Seeking my “Timothy” (Part 4)

Phone Interview

At the very end of March, going into my last weekend of being employed in oil & gas procurement, I had one job offer teaching 8th grade math at Land*** and another interview scheduled with a second S***** Branch junior high school. Having agreed to give an answer to the Land*** principal by Monday, April 3rd (which happened to be my last day of work), I went into hyperdrive.

I called both W***er junior highs (where Seth hoped I would teach out in the country), called ******* Christian High School (where Dani had given me an “in” with the principal), and I reached out to the other S***** Branch junior high to try to bump up my interview with them. I wanted to keep all my options open and make the best decision possible.

I really liked Land*** initially, enjoying my interactions with the assistant principal at the job fair and loving my interview with the principal and two of the other teachers on the interview panel. But the third teacher – the head of the math department and my possible partner teacher – seemed like she would be very unpleasant to work with, and I suspected she was the reason the position was open. Another point of consideration was the fact that the school was very old, rundown and decrepit (as well as a Title I school). I felt badly counting this against Land***, but if I was honest, I figured it would be a smoother transition into teaching without these added barriers to success.

After spending most of my Thursday afternoon calling around to touch base with each of my other open teaching opportunities, I was surprised when the end of Friday came and I hadn’t heard back from either of the W***er junior highs or the other S***** Branch school. The only school that made any effort over the 48 hour period was ******* Christian High School, where a kind administrative assistant spent a significant amount of time speaking with me, praying with me, and setting up a phone interview with their principal for Friday afternoon.

I felt loved, appreciated and encouraged through my interactions with ******* Christian High School, which just stirred up my excitement about the possibility of teaching at a private school where I could openly share my faith with my students and be supported by other teachers and administration who shared my beliefs and values. My interview with the principal went well, although he was more stilted and formal than I expected, not coming off over the phone as warm and friendly as either his assistant or the principal of Land***.

Especially after my God-orchestrated meeting with Dani, I half expected to be a shoe-in to this private Christian school, but the principal’s first comment to me during my phone interview was, “So, looking at your resume… you don’t have any teaching experience?”

Flustered, I pointed out that – as outlined in my resume – I spent one semester volunteering to teach art at an after school program, another semester coaching a math club, three years teaching Sunday school at church, and had been substitute teaching since October. “But you are correct that I don’t have any formal, full-time teaching experience.”

He asked about what math courses I took in college, asked if I’d be competent and comfortable teaching calculus, and also mentioned a new engineering program with hands-on projects that he would expect me to be able to teach if I were hired. He asked about my beliefs and faith background; my testimony; why I wanted to teach. I explained that I believe everyone needs a Barnabas and a Timothy. The Apostle Paul had a mentor in Barnabas and a mentee in Timothy, and I believe each of us as Christians should follow suit. I am currently in a women’s mentoring program at church where I am poured into by older women, but as of now, I’m still looking for my “Timothy”, and I would view my students as my ministry and collective “Timothy”.

Overall, the ******* Christian principal seemed satisfied with my answers, adding near the end, “This has been helpful for me. Anyone can write the right answers on their application, but hearing you explain your answers over the phone gives me a better feel for who you are.” He agreed to give me an answer by Monday morning so that I could make a decision about Land***, and by the end of the day Friday, I had decided that if ******* Christian offered me a job, I would take it, but otherwise, I was content to teach at Land***.

With a job offer in hand – and potentially another one coming Monday – I was emotionally checked out from continuing to interview and job search, but my mom called me Friday night to make sure I was still planning on attending the Kl*** ISD career fair the next morning. I personally attended K-12 in Kl*** ISD, and my parents were excited about the possibility of having me teach in the suburbs near where they still live.

“You could move in with us to help you save on rent,” my mom offered, but we both know that would be detrimental to our otherwise loving relationship, and I told her so. “Well, the house next door is for sale,” she suggested as an alternative. “You could move in next door to us, and that way you wouldn’t have to see us every day.”

I knew she meant well, but the more we talked, the less I wanted to attend the Kl*** ISD career fair the next morning. I felt like my mom was pushing it on me, and I tend to buck when I sense something being forced on me. But, partly to keep the peace and partly to finish strong and explore every possible teaching opportunity, I planned to wake up early the next morning to attend one last career fair.

Authentically Aurora

Resigned & Ecstatic (Part 1)

Victorious Business Woman

My first act as a 30-year-old was to quit my job.

That makes it sound like a knee-jerk reaction to hitting a life milestone, but giving my two weeks’ notice to the company where I’ve spent the past eight years was a long time in coming. Very nearly eight years in coming.

My boss and I have had a strained relationship, to put it mildly. One of my colleagues commented recently, “In the two years we’ve worked for her, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say a single kind or encouraging word to you.” Reflecting back over my time on this team, I was surprised to realize that was true. I have never been praised or even thanked for anything I have done in two years; every comment is laced with criticism and negativity.

Despite that, I decided to make a concerted effort to be gracious and respectful during my resignation. My boss was on vacation the entire week of Spring Break, so I could have easily resigned while she was out, sending her a curt email or just leaving a signed resignation letter on her desk. But I waited until she was back in the office on Monday, and I asked her if she had time to grab a conference room to discuss my career.

Once alone with my boss, I stated simply that I had decided to resign from the company. “I’m giving my two weeks’ notice effective immediately, with my last day in the office being April 3rd.” Although I didn’t have to do so, I went on, “I really hope you find a great replacement for me – someone who is passionate about this work and brings subject matter expertise to the role. And I wish you all the best in the future.”

I was proud of myself for the upright way I handled an exchange where I could have been mean and bitter or scornful and gloating. I rose above the situation, and I counted that as a victory, especially considering the number of times I fantasized about storming out of the office and telling her off.

When I finished speaking, instead of thanking me for my service, or asking if there was anything she could do to keep me, or to ask what I’m doing next, or to ask how she could have been a better boss, or even to simply wish me well in the future, all she said – in her typical abrasive manner – was, “Two weeks isn’t enough time to transition someone. I won’t even have the job posting up by the time you leave. This isn’t enough time. You are really inconveniencing me by leaving the company with only two weeks’ notice.”

How dare she. Two weeks is standard – and I didn’t legally even have to give that much notice! All she could focus on was how I was inconveniencing her by leaving the company. For an instant, I was filled with anger; then – just as quickly – the anger dissipated into amusement. How typical. How expected. What a confirmation that I am, in fact, making the right choice!

When I spoke with my dad about it later, he echoed what I myself had thought. “Aurora, if she had responded in any other way – saying she was sorry to see you go or thanking you for your service – you might have felt torn or even second-guessed your decision. But she has given you the blessing of knowing that, without a doubt, you made the right decision.”

I certainly did. I already feel the weight lifting from my shoulders. Thirty is off to a great start!

Authentically Aurora

Babes in Joyland

christmas-children

For nearly ten years now, I’ve felt that birthdays don’t seem as special as they used to. Easter isn’t as exciting, Halloween isn’t as thrilling, and Christmas isn’t as magical as I remember as a child.

I’m looking forward to someday having children of my own and getting to see the holidays afresh through their eyes. But in the meantime, I am blessed to volunteer with the kids ministry at church, and just my brief interactions with them have already made my holidays happier this year.

At Thanksgiving while cooking with my dad, we were watching my nieces play, and he reminded me of when my own little brother was about three. At our family Thanksgiving, Dad encouraged us to count our blessings, and my adorable little brother – with his big, brown eyes and long eyelashes – scrunched up his face in distress, his lower lip trembling. “But Dad,” he cried in his sweet little voice, “I can’t count that high!”

My Dad smiled at the retelling and admitted to me, “I still feel that way.” We are so profoundly blessed.

This past Sunday at church while teaching the elementary kids some Christmas carols, one little girl named Kennedy came and sat in my lap. Halfway through one of the songs, she turned around and told me innocently, “You’re making my eyes water.”

Surprised, I asked her why. She wiped her eyes and whispered in a broken voice, “It’s just so beautiful.”

I want to be that in awe of Christmas. Of music. Of community. Of our God. To sit in wonder – to have faith like a child – that is my prayer for this Christmas.

Authentically Aurora

 

Why Do You Work?

Job Arial view

Which is more important to you: time or money?

 

Why do you work? To be successful, to maintain a certain standard of living, to find your identity and purpose, or for some other reason?

 

I decided in 2nd grade that I was going to be an engineer. My reasons were varied and diverse:

  • My dad was an engineer, and I wanted to be like him.
  • I enjoyed math and science; problem solving was a fun hobby for me. I was always up for a mental challenge.
  • Smart people become engineers, and I wanted to be thought of as smart and successful.
  • I liked objective subjects, where no one could give me a bad grade without being able to justify their actions (like when I got a C on my first history paper because my teacher “just didn’t think it was well written” even though all of my facts were accurate).

Having earned an engineering degree and having worked at a major oil company for seven years now, I have come to find that working in the business world is not all that I imagined.

  • Though my dad was an engineer, he worked at a small company where he rose through the ranks and set the tone for a culture that appreciated creative problem solving and new ideas. This is not the case at a Major. When my dad’s little company got bought out by a giant, he disliked his once enjoyable career as much as I do now. Although my company recruits creative, self-motivated, intelligent individuals, it takes those brilliant minds and sticks them deep within the confines of The Machine, where they are no more than a cog in the wheel, and all individual thought is not only stifled but punished.
  • Problem solving is fun when dealing with a closed set – like an Agatha Christie murder mystery where all of the suspects are snowed in to a log cabin, minimizing unforeseen variables. But the real world is messy, and there are an infinite number of variables that are impossible to control or calculate into a solution. This is significantly less fun than the problem sets I solved for fun as a kid.
  • As I have written about multiple times, simply having an engineering degree – and even being a well spoken and intelligent person – does not mean that people will think you are smart and successful. My boss thinks I’m incompetent just because our working styles don’t align.
  • Although in school, math homework has a right or wrong answer, in Corporate America, workers get graded based on subjective opinions and perceptions, many of which are more a reflection of the manager than the employee being evaluated.

While our parents worked primarily to earn a living, Millennials are generally driven by a need for purpose and identity; to find meaning in their work. I hate to ever be a part of the crowd, but of late, I find myself fitting the generalization. Money is not much of a motivator for me. At this stage of life – having experienced all that I have at the hands of Corporate America – I would rather earn less and be more fulfilled in my work. Which is why I have started working on my Teaching Certification in the hopes of teaching junior high math.

Some fellow Christians will tell me (and have told me) that I should find my identity in Christ and not in my job. That’s true, but that’s no reason to stay at a miserable job. The bible says in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work” (2:24), and again, that “that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (3:22).

Some lower-income friends will tell me (and have told me) that money is not a motivator now because I’ve never had to go without. While that may be true, I imagine there is a lot of character development to be had from learning to restrict spending as a result of voluntarily taking a pay cut.

Some friends will tell me (and have told me) that every job will have its frustrations and disappointments. While I acknowledge that to be true, I also believe that – if every job has its challenges, and every work environment has a couple of “difficult personalities” to deal with – I may as well enjoy the work itself. I’ve spent seven years not enjoying my workload in addition to dealing with difficult people.

There have been countless closed doors over the past seven years of trying to change careers. But I’m prayerfully considering yet another attempt at a new career path, and hopefully God sees fit to swing the right door wide open, whether it’s teaching or something else I have yet to even consider.

I’m hoping it’s teaching though. After all, teachers have the best blogging material.

Authentically Aurora

La Douceur du Foyer

Flowers from SethI just got home from Paris last night, greeted at the airport by Seth’s smiling face. He’d offered to pick me up and left work early to do so, showing up looking handsome in a blue-and-white plaid button-down tucked into khaki slacks. He wrapped me in a hug and then, from behind his back, pulled a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers dotted with tiny purple daisies. My favorite.

He insisted on carrying my luggage, kissed me sweetly when we were alone in the elevator, and made dinner for me while I showered at home, washing off more than 15 hours of travel. Other than my daddy, I’ve never had a man meet me at the airport with flowers – and certainly not cook dinner for me as well. Seth makes me feel like a princess.

I’m still processing everything I saw and experienced during my whirlwind of a trip to Paris, but in the meantime, my travel-fogged brain has been musing over a couple of things.

I got sick my first day in Paris, and I am not sure if it’s because:

  1. I was stuck in a petri dish of an airplane for ten hours with coughers and sneezers,
  2. My body subconsciously wanted my French to sound more authentic (i.e. more nasal-y), or
  3. I am allergic to socialism.

With the EuroCup going on, Rachel and I made a lot of new friends – British, Welsh, Polish and German, but no French. I was disappointed to discover that Parisians were just as rude as all the stereotypes. I’m wondering if this is because:

  1. They’re bitter about only being back-to-back World War Champs because of American rescue,
  2. They have stale baguettes stuck up their butts, or
  3. They are living under the stench of European socialism.

In the 18 hours I have been back in America, I have already experienced some reverse culture shock. Most notably:

  1. When someone passed me on the street this morning, I surprised myself by automatically clutching my purse closer to my side, wary of pickpockets.
  2. I walked past two women talking in the office and heard one begin her sentence, “We pardoned…” and was stunned to realize that my mind heard, “Oui, pardon!” I think I need to purge my brain of the last week of French speaking.
  3. I passed by a TV screen declaring Hillary is picking up votes. Not that I’m exactly a Trump supporter, but I’d thought I was escaping socialism when I came home and was disheartened to realize that  – in actuality – perhaps the difference in culture is not quite as significant as I’d hoped. Regardless, I am beyond thankful to be back home in the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave.

Yay ‘Merica.

thatcher-socialism

Authentically Aurora

Somebunny Uneggspected

Nature Walk

Dunking my hard-boiled egg in the pink-hued vinegar, I smiled across the kitchen at my sister-in-law’s concentration, her brow furrowed as she pressed a crayon to the shell of her Easter egg in a decorative floral pattern. Meanwhile, my brother – her husband – was scoring points by inscribing their initials and a heart on his own egg. I trained him well.

I spent Easter weekend with my family, winning our traditional family Easter egg hunt (per the usual) and attending church together before driving over to my grandmother’s house to see our extended family. Lily and Wren were there, adorable in their Easter dresses, and my dad prayed a blessing over our meal before we passed the home cooked dishes around my grandmother’s dining table.

By four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, I hugged everyone goodbye and headed to my car, planning to have some quiet time at home to recharge before the work week. But my phone rang, and I was pleased to see Seth’s face illuminating the screen. He’d left for his family’s ranch several days prior, taking off two weeks’ vacation to work the land, fertilizing the soil and turning bulls into steers.

When I answered the phone, Seth wished me a Happy Easter and surprised me by saying that he was headed south on the highway back toward the city. “You’re coming back into town early?”

“Just for the day,” he told me. “Some stuff came up at my parents’ house that I need to help out with tonight. I was wondering if you’d like to get together this afternoon before I head over to their place.” I’d been bummed about the prospect of not seeing Seth for two full weeks, so I jumped at the chance for us to spend some time together.

Seth came straight to my apartment on his way into town, parking his pickup truck outside of my complex while I hurriedly changed out of my Easter dress and into athletic shorts and a breezy tank top. We’d agreed to go for a walk in a nearby park and enjoy the beautiful, sunshiny day.

Once at the park, we opted for the hilly, tree-lined mountain biking trail rather than the flat, gravel-paved walking path encircling the park. But as we neared the trailhead, a wooden sign warned us that the trail was temporarily closed. Seth shrugged and kept walking right past the sign. He reminded me of my father. 

“Is it okay for us to walk back here? Is this considered trespassing?” I asked cautiously.

Seth quirked his eyebrow. “They don’t really mean it.” Okay, he and my dad are definitely cut from the same cloth. 

We walked in the shade of the trees for quite some time, telling stories about our families (“we finally got that mad cow in the trailer”) and sharing our political opinions (“whatever you tax, you’ll get less of; whatever you subsidize, you’ll get more of”). We passed one couple and then another; some walking dogs and others journeying alone. I was glad to find we were in the company of other rule breakers.

Just after waving and passing a young couple walking a golden retriever, Seth and I both stopped cold at the same instant. I let out a small gasp, and Seth threw his right arm in front of me, pushing me behind him. A four foot snake was coiled on the path only a few feet ahead of us. In horror, I watched its head sway side to side as Seth told me in a calm voice, “It’s okay. It’s not a poisonous one.” Just then, the snake slithered off the path into the tall grass to our left.

“How do you know?” I asked in concern, glancing behind us as Seth hurried me along the trail. He described the shape of its head and its coloring, contrasting it to the three known poisonous snakes in the area. I looked up at him in silent admiration. He’d handled himself well. Heck, I’d handled myself well, not screaming or jumping into his arms in momentary panic! 

I felt protected by Seth, poisonous snake or not. I feel safe with him, I reflected. Over the course of the month, he’d proven himself trustworthy and level-headed; kind, calm, light-hearted and playful. Seth nudged me with his elbow a couple of times during the rest of our walk, teasing me and seeming to want a little physical contact without yet being ready to reach over and take my hand.

As we exited the mountain biking trail, I spotted a cop car parked in the lot where the trail ended. I could see a police officer inside the car, head down as though reading something. “Oh, no,” I said quietly to Seth. “Are you going to get me in trouble?! You’re such a bad influence,” I teased, grinning up at him.

I’m a bad influence?” he quirked one eyebrow in mock indigence. “As I recall, you’re the one who coerced me into walking this biking trail, ignoring the very clearly labeled sign.” I rolled my eyes as Seth continued, “And anyway, don’t you have a history of rule breaking?” He has a point. I am a bit of a rebel.

We waltzed past the cop without issue, still verbally jousting, and began the walk back to Seth’s truck. On the way there, walking along the road, Seth suddenly interrupted himself mid-sentence, “Hey, I think I know that guy.”

I followed his gaze, looking to my left just as a black Jeep sped past us. Its driver was Joe – socially awkward, kumquat eating Joe.

“He looks really familiar to me,” Seth was going on. The sweet rancher didn’t recognize him, but when the Jeep passed a second time – Joe had circled around and locked eyes with me on his second pass; this was intentional – I touched Seth’s arm and raised my eyebrows. “It’s Joe. Remember? From bible study?”

Seth’s eyes widened in recognition. “Oh my gosh! It’s Joe!” And then realization dawned. “He’s stalking us.” He started chuckling. “And here he comes again!”

Sure enough, Joe drove by a third time, circling us like a vulture, staring us down and obviously feeling hurt and jealous. “He looks really mad,” Seth commented. I just silently nodded. This is my life. Why is this my life? I live in a city of literally millions of people. How in the world do run-ins like this always seem to happen?!

Seth and I finally made it to his truck, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. What must he be thinking? “You know he’s not competition, right?” I asked Seth as I buckled my seat belt. I didn’t want to overstep – I wanted to let him lead – but I also felt like I needed to reassure him after first the kumquat fiasco and now this!

“I dunno,” Seth commented in a half-teasing tone, “He seems pretty zealous in his pursuit of you.”

I smiled and then sobered. “Look, maybe this is out of line, but… I like you. I’m interested. And I’m excited to see where this might go when you get back from the ranch.”

Seth’s expression was indiscernible. He was driving by this time, so all I could see was his profile. “You’re right. That is a bit out of line. I mean, I’m interested, too, but I was going to wait until April to have that conversation.” He glanced at me, and I felt my face flush – whether from embarrassment or pleasure, I wasn’t sure. Probably a combination of both.

I was glad to know the feeling was mutual, but I wanted to kick myself for speaking out of turn. Flustered, I tried to change the subject, commenting on the music playing in the truck. I asked Seth if he played any instruments. His response? “Nope, I’m not musically talented at all. But maybe Joe is.”

I stared at him, mouth agape. A comment like that was completely out of character for Seth. Our perpetual run-ins with Joe must have gotten to him more than he let on. And Joe actually is very musically gifted – he sings and plays guitar, occasionally leading worship – but of course I wasn’t going to tell Seth that.

Almost as soon as he had made the snarky comment, Seth apologized. “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate. Forget I said anything.”

We picked up some tacos and red velvet cake – my favorite, though an odd combination – and Seth dropped me back off at my apartment. Although we hit a rough patch in the middle of our afternoon together, we ended on a high note. I appreciated that Seth was quick to apologize – a none-too-common sign of humility and maturity. And, in the end, we were back to laughing together. Seth always makes me laugh, and I do so dearly love to laugh.

Seth hugged me goodbye before he left again for the ranch, commenting in closing that he believes “it’s the man’s job to stick his neck out there. That way the girl can better guard her heart. Let me lead. Trust me to lead.”

I will. Just don’t make me wait too long.

Authentically Aurora

Words of Knowledge

Neurons

Moms know things. Not only do they know that your dreaded history test is next Friday (because they talked to the other moms at soccer practice) and that you’ve been swapping your turkey sandwich with Sarah for her PB&J (because your lunch box smells like peanut butter every day), but they also intuitively know things. My mom knew the day I got my first kiss because she could sense it when I walked in the door.

But my dad had a different kind of knowledge. He knew things he had no reason to know. He was given knowledge about things that he had no way of simply intuiting or deducing. For instance, he woke up one morning and told my mom to turn on the TV because a plane had just flown into the side of a mountain (this was pre-9/11). Sure enough, the news channels had just picked up a story about a plane crashing into the side of a mountain.

Stories like this permeate my childhood, such that I grew up thinking every dad had a superpower of just knowing things. So it freaked me out when I got older and realized what a rare gift my dad had. And it freaked me out even more when I started showing signs of the same.

A couple of years ago, my friend Jill had her first child, and although she and her husband revealed the baby’s name to no one else, God revealed to me two weeks before his birth that the baby’s name would be Elijah. When the name came into my mind, it wasn’t just a good guess. It wasn’t something I’d intuited from something Jill told me. It was a supernatural revelation, and I was so sure of the knowledge – had such a deep-seated certainty of its validity – that when Jill texted me she was going into labor, I wrote back, “Say hi to baby Elijah for me!” She was stunned. And so was I. But God still speaks.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a conference room with about sixty colleagues, participating in a “get to know you” session with senior leadership. The facilitator of the meeting was asking each leader a personal question, like “What is your favorite movie?” or “What book are you reading right now?”

When time came for the last leader in the row to respond, the facilitator asked, “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?”

And boom. Into my brain popped the knowledge of what he was going to say. It wasn’t just a good guess. I knew that I knew the exact words that were about to come out of his mouth. So I leaned over to Bethany and whispered, “He’s about to say, ‘Getting married to my wife.'”

Bethany laughed, thinking I was being funny, but as the leader echoed my words into the microphone – “Getting married to my wife.” – Bethany’s eyebrows shot up, and her head snapped to me, eyes wide.

As more of these instances have occurred in my life, I’ve often asked why. Why reveal this knowledge to me? My dad knowing about the plane didn’t change anything. It didn’t save lives. Knowing Elijah’s name didn’t enact anything in his life. Same with this leader’s response to a seemingly pointless networking question.

So what is the purpose of such revelation? I have determined that it is God’s way of growing my faith. It’s so hard for a control freak like me to relinquish my plans to God and genuinely believe His ways are better than mine (what pride!). These revelations remind me of God’s omniscience, that He still speaks, and that I can know His plans and hear His voice if I but listen.

Authentically Aurora