Return on Investment

Return on InvestmentRemember Alim, my Muslim friend who encouraged me to start attending Christian church again?

We met for coffee this week, and he shared with me that his mom just found out she has relapsed. It’s breast cancer.

He put on a brave face and made it seem like he was fine – “We caught it early,” Alim told me with a shrug – but I know he was upset. I asked if I could pray for him, and he said that of course, he’d like that.

“No, I mean like right now.”

“Oh! Sure…”

And so we prayed together. It was a simple prayer – thankfulness for our friendship, requests for healing for his mom if it’s God’s will, and both strength and peace for their entire family.

A few hours later, I got this text from him:

“Thank you for praying for my mom with me. Your kindness and faith touched my heart this morning and lifted my spirit. I need it very much. I’m blessed to have crossed paths with you.”

After the way God used Alim in my life, I love that I got to be an instrument of encouragement for him in turn.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” -Luke 6:38

Authentically Aurora

Destroying the Daydream

DaydreamLife doesn’t always go as planned.

Okay, it basically never goes as planned.

At six years old, I believed I would be a prima ballerina when I grew up. At eight, I expected to one day become the first female President of the United States. At seventeen, I just knew I was headed to a prestigious military academy, and at twenty-two, I thought I was about to live the American Dream, wearing a power suit in a high-visibility corporate job I loved. At twenty-six, I thought I was getting married, and I’ve always planned to start having kids by thirty.

We all envision the future scenes of our lives, but no one envisions scenes of being 36 and still single or 32 and already divorced. No one envisions scenes of infertility or being miserable in your cubicle at that so-called dream job or being forty and still trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do with your life.

PulitzersThere are moments where everything seems to be as it should be, but then the scene changes to one we don’t want or expect. But why don’t we expect the inevitable heartache and pain? We live in a broken world of Ebola and ISIS and cancer. Where did we get the idea that life is a fairytale where we all get happy endings?

I am especially surprised at my fellow Christians, myself included. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Is there any way to interpret this other than: Expect suffering?

It’s time that we begin to see life clearly. King Solomon desired to be a master of the way the world functions. Ecclesiastes 2 is Solomon’s grand experiment to find the secrets of pleasure and happiness. He had every pleasure imaginable at his disposal. Solomon lived in greater opulence than Bill Gates with a steamier sex life than Lil Wayne, but in the end, he beat his head against the wall because he found nothing but emptiness; he found that “everything is meaningless.”

Lil WayneKing Solomon observed much in his desire to understand the world’s workings, and near the end of his life, he wrote that there are two types of people in the world: “There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ultimately, he determined that belief in karma is folly. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to the evil people in this world. We must come to terms with the fact that this world is a dark, broken, unfair place because if we don’t, we will continue to expect the fairytale, be perpetually disappointed and ultimately question God’s goodness.

So are we to be people without hope? Are we to be the bitterest of all people? No. We are to have joy and hope in what is to come; faith that God is working all things together for good. God is a loving Father who desires to give good gifts to His children, and we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, even if we can’t see the big picture in our finite human minds.

Solomon goes on to give advice to the two types of people in the world: “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?”

The advice to the wicked is expected: There are natural consequences to our actions. I think most people realize that. What hit home for me was the advice to the righteous. I have been the righteous man, perishing in my “righteousness”. I have pointed my finger at God, saying, “I did everything you asked me to do. Why would this happen to me, of all people?”

This mindset toward God is foolishness. Any mentality where I think, “If I live rightly, I will be cocooned from trials” is a false mentality. In my self-righteousness, I sometimes subconsciously believe that God can be manipulated. “If I just pray the right prayer or read the bible enough and abstain from premarital sex and never get drunk and go to church every Sunday, then I will have forced God into a corner where he has to give me the good things I expect for my life.”

HopeBut life doesn’t work that way, and the omniscient, omnipotent God of the Universe certainly doesn’t operate that way. “Should we accept only good from the hand of God and not suffering?”

You can’t control your life. But that’s okay, because God does. And He is good. Jesus Christ is our mediator before the Throne of Grace, and in Him, all things hold together. God can be trusted with our futures, even in the bleak moments and dark scenes we never would expect or wish for ourselves. We can be grateful in the good times and thankful in the hard times, because God truly is working everything together for good.

We need to see clearly now. Trouble is certain, but it is temporary. Jesus is coming back, and when He does, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make all things new.

Authentically Aurora

Team Bryan

My daddy got a .30-06 rifle for Christmas, so this afternoon we went out to the range to zero the scope. It was a beautiful day for shooting: sunny and crisp. Daddy jokingly calls me “Annie” because (let’s be honest) I’m a crack shot. Here’s my first-ever cluster with the new rifle:Target .30-06

Dad and I had driven separately, so as the afternoon drew to a close, we hugged goodbye, and I walked across the gravel parking lot to my car. On the way, I spotted a 17- or 18-year old boy with a sweatshirt that said in big, blue letters, “TEAM BRYAN”.

No way! I have to get a photo with that kid to show to my girlfriends!

team jacob shirtFor the past couple of months, as I’ve been courted by Bryan and semi-wooed by Flynn, most of my girlfriends have chosen to either be Team Bryan or Team Flynn. With most of them now decidedly Team Bryan, I thought they would get a kick out of seeing a photo of me standing with a kid in a “Team Bryan” sweatshirt.

So – putting on my outgoing, extroverted self – I walked straight up to the kid and asked how he’d shot that day. His dad turned around at that moment, put his arm around the kid and said, “He did great!” They smiled at each other. “Well, this is a bit random,” I started to say as the mom walked up, “But I was wondering if I could take a picture with you. I love your shirt.”

The kid said, “Sure!” enthusiastically as his mom asked, “What is this for exactly?”

Uhh… awkward. “Well,” I tried to explain, “You know how for ‘Twilight’ all the teen girls are Team Edward or Team Jacob? There are two guys kind of pursuing me, and one of them is named Bryan. I thought my girlfriends would like to see your son’s sweatshirt because some of my friends are ‘Team Bryan’, as it were.”

The kid looked hopefully at his mom. This pretty girl wanted to take a picture with him. But his mom contorted her face and spat at me, “He has that shirt because he’s a cancer survivor.”



………………………………….…….”Oh, so your name’s Bryan, then?” I asked awkwardly. What the heck am I supposed to say in response to that?!

“Yeah,” answered the kid, the sparkle gone from his eyes. Why’d his mom have to go and bring his cancer into a perfectly fun and light-hearted conversation?

“Well, I’m glad everything’s okay.” I handed my camera phone to the dad, who was standing silently. “Will you take our picture?”

The dad quickly snapped a few shots while the mom fumed at the audacity of this young punk girl who dared to ask her son to take a picture in his cancer shirt, of all things! Oh, the atrocity!

I hugged the kid and grinned at him as I skedaddled and called bye to his folks, “Have a great day!” Eeek.

That. Was. So. Awkward. And it didn’t even have to be!

It took enough courage to ask a random stranger for a fun photo without a defensive, overprotective mom insisting on having a chip on her shoulder in regards to her son’s cancer. I’m sure he didn’t appreciate her ruining the moment and making a huge scene.

It could have been a playful and fun-loving interaction for this kid who most assuredly hasn’t had enough light-hearted moments in his young life. Instead, this worry-wart mom stole her son’s joy and made this girl right here feel very, very awkward.

So… yay, Team Bryan…?


Authentically Aurora