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!

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.


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!



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?


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


Got 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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The Rest of the Story

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

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

“It’s out of style.”

“It looks cheap.”

“The eyes are creepy.”

“The gold is worn off.”

Grandma Grantham young

Mama as a young woman

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

And I love it.

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

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


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

Grandma in witch hat

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


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


Bib or Apron?

  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Our preacher did it again– he teaches the Word and applies it! He asked, “Are you wearing a bib or an apron?” And while he was applying the Scripture to immature Christians, I of course immediately said, “That applies to marriage too!”

Many marriage problems are not marriage problems at all, but are people problems. I’m continually harping on the fact that people — we — are naturally selfish. Look at a baby. Does it care that you have slept only 4 hours? Is it concerned that you have 2 other children to care for? Of course not! What about later, when he is expected to share? Does it come naturally? Not for most children. But hopefully, as a child grows older, it learns to be less self-centered and more others- centered. When two emotionally mature adults marry, they still have problems that any other married couple have, but they can work through them.

Brother Chuck mentioned 4 characteristics of immature Christians, and they are the same for immature spouses.

  • They are unable to digest the “meat” of the Word and were stuck in the elementary lessons. Immature spouses are unable to unable to digest the “meat” of real relationships, including the challenges that come along with them. Instead, they withdraw, either physically or emotionally.
  • They are incompatible with their spouse. Jealousy and quarrels abound. Remember that Godly marriages have a supernatural enemy who hates God and us, and wants anything glorifying God to fail. When we fight with one another, we can’t fight him. He doesn’t even have to fool with us because we’re not a threat to him.
  • They are unstable, tossed to and fro depending on the mood of the day or the advice of whomever they are talking to.
  • They are irresponsible. Any marital problem is laid at the feet of their spouse; it’s never their fault!

apron     princess bib edited

What are you wearing today?


Beauty for Ashes

When Sunshine was in first grade, her school nurse gave her a vision screening and she failed it. We followed up with a professional exam. When it was over, the doctor sent all the kids out into the waiting room, looked me in the eyes and said, “There is a problem…Blah blah… Amblyopia….blah blah… Strabismus… Legally blind in that eye…”

If you are a mother you can understand that I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach and had all the air let out of me.

Visit me at Deep and Wonderful Thoughts to hear “the rest of the story”! It’s part of Lisa’s “Beauty for Ashes” series.

photo (3)


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.


Armor Up your Marriage

armor up your marriageIn my last post I wrote about my husband’s motorcycle accident at the end of November, and how his riding gear– a full face helmet, riding gloves and boots, and an armored jacket– saved his skin, and I believe, his life. (Read “Armor Up!” if you missed it.)  I got to thinking how God provides protective armor for us spiritually, and also in our marriages.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-12, 14-17

Stand against the devil’s schemes

It’s important to remember that God created and ordained marriage, and it is meant to be an earthly representation of the relationship between Christ and His church. Marriages that follow God’s rules are the foundation of healthy families, which in turn build a Godly society. And our enemy hates everything about marriage. Humans can do plenty of wrong, selfish things on our own, but remember when your spouse has stepped on your last nerve that the devil is scheming against your marriage. Your spouse is not your enemy— Satan is, and all the authorities and powers of this dark world. The armor that protects our spirits can also protect our marriages.

The belt of truth

The other day a salesman counseled Mr X to buy something that was more than he wanted to spend by saying, “Well just buy it and don’t tell your wife!” (He not only didn’t buy it, but told the man that he has too much respect for his wife to do that. WOW!) I remember before I started teaching school, a close friend my mother’s age advised me to write a check for groceries a little over the amount and hold that money aside as “my” money. Telling “little white lies” to your spouse is NOT okay. Neither is neglecting to tell them something you don’t want them to know, or doing something you know they don’t want you to do and hoping they don’t find out. You’re MARRIED. You are ONE FLESH. Don’t keep secrets. Nothing about you is not their business. Deception is like a little tree that grows up between the cracks in a sidewalk; it gets bigger and bigger and eventually breaks the sidewalk to pieces.

The breastplate of righteousness

In addition to general instructions on the Christian way of life, the Bible gives Christians very detailed instructions on how to behave in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7 to name a few) In a nutshell: Husbands are to love their wives with Christlike love. Wives are to respect their husbands. They actually submit to one another, loving with servant love, but somebody has to have controlling interest. That’s how I see Biblical submission of wives. The husband has the ultimate authority because his is the ultimate responsibility. I rarely watch TV and one of the big reasons is that I can’t stand the way husbands and dads are belittled and made fun of. Ladies, if you badmouth your husband that is wrong. Men, if you put your own needs ahead of your wife’s, that is wrong. If we want our marriages to be protected by God’s armor, we have to operate by His rule book.

The Gospel of peace

A Christian home should be a place of safety and peace, an oasis in a dry and dusty land!

  • Husbands,  love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Ephesians 3:19)
  • Wives, remember It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. (Proverbs 21:19) Beware of husband-bashing parties that sometimes develop when a group of girlfriends get together.

The shield of faith

I know this Scripture is talking about faith in God, but faith in your spouse is an important thing, too. Don’t assume the worst when they say something wrong; look for a different explanation. (Maybe he’s not a self-centered pig; maybe he had a really bad day at work. Maybe she isn’t totally selfish and insensitive to your needs; maybe SHE had a really bad day at work!) Often we put on a happy face out in the world, then really let our hair down at home, with the one we trust the most. Be careful not to take that trust for granted. Give a warning ahead of time if you are “out of sorts” as we say in Texas.

The helmet of salvation

I can’t stretch this one to apply to anything but God. But to put it in a marital context, if you are both believers, you are not only husband and wife, you are brother and sister in Christ. You share a common relationship with your heavenly Father. Everything that Christ exemplified and is written about relationships — selflessness, kindness, forgiveness, longsuffering, etc— also applies in marriages.

Marriages in our world today are subjected to all kinds of hazards, from sick children to leaking dishwashers to lost jobs to infidelity. The protective armor of God can deflect many of these “flaming arrows” and can give us strength to fight the battles that will come. Armor up!


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