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!

“Good Enough” is Good Enough

For many of us, school is about to start. If you are a teacher, you might start weeping and gnashing your teeth when you read that statement! No matter how much you enjoy it, teaching school has a way of sucking the life out of you — and I’m sure other jobs are the same way.

Sometimes my job gets out of control– I stay too late; bring work home; and even when I’m away it’s on my mind. But I’m better than I used to be! I’m always optimistic that I can manage my work time and tasks better so I won’t be a blob on the couch when I get home. How bout you? I’ve put together some ideas specifically aimed at perfectionists and overachievers– the Marthas of the world. In a job like mine (high school choir teacher), I get a salary and I have some expected outside activities, but I could find or make things to do at school every day till 6:00. But only if SCHOOL (or my program, or looking good in my region, or others’ admiration) were my first priority! I have to find the right balance.

1. Start with some quiet time to think. You’re going to brainstorm, so tell Martha to be quiet while Mary uses her imagination. Don’t let “It won’t work” or “How can I do that?” come in the picture.

2. List your priorities. Then put them in order. Don’t worry about what they SHOULD be– or what your schedule says they are– just what YOU think they are. Here are mine: God, husband, my children, church/service, job. (Don’t overanalyze. Just write down what your first thought is. You can change it later if you want!) If you have been frazzled, what areas do you feel like were neglected?

The next few steps are to be done in layers. First build the skeleton, then come back and add some muscle.

3. Now to the nitty gritty: What activities does your employer REQUIRE of you outside regular hours?

This might be vague, especially if you’ve been a Martha . Ask yourself if your boss would reprimand you if you didn’t do it. (Tell Martha to shut it; she is not welcome in this exercise!) These are the tasks that you MUST do if you want to keep your job. An example in my case is that  I prepare my students for All-Region Choir competitions , UIL Concert and Sight-Reading, a Christmas concert and Pop Show in May.

4. What is required for you to do your job during regular hours?

I have to teach our repertoire to performance or competition level. By doing this the students learn music theory, music history, and vocal and ensemble skills required by the state.

5. Now draw your “yellow lines” around your priorities. (I just read Body by God by Dr. Ben Lerner and he used that concept– You don’t cross yellow lines in traffic, and you don’t cross yellow lines in your schedule. If it’s family time, GO HOME from work!) If work infringes on your family time, I would recommend starting with family time. In a perfect world, I would leave work at ….? Don’t start listing reasons why it won’t work. Just say what time you need to leave in order to make your family time your priority. For me it’s 4:30, an hour after school gets out.

Now remember, Martha, you’re still not making any decisions, just brainstorming!

Now to flesh out your “skeleton.”

1. How can you make your outside expectations fit in your priorities? Remember my All-Region Choir requirement. That could take up all my waking hours if I let it. Here’s how I cut it down to size:

We work on the music in class; we bring in paid voice teachers one afternoon a week, and I offer morning sectional rehearsals. I cheer, encourage, and make online resources available, I’m also available for individual help upon request. What I DON’T do is require everybody to come in for sectionals, or set up times for private lessons for me to work with all of them after school. I would be at school all hours if I did, and my philosophy is it’s THEIR responsibility to practice and get help. If they can do it only with my pushing and holding their hand, they don’t need to do it. They are in high school. And besides, my kids are some of the busiest ones on campus- advanced classes, band, drama, church, sports, etc… They have lots of demands on their time too. I try to make my class time very productive so they will need little outside time.

Brainstorm options to lessen the demands of your requirements.

2. What about your work-hours expectations? I have to teach repertoire, including the theory, history, and technique needed to perform it.

I love making videos and powerpoints or slide shows. However, they are very time consuming. But they engage the kids more than plain old paper or projector do! Yes, but how much more is learned? My very wise mentor asked me one time early in my career (when I was practically living at school), “For the extra 2 hours you put in that project, how many kids honestly benefited more than if you had taught it another way?” And the answer was, “Maybe none.” It was just prettier, flashier, and more fun for me.

If you are a teacher who is trying to scale back work time, and have lesson plans that have worked well, use them again! For heaven’s sake why reinvent the wheel? My wise daughter Sis reminded one of our overachiever perfectionist students who was way too stressed for a high school student that “Good enough is good enough!”

  • Make 1 or 2 projects/units each summer.
  • Collaborate with colleagues. Dropbox or other online resources make this so easy!
  • Google something before you make it! Chances are, somebody else has done it already.
  • Delegate! For me, the obvious thing would be to have students make the videos. More learning for them, less time for me.

If you have an activity you love that is not required, balance the time it takes and the benefits gained. We always sing at our Veterans’ Day programs, For me, the benefits gained are easily worth the time involved: giving my kids the opportunity to learn about the sacrifices made for our country, honoring the Vets, and serving in our community. Easy win, well worth the time involved. But we have sung the National Anthem at events in Houston that end up taking 8-10 hours out of a Saturday. It’s fun for the kids, and a cool experience, but that’s about all. Way too “expensive.” Maybe we could do that every other year, and alternate with singing at a sporting event at our local university.

Be creative and play devil’s advocate. If you have only a certain number of hours– and you do– how can you adapt this activity to make it fit? If you can’t, ditch it.

Let me address the elephant in the room now.

If you have been running and doing and giving much more than is required, and you decide to make your actions match what you say your priorities are, some people will not be happy with you. Anticipate this. You might want to give them a heads-up if you are not going to do some things you’ve been doing. You might want to phase out some activities gradually. But they probably will still be unhappy. You ultimately have to ask yourself who is higher on your priority list, those people or your family? (or whatever other priority you are moving up on your list) The apostle Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Once you’ve brainstormed, leave your list a while. Pray. Think. Get counsel from one of your Board of Directors. Then go back to it and see how you can change your world.

"Good enough" is good enough

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What’s Your Anchor?

 

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She did it again… Sarah Young wrote one just for me. (Jesus Calling) The visual of the anchor on a short rope tugging you back to where you are supposed to be spoke to me like carrying around the bag of rocks never did. (You know the one– you pray for something but rather than leave it with God, you carry the heavy bag around till next time you pray.)

Let me back up. There have been times when things I should have left with God after I “gave” them to Him– forgiven sins of my own or others; failures, hurt feelings, disappointments; requests for one thing or another– have tied themselves to me like an anchor. I would pray for something. or grant forgiveness; I’d be free of it for a bit, then suddenly– YANK! It jerked me back to it.

“I can’t believe I did that.”
“I can’t believe he did that.”

“Why did she have to say THAT?”

“Why can’t I ever [fill in the blank]?”

“When will it ever happen?”

Every time something OTHER than God pulls us up short, taking control of our minds until we obsess over it, we are allowing it to be our anchor. Maybe it’s a dream you’ve been working toward, and you’ve done your part but now are having to wait. Maybe it’s a relationship you are waiting for healing in. Maybe it’s your health– your finances– your children.

Yes, we are to pray persistently. (the persistent widow in Luke 18) Yes, God sometimes answers prayers in the way we would like. But God does what He chooses (Psalm 115:3), and sometimes it’s not what we, in all our wisdom, want. In the case of relationships, and other people, He allows THEM free will just as He does you. Some relationships will never be healed in your life. But who knows what will happen after you die?

Do we trust God enough to ask for a thing in prayer, and then leave it to Him? To tell Him, “However you choose to answer it is okay with me”? To say, “I receive Your forgiveness and believe what You said, that I am a new creature”? Do we trust His love for us enough to accept “NO?” Or “wait indefinitely?”

Is GOD alone, enough?

Dear Father, I ask that You help our paltry faith when we try to pin You down to proving Your love for us by answering a prayer in a certain way, or at a certain time. Help us believe, Lord.

While you are pondering that, please listen to the wonderful Concordia Choir from Minnesota sing the late Moses Hogan’s “My Soul’s Been Anchored.”

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My Delight

Delight yourself in the Lord

Sharing with More to Be today. Come on over and get a good dose of delight!

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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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See, the Winter is Past…

The flowers appear on the earth...

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Don’t Give Up

Do you ever get tired of doing what you believe God called you to do? Do you wonder if maybe that season is over, or perhaps you imagined the whole thing? Many times we are EXACTLY where we are supposed to be, right in the center of God’s will for our lives, doing EXACTLY what He has prepared us to do. Hang in there!

don't get weary

 

Come visit at the new linkup I found!

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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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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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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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