Living Life with Hands Open

It’s been a whirlwind year…

We bought a house in Nashville, not knowing we’d be moving to Lubbock six weeks later.

We moved to Lubbock, where Tim took the job of Student Pastor at Turning Point Community Church.

We found ourselves on a reality show on FYI, “My City’s Just Not That Into Me” which ended up being really ironic in hindsight.

We met a million lovely people in West Texas and got our fix of Friday Night Lights.

We got to be parents, if only for a short time.

We had two miscarriages.

I had surgery.

My next book is turned in and I’m excited for it’s release next year (5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know about Their Kids & Sex)

Tim resigned from his position in Lubbock.

We took our first vacation!

Our house in Nashville sold in four days! (Thank you for your prayers!)

Tim accepted a position in Peosta, IA (near Dubuque) as the Pastor to Students and Families at CrossRoads Church.

We will be moving to Dubuque in just one short month! We would greatly appreciate your prayers that our house in Lubbock sells soon.

When you live with your hands open and you are obedient, life gets unpredictable but the story gets more complex and wonderful. His thoughts are higher than ours. His ways our higher than ours. And He is ALWAYS faithful!

What Your Kids are Learning (or not learning) in Sex Ed

Sex Ed in school varies.

Your kids are going to learn about sex from MANY places, including Facebook videos and media. It is SO important to have these conversations in your home. Will it be awkward? Yes. But the more you’re open about it, the less shame will be carried.

Here’s a video (it’s 20 minutes, but watch the whole thing) that will give you a teeny-tiny peek into the myriad of things being taught through schools, culture, and media. A little warning: there are some language and…illustrations…but nothing too graphic. If you’re at work, put the headphones in though.

I’m so excited for my book 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex to release next May…does it teach you how to make having conversations about sex less uncomfortable? No. I’m not God. But it will help educate and equip you on a broad range of topics your kids already know about, as well as a little bit of why sex matters to God. (If you want to know when it’s available, you can sign up to be notified here.)

That’s all.

Carry on.

Walking with Your Spouse through Uncertainty

I got the honor of writing over on MarriageRoots.com today about walking with your spouse in uncertain times. We are in that season now. I hope you are blessed by the words and how God is always, always, always working (even when it seems quiet).


 

Our relationship started wrapped in mystery; I was doing a research paper debunking the science behind online dating and came across his profile. He lived five hours away, but he was cute and his picture was clearly of him on a mission trip. That’s the Western Christian Girl’s aphrodisiac. A quick message sent, followed by emails and late-night phone calls.

Walking with Your Spouse Through Uncertainty

I was wondering. Should we meet?

It was like You’ve Got Mail but without AOL and dial-up Internet.

One day a month later, we met face to face. I disguised my nervousness behind half a Xanax and some gold-rimmed aviators. If Tim was nervous, he covered it up in romantic gestures. How do two thirty-two year olds “date?” It was like high school but much more awkward. Much more…uncertain.

I do not do well with uncertainty, so a whole two hours after we met, as we got in his car to drive to dinner, I blurted, “Is it just me, or are we clicking? I just need to know.”

Give it to me straight, buddy. I don’t have time to waste worrying. Tim looked surprised, then confused, then happy. “Of course we’re clicking.”

Certainty. Sigh of relief.

We got married six months later.

When you take two people who lead relatively uncommon lives (both work-from-home/self-employed entrepreneurs in the faith and arts), uncertainty easily turns to combustible chaos when combined. I followed Tim around the world as he captured videos for NGOs, Tim followed me around the US selling my books at events where I was speaking.

Last summer, our travel schedules collided: Tim would be in Nepal while I spoke at a conference in St. Louis. A week apart was no big deal, but the work God did in Tim’s life while he was in Nepal was life changing. We both arrived back to our newly purchased home in Nashville and Tim said, “I want to put down the camera and just minister to people.” He uploaded his resume to be a youth pastor and sold a decade’s worth of videography equipment. We thought it would take a year, maybe two, to see where God wanted us. Until then, we would wait.

Uncertainty.

I went on walks praying for God to give me a sign. Show me a license plate with a different state and that’s where we’ll move! I looked for hidden meanings in songs. Tim and I played rock-paper-scissors with churches who were interested in him candidating. Alabama? Arizona? Texas?

Texas. Not even three months after Tim returned from Nepal, we chose Texas. All the puzzle pieces fit together. We could afford it. It was near where I grew up, close to my family. A young church with passionate people (and free coffee for staff families on Sunday mornings) offered him the role of a youth pastor. Perfection.

And it was bliss. Total bliss. West Texas sunsets. Friday night lights and thirty or so teens and families that we fell in love with.

Until…uncertainty.

Differences in leadership values, theological misalignments, structural conflict. Was this a season of perseverance or were we out of place?…

[[CONTINUE READING HERE…]]

Sharing My Spiritual Gift of Awkwardness – Now Booking 2016

After taking most of the year off from traveling and speaking, I’m starting to book events for 2016. If you’re interested in having me speak at your church, retreat, conference, or living room, submit an inquiry here.

 

 

Jesus’ Hidden Years…And Yours

Anonymous Alicia Britt Chole

I just finished a book called anonymous, which talks about Jesus’ “hidden” years — the first 30 years of his life where we really don’t know much of what happened. The author, Alicia Britt Chole, makes a great point that reminds me that God is always working, building, planning, designing, going before us for good.

Often times as mere humans we get frustrated in the waiting times, in the quiet seasons…where we are filled with so much passion and we know our calling and our skills and our gifts but for some reason, it doesn’t seem as if we can release those things even though God’s given them to us. It feels like we might BURST at the seams if we don’t get to do those things He has placed in us.

Now, imagine being the Son of God, knowing from the very beginning of your life you have the power to heal the sick, the blind, the lame, to perform miracles, to show people the love of God and hope and every day you wake up and ask the Father, “Is today the day?” and He says back, “No, not today.” What trust, patience, and wisdom Jesus has to spend 90% of his life in those “hidden” years, not bursting at the seams, not wanting to get ahead of His Father’s schedule (yet, as the Bible says, being tempted to, but not sinning).

For 30 years He lived in these “hidden” years, mostly anonymous, preparing for three years of public ministry. And that is exactly what God planned.

I have been so challenged by this thought, that Jesus went to the lonely places to be with God, to take comfort, to receive guidance, and to ultimately obey and bring Him glory.

Wow.

(Here is a link to the book in case you’d like to read it. It’s lovely and Biblical and so thought provoking.)

Why the Supreme Court’s Decision to Legalize Gay Marriage is Not the Issue

An historical decision was made through our Supreme Court in the USA yesterday. Gay marriage in America is officially recognized as receiving the same legal and civil rights as heterosexual marriage.

This is an important day in history. I do not want to diminish it.

rainbow-flag

I came across this tweet from a man who I do not know named John McGowan. He said,

“Don’t write off America or put your hope in her. Anchor your life in the eternal Word and Kingdom of Christ.”

And I could not agree more.

Regardless of your views on this decision, Mr. McGowan cuts straight to the core of what is ultimately important: It is not what some perceive as the decay of society nor is it what some perceive as the progress of society.

Our lives are to be anchored in Christ.

When this happens, when we are firmly rooted in His grace, the same grace that covers us, that gives us each next breath, that releases us from this world and into the next, we are transported to a million-foot view instead of a myopic view of one (yes, very monumental) decision.

  • If this decision upsets you, mourn. But do not only mourn for a change in constitutional rights: Mourn because the enemy wants us to focus on topics that divide the Church and our unity and the way a world should perceive hope. (John 13:35).
  • If this decision causes you to celebrate, celebrate. But do not only celebrate because some people can now wed. Celebrate that the son of God in flesh perished for us so that we can have eternal life and hope (John 3:16).
  • If this decision makes you angry, be angry. But do not only be angry at the polarizing messages you see on social media or on the news. Be angry at the hate that is thrown at everyone, no matter what their beliefs are. (Hebrews 12:14)
  • If this decision makes you want to fight, fight. But do not fight for what you believe is right in your heart. Fight to demolish the hateful and hurtful words on either side of this issue. Fight for compassion. Be loud with your love. (Romans 12:18)
  • If this decision makes you hate sin, hate sin. But do not focus intently on the actions or words of others that do not glorify God. Look at the words Jesus writes in the sand before the woman is stoned. See your own sin. Repent. Walk away. Sin no more. (John 8:11)

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner,
Anne Marie MIller

We Cannot Remove God’s Love From Us

Today at (in)courage, I share a slice of Lean on Me.  Here’s a sample for you.

To read the full article, click here.

I’m so grateful these women were so generous to share a little bit of this book that was many years in the making.

And, oh yeah. I punched a wall in it.

****

Over a year had passed since my divorce, and God’s silence was still too much for me. I was out of town, and in my hotel room one evening. I wept. For hours. Why? Why? Why? Where are you? I don’t understand.

Still nothing. Still silence. The numbness morphed into anger. I drew myself up on to my knees and faced the headboard of the bed. I considered a drastic choice — a choice that would go against everything I learned a Christian should do.

Flashbacks of Sunday school and Bible verses and my life as a good preacher’s daughter — as a woman in ministry — went flying behind my eyes. In between the flares of my anger and hurt were memories of holy moments. I reflected on the night of my ordination when I was twenty-nine, the elders of my church leaning over me and putting their hands on my head, my shoulders, kneeling beside me as they commissioned me. I thought of my grandfather on his deathbed, telling me to never give up on the church. The moments of grace given to me by friends and the times my heart grew supple and receptive. How many times did I kneel at the altar? “Anne, the body of Christ broken for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.” I ate the bread. I drank the wine. My tears were in the crevices of the wooden floor in front of the place I would kneel Sunday after Sunday.

But somehow, this reel of sacred and lovely memories wasn’t enough.

So much. So much. So much fury and grief and silence and loudness, and it was all in a vacuum that finally opened, a breaking point that was broken, and everything went soaring from the secret places where they hid into a very material atmosphere.

In that moment, I didn’t care. I didn’t quietly renounce Him. I yelled. I put my fist to the wall in the hotel room. Not only did I swear God off, I swore at God, dropping four-letter words that were difficult for me to hear as they slipped out of my mouth. I threw the pillows as hard as I could across the room screaming at Him to leave me alone.

I am through. With. You.

I stared at the pillows on the floor and felt my right hand throb from its violent contact with the wall. With a red, swollen face, my eyes eventually closed and I fell asleep.

I woke the next morning covered in anxiety. I turned on my computer and did a search for “Catholic churches.” I needed to confess. I needed some form of penitence. An atonement. I called the church and a sweet older woman’s voice greeted me on the other line. I set up confession with a Catholic priest in a town where nobody knew me and begged him to give me some way to earn back grace. I am not even Catholic.

He was the priest and he was from Tanzania and in seminary. Because I wasn’t Catholic, he couldn’t offer me confession. But he offered me a seat in his office and wise, wise words.

My battle with God the night before was not a way for God to opt out but a way for me to allow Him in even further. I was not the prodigal son. I was the older brother. Like the father in that parable in Luke, God came outside His celebration to see why I wasn’t joining in. I pushed my list of demands on Him. I didn’t want Him. I wanted relief. The prodigal son was covered in an obvious filth when his father met him: the slop of pigs and sweat and dirt from his humiliating journey home. I was covered in my own loam, though not so material: my fear, my control, my entitlement, my cursing, my rejection of Him.

I could not earn his love and I could not remove it from me. We cannot remove God’s love from us. It is like, as Rilke says, one of those “things that will not ever leave.”

Read the rest…click here.

To All The Mothers Who Will Never Hold Their Babies on Mother’s Day

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

It’s really quite odd and blessed, the duality of joy and grief.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I experienced a new type of happiness for us…a new kind of joy. I woke up early on a Wednesday morning with the strong urge to take a pregnancy test, even though I wasn’t late for my cycle.

Five pregnancy tests later (I may be a little compulsive), we learned we were going to be parents.

Everything seemed complete and right. We fell in love with the poppy-seed-sized clump of baby whose DNA was being written with each passing day. We celebrated with our friends, our family, our students.

We met with our fertility doctor and some test results came back uncertain, but not concerning. I needed to start incorporating hormone therapy and that would increase my progesterone, giving the poppy seed a nice home in which to start growing. Within a few days, those levels went up to exactly what they needed to be. My HCG, however, wasn’t climbing as quickly as it should. We were told to watch for pain or symptoms that would indicate we needed to pay closer attention during these very sensitive first months.

The following Friday night around midnight, I awoke to pain. The pain that says, “Something isn’t right.” Being a classic hypochondriac (and at this moment, by the grace of God, a fairly reasonable one), I forced myself back to sleep telling myself, “It’s probably indigestion. Don’t worry. If you still feel this way in the morning, you can always get it checked out then.” I fell back asleep.

Saturday morning, the pain was worse. Tim said we needed to go to the hospital, and at this point, I knew something was wrong. However, I procrastinated. I told him, “The longer I just lie here in bed, everything is normal. The moment we get to the hospital, it could all be over.”

I wasn’t willing to accept this.

We arrived to the emergency room and said exactly what our fertility doctor said to say. A few blood tests later and the ER doctor walks in, sits down next to me, holds my hand and says, “At this point, it’s clear you have an ectopic pregnancy and you’re starting to miscarry. I’m sorry.”

He left, and Tim came over and reached around the bed rail, holding me. We both wept at the life inside me that was on its way to being born inside of heaven. We would not get to hold this baby in our arms or put this child to sleep in his or her crib. There would be no diaper blow outs, no baby showers, no ringing in the new year as a family of three.

The faith that came so easily was hard to grasp hold of as it floated away with our dream.

We went home, exhausted, making tearful calls to family and a few friends as we were unsure of the next steps. Hours later, our fertility doctor calls and says we need to meet her at the hospital at 7 pm. She needed to remove my left fallopian tube and the 200ccs of blood that drained into my abdomen from my tube’s slow rupture.

Returning to the emergency room, we saw familiar faces dressed in blue scrubs from that morning, each knowing what happened. With hugs and condolences from strangers, I was given some pain medication and wheeled back to the surgical holding area. Nobody else was having surgery Saturday night (they were probably eating and drinking and being merry), so it was only a matter of minutes before the anesthesiologists and nurses prepared me for my second reproductive surgery in the last year.

I drifted off into an hour-long sleep, waking up to kind words from a smiling nurse. Tim came in shortly after speaking to our doctor, confirming everything she suspected: the baby implanted in my left fallopian tube, caused it to start rupturing, and our doctor was able to safely remove my tube, and the blood, and I would be fine.

But define the word, “fine”… would you?

I stayed in the hospital overnight with Tim next to me. A first-rate medical team insured I was physically comfortable, and messages from friends and family helped ease the emotional pain.

In some drug-induced blur, I recalled how strange it was that I even took a pregnancy test that Wednesday morning. I had no reason to. I wasn’t late and I didn’t feel “pregnant” (whatever that means). However, if I wouldn’t have taken those tests and seen our fertility doctor, I likely would have written off the cramps I felt as normal cramps and the bleeding I had as a normal cycle.

I didn’t realize the severity of my symptoms and likely wouldn’t have until I lost so much blood I passed out. But because of that urge to take that first pregnancy test and the relationship we established with our fertility doctor, I was safe and healthy.

Even though our baby passed away and woke up on the other side of eternity, that doesn’t change the fact that Tim and I are still parents. Before the world was made, God knew this baby would exist. Somehow everything worked together perfectly and this baby formed.

We were able to be a mom and a dad to this little human for only a few weeks, and life is life, even when it finds itself removed from this earth.

The peace that wrapped us up before we knew anything was wrong still holds us, in spite of the grief we feel from the loss. Knowing that God knew this child since the beginning of time and knows each of us and has gone before us and sees the plan He has created for us gives us great cause to rejoice as we mourn.

It’s natural to feel as if two seemingly opposing forces can’t co-exist, like joyfulness and grief. But because they can, and they do, we know it is only because of His grace that miracles like this happen and we experience both joy and grief in their entirety, in chorus.

I never realized the tension of Mother’s Day when you’ve lost a child; I always heard it, but I didn’t understand. Now, in a poppy-seed-sized way, I do. So, if you are missing your own child, regardless of how or when he or she departed, know you are not alone, and I wish you the most honest of Mother’s Days. Nothing will ever change the fact that you are a mother.