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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This is the Day…

this is the day the Lord has made

What will you do with your day?

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Need a Buffer Zone?

buffer zone- Jesus Calling

For we fix our attention not on things that are seem, but things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what is not seen lasts forever.
1 Corinthians 4:18

They [the seraphim] were calling out to each other:
“Holy, holy, holy!
The Lord Almighty is holy!
His glory fills the world.”
Isaiah 6:3

I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in his Word I trust.
Psalm 130:5

This is from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s been packed in my still-unloaded book bag from when I went with Sunshine and had my blogging retreat 2 weeks ago so I’m behind! This selection shouted out at me, though, with talk of a buffer zone. I call it brain space, or margin. For me it looks like a little down time between activities, time for me to think about any follow-up I need to do, tie up any loose ends (like unpacking the book bag and putting things away!), or what I need to do to prepare for the next thing. I’m not very good at it, possibly because I try to cram too much in. I’m still working to learn that lesson that time is a finite commodity!

How about you? Do you need a buffer zone? Together, let’s ask God to create one around us– to grant wisdom in figuring out what to do and what NOT to do, then to have the will to be obedient!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

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Might as Well Laugh About it Now; or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes… James 4:13-16

Might as Well Laugh About it NowI just had a lesson in making plans then adapting to Plan B. Or C. Or even D! It showed me how little control we really have, and reminded me more than ever how much we need to rely on God in every moment.

You may know I teach a high school choir. Every spring, we take a trip where we sing at a competition then do some fun activities. We usually stay 1 night, take a charter bus, and the kids bring home big trophies and have a good time. But this time, things went from bad to worse; my friend and coworker Lara and I would just look at each other in disbelief and shake our heads. After a few more days we will laugh about it.

This year I had gotten an estimate in the fall from my local bus company that I normally use, but neglected to send them the “hold” money. By the time I realized it they were booked up. I called about a bazillion other companies and contacted my choir director friends about recommendations. Late April is a very popular time to travel because I had a very hard time finding anybody! I thought my problem was solved, however, when US Coachways said they could fix me up. I secured a bus with my credit card on April 18 and corresponded with my agent several times over the next few days. Then on the 23rd- THREE days before I was supposed to take 53 people 300 miles from home– they called and said actually, they didn’t have a bus for me after all. The buses are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and apparently, I wasn’t first! (She also assured me that my credit card had not and would not be charged, and it has; I’m working to get that reversed now, but that’s another story!)

So after more calls, I got one secured with The Bus Bank. The agent I dealt with was very helpful and very professional. I think how it must work is that they contract local companies, because we ended up with a “Tierra Nueva” bus from Houston. With a driver who didn’t speak or apparently understand much English. And didn’t have a GPS. And had a really bad sense of direction. And a bus with torn up seats. (Really). And no trash bag. And a DVD player that worked only when one of our students jiggled wires several times. And no toilet paper in the bathroom. And (at least by the time I used it the 2nd day) no water to flush said toilet.  And not enough fuel to get us to our destination. He had a flat tire and got lost coming to pick us up at the school and was an hour and a half late. He stopped en route for fuel at a Love’s gas station with an Arby’s, announcing that everyone needed to get off, and it would take only about 20 minutes. We had already changed the lunch plans from The Shops at La Cantera to Bucee’s, but ended up eating there because there was no time.

Once we got there, things were pretty uneventful except that Lara had to sit in the navigator seat with her phone GPS and direct the driver EVERYWHERE we went. We were late to our performance, but fortunately their schedule wasn’t too tight and it didn’t mess them up. (The kids did great!) We missed out on eating in Boerne, where the competition was, and went on to La Cantera for supper and had a great time. Then we went to the Hyatt Wildoak Ranch (a timeshare and hotel) which I heartily recommend! The kids loved the indoor/outdoor pools; I loved our balcony porch, and the rooms were beautiful. Saturday we went to Fiesta Texas which the kids seemed to love, but I did not. 7 hours at a noisy, crowded amusement park with 2 1/2 hours of waiting for 2 three-minute rides is not my idea of fun. Ugh.

You must know that even when everything goes smoothly, these trips are very difficult for me. I am a terrible homebody anyway; I hate to be away from Mr X, and I don’t do late nights. All these things are serious stressors to me. I always pray that I won’t embarrass Jesus. This trip truly was a test LOL! (Funny that my post about Patience at A Biblical Marriage had just been published the very same day we left!)

Once our driver found his way out of the parking lot of Fiesta Texas, we were on our way. Before we had gone 20 miles he stopped the bus 3 times, finally stopping at a gas station and calling for another bus! I told the kids, “Oh boy! We get to stop at another gas station!” They were huddled around electrical outlets like herds of antelope around a watering hole in the Serengeti, charging their phones. The driver said he got something or other fixed and the bus would be good to go now. I hoped that was true, but told the agent to keep looking for a bus just in case!

Inside the gas station one of my boys asked me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how mad are you?” And I realized that I wasn’t mad at all! I had absolutely no control over the situation. None. I told him if our bus can’t make it home, the company can send us another bus or put us up in Houston for the night. You know, the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change… Weeping and gnashing my teeth, or pitching a fit wouldn’t have made a difference in the situation; it just would have made Jesus look bad.

As we finally approached to school, close to 2 hours later than scheduled, one of our chaperones moved down to the navigator chair , to make sure the driver didn’t get lost again! As he pulled into the parking lot, the bus died and he coasted to a parking place. Seriously!

I was reminded that In all things, God works for the good of those that love Him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) The next time I got on Facebook I read stories of horrible thunderstorms and flooding in Houston. If we had not spent an hour stopping  to work on a crippled bus, we might have been there during the thick of it, instead of light rain. The bus didn’t die until we got back to school. I didn’t lose my cool or fall apart. I prayed a lot. The bus driver handled the bus very well and safely. (even if he couldn’t find his way out of a parking lot) My kids behaved beautifully and had fun. We had parents who went with us and helped a lot. I’m continuing to make myself focus on the GOOD and not the BAD or the UGLY!

The Good

wild oak ranch fireplace wild oak ranch view boys girls

The Bad (is this blood?)

blood on chair

The Ugly

blood on chair more rip rip

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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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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.

crossvine2

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?

20130218-111258.jpg

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

DSC_6985

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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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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A Sweet and Powerful Thing

Back at the end of November, after Mr X had his wreck and I asked for prayers, I posted on my Auntie Em Facebook page, “Thank you so much for prayers from ALL OVER THE U.S. AND THE WORLD!! The fellowship of Believers is a sweet and powerful thing!” The more I thought about that phrase, the more I realized that it is so very true! In this situation alone we have seen it. I have readers from many countries, some who leave comments regularly telling me they are praying, and I’m sure for every one who leaves a comment there are dozens who don’t but still pray. I fully believe Mr X’s deliverance from very serious injury (even death) and quick recovery were due to the prayers of brother and sister Believers.

The past couple of months have been hard for me. After the accident (November 24) I missed 3 days of school the week before our Christmas concert (December 6), and an important audition for my kids. Our Middle school concert was December 4, and I began to get sick December 5. The normal progression is scratchy throat, throat-on-fire, laryngitis, blown up sinuses and bronchitis. It stayed true to form! I was praying that laryngitis would hold off till after the high school concert since I was singing Soprano 1 in an ensemble with my Area choir qualifiers. (Thank You Jesus; it did.) There were five more performance events the following week, and the sinus infection just kept its claws in me.

I eventually went to the doctor and began a 10-day course of antibiotics and Prednisone, followed by another round of different antibiotic. I’m actually still coughing and am not sure I’m entirely well! I didn’t decorate for Christmas beyond the few large things I could get from my Christmas closet without digging, and a tabletop fiber optic tree. (Sunshine calls it my white-trash tree!) I didn’t send Christmas cards. I didn’t finish my shopping and we ended up giving our kids money hidden inside giveaway flashlights. I didn’t cook for our get together–Sis brought gumbo leftover from her Christmas party.

The holidays were wonderful– we had planned a short trip, but neither of us was up to it, so we stayed home and rested, which is just perfect for me. They were over way too fast! And now we’ve had rain, rain, and more rain, and I am fighting off the blues, holding my breath and praying that it is not my old companion, wintertime depression knocking at my door.

I’m telling you all this not to complain and wallow in self-pity, but to be honest and share my heart with you, so that when I tell you about how the fellowship of Believers has uplifted us, you will have a context for understanding.

The day of the accident, my in-laws drove me to Lufkin, where Mr X was in the ER, about a 2-hour drive. We found out later that people stopped immediately to help. Somebody called 911 when they saw the wreck; one lady was a nurse who told Mr X he needed to be still because he was hurt, and another lady knelt down and prayed with him. His riding buddy who was also injured but was checked and released, and his wife came and prayed with us before they went home.  Our daughters and their husbands dropped everything to drive to our house, pack my suitcase, pick me up from Lufkin, and get me to Houston to the hospital where they transferred him.

As soon as I heard and was waiting to leave for Lufkin, I texted a few friends to pray, as I didn’t know the extent of his injuries, and they prayed. As word spread, so did the circle of prayers. (When he was released from the hospital and went to follow up with his doctor, he saw the PA, whom he had not seen before, and he said something about Sunshine– a light came on in the PA’s face and she said, “We prayed for you Saturday!” Turns out she has known Sunshine for years through the Emmaus/Chrysalis community, but she knows her married name, so this prayer had just been offered up for “Sunshine’s dad.”)

Our coworkers picked up whatever needed doing and said, “Don’t even think about work. We’ll take care of it.” And we didn’t, because they truly meant what they said, and took care of everything. My sweet (band director) supervisor offered to go to our choir auditions and do whatever he could, and my middle school director took over my classes and my spot in the auditions. Another coworker gave us firewood since Mr X couldn’t cut and split wood this year. Friends let us borrow medical equipment that we needed till his mobility was restored.

A high school friend of Mr X’s works in Houston and came by the hospital and prayed with us. When we got home, many friends brought food and sent cards. Our church prayed. Our children and their friends prayed. Our friends and their churches prayed. Our coworkers prayed. My Facebook friends, and Auntie Em’s friends and their churches prayed. I was so humbled and thankful.

The amazing thing about the fellowship of Believers is that we don’t have to know one another at all to have care and concern– because of our relationship to our Father, we have an automatic brotherhood and sisterhood. We don’t have to know the details of the need, or even the names of the people because God knows all that. All we have to do is come before Him and lift our needs and those that we know about.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I have a new understanding of this one– although His power is shown through us when we are weak, His power is also seen through others when they minister to us in our weakness.

Thank you for your prayers.

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Battling Unrealistic Expectations

Have you ever had a beautiful plan for Christmas and then been disappointed? Then your whole Christmas is ruined? Join me over to A Biblical Marriage and let’s get our battle plans ready before we see all the ideas on Pinterest that we don’t get done and feel like LOSERS!!

(If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in southeast Texas, you’re going to be disappointed… this was my house in January 2010, and the first covering snow we’ve had like that in 35 or so years!)

 

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