Offering Our Bodies

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-50-26-pmOne of the more hedonistic reasons I teach Sunday school (and am studying to become a teacher) is the pure entertainment value of being around kids.

This morning at church, while taking up the offering the kids had brought to Sunday school, one little boy without anything to put into the jar called out, “I am an offering!” All the leaders laughed and then smiled at one another because he’s right.

In the bible we read that after David acted out as an adulterer with Bathsheba and murderer of her husband Uriah (the bible = the original soap opera), David wrote Psalm 51 as a way of repentance:

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

And later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul elaborates on this concept when he writes in Romans 12: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Long ago, the Israelites worshipped God by providing “burnt offerings” of slaughtered animals, but under our New Covenant in light of Jesus’ sacrifice, we walk out our days as “living sacrifices” when we die to our selfish, sinful natures and choose to live righteously.

We’ve been learning about God being our Provider, so at the end of our lesson, all of my girls were given a sheet of paper where they could write or draw something they are struggling to trust God to provide. Over half of my group simply wrote the word, “Nothing.”

It must be nice to be seven.

Authentically Aurora

Stop Claiming Promises God Never Made

Jer.29.11.jpgChristians. Church people. Jesus followers. Please stop claiming promises that God never made to you!

Many of us have gotten in the very bad habit of telling ourselves that because God CAN do something, He WILL do that thing if we pray and ask for it. This is a lie. Yes, God is omniscient and omnipotent, but just because He has the power to do something does not mean that He will.

Just because God can heal your illness does not mean that he will do so. God may be brought more glory through your sickness than your healing, and you may become a more sanctified version of yourself by walking through prolonged illness. Have we forgotten that God cares more about the state of our eternal souls than our temporal, physical bodies?

Just because He can bring your future husband into your life this very week does not mean that He will. Your future husband may not be ready for marriage, and you may not be, either. It’s possible that it is for your greater good (and God’s greater glory) for you to continue waiting. Have we forgotten that God’s ways are higher than ours? He sees the bigger picture and has our best in mind.

Monday night was my first evening of Women’s Discipleship at my church. I love my church – the pastor, the worship band, the kids’ ministry… we have great people and sweet, Spirit-filled time together on Sundays. But I tend not to be a fan of women’s ministry events because they tend to be such Estrogen-Fests. And an Estrogen-Fest it was.

Once we made it through the touchy-feely, emotion-packed first lesson, the twenty or so women in our group partnered off for a time of prayer. I ended up coupled with Kristie, the leader of not only our small group but Women’s Discipleship as a whole at our church. Unsure what to expect from her, I was stunned when she shared her prayer request:

“Will you pray for an increase in the measure of my faith? That I would not just believe that God can do anything but that He will? I want to pray and believe He will do what I have asked of Him. When I ask Him to provide a job for my mom, I want to believe that He will and not just that He can.”

Although I wanted to be kind and encouraging to Kristie, I disagreed with the premise of her prayer request at a theological level. And she is the head of our women’s ministry. She is the one who is teaching over sixty women at our church for the next eight months. And I am concerned that she is going to spread her unfounded doctrine and poor theology.

Disturbed, I simply prayed for an increase in the amount of Kristie’s faith. After all, that part was biblical. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and it is certainly acceptable to pray for God to increase our faith (Mark 9:24). But I have noticed that in our church – and Kristie’s request aligned with this – several individuals in leadership skew toward a level of “charismatic” that is not biblically sound. And I was about to be faced with another example.

As soon as Kristie and I had finished praying, one of the women in our group announced that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s a pretty young thing – late 30s I would guess – and asked for prayers of healing. I was getting ready to pray that, if God willed it, He would heal her completely, but before I could start, Evangeline – the head of our prayer ministry at our church – jumped up and declared in a loud, authoritative voice, “Girl, we are not just going to ask God to heal you. We are CLAIMING healing over you. We believe not just that God can heal you, but that He WILL. We declare it! We speak healing over you!”

Eyes wide, I silently prayed for God’s will to be done. Whether He wanted to heal her or not, I prayed for peace and supernatural joy regardless of her circumstances. And then I went home and prayed for our church. Because our leadership has got it wrong.

These women in Discipleship are supposed to be older, wiser women who are meant to mentor the younger women in their faith. But they are clearly tossed around by their emotions and not grounded in the truth. God is not a genie, granting every wish of people who pray to Him. He is not a puppet god who moves in whichever way we want if we pull the right string. They need to stop claiming promises that God never made to them. Stop telling people they will be healed if they just pray hard enough and believe God is going to do it.

God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). Many are the plans in the heart of a man, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Prov. 19:21). Yes, if we pray anything in God’s will, we have what we have asked of him, but let us not forget the “in His will” (1 John 5:14). Sometimes God says no, and it’s not because of a lack of faith on the part of the supplicant. Have we forgotten that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done”? (Matt. 6:10) Have we forgotten the example of Jesus at Gethsemane?! Pretty sure Jesus had the faith to move mountains, and he still received a “no” from the Father.

Sometimes we do not receive what we desire because we do not ask (James 4:3), so by all means, ASK! But remember that God is not obligated to respond with “Yes”. And He is worthy of our praise no matter what He answers.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are Your ways higher than ours. 

Authentically Aurora

Going With the Flow

Dating Flow Chart

I checked my outfit in the mirror one last time as I heard Seth’s knock on my door. I’d chosen my knee-length maroon dress with a cropped khaki jacket, hoping I looked cute but not like I was trying too hard.

Seth had called me thirty minutes earlier and asked what I was doing. “Um… eating a quick dinner before bible study?”

He’d called me at 5:15 PM, and our Wednesday night bible study started at 6:30 PM. But even in light of the time crunch, Seth had asked me if I would like to get ice cream before bible study. “I can pick you up; then we can go to bible study together.”

Naturally, I said yes, but a quiet part of my mind was doing the backwards planning: It’s going to take him thirty minutes to get to my apartment in rush hour traffic; then another thirty minutes to get to bible study, which allots us only fifteen minutes to actually eat ice cream if we’re going to be on time.

But of course I didn’t say any of that. I have been coached by ex-boyfriends and ex-fiances alike that I am “too Type A” and come off as unattractive and “unfeminine” when I reveal the inner workings of my planning, detail-oriented mind. So I am learning to bite my tongue as I attempt to go with the flow.

At the sound of his rhythmic knock on my door, I tucked my hair behind my ear and unlocked my front door to open it for Seth. We greeted one another with a hug; then I stepped back and unintentionally looked him up and down. He was wearing a maroon button-down tucked into khaki slacks.

I giggled. “We match,” I told him, gesturing to my own outfit. He smiled in reply before escorting me down the hallway to his truck after I locked the door behind me.

We drove to a Chinese shaved ice shop where they serve bao bing in a variety of unique flavors. Seth and I opted to share a vanilla-flavored “ice cream sundae” topped with bananas, strawberries, almonds and bright blue raspberry whipped cream. Digging our spoons into the tower of shaved ice, we dubbed it the Smurf Sundae, and Seth laughed at me when I stuck out my tongue and asked him if it was turning blue.

We enjoyed relaxed conversation until Seth glanced at his watch and announced that we were definitely going to be thirty minutes late for bible study. Sure enough, we arrived at 7:00 PM, and everyone playfully raised their eyebrows at not only our tardy arrival together but also our matching attire. I saw one of Seth’s friends wink at him, and Seth – not realizing I was watching – grinned in response.

At the time, I was excited; hopeful; cautiously optimistic. But in the weeks that followed – while Seth and I continued to spend time together – he always arranged for us to meet in group settings. We met at a baseball stadium and bought tickets with a group of mutual friends to watch the game together. He didn’t even sit by me until the 7th inning, both surprising and disappointing me. But the very next morning when we went out to lunch after church with some friends, Seth – in front of everyone – asked the waitress to put our two orders on the same check, and I was encouraged again.

The theme of group outings continued right up to the week I went out of the country on a business trip. I had figured three weeks would be plenty of time for Seth to ask me on a date, but as the weekend of my departure approached, I started to wonder if Seth was interested after all. I’d been back in the dating scene for three full weeks, and he’d told me I would know when he asked me on a date. We’d gone out for ice cream one time, but he hadn’t called it a date, and we’d been rushed on our way to bible study. Was he interested or not?

The night before I left on my business trip, Seth had invited me to a birthday party for a friend of his who I didn’t know. I agreed, but about an hour before he was supposed to pick me up, Seth called to let me know he’d just found out there wouldn’t be any other girls at the party.

“That’s okay,” I told him. “You go ahead and spend some time with your guy friends. I can call up my girls to hang out.”

“But I wanted to spend tonight with you,” he told me. I smiled in spite of myself. So he did want to see me before I left!

“Well, I was a female engineer. I’m used to being one of the guys. I can come along if the birthday boy doesn’t mind.”

“Or we could do something just you and me,” Seth countered. “We could go get dinner or something.”

I felt the left corner of my mouth turn upward in a half smile. “Yeah, we could get dinner just us.” What are your intentions here, Seth?

“Okay. Let’s do that then.”

Seth showed up at my apartment thirty minutes later in a button-down shirt tucked into dark blue jeans and cowboy boots. I welcomed him inside, and we hugged hello. As we pulled apart, Seth kept his hands on my waist and looked down into my eyes with a nervous smile. “So… do you want to go on a date?”

My soft smile was immediate. “Yes, please.” I thought you’d never ask.

Authentically Aurora

Eating Kumquats

Lumberjack“I think Joe is going to visit our bible study on Wednesday,” Cindy told me, her facial expression carefully neutral. She didn’t want to influence me one way or another.

“Oh really? That’s great!” I told her, unsure of my own feelings on the matter. I’d met Joe a few weeks earlier at a worship night Cindy had hosted at her house. The two of them had been friends for years, and Cindy had not-so-subtly pointed him out to me as a potential prospect once I finished my break from dating.

Joe had made quite an impression on me at the time. Cindy knew my type well. Over six feet tall with broad shoulders and a full beard, all Joe needed was a flannel shirt to make him look like a genuine lumberjack. Cindy had shared with me that Joe went to college at one of the US military academies, which made him all the more attractive to me.

As we sang worship songs together that evening in early March, I’d discovered that Joe not only played guitar expertly, but he also had a lovely baritone voice. He and I harmonized well, and I’d had to close my eyes to focus on the lyrics of the praise songs and keep my heart in check.

Later that evening, Joe had walked in on Cindy and me in full-on “girl talk” mode. We’d been chattering away about him, so we fell instantly silent and then erupted into giggles when he unexpectedly entered the room. He’d just smiled and turned back around, but later he’d asked Cindy for my phone number. After getting permission from me, Cindy sent him my contact information, and Joe had started calling me every other day.

During our phone conversations, I found Joe to be intelligent and academic. He was a deep thinker, and I enjoyed our mental sparring about theology, politics, sociology and all manner of other topics. But I also discovered that Joe had never finished at the Air Force Academy; he’d dropped out after two years. He didn’t have a college degree and had taken a job at the family A/C business. Upon examining my feelings about his lack of degree, I realized it wasn’t his lack of college education that bothered me; it was his lack of ambition. He’d dropped out of school and didn’t seem to have the drive to make his own way in the world.

Joe also shared with me that he’d grown up in a broken family. His mom left his dad for another woman when he was only five years old. He’d grown up with the lesbian couple and was home schooled most of his life. That explained to me something I’d been wondering about – Joe was built like an ox but, candidly, displayed some effeminate tendencies and also seemed a bit socially awkward in groups. I soon learned that Joe had never had a girlfriend, never been kissed and never even been on a date. He is 29 years old.

I wanted to like Joe. I really did. He is a smart, attractive, godly man. He genuinely loves the Lord and is very intelligent and articulate; insightful in an academic sense if not perceptive in a social one. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. That intangible, indescribable personality spark that came so easily with Seth just didn’t manifest with Joe, and that wasn’t something I could help.

I knew I needed to let Joe down, but I wanted to do it in person, so if he came on Wednesday night as Cindy suspected, I figured we could have the conversation then. What I hadn’t accounted for was that Seth would also visit our group that week. So on that Wednesday night at the end of March – still in the midst of my fast from dating – I found myself at bible study with both Seth and Joe.

At the end of our lively group discussion about the deity of Jesus, everyone stood and organically clustered into groups, catching up and socializing before saying goodbye for the night. I found Seth by my side at the end of bible study, and he told me with a smile, “I have something for you.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

“I’m leaving for the ranch tomorrow. I’ll be gone for two weeks working the land, but I brought you kumquats to enjoy in the meantime. I picked them from a tree in my backyard.”

“Kumquats? What are those?” I was sad Seth would be gone for so long, but I was glad he’d brought something for me to remember him by while he was away.

“They’re a fruit. Sort of like little peaches.”

“Oh,” I replied with a grin, tilting my head to the side, “So they’re like me!”

Seth smiled at me affectionately and gave a low chuckle. “Yep, you’re my little peach.”

Just then, a group of girls joined us, so Seth excused himself, calling to me as he retreated that I should stop by his truck before I left so he could give me the kumquats he’d brought.

I chatted for a few minutes with Rachel and some other girls before looking around for Seth. He was already standing at his truck, driver door propped open, watching me from afar. “Oh! I’d better go!” I told the girls.

But Joe was waiting for me. I hadn’t seen him standing off to the side until he marched to my side with gusto, obviously intent on walking me to my car. Heart sinking, I realized that I’d parked just beyond Seth’s truck, so Joe – hand on my elbow – was escorting me on a path to walk right past Seth on the way to my car.

Starting to panic – wondering how to navigate the situation – I tried to tell Joe I needed a minute, but he was prattling on about his intentions to pursue a godly relationship with me, oblivious to my attempts to interject, both to tell him I didn’t feel we had chemistry and to explain that I needed to stop and say goodnight to Seth.

The old truck loomed nearer, and soon we were beside it, Seth watching me from his back-lit stance beside his driver seat and Joe still confessing how he felt about me. Frustrated and desperate, I put my hand on Joe’s arm to stop him, finally talking over him by way of interruption, “Hold that thought.”

I turned to Seth with a forced smile and said, “You have something for me?”

Knowing that Seth was leaving for the ranch in the morning – knowing that I wouldn’t see him for two weeks – I really wanted some alone time with him to talk and have a quiet moment to say goodbye. But I could sense Joe’s presence lurking behind me as I studied the tanned face. I couldn’t read Seth’s expression, partly because he was back-lit and partly because he schooled his features. I could only guess what he must be thinking.

Seth extended a plastic grocery bag to me, reaching in as he did so to pull out a small, oblong, orange fruit. “This is a kumquat,” he told me, turning it over in his hand.

Joe stepped closer to examine the fruit, and Seth pulled out a kumquat for Joe as well. The men shook hands and introduced one another. Seth was gracious, commenting kindly, “Ah, I see you’ve got dirt under your fingernails. My dad always told me never to trust a man with clean cuticles.” They laughed together, and I stood in bewilderment at their camaraderie.

Seth had planned to show me how to eat a kumquat, biting off the end and sucking out the meat, mindful of the seeds. He showed Joe as well, and the three of us – not exactly what he’d had in mind, I’d wager – stood outside of Seth’s truck, talking quietly into the darkness and eating kumquats under the partially-visible stars.

After several minutes, Seth seemed to concede that Joe wasn’t going to take the hint to leave. Joe’s delighted, bearded face showed no sign of awareness that he was trespassing on what was intended to be an intimate farewell, so Seth excused himself, giving each of us a cluster of kumquats before climbing into his truck and driving away.

I watched his taillights fade into the distance, my ears only partly registering Joe’s commentary on what a great guy Seth seems to be, the lumberjack’s voice garbled by the fruit in his mouth. Stuffing down my irritation, I allowed Joe to walk me the rest of the way to my car, where we stood and talked for only another couple of minutes before he bid me goodnight.

Feigning calm until he was out of sight, I jumped in my car, started the engine and dialed Seth. When he answered, the low rumbling of his chuckle made my stomach somersault. “Well you’re a hot commodity, aren’t you?”

Authentically Aurora

He’s American as Apple PI

Apple PiThat memorable Sunday when Seth and I became reacquainted was in early March, a few weeks before my birthday and well before the end of my dating fast. I felt myself drawn to him and had a sense the feeling was mutual, but I had no way of knowing for sure.

In mulling over those unexpected interactions we shared while sitting cross-legged on a purple mat surrounded by children, I felt simultaneously frustrated and thankful to have nearly a full month before a potential end to my break from dating. One of the more practical benefits to not dating, I discovered, was a built-in check on my expectations. Thank God, I thought, because even with tempered expectations, my emotions were all over the place.

That first week, I didn’t hear from Seth on Monday or Tuesday, but – true to his word – Seth sent me a Facebook message on Wednesday afternoon asking me for the time and location of my bible study so he could visit our group.

Excited to see him again, I touched up my makeup after work that Wednesday and allotted a few extra minutes to be sure to get to bible study on time. But Seth showed up late and settled himself far across the room from me when he arrived. My heart sank. He was situated such that I couldn’t even see him around the heads of the people between us.

Disappointed, I tried to focus on the discussion going on around me, but I was distracted by my confusion. Seth already had a bible study group – in fact, he taught his Tuesday night group from time to time – so why had he decided to visit mine? I’d thought it was to spend time with me, but he hadn’t made an effort to sit by me, which left me unsure of his interest.

At the end of bible study, Seth came over to say hi, and I started to hope again, especially when he decided to leave at the same time as I did. We walked out into the rainy night together. Seth had parked far down the block, so I offered to drive him to his vehicle. We climbed into my sporty BMW and drove to the truck he indicated,  his calloused finger pointing to it through the downpour.

Glancing over his truck, I decided it suited him. Like Seth, the rugged truck showed the effects of years of hard work, but it also looked solid and dependable. I’d anticipated Seth would want to sit and talk with me for a few minutes before getting out, but as soon as my Beemer rolled to a stop beside the muddied truck, Seth hopped out, thanking me for the ride and closing the door almost before I could respond with, “You’re welcome.”

Stunned, I drove away, comforting myself that I wasn’t dating anyway, so his hasty exit was probably for the best. But I found myself feeling disappointed again the next Sunday when Seth walked right past me in the hallway of church and didn’t seem to notice me or my bright pink sundress – one I’d chosen specifically for its happy hues. I’d spent three days looking forward to running into him at church, but Seth didn’t even so much as give me a second glance.

However, on Monday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised by a message in my Facebook inbox. Our bible study group – full of engineers – had discussed hosting a Pi Day (3/14) celebration at Roy’s house. Having heard the discussion on Wednesday when he’d visited, Seth wrote to me that he was interested to know if he was welcome to join our group’s party. Smiling to myself – heart full of hope again – I encouraged him to attend, so he did, asking for my phone number in case he needed help finding the house.

The Pi Day celebration ended up being epic. People brought all sorts of pies – chocolate and blueberry, store-bought and homemade – and after sampling all of the delicacies, Roy’s roommates broke out their assortment of party games: Code Names, Two Rooms & A Boom, Four on a Couch and the like.

Throughout the evening of laughter and fellowship, multiple girls asked me (with gleeful, teasing grins) how long Seth and I had been dating. Each time, my eyes widened in surprise. “We’re not dating,” I’d tell them, adding mentally with a hopeful smile, “yet.” But everyone evidently observed the way Seth watched me make my way around the room, serving drinks and hugging friends. He seemed captivated by me, and I caught him looking at me several times.

As the evening grew late, I gathered up my purse and glanced over my shoulder to find Seth moving my way through the crowd. “May I walk you out?” he asked. I was immensely glad.

We said our goodbyes to the others and made our way out to my car. Telling myself to release any expectations in light of his quick departure the prior week, I gave Seth a quick hug goodbye and started to fish in my purse for my keys, but to my surprise, he leaned against my car and struck up a conversation.

Half an hour later, still deep in conversation about our families and hobbies, the wind picked up and whipped my bangs around my forehead. I reached into my purse for a rubber band and put my long hair up in a ponytail to get it off the back of my neck and keep it from flying into my face. Still leaning against my car, Seth reached out his hand to gently squeeze my shoulder as he told me about his latest carpentry project.

My neck and shoulders were sore from yoga, so I subconsciously sighed gratefully, and Seth stepped closer to work out a knot in my left upper trap while he described the way he likes to fill holes in mesquite wood with turquoise stones. When he finished, I nestled into his chest, and he wrapped his arm around me, both of us smiling shyly at our joint reflection in the car next to mine.

Two hours later as midnight approached, I told Seth I should probably get to bed. It was, after all, a work night. He agreed and hugged me goodnight, telling me he needed to go get a run in anyway.

“A run?” I asked incredulously. “At midnight?!”

“Yeah, probably just a four-miler,” Seth said with a shrug. He has run a couple of marathons.

“Why would you go for a run this late?”

“Sometimes I go for a run when I get a little too amped up,” he told me.

“What has you amped up?” I asked in genuine innocence. Was he stressed about work?

He chuckled, dropping his eyes before looking back up at me and saying in his low drawl, “Oh, I don’t know. Talking to a pretty girl late at night will do it.”

Oh! My face burned, and he laughed in response. “You totally went fishing for that one!”

“No, I didn’t!” I countered with an embarrassed grin. “You’re the fisherman, not me!” He’d gone fishing the prior weekend and came home with some fresh catches.

Seth just laughed in reply and gave me another hug goodnight, leaving me with his woodsy scent and a longing for the next time I’d see him again.

Authentically Aurora

Enemies –> Friends

Sweet Blonde GirlSometimes I joke that friends are just enemies I haven’t alienated yet, but most often, the sliding scale of friendship runs the other direction for me: people I may initially dislike grow on me as I get to know them better; as I learn their story and get to know their hearts.

A couple of years ago when I first joined the church I’m at now, I started looking for a midweek bible study to get involved in. I emailed the leaders of a few groups in my area, and I ended up hitting it off with one guy in particular – Donny.

I’d never met Donny in person, but even over email, our chemistry was obvious. I could see from his gmail photo that he was an attractive man, and we also quickly discovered that we shared ties to the United States Military Academy.

“Hi Donny – I am interested in joining your group, as the time and location are a good fit for me.  Is there any additional information you need? What are our next steps? Thanks, Aurora”

“Hi Aurora – Generally we subject all potential new joins to an in depth personality screen, followed by a battery of intelligence and psychological assessments. If those come back satisfactory then we conduct the physical fitness test and group interviews. Just kidding, of course! There is nothing more for you to do other than show up. We would absolutely love to have you! – Donny”

“Hi Donny – I’m an INTJ with a 16:00 two mile time who graduated magna cum laude. Let me know by when you need my congressional nomination. 🙂 Thanks for making me smile. I can already tell we’re going to get along great. Looking forward to meeting you!”

“We’ll need a letter signed by a Senator, actually. And your vertical is?”

The emails continued all week long, increasing in their ridiculousness, so I was shocked when I showed up to bible study and was introduced to Donny’s wife. Naturally, I immediately disliked her. Cristin was beautiful and petite, with intelligent eyes and long, curly blonde hair. I estimated that she was in her mid thirties, and her face was just starting to show the worry lines that came from being the mother of their four children.

Just the frustration of being around lovely, wifely, maternal Cristin would have been enough to deter me from joining their group, but in addition, it ended up being a bible study of 15 married couples (plus me in all my singleness), so I didn’t visit their group again. But our church is a close-knit community, so my path continued to cross with Donny and – more often – Cristin.

Over the past two years, their children have grown old enough to be in the kids’ ministry where I volunteer at church, so I now have the blessing of getting to teach and play with their two beautiful blonde daughters a couple of Sundays each month. And those two sweethearts are some of my absolute favorite girls to teach.

Ally and Avery are kind and thoughtful, intelligent and attentive. They are obedient and respectful, as well as snuggly and affectionate. I have fallen in love with Donny and Cristin’s children, and over the years, I have gotten to know Cristin more and more from passing one another in the hallway, chatting when she comes to pick up the girls, or volunteering at one church event or another. She shared godly wisdom with me over brunch one morning last summer when I was struggling with dating relationships, and in the past few months, she has shared with me about her own struggle with an eating disorder and how it has been affecting her marriage to Donny.

Getting to know Cristin – her heart, her life, her struggles, her children – has changed the way I see her. I care for Cristin, and I care for Donny, too, but now I see him exclusively as Cristin’s husband and my brother in Christ.

Just two days ago, little Avery crawled into my lap to snuggle with me while we talked about the Feast of Trumpets, and as I stroked her soft blonde hair held back by a glittery silver headband, my heart felt full. I kissed the top of her head and felt like a part of their family. In a way, I am. Raising godly children is a community effort. I offered this week to start babysitting for the girls, and my eyes flooded with happy tears as they jumped up and down with excitement, running to wrap their arms around me in enthusiastic hugs.

Two years ago, I never would have dreamed how our relationship would change – my relationship to Donny and, more significantly, my relationship to Cristin. Humanizing people – taking time to get to know them – has a way of peeling back the layers, mitigating assumptions and enabling us to really see people through the eyes of Christ. What Satan intended for evil, God has once again used for good. He truly is the Redeemer of all things.

Authentically Aurora

Mental About My Dental

Teeth-WhiteningPeople are weirdly obsessed with my teeth.

Apparently a new person in my circle of friends was asking someone else about me – what they think of me – and, of all the comments and observations that could have been made about me, the person’s response was: “She’s really intense. And she has good teeth.”

I’m intense. And I have good teeth. I mean, both of those things are true. The former is one of my greatest insecurities and the reason nearly every one of my boyfriends has broken up with me. The latter, as my daddy likes to say, is because he “paid a lot of good money for those teeth!” Nine months of braces. Thanks, Dad. 

Soon after that interaction, I found myself doing the whole standing-talking-in-the-parking-lot thing with one of the men in my bible study, and during the course of our conversation, he suddenly stopped and said, “You have really good teeth.”

I appreciated the compliment, but since his family owns a cattle ranch, this – his very first compliment to me – made me feel a bit like a horse being appraised for investment. Not the most flattering compliment of all time, but I tried to take it in the spirit in which it was intended.

Then last night, while volunteering at a ministry that provides career counseling and mentorship to at-risk youth, two of my freshman kept giggling during our session. When I asked what was up, they blurt out, “You have great teeth. They’re so white!” …and then, embarrassed, they erupted into giggles, covering their mouths and hiding under the table.

I smiled, thanked them, and brought us back to the lesson at hand, but – since all three interactions involved boys – the next time a man tells me I have good teeth, I’m going to ask in response, “Would you say my teeth are ‘like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing’?”

After all, a girl’s got to know where she stands.

Authentically Aurora