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, Charlotte, 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 Charlotte 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 in nursing school with the end goal of being a nurse practitioner in geriatric psychiatry. 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.

I’m thrilled.

The purpose I used to feel as an author and speaker has drained away over the last few years and this passion in nursing has taken its place and is overflowing.

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

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.

Smashing The Trophy Cases of Social Media

I recently got a few emails from a couple of people. In one, someone said they were glad I shared about my Christmas in the psych hospital because her perception before that was that I was perfect. Admittedly, she knew I wasn’t perfect, but it just seemed like my life glows with happiness all the time.

[Tweet “Nobody has a fairytale life. Not your favorite blogger or your favorite pastor.”]

Last night, I got an email from a blog-familiar face. He unsubscribed from me and wanted to tell me why. He said that reading the things I write sometimes make him jealous. When I talk about grace I’ve received, he is reminded of the knives in his back and the arrows close friends shot into his heart. He went through a tough time, and has a bleeding heart to show for it.

I responded, appreciating his honesty and confessed that I often unfollow people (sometimes those I know well) because the things they post – the Christmas party I didn’t get an invite to, the trips to restaurants, the awesome things that God does in their lives – well, it sometimes make me jealous.

And that is my problem. And I continually work on it. (Or I’m trying, anyway).

His email caused me to pause last night and wonder if I’m projecting the truest image of me possible online.

Is my blog the best place to share everything? Is Twitter a platform for gloating? Does Instagram have enough filters to make me look like I’m in my 20s?

No.

I’m going to guess that all of you know I’m not perfect. There is so much I wrestle with: anxiety, control, envy. Self image. Self worth. Perfectionism. Anger.

So. Many. Things.

[Tweet “Social media is a place where the good and bad in our lives are displayed in virtual trophy cases.”]

Let’s break the cases open, smash the trophies, and play around in each others’ celebrations and each others’ heartaches.

Plaques in the Great Room

The Fear of Starting Over Again

For the longest time, I didn’t even have a desk. What I placed my computer on from the time I was 19 until the time I was 30 was a cheap, round two-seater kitchen table. And I use the words kitchen table lightly, as it looked to be something that belonged more on the patio of my grandmother.

Those were the days before social media as we know it now; they were the days that my biggest distraction was spam IMs from my AOL messenger. But oh, how I would write and write and write until my wrists hurt from the weird angle from which I hoisted my hands over my keys. I woke up in the morning, went to work at my job as a bookstore manager, or non-profit budget coordinator, or marketing associate, or youth pastor, or director of communication, or graphic designer, or project manager, or whatever-my-job-was-those-days, and given any free moment from my duties, it was back to writing. There was not enough time to contain those words.

Now, I write for a living. I write books. Or, well, I’ve written three (1, 2, 3). I’ve written a bunch of articles for a bunch of places. I write messages for talks I give. Sometimes it’s a joy, sometimes it’s an obligation. Sometimes I put it aside and watch a season of Frasier on Netflix. Now, the challenge of blogging – of not being paid to do something and just doing it because of my love for it, well, I’m a little scared.

I’m scared I won’t have the tenacity to follow through, and do this – yikes – every day, except on the weekends.

I’m scared I’ll get disappointed in those darn numbers and say it’s not worth my time.

I’m scared I’ll…

Wow, this one’s hard to say.

I’m scared I’ll run out of good words.

There is a fear we must face when we do what we truly believe we are called to do: what if I try and fail?

Then who am I?

Oh, please remind me that I am a child of the King. A daughter of the One who sees me clothed in righteousness, not mistakes and sin and mud. Let me lean into You, my Father, when I break my own heart by filling it up with the chards of lies and not your soft truth.

Slaying My Gods of Blogging of Ego

Maybe it’s just vocabulary, and maybe I’ve always been “a blogger” (I did have my own AOL member page when I was sixteen, and purchased my first domain where I journaled in 1998). I officially resigned from blogging in 2010 (but kept a website for essays and poetry). Then, when I needed to work on healing the wounds from my divorce, I went dark everywhere – no Facebook, Twitter, website. All the words I wrote were in journals and scraps of paper in my car when the right word or a picture would capture me. I started writing online again this year, but not with any consistency or purpose.

This weekend, I went to the blogging conference Allume. Not because I wanted to learn about blogging, but because I had the chance to represent one of my favorite organizations, Blood:Water Mission, and in the process, catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a long, long time. The speakers were phenomenal and didn’t talk much about blogging; instead, they carved out the space around our blogs in which we find the reason and meaning: worship. Writing as a form of art and gratefulness (and therapy)…not how many stats, shares, or likes.

I was reminded over and over again that is why I started blogging.

Not because I had a book deal, or wanted one.

Not because I wanted to build a platform or find people to affirm me or debate me.

Because I love to write about what God has done and is doing in my life.

Have any of the opportunities that emerged from writing online helped me find my purpose in life or quench the red fires that burn inside my soul?

No.

And at times, I gave blogging too much weight, allowing it to define me or brand me or market me. I’ve let those numbers determine how good I feel about myself or why I do what I do.

Blogging was the god I prayed to: What should I write? What do I say to please you?

Instead, it should have been the overflow of my prayers to the One True God: Open my eyes, show me truth. May my words only voice edification, wonder, mystery, love, hope, healing, joy.

“Remember what it was like in the old days?” an old blogging friend asked. “When we wrote about the things that gave us pain and joy. When we were raw because nobody else was, and nobody else cared?”

I do remember those days and how being raw is a norm and I am so proud of and grateful for those who speak from vulnerable places and illuminate into dark corners. I ask myself why…why now? Why speak when everyone else speaks and it feels like nobody will hear?

Because it doesn’t matter who will hear. It only matters that I listen. That I obey. And that I write.

So, here is to another new season. A season where it is not “Anne Marie Miller” (or “Anne Jackson” or “FlowerDust” or whatever moniker you may have known me by at some point in the last ten years).

This is a season to write, to create, and to process here…regardless. To trust that God will move His mighty hand in whatever way He likes, as He always has, and He always will.