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

Paris – Day 3

atthebeginning

As a little girl, my favorite movie for years was “Anastasia”, the Fox animated film often mistaken for being a Disney movie. I loved Anastasia’s spunkiness and her effect on Dimitri, whose character development throughout their journey together is probably one of my favorite parts of the movie.

To my delight, our third day in Paris was an Anastasia-filled day. When I woke up, I watched the “Paris Hold the Key to Your Heart” clip from the movie while viewing the real Eiffel Tower in the background from the window of our Airbnb. On the way to breakfast, I heard “A bientot!” on the street – one of Anastasia’s last lines in the movie. Then we went to Palais Garnier where Anastasia and Dimitri attended the Russian Ballet in the film. It was a magical morning.

Before going to the opera house, Rachel and I had breakfast at Le Court D’Or. I ate un croissant au confiture (a croissant with jam) and also had my go-to of a cafe au lait (coffee with milk). The area boasted much of the Parisian haute couture, but Rachel and I just window shopped on our way to Palais Garnier.

IMG_5855.jpgNot only did Anastasia and Dimitri attend the ballet at this opera house, but more famously, it is the opera house of The Phantom of the Opera. Both the exterior and interior of Palais Garnier were absolutely gorgeous, with red velvet and gold and crystal chandeliers everywhere.

Not only was the architecture was stunning, but the history was fascinating. Apparently women used to sit in the perimeter boxes, and men sat in the orchestra seats because the wax from the candles on the grand chandelier would drip down onto the men’s hats, and the women wanted to protect their dresses and finery.

Separating myself from Rachel for a while (knowing she would be embarrassed of me), I meandered the ornate hallways singing “Think of Me”, and – on the balcony outside, overlooking the square – I quietly sang to myself “All I Ask of You” like Christine and Raoul do in the musical. I am a dreamer and a romantic, unashamed of occasionally being considered odd if it means I get to live out my daydreams. When I watch movies or read books, I live the stories with the characters and immerse myself in their adventures. If I were a bit braver and had planned more in advance, I might have even been tempted to cosplay like this fille:

Anastasia Cosplay

On the lower level of Palais Garnier were fashion sketches for the various ballets performed there. Since I have started doing more fashion illustration, I was thrilled to get to see some original Parisian fashion sketches. Overall, Palais Garnier was definitely one of my absolute favorite things we experienced in Paris.

IMG_5978.jpgAfter sampling Pierre Herme macaroons (recommended by Agathe but not as good as LeNotre), we stoped at Angelina for the reported world’s best cup of hot chocolate. It was basically like drinking liquid, melted Godiva chocolate – so rich that I (sweet tooth though I may have) could barely finish my small cup.

IMG_6001.jpgFilled to the brim with chocolaty goodness, Rachel and I walked to the Tuileries Garden and had just stopped to take some photos when I again heard an American accent. Glancing up the stairs behind us, I called out to three men in their late 30s, and we subsequently made more new friends. I am now connected with one of the men on LinkedIn and possibly have a lead on a new job as a result. Networking really can happen anywhere you go!

IMG_6057.jpgRachel and I continued on to the Louvre, which was honestly disappointing. Aggressive hawkers jangled miniature Eiffel Towers in our faces, insisting that we buy. “Only one Euro!” Tourists crowded seemingly every inch, both inside and outside of the museum. The Louvre maps were poorly done, and the bulk of the art was sculptures rather than paintings. Also unexpected was the light, airy interior. I’d expected dark, low ceilings and dirt floors – almost like catacombs filled with hidden treasures. Instead, it felt just like any other museum. But we wandered the Louvre’s highly-anticipated halls for about an hour, eventually finding both Michelangelo’s “Captive” and, of course, the Mona Lisa.

IMG_6099.jpgMoving on to Pont des Arts (the Love Lock Bridge), we were relieved to find it mostly deserted. The bulk of the famous “love locks” had been removed, but visitors had gotten creative in finding ways to declare their love with locks on railing and lanterns along the Seine. I played photographer for a young couple kissing in the rain on the bridge; then we got a couple of goat cheese salads at Le Terminus and called it a night, opting to get a good night’s sleep for the surely full day ahead.

Authentically Aurora

Moments – Part II

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.28.44 AMI discreetly studied Michael over the top of my cards as our Apples to Apples game progressed. I know that he is a man of integrity, but – as our friendship deepens – I have been trying to keep my heart in check until I am able to determine how important his faith is to him.

Our a cappella group has held rehearsals at Michael’s apartment several times, and his walls are decorated with various crosses and bible passages, but in contemporary American culture, that doesn’t necessarily mean much in the way of authentic faith. I know Michael attends church services whenever he has a free Sunday amid rotations, and I heard that it didn’t work out with the last girl he dated because he discovered a few dates in that she wasn’t a Christian, and a shared faith is important to Michael.

Probably most encouraging is the fact that, in the course of conversation with the group, Michael occasionally mentions in passing the goodness of God or the sovereignty of God’s plans. The way Michael speaks indicates that he has a deep-seated respect for God and a faith in God’s goodness that underpins everything he does. “You will know a tree by its fruit“, and Michael exhibits patience and lovingkindness that I believe evidence his faith. I continue to look for confirmation as I rest in this season of waiting.

ca6b3b69156f218137d57205a525a4f7With just a few rounds left in our Disney Apples to Apples game, one of our altos drew the adjective “Ancient”. I chuckled to myself, thinking that the Yzma card would be the perfect one to play, but sadly, it had already been used. So I played “Beaches” instead, tailoring my choice to the alto’s very literal, cut-and-dry personality.

Sure enough, when she flipped over my card, she exclaimed with a grin, “Beaches! Those are older than Jesus!

She had only meant the Jesus reference as an “omg”-like outburst, but one of our equally literal basses paused the game to ask, “Wait. Are beaches older than Jesus? He showed up around 2 BC, right?”

To my surprise, Michael spoke up, quoting John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

“Oh, yeah.” One of our sopranos with a Catholic background nodded, confirming for the group that Jesus is in fact more ancient than beaches, and everyone moved on with the game.

Except me. I kept glancing at Michael in wonder, that he would not only know that verse but also understand its significance – that Jesus is the Word, and He was with the Father at the beginning of time; that all things were created through Him.

I am encouraged. I am hopeful. But I am also waiting on the timing and the plans of the One who Michael and I both believe is good, sovereign, and loves us more than we can understand.

Authentically Aurora

Moments – Part I

What do you believe about coincidences? Are they truly spontaneous ironies of chance, or are they farther reaching, pre-ordained orchestrations meant to rekindle our childlike sense of awe? Can we cluster all coincidences into one category, or are some the former and some the latter? Still further, does what one believes about coincidences alter their weight or significance? 

After our high energy, laughter-filled concert last weekend, my Pentatonix-like a cappella group took a break from rehearsal this week for some well-earned time to relax and enjoy one another. I hosted dinner at my place, and after everyone’s stomachs were full of homemade beef stroganoff, we broke out Disney’s version of Apples to Apples.

It was fun getting to know everyone’s personalities that evening. We typically spend a few hours a week singing together, but – as much as I enjoy this group – most of the members remain more acquaintances than friends, simply by nature of the fact that most of the times our mouths are open, it is in song rather than in conversation.

We had a large enough group playing Apples to Apples that, before long, we ran out of cards. Everyone was able to draw a new red apple card except for Michael and me. Michael is our group’s director, arranger, encourager and unofficial president, though he is younger (four years my junior). He is studying to become a pediatrician and, over recent weeks, has become a dear friend.

When Michael and I realized there was only one card left to draw between the two of us, I joked that we could share it. One of our altos was already the clear winner of the game, and Michael and I were seated next to each other. When I flipped over the card we were going to share, I was astonished to see this:

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With 270 red apple cards, there was a 0.4% chance the card Michael and I would share would be Lady and the Tramp sharing a spaghetti noodle (leading to an unexpected kiss)! I looked over at Michael with raised eyebrows. “Well that’s ironic,” I said with a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “Yes, because they are sharing spaghetti,” he replied casually with a slight smile of his own before returning to the game.

I struggle to get a read on him. I know Michael is perceptive enough not to have missed the gradually growing chemistry between us, so I was unsure if his lackluster response was due to a decided indifference to me or – more likely – due to our audience.

Michael is a gentleman with quiet confidence. He leads our group not with a loud voice or big personality, but with an authority afforded him by the unreserved respect everyone has for him. Michael is thoughtful, sweet and, if my guess is right, painfully shy when it comes to romance. So I’ll just keep waiting in this season of singleness, enjoying the friendship of a man I have come to respect, not only for his musical giftings and intellect, but – more significantly – for his character.

Authentically Aurora

Courageous Kindness

cinderella-movie-2015As a little girl, I never liked Cinderella. She was too quiet, soft and subservient. She wasn’t feisty, passionate and adventurous like Belle or Jasmine or Ariel.

Cinderella-dadI always wanted Cinderella to stand up to her stepmother and stepsisters. I never understood why she was such a doormat, blindly tied to a promise to her dead parents who, at the time they asked it of her, had no knowledge of how her situation would develop and change after they were gone. Cinderella seemed foolhardy to me, incapable of adapting to the dynamic nature of her situation.

cinderella-headshotBut I recently watched the new Cinderella movie, and it landed differently with me than the animated film I grew up with. In this new, live actor film, Cinderella inspired me. Her story stirred me and actually moved me to tears. “Have courage, and be kind,” she repeated to herself over and over again, through the death of a mother, death of a father, servitude to her stepsisters and incomprehensible cruelty by her stepmother.

Cinderella-ragsAs an adult watching the movie of Cinderella, I am struck by her response to suffering – intense, terrible suffering. Cinderella didn’t pretend everything was okay, mindlessly skipping through a field of wildflowers and humming with bluebirds while her so-called family abused her. No, we saw Cinderella hurt, frustrated and broken. We watched Cinderella struggle and almost fail to keep her courage and kindness as the pains of life continued to roll in.

cinderella_horseBut Cinderella resolved to keep her heart soft; chose not to betray her true self to the all-too-easy bitterness and anger over circumstances beyond her control. Cinderella also chose kindness – and not just kindness, but courage as well. She chose to be strong and gentle; noble and compassionate; brave and tenderhearted.

The complements of courage and kindness united in the person of Cinderella are a strikingly beautiful portrait that remind me of another story: one of a God who is both all-powerful and loves without reservation. Power belongs to God, and Loving-kindness is Yours, O Lord.” -Psalm 62:11-12

There is power in courageous kindness. Some might even call it magic.

Cinderella-dress-transformation

Authentically Aurora

Meeting Fabio (a Throwback Thursday post)

FabioI recently alluded to my run-in with the one and only Fabio Lanzoni.

At the request of Bitter Ben (one of my favorite bloggers of all time), here is the full scoop on that story!

Several months ago, I agreed to meet a friend for dinner at a local crunchy, granola, all organic, no-animals-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-your-food kind of place.

We met for an early dinner, so this hip restaurant was relatively empty as we walked up to the counter to place our orders. At least, it was empty except for this exceptionally tall and broad-shouldered man who was completely blocking the cash register while staring up at the menu behind the cashier, trying to decide what to order.

Internally rolling my eyes at this guy who was so oblivious to the fact that there were people waiting in line behind him, I tapped him on the bicep (he was too tall for me to tap him on the shoulder) and said, “Excuse me. Are you ready to order, or do you mind if we go ahead?”

He turned to look at me, surprised – he had kind eyes – and said warmly, “No, please go ahead.” He gestured with a wave of his arm for us to move ahead of him in line.

So I stepped up to the register, stated my order, and was surprised to see the girl at the register gaping at me. I stared back at her. “What?” I asked.

“That’s Fabio!” she hissed at me under her breath.

I had no idea what she was talking about. You renamed your turkey burger “the Fabio”? That’s weird.

She must have seen my blank expression, because she said again – this time jerking her head in the direction of the broad-shouldered man – “That guy behind you! It’s Fabio!”

Oh. Cool…?

I knew I was supposed to have some kind of a reaction, but I just shrugged, paid, and moved along. All I knew was that Fabio was some guy with long hair who used to pose for the covers of romance novels. Since I don’t read romance novels or fantasize about long-haired men, I was pretty nonplussed.

Soon after my friend and I sat down, women of all ages flocked the tall man, batting their eyelashes and asking for autographs. I looked him up and down, curious. He’s not an unattractive man, but honestly, in person, he almost seemed like a cartoon character. His features are so distinctive and almost disproportionate that he reminded me of a cross between Disney’s Tarzan (facial features/hair) and Kronk (pure bulk).

I hope he appreciated that I treated him like I would have treated anyone else. I imagine it would be nice to feel like a normal person rather than a celebrity to be tip-toed around or used as a prop for Facebook and Instagram bragging rights.

Even if only by one woman and only for one moment, Fabio got to experience a bit of normalcy that afternoon waiting in line at the cafe. And hey, after sitting in a pew with Lyle Lovett harmonizing to church hymns, what’s a run-in with the Icon of Eye Candy?

Authentically Aurora

More Than Enough

SquirrelI just had the craziest experience. I have to write about it right now before the memory fades and it feels like it wasn’t real.

Yesterday was a pretty terrible day. I was all alone, feeling rejected, abandoned, unwanted and unloved. I don’t have the fortitude right now to write more about it than that. Suffice it to say, it was one of the lowest days I’ve had in about six months.

I started this morning with a prayer. I don’t remember what about, exactly. I just know that when I started the day today, I was more intensely aware than usual of my need for God.

I pulled myself out of bed, dragged myself into the shower and plodded along to church. My best friend Ashley was available to chat after church, so we went out for coffee, and I talked her ear off for a couple of hours, trying to get everything off my chest and out of my system. Like she has for the past twenty years, she took it all in stride and encouraged me to get it all out. She’s seriously the best.

After our coffee date, I went home, put in my ear buds and decided to go for a walk outside to try to enjoy the beautiful day and talk with God. My walk turned into a run, and after a couple of miles, I found myself back at my apartment complex, physically tired but still emotionally tightly wound.

Walking through the rows of apartments to my building, I spotted a squirrel sitting in a tree. It was on a lower branch, still without leaves since spring is still weeks away, so the squirrel was exposed and in full view. I stopped my walk, pausing on the sidewalk to watch the squirrel’s breathing. Its breaths became quicker as it sensed me watching.

I observed the pattern of its fur – mostly brown, but it had reddish tints along its head, just like my parents’ lovable old dog. I love to pet the red patch on the top of that sweet dog’s head. And in that moment, I wanted to pet the squirrel. Mostly, I just wanted to be comforted. I needed snuggling, and the squirrel looked soft and cuddly.

When I was a little girl, I used to go in the backyard and sing to the animals, thinking if I had a beautiful enough voice, all of the tiny woodland creatures would come scurrying to me like they do for the Disney princesses. Since they never came, I figured my voice just wasn’t pretty enough.

This afternoon watching that squirrel, I felt like a little girl again. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted a connection; to feel like someone cared, even if it was a little squirrel. So I stood on the sidewalk and started to sing along to the music playing in my ear buds. It was “More Than Enough” by Chris Tomlin.

All of You is more than enough for all of me,

For every thirst and every need.

You satisfy me with Your love

And all I have in You is more than enough.

As I sang, I prayed, “God this is a silly prayer, but I need to feel your closeness. I need to know that you hear me. Will you comfort me with this squirrel? You directed animals to come to Noah and his ark. You commanded the insects that plagued Egypt in Exodus. You ordained for the giant fish to swallow Jonah. I know you have sovereignty over this squirrel. Will you calm it? Slow its breaths? Have it come down from that branch and not be afraid of me?”

The squirrel blinked, raised its paw, turned to look at me, and when the song had just a few measures left, that squirrel scurried down the tree trunk, paused to look at me from the base, and hopped ahead of me on the sidewalk all the way to my apartment building.

Thanks, God. You answer even the tiniest of prayers.

Authentically Aurora