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!

Carrying Hearts

A young man from my church recently got married and his mom is collecting marriage wisdom from people who have spoken into his life. I’ve known him since he was born, and his parents for about 30 years! This is what I told him, and thought it might speak to some others too.

A poem by e.e. cummings begins

“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)”

It says a lot about marriage. You have a huge responsibility to care for your spouse- every part of him or her; physical, emotional, work, play.(“I am NEVER without it…”) Everything that Christ says about a Christian’s responsibility to other Christians applies: “Think of the other as more important than yourself” (Phil 2:3) pretty much sums it up. And pay special attention to all the instructions specific to husbands and wives.  (Eph 5:22-29 and 1 Cor 7 come to mind.) Note it doesn’t say do this IF your spouse is fulfilling all of his or her obligations to you. Remember that humans are selfish and there is a natural tendency to hold back, to put yourself first. You have to fight your nature to have a marriage like God intended.

The other side is that you have to trust your spouse enough to give your heart to them to carry. This can be scary because you must be willing to open yourself completely to them, to let them see the real you. You are ONE FLESH (Eph 5:31) (“whatever is done by only me is your doing…”) and we often don’t want to admit our flaws. When we want to hide our ugly from our spouse, many times it’s because we don’t want to admit our sin to ourselves.  The heart is deceitful above all things… (Jer 17:9-10)

But the truth will set you free. (John 8:32) And it will build your marriage into something more beautiful than you imagined, because you follow the plan of the One who created marriage!

Mel and Rand mothers' day

(This is a recent picture of Mr. X and me, enjoying a better marriage than ever after 36+ years.)

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is– HOPE

he who promises is faithful

This morning I was thinking and praying about some long-term situations that aren’t what I’d like them to be, that I’ve been praying for a long time about, and I was reminded of things I’ve heard about powerful prayers. I’ve always felt that I’m not a good pray-er. But when I read these Scriptures in articles that I “happened” to find on Facebook, I felt like God had given them directly to me.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promises is faithful. Heb. 10:23

If we profess to be Believers, and we spend lots of time, energy, and money in His Kingdom, then why do we pray like wimps? HE is the one on whom those answered prayers depend, and He promises. And He is faithful.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15: 13

He is the God of HOPE. And while we are waiting for Him to accomplish His work, we can be joyful, peaceful, and hopeful. The Holy Spirit is the One who will do this work in us while God is working out the situations.

I will return her [Israel’s] vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. Hos 2:15

The vineyards represent fruitfulness, richness and abundance of life. God’s provision. And not only will He provide our needs, He will take the Valley of Trouble — been there lately?– and not only get you out of there to some safe place, it will be a gateway of HOPE! I’ve been through some valleys of trouble, and have seen how He did just that. If I hadn’t gone through the Valley, the place I got to would never have been so sweet.

Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But first, forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against. Mark 11:22-25

Books have been written on this passage, but here’s what jumped out at me this morning: 1) The changing of tense from …believe it will happen… to …believe that you’ve received it… I’m channeling CS Lewis when I say that God isn’t bound by time, any more than He’s bound by space or gravity. Believing and receiving are present and future to us, but to Him, they are all the same. Perhaps having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) will apply here, and we can believe both that it will happen and that God has already said YES at the same time.

2) I have to do my part, which is forgive anyone that I’m holding a grudge against. (I think there are other things too, that are my part–that whole discipleship thing which includes Bible study, prayer, and a godly love walk– we can’t pick and choose some Scripture and ignore the others.) But after I do my very best to do my part, the rest is up to God. We just have to pray in faith, using His own word to “remind Him” of what He promised (like He could forget!) but mostly to remind US.

Thank you Father for answering prayer, for Your Word that contains Your promises and inspires Hope. I thank You for using what You spoke to me to encourage everyone who reads this.

 

 

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The Truth Really Will Set You Free

I’ve mentioned before how much we love the YouVersion Bible app, with its many translations, languages, and plans available. After Easter I started a new reading plan called “The 7 Laws of Love” by Dave Willis. Day 3’s devotional blew me away! Its message has proved true in my marriage.

[And by “secrets” I’m not talking about things I’m doing that I’m not telling- in our case it was hurt feelings or skewed priorities that we kept quiet about. Just because you don’t acknowledge or talk about a problem doesn’t mean it’s not there. It WILL come out.]

Excerpt from “Love Speaks Truth”

“Jesus famously told us in Scripture that the truth has the power to set us free, and his statement has been quoted in courtrooms, movies, and countless other places ever since. It’s a beautiful thought, but it’s also a powerful truth. When we find the courage to confess our secrets, there is nothing to hinder our lives or our love.

I’ve watched this principle hold true countless times within the relational dynamic of marriage. Trust is vital in any healthy relationship, but the stakes are highest within the context of marriage. Marriage was created by God to be a relationship of complete unity and transparency, so deception of any kind will undermine the foundation of the marriage covenant. I tell couples often, “Your marriage will never be stronger than your trust in each other.”

If a married couple can’t trust each other, they can’t fully function. A husband and wife must operate like two wings on the same bird; if they don’t work together in full partnership, the marriage will never get off the ground. Trust makes that possible. When we replace trust with secrecy, we’re erecting invisible barriers to limit the growth in our marriages. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy.

When a problem is hidden, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Once it’s out in the open, the healing process can finally begin.

Until we can look in the mirror and come to terms with our own sins and our own desperate need for God’s grace, we’ll never be able to see ourselves or others through the lens of love. God wants us to have a heart for loving unlovable people because that’s what God did for us. He loved us much more than we could ever deserve, and he calls us to do the same for others.”

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Funny How God Works

I hate election seasons.

I hate the rudeness of the candidates and the junior-high name calling and mudslinging; I hate the bias of the news media, and the innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies that are flung around carelessly.

I hate having to vote AGAINST someone rather than FOR someone. I hate how people seem to mindlessly follow popular opinion and don’t seem to really think about their votes.

I hate how I see news stories about the election when I don’t seek them out. (Thanks FB; I’m about over you.)

But I *love* how God works in the midst of my turmoil and worry. This morning yet another story about the character flaws of the leading candidate– as if I needed convincing– came up in my news feed, and I had to repent about not trusting God to take care of our country if this man is elected President. But when I had my quiet time, Psalm 79 was next in my through-the-Bible reading. It begins “The heathen have invaded our land,” and continues with prayers for God’s mercy. It was a good springboard for prayer.

Then, in my Women of Faith “Boundless Love” book I’m reading, this:

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Help for the Highly Sensitive

I get a daily email devotion from CS Lewis. Well, really from Bible Gateway, but it’s a selection from the letters, speeches, and books that CS Lewis wrote. There’s not a bad one in the lot, but sometimes a particular one resonates perfectly with me. The one from May 29 was such a one: in the words of Modern Mrs. Darcy, I’m a “highly-sensitive person.” My mood is very easily influenced by feelings of others or events happening close by or in the news. I have to fight depressed feelings, and I do so by praying about them. I rarely have any control over the events that tend to bring me down anyway! Here’s a little reminder that feelings are fickle, and are not an accurate indicator of the presence of the Holy Spirit or God’s favor, or really much of anything!

“On the holy spirit

It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”

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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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Twitterature– The Kitchen House

the kitchen houseWOW! One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Historical fiction in early 19th-century Virginia, on a plantation. We witness the dynamics between the family in the “big house,” the house “servants” (It was so uncouth to use the word “slave”), the field hands, the overseer, and the protagonist, a little white Irish girl whose parents who had indentured themselves to pay for passage to America, then died on the voyage over. She lived somewhere between the worlds of white and black, of Kitchen House and Big House.

I had to peek at the end to avoid heart failure… the tension was so great!

FIVE STARS!!

5 stars book

Twitterature- book reviews with Modern Mrs. Darcy

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“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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A Merry Heart– A Visit with Mr. Rogers

A merry heart is good medicine…

Proverbs 17:22

I didn’t grow up with Mr. Rogers, and my kids didn’t either– no cable– but every time I’ve seen him I’ve wished we had! What a kind man and great teacher. Before you watch the video, let me tell you a story shared by a dear friend of mine:

 He was a superior human being. I’ll always remember being his busboy at The Plaza Hotel. He was running a meeting for PBS execs, and when I brought over more butter for their bread, he stopped what he was doing, turned around to make eye contact with me and said, “Thank you for the butter.” HIS VOICE saying thank you for the butter. Priceless. So kind.

This is a flashback clip of a young boy visiting Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, then the boy all grown up surprising Mr. Rogers at his TV Hall of Fame induction. I know sometimes I can’t take 11 minutes to watch a video and maybe you can’t either– so here are the highlights:

3:00 They sing together. (Cuteness overload!)

5:32 the Awards ceremony begins

7:40 Mr. Rogers’ message. This is the heart of it. FAME is a 4-letter word.

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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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