Hard But Good

Bad boss - the Devil Wears Prada.png

I’ve been asking God lately to release me from my current place of employment.

Over the past seven years, I’ve explored leaving my current job countless times – going to seminary to become a biblical counselor, going to art school to become a graphic designer, interviewing for same-industry-but-smaller-company procurement jobs, interviewing for different-industry-but-still-major-company procurement jobs, interviewing for management consulting firms… None of them have panned out, and I believe it is because God has not yet “released” me from my current place of employment.

I could, of course (of my own volition) just choose to quit my job, leaving without having another job in place. Some people at my own church have encouraged me to take this “step of faith”, believing that God will only provide me with another job once I have proven my dependence on Him. This might be, but I think God calls us not only to faith but also to wisdom and prudence. Sometimes it takes just as much faith to stay as it does to leave. And I don’t want to leave preemptively, taking matters into my own hands; I believe it is for my good to wait on God’s timing. I’m just hoping He doesn’t decide to put me through 25 years of waiting like Abraham or – worse yet! – 40 years of waiting like Moses!

I’ve been asking for the past few months, “God, do you still want me to stay at my current job?”, and the answer I’ve been getting about my current job is: “It’s not hard, but it’s also not good.”

If I wanted to leave my current job because it was too hard, and I just wanted to quit, that would be a red flag. There is benefit to being long-suffering and learning to be dependent on God. But God doesn’t tend to call us to difficult things just for the sake of the difficulty. The best challenges in life are hard but good, like a solid workout that leaves you both drained and energized. It’s painful but for our betterment. And my current job is not that way. It’s neither hard nor good.

My job is easy. It’s boring. I get paid a ridiculous amount of money to do very basic, menial tasks that are neither fun nor challenging. It would be easy to be complacent, choosing to stay in this easy but unfulfilling, lucrative but simultaneously fruitless station in life. For many people, my current situation is ideal: an undemanding job with high pay. But I don’t believe God is glorified by easy, comfortable complacency with easy payouts that require nothing of us: no discipline, no hard work, not heart investment.

My job is not “hard but good”. It’s comfortable and easy and unfulfilling. That is not the model of the Christian life; it is the antithesis of the Christian life. The Christian life should not be comfortable; it should be challenging. The Christian life should not be unfulfilling; Jesus came that we may have life to the full. And sometimes (often!) experiencing the fullness of life also comes with working hard; working passionately toward something that matters and has impact.

In recent weeks, I have started to see the ropes begin to fray; the ties that bind me to my job are dissolving. Between a deplorable performance review (wrongfully given) last month and an intense meeting with HR yesterday morning, I am starting to see that my time at this company is indeed coming to a close.

I’m not going out the way I wanted to – liked, respected and valued – but fortunately, the ones who actually know me still hold me in high esteem and have even encouraged me that this poor rating is a blessing in disguise. God is working through my critical, close-minded boss to finally release me from a company I’ve been hoping to escape for years.

The rejection and wrongful performance scores are difficult to swallow, but my boss would have no power over me if it were not given to her from above (Rom. 13:1). Jesus promised us that in this world we would have trouble, but take heart! He has overcome the world and is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Authentically Aurora

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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

TBT: Vulnerable & Strong

HSPI wrote this post last fall and never published it, although my feelings haven’t changed much since then. That said, I am slowly learning to be happy for people who haven’t yet experienced heartache… and thankful for those who have. #HSPproblems


I might be a petite, 5’4″, twenty-something woman, but I have the heart of a leader and the desire to impact change. I frequently find myself in situations where I sense that something needs to be communicated, and I end up “influencing up” – discretely influencing those senior to me (in age or rank) using something of an innocent’s Socratic method.

On a monthly basis, I attend a bible study luncheon in which guest speakers, usually very senior in their respective organizations, come and share their life experiences and what they have learned through those experiences. This week, the topic was “Listening to God: How Obstacles Can be Signs from God.” The guest speaker, a fifty-four year old CEO named Randy, detailed his entire career, which involved six layoffs over the course of thirty years (one of which involved the Enron fiasco). I kept waiting for Randy to get to the part where he talked about what he learned about himself or about God through all of the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, but in the end, all he really said was that he knows now that God was with him all along.

I was a bit disappointed that this elderly CEO spent 25 of his 30 minutes telling his “woe is me” story and, even in the last five minutes, didn’t say much other than, “God is faithful” (without any concrete, specific examples of God’s faithfulness), so I raised my hand to ask a question during the closing Q&A portion of the luncheon.

I already knew the answer I expected (and believed to be true), but for the sake of everyone else, I stood and projected, “Randy, this morning you gave us a lot of insight into God’s faithfulness even through the ups and downs of life. I recently experienced a broken engagement, so I can relate to the turmoil that comes with the unexpected. How would you advise us to navigate seasons of life where we know in our heads that God is good and sovereign, but our feelings don’t align with what our heads know to be true?

head heart

I was giving Randy the opportunity for a teaching moment; to close the gap in his speech; to get to the point of why he spent half an hour telling us all his sob story about six layoffs over thirty years. But instead of answering with any of the various appropriate responses, Randy – like so many before him – zeroed in on the phrase “broken engagement” and started publicly offering me cliches, like, “You’re going to get through this. God has better out there for you,” and “You just have to decide to stop feeling the sadness.”

Randy, I was not looking for condolences. I was trying to lead you to state things like, “Read the Bible. Know the Truths of Scripture. Use what you know to be true to battle the lies of your heart. It’s a tough dichotomy, but in Mark 9:24, we see that it is possible to believe but still in the midst of that, struggle with unbelief.”

Instead, he just trained another generation of bright-eyes kids that the appropriate response to depression, conflict between our heads & hearts, or really to any hardship in life is to tell people to just decide to stop feeling whatever it is that they feel.

Good thing I decided to be vulnerable and sacrifice myself for the sake of a teaching moment – a teaching moment that epically backfired. Next time I’ll go back to listening to my head and ignoring my heart.

“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.” -TWLOHA

Authentically Aurora

Choosing Joy

BlessingsIt’s funny how people change over time, some for the better and some… well, not for the better. Tonight, I’m thankful for rekindling old friendships and finding that the years have been good to us – defining, healing and sanctifying.

I recently moved into a new apartment and was getting rid of some old furniture and decor that didn’t fit in my new place. I posted an ad for the items on Facebook, and the first respondent was an old acquaintance named Kelly.

I say acquaintance because, although Kelly and I were in the same bible study for two years, she and I never really connected. At the time, I found her loud, brash and insensitive. I’m sure she found me negative and whiny. We were, needless to say, not the best of friends. It’s been four years since I’ve seen or heard from Kelly – I changed churches, and she was always on the road for work – so I was a bit surprised when she was the one to respond to my ad.

I foughtWe met for dinner tonight to make the exchange, and I think we were both pleased at the changes the passing years have brought about in one another – and in ourselves. When I’m with friends like Ashley, who has been a regular part of my life for decades, I don’t notice my transformation because it is so gradual. But being with Kelly, and remembering what our interactions were like four years ago, I was struck by the difference between who I was and who I have become.

Kelly, too, has shown remarkable change. Like me, she is a female engineer working for a major oil & gas corporation. She is smart, strong, confident, capable, independent and established. All of those qualities used to come off as somewhat abrasive, but she has softened over the years.

PlansKelly shared with me that a couple of years ago – all in one week – she closed on her first house, started a new job, went through a breakup, and her mom had a heart attack. People don’t come out of weeks like that unchanged. Kelly began to wrestle with depression. It’s a painful, heart wrenching battle – as I well know – but Kelly said to me, “I have grown so much in patience, compassion and mercy.” Her suffering taught Kelly a lot about both receiving and extending grace.

There is a kindness to Kelly now; a gentleness that I never saw before. For the first time, we connected on a soul-deep level, and I was astonished to realize just how similar we are. Our journeys of sanctification have been much the same – strong women being broken, for God’s glory; then built back up in Truth with grace and dignity; love and humility.

Tonight reminded me anew that there truly is a method to the madness and a purpose to the pain.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” -1 Peter 1:6-7

Authentically Aurora

Courageous Kindness

cinderella-movie-2015As a little girl, I never liked Cinderella. She was too quiet, soft and subservient. She wasn’t feisty, passionate and adventurous like Belle or Jasmine or Ariel.

Cinderella-dadI always wanted Cinderella to stand up to her stepmother and stepsisters. I never understood why she was such a doormat, blindly tied to a promise to her dead parents who, at the time they asked it of her, had no knowledge of how her situation would develop and change after they were gone. Cinderella seemed foolhardy to me, incapable of adapting to the dynamic nature of her situation.

cinderella-headshotBut I recently watched the new Cinderella movie, and it landed differently with me than the animated film I grew up with. In this new, live actor film, Cinderella inspired me. Her story stirred me and actually moved me to tears. “Have courage, and be kind,” she repeated to herself over and over again, through the death of a mother, death of a father, servitude to her stepsisters and incomprehensible cruelty by her stepmother.

Cinderella-ragsAs an adult watching the movie of Cinderella, I am struck by her response to suffering – intense, terrible suffering. Cinderella didn’t pretend everything was okay, mindlessly skipping through a field of wildflowers and humming with bluebirds while her so-called family abused her. No, we saw Cinderella hurt, frustrated and broken. We watched Cinderella struggle and almost fail to keep her courage and kindness as the pains of life continued to roll in.

cinderella_horseBut Cinderella resolved to keep her heart soft; chose not to betray her true self to the all-too-easy bitterness and anger over circumstances beyond her control. Cinderella also chose kindness – and not just kindness, but courage as well. She chose to be strong and gentle; noble and compassionate; brave and tenderhearted.

The complements of courage and kindness united in the person of Cinderella are a strikingly beautiful portrait that remind me of another story: one of a God who is both all-powerful and loves without reservation. Power belongs to God, and Loving-kindness is Yours, O Lord.” -Psalm 62:11-12

There is power in courageous kindness. Some might even call it magic.

Cinderella-dress-transformation

Authentically Aurora

Simple Joys

Young Old HandsI was sad yesterday. So I called my grandmother.

She lives within ten minutes of my apartment, just on the other side of the freeway. I don’t make the effort to see her often enough.

I said that I just called to check in and say hi, but she wasn’t fooled. After a few minutes of small talk, she asked in her gentle voice, “What can I do for you, sweetheart?”

I started crying. “…will you pray for me?”

“Would you like to come over?” she asked me in her knowing way.

“Yes, please.” I was five years old again, and I just wanted someone to hug me and tell me they love me.

I was at her house in just a few minutes, wearing sweatpants and no makeup. I kicked off my flip flops and settled onto her old, familiar couch. As she poured me some water in the kitchen, I heard her say with delight, “Oh, the cardinal is back!” I walked over to the window, where she eagerly showed me her bird feeder, full of color from the reds and blues of visiting cardinals and blue jays.

“Oh, and look at those squirrels!” Two squirrels chased each other around a tree. Grandma was genuinely delighted, childlike in her enthusiasm.

There is a sweetness to her – a gentleness and simplicity that comes with age. She truly finds joy in the little delights of every day. It was healing for me to see her – a graceful woman in her 80s who has weathered life well. Her life was not without seasons of pain and difficulty, but she speaks with fondness over the years of her life; even the trying times.

She reminds me that I can do this. She is a testament to the fact that there are survivors of the life’s heartaches and that it is possible to suffer well; to come out stronger, kinder, gentler and more loving. I don’t want to be selfish, heart-hearted and bitter. I want to be humble and selfless, looking to the needs of others and not drowning in my own self-interestedness.

Grandma is a portrait of how to walk this out. She has fought the good fight; she has finished the race; she has kept the faith. She is leaving a legacy of love and faithfulness and, Lord willing, someday I hope to be able to inspire a granddaughter of my own in the way she inspires me.

Authentically Aurora

Destroying the Daydream

DaydreamLife doesn’t always go as planned.

Okay, it basically never goes as planned.

At six years old, I believed I would be a prima ballerina when I grew up. At eight, I expected to one day become the first female President of the United States. At seventeen, I just knew I was headed to a prestigious military academy, and at twenty-two, I thought I was about to live the American Dream, wearing a power suit in a high-visibility corporate job I loved. At twenty-six, I thought I was getting married, and I’ve always planned to start having kids by thirty.

We all envision the future scenes of our lives, but no one envisions scenes of being 36 and still single or 32 and already divorced. No one envisions scenes of infertility or being miserable in your cubicle at that so-called dream job or being forty and still trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do with your life.

PulitzersThere are moments where everything seems to be as it should be, but then the scene changes to one we don’t want or expect. But why don’t we expect the inevitable heartache and pain? We live in a broken world of Ebola and ISIS and cancer. Where did we get the idea that life is a fairytale where we all get happy endings?

I am especially surprised at my fellow Christians, myself included. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Is there any way to interpret this other than: Expect suffering?

It’s time that we begin to see life clearly. King Solomon desired to be a master of the way the world functions. Ecclesiastes 2 is Solomon’s grand experiment to find the secrets of pleasure and happiness. He had every pleasure imaginable at his disposal. Solomon lived in greater opulence than Bill Gates with a steamier sex life than Lil Wayne, but in the end, he beat his head against the wall because he found nothing but emptiness; he found that “everything is meaningless.”

Lil WayneKing Solomon observed much in his desire to understand the world’s workings, and near the end of his life, he wrote that there are two types of people in the world: “There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ultimately, he determined that belief in karma is folly. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to the evil people in this world. We must come to terms with the fact that this world is a dark, broken, unfair place because if we don’t, we will continue to expect the fairytale, be perpetually disappointed and ultimately question God’s goodness.

So are we to be people without hope? Are we to be the bitterest of all people? No. We are to have joy and hope in what is to come; faith that God is working all things together for good. God is a loving Father who desires to give good gifts to His children, and we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, even if we can’t see the big picture in our finite human minds.

Solomon goes on to give advice to the two types of people in the world: “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?”

The advice to the wicked is expected: There are natural consequences to our actions. I think most people realize that. What hit home for me was the advice to the righteous. I have been the righteous man, perishing in my “righteousness”. I have pointed my finger at God, saying, “I did everything you asked me to do. Why would this happen to me, of all people?”

This mindset toward God is foolishness. Any mentality where I think, “If I live rightly, I will be cocooned from trials” is a false mentality. In my self-righteousness, I sometimes subconsciously believe that God can be manipulated. “If I just pray the right prayer or read the bible enough and abstain from premarital sex and never get drunk and go to church every Sunday, then I will have forced God into a corner where he has to give me the good things I expect for my life.”

HopeBut life doesn’t work that way, and the omniscient, omnipotent God of the Universe certainly doesn’t operate that way. “Should we accept only good from the hand of God and not suffering?”

You can’t control your life. But that’s okay, because God does. And He is good. Jesus Christ is our mediator before the Throne of Grace, and in Him, all things hold together. God can be trusted with our futures, even in the bleak moments and dark scenes we never would expect or wish for ourselves. We can be grateful in the good times and thankful in the hard times, because God truly is working everything together for good.

We need to see clearly now. Trouble is certain, but it is temporary. Jesus is coming back, and when He does, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make all things new.

Authentically Aurora