at his eating rules again also reminds me how  we bring some pretty set ideas into marriage based on our background and life experiences.  Ten years ago, as silly as it seems, Nathan and I basically went to battle over whether or not we  would make our then-preschool kids follow some of these rules.  We were young  and inexperienced parents, scared to death that making our kids eat the hot dog bun or allowing them to not eat the hot dog bun was basically going to do irreparable damage. We were not choosing our battles with our kids or with each other as wisely as we do now, and we certainly didn’t understand each other as well. Now I can see how we much we have grown, and how we have both given some and made allowances on silly eating rules and on so much more.

Jesus Is Better


Nathan has been traveling to a certain country for a couple of years now that’s a little more risky than other places.  A few months ago, there was a workshop in that country to start several new projects, and he really needed to be there. He made some creative preparations to be able to travel differently than the norm. But  our organization was concerned because things were happening politically and the travel risk was heightened.  The workshop was just days away, and the whole process of not knowing if he would go or even should go was tough for me. Of course safety was a huge concern, but on the other hand there was this country where he’d already been working years and spent many hours investing in the work. It was hard to believe that God wouldn’t want him to continue.

While we were praying and considering this, we received word that the border he was planning to walk across with the neighboring country had been closed by the government after some people were shot there. I spent a lot of time waiting for God to speak a clear yes or no, but it didn’t feel like God was saying anything.

One Sunday during all of this I started feeling particularly antsy.  Maybe because many people at church were asking me the plan and it was just particularly hard to not know. That day we sang a song called “Jesus is Better”. We got to a point in the song where we sang “Than any comfort, Jesus is better. Make my heart believe.” At that point, God was pretty straight with me. He said, “Katy, am I better than any comfort of this world? Am I better than the comfort of knowing the plan, the comfort of having your husband home with you, the comfort of not sending him to a hard place? Does your heart truly believe that Jesus is better? Does it want to believe?” If that weren’t enough, our pastor  got up and closed the service with part of 2 Timothy 4. “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

FULLY. I had to release Nathan to fully carry out the ministry God had given him. And I had to be ready to carry out the ministry that was given to me–to stay here in the chaos that would unfold with these three kids and rely on Jesus, knowing and trying hard to believe that he is better than any comfort in this world.  I knew in my head that Jesus was better, and I began to pray that my heart would believe too.  I didn’t know then if Nathan would actually be going on the trip, but mainly I felt certain I was being asked to be willing to send him. And somehow this little conversation with God helped relieve some of my uncertainty.

Nathan did not end up going on that trip. Our organization ultimately decided that it wasn’t safe at that time, and the work would have to be done in other creative ways. But I’ve gone back often to that moment of God speaking to me in church that day. There are a lot of days where I need to be reminded that Jesus is better than anything he might ask me to give up. Better than the comfort of having Nathan home with us.  Jesus is worth a travel risk. He’s better than having enough money to make decisions with financial ease.  And yes, Jesus is even worth the tears my youngest cries when she says goodbye to her daddy.  That situation in your life that is so hard for your family or that thing that you struggle to find joy in can turn into your gift to Jesus. Just tell him that you are okay with that hard thing, because you know that he’s better.  That he means so much more to you than that thing does.  Just keep praying that he will make your heart believe.

Hear the song “Jesus is Better”

Island Life: Celebrations and Sprinkles


I like for life to be one big celebration. At our house, we celebrate things big and small. I don’t mean in an extravagant or monetary kind of way. But finding a reason to celebrate is important to me. It all started over 10 years ago when we lived on an island…

When we lived in St. Vincent, the normal ways of celebrating special occasions weren’t an option for us. We couldn’t get together with our family or close friends, go out to our favorite restaurant, or make our favorite dessert or cake. And even when there were holiday celebrations going on around us, they were different and we didn’t necessarily feel like a part.

We were doing some very rewarding work of getting God’s story into a language that didn’t have it.  It was the task that we know God clearly gave us for that time, and we were exactly where we wanted to be. But that doesn’t mean it was always  fun or exciting.  Life was mundane. The household tasks alone were overwhelming, and we had no help. Between the work on the project, two kids, and the household, we almost had full-time work for four people.  Nathan and I worked a lot, but we tried to dedicate some time to family fun. But it was hard to even think of “fun” things we wanted to do.

So we improvised and made our own celebrations a lot.  We had family water games in our back yard one day. We used lots of sprinkles in the kitchen. We started the weekly tradition of French Toast Friday, because this was one of the few foods from home we could get all the ingredients to make.  We found things to be excited about, because it didn’t feel like there was a lot to look forward to.

So here are some really simple things that  learned from our island life about celebrations and sprinkles:

  1. Celebrate more. Holidays, accomplishments, each other. Find a reason to celebrate.
  2. Use more sprinkles. Green sprinkles in milk on St. Patrick’s Day. Blue sprinkles on brownies to show school spirit.  Sprinkles on yogurt, hot cocoa, and pudding. Just because. Life needs more sprinkles.
  3. Throw more parties. A dance party in the living room. A movie party with popcorn and m&m’s. A picnic lunch by the pond. Your family is a party waiting to happen.

My Top 10 Highlights of (the last 2 weeks of) 2015

I wanted to write something really eloquent and reflective about 2015. But nothing came to me and I finally gave up on that idea. So if you were hoping for that, feel free to quit reading now.  Seriously, I can’t remember if something was two years ago or which kid it was that even did that thing.  About the last 2 weeks is all the accurate details I can recover, so I’ll give you my highlights of the Christmas break:

  1. Watching “Fixer Upper” on Netflix with the fam. We rarely find anything we all want to watch or the actual time to watch anyway. I loved logging a few hours together on this.
  2. Lydia cleaning her room. Like a boss. Out of nowhere. (See Christmas Parenting Win)
  3. Abby helping Nathan and me keep a tally to see who makes fun of the other one the most.  Sarcasm is my love language. I can’t help it.
  4. Girl talks. I’ve got one that turns 13 next month. I’m grateful for the increased time together that led to a couple of girl talks that really needed to happen.
  5. Sam making a movie.  He loves to make Lego stop-motion videos. I love that he has been using Bible stories, and I loved listening to him consult his dad on some of the narration.
  6. Abby cooking. She has generally been less interested in cooking than her siblings, but she’s kind of gotten in to baking recently. One day, she even invited us all to a special breakfast.
  7. Lydia’s Christmas scavenger hunt. The only thing she really asked for this Christmas was a scavenger hunt. As she was running around the yard and house, we heard her yell “I don’t see a pony in here!” I wondered if there would be crying at the end of the hunt, but she seemed to take the “no pony” thing pretty well.
  8. Sam eating a whole can of cashews in one day. He was very thirsty that day. Then he said, “Mom, I’ve been eating these and I just can’t stop!” 2240 calories and 182 fat grams later. Now I am putting them into serving-size containers and hiding the can.
  9. Science fair project complete! I am so glad that this third child has her own ideas, works independently, and gets it done. This project was OPTIONAL, so I am also proud of myself for not saying no or bribing her with $200 to not participate. Not that I considered that.
  10. Really enjoying time with my kids, who are now big enough that being with them doesn’t involve so much “work” for me. It can finally be relaxing. Sometimes.