People are the Worst.

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I’ve made nearly $500 in the past week selling off old junk I never used anyway. The impetus for my mass clean out was that I recently moved apartments to be closer to the school where I’ll start teaching next month.

I’ve been using Facebook Marketplace as a venue for my online garage sale of sorts, and the first few transactions went great. My favorite was when I sold off my first SLR camera to a well-mannered (and very country) high school boy who insisted on addressing me as ma’am. When we met for the transaction in front of a local shopping mall, he was giddy with excitement to spend his yard-mowing money on his first camera, and it was my joy to watch him click through all of the features of the SLR. I gave him a good discount and included a lot of accessories, too.

But that’s where the highlight reel ended.

Since then, I’ve had a woman message me claiming to be “a disabled mom [whose] money is very tight.” She asked me to give her a full set of dishes for free because, “My children and I just moved here from Indiana to get away from their abusive father. We had to pretty much leave everything behind and starting over. Just trying to make a decent home for them with used items I can find. If you would be willing, please let me know.” I told her I already had a buyer but that I had some lower-end dishes I’d be willing to give her for free. I never heard back from the “disabled mom”.

Next, I got a message from the daughter of some woman named “Miranda” who claimed her mom would like to buy a purse I had listed for sale, but the mom didn’t have Facebook, so the daughter gave me an email address to contact the mom. When I heard back from Momma Miranda via email, she said she was sending me a check in the mail but “included the shipment funds in the amount on the check for the mover to come for the pick up. And you are to deduct your money $600 as agreed and additional $50 for keeping the item for me and your running around and then give the rest balance to the mover coming for the pick up, I hope i can trust you with my money?”

Umm… what? The purse was for sale for $60, not $600, and the check that – sure enough – showed up the next day was for $1,650. And the check was signed John Smith. Literally. John Smith.

I didn’t cash the check or send the purse or take any action other than calling the police department for the account address listed on the check – a small town in Illinois – but they told me I had to call my local police department. The local police down here in the South aren’t going to get involved, so I called the bank listed on the check. They couldn’t help me but told me to call their local police. So I made yet another phone call to yet another small town in Illinois, and the dispatcher started to tell me to have my local police handle it, but I explained, “Look, I haven’t been personally harmed by this fraud at all. I still have the purse, and I still have my money. I didn’t give out any sensitive personal information. I am just trying to do the right thing and help these people get caught, but I have no skin in the game. No one seems to want to claim jurisdiction, which is why money laundering continues to be an effective white collar crime.”

She patched me through to the Head Deputy of Podunksville, Illinois.

He ended up being really nice and really helpful. He was appreciative of my efforts and, even though the check from his small town in Illinois was mailed from Ohio down to me in Texas, with instructions to wire the remaining funds to the “mover” in Georgia, this Head Deputy asked me to send him all of the information I’d received, both digital and hardcopies, so that he could look it over and try to prosecute these people for fraud.

I packed everything up and drove to USPS to mail the hardcopies to the Deputy. Once there, I tried to pay the $6.65 shipping charge, but my card was declined, so I had to pay with a secondary card. Back in my car, I called the credit card company, and they said there were hundreds of dollars in Uber rides charged to my card in San Francisco. In an unrelated cyber attack, my credit card number had been compromised.

People are the worst.

Authentically Aurora

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Provision Through Prayer (Part 2)

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“Are these high-tech engineering charter schools the only ones who will hire someone like me?” I wondered to myself. After attending three job fairs – and feeling like I’d had successful conversations at each – only H*****y Public Schools had called me back for interviews.

This charter school system focuses intensely on math and science curriculum as early as elementary school, so I understood why they would be interested in a career engineer transitioning into teaching. But after everything I’d read about H*****y and the sense of darkness I’d felt at the career fair, I was distraught at the thought that they may be my only chance to start teaching in the fall.

“Would I rather teach at a H*****y school or be unemployed?” This was the question I mulled over for the 24 hours following the career fair. And I was seriously considering unemployment. “I could continue substitute teaching. The pay isn’t great, and I wouldn’t have healthcare benefits, but I could find something to bridge the gap.”

My anxiety was doubled when I found out that the H*****y interviews were teaching a 20-minute lesson in front of an actual class, while the school principal looked on to evaluate your teaching style, ability and effectiveness. I’ve volunteered to teach math and art over the years, and I’ve been substitute teaching on and off since October, but to be under the microscope on how I teach for purposes of an interview had me nearly breaking out in hives.

Thankfully the H*****y career fair was on Saturday morning, so I took comfort that the very next day I would be surrounded by loving encouragement at my church where I would get to fight my anxiety and hopelessness with truth and prayer, buoyed by the hope and peace of fellowship with my church community.

Saturday night – hours after the career fair – Seth and I babysat for Crisitin again. We love watching her four kiddos; it brings us joy and is one of our favorite date night activities. While Seth talked with Cristin’s husband in the moments before the couple left for the evening, Cristin and I caught up about my job situation. She’s a great listener and patiently listened as I poured out my heart regarding H*****y and the other schools I’d hoped to interview with.

When I finished, Cristin gave me a hug, prayed for me and asked me gently, “Do you think you’re supposed to go to those H*****y interviews? Even though you don’t have any other interviews lined up, it’s okay to turn them down if you have this much unrest about them. Not every open door needs to be walked through. There’s wisdom in knocking on doors of opportunity, but there’s also wisdom in being discerning about when to say no. God is going to provide and put you where He wants you.” She encouraged me to pray and ask God for direction specifically about whether to put myself through going to the H*****y interviews or to just walk away.

At the end of our services, my church has a time set aside where anyone needing prayer can come to the front and talk with a prayer partner. Every week, dozens of people come forward to receive counsel, encouragement and words of truth spoken into the lies they’ve been believing. The week prior, the sermon topic covered finances and being a good steward of all we’ve been blessed with by God. During prayer time following this sermon on financial stewardship, many people went forward for prayer regarding their financial situations. Whether praying for peace to battle anxiety over a financial situation, requesting provision to have financial needs met or something else entirely, everyone was welcome.

Although our pastor didn’t tell anyone to give financially, that week I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to be the answer to someone’s prayer. I have received bountifully from the Lord, and I believe everything I’ve been given has been given with a purpose. I want to walk out the good purposes God prepared in advance for me to do, and I believed that morning there was someone God wanted me to bless with an outpouring of generosity, not to glorify myself but to glorify God and be a reminder to someone that God still provides; God still hears prayers, and He is swift to answer – sometimes through His people and sometimes supernaturally.

I wanted to be an encouragement to someone through very practical means, so that Sunday morning I went forward and was redirected to an associate pastor who, the next day, connected me with a widow who is struggling to make ends meet as she tries to raise two children by herself. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (James 1:27). 

Fast forward one week to the Sunday after my H*****y career fair; the day after Cristin reminded me that not every open door needs to be walked through. I don’t typically go up for partner prayer during worship time at church, but my spirit was so tumultuous within me that I dashed up the aisle almost before the sermon was over. I knew most of the prayer volunteers, and I wanted to meet with someone new – someone who could offer a fresh perspective without having their words colored by what they already knew of me.

Prayer PartnerI saw a young woman with long, brown hair standing up front and made a beeline for her. She looked about my age with kind eyes and a warm smile. When I approached her, she reached out her hands to take mine and squeezed them gently when I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Aurora.”

“I’m Dani.” She hugged me as I leaned forward to speak into her ear about my situation, projecting my voice over the sound of the worship music playing behind us. When I finished explaining, I pulled back and was surprised to see delight on her face. “I’m not sure if you noticed,” she said, rubbing her belly, “But I’m pregnant and taking some time away from work this fall. I’m a 9th grade math teacher at ******* Christian High School. You should take my job.”

I was stunned. Dani’s eyes danced joyfully as I gathered my thoughts. “I’m not certified for high school,” I told her, still marveling at her words.

“That’s okay,” she told me with a wave of her hand. “I’m not either. It’s private school, so your certification doesn’t matter that much.” I told her my background and current teaching certification, and she told me that I’d be perfect for the job.

“I’ve been trying to help my principal find the right replacement for me,” Dani explained. “I’m so glad God brought you to me. Here’s my contact information,” she scribbled her name, number and email address on a piece of paper she pulled from her purse. “Send me your resume, and I’ll make sure my principal sees it.”

“Wow. Thank you so much!” I floated back to my seat, Dani’s paper gripped in my hand. She’d given me a job opportunity, but more than that, God had used Dani to give me hope again. I wasn’t relegated to teaching at a public charter school with discriminatory practices. There were other opportunities out there. I was free to say no to H*****y.

Just as God had worked through me to answer the prayer of a widow the week before, God had worked through Dani to remind me of His provision. Whether this job at ******* Christian High School panned out or not, it was a reminder to me that God is able to do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. He’s a good, good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children.

Authentically Aurora

The Frugal Woman’s Shopping Spree

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My mom and I share a CVS Pharmacy card, so we double up on our points, meaning that I occasionally get a huge printout of coupons for use on my next visit. Last week I hit the coupon JACKPOT:

  • $3 off $15 lip or eye makeup
  • $3 off $9 Revlon cosmetics
  • $1 off $5 candy or chocolate
  • $1.50 off $4 body wash

Candy? Chocolate? Cosmetics? Yes, please! And BONUS! Body wash was on my shopping list already since I’m almost out!

It was like the stars aligned. The pharmacy fairies sprinkled some of their white powdery angel dust on me, and suddenly I was a pillionaire with coupons galore to save on all of a woman’s favorite things!

All day long, I looked forward to my shopping spree at CVS Pharmacy, and lo and behold, the bounty was indeed plentiful:

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All told, I saved nearly 25% on my indulgences (and items I needed to buy anyway)! Seth is a value shopper and, last time he heard about my frugality, rewarded me with a kiss. After hearing about my purchases at the pharmacy, I wonder what he’ll prescribe this time. 😉

Authentically Aurora

Perks of Frugality

Seth TextWhen Seth took me to his ranch a few weekends ago with a group of mutual friends, he and I were tasked with grocery shopping for the group, so we threw a couple of ice chests in the back of his truck and went for an honest-to-goodness grocery run in town.

After picking out produce together, Seth sent me off to find some mustard. Eager to get back to him, I scanned the shelves, grabbed a small value brand mustard and hurried back to where he stood by the deli meat. Seth took the mustard from me and started to throw it in our cart, but he did a double-take at the label and cried in dismay, “Organic?! What in the world are you doing buying organic mustard?!”

He marched me back down the condiments aisle, replaced the distasteful container and, two shelves down, picked up an almost identical mustard by the same value brand. “80 cents. That’s more like it. Your fancy organic mustard was $1.20. We just saved 40 cents by not going organic.”

“Wow. I guess you can really treat me on our date next week!” I teased with a nudge.

Having thoroughly learned my lesson, I took extra care with my personal grocery shopping last week. When Seth came over to make stuffed bell peppers together – bringing meat from one of his family’s own bulls – I nodded at the bell peppers I’d purchased for us earlier in the day.

“You may notice that all of our bell peppers are yellow and green,” I said casually. Seth paused chopping the onions to glance over at me, sensing that I was about to say something of note.

I shrugged in mock nonchalance, continuing, “That’s because these were two for a dollar, whereas the red bell peppers were $1.25 each.”

In an instant, Seth was at my side, arms wrapped around my waist and face just inches from mine. “You are so attractive to me right now,” he told me in his low drawl before he lowered his lips to mine, rewarding me for my frugality.

Authentically Aurora