Why aren’t you writing more?

I have a writer I do some work for. We had a Skype call a few weeks ago to get to know each other, and she didn’t waste anytime. She started, “I have just one question. Why aren’t you writing more?”

That, of course, is totally loaded.

I’ve been actively avoiding writing for the better part of the week.

Although, to be fair, I think I’ve been actively avoiding writing for the better part of ten years.

A year ago, I did a big scary thing and I packed up all my clothes and a handful of books and a couple of photos of my family and my best friends and I moved halfway across the country into my friend’s guest room for a job I thought was the job.

 I found an apartment, and met a guy, and have been, for a year, building a life in Grand Rapids. I do not, however, have that job anymore.

The job that I thought would be the job was far too short-lived. And I can’t pretend even now to understand exactly why that job didn’t work out, why that ministry dismissed me, why God called me here for a reason that we all thought so clear that would turn out not to be the reason at all.

My guess, though, is that the job was a means by which to: one, get my attention and two, move me to the place that I am needed.

I confessed to my Bible study a few weeks ago that I understand the story of Jonah differently now. You know the one with the dude who gets told to go preach in a city he didn’t want to go to, so he ran away and found himself in the belly of a great big fish? I told my Bible study that I have known that I was called to writing, that I recognized even in elementary school that words came easily to me when my friends really struggled, and that struggle never made sense to me. I told them that writing makes me dredge for the truest things that I think and realest things that I feel, and sharing that with the world is scary in ways I can’t find words for.

And I confessed that I have tried to do everything but write for ten years. Social media management, therapy, youth ministry – while very good and (mostly) noble professions, I think for me they have always been me trying to be anywhere but the place I was called.

If I am Jonah, then writing is in my Nineveh.

And I think maybe that getting fired and the months that have followed have been my in-the-belly-of-the-big-fish-what-are-you-doing-to-do-with-your-life wake up call.

The writer who I do some work for told me to read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, the women who sold millions of copies of a different book on her quest to find herself by eating gobs of pizza and meditating in the Far East. The writer I do some work for said, “I’ll be honest, I didn’t love everything about this book, but I think you need to read the first section on fear. And then I think you need to get on with writing.”

I read it this morning, although I don’t think the section is really about fear, it’s about bravery. I can see why this writer I do some work for made me suggested I read it:

Around the age of fifteen, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist of unexpected ending. My fear was a song with one note – only one word, actually – and that word was, ‘STOP!’….

For the entirety of my young and skittish life, I had fixated upon my fear as if it were the most interesting thing about me, when actually it was the most mundane…My fear wasn’t some kind of artisanal object; it was just a mass-produced item, available on the shelves of any generic box store.

And that’s the thing I wanted to build my entire identity around?

The most boring instinct I possessed?

The panic reflex of my dumbest inner tadpole?


So, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I could keep running, but that now feels much harder than actually doing the thing to which I have been called. (And hey, it only took me ten years to get there.)

Batman_quit procrastinating


What I’m Into – June 2016

Faithful blog readers and those who’ve stumbled here accidentally, hello!

I’m not going to give some big long explanation of why I haven’t been blogging (again), but I will give you a very short one – I just didn’t feel like it.

I think 2016 has marked one of the greatest years of change for me, and so much of the writing that’s been coming from what’s been happening has been reserved for my journals. (Plural, yes.) (Jesse, I’m counting on your to burn them should I meet my untimely demise. Please and thank you.)

What I'm Into

Even writing the What I’m Into posts for Leigh, which I usually have a lot of fun with, felt just a teensy bit too vulnerable. Because it’s not super fun to say month after month that what you’ve been into has been a lot of sitting on your balcony staring off into the trees watching the birds. (A friend reminded me recently that some might call that “being still,” but whatever. Let’s not split hairs.)

But, June 2016 has been a gift. So, let’s just take a hot minute to celebrate that.


I’ll admit that my actual ability to finish a book this year has been…uh…not so good. I am currently somewhere in the middle of – The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, Night Driving by Addie Zierman, and The Alphabet of Grace by Fredrick Buechner.

truth and beauty

And I feel like I will always be almost finishing Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. I started this one back in the Fall, and I’m pretty committed to seeing how the friendship between Ann and her friend Lucy plays out, but I’m just going to say the unpopular thing – I think Lucy is kind of a terrible human being and not a very good friend, and I think I may feel too much for Ann, and reading this book makes me tired. I might just finish it by this Fall, but really, the jury is out.


I may have struggled to read, but audio books have been my jam this month. (A lot of hours in the car will do that to a person.) In the, like, 400 hours I spent in my Vibe this month, I have listened to in their entirety – Sophie Hudson’s Home is Where My People Are and A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet (which are read in all of her Mississippi-accented glory and I laughed out loud multiple times), Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (which I then texted my best girlfriends and said, “Listen to or read this one to hear only how she talks about her friend Nicole. I love you!” Because I’m nothing if not a little sentimental about my girlfriends, and Annie is too), and Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I also made hearty strides in Goblet of Fire, but since it takes approximately half a lifetime to listen to each of the Harry Potter books (they all sit around 20 hours listening time), I will approximately finish the series on my deathbed. There aren’t enough hours in the Vibe, but like I said, I’m making hearty strides.

The soundtrack of my summer has seemed be the favorites – The Indigo Girls, A Retrospective; Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Live at Luther College; and a smattering of Ben Rector. Because really, with all that Harry Potter to listen to, what has time for anything else?


Of course, we all know that my favorite thing about June was going home for a couple of weeks.

So, I hung out with these goofs, who are my favorite people on the planet. Abby rocked a nice little head cold most of my trip, but that, of course, doesn’t stop aunt and niece-in-love from enjoying an afternoon or two together.

And the neph-in-love and I went on a fun little ice cream date.

*Quick story: On one of the Sunday nights I was home, Jesse and I planned a BFF date. When I went to pick her up before we went out for dinner, Noah was super sad he wasn’t going with us, as much as we assured him that we were taking him and his brother on a breakfast date just a couple of days later. To which he said, adamantly, “No, Mom! A date is two people!” And then told her he wanted to go on a date with Aunt Amber (which she immediately said yes to and may have welled up a little), and is exactly how we ended up eating ice cream that turned our tongues blue a couple of days later.

Also, it was wicked hot so we played at the pool at Nana’s house. And by “play,” I mean the boys had way too much fun splashing me.


These kids, man. I don’t think I could love them more.

Also, I went out and stood in a wheat field with one of my best pals. Because why the heck not?  And because I feel like we all need to be reminded that I don’t go home just to see the kids. (Yes, I absolutely do.)



The end of June and my return to Michigan was marked with a baseball game with my favorite. (Sometimes you have to leave home to end up where you need to be.)


July will bring with it more travels, more chances to hang with my people, and more time to listen to Harry Potter.

This summer is undoubtedly way more fun than sitting on the balcony, staring at the tree line, watching the birds.

Things that make a tribe

***This post originally appeared on the blog’s Facebook page on April 12, 2016***

About once a week, maybe once every other week I get a text message from a friend of mine who lives not near me at all – “Just checking in, friend. Doing okay?”

In fact, for most of our friendship now we have lived not near each other, both of us moving to different parts of the country after college and both us getting busy with those adult things that make being friends who live not near each other difficult. Most seasons don’t allow for such constant contact, but I’ll admit that I’m glad for it now. I need all the people I can get who ask, “How are you doing?” and won’t settle for less than a real answer.

I met this friend in the back row of a neuropsychology class my sophomore year of college after she hit me with the power cord of her computer and offered no apology, only saying, “That was an accident” and scowling. “No problem,” I said, intimidated a bit by this upperclassman who had spent the class hour building SIMS houses on her computer and then bulldozing them down.

The next week, in the middle of a lecture of about serotonin and its place in brain function, she looked up from her SIMS house and asked if I wanted one of the Pixie Sticks she had brought with her. Hopped up on sugar and bored of neuropsychology, we spent the rest of the semester trying not to get in trouble for laughing from the back row.

You just never know what is going to become the foundation of a good friendship.

Laughing. And candy. And a lot of grace to be who you are.

This friend who lives not near me, who texts often and wants to know how I’m really doing, is in a tough season too. And while I’m glad we are able to text and be real and talk about these things with each other, I wish for her that she had people in her town to talk to too. Because she’s an incredibly generous person, loyal and funny, and quick to dive into the messes with her people. She’s not afraid of a challenge, and brings a lot of strength with her into her relationships. She’s a friend who’s going to show up. And I have no doubt that her wife is built of the same kind of stock. And they need people to show up for them too right now.

My friend who lives not near me, who knows God and lives graciously and is devoted and loyal, has been rejected by the tribe of Church.

My friend who lives not near me has been let down by other people who know God.

My friend who lives not near me is in a rough season and she’s mostly alone and she’s sad.

And I hate that my friend is sad. I hate that this person who bought me the DSM-IV when I went back to grad school and who wrote a note that falls out every time I pick it up – “You are going to do great things. Love you, friend.” – is feeling alone in the world. I hate that when she thinks of Church now, she feels pain and condemnation instead of grace and love. I hate that her tribe failed her.

I want us to do better than that.

We can do better than that. We can offer more than running away or hiding from hard conversations. We can offer more than trite answers and quick responses. We can offer ourselves, our listening ears and our humble hearts. We can sit down sinner-to-sinner and find grace and God together. Because that’s the best part about our tribe. It’s the very thing that make us a tribe.

And we can do better.

Friends and jackwagons

***This post originally appeared on the Facebook page for this blog on April 11, 2016***

Late last week I had lunch with my editor-friend and my therapist-friend, both of whom I had the great fortune of working with for a little while.

My editor-friend and I have known each other since college, and I’ve always appreciated that we talk so easily about books and music and theology. It’s only in recent years that we’ve dropped into those deeper places of knowing each other and sharing real stories, and I’m only now starting to appreciate the wisdom and insight and peace that also comes with being her friend.

My therapist-friend is new, though. A gem of a guy I met because we worked in the same place and both studied counseling and never ran out of things to say at the lunch table. Turns out, a couple of lunches is all it really takes to make a new friend.

And at lunch late last week, these friends sat across from me as they listened for the millionth time about how I’m doing since I lost my job, about what I’m thinking I’m going to do next, about my increasingly complicated feelings about Church and Church People.

My therapist-friend interjected at one point, “Can I make an observation?” For always this will be a question I answer yes to when my therapist-friend asks it because I’m a dummy who needs the insights of people who are smarter than me and because I know whatever follows will likely be something that God needs me to think about.

“You’re an idealist. But, with idealism can come a lot of darkness or angst when the ideals aren’t being met. What do you do…”

“To stave off the darkness?”


And I found myself saying, “I text my friends. I tell the people I trust most in the world that the darkness is there and I need them to pray. And then maybe I start praying too. I don’t let myself sit alone in it anymore.”

And so the conversations between me and God these days go something like:

Me: Okay, Lord. This church thing is pretty jacked up right now, and it’s not right. I’m a church kid and I want to love the church, but God, the people are making it so dang difficult.

Him: I know. Miranda’s going to ask you to have lunch next week with her and Jeff. Go.

Me: Okay, cool. I like them. I can do that. But, Lord, what about the other people? The ones who make you look bad. What are we going to do about them?

Him: You’re going to be asked to dog sit for a co-worker you really like. Do that too.

Me: Alright, sweet. I can definitely use the cash. But, I feel like you’re not listening to me. What are we going to do about the sucky church people?

Him: You should see if Dennis is free for coffee.

Me: FINE! I’ll text him right now! But, c’mon, dude! Hear me! Things are screwed up, and I keep getting screwed over by people in your dumb church, and I’m starting to get really pissed about it. We need to figure out what to do!

Him: Isn’t that writer’s festival coming up? They’re going to talk about some stuff like diversity and storytelling and friendship and grace, right? Pay attention there.

Me: Dude, I KNOW! Sarah Bessey and Nadia Bolz-Weber are my heroes, so we already know I’m taking a legal pad’s worth of notes. And stop trying to distract me, I’m mad here!

Him: Hey, your phone just buzzed. Those two people in that group text that you’re in are two of your best people, right? That friendship isn’t an accident. Go enjoy them.

Me: Okay. Deal. But, we’re not done. We still need to talk about your church people.

Him: Yeah. Maybe we just did?

It’s almost as if God’s trying to remind me that for every church people that makes Jesus look bad, there’s a Miranda or Jeff showing up to listen and ask the right question. It’s almost as if I’m supposed to remember that God’s a bit of an idealist too, hoping that the people who love him will show up and take care of other people.

And this is what I love about the Christian story – even when God’s ideal isn’t met, even when people are being jackwagons who make Jesus look bad, the darkness still doesn’t win.

Because there are more friends in the Church than there are jackwagons.

On getting fired

I write sometimes on the Facebook page for this blog, and for whatever reason that was the space where I decided to put words to my complicated feelings about losing my job a couple of months ago.

So, this is the beginning of that story in 2 Facebook posts:

#1 – March 21, 2016

So, okay.

It’s been more than a month since I’ve put any kind of words on the internet that weren’t reduced to a 140 character tweet. Because there’s safety in 140 characters. I can share snippets, the good stuff. The funny things my friends have said. Or the photo of my nephew in the fort of couch cushions, or my niece in her Minnie Mouse dress.

You can’t deal with the hard stuff in 140 characters. The hard stuff deserves more than that.

So, okay. Here it is:

A little over a month ago, I was called into my HR office early on a Wednesday morning and I was let go from my position as a social media specialist. I guess technically I was “downsized,” but when you’re reorganized right out of your job, technically is hogwash. The reality is that I was fired.

When one of my friend’s mom’s heard what happened her reaction echoed my own: “What?! Amber doesn’t get fired!”

Amber doesn’t get fired. And yet she was. On a Wednesday morning in the middle of February. And Amber is still dealing the emotional aftermath of all of that.

Although, really, before you ask, I’m doing okay. Really and truly. My head is mostly above water, and I’m getting out of bed every morning. I’m eating regularly, and I’m sleeping about as well as I was when I had a job. So, you know, lots of victories there.

And also, I’m not worried that it’s not going to be okay.

I came to Grand Rapids as an act of faith. I came because my prayers and the prayers of my best people led us all to the same point of clarity – it was time for me to get up and follow God to a new place. I still believe that.

In the first couple of weeks I was in my job, one of my co-workers who has since become the pastor of my soul and a friend in the realest ways, said, “You know, I think you’re in Grand Rapids for a reason, but I don’t think it’s for this job.”

Of course, two weeks into a job I really loved, I didn’t want to hear that. Six months since then, I’m thinking it was more than a little prophetic.

So, okay.

I don’t know what comes next. I’m in some kind of vocational middle. Again.

And it’s just whatever, man. Because I absolutely will not let this be a reason for me to distrust God’s good hand. I absolutely will not let this be a reason for me to give up on church or ministry or the way that God has called us to take care of each other.

I will not let this be a reason to give up on the vision of creating a community online and in the world for people who are in the middle – the middle of a faith crisis, the middle of vocational change, the middle of a struggling marriage, the middle of a lot of questions, the middle of confusion, the middle of doubt.

Most of life is a middle.

And those of us in the middle, we’re a tribe. Each and every one of us.

So, okay. Let’s help each other through it. Let’s offer patience and encouragement to the middle. Let’s text and call and pray for each other.

Because if I have learned only one thing in the last month, it’s this: when you have a tribe and Jesus, you have everything.

#2 – March 22, 2016

The responses to my post yesterday have been so kind, and I’m as always am, so grateful for you people. You people who keep hanging with me in the messy middles, who keep thinking the words I have to share are good ones, who keep telling me to just keep writing.

I was talking to the BFF yesterday for a hot minute and I asked her a couple of the questions I have about this middle place. I asked her if writing from the middle was okay really, because I don’t know what I think about a lot things right now. I said, “I’m committed to writing from the place of the here-and-now of what God and I are working through, but I don’t have clarity. I have questions and prayer and my people. That’s all I’ve got.”

To which the BFF said only, “What’s wrong with that?”

Of course, the answer is that there’s nothing wrong with that. Faith is, I think, a fluid thing. It adapts and changes as our experiences with church, ministries, each other, and the world adds layers of complexity to our understanding of God. It would be silly then to think that anyone is ever going to have all the answers, and it seems to me that it would silly to pretend that any writer worth respecting is writing NOT from the middle of their own faith life.

But I say that knowing full well that there are things of which we can be certain.

I can be certain that God is good and loving. I can be certain that he is faithful, and that means he’s caretaking me through this messy middle. I can be certain even in the darkest moments there is going to be someone or something that inspires hope in my ugly, cynical heart. I can be certain that gratitude and grace are the wagons I want to hitch myself to even as the bottom falls out.

And I can be certain, thanks to you people who keep showing up in the messy middles, that there are more cheerleaders and encouragers and peacemakers in the world than there are not.

A letter for Noah on his fourth birthday

Happy birthday, buddy!

I’m so sad that I can’t be there today to give you a squeeze, and watch you open presents, and eat cake – no doubt with green frosting. It is missing these family moments that make me the most sad about living across the country.

All things considered though, pal, your mom and I have done a really good job of keeping up with each other. We text almost every day, so I know when you have a cold or when you’ve said something cute or when you’re driving her crazy. But, she’s really good about listening to you and FaceTiming me when you say you miss me. And I will forever love that her inclinations will run that way, toward face time, toward seeing her people.


So, I can’t be there today, but I’m confident that you already know that I’m celebrating you from my tiny cube in my cold Michigan town. I’m going to bet you already know that you have been on my mind all day. I’m going to guess you already know that I’m praying for you today from a heart that is just wild about who you are, that is just so glad you are on this planet.

Noah's birth day

I feel a bit like a broken record, saying the same thing year after year, but it remains true year after year. You have changed me, buddy, in the best possible ways.

Before you were here, the last place I would have wanted to be was a four year old’s birthday party. But today, I want nothing more than to jam pizza in my face while you use my pant leg as a napkin.

Before you were here, I was not the one to wrestle on the floor, or kiss boo-boos, or change diapers, or give baths, or read books before bedtime.

But somehow, I have become a person who does these things. Better, I have become a person who does the things with great joy.

Every time I wrestle on the floor with you, or kiss a boo-boo, or change a diaper, or give you a bath or read a book, I think maybe I get to experience just a little bit of the delight we bring God. Because nothing is better than being in the same space with you, and I think maybe that’s they way he feels about us. I wonder if his heart fills the same way mine does when you crawl into my lap with a book, or when you snuggle up under my chin watching Octonauts, or when you throw your arms around my neck in a big hug. I wonder if he is thrilled to take care of us in all the little ways we need caring. I’d guess so because really, it’s just about love.


Thanks for that, pal. For teaching me a little bit more about how God loves. I wouldn’t have understood that before you were here.

You have taught me to slow down, to hold my tongue, to be kind, to laugh with abandon. You have taught me that messes can be cleaned, that nothing is more important to someone than your presence, and that you can never hear “I love you” too many times.

You have taught me that when you’re really excited that someone is around, it’s okay to show it. And that when you’re really sad that someone is leaving, it’s okay to show that too.

You have taught me that when you really love someone, there really is nothing you won’t do for them.

Even the most not-kid person will become a kid person when it’s really love.

And we know, you and me, that we couldn’t be happier about that.

Noah_happy babysitting

As always, with all my love,

Aunt A

What I’m Into – November 2015

So, I haven’t blogged about much of anything in the last few months because over the summer I got a new job and moved halfway across the country to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Life in the Midwest if very different than life on the East Coast, and I’m still – after 5 months in my new position – figuring out to balance work and writing and dating and friending. (Yes, I did just make that a verb.) I don’t know that I’m doing all things well, as I haven’t written in months and months, but I really like my job and I’m really loving the life I’m building in this new place.


Out-of-Sorts-CoverSarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts – As is often the case, my favorite writers books tend to meet me right in the moment that I need them. Moving to GR and meeting new people and sharing my story of how I ended up here has had me confessing some ugly truths that I think about church, and I needed someone’s permission to be messy about it still. I needed someone to remind me:

“Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness too.”

 “Sometimes we have to cut away the old for new to grow. We are resurrection people, darling.”

 “I’m not afraid for you: you are held. You are loved and you are free. I am hopeful for you.”

 Notes from a Blue Bike coverTsh Oxenreider’s Notes From a Blue Bike – My BFF read this over the summer and loved it, which inspired a lot of good conversations about education and food and consumerism, which is why I decided to read it too. I didn’t love it as much as she did, and I think it’s simply because I’m not in the same space to receive it – as a wife, as a mom, and all that. But that said, I did like it and Tsh did make me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III I know, I know. #nerdalert. But, I truly can’t help it. Frank Miller’s Batman is my favorite and I have been jonesing to get my hands on Book 1 of his new series – which is exactly how my buddy Matt convinced me to go to the comic book shop at midnight on Black Friday. #nerdswag.

Books that are next on the docket: Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow, Kathleen Norris’ Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Thing When Change is Hard.

I remain in desperate need of a good novel and am not above begging for your suggestions.


Joy and I don’t have cable or Internet hooked up in our apartment yet, so we’ve been binge-watching Gilmore Girls on DVD.   Which also explains why our dining room is still full of boxes needing to be unpacked.

Also, because he really likes me, Nick has been watching Parks and Recreation, so many of our date nights have been literally Netflix and chill. (Welcome to dating in your thirties when you have jobs and classes and are exhausted by 8 PM.)


When I was mooching off living with Miranda the last three months, I subjected her to The Voice, Castle, and… Grey’s Anatomy. Which I’m guessing means she’s pretty excited that I’m not commandeering her remote anymore.


Ben Rector’s new album, Brand New.

Andrew McMahon, In the Wilderness…over and over again.

The Magnolia Record Club playlist on Spotify, compiled by the Club’s founder Drew Holcomb. (Super sweet folk indie music. I’m in love.)

I’m not a super fan of Christmas, but this year seems like one worth celebrating – 2015 has been a good year to me. So, if you have suggestions of solid Christmas music (think Sara Groves instead of Michael Buble), I’m open to those too.


Joy and I moved into our new apartment last weekend. It only took us three months to find it, so yay!

I travelled home for Thanksgiving, and basically spent the week playing with my nephews and niece-in-love. It was perfection.


It’s hard to believe that it’s less than a month until I’m home again. It would be ridiculous of me to pretend that I’m not thrilled about this. Because it’s not the easiest thing to feel like your heart is in two places, which I know sounds crazy because most people spend their lifetime trying to find just one place to belong. But, I spend a lot of time feeling split – wanting to be here, wanting to be there. I miss my home people when I’m in GR, and I miss my GR people when I’m home. I don’t always know how to deal with the tension, so I binge watch Gilmore Girls, and text my friends and my parents, and I go to bed thinking that there really are worse problems to have than having people who love you from different pockets of the world.

What I'm Into


I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer and her  What I’m Into  series, even though the last one I did was over a year ago because I’ve forgotten how to blog.