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.

 

Shake the Dust :: Letting Go

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Things fail.

Health.

Friends.

Love.

School.

Work.

Expectations rise and fall.

Rise.

And fall. And fall.

(and rise?)

Someone says or does something (or perhaps nothing?) and it opens up scars from the past

Scars that say you’re not good enough

Or that you’re dumb

Or not worth it

Or too much…

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Anis Mojgani perform Shake the Dust

years and years and years ago.

Recently, my fingers found a scar not quite healed

and those voices

those LIES

came pouring down like gasoline on my open wound.

Stop it.

Stop it.

Stop it.

I said.

Let it be.

Let it go.

Shake the Dust

I heard it rattle in my mind.

And I hope that no matter what voices you may hear,

No matter who you are,

What you do,

What you look like,

Or how broken you are,

Shake the Dust. [watch the video below or if you don’t see one, click here…]

****

 

For When You Want to Feel Like Everyone Else But You Can’t No Matter How Hard You Try

You try.

You try and you try and you try to fit in.

Everywhere you look, something or someone is telling you what you should be doing (so that you fit in).

I say “(so that you fit in)” because it’s not overtly said…

Especially in the church, Christian, faith-based world.

Nobody would ever come right out and say:

 

“You should decorate your house like this.”

“You should do your hair this way.”

“You should use this phone.”

“You should wear this style of jewelry.”

“You should read these authors.”

“You should join this book club.”

“You should be an amazing photographer.”

“You should fully grasp how to pin things on Pinterest.”

 

But that’s what you hear.

At least, that’s what I hear.

It was easy to be off social media while we were in Africa. My phone stayed on airplane mode for two solid weeks. Wifi was spotty. The electricity didn’t even work all the time. My, how those voices in my head were quieted.

Some people do just fine on social media. In my ten years of blogging (yes, it’s been that long), I have learned I do not.

Comparison is one of my many thorns and it pricks at my confidence and security, bleeding them dry tiny drop by tiny drop.

Tonight as I washed my face I looked over at our bathroom mirror where once I planned on hanging Bible verses for Tim and I to memorize.

I wanted to use these cute little templates I found on Pinterest and pen them in with such a bold yet feminine script and somehow these hypothetical perfect little Bible verses with chevron patterns would scream how much I loved Jesus and my family and what a creative and crafty person I was for putting them on the bathroom mirror.

That never happened. Not for lack of trying. Even after my best attempt, I’m fairly certain a second grader could have done better.

pinterest-conspiracy-meme

I scroll through my various social media feeds, now free for my gluttonous consumption now that Lent has come and gone. These friends are at this conference, these people are at this fabulous new restaurant, and my failed Bible verse craft mocks me.

Why can’t I just fit in like everyone else? I asked nobody, staring in the mirror.

When have you ever fit in, Anne? I heard back.

I looked down at my dog, half expecting her to say something else. She didn’t.

It wasn’t your dog, the voice spoke with familiarity into my soul.

You will never fit in. You will never be like anyone else. You should be used to this by now.

I winced, my face offering up some kind of plea for a compromise.

This is the way I made you. You’re different. You’ll always notice it. You’ll never be like everyone else. And that’s for a reason.

Oddly, I felt a bit comforted by the certainty in His voice.

He continued,

And you need to tell others this. Tonight.

Maybe you’re like me, at least in this one tiny little way. You don’t feel comfortable in your own skin because you’ve covered it up with so many subtle expectations you think others place on you. You so desperately long to be like everyone else you see, even just a little bit, just so you can pretend to fit in.

You think when you finally feel like you fit in, you won’t have to be afraid to be you anymore.

You’ll be loved and accepted and your chevron-patterned Bible verse cards on your bathroom mirrors will look just like everybody else’s. You can’t compare yourself to anyone anymore because you look just like them.

This breaks your Father’s heart.

Sweet friend, I don’t tell you this to judge you. I’m preaching to myself and those were the words I heard – not of condemnation, but of love. Be different. Embrace who you are, even if it seems like you feel left behind or that there’s something wrong with you because you aren’t getting sucked into a vortex of cultural monotony.

The truth is even the people with the perfect chevron-patterned Bible verse cards and the girls who know how to layer all those necklaces and look awesome and who can paint their fingernails without them ever getting smudged feel the exact same way you do.

This is the way I made you. You’re different. You’ll always notice it. You’ll never be like everyone else.

And that’s for a reason.

glass

I’d place my money that the reason is because we’re all like little pieces in a stained glass window, with different colors and thicknesses and flaws and bubbles.

The only place we fit in is when our edges touch each others.

Then we are strong.

We’re hues and textures and boldness and softness and broken and smooth and cloudy and clear.

The light hits us all in different ways and hits us in both our pretty and our broken places, but we’re all used to shine the same light in to the same darkness that longs for it and for the hope it brings.

 

 

 

 

 

When God Isn’t In Control

Late last week, I had conversations with two of my unofficial spiritual/career mentors. They’re unofficial because I’ve never asked them, but when we meet, their advice to me always weighs heavy on my decision-making.

One was over coffee at downtown Franklin’s famous Meridee’s. I voiced my current struggles of feeling disjointed in my work: too many voices to manage (“Church Anne” … “Porn Fighting Anne” … “Community Anne”) and my poor decisions to jump into too many things at once. Oh, and the ever-present fears of being self-employed and helping contribute financially to the dreams and plans Tim and I feel God giving us.

[Tweet “I feel afraid even though God’s never failed us. Not once. He has always provided.”]

My mentor honestly called out the truth behind my insecurities, gave me clear direction, and left me inspired and encouraged to move forward.

Then I went to sleep.

Then I woke up with a combination of anxiety and peace (which, of course, I tweeted to the world).

I texted a friend of mine asking her for prayer. Her kind words back to me glowed with Christ and His providence.

Yesterday, as I sat around in my pajamas, slightly fuzzy-headed from flu medication, I caught myself worrying. I was looking at the realities of releasing two book projects this year and an internet platform that looks entirely different than it did five years ago, when I first started writing. How can I expect to earn a living doing this anymore?

I count the stats, the numbers, and I inject them into a vein of self-worth.  Does it boost my spirits? No. It begins atrophying.

And maybe it was because of the flu meds that my inhibitions were down and the brave me wasn’t afraid to speak. She came to the front of my mind’s conversation and said,

[Tweet “”Hey, wait. None of your circumstances matter. This is all in God’s hands. Leave it there.””]

For some reason, I did. And this morning, it’s still there…even though I’m still a little afraid. That’s the part of me who thinks God isn’t in control.

[Tweet “We must remember truth in its completeness: God is always in control. Always.”]

Over coffee at Meridee’s, my unofficial mentor said two things to me that are sustaining my disbelief. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

If you’re feeling ill-equipped to do something because of your experience, remember this: Jesus and Paul spoke a lot about marriage, but neither one of them were married. And if you’re afraid to take that next step, to invest your time or money into something that God’s leading you to, remember this: the only person who didn’t see a return on his investment was the one who buried his treasure.

Continue moving forward in whatever God has placed in your path. Maybe you need to be brave and rest. Or maybe it’s time to say, “God, I’m all in.” Perhaps the next right step is just you trusting God – completely.

Whatever it is, know you’re not alone. There’s a girl in Tennessee who’s fighting to hear truth through all the jumbled up voices in her head right alongside you.

That Thing You Just Can’t Shake

Sometimes there is a thing you just can’t shake.

I don’t mean a bad habit, but a stirring, an awakening, a longing that is deep and far inside your spirit.

I have one of these things right now. It’s been around for about a month. It’s not something I need to do, to plan, or to make happen; it’s a door with a tiny peep hole, and I sense God moving in, opening up, and letting me have just a tiny glimpse into what happens when the door fully opens.

Starring .... Magnolia

Normally, I write these things off as emotional whims, having too many assumptions and the wrong hopes, maybe even hormones.

But sometimes things just stick.

Do you have a thing you can’t shake from your heart?

I’m learning to walk in it with joy, and hope, and gratefulness, moment by moment.

Anticipation.

Faithfulness.

Our God is so, so good, isn’t he?

Protecting our Women: A Challenge to Any Man for Any Woman

Yesterday I wrote about how women need to fight for our men, whether they are our spouses, dads, brothers, uncles, neighbors, friends. Today, I’m taking the Y chromosome out of the picture and adding back in an X.

When I was twelve years old, my dad was away at school in another town and my mom was out getting groceries a few miles down a lonely, west Texas road. A storm was pushing across the plains (which was nothing abnormal for early summer in west Texas) as I kept my ears to the weather radio and my eyes on my little brother, I knew we needed to take shelter. A tornado was moving our way.

As my mom pulled into the driveway, the tornado was moments away. We escaped to safety with moments to spare, baseball-sized hailstones pounding at us as we ran.

Tornado that went past my apartment

The next morning, the San Angelo Standard Times featured our property on the front page of the paper. We lost most of the windows in our house, a decent sized storage building, my dad’s library, a considerable part of the roof, and the oddest casualty was the satellite dish.

Our yard was a perfect square with 3 rows of 3 trees each. The dish from our satellite was covering one tree and a across the yard, the pole was pulled out of the concrete, thrown several yards away, and wrapped like a twist tie around the tree.

I was twelve when that happened, and every week or so until I was almost 31 years old, I had nightmares where a tornado was coming and I had to save the people in my dream. Thankfully, with some counseling, the nightmares have stopped, but the message of I have to protect myself stayed with me (and still hangs around) for the rest of my life.

My heart shattered when I went through my divorce, and the walls around my heart doubled in size. There were only a couple of people – and even fewer men – I felt I could trust; that I felt had my best interest in mind.

What does protecting women look like? Do women even need it? Is that a husbands’ job? Or any man’s job?

First, for me, I took the verse Proverbs 4:23 as my shield: above all else guard your heart…

What I didn’t realize is that God was my ultimate protector. As I lived life with that in place, I found it easier to let men enter my life (in appropriate ways) who truly wanted to protect me: spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.

Once when we had a crazy snow storm in Nashville, my dear friend Brian drove me to a Starbucks. Brian is one of my closest friends. We both needed some hangout time and he knew there was no way in the world I’d be able to safely drive in the bad weather. He drove across town to get me, and we sat outside Starbucks in the cold, simply with each other. Even when I moved miles away, Brian was a safe person.

Women aren’t always the best at receiving protection and love from men. I sat in a classroom at Hope College last year and we were always one desk short. A guy and girl walked in at the same time, and the girl sat on the floor. The guy insisted she take the desk. She refused. The professor looked at him and said,

“I understand. It’s tough being a gentlemen these days.”

Because of the culture shift I wrote about yesterday, it’s hard for you guys to love us like sisters in Christ. But please, don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to show us you are watching out for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, if the girl is your wife or your mother. My brother bought my mom flowers randomly a few months ago. Why? Because there aren’t many girls in this world that don’t like getting flowers.

bouquet

Show us that you’re trustworthy. Follow through with us. Keep your promises. Watch out for us in the physical realm by taking the side of the sidewalk closest to the road, getting the door for us. No, we aren’t helpless creatures, but at least in my experience, these tiny gestures help us open our hearts.

All this may sound old fashioned, and maybe that’s partially due to the fact that I’m wired in an old fashioned way. I thought I didn’t need a man (whether a husband or not) to make it in life, but in the last few years of opening my heart to the men who were stepping in and protecting it in a variety of ways, I realize just how much I did need their protection. Fatherly advice. Friendly support. And eventually, a husband, Tim, who protects me fiercely and graciously.

I really do believe if women take to heart how to believe the best about men (who sometimes feel like boys) and if men can take on the challenge of protecting women (who sometimes feel like they’re all alone), we can live holy, beautiful, generous lives enjoying who we are in Christ, male and female, brother and sister.

 

 

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.

Lean on Me: The Book Cover!

Even though it won’t be shipping until October 2014, that doesn’t mean my team at Thomas Nelson isn’t hard at work getting ready for the big day. Today, we finalized the cover for the new book, Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Committed and Consistent Community.

Lean on Me by Anne Marie Miller

The first question out of some peoples’ mouths is, “Wait, is this a chick book?” Pink flowers, girly font…come on, Miller. What are you thinking?”

That was the same question I had as well when we reviewed the first round of book cover designs. Is the book a “chick book?” Not at all. However, the way books – well, my books – have been purchased, shared, and talked about, as well as some other demographics we’ve considered, a vast majority of them have been carried by women.

Generally speaking, a man is online or in a book store and is browsing books. He most likely purchases a book written by another man…especially in the faith-based market. Women, however, buy from both genders and increasingly more from female authors. And men generally buy more electronic books than women, so a cover doesn’t really apply.

Regardless of if or how or when you buy this book (I’ll let you know when it’s available for pre-ordering), I am thrilled  with this cover. Knowing the content of the book, the metaphor really captures the message.