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!

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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“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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HighTech 101– The Apple Calendar

Many people that are … Ahem… “Of a certain age” are intimidated with technology, but we CAN be taught! If I can figure this stuff out, anybody can. Auntie Em is here to be on your Board of Directors, so I’m going to do a few posts about some techno-groovy things that I use, and maybe you’ll find something you can use too! I’ll have lots of pictures and give you small bites at a time. Feel free to share with your grandmas and grandpas!

The Apple iPad/iPhone Calendar
I’m relying on my calendar more and more. The more I use it, the more sense it makes (imagine that!) and I’m doing better at remembering to enter things. No matter how good a calendar is, it is useless if you don’t actually USE it lol!
So– here we go.

Here is what it looks like. It should be on your phone or iPad when you get it.

apple calendar

There are different views you can select– list, day, and month on the phone; additional week and year on the iPad — depending on your preference and what you are doing. You can go back and forth. Today we’ll work in the month view.

Here’s how it looks when you start:

apple calendar blank month view

Adding different calendars:

You might want to use different calendars, to avoid confusion. This is the best time to do it, but you can do it later too. Obvious choices are “home,” “work,” “church,” “birthdays,” etc. I find that this helps me because I don’t want to look at everything at once! Tap “calendar” and this dialog box appears. Name your new one and pick a color. (Oops, this is on the DAY view… see at the top? I didn’t do that on purpose.) You can choose “year” and see all 12 months, or “list” and see the next events you have coming up. The “week” and “year” views are available on iPad but not iPhone. (or at least my old-timey iPhone 4!)

name new calendar and pick color

Here’s mine with all my calendars: (You can see how busy it looks when they are all visible.) When I’m blogging, I show only that one. I normally keep “me” and “work” showing all the time. You’ll have to fiddle around with it till you find what you like.

apple calendar all calendars view

Adding and editing events:

You can add an event by touching the date you want. A dialog box will pop up. In the “starts/ends” box you can check “all day” or, if you uncheck it, you can add start and stop times.

  • Note there are spots to add “repeating,” events. This is for yearly events like birthdays, or weekly or monthly events.
  • You can invite people to add it to their calendars (it syncs with your contacts if you have that option checked in settings);
  • Set up to 2 reminders for yourself, beginning with 2 days before and going to 5 minutes before; and choose which calendar to put it on. I don’t use the “availability” option, but if you share schedules or have someone make appointments for you, you would need to mark yourself as “busy” or “free.”
  • Note you can add a URL and notes too. For instance- I have a Prayer Request calendar. This is where I can update that.
  • If you add an address, then you will be able to look it up on your maps app.

apple calendar

If you need to review an event, that’s easy! Touch the event and this box will pop up. Any notes will show. If you need to change something, click “edit.” (Many times when I was first starting to use the calendar, I forgot to put it on the right calendar. You can set a default calendar in “settings.”)

apple calendar

That’s enough for now. If you’ve not tried using your Apple calendar, give it a whirl!

Next assignment: Fun with photos!

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Repainting Metal Furniture: Easy as 1-2-3

We’ve had our little bistro set for a long time– at least 7 years. It began life black, and a few years ago I repainted it this light green color. One of the legs came loose, too, and Mr. Sunshine welded it back for us. (You can see the ring holding it together if you look closely.) Anyway, it was really showing its age… (As you well know, “As we age,” all sorts of things begin to fall apart lol!)

repainting metal patio furniture

repainting metal patio furniture

So I got some rough sandpaper and smoothed over the worst of the bad spots.

repainting metal patio furniture

Then I used an old shower curtain to protect the porch, and prepared to spray. I used a spray primer just on the unpainted spots.

repainting metal patio furniture

Read your directions carefully. Both the primer and paint I used said you can repaint in 15 minutes. (or, oddly enough, 24 hours!) I used Rustoleum, and both the primer and the (hammered textured) paint covered a lot more than I expected. I used only a small amount of the primer, and a little over a can of spray.

To repaint metal patio furniture:

  • Please just buy some cheap work gloves. I didn’t and had to clean up with whatever I had on hand, which was paint THINNER (not remover) and foot scrub. Just about rubbed the skin off my hands! For the 2nd coat I stuck by hand in a grocery bag and held the can. It kept my hands clean but was awkward to work with!
  • Spray with light coats to avoid drips.

1. Use sandpaper or a steel brush to loosen up rust, then clean surfaces.

2. Use primer on rough spots. (Even if the spray paint says “use directly over rust.” It also says “Better results will be obtained if you clean and prime.”)

3. After you think you’re finished, go back and look again. Re-spray “holidays” if you find them. (Those are uncovered spots, where the painter took a holiday!)

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Cute, huh?

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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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Real Food Challenge– What Do I Eat?

As you know if you’ve been reading this week, Auntie Em has taken on The 7-Day Real Food Challenge presented by Mary’s Kitchen. As I said in my “What Do You Mean, Real Food Challenge?” post, that may mean different things to different people. A very strict Real Food diet would include ONLY fresh, whole food in its original form. That’s more restrictive than fits my lifestyle, so rather than toss it out completely, I’m doing a modified one. (You can read my guidelines on the “What Do You Mean?” post.)

(Obviously) Eat Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Veggies.

Limit your fruits if you are trying to lose weight or keep your sugar down, as they are higher in natural sugars. Real butter is a real food– flavor with that or with olive oil. Don’t use margarine or “lite” stuff. This kind of cooking/eating is time consuming, so be smart about it: Cook larger quantities and then just reheat them for subsequent meals. Here are just a few Auntie Em recipes:

Auntie Em’s Country Squash

Tropical Fruit Salad

“Complicated” Fruit Salad (It’s really effortless!)

Garden Fresh Broccoli

Broccoli Salad

Green Beans

For several months I’ve been starting my day with a packet of oatmeal. *bangs head on table* Compare the ingredients in the first picture (pre-packaged) and the canister (1-minute rolled oats).

I don't know what these are. Do you?  ingredients only rolled oats

These still wouldn’t pass muster on a strict Real Food diet, but they are a lot closer than the boxed, packaged stuff. Rule of thumb: The more steps between original food and your mouth, the less “real” it is. Mr. Quaker Oats had to do something to make those oats cook in 1 minute. (For a simple explanation of the journey from oats from the field to steel cut oats, to rolled oats, to quick oats, check here.)   I made up a “2-serving” batch (1 cup of oats, 2 cups water) and added a chipped-up apple, a tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 TBS maple syrup. Good! 2/3 cup was plenty. I added a TBS of vanilla almond milk for a little extra and it was quite tasty. A little more trouble up front, but now for several days I will be able to just microwave it like the little package.

From packaged oatmeal to quick oats: Progress!

I used to take 4 packets of Splenda in my large mug of coffee. (Don’t judge) Now, I pour my half and half and sip. Not terrible. Then I add ONE Splenda and it tastes quite sweet enough!

4 Splenda packets to 1: Progress!

I’ve used spaghetti squash in place of pasta– a lot of trouble but okay taste and texture. Today I julienned zucchini and sautéed it, then topped with spaghetti sauce. Just as good, and much less trouble!

Pasta to vegetable: Progress!

Main dishes

A salad is great! Add chicken or any other meat you grilled last night. Be wary of croutons and salad dressing. Those are often very processed. Make your own salad dressing– cheaper, healthier, and you get exactly what you want. Soups and stews are another great way to eat clean. Add homemade broth and fresh or frozen veggies to meat and you’ve got it.

Desserts

I made this paleo strawberry shortcake that was pretty good. I used real whipped cream, not Cool Whip.

{Guiltless} Paleo Strawberry Shortcake | Fitcupcaker

I haven’t fixed many desserts– if anything, we are mostly eating fruit — because we are trying to cut calories too. And as my wise son said, “If it’s superfluous, why eat it?”

I hope I’ve given you a bit to “chew on” in your Real Food journey!

Mary's Kitchen: Real Food Challenge day 3

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