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!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is– HOPE

he who promises is faithful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




What’s Your Anchor?



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.”


Quiet Time with a Little Help from my Friends

Bible study

A few weeks ago I asked for input from my friends and readers about the logistics of their prayer and quiet time. I like to do that in the morning, but I’m very slow to “rise to the surface” and be able to hold a conversation with the Lord (or anyone else) or to read anything that requires much thought, which I believe a quiet time should do. Then you know how it is after work, trying to take care of all the home stuff. Consequently, my prayer life is not what it should be.

So, thinking that surely I’m not the only one facing this kind of challenge, I put out an SOS and consulted my Board of Directors! … Here’s what I got back. And please, if you have something that works for you, leave it in the comments. Even if you think it’s simple and VERY obvious– it’s not! Sometimes we need a V8 moment to make us see a very simple thing.

Lisa at Deep and Wonderful Thoughts shared this:

Hey there! Here is my first post. It’s very short, but conveys a picture and a message on prayer and the bible. I hope it helps.
Have you ever heard of BSF (Bible study Fellowship)? It is a daily bible study and a world wide organization. Fabulous! That is what I do. There are 6 day’s questions and on the 7th day, we discuss them as a group. Here is a link….if you’re interested.

Denise at Rejoycin’ said:

(1) Group support is always good, At different times I have been involved in meeting with a bible study group and we selected a topic book to guide us– sometimes videos.

(2) Otherwise, I love this link for options:
There are numerous options that you can browse through to see what interests you. Perhaps start with a short devotion, such as “Daily Proverbs” for 31 Days. Currently, I have been using “Daily Light on the Daily Path” which is very rich.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done cover to cover– although I tried numerous times. I wind up picking up a (3) Jack Hayford study book and doing a topic study or choose a book and use:

(4) Pastor Chuck Smith Commentaries… love this guy!!!!

If you decide you would like a partner or online accountability group, I am game.
Online seems to work for me that is why I like #2, the… you can write online and take notes in your online bible. ESV has become my base bible after much research is choosing.

From Sarah Tun at A Life Examined:

Honestly, to grow prayer time and depth, I find rising early best… when the house is quiet and there are fewer distractions. God meets us whenever, wherever we are, if we’ll just engage with Him.

Linda from  Life Station Express shared:

Early on, back in the day, yes I believe it was the late 80′s or early 90′s we had a woman come speak at a women’s conference at our church. Her name…Joyce Meyer. Yes, before she became JOYCE MEYER!!!   Ha ha, well she said something in her teaching that I never forgot. She said she would get so upset when she couldn’t keep a rigid bible reading schedule for herself. Beating herself up when she just couldn’t get it all in at the proper time each day.
She said that she finally learned that for some folks reading in the morning works, for others, evenings, and still for others, before bed. Some used a bible study format, others used daily reading guides and yet others read as lead. Whenever, whatever, however, it matters not. What does matter, is that you spend some time in reading and prayer with the Lord.
Some of us need that rigid schedule and that is fine, for others going at it a bit more freely is ok too. I fall into the second category, but respect those who meet with the Lord at a scheduled time each day.
Taking God along with me as I go face the day is imperative! Spending time with Him also. But how I do it often varies with the day too.
Hope this helps! He wants our heart, our time and our life. How we work that out is important to Him too. He embraces our desire to be with Him each day.
Thanks for the great posts! Linda

Lori, an IRL friend and coworker said this:

Hey Melinda- I have always struggled with a quiet time also. I think almost everyone struggles with a structured quiet time. Recently my husband and I started a study with 12 other people called “Masterlife.” it has completely helped! Thats not to say some of the others I’ve been through we’re not fantastic. I loved Ruth by Kelley Minter.  There is so much I could write but I will stop before it gets too long.

My brilliant son-in-law (I’m being serious, not sarcastic) shared his way:

Go to: and read the Catholic Mass readings for the day
Go to: and read a reflection on those readings
Go to: to read another reflection on those reading
Go to: to read one final short reflection on those readings
 Then I spend about 10-12 mins meditating, usually on something from the readings (new 2013 practice that really helps me stay centered)
 Then I read email reflections that my mom forwards: one from Proverbs 31 ministries and one from Girlfriends in God. 
 Works very well for me.

(Back to Auntie Em) And isn’t it funny how God works? Right after I asked for suggestions, a friend posted on Facebook that she wanted to start a FB Good Morning Girls group. I’ve seen their studies and glanced over their SOAP method, but have never done one. So I took the hint from God and signed up! We are starting next Monday morning.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared! My prayer is that we will all find SOMETHING that works for us… and remember, that ultimately, God is our Heavenly Father who loves us. We don’t have to use a system or ritual; we just need to plug in to our Source of life and power, regularly, and with intention.


Two Quick Things- a Gift and a Request

First, a gift for you– A Biblical Marriage, a blog I contribute to, launched an e-book today called Glorifying God in your Finances. If you enjoyed my “Take Care of your Pennies” post, it’s in there, along with articles from many of the regular contributors. And the best news is that it’s FREE for a limited time! (I’m not sure how long, so don’t wait.) Click the picture to reach the article and instructions for downloading.
Glorifying God in your Finances ~ FREE Resource from

Next, I need something from you. I have never been able to get into a “groove” with a quiet time and prayer. Mostly prayer. I figured the best way to learn is to research and teach, so I want to write some posts about the process of prayer. I’m asking for any kind of suggestions you have, from the smallest sentence to possibly a guest post. I want specifics… logistics… what time? How long? A certain amount of chapters, pages, time, etc?? Do you read the Bible only, or do book studies?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. If it’s come easy for you, or if it has been difficult and you’ve found something that has helped, please share with us! (And if, like me, you’re still struggling, share that too… we’ll muddle through together.)


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.


Revive your Marriage- Pray for your Husband

I believe in marriage! I believe that today we have more cultural things fighting against marriages than ever before, so if we want to have healthy, happy marriages, we have to fight harder than ever before. Fortunately, for those who will look, there are myriad resources and opportunities to help. And (Here’s the truth) it will probably fall on the wife to start the ball rolling.

Four really inspiring bloggers (Sheila at To Love Honor and Vacuum, Courtney at Women Living Well, Jennifer at The Unveiled Wife, and Darlene at Time-Warp Wife) invited all the rest of us to join them in the “Revive your marriage” challenge every Monday in September. Mr X and I attended a Family Life “Weekend to Remember” marriage seminar, and it was so eye-opening. While there, we were introduced to the “at-home” version of it, called “The Art of Marriage,” and we are facilitating an Art of Marriage event at our church in October. (See if you can find one in your area; if not, call Family Life and HOST ONE!)

For today, the challenge is REVIVE YOUR PRAYERS.

Think about how to pray for your husband. I’ve decided to pray for all the roles that he fills, all aspects of his life. Remember that the enemy would like nothing better than to destroy your marriage. He hates any godly thing, and the more visibly Christian you are, the more he rejoices in the failure of a marriage, because it gives the world one more excuse not to believe.

As a Christian: (John 13:35) If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.

The Christian life is hard for us mortals! Commandments to love and forgive go so against the grain of our selfish human nature. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your husband, and to keep his heart soft and obedient. I think this can be particularly hard for men, who are also by nature, leaders and providers.

Father, help my husband show Your love to his coworkers and everyone he comes in contact with today. Help him lead the people in his sphere of influence TOWARD and not AWAY from you.

As a man and husband (1 Cor 16:13) Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong.

(Col 3:19) Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Try to see the world for a minute how your husband sees it. TV shows and modern culture paint him as a buffoon to completely unnecessary. Marriage is ridiculed. Biblical marriage, where the husband leads the home, is portrayed as abusive and barbaric! Sexual temptations are literally everywhere he looks. Network, prime time TV? Watch the commercials. Youtube? Look at the sidebars. Newspaper and radio websites? Many have teasers to visit the “NFL Cheerleaders” gallery or worse. Here’s the truth: “men are visual,” means that they like to look. They are so wired to look (I believe it’s part of the survival instinct) that they have to fight not to. **Disclaimer: Skip to the prayer if I gave birth to you!** Be sure you are filling his head with appropriate images (that would be of YOU, so he will have some to fight the inappropriate ones! You are the only one God allows him to look at, and if you’re uncomfortable with that thought, read Song of Solomon, pray about it, and get counsel from a wise, godly woman who has a great marriage!

Lord, help my husband be a godly husband, one who stays close to You, who shows Your wisdom in every decision, who leads with Your servant heart and love. Help me to follow his leadership and to be easy to love. Please protect him from the temptation that surrounds him.

As a father (Eph 6:4) …Raise your children with Christian discipline and instruction. (Psalm 103:13) As a father is kind to his children…

I’ve read some statistics about children who are brought to church by dads or by moms. When Mom takes them and Dad stays home, 3% end up attending church regularly, but when Dad takes the lead, that percentage shoots up to 33% (See “Influence of men on church attendance”) His role as a dad is so very important to so many aspects of development in a child’s life, from spiritual to academic to social.

Heavenly Father, help my husband remember that as an earthly father, he is Your representative to our children. Strengthen him to teach by example and by words. Help him temper his instruction and discipline with compassion and kindness.

As a church leader (1 Tim 3:2-5) A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach; he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect.

Right up there with ruining Christian marriages, I believe that our enemy cackles with glee when a church leader falls publicly. I believe that the more visible, or the higher “up” in church hierarchy a person gets, the bigger the bull’s-eye on their back becomes. We need to pray always for all our church leaders.

Heavenly Father, help my husband to remain faithful to you always. Speak to him when he needs direction; strengthen him when he is tempted; comfort him when he is weak. Keep his knees bent and his heart broken for you.

As a worker (Col 3:23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.

I love reading Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk from the 15th century, writing about Practicing the Presence of God. (It’s available for free here). He said, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen… I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.” It can be so hard for a smart man to do work that, many times, seems pointless or inefficient.

Lord, keep the mind of Christ in my husband’s mind. Many times at work we feel unappreciated or frustrated. Help my husband remember that he is working for you, and that he is Your vessel at work.

As a provider (1 Tim 5:8) But if any do not take care of their relatives, especially the members of their own family, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.

Until Mr X graduated from college 17 years ago (13 years into our marriage), he was a carpenter/contractor. There were periods of days or occasionally weeks, where he didn’t work because of the weather, or having no jobs. He always kept busy at home, and at that time he wasn’t a big “let me tell you how I feel about this” kind of man, but I got some insight into how he felt when an older man told me, “When a man isn’t working he feels like less than nothing!” I believe God wired men to take care of things. When they aren’t working, for whatever reason, they feel like failures.

Father, please bless my husband as he works for our family. Help him to work well, to honor you, and to receive the recognition and compensation that he earns. Lord, I know many families are out of work now. I ask your grace and mercy to carry them through this period. Help their wives to minister to their husbands who many times won’t say how bad they feel. Show us where we can help care for those who need our financial help.

Also, look for a “life verse” for your husband. In 1995, I found Psalm 1:1-3.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers: but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and on His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf does not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

And since we’re asking God to revive our marriages, find a marriage life verse too: I like Matt 19:5.

…For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. is a great resource for finding Scriptures for particular topics.



Living with Mr. Safety

Around our house, we sometimes call Mr X “Mr Safety.” He works for a large electric utility company, as a service rep for large industrial customers, many of them oil refineries that are so prevalent here in Southeast Texas. Safety is serious business in all these places! He also teaches the Smith driving system to people in his company. He puts safety cones behind his truck when he parks, and has red and white reflective tape on the back of the truck!

We were driving to Houston the other day and I spouted off some safety rule–   “See, I’ve been listening!” So I proceeded to revisit the safety lessons I’ve learned.

  • If you see a potential “trip hazard” in the aisle at the grocery store, pick it up! (a pencil, a piece of paper, etc)
  • If you drive through standing water (which you don’t do at all unless you KNOW how deep it is! Watch the cars ahead of you for this.), use your brakes before you need them, to dry them out and make sure they work efficiently.
  • While driving in rain or other low visibility, increase your following distance.
  • For Heaven’s sake, never text while driving. He also says don’t talk on your phone. (GUILTY. This is a hard one, but I’m careful about the driving conditions where I talk. Never in heavy traffic.)

This year we’ve implemented an important safety standard in our house that should have been there all along: reading Scripture and praying together daily. We have the Youversion Bible app on our iPad and phones, and keep 2 devotion plans going. We’ve gone through several so far, with Joyce Meyer there all the time- she has lots of devotions and they are all good! Sharing needs and concerns, then praying for one another and for friends and loved ones is a very intimate thing to do, and it’s hard to be mad at somebody while you’re praying. You know you will have to swallow your pride and work it out. If your husband is reluctant to lead out in this area, one way you might encourage him is to ask him specific ways you can pray for him, and ask him to pray for you in specific ways. It will at least get the conversation started, and not in a pushy way. And then you pray!


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