Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine-blogger-award

Some of my favorite days are the cool, blustery days where the golden rays of sun shine down and warm your chilled hands and face even as you snuggle under a cozy, oversized sweatshirt. Serendipitously, I recently learned that there is a word for this phenomenon: apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day.

I like that word. Apricity. And it’s what I want to be to the world: the warmth of the sun on a cold day. The warmth of the Son on a proverbially cold day. That’s what Jesus came to be – light in the darkness; warmth to the cold. Neither dark nor cold actually exist; they are the absence of light and heat respectively, and Jesus came to freely give all He had to those who had none. Apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day. 

Little Sunshine over at Sunshine Ave recently nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award (an aptly-named award for a blog so named)!  Evidently…

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

…something I aim to do both on this blog and in everyday life! I am honored to have been nominated for this award and gladly accept! Thank you, Little Sunshine, for the nomination!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

Rule #1? Check!

Rule #2? Here we go…

Little Sunshine posed the following 10 questions for me to answer:

  1. What is your biggest dream?
    • This question makes me think of Rapunzel in “Tangled”. rapunzel-dream
    • I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years, and I’ve been blessed to see most of them come true. I used to dream of somewhat superficial things – visiting all 7 continents, releasing an original album on iTunes – but now I consider those more of life goals. A dream is something precious and intimate, interwoven into your heart. And these days, my dream is more like a vision – to be a wife and mother, full of life and joy, radiating light into the world and growing more and more into the godly woman I’ve been uniquely created to be.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    • As mentioned in #1, I’ve had a goal for a while of visiting all 7 continents. I’ve been to about 30 countries and 5 continents, all of them wonderful experiences, and a year ago, I would have definitely said that I most want to visit Australia and New Zealand. But Seth is an American through and through; a homebody of a patriot, and we are taking a trip to California later this month, which is about as foreign a trip as this cowboy wants to take. And after imagining exploring California with Seth, there’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?introverting-coffee-book
    • Introvert. Definitely. This surprises most people when they first hear it – mostly because I’m a pretty social, outgoing introvert – but my perfect day involves curling up in a quiet little nook with a latte and good book… or finding a secluded park where I can walk and think and listen to music on my earbuds… or staying home to clean and organize my apartment… or sitting alone in the silence to work on my latest art project. Mmm. Perfection.
  4. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
    • Yep. When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I wanted to go to West Point and be an engineer. But what we want as sweet, innocent, idealistic 8-year-olds is not always aligned with reality, so although I am living the dream of having an engineering degree and working at a major oil company in Corporate America, I have discovered that the composite of the bureaucracy, politicking, process nazis and inauthenticity of my current workplace comprise something akin to my personal hell. Which is why I am changing careers to teaching… where I can spread my cynicism wisdom to the next generation.
  5. Do you usually follow your heart or your head?
    • My head. Sometimes going with your gut is a great option for quick decisions, but for any decision that allows for more than a few seconds to go with your first instinct, I have found that emotions are subject to the whim and fancy of the day and may not hold up longer-term. I prefer thinking through the logic of various options, examining my intentions, considering the ripple effect of whichever choice I make, and of course consulting God in prayer.
  6. What are you most thankful for? by-grace-through-faith
    • That while I was still a sinner, Christ did for me. Even though I am undeserving of being rescued from my sinfulness and total depravity, Jesus willingly took on the punishment I deserve (through his death and resurrection) so that I could be brought into a right relationship with God. Nothing compares with that – no family relationships, no dating relationships, no job or financial success… Without God’s love and mercy and grace, I would be like the walking dead.
  7. What’s on your bucket list this year?
    • Finishing my teaching certification. And maybe getting my CHL.
  8. What’s your favorite food ever?chocolate-is-a-girls-best-friend
    • Peanut butter. Or chocolate. Let’s go with chocolate covered almonds as a fair compromise. 😀
  9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
    • “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
  10. Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?
    • My favorite trip I’ve ever taken was to Germany at Christmastime with my family, but the place I’ve visited that most inspired me would have to be South Sudan, mostly because that trip helped to right my perspective on so many things in life. We are profoundly blessed.

Alright! Hopefully you all now feel like you know a bit more about me! Here are my nominees (I liked Little Sunshine’s questions, so answer these same questions if you choose to accept)!

  1. MyLittlePieceofQuiet
  2. Salvageable
  3. InsanityBytes
  4. MrsSpike
  5. BlissfulBritt
  6. SingleStrides
  7. INFJRamblings
  8. MySweetJesusBlog
  9. BeautyBeyondBones
  10. TheRoseQuartz
  11. Captainsspeech

Authentically “Sunshiny” Aurora

Just Call Me Leonidas

Leonidas

300 is a pretty significant number for a group of followers. It was the number of Spartans that King Leonidas led into battle against Xerxes and his invading army of soldiers.

It was the number of men with which Gideon defeated the Midianites.

It was the number of witches and wizards in Dumbledore’s Army.

(Okay, maybe not that last one, but no conversation about great armies is complete without mentioning Neville Longbottom rallying the troops for the Battle of Hogwarts.)

Neville

This week, my blog reached 300 followers, and I am so thankful for all of you, but especially those who have read, commented and encouraged me along the way. Bitter Ben, IB, Ally, Mrs. Spike, J and so many more… thanks for your frequent likes and comments!

As a way of saying thanks, let’s do a roll call! Fill out the poll below, and leave a comment answering: What would you do with an extra $300 this month? Buy 300 chocolate bars, 2 pairs of Kendra earrings, a new iPad… the possibilities are endless!

QueenGorgo

“Send our army for hope – hope that a King and his men have not been wasted to the pages of history – that their courage bonds us together, that we are made stronger by their actions, and that your choices today reflect their bravery.” -Queen Gorgo, 300

Authentically Aurora

Mental About My Dental

Teeth-WhiteningPeople are weirdly obsessed with my teeth.

Apparently a new person in my circle of friends was asking someone else about me – what they think of me – and, of all the comments and observations that could have been made about me, the person’s response was: “She’s really intense. And she has good teeth.”

I’m intense. And I have good teeth. I mean, both of those things are true. The former is one of my greatest insecurities and the reason nearly every one of my boyfriends has broken up with me. The latter, as my daddy likes to say, is because he “paid a lot of good money for those teeth!” Nine months of braces. Thanks, Dad. 

Soon after that interaction, I found myself doing the whole standing-talking-in-the-parking-lot thing with one of the men in my bible study, and during the course of our conversation, he suddenly stopped and said, “You have really good teeth.”

I appreciated the compliment, but since his family owns a cattle ranch, this – his very first compliment to me – made me feel a bit like a horse being appraised for investment. Not the most flattering compliment of all time, but I tried to take it in the spirit in which it was intended.

Then last night, while volunteering at a ministry that provides career counseling and mentorship to at-risk youth, two of my freshman kept giggling during our session. When I asked what was up, they blurt out, “You have great teeth. They’re so white!” …and then, embarrassed, they erupted into giggles, covering their mouths and hiding under the table.

I smiled, thanked them, and brought us back to the lesson at hand, but – since all three interactions involved boys – the next time a man tells me I have good teeth, I’m going to ask in response, “Would you say my teeth are ‘like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing’?”

After all, a girl’s got to know where she stands.

Authentically Aurora

Is This Real Life?

Is This Real LifeStressed out after the Roy/Jess drama on Sunday, I drove to the park for some alone time. As I drove past rows and rows of cars – hurt and frustrated – I said out loud in a tired voice, “God, will you provide parking for me?”

At that instant, the passenger in the car in front of me rolled down their window, pointed off to the right, and kept driving. I looked to where the arm had pointed, and there – right where the arm had pointed – was a parking spot.

Dumbfounded, I pulled into the spot, put my car in park, and said out loud in bewilderment, “Thanks.”

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.” -CS Lewis

Authentically Aurora

Reconciliation

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I talked with Grant today.

He apologized sincerely. He was afraid to call, unsure how angry I would still be. He didn’t sleep well last night and felt horrible about what he said and did after the concert.

Of his own volition, he acknowledged that he is selfish, immature, and has unrealistic expectations for the woman he dates and ultimately marries. He has never been able to make a relationship last, and he told me that he knows he has some growing up to do.

He wants to seek the Lord and get his life in order so that he can be ready for a legitimate relationship. “I have a lot of growing up to do before I’m ready to be a spiritual leader.” He wants to learn how to date seriously and with intentionality. Not with me; we established that. But with someone. Someday.

And he wanted to affirm me. Admitting that he spoke too harshly, he wanted me to hear that I am:

Encouraging, Supportive, Uplifting

Sweet, Kind, Thoughtful

Honest, Authentic, Real

Smart, Savvy, Successful

My encouraging nature is his favorite thing about me. “You believe in me in ways no one else does. You believe in me more than I believe in myself.” Yes, I do. That’s because I believe you are teachable, self-reflective, and genuinely want to be a godly  man. And when we align our desires with God’s, we can be sure that we have what we have asked of Him (1 John 5).

I’m glad we reconciled. His friendship is one I did not want to lose.

If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. -Matthew 5:23-24

Authentically Aurora

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

Identity: Remembering Who You Are

Princess - Daughter of King

My dreams are not too big. They are too small.

Sometimes I wonder if the hopes and dreams I have for myself are unrealistic and unattainable, but hearing the story of Levi Lusko at the Passion conference reminded me that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His dreams for us are often bigger than the dreams we have for ourselves.

We operate in the visible realm, but God operates in the spiritual realm. We set our eyes on earthly things, but God is concerned with heavenly things. He has eternal purposes in mind for our lives, and He is the God of “infinitely more”. God is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine (Eph: 3:20-21). Our dreams are too small.

But often, in order to bring God-sized dreams to fruition, we must first undergo a time of refinement. It’s possible to walk through valleys of suffering without any good coming from them, but if we fix our eyes on God, He will create purpose in even those circumstances that feel purposeless. What the devils intends for evil, God can use for good (Gen. 50:20). No season of life need be useless.

There is purpose in the pain. To take away our suffering is often to take away our ministry. And there is purpose in the waiting. Seasons of waiting are how we are refined. As frustrated as I felt after being convicted of my impatience to prematurely leave the sheep field for the throne room, I was also encouraged to be reminded of God’s good purposes interwoven into even the most painful of circumstances – be they the heartache of a broken engagement or simply the monotony of a paper-pushing desk job with seemingly no end in sight. There is purpose in the pain, and there is a reason for the waiting.

An important revelation for me at the Passion conference was that our Identity is not our Calling. We live in a culture where people tend to believe that what we do defines who we are. Sometimes when I’m in a stagnant season of life where I don’t feel like I’m doing much good, I start to believe that am worth less to God. But my Identity is that I am a Daughter of the King. I am a daughter of God, and my calling – my anointing, the good works I have been ordained to live out – are secondary to my Identity as His child. Our level of intimacy with God may ebb and flow over time, but once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, our relationship with God remains constant, and therein lies our core Identity: unconditionally loved children of the God of the Universe. 

God loves us and has good plans for us, but fears and doubts sometimes keep us from believing that God has gifted us for His Kingdom work. If I’m honest with myself, I often worry that I am the problem; I am the reason I am stuck in this season of waiting instead of walking out my anointing. God wanted to do great things in and through me, but I am beyond hope of healing. I’m afraid that I can never change; I’m doomed to this intense personality with all its flaws. I’m afraid I’ll never fully recover from my bitterness and cynicism. I am shaped by my past, never to fully heal. I am not married because I am not marriageable. I don’t have a job I enjoy because I am incapable of being a joyful person. I am the problem. God cannot make me usable, and that is why I am stuck in this season of waiting.

These are lies from the pit of hell. God is good. He loves me, and He has good plans for me (Rom. 8:28). He has begun a good work in me that He is carrying out to completion (Phil. 1:6). I am being sanctified, little by little, day by day, being grown and developed and refined to be more like Christ.  Who do I think I am, to be powerful enough to thwart the plans of God?! How ridiculous, ignorant and narcissistic to believe that I am capable of getting in God’s way; that I am beyond God’s power to redeem! While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come. It is God Himself who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

It’s imperative that, as God’s children, we know what our Daddy says about us. When Christine Caine spoke at Passion, she told a story about when her daughter was in kindergarten. Evidently, one of the boys in the daughter’s kindergarten class called her “dumb and ugly.” According to the teacher, Christine’s daughter – instead of shrinking back or crying – threw her shoulders back and declared, “No, I’m not. My daddy says I’m smart and beautiful!”

And that made all the difference. We must know what God our Father says about us. We are not beyond redemption. We are not beyond the hope of healing. I am not too broken and bitter and hard-hearted to be used by God. He is able to transform me, and He is able to use me for good purposes in this broken world. Yes, Lord. Take my imperfect ability and do a perfecting work!

Authentically Aurora