Devotional: Direction?

I read a daily devotional every morning. The past week’s have been:

Love God and accept where you are. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. -Psalm 37:23

Appreciate your day. God planned it to bring you closer to His purpose for your life.

All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:16

Never stop hoping for what you want – or being content with where God has you now.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. -Hebrews 11:1

Where your heart leads, give your all.

I’m not sure how biblical these all are. The non-scripture verses seem to be a bit of a stretch or, if nothing else, borderline worldly wisdom. And even the scriptures could be misunderstood, taken out of context. But… they seem to indicate I should follow my heart and relax into the present. Should I keep giving Bryan another chance, holding on and hoping?

Here’s my contribution to my devotionals this week as I seek God’s wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. -James 1:5-6

Authentically Aurora

Don’t Make My Decision For Me

Bryan told me once that he tends to protect people he cares about by making their decisions for them.

I don’t remember all the details because it was a while ago, but he told me a story about how one of his brothers got into some trouble with drugs and, rather than burdening his mom with the decision of how to handle the situation, Bryan took care of it himself. He protected his newly-divorced mother from having to decide how to handle her wayward son. I understood his perspective, but I think his mom would have rather known than been kept in the dark for her “protection”.

Similarly, a couple of months ago when I (yet again) asked Bryan why he never complimented me and gave me the verbal affection I crave, he explained that he was protecting me from myself.

“I’ve heard your story,” he told me. “I know how much you invest your heart in relationships. If I were to tell you what a sweet, smart, thoughtful, kind, beautiful, godly woman I think you are, wouldn’t that cause your emotional investment in this relationship to deepen?”

I was fairly glowing at this point. “You think I’m sweet? And smart? And beautiful and kind?”

He smiled slightly. “Yes, but I don’t tell you those things because I’m trying to protect you from investing too much before I’m sure which direction this relationship is going to go.”

He told me that, while I am all of those wonderful things, he has some reservations about my defensiveness and occasional passive-aggressive behavior. He also told Toby that I can be too serious and need to loosen up.

While I appreciate that he has been trying to guard my heart for me, I would rather have him tell me what he really thinks of me (the good and the bad) and allow me to make my own decision of how much to invest in the relationship. He is not protecting me. He is destroying us.

Authentically Aurora

Conflicted – Part V: AND YET…

He’s trying.

Bryan may not give me much affection, either verbally or physically, but he’s trying. He may not pursue me well by planning romantic dates or really planning ahead at all, but I’m seeing progress. He may still be emotionally closed off, but I see glimpses of him trying to open up. Does that count for anything?

The last night of our sailing trip, laying together in the quiet darkness of our hotel room – having mutually agreed to honor and protect our purity – he kissed me goodnight and whispered softly, “You looked so beautiful today in your sundress.” He kissed me again. “You looked like a princess. I wanted to pick a hibiscus flower and put it in your hair. You looked so beautiful.”

My heart absolutely lapped up his words. They were so precious to me – rare in their rawness; ardent and heartfelt. The next morning, I hugged him and looked up at him through my eyelashes. I smiled shyly and said, “I think one of the sweetest things you’ve ever said to me was last night when you told me I looked like a princess in my sundress.”

Bryan looked surprised; then embarrassed. “Did I say that last night? Did I say that out loud?” His reaction revealed to me that he is much more shy and private than I had realized. I know he meant his affectionate words, but it took the safety and security of pillow talk time to draw his feelings out into the open.

It’s true that, so far, Bryan has not brought me much joy, largely because he hasn’t been very teachable in loving me in the way I need to be loved. But it has been hard to determine if his lack of affection is because he doesn’t actually care for me or because he is simply afraid of vulnerability and emotional intimacy.

Since we have been back from our trip together, Bryan has either called me or sent me a text message almost every single day. That is new for us. That is progress. And when we went grocery shopping together a few days ago, although it wasn’t the romantic date I was hoping for, he did what he could to make our practical outing into a fun one.

Circling a table displaying blocks of cheese, Bryan came up behind me and pinched my love handles playfully. Next to the yogurt, he surprised me by sweeping my feet out from under me, dipping me with impressive skill, and kissing me right in the middle of the aisle! And near the toy aisle, he picked up and handed me a small wallet that read, “You’re beautiful. Don’t change.”

It’s little gestures like this that remind me why I keep giving Bryan the benefit of the doubt. The goal is progress, not perfection, right?

Authentically Aurora

Conflicted – Part IV: SELFLESSNESS

Bryan has never been one to actively pursue a relationship with me. Past boyfriends have sent me flowers at work, shown up spontaneously at my door, left notes on my car, taken me to candlelit dinners and massaged my feet. Bryan has never done any of these things, or really anything even remotely romantic in the classic sense of the word.

When I have mentioned to Bryan how long it’s been since he’s taken me on a proper date (i.e. months), his response was something akin to, “Your goal in dating is ultimately marriage, right? In marriage, do people spend more time going on fancy, contrived date nights or just living daily life together? If the goal is to build relationship, which is more relational: getting dressed up to go to elaborate dinners or doing housework together?”

Maybe he’s just not romantic. Maybe he’s just being a typical man. That’s fine. I can accept that. But for a relationship to be successful, both individuals need to be seeking to meet the needs of the other. And I have communicated my need to be wooed and courted and pursued. For a relationship to be healthy, some degree of selflessness is required by both parties. But if I want to spend time with Bryan, it tends to be on his terms and in his timing, which is usually a last-minute text when he feels like hanging out and grabbing a cup of coffee.

Servant leadership is vital to a healthy, successful, godly relationship. For a relationship to be God-honoring, both people need to approach the relationship asking not “What can you do for me?” but “What can I do for you?” But, as much as I try to bless Bryan by meeting his communicated (and anticipated) needs, I have never felt a similar effort reciprocated. 

Maybe we’re just not speaking the same love language. Bryan is spontaneous, and I am a planner. Bryan seems focused on knocking out life goals, and I am interested in connecting with someone to share life with. It’s possible Bryan behaves in a selfless manner toward me in ways I’m oblivious to.

All I know is that I can count on one hand the number of times he has offered to drive to pick me up in the past five months. He always expects me to come to him. And instead of going on proper dates, we just run errands together or cross off items on his to do list. This week, if I wanted to see him, he said I could go grocery shopping with him. As far as I can tell, he makes almost no effort to woo me or make me feel valued and cherished.

I don’t feel like a priority in Bryan’s life, and I’ve been telling myself I feel this way because he isn’t very romantic or experienced in pursuing dating relationships. But, if I’m honest with myself, the truth is probably that I don’t feel like a priority in his life because I’m not one.

Authentically Aurora

Conflicted – Part III: EMOTIONAL INTIMACY

I feel as though I still don’t know Bryan.

Once upon a time, he claimed that I have walls up – that I peek over the top of my curtain but never part the curtain for anyone else. I’m discovering I’m not the only one in this relationship with walls up.

Bryan and I do life together – we have done yard work and grocery shopping and traveled together and go to bible study together – but we are missing a soul-deep connection. Usually if I look into a person’s eyes, I can see to their soul. But Bryan is guarded. He has closed the shutters of his eyes that would be the window to his soul if he should ever choose to let anyone in.

I asked him the other day, as casually as one can ask such a question, “Do you ever let anyone in? Is there anyone in your life who really knows you?”

He wouldn’t make eye contact with me. And he shrugged (of course). One of his best friends said, “Bryan’s response to everything in life is a shrug.” Is he passionless as well?

Bryan replied to my probing, “My mom knows me. Russ knows me. And Toby…”

Interestingly, Toby is the best friend who told me that, close as they appear to be, he doesn’t feel like he really knows Bryan. So for Toby to be one of the three people Bryan listed  as “knowing him” speaks volumes.

Does Bryan have a fear of emotional intimacy? Of vulnerability? If so, why? Or if not, is he not self-reflective enough to have any depth of feeling or emotion? Does he stay too busy to identify the emotions he has buried? Is he so determined to be “happy” (because he definitely is determined to be happy) that he maintains a superficiality in relationships, all the while masquerading as a relational person who values deep connection?

Authentically Aurora

Conflicted – Part II: JOY

Today I saw a couple walking into work side by side. Their faces were lit up with delight as they laughed together. Bryan rarely laughs, and I certainly don’t feel that he delights in me. As far as I can tell, I am a companion to him; nothing more and nothing less.

Relationships are supposed to bring joy. They require work, yes, and there will be seasons of more sowing than reaping, but healthy relationships result in joy, and Bryan doesn’t bring me much joy. Mostly he causes me stress, anxiety and increased insecurity. Words have power for me, and Bryan is a challenger, not an encourager. He also doesn’t seem to be teachable. I have communicated to him multiple times that I need words of affirmation to feel cared for –  words are one of the top ways I receive affection – but I haven’t seen much of a change.

Nick the Strict – who I’m not even interested in – makes me smile on an almost daily basis with his persistent texts, like today’s: “Good morning, young lady. Be blessed today!” Nick tells me all the time that I am a smart, beautiful, talented, godly woman. I rarely receive that kind of affirmation from Bryan.

Even Kevin – a guy I haven’t been on a date with yet – has sent me 49 texts in the past week, including comments like, “Wish you were here!” and “I am intrigued by you.”

Bryan constantly misses opportunities to build me up. Two days ago, he looked me up and down and commented that I looked really tan. “You look Mediterranean,” he said. I asked him if my tan looked nice. Instead of responding with, “Yes, you look lovely,” and taking me in his arms and nuzzling my neck, he shrugged – shrugged! – and said, “You tell me if it looks nice.” And he wonders why I roll my eyes at him all the time. This man exasperates me.

Is this normal man behavior? Was I spoiled by my ex-fiance, who doted on me all the time? Is Bryan just not an affectionate person? Or is he simply not speaking my love language?

I know his lack of affection is not specific to me, because his best friend has told me that he’s never seen Bryan head-over-heels in love or really invested in anyone. I wonder if part of the issue is his fear of emotional intimacy, which leads to Part III…

Authentically Aurora

Conflicted – Part I: CONFESSION

I think I need to break up with Bryan. But I’m not sure. I’ve never been the one to end a relationship before, and, come to think of it, I’m not even sure we need to have a break up conversation since he never agreed to be my boyfriend anyway. We’ve just been dating for five months. Mostly exclusively. Without the labels of exclusivity or boyfriend/girlfriend.

I see so much potential in him – he’s a smart man (member of Mensa), a godly man (has led multiple mission trips to Thailand), a wealthy man (getting ready to retire this summer at age 36) and an adventurous man (has traveled the world) who is always seeking to have new experiences. Life with Bryan is exciting and thrilling. He challenges and stimulates me intellectually in ways that no other man does. But he can’t penetrate my heart or emotions. Well, maybe he could. He doesn’t really try. At least, not in ways that are visible to me.

I’m an external processor. I need to write out my conflicting thoughts and emotions. I need to share them to process them and admit they are real. If you reply, please be kind. I am vulnerable right now.

Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part III

blonde-yacht-sailing-sea-sunlight-landscape-woman-wallpaper-817181130I feel like Bryan and I had some really important, enlightening, breakthrough conversations over the last couple days of our trip. We have struggled with emotional intimacy (neither one of us seems to want to be emotionally vulnerable), so I’m grateful that we were finally able to articulate certain thoughts and feelings to each other that will hopefully blossom our relationship as we live out our respective revelations.

I needed Bryan to hear the implications of my struggle with perfectionism and the havoc wreaked by the voice of my internal critic. So often when he – in completely bewilderment – has watched me shut down, it is because his words (unbeknownst to him) have been warped by the perfectionistic voice in my head to tell me that I am wrong or stupid or incompetent and therefore unloveable. The brokenness of this way of thinking is something I’m keenly aware of and still learning to battle effectively and consistently. My hope is that Bryan’s understanding of this struggle will ease our communication going forward.

Bryan needed me to hear his experience with the burden of always having to be the responsible one. The oldest son of six kids, with their father having passed a few years ago, Bryan is also the wealthiest and most highly educated of his siblings. As such, he shared with me that he perpetually bears the brunt of his family’s needs in addition to requests from countless friends for loans, a place to crash for the night, travel advice, networking favors, etc.

Bryan has a way of putting those around him at ease. He is connected and competent, and that unfortunately causes many of those around him to switch off their brains and lean too heavily on him. I did that to him this trip. In an effort to leave my high-strung Type A personality at home and just enjoy my free-spirited vacation, I intentionally didn’t print off our itinerary, and I forgot to call my credit card company to let them know I’d be out of the country. As a result, Bryan was always the one both driving and navigating, paying for expenses I couldn’t cover with my wad of cash, and generally ensuring we survived the day unscathed.

As nice as it was for me to unplug and just depend on someone else (for one of the first times in my life – a deliberate choice I made), Bryan told me that he was hoping for a partner; he expected us to operate as a team, and he had counted on my usual independence, responsibility and organizational skills to come through on this trip. He was disappointed by my dependence and perceived neediness, and I was hurt by his frustration and resultant emotional distance.

We had some hard conversations, but hopefully we now better understand one another so we can engage in healthy, joyful, life-giving interactions in the future. Time will tell if choosing vulnerability was worth the risk.

Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part I

YachtWhen Bryan invited me to accompany him on a Barefoot Yacht Charter for ten days in the Caribbean, I had visions of Goldie Hawn in Overboard (pre going overboard). I imagined scenes aboard superyacht White Night in The Bourne Identity (less the gunshot wounds). I envisioned cruising in style with James Bond aboard the luxury M3 in Casino Royale (before Vesper dies).

And so I went out and bought a new bikini. And gold anchor earrings. And ordered two pair of adorable new Sperry’s online. I pre-planned my outfits for each day, complete with matching headbands, figuring that if my hair was going to be windblown, it may as well be windblown in style.

Instead, I discovered that living aboard a catamaran is essentially roughing it. It’s camping at sea, with hand-pumped toilets, no showers and rationed fresh water. Prior to the trip, I’d shaved, waxed and dieted for the perfect, pristine bikini body. But by day three, I’d grown oblivious to my leg stubble and peeling sunburn as I smeared on multiple layers of deodorant. I no longer concerned myself with further sun damage, since the rays surely couldn’t penetrate my skin’s countless layers of dirt and grime.

I will say, all of those color-coordinated headbands turned out to be useful in mildly masking the greasiness of my unwashed hair. Actually that one white headband I threw on every morning at the crack of dawn worked wonders when I went aboveboard to hoist the sails before getting drenched by seawater from gale-force winds.

Despite not having a proper shower for over a week and living in perpetually damp clothing with a sheen of salt on my skin from my “Caribbean baths”, I actually had a great time letting go, letting loose and learning a new skill. Once I got used to leaving my makeup bag untouched and sleeping in a stagnant cabin on salt-encrusted sheets next to a man who almost never kissed me goodnight, I adapted well to the life of a sailor. It was kind of freeing.

But as fun as it was to unplug for a while, I’m grateful to be home. I remember afresh why I used to commit to volunteering abroad at least once a year. Living in a third world country has a way of righting my perspective and making me thankful for my very many blessings. Now I can add to that list of blessings the ability to skipper a keelboat. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

Telephone Pictionary

Girls NightIf it’s been too long since you’ve laughed so hard you cried, it might be time for a round of Telephone Pictionary.

For the uninitiated, Telephone Pictionary is a game with no objective (which I usually hate), no winners (or everyone is a winner – lame) and very flexible rules (something that normally results in eye twitching for me). But it’s a pretty fantastic game with the right group of people. And this weekend, we had the RIGHT GROUP OF PEOPLE!

To celebrate my birthday, all of my closest girl friends got together for dinner and game night. Jo Ann was sweet enough to host at her house, and instead of baking me a cake, she baked cupcakes and sugar cookies for us to decorate, catering to my artistic nature (so sweet)!

Melanie, Bethany and Ashley were all there, too, along with several other friends from various parts of my life. It’s always interesting when different circles collide. In this instance, the results were absolutely hilarious.

Telephone Pictionary Rules: Essentially, everyone starts with a stack of paper and a pen. Each person writes a word or phrase on their stop sheet of paper; then the group will simultaneously pass their stack clockwise. The next person reads the word or phrase on the stack of paper, moves the top sheet to the back, and draws a picture that represents the initial word or phrase. The group will continue this pattern, alternating words and pictures, until the stack gets back to the original owner, who will then share (with uproarious laughter) the way the message got derailed as it made its way around the circle.

With friends from work and church, engineers and artists, thirty-something moms and girls in their early twenties, the communication breakdown in nearly every round of Telephone Pictionary made us laugh so hard we cried. Enjoy my personal favorite:

Bday1

Bday2

Bday3

Bonus: During our final round, someone wrote about my upcoming sailing trip with Bryan. This might be the best picture ever:

Bday4

Hopefully it doesn’t come true. Becoming shark bait isn’t on my bucket list of thirty things to do before I turn thirty. ❤

Authentically Aurora