Streams in the Desert

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Most days I wonder why I’m still here.

Not why I’m still alive (that escalated quickly, ha) but why I’m still at this job. It’s no secret that I don’t love my workplace, but even when things are especially frustrating, I know there is purpose to this season of life. Otherwise God wouldn’t still have me here.

Today I got a reminder of God’s goodness to provide streams in the desert.

Last summer, I mentored one of our company’s interns, and at the end of the summer, she was awarded a full time job. Now we meet about once a week to grab coffee and catch up.  She’s a sweet girl from China, and I really enjoy the authenticity of our conversations.

I met with her this morning and, as we prepared to get back to work, she closed our conversation with, “Every time I meet with you, I feel like I leave a better person. You are a good person. Talking with you makes me better.”

Internally, several things happened at once. My heart was warmed by her encouraging words, and my brain signaled that I should correct her thinking that I am a good person. I thought for an instant that it might be the right time to tell her about Jesus – that there is nothing good in me apart from him – but the moment didn’t seem right.

Meanwhile, she continued, “I was upset this morning before I met with you, but you have such a big, happy smile that I cannot help but be in a better mood. I always love meeting with you.”

I gave her a hug and thanked her for her kind, encouraging words. It is wonderful to receive affirmation from friends (and especially from colleagues)! But I also sensed that there may be more work for me to be done here – at least in this relationship. I believe God is not finished with the mere streams in this desert. He desires to transform it into a fertile land.

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33 He changes rivers into deserts,
    and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
    because of the wickedness of those who live there.
35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
    the dry land into springs of water.
36 He brings the hungry to settle there
    and to build their cities.
37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
    and harvest their bumper crops.
38 How he blesses them!
    They raise large families there,
    and their herds of livestock increase…

43 …Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.  (Psalm 107)

Authentically Aurora

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Going With the Flow

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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

Jesuspicious

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You never know who may be looking at how you live your life.

When I was a little girl, my best friend Sara lived in the cul-de-sac across from ours. Sara was a bossy, unkind girl, and she inherited her temperament from her high-strung mother. While I was busy learning a lot about patience and sharing during my friendship with Sara, Sara’s mom was evidently learning a lot from observing my mom.

A few years ago, decades after Sara and her family moved away to another city, Sara’s mother called my mom to let her know she had become a Christian. “So many of the other PTA moms tried to shove religion down my throat, but you quietly displayed the love of Jesus to me day in and day out. You are the reason I sought out God and eventually became a Christian. Thank you.” Until that point, my mom never knew the impact she’d had on Sara’s family. She was just loving Jesus and letting the love overflow. So often, that is all that is asked of us; that is all that is needed.

When I was in college, I was in a swing dancing society. A tall Chinese boy named Yun was a frequent dance partner of mine, but we didn’t talk much during our dances (because we were so out of breath from the fast tempo songs!). Yun and I both moved to the same city after college, and I see him from time to time when I visit the swing dancing group here. We are amiable, but I would call him more of an acquaintance than a friend.

Despite our perceived distance from my perspective, two weeks ago, I received an unexpected Facebook message from Yun. It was only one sentence, with no introduction or explanation. “What are the minimum requirements, in your mind, to be a Christian?”

I was completely taken aback but also really glad he felt comfortable reaching out to me with his question. I wrote back that I could answer over Facebook messenger, but I suggested we go out for coffee instead. Yun agreed.

We met a few days later, and Yun gave me the background for his question. He grew up in an atheist family in China, but after his father’s death several years ago and his grandmother’s latest bout of cancer, his mother encouraged Yun to settle down with a nice Christian girl. Yun’s mother is still an atheist living in China, but she thinks American Christian girls make good wives. She told Yun they will be kind, loving and faithful wives because they believe they are accountable to a Higher Power.

Yun has tried dating some nice, Christian girls, but he told me with frustration that none of them will date him unless he becomes a Christian, too. “I know that’s an ulterior motive… will God be mad at me if I become a Christian with impure motives? It’s hard being an atheist bachelor in the Bible Belt of America.”

I smiled thoughtfully at Yun. I appreciated his authenticity. “I think all of us have impure motives at some time, but God’s greatest desire is for you to know Him, so if He uses your desire to be married as a way to draw you to Himself, so be it. I think the fact that you’re asking if God would be bothered by it says a lot. I believe our desire to please God does in fact please Him.”

So Yun pulled out his iPad, where he’d developed a list of questions to ask me. Is baptism necessary for salvation? Do I have to be “good enough” to be a Christian? Why did Jesus have to die? Do I have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God? What if I want to believe but I can’t seem to muster up the faith in myself? Do you believe creation was literally seven days, or is that figurative? What do you think about the Big Bang Theory? Why is there suffering in this world if God is good, loving and all-powerful? Is going to church necessary?

The questions went on and on, and for hours I answered them as best I could, giving Yun passages of the Bible to read on his own so that he could search the Scriptures for himself. We talked a lot about Romans 6 and why someone who truly believes in Jesus’ deity, death and resurrection will live differently than before they believed.

In the end, Yun decided he wasn’t quite ready to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on his behalf yet, but he told me, “I want to believe. I want to become a Christian. I just need to think about it some more first. It’s not a decision I take lightly.”

I’m thankful Yun appreciates the weight of his decision. And I made sure he knows he can come back to me any time with more thoughts or inquiries. It was refreshing to talk about the hard questions of faith with someone who was genuinely seeking answers and not just looking for an argument.

Please pray for Yun, and if you are someone who is curious about my answers to any of the questions Yun raised, please feel free to comment or send me a private message!

Authentically Aurora

Fools in Love – Part III

man-disembarking-taxi-looking-away-young-33888642“Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you.” -Joey Adams

My week started off with a bang. On Monday, my friend and colleague Bethany invited me to join her for lunch, along with a few other young coworkers who were in town from our Calgary and New Orleans offices. I was previously acquainted with all but one: an intense and enthusiastic 23-year-old from Canada named Vernon.

I ended up seated next to Vernon at the burger joint where we ate, and he was immediately fascinated by me. I was just trying to be welcoming and friendly, but Vernon’s initial comment to me (and then to the group) was, “You’re a genuinely happy person, aren’t you? You’re effervescent!”

Bethany and I just laughed. She has heard all of my grumblings at work and witnessed my post-breakup depression firsthand. But Vernon wasn’t deterred. He asked me about my home life. “You grew up in a stable home, didn’t you?”

“Yes…”

“I can tell. You’re so emotionally grounded and serene.”

Trying to take the focus off of myself, I asked Vernon about his home life. His parents immigrated from China and divorced shortly thereafter. He’s a self-proclaimed “heathen agnostic.” So we talked about faith – just Vernon and I – while the rest of the table gossiped about the personal lives of company leadership.

When I explained my perspective on God, Vernon looked deeply into my eyes, searching. Then his own eyes widened in realization, and he said with surprise, “You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.” I smiled.

Vernon was in workshops all week, but he insisted that we see each other again before he went back to Canada, so I agreed to join him with a group at karaoke on Thursday night after work. But on Thursday night, miscommunication abounded, and we ended up missing each other by a few minutes.

On Friday morning – Vernon’s last day in town – he sent me an email communicating his disappointment. “I was looking forward to seeing you again all week,” he wrote, adding that I am “stunningly beautiful” and we should continue to chat via Skype when he’s back in Canada.

Vernon wanted to meet for lunch, but he was working downtown, and I was at our West office for the day. He asked if I would be willing to drive downtown for lunch, but I declined, partly because it’s a forty-minute drive, partly because I had other work to do, and partly because I was starting to get uncomfortable with his fascination.

So Vernon took a cab to see me. He was determined to spend more time with me, even if that meant the inconvenience of a roundtrip $50 cab fare.

Once he arrived, I gave him the tour of the facility, introducing him to various colleagues; then we sat down to close out his visit over afternoon coffee. We talked a bit more about faith, which I was happy to do, but other than that, I tried to keep the conversation light. I failed.

This kid is intense and intent on getting what he wants. He asked me to cancel my weekend plans and told me he’d fly back on Monday so we could spend the weekend together. I declined. He asked again, leaning forward and explaining to me in a low voice that when men are fascinated by something, they want to conquer it.

I think I know what that means, and I am now definitely not interested in canceling my weekend plans. I am not a game to be played, a flower to be plucked or a fortress to be conquered. Learn some respect.

Authentically Aurora

I Poop Glitter

I’ve heard there is a misperception among boys that girls poop glitter and rainbows. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but that is sadly not the case. At least, not most of the time. But this week, I became a magical unicorn and succeeded in pooping glitter.

Glitter bobby pinsFor my birthday earlier this year, my mom gave me some fabulous glitter bobby pins in every color of the rainbow. In case the title of this post didn’t give it away, I’m secretly eight years old on the inside. So, naturally, I tried them out this week: yellow glitter bobby pins with gold hoop earrings and a burgundy sweater over dark skinny jeans.

Unfortunately, I was running late that particular morning, so I was eating my go-to breakfast of Greek yogurt while fixing my hair. And while eating my yogurt and simultaneously fixing my hair, I discovered that the adhesive on my fabulous glitter bobby pins was not entirely effective.

The result: Delicious banana-flavored Greek yogurt covered in gold glitter.

Keep Calm_goldBeing a single woman in her twenties with an active social life, I don’t get to the grocery store much, so my perishables are carefully portioned out to last a couple of weeks before my next “milk and everything else” run. So I looked down at my glittery yogurt, looked up at myself in the bathroom mirror, sighed… and ate it anyway.

Mom, I hope those bobby pins weren’t made in China because, if so, there’s no telling what I just ingested or what “magical unicorn properties” I might develop!

Authentically Aurora

The Importance of Companionship

Elderly CoupleLife is so much sweeter when lived in companionship with someone who knows you fully and yet, in spite of knowing your flaws, proceeds to love you unconditionally.

I wrote yesterday about laughing with Kyle about the ridiculousness (i.e. horrifying embarrassment) of my Monday. Being able to laugh with a friend about what would otherwise be a freakishly terrible day completely changed the lens through which I viewed the morning’s experiences.

My parents lived in China for three years for an expat assignment, and they had a blast, but they each told me separately that, without the other, it would have been an awful three years. Because my dad had my mom there with him, he was able to vent – and then laugh – about the comical nature of trying to run an efficient and profitable business in a country that values full employment and saving face above all else. Because my mom had my dad there with her, she was able to chuckle about her stories of shopping at the grocery store, moo-ing at the butcher to ensure they ate beef (not dog) for dinner. If either of them had lived in rural China alone for three years, the experience would have been frustratingly painful and disconcerting. Instead, it was a wonderfully memorable adventure for them as a couple.

I am often struck by a rather revealing statement in the biblical story of creation. After God created both land and sea, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10). When He created plants and vegetation, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12). He created the sun and moon and “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:18). Three more times, God looks over His creation and declares it “good”. But in the midst of this perfection, prior to sin entering the world and corrupting God’s creation, God sees one thing that He declares NOT good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). And so God creates a wife for Adam, and Adam names her Eve.

What this tells me is that loneliness existed before sin entered the world. Despite having a perfect, uninhibited relationship with a perfect and holy God, Adam was lonely. Despite living in paradise, Adam was lonely. Despite looking around at all of the rest of creation and declaring it “good”, God saw Adam’s isolation and declared it “not good”.

Adam’s loneliness was not a sin. We were created in the image of the Triune God and, therefore, were created for companionship. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help… Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer” (Eccl. 4:9-12).

I am striving to be content in my singleness, because I know that God is the ultimate Satisfier of my Soul. No man can “complete me” or fully satisfy me. Every human being is fallible and will disappoint me, just as I will disappoint them. But I long for a companion to share my life with – someone to laugh with about the hard days and rejoice with in the good days – because I was created for companionship. We all were. Loneliness is not a sin. And it is not good for man to be alone.

Authentically Aurora

Adventures of an Introvert

Alaska log cabinI don’t want to disdain the general public. I really don’t. I want to be a kinder, gentler version of myself. But people are generally so irritating and lacking in both situational awareness and common courtesy that I can’t help but want to move to a log cabin in Alaska and cloister myself from society with nothing to keep me company but books and hot chocolate.

I went down to the office cafeteria for lunch today. That was my first mistake. I should have known better than to leave the safety and comfort of my solitary cubicle.

I got into the salad bar line behind an elderly Chinese man who apparently thinks the best way to communicate what you want on your salad is to stick your fingers into each of the topping choices as you point to them. You know those slanted, clear glass walls that are supposed to act as germ barriers in buffet lines? Well the one in our cafe has about a 12″ gap along the bottom – just enough for Mr. “Free-E.coli-For-Everyone!” to stretch his hand underneath to point very specifically at which vegetable he wants added to his salad next.

DisgustedWhile I was trying not to make this face at his dandruff covered fingernails in my cucumber slices, the girl behind me kept bumping into me. At first, I thought she must be looking down at her cell phone and not paying attention to where she was going. But the fourth time her hand grazed my buttocks, I turned around and discovered that there was no cell phone; she’s just one of those people whose “personal space bubble” is essentially nonexistent.

Personal spaceIt’s true that I have a very firm, round derriere, but that is not an open invitation to cop a feel. So the fifth time she bumped into me and murmured, “Sorry,” I just about turned around and said, “Don’t be sorry. Either back it up or man up and ask for my number.”

I joke about her trying to touch me intentionally, but the sad part is, she wasn’t actually that sly. She was just severely impaired in regard to spacial relations.

I finally got to the cash register, paid an exorbitant amount for my dressing-saturated salad, and escaped back to my desk after being run into by another oblivious man and sharing the elevator with a woman who spoke so loudly that she caused my ears physical pain.

Tomorrow, I’m bringing my lunch.

Authentically Aurora