Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twenty Four


When I wake up tomorrow morning, it will be my 24th wedding anniversary. Yikes! I don't know how we even got old enough to become people who have been married for dozens of years, but here we are. Old, married people who say things like "let's eat at a different restaurant, this one's too loud" and "kids these days" and "How is it 9:00 already? Is it too early to go to bed?" 

When we said our vows waaaaaaaaaay back in 1991 (that was before iPhones, children), we had no idea what adventures we had ahead. We were young and in love and we really thought we had it all figured out (probably because there was no Pinterest to tell us what "it all" looked like- with a chalkboard label, distressed, set against a burlap and chevron background, and photographed using an earlybird filter).

The good news is that, though we were wrong about pretty much everything in those days (including, but not limited to, the his-and-her fanny packs we bought especially for our honeymoon trip. that we took to Florida. In August.), we actually made a brilliant decision to say "I do" that day. Turns out, God is great at making beautiful things out of all sorts of circumstances, and in this particular scenario, God did a water-into-wine sort of miracle when he took the choices we made and turned them around to a wonderful, enduring, solid marriage. 
I'm interrupting this post because J just yelled out to me from the other room, where he's steadfastly working on his master's thesis, to say that he can tell I'm writing something fun because he can hear me "typing happily" from his office. Apparently, there's a difference from the way I type when I'm doing homework. The man gets me, I tell you.
Anyhoo, what I wanted to say was this about all of that: Time is flying by, my friends. Our son is the same age as the man who put a ring on my finger 24 years ago. Our daughters recently started their junior year of high school- we're already touring college dorms. This part of life is full of BIG moments and FAST changes. It's hard to keep up sometimes.

More and more often, I think about the fact that before I know it, we'll be facing that time when it's just me, the man, and the dog in this once-too-small-but-soon-too-big house. It'll be then when we get to find out if we spent enough time along the way investing in our marriage, solidifying our relationship as husband and wife outside of our roles as mom and dad.  Did we do what we set out to do as kids without a clue all those years ago? Did we celebrate our anniversaries as victories? Did we take time out for one another? Did we put aside the things that could divide us? 

Thankfully, I don't have to worry about those questions too long. The best thing about being part of a marriage that statistically should never have lasted is that I never have had an excuse to think that it worked because I made all the right choices. Instead, I get to rest in God, who is faithful to provide me with exactly the right guidance: a nudge to apologize when I'm wrong, a poke to behave well when I'm right, a prompt to think of my husband's needs when I'd rather think of my own. The same God who loved us through the early days of our marriage still loves us, still cares for us, and will still be there as we learn to navigate the days yet to come. I have every reason to believe that, should we be allowed more days on this earth, there will be many more posts like these, celebrating a love that beat the odds by the grace of God.

*high five, J. here's to dozens more*





And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28




ps: if you're interested, here are the posts from anniversaries past (even though I somehow missed our 23rd!):

Friday, July 03, 2015

Listening.


Hi, Friends! I have some things on my heart, and I wanted to write them down and get them sorted out a bit... (warning: I'm pretty sure that's code for "Prepare for a really long post")There's been lots of heated talk on social media recently... mainly in ALL CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! It would be so easy to jump into the fray, add my voice to the mess and make sure you all know WHAT I THINK ABOUT ALL OF THESE THINGS. But, experience is teaching me that all the CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! are like snowflakes in my hot little hometown. They cause a public stir but evaporate before they can make any kind of impact.I had the gift of being locked in a conference setting out of town for most of last week with people of a variety of opinions and cultures. Part of our activities was to have small group discussions (this was all in the context of child care, not connected to current events even remotely) It was about that time that I kept hearing a little, faint whisper... "stop talking. don't interrupt. listen." So, I did. And you know what? I got to hear some extraordinary stories from incredible people. I heard about childhoods and families and struggles and journeys. It was beautiful.So, I listened some more.And then, I went into my hotel room and saw what was going down on social media.But I didn't have time to post, so I just listened.And then it was time to be back in classes all the live long day with spotty (at best) WiFi.So, I kept on listening.And then I came home. And then I was so in the habit of listening, I forgot to chime in with all my INFINITE WISDOM. I clicked on well-worded posts. I read them. I thought about them. I prayed about them. I listened again.And I listened some more.And while I was listening and praying and thinking, I realized something. I starting seeing things in a different way. And although my heart is much softer to the "other side," my theology didn't change. I was able to hear what people had to say, have compassion, love them more and hopefully better, adjust my attitude, rearrange some of my political opinions, and still hold on to my belief system. How crazy is that? The sand shifted, and God remained constant. I was able to change some of my thinking without giving up what is important to me.
My faith, closely examined, got stronger when I listened, not weaker. I gained more love and compassion and I lost some extra legalism and prejudice. In the quiet, I was able to formulate a position without getting angry.  
interesting.I once heard from someone I respect that conversations about these heartfelt topics are earned. They belong face-to-face between people who love one another, not blasted all over the internet and shouted in public forums. I think she is right about this.  If I feel strongly enough that someone is on the wrong side, I should be equally (if not more) willing to sit down on a sofa with them as I am to write one of those ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! social media posts. So, what does this mean for me? It means that, going forward, you're not going to hear my opinions on current events in the format of quick social media posts, or "likes" or "shares" either. It means that I'm going to be more intentional about building relationships with people so that we can have hard conversations when necessary. I want someone to feel comfortable coming to me to discuss these things, even when they are sure I am wrong. I desire to be a girl who is compassionate and thoughtful and informed. I like the feeling of having a stronger faith that has been looked at closely and questioned seriously.I would like to be done with being a girl who is unapproachable, opinionated, scared, or unloving. I'm ready for a change. I hope you'll see it in me. And if you don't, I hope you'll tell me. In person. On the sofa. With a cup of tea. and maybe some chocolate.
I'm listening.
love,
His Girl.



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





Photobucket


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.