Hunting for Love

deer-hunting-buck-jumpSeth took me out to the ranch for opening weekend of deer hunting this year. Although I’ve been to the range several times with my dad and brothers, I’d never been hunting before, and I’ll admit it was different than I expected.

For one, I was surprised at how peaceful it is in the deer stand. Seth and I woke up before dawn, bundled up in sweatshirts and jackets and drove quietly to the ranch, where we silently hiked to the deer stand on foot by the light of a single flashlight.

We sat mostly in silence from 5am to 7pm, spending fourteen straight hours together, quietly enjoying one another’s company and the scenic landscape around us. I think it’s the most reflective and introspective I’ve seen my outgoing, extroverted boyfriend. I’ve decided I’m a fan of the deer stand.

Our first day to hunt that weekend, we had some 6 points in our sights but decided to let them live and grow up for next season. When we still hadn’t gotten anything by sunset, Seth decided to shoot a wild hog that was tearing up the grass. He calmly lifted the rifle, aimed, and pulled the trigger. It went straight down.

Meanwhile, Seth hopped out of the stand, jogged to his truck, pulled the truck around, grabbed the still-warm hog by its feet and tossed it up into the back of his pickup. He quartered it, put it through his granddad’s old meat grinder, and threw it on ice. Then he got his ax and went to chop some firewood.

He’s the manliest man I know.

Peaceful as it was, I was proud of myself for sitting in the rickety, old deer stand for so many hours and not complaining about the lack of amenities (the bathroom was the bushes nearby) or the mosquitoes (that seemed to swarm me but left Seth alone). The chairs in the deer stand were stained and dirty, and every crevice along the wooden ceiling was filled with either a spider’s web or wasps’ nest. To a man, the deer stand is a little piece of heaven on earth, but I had to overcome fears to sit calmly amid the enclosed space. I would have preferred to be out in the open rather than trapped in the shack with the insects. I was outside of my comfort zone but wanted to cater to Seth, so I put on a brave face for him.

However, on the second morning, I decided if I was going to sit in that place for so long, I may as well be comfortable, so I tentatively voiced my concerns to Seth, meekly apologizing for being so soft and citified. He responded sweetly, hugging me gently and asking me to stay outside while he took care of things. Then he went to work lovingly tidying up our little “home”.  He moved with efficiency, reaching into the corners of the ceiling with his bare hands to dethrone the spiders and wasps that had taken residence there. He scooted beetles out of the shack with his foot, and he gingerly dusted off my chair to make me more comfortable. When he finished, he came back outside, took me by the shoulders, looked me full in the face and said tenderly, “Thank you for telling me. I’m a man. I don’t even notice these things. I want you to be comfortable, and I’m happy  to take care of you when you let me know what bothers you.”

That night, I drove alone to the only grocery shop in town to buy ingredients and prepare a nice dinner for Seth while he finished cleaning our first deer of the weekend. The next morning, Seth got up extra early – 4am – to make a pot of coffee for me, even though he doesn’t drink it himself and in doesn’t even like the smell of coffee. We both spent the whole weekend serving one another; identifying each other’s needs and seeking to meet them.  When I told my dad about the weekend later, he commented, “It sounds like the boyfriend of the year is dating the girlfriend of the year.”

It’s true that Seth and I have seemed to find our stride. 2016 has been a good year for us, and I think we’re both closing out the year both feeling very cherished. I have high hopes for 2017, but during this Christmas season, I’m reminded to set my sights on the one True Hope; the only one who will never fail us; the One who came to save, redeem and restore. We are so blessed. Merry Christmas, y’all.

Authentically Aurora

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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

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

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