Goodness & Joy

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Yesterday was a wonderful day. I woke up early and baked some rosemary prosciutto twists made from puff pastry I’d prepared from scratch the night before. They came out perfectly golden brown and still in their tight, spiraled shape full of flaky goodness.

I ate a light breakfast and went for my mid-morning run, and for the first time this year, I finally felt like I hit my stride. I ran three miles without stopping except to walk briefly at the turnaround point. For me, this was a huge accomplishment. I celebrated the joyful occasion by treating myself to a coffee-chocolate-banana protein shake from a nearby juice bar.

When I got home and showered, I logged into my email to let my current apartment complex know I’d be moving out, giving them my sixty day written notice per the terms of our lease agreement. I was surprised to almost immediately get an email back directly from the community manager, who told me she didn’t want to lose me as a tenant and was willing to take $250 off my monthly rent (which translates to $3000/year). Surprised but pleased, I let them know I’d found another complex for even less rent that also shaves twenty-five minutes off my commute “but thanks for the great offer.”

I walked down to the office to pick up a package that had arrived for me (nothing exciting – just something I’d ordered off Amazon), and though I’d only given my notice a few hours before, the male leasing agent who normally runs the front desk commented right off, “Aurora, I hear we may be losing you as a tenant.” Wow, news travels fast.

I explained to Eddie that I was changing careers to teaching and taking a job further north of town. “Yeah, I can see that,” he commented. “I’ve always been able to tell that you’re more about relationships and building connections with people. The money’s not that important to you.”

He could tell that from our brief interactions over the past two years? “Thanks, Eddie.”

“Yeah,” he went on, “I’ve always had a sense of this aura of goodness about you.”

I floated out of the office, completely taken aback by his words but so thankful to know that God’s light has been shining out of me in even the little things. It’s not often we get to hear feedback on how we’re doing on displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Seth and I have been attending Fusion – our church’s pre-engagement class – for a few weeks now, and although most of the sessions are in a large group with 15 other couples, last night we met with a mentor couple individually. The four of us had a great conversation with lots of teasing and laughter. They’re a great couple; so fun and full of wisdom and transparency.

Near the end of the evening, the husband of the mentor couple commented in all seriousness, “We are so thankful to have the two of you in our Fusion group this season. Some of the other couples we’ve worked with are young in their faith or tentative about opening up about their relationships, but you guys are obviously so mature in your faith and willing to be vulnerable because you really want to enter into marriage with a strong foundation.”

Seth and I smiled lovingly at each other. It was nice to hear such encouragement. The mentor went on, “And every week, we see you two come in with such joy on your faces, like you’re really excited to be there and engage in conversation. That means a lot to us as a mentor couple.”

For the second time that day, I floated on air. Goodness and joy; Joy and goodness. It’s nice to have people call out the character they see in you. Hearing those words of affirmation really spurs me on to love well and live well. And it’s a great reminder to compliment those around me on the character I see in them. It makes such a difference when we build each other up!

Authentically Aurora

A Purdy Thirty

Seth and Ashley did such a great job with my birthday. My boyfriend and best friend collaborated to throw me an amazing surprise 30th birthday party with a Beauty and the Beast theme! I could not have felt more loved.

Wine glass roseTons of friends were there – from work, church, choir and every other facet of my life – and Seth had rented out a “shared space” that Ashley decorated beautifully with silk roses under wine glasses, candelabras reminiscent of Lumiere, and stacks of books nodding at Belle’s (and my!) love of reading.

Seth brought along the corn hole boards he and I made together, and he surprised me with a homemade set of hillbilly golf because I’d mentioned in passing that I’d played it at camp one year and loved it. Twinkle lights lit up the rented back patio, and Seth grilled up venison from the deer I shot back in November, wrapping each delicious piece in bacon with cream cheese. Ashley’s coconut-pineapple cupcakes were a hit, especially since she  – in all her amazing artistic talent – had decorated them with yellow icing in the shape of Belle’s ballgown.

Belle dress cupcakesI am not usually a fan of large gatherings, but I spent the evening surrounded by wonderful friends who are genuinely kind and loving, grounded and sincere. We laughed and sang and ate and played backyard games. A great time was had by all.

And at the end of the evening, Seth hugged me and kissed me and said over and over, “I like you so much.” And then, when all the guests had left and we were alone, he held me and asked, “Hey, did you know there was a Fusion pre-engagement session in April?”

I looked up at him, and he shook his head, laughing to himself. “Of course you knew. Thanks for not pushing it on me.”

I smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“Well,” he began softly, “Would you want to go to Fusion with me in April? I think we’re ready.”

My smile spread, and I snuggled up to him. I was surprised. “Yes. I’d like that a lot.”

He rubbed my back. “I was thinking we could go to the one at our church in April and then go again to the one in June being held by another church to see how different churches do it, with the added goal of maybe even being able to facilitate Fusion someday. What do you think about that?”

I tilted my head back to look up at him again. “I think that’s a great idea!” And I do.

It’s the culmination of so many parts of my life: my love of personality assessments, sharing wisdom from my own broken relationships, and getting to teach, train, encourage and mentor others. I love that my passions align with Seth’s and that such a huge part of our relationship is seeking out how we can serve together and minister to others. I think we make a great team, and I’m excited to see all that God has in store for us as a couple.

Authentically Aurora

And the Waters Stilled (Part 4)

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“God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged… the rain was restrained… and the waters decreased.” -Gen. 8:2-3

Even after the rain finally stopped pouring down in the famous Genesis flood that wiped out most of humanity, Noah still had to remain on the ark for a few months while the waters receded. And although the proverbial hurricane winds around me have abated, not everything is resolved, and I know the coming months will carry with them more unknowns and uncertainties as I continue this season of transition.

Living Situation

Since my apartment management came through with addressing the marijuana issue affecting my unit, I am planning to stay at my current apartment complex through the end of my lease in July. Although I could be saving $400/month at a cheaper apartment further west of town, the benefits of staying here are:

  • I don’t have to deal with moving now when so much else is in transition.
  • I will not have a possible black mark on my credit report in the event my complex decided to call this “breaking a lease” rather than being “released” from a lease.
  • By July, I should know where I will be teaching in August, so I can choose an apartment closer to my school, whereas if I moved now, I’d be making an educated guess on the best geography for my upcoming year.

I think this worked out for the best, although there was certainly a lot of (possibly self-induced) upheaval that ultimately resulted in no change to my living status.

Relationship

A few of you expressed concerns about Seth based on the past few posts – that I should listen to my gut and not ignore red flags; that I need to be with someone more supportive; that he has a lot to learn; and is this even the Seth I thought I was dating?

The tough thing about relationship blogging is that the non-blogger (i.e. Seth) becomes a bit of a straw man, unable to defend himself or share his side of the story. For the past two weeks, I’ve had a bad cold, been PMSing, and been under a lot of stress, so I know that I was not as much the heroine in all of these interactions as I made myself out to be.

Seth is a good man. He brought me Kleenex and Gerber daisies (my favorite) when I first got sick. After the latest round of disagreements, he showed up to my apartment with homemade soup and a bouquet of roses. He’s supportive of my job change to teaching when few others are, and he’s currently in the process of planning a surprise birthday party for my 30th later this week.

He is kind and servant-hearted. Neither of us is perfect, but I think one of the strengths of our relationship is that we both seek to understand the other and genuinely desire to resolve conflicts, even if it takes a couple of weeks to get to the root issue. We talked this weekend about everything that’s gone on lately, and I asked him very candidly, “Seth, do you generally think of me as a godly woman?”

He was kneeling in his garage, sanding down a piece of wood, but he looked up at me with surprise in his eyes – and a little bit of hurt. “Well, first of all, I’m sorry that you even have to ask that question.” He paused his sanding. “Yes, I think you’re a godly woman.”

“Do you think I’d be a good mom, raising kids with strong values?”

Seth stood up to walk over to me and wrap me in a hug. I peeked up at him from where my face was nestled in his chest.

“Yes, I think you’d be a good mom.” His deep voice reverberated around me. “Aurora, you’re the best woman I know.”

He sighed, dropping his hands to his sides and then shoving them in his pockets. “I know I’m not the most affectionate man.” He rubbed his stubbled jaw and looked around at the scene of masculinity around him – woodwork, car parts, mountain bikes and a canoe. He’s the manliest man I know. “But I want to get better at that. I don’t want you to ever doubt how much I care about you and how highly I esteem you. You’re a good woman.”

And although I don’t always do him justice on this blog, he’s a good man.

Work

My boss didn’t approve the 1:1 switch with Stephanie. She said Stephanie wasn’t qualified to be my replacement. Honestly, as tough, superior and controlling as my boss is, I can hardly imagine her thinking anyone is qualified for the job. She certainly doesn’t think I am.

At this point, it’s looking like there is no further opportunity for severance. HR is pushing ahead with my possible talent placement. I could stay and get a hearty paycheck in this new, assigned role for a few months before quitting in August, but I’m ready to go. I’m ready to be finished once and for all with this chapter in my life.

I don’t have another job lined up. I’m not guaranteed a teaching position in August. I have a lot of fixed expenses that I’ll need to find a way to cover. But I’m taking a step of faith and walking away. It’s time.

An Unexpected Blessing

For this upcoming season of transition, I’ve done a rough calculation of my anticipated income and expenses. I have an idea of some income-generating activity that can help make ends meet, and since I’ve kept a personal expense report for years, this number is fairly accurate.

The net difference between my anticipated income and expenses for April through July is about the amount I would have to dip into savings during this time of transition. And I was prepared to pay that amount in order to leave my company a few months early. But I may not have to dip into savings after all.

Since I stayed at my job through February 1, I was eligible to receive last year’s bonus from my current employer. My 2016 bonus just showed up in my bank account last week, and the number surprised me. Here’s why: The net difference between income and expenses during the time of transition is almost exactly the dollar figure deposited into my bank account last week.

What a blessing that God has given me as a parting gift from my time working in Corporate America! My final bonus is just the right amount to ease me into this season of transition hopefully resulting in a more life-giving and fulfilling career.

I’m excited. It’s time for a new adventure!

Authentically Aurora

All The (suppressed) Feels

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People always seem to discount how I feel. It’s a good thing I’m generally a rational, logical thinker rather than a mushy, effervescent feeler because on the rare occasions where I feel consumed by emotions, most of the key people in my life completely discount how I feel.

Some people scornfully tell me to fix my attitude. Others are sickeningly optimistic, trying to point out the positive things in my life. Overall, everyone seems to just want me to get back to being my rational, logical, dependable, even-keel self. Evidently I am not allowed to take days off being an engineer-minded female.

That’s why lately when I’m sad or upset, I’m learning to just shut people out.

Don’t ask me about how work is going. My boss vents about me on the phone in her cubicle right next to mine, and being physically present in the palpable tension gives me heartburn at the office. No schools seem to be hiring at mid-year, so my teaching career is on hold until August. With no end in sight, I feel hopeless all day long sitting in my white cubicle surrounded by white walls and white noise.

Don’t ask me how my relationship with Seth is going. His E&P company just bought a new field to drill, so during the work week, he’s focused on that. Over the weekend, he was focused on making updates at his family’s ranch. Then he hurt his back and has been seeing a chiropractor during what free time we would normally have together. Lately he’s seemed distracted and disconnected from our relationship, noncommittal as ever. I’m lonely.

Don’t ask me about my family. I just found out that my brother is moving across the country despite my advice against it. Not only is he moving a thousand miles away, but he’s excited about it. He doesn’t feel the loss of our closeness, and that makes me feel rejected by him. Still more painful: This was supposed to be a short-term move, but he bought a house over the weekend. Not only did I find out about this huge life change after the deal was done, but the likelihood of his moving back closer to home is looking less and less likely. I’ve always felt like I love him more than he loves me, and although I know intellectually that this move has absolutely nothing to do with me, it hurts that he chose this, especially against my advice.

No one seems to know how to just tell me “that stinks”, give me a hug, and tell me they’re there for me. I know I’m blessed. I know these are minor issues compared to the rest of the world. I know this too shall pass.

But right now – just for today – I need you to let me be sad.

Authentically Aurora

Let’s Play a Game…

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What’s your favorite color? Really, take some time to think about this. Now answer this: Why?

My favorite color has always been purple. As a little girl, I learned that purple was a color associated with royalty and was immediately drawn to its majestic hues. My favorite shade of purple is a deep indigo (like Pantone 273) because it is mostly comprised of cool, soothing blues but has just a dash of fiery red. To me, it is the perfect combination of serenity and passion.

Next: What’s your favorite part of nature? Pick an object (e.g. the sky, mountains, oceans). What do you love about this part of nature?

I have always been drawn to trees. I love being in the forest because it gives me a sense of adventure but also fills me with peace. I feel calm, rested and at home among the trees, but I also feel a thrill of excitement at the thought of hiking and exploring something new, wild and untamed. It’s raw beauty.

Lastly: If you could have any animal for a pet (including combinations of animals, like a dog with wings), what would you choose and why?

When I was asked this question, my first thought was to have a baby leopard. I love big cats because they are strong but agile; powerful but graceful. I’ve always thought they are the perfect combination of strength and beauty. And I’d love to have a baby leopard that stayed tiny because I’d love to hold it and snuggle with it; I’d want it to stay sweet and playful.

I was first asked these questions last night around a campfire while toasting marshmallows for s’mores. Seth and I went to a Christmas party with some friends from church, and while the guys congregated inside talking about different types of wine, the girls huddled around the campfire wrapped in our scarves and bonding over one another’s answers to these questions.

The girl who posed the questions told us at the end that what you think about your favorite color is how you view yourself, what you love about nature is what you think about God, and your ideal pet is what you look for in a partner. For me, all of this really lined up! What about for you? What were your answers?

Authentically Aurora

P.S. When the guys came outside, we asked some of them the questions, too. Seth’s ideal pet is a golden retriever because it is “classic, loyal, patriotic, obedient and a good hunting dog.” 😉

Sweet Seth

autumn-walkSeth has been so wonderful lately. After a kind of rough patch in October where we talked through a few points of conflict (an important aspect of any healthy relationship), the past few weeks have been some of the sweetest we’ve had.

The weather finally turned cooler a few weeks ago down in the South where we live, so Seth and I took the opportunity to bundle up and go for a nice walk outside in a cozy, historic part of town. I had a warm latte in one hand and Seth’s calloused palm in the other. The leaves started changing, and we talked about everything and nothing.

At the end of our walk when Seth escorted me to my car, he gave me a kiss goodbye and then asked me to wait a second. “I’ll be right back.” He jogged to his truck, grabbed something out of the back seat and then jogged back to me. He wrapped his left arm around my waist and, with his right hand, threw a paper airplane through my open driver door onto my passenger seat.

I laughed, genuinely happy. “What was that?” I hugged his waist. He gave me a quick kiss on my forehead and said with a grin, “See you later.”

He jogged back to his car and got in while I, still smiling and curious, reached for the paper airplane. I unfolded it delicately and read one of the sweetest notes Seth’s ever written me. He acknowledged that he’s not always the most verbally affectionate boyfriend, but he wanted to make sure I knew how much he cares about me. I think I actually teared up a little bit. He’d written me a love note. And folded it into a paper airplane. It was the perfect combination of thoughtful and playful; quirky and sweet.

cinderella-stairsA few days later, after dinner with a group of friends, my high heels – glittery, silvery three-inch heels – were killing me. So Seth carried me up the stairs to my apartment. On the way, one of my heels fell off, so Seth set me down at the top of the stairs, ran down the stairs, picked up the silvery shoe, and ran back to the top of the stairs where he knelt down and gently slipped the glass slipper back onto my foot. I felt like a princess, especially when he scooped me back up again and carried me across the threshold of my apartment.

festival-of-lightsThe next week, Seth surprised me with a road trip, ensuring that he catered to my planning nature by telling me how to pack. “Dress for cool weather, and plan to be outside.” He wanted to keep the destination a surprise, but he is also learning how I operate and is lovingly choosing to adjust his style. He threw in a couple of red herrings (“Pack a hammer and a baseball cap”) just to keep me off track, but he ultimately took me to a lights festival modeled after my favorite Disney movie. I felt so loved, not only that he thought to surprise me with something he knew I’d enjoy, but that he also presented the surprise in a way that catered to me.

Last Sunday, he called me before church just to say “hello beautiful” and to let me know he was looking forward to worshiping with me. We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and he told me I remind him of Mary because I’m a beautiful brunette who is lovingly supportive, resilient and a Proverbs 31 woman. And the next morning, he sent me off to work with an unexpected text: “Good morning, sweetheart. I hope you have a wonderful Monday!”

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the wedding of some dear friends who attend church with us. It was a beautiful ceremony, and at the reception, Seth leaned over to kiss my cheek and whisper quietly, “You were worth waiting for.”

My eyes widened in surprise, and he laughed, “It was a long wait!” He smiled. “But you were worth waiting for.”

Authentically Aurora

The Mention of Marriage

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A couple of weeks ago, Seth and I went out to dinner with some mutual friends. After a great evening full of laughter, Seth drove me home, and we sat in his pickup truck for a few minutes winding down the evening.

In the midst of our conversation, Seth reached over to hold my hand and started fiddling with my fingers. He was looking down at our joined hands, but he looked up when he started to speak. “Aurora, we’ve been dating for a while now…”

His voice trailed off, and he laughed, looking uncomfortable. “I’ve talked myself in and out of this conversation so many times…”

“What is it?” I asked, encouraging him along.

He sighed. “Well, we’ve been dating for a while now, and I was thinking… I’d like for us to start having more intentional conversations in the direction of marriage.”

My eyes widened. “Wow.”

“What do you think about that?” He looked nervous.

I paused, gathering my thoughts. “Well… I think it would be good. It would be good for us to continue developing our emotional intimacy.”

I was surprised at my stoicism and internally evaluated why I wasn’t letting myself get more excited. Seth brought up marriage. Seth brought up marriage! I hadn’t expected the topic to come up so soon but was glad that it did. At the same time – having been through what I’ve been through – I felt happy but guarded. I decided that – like a classic intorvert – I needed more time to process my thoughts and feelings before I gave myself over to my emotions.

“Yeah? You think so?” Seth looked hopeful.

“Yeah,” I answered with a smile; then I asked, “What does that look like for you? Having ‘more intentional conversations in the direction of marriage’?” I wanted to make sure we were on the same page and communicating clearly. Marriage is a weighty topic.

Seth suggested that we start to read through some marriage books or even go to pre-marital counseling. “I have a book that’s like ‘101 Questions to Ask Before Marriage’ or something like that. I was thinking we could talk through those questions.”

“Yeah.” I smiled. He’d really put some thought into this. “That sounds really good.” I was starting to feel the excitement now; the sense of Seth’s affection for me starting to culminate in commitment.

Seth had gotten quiet and looked deep in thought. “What are you thinking about?” I asked, looking at him affectionately.

I thought Seth might finally tell me that he loved me. We hadn’t said “I love you” yet, but now that he was starting to talk about marriage, I thought he was finally ready to communicate his feelings.  I expected to hear his deep, resonant bass voice whisper, “I’m thinking about how much I love you.”

But instead what my ears heard was, “I’m worried about hurting you.”

I recoiled, shocked at his words. The sweetness of the moment was broken. “You’re worried about hurting me?”

“Yeah.” Seth winced, seeming to realize belately that maybe he shouldn’t have said those words out loud. Or maybe it’s good that he did.

I took a deep breath, willing myself to respond rationally rather than over-reacting in my surprise and disappointment.

“I’m a little confused,” I told him evenly. “You just told me you want to start intentionally moving in the direction of marriage and then, not even five minutes later, you tell me that you’re worried about hurting me. That doesn’t line up for me. Help me understand.”

Seth backpedaled, explaining that he wasn’t saying he wants to move in the direction of marriage necessarily; he just wants to start having more intentional conversations on marriage-type topics so that he can see how well we align. He’s in a place where he wants to make a decision one way or another – should we get married or break up? – but he doesn’t yet know which direction we should go. He just wanted us to start talking through the more challenging topics that tend to cause issues in marriage.

I understood where he was coming from, but I still felt wounded. I wished he’d been able to clearly communicate at the start of the conversation rather than unintentionally leading me to think he was more ready to commit than was accurate.

I was also hurt because Seth knows I’ve been through a broken engagement. I’ve told him that the topics of marriage and engagement need to be handled delicately with me. I am overly sensitive to wavering commitment and indecision about relationship status. I am of the opinion that questions like “How would you want to discipline your children?” can come up naturally in the course of a date night. Asking what you think the role of a wife is can be discussed on long road trips to the ranch. Part of dating is having those conversations organically. But once you bring up marriage so directly – once you suggest that we do “pre-marital counseling” – you have entered into the realm of alluding to commitment. Saying that you want to start having “intentional conversations in the direction of marriage” means, to me, that your mind is made up and you are starting to look at rings. But, in the case of Seth, I was mistaken and misunderstood his intent.

I believe that a couple doesn’t do pre-marital counseling to decide whether or not they are compatible; they do it to pinpoint potential sources of conflict in their marriage and learn to conflict well. Except my ex-fiance. He used pre-marital counseling to point to all the reasons we wouldn’t be compatible in marriage. He used our counseling to tell me all the reasons he would have an affair if we got married.

Seth and I dialogued about what he said versus what he meant; what I thought and how his words made me feel. I asked him to try not to bring up marriage so directly again until he is actually ready to go ring shopping or drop a knee. It plays with my emotions and toys with my heart. “And please don’t use the ‘M’ word until you’ve used the ‘L’ word.” L comes before M, after all. And I need to know he loves me before I’m ready to let my heart hear him talk about forever.  

I explained further, “We don’t need to be in a rush to make a decision. I know all of your friends are married with kids and that you don’t want to waste my time or your own, but if you rush this decision, the answer will be no. I know. I’ve lived it. We will break up. Ultimately, people shy away from things they’re not ready for. So if you want to give us a chance, slow down and don’t rush this decision just because you’re comparing our timeline to your friends’ relationships.”

I delivered this message in the most loving, gentle, calm manner I could, and Seth fortunately responded well. He apologized profusely. “You’re right. I’m like a bull in a china shop. I want to have respect for your feelings and treat them gently.”

We prayed together, hugged and agreed not to rush this decision. And I’m thankful. Because I would rather wait to marry Seth than not marry him at all.

Authentically Aurora