Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Wait a Little Longer

Killingworth: A young'un

I was reading in Luke this morning, and 13:6-9 jumped out at me: the owner was ready to cut the tree down because it hadn’t yielded anything in three years, but the gardener suggested he give it another year.

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

Thank God He gives us time to mature and get our lives where they should be. Much more time than we deserve! If you are growing weary waiting on your child, your husband or wife, yourself, to get in God’s will, keep on praying. Hang in there. God’s working even when we can’t see.

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A Fruitful Marriage- Kindness

Be kind to one another (A Fruitful Marriage)As Christians, all of us have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us and His power available to us. If we are fully surrendered to Him, there should be evidence of it, and one of the most obvious signs is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The past few months I’ve been writing about the Fruit of the Spirit displayed in marriage, and now the Fruit of the month is KINDNESS.

Join me at A Biblical Marriage to delve deeper into the Fruit basket!

Showing intentional kindness to our spouses is a good way to build up the love tank to overflowing. What kindness can you show to your spouse today?

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Good Seed or Bad?

Good seed or bad?Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. Matthew 13:24-26

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

We had a guest pastor at church yesterday and he preached a sermon geared toward preparing us for our new pastor, arriving in 2 weeks. (yay!) However, as usual, a concept that applies to a church also applies in a marriage relationship. Maybe it will give you some food for thought, too.

All of us have 2 kinds of “seed” in our lives: Good seed and bad, or “wheat and tares” as in the King James Version. The good kind is from God; the bad is from our flesh. Which one takes precedence depends on which one we care for and nurture– like the story of the 2 wolves, which one we feed. Good seeds in a spouse do 3 things: (I’m speaking from the female perspective because, well, I’m female, but it applies to both husbands and wives.)

1. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse because he is her spouse and God said to. We uphold his position as our husband and follow his leadership. We don’t try to be the boss of the family and manipulate him to do what we want. We act in obedience to God, even when we don’t feel like it or think our spouse isn’t doing his part.

2. Good seed PRAYS for her spouse and puts his needs before her own. This is what submission means, despite the archaic connotation that many would have us believe.

3. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse personally, speaking good things to him and about him. If we must bring up a problem or conflict, it’s done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation, not hurt.

Just as we have to “feed the good wolf” or nurture the good seeds in us, we also nurture our spouses. How do you nurture your spouse?

1. Good seed goes out of its way to be kind to her spouse.

2. Good seed makes time to pray for, with, and over her spouse.

3. Good seed looks for ways to serve her spouse, (speak his love language) whether it’s helping with a project, picking up the slack at home when his work is overwhelming him, fixing a special food, etc.

4. Good seed spends time with her spouse just for fun. Going to a football game when it’s not your favorite thing to do. Parking in a lawn chair in the garage when he’s working on the lawn mower. All those times when you could be doing something else– even when you have a thousand things you could be doing in the house– when you choose to spend time with your husband, he knows you’ve chosen him over all those things, and it blesses him.

How can you do some nurturing today?

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Got Patience?

patience

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Galatians 5:22-23 NAS

Do you need an extra dose of patience in your marriage? Most of us do, because when we are at home, we often take off our masks– a good thing! But that means that our spouses sometimes bear the brunt of the jabs and snarls we have been holding back from everybody else.

Join me over at A Biblical Marriage and let’s talk about the Spiritual Fruit of patience!

 

 

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Jesus is Calling

Jesus is calling

One of my students shared a page in her devotional (from April 1) on Facebook– from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. (There is a free app that I just found– it looks good!) I think it was written for me, or maybe for me and all those other Marthas that get caught up in our own agendas either from an overblown sense of importance or an unrealistic view of our time, energy, and schedules. (Or it could be some other reason.  I’ve noticed how often I make sweeping statements, like I know everything. But I’ve seen and experienced these two.)

Here are some excerpts:

I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me.

This reminds me of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. (If you click the link and scroll down, you will find several links to free ebooks and audio books.) He was a 17th-century French soldier turned monk, and he worked in the kitchen most of his monastic life. He was able to keep that constant communion with God going, through whatever mundane task he was doing. I need to keep myself from getting so “into” my tasks that I get “out of” God’s presence. He doesn’t move. I don’t need to either.

You yearn for a simplified lifestyle… But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world… find Me in the midst of it all.

This one punched me right in the face. I have pinned so many pins about simplification and organization. Read books. Gleaned websites. Made lists. All with the hope that this time, it would really work, and I would float along sort of like a Stepford wife, with an aura of peace and serenity around me, my yard manicured, my hair done, my weight ideal, while I dusted my pristine house every Tuesday morning before work, or whatever other job was on my list for that day and that time slot. Truly, I work better with a schedule because I don’t have an inner clock/calendar and I really can’t remember when I vacuumed or washed my hair last. But I have a tendency to get obsessive about my schedule when I’m stressed and feel out of control of my life. A working schedule gives the illusion that I’m in control of SOMETHING.

Remember your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you [NEWSFLASH!]; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone… Do not let your to-do list become an idol

I have had a difficult several weeks. High stress, low energy, lots to do, plus I’m pretty sure I’m hitting menopause, which is making everything twice as bad. Bad combination! So lots has gone undone, especially at my house. The yard has taken priority because of the season (though there’s still a ton to be done everywhere I look), and the house has gotten more and more undone.

But God tells me to talk to Him. Listen to Him. Slow down. Take a breath. Work a little and rest a little each day. Hire help. Calm down.

Is He talking to you, too? I’m praying for our peace. In the midst of our messy lives.

Come unto me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Jesus is calling. He wants you to rest.

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The Rest of the Story

Several years ago I heard a very good presenter at a teacher inservice– she did an exercise designed to teach empathy for others. I called it “The Rest of the Story” and adapted it for use with my students. You might be able to use this idea– it’s very powerful. I started with this necklace:

The Rest of the StoryI instructed the kids to find everything ugly about it that they could. Now I teach some sweet kiddos and it was difficult, but I pushed them. Some of the comments I heard–

“It’s out of style.”

“It looks cheap.”

“The eyes are creepy.”

“The gold is worn off.”

Grandma Grantham young

Mama as a young woman

So then I told them the rest of the story. My mother had her 2nd major stroke at age 66. (She had had her first at 52, and took an early medical retirement; she and my daddy divorced 5 years later and for those intervening years she lived a wonderful, independent life in an apartment complex with lots of little old ladies for her to take care of.) After the 2nd stroke she was paralyzed on one side and moved into a nursing home in our town, which she viewed as another place with lots of little old ladies for her to take care of! She played dominoes, wrote letters, visited people in their rooms– she was such a sweet, kind person. More than anything, she loved to give gifts, all her life. When she went to the nursing home she had no money saved and was living on her teacher retirement. That all went to cover her costs and she was allowed a very small amount each month for personal items. It was not enough to payroll her love for giving gifts! But at the home, lots of their activities let them win “money,” and then occasionally they would have a “store” where they could buy things. People would donate items to use, or they would have crafts that the residents made. Mama bought this necklace for me and gave it to me. I can’t remember if it was for something special, or just because.

And I love it.

The truth is, I sort of agree with those statements at the top. But it reminds me that my mother was an incredible person. It would have been so easy for her to say, “I can’t get a set of dishes, or a favorite book, or take Melinda shopping, [all things she had done]; all I can get is this old thing,” and be too proud or embarrassed and not do it. But she did it anyway, and was still thrilled to be able to give a gift to her daughter. She was the epitome of “Bloom where you are planted.” My mother bloomed all her life.

I lived within 5 miles of her and saw her several times a week, but she wrote lots of letters too. Neat.

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Mama at Halloween in the nursing home. Isn’t this great?

Grandma in witch hat

And this is one of my favorites. To me it shows the joy that she kept throughout her life, in spite of the many challenges that would have turned a lesser person bitter. Her sweet spirit never left her.

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By the way- the exercise was a success. As I told the story, I got weepy, and then they got weepy. We then articulated that you can find something ugly about anything and anybody. But you can also find something beautiful. And many times, only the ugly is visible until you know the rest of the story.

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Lessons on Marriage from the Garden

We had a very mild winter here in Southeast Texas, and Spring is creeping in. Lots of early blooms are out– and the weeds are beginning to wake up too. Our neighborhood is called “Enchanted Forest” and before Hurricane Rita, our yard was full of beautiful, mature oak trees. (Now we have a few tall skinny ones left.) Part of having a “forested” yard is that very hardy vines grow alongside those trees, and when you plant shrubs, the vines continue to grow up among them. They are not vulnerable to Round-Up and most foliar weed killers- you have to dig them out, and many times the bulb is WAAAAAYY down deep.

Cross vine is one of our worst invasive vines. When you let it go too long, it will completely strangle a poor azalea bush.

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When I finally got around to rescuing this pitiful bush, look at all that came up: there was lots more growing underground that you couldn’t see. Bigger than the bush it had covered up.

crossvine

Can you guess where this is headed?

This is what a single little crossvine sprig looks like: Innocent enough, right?

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But look what’s lurking below: Look very closely to see the leaves and visible growth: Most of it is below ground.

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Kelly’s post at Exceptionalistic immediately came to mind when I pulled this rampant weed up by the roots.

Here’s the deal: Lots of time, I counsel you to overlook things. After all, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8) and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7). However, you must also LET THEM GO. (Think of hanging the toilet paper the wrong way, or not at all, kicking the sheets out, procrastinating, etc…) If the issue so serious that you can’t let it go, and it interferes with your feelings for your spouse, it needs to be dealt with. Maybe it’s the symptom of a deeper problem- you resent his golf days with his friends not because you don’t want him to spend time with his friends, but you feel neglected. Or maybe there is a lack of transparency in the relationship that shows itself in tiny, unimportant little ways. In these days of separate Facebook accounts, telephones, the all-important “confidentiality” that the medical and insurance worlds insist on, and the blatant “porn mode” internet browsers, it would be very easy to begin to hide things from your spouse.

There are many issues in a marriage that will grow underground, like the roots of my crossvine. Left on their own, they can overtake your whole marriage and choke the life out. You must pull them up by the roots and dig out the bulb. Is it hard? Yep. Painful, tedious? You bet. Will it leave scars? Oh yes.

But our God is the God of comfort, healing, and rejuvenation. He not only gets rid of the problem; he replaces it with something better than it was before!

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
 … to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

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Lessons on Marriage from Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey
Are you hooked on Downton Abbey? Like many, I’m smitten! I’ve always loved costume dramas, especially ones where the actors speak with British accents. I’m a lifelong Anglophile and this series feeds my love for England, beautiful homes, and history all in a moving family saga. Well you know Auntie Em– of course I had to look and find examples I could apply to marriage, and find them I did!
(Disclaimer regarding plot spoilers and details– I’ve watched all of Season 1; 3 episodes of Season 2 on DVD; and all 5 episodes of Season 3. I don’t have them recorded so I might misquote something but I’ll get the general idea. ALSO– I do realize it’s only a TV show!)
Downton Abbey Cora and Robert

1. Fight for your marriage.

When we attended the Weekend to Remember marriage conference, the presenter urged the men not to give in to their tendency to be passive at home. Many husbands will fight all kinds of battles at work; identify and solve problems proactively and face issues head on; but at home they withdraw when faced with problems they don’t know the immediate solution for. I used to see this in my marriage. My armchair diagnosis (corroborated by Mr X) says that many men don’t have the relational skill to figure out a solution on their own, and that makes them feel inadequate– and that’s the worst thing a man can feel. There is also the feeling that, bad as things might be now, if you confront them, they might get worse.

FAIL: After Sybil dies, Cora blames Robert. He gives in to her request that he move out of their bedroom and when he tells Mary how much he misses Sybil, she begs him to “tell Mama.” He says, “She doesn’t want to hear it.” Don’t give up without a fight, Robert! In the end, it’s his mother that fights for his marriage. (In Robert’s defense, he has also lost his beloved child. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to fight!)
PASS: Anna searches tirelessly for evidence that will exonerate Mr. Bates. She moves way outside her comfort zone, involving “the master” and a lawyer, as well as spending some amount of her money to pay the unsavory witness for speaking to her. Her efforts pay off, finally! Lesson to learn: It might take a long time; it might stretch you; it might seem hopeless, but hold out and keep fighting. Your marriage is worth it.
Downton Abbey Matthew and Mary
2. Your primary loyalty is for your spouse, not your parent.
 This is nothing new for regular Auntie Em readers. (Leave and Cleave was one of the most-read posts.) Mary’s love and loyalty to her father are undisputed and a recurring theme.
PASS: As Matthew tries to budge Robert on new ideas about operating the Estate, he needs Mary’s support. “I love my father,” she counters. “Of course you do. But cheer for me.” And later he feels sure he can make his plans work, “Now that you are on my team.”
3. Encourage your spouse to be their best, what God would have them to be.
PASS with an A PLUS: Anna told Mr. Bates she would leave everything and “live in sin” with him if his estranged, conniving wife wouldn’t agree to divorce him. He gently told her, “That’s not the path for you.” I loved him for that!
Downton Abbey Anna and Bates
4. Be honest– Don’t keep secrets.
FAIL: Back in season 1, Robert and Carson got proof that Thomas was a thief. He resigned and so they didn’t have to face the unpleasantness of firing him. But they decided it would be better if Cora didn’t know– so later on, when she arranges for Thomas to return in a position of some authority, it’s rather too late for them to object.

FAIL: Also, when Mary must have a “small operation” to correct a female problem, she doesn’t tell Matthew until it’s over and healed. “That’s why I was putting you off.” Matthew’s response, “I thought you’d gone off me,” is probably what most men think when their wives stop being intimate with them. This could have led to much more serious problems.
I’m sure you can find more examples of passing and failing. If you haven’t watched the series, season 1 is on Netflix instant viewing and Season 2 is on Netflix DVD. They are also all available for purchase. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!
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Killing Drama

Killing drama

I teach middle schoolers and high schoolers and I see plenty of drama. But I see it outside of school, too, in my adult world! The past two weeks I’ve seen several episodes of it. It frankly drives me nuts and makes me want to shake people. Here’s what it typically looks like:

Person A (Susie) says or does something. Person B (Sally) misunderstands, hears an inaccurate version, takes offense, or disagrees.

Drama killer: Sally asks Susie about it, lets it go, and/or agrees to disagree. No drama.

Drama stirrer: Sally comments on it to person C (Sarah). Sarah and Sally keep talking about it, and bring other people into the conversation. The version they are talking about now has little or no resemblance to the original.

It gets back to Susie (in whispers, and often even further removed) that Sarah and Sally were talking about her and spreading lies about her.

STOP! At this point, Sally and Sarah are the only ones with the drama problem. It’s like a 2-sided figure; it will die down soon– unless Susie chooses to add the base to the drama triangle. It’s her choice: She could A) roll her eyes, say “consider the source”, and go on about her business; B) talk to Sally and Sarah and come to the truth; or C) add the base to the drama triangle by talking to other people, asking if they’ve heard, defending her position, etc… Then the problem is everybody’s.

We have a Facebook page for our choirs, and I frequently see drama being played out there. It’s usually preceded by “I hate drama!!! I wish drama queens would just stay away from me!!!” or something of that nature. I want so badly to add “DON’T YOU REALIZE YOU ARE JUST ENCOURAGING MORE?” It’s only drama to you if you play along.

Some food for thought if you have more drama in your life than you’d like:

1. Don’t ascribe motives driving someone’s words or actions. You are not a mind reader, and most of the time they are not about you.

2. If a friend is short with you, doesn’t wave at you, or doesn’t return your call, ask yourself if that is unusual for them. If so, assume (once again) it’s not about you; maybe she has a headache, or she needs new contacts (Is she over 40 LOL? Vision nightmare!), or she forgot. If that behavior is normal, why would you expect anything else and get upset about it? Extend grace.

3. Give people the right to disagree with you and respect their opinion. This is America. (Let me plug Dr. Carson’s Prayer Breakfast Speech here– he addressed this very thing so eloquently!)

4. Give people the right to be wrong. Some people will ascribe motives to YOUR words or actions that are incorrect. This is usually based on what their own motives would be in a similar situation and says more about them than about you. Explain to them if you feel you must, but sometimes they won’t believe you. You’ve done your part. Move on.

5. Refuse to take offense. See the word “take” there? That’s a very active word. Don’t hold your hand out and accept it, even if they meant to offend you. Let it fall at your feet, or better, at the foot of the Cross. I don’t have a leg to stand on concerning my right to be offended when I see how Christ responded to His offenders.

6. Realize that God is a God of peace, not drama.* If you’ve been stirring up drama, repent and ask forgiveness, then learn how to change those destructive ways.

Here is the magic word to rid your life of drama, sort of like a “Magic Eraser”: WHATEVER…

What? Your best friend’s sister ran off with the refrigerator repairman?

Drama killer: Think, “What a shame. Her poor family,” and pray for her and them.

Drama stirrer: Keep talking about it! Speculate about why she left. Share “prayer requests” with all your Facebook and Twitter friends.

What? Somebody thinks I’m selfish because I’m not teaching Bible school this year? (This is assuming you’ve prayed about it and God has not called you to do it, in which case you are not selfish.) Drama killer: WHATEVER. It’s between you and God. Others have the right to think what they want to. Even if they are wrong.

Drama stirrer: Explain your reasons to everyone, but certainly not the person who supposedly thought it to begin with.  Post a vague Facebook status hinting about your being so glad you pray and seek God’s will, and are obedient to it no matter who comes against you.

What? A coworker thinks I have fewer projects to do than she does?

Drama killer: WHATEVER. I’m too busy doing projects to participate in drama.

Drama stirrer : Tell all your friends in the office how much work you take home every day. Stress how valuable you are, and how you gladly take on extra projects because you care so much about the company. Say what a shame it is that “some people” are so selfish.

(true story from my life this week) What? A classmate that you don’t like called you a slut?

Drama killer: WHATEVER. If you don’t like her, why would you place importance on her opinion? Are you one? If no, then she obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about. If so, well I guess the truth hurts. Change it if you don’t like it.

Drama stirrer: Punch her in the face 5 times. Be proud of yourself and make sure all your friends know the whole story.

What? A few people questioned something you did?

Drama killer: Don’t take offense, even if the questions were asked in criticism. Answer the questions (privately, to the people who asked) and go on.

Drama stirrer: Get offended and self-righteous. Make a public speech to everyone, put them in their place, and dare them to question you further. (This is like at school, when one staff member has done something wrong, then the whole staff gets a lecture and we are wondering what it the world is going on!)

Here’s what I tell my kids at school: Their problem doesn’t have to be your problem. It becomes yours only if you accept it from them. So let’s practice… all together now… “WHATEVER…”

(See my post “Don’t Play” for further tips on avoiding drama.)

*For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Romans 14:33

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

May the God of peace be with you all… Romans 15:33

… Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

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Home Organization– Keepin’ It Real

Surely you don’t EVER start to think that Auntie Em has it all together, do you? Because you would be sadly mistaken. I think you know the truth, but love me anyway. That is what I have discovered about my little corner of the blogosphere: Bloggers and blog readers — at least the ones that run in my circle — are the kindest, most gracious people anywhere. They cheer you on when you need it; encourage you when you are down; and laugh at your corny jokes.

THANK YOU! You are appreciated!

Over the Christmas holidays, between motorcycle accident (Mr X) and upper respiratory infection (me) recovery, I managed to do my normal bit of beginning to organize the house. It’s been a dream for about 15 years, to lay my hands on everything in the house and make sure it’s up-t0-date and where it should be. (We have lived in this house 15 1/2 years.) I’ve never finished, but I’ve done parts. This time I did my closet, my bathroom cabinets, the refrigerator, and the pantry.

A friend of a friend organized a community garage sale to raise money to send to the Sandy Hook families, so I took some things there. Mr X’s co- worker was holding a blanket drive so we sent a couple that we had replaced there. A church members works for a community charity that aids needy families, especially when their homes burn, and I sent my dishes that we replaced with her. I had a zillion hotel shampoos and lotions that I sent to a friend who works with the Christian Women’s Job Corps.

What I was happy to find lurking in the depths: 1 bottle of Lancôme eye makeup remover; 1 queen-sized thermal blanket; 1 bottle of Zyrtec. I put these to good use.

Several friends brought food for us when we got back from the hospital, so I was forced to clean out the refrigerator. I have always used a turntable but got another one, even before the latest Pinterest pin began circulating!

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What I was embarrassed to find in the refrigerator:

Sour cream … May 14, 2012

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Beef broth… September 22, 2011

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UGH. Cottage cheese… May 12, 2011

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Feeling better about your life now??

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