Cruise of the Bruised – Part IV

Nassau

Over a sub-par breakfast of fatty bacon and runny eggs (fancy as it can be, cruise ship food is definitely made for the masses), the girls and I discussed our plans for the day. Our ship would dock at Nassau within the hour, and the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds, promising a beautiful day to spend on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Since I’d been with the muscled massage therapist during most of our time in Freeport, I was looking forward to celebrating Marina’s upcoming birthday with her during our sunny afternoon in Nassau. Verna and Marina chattered on about drinking piña coladas on the white sand, and Marina agreed to take acroyoga photos with me in front of the breathtaking turquoise water —

Jordan appeared mid-conversation, walking by our table on the upper dock in his workout clothes, body glistening with perspiration. I watched him do a double-take as he noticed me sitting there, and – as I’d expected – he walked over to say hi. He wanted to spend the day with me, but I told him I was on the cruise with the girls and was there to celebrate Marina’s birthday.

“Well… could I meet you later this evening? Maybe at that hot tub,” he gestured with his towel-free hand, “Around 5 o’clock tonight?”

I smiled. “I think I can make that happen,” I said coyly.

“Great!” His grin lit up his face. “I’ll see you then.”

I turned back around to find the girls snickering, amusement lighting up their eyes. “Oh, hush,” I told them with mock disapproval. They just laughed harder.

An hour later, the three of us were decked out in our colorful bikinis and sunglasses, disembarking for our second day ashore in the Bahamas. We passed by hordes of taxis and horse-drawn carriages, opting instead to take in some Vitamin D during the 20 minute walk to the beach.

Verna and Marina decided to pay $10 for beach chairs, but I laid out my towel in the sand, readjusted my sunglasses on my nose, and sighed happily as I (finally!) opened my book to start reading. This was exactly what I’d envisioned when I agreed to go on this cruise with the girls.

Verna and Marina chattered away in Spanish, and after a while, Marina and I roped Verna into playing photographer while we posed in various acroyoga positions on the beach. We laughed uproariously every time we fell over, and I chuckled to myself when I noticed other patrons discreetly snapping photos of us on their phones. Both our posing and our falling was entertaining for all.

After the photos, we splashed around in the water, watched a limbo competition, and bought matching necklaces with flowers made out of conch shells. Then we all ordered drinks – piña coladas in coconuts – to celebrate a wonderful vacation and the perfect day.

Hours later, as we were packing up to walk back to the ship, I suddenly spotted Jordan across the beach, making his way toward a volleyball court where I saw the younger boys playing. I started to call out to say hi, but as I kept watching his veering path along the beach, I realized that he was incapable of walking in a straight line. He was drunk.

Verna and Marina had gone to the bathroom, so from where I stood guarding their stuff, I watched Jordan approach the group of bachelorettes who’d won the limbo competition. He laughed with the bride-to-be, taking her in his arms and twirling her around, dancing in the sand. “Don’t torture yourself,” came a quiet voice from behind me. I turned around to see that Verna had joined me, a knowing look on her face.

Then Marina appeared, we gathered our stuff and walked back to the ship. When we got back to the cabin, the girls decided they wanted to nap after the long day in the sun. So while they slept, I looked through the photos we’d taken and tried to decide what to do about my 5pm meeting with Jordan. Ultimately, I decided to be a woman of my word, so at 4:55, I left the girls sleeping in the cabin and made my way to the hot tub on the top deck.

When I arrived, I saw lots of people milling about, but no Jordan. I wasn’t surprised. Between the alcohol and the bachelorettes, I figured he’d completely forgotten about me. I’d brought a book with me for just such an instance, so I sat and read, letting the sounds of people talking and laughing fade into the background.

At 5:15, I felt a presence hovering over me, so I looked up to see Jonah and two of the other high school boys gathered around me. I didn’t remember their names, but I recognized them both – one tall and gangly; the other tall and beefy.

“Hey, Aurora!” Jonah greeted me, a genuinely happy smile on his face. I was glad he was glad to see me. “Can we join you?” he asked.

“Please do!” I told them cheerfully. So the three high school boys sat around me on the long bench beside the pool, the chunky one on my right; Jonah and the beanpole to my left. “How was your day?” I asked them.

They told me all about drinking at Señor Frog’s, playing volleyball on the beach and trying to pick up girls. I internally rolled my eyes. They were definitely high school boys.

“Speaking of picking up girls,” Jonah said, putting his arm around me with a dramatic pause, “How you doin’?” The other boys laughed while I shrugged his arm off me and asked with a smirk, “Jonah, how old do you think I am?”

“Dunno… 23?” The other two nodded in agreement.

“I’m almost 30,” I told him, raising my left eyebrow for emphasis.

“Sh** — no way!” Then they were asking about Marina (32) and even Verna, who is in her 40s. I told them they were ridiculous, and they started asking for tips on picking up girls.

The chunky one was quiet and sweet. After telling me about how he works with his dad in the construction business, he asked me in a soft voice the best way to get a girl’s attention. The other guys called outbursts about telling her she’s sexy or a hot momma, but I ignored them and told him that I like it when a guy wants to get to know me. “Ask her where she’s from; where she goes to school. Ask about her hobbies. Genuinely try to get to know her. That will go a lot farther than objectifying her,” I told him with a wink. He smiled shyly. What was this sweetheart doing with these other boys?

I turned to Beanpole and asked him, “So what about you? What do you like to do for fun?”

He looked dumbfounded. “Uh… I dunno.”

“Are you in any clubs at school? Do you play any sports? What are your hobbies?”

The 17-year-old gave me a devilish look and answered, “Recreational substance abuse.”

I knew he was trying to get a rise out of me, so I just shrugged and said, “I appreciate the honesty. What do you want to do for a living? Any idea what you want to major in?”

He looked dumbfounded again, so I started asking him questions that would help me determine his MBTI – how he likes to recharge when he’s stressed, if he tends to go with his gut on making decisions. He seemed curious enough to stick with me through the impromptu session, and the other two boys were enraptured as well. I got the sense that no one ever bothered to talk to them like adults with hopes and dreams and passions.

Ultimately, I identified Beanpole as an ISTP – “Friendly but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTP personalities can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs can seem very loyal and steady for a while, but they tend to build up a store of impulsive energy that explodes without warning, taking their interests in bold new directions.”

I could tell that Beanpole still had some alcohol (or something stronger) in his system, so I told him to take a note in his phone to look into his ISTP personality. After watching him type the note into his phone, Jonah asked, “So what are you doing up here anyway?”

“I was supposed to meet Jordan here at 5:00.”

There was an instant of silence; then all three boys started guffawing, slapping their legs and rocking back and forth. “Nah, there’s no way Jordan’s coming. He’s passed out in the room!”

“I suspected as much,” I said, lips drawn into a tight line as their laughter continued.

“Oooh!” Jonah’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Let’s go wake him up!” The other boys agreed, jumped up, and pulled me along behind them. I begrudgingly followed them down to room 242, where they unlocked the door, surprising D.J. as they stormed in and started jumping on Jordan’s bed.

In all the commotion, D.J. assured me that Jordan is normally responsible; this is the first time he’s seen Jordan like that, and it was because Jordan forgot to eat lunch, so he had a few drinks on an empty stomach. Jordan peered at me, bleary eyed and apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry I missed our date.”

I waved him off. “That’s okay. It wasn’t a date. I’m not dating this year, remember? Let’s get you some food.” I hauled him up, and we walked – just the two of us – up to the cafeteria for some dinner. After some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, Jordan assured me that he felt better; then he checked his phone for the time and asked if I’d mind if he called his daughter Grace. “This is the fifteen minute time slot her mother and I agreed I could talk to her every day.”

I nodded and excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I came back, Jordan was just finishing up his call with Grace. He seemed tired. Sad. I put my hand on his arm and asked how he was doing. He started telling me all about the lawyers’ fees and the custody battle and how concerned he is for his daughter, growing up in that household with her emotionally unstable mother and sexual predator of an uncle.

Jordan was really shaken up and clearly had no one to confide in about these things, so I asked him about his church. He knows deep down that he needs the fellowship and community that the church can provide, but he’s been wounded by the church. So many “Christians” have judged him for his divorce, refused to stand up with him in court and generally deepened his hurts that he wants nothing to do with them.

So I asked if I could pray for him. Jordan agreed. So we held hands, bowed our heads, and boldly approached the Throne of Grace. I prayed for Jordan, for peace and for healing. I prayed for his ex-wife, created in the image of God and desperately in need of healing herself. I prayed for protection for sweet little Grace. I prayed about the custody battle and the lawyers and the church and Jordan’s job and all manner of things he’d shared with me over the past few days. And by the end, I had silent tears streaming down my face. God, why have you given me such a soft heart for the hurting and brokenhearted?

At the end, we hugged silently; then we agreed to walk around the ship for a while, lightening the mood. We had only walked the length of one level of the cruise ship when we ran into the sweet, chunky kid from the hot tub. Jordan wrapped him in a bear hug, and wiggled my fingers at him in a wave from over Jordan’s shoulder.

“Whatcha doin’?” Jordan asked the Teddy Bear. We followed his eyes to where a pretty blonde teenager sat alone at a table, scrolling on her phone. Ah.

“I’m really nervous, but I want to talk to her,” the Teddy Bear admitted, looking at me. “What should I say?”

I was surprised and honored that he wanted my advice, especially since Jordan is the one who has known him since he was in diapers. “Ask her if she watched the SuperBowl this weekend. If she did, ask who she rooted for. If not, ask what she did instead. Just keep the questions rolling, but keep it casual and laid-back. Express an interest in getting to know her.”

“Okay,” Teddy repeated back to me, practicing. “Hey, did you watch the SuperBowl this weekend?” He paused; then tried again. “Hey! How about that SuperBowl, huh?”

I smiled, gave him a hug, and nudged him forward. “You’ve got this.”

“Will you stay here for me?” he asked, nervousness written all over his face. His vulnerability and honesty were charming. “Of course,” I told him reassuringly. He was adorable.

Jordan and I stood arm-in-arm watching Teddy approach the girl. He sat down at the table next to hers, just as I’d coached him. “You want to seem friendly but not come on too strong.” We watched the conversation begin, the girl looking wary at first; then merely uncomfortable before Teddy said something to make her laugh, and, “He’s in,” I said to Jordan with a smile. We waltzed away, Jordan’s arm around me, as Teddy continued getting to know the solitary blonde, confidence building.

I’ve spoken to Jordan a few times since the cruise, and he tells me that the guys talk about me all the time. “Apparently your conversations with them had quite an impact.” He says they seem inspired and driven, like they have hope again. Yes, Lord. Thank you for there being purpose in my being on that cruise – the Cruise of the Bruised… a phrase that could describe all of our journeys at one time or another.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” -Isaiah 42

Authentically Aurora

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Cruise of the Bruised – Part III

Jordan and I managed to make it back to the ship without getting killed, abducted or exploited, so I count that as a win. Especially since I had no cash, I.D. or cell phone on me – just my hot pink bikini and $3000 camera. Not one of my finest moments.

The negotiator in me had been running through scenarios of bartering off my Canon 5D Mark II in exchange for our lives. Or having Jordan bribe any would-be predators with the marijuana hidden in his swim trunks. Between my brains and Jordan’s brawn, I’d convinced myself we’d be okay. I’m glad it turned out to be the case, no loss of vacation photos required. Or worse.

D.J. (Daddy John, the orthopedic friend of Jordan’s) met us at the pier with his daughter Penny, who grinned and wrapped me in a plush blue towel, returning to me some of my dignity. “Welcome back,” D.J. greeted us, laughter dancing in his eyes. “Glad you made it!” He looked at me and said, “Your friends have your backpack with your I.D. and wallet. They’re going to meet you at the entrance to the ship so you can get on board.” Praise God for the kindness of strangers and the patience and benevolence of Verna and Marina!

Within the next hour, I’d been reunited with the girls and my backpack, gotten a hot shower and – of course – been quizzed unmercifully by my traveling companions. I admitted to the kiss but told the girls that nothing really happened, which was true, and I thanked them for collecting my things and meeting me at the ship entrance. Nice as the Bahamas was, it just wouldn’t do to be stuck on the island for the rest of my life.

Jordan hadn’t asked for my phone number or room number, so when we’d parted ways, I assumed that was the end of our tête-à-tête. Probably for the best, I thought. But over the next few days, I kept running into people from his group.

Carnival_interior_2Penny was a sweet girl of just 14, and I passed her and her oldest brother Jonah in an elegant hallway on one of the upper levels, all of us swaying with the rough seas. “How are you?!” I squealed, giving her a big hug. She’d modeled for me on the beach, and I absolutely adored her sweet spirit and quiet confidence. “Are these boys treating you okay?” I raised one eyebrow playfully, but I was partially serious. I didn’t like that she was alone with such a rough group of boys.

She nudged her brother in the ribs. “Yeah, they treat me okay.” She smiled.

“They don’t get you smoking and drinking with them, do they?” I asked, still half-teasing, half-serious.

“Nah,” Penny gave a sideways smile. “I’m not into all that stuff. And actually, they tell me all the time that if guys like them ever come and hit on me, I should run as fast as I can in the other direction!”

Jonah nodded in affirmation, a big, silly grin on his face. I asked him, “And you, Jonah… Are you like your namesake at all?” I knew from Jordan that D.J. was a Christian, even as wild as his boys were, so I figured Jonah knew the story. “Are you running from what you’ve been created for?”

The 17-year-old boy shrugged, his mass of curly hair flopping with the movement. “Probably.” I gave him a look full of both challenge and affection. He squirmed and ducked his head, so I wrapped him in a hug and said, “You’re a smart kid, I can tell. You’ll figure it out.”

Shortly thereafter, I ran into their dad D.J., who stopped me in the hallway to ask (with thinly veiled curiosity) what I thought of Jordan. “You two make a handsome couple,” he told me. There was an intensity and weight to his words. He wanted me to know that he cared deeply for Jordan – had known him for decades – and wanted to see him married to a good woman.

“Jordan is a great guy,” I told the would-be matchmaker. “He’s got a lot of potential, but he needs to get right with God. He seems to have a lot of head knowledge – he knows a lot of scripture and facts about the bible – but I think we both know he has wandered a bit and has some healing to do before he’s ready for another relationship.”

D.J. nodded, understanding but still pushing. “Did you have fun at the beach with him?”

“I did,” I began slowly. “He is a lot of fun and very easy to be around. I love how laid-back he is. But, D.J., I’m in a season where I don’t date just to date. I’m dating to marry, and Jordan has a lot to work through before he’s ready for the kind of relationship I would expect.”

Lantern in the darkI found out later from Jordan that he was getting quizzed by the matchmaker, too. “D.J. likes you a lot,” Jordan told me. “He keeps telling me that you’re a catch. That you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. He says,

‘Don’t let this one get away. She’s got a smile that lights up the room.'” 

Hopefully she’s got a heart that lights up some lives, too.

Authentically Aurora

Redefining STEM

STEM education

I hear about STEM all the time: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math education. As someone who works for a major oil company and also volunteers in the local school system, I feel constantly bombarded by rhetoric about pushing STEM education, particularly for young girls (who society ignorantly thinks are focused entirely on frivolities).

Our elementary and junior high students are the makers of either our future economic prosperity or hardship, so I can understand why so many individuals in both government and industry want STEM education raised as a national priority. But I am a proponent of small government and, still further, I don’t think a laser focus on STEM education will result in the desired outcome. If the desired outcome is a thriving economy, I believe in providing a well-rounded education, allowing for a natural synthesis of science and liberal arts in young minds, and then equipping people to do what they are passionate about.

America was built on creativity, passion, ingenuity and independence. More than forcing children into STEM careers, we should equip them to do what they love. Pushing students into engineering, if that’s not what interests them, is not the secret to building a great economy. They will end up frustrated and burned out, leaving for a different career path or, worse still, staying for the money, becoming a liability to their employer because their driving force is not intrinsic but financial.

Although less than a fifth of high school students report as being interested in STEM careers, I believe the situation is not as dire as some imagine. I have an engineering degree, but I never use anything I learned in school. My day job does not require me to do differential equations or engineering physics calculations. Could I figure out how to solve these complex math problems? Yes. But would I enjoy it? Probably not. Am I still able to do a good job working for a major oil company? Yes.

The girls in my Sunday school class constantly amaze me. This week, we talked about the bible’s most famous set of best friends: David and Jonathan. During craft time, my 1st and 2nd graders decorated large gold stars cut out of construction paper, writing kind notes to their best friends on the stars.

Earlier in the morning, Abigail – a sweet, quiet bookworm in the group – had been telling me about a children’s book she’s writing and illustrating. It’s about a unicorn who was once a fairy. I asked Abigail about her favorite subject in school. I wasn’t surprised at her answer: English. She wrinkled her nose when I told her that I love math and am an engineer. But I’ve seen in Abigail the makings of a brilliant engineer, despite her dislike of math.

While all of the other girls dug through bins of markers and stickers to decorate their stars, Abigail folded in four arms of her star to the center, taping them in place. Then she folded the fifth arm of the star into the center, tucking it into the pocket created by the four other points of the star. On a separate piece of paper, she wrote a note to her friend, which she tucked into her “star pocket”.

When everyone was finished, we hung the golden stars on the blackboard. I smiled to myself, seeing Abigail’s imaginative little “star pocket” standing out among all of the other stars stretched out along the blackboard. I almost took a picture so that I could caption it, “Dare to be different.”

After the other girls saw Abigail’s “star pocket”, they all wanted her to teach them how to make one, too. So I watched petite little Abigail lead the other elementary school girls in making pockets, too. Abigail is a leader, but she’s not a showy leader. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She displays a quiet confidence that draws others to her. The makings of greatness are written into the core of her being, but it’s not the result of a great STEM education. The intangibles that will make Abigail great are the result of natural giftings and great parenting.

Abigail doesn’t like math. She likes English. But she is constantly shining with inventiveness and creativity. And that –more than excellent math skills – is what we need in our future scientists and engineers.

Authentically Aurora

Faith Like a Child

Rainbow Scratch Paper 2The weak are actually the strong. The foolishness of the world is used to shame the wise. We die to ourselves so that we may truly live. Those who wish to be greatest must humble themselves and become least; servant to all. When our eyes are opened, we see all of the so-called truths of this world turned on their heads. And I continue to learn from little children.

In the new year, I have continued volunteering in the children’s ministry at my church. I teach Sunday school to 1st and 2nd grade girls most weeks now, and I absolutely love it. These girls are so sweet and kind; innocent and affectionate. They constantly surprise me with the adorable things they say, and every week, God uses them to soften my heart.

A few weeks ago, we did a craft using rainbow scratch off paper, where the girls used scratching sticks to write their names or draw pictures, scraping away the black upper layer and revealing the colors hidden beneath it. I didn’t have enough scratching sticks for all of the girls, so I dug around in my wallet for some coins they could use for the scratch-offs.

I handed out a couple of pennies, a few dimes, and finally, a quarter to my sweet little Mia, who waited until last to receive her coin. When she saw that it was the last quarter in my wallet, she asked me, “Miss Aurora, is this your last quarter?”

“Yes, Mia, it is.”

Her eyes widened. “Like… your last quarter EVER?”

I smiled. “No, just the last quarter I have in my wallet right now.”

“Oh.” She looked down at the shiny coin in her hand before glancing up at me shyly. “So… when I’m finished with it, I should give the quarter back to you?”

I patted her on the shoulder. “If you want to. Or you can keep it.”

I watched Mia move the quarter around in her hands, feeling it; thinking about it. Then she looked up at me through long eyelashes. “What do you think I should do?”

I hadn’t planned to say it, but the Holy Spirit gave me the words to speak. “What do you think God would want you to do?”

Mia pursed her lips, thinking hard. Then she smiled slowly as she answered, “I think God would want me to give it to people who need it more than I do.”

Wow. I was astonished by the wisdom of this six-year-old. Yes, Lord. You use the foolish things of this world to shame the wisdom of the wise. I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 

We have a small mason jar for the kids to put any donations into, so when Mia finished using the quarter to scratch her name in rainbow colors, she skipped to the front of the classroom and cheerfully dropped her quarter into the jar with an adorable little smile.

What a witness. What a beautiful testimony. What a joy these children are to me. When we serve, we are truly the ones who receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap (Luke 6:38).

Authentically Aurora

Touching Thoughtfulness

HugBo is from Wisconsin and has an adorable northern accent. He is a smart, confident Triathlete with a great smile and gentle heart. When I met him at church back in February, I was still with Bryan, and Bo had a girlfriend himself. But we’ve known each other for a while now, and he’s become a friend who I like and respect.

While teaching Vacation Bible School together this week, I found out that Bo and his girlfriend broke up about a month ago. He just mentioned it in passing while a group of us herded the kids between stations, but my ears perked up.

I know I’m still a mess. I know I don’t need to jump into another relationship. And I know that I want to be good friends with the next guy before I get romantically involved with him. But the knowledge that a solid guy like Bo is still available gave me hope – not even necessarily for us to work out, but that I might actually be able to end up with a godly man my own age rather than picking off one of the bright-eyed 23-year-olds fresh from college or, at the other end of the spectrum, settling for an emotionally unavailable, baggage-laden 36-year-old (*cough, Bryan, cough*).

After VBS on Wednesday night, Bo, Diana and I hung around to catch up with a few other friends. Somehow the subject of love languages came up, and Bo immediately turned to me. “Yours is definitely physical touch.”

“What?” My face lit up with surprise. “How did you know?!” I actually have two primary love languages – quality time and physical touch – but Bo and I haven’t spent enough time together for him to have any reason to know that.

Bo shrugged in response; then gave a slight smile. “You’re a really touch-y person.”

I giggled nervously. “Um.. what?” Everyone else starting laughing, too – friendly laughter.

Bo laughed and waved his hands, “No, no… not in a bad or inappropriate way. You just seem to like to touch people’s shoulders when you talk to them… and you hug people a lot…” his voice trailed off.

“Oh. I mean… yeah. Physical touch is important to me.” All eyes were on me now, so I went on, “When I was a kid, I didn’t have an alarm clock. My mom would rub my back to wake me up every morning.”

“Awww…” I heard Diana’s soft voice float over from my right.

“I come from a loving, snuggly family,” I went on animatedly, “And I don’t… you know… fool around… so I don’t ever get my physical touch!” I threw my hands up in the air in mock frustration as I grinned at Diana. “That’s why I always hug you when I see you.”

I directed the conversation away from myself then, asking everyone else about their love languages. Bo said that his are words of affirmation and acts of service, although he also made an insightful comment about men in general: “I think words of affirmation are universally one of the top two for men. Men like to act tough, but we’re actually really insecure.” He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know experientially, but I appreciated Bo’s honesty and vulnerability. How many men would publicly make a statement like that, acknowledging their insecurities?

On Thursday night, Bo had to leave as soon as the VBS session was over. “I’ve gotta jet,” he called to the group as he got up from where we were all sitting cross-legged in the grass.

“Later!” we all called back as he started to walk across the field to his car. But after a few paces, he stopped, turned, and walked back to me. Bo surprised me by bending over and hugging my shoulders as I sat in the grass surrounded by children. Then he wordlessly straightened and walked back to his car.

It wasn’t until I was climbing into bed, mentally reviewing my day, that I realized Bo had made a conscious effort to meet my needs. He heard, remembered and made a decision to love me the way I need to be loved.

His thoughtfulness was touching. Pun intended.

Authentically Aurora

High Maintenance

Sharpay 1I don’t get how some girls just don’t get worked up about stuff. And I am totally jealous of them. Like, hello! You should be freaking out about this right now. You should be having a melt down. How are you not totally and completely stressed out of your mind?!?!

Last night, I volunteered to teach bible stories to a group of kids at an after school program in a low-income neighborhood. Partway through the night, I was talking with my friend Diana – a gorgeous, newly engaged twenty-something – as she reached into her purse and–

“Ugh!” Her white-and-gold Michael Kors iPhone case was covered in gooey, melted chocolate. She started digging through her purse and gingerly pulled out the culprit: a half-unwrapped Hershey’s bar. Diana started laughing as she shook her head and said, “One of the kids must have stuck that in there!”

She went right on with our conversation as if nothing had happened. She was laughing and smiling, completely unfazed by the fact that the entire inside of her purse was full of smeared brown goo that looked like poo. A gooey, pooey mess, and she’s still smiling.

I was floored. And insanely jealous of her attitude. She’s kind of a high maintenance girl from a materialistic perspective – Prada bags, Kendra Scott jewelry, business clothes from The Limited and Banana Republic. But what I realized last night is that, although she may be materialistic, she is low maintenance from an emotional perspective. In that regard, I’m the one who is high maintenance! Me. High Maintenance. What?

I’ve never seen myself that way before. I’m rocking a $15 purse from Target, and my fashionista self has been sporting the same pair of plain black heels to work for two years. What can I say? I’m practical and down-to-earth when it comes to material goods. If only I could say the same about my emotional state!

Sharpay 2I’m a Christian. Diana’s a Christian. I know that I should not be anxious for anything (Phil. 4:6), that I should cast my cares on God (Ps. 55:22), and that prayer will result in my heart and mind being guarded by the peace of God (Phil. 4:7). But I get worked up about stuff. Easily. I am easily frustrated, quick to anger and live in a perpetual state of stress. Diana, on the other hand, in all her fashionista-ness, has a lightness of heart that stems from her faith in the truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty.

I’m like totally J of Diana’s fabulous outlook on life and, like, I just can’t. I seriously need her mad skills. She’s on fleek. Hashtag killin’ it. Low maintenance girl right here. Am I right, ladies?

Authentically Aurora

Looking Down to Role Models

ArielI learn so much more from kids than I do from adults.

With adults, there are agendas and ulterior motives; insecurities, projections and complications. But children are simple. They are innocent and straight-forward. Their words and actions are not yet adulterated by societal expectations or unhealed wounds. And so I learn from them, in their simplistic, innocent view of the world.

As I have continued volunteering with the kids’ ministry at church, I am reminded how funny it is that, the more we seek to bless and serve others, the more we discover that we are ultimately the ones blessed as we pour ourselves out on others’ behalf.

A few weeks ago, I had a 10-year-old girl named Ariel in my group. She’s a beautiful African American girl – smart, bright-eyed, a good listener and fast. To drive home one of our bible stories, we played a game that required athleticism, and she won. The prize for winning was candy, but when I showed Ariel the Starburst, she declined politely. “I only like chocolate, not fruity candy.”

I wanted to give Ariel something, though, so I dug in my wallet and pulled out a shiny Sacagawea dollar – the new, golden US dollar coin. My mom is always giving me trinkets like this because she delights in the little things in life and expects that others do as well. She’s sweetly childlike that way.

All of the other kids gathered around Ariel and ooh-ed and aah-ed over her winnings. They had never seen a gold dollar coin before, and – to my mom and to elementary aged kids – its shiny surface looked magical. They took turns passing it around; it was precious and special, and Arial was admired for having this special coin.

After our game and lesson, our rag-tag group of kids joined the larger assembly for music time. While I herded the kids to our assigned green rug space, Ariel walked up to the front of the auditorium and spoke quietly to the worship leader before the music started. I saw the worship leader walk over to a jar we use for collecting offering and extend it to Ariel. We’d already taken up offering for the day, but I watched from afar as Ariel placed her precious gold dollar into the offering jar.

When she wordlessly made her way back to our rug, I asked her, “Ariel, did you tithe your gold dollar?” She looked up at me with a unique combination of poise, innocence, joy and wisdom. “Yes. I wanted to give it back to God.”

I was astonished. What a gem of a young woman. How many adults would have responded that way? How many adults do respond that way? The more we have, the greedier we get. If we have something shiny that draws the admiration of others, we are not going to part with it – certainly not willingly! But Ariel displayed a selflessness, generosity, faith and devotion that was inspirational. She went out of her way to give her blessings back to God.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” -1 Timothy 4:12

Authentically Aurora