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– March 17

A merry heart is good medicine…

Proverbs 17:22

Good morning! Get your tissues ready– this is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen.

A shout-out to Modern Mrs. Darcy for highlighting this video. Please read her article The Peculiar Sadness of Somebody Else’s Happy Video if there are sad tears. But the good news is, even if you didn’t come from a “happily-ever-after” kind of family, you can make your own. My parents weren’t; nor were either sets of my grandparents (whom I didn’t know). But I knew a lot of what NOT to do, and had a very good friend who became a counselor (Teekay), and I gave her plenty of practice!

Isaac did a proposal video before this one, which is also a feel-good fest. I have a feeling this couple does indeed have the best ahead of them.

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Since I haven’t been able to get a new post out this week, let me share one from my sweet friend TeeKay– she sings from the same hymnal that I do– as a matter of fact, she gave me the hymnal! She’s the CEO of my Board of Directors!


A Thimble’s worth of wisdom

Take Your Medicine!

Hypothetically, if you get sick, go to the doc, and the doc prescribes a medicine to help you get well, would you take the meds? The medicine is proven safe, is legal, has no side effects, and works well. I think most of us would take the doctor’s advice to take the medicine. That sounds reasonable and acceptable.

But how many of us become exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated or just emotionally drained, and still do not take care of ourselves by taking the prescribed medicine, which most often is to simply stop the rat race and breathe. Rest, take care of your mind and body, and get better. Take a break and say NO to unnecessary commitments.

That seems so hard to understand and maybe even harder to do.  We can make the decision to do what we know is best for our…

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Auntie Em’s Board of Directors

Who influences you? Who is your role model? Whose style do you study and copy?

We all are influenced by someone. I think it is wise to examine yourself, determine where you need guidance, and then deliberately choose your role models, instead of just accepting the ones who are shoved at us day in and day out. (Paris Hilton, anyone? Maybe not.)

For Style:

I have always been very intrigued by the British Royal Family. I was born just a few months before Princess Diana, and she was one of my stars for a long time. I wore ruffles and opaque tights like she did. I coveted a sapphire and diamond ring; never got one, but I did get a really nice knock-off! I was very sad about all her personal problems, marriage breakup, and untimely death. Now I’ve shifted my style love to her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. If only I were 9 inches taller I might could pull off some of her looks! However, what I love about her besides her great fashion sense and beauty is her modesty, confidence, kindness, and sense of duty. She seems very comfortable in her skin, and those are great qualities to emulate.

In real life, my colleague at work, who is 16 years younger than I, is my role model. My guiding principle has always been comfort, and if I liked an article of clothing in 1986, then I probably still do! In our first year of teaching together, she hid my bathing suit (that I was so proud of, being able to fit in it 15 years after I bought it), then took me on a “What not to wear” shopping expedition! I also consult my daughters- I don’t want to be one of those women who, at 50, is trying to look 25, but a little fashion sense never hurt anyone!

The designer and decorator Laura Ashley managed to capture my decorating tastes completely. I bought several of her books to give me starting places. I love Shabby Chic and have recently discovered Pottery Barn.

For things spiritual: of course the authors of the Bible, but some others have influenced me too.

C.S. Lewis has written some of the best, most thought-provoking literature I’ve ever read. His children’s series (The Chronicles of Narnia– if you haven’t read them, go get them TODAY!) are perfectly entertaining as stand-alone stories, but so much deeper when you look at them through the lens of his Christianity. His Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity are 2 of my all-time favorites. He has influenced me time and again.

Andy Stanley, the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia speaks the Truth so eloquently and creatively; every time I listen to him it’s like a V-8 moment!

For mothering: My sister. She is 5 years older than I am, and I got to spend lots of time with her and her young kids before I ever married, so I had a lot of experience going into motherhood.

For music: my piano teacher, Jay. I took lessons from him from 8th grade through college, and a bit again after all the children were here and I needed to work my brain. Then he taught both my girls, so we have maintained a close relationship. If I can’t remember the name of a piece of music, I call him and hum it; he will be able to tell me what it is!

For mental and emotional health. TeeKay of . She left her position as choir teacher to study counseling. I got her job, and the benefit of her new career! She has been a friend and mentor for 30 years now.

For cooking: My mother-in-law and Paula Deen… Use more butter!

For wisdom in decision making: Mr X. He is very level-headed, and can see all sides of a situation easily. He can anticipate problems so that we can work them out in advance, which is very hard for me. I always think everything will work out just fine!

For how to be kind and giving, and to “bloom where I’m planted”: my mother. My goodness, she was the sweetest person you could meet. She took care of people – that was how she related to everyone. She was a 2nd grade teacher, and everyone I ever knew that had her or worked with her praised her kindness. After her stroke, when she lived  alone in an apartment complex, she was the young one of the circle of little old ladies living there. She organized domino games, took them out to eat, drove them to the grocery store or ran errands for them. . When she moved into a nursing home the last 3 years of her life, she had the same sweet spirit among the residents– she was a party waiting to happen!

So dears, think about it. In what areas of you life do you need encouragement or improvement? Choose a board of directors for yourself!


Be Anxious for Nothing!

Do you ever worry over something like a dog with an old bone? You chew on it, take it out and look at it a while, turn it over and over to examine it from all angles, talk about it to your friends, maybe make a Facebook post about it, MAYBE pray about it, then go right back to chewing? (Do I sound like the voice of experience? GUILTY.) I recently read on that great source of sound doctrine, Facebook, (My tongue is firmly in my cheek, but I have so many wise Christian friends that I do call it my Facebook Bible study!) that “Worry is saying that God can’t handle our problems.”

Philippians 4:4-8 is a great kitchen-wall Scripture… the challenge comes in living it!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASV)

The cure for worrying is right here in Philippians. Rejoice in the Lord. When? Always. You mean when there’s lots more month, and not much money? Yep. When my son is failing a class? Un-huh. When my daughter insists on dating a loser? You bet. When I’m sick? Then too. And the reason we rejoice is there too: The Lord is near. Remember, He said He would be with us ALWAYS, even till the ends of time. (Matthew 28:20)

And look a little further. God invites us to talk to Him about what is worrying us. Don’t worry about it, but talk to me (prayer), and tell Me what you’d like (supplication, requests). Thank Me. (Thank You Father for inviting me to talk to You, for wanting to talk to me, for being concerned about my problems. Thank You for what You will do in the situation and in me.)

What will happen? The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. I love that! My mind needs guarding, because it can go crazy! You’ve done it too, haven’t you, when your child is out late and you hear a siren, or you get called back into the doctor and you have your funeral planned before you get there?

I want to throw in another thing about guarding our hearts and minds. Yes, God is all powerful, but we have brains that I believe we should use. Be careful, dearies, about what you allow in your heart and mind. Pay attention; examine yourself, and figure out what makes you anxious. Then get it out of your life if you can. It is silly to ask God to remove your anxiety while you are ingesting a steady diet that will worry you, just like scooting a book closer and closer to the edge of a table and asking God not to let it fall!

Our modern culture is a worry-maker, and I believe you have to actively fight NOT to allow it to. The very pace of it is exhausting… there’s always something to do, people to talk to, problems to hash and rehash… I’ve chosen to avoid any political show that is not informational– I don’t want to hear people argue, interrupt and talk over each other, with no real interest in having a meeting of the minds. I get the facts in simple lists, and I will vote, but I’m not going to spend a lot of energy listening to “hype.” I used to watch the Law and Order SVU all the time, but I realized that the depravity of the bad guys was just letting too much darkness into my life. One of my favorite book series was Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles, which was much darker than the TV series. With my tendency to depression, I finally decided that it was unwise to expose myself to that kind of literature.

So here’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it: Confess your worry. Tell God that you know He can handle it. Thank Him for His constant love for you and whoever you’re worrying about. Quit talking about it! Find some applicable Scriptures and write them on index cards, rewording them to fit your situation. Avoid anything that makes you feel worse.

So keep that poster on your Facebook wall, and the Scripture verse on your kitchen wall, but be sure and get the passage in your heart!

TeeKay from A Thimbleful of Wisdom, Juliana from simplyjuliana, and I are teaming up to do a series on Philippians every Wednesday in September. We started last week with “Work in Harmony“; and next week will be Whatever… But for today, it’s a favorite “kitchen wall Scripture”…


Super Sweet


(Have I got your sweet tooth screaming? All these pictures are in my Pinterest food board; you can click to follow me.)

There are a lot of really good, inspiring writers around the world, writing blogs while carrying on with their “real” lives. It’s encouraging to know that there is so much wisdom and kindness in the hearts and minds of regular, everyday people. One of these people is Faith at Faithrises, who writes to encourage, motivate, uplift, and inspire people to rise above personal difficulties and challenging circumstances. What a great work!

Sweet Faith nominated me for the “Super Sweet Blogging Award.” What a “sweet” thing to do! My constant prayer is that all my words, coming from my mouth or my fingertips, will be a pleasing, sweet aroma to our Father. This is a fun award because it’s all about sweets… which I love! Then I get to nominate my own sweetie-pie bloggers.


1. Give credit to the person who chose to nominate you. (You rock, Faith!)

2. Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.

3. Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (13) blogs.  

“Super Sweet” Questions:

1. Cookies or Cake?  Cake. The ooey-gooey, pecan-covered, fudgey chocolate sheet cake.

2Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate!  

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? See #1

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Mid-afternoon. I could eat the whole cake when I get home from work.

5.   If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? I’m usually “honey” to my sweetie.

My Baker’s Dozen blogs:

1. simplyjuliana

2. A Thimble’s Worth of Wisdom

3. Deep Roots at Home

4. On the Border

5. Climbing the Mountain

6. I Hope 4 him

7. Thoughts from an American Woman

8. The Alabaster Jar

9.  The Romantic Vineyard

10. Too Darn Happy

11. The Reluctant Entertainer

12. Sherry’s Place

13. My botanical garden

Visit these great bloggers, and you will be in for a treat! If they are new to you, tell them I sent you by.


Upcoming Series– Life Lessons from Philippians 4

September 1st…Summer is over, so it’s time to get back to “school!”
Have you ever felt you needed a life coach? A little help in your relationships with family members? Your thoughts? Your insecurities?
Help is on the way!
Every Wednesday in the month of September, my friends Teekay at A Thimble’s Worth of Wisdom, Juliana at simplyjuliana, and I are teaming up to do a series on Philippians 4. Each Wednesday we will all write on these topics.
Sept 5- Work in Harmony (Philippians 4:2-3)

Sept 12- Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:4-7)
Sept 19-Whatever.. (Philippians 4:8)
Sept 26- I can do all things (Philippians 4:13)
Please join us as we share three different aspects of the same Scriptures. As we go, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or write your own post and link us to it!

Is Blogging For You?

You might remember that my sweet bloggy friend simplyjuliana awarded me a Reader Appreciation Award a few weeks ago. Well now she won a One Lovely Blog Award and passed it on to me! Her blog is a few months older than mine, and apparently an offhand Facebook remark from me inspired her to start it! (She had said something profoundly spiritual that made me ask if she wrote a blog, and I told her she should if she wasn’t already.) Well when I started getting an itch to write, I talked to her about it and she encouraged me to go for it. We’ve bounced ideas around and had such a good time together.

If you have some hard-earned wisdom, or an area of expertise, consider starting your own blog! When I realized that people asked me questions often (many times on Facebook, about flower gardening) I realized I might know some things that would help others. It’s been very rewarding to get the comments and feedback. If you are not ready to go all out, write a short essay about something in your field and send it to me. I’ll consider publishing it as a guest post! TeeKay did that, then started her own.

I have quickly found a community of kind people who are helpful and supportive. It’s lots of fun, and writing posts makes me think! Questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll be glad to help.


The Commentator Award

There are several awards that go around Blogland. (I sound like I really know what I’m doing; like I’m really a bona fide resident of Blogland and not an imposter!) Once you get one, you can pass it on to another whose blog you think meets the requirements of the award. This one awards the people who leave comments on your blog. For a long time now, I’ve had several blogs I visited daily but rarely, if ever, “liked” or left a comment. Now that I’m writing, I realize how much those comments mean to the writer! Somebody is listening! And I helped. Or made somebody laugh. Or think. As my old preacher used to say, “It’s like saying SIC’ EM to a dog!”

The official rules tell you to look on your site stats page and see who the top 7 commenters are. Hopefully you are in there, and I am #1 since I feel like, if somebody takes the time to comment, they deserve a reply and my thanks! Then you can choose another, for whatever reason you want.

I was #5 on my sweet friend simplyjuliana‘s blog and so she awarded me. Since she sort of “launched” me, we have many of the same blogging friends, so my top commenters got her award too… so I’m skipping on to my choice. It’s TeeKay from athimblesworthofwisdom. If you’ve read many of my posts, you will see her name a lot. She’s about the president of my board of directors and a friend close as a sister. She actually is high on my list of commenters, but besides the NUMBER of comments she’s left, the sweet notes she has left has lifted my spirits and encouraged me many times.

Thank you simplyjuliana, and TeeKay!


Thank you, Dave Ramsey

Auntie Em had a flat tire last week, and didn’t see it until after driving to TeeKay‘s down the block, and ruining it. Her sweet husband changed it while we took her car and went swimming! It turned out to be a good thing (Romans 8:28 again!) because when Mr X took it to the tire shop, they found wire showing through on another tire, and we realized it was time to replace them all. The good news was that we had the money saved, so I didn’t have to worry about driving on bald tires, or decide what I could do without while I paid for tires, or put them on a credit card and pay exorbitant interest!

You will recall that one of Auntie Em’s rules is BE FRUGAL. I believe this is a Biblical principle, as well as one that just makes sense. There are so many things we can fritter our money away on, and advertisers work tirelessly to convince us of our need for their products. When Mr X and I got married, at 21 and 19, he was making a whopping $5/hour (but with unlimited overtime!) and I had 12 piano students at $25/month. We had no financial plan. We had never talked about our goals. But you know that old saying that “God protects children and fools”? I guess we were both of those, and it worked out well, mostly because of his parents’ example of frugality and good stewardship. (Just a note, though- in the year and a half before we bought our first house we saved $7,000!)

We have taught 2 sessions of Dave’s Financial Peace University at our church, and we are believers! It has made a significant difference in the lives of several of our church families. In a nutshell, he has 7 “Baby Steps”:

       1. $1000 emergency fund

       2. Debt snowball (pay off all debt except home mortgage)

       3. 3-6 months’ living expense emergency fund

       4. retirement

       5. college fund for your kids

       6. Pay off your house early.

       7. Give like crazy!

He has a great website, with lots of free resources. If you are stressed out about your finances, you don’t have to be! Dave will tell you, he doesn’t have any new ideas. These are all things your grandmother told you! But with a plan to get your money under YOUR control, instead of the other way around, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

More to come about frugality and finances. In the meantime, meditate on what Solomon said. (Richest man in the world- think maybe he knew some things about money management?)
Proverbs 22:7 — “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
Proverbs 21:20 — “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”
Proverbs 21:5 — “The plan of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”
Proverbs 27:23 — “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.”
For a more complete list, on Dave’s website, click here.

Every Little Helps!

“Every little helps,” said the old woman as she wet in the sea.

                                                                              My mother was raised by her grandmother, Lizzie Adkisson Forrest. This is one of the sayings she liked to quote! (And you’re right, I wondered too why she didn’t put “bit” in there!)

This is a great mantra for recovering perfectionists. I say it to myself and my friends over and over. Here are a few instances where my great-grandmother’s wisdom helped this week:

A friend and I were talking about how we loved Pinterest. I was admiring the wonderful elementary classroom ideas she had collected. She said disparagingly, “Now if I’d only USE them I’d be a good teacher!” But I  reminded her that even if she used just a few, she would be a better teacher than she was last year. Every little helps!

Blue Ribbon For First Place Royalty Free Stock Photo - Image: 10708795Along the same idea, my colleague and I have come up with a methodical system of skills and checklists to move our choir students from “zero to hero,”  so to speak. There are ribbons to be awarded, and videos to record… lots of bells and whistles. We’ve put the checklists and lots of the material we use for teaching all on a website, with the idea that the kids can practice at home. I don’t know how much that happens, and we’ve been hit-and-miss about ribbons, but I can tell you, we’ve brought our kids much further than we ever did without the whole system. Every little helps!

I am really realizing that I need to exercise! My mother had her first stroke and retired early at 54. I plan to live a long, healthy life, so I won’t have to move into Sis’s guesthouse, so it’s really hitting home. But I’d so much rather read or write! It’s so hot outside! My feet hurt! But I did bicycle for 21 minutes this week with TeeKay. It’s not great, but it’s something. Every little helps! 

And finally, for the job at hand. One of the projects I always put on my to-do list at the beginning of any period of time off, is to straighten every closet, drawer, and storage receptacle in my house. (A perfect goal for a perfectionist, no?) And I have one week more until I go back to work. So I think I’ll start today with my freezer, and when I’m done I’ll be one step closer. Every little helps!

How do you deal with big projects that weigh you down?


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