Babes in Joyland

christmas-children

For nearly ten years now, I’ve felt that birthdays don’t seem as special as they used to. Easter isn’t as exciting, Halloween isn’t as thrilling, and Christmas isn’t as magical as I remember as a child.

I’m looking forward to someday having children of my own and getting to see the holidays afresh through their eyes. But in the meantime, I am blessed to volunteer with the kids ministry at church, and just my brief interactions with them have already made my holidays happier this year.

At Thanksgiving while cooking with my dad, we were watching my nieces play, and he reminded me of when my own little brother was about three. At our family Thanksgiving, Dad encouraged us to count our blessings, and my adorable little brother – with his big, brown eyes and long eyelashes – scrunched up his face in distress, his lower lip trembling. “But Dad,” he cried in his sweet little voice, “I can’t count that high!”

My Dad smiled at the retelling and admitted to me, “I still feel that way.” We are so profoundly blessed.

This past Sunday at church while teaching the elementary kids some Christmas carols, one little girl named Kennedy came and sat in my lap. Halfway through one of the songs, she turned around and told me innocently, “You’re making my eyes water.”

Surprised, I asked her why. She wiped her eyes and whispered in a broken voice, “It’s just so beautiful.”

I want to be that in awe of Christmas. Of music. Of community. Of our God. To sit in wonder – to have faith like a child – that is my prayer for this Christmas.

Authentically Aurora

 

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5 Things NOT to say to the Sister of the Groom

Annoyed bridesmaidThese are things people actually said to me at my brother’s wedding this weekend. My dad always tells me that I need to lower my expectations of humanity. I don’t know why I’m always surprised by the audacity of people – you’d think I’d have learned by now.

5. “Did you bring a date?”

Do you see a date, punk? Use your eyes, not your mouth.

4. “Hi, we’ve never met before. I’m Doug.”

Actually, Doug, you were my youth pastor for all four years of high school. Glad I was such a memorable kid.

3. “Who was that guy you were just talking to? It seemed like you were really hitting it off. Wedding bells soon?”

Over-eager Aunt Gertrude, I know you are desperate to see me married off. And I appreciate your enthusiasm. Actually I don’t. The single men here are all barely out of college. Please stop asking me about every baby-faced child you see me talking to and assuming he is my future husband.  

2. “Can you imagine how much sex your brother is having right now?!”

That is absolutely crass and classless, you tasteless buffoon. Also, that is a mental picture I could have gone without, thanks.

1. “Weren’t you supposed to get married earlier this year?”

Yes, Uncle Mike. Like I told you at your daughter’s graduation and again at Thanksgiving, my fiancé proposed in January and got cold feet in March. Thanks for having me re-live that on a monthly basis in front of large groups of gawking relatives.

On the plus side, I totally rocked my duet with Jack. I can’t control others, but I can control myself, so when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.

Authentically Aurora

Jamberry Review

Jamberry nailsJamberry nails look awesome. For the uninitiated, they are stick-on nails with fabulous patterns. The holiday ones are my favorite.

However, there are some mild drawbacks to wearing these fantastically eye-catching nails.

For instance, you should plan on not washing your hair at all during the two week Jamberry nail wearing time frame, unless of course you like ripping out your hair in the shower as strands get caught underneath the gooey goodness of Jamberry nail stickers.

Also, you should either plan to not eat for two weeks or infect all of your food with the salmonella that gets stuck underneath your Jamberry fingernails from the eggs you cracked while making pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for your Thanksgiving potluck.

Jamberry festiveAnd lastly, you should definitely plan to catch every disease carried by the small children you lead in the church kids’ ministry, because there’s no way those goobers or snot bubbles are leaving the safe confines of your Jamberry nails’ stickiness.

In summary, Jamberry nails look awesome. And they will look awesome for the entirety of the last two weeks of your life before you implode from the inability to do anything remotely productive while wearing them.

Authentically Aurora

The Fiery/Fragile Child – Part II

Not everyone saw the same side of me on Thanksgiving Day this year, because not everyone is perceptive enough to grasp the complexities of being a Fiery/Fragile child. I have one face I show the world (“the best defense is a good offense”), and there is another layer to my personality that I reveal only to my closest confidantes, or those discerning enough to see beyond the veil. Here are two different perspectives of my Thanksgiving this year, one as seen by the masses and the other I generally keep to myself.

Ferocious Tiger1. THE FIERY WARRIOR

Family holidays are an introvert’s worst nightmare. Particularly if you come from a large, loud family. I swear I must be the milkman’s kid.

I had only been at my grandmother’s house for ten minutes when I had to escape to a back room to be still. And quiet. And regain my sanity before re-emerging into the chaos of simultaneous conversations at yelling volume:

“Is the turkey ready?”

“DO THE SWEET POTATOES NEED TO GO IN?”

“Has anyone seen Kevin?”

“Are you going to drink red or white?”

“Here, take this out to the car.”

“HAS ANYONE SEEN KEVIN?!”

To make matters worse, I somehow didn’t prepare myself for the fact that Thanksgiving this year fell one week before my brother’s wedding. And his fiancé is here in town, meeting some of the extended family for the first time. Not good news for someone trying to forget about a certain wedding of her own that got called off earlier this year. Almost every conversation (once we got all the food on the table and everyone settled) was about the wedding. Awesome.

“Are you guys getting excited?” What a dumb question. Why even bother asking this question? Even of the answer was no (which is unlikely), it’s not like either of them would announce that at Thanksgiving dinner.

“Tell me about your bridesmaids! Who did you pick?” Another dumb question. You’ve never met any of the fiancé’s friends, so hearing their names will mean absolutely nothing to you.

“Where are you guys going to be living? Do you have all of your stuff moved in yet? Are you going to get a pet?” Just stop already.

Grumpy Cat ThanksgivingWorse yet, my aunt hung a banner over our Thanksgiving table that said in sparkly lettering, “She Said Yes!” You’re about eight months late to the game. And isn’t today Thanksgiving? I thought I had another week of preparation before I had to start dealing with all of this wedding brouhaha.

What was that post I wrote on Thanksgiving Day? Oh yeah. Being thankful. Bah humbug.

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Fragile Tiger2. THE FRAGILE WOUNDED

I had a slow, quiet morning alone in my apartment this Thanksgiving. I prepared my assigned dish, sweet potato casserole, and put it in the oven to bake before hopping in the shower.

Once in the shower, I allowed myself to cry, happy for my brother and sad for myself at the same time. I prayed in my closest as I picked my outfit for the day. I prayed that I would have the strength I needed to get through the inevitable wedding-centric conversations that would surround me all day long.

I carefully applied my makeup and chose my jewelry, wanting to look nice in front of my fashionable future sister-in-law. Then I drove alone to my grandmother’s house where we’ve had Thanksgiving at 12:00 noon every year for as long as I can remember.

I knocked on the front door, set down my casserole, and had been standing in the kitchen for no more than 30 seconds before the wedding discussions began all around me. It was suffocating, like their words were causing my chest to constrict.

I went in a back room to lie down and give myself a pep talk. “You can do this.”

I made it through the meal, although I didn’t lead the family in prayer as I usually do, and one of my aunts commented multiple times that I was being too quiet.

FemaleWarrior2After Thanksgiving dinner, I went to a back room again to try to gather my strength and center myself. I grew up in a military family where we weren’t allowed to say “I can’t”, and our family motto was “No wimps.” But after nearly an hour of sitting alone in the back room pretending to nap, I admitted defeat. I walked slowly to my grandmother’s kitchen, gathered my dishes, hugged my grandmother goodbye with a soft “thank you” and made my way to the front door.

Only my daddy noticed my quiet movements, and he came over and offered to walk me out. I started crying as soon as we made it outside, and for the first time in twenty years, I said quietly, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I tried. I just can’t today.”

And he hugged me.

Authentically Aurora

Thankful, Despite it all

Sudan waterFor each of the past five years, I have gone on an international mission trip. I remember my 2011 trip being particularly poignant because, after weeks of living in a mud hut in Sudan, I returned to civilization in the midst of our extravagant holiday season.

Over the course of a 24 hour period, I went from a bat-infested mud hut with no electricity or running water to the opulence and busyness of Christmas in America. I went from 118 degree heat – caked in mud and having not bathed in two weeks – to dressing up in fancy gowns and sipping champagne at holiday parties. I went from a culture where starving, impoverished villagers slaughtered a goat for me in thankfulness for my medical services, to a culture where people nearly slaughtered each other as they stormed the shelves of Toys R Us looking for a Tickle-Me-Elmo to ensure their kid had a happy face on Christmas morning. It was the worst reverse culture shock I’ve ever experienced.

I think I spent most of that Christmas angry with everyone around me for their utter lack of thankfulness for our very many blessings. We have a tendency to be a greedy, entitled, self-interested people. We also have the capacity to be a wonderfully kind, loving and selfless people.

Thanksgiving prayer2014 has been a hard year for me. I’ve been rejected and abandoned by a fiancéwounded by trusted friends, insulted by thoughtless family membersinfested with fleas that just wouldn’t die, and subjected to petty office politics instigated by jealous coworkers. But I still count myself blessed. I believe that God is good and that even my trials have purpose; they are for my betterment and for God’s glory. People are messy and will fail us, but they are still beautiful and carry within them the breathtaking story of redemption. And even when people fail us, God remains a rock and a refuge for those who seek Him. He is faithful, even when we are faithless.

I have been blessed this year because, even in my trials, God has allowed me to see the lovingkindness and selflessness that people are capable of. And I am thankful, despite the heartache I’ve endured. As my Dad always says (regardless of circumstances!), “Life is good.”

My prayer for us all this Thanksgiving is that we pause our frantic busyness to truly stop, right our perspective, and be thankful for our very many blessings.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” -Ps. 30:5

Authentically Aurora

Birth Control for Happy Holidays

00a80fa44b60da78489df6bcdd377b18d50fc019b34025dc5b7b522f9631f429I have a friend who is dreading going home for the holidays because her very Catholic family always gives her a hard time about being on birth control. She and her husband are nondenominational Protestant Christians, and they use non-abortive birth control as a preventative method as a part of their family planning – a practice condemned especially by her very outspoken Catholic sister.

Setting aside for a moment the very intrusive, unloving nature of the sister’s attacks on my friend’s private sex life with her husband, what is the place of birth control in a Christian’s life? Is it okay to use birth control? What does the bible have to say?

First of all, the bible is clear that sex was created to be enjoyed within the context of marriage between a man and a woman. I’m not going to discuss premarital sex or homosexuality here, because that is not the purpose of this post. So bear in mind that the context of my discourse is whether or not it is okay for a married husband and wife to use birth control.

The Catholic church holds to the belief that sex was created primarily for procreation and not for pleasure. On catholic.com, the Catholic church argues, “The natural law purpose of sex is procreation…  but sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation.”

Okay, Catholics. If the basic purpose of sex is procreation and not pleasure, what do you do with these steamy bible verses?

“How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit.” -Song of S. 7:6-8

“Rejoice in the wife of your youth… Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” -Prov. 5:18-19

“While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.” -Song of S. 1:12

“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband… Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time.” -1 Cor. 7:3-5

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved…let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the…blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love.” -Song of S. 7:10-12

I cannot find any scripture to support the Catholic church’s claim that “sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes [procreation].” In fact, I would say quite the opposite is true. God created sex. Sex was GOD’S IDEA. He made it pleasurable as a gift to us and a way for us to build intimacy within our marriages.

The closest the bible comes to condemning birth control is in Genesis 38 in the story of Onan and Tamar. A young woman named Tamar was married to Er, the son of Judah, but Er died before Tamar bore any children. Tamar was then given in marriage to Er’s brother, Onan, but Onan did not want to split his inheritance with any child he might produce on his brother’s behalf (in accordance with the law of levirate marriage in Deut. 25:5-6), so he used the oldest form of birth control: withdrawal. God put Onan to death for his wickedness, but the wickedness described was not the use of contraception; it was Onan’s selfish motivation in using Tamar for pleasure without performing his legal duty of producing an heir for his deceased brother.

Ultimately, what we learn from Genesis 38 is not whether contraception is right or wrong but that it is the motivation behind the use of birth control that determines if it is right or wrong. Gotquestions.org states (and I agree), “Married couples use contraception for a variety of reasons. Some feel called to put off childbearing until they are in a better position to care for children. Some, such as missionary couples, may feel their service to God overrides the desire for children at a particular point in time. Some may be convinced that God has a different plan for them. Ultimately, a couple’s motives for delaying childbearing, using contraception, or even having numerous children, are between them and God.”

Authentically Aurora

Flynn Found Me

Instant MessageAaaaah! Guess who sent me an Instant Message at work today?!?!

You guessed it. Flynn!!!

I was good and didn’t initiate. I let him come to me, and come to me he did.

Flynn opened with, “Howdy!”, which fits his charming country character perfectly. After we made small talk for a few minutes, he invited me to his church’s Thanksgiving potluck dinner tonight. I, of course, said I would love to be there (along with my famous pumpkin chocolate chip muffins)! Then he asked if I had lunch plans. Wow – double-whammy. I already had a lunch meeting planned, but we agreed to meet for lunch next week before leaving for the Thanksgiving holidays.

We managed to chat for about twenty minutes before I excused myself for a business meeting. Our witty conversation was more fun than I’ve had in a long time. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions, and I’m pretty sure I was smiling the entire twenty minutes (and for about twenty minutes afterward). My coworkers probably all think I’m crazy, laughing out loud seemingly to myself, all alone in my cubicle. Ha. I’m sure it’s not the first time they’ve thought I was crazy!

As fun as Flynn is, I’m trying to be wise about this situation. I’m trying to enjoy the attention and flirtation while guarding my heart and having no expectations about a future because, as much as I enjoy Flynn’s company, he is someone else’s boyfriend. And I’m not a boyfriend stealer. And that “someone else” has been pretty clear that she expects to be a fiance soon. And I’m definitely not a fiance stealer. I’ve had my heart broken too many times to do that to someone else.

And besides: If he’ll do it for you, girls… he’ll do it to you. You better believe it.

Authentically Aurora