Most Likely To Succeed (but not together)

Nathan and I graduated from the same high school in the same year, where we were both voted “Most Likely To Succeed”. Together. However, it turns out we were not actually most likely to succeed together statistically speaking.

Because we are both firstborns. Over a decade ago I read Kevin Lehman’s birth order book. It was a book that influenced and has helped me in child-raising probably more than any other. But it also talked about how birth order affects marriage.

This book said that the worst possible marriage combination is a first born and a first born. Lehman said these were the couples most likely to have problems and most likely to be in his office for counseling. I remember reading that a decade ago and saying to myself “Wow, I’m so glad we don’t have that problem.” That was pre-living overseas, having a traveling husband, raising teens and a lot of life in general.  Recently as I reread this section of the book about the tendencies of firstborns and the issues those tendencies can create in marriage, I laughed and laughed and laughed. Because these issues are definitely the cause of most of our conflicts.

We are definitely not “Most Likely To Succeed Together”. Apparently, we are least likely based on these statistics. Statistics that I might add are slightly depressing.  Everything that I’ve read and found on the subject basically says if you are a firstborn dating a firstborn, RUN. Run away. Well, it’s a bit too late for that at this point.

Basically, I guess this makes us crazy people who God decided were up for a special challenge.  Because we are committed, we are tough and hard-working, and we would never quit on this thing. We are two people who choose to love every day, because that is what marriage requires. The world likes to tell us what is supposed to work and not work.  In this day and age, anyone who stays married is beating the odds.  God often has another plan than what the world says should work, and aren’t we glad? Shout out to all of you who choose to work hard for your marriages, and show the world that God’s ways are not the world’s ways.

Sixteen years of marriage later, our daughter Abby had us in a photo shoot where we decided to take cheesy engagement-like photos.
Sixteen years of marriage later, our daughter Abby had us in a photo shoot where we decided to take cheesy engagement-like photos.

Obedience Over Outcome

This summer I’m studying  the book of Isaiah in the Bible with the help of a study book. I’m getting real, new and applicable lessons for my own life out of Isaiah that I had missed before. I am continually amazed and how God uses his word like this. Anyway…

Isaiah was sent to give a message to the people.  His conversation with God can be found here. God told him that most of the people wouldn’t listen, and that their hearts would be hardened even more as a result of his message. Not only would they not respond and take the message to heart, but things were actually going to get worse before they got better. Basically, that Isaiah would seemingly fail on his mission. Or would he? It sure sounded that way.

How many times in my life do I focus on the outcome I’m hoping for in my obedience to God? I am actually fairly good to start out on the right foot with just a desire to simply obey no matter what. But then as I see how God might use me, a desire develops in my own heart to see good outcomes. I mean, who doesn’t want good outcomes?  But I soon become too focused on that instead of just doing what God said.  Even in the process of obeying, it can become too much about the outcome.

I am not responsible for the outcomes.  My obedience may have a purpose for me personally or in the big picture that is completely beyond my understanding. It won’t always make sense to me or those around me. It may even make me look like a fool. (Don’t you love it when that happens?) The obedience is what God asks of me.

There may be times when, like Isaiah, I can see from the beginning that it “won’t work”. What if God asks me to do something that is destined for failure? Maybe he’s teaching me an important lesson, laying the groundwork for something else in the future, or doing something bigger that I will never even get to see or understand. Am I willing to obey no matter what? Is my mission about obedience or the outcome?

Haven’t I always been a Christian?

This is the story of how Lydia became a Christian. You can read my stories about Abby and Samuel also.

Lydia never even considered the fact that she wasn’t a Christian. I know that a person has to choose what they believe for themselves, and we definitely wanted her to do that. But I believe that because of the parents, older siblings, church and friends all around her, she doesn’t even remember not believing. She chose all along the way for herself without saying anything out loud to let us know what she was thinking. Lydia is very matter-of-fact. At age five, she kept asking why she couldn’t have communion. And I kept saying we needed to talk about it later, not during communion. And then I guess we didn’t.

But one day during communion at church, she was sitting on her daddy’s lap. She said, “Daddy, why can’t I have communion?  I’m a Christian! I believe in Jesus.” She was so adamant and almost offended that she needed to justify herself to us. He began asking her questions about what she believed, and what the communion represented. She had all the answers. And being the wise daddy that he is, he said “You’re right. You do have God’s Spirit inside you.”

And that day she took communion for the first time and officially became a part of God’s family.

She is confident to be herself and to share her heart with the world.
She is confident to be herself and to share her heart with the world. What she says she believes, she most certainly does.

We parents try to make it complicated. We get super concerned about if our kids “really get it”. How old do they have to be? How much do the have to understand? Knowing a person will never understand it all, what level of understanding is a must?

And my question is why does it matter? Why are we so careful to “make sure” before we validate to our child that they are a Christian?  Do we think that God will disapprove of our child’s premature decision to follow him? What if they don’t really understand enough, and this is really a stage of “pre-salvation”? I guess I would say that if it is, well so what. I’d rather my child be headed in the right direction and understanding as they go. I’d rather them decide to be a Christian early on. If I haven’t been pushing them and it is truly their desire, then I believe that is God speaking to their hearts.

As they continue to strive for more understanding and grow their relationship with God, they’ll have additional milestones and markers where God reveals himself and his purposes for them in a new way. I am pretty sure that this is how the Christian life is supposed to work. Not just for kids, but for everyone.  I know way more now than I did at age six when I joined God’s family. I still don’t know it all and never will.  But the desire in my heart to know God, acknowledge what he’s done for me and have him in charge of my life is the same now as it was then.

Lydia, our youngest child, gave us a new perspective on passing down the faith and what it can look like to grow up just always believing. Do I wonder if she will ever question God or her beliefs when she’s older? I actually hope that she will to some degree, because I want her to continue to wrestle with understanding spiritual things on higher levels and making her beliefs more solid.

To hear it straight from Lydia (and Sam and Abby) check out the video Payne Kids Testimonies that was shown on their baptism day.


Posing as a Family of Four

We just did an overnight trip to Waco, Texas. The girls wanted to check out Magnolia Market and I was anxious to show them all the fun things I had discovered to do in Waco a few months ago. I wanted to take this trip before it got too hot outside and before Nathan left the country again. Plus the last week of school and the first week of summer caught me off guard with their antics, and I really needed to get away for a minute and breathe deeply.

There was only one problem: My son wasn’t here to go with us on this spontaneous little trip. Being home without him is one thing, but posing ourselves to the world as a family of four is a whole different deal.

I knew if we waited until he could go, we wouldn’t get to. I knew that he was in Chicago on a trip with his high school band at museums and cruising on Lake Michigan. He didn’t need me to feel sorry for him and no mom-guilt could be justified here. Yet still, this would be our first time to plan a trip without him.

We were able to experience the convenience that comes with being a family of four. I bought a Groupon for four, and it was enough. We didn’t need to make an extra sleeping spot in the hotel room. We fit neatly in a restaurant booth. Hey! There were some great things here about being a family of four.


But still, as I made the sandwiches that morning for our picnic lunch, I found myself wanting to include Sam in the food count. About that moment, I got a text from him saying “Hey mom. Good morning.” And I almost teared up, because I remembered he wasn’t coming with us. The back seat of the van would be empty. This was the stage of life I was heading into.

We looked like a cute little family of four. Watching the girls with their dad was especially sweet to me on this trip. He is such a good girl dad, and he slips into that mode so well when our boy is gone. He carries purses. He lets us stay longer. He accommodates wardrobe changes between biking and shopping. He waits patiently by the van while it inevitably takes at least one of us a few extra minutes to get ourselves prepared and out of the vehicle. He calls everyone “princess” and “muffin” and makes us feel like his treasures.


This weekend I relaxed and enjoyed my people, but there were moments where I missed that boy and wished he could have seen some certain thing that I knew he would have loved. I assume that those moments will happen forever for my whole life. And over time, we will make these transitions and leave behind one older kid at a time. Maybe in a couple of years, I’ll be a little more comfortable posing as a family of four. Probably just at the time we’ll start posing as a family of three instead.