May It Be Light and Only Light

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It has been three months since I said farewell to social media, sans a quick break to introduce our daughter to you.

Those three months-they have been enough. They have been enough to show me that I need more, which by writing you in simple words sounds selfish.

We want God to speak to us, so we become quiet. We wait until we hear whatever words we are supposed to hear. Sometimes those words are revealed quickly; often, they are shown to us letter by letter. And other times, the thing we hear is that we are to remain listening.

I returned to one of my favorite reads recently, Echoing Silence, by Merton. In this collection of letters and pages from his journals and books (collected and published posthumously), he walks through the tension of writing, his spirituality, suffering, ego, and vocation. Two passages in particular struck me:

“If the inspiration is helpless without a correspondingly effective technique, technique is barren without inspiration.” (October 24, 1958)

…and

“The best thing for me is a lucid silence that does not even imagine it speaks to anybody. A silence which I see no interlocutor, frame no message for anyone, formulate no word either for man or paper. There will still be plenty to say when the time comes to write, and what is written will be simpler and more fruitful.” (December 14, 1949)

I am grateful for Merton’s removing himself from distractions and entering into a time of soul-silence. I doubt he knew or even wished that within his silence, he was communicating a message stronger than the power any written word could possibly create: an example.

(To note: most of his writings about entering into silence were in autumn and winter; perhaps it is designed in our warm blood to hibernate for a while.)

A scattered few friends of mine are taking brief vows of Internet silence. For some, it is the first time. For many, it won’t be the last. I have debated if these seasons of silence are a giving into self-indulgent isolation. After time and examination, please believe me that is not the case.

During his time at the monastery in Kentucky, Merton wrote letters to friends and spiritual counselors, politicians, and artists near and far. He went to Mass, he worked alongside fellow monks, took Eucharist, and kept mostly to the hours.

In the same manner, I tend to my private world of family and friends and community. Letters are shared between kindred spirits, encouraging one another in good works and glory. My days disappear into nights–and back again to dawn…to dusk…and so on–as I feel the grit in my spirit searching for an unfamiliar worship in the quotidian mysteries that occupy my time as of late.

It is hard. It is good.

I will not renounce ever returning to this space, just as Merton “refused and had practically ceased to desire” writing again, God “gave [him] back the vocation that [he] had half-consciously given up, and He opened to [him] again the doors that had fallen shut.” (1976)

But for now, may the only message I give you be one that I cannot speak or write.

May it be light, and only light.

Silentium coelorum sit mihi lex: et vita mea imago luminis.
(Let the silence of heaven be my law: and my life an image of light. – Merton, 1952)

Seasons

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Pregnancy has been one of the most beautiful, difficult, spiritually growing, ego-shrinking seasons. With only three weeks left, give or take, I’ve been caught in the tension of grief – missing the secret kicks and rolls – and of anticipation, waiting to meet this baby and put it to my chest, to see Tim hold this fatty blob of wrinkles and cries. I’m also looking forward to being able to get out of bed without the effort of a crane helping me.

All this to say, in the recent quiet moments of introspection, my heart needs rest and reconnection to my own Father. It’s been too easy for me to spend insomnia-filled nights on digital rabbit trails and now, like eating too many cupcakes, I am stuffed with emotions my own insecurities let in and thinking, “Oh, no. That was way too much,” Slightly regretful yet with the knowledge that it’s temporary and I need to put the cupcakes down.

This year, I took a speaking hiatus for most of the time, and now the quiet, small voice has been telling me to leave much of the Internet alone for a bit. I don’t know how long, and we will post when our child enters this glorious world because he or she is a part of your prayers and we are ever-so-thankful that you have walked the roads of loss and celebration with us. Until then, and probably after then, too, I will be off of social media and writing online. Just in case you wonder.


Until next time, much love~
Anne

A Free Advent Devotional for the Hard and Holy Holidays

Growing up, I didn’t know much about Advent.

Christmas cantatas, yes.

Live nativity scenes, yes.

Advent…not so much.

A few years ago, after I began attending St. Bartholomew’s in Nashville, Advent really took a hold on my heart: a time to prepare and reflect upon the coming Christ, his birth, death and resurrection, the narrative of Mary and Joseph, angels, dirt, mundane, pain, rejoicing.

Over time, I’ve written a few blog posts inspired by the season or on Christmas in general. Because as mystical and ponderous Advent is, the holiday season is hard for many people–myself included.

Family and travel and money and parties and finals and bad weather and schedules and so…many…things that distract and hurt and delight and remind us of a broken world, not a healed one.

We yearn for hope.

Last year, I compiled a month-full of Advent writings and made a little eBook.

It’s free. 

Just head over to Noisetrade and download it. 

Please share it with your friends, your family.

Study it by yourself or with a group of people.

Print off a million copies of it and give it to anyone you think could find it helpful.

It’s yours.

It’s my prayer that by taking just a couple of minutes each day as we approach Christmas to stop and breathe and pray and hope and to know we aren’t alone in this hard and holy season, we can live vulnerably in the dualities of joy and sadness and pain and peace.

Those tensions have been lived and wrestled in since the beginning of time but in this season we know the most beautiful moment is in our rest.

And we can rest and know we are loved and can love, we can rest in knowing hope and holiness, and we can rest knowing our Savior has come (and is here, now).

O’ come let us adore Him!

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!

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…]]

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.

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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

Trusting God’s Design

I didn’t know much about personality profiles growing up. What I did know is after about 2 hours at church, 2 hours at a party, 2 hours on a school trip, 2 hours at a sleepover…I was done.

I wasn’t angry. I didn’t dislike people. I wasn’t bored. I didn’t want to check out.

But something inside me hit a threshold of sorts and I knew I needed to spend at least a few minutes by myself and recharge. Otherwise, my mind would get spacey, I’d become easily distracted, my speech would begin to falter, I’d even become more clumsy.

Over time, I learned although this could cause me anxiety, it wasn’t the anxiety I wrestled with.

It was simply my design as an introvert (and a far-reaching one at that).

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I’m not too shy (usually). I love people. I love loving people. I adore hearing what journey they’re walking and what God’s doing in their lives. I’m good with people.

As someone who has been, for the most part, self-employed for the last seven or eight years, I find a lot of quiet time in my own routine with writing and speaking. Now, as Tim and I entered a new season of life, with him as a youth pastor at a growing church, I find my time alone growing shorter and shorter. I know God knows how I’m wired and I know He gives me strength for every situation, but I often battle the process.

It goes a little like this:

  1. YES! I am SUPER PUMPED about this youth retreat we’re having this weekend. Over thirty people are going! I love the girls we get to minister to and with. I LOVE seeing them learn and grow! Yay!
  2. Wait, how far do we have to drive?
  3. Hold up…lights out is how late?
  4. How much time will I have a chance to be by myself and recharge?
  5. My routine! My routine! Ack!
  6. Geez, Miller. That’s entirely selfish! You’re here to serve these students and your husband and these volunteers. SUCK IT UP. You’re not going to die from talking and listening to people for four days.
  7. Well, you’ll die a little bit. But it’s for Jesus.
  8. Really, Miller. SUCK IT UP. Good grief. You introverts are always overanalyzing and planning 78 of the conversations you think you’ll have and you actually won’t have…no wonder you’re exhausted already. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.
  9. (Hey, but God. You know you gave me a really empathetic and sensitive heart. You know this stuff is hard for me.)
  10. (Anne, I know. Just trust me.)

It seems like such a small thing to trust–God’s design. Knowing He fully created me, my fears, my flaws, and my strengths. In ministry, it’s been difficult to see being an introvert as a gift…I can see it as a curse. I want to wear shirts that say, “No, really. I LOVE YOU! Even if I don’t seem like I talk much.” Church events are usually social events. Loud. Talking. Games. Counseling. It’s a challenge for an introvert.

I’ve been looking forward to (and yet I’m still slightly anxious about) this weekend for a long time. It’s the first big event Tim and I get to lead (with the help of our wonderful volunteers!). I’m going to try and be EXTRA intentional about letting God fill in those places where I need Him to. I don’t want Him to change the way He created me, but I need to learn to trust the way He designed me in whatever season in which He calls me to minister.

(And, yeah. Feel free to pray for this retreat! We’d be VERY grateful!)

Look What God Did

Dear 25 year old Anne,

It’s me. Anne. Today you…me…we…? turn 35.

Holy Moses, has it been a decade?

I wanted to tell you four words: “Look what God did.”

25 year old Anne, 2005 was the year you landed in the hospital so stressed out and so hurt from working at a church. You were 40 pounds overweight, working 90 hours a week, and glued to people-pleasing. You thought doing things for God was the same thing as being with Him.

But it wasn’t.

And over the next two years, as you resigned from that church and healed, you wrote about your journey. You helped others.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

A few years later, you had to do something terrifying. You had to open up to a group of strangers who were investigating the man who sexually abused you 12 years beforehand. Memories you buried so deep emerged and you even went into shock as you recalled them. You put words to the actions of what a grown man, a trusted youth pastor, did to a vulnerable high school girl who just barely had her driver’s license.

It was like watching a horror film in your mind on repeat. But God gave you the words and the strength and the right medication and friends to help. The man was finally caught. His sins finally came to light. And God healed you and the shame and gave you ways to share your pain and His healing with others.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

When you turned thirty, everything was in full bloom. Life. Was. Good. You just finished writing your second book and still had a contract for more. You rode your bicycle across the flipping United States. California to South Carolina. You made friends in those two months that forever changed you and shaped you. And then the tragedy of divorce fell into your path. Grief swept you away but friends held on to you for dear life. It was a long, quiet, tough road of healing. And God was good even when everything was going bad. You learned this about Him then.

A few years later, a strong and Godly man with a passion for truth and holiness and loving others and serving everybody who comes into his path humbly and out of the abundance God gave him met you in the most lovely Michigan town. He won your heart, even though you were still timid to give it, afraid of being hurt again. Then, when you were afraid, God met you in a living room on a cold night and music played singing “night must end.” God gave you this moment and said, “You can trust your heart to him.”

So you did and you married this man on a beach at sunrise because you and he wanted to raise an ebenezer to the fact that God’s mercies are new every time the sun rises.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

And now, here you…me…we? turn 35. You live in west Texas and you pretend you’re Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights and you’re minutes away from the church where you got baptized thirty years ago. Life has come in such a full and glorious circle. You’re surrounded by new friends, loving neighbors, and people who pray with you with babies on their hips and in the midst of toys in the kitchen floor. You sing praises to the God who took those messes and made them beautiful surrounded by the voices of others you call your church–your friends, your small group. Twice a week you get to see a few dozen teenagers who are uncovering the depth and breadth and faithfulness of God and it’s so exciting to watch your husband lead them and their eyes light up with every moment of new truth revealed to them through your Word.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

So, as another ten years passes and the wrinkles on your face grow deeper and gravity continues to pull you down, as people come in and out of your life and as you come in and out of theirs, even when those you love are dying or are sick, are broken and are hurt, know that God is good because God is good. He is not good only because He redeems; He is good because He allows things into our lives that need to be redeemed.

All this to say, and always say, and never stop saying to a world who always needs to hear it:

In everything, in every moment, God took it all and made it beautiful.

Look. What. God. Did.