Of Planks and Pushups

We’re now nearly to the end of February, and I can still honestly say that I’ve worked out every day this year [insert mental image of shocked faces, including mine]!

Most of my work outs have been pretty basic, doing 30 minute yoga exercises or running a mile or two here and there. But even with those simplistic I’m-just-trying-to-create-a-habit work outs, I can already see some exciting changes!

Here are three things I can do now that I could not do at the start of the year:

  1. Chest Push-UpsPush up
  2. Triceps Push-UpsTricep push up
  3. Side PlankSidePlankPose

A part of me is embarrassed to even admit there was a time I could not do these things, but hey – judge me if you must. I can’t help that God made me busty with ridiculously tiny wrists. I was a soccer player, not a discus thrower. But I’m working on it.

Most of the exercises I’ve done this year have been shoulder and wrist strengthening exercises, and I am (finally!) starting to reap the benefits of my discipline to keep at it, silly though I may feel when I look out the window from my yoga mat to see hardcore Crossfitters puking on the sidewalk outside. I was one of them, once upon a time (a Crossfitter, not a puker. I like to keep my food inside my stomach, thank you very much. But I digress).

One of the neat things about deciding to be disciplined in working out is that it teaches our psyches the very important life lesson of valuing perseverance; of sacrificing in the near term in order to benefit in the long term. We all know this in our heads, but sometimes it takes living it out to really believe that our discipline is worthwhile, whether it is persevering in exercise, scripture reading, relationships, folding that fifth load of laundry, finishing that kale salad, scrubbing every inch of your kitchen floor after you spill orange juice on it… or any manner of other situations.

Things that are worthwhile rarely come easily, and things that come easily are rarely worthwhile. So we persevere and strive to live above the common level of life. We were made for more than mediocrity. And kale salad.

Authentically Aurora

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Sweet ’16

2016 Words2016 is going to be a sweet year. 2014 was the worst year of my life, 2015 was a year of recovery, and 2016 is going to be fantastic. I just know it.

I feel like God has given me four words for 2016: Discipline, Contentment, Light and Joy. Each of these words has come up repeatedly, either in conversations with friends, family, reading Scripture, prayer or even interactions with you, fellow bloggers.

Discipline is pretty straight-forward. I allowed myself to wallow and drift a bit in 2015, giving myself a lot more leeway because I was practicing extending grace to myself and receiving it from others. But it’s possible for that pendulum to swing too far, so it’s time to bring it back and show some self-control and accountability for my actions.

Every time the bible tells us to stop one thing, it tells us to do something else. Every time we are asked to give something up, we are promised something else. There is never a list of don’ts without a list of dos. In that vein, I want to speak less and listen more; make less statements and ask more questions. I need to rein in my tongue and practice using a filter. Cutting back on my love life, I plan to go on less dates and spend more time with friends and family. I want to eat less sugar and more vegetables. And I am going to watch less Netflix and do more exercise.

Contentment is a word J at Salvageable has spoken over me several times in the past month. And I know that the Apostle Paul set forth the example to be content in all circumstances. We are to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Ugh. What a challenge for a shriveled, bitter heart like mine! But God continues to extend more and more grace to me.

One of the greatest sources of discontentment for me is my singleness. Not so much my singleness, actually, as my loneliness. I am profoundly lonely. I just long for a companion to share life with. But in the past week, in two back-to-back dinners, two of my married girlfriends have shared with me that their marriages are on the rocks and admitted longing for their days of singleness. Two other friends’ marriages were wrecked by affairs earlier this year. I’m only 28 years old, and already I’m seeing friends’ marriages torn apart?! I need to keep in perspective that singleness isn’t all that bad when compared to a difficult marriage. As one of my negotiating instructors once said, “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Light is a special word to me that I sense God repeatedly speaking into my prayer life. All of the bible verses I’m clinging to right now have to do with light. “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” -Luke 11:36

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called” (Eph. 1:18), and “Once you were full of darkness, but now you have the light of the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8-9).

“Live clean, innocent lives… shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Phil. 2:12-15). This is what I want for myself in 2016. 

Lastly, Joy. I have always struggled to have joy. Once time I did a word study on how the bible says to have joy, and I think most of the verses talked about trusting God. When we truly believe that God is sovereign and in control – and that He is good and loving! – we are able to accept our circumstances with joy, trusting that God is working in and through us.

There are also lots of verses about being thankful in all circumstances and offering a sacrifice of praise (and believe me, it is often quite a sacrifice!). Cultivating gratitude and releasing control of my life are going to be key in accepting the joy I believe God wants to develop in me this year. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.” -Romans 15:13

Yes, Lord. May this be the year of Joy.

Authentically Aurora

Recovering Date-aholic

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.14.53 AMI am a recovering date-aholic.

I’ve been trying really hard to rest in my singleness; to be single and stay single for a time. I have been trying to even revel in and celebrate my singleness. This is a season of life where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I have a rare opportunity here.

I am free to serve in the church and all kinds of charitable organizations. My time is my own. I can work out or eat donuts; I can travel across the world on a whim, and I can stay out until 2 in the morning if I want to. There is no one at home waiting up for me; there is no one at home I am accountable to or responsible for. I am in a unique season of freedom from familial responsibility.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” -1 Cor. 7:32-35

According to these verses, singleness is a time to be single-mindedly devoted to the Lord, not distracted or concerned about the needs of a spouse. I have no husband, and yet, my attention is still divided. I may not be distracted from serving the Lord by a nonexistent husband, but I am certainly distracted by any potential husband who may be in my near vicinity!

In today’s society, the opportunities to date are endless, largely thanks to social media. I’ve been asked out by three different guys in the past week, but I’m trying to say no. I’m trying to rest. I’m trying to wait. I’m trying to give myself time to heal and grow more into the woman God is calling me to be. I want to be the kind of woman who would be worthy of the kind of man I ultimately want to marry. And if I start dating while I am less than who I could be, I may spend the rest of my life married to someone who perpetuates an underdeveloped version of myself.

I’m adamant that the man should initiate a dating relationship. But there are plenty of ways for women to help the process along: Catch a man’s eye, hold eye contact, smile coyly, or dance away with a slight smile. Make sure you get caught looking a few more times. Entice their attention and interest. I leave it up to the man to actually walk over and initiate conversation, but I certainly know how to help the process along. But I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness; be where I am; embrace my season of singleness. And leave the men alone.

Last week, I got another opportunity to exercise self discipline and reaffirm my decision to wait on the Lord. When I first joined eHarmony two years ago, I was really impressed with some of my first few matches. My ex-fiance was one of my first ten matches on my first day on eHarmony. So was Nate – a mechanical engineer in O&G with an aura of confidence and a shock of blonde hair. Nate’s profile was filled with photos of hiking and snowboarding; four wheeling and rock climbing. He’s an American Ninja Warrior.

That first week of online dating two summers ago, before engagement rings and wedding dresses and heartache and depression, Ashley and I sat in her living room, giggling and looking through all of my matches. I was drawn to the man who would become my ex-fiance, but I remember Ashley rooting for Nate. Much later, in the wake of my broken engagement, I got on Christian Mingle trying to find some hope that there are still single godly men out there. And there was Nate’s big grin and radiating confidence smiling back at me, just as I’d seen on eHarmony a year earlier.

Last week our weather dipped gloriously into the 70s after a long string of summer days in the 90s. So I got up early, drove to a nearby park, and went for a 3 mile run. Right at the end of my run, I stopped by the stretch area, and who did I see directly ahead of me? Nate. He was there with a buddy and his dog. Our eyes met, I smiled shyly and glanced away before looking back at him again, unsure if he recognized me from my online dating profile.

I stretched longer than I normally would, hoping he’d come over. He keeps popping up in my life, year after year. But Nate was engrossed in conversation with his buddy. The Aurora of a month ago would have boldly walked over and asked if we’d met before. I would have struck up a conversation and gotten him to eventually ask for my number as I looked up at him through long eyelashes.

But on that sunny morning last week, I walked away. I walked away praying, “God, I keep encountering this man, and he’s caught my eye every time. I could try to make this happen, but I’m going to wait on you. If you want us together, have him recognize me and find a way to reach out to me. Help me let him go. I want to rest in you.”

My aim is to refocus my attention on the One who loves me more than any man ever could; indeed, more than I love myself. “In repentance and rest is [my] salvation, in quietness and trust is [my] strength.

Authentically Aurora