Always.

Alan RickmanMy heart is so sad today. Alan Rickman was one of my favorite actors of all time, and I love him even more after reading all the tributes that shed light on who he was off screen.

Alan was one of the rare actors who understood the complexity of the INTJ persona; he magnificently portrayed multifaceted antagonists and, as Stephen Fry wrote, was “a man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed.”

JK Rowling described Alan as “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man.” Others called him “deeply principled”. Daniel Radcliffe described him as loyal, supportive and encouraging. “Contrary to some of the sterner (or downright scary) characters he played, Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny.”

Emma Thompson’s tribute is my favorite, articulated with a bittersweet mingling of admiration and sorrow: “What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him. He was the finest of actors and directors. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with his face next. I consider myself hugely privileged to have worked with him so many times and to have been directed by him. He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics. I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”

Take note, young stars. This is the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Wand Tribute

Authentically Aurora

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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

Design for Discouragement

“I hate that I can still be so easily shaken, and somehow I convince myself that if I could just develop a healthy enough psyche, life couldn’t touch me.” -Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity

I wish the men in my life would stop wounding me. For the most part, they are godly, well-intentioned men. They are just thoughtless and oblivious. And I say that in the kindest way possible.

There are a few officers in my a cappella choir, one of whom is our Media Director. Knowing my experience with graphic design, he asked me to design some posters for our upcoming concert. I was thrilled to be asked and ecstatic to get started. I love to create. I love a blank canvas. I love developing a vision and seeing it become a reality.

Unfortunately, the Media Director already had a vision in mind, but fortunately, it’s one that I liked. He asked me to employ a minimalistic style, but when I showed him my work after spending an entire evening in Illustrator, he said it was too simplistic. Hmmm… minimalistic art being simplistic…? Go figure!

Minimalism

Minimalism

The Media Director sent me a patterned background to add as a layer in place of my simplistic one. I thought his background made the poster look cluttered, but I did what he asked. When I sent it to our Choir VP for sign-off, though, he said it was “too busy” and needed to be “simplified”. I’d used posterization because the media guy asked me to, but the VP said it made it “too hard to make out people’s faces”. He asked me to remember that we want “an aesthetically pleasing flyer.” Oh, we do? Sorry, I thought you wanted an atrocity of a flyer. 

Posterization

Posterization

Art is personal. It’s an extension of oneself. To criticize someone’s artwork without offering any kind of compliment or encouragement is damaging. In his introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne wrote about the vulnerability of self-expression through art forms:

“The truth seems to be, however, that, when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him, better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates. Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in such confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed, only and exclusively, to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy.”

Still further, I was only trying to do what our Media Director asked of me. I wish the officers had gotten aligned, that the VP had been kinder in his words, and that the Media Director had backed me up when the VP criticized my work that was a direct result of his guidance.

There were a few other instances with other guys this week, but I don’t even want to write about them. It will just get me upset again and stir up all kinds of insecurities I thought I had already dealt with.

“I feel everything. My joys are huge, and so are my sorrows. If I’m mad, I’m really mad, and if I’m despondent, I wonder how on earth I’ll go on… God gave me this tender heart, and though I want to give up my chronic insecurity, I really do want to hang on to my heart. I like to feel. When I don’t feel something, it’s like being dead.” -Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity

Authentically Aurora

Fools in Love – Part III

man-disembarking-taxi-looking-away-young-33888642“Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you.” -Joey Adams

My week started off with a bang. On Monday, my friend and colleague Bethany invited me to join her for lunch, along with a few other young coworkers who were in town from our Calgary and New Orleans offices. I was previously acquainted with all but one: an intense and enthusiastic 23-year-old from Canada named Vernon.

I ended up seated next to Vernon at the burger joint where we ate, and he was immediately fascinated by me. I was just trying to be welcoming and friendly, but Vernon’s initial comment to me (and then to the group) was, “You’re a genuinely happy person, aren’t you? You’re effervescent!”

Bethany and I just laughed. She has heard all of my grumblings at work and witnessed my post-breakup depression firsthand. But Vernon wasn’t deterred. He asked me about my home life. “You grew up in a stable home, didn’t you?”

“Yes…”

“I can tell. You’re so emotionally grounded and serene.”

Trying to take the focus off of myself, I asked Vernon about his home life. His parents immigrated from China and divorced shortly thereafter. He’s a self-proclaimed “heathen agnostic.” So we talked about faith – just Vernon and I – while the rest of the table gossiped about the personal lives of company leadership.

When I explained my perspective on God, Vernon looked deeply into my eyes, searching. Then his own eyes widened in realization, and he said with surprise, “You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.” I smiled.

Vernon was in workshops all week, but he insisted that we see each other again before he went back to Canada, so I agreed to join him with a group at karaoke on Thursday night after work. But on Thursday night, miscommunication abounded, and we ended up missing each other by a few minutes.

On Friday morning – Vernon’s last day in town – he sent me an email communicating his disappointment. “I was looking forward to seeing you again all week,” he wrote, adding that I am “stunningly beautiful” and we should continue to chat via Skype when he’s back in Canada.

Vernon wanted to meet for lunch, but he was working downtown, and I was at our West office for the day. He asked if I would be willing to drive downtown for lunch, but I declined, partly because it’s a forty-minute drive, partly because I had other work to do, and partly because I was starting to get uncomfortable with his fascination.

So Vernon took a cab to see me. He was determined to spend more time with me, even if that meant the inconvenience of a roundtrip $50 cab fare.

Once he arrived, I gave him the tour of the facility, introducing him to various colleagues; then we sat down to close out his visit over afternoon coffee. We talked a bit more about faith, which I was happy to do, but other than that, I tried to keep the conversation light. I failed.

This kid is intense and intent on getting what he wants. He asked me to cancel my weekend plans and told me he’d fly back on Monday so we could spend the weekend together. I declined. He asked again, leaning forward and explaining to me in a low voice that when men are fascinated by something, they want to conquer it.

I think I know what that means, and I am now definitely not interested in canceling my weekend plans. I am not a game to be played, a flower to be plucked or a fortress to be conquered. Learn some respect.

Authentically Aurora

Fools in Love – Part II

image“It’s easy to fool the eye, but it’s hard to fool the heart.” -Al Pacino

The last time I heard from Nick the Strict, he sent me flowers at the office along with a card reminding me to fix my eyes on Jesus. I want to say that he’s a sweet, Christian man, but he’s one of those guys who speaks fluent Christianese and is always ready with a Jesus Juke.

Basically, when Nick opens his mouth to talk about Jesus, it makes me want to punch him in the face. And I’m a fellow Christian. Jesus Jukes: Just don’t do them, people. 

Nick has been texting me on and off for the past few weeks, despite my repeated rejections of his romantic overtures (seeing a theme here, folks?). Two weeks ago, he sent an out-of-the-blue text: “How have you been lately?”

I replied: “Hey! Life is good. How are you?”

Instead of sending a normal I’m-doing-great-thanks response, he wrote back: “Good to hear. God is doing great things. I’m joyful.” See what I mean about the Christianese?

On Tuesday this week, he reached out again, more forward than ever. “Good morning! So when do you want to come by for homemade pizza?”

Considering I have already told him that I’m not interested, he lives 45 minutes north of town, and I wouldn’t want to drive 45 minutes for pizza at the house of a guy I was actually dating… no. But thanks for playing.

“You are persistent, aren’t you?!” I wrote back. Take the hint, dude. Don’t make me spell it out for you again. 

“Always looking out for you. My pizza is good – even better than my flowers!” Then another text came through: “Ok wee u there”.

Wee u there? What? …and then another text: “Ignore that last one it was confirmation for a tee time”.

Annoyed, I waited a while to reply, so he tried again: “So are you going to bake dessert? What day?”

Finally, I sent a text back saying, “I’m actually seeing someone, so I don’t think he’d appreciate my coming out to see you. Thanks though.” If he wouldn’t accept my straight-up rejection, maybe his uber godliness would require him to back off if I made reference to one of my other suitors.

Nick’s reply? “Good to hear. I hope he is a godly man. God bless you in Jesus name. May your relationship be filled with joy and gladness.”

Like I said: I want to say he’s a sweet, Christian man. But he seriously needs to find a woman who appreciates Jukes in the name of Jesus.

Authentically Aurora

Fools in Love – Part I

man with girly drink“Wise men say, ‘Only fools rush in.'” -Elvis Presley

My first and only date with K.A. was painful. He spent the entirety of our two-hour dinner complaining about his coworkers. He is a somewhat effeminate history teacher who speaks with a whine to his voice, even when he is not endlessly bad-mouthing his coworkers.

K.A. was not just disgruntled about his work situation; he was a downright bitter person – and not in a fun, acerbic, Grumpy Cat kind of way. He actually fantasized to me about his plans for revenge on one of the other history teachers, calling her an unkind name. As if listening to his ranting wasn’t painful enough, he didn’t ask me more than two questions about myself the entire night. Clearly he was looking more for a venting partner than a romantic date.

He’d taken me to a pub where they served beer and not wine, so although I’m not much of a drinker, I ordered a cherry beer, deciding to try something new (and perhaps dull the pain)! K.A. asked to try it, and he liked it so much that, when our waitress came back, he asked for a cherry beer of his own.

Some men can pull off drinking cherry beer. Maximus Decimus Meridius could pull off drinking cherry beer. Indiana Jones could pull off drinking cherry beer. Paul Bunyan could pull off drinking cherry beer (not that he would). But whining, effeminate K.A.? On a first date, no less? Not a great choice, bro.

Obviously K.A. did not get a second date. But that didn’t keep him from trying. A couple of weeks after our disastrous first date, he sent me a text: “We should go out again for cherry beer.”

First of all, don’t ask a girl out on a date over text message, especially after two weeks of radio silence. Secondly, don’t draw attention to the fact that you ordered a cherry beer for yourself on the first date.

I turned him down again, but he tried again the following week, sending me three late-night text messages: “Wish u were here out dancing… I could use a cute girl like you… Maybe you should come over here.” He sent a fourth text the following morning apologizing; then said: “I want to try taking you out. Will you agree???”

I worded my reply carefully: “Thanks for being bold and asking outright, but I honestly don’t think we are a fit romantically. You have a lot to offer a girl, but I don’t believe I am the right girl for you.”

Instead of accepting my repeated rejection of him, he sent a text back: “Oh I disagree.”

“Whole heatedly,” he added; then corrected, “Heartedly* …heatedly as well.”

I cringed. So awkward! “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.”

His response came swiftly: “Whatever. Thought it would be fun. Have a nice life.”

Classy. That’s a great way to make me regret my decision. 

He’s probably drowning his sorrows in cherry beer. And sadly, that’s probably the only hint of honey he’s going to get in this lifetime unless he changes his sour attitude.

Authentically Aurora