Loving Humbling

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I’ve been working at the same company for the past 7.5625 years. To a Baby Boomer, that may only seem like a fleeting moment, but to most Millennials, that seems like a lifetime to spend at one company. I always thought I’d be like a Baby Boomer in that I planned to stay at the same company for 50 years and make my job a true career; to invest in one company and show fidelity and faithfulness and I worked my way up and invested my blood, sweat and tears to make my company a better employer and more profitable company.

But the company where I work has never wanted my blood, sweat and tears in the traditional sense. Only two of the eleven bosses I’ve had over 7.5625 years has wanted to truly see me invest in the company for both my betterment and the betterment of the company as a whole. For the most part, the people I work with – management in particular – want to see us bleed, but only because they draw blood. They want to see us sweat, but only out of fear and intimidation. And they want to see tears because that means their carefully crafted demotivational comments have hit their mark.

Because I work for one of the most widely recognized major oil companies in the world, they are able to hire the best and the brightest. This corporation hires class presidents, valedictorians, visionary students who have founded their own organizations, and PhD students making breakthroughs in the future of biofuels. But rather than channeling that raw intellect and stunning creativity, all of these initially highly motivated self-starters are shoved into The Machine where they are expected to be simply one cog in one wheel, with no insight into or influence over even the most minuscule of process improvements. Don’t think independently. Don’t disrupt The System.

Any genius is called ignorance if it doesn’t fit the mold of the Kool-aid pushing management. Any creativity is stifled when the innovative try to use the very skills for which they were hired. The majority of the most fun, hard-working, creative and brilliant of my colleagues have long since left the company, opting instead to tap into their entrepreneurial spirits or become consultants to companies who will pay them triple to actually listen to the input that was so scorned at my current place of employment.

I have been trying to leave this company for nearly 7 of the past 7.5625 years. I’ve applied to smaller OG companies. I’ve interviewed with Apple in Cupertino. I’ve gone to seminary to become a biblical counselor and taken graphic design courses with plans to start my own design studio. I’ve written music and even released an album on iTunes. I’ve interviewed with consulting firms and, most recently, earned my teaching certification. I am a self-starter who wants to passionately pour myself into my work if only I can find a career and employer who will respect me enough to give me room to deliver.

I’ve been close to leaving this corporation countless times, but nothing has ever panned out. I’ve had offers on the table that were unexpectedly revoked as the market tanked. I’ve had companies that wanted to hire me but were on a hiring freeze. I’ve been faced with hardened hearts, lack of favor and lots and lots of closed doors over the past 7 years. I’ve fought bitterness, anger, hopelessness, despair and doubt about whether God is really good and loving. And what I have come to conclude is that there is a way that seems right to a person, but it is the Lord’s good, gracious, loving will that prevails.

When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I was going to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point and become an engineer. Ten years later, I was accepted to USMA but fell into deep depression when my high school sweetheart broke off our relationship just months before high school graduation. Physically weak and emotionally despondent, I gave up my offer of admission to someone on the wait list who would actually be able to make it through boot camp. I ended up at a state school and spent most of my freshman year bitter about how I’d let my wayward emotions rob me of a golden opportunity and lifelong dream. But God had a plan.

Three years ago (almost to the day), I said yes to marrying the man I loved. Mere months later, he had an emotional breakdown and called off the already-planned wedding. I faced not only his rejection but also the public humiliation of informing friends, family and coworkers that I was an undesirable woman no longer loved by the man who’d promised to love and protect me. But God had a plan.

Nearly eight years ago when I graduated from college and started work at my current employer, I was on a fast track for senior management. All of my performance reviews and feedback sessions – for a season – said that I had the makings of a Senior Executive at one of the largest corporations in the world. But a VP who’d championed me retired, and the capricious whimsy of our talent forum found another shining star to adore. I was turned over to a manager who despises and disrespects me constantly. But God has a plan.

If I’d gone to West Point, I would surely be a harder, more cynical woman than I am today. Simply to get through that military academy as a woman would have robbed me of much of my God-given softness and femininity. Going to a state school not only humbled me but also gave me experiences that taught me about how women are gifted to show the world about God’s kindness, gentleness and unconditional love in a way that is uniquely feminine.

If I’d married my ex-fiance, I would have been joined to a man who could not and would not lead me spiritually. I would have been lonely in my marriage, yoked to a man whose affection was flighty and temperamental. Instead, I have been given the blessing of knowing what it is to love a man like Seth, whose pure heart and consistent, dependable servant leadership inspire me to become more the woman I’ve been created to be.

And if I’d stayed on the executive fast-track at this company, it would have been harder to leave. I don’t see myself as the kind of woman who would have become a workaholic, sacrificing friendships and family time for career; choosing advancement over integrity. But all of the women I know in leadership at our company behave like men. They have lost their softness; their gentleness; their kindness. They are tough and gritty and entirely masculine in their communications and interactions. That is not the kind of woman I want to be, nor is it who I’ve been created to be.

Each circumstance has been brought with it a painful sense of rejection. Each circumstance has taught humility through humiliation. But each circumstance has been a profound blessing orchestrated by the loving hand of God, who is more concerned with my eternal holiness than my temporal happiness. God is a loving father who wants to give good gifts to his children. Sometimes those gifts look like punishment in the moment, but in time, we are able to look back and realize that our omniscient, omnipotent, unconditionally loving Father knew what he was doing all along.

Authentically Aurora

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Stop Claiming Promises God Never Made

Jer.29.11.jpgChristians. Church people. Jesus followers. Please stop claiming promises that God never made to you!

Many of us have gotten in the very bad habit of telling ourselves that because God CAN do something, He WILL do that thing if we pray and ask for it. This is a lie. Yes, God is omniscient and omnipotent, but just because He has the power to do something does not mean that He will.

Just because God can heal your illness does not mean that he will do so. God may be brought more glory through your sickness than your healing, and you may become a more sanctified version of yourself by walking through prolonged illness. Have we forgotten that God cares more about the state of our eternal souls than our temporal, physical bodies?

Just because He can bring your future husband into your life this very week does not mean that He will. Your future husband may not be ready for marriage, and you may not be, either. It’s possible that it is for your greater good (and God’s greater glory) for you to continue waiting. Have we forgotten that God’s ways are higher than ours? He sees the bigger picture and has our best in mind.

Monday night was my first evening of Women’s Discipleship at my church. I love my church – the pastor, the worship band, the kids’ ministry… we have great people and sweet, Spirit-filled time together on Sundays. But I tend not to be a fan of women’s ministry events because they tend to be such Estrogen-Fests. And an Estrogen-Fest it was.

Once we made it through the touchy-feely, emotion-packed first lesson, the twenty or so women in our group partnered off for a time of prayer. I ended up coupled with Kristie, the leader of not only our small group but Women’s Discipleship as a whole at our church. Unsure what to expect from her, I was stunned when she shared her prayer request:

“Will you pray for an increase in the measure of my faith? That I would not just believe that God can do anything but that He will? I want to pray and believe He will do what I have asked of Him. When I ask Him to provide a job for my mom, I want to believe that He will and not just that He can.”

Although I wanted to be kind and encouraging to Kristie, I disagreed with the premise of her prayer request at a theological level. And she is the head of our women’s ministry. She is the one who is teaching over sixty women at our church for the next eight months. And I am concerned that she is going to spread her unfounded doctrine and poor theology.

Disturbed, I simply prayed for an increase in the amount of Kristie’s faith. After all, that part was biblical. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and it is certainly acceptable to pray for God to increase our faith (Mark 9:24). But I have noticed that in our church – and Kristie’s request aligned with this – several individuals in leadership skew toward a level of “charismatic” that is not biblically sound. And I was about to be faced with another example.

As soon as Kristie and I had finished praying, one of the women in our group announced that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s a pretty young thing – late 30s I would guess – and asked for prayers of healing. I was getting ready to pray that, if God willed it, He would heal her completely, but before I could start, Evangeline – the head of our prayer ministry at our church – jumped up and declared in a loud, authoritative voice, “Girl, we are not just going to ask God to heal you. We are CLAIMING healing over you. We believe not just that God can heal you, but that He WILL. We declare it! We speak healing over you!”

Eyes wide, I silently prayed for God’s will to be done. Whether He wanted to heal her or not, I prayed for peace and supernatural joy regardless of her circumstances. And then I went home and prayed for our church. Because our leadership has got it wrong.

These women in Discipleship are supposed to be older, wiser women who are meant to mentor the younger women in their faith. But they are clearly tossed around by their emotions and not grounded in the truth. God is not a genie, granting every wish of people who pray to Him. He is not a puppet god who moves in whichever way we want if we pull the right string. They need to stop claiming promises that God never made to them. Stop telling people they will be healed if they just pray hard enough and believe God is going to do it.

God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). Many are the plans in the heart of a man, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Prov. 19:21). Yes, if we pray anything in God’s will, we have what we have asked of him, but let us not forget the “in His will” (1 John 5:14). Sometimes God says no, and it’s not because of a lack of faith on the part of the supplicant. Have we forgotten that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done”? (Matt. 6:10) Have we forgotten the example of Jesus at Gethsemane?! Pretty sure Jesus had the faith to move mountains, and he still received a “no” from the Father.

Sometimes we do not receive what we desire because we do not ask (James 4:3), so by all means, ASK! But remember that God is not obligated to respond with “Yes”. And He is worthy of our praise no matter what He answers.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are Your ways higher than ours. 

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

Surrender: Circumcision of the Heart

SingleForASeason

Ah, circumcision… one of the many reasons I am glad to be a woman! Unfortunately for me as a Christian woman, I still have to undergo circumcision, but mine is a proverbial circumcision; one of the heart. And when I say unfortunately, what I really mean is fortunately because, painful as it is, circumcision of the heart is ultimately for our betterment.

The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. -Deut. 30:6

What’s with all this circumcision talk, Aurora?! Well, I recently had revealed to me an area of my life – a stronghold in my heart – that needed to be cut away. For quite some time now, I’ve been due for a fresh circumcision of the heart; a cutting away of a dark corner of my heart where idolatry has been permitted to reside for too long. My frequent readers can probably already guess which area I’m talking about.

Most of us, whether we’ve ever attended church or not, are familiar with the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea on their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land (thanks, Ridley Scott). What some people may not know is that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years under Moses’s leadership and, eventually, when Joshua took over as leader, God commanded that the younger generation of Israelites be circumcised before they could leave their wilderness of wandering and enter the promised land of Canaan.

The older generation had been circumcised, but the younger generation born in the desert had not yet been committed to God through this obedience to the Old Testament Law. And so the younger generation of male Israelites underwent circumcision – a “cutting away” – so that they were ready for the Promised Land.

Although in the Biblical Old Testament, the Israelites were circumcised to identify themselves as God’s people, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul explains that physical circumcision is no longer necessary under the New Covenant. Instead, hearts of the followers of Jesus are figuratively circumcised as a part of the process of sanctification (i.e. becoming more like Christ).

During the Passion conference earlier this month, Christine Caine asked each of us, “What does God want to cut away in you?” What area of your life is unsurrendered? What shadowy corner of your heart needs to be penetrated by the light?

“Are you willing to cut away some weights? Some good things but not God things?” Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. -Hebrews 12:1

Often we stay in the wilderness of waiting because the pain of walking through to healing is more painful than the pain inflicted by the initial injury. And so we put on our band-aids and develop our coping mechanisms and convince ourselves that we are just fine. We put on our blinders and convince ourselves that we are not still in the wilderness, but through this self-deception, we never deal with the root issue, and so our deepest wounds never fully heal.

As Christine Caine spoke this message, I sensed God convicting me yet again about my love life. Since my broken engagement, I’ve had a revolving door of men – no one too serious, but enough interested men coming and going for me to use the continual influx of attention and affection as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with my heart’s bruising: a now deeply-ingrained sense of rejection and undesirability.

I have not allowed myself to really sit in my singleness; to feel the weight of it and truly accept the wilderness season God keeps trying to allow in my life – not to wound me further, but to heal me! Behold, I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her there. -Hosea 2:14

So I’m going to continue my season of not dating. I don’t know if it will be the full year; I am going to reevaluate my heart’s healing at the end of every quarter. At this point, all I know is that I need to commit to a season of waiting; to rest in my singleness and learn to be content being alone on a Friday night. To be content without one boy or another lighting up my phone with cutesy text messages. To reinstate God as my first love and rid myself of the idolatry of all these pseudo dating relationships.

There will doubtless be many opportunities to break from my fast of dating, and I hope to keep you all entertained with these stories of “missed opportunities”, but I hope to view these as chances to practice discipline, self-control and faithfulness. I desire to walk in healing and faithfully live out the path God has laid before me.

So in 2016, here’s to being single for a season but no longer single for a reason!

Authentically Aurora

Missionary Dating?

Coffee Date

I am always the one before the One.

Men, if you’re tired of singleness, come date me seriously and exclusively – six months is all I require – and boom! The next person who catches your eye will be your soulmate.

My college boyfriend – after convincing me to accept a job offer in his city and then taking me to look at apartments in his complex – subsequently broke up with me and was married to someone else within 18 months.

The first guy I seriously dated after college broke up with me and was married to someone else a year later. Another guy, Stephen, was married within nine months of breaking things off and, ironically, my ex-fiance and I ran into Stephen and his wife on the morning of the day that my ex proposed to me. I’m not currently on speaking terms with my ex-fiance, but if he’s dating anyone right now, I have no doubt she will soon become his bride.

I’m really great at fix-em-up projects. Is your California Dreamboat still playing 40 hours of video games per week? Is your McDreamy insensitive and unromantic? Does your Mr. Right have emotional baggage from his parents’ divorce? Or have commitment issues? Or is he unemployed or slovenly? Just give him six months with me, and I guarantee he will be primed and ready for marriage!

I am a magnet for broken men. I mean, we’re all broken in some way, but I have somehow always attracted wounded men. In college, male acquaintances would call me at 3:00 a.m. because they just found out their parents were going through a divorce, and they needed someone to talk to. As a working professional, I can’t count the number of times some man in the seat next to me on an airplane has struck up a conversation about his “impostor complex”… or his ailing mother… or his deepest regrets… or his current relationship issues.

In the past year, one young male friend has confided in me about a drug addiction that almost no one else knows about. Another guy told me about a vision he believes God gave him about his future, and he’s unsure what to make of it. Others have sought me out to talk with me about the death of a parent to cancer, walking in on their dad having an affair, uncertainty about job direction and all manner of other topics.

It’s always men. Women don’t approach me this way. Why is it always men? I have asked God many, many times over the years why He seems to have given me a ministry to men. Hello, God! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a woman!!! The contemporary Western church tends to frown upon women ministering to men, particularly one-on-one, particularly about such deeply personal matters. I’ve even made a conscious effort to seek out female friendships, and still, it’s the men who come to me for soul-deep conversations.

I’ve frequently asked myself, when such situations arose, “Is this the work of God or Satan? Is this an opportunity from God for me to provide comfort and wisdom and hopefully share the Gospel with this person (as is often the case)? Or is this a trap laid by Satan to get me into a bad situation?”

I struggle because often there is a gray area; a blurred line between how much time I can spend with someone and how deep we can go before it starts to become unhealthy. I can’t imagine that Satan would be pleased with my sharing the Gospel message with someone, but I also can’t imagine that God would want me to bond and invest emotionally in someone of the opposite gender who is so broken and, frequently, doesn’t share my faith.

Usually I go out for casual coffee with a guy, and at the end of that one “date”, tell him that I am not looking for a romantic relationship. Every circumstance seems to require incredible discernment and, although I’ve gotten wiser over the years about which situations to allow and which to avoid, I still slip up sometimes (i.e. Cory).

Sometimes I wonder if this is a seasonal ministry. God made me beautiful, intelligent, mysterious and captivating. I get asked out on dates more than anyone else I know (I’ve been asked out twice in the past week). Perhaps I have been granted these gifts for the purpose of planting seeds of faith in men who would not listen to anyone but a beautiful woman. Perhaps I have been granted ongoing singleness for “such a time as this.” But my prayer is that 2016 is the year my ministry shifts from being male-dominated to being a ministry to women. Please, God? My heart is tired.

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part V

Brown eyes

Cory called me the next day, nonchalant as ever. I cut the call short, not feeling up for absorbing the hurt that his perpetual impassive demeanor caused me. Later that night, I received a text from him:

Hey Aurora, is everything okay? I’m picking up on something; I don’t know what to call it. It was in your voice earlier. I didn’t get to ask because I didn’t want you to be late to your dinner.

🙂

A smiley face?

Haha… if you think something is wrong, text usually isn’t the best forum to talk it out 😉

I can take a hint.

And then my phone rang. I answered, unsure what I was going to say.  Ultimately, what came out of my mouth was that I didn’t think we could be even friends anymore. “I don’t know how to be just friends with you. It doesn’t seem to affect you at all, but it’s not healthy for me to keep spending time with you,” I told him.

Cory was devastated. “I don’t want to lose your friendship,” he told me. For the first time since I’d met him, a tinge of urgency crept into his voice. “Being with you was the first sense of normalcy I’ve had in years.” He pleaded with me not to cut all ties with him.

“It hurts me too much to be with you without being with you,” I told him. And then I started crying, speaking my deepest hurts into the air between us. “Was it all just physical? Was that the extent of your attraction to and interest in me?”

“No! You’re definitely a beautiful woman, but – do you know what my favorite physical aspect of you is?”

“No…” My voice was a whimper.

“Your eyes,” Cory told me. “Your eyes are so full of depth and wisdom and light. They were the first thing I noticed about you, and they are my favorite part of you. Then your mouth. Your mouth is so expressive. Then your hands – they are so delicate and strong at the same time. Then, just, your entire face. Only then, in fifth place, are your hips. My life is messy and complicated and full of darkness, but being around you showed me how different things can be. That is why I like being around you.”

As he described his favorite parts of me, Cory started crying, too. “I don’t want to lose you. I care about you, and I hate that I hurt you.”

I was feeling comforted until he said that last portion. A part of me wished that he hurt more at the thought of losing me and not just because he felt badly about hurting me. His statement was just another reminder of why I needed to let him go.

When, painful as it was, I stayed firm on the fact that we needed to cut ties for the sake of my sanity and emotional wellbeing, Cory continued crying, sobbing over the phone, “Then…all of the grace and wisdom you’ve given me, and all of the compassion you’ve deemed me deserving of… Can you also give that to yourself?”

He continued, “You are a phenomenal woman. It’s apparent that I’m not the right guy nor is it the right time, but I can definitely say you are as much, if not ten times the catch that you credit me for being. You deserve your godly, kind, romantic leader of men. He is out there waiting to find you, and he will be so lucky when he does. Settle for nothing less than greatness. You deserve as much and more. I have been so blessed for knowing you.”

I wasn’t sure how to end the call, but I shut myself down emotionally and started to say, “Well, have a good rest of the year and enjoy your Christmas break.”

Cory could tell I was starting to end the conversation and interrupted in an anxious voice, “Wait. Could we pray together before we hang up?”

What?” I was dumbfounded.

“I want to pray with you before we say goodbye.”

“Why?” My heart was hard. In months past, I would have loved – absolutely jumped at the chance! – to pray with Cory. But I was wounded, limping along, and I had already decided to shut down my emotions and shut off my heart.

“I just… I want to pray with you. I feel like we should,” Cory pleaded again.

“Fine,” I conceded brusquely. “But you should know, if I’m going to be talking to the God of the Universe, I’m going to speak truth and say things you may not want to hear. Are you going to be okay with that?”

“Yes. I would expect no different from you.”

“Okay.” I sighed deeply, paused – trying to get myself in the right frame of mind to boldly approach the Throne of Grace – and began.

“Daddy, thank you for Cory. Thank you for the divine crossing of our paths. I know that You had purpose in our meeting, and I pray that your purposes would come to fruition. We confess our sinfulness, Lord. Our relationship has been so full of lust, and we confess that to you, God. Please forgive us. What Satan intends for evil, You intend for good, God, and so I pray that You would bring beauty from the ashes of our interactions. God, Cory has been asking a lot of questions about You and is searching for Truth. I pray You would powerfully reveal Yourself to him, God, and that he would know You; that Cory would come to saving faith in You.”

I prayed a few more sentences, wrapping up; then I paused and asked Cory if he would like to say anything. I heard Cory sniffling on the other end of the phone. “Um…” his voice came softly over the line between quiet sobs. “I hadn’t planned to say anything, but yeah, I have a few things to say.”

“Okay,” I said, more gently now that I had quieted my spirit in prayer. I waited for Cory to start praying when he was ready, and when he did, I was astonished by the broken-hearted pain and soul-bearing honesty in his words.

He began tentatively, with a few introductory sentences; then he started sobbing, crying from the depths of his heart, “God, I’ve been searching for you for so long. Please rescue me from the darkness. I’ve been trapped in the darkness for so long. Please -” his voice broke, “-please bring me out of the darkness and into the light.”

He sobbed again. “Help me, God.”

Taking a quavering breath, he continued, “Save me from the darkness and my fear. I have so much fear – for my mom, my dad, Mimi, Mary… Please protect my mommy- ” his voice cracked, and my heart broke for him.

“I’m not there to protect her…” Cory’s voice rose in pitch as he tried not to cry harder. “She’s all alone in New Orleans with a bad man…”

And then Cory began a time of confession, honoring me with his words. “Please forgive me, God. I’ve hurt so many people, using them to try to self-medicate for my own pain…”

By the end of his prayer, my heart was soft again, malleable and broken for him. I loved this man, though not in the way I had come to expect. When Cory finished praying and we both said, “Amen” together, I echoed words we had come to say to one another.

“I phileo you.”

I heard the sad smile in his voice. “I love you, too.”

And we hung up.

I’m not the kind to try to tell you lies
But the truth is you’ve been hiding from it too
I see the end sneaking in behind your eyes
Saying things no words could ever do

If we were written in reverse, and the end was our beginning
Our love would be rehearsed, and the pain would turn to healing
If we were written in reverse then maybe we could make it, you and I

Does anybody know how to hold my heart
‘Cause I don’t want to let go too soon
I want to tell you so before the sun goes dark
How to hold my heart, ’cause I don’t want to let go of you

Is anybody listening? ‘Cause I’m crying
Is anybody listening? Does anybody know how to hold my heart?
‘Cause I don’t want to let go, let go, let go of you

Authentically Aurora

Vulnerable Girls

India

On Wednesday after work, I went to the headquarters of a nonprofit orphan care ministry that rescues, empowers and protects vulnerable girls in India. A few of my friends are on staff with the organization, and they needed help writing Christmas cards by hand for all of their volunteers and donors.

We bought pizza and Mint Oreos to snack on while we worked, and we put on “White Christmas” in the background, occasionally singing along to the movie as we wrote out our cards. It was actually a really fun and peaceful evening, surrounded by kind-hearted men and women who chose to use their weeknight to serve an organization that is making a beautiful difference in the lives of some sweet young girls halfway around the world.

We laughed a lot, too – more so when some of the men left and we got to start in on “girl talk” (which may have ultimately resulted in us addressing a few rogue cards to the likes of Tim Tebow and J.J. Watt, asking them to partner with the organization).

As the evening began to wind down and I gathered my coat and purse to head home, I paused, looked around the room at the four compassionate women still seated around the table, and suddenly asked, “Hey, would you guys mind praying over me?”

All their heads popped up, and immediately there were arms and hands everywhere, gesturing for me to sit down, rubbing my back, pulling chairs over so that they could all gather around me. “I’ve been struggling a lot lately with rejection. I have a revolving door of men, and I want to stop finding my identity in what men think of me.”

As most of my readers know, this is an ongoing battle for me, and sometimes I feel silly asking for prayer about the same thing over and over again, but it’s my struggle. And prayer helps. Being vulnerable and transparent and confessing our sins to one another helps.

I felt absolutely safe and loved as Katie, a strong, godly, single woman in her thirties who I respect very much began praying over me. A couple of the other girls chimed in, and these were my key takeaways as I prayed their words along with them:

  • Thank you for her boldness to be vulnerable. May that authenticity and transparency continue.
  • We pray for healing of her heart and her mind. Heal her way of thinking, that if there is any lie from the Enemy, You would speak Truth over that lie. Tell her what her true identity is; the identity You speak over her. Heal her heart. Sing over her in her sleep. Remind her who she is in You.
  • Put up a guard around her, such that any men she has been in past relationships with would stay in the past and not come back. Guard her such that any man who is not in Your will for her would not approach her. Block his way before he comes.
  • Give her a clarity of mind. Sometimes thoughts can get muddled, but we pray for clear thinking. May it be easy for her to say no when she needs to say no. And may it be easy for her to say yes when Your answer is yes.

Katie ended the prayer “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then looked up, paused, studied one of the other girl’s faces, and said, “Was there something else anyone else wanted to say? Does anyone else have a Word from the Lord?”

The girl Katie had been studying nodded, and we all bowed our heads again. This is what she prayed for:

  • If there was any part of her heart that died from her broken engagement or other hurts, we pray for restoration of that part of her heart that she has shut off. If there is a broken, shut off, deadened part of her heart, heal it, God. Turn it back on. Bring it back to life. Heal and restore her whole heart.

I wasn’t sure at first what this was referring to. I clearly still am capable of loving people deeply (just read about Cory if you haven’t), and I am not afraid of loving again. I desire connection more than just about anything. But as I drove home and mulled it over, asking God which part of my heart had died, I believe He showed me that, while it is true that I haven’t shut myself off from love, I have changed the way that I love.

He showed me that, although it was easy for me to be vulnerable with that room full of women, I don’t ever want to be vulnerable in a romantic relationship. I don’t want the other person to know how deeply I love or how invested I am because, inevitably, I love deeper and more intensely than the other person in a relationship. So to protect myself, I have become… not brash exactly, but bolder. Confident. I put on airs of being strong. I try to make dates feel casual and grand gestures seem like no big deal. I minimize in order to protect myself.

As a result – or, perhaps, in order to achieve this result – I have shut off the part of my heart that used to flutter with excitement. The innocent, giddy eagerness and anticipation of falling in love is something I have not allowed myself to experience anymore. Because it hurts too much when that kind of love comes to an end. When I am able to convince myself that my interactions with dates are not as meaningful as I actually, deep down, feel them to be, I can kid myself into thinking I’m not going to get as hurt as I would if I let the butterflies in.

So. Here’s to wistfulness and innocence; hope and anticipation; eagerness and excitement. Pray with me that this part of my heart comes back to life, with the right person and in God’s perfect timing. ❤

Authentically Aurora