Staring into the Face of Love

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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

A Purdy Thirty

Seth and Ashley did such a great job with my birthday. My boyfriend and best friend collaborated to throw me an amazing surprise 30th birthday party with a Beauty and the Beast theme! I could not have felt more loved.

Wine glass roseTons of friends were there – from work, church, choir and every other facet of my life – and Seth had rented out a “shared space” that Ashley decorated beautifully with silk roses under wine glasses, candelabras reminiscent of Lumiere, and stacks of books nodding at Belle’s (and my!) love of reading.

Seth brought along the corn hole boards he and I made together, and he surprised me with a homemade set of hillbilly golf because I’d mentioned in passing that I’d played it at camp one year and loved it. Twinkle lights lit up the rented back patio, and Seth grilled up venison from the deer I shot back in November, wrapping each delicious piece in bacon with cream cheese. Ashley’s coconut-pineapple cupcakes were a hit, especially since she  – in all her amazing artistic talent – had decorated them with yellow icing in the shape of Belle’s ballgown.

Belle dress cupcakesI am not usually a fan of large gatherings, but I spent the evening surrounded by wonderful friends who are genuinely kind and loving, grounded and sincere. We laughed and sang and ate and played backyard games. A great time was had by all.

And at the end of the evening, Seth hugged me and kissed me and said over and over, “I like you so much.” And then, when all the guests had left and we were alone, he held me and asked, “Hey, did you know there was a Fusion pre-engagement session in April?”

I looked up at him, and he shook his head, laughing to himself. “Of course you knew. Thanks for not pushing it on me.”

I smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“Well,” he began softly, “Would you want to go to Fusion with me in April? I think we’re ready.”

My smile spread, and I snuggled up to him. I was surprised. “Yes. I’d like that a lot.”

He rubbed my back. “I was thinking we could go to the one at our church in April and then go again to the one in June being held by another church to see how different churches do it, with the added goal of maybe even being able to facilitate Fusion someday. What do you think about that?”

I tilted my head back to look up at him again. “I think that’s a great idea!” And I do.

It’s the culmination of so many parts of my life: my love of personality assessments, sharing wisdom from my own broken relationships, and getting to teach, train, encourage and mentor others. I love that my passions align with Seth’s and that such a huge part of our relationship is seeking out how we can serve together and minister to others. I think we make a great team, and I’m excited to see all that God has in store for us as a couple.

Authentically Aurora

And the Waters Stilled (Part 4)

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“God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged… the rain was restrained… and the waters decreased.” -Gen. 8:2-3

Even after the rain finally stopped pouring down in the famous Genesis flood that wiped out most of humanity, Noah still had to remain on the ark for a few months while the waters receded. And although the proverbial hurricane winds around me have abated, not everything is resolved, and I know the coming months will carry with them more unknowns and uncertainties as I continue this season of transition.

Living Situation

Since my apartment management came through with addressing the marijuana issue affecting my unit, I am planning to stay at my current apartment complex through the end of my lease in July. Although I could be saving $400/month at a cheaper apartment further west of town, the benefits of staying here are:

  • I don’t have to deal with moving now when so much else is in transition.
  • I will not have a possible black mark on my credit report in the event my complex decided to call this “breaking a lease” rather than being “released” from a lease.
  • By July, I should know where I will be teaching in August, so I can choose an apartment closer to my school, whereas if I moved now, I’d be making an educated guess on the best geography for my upcoming year.

I think this worked out for the best, although there was certainly a lot of (possibly self-induced) upheaval that ultimately resulted in no change to my living status.

Relationship

A few of you expressed concerns about Seth based on the past few posts – that I should listen to my gut and not ignore red flags; that I need to be with someone more supportive; that he has a lot to learn; and is this even the Seth I thought I was dating?

The tough thing about relationship blogging is that the non-blogger (i.e. Seth) becomes a bit of a straw man, unable to defend himself or share his side of the story. For the past two weeks, I’ve had a bad cold, been PMSing, and been under a lot of stress, so I know that I was not as much the heroine in all of these interactions as I made myself out to be.

Seth is a good man. He brought me Kleenex and Gerber daisies (my favorite) when I first got sick. After the latest round of disagreements, he showed up to my apartment with homemade soup and a bouquet of roses. He’s supportive of my job change to teaching when few others are, and he’s currently in the process of planning a surprise birthday party for my 30th later this week.

He is kind and servant-hearted. Neither of us is perfect, but I think one of the strengths of our relationship is that we both seek to understand the other and genuinely desire to resolve conflicts, even if it takes a couple of weeks to get to the root issue. We talked this weekend about everything that’s gone on lately, and I asked him very candidly, “Seth, do you generally think of me as a godly woman?”

He was kneeling in his garage, sanding down a piece of wood, but he looked up at me with surprise in his eyes – and a little bit of hurt. “Well, first of all, I’m sorry that you even have to ask that question.” He paused his sanding. “Yes, I think you’re a godly woman.”

“Do you think I’d be a good mom, raising kids with strong values?”

Seth stood up to walk over to me and wrap me in a hug. I peeked up at him from where my face was nestled in his chest.

“Yes, I think you’d be a good mom.” His deep voice reverberated around me. “Aurora, you’re the best woman I know.”

He sighed, dropping his hands to his sides and then shoving them in his pockets. “I know I’m not the most affectionate man.” He rubbed his stubbled jaw and looked around at the scene of masculinity around him – woodwork, car parts, mountain bikes and a canoe. He’s the manliest man I know. “But I want to get better at that. I don’t want you to ever doubt how much I care about you and how highly I esteem you. You’re a good woman.”

And although I don’t always do him justice on this blog, he’s a good man.

Work

My boss didn’t approve the 1:1 switch with Stephanie. She said Stephanie wasn’t qualified to be my replacement. Honestly, as tough, superior and controlling as my boss is, I can hardly imagine her thinking anyone is qualified for the job. She certainly doesn’t think I am.

At this point, it’s looking like there is no further opportunity for severance. HR is pushing ahead with my possible talent placement. I could stay and get a hearty paycheck in this new, assigned role for a few months before quitting in August, but I’m ready to go. I’m ready to be finished once and for all with this chapter in my life.

I don’t have another job lined up. I’m not guaranteed a teaching position in August. I have a lot of fixed expenses that I’ll need to find a way to cover. But I’m taking a step of faith and walking away. It’s time.

An Unexpected Blessing

For this upcoming season of transition, I’ve done a rough calculation of my anticipated income and expenses. I have an idea of some income-generating activity that can help make ends meet, and since I’ve kept a personal expense report for years, this number is fairly accurate.

The net difference between my anticipated income and expenses for April through July is about the amount I would have to dip into savings during this time of transition. And I was prepared to pay that amount in order to leave my company a few months early. But I may not have to dip into savings after all.

Since I stayed at my job through February 1, I was eligible to receive last year’s bonus from my current employer. My 2016 bonus just showed up in my bank account last week, and the number surprised me. Here’s why: The net difference between income and expenses during the time of transition is almost exactly the dollar figure deposited into my bank account last week.

What a blessing that God has given me as a parting gift from my time working in Corporate America! My final bonus is just the right amount to ease me into this season of transition hopefully resulting in a more life-giving and fulfilling career.

I’m excited. It’s time for a new adventure!

Authentically Aurora

Carried Out to Sea (Part 3)

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“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” -Louisa May Alcott 

Work

On Wednesday last week, I met with HR to discuss the possible 1:1 switch with Stephanie, allowing this new mom (whose role was being dissolved through organizational restructuring and no fault of her own) to keep a job at the company while I (who am planning to leave the company anyway to start a teaching career) could have her severance package to help bridge the gap between leaving my current job and starting a new one in August.

The HR Representative is the same one who did my entry paperwork when I joined the company eight years ago. She remembers me, and we share the same alma mater, so she genuinely wanted to help me. I was honest but diplomatic, admitting that I do not see a future for myself at the company and also being transparent about the fact that I do not currently have another job lined up.

She acknowledged that my proposal did seem like an elegant solution, but she also said that my situation was not really one where severance would normally be paid out. “Yours is more of a resignation case.”

“The company is planning to pay out severance regardless, right? Either to Stephanie or to me?”

“Yes.”

“And Stephanie is a good worker who is valued here. She is a new mom and is losing her job by no fault of her own, but because of restructuring, right?”

“Right.”

“Meanwhile, you are planning to try to place me in a new team, keeping me at this company, when I have openly stated that I do not see a long-term future for myself here. I don’t currently have another job lined up, so I would hate for the company to continue employing me and investing in me when I very openly have one foot out the door and am actively looking externally. It might be better for all parties involved if you were to lay me off rather than continuing to pay me salary and benefits until I successfully find an external job.”

The HR Rep considered that for a moment. “I’m actually pretty sure I’ve found a role for you in our Projects team. If I gave you the option of a talent placement into the Projects team or a severance package, you would take…?”

“The severance package,” I told her without skipping a beat. The time for political game playing was past us.

She leaned back in her chair, looking resigned and a bit sad. “She’s ruined you, hasn’t she?” – speaking of my boss.

I shrugged. The past eight years have been one long series of managers and decisions and frustrations that led us to where we are today. My current boss is just the final blow.

The HR Rep said she’d talk with my boss about whether she’d accept Stephanie as a suitable replacement for me. “If she doesn’t, this idea is dead in the water.”

I left her office feeling at peace. I’d done what I could do. Now it was time to wait and pray.

Living Situation

At the end of last week, I toured five new apartments. I’d originally started with a list of twenty-five, which I researched online and ranked using a weighted evaluation matrix I created myself. Yes, I am Type A.

Once I had finished my analysis of monthly cost, square footage, safety, location, amenities and a number of other factors, I made appointments to tour the top five, hoping to be able to find a great apartment to move into in April (with the expectation that I would have been released from my current lease by then).

Between tours 4 and 5, I stopped for lunch and checked my email on my phone. I had a new message from my current apartment complex:

“From the staff here, we would like to extend an apology for recent events. We had unforeseen circumstances arise which required another resident to have to use the model in urgency. We did have our HPD officer make visits to the different apartments in the area last week. He spoke with a unit which we believe the issue is coming from and let them know that the next time he needs to come pay a visit he will be making arrests. We are confident that this will resolve the problem with the marijuana smell. We want to thank you for being patient and understanding during this time and will be sending a gift to your apartment as a token of our appreciation. Please let me know how the marijuana situation is going and if there is still a continuous smell of it. We hope you have a great rest of the weekend and don’t hesitate to contact any with any further questions and concerns.”

I had mixed emotions when I finished reading the email. I was glad they finally did something about my complaint, but I was annoyed that it took them so long and that I now felt like I’d wasted half a day touring other apartments. I was glad to not have to move immediately, but I also thought it would have been nice to have an excuse to move to a cheaper apartment (especially since, with my job change, I need to be cutting costs).

Relationship

Just as I was processing this latest email from my apartment management, Seth called. He was on his lunch break and wanted to know how things were going. Unfortunately for Seth, I am an external processor, and he chose to call me right as I was in the midst of having to process a lot of significant new information.

So I told him everything – how I’d searched my lease for a way to get out of it, how I’d gotten my doctor to write a note saying my living situation was detrimental to my health, how I’d researched nearby apartments, and how I’d spent most of the day going on apartment tours.

“And then!” I ranted on, “After I did all this work building a case to be released from my lease, management finally came through and decided to do something to remedy the situation. So I guess I’ll have to stay there and keep paying the really high rent until my lease ends in July.”

“On the plus side,” I continued, musing aloud to myself as I kept processing the various scenarios, “I guess this will allow me to pick an apartment that’s close to the school where I teach because I should know by July where I’ll be teaching come August. That could work out well.”

When I finally finished talking everything out, Seth voiced his opinion – an opinion that made me wish I’d stopped for breath sooner rather than continuing to pour out my thoughts and feelings. He rebuked me for wanting to get out of my lease early, for building a case against my apartment complex, and for not giving them what he deemed an adequate amount of time to respond to my complaint.

“Gosh, Aurora. How have you already searched the lease, gotten a doctor’s note, given the required two written notices and toured new apartments? It’s only been a couple of weeks since this first became an issue. It’s like you’re trying to use the situation to your advantage,” he chided me.

Well yeah, I thought. I wouldn’t have tried to get out of my lease if they hadn’t given me cause. But they did give me cause. I saw an opportunity, so I started working it out to fruition. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. 

Seth continued his rebuke, “You should be a woman of your word. You signed a lease that ends in July, and you should stay until July. Your apartment management came through in remedying the problem, and that should make you happy, not upset. They did what management is supposed to do, so rather than being upset that you can’t get out of your lease, you should be celebrating that everything worked out the way it should.”

Seth was glad my plan failed. He said I’d been in a frenzy; I’d done so much activity in one week. He told me I wasn’t being above reproach; that I was taking advantage of the situation for my own benefit. He encouraged me to make good on my commitment to complete my lease term. Like he’d said only days earlier, he again voiced, “Where is all of this coming from, anyway? This isn’t the Aurora I know.” At times like that, I wonder if he knows me at all. If he did, he’d know that talking to me that way just makes me shut down.

The more he talked, the more walls I put up. Seth has a way of taking the moral high ground in his rebukes that makes me feel awful. He would be crushed to know that. He’s genuinely well-intentioned in his rebukes, but he’s so blasted morally upright, always looking to do the right thing, that sometimes when I’m not even doing anything wrong, he somehow makes me start to doubt my own motives.

I didn’t think I was being shady in my dealings. We are supposed to be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). And I work in contract negotiations for a living. I have for eight years. So the way I handled the situation was what I thought was right. But Seth tends to make me question my true intentions. Sometimes he’s right, and I need to be put in check, but sometimes he’s wrong about me.

I’m still learning how to effectively be in relationship with someone who’s so squeaky-clean that sometimes he doesn’t seem to know how to navigate the grey areas of real life. I’m all for behaving in an honorable, godly manner, but the world is not black and white. And while I appreciate that Seth always wants to honor God in his dealings, I also think he needs to realize that not everything he believes is dishonoring to God actually is. He needs to loosen up a little bit and die to that inner Pharisee.

Authentically Aurora

All The (suppressed) Feels

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People always seem to discount how I feel. It’s a good thing I’m generally a rational, logical thinker rather than a mushy, effervescent feeler because on the rare occasions where I feel consumed by emotions, most of the key people in my life completely discount how I feel.

Some people scornfully tell me to fix my attitude. Others are sickeningly optimistic, trying to point out the positive things in my life. Overall, everyone seems to just want me to get back to being my rational, logical, dependable, even-keel self. Evidently I am not allowed to take days off being an engineer-minded female.

That’s why lately when I’m sad or upset, I’m learning to just shut people out.

Don’t ask me about how work is going. My boss vents about me on the phone in her cubicle right next to mine, and being physically present in the palpable tension gives me heartburn at the office. No schools seem to be hiring at mid-year, so my teaching career is on hold until August. With no end in sight, I feel hopeless all day long sitting in my white cubicle surrounded by white walls and white noise.

Don’t ask me how my relationship with Seth is going. His E&P company just bought a new field to drill, so during the work week, he’s focused on that. Over the weekend, he was focused on making updates at his family’s ranch. Then he hurt his back and has been seeing a chiropractor during what free time we would normally have together. Lately he’s seemed distracted and disconnected from our relationship, noncommittal as ever. I’m lonely.

Don’t ask me about my family. I just found out that my brother is moving across the country despite my advice against it. Not only is he moving a thousand miles away, but he’s excited about it. He doesn’t feel the loss of our closeness, and that makes me feel rejected by him. Still more painful: This was supposed to be a short-term move, but he bought a house over the weekend. Not only did I find out about this huge life change after the deal was done, but the likelihood of his moving back closer to home is looking less and less likely. I’ve always felt like I love him more than he loves me, and although I know intellectually that this move has absolutely nothing to do with me, it hurts that he chose this, especially against my advice.

No one seems to know how to just tell me “that stinks”, give me a hug, and tell me they’re there for me. I know I’m blessed. I know these are minor issues compared to the rest of the world. I know this too shall pass.

But right now – just for today – I need you to let me be sad.

Authentically Aurora

Sweet Seth

autumn-walkSeth has been so wonderful lately. After a kind of rough patch in October where we talked through a few points of conflict (an important aspect of any healthy relationship), the past few weeks have been some of the sweetest we’ve had.

The weather finally turned cooler a few weeks ago down in the South where we live, so Seth and I took the opportunity to bundle up and go for a nice walk outside in a cozy, historic part of town. I had a warm latte in one hand and Seth’s calloused palm in the other. The leaves started changing, and we talked about everything and nothing.

At the end of our walk when Seth escorted me to my car, he gave me a kiss goodbye and then asked me to wait a second. “I’ll be right back.” He jogged to his truck, grabbed something out of the back seat and then jogged back to me. He wrapped his left arm around my waist and, with his right hand, threw a paper airplane through my open driver door onto my passenger seat.

I laughed, genuinely happy. “What was that?” I hugged his waist. He gave me a quick kiss on my forehead and said with a grin, “See you later.”

He jogged back to his car and got in while I, still smiling and curious, reached for the paper airplane. I unfolded it delicately and read one of the sweetest notes Seth’s ever written me. He acknowledged that he’s not always the most verbally affectionate boyfriend, but he wanted to make sure I knew how much he cares about me. I think I actually teared up a little bit. He’d written me a love note. And folded it into a paper airplane. It was the perfect combination of thoughtful and playful; quirky and sweet.

cinderella-stairsA few days later, after dinner with a group of friends, my high heels – glittery, silvery three-inch heels – were killing me. So Seth carried me up the stairs to my apartment. On the way, one of my heels fell off, so Seth set me down at the top of the stairs, ran down the stairs, picked up the silvery shoe, and ran back to the top of the stairs where he knelt down and gently slipped the glass slipper back onto my foot. I felt like a princess, especially when he scooped me back up again and carried me across the threshold of my apartment.

festival-of-lightsThe next week, Seth surprised me with a road trip, ensuring that he catered to my planning nature by telling me how to pack. “Dress for cool weather, and plan to be outside.” He wanted to keep the destination a surprise, but he is also learning how I operate and is lovingly choosing to adjust his style. He threw in a couple of red herrings (“Pack a hammer and a baseball cap”) just to keep me off track, but he ultimately took me to a lights festival modeled after my favorite Disney movie. I felt so loved, not only that he thought to surprise me with something he knew I’d enjoy, but that he also presented the surprise in a way that catered to me.

Last Sunday, he called me before church just to say “hello beautiful” and to let me know he was looking forward to worshiping with me. We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and he told me I remind him of Mary because I’m a beautiful brunette who is lovingly supportive, resilient and a Proverbs 31 woman. And the next morning, he sent me off to work with an unexpected text: “Good morning, sweetheart. I hope you have a wonderful Monday!”

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the wedding of some dear friends who attend church with us. It was a beautiful ceremony, and at the reception, Seth leaned over to kiss my cheek and whisper quietly, “You were worth waiting for.”

My eyes widened in surprise, and he laughed, “It was a long wait!” He smiled. “But you were worth waiting for.”

Authentically Aurora