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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Monday, December 30, 2013

They're Olan-ly Young Once *rimshot*

I've had a blog post rattling around in my head lately, which is unusual because it's been so long since I even logged in over here, and even longer since I've had room in my head for anything but school work and- well, that's about it. I haven't been able to shake it, so I thought I'd take advantage of this little break, share a few thoughts, and see what happens:

A few weeks ago, a pastor at church said something that really struck a chord in my heart -- it's something I had heard before, but in this case, it sounded brand spankin' new-

"Worship and service and offerings aren't a burden when we really know who God is.  They're a natural response to His love and grace.  When we really realize how great He is, we can't help but offer up our best."

This immediately reminded me of a story I've been wanting to share-  

Last year sometime, my kids...

 (it's been a while, so let me remind you that all my little children have grown and grown and grown and now they're all tall, giraffe-like teenagers. The boy is 18 and the girls are 14 and I am pretty much an old lady)

... anyway, my kids had been going on and on about this YouTube dude. I was noticing that  they were becoming big fans, and had watched all his videos and were asking for merchandise from his website. Somehow because I am now the aforementioned old lady I have been kind of BUSY WITH STINKING GOING BACK TO COLLEGE FOR SOME STUPID REASON THAT I CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER NOW, I had sort of missed out on the trend. I felt like my grandparents as I heard myself asking,  "Who is this Olan Rogers fellow anyhow?" - and hoping that as they were gathered around the computer, laughing hysterically, that my negligence hadn't led to my children being corrupted by some inappropriate jackal. (oh dear, did I just use the words "fellow" and "jackal?" - old lady words for certain!)

Ashamed of both being out of the loop and neglecting my motherly filtering duties, I took some time to research that "Olan Rogers fellow"- come to find out he's just a genuinely funny aspiring director and master storyteller who keeps it relatively* clean as he spins his special style of dramatic tale. (*why relatively? Well, it just depends on your viewpoint on what is offensive. If you draw a hard line at bathroom humor or substitutionary swear words, you might be offended, so be warned.  If you are a 12 year old boy at heart, and find both hilarious, here are a couple of examples: The Ghost in the Stalls  The Midnight Claw).  More research revealed that Mr. Rogers is also open about his faith in Jesus Christ.  Even better.

I heard some chatting about the "Eat a Slice with Me" tour in July sometime, but still didn't pay attention until I was driving home on Monday (IT WAS A MONDAY) from work, and my son tells me that he'd like to drive to Los Angeles with his girlfriend and sisters to meet Olan. WHAT? (For those who don't know, our tiny little suburban town is at least an hour away from LA and filled with suburban people who are not real live city folk who are probably MURDERERS OR WORSE, and my son is used to sharing the roads with tumbleweeds and minivans not MURDERERS OR WORSE). My brain was spinning around and around, trying to figure out what to do because in order to make it to this shindig (another old lady word for you), a person would have to hit the road in no fewer than 20 minutes (I was 20 minutes from home), she would need to have a car filled with gas and enough seats for the all the people (I had that), she would have to be willing to forfeit her precious homework time (hm....), she would need to be spontaneous (yikes!), she would need to be willing to drive all the way from our town to the town filled with MURDERERS OR WORSE (ummmmm....), and she would have to realize that her kids are only going to be this age for a little bit longer, and that she had a chance to truly bless her children, and this was a one time shot.... OKAY, OKAY! TELL YOUR SISTERS TO BE WAITING OUTSIDE, WE'RE GOING TO EAT A SLICE WITH OLAN!

The cheering could be heard in other galaxies, and I swung my big ol' SUV around the cul-de-sac to see a gang of teenagers grinning ear to ear and jumping up and down waiting to jump on in.  As we merged onto the freeway, the kids explained to me that Olan Rogers had this idea of going on tour across the US, eating pizza with his fans and getting to know them. I was skeptical. How was this even going to work? I feared my kids were a little delusional in thinking they'd actually get to meet the object of their fandom, but we were already in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, so I figured we'd press forward.

We arrived to this vacant building in the middle of Los Angeles and were greeted by seriously friendly people and ushered to a tiny little courtyard filled with pizza and Jones soda and excited Olan fans (Olanmaniacs? Olanites? Olanophiles?).  We were warned that it "could be a while" because "Olan genuinely wants to hang out with each of you guys as long as it takes."  I was still a little skeptical as the line got longer and longer, but the kids were just about BURSTING OUT OF THEIR SKIN IN ANTICIPATION:

When we finally arrived at the front of the line, I was so impressed at how genuine and connect-y Olan was.  He greeted each of the kids and chatted it up with them for several unrushed minutes, signing their posters, making them feel like they were the only fans in the world.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, my son did something totally unexpected: he took off his watch (his FAVORITE STAR WARS WATCH FROM HIS CHILDHOOD) and handed it to Olan Rogers. This was stunning to me because the kid is not prone to outward displays of emotion. He was just so overcome with appreciation for how rad Olan Rogers was, he felt so connected and in awe, he just spontaneously handed over one of his favorite possessions:

It was a crummy little piece of plastic.  It probably has no earthly value at all.  But Olan got it.  He saw it for exactly what it was-







and then finally:

Now, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that Olan Rogers is not God.  He is not Jesus, not worthy of  true worship in any way.  My son is well aware of this too. But I do think that this is a great, tangible illustration of what happens as a natural consequence of getting to know someone, finding out how awesome they actually are, and spending time with them.  You WANT to give them your best- it's just wells up inside you and you can barely help yourself. It's a reaction, a response- not a burden.  And you're never, ever sorry you do it- whether it's ditching homework to drive your kids to meet a wacky YouTube guy (risking running into MURDERERS OR WORSE) or giving up your crummy plastic happy meal watch.  In the scheme of things, holding on to those things would keep us from enjoying the benefits of a deeper, real-er relationship.

And if that's true for me and my kids or my son and Olan, how much more so when it comes to a relationship with the One True God? If we make the effort to get to know Him, if we really realize how truly AWESOME He is, then we'll want to give Him our best- we'll eagerly surrender our time, our talents, our wealth, our attention- things that were once valuable to us, but now seem ridiculous to hold onto. We will give joyfully, cheerfully, and with reckless abandon.

How cool is that?

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 6:8



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ps: here's a documentary about the Eat a Slice Tour:

pss: we're all pretty thrilled that he's going to be playing Walt Disney in this upcoming independent film (this is not a solicited endorsement, just thought I'd share): As Dreamers Do

Saturday, August 17, 2013

22.


This morning I woke up and looked at the person sleeping next to me. For the last 22 years, this wonderful man has been a steady constant in my life. Brave, noble, humble, strong, smart, funny, romantic- my husband is such a blessing to me. As he began to stir, he opened his eyes, smiled, and mumbled "Happy Anniversary." I lifted my hand up to his, as we did the same thing we've done every year on this date..... we've given each other a big, fat, enthusiastic high five. It may seem like an unromantic gesture, I know, but this simple tradition is special to me, and I look forward to it year after year.

We already celebrated our anniversary earlier this week with a road trip up the coast, retracing the path we took 20 years ago on our second wedding anniversary. We had a great time, laughing and chatting, and seeing the sights. Today's going to be special, too. Like always, we'll celebrate our anniversary twice- once, just the two of us- and once with the kids.  We like to include the kids because it's important for them to experience the joy of marriage- it's their celebration too. Our years of wedded bliss are a gift for them, as well. It's my prayer that they'll want this kind of marriage for themselves someday.I'm excited too because, in a new twist, instead of going out to a restaurant they're working together to cook us a fancy meal.  I can't wait to see what they come up with.

It would be easy to walk around pridefully today- our marriage is succeeding in a society which seems to value vows, commitment, faithfulness, and hard work less and less. We are seeing married couples struggle all around us.  If we've learned anything, though, it's that nobody is immune to the viruses of discontent, selfishness, temptation, and discord. As soon as you let your guard down, any one of those can sneak right in your front door and take up permanent residence in  your home. Having a long-lasting marriage is actually more humbling than you'd think. Each passing year is a reminder that we are powerless all by ourselves. It is truly the equipping we get from Christ alone that gives us the strength and love it takes to protect this marriage from ending up in a heap of flames. Our high five is less a touchdown dance and more a indicator of gratitude. We are thankful that, despite the odds, God has given us enough grace to allow us another year of marriage to celebrate, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. We hope that our anniversary will be an encouragement to others- including our children- and a testament to what He can do with two dumb sinners who love Him and each other very much.  How wonderful and mighty is our God!

Let us hold tightly, without wavering, to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
Hebrews 10:23-24 NLT



ps: if you're interested, here are the posts from anniversaries past: