Goodness & Joy

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Yesterday was a wonderful day. I woke up early and baked some rosemary prosciutto twists made from puff pastry I’d prepared from scratch the night before. They came out perfectly golden brown and still in their tight, spiraled shape full of flaky goodness.

I ate a light breakfast and went for my mid-morning run, and for the first time this year, I finally felt like I hit my stride. I ran three miles without stopping except to walk briefly at the turnaround point. For me, this was a huge accomplishment. I celebrated the joyful occasion by treating myself to a coffee-chocolate-banana protein shake from a nearby juice bar.

When I got home and showered, I logged into my email to let my current apartment complex know I’d be moving out, giving them my sixty day written notice per the terms of our lease agreement. I was surprised to almost immediately get an email back directly from the community manager, who told me she didn’t want to lose me as a tenant and was willing to take $250 off my monthly rent (which translates to $3000/year). Surprised but pleased, I let them know I’d found another complex for even less rent that also shaves twenty-five minutes off my commute “but thanks for the great offer.”

I walked down to the office to pick up a package that had arrived for me (nothing exciting – just something I’d ordered off Amazon), and though I’d only given my notice a few hours before, the male leasing agent who normally runs the front desk commented right off, “Aurora, I hear we may be losing you as a tenant.” Wow, news travels fast.

I explained to Eddie that I was changing careers to teaching and taking a job further north of town. “Yeah, I can see that,” he commented. “I’ve always been able to tell that you’re more about relationships and building connections with people. The money’s not that important to you.”

He could tell that from our brief interactions over the past two years? “Thanks, Eddie.”

“Yeah,” he went on, “I’ve always had a sense of this aura of goodness about you.”

I floated out of the office, completely taken aback by his words but so thankful to know that God’s light has been shining out of me in even the little things. It’s not often we get to hear feedback on how we’re doing on displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Seth and I have been attending Fusion – our church’s pre-engagement class – for a few weeks now, and although most of the sessions are in a large group with 15 other couples, last night we met with a mentor couple individually. The four of us had a great conversation with lots of teasing and laughter. They’re a great couple; so fun and full of wisdom and transparency.

Near the end of the evening, the husband of the mentor couple commented in all seriousness, “We are so thankful to have the two of you in our Fusion group this season. Some of the other couples we’ve worked with are young in their faith or tentative about opening up about their relationships, but you guys are obviously so mature in your faith and willing to be vulnerable because you really want to enter into marriage with a strong foundation.”

Seth and I smiled lovingly at each other. It was nice to hear such encouragement. The mentor went on, “And every week, we see you two come in with such joy on your faces, like you’re really excited to be there and engage in conversation. That means a lot to us as a mentor couple.”

For the second time that day, I floated on air. Goodness and joy; Joy and goodness. It’s nice to have people call out the character they see in you. Hearing those words of affirmation really spurs me on to love well and live well. And it’s a great reminder to compliment those around me on the character I see in them. It makes such a difference when we build each other up!

Authentically Aurora

My 6-week Spring Break

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It’s been 6 weeks since I left my job, and it feels like I blinked and it was mid-May. I had so many plans for my time between jobs: I was going to ramp up my photography business, write a book and flip a house, renovating it and selling it for a profit before the school year started. But I’ve barely had time to write six blog posts, much less an entire book!

That first day off work, I went to volunteer for Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work! I also happened to be fasting for Easter, so I scooped hundreds of ice cream cones and didn’t eat any myself. That, my friends, took some serious self-control!

The very next day, Seth and I left for a week to go out to his family’s ranch to bulldoze, weed-kill and look after the cattle. It was a peaceful time of productivity. I’d planned to have some time to rest before starting the long-term substitute teaching job I’d lined up, but the teacher going on maternity leave ended up having her baby early, so Seth and I drove back from the ranch late that Sunday night, and I started subbing early on Monday morning.

The next three weeks were a blur of waking up early, teaching all day long, coming home and frantically trying to do chores around the house before dashing off to bible study or dinner with a girlfriend or biking with Seth. More to come on my substitute teaching experiences.

Week five was full of driving out to my new school to fill out paperwork, having my photo ID created, researching and touring apartments in the area (my current commute would be 45 minutes each way), and taking care of various financial details like rolling over my old 401k to a self-directed IRA; then investing those funds.

I’ve attended retirement parties, wedding showers and birthday parties; met up with friends visiting from out of town, babysat for couples from church, and planned an itinerary for a Virginia trip featuring a friend’s wedding in July. I’ve gotten lunch and brunch with all my stay-at-home mom friends who are excited to have a friendly new face who is available during the work day. And I’ve started leading not only a 5th grade girls’ bible study but also an adult women’s bible study on the Minor Prophets.

It’s been a FULL six weeks.

But it’s been so good. In the past few days, I’ve finally gotten to have the rest and relaxation I’d been envisioning and longing for. I’m baking more, running daily and trying to set aside hours at a time to meditate on and commune with God. I think sometimes Satan doesn’t need to tempt us with all-out sinfulness because it’s so easy to get sucked in to the busyness of life, but when we are distracted by activities, our lives are just as ineffective for the Gospel as if we’re living in blatant sin.

In the midst of this surprisingly busy season of transition, I don’t want to forget the Creator of life or the Purpose of life. Though our salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9), “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

Oh that I would walk in His ways and live out these good works He has uniquely prepared for me to do! To do so is joy and life abundant! That is my prayer for this season… and for you, dear reader.

Authentically Aurora

Discernment Required (Part 3)

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On March 23rd, I’d attended the S**** Branch career fair, but at the time I was dealing with all of my anxiety over my three H*****y Public Schools interviews, I still hadn’t heard anything at all from the S**** Branch schools I’d visited at their career fair.

Of the eight junior high schools in S**** Branch, there were two schools that seemed like the best fit for me. I enjoyed the administrators I’d met at their career fair booths, they had math teaching openings, and I felt like I’d be a natural fit in the culture of these two schools. But I hadn’t heard anything back…

…until Monday, the day after Dani prayed with me at church. I’d just turned down the three H*****y interviews when my phone rang, and it was the principal of one of my two favorite S**** Branch schools. They wanted me to interview on Wednesday, and I was ecstatic.

A few hours later, my phone rang again, and it was the principal of the other S**** Branch school I’d hoped to hear from. We scheduled an interview for the following weekend. Of the eight schools in that district, there were two I liked, and those are the exact two schools who offered me interviews. Amazing. But I didn’t get those two interview opportunities until after God convinced me to operate by faith, turning down the H*****y interviews and trusting Him to provide.

He’s teaching me a lot about faith these days; releasing control and trusting Him rather than trying to do everything in my own power. In this season of life, God is clearly teaching me about the futility of my own efforts and that I should instead declare and embrace and celebrate my dependence on Him! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4).

That Wednesday, I went to Land*** to interview, and – short version – it went great. I loved the principal, a fun-loving, high-energy man in his late 40s. Two of the other teachers on the interview panel were equally fun and engaging. We laughed and talked for nearly an hour, and I felt like I fit right in. After a while, it stopped feeling like an interview and just seemed like a conversation with new friends.

But near the end of our time together, a third teacher came in. This heavyset middle-aged woman shuffled in with a grumpy look on her face and an irritable demeanor. She was introduced to me as the head of the math department and the woman who would be my partner teacher if I took the open position as Land***’s new 8th grade math teacher. She only asked me one question during the interview: “If you had an issue with someone on staff – ” she laughed unhappily, “- let’s be honest, if you had a problem with ME – how would you handle that?”

Somewhat taken aback by the question and her tone, I explained that I think open communication is key and that I would want to sit down and talk through the issue with her directly, making sure she felt heard and that we both had an opportunity to explain ourselves. I’d asked the principal earlier in the interview the reason the position was open, and he said evasively that the prior teacher had decided Land*** wasn’t a good fit. After meeting the math chair, I suspected it had something to do with this woman.

At the end of the interview, the principal walked me out, shaking my hand and telling me pointedly, “You did great in there.” He gave me a knowing look and said, “I know you’d be a great asset to our team. My assistant principal who spoke with you at the career fair said you were an amazing candidate, and you proved her right today. We’ll be in touch. You can expect to hear from me by the end of the week.”

But he didn’t make me wait until the end of the week. I was still working in corporate procurement at the time, having given my two weeks’ notice but not yet reached my last day of April 3rd. So when the Land*** principal called me a few hours later, my phone was on silent, and I missed the call. He left me a simple voice message asking me to call him back. Since I didn’t get the message until after 5pm, I decided to wait to call until the next morning during work hours, but when I logged into my email the next morning around 7:30am, I already had a follow-up email from the principal. “Good morning! I wanted to let you know that the interview committee thoroughly enjoyed visiting with you yesterday. Can you please call me regarding the position at your earliest convenience?”

Surprised at his persistence, I called as soon as I finished my morning meetings, stepping into a private conference room about 9am. “Hi, this is Aurora. I’m returning your call about the 8th grade math position at Land***.”

“Aurora! Great to hear from you!” The principal’s magnetic personality filtered across the phone line. “I just wanted to let you know that we all agreed yesterday that with all the interviews we’ve done, you were the bright shining star that clearly stood out from the rest. There was no competition. We know that you would be an amazing addition to our team here at Land***!”

“Wow, thank you so much! That’s great to hear,” I replied with a smile.

“Yes, we are excited about the possibility of having you join our team,” he added, pausing for me to reply.

“Thanks. The feeling is mutual. I really enjoyed meeting you guys yesterday. It was a great conversation.”

“So…” the principal paused, seeming to be confused at my response. “To be clear, I’m calling to make you a job offer.”

“Thanks,” I said again. I wasn’t sure what he expected me to say. I appreciated the glowing review, reiterated again and again, but I was waiting for him to lead us into an “offer” conversation. I’ve worked in procurement for eight years, and I expected him to outline the scope of the offer.

We were both dancing around the offer at hand, and our circular conversation started to get stilted and awkward. I didn’t understand why the principal wasn’t directing the conversation toward outlining my proposed salary, start date, professional development I’d be expected to do over the summer, benefits information and the like.

“So…” the principal hesitated, his initial enthusiasm starting to fizzle at the sudden awkwardness of the conversation. “Do you accept?” he asked finally.

I laughed uncomfortably. “Accept what? We haven’t outlined the terms of the offer.”

“Um… what do you mean?” he seemed confused that there was more to be said than just “I’m making you an offer of employment at my school. Do you accept?”.

“I mean, we haven’t discussed salary and benefits. I don’t know the scope of the role and the associated terms.”

“Salary and benefits are public information and can be found on the district website,” he told me, seeming exasperated and perturbed by the direction of the conversation. Was he second-guessing offering me the job? I really liked the principal initially, but I was shocked by what I viewed as his lack of professionalism.

“Okay, great. I’ll have to take a look at that,” I told him, assuming he understood this meant I needed some time to review the district website, but he pressed me again, “So… do you accept?”

I laughed uncomfortably again. “Well, I’d like some time to review the district website. I realize salary and benefits are standard across the district and don’t vary much between districts, but I would still like to do my due diligence.” I was going to ask for two weeks to make my decision, which is standard in my industry, but the principal pushed me again, “Can you give me an answer by Monday?”

Monday was my last day of work at the corporate oil & gas company where I’d worked for eight years. I’d given my two weeks’ notice without so much as an interview, and now I had a job offer with a principal asking me to make a decision by the very Monday that would be my last day of work at a career that had held me for almost a decade.

I agreed to have an answer by Monday, and I was amazed at the way God worked out the timing. But then again, that’s the character of our God. He stirs up amazement, awe and wonder in those who know Him and follow His leading. He was just waiting on me to take a leap of faith.

Authentically Aurora

 

Provision Through Prayer (Part 2)

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“Are these high-tech engineering charter schools the only ones who will hire someone like me?” I wondered to myself. After attending three job fairs – and feeling like I’d had successful conversations at each – only H*****y Public Schools had called me back for interviews.

This charter school system focuses intensely on math and science curriculum as early as elementary school, so I understood why they would be interested in a career engineer transitioning into teaching. But after everything I’d read about H*****y and the sense of darkness I’d felt at the career fair, I was distraught at the thought that they may be my only chance to start teaching in the fall.

“Would I rather teach at a H*****y school or be unemployed?” This was the question I mulled over for the 24 hours following the career fair. And I was seriously considering unemployment. “I could continue substitute teaching. The pay isn’t great, and I wouldn’t have healthcare benefits, but I could find something to bridge the gap.”

My anxiety was doubled when I found out that the H*****y interviews were teaching a 20-minute lesson in front of an actual class, while the school principal looked on to evaluate your teaching style, ability and effectiveness. I’ve volunteered to teach math and art over the years, and I’ve been substitute teaching on and off since October, but to be under the microscope on how I teach for purposes of an interview had me nearly breaking out in hives.

Thankfully the H*****y career fair was on Saturday morning, so I took comfort that the very next day I would be surrounded by loving encouragement at my church where I would get to fight my anxiety and hopelessness with truth and prayer, buoyed by the hope and peace of fellowship with my church community.

Saturday night – hours after the career fair – Seth and I babysat for Crisitin again. We love watching her four kiddos; it brings us joy and is one of our favorite date night activities. While Seth talked with Cristin’s husband in the moments before the couple left for the evening, Cristin and I caught up about my job situation. She’s a great listener and patiently listened as I poured out my heart regarding H*****y and the other schools I’d hoped to interview with.

When I finished, Cristin gave me a hug, prayed for me and asked me gently, “Do you think you’re supposed to go to those H*****y interviews? Even though you don’t have any other interviews lined up, it’s okay to turn them down if you have this much unrest about them. Not every open door needs to be walked through. There’s wisdom in knocking on doors of opportunity, but there’s also wisdom in being discerning about when to say no. God is going to provide and put you where He wants you.” She encouraged me to pray and ask God for direction specifically about whether to put myself through going to the H*****y interviews or to just walk away.

At the end of our services, my church has a time set aside where anyone needing prayer can come to the front and talk with a prayer partner. Every week, dozens of people come forward to receive counsel, encouragement and words of truth spoken into the lies they’ve been believing. The week prior, the sermon topic covered finances and being a good steward of all we’ve been blessed with by God. During prayer time following this sermon on financial stewardship, many people went forward for prayer regarding their financial situations. Whether praying for peace to battle anxiety over a financial situation, requesting provision to have financial needs met or something else entirely, everyone was welcome.

Although our pastor didn’t tell anyone to give financially, that week I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to be the answer to someone’s prayer. I have received bountifully from the Lord, and I believe everything I’ve been given has been given with a purpose. I want to walk out the good purposes God prepared in advance for me to do, and I believed that morning there was someone God wanted me to bless with an outpouring of generosity, not to glorify myself but to glorify God and be a reminder to someone that God still provides; God still hears prayers, and He is swift to answer – sometimes through His people and sometimes supernaturally.

I wanted to be an encouragement to someone through very practical means, so that Sunday morning I went forward and was redirected to an associate pastor who, the next day, connected me with a widow who is struggling to make ends meet as she tries to raise two children by herself. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (James 1:27). 

Fast forward one week to the Sunday after my H*****y career fair; the day after Cristin reminded me that not every open door needs to be walked through. I don’t typically go up for partner prayer during worship time at church, but my spirit was so tumultuous within me that I dashed up the aisle almost before the sermon was over. I knew most of the prayer volunteers, and I wanted to meet with someone new – someone who could offer a fresh perspective without having their words colored by what they already knew of me.

Prayer PartnerI saw a young woman with long, brown hair standing up front and made a beeline for her. She looked about my age with kind eyes and a warm smile. When I approached her, she reached out her hands to take mine and squeezed them gently when I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Aurora.”

“I’m Dani.” She hugged me as I leaned forward to speak into her ear about my situation, projecting my voice over the sound of the worship music playing behind us. When I finished explaining, I pulled back and was surprised to see delight on her face. “I’m not sure if you noticed,” she said, rubbing her belly, “But I’m pregnant and taking some time away from work this fall. I’m a 9th grade math teacher at ******* Christian High School. You should take my job.”

I was stunned. Dani’s eyes danced joyfully as I gathered my thoughts. “I’m not certified for high school,” I told her, still marveling at her words.

“That’s okay,” she told me with a wave of her hand. “I’m not either. It’s private school, so your certification doesn’t matter that much.” I told her my background and current teaching certification, and she told me that I’d be perfect for the job.

“I’ve been trying to help my principal find the right replacement for me,” Dani explained. “I’m so glad God brought you to me. Here’s my contact information,” she scribbled her name, number and email address on a piece of paper she pulled from her purse. “Send me your resume, and I’ll make sure my principal sees it.”

“Wow. Thank you so much!” I floated back to my seat, Dani’s paper gripped in my hand. She’d given me a job opportunity, but more than that, God had used Dani to give me hope again. I wasn’t relegated to teaching at a public charter school with discriminatory practices. There were other opportunities out there. I was free to say no to H*****y.

Just as God had worked through me to answer the prayer of a widow the week before, God had worked through Dani to remind me of His provision. Whether this job at ******* Christian High School panned out or not, it was a reminder to me that God is able to do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. He’s a good, good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children.

Authentically Aurora

30 Things To Do Before 30

30-before-30.pngI don’t think I ever made a list of 30 Things To Do Before Turning 30. I surely must have made that list at some point, but I went through my old emails and documents, and I can’t find anything saved digitally. I guess I’m showing my age… “When I was a girl, we used to write lists out by hand!” Ha.

Rather than scoring myself on that never-to-be-found-handwritten list (of what I did and did not accomplish by age 30), I will instead list out 30 Things I Did Before 30 – all of which are things I feel like could have been on my list!

  1. Dance in a ballet
  2. Sing for my supper
  3. Get a hole-in-one
  4. Watch a total lunar eclipse
  5. Score a goal in a soccer game
  6. Save a life
  7. Sing with someone famous
  8. Get paid to sing
  9. Shoot a 9mm pistol
  10. Go white water rafting
  11. Visit all 50 states
  12. Graduate Magna Cum Laude
  13. Earn an EMT certification
  14. Go on an international mission trip
  15. Earn an engineering degree
  16. Travel internationally for work
  17. Perform with David Copperfield in Vegas
  18. See a Broadway show in NYC
  19. Read through the entire bible in a year
  20. Get paid to photograph a wedding
  21. Visit Neuchvanstein
  22. Run a 5k
  23. Perform an original composition live
  24. Go on a blind date
  25. Get copyrighted
  26. Release an original album on iTunes
  27. Get paid for artwork
  28. Give a speech to 1,000+ people
  29. Share the Gospel with a stranger
  30. Watch a meteor shower with someone I love

Man. It’s been a good 30 years.

Authentically Aurora

Caught in the Undertow (Part 2)

Undertow

“Trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.” – Bethel Music

Living Situation

On Monday morning last week, after being displaced from my apartment while management aired out the infiltrating marijuana smell, I got a frantic call from the leasing office asking if I was moved out of the model unit where they’d temporarily put me up for the night. I explained calmly that, no, I was at work but could move out that evening, provided that management had completed the air filtration of my unit.

The anxious leasing agent explained that they need the model unit immediately for another tenant, so he asked if he could move my personal items out of the model and back into my apartment for me. I was not comfortable with someone touching my personal items, as I had not yet packed up my private toiletries, and I also had some expensive electronics that I would rather handle myself. Additionally, I continued, I would have not needed the model unit at all had my apartment maintenance been carried out on time. But the leasing office employee pressed me to provide my approval of being moved out, so I reluctantly granted permission over the phone to have a female leasing agent move my personal items from the model unit and put into my apartment.

However, when I returned home at 5pm on Monday evening, I found that the air filtration system was still running in my apartment and – still further – none of my personal items had been returned to my unit. I walked over to the model to retrieve my personal effects and found it dead-bolted. The alternate tenant had moved in but allowed me to search the apartment. As it turned out, my belongings were in the leasing office. I gathered them from the office staff, walked back to my apartment, turned off the air filtration system myself and left my apartment for the evening to allow the air to clear from the residual effects of the air filtration system.

On Tuesday morning, the air filtration system that I had to disable myself was still sitting immobile in my apartment unit. I contacted the leasing office, and someone finally came to get it Tuesday evening. But between the poor service I received and the fact that I need to start saving money considering that I may be without income in the near future, I started building a case to be released from my apartment lease a few months early.

I scheduled an appointment with my allergist and had her write a note that my living situation is detrimental to my health and is exacerbating my allergies.

I searched the legal terms of my lease and found that I could be released from my contract if I provided written notice about unsatisfactory living conditions. If no improvements were made to the root issue after two written notices, I could submit a final notice without financial or credit ramifications.

And so I drafted a second email explaining that not only had the filtration of my apartment been handled poorly, but I was concerned that management had still not addressed the root issue of smoke coming into my apartment from nearby units.

And I scheduled tours of other apartments nearby, looking forward to not only getting out of my drug-filled apartment complex but also to saving about $400/month in rent.

Work

Last week as I stared blankly at my office computer screen, willing myself to get motivated, a bright orange square started blinking at the bottom of my screen. I had a new IM from Stephanie, one of my technical stakeholders for the contracts I manage.

When I read the IM, I was surprised to find that she wasn’t contacting me about some new IT service line that she needed supported commercially. She was asking me if I knew any open roles in Procurement, my department and area of specialty. Apparently she was looking at moving away from the technical IT space and into the more commercial realm of Contracting.

After answering her questions about different line managers and Procurement in general, I shared confidentially that my role may be open soon. HR had shared with me that they were trying to do a “talent placement” – essentially moving me into another team to try to get me out of my current situation.

Stephanie was really excited about the role and thought it would be a great fit, combining her technical IT background with the commercials of Procurement, which was the direction she hoped to move her career. Her only concern, she voiced at the end, was timing. “Do you know how soon HR is going to do your talent placement?”

“No, I don’t. Why do you ask?”

Apparently through our latest organizational restructuring, Stephanie’s role is being made redundant, and she’s on track to receive a severance package if she doesn’t get a job by March 31st. She really wants to stay at the company, not only for career purposes but also because she just adopted two kids and cannot afford to be laid off.

At the same time, I am already pursuing a career in teaching and am hoping to land a job starting in August for the fall semester. I don’t have a job lined up yet, but a severance package would go a long way in helping to bridge the financial gap between now and August. As if she was reading my mind, Stephanie asked, “We’re the same Job Grade, so our salaries are comparable. Would you be interested in a 1:1 switch? Or are you holding out for the talent placement?”

Talent placements tend to be a joke. The only roles that are open are ones that no one else wants. And I’d still have a black mark on my record from the poor performance scores. I’m mentally and emotionally checked out at work, and taking Stephanie’s severance package – while allowing this new mom to keep her job – sounded like the perfect plan to me.

Hope for the Future

Everything seemed like it was finally coming together. I planned to get severance from work (about 6 months’ pay), get released from my apartment lease, move into a new (and cheaper) apartment, use the summer to explore fun, odd jobs (like maybe helping to flip a house!), and land a teaching job for August.

I’ve learned over the years to hold my plans loosely in my  hand, so as I started to get more and more excited about the possibilities of what could be, I also reminded myself that even if things didn’t work out as planned, I wanted to remember that God is faithful. And He is working. I wanted to believe that even if this plan didn’t work out, it was a reminder to me that God can move and orchestrate events we never could have dreamed.

I didn’t know Stephanie was getting a severance package. And she didn’t know I wanted to leave the company. God dropped the perfect scenario right into our laps, and this was an encouragement to me; a reminder that He can do infinitely beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Sometimes we just have to wait and trust His timing.

Authentically Aurora

And The First Wave Crashed (Part 1)

StormySeas

Everything in my life is in transition.

Not only do I feel unsteady during this time of change, but I also feel like I don’t have much control over anything, which both stresses me out and – at the opposite extreme – makes me feel bored with the lack of responsibility or ownership over anything in my life. It’s a confusing combination. I know God is in control, and I try to take comfort in that, but it’s a daily struggle not to feel simultaneously anxious, resigned and frustrated; complacent, frantic and defeated.

Relationship

Something about weddings makes the men in my life suddenly take the time to reflect; think about the future; become emotional and feel inspired. Maybe it’s all the talk of love and lifelong companionship. Maybe it’s the free flowing champagne. Or maybe it’s just seeing me with my hair curled for once. But every time I’ve gone to a wedding with a boyfriend, by the end of the evening, he has transformed into a starry-eyed romantic spouting off dreams about our future together.

Seth and I attended a wedding together last weekend. I should have come to expect it, but I was taken aback when – in the middle of the reception, with lights flashing and music blaring and people pushing in on us from every side – Seth decided it was a good time to tell me that he’s been thinking about signing us up for Fusion – a pre-engagement weekend for couples who are dating seriously and considering marriage. “How do you feel about that?” He asked me, his big brown eyes innocent and hopeful.

My initial response was, in typical female fashion, to feel about six things at once. I was pleased he was thinking about our future; annoyed that he brought up the intimate topic in a loud, crowded room; excited to take another step toward marriage with him; concerned that he was simply responding out of the emotions of the moment at the wedding; happy that he was taking the topic of marriage seriously; and hurt when I found out the dates he was considering: June 23-25.

Fusion has weekend sessions going on in April as well as June. They happen about once a quarter. So why did Seth not want to go to the April session? Still further, I was privately hoping for a fall wedding, but if Seth wants to go to a pre-engagement camp in late June, that means he’s probably on a completely different time table than I am for wanting to progress our relationship. I had (admittedly, foolishly) imagined that he might propose for my birthday next month. Or our one-year anniversary in April. So the revelation that he still expects us to just be dating in June was surprising and hurtful, though he of course meant quite the opposite. His declaration of wanting to attend a pre-engagement session with me was intended to be sweet and kind and wonderful, and I wanted to experience it as such, so I wrestled internally against my feelings of disappointment.

I took a bunch of deep breaths, put a smile on my face, and told Seth I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go to Fusion with him. Unfortunately, Seth can read me really well, and he tends to dig until he gets out everything I’m thinking and feeling. So in the midst of his friend’s wedding reception, we had an intense conversation about our desires and expectations for our relationship. Seth had expected me to be wholeheartedly thrilled and was crushed at my complex emotional response to his sweet suggestion for our future. And I grappled with my own spiraling emotions, feeling guilty for not responding in the way he would have wanted and – yes, rightly – expected me to respond to his pure-hearted declaration.

What should have been a happy occasion was marred by our conversation, and a suggestion by Seth that should have brought me nothing but joy ultimately made me feel like he was instead declaring: “I’m still not sure if I love you. I’m still evaluating you.” He has yet to say those three special words.

Work

In the meantime, I got my lowest-ever performance review score at work. I’m applying internally to different jobs, but no one will take me because of my low performance score. My boss wants me off her team, and I want to be off her team, but her scathing performance reviews of me are preventing us from getting what we both want: for me to move on to a different position far, far away from her.

HR has gotten involved, and they have acknowledged that the issue is obviously with my current placement and incompatibility with my boss and her style. HR cannot justify firing me because I have historically been such a high performer. I am unwilling to quit without a severance package (especially since I still don’t have anything lined up externally). And the company is struggling to find a hiring manager who will take me because teams are already so sparse in light of the recent trend in oil prices. So we are at a bit of a stalemate, and I’m not sure of my next move.

Living Situation

For the past few weeks, my apartment has been plagued by the alternating smells of cigarette smoke and marijuana. I live in a state where marijuana is still illegal, so not only is there illegal drug use going on in my complex, but the absolutely disgusting smell of marijuana coupled with cigarette smoke has left my living quarters perpetually smelling like a skunk that ate a gigantic burrito for lunch and then spent the night at a sleazy nightclub. It’s awful.

I told my leasing office about the issue mere days after the first few offenses, but they followed up with no real action. The manager said she could have a courtesy officer do “random checks” on apartments near mine, but it would take quite a while since the checks have to appear random. In the meantime, she offered to have a third party come to air out my apartment with special air filtration equipment.

The air filtration was supposed to take place last weekend while I was at the aforementioned wedding. I had to be out of my apartment unit for 24 hours, so we scheduled the maintenance from Saturday at 1pm until Sunday at 1pm. Between the wedding Saturday night and church Sunday morning, I figured this would be a nonissue. But when I went into my apartment at 7pm on Sunday evening, the air filtration system was still running.

Compounding Issues

I complained to the leasing office, and they put me up in one of the model apartments for the night. Right around the time I got settled, Seth came over to hang out for the evening, and I directed him to the model unit number, fuming and venting the second he walked in the door.

“I specifically told management that the worst of the smell was in my closet and that all of my clothes now smell like marijuana and cigarette smoke. I even put a sign on the closet door with a big red arrow saying ‘This is the source of the smell.’ But I went home and found the closet door shut and the filtration system still running! Not only did they not finish on time, but the idiot maintenance worker closed the closet door so that all this time, my clothes haven’t been getting aired out – and they were my primary concern!”

Seth was quiet through all of my ranting, but the moment I paused for breath, he leaned over, brusquely kissed my cheek, and muttered, “Have a good night” before turning and walking out of the model apartment.

I was stunned. I sat rigidly on the unit’s fuzzy gray couch with obnoxiously bright, fuchsia pillows for a full ten minutes before I picked up my phone to call Seth. He didn’t want to come back, but I asked him to. We needed to talk out what just happened.

Seth showed back up shortly thereafter, and our stances were essentially as follows:

  • Seth couldn’t believe the degree of my rage and felt like I was overreacting. He said there was no need to ever call anyone an idiot, and said, “This isn’t the Aurora I know.”
  • I expressed that I don’t feel like I can ever completely let my guard down and just vent with Seth. When I have a bad day at work, I call Ashley or my mom because I have learned that Seth can’t handle me when I’m really, really upset and frustrated; when I just need to vent and have someone listen.
  • Seth said he would have been happy to listen if I had adjusted my tone and language, instead opting to factually share my disappointment and frustration with the situation.
  • I explained that: WOMEN. Women don’t operate that way. I am less emotional and more even-keel than most women, so I need him to be able to stand me on the rare occasion that I fly off the handle.
  • Seth said that he takes very seriously his role of holding me accountable. He believes that, were he to be my husband, part of his role is to help me become more like the godly woman I’ve been created to be. He has higher standards for me than I have for myself, which has never happened in the history of EVER.
  • I told Seth that, if we were married, and if he was my husband, I would know that he loves me. I could rest secure in the fact of his commitment, and from that foundation of love and commitment, I would be able to better accept his criticism of having a bad attitude or calling someone an idiot. But because we are still dating and I don’t know that he loves me or is committed to me, all I hear is: “I’m still evaluating you, and I am finding you wanting. This is yet another red flag that is giving me pause about committing to you.” I told Seth that I needed him to stop making me feel so judged and instead start extending some grace.
  • Seth countered that he was extending grace. “I didn’t want to come back here. But I did. I decided to practice for marriage and extend grace by coming back to talk this out with you even though you were being unpleasant.”

I’m not sure how we left it. By the end, I was exhausted – both physically and emotionally. But when I called and told my mom about the exchange later, she sang Seth’s praises. “No one has ever been able to talk to you like that. And he obviously cares for you if he was willing to drive back. Dating Seth is like dating Jesus.”

High praise. And potentially true. The only difference – and it’s key – is that I know Jesus loves me.

Authentically Aurora