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

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

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

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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.

How Should Christians Respond to Bruce Jenner’s Interview?

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Tonight, I sat and watched Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner. If you’re not familiar with him, he was named the “world’s greatest athlete” after the 1976 Olympics. He’s the step-father of the Kardashian girls. And he’s transitioning into a woman. I found the interview thoughtful and compassionate, heart wrenching and curious.

How does the church respond?

Fortunately, Dr. Russell Moore penned a gracious and loving response. How do we, as the church, respond? How do we love?

And how do we talk to our kids about this (and many other hot topics being publicized before our very eyes, in supermarkets and on TV?)

“We will stand with conviction, even as we offer mercy.” – Dr. Russell Moore

Read his article here.

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.

Fight for Unity, or Don’t Fight at All: My Plea for Christians to Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

When I was sixteen, my dad left the ministry. He did nothing wrong, but it was an ugly church-wide meeting full of Southern obstinacy. I saw men in our small church yelling at each other, accusing each other, accusing my father, accusing my mother, accusing the youth pastor. Some claims were insidious, others plan incredulous.

I will never forget that Sunday in April. A fire rose inside me that rarely burns for much anymore. As shy as I am, as non-confrontational as I am, and – for that church – as female as I am, none of that mattered. I stood up, my whole body shaking and read verses upon verses out of the bible about unity. All those Bible drills came in handy. I flipped to Ephesians, to John, to Galatians.

What I was taught in church about loving each other and what I was shown by the church were diametrically opposed.

When I was through, I was met with cold stares telling me my input was not welcome. I rushed outside, up a fire escape, and wrote a letter to God I still have to this day.

Give me a way to bring unity to the church. Or else, I’m gone.

I didn’t hear an answer for a while, so I left. For five years, I went off on some dark roads which God has so graciously redeemed. I came back to His bride and found myself back in many situations where I would pray that same prayer (just without the “or else…”)

In recent years and more specifically, the recent month, everyone who has an Internet connection has been exposed to many an exposé on pastors and other church leaders. The scandals, the sins, the full-open-letters pasted for all the world to see. We are an age of opinionated school-yard bullies with platforms and reach and nobody is winning.

That fire is lit once more. I’m that sixteen year old girl again, shy and nervous of unwelcome stares, trembling with my Bible in hand…but I’m ready to fight.

Here’s the thing.

  • If you don’t know the person you’re dragging through the mud, you have no scriptural basis to bring what he or she is doing to a public forum where anyone can read.
  • If you do not have an accountable relationship with them, they are not accountable to you (or to your blog, or your Facebook rants).
  • That person isn’t going to read your blog, or your comments on a blog anyway.
  • If you find it humorous or rejoice when a man or woman of God has been removed from ministry or celebrate when they are publicly humiliated somehow, you should mourn. The Father is grieving. Even if what they did was both terrible and true, there is never a reason to celebrate. Never.

My bottom line request is this: If you’re not going to fight for unity, don’t fight at all. And don’t cause others to fight. Don’t bring people along with you in rejoicing (or making fun of, or condemning) for a fallen brother or sister. If you have a platform, use it to bring prayer for the church. Humble, pleading, grieving prayers. Don’t share the latest YouTube video of that person because “you just can’t believe it” and “it’s so wrong it’s ridiculous.” Move on. Sharing those things does not edify the body of Christ.

The same grace that covers you covers the worst of us.

Oh, and in that church service where my dad resigned? There was a girl there from my school who wasn’t a Christian. It was her second time visiting. As far as I know, she never returned. Heck, it took me five years for my faith in God and the church to recover from that situation.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32

PS – I am turning comments off on this post. In the past, I have written similar posts on unity and have received comments that do not reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I don’t want this to be another one. If you truly need to comment on this, you can contact me privately using the contact form on my website.

Redefining Friendship

When Facebook first opened its “Sign Up” doors to those of us far removed from a .edu email address, I remember landing in a competition with a coworker on who could “friend” more people than another. We would shout through the office wall that separated us, “I’m up to 881!” or “Your mom doesn’t count as a friend!” This went on until eventually, each of us hit the 5000 friend limit.

Then I deleted Facebook for a few years and for me, was all the better for it.

So many articles and blog posts and now even scientific studies are exploring what it means to be a “friend” in a world where clicking a “Like” button or a star or a heart indicates we are both alive and at least somewhat paying attention. Someones several-day-long absence on Instagram now warrants a text message – “R U Okay? Haven’t seen you online this week.” 

We enjoy eating together without actually sitting together. I more guilty of this than anyone: a brief scroll through my social media feeds are full of in-season salads and juices and let’s not forget my beloved coffee. I “like” just as many similar photos – especially the ones of donuts and ice cream – the ones I can’t eat because of my body’s intolerance to gluten and dairy.

The last few years have been very transitional and therefore, transformational, for me. I’ve become more careful with the words I choose when I am talking about people I know. In a city like Nashville, where everyone knows of everyone and likely has met someone a time or two for coffee, it’s easy to see how social media has influenced our Western vernacular.

“Oh, I LOVE Billy Bob. He’s a great friend!”

This means someone has probably met Billy Bob a handful of times and now engages in a Twitter conversation about which country really should have won the World Cup.

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In the “Christian Industry” [insert a slightly disturbed yet slightly accepting shudder for using that phrase], lots of people know lots of people and lots of people call these people friends. My own definition of a “friend” is very different than what it used to be, I had to change the way I identified those who I know…but don’t really know. This change was internal at first, but has slowly become external as people ask, “Are you friends with Billy Bob?” to which I say, “I know him, and I think he’s great. But no, we are not friends.”

This is not a slight on Billy Bob.

To me, the word friend has become as sacred as the word love. 

This is not an attempt for exclusivity; rather it’s an attempt to define expectations. I have met Billy Bob and perhaps we’ve even shared a conversation about Africa or Jack Bauer. He’s a great person. I will speak well of him. But I will not call him my friend because he does not know the secrets my heart keeps or the fears my mind perpetuates. I do not tell him when my mom is sick or when I got accepted into school nor does he know my regular drink at Starbucks.

I do have friends that know these things. They are a small group: humble, beautiful, diverse and there is nothing loud or proud about them. But they love and they know and they reach and I reach back.

And I think this is okay. Choosing to use the word friend carefully is wise.

It does not mean you love less or even that you love fewer and it does not mean a new acquaintance cannot become a friend. It simply means your relationships are more intentional, more vulnerable, and more committed. It reaches far beyond clicking a button on a website and is about sharing life instead of sharing a status.

Social media aside, a friend is a thing to cherish, to lavish love on, and to lean on (or sometimes give the gift of being somebody to lean on.)