Happy Q2!

Smiling in field of flowersAlthough I am partial to sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes, the second quarter of the year is also a personal favorite of mine. The first week of April brings with it sundresses, wildflowers and clear blue skies. Gloom period is over, and the earth comes to life again as though waking from a long slumber.

I underwent a hibernation of my own during the first quarter of this year – my fast from dating. I’d told myself that, in light of the seemingly endless incoming (and outgoing) line of men in my life, I needed to take a break from dating this year to refocus and center myself; to reinstate God as my First Love.

My hope in so doing was to to rest in my singleness, learning to be content in this season and celebrating all of the unique opportunities afforded to me as an unattached young woman. It’s been a great first quarter. I’ve gotten to invest deeply in some key friendships, taught Sunday school to elementary children, started mentoring a group of high school kids, gotten certified to babysit foster kids, arranged some new a capella mashups, begun fashion illustration (check out my Instagram) and started looking into a few different travel destinations for a girls’ weekend away.

When I started on this journey, I wanted to make the commitment specific and measurable enough that I could be held accountable and not bail when the first cute boy of the year looked my way, so I gave a soft commitment not to go on any dates for 2016. However, I also wanted to give myself flexibility as life circumstances changed and my heart matured; I didn’t want to be legalistic about the commitment or put God in a box as to how He wanted to refine me in this area of my life. I didn’t feel a strong conviction to give a definitive commitment for an entire year, so I gave myself the option to reevaluate at the end of every quarter whether or not I should continue my break from dating.

So as the end of March approached, and with it, the end of Q1 2016, I prayed and asked God what He thought. Then I met with the girls in my bible study and asked for their input as well. In both my personal time of reflection and in the feedback from the group, there was a consensus that I have successfully hit the “reset” button on my dating mentality and could now move forward with starting to date again, this time with a God-honoring perspective on both the physical and emotional aspects of a relationship.

I am not in a hurry to jump back into dating. My days of online dating are behind me. But I am open to the possibility of exploring whether some of my godly male friendships could grow into something deeper. I’ve had seven guys waiting for this moment – the moment I would allow them to pursue a relationship with me.

Just thinking about juggling all of those possibilities had me nearly breaking out in hives, so I’ve already told five of the seven that I am not interested in a romantic relationship with them. Care to guess which of the seven has captured my attention?

Jay – a police officer I met while volunteering for the Passion Conference in January who sends me shirtless photos of himself from time to time

Jordan – the massage therapist and divorcee I met on the Bahamas cruise

Ike – a friend for over ten years with whom I’ve done international mission trips and who is graduating from seminary in May with plans to be a pastor

Hovik – the Armenian auto shop manager who lives in my apartment complex

Grant – the banker I met at church who takes me to a concert every year

Seth – a chemical engineer who volunteers in our church’s kids’ ministry with me

Joe – an A/C mechanic in my bible study who is built like a lumberjack

Authentically Aurora

Undistracted Devotion

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.46.26 PM.png

Do you ever feel like Someone is really going out of His way to tell you something? You notice the same theme showing up a few times in the same month. Or you hear a recurring comment from different people in your life multiple times the same week. Or you even pick up the same message being repeated over and over multiple times in a single day. Like that new Adele song on the radio.

When Ashley and I took that road trip to visit our alma mater earlier this week, going on a Tuesday was intentional. A bible study that really impacted our college years still meets every Tuesday night on campus. Well, I call it a bible study. It’s more of a weekly conference now, with literally thousands of students gathering in the basketball arena to listen to the speaker, Ben, share his wisdom, insight and hilarious anecdotes.

So on Tuesday night, after visiting our favorite college study spots and coffee shops (and singing in the Globe Room!), Ashley and I made our way to the basketball arena to get good seats for the bible study session. After about thirty minutes of amazing worship music, Ben took the stage and announced that the topic for that night would be…. (wait for it)…. Singleness!

I seriously laughed out loud. And then groaned. And looked at Ashley with an expression that surely communicated my internal, “Really?! Ugh.” 

Just that morning, I had drafted my blog post on how I want to use the freedom of my singleness to make a positive difference babysitting foster kids. “I want to enjoy this season of singleness,” I’d written. “There is so much I can do in this chapter of life where I have freedom from spousal responsibility… I am freer than I will ever be. The world is my oyster.”  I get it, God! I know singleness is a gift of a season! So why do I have to sit through another message about it?!

I knew it was going to be a good message – Ben never fails to deliver amazing, inspiring, goose-bump-inducing messages – but I was internally (and externally) groaning at the thought of having to listen to yet another person tell me how “wonderful” singleness is.

Sure enough, Ben started off by reading from 1 Corinthians 7, describing singleness as a “gift.” But out of genuine respect for Ben and his teaching (and, you know, God… and the apostle Paul), I stayed tuned in. Ashley and I had driven all the way into town for this, after all! Here’s what Ben had to say:

What we want isn’t always what’s good for us. And what’s good for us isn’t always appreciated. Sometimes it takes love and wisdom to recognize the benefits of certain blessings. Like a 7-year-old boy getting 100 shares of stock instead of that slingshot he wanted. Or a 28-year-old girl getting another few years of singleness instead of that husband she thought she’d have before age 30. You know, hypothetically speaking of course…

According to Scripture, singleness is a gift, and God is good and loving. If we believe the bible is the inerrant Word of God, we must accept that – painful as it can be – singleness is a gift to us from a good and loving Father.

Singleness is a gift God gives because He wants to secure in us an undivided attention to Him. Dating is distracting. Marriage is distracting. And God doesn’t want us to be distracted in church; in bible study; in life by looking at or for a significant other.

God desires our good, and since He knows He is the only one who can truly satisfy our deepest longings, He grants us the gift of a season of singleness so we can learn to zero in on Him; to focus on the One who can meet our needs so that, in marriage, we don’t lean too heavily on a spouse who will inevitably disappoint us. We must stop pursuing the satisfaction of our souls in the arms of other people. They were not created to satisfy. 

“There is a tendency in humanity to downplay the circumstances of your current season and play up the benefits of other seasons,” Ben went on. As a married man himself, he reminded us that marriage is great, but it is taxing – mentally; emotionally; financially. Marriage is a beautiful season in its time, but there is SO MUCH POWER in singleness!

In seasons of singleness, you are unencumbered. You have freedom. Time. Resources. You will never have this same amount of free time and resources again in your life, and the most content single people are those who understand the purpose of singleness. Don’t spend hours of your life living in fantasy worlds when the real world is burning up. You have opportunities afforded to you in singleness that will dissipate when you get married.

Ultimately, singleness, dating and marriage are not the main story of your life. They are not your primary purpose, and they should not be your life’s focus. There’s not a lot of time left in this world. We are living in the last days, and life is short. Why do we not care more about the state of someone’s soul than their relationship status (including our own)?

If you are single, God has given you the gift of singleness in order to glorify him with undistracted devotion, not to fill your life with distractions to pass the time until you get married. Which of these defines your singleness? Are you living your season of singleness with purpose and intentionality? This is the million dollar question.

God will give you grace to endure singleness for its season. Make the most of this time! Pursue an undivided devotion to God. And, in the words of Jim Elliot, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” Amen.

Authentically Aurora

Fostering Hope for Foster Kids

Foster BabysitterPart of the human condition is to long for what we don’t have. Every season of life, we reach for the next or dwell on the past. Single people want to be married. Married couples sometimes wish they were still single. Students wish they were finished with school and out in the “real world”. Those of us working in the corporate realm sometimes long for the freedom of being back at university.

When I was in high school, everything I did was striving toward the goal of getting into West Point. I was the captain of my soccer team, president of my Girl Scout troop, an officer of the National Charity League, member of both student council and National Honor Society, as well as a straight-A student.

I was not the kid whose parents pushed them to work harder, study more and get better grades. I actually got grounded from reading. My parents insisted that I start getting Bs and Cs and that I go out and play more. They had the wisdom I did not at that age; that life is short, and if we are always straining for the next season without enjoying the present, what kind of life is that?

Now instead of feeling perpetually angry and frustrated because I dislike my job, feel unappreciated at work and am pushing 30 with no true marriage prospects in sight, I want to enjoy this season of singleness. There is so much I can do in this chapter of life where I have freedom from spousal responsibility. My parents are still in good health. I have no husband, no children and no pets. I am freer than I will ever be. The world is my oyster.

Last Sunday, I went to an information session on being certified to be a babysitter for foster kids. Did you know that foster parents can only hire certified babysitters to watch their foster children? God has placed within me a longing to build people up and inspire them to be who they were created to be. I am excited about the possibility of learning the unique passions and talents of the foster kids I babysit and then bringing a corresponding project for us to work on together.

I could bring my guitar and write songs with kids interested in music. I could bring my spare SLR camera and teach artistic kids about the light triangle and the effects of adjusting aperture settings. I could bring model airplane sets or a book of logic puzzles. The possibilities are endless. Each activity would be tailored to the needs and interests of each individual foster child.

I would love to spark to flame the inner potential of these kids so many others have overlooked. My heart longs to heal the hurting and uplift the downtrodden; to encourage those without hope and speak truth into those plagued by insecurity. God has placed within me a desire to, in the words of Frederick Buechner, help others find “the place where [their] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Authentically Aurora

Surrender: Circumcision of the Heart

SingleForASeason

Ah, circumcision… one of the many reasons I am glad to be a woman! Unfortunately for me as a Christian woman, I still have to undergo circumcision, but mine is a proverbial circumcision; one of the heart. And when I say unfortunately, what I really mean is fortunately because, painful as it is, circumcision of the heart is ultimately for our betterment.

The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. -Deut. 30:6

What’s with all this circumcision talk, Aurora?! Well, I recently had revealed to me an area of my life – a stronghold in my heart – that needed to be cut away. For quite some time now, I’ve been due for a fresh circumcision of the heart; a cutting away of a dark corner of my heart where idolatry has been permitted to reside for too long. My frequent readers can probably already guess which area I’m talking about.

Most of us, whether we’ve ever attended church or not, are familiar with the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea on their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land (thanks, Ridley Scott). What some people may not know is that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years under Moses’s leadership and, eventually, when Joshua took over as leader, God commanded that the younger generation of Israelites be circumcised before they could leave their wilderness of wandering and enter the promised land of Canaan.

The older generation had been circumcised, but the younger generation born in the desert had not yet been committed to God through this obedience to the Old Testament Law. And so the younger generation of male Israelites underwent circumcision – a “cutting away” – so that they were ready for the Promised Land.

Although in the Biblical Old Testament, the Israelites were circumcised to identify themselves as God’s people, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul explains that physical circumcision is no longer necessary under the New Covenant. Instead, hearts of the followers of Jesus are figuratively circumcised as a part of the process of sanctification (i.e. becoming more like Christ).

During the Passion conference earlier this month, Christine Caine asked each of us, “What does God want to cut away in you?” What area of your life is unsurrendered? What shadowy corner of your heart needs to be penetrated by the light?

“Are you willing to cut away some weights? Some good things but not God things?” Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. -Hebrews 12:1

Often we stay in the wilderness of waiting because the pain of walking through to healing is more painful than the pain inflicted by the initial injury. And so we put on our band-aids and develop our coping mechanisms and convince ourselves that we are just fine. We put on our blinders and convince ourselves that we are not still in the wilderness, but through this self-deception, we never deal with the root issue, and so our deepest wounds never fully heal.

As Christine Caine spoke this message, I sensed God convicting me yet again about my love life. Since my broken engagement, I’ve had a revolving door of men – no one too serious, but enough interested men coming and going for me to use the continual influx of attention and affection as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with my heart’s bruising: a now deeply-ingrained sense of rejection and undesirability.

I have not allowed myself to really sit in my singleness; to feel the weight of it and truly accept the wilderness season God keeps trying to allow in my life – not to wound me further, but to heal me! Behold, I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her there. -Hosea 2:14

So I’m going to continue my season of not dating. I don’t know if it will be the full year; I am going to reevaluate my heart’s healing at the end of every quarter. At this point, all I know is that I need to commit to a season of waiting; to rest in my singleness and learn to be content being alone on a Friday night. To be content without one boy or another lighting up my phone with cutesy text messages. To reinstate God as my first love and rid myself of the idolatry of all these pseudo dating relationships.

There will doubtless be many opportunities to break from my fast of dating, and I hope to keep you all entertained with these stories of “missed opportunities”, but I hope to view these as chances to practice discipline, self-control and faithfulness. I desire to walk in healing and faithfully live out the path God has laid before me.

So in 2016, here’s to being single for a season but no longer single for a reason!

Authentically Aurora

Missionary Dating?

Coffee Date

I am always the one before the One.

Men, if you’re tired of singleness, come date me seriously and exclusively – six months is all I require – and boom! The next person who catches your eye will be your soulmate.

My college boyfriend – after convincing me to accept a job offer in his city and then taking me to look at apartments in his complex – subsequently broke up with me and was married to someone else within 18 months.

The first guy I seriously dated after college broke up with me and was married to someone else a year later. Another guy, Stephen, was married within nine months of breaking things off and, ironically, my ex-fiance and I ran into Stephen and his wife on the morning of the day that my ex proposed to me. I’m not currently on speaking terms with my ex-fiance, but if he’s dating anyone right now, I have no doubt she will soon become his bride.

I’m really great at fix-em-up projects. Is your California Dreamboat still playing 40 hours of video games per week? Is your McDreamy insensitive and unromantic? Does your Mr. Right have emotional baggage from his parents’ divorce? Or have commitment issues? Or is he unemployed or slovenly? Just give him six months with me, and I guarantee he will be primed and ready for marriage!

I am a magnet for broken men. I mean, we’re all broken in some way, but I have somehow always attracted wounded men. In college, male acquaintances would call me at 3:00 a.m. because they just found out their parents were going through a divorce, and they needed someone to talk to. As a working professional, I can’t count the number of times some man in the seat next to me on an airplane has struck up a conversation about his “impostor complex”… or his ailing mother… or his deepest regrets… or his current relationship issues.

In the past year, one young male friend has confided in me about a drug addiction that almost no one else knows about. Another guy told me about a vision he believes God gave him about his future, and he’s unsure what to make of it. Others have sought me out to talk with me about the death of a parent to cancer, walking in on their dad having an affair, uncertainty about job direction and all manner of other topics.

It’s always men. Women don’t approach me this way. Why is it always men? I have asked God many, many times over the years why He seems to have given me a ministry to men. Hello, God! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a woman!!! The contemporary Western church tends to frown upon women ministering to men, particularly one-on-one, particularly about such deeply personal matters. I’ve even made a conscious effort to seek out female friendships, and still, it’s the men who come to me for soul-deep conversations.

I’ve frequently asked myself, when such situations arose, “Is this the work of God or Satan? Is this an opportunity from God for me to provide comfort and wisdom and hopefully share the Gospel with this person (as is often the case)? Or is this a trap laid by Satan to get me into a bad situation?”

I struggle because often there is a gray area; a blurred line between how much time I can spend with someone and how deep we can go before it starts to become unhealthy. I can’t imagine that Satan would be pleased with my sharing the Gospel message with someone, but I also can’t imagine that God would want me to bond and invest emotionally in someone of the opposite gender who is so broken and, frequently, doesn’t share my faith.

Usually I go out for casual coffee with a guy, and at the end of that one “date”, tell him that I am not looking for a romantic relationship. Every circumstance seems to require incredible discernment and, although I’ve gotten wiser over the years about which situations to allow and which to avoid, I still slip up sometimes (i.e. Cory).

Sometimes I wonder if this is a seasonal ministry. God made me beautiful, intelligent, mysterious and captivating. I get asked out on dates more than anyone else I know (I’ve been asked out twice in the past week). Perhaps I have been granted these gifts for the purpose of planting seeds of faith in men who would not listen to anyone but a beautiful woman. Perhaps I have been granted ongoing singleness for “such a time as this.” But my prayer is that 2016 is the year my ministry shifts from being male-dominated to being a ministry to women. Please, God? My heart is tired.

Authentically Aurora

Moments – Part I

What do you believe about coincidences? Are they truly spontaneous ironies of chance, or are they farther reaching, pre-ordained orchestrations meant to rekindle our childlike sense of awe? Can we cluster all coincidences into one category, or are some the former and some the latter? Still further, does what one believes about coincidences alter their weight or significance? 

After our high energy, laughter-filled concert last weekend, my Pentatonix-like a cappella group took a break from rehearsal this week for some well-earned time to relax and enjoy one another. I hosted dinner at my place, and after everyone’s stomachs were full of homemade beef stroganoff, we broke out Disney’s version of Apples to Apples.

It was fun getting to know everyone’s personalities that evening. We typically spend a few hours a week singing together, but – as much as I enjoy this group – most of the members remain more acquaintances than friends, simply by nature of the fact that most of the times our mouths are open, it is in song rather than in conversation.

We had a large enough group playing Apples to Apples that, before long, we ran out of cards. Everyone was able to draw a new red apple card except for Michael and me. Michael is our group’s director, arranger, encourager and unofficial president, though he is younger (four years my junior). He is studying to become a pediatrician and, over recent weeks, has become a dear friend.

When Michael and I realized there was only one card left to draw between the two of us, I joked that we could share it. One of our altos was already the clear winner of the game, and Michael and I were seated next to each other. When I flipped over the card we were going to share, I was astonished to see this:

FullSizeRender-3

With 270 red apple cards, there was a 0.4% chance the card Michael and I would share would be Lady and the Tramp sharing a spaghetti noodle (leading to an unexpected kiss)! I looked over at Michael with raised eyebrows. “Well that’s ironic,” I said with a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “Yes, because they are sharing spaghetti,” he replied casually with a slight smile of his own before returning to the game.

I struggle to get a read on him. I know Michael is perceptive enough not to have missed the gradually growing chemistry between us, so I was unsure if his lackluster response was due to a decided indifference to me or – more likely – due to our audience.

Michael is a gentleman with quiet confidence. He leads our group not with a loud voice or big personality, but with an authority afforded him by the unreserved respect everyone has for him. Michael is thoughtful, sweet and, if my guess is right, painfully shy when it comes to romance. So I’ll just keep waiting in this season of singleness, enjoying the friendship of a man I have come to respect, not only for his musical giftings and intellect, but – more significantly – for his character.

Authentically Aurora

Poco a Poco

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 9.44.47 PMToday the thought of someone made my heart flip-flop. And it took me by surprise.

That hasn’t happened in a long time, even with as many dates as I’ve been on in recent months. Well on my way to the callous brazenness of a bitter, hardened woman, I had grown numb to the nerves of excitement and lovely butterflies of new beginnings.

By the grace of God, He is keeping my heart soft.

We are just friends – this someone and I – with no hint of anything romantic at this point, but I am discovering that I am really enjoying getting to know his character, little by little, as our friendship blossoms.

Some weeks ago, I committed to a season of singleness. And I am finding that there is joy in the waiting.

Authentically Aurora