Becoming a 30-Something

30th birthday.pngI’m turning 30 years old this week.

I know the expectation is that I should be freaking out about this, feeling like my biological clock is ticking and that life is going too fast. But I feel strangely calm about this milestone birthday.

Maybe it’s because my best friend Ashley turned 30 back in November, and I have already started thinking of myself as 30 by extension.

Maybe it’s because, rather than being single, I am in a happy relationship with a wonderful man who continues to make comments alluding to commitment. I think there’s a future there.

Or maybe it’s because there are so many other new, good things in my life (like an upcoming career change) that have 30 feeling more like an exciting fresh start than the beginning of a downhill slope.

Earlier this week, I was thinking about the fact that Jesus began his public ministry at age 30. He certainly did miracles and taught in the synagogue prior to his 30th birthday, but up until that point, he kept his ministry more private and was in a season of preparation for what was to come.

My mind followed that train of thought to mulling over the past decade and how many trials I’ve faced. I’ve been praying for years that God would use the pain for good; that He would put me in a place where I consistently live out my true created purpose. And here, right at my 30th birthday, I am on the brink of a major career change, where I get to stand in front of young adults every day and be a positive role model, hopefully impacting them for eternity.

Might this be what I’ve been praying for? Might this be the beginning of my own public ministry of sorts, with everything up to now being a season of preparation? I hope so.

If 30 is the year I start to see God really moving in my life to impact others, then I say bring on the next decade! I’m ready to be a 30-something.

Authentically Aurora

Burning with Indifference

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The fire alarm went off in my apartment complex around 5:00 this morning. I normally wake up in a fog of gradual consciousness, but when the shrill siren first pierced the air, I jolted awake.

Moving quickly but calmly, I slipped my bare feet into tennis shoes, threw on a heavy coat, and grabbed my phone and keys. I exited into the hallway – locking my apartment door behind me – and walked down the outside stairwell to the first floor where I was surprised to see that I was the only one in my entire apartment complex (of about 800 tenants) who had evacuated.

I walked slowly around the complex, surveying it for smoke or fire. Down the hall from me, an alternate outside stairwell was flooded with water. The overhead sprinklers had been activated and created a fine mist that rose into the air in a way that looked like smoke at first glance.

Over the next thirty minutes, sleepy tenants slowly made their way out into the parking lot, grumpily conceding that they couldn’t just roll over and go back to sleep since the deafening alarm was still sounding a full half an hour later.

I was astonished at the laissez-faire attitude of my neighbors. I work at a major oil company where safety is such a huge part of our culture in the post-Macondo world that I want to gag every time someone even mentions the term “HSSE”. But this wasn’t just a fire drill. Water was gushing out of the building from the sprinkler system, and a fire truck pulled up minutes later, lights flashing. It’s still unclear what happened, but when I left for work two hours later, the piercing fire alarm was still going off, and the fire truck was still outside my building with red lights blazing in the dim light of early morning.

It seems to have been a non-event, but this could easily have been something significant. Have we as a culture gotten so desensitized to fire alarms that we don’t take them seriously anymore? Most of the people in my apartment complex would have suffocated or burned to death if it had been a real fire. Have our fire alarms cried wolf too many times, deafening our ears with their sirens such that we are unmoved in the event of an actual flame? Are people just too lazy to bother to leave their apartments? Or are they so sleep-deprived that they’re willing to risk the alarm signaling a real fire?

Living in a world of reality TV and virtual reality, have we developed invincibility complexes, thinking that nothing bad can really happen to us; that everything is a show for our entertainment? With the onslaught of negativity in the media, are we desensitized to all of the bad in the world – numb to pain, blind to evil, and apathetic to the possibility of personal injury?

This early morning experience brought to mind how much of the world headed for eternal fire is absolutely deaf to the warning signs all around them. People are too busy or indifferent or afraid of the truth to take the time to really evaluate who they are, why they are on this earth, and what is going to happen when they die. When I have asked people what they think happens when they die, 95% of the time, I get one of two answers:

  1. I’ll probably go to heaven because I’m a pretty good person, all things considered.
  2. I don’t know. It’s something I don’t really think about. I’ll deal with it when I’m older.

For anyone in Camp #1, there is no biblical basis for good works earning your way to heaven. Our sin separates us from the eternal, omnipotent Creator of all things because He cannot be around sin. But in addition to being all powerful, God is also unconditionally loving, and He loved us so much that – while we were still sinners – God’s Son Jesus went willingly to die to take the punishment we all deserve for our waywardness. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. After three days, He rose from the dead, conquering sin, death and the power of evil. We are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, not by any good works we have done. There is nothing I can do that would be good enough to make up for my sinfulness, but because God loves us all, He remedied our plight by giving everyone freely the opportunity to be reconciled to Him if they would simply believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

For those in Camp #2, I’ll just say this: You don’t know how much time you have left. You could die in a car wreck this afternoon, or you could die in a fire tonight because you inaccurately think the fire alarm is a false alarm. Don’t wait to think about these weighty topics. If they truly do have eternal significance, isn’t it worth taking an hour out of your day to think them through and wrestle with them? And don’t be afraid to think about what may be beyond the grave. Because there is Good News – God is for you, and He lovingly wants an eternal relationship with you.

Authentically Aurora

Freedom from Boredom

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Boredom and Restlessness, Boredom and Restlessness, over and over again: This has been the cycle of my life for the past few years. I’ve been so underutilized and unappreciated at work – where I spend 40 hours each week – that I’ve allowed this discontentment to infiltrate the rest of my life.

During seasons of Boredom, I’d click around on the internet all day at work; then come home and eat junk food and watch Netflix until bedtime, starting the routine again the next day. My life became one of comfortable complacency, where I didn’t feel passionate or motivated about anything. I was so disheartened for so many hours during the day that, ironically, my boredom at work sapped all of my energy and rendered me utterly unproductive during my off hours as well.

After a few weeks of Boredom, I’d kick myself into gear and start desperately trying to do something meaningful and significant with my life. I didn’t want to be a binge-watching, dispassionate Netflix couch potato. So I’d enter a season of Restlessness, where I filled my time trying to find new hobbies to learn and new projects to tackle.

I got certified to babysit foster children, but only one family ever called to ask me to babysit. I offered to take maternity or newborn photos for a ministry that helps pregnant teens, but the seemingly excited director of the organization never took me up on my offer to work for free. I’d volunteer for complex analysis at work that never got used, and I stepped up to arrange songs for a choir that ended up being more of a drain than a joy.

After a few weeks of feeling rejected and unappreciated even in my skillful volunteer efforts, I’d return to a season of Boredom. And so this cycle would continue ad nauseam: Boredom and Restlessness.

In July last year, during one particularly uplifting sermon, I sensed God speaking to my heart that he wants to change this cycle. The Christian life was never intended to be boring. And there is no reason for us to be restless, striving desperately for passion and purpose. We’ve been given both identity and purpose that inform our passions. And the new cycle God has spoken over me is Passion and Rest.

I long to throw myself wholeheartedly into what I love. I’m wired to run hard; to be singleminded in the pursuit of my passions. So in seasons where I don’t feel passionate about anything, I feel dead and purposeless. Even in the mundane – which is a natural part of life – I believe we can be passionate about the people around us and investing in them. Any job and any season of life can have something – even the most minuscule or ordinary – that gets us fired up. And I’ve been missing that in my life, but I believe God is ushering me into a new season where my passions are lit anew.

But we also weren’t created to run headlong without a break. We are called to rest – commanded to rest – and this is for our good. Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man. And our Good Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures. We shouldn’t protect our rest so that we can be rested when we rest some more; we rest so that we can work hard – get back out there and do good work for God’s kingdom.

So Passion and Rest, Passion and Rest… that is what I’m praying for in this New Season.

Authentically Aurora

Electing to Speak Out

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Four thoughts on the 2016 election:

1. The Silent Majority

The outcome of this presidential election was a huge shock to most of America, largely because everyone talking about the election seemed to be a Hillary supporter. Between the ever-present liberal media coverage and the most vocal of our friends and colleagues, everyone seemed to be voting blue, leading the nation to assume Trump had basically no shot at winning. The key mistake, I believe, was that we as a nation only listened to those who were talking. But so much more was going on in the undercurrents of our country’s populace.

Trump supporters made up a SILENT majority. Most people who voted for Trump did so half-heartedly. Few people think he is a moral, upstanding man worthy of our respect as a person. But many voters would rather have Trump in office than Hillary; even so, they felt shamed into silence. The first person who admitted to me that they voted for Trump did so by saying reluctantly, “I’m guilty. I’m one of the deplorables.” The general consensus among this group seems to be: “I’m disappointed Trump won, but I’m glad Hillary didn’t.”

Throughout the entire process, Trump voters remained a Silent Majority. Before the election, the American media led us all to believe Trump had no chance of victory. The night of the election, my social media feeds were full of Hillary supporters asking in shock, “Is this really happening?” And post-election, everyone around me keeps talking about how angry and upset they are that such a “racist, bullying bigot” is our President Elect. Every conversation around me seems to include the words: hurt, confused and scared. It’s still Hillary supporters doing most of the talking. Trump voters remain a Silent Majority. But the Silent Majority has spoken.

2. The Swing of the Pendulum 

All of the polls and logical rationale pointed to Hillary being named the first female president, but if we throw away all the analysis and use intuition instead, it’s actually not so surprising that Trump won.

After Bill Clinton’s escapades with Monica, the nation wanted the squeaky-clean and morally upright George W. Bush for president. After good ol’ boy “W”, the nation voted in the intellectual and well-spoken Barack Obama. We as a nation repeatedly seek out change, and the pendulum ever swings to the opposite extreme (many of us do this with significant others as well).

Trump is the antithesis of Obama and therefore – from this purely intuitive, psychological perspective – he fit the pattern and was the obvious choice of American voters as a whole.

3. Third Party Voters

I have been amazed by how many of my friends have admitted in the past 24 hours that they voted Third Party. When I’ve asked them if they believed Gary Johnson (or other third parties, for that matter) had any chance of winning, they all said “No.” When I asked if they had a preference between Trump and Clinton, most of them said “Yes.” None of them are indifferent to the outcome; they are all either outraged or relieved.

I understand from an ideological perspective why someone would vote Third Party. My inner child and idealist would have loved to vote for a Third Party rather than the two primary options afforded to us. But no one was under the illusion that a Third Party candidate had a chance at the win, so practicality insisted that a decision be made.

Every time I find out that yet another friend voted Third Party, I feel hurt, frustrated and (honestly) used. Again, I understand the decision, but it makes feel like – whether my friend’s preference was Trump over Hillary or vice versa – they opted to take the “moral high ground” and keep their own hands and consciences “clean”, all the while hoping the rest of us would dirty our hands and sell our souls to get the “win” for them. I wish they would have helped to share the burden.

4. Racism & Moving to Canada

The Canadian immigration website crashed on Tuesday night. That is amusing to me. What is not amusing are the hateful, racist comments being posted across social media in the wake of the election.

Most Americans – even Trump voters – acknowledge that Trump has made a number of horrible, racist comments. And I have heard stories that help me understand the fear and concern of minorities. But many of these same minorities have started to post horrible, racist comments themselves as a backlash against all caucasians.

One of my own Facebook friends wrote yesterday: “We see you, white people. We will always remember how we’ve been treated, and one day, you’ll pay. We are coming for you, f***ing white people. We see you.”

This is deeply disturbing to me. Do they not realize that, in making these comments, they are guilty of the very crime – racism! – of which they accuse caucasians in their broad, sweeping, embittered, racist generalizations? Not all white people voted for Trump, and not all Trump voters condone his racist comments. Hatred will only propagate more hatred. We need to stop this cycle.

On a lighter note:

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Just saying.

Authentically Aurora

Clinton’s Incredible Health

incredible [inˈkredəb(ə)l]- (adj.) not credible; without credence; not to be believed

My office building has a Starbucks in the lobby, and yesterday while waiting for my coffee, I passively watched the morning news on a nearby TV screen. Representative Steny Hoyer was being interviewed on NBC, and because of the noise level in the coffee shop, subtitles were turned on.

clinton-healthAlthough uninterested at first, I soon read that Rep. Hoyer (D) was being questioned about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health. This again? What about the real issues? 

I do not wish ill on Hillary. As Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said, “Look, I hope she gets well, and I hope this doesn’t linger. Pneumonia is a really serious thing, but you know what, running for president, that’ll do it to you.” If she really is sick, I hope she gets better. And if she’s not, I hope she stops fabricating fictional news to distract from the real issues.

Focusing my attention on the TV screen, I could not hear what Rep. Hoyer was saying, but I read the subtitles and laughed out loud when I saw these words: “…the results of a full physical examination by incredible medical professionals…”

He went on to say how strong and healthy Clinton is; that voters have no reason to be concerned. As a Democratic Representative, I have to wonder how carefully he chose his words. He wants the full medical report to be shared with voters – physical exam results from incredible medical professionals.

incredible [inˈkredəb(ə)l]- (adj.) not credible; without credence; not to be believed

Whether Hillary is facing serious health issues or not, I have no doubt that she is in the hands of some incredible medical professionals who can churn out whatever physical results best suit her campaign.

I love America. We really do have some incredible politicians.

Authentically Aurora

Tests for Teachers

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It’s scary how easy it is to become a teacher.

Suddenly it all makes sense… my medically bipolar Physics teacher (who yelled at students)… my hateful and arrogant Calculus teacher (who emotionally abused students)… my perpetually high German teacher (who likely sold marijuana to students)…

As I have started working on my Teaching Certification, I have been astonished by how simple the process is; how easy it is to become certified to teach the next generation of young minds. All I have to do is: shadow another teacher for 30 hours, take 80 hours’ worth of online lessons, and pass the State exam for my subject matter of choice. I’ve only been at it for a month, and I’m already nearly halfway through.

The quizzes for the online lessons are a joke. For the lesson entitled, “The Importance of Lesson Planning,” one of the questions was something like:

(In case you aren’t sure… remember that the title of the quiz is “The Importance of Lesson Planning”!)

 

In the online lesson about sexual assault in schools, the questions were all like this one:

I don’t even read the lessons most of the time and still get a 100%. It’s no wonder our students are growing up believing that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede, pro-life organizations deceive pregnant women into giving birth (this from my 15-year-old cousin at Christmas), and that everyone should be entitled to a “free” college education in America.

The more I explore the possibility of teaching, the more I realize that our country is desperately in need of some good teachers.

Authentically Aurora

 

Mocking Mark

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I volunteer at a local farmers’ market a couple of Saturdays a month. The booth I help with is for a nonprofit coffee shop that gives all of its proceeds to fighting human trafficking. It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned: the coffee shop gets free staffing, and I get to play barista for the day and learn how to make different drinks.

Today when I showed up, there was a new guy, so I walked up to introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Aurora,” I told him, sticking out my hand for a handshake. “And you are…?”

“Mock,” he responded, filling in the rest of my sentence.

“Mock?” I repeated back to him, thinking it was an unusual name for a man who looked very much Caucasian.

The girls around me all started giggling, and I looked around in confusion as Mock sighed in mock exasperation. “I’ve lived ‘eeya foh ‘eeyas, and I still con’t seh mahyee ahs!”

“He’s from London,” a girl to my left told me with a smile.

“Oh. Nice to meet you, Mark.”

I found it fascinating that, had I heard Mark say even one sentence before hearing him pronounce his name, my brain would have subconsciously filled in his silent “r”. But because “Mock” was the first word I ever heard come out of Mark’s mouth, my brain didn’t have the context to know that he was speaking with what I would have perceived to be a British accent.

In any case, we all laughed “hod” – “Mock” included – as we “stotted” brewing the “dock” roast.

Authentically Aurora