Sharp Paynes

Never a dull moment…

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Back-Ups and To-do Lists

This is the final week of Project Simplify.  I like that this project was simple and short, reminding me that being organized doesn’t happen all at once but rather it’s an ongoing process.  A compilation of small steps, really.

I’m happy to report that the 3 projects from previous weeks are still intact and organized.  The boys know where their clothes go, the kitchen cupboards don’t cause anxiety, and my paper files and office supplies downstairs are still in the correct places.

But this week was different.

This week, I planned on organizing my computer a little.

I did manage to unsubscribe from several emails and weed out a few files.  Tuesday evening, though, all my other plans came to a halt.  Tuesday evening, all my most important computer files went AWOL.  Pictures, Quicken, business documents, and who knows what else.

Since I’m just one step above computer-illiterate, I can’t really explain adequately what happened.  They just went “poof”.  I panicked.

The kids met dad at the door and gave him the news and the warning.

See, whenever something happens with any technology that I’ve come to depend on, I kind of blow my top.  I just want these things to work, always, and I despise spending any time trying to fix them.

Praise the Lord, I managed to recover the Quicken files and several documents after some digging and I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing computer finagling.  Coaxing, pleading, praying.

The ‘funny’ thing is that I’ve had on my to-do list for 2 months:

Back-up computer

There are reasons why I put it off – a dvd drive that quit working and an external hard drive that was too full.  But truly, I just procrastinate sometimes.

I like things simple and if they’re not, sometimes I just don’t play along.  Bad move.

Do you think God is talking to me about something?  That He actually cares about my computer?  Or is it my character?

My Project Simplify this week was to take my computer in to someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who will find all my missing stuff (praying!) and someone who will probably scold me for not taking better care of it and keeping things backed-up.  I am using the minuscule Acer netbook now and am thankful for it, but it’s just not the same.

So in light of my ignorance, Project Simplify will continue even though March is over and Tsh at is finished with it.

Anyone have tips on:

  1. saving and organizing digital pictures
  2. a simple way to organize pictures for blog posts (flickr?)
  3. backing-up efficiently – online or disk or external hard drive or…
  4. using “The Cloud” or not

Kind suggestions in simple words welcomed.  Thanks, friends!



Five Minute Friday: Gift

I have five minutes to write about “Gift” with no editing or over-thinking, thanks to the prompt from Lisa-Jo.  My mind is racing like Scrat after the nut, but here goes…

My kids.  Four of them given to me all dependent and squalling.  How could I ever manage this responsibility?  Only by grace, you know.  And so much more of it for each day.

{this is where I insert the gorgeous pictures of my kids…instead, I’ll use this space to remind you all to back-up your computers because you never know when things will mysteriously go missing.  Seriously.}

I ask God why you couldn’t all just be cookie-cutter-kids.  All with the same needs and desires and personalities, instead of four people as different as could be.  Wouldn’t this parenting job be so much easier if we all played by the same rules?  If what ‘works’ with one child ‘worked’ with all?

I guess He doesn’t want a boring life for us.  Great adventure, this life with personalities.

You all are my adventure.  Knowing you, loving you, teaching and learning with you.  I fail miserably and you see it and love me anyway.

So many times I pray you forget what I said and just remember there is grace for us all…

He reminds me what you, we, all of us need.  The law makes no one perfect, but grace.  Grace brings us to Jesus.

These kids and this grace work together on me.  Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father, and we have to embrace them all squalling and dependent.


Family Dinner

There are tears at dinner and someone wants to be excused.

What happened to family time and lively discussions?  To “how was your day” and “great soup, mom”?

The soup is cold and the stare, it goes right through.

All my warm-fuzzies disappear and I am frustrated.  Selfishness abounds in our jars of clay, and I really am no different.  I really could use a good dose of sound judgement.

So my husband and I, we are partners in this thing called parenting and we tag-team.  He talks, I pray.  I talk, he prays.

We choose carefully but probe the hearts, push over barriers, dig up roots.  Maybe we point out too much, things that the Holy Spirit can reveal better than  our words do.  We pray He uses our words and pray He shapes them before they enter our children’s hearts.

We are trying to do this right, to train without provocation.

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. ~ Eph. 6:4

But there are bitternesses that build when parental eyes aren’t watching, and habits.  Always those  habits.

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. — Charlotte Mason

The mother who takes pains.

So many habits seem to form painlessly, and it’s the effort of training in good habits that wearies.  There are so many rules we could make and thou-shalts that we could throw down, but the heart is not trained by vaporous words, is it?

We pray for Life to breath into this mealtime.

No one is excused from the table of hard fellowship, because fellowship and family are not about warm-fuzzies and can’t- everyone-just-be-nice.  

This is the hard work of family.

I say it several times this week, to friends hurting and children wanting solitude.  Living with people is hard work and God grows us all up in that love-labor, where we do the confronting and the repenting and the working it all out because He worked it all out.  And sometimes it only works out in us, not them.

I try to live those words I say.

It’s the hard work that means the job is worthwhile, right?  This is all worth the pain and the yuck that we stir-up?  Because I prefer an easy life with smiling people.  I prefer to be the one excused from the table sometimes.

After dinner, there is repentance.  A long talk with the one who prefers silence, repentance from one who heard Life breathed through vaporous-words-redeemed.  Tonight we can sleep with the grace-covering.

The adults and children alike have learned something, all of us working out this walking together.  All of us made in His image.  All of us needing grace.  We learn (again) that words have power and wounds left to fester will eventually burst open, and we learn that running away from the table of hard fellowship doesn’t solve problems.

Two things I intend to train as habits, in myself and my children:

  1. Walk circumspectly – Eph. 5:15-16  (watch your time and how it’s spent)
  2. be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving – Eph. 4:32 (watch your words and how you use them)

Dinner sometimes becomes about more than eating, with more dirt than food  on the table.  Let’s pass the antacids, roll up our sleeves,  and work it out.

Project Simplify Week 3

Paper clutter weighs me down.

Throwing things away is one of my favorite hobbies, but alas, it gets me in trouble sometimes.  I am technically the secretary for my husband’s business, and more than once I’ve ‘lost’ something important.  The boss is pretty forgiving but I really need to work on my bad habit of tossing things I don’t want to deal with.

Last year my in-laws gave me a money gift for my birthday and I was ecstatic (really!) to buy this simple file for my kitchen.

It just makes me happy.  A place to put things, to clear them off the counter, to hide the paperwork I loathe and the bills that stack, the newsletters I really do want to read, just not now.  Pretty little file folders to go inside and cover the things I don’t want to deal with.

Can you see the problem here?  I’ll let you draw your own spiritual analogies, but go easy on me.

Remember peek-a-boo with babies?  If something is out-of-site for more than a few…seconds, it really is out-of-mind.  I’ve stashed several important things in this nifty box that really needed prompt attention, rather than hiding.

So today I semi-dealt with them, and I let go of a stack of things that were just never going to be read.

A little freedom!

This handy-dandy file sits on a not-so-lovely shelf in my kitchen.  It’s one of those things that you just look at differently one day, and smack your forehead and think, “That looks really hideous.  I’ve been living with that for how long?”.

We are moving in about 648  hours, so I was tempted to just dump everything in a packing box and show you a lovely-but-fake ‘after’ picture.  I resisted.  I reassigned and rearranged and came up with something not quite so disheveled.

I even labeled the boxes!  I guess this will do for a few more weeks.

Last but not least, the infamous drawer-of-homeless-items.




All these little tasks just make me happy.  Pretty simple!





If the words ‘simple’ and ‘organized’ make you happy, click on the Project Simplify button on the right to check out some great stuff.

Five Minute Friday: Loud

Loud.  No editing, no over-thinking, but five straight minutes of writing about loud…


All I could think of is India.  India is loud.  Honking, beeping, shouting, mooing loud.  And my husband, when talking with someone who speaks little english – he talks loud.  Because surely that will help them understand.

Beyond that, nothing.  Can’t I write about quiet?  I like quiet.

I went to and searched “loud” in the NKJV.

Of the 72 or so times the word “loud” came up, the  huge majority (I didn’t count)  were found in the book of Revelations.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. – Rev 12:10 NKJV

Yes!  Something worth shouting, the kind of loud I can rejoice in.

I prefer quiet, but aren’t some things just necessary to be loud about?

The demons cast out, they were loud.  The threats from the Assyrians, they were shouted for all to hear.  The people crying out for deliverance and rescue were not quiet about it.

The accuser of the brethren, day and night pointing his finger at us before God, his voice is loud in our ears.  {Can we please be louder than that accusing voice, and encourage one another loud enough to silence him?}

And though He never raised His voice in the streets, my Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice when it was finished.  One day He and His angels will be heard with a loud voice (hallelujah!) and all my quietness will rejoice.

Trumpets and angels and the people of God, all loud for His coming.


The Well-Loved Wife

Nobody said this would be easy, this marriage thing.  Paul says it’s a  picture of Christ and the church, of uncontainable love poured out and lavished on the somewhat unwilling.  Of submission and trust and respect for that loving authority.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, – Eph 5:22, 25 NKJV

Loving me as Christ loved the church must be tough.  I think submission is hard sometimes, but to love the unlovely, the crabby, grumpy, unthankful,  and mumbling?  The pony-tailed and sweaty?

And to love me not only in the way that makes me feel loved, with flowers or chocolate or date-nights or spontaneous house-cleaning.  Or built-in book shelves.

To love me the way I need it, too.   The way I sometimes don’t want  it.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church.

Loving me by telling me no sometimes, telling me to wait, to be patient, to stop asking.

Or telling me, for my own good, to do those hard things.  You love me like that, and I’m the better for it.

You love me enough to tell me what I don’t want but desperately need to hear.  You’ve never said it quite like this, but you could:

“Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.”

Yep.  You married a silly, selfish girl.  Did you know that?   Did you know that loving me like Christ loved the church would be such a sacrifice?

You sure do it well.  You are gentle with me and patient.

I just want to thank you.  Thank you for being like Christ and loving the unlovely.  For sacrificing and  cherishing and nurturing.

Like iron sharpens iron, we bristle and grate sometimes on our way to sanctification.  But what joy in this marriage!  How blessed I am to share life with you.

Thank you.

And that part at the end of Ephesians 5, about wives respecting their husbands?

A man leaves early every morning and sweats and toils, tapes up bleeding fingers and makes beauty out of wood and nails.  He gets up 6 days of the week with an alarm, eats thousands of sandwiches without complaining, counsels, teaches, builds, fixes,  reads stories, preaches to the unreached, runs miles and miles with his slow wife, and sometimes makes pancakes for his family or does the dishes.

Respect almost seems like an understatement.  Couldn’t there be a bigger word?  You deserve more than I give, but I hope, pray, yearn for you to know that I do.  I do respect you.

You are amazing, for so many more things than I can list here.  You are amazing when you smile at the end of a hard day and when you play that game of checkers or Linkology.  You are amazing when you laugh at my silly-woman-who-needs-to-get-out-more humor, when you read my words and think I’m something special.

My encourager, my gentle leader, my strong-man and my teacher.  My crush and my best friend.

Thank you.

When Prayer is a Struggle

I sit to pray because it’s the thing to do.  The way to start my day off right and almost like ‘insurance’ for my plans.  Not the best approach to prayer, I’ll admit.

But even if my heart yearns for it, sometimes my mind is not on board with the idea.

Sometimes the ping-pong that has replaced my brain just won’t settle long enough for a cohesive thought to form.  The ‘cares of this world’ crowd in on me – the school work, the bills, the ever-growing-to-do list.

I struggle to pray, struggle to read, struggle to settle my focus on the Lord Who knows all my cares.

…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. – 1Pe 5:7 NKJV

There’s also the guilt.

The bedtime words that have lingered over to this morning, pressing on me like dead weight.  They are dead weight, leftovers of the old man crucified.

I tucked my kids in with condemnation, frustration, anger.

Where is the way out of this?

I am surrounded by the provocations of last night.  The dishwasher full of clean dishes, the counter full of dirty ones.  Floors unswept, garbage full, toilets dirty.  And a whole busy day ahead.

Is any of it really worth a second thought?  Even the whole dirty combination of things, is it worth wounded hearts and biting words and unmerciful lists?

And have I failed again only to let the guilt of it all separate me from the One Who is Mercy?

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. – Lam 3:21-23 NKJV

New.  Every.  Morning.

That’s always been my way out, my hope for the redemption of words I can’t take back and deeds mis-done.

In the morning we can start over.

I leave my chair and ora et labora, pray and work.

I do the chores because my kids are more important and if I don’t remove this burden, it weighs my children down, as well.

We’ll talk later about responsibilities and I’ll remind them that we all have work to do, but for now I just know that they don’t need to wake up to the same heaviness I did.

“Good morning.   Do your chores,” is no way to greet my kids.

I make pancakes.  It’s a Friday morning and that usually means toast or oatmeal.   Pancakes are for Saturday, for eating while listening to Odyssey and Ranger Bill.

But this is a Friday with new mercies and why not pancakes?

They come out of their rooms confused, but thankful.

That must be the joy – thankful confusion.  It sure makes me happy, and that’s always a good way to start the day.

So that’s it, my two-steps when prayer is a struggle:

  1. do the chores
  2. make pancakes

I am no authority on prayer, but I am an expert at struggling.  Struggling means you are trying, fighting against the old man, hanging on to Jesus by a thread when you feel like you’ve cut every chord.

He never turns away this kind of prayer, the one lived out in the dirty kitchen by the struggler-seeking.


Adding some ‘thankful’ to our ‘confusion’ this week…

201.  Science (can I just say, I’m thankful that someone here is thankful for science?!)

202.  the amazing, strange, funky creatures that the mind of God created

203.  kids who work together

204.  fresh paint

205.  the wonderful neighbor who makes us dinner on a busy day

206.  a house beginning to feel like home

207.  so many good friends around the table that we eat soup from strawed-cereal bowls and measuring cups!

208.  again, encouragement from my husband


Light Bulbs

I sprinted to town yesterday to purchase hundreds of light bulbs for the new house (something like that, anyways), and remembered Project Simplify…my effort to clean out clutter and get ready for our move.  I hadn’t yet conquered the week’s hotspot, and there simply wasn’t time for me to get to it.

Then I had a ‘light bulb’ moment of my own.  I did what all resourceful women do.

I called for help.

My daughters are 14 and 11 and are both ‘organizers’.  So when I called them and talked them through the before and after pictures, the cupboards that particularly needed attention, and the joy of being featured on mom’s blog, they were all in.

How’s that for ‘simplifying’?

There are several things about this kitchen I dislike, but I’ve tried to be thankful for it.  We spent 6 months in an RV before we moved here 5 years ago, and I try to remember how ecstatic I was to have a home again.  But this kitchen has very little storage space and the storage it does have seems to have been designed for a micro-family.  Like, The Borrowers.

My main irritation currently is the cupboard we store all our food storage containers in.  Drives me absolutely crazy, and always makes me groan.  It is narrow and deep and not really good for much.  I am tired of crawling into it with my backside sticking out, trying to find a lid and a dish that go together.

I talked the girls through the swap.  Take all the plastics out and switch them with the items in the hutch, which also needed organizing.

They wiped down the cupboards and neatly re-organized everything.  When I came home and saw their handiwork, I kicked myself for not having done this sooner.  It makes so much more sense this way.

We have about a month to enjoy our newly organized cupboards before we move.

Shelby at work

New home for storage containers

This stuff fits much better in the long and narrow cupboard

They also did some cleaning and rearranging of the pantry.



So the project for the week is complete.  I’m thankful for my girls, thankful for their talents and willingness to help, thankful for our beautiful-but-poorly-designed kitchen with running water and electricity.  And thankful for some motivation and accountability here at Simple Mom.

{Bonus!  The boys’ dressers are still tidy from last week’s project.}

Finding Out

…finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.  ~ Ephesians 5:10

Pretty much anything goes these days.  People can find a way or a personality to justify anything they might dream up to do or say or wear.  “Restricting” they say.  Following God is restricting to my personality, my freedom.


Restricting, like the walls of my home.  Like the rail on the bunkbed and the rules of the road laid down by the law.  Confining and smothering like the skin I wear and the helmet Ethan wears and the seatbelt we all wear.

 Terribly protective, our God is.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.   Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. – Psa 19:7-11 NKJV

And I know what rebellion is, even if it’s quiet rebellion.  I have bristled and balked under the yoke sometimes.  Temper tantrums happen in 35 year-olds who sit in church every Sunday, not just the two year-olds in the nursery.

I am sympathetic, then, to the scowl of the rebel.

He always wins me back with love.  It’s His kindness that leads any of us to repentance.  The thing I ‘find out’ again and again is that God is too tough to be swayed by my tantrum, and too gentle to turn me away. 

So we who know we are loved, we spend our time finding out.

Finding God out?  Yes.  Testing the boundaries?  Sometimes.

And finding ourselves out in the pages of scripture.  Seeing our own hearts revealed by the living Word that never changes, but always applies.  Always gently divides the soul and spirit, joints and marrow.

 Losing our minds and putting on His.

How valuable is a life spent pursuing goodness, righteousness and truth?(Eph. 5:9)  Let’s find out.


Launch Out to the Deep

On Sunday I take my class of 4th-6th graders downstairs to sit in service.  We are blessed by a visit from Amy, on leave from her mission in Asia, and I think the kids should listen in.  They sit with Bibles and paper, drawing what they hear and chatting a little with their neighbor.

Amy tells us in her second-tongue what the question always is…

“Aren’t you afraid?”

Aren’t you afraid to live alone?  Don’t you get scared at night?  Aren’t you afraid, being a single-woman in a strange country, where alcoholism is rampant and women are often subjected to violence?

She can answer a resounding, emphatic, faith-filled, “No.  I am never afraid because I’m never alone.  God is with me, always.”

God has called her to The Deep.

After Amy comes our pastor, sharing verse-by-verse from Luke 5.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” ~ Luke 5:4

Verse-by-verse we hear how Jesus called them to do the thing that was illogical.  To fish during the day on the Sea of Galilee, after a night of toiling to bring in empty nets.  To go out in front of everyone, everyone who knows better than to try to coax fish into the net in daytime.

Nervertheless at Your word I will let down the net. ~ Luke 5:5

Give Jesus an inch, just a smidge of grudging, this-is-ridiculous-but-if-you-say-so obedience, and watch Him work.  Watch how big your God is.  See how He blows all your logic out of the water.

Then call for your friends to come out to the The Deep and help bring in the catch.

“Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men.”  So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. ~ Luke 5:10b-11

Two boat-loads of fish, enough for maybe a whole years’ wages.  They forsook all?  To follow Someone Who wants to catch men, the way Peter and all who were with him had been caught – astonished.  Mouths agape and common sense shredded.

The Deep is calling because that’s where Jesus is.  That’s where your logic drowns, where your livelihood is magnified, where your knees buckle and your boats sink and Jesus says do not be afraid.

I’m looking for The Deep, warily looking and cautious.  As much as I can talk about launching out, the doing is another thing altogether.  It looks nice on paper, sounds nice when it’s someone else’s boat sinking, but me?  I have this comfort-zone-thing and I need those fish to feed my family and can’t I just surrender…some?

The Deep is calling us all out of that, in every little and big way.  Read Luke 5 and see how radical this calling is, how in-the-face of religion it flies.

Amy is not afraid, because she has gone out into The Deep and never found herself alone there.  Even when the emails don’t come and the language falters and the food is not comforting.  Even if it seems everyone else forgets, God never does, never leaves nor forsakes.

Will He do any less for me?  Even if my ‘deep’ is somewhat shallow?

I’ll never know unless I launch out.

{This “do not be afraid’ comes up to me again, in Matthew chapter 1.  I’m reading with the kids this morning and I hear the angel telling Joseph to not be afraid, this thing is of the Lord.  I hope I’m getting this.  Launch out.  Do not be afraid.  For those of you that I am blessed to fellowship with on Sundays, do you remember those words from a month or so ago?  About going out in the deep, over your head?  Without fear?}


I write and remember all He’s done.  Giving thanks, counting to 1000.

That’s not true, actually.  These are just the things that I noticed and took the time to write down.  He does so much more!  My family writes them down with me and we attempt to notice more, and I love it.

188. a dad who stays home with a sick kiddo

189. ice cream – Shelby’s treat

190. getting my baby-holding fix

191. sun shining in on sick Ethan

192. transle googlate : )

193. Friends in Mexico

194. Picture blogs

195. email

196. 6 yrs. with Ethan Shashwat

197. quiet morning in the hot tub with my husband

198. working with an end in sight

199. thick slices of Uncle Troy bread for breakfast

200. the repeated “do not be afraid”

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