Healing the Hemorrhaging

stressI don’t trust God with my life. I say that I do – my head knows all the bible verses about God’s trustworthiness – but my anxious thoughts and frantic, spastic actions tell me that – at a heart level – I really don’t.

I don’t trust God with my career. In the past five years – in addition to continuing to work a full-time job at a major oil company – I have gone to Seminary, worked on a degree in Graphic Design, interviewed with Apple in Cupertino, interviewed to be the Women’s Director at my church, written and released an album of original music on iTunes and started teaching Math after school to test the waters for becoming a Math teacher full-time.

I am straining and striving, flailing and hemorrhaging, desperate to find a career that fits not only my skills and talents but also my passions and core values. But why wouldn’t I trust the One who knows me better than I know myself; the One knit me together in my mother’s womb and created me uniquely and with purpose?

I don’t trust God with my relationships. When my high school boyfriend broke up with me, I lost 14 lbs in ten days. When my college boyfriend broke up with me, I went into a deep depression that lasted two years. When my fiance broke off our engagement last year, I continued to date him for three months after he stated he wasn’t sure if he still wanted to marry me.

I stay in or pine after unhealthy relationships long after they’re over because I am desperate to feel loved and not alone. But why wouldn’t I let my heart rest in the One who loves me more than a man ever can; the One who loves me unconditionally and without reservation?

Trust is something that is built over time, and faith is a muscle we must exercise. This morning, I set my alarm for 5:30am so I would be on time for my 7:00am conference call at the office – a 40 minute drive from my apartment. I woke up when my alarm went off but must have fallen back asleep because the next thing I remember is looking at my cell phone’s screen and seeing: 6:10am. Shoot.

When I dashed out my front door twenty minutes later, I started talking frantically to God:

“Could you get me to work on time today? This meeting is with my boss. Okay, that’s not reasonable. This is a stupid prayer. There are way more important things going on in the world. But it matters to me, so it matters to you, right? Phil. 4:6. I mean, You’re in the details, right? Will you get me to work on time? Ugh, that’s not practical. But You can do anything. But why would You do that for me when I’m the one who overslept? Okay, how about this: Maybe I don’t get to work on time, but will You make it okay that I’m late?”

Probably not the most reverent, eloquent or theologically sound prayer ever, but God just wants our hearts. And He knows my thoughts anyway. May as well be real with the King of the Universe.

When I got to the office at 7:14am, I discovered that my boss was out of the office and had cancelled the meeting last-minute.

Thanks, God.

Authentically Aurora

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Churchill Wasn’t Talking About Dating

passive-aggressiveI don’t know whether to be impressed or appalled by Nick’s insatiable enthusiasm for persisting in trying to date me.

I can appreciate his Churchill-like perseverance, but I’m pretty sure Churchill’s famous “never give in” speech wasn’t about dating. In war, be persistent. In love, be perceptive.

After the Dutch steak debacle, I thought Nick and I were through rehashing our non-relationship. But then I got this text:

photoSo he wanted to get dinner with me, but when I told him I had other plans, he decided that he couldn’t even stay until the end of math practice. Does that seem a bit passive-aggressive to anyone else? Especially when, shortly thereafter, he sent me another text referencing the profile picture associated with my gmail account:

CaptureSee, this is why I love math. Math is black and white. Your answer is either right or wrong. And there’s no revisiting the answer multiple times.

Math doesn’t create drama. Math doesn’t invite you to undefined steak dinners. Math is simple and straightforward.

Math doesn’t give mixed signals or go all passive-aggressive on you. Math doesn’t make obscure sports references in an effort to quantify your level of attractiveness.

Relationships with Math exist without ambiguity. People either love or hate Math. And Math either loves or hates people.

Math is basically the best boyfriend ever. So peace out, Nick. I’m spoken for. I’m committed to my relationship with Math.

Authentically Aurora

a + n ≠ ♥

Cute math teacherRemember Nick the Strict – the handsome, athletic, good-with-kids church volunteer who thought it was a good idea to take me running for our second date (um, false) and then condemned painting images of Jesus as idolatry (negatory, bro)?

He’s back.

Those of you who are regular readers might be concerned for my sanity and emotional well being (always a legitimate concern, regardless of the presence of Nick the Strict in my life), but don’t worry. Nick the Strict is only back in my life; not in my love life. I’m not that crazy.

You  may recall that Nick is a junior high math teacher. You may also recall that I recently posted about how I am now volunteering to coach Math Club at a local middle school. And the more brilliant of you may by now have put two-and-two together and realized that – yes – it was Nick the Strict who got me involved in my math coaching gig.

Nick called me out of the blue on a Saturday in early January. I hadn’t heard from him since our fiasco of a last date several months ago, but I answered. He was at a weekend math competition and confessed to me, “These kids are little geniuses, but I don’t know how to lead them. We need someone like you who has competed in this kind of arena before.”

I thought about it, prayed about it, and realized that I hadn’t been so excited about anything in a long time. Pretty nerdy to get stoked about teaching math to kids, but there you have it. A week later, I was in a classroom teaching kids about doing base conversions in their heads.

It only took about two weeks for Nick the Strict to make another pass at dating me. He sent me a text one evening: “Hey Aurora. Would you like to join me for dinner after math club on Thursday? I want to try this new steakhouse near the school.”

I knew my answer the instant I saw the text, but I took my time in crafting a diplomatic response: “I like steak. 🙂  How do you feel about going Dutch?”

I waited with anxious anticipation for how he would respond to my delicate rejection of his pseudo-date request. So when I saw his text reply light up the screen on my iPhone, I just sighed and rolled my eyes. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Nick the Strict was never the most brilliant of my suitors.

“What? Lol, I don’t know any Dutch steak houses at all.”

Oh, Nick. Don’t you know that “going Dutch” has nothing to do with windmills or wooden shoes?

I sent him a screenshot of an online dictionary’s definition of what it means to go Dutch. His response: “I would like to treat you. However, if you feel you want to pay for yourself, no problem. We could go dutch at a casual Italian place next door.”

So now that it’s clearly no longer a date, you don’t want to go to the steakhouse at all. Nice.

“That’s okay,” I told him. “I’ll just come teach, and we’ll leave it at that.”

Why does everything in life have to be so complicated?

Authentically Aurora

Teaching Math to Hoodlums

Latte ArtI love math.

And coffee.

And when the two come together for an afternoon of pure, unexpected awesomeness.

For about a month now, I have been coaching a junior high Math Club. Every Thursday afternoon, I leave work a little bit early to drive to a local middle school and teach Number Sense (competitive mental math) to about a dozen 7th and 8th graders.

Yes, I was a nerdy Mathlete once upon a time, spending my Saturdays at math competitions. Fortunately for American society, I now teach other young, impressionable children to be equally as nerdy. Luckily for these kids, some brilliant fashionista coined the term “hipster” so they have a chance to be cool while being smart. I cannot say I was so fortunate back in my day.

On the week I started this volunteer work, I allowed a lot of extra time for traffic, not knowing how long it would take me to drive across town. I ended up arriving almost an hour early, so I stopped by a neighboring Starbucks to kill some time while I waited for the after school program to start.

As I climbed out of my car – still in my business suit – and walked up to the door of Starbucks, some teenagers dressed in all black with punk accessories started to catcall me. One in particular, with sunken eyes and an untamed mass of curls, called out, “Hey lady, will you buy me a drink?”

I looked him up and down and asked why I should do that. He said, “Because it’s freezing out here!”

It’s true that it was cold outside, but when I asked, “Why don’t you go inside then?”, he looked dumbfounded for a second; then replied with sass, “I’m so cold, I’m frozen in place!”

I lifted my chin and told him, “Then you’re not smart enough to earn yourself a drink.”

I walked inside, got in line to order, and had a crazy thought. I am an engineer, not a teacher, and it would be nice to run through my lesson plan with a practice audience. The punk kids outside all wanted coffee (and obviously needed some positive adult attention), so I got out of line before I could over think the wild idea.

I popped my head outside and called to the dozen teenagers skulking about, “Hey, anybody who wants a free coffee, come with me! If you are willing to sit and listen to fifteen minutes’ worth of a math lesson, I’ll buy you a drink!”

The curly-haired boy who had asked me for a hot drink only moments earlier gaped at me with wide eyes, astonished. “Are you serious?”

“I sure am. Are you coming?” I held the door open for him as he walked in, along with five of his friends.

They had been angry, aggressive kids outside, wrapped in their claimed misunderstood status, but once in line with me, the transformation in their collective demeanor was astounding. They were all suddenly shy, polite, and sweet.

Every single teen, when he or she got to the front of the line, looked up at me with big eyes and asked shyly, “Does it matter what size I get?” I loved that they asked, and I loved that I could tell them, “Get whatever you want. It’s my treat.”

After the last kid had ordered, and I paid for their drinks along with my tall cafe mocha (with whip, of course), the cashier asked me skeptically, “Is this some kind of community outreach program?”

I laughed, “Nope. This is just me loving on some kids and practicing my math lesson.”

The woman raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, looking scornfully at the teens behind me. “Well you treat them better than we do.” These kids must be the bane of her existence, always hanging around outside the store, seemingly up to no good.

Once all of the teens were settled with their inevitably Venti-sized drinks in their hands, I started the lesson. I walked them through LIOF and the Rule of 11, first explaining how each mental math trick worked; then talking through examples. I let the kids pick the numbers we used, getting them involved in the exercises. And then I made each of them solve a problem on their own in front of the group.

When my fifteen minutes were almost up, I turned to the curly-haired boy and said, “Okay, you’re the last one. Time to do your sample problem.”

“No, I went at the beginning,” he told me, straight-faced.

“You did?” I asked him.

“No he didn’t!” said the lone girl in the group. “Remember? I went first!”

I raised my eyebrows at the boy and said with a tease in my voice. “This is a Lie-Free Zone. Did you already solve an example for the group?”

He looked down at his shoes. “No,” he told me.

“Alright. Then let’s do one together. I’ll help you. Do you want to do LIOF or the Rule of 11?”

We worked through the problem together, with the other kids surprisingly giving him encouraging comments as he thought through the answer. When he solved the math problem, his eyes lit up. He was so proud of himself that I had to blink quickly to hide the tears welling up in my eyes.

It was an absolute joy to watch the lightbulbs go off in the eyes of these teens; to watch their confidence build over the course of just fifteen minutes. I loved hearing them encourage one another and get excited about learning something new – about math, of all things!

Before long, I had to leave to teach the kids actually involved in Math Club. But I’ve gotta admit, teaching the hoodlums was way more fun. I have been looking for a place to actively volunteer for five years, but organizational bureaucracy or stringent scheduling always has gotten in the way. Maybe I finally found my niche. Maybe it’s time I just start going to different Starbucks and picking out juvenile delinquents to invest in. Math for Mochas. It’s got a nice ring to it.

Authentically Aurora