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!

Bubbling Over with Hope

I’ve discovered More to Be’s Transformed Tuesday. Along with a linkup, Elissa gives a verse for next week, so you can ponder and soak in it all week. I like having “an assignment” and I really love this week’s verse! Come visit if you can.

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NASB)

I read it in several translations, and as usual, different things jumped out at me.

The HCSB said “… as you believe in Him…” Not only is God the God of hope, WE must take and active role.

The GNT stressed, “… may God, the source of hope… hope will continue to grow…” Where do we get our hope? From God. “Abound” is not a word we use too much anymore, but I “continue to grow” makes perfect sense.

And the Amplified added “… joy and peace in believing [through the experiences of your faith]… abound in hope [bubbling over]…”

So the Auntie Em translation, piecing together all of these and adding my own insight, goes something like this:

Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace, believing Him not only because of what you read in the Scriptures and observe in others, but from remembering your very own personal experiences. This deep, heartfelt belief will cause your hope to be steadfast and continue to grow, until it overflows and spills on to those around you.

I wrote a post called “Got Hope?” back in October that goes along with this theme– go check it out if you missed it!

bubbling over with hope

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Always Faithful

“Semper Fi”– the motto of the US Marine Corps– is short for Semper Fideles, which is Latin for “always faithful.” When I googled “faithful” 3 kinds of images popped up– Marines, dogs, and the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

But fidelity is one of the hallmarks of God, and one of the most-mentioned qualities about God in the Bible. (Google “how many times is faithful mentioned in the Bible” and you’ll see ranges from 227 to 528, depending on word form and translation.

Nowhere, I think, is faithfulness more expected and necessary than in a Christian marriage. And if we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living in us, providing faithfulness as one of His gifts. Pop on over to A Biblical Marriage and read more about having a Fruitful Marriage!

 

A Fruitful marriage- faithfulness

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More Lessons on Marriage from the Garden

Lessons om Marriage from the Garden

School has been out for 3 weeks and I’ve been working, working. working in my yard and garden! I’ve learned some lessons about gardening, and many of these translate to marriage really well. (If you missed the first “Lessons on Marriage from the Garden,” you can read it here.)

1. Don’t procrastinate!

Thugs like this will set seed and then the weeds in your garden will be like Medusa’s head. Remember, you cut off one and 7 more grow?

Don't procrastinate!

I like the old saying “One year’s seed is seven years’ weeds.” Pull up those flowering weeds early, and if you can’t dig them out, at least break off the flower heads before they go to seed. I’ve never used a pre-emergent herbicide but if it prevents seeds from germinating in the first place, even better.

out of control weeds

Don’t procrastinate in your marriage, either! Have you ever put off doing something for your spouse because you were doing something for someone else? (GUILTY!) How about avoiding talking about a problem in hope that it will go away on its own? Some problems are compounded and made much worse when you put off dealing with them.

2. Procrastinate! Be patient!

I planted bush green beans for the first time this year. A little 4×4 square gave us enough to eat green beans about 4 times a week for 3 weeks. (I don’t get tired of them!) According to the rules of square foot gardening, you’re supposed to rip plants up as soon as they are past their prime so you can replant immediately. Bush beans, unlike their climbing cousins, are supposed to give one big harvest and then be done. But when that time came, it was the last few weeks of school, and I just didn’t have the energy or time to do it. Lo and behold, I’m getting a 2nd harvest. Not as big as the first, but a decent one.

Be patient in your marriage, too. There have been times when I was about ready to throw in the marital towel, right over Mr X’s head, but I’m so glad I didn’t. At our 32-year mark, he has matured into the most caring, thoughtful husband. Our relationship is the foundation for every other relationship, and is such a source of strength and joy. There is nothing so rewarding as having shared stories, histories, children, and family.

3. Keep alert.

It’s easy to overlook things in the garden. Sometimes fruit hides under the leaves and unless you get down low and move them aside, you will miss them. I hadn’t even seen flowers on this okra, and found it only when I was down planting something in a neighboring bed.

okra surprise

It’s really easy to miss cucumbers! Mr X likes them very small, like the bottom one. I’ve let them get so big I had to cut them up and put them straight in the compost pile.

Pick cucumbers before they get too big.

And sometimes something besides a veggie is hiding among the leaves, like a wasp. OOPS. Allergy to wasp stings discovered!

wasp sting allergy

Be alert in your marriage too. Things can lurk undetected — resentment, neglect, selfishness to name a few– and if you aren’t watching carefully and “weeding them out” as they appear, they can grow and get out of control.

A marriage, like a garden, can be a source of delight. But neither just happen on their own. After the wedding/planting, you’ve got to constantly maintain it. And in marriage and the garden alike, dealing with little problems as they happen can save lots of time and heartache later!

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15

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Time: The Elusive Necessity in Marriage

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

24 hour clock courtesy of digitalmama824 via Flickr

Have you accepted the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day? And that even though you can borrow money (bad idea), you can’t get any more time? If your too-busy schedule is causing stress in your marriage, it’s time to take an honest look at it, assess it, and make some changes. In “No Vacuum,” I talked about 2 extremely important things in a successful marriage: knowing what we need as well as what our spouses need; and once we figure that out, having realistic expectations of ourselves and our spouses. Today I’m looking at where these 2 ideas intersect: TIME.

“Free” Time

Do you feel like you’re running from can to can’t? (That’s one of my favorite old-time Southern sayings.) Or in the words of the country singer, “always running, but always running behind”? If you’re not sure where your time flies away to, keep a time diary for a few days– in 15-30 minute increments, see where your minutes go. OUCH… It might show what I call the “Starbucks effect” (spending a small amount of money very often– it adds up!) But instead of being shocked at how much money you spent, you might realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time in small chunks, on things that aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of your life, like Facebook, playing games on your phone, watching TV reruns, etc. Don’t get me wrong; you do need recreation and leisure activities. But you need to CHOOSE what you do, not just fritter away your time on meaningless activities, then wonder why your marriage is suffering. How we spend our time should reflect what we say our priorities are.

Work

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Is your career killing your marriage? In his sermon series “Breathing Room,” Andy Stanley shares a story from a book written by a hospice nurse who spends much of her time with people in the last few weeks of their lives. She began asking them, “What do you regret most in your life?” She said, without exception, every. single. man. wished he hadn’t spent so much time and energy on work.

“This came from every male patient that I had nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.” Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

(Thanks to Joel at Friendly Thoughts for documenting what I only listened to!)

Mr X and I both have salaried jobs, and we probably could both work another 4 hours every day and still find things to do. In our cut-to-the-bone economy, many employers expect more than any one person to do, and sometimes we are our own slave-drivers. But you’ve got to be honest– if you consistently work many hours beyond what you signed up for, is it worth it? That salary that looked great when you divided it by 40 hours a week might not look so good spread out over 60-80 hours. And is it worth it to you? Only you can decide. But again– be honest. Count the whole cost (not just in terms of money) to your marriage, children, your health, etc.  How much money does your family need? It’s a sad thing when a parent realizes he’s lost his window of opportunity to build a close relationship with his children while he was working to provide THINGS that were not as  important as a relationship with him.

This is tough, I know. You’ve got to find the balance. To help you think, I have to throw in this classic song from the late Harry Chapin. There is a bit of commentary from his wife and son that I think are quite relevant.

Caring for Yourself

… vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16

Have you ever had “vast crowds” clamoring for you? Like at the bathroom door? We women are notorious for taking care of everything and everybody else before we take care of ourselves. But you know what? You’ve got to take care of yourself or you’ll either be sick or be a grouch who has nothing left for your poor spouse. I learned the hard way that my job could move on just fine without me, and it reminded me that I’m the only wife my husband has and the only mom my kids have. Consider these things when you’re looking at your weekly schedule:

  • How much margin do you need for mental peace? I need lots, and when I forget to figure it into my schedule, my nerves frazzle. Rushing from one activity to the next drives me crazy!
  • How much sleep and rest does your body need? If you cheat, it will catch up with you.
  • What rejuvenates you? This is different for everyone.

Jesus modeled taking time away for re-creation. (I rather doubt He needed it– but He knew we would!) And remember that in Exodus 20, God Himself suggested commanded that we should rest. How prideful are we when we think the world will fall apart without us?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…

How are you using your time today? Do you need to make any changes?

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A Fruitful Marriage– Goodness

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

A Fruitful Marriage-- Goodness

I’m continuing my “Fruitful Marriage” series at A Biblical Marriage, and this month I looked at GOODNESS. ( To see the earlier posts in this series, see Kindness, Patience, Joy, and Love.)

Goodness sounds a lot like patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control… so what’s the difference?

In the context of marriage, the other fruits are ones that we practice toward each other. As I’ve prayed for direction on this, I’ve gotten the idea that GOODNESS faces OUTWARD.

Join me at A Biblical Marriage to read more about having a Fruitful Marriage.

Keep Up the Good Work! Steven Depolo via Flickr

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What Do We Need?

Question Marks by Dan Moyer via Flickr

In “No Vacuum!” I mentioned that our marriage (and probably many others) would have been healthier if we had compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed from one another. This is a big kettle of fish that whole books could be written about, and probably have! But I’ll just put in my 2 little cents, and pray that it will give you some new insight.

What do you need? What does your spouse need?

Those 2 little questions look deceptively simple. In the first place, it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what you need; you just know that something is missing. Then if you DO figure it out, it’s often difficult to communicate that need to your spouse. Sometimes you think it might hurt their feelings, and you don’t want to do that. You might be hurt or angry that they aren’t doing something you need, and resentful that you would have to say anything about it. (Have you ever said to yourself, “If he loved me, he would just know to do it!”) You might be afraid to say anything, for fear of what your spouse might think. (“She’s so NEEDY!” or “He’s a sex maniac!” come to mind.)

Here’s some of our story:

I felt like I lived many years mostly underwater, barely able to catch a breath. A “full-time” job, especially when you are just beginning it, is exhausting. And being a homemaker and mom is another full-time job. Consequently, I never felt like I did that well at either one. This guilt and perceived failure took up lots of brain space. Remember, to a perfectionist, what she DOESN’T do is much weightier than what she DOES do. What I didn’t/couldn’t do was always  heavy on my mind. Were my kids neglected? No. Did I do a good enough job as a teacher? Yes. Does reality matter to a perfectionist? NO! Guilt and condemnation make themselves right at home anyway.

Mr X was not one to talk about his feelings, even if he could have figured them out, and there was no internet or even books (that I was aware of) teaching about sex in marriage from a Christian perspective. I just knew that he wanted more than I felt I had to give; I thought that he should be satisfied with all the other stuff I did (work full time, mother 3 young children, and run a household). Then I’d feel guilty because, in yet another area, I wasn’t good enough, then resentful that he wanted more from me. I had absolutely no clue how important lovemaking is to a man; the emotional part of it and how it affects his feelings about himself and for his wife. (Once more, I refer you to Sheila Gregoire’s very insightful post here.)

When Mr X began school full-time, after several years of going to night classes 2 or 3 nights a week– a very difficult period for this stay-at-home mom of 3– he scheduled his classes on 2 or 3 days and his work on the other days. He drove the kids to school and was able to be “Room Dad” and chaperone often. He did the grocery shopping. Once he began to take up some of the slack with the kids and at home, it helped me feel lots better. I don’t think he realized how much of a load those few things took off my MIND, but it really did make a huge difference.

Then at some point a friend recommended The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlesinger. It opened my eyes! In a nutshell, she said when we say NO to our husbands’ sexual advances, they perceive us as saying NO to THEM, as men. It’s like their saying NO to our conversations with them.

These 2 things– neither of which we can really take credit for– helped us get a little further down the road to a good, healthy marriage.

What does your spouse need? Do you know? I challenge you to have that conversation!

Up next: setting realistic expections of ourselves and our spouses.

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NO VACUUM!

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”

 *LOL I didn’t say DON’T VACUUM!

Have you ever microwaved a plastic container without loosening the lid, then had to clean up the mess?

This happens because water heats and turns to steam. Steam takes up more space so it builds pressure till it explodes.

If you go the other way– put a lit on a hot container, then let it cool, the opposite happens. As the steam cools, less space is occupied and the container implodes upon itself. No vacuum!

A recent sermon used this illustration to show how, if we don’t fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in our souls, we will search in vain for something to fill it, and will invariably choose the wrong things.

Take it a step further and look at marriage and vacuums.

In an ideal world, the one that God designed, what fills up a marriage?

God Himself: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30

Servanthood:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Love: …But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

And speaking of love, let me bring us again to Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. (Gifts, acts of service, physical touch, affirming words, and quality time. If you don’t know your own and your spouse’s love primary love language, you need to get on that TODAY!) Chapman’s concept of a love tank is a perfect illustration here. If we allow our own or our spouse’s love tank to get low– develop a vacuum– we create space for something else to come in and fill it up. The lower it gets, the more opportunity a negative force has to put pressure on your marriage. And have no illusion about what “negative influence” will come. Our culture offers us plenty– busyness, workaholism, pornography at our fingertips, relationships outside of marriage, hobbies, even church work! When we aren’t meeting the legitimate needs of our spouse we put our marriages in a very dangerous position for something– or someone– else to meet them.

An activity might be good, bad, or neutral, but if it pushes between us and our spouses, the devil can use it to hurt our marriages.

A situation we experienced, and I would imagine is very common, was when our children were young and I began working full-time. Mr X went to college full time and worked part time. I also began having serious allergy problems (thank you moldy old school) and recurrent sinus infections.

Needless to say, we were exhausted! I needed emotional intimacy and words of affirmation. These did not come naturally to a much younger Mr X. He needed physical intimacy, which was the last thing on my list after teaching then coming home for the second shift, often being sick on top of everything else.

In a typical male/female interaction, it’s a cycle– When a woman feels emotionally intimate, she’s more open to physical intimacy. When a man experiences physical intimacy, he’s more open to emotional intimacy. (For a much better explanation, please read Sheila Gregoire’s post.) But stop one and the whole system jams up. So I withdrew into child care, house work, and teaching. He withdrew into his school work, his construction business, and video games.

It probably was a good thing we were both so tired or else we would have been easy prey for affairs!

What could we have done, short of not working and going to school? 3 things:

1. Maintained emotional intimacy– talked about the situation and the problems and challenges it presented. We would have benefited from Auntie Em’s posts about Fruits of the Spirit in marriage, particularly patience! Acknowledging the problem, realizing that it was related to temporary situations with a light at the end of a long tunnel, having a plan to deal with it, admitting what we were missing and what we needed– all this would have helped us to deal with it in a much healthier and more productive way.

2. Maintained spiritual intimacy– This was pretty much absent from our marriage for a very long time. We were always active and regular in church, but we never prayed together or shared spiritual needs until the last few years, after our children flew the nest.

3. Compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed  from one another – (of course, that could have happened only if #1 had been happening!) This is a complicated issue that requires its own post… So stay tuned.

Few people have seen really healthy marriages modeled in their childhood homes. We’ve made huge strides, but our kids missed out while they were growing up. However, countless resources are available for building healthy marriages nowadays. It’s up to us to do the hard work necessary to overcome the deficiencies we come to marriage with.

What are you struggling to overcome in your marriage?

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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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