All The (suppressed) Feels

anna-kendrick-gif

People always seem to discount how I feel. It’s a good thing I’m generally a rational, logical thinker rather than a mushy, effervescent feeler because on the rare occasions where I feel consumed by emotions, most of the key people in my life completely discount how I feel.

Some people scornfully tell me to fix my attitude. Others are sickeningly optimistic, trying to point out the positive things in my life. Overall, everyone seems to just want me to get back to being my rational, logical, dependable, even-keel self. Evidently I am not allowed to take days off being an engineer-minded female.

That’s why lately when I’m sad or upset, I’m learning to just shut people out.

Don’t ask me about how work is going. My boss vents about me on the phone in her cubicle right next to mine, and being physically present in the palpable tension gives me heartburn at the office. No schools seem to be hiring at mid-year, so my teaching career is on hold until August. With no end in sight, I feel hopeless all day long sitting in my white cubicle surrounded by white walls and white noise.

Don’t ask me how my relationship with Seth is going. His E&P company just bought a new field to drill, so during the work week, he’s focused on that. Over the weekend, he was focused on making updates at his family’s ranch. Then he hurt his back and has been seeing a chiropractor during what free time we would normally have together. Lately he’s seemed distracted and disconnected from our relationship, noncommittal as ever. I’m lonely.

Don’t ask me about my family. I just found out that my brother is moving across the country despite my advice against it. Not only is he moving a thousand miles away, but he’s excited about it. He doesn’t feel the loss of our closeness, and that makes me feel rejected by him. Still more painful: This was supposed to be a short-term move, but he bought a house over the weekend. Not only did I find out about this huge life change after the deal was done, but the likelihood of his moving back closer to home is looking less and less likely. I’ve always felt like I love him more than he loves me, and although I know intellectually that this move has absolutely nothing to do with me, it hurts that he chose this, especially against my advice.

No one seems to know how to just tell me “that stinks”, give me a hug, and tell me they’re there for me. I know I’m blessed. I know these are minor issues compared to the rest of the world. I know this too shall pass.

But right now – just for today – I need you to let me be sad.

Authentically Aurora

ACAscuse me?

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.02.54 PMI called my mom crying after work on Tuesday. It had been a hard day, and my insecurities were running high.

“Hard day” is of course relative, and I tried to pep talk myself that I really am blessed; I have a good life, and my day wasn’t that bad, all things considered. Then I beat myself up for not being more grateful, which of course made me feel all the worse about myself. I found myself in a vicious cycle of feeling awful about my life circumstances and then feeling guilty for feeling awful.

Head in HandsThe basic gist of my hurt and frustration was that I didn’t feel valued in any arena of my life. I have felt unappreciated at work for years, so that is something I have come to expect. But Seth said some things this week that made me feel unvalued by him, and that was a new and unexpected sting of hurt. I volunteer with a lot of organizations outside of work to ensure that I am adding some semblance of value to society (since that’s nearly impossible to do at my workplace), but lately – in addition to my occupational and relational hurts – I recently started feeling disrespected and manipulated by some of the officers in my a cappella group.

AuditionsI constantly go above and beyond expectations for this group, arranging music, quietly paying cover charges for open mic nights, finding and booking videographers for performances, creating T-shirts and banners and flyers… I do so much that goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Not only that, but my voice has been picked on lately – something that had always been a source of confidence for me. Singing is something that I do for fun – because it normally brings me joy! – but instead I found myself feeling more beaten up than ever.

So when I called my mom on Tuesday after work, crying about how I felt unvalued in all these areas of my life – at work, by Seth, and by my vocal group – she reminded me that she and my dad love me and hold me in high esteem. “You have to say that,” I sniffed through my tears. “You’re my mom.”

She patiently reminded me that God loves me and values me, and then she told me that she would be praying God would give me a little reminder that very week – a reminder that God is on my side and that I am valued by Him and by the people around me, even if they don’t express it all the time.

That night, I went to choir rehearsal and was shocked to get the solo for our Adele mashup. I was feeling so beaten down that I almost didn’t audition, but of the four auditionees, our group voted for me and affirmed my singing ability – something God knew I needed this week.

This morning, I got an unexpected voicemail from Seth that said simply: “Hey, have I told you yet today that I like you a lot? Well I do. And I just wanted to call and tell you that.” I put down the phone in bewilderment, feeling surprised and pleased.

I was amazed at how quickly God answered my mom’s prayers for encouragement in my life. God is such a good Father, and He loves to give good gifts to His children! Things don’t always go as we hope or expect (or even understand), but in the times where God is so obviously lavish in His blessings, I want to take notice and remember that faithfulness for those seasons where He does not seem present. God knew I was at the end of my rope and needed a lifeline to keep me trudging through this week. And He delivered!

Now I’m just waiting on some sort of affirmation from my workplace… But I’m not holding my breath.

Authentically Aurora

Mouths of Babes

Cherry LipsPeople love to be outraged. The public loves a scandal, and individuals are always looking for opportunities to be offended. As a general populace, we live for rallying behind causes, speaking our disgust of the latest societal indignation at every turn and posting impassioned commentary on social media whenever possible.

But how many people turn their words into action? Are we an impassioned people for nothing more than the sake of our own amusement? Is it simply entertaining to discuss the latest humanitarian crisis or political affront? How many of us are legitimately invested in putting action to our outrage?

In an effort to be a woman of action – a woman who seeks to genuinely make an impact in the areas where my heart is stirred – I have recently gotten involved with a local organization that aids refugees in our city with learning English, navigating the citizenship process, and ultimately finding sustainable jobs by which they can support their families.

Over the past couple of months, I have developed a welcome packet for refugees in our city, outlining a number of 1-12 week training programs that equip graduates with various nationally recognized certificates that will allow them to qualify for different jobs in our city. Some careers included are more technical and some are more service-oriented, but regardless of the job category, I have ensured that I outlined not only the time requirement but also the cost of the program as well as the anticipated annual income of each of the career paths listed.

The director of the organization, a 30-something named Justin, reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and invited me over for dinner with his wife and two children. “You’ve done so much work for our organization,” he told me, “But I’ve never even met you in person! Please come over for dinner as our way of thanking you. Our family would love to get to know you.”

So I went. Justin’s wife made a delicious sweet potato and black bean chili (seriously, one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted), and after a fun dinner of getting to know each other, we moved into the living room where Justin and his wife started telling me some of the amazing success stories from their organization’s efforts this year. While his parents talked, four-year-old Josiah (the elder of Justin’s two sons) climbed up into my lap on the couch. Surprised but pleased, I stroked his soft, baby-fine hair while I listened to his parents.

In the middle of one of his dad’s stories, Josiah suddenly crawled out of my lap, turned around to face me, and interrupted his dad mid-sentence.

“Do you got a lie?” The four-year-old was looking directly at me, brow furrowed.

“Excuse me, what?” I wasn’t quite sure what he was asking or how to respond to his sudden question.

“Do you GOT a LIE?” Josiah asked with emphasis, putting his tiny hands on either side of my face to look deeply into my eyes.

Slightly concerned, I glanced at his dad, and Justin translated for me. “He’s asking you if you’re believing a lie.”

“Oh. No. I don’t think I’m believing any lies, Josiah.” I directed my answer to the young boy. “What lie to you think I’m believing?”

At this point, Josiah had lost interest, turning away from me to play with a blue light saber he found on the living room floor. Between swishing noises he made with his mouth, Josiah responded to my question in his high-pitched voice, “That God won’t provide.”

My eyes widened in shock. What kind of four-year-old makes that kind of comment?!

Justin, less shocked than I was at his son’s declaration, prodded him further. “What does Aurora not think God will provide for her?”

Josiah continued running around the living room, waving his light saber around and making accompanying sword-fighting noises with his pursed lips. He didn’t even look up when his tiny voice spoke the words of truth: “A husband.”

I nearly fell off the couch. My eyes bugged out, staring at Josiah and then his dad. Justin got up from his chair, went to a bookshelf and picked up a small black notebook and a pen. He scribbled away in his notebook, detailing yet another story to tell Josiah when his son got older.

As Justin bent over this journal of sorts, he asked his son another question. “And why is that a lie, Josiah?”

Josiah looked up at me this time when he answered. “Because He will.”

Goosebumps raced up and down my arms. Trying to take it all in, I glanced at Josiah’s mom; then back at Justin when he directed his next question to me. “Do you receive that, Aurora? Do you believe God will provide you with a husband?”

“I do,” I told him, and the words echoed in my mind like a wedding vow; a foreshadowing of things to come; of something spoken and promised and sealed.

In that moment, the lights went out. I looked around, wondering what in the world was happening now, but by the moonlight I spotted Josiah in the kitchen by the light switch. His mom asked him, “Josiah, why are you turning out the lights?”

“Because it’s time to anoint her.”

I gave up on being shocked. This child was other-wordly.

Justin just chucked. Apparently this was normal behavior for his son. “Okay, get the oil.” And then, to me, “Are you okay with this?” I just nodded.

So Josiah reappeared in the living room with a small glass bowl of oil while his mom lit some candles around the room. Josiah handed me his blue light saber, now lit up in the blackness, and he told me it could be my own personal candle while he prayed for me.

Josiah silently dipped his thumb in the oil, spread the oil in a horizontal line across my forehead, and – at his dad’s prompting – said a quick prayer that God would heal my heart and that I would trust God’s provision for a husband. And just like that, the light saber was snatched out of my hand, and the swooshing noises started again as Josiah decided it was time to play with his little brother, the two of them dancing around the carpet in a mock battle.

I was astonished by how quickly Josiah switched from solemn speaker of truth to rambunctious little boy. He is a special child, and although I am still processing all that took place that unexpected evening, I felt touched to have gotten a glimpse of the Holy Spirit’s working in that young boy. His parents are doing what they can to step into the hurt and chaos of the refugee crisis, and Josiah himself is, in his own way, also doing what he can – in ways he may not even understand yet – to bring hope and healing.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” -Psalm 8

Authentically Aurora

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili Recipe

Jehovah-Jireh

Alone in a CrowdLoneliness has been a season I’ve walked in for a while now, but more often than I probably realize, my need for companionship is met in ways I wouldn’t anticipate; I am given opportunities for connection in ways I couldn’t foresee.

A couple of weeks ago – Sunday the week of Christmas – I arrived at church to find that most of the people I usually sit with were already out of town for the holidays. Looking around for a familiar face, I spotted a few guys I knew, so I sat down in the same row as them.

Less than a minute later, before I had even finished getting settled into my seat, all three of them stood up and moved into the row directly ahead of us, where a bunch of girls in their early twenties were sitting together. I felt a pang of hurt watching them get up without even addressing me. Sure, I’m pushing thirty, but I’m still a pretty girl and, more significantly, I thought we were friends. I have dignity. Why would they treat anyone that way?

I felt rejected. Men tend to be oblivious, so I told myself I was being silly. I was reading too much into it. Those guys probably didn’t even realize what their actions had communicated to me. But I already have a deep well of insecurity that is specific to rejection, so the polluted waters of that well come to the surface easily.

Just then the worship service started. I tried to get into the songs, really thinking about the lyrics and trying to mean the words I was singing, but my mind was distracted. My heart was sore and wounded, and I couldn’t seem to ignore the feeling of rejection.

Closing my eyes and shaking my head at myself, I started to pray silently, “God… help. I am so distracted by the fact that those guys got up and left me. I can’t seem to worship You today. I want to be present in worship and just forget the lies of rejection Satan is trying to speak over me. I feel so alone. Help!”

Partway through my silent plea, my prayer was interrupted by a familiar voice. “Hey Aurora! Are these seats taken?”

I looked to my right to see two sisters I know and love standing in the aisle beside me. Warmth radiated out from my heart as I realized how swiftly God had answered my prayer. He already knew I was going to petition Him for provision, and He had already prepared an answer of Yes. Yes, my daughter, I will provide companionship for you. You need only be still. Your God will fight for you. 

Our God loves to give good gifts to His children. The Alpha and the Omega – the God who created 100 billion galaxies and knows every sparrow that falls to the ground – this God is fighting for me, for my good and His glory. He is able to do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine. I need only be still and trust Him.

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part V

Brown eyes

Cory called me the next day, nonchalant as ever. I cut the call short, not feeling up for absorbing the hurt that his perpetual impassive demeanor caused me. Later that night, I received a text from him:

Hey Aurora, is everything okay? I’m picking up on something; I don’t know what to call it. It was in your voice earlier. I didn’t get to ask because I didn’t want you to be late to your dinner.

🙂

A smiley face?

Haha… if you think something is wrong, text usually isn’t the best forum to talk it out 😉

I can take a hint.

And then my phone rang. I answered, unsure what I was going to say.  Ultimately, what came out of my mouth was that I didn’t think we could be even friends anymore. “I don’t know how to be just friends with you. It doesn’t seem to affect you at all, but it’s not healthy for me to keep spending time with you,” I told him.

Cory was devastated. “I don’t want to lose your friendship,” he told me. For the first time since I’d met him, a tinge of urgency crept into his voice. “Being with you was the first sense of normalcy I’ve had in years.” He pleaded with me not to cut all ties with him.

“It hurts me too much to be with you without being with you,” I told him. And then I started crying, speaking my deepest hurts into the air between us. “Was it all just physical? Was that the extent of your attraction to and interest in me?”

“No! You’re definitely a beautiful woman, but – do you know what my favorite physical aspect of you is?”

“No…” My voice was a whimper.

“Your eyes,” Cory told me. “Your eyes are so full of depth and wisdom and light. They were the first thing I noticed about you, and they are my favorite part of you. Then your mouth. Your mouth is so expressive. Then your hands – they are so delicate and strong at the same time. Then, just, your entire face. Only then, in fifth place, are your hips. My life is messy and complicated and full of darkness, but being around you showed me how different things can be. That is why I like being around you.”

As he described his favorite parts of me, Cory started crying, too. “I don’t want to lose you. I care about you, and I hate that I hurt you.”

I was feeling comforted until he said that last portion. A part of me wished that he hurt more at the thought of losing me and not just because he felt badly about hurting me. His statement was just another reminder of why I needed to let him go.

When, painful as it was, I stayed firm on the fact that we needed to cut ties for the sake of my sanity and emotional wellbeing, Cory continued crying, sobbing over the phone, “Then…all of the grace and wisdom you’ve given me, and all of the compassion you’ve deemed me deserving of… Can you also give that to yourself?”

He continued, “You are a phenomenal woman. It’s apparent that I’m not the right guy nor is it the right time, but I can definitely say you are as much, if not ten times the catch that you credit me for being. You deserve your godly, kind, romantic leader of men. He is out there waiting to find you, and he will be so lucky when he does. Settle for nothing less than greatness. You deserve as much and more. I have been so blessed for knowing you.”

I wasn’t sure how to end the call, but I shut myself down emotionally and started to say, “Well, have a good rest of the year and enjoy your Christmas break.”

Cory could tell I was starting to end the conversation and interrupted in an anxious voice, “Wait. Could we pray together before we hang up?”

What?” I was dumbfounded.

“I want to pray with you before we say goodbye.”

“Why?” My heart was hard. In months past, I would have loved – absolutely jumped at the chance! – to pray with Cory. But I was wounded, limping along, and I had already decided to shut down my emotions and shut off my heart.

“I just… I want to pray with you. I feel like we should,” Cory pleaded again.

“Fine,” I conceded brusquely. “But you should know, if I’m going to be talking to the God of the Universe, I’m going to speak truth and say things you may not want to hear. Are you going to be okay with that?”

“Yes. I would expect no different from you.”

“Okay.” I sighed deeply, paused – trying to get myself in the right frame of mind to boldly approach the Throne of Grace – and began.

“Daddy, thank you for Cory. Thank you for the divine crossing of our paths. I know that You had purpose in our meeting, and I pray that your purposes would come to fruition. We confess our sinfulness, Lord. Our relationship has been so full of lust, and we confess that to you, God. Please forgive us. What Satan intends for evil, You intend for good, God, and so I pray that You would bring beauty from the ashes of our interactions. God, Cory has been asking a lot of questions about You and is searching for Truth. I pray You would powerfully reveal Yourself to him, God, and that he would know You; that Cory would come to saving faith in You.”

I prayed a few more sentences, wrapping up; then I paused and asked Cory if he would like to say anything. I heard Cory sniffling on the other end of the phone. “Um…” his voice came softly over the line between quiet sobs. “I hadn’t planned to say anything, but yeah, I have a few things to say.”

“Okay,” I said, more gently now that I had quieted my spirit in prayer. I waited for Cory to start praying when he was ready, and when he did, I was astonished by the broken-hearted pain and soul-bearing honesty in his words.

He began tentatively, with a few introductory sentences; then he started sobbing, crying from the depths of his heart, “God, I’ve been searching for you for so long. Please rescue me from the darkness. I’ve been trapped in the darkness for so long. Please -” his voice broke, “-please bring me out of the darkness and into the light.”

He sobbed again. “Help me, God.”

Taking a quavering breath, he continued, “Save me from the darkness and my fear. I have so much fear – for my mom, my dad, Mimi, Mary… Please protect my mommy- ” his voice cracked, and my heart broke for him.

“I’m not there to protect her…” Cory’s voice rose in pitch as he tried not to cry harder. “She’s all alone in New Orleans with a bad man…”

And then Cory began a time of confession, honoring me with his words. “Please forgive me, God. I’ve hurt so many people, using them to try to self-medicate for my own pain…”

By the end of his prayer, my heart was soft again, malleable and broken for him. I loved this man, though not in the way I had come to expect. When Cory finished praying and we both said, “Amen” together, I echoed words we had come to say to one another.

“I phileo you.”

I heard the sad smile in his voice. “I love you, too.”

And we hung up.

I’m not the kind to try to tell you lies
But the truth is you’ve been hiding from it too
I see the end sneaking in behind your eyes
Saying things no words could ever do

If we were written in reverse, and the end was our beginning
Our love would be rehearsed, and the pain would turn to healing
If we were written in reverse then maybe we could make it, you and I

Does anybody know how to hold my heart
‘Cause I don’t want to let go too soon
I want to tell you so before the sun goes dark
How to hold my heart, ’cause I don’t want to let go of you

Is anybody listening? ‘Cause I’m crying
Is anybody listening? Does anybody know how to hold my heart?
‘Cause I don’t want to let go, let go, let go of you

Authentically Aurora

Longing

Longing

I’m officially ready to not be lonely anymore.

Plead that she puts away her adultery and idolatry,
lest I make her like a wilderness; a parched land
and kill her with thirst.

For she went after her lovers for fulfillment.
Therefore, I will hedge up her way with thorns
and build a wall around her so that she cannot find her paths.

She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them;
She shall seek them but not find them.
She did not know it was I who fulfilled her;
who lavished on her good gifts.

Therefore, I will take back my blessings.
I will put an end to all her mirth
and lay waste to her happiness.
I will punish her for the days she adorned herself
and went after her lovers but forgot all about me, declares the Lord.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her there.
And there I will return her blessings to her
and make the Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope.

In that day, declares the Lord,
you will call me your husband and not your master.
I will betroth you to me forever, in righteousness and justice.
I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, in mercy and steadfast love.
(Hosea 2, paraphrased)

I am so sad. I am so lonely.

How long, O Lord? My heart hurts.

AA

Vulnerable Girls

India

On Wednesday after work, I went to the headquarters of a nonprofit orphan care ministry that rescues, empowers and protects vulnerable girls in India. A few of my friends are on staff with the organization, and they needed help writing Christmas cards by hand for all of their volunteers and donors.

We bought pizza and Mint Oreos to snack on while we worked, and we put on “White Christmas” in the background, occasionally singing along to the movie as we wrote out our cards. It was actually a really fun and peaceful evening, surrounded by kind-hearted men and women who chose to use their weeknight to serve an organization that is making a beautiful difference in the lives of some sweet young girls halfway around the world.

We laughed a lot, too – more so when some of the men left and we got to start in on “girl talk” (which may have ultimately resulted in us addressing a few rogue cards to the likes of Tim Tebow and J.J. Watt, asking them to partner with the organization).

As the evening began to wind down and I gathered my coat and purse to head home, I paused, looked around the room at the four compassionate women still seated around the table, and suddenly asked, “Hey, would you guys mind praying over me?”

All their heads popped up, and immediately there were arms and hands everywhere, gesturing for me to sit down, rubbing my back, pulling chairs over so that they could all gather around me. “I’ve been struggling a lot lately with rejection. I have a revolving door of men, and I want to stop finding my identity in what men think of me.”

As most of my readers know, this is an ongoing battle for me, and sometimes I feel silly asking for prayer about the same thing over and over again, but it’s my struggle. And prayer helps. Being vulnerable and transparent and confessing our sins to one another helps.

I felt absolutely safe and loved as Katie, a strong, godly, single woman in her thirties who I respect very much began praying over me. A couple of the other girls chimed in, and these were my key takeaways as I prayed their words along with them:

  • Thank you for her boldness to be vulnerable. May that authenticity and transparency continue.
  • We pray for healing of her heart and her mind. Heal her way of thinking, that if there is any lie from the Enemy, You would speak Truth over that lie. Tell her what her true identity is; the identity You speak over her. Heal her heart. Sing over her in her sleep. Remind her who she is in You.
  • Put up a guard around her, such that any men she has been in past relationships with would stay in the past and not come back. Guard her such that any man who is not in Your will for her would not approach her. Block his way before he comes.
  • Give her a clarity of mind. Sometimes thoughts can get muddled, but we pray for clear thinking. May it be easy for her to say no when she needs to say no. And may it be easy for her to say yes when Your answer is yes.

Katie ended the prayer “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then looked up, paused, studied one of the other girl’s faces, and said, “Was there something else anyone else wanted to say? Does anyone else have a Word from the Lord?”

The girl Katie had been studying nodded, and we all bowed our heads again. This is what she prayed for:

  • If there was any part of her heart that died from her broken engagement or other hurts, we pray for restoration of that part of her heart that she has shut off. If there is a broken, shut off, deadened part of her heart, heal it, God. Turn it back on. Bring it back to life. Heal and restore her whole heart.

I wasn’t sure at first what this was referring to. I clearly still am capable of loving people deeply (just read about Cory if you haven’t), and I am not afraid of loving again. I desire connection more than just about anything. But as I drove home and mulled it over, asking God which part of my heart had died, I believe He showed me that, while it is true that I haven’t shut myself off from love, I have changed the way that I love.

He showed me that, although it was easy for me to be vulnerable with that room full of women, I don’t ever want to be vulnerable in a romantic relationship. I don’t want the other person to know how deeply I love or how invested I am because, inevitably, I love deeper and more intensely than the other person in a relationship. So to protect myself, I have become… not brash exactly, but bolder. Confident. I put on airs of being strong. I try to make dates feel casual and grand gestures seem like no big deal. I minimize in order to protect myself.

As a result – or, perhaps, in order to achieve this result – I have shut off the part of my heart that used to flutter with excitement. The innocent, giddy eagerness and anticipation of falling in love is something I have not allowed myself to experience anymore. Because it hurts too much when that kind of love comes to an end. When I am able to convince myself that my interactions with dates are not as meaningful as I actually, deep down, feel them to be, I can kid myself into thinking I’m not going to get as hurt as I would if I let the butterflies in.

So. Here’s to wistfulness and innocence; hope and anticipation; eagerness and excitement. Pray with me that this part of my heart comes back to life, with the right person and in God’s perfect timing. ❤

Authentically Aurora