Goodbye, 2014!

FireworksIf I live a few more hours, I can honestly say that I survived 2014! …barely.  I’m certainly worse for wear, but I am far more healed than I thought I would be at this point. Then again, in the last 48 hours, two different people have told me that they are praying for healing for me on a daily basis. Apparently my emotional wounds are still more obvious than I would like to believe. Nevertheless, I feel more whole this week than I have in a long time.

It’s funny the things that patch our hearts back together – my parents’ dog, for one. I wasn’t an animal person for the first couple decades of my life, but that sweet German shepherd just loves me unconditionally. He is always happy, always cheerful, always loving. And he’s soft and fuzzy and cuddly. He softens my rough edges and makes me kinder and gentler. Love has that effect on the heart of a woman.

And Bryan. He’s good for me. He draws out of me the heart I’ve been given, rather than the heart I choose to show the world in order to protect myself. His eyes cut straight to my soul. Bryan sees me as I am. And he meets me where I am. There is something intensely frightening and intensely comforting about being around a man who is simultaneously so perceptive and so compassionate.

Being with family for Christmas was healing, too. I got to snuggle with my brother while he played video games, just like we used to do as kids. In talking with my dad and hugging my mom, I know that I am loved. I may not always be loved by the ones I would choose for myself, but as 2014 draws to a close, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am loved, and that makes all the difference.

Authentically Aurora

The Christmas Story, from Joseph’s Perspective

Joseph and JesusI am a sucker for character development. When I used to play video games in junior high and high school, I didn’t look for games with the best game play or battle sequences or graphics or music. I looked for games that let me know the characters, learn their stories, and watch them develop, learn and grow. A character without a story to tell was too boring and static for me.

Although I’ve grown out of my video game days, this theme of loving character development has translated to the books I read, the movies I watch, and even the people whose company I keep. I enjoy people development; helping people grow into the best possible version of themselves and watching them blossom as their stories unfold.

For that reason, one of my favorite Christmas songs is “A Strange Way to Save the World” by 4Him. It’s a beautiful song, both musically and lyrically, that tells the Christmas Story from the perspective of Joseph, the betrothed of the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. So often, we forget the perspective of Joseph when we hear the Christmas story, but there is so much richness to his portion of the narrative.

Joseph and Mary were engaged before Mary became pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he planned to quietly divorce her, because he was a good man and did not want to publicly disgrace her. Can you imagine finding out your fiancé was pregnant? What must Joseph have thought and experienced during this season?

But then an angel of God appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary was still a virgin, and that the child had been conceived by the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Joseph was instructed to wed Mary, as planned, and name the child Jesus, which means “the LORD saves”. So Joseph did as God commanded and took Mary as his wife, but “he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.” Woah. That’s some kind of self-discipline, Joseph. [Read more here.]

There is so much to discuss here. What must it have been like to be approached by an angel – an angel who assuaged your fears over your betrothed’s infidelity and affirmed your marriage? What kind of faith did it take to go ahead with marrying the impregnated Mary?

Why did the Son of God have to come to earth in the form of a vulnerable human infant? How did Joseph feel about being tasked with naming and raising the God-man Jesus, the long foretold Messiah?

For many of these questions, I can only guess at the answer, but at least for one of them, I have a firm foundation. Jesus, the second member of the Triune God, existed before the beginning of time but chose to come to earth, taking on the frail flesh of a man, because we as humanity needed a Savior.

We have a problem of sin. None of us can honestly say that we live up to our own standards; much less God’s standard of holy perfection. Because God is perfectly just, He cannot tolerate sin; there must be a punishment for sin. Our sin separates us from God, and none of us are “righteous enough” to earn our way back into a right standing with God.

But because God is also perfectly loving, He didn’t want to leave things that way. He wanted to be in relationship with us. So He met us where we are, in our brokenness and sinfulness. “While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus – the Son of God – descended from heaven to earth, taking on the fragility of a human infant, because only as a man could He suffer the punishment that we all deserve for our sinfulness.

And so Jesus grew up, setting a course for the crucifixion He always knew was coming. He humbled himself, even to the point of death, to take the punishment we deserve so that, through faith in His substitutionary atonement, we could be forgiven of our sins and put back into a right relationship with God. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. After three days, He rose from the grave and ascended back into heaven, defeating sin, death and the power of Satan.

This is the Christmas story. It’s a story of character development and an epic journey to conquer evil. It is a story of unwavering justice, unconditional love and unfathomable redemption that is a free gift available to anyone who believes.

Authentically Aurora

Playing Dress-up (In Secret)

I just discovered that secret cosplay is a thing.

I mean, I already knew it was a thing – I was secretly dressing up as Rinoa and other Final Fantasy characters in high school – but I didn’t know there was a name for it.

For the uninitiated, cosplay is short for “costume play” and essentially means to dress up like your favorite characters, often from video games or other sci-fi media. Secret cosplay, then, is dressing up in normal clothes that happen to closely resemble the attire of your favorite characters. For example, these are the types of outfit I would occasionally wear to class in high school:

Aeris Yuna outfits

They look like perfectly normal outfits until you see them next to images of the characters Aeris from the game FFVII and Yuna from FFX, respectively:

Aeris Yuna

There was a rush that came from knowing I was undercover in the middle of my high school. I felt like such a rebel, wearing a “costume” to school. Clearly I didn’t get out much.

It was also kind of fun when people recognized the outfits as the correlated character, especially because, in order to call me out, they had to reveal their own nerdiness. One time my friend (and crush) Matt pulled me aside after English class and asked under his breath, “Is that a Rinoa outfit?”

Yes… Yes, it is, you clever man. And the position of Squall Leonhart is still available.

Squall & Rinoa

Authentically Aurora

Finding Flynn – Part II

Campfire 2Sitting around the campfire, I was soon introduced to the young, curly haired girl who was so possessive of Flynn. Her name is Patricia, and she and Flynn have been dating for eight months. I’m not a boyfriend stealer, so I made a conscious decision to keep my distance from him, although that was difficult in a group of just twelve people sharing a common campsite.

As women, when we become jealous of other women, we have a tendency to dehumanize them so that we are better able to focus on their flaws. Beth Moore writes in her book “So Long, Insecurity” (which I highly recommend):

“In order to nurse a rival mentality, we… view our competitor through a one-dimensional lens. She is not a person. She is a contender… It’s easier to despise her that way. If she got the promotion we sought, she’s the embodiment of selfish ambition… If she’s more attractive than we feel, she’s only skin deep. We can’t fathom that she’s ever been betrayed or brokenhearted… When we go against the grain of our human nature and determine to personalize someone instead, rivalry loses its bedding ground.”

So I decided to try to get to know Patricia in order to personalize her and stop viewing her as a rival. After all, she already has the guy. But Patricia didn’t seem very interested in getting to know me. In fact, she acted standoffish toward everyone except Flynn. It would seem that Patricia was only there for her boyfriend; not to make other friends.

SurvivorFlynn had put together a Survivor role playing game where we were divided into three teams and each given different supplies. We had to make judgement calls as a team on whether we were going to stay at our crash site or try to walk to civilization. Flynn had planned for a real-world element as well, in which – for example – we had to shoot a tangible bow and arrow set to determine if we successfully hunted down food for that day.

I am not-so-secretly a sci-fi geek and lover of RPGs and strategy games in general (hello! INTJ = master strategist!), so I got really into the game. In fact, my team won. But 25-year-old Patricia spent the entire game sequence complaining about how boring her boyfriend’s game was and how unrealistic his survival scenarios were.

Later, when Flynn tried to stoke the campfire and stirred up mostly smoke due to the recent rain, Patricia criticized him, “Come on, I thought you were an Army ranger.” Watching them together was painful, not because of my attraction to Flynn, but primarily because of how uncomfortable is it to observe a woman publicly ridicule her man.

Over the next 48 hours of the camping trip, Patricia frequently made comments alluding to her desire for Flynn to propose. In one instance, Flynn joked that she is expensive to date because she is always hungry. Patricia retorted, “Yeah, you buy me lots of food, but what I’d really like is something sparkly.” She wiggled the fingers of her left hand.

Later, Flynn told the group about his family in Louisiana (why am I always attracted to Louisiana boys?!) and how he wished he had family locally. Patricia jumped in, “You could have a great set of in-laws in town any time you wanted to seal the deal.” Everyone around the campfire discretely raised their eyebrows at one another.

Still later, when the group was talking about what each person does for a living, Patricia admitted that she’s unemployed and living with her parents. But she also said unashamedly that she’s not in a hurry to get a job since she probably wouldn’t need it for long anyway. She smiled coyly at Flynn, her 34-year-old mechanical engineer and sugar daddy. Gag me.

How to Lose a Guy in One Week

Day 1: Pick a man 9 years older and far more mature than you are. Display your immaturity at every possible opportunity.

Day 2: Make no effort at all to build relationships with any of his friends. Be clingy and obsessed with him. Have no identity of your own.

Day 3: Complain constantly. The more whining, the better.

Day 4: Make fun of his interests and hobbies. Insist that he stops all of his lame hobbies and picks up yours instead. Don’t compromise.

Day 5: Drain his bank account by making no effort to get a job and insisting that your parents are letting you stay at home, so he needs to cover all the rest of your expenses. State openly that you have no intention of contributing financially to the relationship, either now or in the future; either in tangible dollars or sweat equity.

Day 6: Disrespect him publicly, questioning his masculinity and capability, especially in front of his friends.

Day 7: Make frequent mention of your family, specifically to cite them as his future in-laws. Be sure to couple this with pointed comments about wanting and expecting an engagement ring soon. The pushier, the better.

With this winning combination, you too can Lose a Guy in One Week!

Authentically Aurora