Leaving Microsoft to join the International Justice Mission

The room was dark. Curled up in a ball on the floor of my bathroom, I cried. It was 2004, and this was my daily ritual. Each evening, I came home from my great job at Microsoft only to face the harsh reality that my life was empty. I was rich in possessions, had a thriving career and a family that loved me, but my spirit was broken. I had just suffered the second most painful breakup of my life, and was amidst a season of suffering based on some wounds from many years prior that had re-surfaced. I felt alone and didn’t know why I had to endure so much suffering. After all, while I made many mistakes, I always tried to be a sincere, good and giving person. Wasn’t that enough?

The tears flowed like always, but this night was different than the rest. This night, I took a deep breath and called to God and said something like “Okay, I know I’ve been ignoring you, but if you really are out there, I beg you to please rescue me”. The events that unfolded shortly after that can only be described as divine intervention, because they were so magnificent, so miraculous, so captivating that God made a lasting impression on me. I began to understand Jesus, and my relationship with Him became personal (a statement I used to mock Christians for making in the past).

I was so moved by His presence in my life that I wanted to honor Him and serve Him in every way possible. So I asked Him if I should leave Microsoft and go do something “more noble”? I laugh now looking back, because I was so naive about what it meant to do something to glorify God. I now know that everyone, in any job or circumstance, has the opportunity to glorify God and impact others in his/her work. It’s not about where you work but how you do it and the fruit that it bears. Anyway, I got a very strong sense that I was being prepared for something and had a newfound desire to use my marketing skills to “serve the kingdom” by helping others. But an indescribable whisper came over my soul, telling me that it wasn’t time yet.

Over the next 6 years, I worked hard at Microsoft and was very blessed with opportunities to take on big challenges and work with some of the smartest, most incredible people I’ve ever met.  During that time, I could feel God slowly chipping away at some of my “trouble spots” (a term I use to refer to beliefs buried so deep that they continue to be the source of conflict and pain in my life). For example, the previous motives (power and money) fueling my desire to advance to executive level began to dissipate, and my passion became more about the journey than the destination. The unrealistic desire to achieve perfection and validation in everything I do (which only masked insecurity) was replaced with an awareness that my identity should be found in Christ alone and a passion to understand that concept better. Also, I began to see that my desire for control in situations was the result of unhealed wounds deep in my heart that needed to be surrendered. My values about money changed, and I finally understood the expectation (and fulfillment) that comes from remembering (and acting on) that “to whom much is given, much will be required” vs. spending every Saturday at Nordstrom.  And so on.  By no means am I perfect. I still struggle with many of these things today and see myself as a sinner just like everyone else, but those who are close to me can attest that with every day I spend on this earth, my heart continues to be refined and my eyes are further opened. I am so thankful that God loves us all so much that he is willing to invest in such a personal way if we ask Him to.

So in September, I will begin my journey with the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. I can’t wait to get started!!!

Mid-life crisis? Nah…I’m only 32. While most people I’ve told about my decision to leave Microsoft respect what I’m doing, there are some that, while they respect it, still think I’m insane for leaving after 11 years. On paper, I have everything I ever wanted: a  senior leadership role overseeing an organization of smart and fun people…..a great paycheck….a nice bank of unvested stock awards guaranteed to leave me comfortable in retirement ….a coveted spot in the Americas Leadership Development program….etc. Microsoft is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE company to work for. “Why leave it all behind?” they ask.  The answer is simple: God’s work in my heart and His call for me to serve at IJM has been undeniably clear.  And I want to live His highest will for my life. I want to be obedient.

Called? The second thing people ask me is how I know that I have been called to IJM. It’s very hard to articulate what it feels like to have the Holy Spirit convict me of something but I’ll try. This calling is something that I pieced together after many years of prayer. First, I found myself frequently asking Him to reveal His will for my life and put me on that path. Second, when God changes you it is probably for a reason, so when it became clear He was working on me, I started to pay attention.  I paid the most attention to dramatic changes in my values, such as a new desire He stirred in me a year ago to someday go to a non-profit. I told a few people close to me that my aspirations were changing—that I thought someday I’d like to be a Director of Marketing for a non-profit so I could use my skills to help people. I further added that Director of Marketing seemed like a cool role because I’d be in charge of strategy but would also have to be involved in execution because I’d only have a small (if any) team.  I couldn’t believe those words were coming out of my mouth, nor could pretty much anyone that knew me six years ago (after all, wouldn’t I consider that a step “down” from my current leadership role at MS?) Third, for the last 3 years, while there has been a TON of positive, I did struggle with seasons of “restless discontent” in my leadership role. Each season would strangely end with a newfound passion for my next leadership challenge. But the distance between each season got shorter and shorter…first it was every couple years, then every year, then every six months, then every few. These feelings left me frustrated at times with a great turmoil inside—a knowledge (and excitement) that the time for God’s plan was drawing near, coupled with a fear of stepping out in faith into the unknown and less comfortable.  I am clear now that the “restless discontent” I struggled with over the years was God’s way of gracefully nudging me to step out. It was me that was changing, not Microsoft.  

When it finally became clear I was being called, I asked Him where I was to go. He then put the International Justice Mission on my heart and just to make sure I was super clear, He kindly gave me numerous signs confirming it. And the icing on the cake was the outpouring of support I received from senior leaders at Microsoft when I notified them of my decision to move on.

Moving On…

A new city. New friends. New house. New job. New church. There is a lot of change on the horizon for me over the coming months. It is overwhelming to think about sometimes…at times even a bit scary. But there are many constants too:  The friendships I’ve made at Microsoft that I’ll carry with me forever. The passion I have for making a difference in the world. The talented, humble team of professionals at IJM that I have the privilege to work with. God’s unfailing love and grace when I put my trust in Him. As I step out into this new adventure, those truths will guide and inspire me. -Amy

Here are some things that have inspired me along this journey…

  • Descending into Greatness by Bill Hybels
  • The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns
  • Scripture: Matthew 4:19 (“Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”)
  • Song: Shine by Salvador
  • My awesome church in Seattle: www.marshillchurch.org
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~ by amylucia on August 12, 2009.

14 Responses to “Leaving Microsoft to join the International Justice Mission”

  1. It takes a lot of courage to follow your darma. I am sure you will be a tremendous asset to IJM, and I hope you find inner peace along your new journey!

  2. I’m so happy that you’ve been able to find your “true” calling. Any company or agency will be blessed to have you. Welcome back to the East Coast!

  3. C. S. Lewis:

    “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

    My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

    Phil 3:7-11

    Excited for you, may God use you to make HIM known. I look forward to hearing how it goes in the “adventure” that is Christ

  4. Amy–I heard about this through the grapevine and am deeply moved by your opennenss, honesty, and transparency. You’ve proven…in your first blog post, why social media is so valuable.

    But, this isn’t a pitch, this is a note from a fan of yours.

    I live in DC (and I know you have plenty of family here), but when you get here
    1. coffee’s on me
    2. I have a few people to whom I’d like to introduce you

    Love the journey.

  5. Congratulations. Just learned of your next move via twitter from @mattwoodget. Looking forward to following your blog.

  6. May God continue to bless you on your journey. Thanks for sharing your story and your friendship. You will be missed!

  7. love you friend. this was beautifully written…i can’t wait for more 🙂

  8. hi sweet friend. first off…i love that your writing is emerging with this new journey. that makes a fellow writer friend very happy. second…i feel sooo blessed that i know that entire story and that i met you when it all started. that is crazy. so that means we have to be friends for life i think. deal? also. IJM is ironically the non profit that makes my heart beat fastest right now so i am still kind of in shock that that’s the one you’ll be working for. also…check your facebook message and please tell me when and how often i can see you before you leave. i love you. i am proud of you. i see God in this. i see his hand on your life. and i send you off with blessings and great joy with the love of Christ!

  9. Amy, this is an amazing blog post and so well written. It has been really wonderful for Kelly and I to be a small part of your life over the last 6 years and to watch God move and grow you. We are so proud of you and can’t wait to hear about all that God is going to do in and through you in DC and at IJM.

  10. Amy – a friend of mine sent me your blog. What a wonderful, beautiful, amazing testimony to how God works within each of us. It’s not always overnight that He asks us to “Go”, but proof that He is with us through all seasons of life. Thank you for your honesty, vlunerability and choosing to follow where He is leading. I pray your new journey will be filled with His awesome power and look forward to hearing about it on your blog! 🙂 May His hand guide you every step of the way!

    Also, on a side note, I so appreciate your honoring words toward MSFT. My husband works there, and I think, it’s a great compnay too! 🙂

    Blessings on you!!!

  11. Hi Amy,

    You don’t know me, but I’m a partner in the MSPP. I heard you speak at WPC this year in the NSI session. I am truly inspired by your courage and acknowledgement that something this big could only be of the Spirit! Congratulations to you and I hope to hear much more about the incredible journey God is taking you on! A passage near and dear to my own heart that I’d like to share with you – Numbers 6:24-26. God Bless!

  12. Amy…..I happened onto your blog tonight because I saw it on Kelly’s blog. Wow….this is quite a testimony. The Lord has really been working on you. It’s wonderful to read, especially since I remember when Jason and Kelly first met you, how you guys became friends, and I remember them talking about how you were being transformed in your walk with the Lord as you started regularly attending Mars Hill, the community group, etc. I think you are an amazing person. I will always be thankful for you, first because of your friendship with J & K, and also because you were so sweet to Josh and gave him a chance at MS. What a blessing this past year has been for him……thanks to you. So, as you start this new venture…..we hope to stay in touch with you…..and we will keep you in our prayers. With much fondness….Karla

  13. Amy,
    I happened upon your blog via a daily email from Arlin Sorensen at HTG. My brother is a small business owner and belongs to one of their many HTG Groups. So, he forwarded me Arlin’s “Thoughts From The Farm” email from April 1st because he saw the note about at the bottom regarding your move to IJM. I used to work at IJM in the earlier days from 2002 and for 4 years after. I actually started out in the IT department. I had graduated as a Business Admin and System Analysis student in 2001 and was hoping to find a non-traditional way to use my skills at a non-profit. I have learned since then that non-profits need need all kinds of skills and almost anyone can contribute. I started out in the IT dept for a year and moved into the HR department, working with new employees, interns, and volunteers. I fell in love with the IJM mission, the IJM staff, which become like family, and with Washington, DC. I trust that all of these things have already begun happening for you as well. I have since then been able to use my HR skills at two other non-profits. All the best to you on this journey!

    I think only a handful of people are still working at IJM that I still know and it has grown so much! Give my best to Bethany, Connie, and Shelley!

    • Nice to meet you Sarah–and yes, I agree that IJM is an incredible place to work…almost indescribable. Thanks for your notes and I will DEFINITELY tell B, C and S you said hi–they are wonderful women!

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