Jehovah-Jireh

Alone in a CrowdLoneliness has been a season I’ve walked in for a while now, but more often than I probably realize, my need for companionship is met in ways I wouldn’t anticipate; I am given opportunities for connection in ways I couldn’t foresee.

A couple of weeks ago – Sunday the week of Christmas – I arrived at church to find that most of the people I usually sit with were already out of town for the holidays. Looking around for a familiar face, I spotted a few guys I knew, so I sat down in the same row as them.

Less than a minute later, before I had even finished getting settled into my seat, all three of them stood up and moved into the row directly ahead of us, where a bunch of girls in their early twenties were sitting together. I felt a pang of hurt watching them get up without even addressing me. Sure, I’m pushing thirty, but I’m still a pretty girl and, more significantly, I thought we were friends. I have dignity. Why would they treat anyone that way?

I felt rejected. Men tend to be oblivious, so I told myself I was being silly. I was reading too much into it. Those guys probably didn’t even realize what their actions had communicated to me. But I already have a deep well of insecurity that is specific to rejection, so the polluted waters of that well come to the surface easily.

Just then the worship service started. I tried to get into the songs, really thinking about the lyrics and trying to mean the words I was singing, but my mind was distracted. My heart was sore and wounded, and I couldn’t seem to ignore the feeling of rejection.

Closing my eyes and shaking my head at myself, I started to pray silently, “God… help. I am so distracted by the fact that those guys got up and left me. I can’t seem to worship You today. I want to be present in worship and just forget the lies of rejection Satan is trying to speak over me. I feel so alone. Help!”

Partway through my silent plea, my prayer was interrupted by a familiar voice. “Hey Aurora! Are these seats taken?”

I looked to my right to see two sisters I know and love standing in the aisle beside me. Warmth radiated out from my heart as I realized how swiftly God had answered my prayer. He already knew I was going to petition Him for provision, and He had already prepared an answer of Yes. Yes, my daughter, I will provide companionship for you. You need only be still. Your God will fight for you. 

Our God loves to give good gifts to His children. The Alpha and the Omega – the God who created 100 billion galaxies and knows every sparrow that falls to the ground – this God is fighting for me, for my good and His glory. He is able to do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine. I need only be still and trust Him.

Authentically Aurora

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Sweet ’16

2016 Words2016 is going to be a sweet year. 2014 was the worst year of my life, 2015 was a year of recovery, and 2016 is going to be fantastic. I just know it.

I feel like God has given me four words for 2016: Discipline, Contentment, Light and Joy. Each of these words has come up repeatedly, either in conversations with friends, family, reading Scripture, prayer or even interactions with you, fellow bloggers.

Discipline is pretty straight-forward. I allowed myself to wallow and drift a bit in 2015, giving myself a lot more leeway because I was practicing extending grace to myself and receiving it from others. But it’s possible for that pendulum to swing too far, so it’s time to bring it back and show some self-control and accountability for my actions.

Every time the bible tells us to stop one thing, it tells us to do something else. Every time we are asked to give something up, we are promised something else. There is never a list of don’ts without a list of dos. In that vein, I want to speak less and listen more; make less statements and ask more questions. I need to rein in my tongue and practice using a filter. Cutting back on my love life, I plan to go on less dates and spend more time with friends and family. I want to eat less sugar and more vegetables. And I am going to watch less Netflix and do more exercise.

Contentment is a word J at Salvageable has spoken over me several times in the past month. And I know that the Apostle Paul set forth the example to be content in all circumstances. We are to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Ugh. What a challenge for a shriveled, bitter heart like mine! But God continues to extend more and more grace to me.

One of the greatest sources of discontentment for me is my singleness. Not so much my singleness, actually, as my loneliness. I am profoundly lonely. I just long for a companion to share life with. But in the past week, in two back-to-back dinners, two of my married girlfriends have shared with me that their marriages are on the rocks and admitted longing for their days of singleness. Two other friends’ marriages were wrecked by affairs earlier this year. I’m only 28 years old, and already I’m seeing friends’ marriages torn apart?! I need to keep in perspective that singleness isn’t all that bad when compared to a difficult marriage. As one of my negotiating instructors once said, “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Light is a special word to me that I sense God repeatedly speaking into my prayer life. All of the bible verses I’m clinging to right now have to do with light. “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” -Luke 11:36

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called” (Eph. 1:18), and “Once you were full of darkness, but now you have the light of the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8-9).

“Live clean, innocent lives… shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Phil. 2:12-15). This is what I want for myself in 2016. 

Lastly, Joy. I have always struggled to have joy. Once time I did a word study on how the bible says to have joy, and I think most of the verses talked about trusting God. When we truly believe that God is sovereign and in control – and that He is good and loving! – we are able to accept our circumstances with joy, trusting that God is working in and through us.

There are also lots of verses about being thankful in all circumstances and offering a sacrifice of praise (and believe me, it is often quite a sacrifice!). Cultivating gratitude and releasing control of my life are going to be key in accepting the joy I believe God wants to develop in me this year. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.” -Romans 15:13

Yes, Lord. May this be the year of Joy.

Authentically Aurora

Longing

Longing

I’m officially ready to not be lonely anymore.

Plead that she puts away her adultery and idolatry,
lest I make her like a wilderness; a parched land
and kill her with thirst.

For she went after her lovers for fulfillment.
Therefore, I will hedge up her way with thorns
and build a wall around her so that she cannot find her paths.

She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them;
She shall seek them but not find them.
She did not know it was I who fulfilled her;
who lavished on her good gifts.

Therefore, I will take back my blessings.
I will put an end to all her mirth
and lay waste to her happiness.
I will punish her for the days she adorned herself
and went after her lovers but forgot all about me, declares the Lord.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her there.
And there I will return her blessings to her
and make the Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope.

In that day, declares the Lord,
you will call me your husband and not your master.
I will betroth you to me forever, in righteousness and justice.
I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, in mercy and steadfast love.
(Hosea 2, paraphrased)

I am so sad. I am so lonely.

How long, O Lord? My heart hurts.

AA

Life at Sea – Part II

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.42.39 PMIn my recent adventure on the high seas, our sailing crew was comprised of starkly different characters. Tony, our skipper, encapsulated everything I’d imagined a skipper would be: rugged and weathered, with a tangled mass of shoulder-length hair, tattooed arms, beer in hand and never clad in anything more than a pair of swim trunks.

Elle, a curvy blonde in her 50s, is a British lawyer who smokes like a chimney and never ends the evening without her friends Gin & Tonic. Elle lives with abandon and a zeal for life that has led her on countless adventures of dancing in the sand and running off with passionate lovers. She’s lived a full and exciting life but, childless, divorced and advanced in years, she seems lonely. She travels the world but has no one to share life with but the locals who she inevitably befriends, but between throaty laughs, she speaks longingly of community and companionship.

While I found in Elle much that I hope to emulate – her zeal, passion and friendly playfulness – I learned the most from observing Jenna, a single 35-year-old from Boston. Jenna aced all of our written sailing exams, but when it came to working together on the rigging, she tended toward stress, either barking bossy orders and criticisms at other crew members or getting panicked and defensive when Tony pointed out something she needed to do differently.

I saw mirrored in Jenna my own perfectionism and the toll it took on not only her enjoyment of the trip but also her relationships with others. During long stretches of sailing on a single tack, Jenna would often read aloud to us from a sailing book she’d brought along. “Oooh, listen to this article on retractable keels!” I frequently saw Tony and Elle exchange glances – Is this girl for real? – but she remained oblivious to the way her unsolicited readings were received.

One night ashore at a beach bar on one of the many remote islands of the Grenadines, Jenna met a young American man over rum punch. After about six beers, Tony was ready to take the dingy back to our boat, but Elle ssh-ed him and gestured to Jenna. “Look at her! She’s forgotten all about her allergies and her Kindle and her lactose intolerance. Give her some time. She may dance in the sand yet!”

Although I agreed with Elle – this girl seriously needed to loosen up – I remember wondering if those are the kinds of comments people make about me when I’m out of earshot. As sweet at Jenna was, it pained me how much I related to her because I saw in Jenna not only my strengths – intellect, ambition and focus – but also many of the things I dislike about myself.

I know I should be who I am, but I hope that as I age, I will relax, live in the moment, and develop a bit more Elle in my Aurora.

Authentically Aurora

Bachelor Bash – Week 6

Carly Jade Kaitlyn singingEvery week of The Bachelor provides an opportunity to laugh uproariously at the foolish antics of women who seemingly forget their every move is being recorded for the entertainment of the masses. And this week, the majority of viewers likely continued in this vein, eating up the drama-filled standoff between Kelsey and Ashley I on their two-on-one date. But this week hit me differently. These girls are starting to genuinely invest in their feelings for Chris, and we are now seeing more vulnerability than ever before.

This week on the group date, all of the girls were tasked with writing their own love songs for Chris, which they then had to perform in front of the other girls. As someone blessed with not only a lovely voice but also a natural inclination for writing music and lyrics, this is something I would actually enjoy… minus having to perform my very personal, very intimate love song in front of my man’s other prospects.

For me, writing song lyrics is always an exercise in vulnerability. It’s how I pour out the most intense of my emotions. To publicly share words meant for the man I adore would be embarrassing regardless of his reaction, and to be rejected would make it doubly humiliating.

So when Chris wordlessly stole Britt away for some one-on-one time that turned into over an hour alone at a Big & Rich concert, he acted thoughtlessly. He left the other girls on the group date wondering where he went, and when they found out – after singing their hearts out in personal love songs to him – they all felt foolish, stupid, humiliated and rejected.

Jade admitted, in her usual shy way, “It’s hard to write a love song about somebody when he’s clearly into somebody else.” 

The typically confident Whitney expressed, “You compare yourself to someone who’s so beautiful – I mean, she’s gorgeous – and it makes you feel insecure.” 

Even Kaitlyn, who is usually so brash and brazen, had tears rolling down her cheeks. I have never been a fan of Kaitlyn, but this week, my heart went out to her because I saw beyond her tough exterior. “It’s humiliating to put yourself out there. His connection with her is so obvious to everyone.”

Whitney Carly Kaitlyn crying

Sweet Carly is a professional singer and performer on a cruise liner, so she was in her element on this date. Kaitlyn said of Carly, “They had a really intimate moment. I was almost in love for them.”

But even Carly got teary when Britt took off alone with Chris. “She’s going to come back with no lipstick on her mouth… Hey Carly, be invisible again.”

One of my dear friends gave me a book weeks ago called Wilderness Skills for Women. It’s all about journeying through the emotional wilderness of singleness, loneliness and rejection. The author, Marian Jordan, writes about The Bachelor,

“Each week’s episode of The Bachelor ends with a gaggle of girls shedding tearful good-byes. Some are tears… of pain. The real pain of rejection. The coffee shop psychologist in me is always amazed at the reactions of the women on the show. It is fascinating to watch. Most of these girls have spent less than four hours total with the guy, but it never seems to matter. If she doesn’t get the rose, she is totally crushed. And it doesn’t really matter who the guy is… every girl wants to be picked. Not one single woman stands in the rose ceremony wishing that her name won’t be called. As women, we want to be singled out, chosen, and yes, offered the rose.”

So this week, sweet girls, I won’t make fun of you. Because I see you as you are – wounded, hurting, lonely women just like so many of the rest of us, longing to be singled out and chosen; longing to be told that we are worthy, desirable and loved.

For anyone reading this who feels unworthy, undesirable or unloved, be encouraged. Because there is Someone who is head over heels in love with you; Someone who is passionate about you and zealous for you; Someone who is pursuing you and wooing you to Himself. The God of the Universe loves you unconditionally, just as you are. You are precious, and He deemed you worth dying for.

Authentically Aurora

More Than Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For every thirst and every need.

You satisfy me with Your love

And all I have in You is more than enough.

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

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

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

Authentically Aurora

The Importance of Companionship

Elderly CoupleLife is so much sweeter when lived in companionship with someone who knows you fully and yet, in spite of knowing your flaws, proceeds to love you unconditionally.

I wrote yesterday about laughing with Kyle about the ridiculousness (i.e. horrifying embarrassment) of my Monday. Being able to laugh with a friend about what would otherwise be a freakishly terrible day completely changed the lens through which I viewed the morning’s experiences.

My parents lived in China for three years for an expat assignment, and they had a blast, but they each told me separately that, without the other, it would have been an awful three years. Because my dad had my mom there with him, he was able to vent – and then laugh – about the comical nature of trying to run an efficient and profitable business in a country that values full employment and saving face above all else. Because my mom had my dad there with her, she was able to chuckle about her stories of shopping at the grocery store, moo-ing at the butcher to ensure they ate beef (not dog) for dinner. If either of them had lived in rural China alone for three years, the experience would have been frustratingly painful and disconcerting. Instead, it was a wonderfully memorable adventure for them as a couple.

I am often struck by a rather revealing statement in the biblical story of creation. After God created both land and sea, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10). When He created plants and vegetation, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12). He created the sun and moon and “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:18). Three more times, God looks over His creation and declares it “good”. But in the midst of this perfection, prior to sin entering the world and corrupting God’s creation, God sees one thing that He declares NOT good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). And so God creates a wife for Adam, and Adam names her Eve.

What this tells me is that loneliness existed before sin entered the world. Despite having a perfect, uninhibited relationship with a perfect and holy God, Adam was lonely. Despite living in paradise, Adam was lonely. Despite looking around at all of the rest of creation and declaring it “good”, God saw Adam’s isolation and declared it “not good”.

Adam’s loneliness was not a sin. We were created in the image of the Triune God and, therefore, were created for companionship. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help… Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer” (Eccl. 4:9-12).

I am striving to be content in my singleness, because I know that God is the ultimate Satisfier of my Soul. No man can “complete me” or fully satisfy me. Every human being is fallible and will disappoint me, just as I will disappoint them. But I long for a companion to share my life with – someone to laugh with about the hard days and rejoice with in the good days – because I was created for companionship. We all were. Loneliness is not a sin. And it is not good for man to be alone.

Authentically Aurora