My Bossfriend, Johanna.

Tomorrow marks the end of a bit of an era. It was an era in my life, in the lives of many others, and in the history of Eagle Brook Church.

Tomorrow, my boss is moving from full-time work as the Communications Director at EBC and into the full-time+ job of being a kick-butt stay-at-home-and-party-with-the-kids-and-do-some-freelance-writing mom. I know she’s going to rock that job just like she rocked this one. Because that’s her style.

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My bossfriend Johanna was the person at Eagle Brook who finally decided I was worth taking a chance on. She saw something in me I’d prayed someone would see in me for years. As most people do post-college, I struggled. I had a few great bosses, a few wretched and highly-unqualified ones (I’m not Facebook friends with any of them… :)), and I worked for a few unhealthy organizations. I was let go due to restructuring twice and once for just being “not a good fit.”  I grew defeated, beaten down, minimized, in doubt of my value as a person, and in doubt of my talent as an artist, writer, creative person and strategic thinker.  I remember thinking to myself during my first month of work at Eagle Brook, “Poor Johanna. She doesn’t know she hired the mangey, beat-up, defeated, trembling puppy from the pound.” At every turn, I was sure danger was imminent. That other shoe was hovering over my head, ready to drop, I just knew it. I’m thankfully growing out of that mindset–thanks to time spent under Johanna’s leadership.

Johanna was my guide. She encouraged me to be my real self. She gave me the freedom to be honest. She convinced me that I didn’t have to fear making mistakes. She insisted that I was valued, wanted, appreciated, and heard. When I messed up, she corrected my course without imparting shame. When I succeeded, she never missed an opportunity to point it out. When I was exasperated, she listened. When I was heartbroken or struggling in my personal life, she put her hand on my shoulder when she passed by my desk–knowing I’m not really a physical touch person, but knowing that I really need that sometimes. Because I’m a human person. As much as I try to deny it…

When Christie was sick and approaching her final days in January 2013, Johanna always asked me for updates. And when I had the last-minute chance to drop everything at work and bolt down to Rochester to be with Christie one last time on the afternoon before she passed away, Johanna said, “GO.” I can’t tell you how many previous jobs I’ve had where I would’ve been way too scared to even ask to go. I can’t tell you how many previous jobs I’ve had where that would’ve been completely impossible because the clients would’ve needed me to put on a bright shiny face and the work would’ve been raining down relentless, wiggle-room something of a far-off fantasy. I will never forget the grace and understanding and love I received from Johanna (and let’s be real…ALL of my coworkers) during that time. It’s certainly not lost on me how incredibly God-ordained the timing was for me to be at that desk, in that office, under Johanna’s leadership at that time in my life. After a couple of days away from work to attend Christie’s visitation, funeral and burial, Johanna told me to take as much time as I needed and to not feel like I had to rush right back to work. Well, as previously mentioned, I like to pretend I’m superhuman and void of emotion, so I returned to work the morning after we buried Christie. I started returning emails that very afternoon. When I sat at my desk the next day, nervous about my emotional frailty but ready to be distracted by work, it was Johanna’s knowing hand on my shoulder as she passed by my desk that brought me comfort and communicated grace to me.

A few weeks before Christie passed away, I attended Johanna’s baby shower for Posey. I was so honored to be invited. Even though I was the only non-Mom in the room and I could’ve easily felt miserable and alien, I felt included by this super cool group of Jesus ladies. I’ll always remember gathering to pray for Johanna and Posey at the end of her shower. I don’t have much else to say about that except that it was powerful and emotional and it just meant so much to be included.

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Johanna encouraged me to write, to express myself, and to grow as an editor of other people’s work as well as my own. She entrusted me with responsibilities that gave me opportunities to grow and to learn from her experience. She quietly taught me about choosing my battles at work–knowing when to fight and when to float until it’s my time to chime in. I’ve admired her ability to speak only when necessary and to keep things locked under her hat when they needed to be, no matter how much she probably wanted to spill the beans and process with us as teammates and friends. People–when you’re a communicator, you’re often a verbal processor, and that’s not easy. It’s certainly a learned skill and I’d have to say that Johanna is a master. It’s an area that I’m easily weakened in. I can only hope that some of that skill rubbed off on me!

I’m going to miss a lot of little things about working with Johanna. These are just some:

  • WAY TOO MANY trips to Starbucks. Especially in the winter, when it’s hard to make it through the day without one on the way into work and one to break up the afternoon. Working toward that freebie on the app and swearing to cut back at the same time.
  • Her laugh. It’s high-pitched and sing-songy and our entire team loves it. When she was gone on maternity leave almost two years ago, we talked about it as a team. When she returned, we laughed whenever her contagious hee-hee-hee came trailing out of her office.
  • Having another person in the office who ALWAYS gets my Friends episode references. (And there are many.)

At the 2014 Global Leadership Summit, one of the speakers said that the mark of a great leader, and also the greatest part of leadership, is the desire and ability to pull those great things out of someone else and develop them. I feel so lucky that Johanna plucked this puppy out of the pound and let me learn from her for the past two years.

We’ve been marching through a season at Eagle Brook I’ve dubbed The Change Avalanche, and I see Johanna’s exit as kind of the epilogue. It’s the wrap-up of some hard, driving rain storms. Her wave goodbye feels like a peaceful, quiet sunset after the rain. I’m sad to see the day end, but it’s still beautiful. And it means there’s a tomorrow. And that’s exciting.

I’m going to miss her a lot. And this better not be the end of things, bossfriend. 😉

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