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!

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:



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.


Bubbling Over with Hope

I’ve discovered More to Be’s Transformed Tuesday. Along with a linkup, Elissa gives a verse for next week, so you can ponder and soak in it all week. I like having “an assignment” and I really love this week’s verse! Come visit if you can.

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NASB)

I read it in several translations, and as usual, different things jumped out at me.

The HCSB said “… as you believe in Him…” Not only is God the God of hope, WE must take and active role.

The GNT stressed, “… may God, the source of hope… hope will continue to grow…” Where do we get our hope? From God. “Abound” is not a word we use too much anymore, but I “continue to grow” makes perfect sense.

And the Amplified added “… joy and peace in believing [through the experiences of your faith]… abound in hope [bubbling over]…”

So the Auntie Em translation, piecing together all of these and adding my own insight, goes something like this:

Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace, believing Him not only because of what you read in the Scriptures and observe in others, but from remembering your very own personal experiences. This deep, heartfelt belief will cause your hope to be steadfast and continue to grow, until it overflows and spills on to those around you.

I wrote a post called “Got Hope?” back in October that goes along with this theme– go check it out if you missed it!

bubbling over with hope


A Merry Heart– “As We Age…”

I’m the youngest among my husband’s brother, sister, and in-laws; and we have all passed the 50-mark, so a popular conversation is “as we age…” We bemoan the challenges and gripe about doctors that begin sentences with that dreaded phrase!

I just found Mary Maxwell and I believe she might be a new favorite. She is reading the opening prayer at a home health agency’s banquet. But be sure to keep listening– the first minute and a half sound like a regular prayer, then she gets very funny.

She has a blog, Laughing with Mary Maxwell, on a larger blog about long-term caregivers. If you are in that season of life, I would imagine she would have some great insight!

In the meantime, enjoy… and if you aren’t quite there yet, wait just a while. It’ll get here quicker than you can imagine!



Been in a storm lately?

Why are you afraid?Our “young ladies” Sunday school class uses LifeWay’s “MasterWork” series, using books by Christian writers and condensing them down to 4-8 week studies. This week we are starting Max Lucado’s Fearless. WOW! If the first week is any indication, it’s going to be great.

I love Max’s imagery:

Fear, it seems, has taken a 100-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversized and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies and leaves. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and umproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.

Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.

Have you been in that prison? Are you there now?

The text for the week is the storm on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8.

  • Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. (v 24) Matthew uses the word seismos for this storm. You recognize it in our English word seismograph— which measures earthquakes! This was not some little spring rain. It was like an earthquake on water. Of course the disciples woke Jesus up screaming for help, afraid they would be killed. Imagine how ludicrous the disciples imagined Jesus’s response to be:
  • “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” [Are you kidding me? Why are we afraid?] Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

“There is something on the x-ray.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

Your child is legally blind in that eye.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“I’m just not happy anymore.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“This is the principal.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“Mom? Dad? You’d better sit down.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

After all the miracles they had seen; after all the love Jesus had demonstrated, in Mark’s account (4:35-41) their first question was “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” Fear gives us amnesia sometimes. It corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. [Lucado] And then we begin grabbing at any straw we can in order to feel that we are in control of something– our kids, our schedule, the clutter in our homes.

Christ gives 21 “don’t fear”-type commands. (There are only 8 of the second most common command, to love God and your neighbors.) I think this is an indication of how prevalent God knew that our fear would be, and how much help He knew we would need!

In the first week’s wrap-up, Max reminds us that fear will run amok in our worlds, but we don’t have to let it fill our hearts. It will knock on our doors, but we don’t have to ask it in for dinner or to stay the night! Here are some ways to fight fear when it comes knocking.

1. Stay close to Christ by spending time in prayer and in the Word regularly. 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..

2. Keep a “box of remembrance” to forestall amnesia. Bring to mind the hard times you have seen God bring you or loved ones through. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 11:19

3. Keep these “don’t fear” verses handy: (I like index cards.)

  • Matthew 10:31 “Don’t be afraid. You’re worth much more than many sparrows”
  • Matthew 9:2 “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.”
  • Matthew 14:27 “Take courage. I’m here!”
  • Matthew 6:25 “Don’t worry about everyday life…”
  • John 14:1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me.” (The antidote to fear is FAITH!)

How have you fought fear?


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!



Time: The Elusive Necessity in Marriage

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

24 hour clock courtesy of digitalmama824 via Flickr

Have you accepted the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day? And that even though you can borrow money (bad idea), you can’t get any more time? If your too-busy schedule is causing stress in your marriage, it’s time to take an honest look at it, assess it, and make some changes. In “No Vacuum,” I talked about 2 extremely important things in a successful marriage: knowing what we need as well as what our spouses need; and once we figure that out, having realistic expectations of ourselves and our spouses. Today I’m looking at where these 2 ideas intersect: TIME.

“Free” Time

Do you feel like you’re running from can to can’t? (That’s one of my favorite old-time Southern sayings.) Or in the words of the country singer, “always running, but always running behind”? If you’re not sure where your time flies away to, keep a time diary for a few days– in 15-30 minute increments, see where your minutes go. OUCH… It might show what I call the “Starbucks effect” (spending a small amount of money very often– it adds up!) But instead of being shocked at how much money you spent, you might realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time in small chunks, on things that aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of your life, like Facebook, playing games on your phone, watching TV reruns, etc. Don’t get me wrong; you do need recreation and leisure activities. But you need to CHOOSE what you do, not just fritter away your time on meaningless activities, then wonder why your marriage is suffering. How we spend our time should reflect what we say our priorities are.


And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Is your career killing your marriage? In his sermon series “Breathing Room,” Andy Stanley shares a story from a book written by a hospice nurse who spends much of her time with people in the last few weeks of their lives. She began asking them, “What do you regret most in your life?” She said, without exception, every. single. man. wished he hadn’t spent so much time and energy on work.

“This came from every male patient that I had nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.” Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

(Thanks to Joel at Friendly Thoughts for documenting what I only listened to!)

Mr X and I both have salaried jobs, and we probably could both work another 4 hours every day and still find things to do. In our cut-to-the-bone economy, many employers expect more than any one person to do, and sometimes we are our own slave-drivers. But you’ve got to be honest– if you consistently work many hours beyond what you signed up for, is it worth it? That salary that looked great when you divided it by 40 hours a week might not look so good spread out over 60-80 hours. And is it worth it to you? Only you can decide. But again– be honest. Count the whole cost (not just in terms of money) to your marriage, children, your health, etc.  How much money does your family need? It’s a sad thing when a parent realizes he’s lost his window of opportunity to build a close relationship with his children while he was working to provide THINGS that were not as  important as a relationship with him.

This is tough, I know. You’ve got to find the balance. To help you think, I have to throw in this classic song from the late Harry Chapin. There is a bit of commentary from his wife and son that I think are quite relevant.

Caring for Yourself

… vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16

Have you ever had “vast crowds” clamoring for you? Like at the bathroom door? We women are notorious for taking care of everything and everybody else before we take care of ourselves. But you know what? You’ve got to take care of yourself or you’ll either be sick or be a grouch who has nothing left for your poor spouse. I learned the hard way that my job could move on just fine without me, and it reminded me that I’m the only wife my husband has and the only mom my kids have. Consider these things when you’re looking at your weekly schedule:

  • How much margin do you need for mental peace? I need lots, and when I forget to figure it into my schedule, my nerves frazzle. Rushing from one activity to the next drives me crazy!
  • How much sleep and rest does your body need? If you cheat, it will catch up with you.
  • What rejuvenates you? This is different for everyone.

Jesus modeled taking time away for re-creation. (I rather doubt He needed it– but He knew we would!) And remember that in Exodus 20, God Himself suggested commanded that we should rest. How prideful are we when we think the world will fall apart without us?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…

How are you using your time today? Do you need to make any changes?


A Fruitful Marriage- Kindness

Be kind to one another (A Fruitful Marriage)As Christians, all of us have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us and His power available to us. If we are fully surrendered to Him, there should be evidence of it, and one of the most obvious signs is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The past few months I’ve been writing about the Fruit of the Spirit displayed in marriage, and now the Fruit of the month is KINDNESS.

Join me at A Biblical Marriage to delve deeper into the Fruit basket!

Showing intentional kindness to our spouses is a good way to build up the love tank to overflowing. What kindness can you show to your spouse today?


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


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