Staring into the Face of Love

Firefly meadow.png

Seth got assigned the “homework” of taking me on a romantic date as a part of our Fusion pre-engagement class. That particular week, we happened to be out at the ranch, so our options for a romantic evening were limited, but Seth told me he was planning something nice for Thursday evening.

Early in the week, Seth drove me to a nearby town to get drinks and enjoy the live acoustic music that was playing there. I didn’t expect much since there were only a few cars in the gravel lot when we pulled in, but as soon as we got settled with our drinks, Seth gestured to the dark hills around us, saying softly, “Look.”

I glanced up and did a double-take. “Wow,” I breathed. Fireflies danced in the darkness around us, lighting up the night with their soft glow. Seth and I sat hand-in-hand on a picnic bench at that empty outdoor bar, soft music coming from across the yard where two guitarists talked and gently finger-picked on their six strings. And it was magical.

Our official date night two days later was nice, but Seth couldn’t have recreated that God-given romance if he’d tried. And he did try. We had a nice dinner together and sat on the dock of a lake watching the sun set. It was peaceful. It was nice.

And then on Friday, Seth took me out for pizza. We found a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria with an outdoor patio strung with twinkle lights. I loved the setting and how much it reminded me of the evening with the fireflies. While we waited for our food to arrive, I reached over to take Seth’s hand and gazed at him lovingly. “You are the most wonderful man,” I began, “You always -“

“Ooh, a staring contest!!!” I was interrupted by a small blonde boy – probably eight years old – wearing a green T-shirt.

Seth and I broke hands and leaned back, startled. “I’ll win!” The boy called in challenge, running up to Seth and staring intently into his face. Seth just took it in stride, staring back at the boy until he yelled and pointed at Seth, “You blinked!”

Seth chuckled, and the boy ran off for a few minutes before scampering back over for a quick rematch. Quinn, as he introduced himself when I asked, loved football, so we talked about Tim Tebow for a while, and I mentioned that Quinn should look for the Bible verses in Tim’s eye black in his old photos from his time at Florida.

The little boy won the second staring contest with Seth and then lost interest in the game, so he relinquished Seth to me, and I got to resume my own version of a staring contest with the man I love.

Authentically Aurora

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Snakes on a Plain

Indiana Jones snakes“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 

After our walk in the park, Seth left again for his cattle ranch out in the country. We were apart for another week, but Seth called me every other day to catch up. I looked forward to his evening texts: “Want to chat?”

One afternoon he sent me two photos – a “Before” and an “After”. They were images of a rattlesnake he found in his woodcarving shed. Seth normally kills snakes with a shovel, he told me, but he shot this one because of how it was positioned on some old boards in the shed. No wonder he was so calm when we crossed a four-foot snake during our walk together. Indiana Jones has got nothing on my man.

Late one evening during our time apart, Seth called to ask about my day. I started telling him about choir rehearsal and dinner with Ashley, but there was a loud noise in the background on his end that was both distracting and keeping me from being able to hear what he said in response.

“What are you doing over there?” I called into the phone, projecting over a thunderous metallic sound. The noise immediately stopped.

“Oh, sorry,” Seth’s voice came clearly over the line. “I was sharpening my ax.”

“Um, what?” Sharpening your ax? 

I visualized Seth’s nonchalant shrug as he explained himself, “Yeah, I have to cut down some mesquite trees in the middle of a field tomorrow. I use a chain saw for most of them, but there are some I figure would be better taken down with an ax, so I want to make sure it’s sharp.”

I’ve dated athletes, musicians, engineers, photographers and doctors of various heights, weights, ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses, but before now, I never could have said that I have dated a genuine cowboy. He doesn’t just drive the truck and listen to country music. His pearl snaps aren’t made at Hollister. Seth is the real deal, and he has the callouses to prove it.

The first day of April, I answered my phone to hear Seth’s low drawl in my ear. Even across the miles, I could hear the smile in his voice and the weight of his words as he acknowledged for us both the significance of this day. “Happy Q2, Aurora.”

And I smiled back. “Happy Q2.” 🙂

Authentically Aurora

Dancing Around Dating

Cinderella Story DanceOn the evening before my birthday, my best girls took me out for dinner and drinks. Laughing about work and boys and life, we enjoyed the night air, strolling around an outdoor shopping mall before stopping into a quaint chocolate shop for dessert.

Over brownie-and-nut chocolate ice cream, my friend Cindy suggested we all go out dancing. It was nearly ten o’clock by that point, and now that I’m pushing 30, I was ready to call it a night. Like me, Ashley and most of the other girls were planning to head home, but Rachel’s blue eyes sparkled as she suggested I invite Seth and his friends to come dancing.

Cindy and Rachel are roommates and two of the girls I’ve gotten closest to in my bible study, although they are as different as can be. Cindy is a tall, curvy blonde with a bold spirit and an independent streak to match my own. We’ve had similar life experiences and only recently discovered we attended sister high schools, which just adds to our joke that we are twins separated at birth. Fraternal twins. Rachel is short and petite like I am, but her porcelain skin is dotted with freckles, and the red lipstick she loves to wear stands in strong juxtaposition to her shy, quiet demeanor.

“I don’t know…” I told the girls in response to their suggestion. Cindy and Rachel both knew I’d been disappointed that Seth’d had to work late on Wednesday and so missed our group that week. “I’m trying to let him lead, and I want him to be the one to ask me out if he decides that he’s interested.”

The girls exchanged a glance. “Oh, he’s interested!” they teased with knowing giggles. “He just needs a little encouragement,” Cindy added with a shrug.

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to invite him and a group of his friends,” I agreed, mentally trying to frame up the conversation in my mind before I called him. Ten minutes later, Seth and his buddy Brent were on their way to meet us at Stampede, a local two-stepping bar and dance hall.

Seth, Brent, Cindy, Rachel and I gathered around a pool table once everyone arrived. Seth and I played on a team against Brent, all of us battling for who was worst at billiards. After Brent accidentally knocked in the eight ball, we relinquished the table to another group and migrated over to the dance floor. Seth bought me a beer, and we all sipped and talked, laughed and danced. I was glad to have him there for my birthday celebration.

After Seth and I danced three songs in a row together, he took Cindy and then Rachel for turns on the dance floor. I appreciated that he was mindful of the other girls. I’ve discovered that Seth is both perceptive and thoughtful; a true gentleman.

At one point, I found myself alone with Brent, so I asked him a bit about himself; then about his relationship with Seth. “Is he the real deal?” I asked. “Is he a solid, godly man?”

Brent was all too happy to tell me about his impressions of Seth, and he had nothing but respect for the man, describing him as wise, grounded and genuinely humble. “I don’t think he knows what a man he is,” Brent told me with a laugh. “Sometimes he tells stories about life on the ranch – cutting down trees or branding cattle – like it’s no big deal. He doesn’t seem to realize that’s not normal for us city boys.”

I was struck, later, by how differently Seth responded to my inquiries than Bryan did. When – this time last year – I asked Bryan’s friends about his character, Bryan had turned irate, screaming at me that I had broken his trust. But Seth commented to me later, with admiration on his face, that Brent had been impressed with the questions I’d asked. Seth appreciated that I took the time to understand how he was perceived by his friends. He saw the wisdom in it. The differences in reaction between Bryan and Seth were telling in their extreme contrast. Seth is a solid man of character, secure in who he is and confident in his friends’ mutual care and respect for him. The more I get to know him, the more I admire him.

When Parmalee’s “Already Callin’ You Mine” came over the speakers, Seth grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the floor for one more dance. This time, instead of two-stepping around the perimeter of the dance floor like all the other couples, Seth kept us spinning as one unit in our own little corner of the floor.

I felt like we were in a movie scene with the camera panning around us in a circle, twinkling lights blurred out in the background as we spun around one another. We locked eyes and turned eight, nine, ten times before I dropped my gaze, suddenly shy and feeling dizzy, only partially from the dancing.

As the song ended, Seth whispered in my ear, “Do you trust me?”

I nodded, so he eased me into a low dip. The dip required me to trust him with my weight, but as we’ve continued getting to know each other, the same question – Do you trust me? – has come up in ways that have nothing to do with dancing. And my answer is still, “Yes.”

I barely know you, you barely know me,
We ain’t but two slow dances into this thing.
Come on and sit down, I’ll order us a round.
I want to know everything. Girl, where’s your hometown?
Are those your momma’s eyes?
What are you doing for the rest of your life?
…’ Cause I’m already calling, I’m already calling you mine. ❤

Authentically Aurora

Once Upon a September

cowboy bootsAdorable little Mia wiggled out of my lap to jump up and play tag with the other girls, so from my position on the floor, I started gathering up the art supplies scattered all around me. All of the children’s parents began trickling in to pick them up from our kids’ ministry after the early morning church service had concluded, so I took the opportunity to create some semblance of order of the colorful pipe cleaners and discarded colored pencils.

As I reached for yet another uncapped marker from my cross-legged position on the floor, a dusty pair of boots appeared in my peripheral vision just before their owner plopped down on the purple foam mat beside me. I glanced up and recognized the tanned face – deep brown eyes set above a warm smile – so I greeted him without thinking. “Hey. Seth, right?”

“Yeah, and you’re… Aurora?” He rearranged his long legs to get comfortable, and my eyes moved from his tousled brown hair down to our church’s teal volunteer T-shirt tucked into his faded blue jeans.

As I nodded in confirmation, I realized two things: I also knew Seth’s last name, but I had no idea how we knew each other. I had no memories of this man, but I was certain I knew him. I had vague recollections of possibly meeting him in college, but I went ahead and asked out loud, “How do we know each other’s names? I mean, I knew your name was Seth, but I don’t remember ever talking to you before.”

Seth leaned forward and correctly named both my alma mater and class year, as well as my major. I was impressed. Apparently we were in an introductory engineering class together our first semester freshman year. We probably met for the first time on some humid September morning, me in a T-shirt and soccer shorts, hair pulled into a tight ponytail. The would have been over ten years ago, but Seth remembered exactly which class it was. “Professor Till, right? At 8:00 AM?”

“Yes! He used to give pop quizzes all the time! I remember waking up late one morning and sprinting to class in my pajamas so that I wouldn’t miss the quiz, but I was five minutes late, so he wouldn’t let me take it.” I smiled at the memory. “I was quite the overachiever,” I added with a laugh.

Seth and I reminisced about our college years; then we moved along to each asking what the other is doing these days. In the midst of the current downturn in oil & gas, about a month ago Seth got let go from a major OG company in the area.

“That first day of being without work, I sat around in my boxers eating oatmeal, but one day of that was all I could handle. The very next day, I started volunteering my engineering services to a buddy’s small EP company, and they actually just wrote me a paycheck this week.”

I was impressed by Seth’s work ethic. He’s not the kind of man to sit around a sulk, and he told me that he refuses to take an unemployment check. His family owns a cattle ranch in the hill country a few hours outside of town, and he grew up learning the value of hard work and a man making a way for himself by the sweat of his brow.

I got so caught up in talking with Seth – I was so captivated by him – that when I glanced at the time, I realized that I was fifteen minutes late to church. “Oh!” I exclaimed. “Are you here to volunteer for the 11:00 service?”

He nodded, so I prattled on, “Well I volunteered at 9:15 and am going to the 11:00 service myself, so I’d better get in there!”

I stood, and Seth immediately stood as well. My mind flashed to a scene from Kate & Leopold where Leo stands every time Kate enters the room or leaves the table. Such a gentleman, I thought.

Seth moved forward to give me a hug goodbye, and he asked which midweek bible study I attend. I go on Wednesdays, and he goes on Tuesdays. “Well maybe I’ll double-dip this week and check out the Wednesday night group,” he told me with a smile.

“Yeah!” I chided my heart when it started racing. “That would be great. Send me a Facebook message, and I can give you the details.” I had already started slowly making my way toward the door, so I wiggled my fingers at him in a parting wave as I disappeared into the hallway and took a deep breath. What just happened? God, how did I not notice this man ten years ago? Where has he been?! Is this your perfect timing?

Our church was doing baptisms that week – or “bath-tisms” as seven-year-old Mia appropriately calls them in her sweet little voice – so the kids’ ministry volunteers quietly brought the children into the sanctuary to watch that portion of the service before taking them back to the children’s classrooms. Our sanctuary – a high school auditorium – seats a few hundred, so I was taken by surprise when, on his way out with his group of boys, Seth suddenly looked up and directly into my eyes. Our gazes locked, and he kept his eyes fixed on me until he vanished from view as he exited with his gaggle of boys. Only then did I realize I was grinning so wide that my cheeks hurt. He’d been grinning, too. We’re like a couple of high school kids! I thought with a blush.

When I got home from church, I logged into Facebook and saw a new friend request: Seth. My heart did a little dance. They say love finds you when you stop looking. Maybe – hopefully! – I’ll be among those who finds this to be true. ❤

Authentically Aurora

The Aviary

Sleeping Beauty Aurora with Birds

Hurt people hurt people. Those with damaged hearts end up wounding others, sometimes intentionally; sometimes unintentionally. I am trying to remember there is a difference.

My mom has always told me that I am drawn to “the bird with the broken wing.” As I age, I would argue that birds with broken wings are actually drawn to me, hopping over to me in the forest where I dance happily alone, singing softly to myself like a scene from my namesake, Sleeping Beauty. These broken-winged birds are drawn to my voice; a voice calling out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord – the one true Healer of hearts.

Grant is one of the birds I’ve seen around my proverbial aviary for a while now. We met at church when we both moved to town after college, and I’ve known Grant for nearly seven years. He’s a 31-year-old, six foot tall banker with a quick wit and penchant for playfulness. We share an alma mater and a love of country music, so about once a year, we end up going to a country concert together in the stadium downtown.

Grant is my go-to “plus one” for weddings and such events. And I am his. We unknowingly grew up down the street from one another, went to sister high schools, and he frequently teases me about being on the math club in junior high. We have seen each other through all manner of seasons – better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health; job layoffs, broken relationships, flat tires and the flu. He can be a jerk sometimes (evidencing his XY chromosome set), but I trust him, and I know that, deep down, he’s a good man who has just been wounded. His girl friend – who at the time he’d just looked at rings for – dumped him for his lifelong best friend. It happened three years ago, but he still bears the scars.

This year, Grant and I went to see Chris Young, and the concert was amazing. We went to dinner together beforehand, laughed a lot, got dessert; then walked and talked before entering the concert venue, where we danced and sang along to every song we knew. When Chris Young started singing his platinum “I’m Comin’ Over“, I leaned over to Grant and yelled into his ear over the noise, “This is our song!”

He looked surprised; then embarrassed, and yelled back into my ear, “I don’t know whether to laugh or feel convicted!” It was a fair response. Grant and I have kissed a few times and kind of gone on pseudo-dates over the years, but he has never intentionally pursued a serious relationship with me. We get along well, and there is mutual physical attraction as well as a shared faith, but – although he is turning 32 this month – Grant still lacks the maturity and commitment to lead a meaningful relationship.

I tend to assume that Grant and I are just going to events as friends, but occasionally he surprises me and wants a kiss at the end of the night. This time when tickled my sides and leaned in, I put my hand on his chest and reminded him, “I’m not dating this year, remember?”

“I know,” he said glumly, giving me a hug instead. But as he pulled away, he allowed his hands to linger and wander.

“Grant…” I warned. “We’re not doing this.”

“I have a roommate now,” he told me in a playful tone. “But you don’t. I won’t even kiss you. But if I were to choose between sleeping alone in my bed or just getting to hold you all night, there’s no contest.” He winked at me.

He was inviting himself over. To hold me all night. Just as friends, of course. Because it wasn’t enough for Cory to make me feel like a piece of meat. My friend, companion and brother in Christ had to do it, too. I am not valued for anything other than my body.

“Grant, you are not coming over. We are not going to be friends with benefits.” I paused. “Do you even want to date me? I mean, I know that I’m not dating right now, but if I were, would you be interested? Would tonight have been a date?”

Grant looked uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. He enjoyed flirting with me and getting the occasional kiss, but he didn’t want to talk about his feelings or intentions. “You’re a beautiful girl, Aurora. You’re smart and godly… You’re the kind of girl I should want to date.”

Wow. And with that line, he told me all I needed to know. “So you wouldn’t ever actually date me? You’d rather have all your busty girls in low-cut shirts who are willing to do things I’m not?”

“That’s not it at all. It’s…” he hesitated. “It’s your engineer personality. Sometimes you make math jokes that just aren’t funny.” This from the man who, earlier in the evening, asked me why cows don’t have feet (because they “lactose”).

“Wow, Grant. Wow. You make sports references all the time that I don’t get, and you make lame groaners of jokes that I don’t think are funny, but that’s a part of your charm. I care about you, and man, you’ve got to learn to accept people’s quirks as a part of what makes them who they are.”

“You don’t like my jokes?” he asked. He completely missed the fact that I was trying to point out to him that, to be in relationship with someone, you have to learn to cherish their “faults” as well as their strengths. Or that if he didn’t think he could ever live with my “engineer personality”, he needed to stop flirting with the line between friends and more-than-friends.

I got out of his truck without another word. I had nothing more to say, and I didn’t want him to see me cry. The ones closest to you are the ones with the most power to wound you. If I hadn’t gotten out of his truck as fast as I had, with him calling “Aurora” behind me, this is what I would have said:

Someday there will be a man who will love me just the way that God made me, engineer personality and all. You are not that man, so please never again call me to be your plus one play date. You have repeatedly demonstrated to me that you love my body but not my brain, and if you respected me, you would want better than that for me. As of now, you are too broken and selfish to be bothered by how much you damage those who you falsely convince yourself you care for. So I’m opening the aviary gate and setting you free. Your wing is still broken, but I am not your keeper. I am not your Healer. You are no longer my concern. There are other birds in the sky – ones without broken wings.

Authentically Aurora

That Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady

Girl in a Country SongAs a woman who loves old school country music and clever lyrics (especially if they involve stirring the pot), I absolutely adore Maddie & Tae’s hit single “Girl in a Country Song”.

The new “Bro Country” sub-genre of country music has been gaining popularity for years, arguably at the expense of any semblance of moral fiber in today’s society. These days, rampant sexuality is touted in country just as much as in rap or pop music. And in Bro Country, it’s always the woman who gets objectified in the celebration of moonshine-saturated tailgate parties and sleepless nights in the back of pickup trucks.

Maddie & TaeBut 18-year-olds Maddie & Tae have offered the world of country music a different perspective. These two girls, fresh out of high school, have burst onto the country music scene with their first hit, which expresses the perspective of some of the women sung about in country songs these days. Some of their playful lyrical jabs may be lost on those who don’t normally listen to the country genre, but more seasoned listeners will pick up on the fact that these brave young girls didn’t shy away from poking fun at big names in country like Blake Shelton and Chris Young.

Have a listen, and see if you can pick up on their references to these song lyrics:

Chris Young Aw Naw“Aw Naw” by Chris Young

Aw Naw, do you hear that song, the one that just came on… It would be so wrong if we didn’t dance once, show off those jeans you painted on, aw naw.”

David Nail Whatever She's Got“Whatever She’s Got” by David Nail

“She’s got the blue jeans painted on tight, that everybody wants on a Saturday night… And when she moves every jaw’s gonna drop, and I do but I don’t want her to stop… I want whatever she’s got.”

Cruise Florida Georgia Line“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line

“When I first saw that bikini top on her, she’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water, thought ‘Oh, good lord’, she had them long tanned legs!”

Luke Bryan Drunk On You“Drunk on You” by Luke Bryan

“Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom, dancin’ on the tailgate in a full moon. That kinda thing make a man go mmm hmmm. You’re lookin’ so good in what’s left of those blue jeans.”

Billy Currington Hey Girl“Hey Girl” by Billy Currington

Hey girl, what’s your name girl, I’ve been lookin’ at you and every guy here’s doin’ the same girl…So hot, gotta give it a shot, gotta get a little bit of what you got.”

Jason Aldean Take a Little Ride“Take a Little Ride” by Jason Aldean

“I’m just ready to ride this Chevy down a little backroad. Slide your pretty little self on over. Get a little closer…put your pretty pink toes on the dash, lean your seat back, Man I swear there ain’t nothing looks better than that. Sweet tan little thing with nothing to do. I want to take a little ride with you.”

Randy Houser“Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser

Come on baby, don’t you keep me waitin’, I gotta go, I’ve got a reservation… Come on baby let me take you on a night ride, windows down, sittin’ on my side.”

Boys Round Here Blake Shelton“Boys Round Here” by Blake Shelton

Red red red red red red redneck. Yeah, the girls round here, they all deserve a whistle. Shakin that sugar, sweet as Dixie crystal.”

Get Me Some of That“Get Me Some of That” by Thomas Rhett

You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heart breaker… Love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight… I never seen nothin’ that I wanted so bad. Girl I gotta get me some of that.

Luke Bryan That's My Kind of Night“That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan

“You got that sun tan skirt and boots. Waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah.”

Jon Pardi Up All Night“Up All Night” by Jon Pardi

“I’ve been a thinkin’ about breakin’ in the weekend and not doin’ any sleepin’ So get in. Let’s take a ride. Baby, let’s go take a dirt road.”

Jason Aldean My Kinda Party“My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean

“Baby if you’re in the mood and you can settle for a one night rodeo, You can be my tan-legged Juliet, I’ll be your Redneck Romeo.”

Authentically Aurora