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.

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I want to go to there

I scroll through Instragram and Facebook and Twitter feeds and I’m always struck by how many incredibly smart women are hanging out together at different events, singing each others praises on social media after they’re away from each other in their own homes in their own parts of the country.

I often (nearly all of the time) find myself thinking, “I wish I were there with those incredibly smart women hanging out together.” Although, in my head it sounds more like Liz Lemon’s simple, “I want to go to there.”

And it’s true, because it’s a great desire of my heart to surround myself with incredibly smart women who hang out together and talk about books and God and church and friendship and parenting and mentoring and art and music and all the other things that incredibly smart women talk about. I want to borrow from their passions, feed them into my own, and wake up every morning excited to put a little more love in the world.

While scrolling Instagram this morning I saw three of the writers whom I love all posed for a lovely photo, smiling and laughing and generally enjoying the treat of being in the same place at the same time. It’s written all over their faces. And I had the thought that I always have about wanting to be there where those incredibly smart women are, talking about writing and books and art and whatever it is that incredibly smart women talk about it. But, then I had another thought. A better thought. A thought that made me grateful for my friends and the incredibly smart people that they are.

I don’t need to go anywhere to be surrounded by women who are smart, and beautiful, and loving, and doing things to make the world a better place.   I don’t need to be anywhere else to talk about books and movies and art and God and theology and parenting and mentoring and church and whatever it is that smart women talk about. We’re talking about those things all of the time. The smart women I want to surround myself with are already surrounding me.

My mom friends are raising tiny humans who are funny and kind, and one day these tiny humans will grow into big, adult humans who are kind and funny. The older I get, the more I realize just how much being kind and funny can change the world.

My girls are students of social work and teaching and music and art and biology, and they talk about how they want to use what they’re learning to help people. Not in abstract ways, but in real, in-the-messes-with-people-everyday kind of ways. And I’m in awe of them, really. They get how Love works.

I have friends who are college professors and elementary school teachers; engineers and mathematicians; accountants and book keepers; writers, photographers, and artists; entrepreneurs and community developers. They run non-profits, and they run their homes. They create in their work and in their lives safe spaces for people to be exactly who they are, to crash and fall apart, and they help them put the pieces back together again.

All of these women I get to call my friends are extraordinary. And smart. And beautiful. And putting a little love into the world everyday.

But, the reason it doesn’t make it onto Instagram and Facebook and Twitter is because we’re doing nothing more than living our lives side-by-side. It’s ordinary, and the ordinary things aren’t usually the things you stop to document.

But maybe we should?

Maybe I should. I need to do a better job of appreciating the ordinary life right in front me. I want to make the most of the expected rhythms of Tuesday night Bible studies, and coffee shops work days, and dinner with my folks. I want to soak in the afternoons of babysitting my nephew and niece-in-loves and the coffee dates with my girls. And I want to wear out my welcome in my best friends’ homes.

The life I have right in front me, in all of its ordinariness, is extraordinary. It’s a gift. And I don’t want to squander it. I want to be present to the life that’s right in front me instead of constantly wishing I were some place other.

Right here, right now, these people, this ordinary life – this is where I want to be.

I want to go to there.

It’s about patience

I sent out a tweet last night, in the middle of a text-versation with a friend who lives very far away and who knows me really well.  I told her about this thing that’s going on in my life, and she told me, “So then, it’s about patience.” And so, I tweeted:

Patience tweet

Because my friend who lives very far away was the fourth person this week to tell me that this thing is something God is using to teach me patience, and that I can’t just bow out because then I would miss the lesson.

And I see how much this sucks because I really am THE WORST at being patient.  (Ask anyone who rides shotgun in my car when I-95 is backed up.)

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Then, this morning, this image posted on my Facebook wall from a friend I haven’t seen in many moons:

Patience FB graphic

If anyone asks me why I’m a social media junkie, I’m going to remember this moment and this image and this lesson on patience. Because it’s important, and worth remembering.

Because this thing, this thing about patience that I’m supposed to be learning, is really about faith, and is little bit about hope, and is a whole lot about prayer.

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The image from Facebook trivializes so much of what I’m thinking, but basically what I’m thinking is: Yes, God’s got it.

I’ve never been one to put much stock in the idea of anything being “meant to be,” because it sounds so trite and so predestined and so like it’s not going to take a lot of hard work.  Except…now I have this thing in my life, and I really do feel compelled into it, and I really do believe that the Holy Spirit is prompting me into this thing that’s going to make me a little bit more like Jesus.  And while I wouldn’t use this language ordinarily, I guess I do have to admit that I believe it’s “meant to be” because I believe that God is in it so deeply, and that He’s working in me through it in a way that He could through nothing else.

If that’s true, if I believe this thing is of God and that He’s leading me somewhere good by it, then I have no choice but to be patient. And have faith. And hold hope.  And pray.

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So maybe when we talk about patience, what we’re actually talking about is taking a breath in the belief we have in God’s good leading.  Maybe we’re saying that something is happening that is giving us the chance to sit with God in prayer, to talk to Him like we’d talk to our best friend about whatever it is and how it’s making us feel.  Maybe, just maybe, what we’re telling each other when we’re telling each other to be patient is actually to rest in who Jesus is and how He’s moving in our lives.

Because… yes, God’s got it.

And… hang in there. It’s about to get so, so sweet.

You are being sanctified.  You are being made more like Jesus.

(But real talk, let’s do something about those slow drivers on I-95…)