Thursday, April 02, 2015

.... and God was there.

This morning, I got a text from a friend, reminding me that this Sunday is not just Easter, but the three year anniversary of one of the hardest days of our lives. Together, we praised God for showing up that day in big, albeit mysterious, ways. 

I sat here and tried to write a Facebook post about my feelings, but I am SO not a fan of vaguebooking, and I didn't know how to go about writing it in a way that was honorable. I wrote it, deleted it, and started again about a dozen times. Finally, I closed my computer and headed to read my Bible and pray.

Sure enough, wouldn't you know, that the scriptures set for today were about God telling the Israelites that when they bring the firstfruits from the promised land, they should audibly account the tale of how God rescued them from a dark and dangerous place, and brought them to this new land. They should praise Him for what He did and not forget.

I smiled. "Yes God. I am in a better place today. This is because you rescued me... us... from a dark and dangerous place. But how on earth do I post about how you did all of that- how do I tell the tale of what You did that day without causing division, without pointing fingers, without reopening old wounds?"

I don't know if it's even possible to do this right, but I do want to take some time to recall what happened, so I don't forget that it wasn't just a really awful day. It was also a day that I got to feel what it is like to feel the presence of God during a fiery trial. That's a pretty big deal.  So, with my apologies for whatever is about to offend those of you who are sure to be offended, I lift up this account in praise of the God who rescued me:

3 years ago on April 5th:

  • I woke up that morning with a stomach ache. It had been a really rough year that had gotten really extra rough in the last couple of weeks. I knew that today would be no ordinary day. I wanted to go back to bed, call in sick, run away. There was no doubt in my mind that I was headed into a spiritual battle. I made a deal with God- I would go if He would go with me.
  • I desperately prayed as I dressed for the day...God was there. 
  • I got into my car & drove, filled with angst...God was there. 
  • I walked into my church of 18 years... God was there. 
  • I prayed with my children's ministry staff team...God was there. 
  • We were called in front of a board of elders...God was there. 
  • We told the truth...God was there. 
  • We were treated cruelly and lied to...God was there. 
  • We were given an ultimatum...God was there. 
  • We made the decision to resign that day...God was there. 
  • We packed up our beautiful office...God was there. 
  • We said goodbye to the people we loved...God was there. 
  • I walked to my car...God was there. 
  • I somehow got into my home, collapsed in a heap of tears, and God was there. 
  • I told my husband the whole account. Even on that dark, terrible day, I could see that God did exactly what he promised- He was with me, each step of the way, even though it didn't turn out the way I hoped. I could feel His presence, and I knew that very day that I'd never be sorry I made the choice to get out of bed and go into battle with God.
If this is a new story for you, or maybe even if it isn't, the bullet point list won't seem that big of a deal. When I read over it, I see all the things missing- the disappointment, the sorrow, the fear, the anger- but I still don't know how to put those into the right words. Also missing are the names of the heroes and the villains of the story- it just doesn't seem appropriate. But what's not missing is the fact that God was there. He was there, my friends, and even though to this day the situation hasn't been resolved to my satisfaction, I can see that God was there, and is here, and will continue to be. I know that we were rescued, and I believe that He used that day in ways that haven't even been revealed yet. 

For this, I am thankful. I am so amazed at what God has done over the past 3 years. I praise Him here- not to cause or draw out drama, but to mark the date. The day I went in to battle, holding the hand of God.

Hallelujah! He is the God who is mighty to save!


Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year, New Start

You guys, last year was a doozy for me.
I know I'm not alone- I've seen 2014 called some pretty nasty names on social media.
(and I'm pretty sure she asked for it)

 Truth be told, it was filled to the brim with amazing things for me and for my family:

  • I finished my bachelor's degree and graduated with a fancy summa cum laude title
  • My son got his first (and second) job as an EMT
  • My husband began grad school
  • I fell and broke my ring finger, and wonkified my pinky
  • My girls have been enjoying their sophomore year
  • We survived a pretty nasty car accident and my favorite car (ever) was totaled
  • I had surgery on my wonky pinky
  • We got a replacement car and were able to pay cash for it with insurance money
  • I celebrated 23 years of marriage with my husband
  • I gained a massive amount of weight
  • Some of my extended family survived a really, much nastier car accident
  • I got to travel to Texas, Washington, and Texas again
  • Some very dear friends and family suffered some very real heartbreak
  • My pinky finger rewonkified
Some of those things brought me happy tears, some not-so-happy tears, and some were downright atrocious. This was a remarkable year. 

The good news for me is this: It's over!


Time to turn the page- a fresh start! 

I'm committing to a healthier, loving-er, more profitable year.

Can't wait to tell you all about it. I've been planning and planning and planning....

In fact, I'll be blogging daily about it all month. Tomorrow, I'll lay it all out for ya. 

But for now, I'll say this:

Day one: check!

His Girl,
Amber

Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

communications.

I've talked about and hinted about my struggles with resettling into church life for a while now.

Sometimes I worry that you're getting tired of it.

Sometimes, I actually picture you out there saying, "Oh, for pity's sake, it's been TWO AND A HALF YEARS! GET OVER IT!"

And other times, I remember that I am (sadly, sadly, sadly) not alone.

Some of you are struggling too.

And sharing struggles as well as victories is part of being real and authentic- and though I'm just as tired as you are of hearing those hashtag phrases, there's a reason that they've become so popular in churches these days. 

hint:  possibly because there's been WAY too much fake perfection going on, and it's simply doing more harm than good. Being #real or #authentic is better than being #sickandtiredandburntoutfrompretendingallthetime

So, anyhoo, in the interest of full disclosure, I share with you this:
  
Sometimes Oftentimes, I have hard time wanting to connect with my church.

When a person goes from being a church staff member, a ministry leader, a very connected part of a church body for 18 years to a new church where literally 2 people know your name.... well, that's the making of what "they" call a rough transition, my friends. Making all new connections is hard work when you're not eight years old anymore. Especially when you can't really want to.

Truth be told, we did this kind of on purpose. We needed a place where we could blend in and chill out and, frankly, heal.  Nobody asking me for more dirt on the scandal, nobody trynna pressure us into ministry too soon, nobody asking us to take sides. Nobody to disappoint. Nobody to disappoint us. We chose a large-ish church in a far-ish location, and we hid out for a little while and enjoyed our zero-risk-for-heartbreak membership. (I should mention here that in addition to  anonymity, the church also offered fantastic Bible teaching, heartfelt worship, and very darling, welcoming people.)

It wasn't long before I found myself circling an ad in the bulletin. The listing mentioned that the church was looking for people who would be willing to do some copy editing. Though I had given myself permission to take a year off of ministry, I felt compelled to move. I was excited to use my red pen addiction for God's glory. Plus, if you want to know the really real truth... I liked the idea that I found a loophole! I could serve in the church without really getting to know anyone at all! Whoo hooo! I could be helpful AND anonymous! No interpersonal connections, FTW! 

So, that's what I did- and have been doing for a while now.  It's been lovely.  And kind of fun. And safe.

Imagine my utter turmoildisdain, chagrin, surprise when I was invited to a social gathering with the rest of the communications team.  CUE THE DRAMATIC MUSIC!!!! This is how I will surely die!!! 

I wrestled with the idea of not going.  But then I got to thinking... the simple fact is that when you're part of a family, there is a certain amount of vulnerability there. And you miss out on the whole point when you come home and go in your room and shut the door in self-protection. You miss out on the responsibility and risk, yes, but you also rob yourself of all the benefits of being part of a family.  And that's just dumb. 


At some point, you've got to stop worrying about protecting yourself, and let God do what He does best.

So, I went. I sucked it up buttercup, put on my big girl chonies, and I got in my car and drove way-the-hay out to my far away church and spent a couple of hours with my church family.

And you know what?

I had a really good time.

I met some really neat people. I got to hear some really great vision casting. I geeked out about grammar with others. I enjoyed good food and thoughtful decorations. I was reminded about the true heart of servant leadership. 

And I didn't die.

Instead, I took another step toward being a healthy person who can actually be a part of a church family again.

Will these people disappoint me, too?
yup.
Will I disappoint these people?
for sure.
Will my heart get broken again?
maybe.

Will it be worth it?
absolutely.

onward!


Trust in the Lord with all your heart;

    do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT





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Sunday, June 08, 2014

About the Latest Leap.

oh, hello, there! 

I have something to chat with you about. 

But, I don't want to do it all formal-like because I feel like we're friends.

Can I please invite you to grab a pillow and a cuppa your favorite foofy coffee or tea, put on some comfy yoga pants and sit on my virtual sofa for a minute with me?

This is kind of a long story. (but I promised to be done with multi-edition posts, so I'm going to have to make it short)

It all began when...

well, you see... 

I think it started with...

Oh man.  I'm not really sure when it started.  But I do recall a beginning step when God told me to go back to school way the hay back in January of 2011 (here's a post from that time period).

I had no idea how much my life would change over the next three years. We've talked about it a little along the way- the disaster which ended up with me leaving a wonderful-turned-sour ministry job and my home church of 18 years, the aging of my children (did I mention my son is now an EMT and that he's helped deliver a BABY? or that my daughters just FINISHED their freshman year? yes. stuff like that.), and the struggle/blessing of working a 30+ hour a week job while being a full time student and a mom who desperately wanted to nurture her family.

Though we don't really have time for all that catchup right now, you can certainly celebrate with me, if you don't mind some terribly shameless bragging- because the end of that chapter of the story is that I eventually, finally, was able to graduate summa cum laude (I had to Google it too) this spring. Huzzah! 

My beautiful family coming to show their support. I triple pink puffy heart these people.

So, now what? It's a reasonable question. For a long time, I thought for sure I was going to go ahead and get my teaching credential and teach elementary school.  I got all the stuff done for it, and was set to enter the program this month. But then I realized something...

I really didn't want to.

I prayed a lot about this, but the truth is, my heart is for teaching/encouraging/challenging adults. Although I still love the early childhood years, I realized my place just isn't in the classroom with children anymore.  And that kind of rocked my world. I like knowing what I am doing.  "wait and see" situations are not really my favorites.

I spent a long time just talking to God about what I was meant to do next. Why did God have me go back to school? What did He want me to do? It has been VERY long time since I had to apply for a job.  Like, since the late 80s.  I am decidedly out of practice.

There are also some other considerations. My daughters are 14.  Fourteen. Meaning they are only going to be teenagers for a little while longer. *sniffle* Also, my husband is enrolled in a Master's program- that leaves my schooling decidedly on "pause" (unwritten law of parenting: both parents of teenagers can't be going to school at the same time. the teens will go feral for sure).  

And I just kept coming back to the fact that when I'm doing a training session, or helping people problem-solve, or when I'm speaking to a group of teachers or mommies... I feel.... ALIVE.  I have this amazing settled feeling, like I'm doing the exact thing I'm supposed to do.

for the record, this is the point at which I'd like to insert a "to be continued" message.  Instead, I'm going to have to speed this thing along so you don't tune out on me...

Soooanyway, after months of prayer and seeking God, my husband and I have decided that we are going to take a pretty big leap. We both feel like that heart desire is God's leading me to try something ... risky.  We're going to leave behind the nice, safe world that I've been living in and prepare to do something that will require more trust in God's provision than we have needed in a very long time.

which, when you put it that way, is kinda exciting.

Instead of job hunting, I'm going to put my efforts into starting a new training/consulting firm. As a first MAJOR step, I accepted a position at work that requires significantly fewer hours so that I can really take a stab at turning my hobby side business into my primary source of income. 

*gulp*

So, here we go.... today, I launched my new, professional website! 

click to follow link
It's not all the way done yet, but it is being successful in helping me get motivated to really put my heart into this adventure!  The idea is for my business to be up and running the first week of July. I'll be adding a new blog to my website, for professional stuff, but I'll also be popping back here from time to time to chat with you about the stuff that deals with my heart as we step out on this adventure.  

I hope you'll stick with me as I plod along here.  At the very least, I can pretty much guarantee that this'll be a TRIP AND A HALF.

So, if you're game... grab your parachutes... close your eyes.... and together we'll.... LEAP!

I just know that God's got this.

His Girl,
Amber 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;

    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take
Proverbs 3:5-6



Apology and Resolution

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times... I love, love, love being fortysomething.  I love the view from this point in my journey. I love having older kids, I love knowing a few more things, I love having this different perspective. It's fun to know who your real friends are, what really warrants a trip to the ER, what life's real deal breakers are.  It's good junk.

Sadly, there are some definite downsides to being fortysomething too.  It's harder to see, and more difficult to look at myself real close in the mirror- and don't get me started on the stray wiry hairs that keep cropping up all over creation. I miss my flat tummy and non-jiggly arms. I miss my smooth face and whatever color my hair used to be before it started its mutiny. I've lost a little of my optimism, a lot of my trust in people, and my car keys more times than I can count.  It's harder to lose weight, but easier than ever to lose my train of th.... oh, dear, where was I?

Oh yes... I was trying to explain what happened to the second part of my last post. It's a terrible confession, my friends.

I straight up don't remember.

I know I wanted to tell you some great spiritual lesson that I got from the fall. I think it was about the importance of the aligning of the finger, and how it needed to be rebroken so it could heal properly and be used as it should... but I simply have forgotten. Guess you'll need to draw your own conclusions.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post: An apology and a resolution.

First, the apology: I am so sorry I left ya'll hanging for so long, and now I can't even finish the post.  That was rude and I apologize.

Next, the resolution: I will no longer be doing multi part posts UNLESS I have written all the parts ahead of time.

I hope you will all forgive me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go take my breakfast out of the microwave.  that I left there this morning. 14 hours ago.  *sigh* I knew there was a reason I was so hungry at church today.

Monday, April 28, 2014

POW (accent on OW) Part I

On a fateful day at the end of March, I was walking along, MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS, when my toe caught on a crack and I gracefully sailed through the air  landed with a SPLAT! and a SKID! and thoroughly ruffed up my face, obliterated my dignity, and snapped my poor ring finger in two.

*pause for appropriate amounts of sympathy* poor me. 
This is when the swelling started. It got blue-er and swollen-er and yada, yada, yada... this happened:

I have to admit, I got a little emotional at this point, not because it was a big decision (it was clear that it had to GO ) but it occurred to me in that moment that this teeny-tiny diamond was bought by a 19 year boy who scraped together all his money to ask me to marry him.  I've worn it every day since Christmas eve 1990. It was a little sad.

(I'm over it now and saving up for the UPGRADE!)

I rode home exhausted, looking a little raggedy, and in a pretty fair amount of pain:

It wasn't pretty, but I made it through the week, and went to my follow up appointment, still in a pretty significant amount of pain.  The X-ray shed a little light on the subject:
I don't know if you can see it very well, but whathahappenedwas apparently, the one bone piece had kinda slipped off the base, making it all crooked-y and then it healed up a little bit, so it had to be twisted and pulled and repositioned, and put back on the base.  

*pause for the appropriate amount of sympathy*

Then, in an effort to keep me from needing surgery and a pin to be placed, they fashioned a cast around what feels like my whole entire arm:
And now? I wait. I have about a week until it's removed and replaced with a splint, and my doctor said I can shop for a ring in about 3-4 months, after all the swelling and rebuilding is all done.Ugh.

I've been surprised at how many things are INCREMENTALLY more difficult (like washing my hair, and opening a bottle of whiskey water bottle, and oh, I don't know... sleeping) and am often annoyed (my cast often hits the CAPS LOCK BUTTON WHILE I AM TYPING WITH MY SEVEN WORKING FINGERS) but all-in-all, I guess it could be worse. At least, that's what perfect strangers tell me as they regale me with their stories of what happened to their sister's best friend's babysitter's uncle. 

I tell you this whole long story because you'll need it for the next installment of this post... you guys, I think the bloggy mojo is coming back, because I got a doozy of a word picture when I was experiencing this "everyday life" situation, and I can't wait to share....


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Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
Psalm 51:7-13

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finish Line

I don't know that I've actually run a race since childhood, but I've seen some on TV and in the movies, and I'm pretty sure the best part is crossing the finish line.  As the music swells in intensity, the runner, red-faced and sweaty, stumbles a little from exhaustion, almost gives up, then forces herself to push just a little harder, hurtles herself forward, breaking the yellow ribbon with the last bit of energy in her soul, and smiling and cheering, she pumps her fists in the air and then...

collapses on the ground.

Now, you don't have to be a runner to know what it feels like in finish line moments. The final miles are by far the hardest. Yes, signing up for the race was an act of courage and faith itself, and getting started was slow and painful, and there were pitfalls along the way, but those last steps are doozies. It's not like you have a choice to turn back, for you know what lies behind. It's not like you have a choice to quit, for this can't all be for nothing. It's not like, once you cross the line you can just be done moving forever, for you know you still have to at least walk to the car to go home...

but for a moment, just for a moment, you think... this victory is sufficient in itself. I will celebrate by lying on the ground, and not moving, just for a moment.

*sigh*

I finished school on Friday.  I typed my final paper with only 8 fingers (that's a blog post for later), a low-grade fever, a sore throat, and I did it on my birthday... but you guys... it's done.  I have so many stories to tell about my adventures, but for now?

I will celebrate by lying here on the ground and not moving... just for a moment.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1



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