How Do You Begin the End?

This is my final post.

It’s been a year or so since I took a break from the Interwebs–away from writing online, from traveling and speaking, from Tweeting and Facebooking and Snapchatting and the like. Pregnancy was such a lovely season, and truly a miracle. Our baby girl was born perfectly happy and healthy in July 2016. She’s almost 10 months old now, trying to scoot around the house on her bottom (unsuccessfully), with 8 teeth she definitely earned the right to show off. She’s coming into her own, a little drama queen human who I can’t believe just a year ago was the size of a cantaloupe, tucked away in utero, kicking my bladder, my kidneys, and everything in between.

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a Ph.D. in psychology and become a doctor of sorts, a clinical psychologist. Life didn’t head down that road like I expected, and instead, I ended up working at churches, writing a few books, and traveling all over the world to share stories. In 2010, after my divorce, I considered going to medical school but knew I would likely have to sacrifice having a family to start a career in medicine at the age of 30. Three years later, I met and married my dear husband Tim. Medicine as a career was still ever on my mind, but there were books to write and events to speak at. Then sweet baby girl came along.

When my most recent book released a year ago, I had a feeling it would be the last. I was still under contract to write another one with Baker, but nothing surfaced in my heart that I had to write about. I waited, they waited, and still, nothing came.

Why put more words out into the world that’s overwhelmed by words, when nothing needs to be said?

I graciously asked if I could exit my contract and they graciously agreed.

The season of life when I am an author, a speaker, a blogger–the season when I knew something needed to be said and I was sure I was the one to say it–is over. There have been moments of grief, of saying goodbye, but overall, it has been the most peaceful, sure, and easiest transition I’ve ever made.

I’m heading into a new season now, and have been for a while. I’m back in school working toward a B.S. degree in Health Sciences, either to become a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Educator. I hope to focus on pediatric nutrition and family education. I realize that’s pretty far off from where I started ten years ago, but I think I needed to learn more about God, about people, and about myself to end up here. We’re back in Dallas, surrounded by family. Tim’s working in videography and I split my time between school and serving in patient care at a hospital as a technician, and as a nutrition consultant/Associate Certified Diabetes Educator.

I’m thrilled. It’s not perfect, but it’s bliss. And I have to say: there is a freedom in ending a career in professional Christendom.

Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to speak into your life over the last twelve (!!) years of blogging. Thank you for encouraging me, supporting me, buying books, giving literally millions of dollars to very worthy organizations. Thank you for sponsoring Compassion kids, for praying for me, for us, and sharing your stories.

There’s a commonly asked question: If you had to say one thing, to leave people with one thought, what would it be? 

I’d have to say this:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • It’s okay to be different, to not fit in.
  • It’s okay to quit and begin again (and again and again and again).
  • You are worth so much more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams.
  • Sometimes the quietest lives love the loudest.

I guess that’s five things, so I’ll ask for your forgiveness and thank you for humoring me one last time.

It’s been a gift. You’ve been a gift. You are a gift.

With love,
Anne Marie Miller

Because Free Books are Good and Because Friends are Better

In a couple of weeks (October 7 to be exact) my latest book, Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community, will ship and be placed on book shelves and will hopefully, hopefully, hopefully help people think about and relate in community in very Jesus-like ways.

What’s the book about? Well, when I started doing the writing/speaking/blogging thing, life was pretty great. I got to do what I dreamed of for a living, I met fascinating people, I traveled the world, I spoke at conferences…I felt known. 

Anne Miller at NYWC in Nashville

I know many people who strive to live that life thinking a conference invite or a book contract or numbers on a dashboard will somehow make them whole and happy. I won’t lie – on the surface, those things did bring me a lot of happiness. But they did not bring me joy or wholeness. Yet, because I found so much of my identity in them, my foundation wasn’t built on Christ and that would prove to have devastating effects later.

In 2010, right before my book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace shipped, everything changed. Words were spoken to me that still haunt the deepest part of my heart. My marriage ended. Grief flooded in and I was left wondering if life was even worth living.

If you would have asked me in my “top of my game” days if I had community, I would have answered with a resounding “YES!” My phone was full of people I could contact, my inbox was full of encouraging letters from strangers. But when this crisis hit my life, I was faced with two distinct choices: run away and start over again or lean into my community and ask for help.

I ran.

It was a huge mistake and as I sat alone in a hotel room on a work trip, I reached out to a friend who told me to ask a handful of people to commit to being my friend for 18 months. I felt like I was in second grade and about to hand out notes to people:

“Do you like me? Will you like me? Circle One: Yes or No”

It was the most awkward ask I’ve ever made, but I asked 12 people to let me lean on them. I was a mess. I needed direction. I needed support. I needed a place to live.

10 wrote back and said yes.

The following 18 months were not easy. They were full of growing pains and tears and moments of joy and craziness. But that community committed to me and I healed through my grief. God spoke to me through them in unexplainable ways.

I knew the only way to repay them was to share the things they taught me about genuine community.

Lean on Me is just that.

It is not a how-to have community or what to do. It simply asks where you see yourself in community and tells the story of a community who loved a girl (who didn’t always deserve it or even want it) well. Jesus taught through stories and I know the way my community loved me (and in turn, the way Tim and I love others now) is not only inspiring, it’s actionable.

Lean on Me Anne Marie Miller

If you pre-order Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community, the folks at Thomas Nelson will send you my book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace as an eBook for free. Just send your order confirmation to wpubpreorders@gmail.com.

You can pre-order Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community as a paperback and as an eBook.

If you want to read a few sample chapters of Lean on Me, you can do that here.

I hope both of these books encourage you to be yourself, love others, and allow others to love you.

We need each other and we get to carry each other.

Much love,

Anne Marie Miller

Lean on Me Anne Marie Miller Committment

Blogging Isn’t What it Used to Be…And that’s Okay.

Several times a week, I log into the dashboard of my blog and think I have something to write.

  • I could write about true freedom, and how that means willingly accepting my identity as a slave to Christ, which doesn’t bring oppression, but true joy.
  • I could write about how I think the voice of the peacemakers is being shut down because the voice of the cynics is so loud…and the peacemakers know there’s really no point in fighting a virtual battle of words.
  • I could write about all the new stuff I’m learning about anxiety disorders, OCD, trauma and grief or about the theology of subordinate & ultimate purposes in moral ethics.

But I don’t.

It’s not that I can’t; as if I have some writer’s block and I keep pressing delete and thinking my writing isn’t good enough.

It’s not because I’m scared of what people will think about what I write.

It’s not even that I don’t want to.

Or that I don’t have time.

None of those things are true.

Photo Credit: Thomas Lieser

Lately, I’m full of words and inspiration, most of which are being poured into the channels of a launching “Lean on Me” which comes out this October. Or into my other-new book that will come out next year. It flows into my husband as he goes through some exciting ministry changes, and into some friends over coffee or a glass of wine. I give these words to the trees and the sky when I go on walks with my dog, or sometimes they only rattle around in my head until they break into little digestible pieces I can stomach. These words fuel me as I straighten up our kitchen or hang up the laundry (who am I kidding? Tim so graciously does the laundry. I hate doing laundry.) 

A few years ago I would have wondered if you missed me.

Maybe I still do a tiny bit, but most days this blog is so far from any of my normative thinking. Only when I see the bookmark to my dashboard to log in, I log in. And that’s really just to delete any spam comments.

want to talk to you. I remember how, almost ten years ago, a small group of fifty or a hundred people would come here and listen about me putting up Christmas lights or running from tornadoes or wrestling through tithing as an automatic deduction from my church-staff paycheck. Then that number grew into the tens of thousands and the conversation changed and I began to love those numbers much more than I should have. And then, life changes pounced and left me wounded and I took everything off of the Internet for a couple of years and that huge audience I was so enamored with dwindled back down to a handful of people.

But that’s okay.

It’s taken a year or so of being truly back “online” for me to accept the new Web 2.0. Or is it 3.0 now? It’s not even about the Internet, is it? Whatever it is – whatever this is – I’m okay with it.

I’m not saying goodbye to blogging, and I’m certainly not bidding adieu to writing. I’m embracing how different it is now, both externally in how social networking has changed in the last decade and internally, how I’ve changed in the last decade.

I’m giving myself permission to keep things close, as Mary did, pondering them in her heart. 

My heart used to be online, but now it’s found in quiet moments with trusted friends, in solitude, and in quietness and trust.

That is where I find rest.

That is where I find Him.

 

For When You Feel Overwhelmed and For When You Feel Small

First let me begin by saying, wow, you guys. The flu is a terrible, terrible thing.

I thought I caught the flu the day after New Years. I was sick a few days, then I was okay for a couple.

Then sick a few more days, and fine for the next four.

Last Sunday night, my body hurt so terribly and I felt just so awful, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I set up a doctor’s appointment. I was running a low fever and my flu test was negative. My doctor said I had pneumonia. My chest rattled when I breathed and I couldn’t stop coughing. Antibiotics, make-me-loopy cough syrup, good to go.

I woke up Tuesday afternoon and could not stop shaking. Not shivering. Shaking. I took my temperature. 101. 30 minutes later, I felt even worse. I took my temperature again. 103.3. I was on Advil and my temperature was still 103.3? A phone call later, I was on my way to the ER where I learned I didn’t have pneumonia, but I did have the flu.

This is really me at the ER. Super awesome mask!

This is really me at the ER. Super awesome mask!

I don’t remember much of last week, but I think I’m on the mend.

I’ve never had the flu before (and I will be getting flu shots from now on) so I had no idea something could make me stay still the way it did. I didn’t touch my computer all week. All I could do was think.

Thinking for a week is not necessarily a good thing for me. I tend to get wrapped up in layers of self-doubt, self-pity, and even some bitterness and jealousy. Even if I try to refocus my thoughts on what’s good, my tendency to reflect in everything I’ve done wrong or that I’m not doing as well as I’d like takes over.

I was tired enough because of the flu, and with my mental defenses destroyed, I found myself in a big puddle of giving up.

I wanted to give up.

No, I want to give up.

I still do.

One thing you don’t want to do while sweating through all of your clothing because of a fever is go online. If you do, and if you’re like me, you’ll end up feeling like everyone has their life put together. They hustle and you don’t want to even get up to get a Powerade, much less do any work. They post about the great people they wine and dine with, and you forget to find gratitude for the friends who rushed to the hospital to pray with you, who brought you meals and medicine.

You feel so overwhelmed and you feel so small all at the same time.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I tend to have so much to do…I try and prove myself or reinvent myself or tell myself that if I do this or that maybe-just-maybe I’ll feel like I’ve made a difference, that I’m worth something to someone, that I’m contributing whatever it is that God gave me to contribute to this world. I preach a message that tells people about the beauty of simply being, about rest and about health, yet if I think about my to-do list, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel small and overwhelmed and because I’m not as popular as this person or because some other person who has an important title doesn’t email me back, that somehow I’m a failure.

THAT IS JUST NOT TRUE.

Maybe you’re like me (I can empathize). You work so hard to write, to share, to be a mom or a dad or a wife or a husband or a good friend and your heart burns with such fury to do just one thing that makes a difference. All the while every message you take in from the outside world, from the voices you respect (and maybe the ones people tell you that you should respect) tells you it’s not enough. If it was enough, you’d have that viral blog post, that book deal, or just one single comment or message about that super-important thing you shared with the world. You feel small and overwhelmed.

This – by all industry standards – is not a good blog post to write. I have no answers for you. No three-steps to finding peace in chaos or security where you feel frail.

This is just me saying (to the both of us):

YOU are NOT alone in this.

The chaos you feel is a lie from Satan that wants to draw you away from your identity in Christ.

It is not your job to save the world.

It is not your job to even save one single person.

It is your job to delight and worship your creator.

To walk the path he set for you, even if it’s not glamorous, or exciting, or what you expected.

Rejoice in Him.

Cry out to Him.

Strangely, as we become more desperate for God, that sense of desperateness leads us to great peace.

We Need Your Story! The Un-Fine is God Beautiful

A few months ago, sweet Lisa-Jo Baker sent me an email asking to share my story that would be compiled with other women’s stories for the (in)Courage (in)RL 2014 – (in) Real Life Conference.

Why does anyone need to hear my story? 

In filming for this, I got to meet so many women. Hear so many stories. I needed to hear theirs. They needed to hear mine.

Who knew?

Here’s the thing. We need to hear YOUR story.

 

The conference is free. You don’t have to travel anywhere. Get your girls and snuggle up with some tea and coffee and watch and share.

Registration begins today. And again. It’s FREE. Over 6000 women participated last year from 20 countries.

A little bit about (in)RL…

Born out of two years spent listening to women in the comments here at (in)courage craving local, real life community, (in)RL is an invitation to share what we’ve learned about community and encourage women with stories and suggestions for connecting deeper in real life.

(in)RL is the combination of outstanding online content that encourages, moves and inspires women as they watch in the comfort of their own homes and local meet-ups where small becomes the new big and women connect, in person, beyond the comment box.

This year we’re unpacking the power of story. No matter how much life you’ve lived or what you’ve walked through, you have a story.

And we, as a community, are less without your story.

So, please register and join us. I can’t wait to hear your story.