Termination for Convenience (Part 2)

Cookies.jpgCelebrating my 30th birthday with my family last Sunday night – and also celebrating my soon-to-be-announced resignation from my current employer – my dad told a story of one of his old colleagues who, twenty years ago when this colleague was laid off, brought in cookies that his wife had baked and shared them with the office as a token of goodwill. His graciousness was so striking that my dad still remembers his actions two decades later. And Dad suggested that I do the same. “It makes quite a statement.”

For my family birthday celebration, my mom had made sugar cookies with my face and “Nerdy Thirty” screen printed on them in edible icing. There were a couple dozen cookies left over at the end of the party, so she suggested I take them into work. So that very next day – the day I resigned – I took in cookies of my face for everyone to eat.

On the elevator ride up to the 21st floor of the skyscraper where I work, six other people crowded in and kept eyeing the container of cookies in my arms. Finally, one older man broke the silence, leaning in to peer at the cookies. “Where’s the photo of my face?” He grinned at me.

He was trying to be funny, but it came off as more awkward than anything else, so I just fake laughed and tried not to look too uncomfortable. Someone else jumped in and asked, “Is that a photo of the girl who turned 30?”

It was a good likeness of me, so I was surprised at the question, but I nodded in confirmation. “Yep. It’s me. Yesterday was my 30th birthday.”

Instead of a chorus of “Happy Birthday!” from all the strangers in the elevator (emphasis on “strange”), I was surrounded by shifting eyes and uncomfortable silence. Confused at the response, I realized they must have thought I made cookies for myself and brought them into the office in order to celebrate myself. It was a Monday morning, so someone more perceptive would probably have realized they were left over from a weekend party, and I didn’t feel like making the effort to correct their thinking, so we all finished the elevator ride up in awkward silence before – ding! – the elevator stopped on 21, and I gratefully got out.

Hours later, I stopped by the kitchen area and found one of my colleagues picking up one of my “Nerdy Thirty” cookies. Striking up conversation, I asked, “So what do you think? Is it a good likeness?” I smiled at him, tilting my head for effect.

Instead of thanking me for the cookie, or wishing me a happy birthday, or even commenting on how great the cookies looked, he glanced at the now half-eaten photo of my face and mumbled, “Is it supposed to be you?” He bit again into the cookie, shrugging and turning away to refill his water bottle. “I guess kinda,” he shrugged again. There was no excitement, no congratulations – either on my birthday or my resignation – no comment of “what cool personalized cookies!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was astonished at how thoughtless, awkward and utterly self-focused everyone around me seems to be. When my boss was only focused about how my resignation inconvenienced her; when both strangers and colleagues were just interested in eating a cookie and not thanking or congratulating me; when I saw the types of responses I received from my farewell note – all of these stand as reminders of how completely selfish people are, unconcerned with the affairs of others except as it impacts them.

I sent out a heartfelt note to all of my friends, colleagues and stakeholders, recalling fond memories, focusing only on the positives of the past eight years and thanking them for their support, encouragement and collaboration. This is one of the actual responses I got back:

Backfill

Total lack of social skills and a punctuation error? You’d think I work with a bunch of engineers or something.

Authentically Aurora

Our First Christmas

christmas-gift-to-boyfriend

Several weeks before Christmas, Seth asked me what kind of gifts my family gives for the holidays. Was our gift-giving practical? Sentimental? Minimalistic? Extravagant? “You’re such a generous person, I’m worried that you’re going to out-Christmas me,” he admitted.

First Christmases together are tough. You don’t want to do too little for the other person, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either. It’s hard to find a balance and make sure your gifts to one another are somewhat equivalent. So I told Seth that I had already planned on three gifts for him – one store bought and two homemade. He gave a sigh of relief (three must have seemed reasonable), and I fully expected to receive about three gifts myself.

But I got fifteen.

FIFTEEN Christmas presents (!) from my boyfriend of eight months. Fortunately, they were spread out over November and December and even January, so I only actually received about half of them on Christmas, but I was still blown away by Seth’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

  1. Vacuum 

On Thanksgiving, Seth asked me if I ever participate in Black Friday. I never have, and hopefully I never will. But Seth loves a good deal, so he planned to venture out to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Black Friday, and he asked me if there was anything I wanted. I laughed, “I doubt there’s anything I want from Home Depot on Black Friday. But thanks for asking. The only thing I can imagine I’d try to get a deal on for Black Friday would maybe be a vacuum – I really need a new one – but I don’t think they sell those at Home Depot.”

The next morning, Seth showed up at my apartment with a $400 vacuum that he got half off at Target. And he wouldn’t let me pay him back. “Merry Christmas early,” he told me with a kiss on my cheek.

Some women might be offended if their boyfriend bought them a vacuum. But as a very practical almost-30-something, I thought his gift was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve gotten in years.

2 – 4. Apron, Laundry hamper, Chocolate

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Seth and I went shopping together at Marshall’s to pick up some cute (and discounted) gifts for family. While we were walking around the store, I saw an upscale laundry hamper for a great price and mentioned offhand that I should probably get a new one since the one I have now is from high school and has a hole in the bottom.

Seth loves when I wear an apron when I cook, so when we spotted a rack of high-quality aprons, I tried on a few and modeled them for Seth, twirling around playfully in the aisle. My favorite was white and mustard yellow with delicate ruffles along the bottom. And at the check-out line, I saw some gourmet chocolate-covered Oreos that looked delicious, but I exercised self-control and left them on the shelf.

Two days before Christmas, Seth showed up at my door with the unwrapped laundry hamper and a box containing both the apron and the gourmet Oreos. I felt so loved and cherished that he heard my comments and remembered them.

5 – 6. Two Necklaces

The morning of Christmas Eve, Seth and I did our first round of formal gift exchanges, and one of my favorite gifts was a sterling silver arrowhead necklace that he bought from a wonderful craftsman jewelry shop. It’s a reminder of one of the first times I visited his family’s ranch and found an arrowhead in the creek bed. It’s still one of the best arrowheads that’s ever been found at the ranch.

Seth bought me another necklace as well, but evidently it’s still in Turkey waiting to be shipped. He knows I love the Star of Bethlehem and all the science behind it, so he bought me a gorgeous Star of Bethlehem necklace that I can wear year round to remember how awesome our God is and how He has written a love story of poignant beauty in the stars.

7 – 9. Candle, Lotion, Shirt

Similar to the three gifts from Marshall’s, Seth demonstrated his active listening skills when he presented me with a Pomegranate Spruce candle I smelled and liked at a Cracker Barrel while waiting to be seated; some floral hand lotion we both liked at Bath & Body Works; and a really soft graphic tee we both loved at a small boutique near the family ranch.

10 – 12. Mirror, Theology Book, Carving Set

Seth had a full-length mirror he was planning to get rid of, but I didn’t have one in my bedroom, so he offered to drop it off at my place and mount it in my room for me. It has a white frame that goes well with my bedroom decor.

Seth also gave me an 800 page book on Systematic Theology, partially because he knows I love to geek out over that stuff, and partially because he wants us to read through it together and develop a joint faith statement. That may sound awful to some people, but it sounds pretty fun (and romantic!) to me.

Seth spends a lot of time in his woodworking shop, and I’d mentioned wanting to sit in there by him and whittle on some blocks, so Seth bought me a nice wood carving set. We’re talking about starting a joint project together.

13 – 14. Handmade Scrolled Centerpiece Bowl & Mounted Antlers 

In all of that time in his woodworking shop, Seth evidently had been spending a lot of hours working on Christmas gifts for me because, on Christmas Day, Seth presented me with a gorgeous wooden bowl that he carved himself with detailed scroll work. I was stunned. I figured he was talented, but I didn’t know he was this talented!

Seth is also still working on mounting the antlers from the buck I shot over Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas to me!

15. Handwritten Love Letter

And lastly – maybe my favorite gift of all – was a three-paged love letter in which Seth recounted some of our best memories and explained some of his favorite things about me. How I managed not to try at the initial reading is beyond me, because I have read it multiple times since Christmas and teared up at his sweet words.

Seth and I had a great Christmas together. He outdid himself, and I was stunned at his thoughtfulness. Some gifts were practical; others were romantic and sentimental. Overall, I spent my Christmas feeling very loved and cherished. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

Meeting the Families

OnlyAGame.gif

“Athletic” is not a word I would use to describe myself. Ridiculously attractive and outrageously brilliant? Naturally. But athletic? Not so much. 

When Seth and I played Ultimate Frisbee with some friends a couple of months ago, my first two throws hooked far right and into the parking lot rather than into his wide-open hands. I quickly relegated myself to guarding the purses on a nearby picnic table.

And when I met Seth’s family for the first time on the Fourth of July, I was horrified to discover that their family pool party included tossing around a volleyball. The first time the ball came my way, I jabbed out an arm, inwardly cheering when I felt my hand make contact. Maybe there’s some athletic ability in me, after all!

Unfortunately, my cheering was short-lived when I realized that the spiked volleyball had flown directly into the face of an 18-month-old girl playing in the shallow end of the pool with her mother. The silence around the pool party was instantaneous, broken only by the sound of the little girl’s crying and Seth’s jovial quip, “It’s only a game, Focker!”

A few weeks later when Seth and I joined my older brother and his wife for dinner, Seth knocked a full glass of red wine off the table, shattering glass in every direction and spilling wine across the floor.

A couple of weeks ago when I accompanied Seth, his sister and his two nephews to a water park, Seth insisted that he and I go on the scariest water slide possible: a body slide so steep that you stand upright at the top, and the floor drops out from under you. 

water-slide

I am not an adrenaline junkie, and I also happen to be afraid of heights, so going on this body slide sounded about as fun as playing leapfrog with unicorns, but Seth really wanted to go, so we did. I managed to play it cool until the very last instant. When the floor opened up from under me, I instinctively shot out my arms and legs like a starfish, trying to hold myself up rather than plummeting to the depths below. I was unsuccessful in holding myself up, but I was successful in earning myself some serious ribbing from Seth once I made it to the bottom.

Our cumulative time with one other’s families has been a comedy of errors, but fortunately, everyone’s had a great sense of humor about it all. When it comes to dating, my mom has always reminded me, “Aurora, you don’t just marry the person. You marry the family.” I am so thankful for how welcoming and fun-loving Seth’s family has been – and similarly, how well my family has received Seth.

After an evening of smoking cigars with Seth, my older brother gave his approval, and after a night of talking pyrotechnics together, my younger brother declared that Seth is his favorite of any guy I’ve ever brought home. Seth concurred that he could really see himself spending quality time with my brothers.

I recently asked Seth what his sister thought of me after our day together at the water park. Apparently she said, “I like Aurora. And I like her for you – I think she’s good for you. But I’m not letting myself get attached until you put a ring on it.”

Smart woman! I’d be wise to do the same. 😉

Authentically Aurora

Mouths of Babes

Cherry LipsPeople love to be outraged. The public loves a scandal, and individuals are always looking for opportunities to be offended. As a general populace, we live for rallying behind causes, speaking our disgust of the latest societal indignation at every turn and posting impassioned commentary on social media whenever possible.

But how many people turn their words into action? Are we an impassioned people for nothing more than the sake of our own amusement? Is it simply entertaining to discuss the latest humanitarian crisis or political affront? How many of us are legitimately invested in putting action to our outrage?

In an effort to be a woman of action – a woman who seeks to genuinely make an impact in the areas where my heart is stirred – I have recently gotten involved with a local organization that aids refugees in our city with learning English, navigating the citizenship process, and ultimately finding sustainable jobs by which they can support their families.

Over the past couple of months, I have developed a welcome packet for refugees in our city, outlining a number of 1-12 week training programs that equip graduates with various nationally recognized certificates that will allow them to qualify for different jobs in our city. Some careers included are more technical and some are more service-oriented, but regardless of the job category, I have ensured that I outlined not only the time requirement but also the cost of the program as well as the anticipated annual income of each of the career paths listed.

The director of the organization, a 30-something named Justin, reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and invited me over for dinner with his wife and two children. “You’ve done so much work for our organization,” he told me, “But I’ve never even met you in person! Please come over for dinner as our way of thanking you. Our family would love to get to know you.”

So I went. Justin’s wife made a delicious sweet potato and black bean chili (seriously, one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted), and after a fun dinner of getting to know each other, we moved into the living room where Justin and his wife started telling me some of the amazing success stories from their organization’s efforts this year. While his parents talked, four-year-old Josiah (the elder of Justin’s two sons) climbed up into my lap on the couch. Surprised but pleased, I stroked his soft, baby-fine hair while I listened to his parents.

In the middle of one of his dad’s stories, Josiah suddenly crawled out of my lap, turned around to face me, and interrupted his dad mid-sentence.

“Do you got a lie?” The four-year-old was looking directly at me, brow furrowed.

“Excuse me, what?” I wasn’t quite sure what he was asking or how to respond to his sudden question.

“Do you GOT a LIE?” Josiah asked with emphasis, putting his tiny hands on either side of my face to look deeply into my eyes.

Slightly concerned, I glanced at his dad, and Justin translated for me. “He’s asking you if you’re believing a lie.”

“Oh. No. I don’t think I’m believing any lies, Josiah.” I directed my answer to the young boy. “What lie to you think I’m believing?”

At this point, Josiah had lost interest, turning away from me to play with a blue light saber he found on the living room floor. Between swishing noises he made with his mouth, Josiah responded to my question in his high-pitched voice, “That God won’t provide.”

My eyes widened in shock. What kind of four-year-old makes that kind of comment?!

Justin, less shocked than I was at his son’s declaration, prodded him further. “What does Aurora not think God will provide for her?”

Josiah continued running around the living room, waving his light saber around and making accompanying sword-fighting noises with his pursed lips. He didn’t even look up when his tiny voice spoke the words of truth: “A husband.”

I nearly fell off the couch. My eyes bugged out, staring at Josiah and then his dad. Justin got up from his chair, went to a bookshelf and picked up a small black notebook and a pen. He scribbled away in his notebook, detailing yet another story to tell Josiah when his son got older.

As Justin bent over this journal of sorts, he asked his son another question. “And why is that a lie, Josiah?”

Josiah looked up at me this time when he answered. “Because He will.”

Goosebumps raced up and down my arms. Trying to take it all in, I glanced at Josiah’s mom; then back at Justin when he directed his next question to me. “Do you receive that, Aurora? Do you believe God will provide you with a husband?”

“I do,” I told him, and the words echoed in my mind like a wedding vow; a foreshadowing of things to come; of something spoken and promised and sealed.

In that moment, the lights went out. I looked around, wondering what in the world was happening now, but by the moonlight I spotted Josiah in the kitchen by the light switch. His mom asked him, “Josiah, why are you turning out the lights?”

“Because it’s time to anoint her.”

I gave up on being shocked. This child was other-wordly.

Justin just chucked. Apparently this was normal behavior for his son. “Okay, get the oil.” And then, to me, “Are you okay with this?” I just nodded.

So Josiah reappeared in the living room with a small glass bowl of oil while his mom lit some candles around the room. Josiah handed me his blue light saber, now lit up in the blackness, and he told me it could be my own personal candle while he prayed for me.

Josiah silently dipped his thumb in the oil, spread the oil in a horizontal line across my forehead, and – at his dad’s prompting – said a quick prayer that God would heal my heart and that I would trust God’s provision for a husband. And just like that, the light saber was snatched out of my hand, and the swooshing noises started again as Josiah decided it was time to play with his little brother, the two of them dancing around the carpet in a mock battle.

I was astonished by how quickly Josiah switched from solemn speaker of truth to rambunctious little boy. He is a special child, and although I am still processing all that took place that unexpected evening, I felt touched to have gotten a glimpse of the Holy Spirit’s working in that young boy. His parents are doing what they can to step into the hurt and chaos of the refugee crisis, and Josiah himself is, in his own way, also doing what he can – in ways he may not even understand yet – to bring hope and healing.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” -Psalm 8

Authentically Aurora

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili Recipe

Somebunny Uneggspected

Nature Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authentically Aurora

A Birthday Funeral

Bright Colors at Funeral

After my late night of dancing, I woke up early on the morning of my birthday to get dressed for my grandfather’s funeral. I chose my outfit carefully: bright colors – a celebration of his life – in formal attire to show my respect. I added a headband of delicate flowers in my hair. It would be a bittersweet day; a mingling of joy and sadness.

I left my apartment just as the sun started to peek above the horizon, piercing the darkness with warm, golden rays of sunlight. In the peacefulness of the early morning, I stopped by the still-quiet farmers’ market where I usually volunteer and picked up two almond croissants – one for my mom; one for me.

When I arrived at the funeral home, my nieces Lily and Wren jostled for positions in my lap. They both wanted to sit by me during the service, so I got to say goodbye to my grandpa flanked by the darling innocence of two of my favorite little girls in the entire world. I hadn’t realized how much joy it would bring me to spend my birthday with all of my extended family – especially with Lily and Wren. It was a surprisingly sweet birthday, snuggling with my nieces and later going for a walk with my cousin JJ.

The end of the day found me wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket in my pajamas, hair still wet from a hot shower. I’d just picked up a book to read when I was surprised by the sound of my phone ringing. I was even more surprised when I saw Seth‘s handsome face lighting up the screen of my cell phone, underscored by “Incoming call from Seth.”

“Hey, Seth,” I answered, tummy flip-flopping at the sound of his low voice.

“Hey! Happy Birthday!” I could hear his smile over the phone. “How was your day?”

We talked for a few minutes before Seth told me, “Hey, so I just left my sister’s house and am driving home now. I wondered if you wanted to get some ice cream for your birthday. I know it’s late – most ice cream shops are probably closed now – but I could stop by a grocery store and get us a couple of pints that we could eat together at your place if you like.”

I let myself feel a momentary thrill of happiness and excitement before I inwardly sighed and resolved to keep my commitment not to date through the end of Q1. There was still slightly more than a week left in March, and I wanted to finish strong. I’d hoped not to have the conversation with Seth over the phone. In truth, I hadn’t expected to have it at all; he’d surprised me with how soon he’d asked for one-on-one time. He struck me as a slower mover than that, but I was pleased by his interest.

“Wow, that sounds amazing,” I began, letting the sound of my happiness filter across the phone. “And I have lot of things to say in response to your offer,” I continued with a chuckle.

“To begin with, I’m so glad you called, and I love the idea of getting ice cream together for my birthday. That said, I’m currently in pajamas and fresh out of the shower with wet hair, so I’d need some time to get dressed before you came over. But more than that…” I paused, wondering how to proceed. “I hadn’t wanted to have this conversation over the phone, but since you’re asking, you should know that I have committed to fasting from dating through the end of March. I’d love to have you come over, but I don’t want to cop out right at the end here.”

Seth’s response was immediate and encouraging. “Well first of all, I think that’s great. I respect that you’re taking a break from dating. But secondly, I hadn’t viewed this as a date. When I ask you on a date, you’ll know it. I’m not that kind of guy who’s not man enough to actually ask a girl on a date. I’ve been using the words ‘hang out’ for a reason. At this point, I just want to get to know you, and if I eventually ask you on a date, you’ll know it.”

Oh. I was both impressed by his candor and a bit taken aback by the fact that I’d been mistaken as to his intentions. I loved that he was being intentional and clear in his communications, but a part of me also wished his offer of ice cream constituted a romantic overture.

I focused back on the phone conversation, where Seth was telling me that he’d wanted to get me a gift. “I’d thought about getting you a book from that series you mentioned you like, but I wasn’t sure which ones you’d already read. So then I was thinking about getting you concert tickets. Will you be in town April 17th?” A mutual favorite artist of ours was playing at a local venue, but I told him with sincere regret that I’d be out of the country on a business trip. But that’s something. He’s talking about getting us concert tickets together for a month in the future!

“Well, how about this then,” Seth proposed. “I won’t bring you ice cream tonight, but we’re both volunteering with the kids’ ministry tomorrow morning. How about I bring you birthday breakfast instead?” With a smile, I answered Seth’s questions about my favorite breakfast food, and the next morning, Seth showed up to church with a bag of kolaches still warm from the oven.

We settled together on the floor of the kids’ ministry, backs leaned against a wall and legs stretched out in front of us, grinning at each other like a couple of kids ourselves. Seth prayed for us before we dove into the breakfast bags, Seth handing me a sausage-and-cheese kolache before taking a spicy jalapeno one for himself.

“We’ve got to work on your tolerance for spicy food,” Seth teased me with a gentle nudge. My eyes sparkled as I looked back at him, wondering how in the world I’d gotten so lucky as to share a post-birthday breakfast with such a wonderful man.

Authentically Aurora